Monday, January 31, 2005

That's one way to increase turn-out

Am I the only person in the universe who didn't know voting is mandatory in 25 countries?
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Honduras, Lebanon, Libya, Luxembourg, Mexico, Nauru, Paraguay, Peru, Singapore, Thailand and Uruguay
I must say, I am growing quite fond of the LA Times (which also totally exasperates me sometimes). I often learn something when I read it.

Sittin' here thinking...

. . . where does the money go?

Who got a slew of calls/emails/etc. asking them to donate money to the Dems' presidential run? I know I did. Would that I could find a suitor as ardent as the Dems in their pursuit of my pocketbook last fall. Then you read a story like this one, and you feel a little taken don't you? I do.

But Kerry's not the only one having trouble making it all add up. It seems there's a small matter of nine billion dollars unaccounted for in Iraq. There's a bit of belly bucking going on between the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction--who released an audit report on Sunday criticizing the lack of oversight in finances--and the Coalition Provisional Authority. For instance, among other findings, the audit reported that at one ministry, 8,206 guards were being paid, but it seemed there were only 602 actual guards. In another case, 1,417 received paychecks, but there were 642 guards. The CPA defended its actions, explaining that Iraqi families depended on those checks (so even if 90% of those families don't exist, one needs to think of the 8% or whatever it is that do). What's more, Bremer, head of the CPA, said, it was better to keep cutting checks than "to stop paying armed young men," which would represent a security risk. Freedom is on the march, folks.

And the third piece of money news: yes, it's true. If you've somehow missed hearing it, let me tell you, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are getting out while they can. Because we're going down folks.

Everything's inflated
Like a tire on a car
Well, the man came and took my Chevy back
I'm glad I hid my old guitar

Dianne Feinstein writes back

Dear __________,

Thank you for writing to express your opposition to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's nomination to be Secretary of State. I appreciate the time you took to write. [Translation: Dear Travis, I didn't actually read your letter, but if I had, this response is to say I am a better person than you because I am responding politely to your insults.]

I regret we disagree on this issue. As you may know, the votes in the Senate for confirmation were 85 to 13. I have attached a copy of my remarks before the Senate which states my reason for support. [Translation: I'm sorry you are wrong, but if you've been following the news, you'd know that almost everyone agrees with me.]

I would like to make an additional point. While the Secretary of State is always an extension of the sitting President's foreign policy, I believe the key is to be able to work with a Secretary to make changes for the better. I intend to do that with Dr. Rice as the second Bush Administration gets underway. [Translation: Why should W be the only one getting in Condi's pants? It's a losing battle to be a democrat right now, and I'm at least hoping for a little action.]

Again, thank you for writing. [Please fuck off]

This one goes out special to my coworkers

Via ResearchBuzz comes The Budget Traveller's Guide to Sleeping in Airports. Admittedly, I am at an age and stage of my life that the most obvious method for me is, find out the nearest decent hotel, get in a cab, and charge it. Nonetheless, there are those times (last month for instance), that you find yourself like Charlie on the MTA, trapped forever in those sky kennels we call airports. This site offers advice, anecdotes, horror stories, and more. Have a great airport squatting story? Post it here. Would that I had known, for instance, when I got stuck at Detroit airport for 9 hours, that the airport is connected to the Westin hotel which has a large, deserted lobby where you can take a nap and watch TV.

Even if you're not traveling, the site is slightly addictive. You get these marvelous visions of snafu travel:

In September of 1997 I spent the night in the American terminal of the Dulles, VA airport (one of the major airports in Washington, DC). The chairs were quite uncomfortable (armrests on all of them) but worst of all it felt like sleeping in a freezer. By the end of the night I was wearing all the shirts I had packed and had wrapped myself in beach towels. I also would go into the bathroom and sit under the hand dryer, blowing warm air on myself, to warm up. The only good thing about the evening was that the place was totally deserted, except for the cleaning people, who cleaned right around me and didn't disturb me at all.
To my coworkers, I hope that you have no need for the site, but just in case, now you have the URL.

My neighborhood

By now you've probably read about the new visual (smile you're on candid camera) yellow pages with A9. Of course, I had to check it out and since LA is one of the ten cities that you can zoom in to facial mole-level, I thought I'd "stroll" the virtual path from the nearest starbucks to my apartment. The below is from a pic about midway between the two. It just seemed worth noting.

Distressing headline of the day

From CNN: "Freedom of what? First Amendment no big deal, students say"

We all know Americans are ignorant. That is to say, we've all read the shame-faced accounts that Americans can't find the Indian Ocean on a map and high school students don't know what the Declaration of Independence is. But CNN's story isn't the typical hand-wringing report that students don't know what rights the Constitution protects; the story explains that students think those rights are excessive:
. . . when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.
. . .
When asked whether people should be allowed to express unpopular views, 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals said yes. Only 83 percent of students did.
Is it any surprise that the Youth Brigade took hold with such enthusiasm during the Nazi reign?

Really, who needs any of those pesky amendments anyway?

It's all Bin Laden's fault

So Kerry is saying that the Bin Laden video aired a few days before the election was his downfall. It distresses me a great deal that he seems to really believe this and he's thinking of running again. About a month ago, John at AMERICAblog wrote a post titled "Kerry Sucked" and that pretty much captures my feelings about the campaign as well. I respect the stand Kerry has taken against Rice and Gonzales, but I agree with John: Kerry wasn't enough of a fighter and, in fact, he was a waffler. Once again, this is why I think Dean should be DNC chair--because he most clearly states the need for the Dems to set the agenda not just be a reactionary party. I think that Kerry was "forced" into his waffling mode by two things. First, he isn't that liberal on some issues, so it was hard to distinguish himself on certain things. Second, if the Republicans are setting the terms of the debate, it's tough to make inroads on that kind of field.

What I mean is this: If "the need to keep America safe" is articulated by the Republicans as the most important issue, then the Dems have to continually answer the question "How are you going to keep America safe?" Thus Kerry's wishy washy stances on Iraq.

On the other hand, if "the need to preserve the Constitution--the principles of freedom and justice" is articulated by the Democrats as the most important issue, then the Republicans will have to answer the question "How are you going to preserve these principles?" And here we could have a Republican candidate seem wishy washy when he tried to square the Patriot Act with the Constitution.

But...Kerry voted for the Patriot Act. And the war.

I think if the Dems can run someone who really is liberal (is there anyone other than Boxer left?) then they might stand a fighting chance. Otherwise they just keep coming off like Fascism lite.

Kind of silly

but it made me laugh.

Got this via email yesterday.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Begging everyone's indulgence

I generally confine my writing here to rants and observations, but here's a poem I've been working on that I thought some of y'all might appreciate. It's in process...

Break-up Poem for America
(with apologies to Walt Whitman)

Oh America, you sad failed experiment,
It was lovely while it lasted.

People tried to warn me
They said that you were faithless
Professing everything
Remembering nothing
Fueled by lust and self interest
Always afraid of commitment

They said you were heartless
At your worst, you were violent
Your sweetest words coming
Just after the black eyes and broken jaws.

But I loved you anyway.
I thought they were jealous of us, America
You were young and impulsive
This time it would be different, I told myself

Because I could see the wild beauty
In your grain fields and skyscrapers
Your railroads and ballot boxes
Plates of hominy and cowboy boots
Even your corruption

I remember the good times
Shay's rebellion and the liberty tree
The New Deal
Apollo Eleven
You were the cool rebel
But I knew you would protect me
I dreamed we could go anywhere together

We did have our moments
Even as the firehoses blasted blacks
Marching for a seat at the front of the bus
You told me about the view from the mountain top
And I could see it then

It's been tough between us, America
But I always believed your promises
That you would settle down to your responsibilities
As you got older
Try to love your huddled masses
And it is hard to contain multitudes
I told myself

But it's been bad for so long now
Iran Contra
Florida, Ohio
There's nothing left to believe in

You've watered the tree of liberty
With the blood of so many patriots
The soil can't hold the roots
And it's a truism:
The ones who can't keep plants alive
Make lousy marriage material

I have to finally admit
It’s over between us.
I tried, America
I really did
But in the end, it just didn't work out
And I don't think we can still be friends
Because it's not me; it's you.

Freedom on the march

Via J-Walk, National Lampoon's take on the Iraq elections

Saturday, January 29, 2005

How I feel about the elections in Iraq

If I were still married...

...this would most certainly factor into my Valentine's Day present (either to me or from me).

Live by the uterus, die by the uterus

From the BBC come these photos of coffins. Apparently, in Ghana, "fantasy coffins" are the thing. These three were made for people to correspond to their trades.

The shoemaker's coffin:

The carpenter's coffin:

And the piece de resistance, the gynecologist's coffin:

The insufficiency of the ice scraper

Apparently it's really fucking cold in Switzerland right now.


Today's LA Times has a story titled "Recasting Republicans as the Party of Civil Rights," which begins by referencing Rice's invocation of Lincoln and Douglass and then goes on to focus on the 2005 Republican Freedom Calendar. Lordy, lordy, lordy.

Have I mentioned how bothersome I find revisionist history? Rice:

Standing for the cause of liberty is as old as our country itself. Indeed, it was our very first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who said, "The God who gave us live [sic], gave us liberty at the same time." America's story is the story of men and women ceaselessly striving to ensure that we as a nation live up to the ideals set forth by our forefathers. . . .

The enduring principles enshrined in our Constitution made it possible for impatient patriots -- like Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King -- to move us ever closer to our founding ideals. And so it is only natural that through the decades America would associate itself with those around the world who also strive to secure freedom for themselves and for their children.
So what's the implication here? That Jefferson would have wanted us to go to war in the Middle East and, furthermore, that our seemingly endless "war against terror" is in the tradition of freeing the slaves. Can you hear my deep and heavy sigh?

But the calendar, ladies and gentlemen, the calendar. It's an abomination really. It was put together by the House's Republican Policy Committee, and here is Rep. Cox's description:

We started our party with the express intent of protecting the American people from the Democrats' pro-slavery policies that expressly made people inferior to the state. Today, the animating spirit of the Republican Party is exactly the same as it was then: free people, free minds, free markets, free expression, and unlimited individual opportunity.

Leading the organized opposition to these ideas 150 years ago, just as today, was the Democratic Party. Then, just as now, their hallmarks were politically correct speech; a preference for government control over individual initiative (and of course slavery was the most extreme form of government control over the individual); and an insistence on seeing people as members of groups rather than as individuals.
Truly, this is appalling stuff. And it does seem to be paid for by our current administration in its continuing quest to transform our country into a one-party state. Each date commemorates a historic achievement for the Republican Party in defeating the Democratic resistance to freedom and equal rights. So March 30, for instance celebrates 1868:

Republicans begin impeachment trial of Democrat President Andrew Johnson, who declared: "This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government of white men."
June 9, recalls 1964:

Republicans condemn 14-hour filibuster against 1964 Civil Rights Act by U.S. Senator and former Ku Klux Klansman Robert Byrd (D-WV), who still serves in the Senate.
And so forth. It has all sorts of historical pictures and quotes ranging from Condi to Lincoln. It's repulsive. You should check it out just so that I can share the disgust. I have said it here before, but I'll say it again: it never ceases to amaze me that just when I think I am totally jaded, something comes out of our government that shocks me. A current calendar implying that, if they had the political capital, the Democrats would bring back slavery sort of astonishes me.

Can the Democrats come out with some sort of "Jane you ignorant slut" calendar please? We could call it the 2005 Democratic Not Criminally Stupid Calendar or the 2005 Democratic Trying to Minimize the Carnage Calendar and include things like June 8:
Ronald Reagan on Dukakis, 1988: "You know, if I listened to him long enough, I would be convinced that we're in an economic downturn, and that people are homeless, and people are going without food and medical attention, and that we've got to do something about the unemployed."
August 15:
George H. W. Bush, on the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by the U.S. warship Vincennes, killing 290 passengers, 1989: "I will never apologize for the United States of America - I don't care what the facts are."
Clearly, the Republicans are attempting to capture more of the black vote. If they're lucky, the Dems will run someone blindingly white like Kerry again. Only this time instead of slinging a rifle over his shoulder in a duck hunting opportunity he can put on some baggy pants and go to a hip-hop concert or something. Yeah.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Today's mail

So tonight when I got home at the end of what has been a pretty marathon-ish week, I had two pieces of mail from my government. First, a letter saying the state of California's records show that I have unpaid tax from at least one year since 1999 and I can apply for tax amnesty. The thing is: I don't have unpaid tax from any year since I've been here, so I can't wait to fight that battle.

The second piece of mail is from the National Guard:
Dear Mr. ______,
Be one of America's most powerful weapons. Defend what you love most. You cherish your freedom, your country, your friends and family. Serve in the Army National Guard, and you'll defend America, its values and those you love most. You'll normally train part-time, but you'll be ready to serve whenever or wherever you are needed. So you can go to college or work full-time. . .

"I am an American soldier. I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army values. . . " The Soldier's Creed

Dear National Guard, I don't need money for college or the job skills you are offering. I don't even want your tee-shirt offer or the American Soldier DVD. I am not a Warrior, and I don't believe that part-time shit for a minute. In fact, I think your plan is to have me drive around a war zone in an unarmored vehicle until someone blows my legs off, and that just doesn't sound the least bit appealing. The fact is, I'm a chicken-shit, bleeding heart liberal, smoker who values the things about this country y'all have forgotten about a long time ago. And I'm a girl. Piss off.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The poodle bites

Blair is calling in his chits at Davos:
"The underlying features of the speech seem to be these," Mr. Blair said, acting as he has in the past as an interpreter of American motives to a skeptical Europe. "America accepts that terrorism cannot be defeated by military might alone. The more people live under democracy, with human liberty intact, the less inclined they or their states will be to indulge terrorism or to engage in it.

"By its very nature, such a mission cannot be accomplished alone," added Mr. Blair, who has been the closest ally of Mr. Bush in the Iraq war.

"No one could say the inauguration speech was lacking in idealism.

"However if America wants the rest of the world to be part of the agenda it has set, it must be part of their agenda too."

Blair said that what people wanted was "not for America to concede, but to engage."

"It is absurd to choose between an agenda focusing on terrorism and one on global poverty, especially as, in part at least, they are linked," he added.

In some states. . .

the crucial question is "red or green?" not "red or blue?" When the history of silly laws is written...


So today, of course, marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Here is Primo Levi in his preface to Survival in Auschwitz:
Many people--many nations--can find themselves holding, more or less wittingly, that "every stranger is an enemy." For the most part, this conviction lies deep down like some latent infection; it betrays itself only in random, disconnected acts, and does not lie at the base of a system of reason. But when this does come about, when the unspoken dogma becomes the major premise in a syllogism, then, at the end of the chain, there is the Lager. Here is the product of a conception of the world carried rigorously to its logical conclusion; so long as the conception subsists, the conclusion remains to threaten us. The story of the death camps should be understood by everyone as a sinister alarm-signal.
Our President's remarks upon the occasion:
. . . In places like Auschwitz, evidence of the horror of the Holocaust has been preserved to help the world remember the past. We must never forget the cruelty of the guilty and the courage of the victims at Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.

During the Holocaust, evil was systematic in its implementation and deliberate in its destruction. The 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is an opportunity to pass on the stories and lessons of the Holocaust to future generations. The history of the Holocaust demonstrates that evil is real, but hope endures.

Among Cheney's comments to survivors:
. . . Evil did not have the final say. You survived terror. . . . We must face down hatred together. We are dedicated to the task at hand, and we will never forget. Let he who makes peace in the heavens grant peace to all of us.
I'm too disgusted to even comment. You all know what I'd say anyway. Something about opportunistic warmongers.

Spending all day in a conference room

is no way to live. It really isn't. Anyway, one more day of near inactivity blogwise. Tomorrow is my last day in our board meeting. Today was exhausting.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

It's about Obama

My enthusiasm is waning.

Today in history

Was it really only seven years ago? Remember the good old days when a scandal was about a blowjob not torture policies and the obstruction of voting? Bring back cigars and thong underwear!

Can you say "backlash"?

So apparently I was wrong to take issue below with the blog post titled "Should Nancy Hopkins be driving?" It's been called to my attention that we women are hormonally disadvantaged, and our lack of testosterone causes us to be bad drivers and horrible map-readers. This can, it seems, be determined by the length of our ring fingers relative to our index fingers (a comparison that can also indicate who among us is a lesbian, they say):
Writing in Intelligence, the researchers, led by Dr Petra Kempel, said women who had 'male-like' finger length ratio patterns outperformed other women.
To which I will say: Travis' middle finger is the longest of all of her fingers and she lifts it in a salute to these researchers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Bat spit

I'm in meetings all day. In the meantime, I merely pass along the news that bat spit may help stroke sufferers.

The best of the black boots ball

I promise I'll stop talking about the inaugural. I know I have been obsessed. I will move on, but before I do, I feel compelled to share my two favorite inaugural pics (plucked from the quite astonishing site Cryptome--be warned, the site also features torture and death photos).

This first one I love because it just captures in one image so much of what is wrong with this administration

And this second one, if I'm not mistaken, shows Cheney peeing on the lectern, an act that clearly has Laura perplexed (though George has a knowing grin).

Gore Vidal on Bush's Inaugural Sermon

From Democracy Now:

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Gore Vidal. He -- President Bush said in his speech: “Across the generations, we’ve proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one's fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. It's the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it's the urgent requirement of our national security, and the calling of our time.”

GORE VIDAL: Well, proof of his bad education -- he seems not to know that the principle founders of the United States, from George Washington to Thomas Jefferson to Madison, were all slave holders. So, we started a country with half of the country quite prosperous because of black slaves, African slaves, who were not in the least happy about being slaves, but they had been captured, brought over here and sold back and forth around the country. So, I don't see how the founding fathers could have committed us to the principle that ‘no man should be a slave, and every man should be a master,’ or whatever the silly-Billy said. Well, this is a country based on slavery, is also based upon the dispossession of what we miscall the Indians. They were the native Americans, at least before -- long before our arrival. So, we were not dedicated to any of these principles. We were dedicated to making as much money and stealing as much land as we could and building up a republic, not a democracy. The word democracy was hated by the founding fathers. It does not appear at any point in the constitution, nor does it appear in any pleasant sense in the Federalist Papers. So, we are not a democracy, and here we are exporting it as though it were just something -- well, we just happened to make, a lot of democracy, and cotton and tin and stuff like that. So, let’s --let's do some exports of democracy. We don't have it, and most countries don't have it, and not many countries want it. Democracy was tried only once, and that was in the Fifth Century B.C., at Athens, and finally, they were overcome by an oligarchy from Sparta, and nobody ever tried again to establish a democracy in any country on earth.

Advice column

Dear Miss Advice,

My husband has a long record of money problems. He runs up huge credit card bills and at the end of the month, if I try to pay them off, he shouts at me, saying I am stealing his money. He says pay the minimum and let our kids worry about the rest, but already we can hardly keep up with the interest.

Also he has been so arrogant and abusive toward our neighbors that most of them no longer speak to us. The few that do are an odd bunch,to whom he has been giving a lot of expensive gifts, running up our bills even more.

Also, he has gotten religion in a big way, although I don't quite understand it. One week he hangs out with Catholics and the next with people who say the Pope is the Antichrist.

And now he has been going to the gym an awful lot and is into wearing uniforms and cowboy outfits, and I hate to think what that means.

And finally, the last straw. He's demanding that before anyone can be in the same room with him, they must sign a loyalty oath. It's just so horribly creepy!

Can you help?


Dear Lost,

Stop whining, Laura. You can divorce the jerk any time. The rest of us are stuck with him for four more years!

Let's hear it for "the expansion of freedom in all the world"

Where I come from we have an expression: "if nothing changes, nothing changes." On that note, today’s release from Human Rights Watch, The New Iraq? Torture and Ill-treatment of Detainees in Iraqi Custody, reports that torture and other human rights violations continue unchecked in Iraq.

Methods of torture cited by detainees include routine beatings to the body using cables, hosepipes and other implements. Detainees report kicking, slapping and punching; prolonged suspension from the wrists with the hands tied behind the back; electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body, including the earlobes and genitals; and being kept blindfolded and/or handcuffed continuously for several days. In several cases, the detainees suffered what may be permanent physical disability.

Detainees also reported being deprived by Iraqi security forces of food and water, and being crammed into small cells with standing room only. Numerous detainees described how Iraqi police sought bribes in return for release, access to family members or food and water.
The summary ends with this knee-slapper:
The United States and other donors should ensure that international advisers working with the Iraqi authorities on policing and detentions should give immediate priority to assisting in the establishment of a mechanism for the prompt reporting and investigation of allegations of torture and ill-treatment, including the setting up of an independent complaints body.
This is what we might call the "those who can't do, teach" method of "spreading democracy."


Official, this moment: I am withdrawing from the human race.

Rona Barrett meets Jenny Holzer

Via blog of the day comes PostSecret an online collection of postcards people have written/drawn confessing their secrets. (Those who know me understand why I could not resist posting the example below which, in the museum of my life, could be titled "why I am a divorcee." Be that as it may, the effect is really in the aggregate.)

Who knew so many people had secrets about pee? Perhaps Freud was right after all. Washingtonians can see the cards exhibited at the Anne C. Fisher Gallery.

Daddy truck rhymes with what the fuck: Women in science at Harvard

You know, I wasn't going to weigh in on the winter hit, Bell Curve Revisited: Lawrence Summers Talks about Gender. I couldn't quite get past my denial that we were even confronted with this discussion again. I was feeling a little like writing about it makes it real; if I just ignore it, maybe I will wake up and it will have all been a bad dream. Sigh.

But this morning they were talking to Nancy Hopkins on Democracy Now (the woman who walked out of Summers' talk, "saying later that if she hadn't left, 'I would've either blacked out or thrown up.'") and, well, here I am.

If you have been living in a cave this week, let me fill you in: Summers, the president of Harvard (yes, the same one who persuaded Cornell West to seek a spot at Princeton where he need not worry if his behavior is "unbecoming of a Harvard professor"), imputed the dearth of women tenured faculty in the sciences to three possible causes: first, the conflict between being mommy and being Dr. Science Lady (which is to say, that mommy doesn't want to work an 80-hour week); second, girls have lower science test scores than boys, a phenomenon that may well be due to the women's innate inability (because, after all, Summers own daughter calls her toy trucks "baby truck" and "daddy truck"--I am not making this shit up); third, discrimination, which Summers determined not to be a major factor because, in the end, Capitalism will trump all other cards and not discriminating would give schools a competitive edge.

So you see why I just wanted to ignore these comments right? The man is a raging idiot really. Then I read the Boston Globe's coverage, which contains this paragraph:
Summers said cutting-edge research has shown that genetics are more important than previously thought, compared with environment or upbringing. As an example, he mentioned autism, once believed to be a result of parenting but now widely seen to have a genetic basis.
?????!!!!! Truly my head is spinning around like the Exorcist kid. What the fuck??!! A guy's gotta work hard to find a statement offensive on so many levels. Being a woman is like being autistic. It's not your parents' fault that you're a dimwit and want to call trucks "daddy" and "baby." AAARRRGGGHHH! I defy anyone who has ever been to a Toys R Us to tell me that the force of environment can be under-estimated in gender roles. Does Summers' daughter live in a plastic bubble? No, she lives in a culture where buying toys for children amounts to a "pink plastic oven or well armed action figure" choice. Is this not obvious to everyone by now? Get a fucking clue, Summers. You're president of Harvard. You're not supposed to be a moron.

And then there's this:
The organizer of the conference, Harvard economist Richard B. Freeman, described Summers' critics as activists whose sensibilities might be at odds with intellectual debate.

. . .

"We are lucky enough to have a president who is capable and willing to have these discussions rather than talk in bureaucratese," Freeman said. "I predict he will get more things done on women and faculty issues because he's a straight-talking, no-baloney president."
What the fuck is wrong with these people?? If I suffered from high blood pressure, I would need to take a pill or something. First of all, since when is activism incompatible with intellectual endeavors? (Admittedly, holding public office seems to be increasingly incompatible with intellectual thought, but that's a whole different matter.) What's really being said here? If a guy is a racist, sexist fuckwad he's "straight-talking, no-baloney." If you're a woman who doesn't want to be defined in terms of her baby-making capacities or your genetic handicap, you speak "bureaucratese" and you're an activist. My head is fucking exploding folks. Right here, on the flat screen. Chunks of brain and pieces of skull bone.

Do I sound hysterical? I'm sorry; it must be my wandering womb. Forgive me.

Anyway, I'm going to burn some bras when I go home tonight.

Why I get most of my news from blogs

I'm on last night, searching for a news story I heard on TV, and I come across a piece about Bush's inaugural speech titled "The Bush Doctrine." I'm intrigued. Indeed, I see how one could understand the speech in that way, and I set to reading the editorial. At first, it rehearses the analysis we've read (or thought) about Bush setting out a monomaniacal agenda for the next four years, a "missionary, idealistic crusade." The piece mentions that this is a president who squeeked by with the smallest electoral college margin since 1916 and yet is the first since 1928 to enter his second term with Republican control of the House, Senate, and White House.

So far, nothing too notable. And then there's this:
To me, the attractiveness of the family (and this is admittedly weird) was symbolized this week by Laura Bush's hair. I looked at pictures of her from the 2001 Inaugural and she was the same – no radical new do's or styles. How nice. Then I looked at pictures of Hillary Clinton from 1991, 1995, 2001 and in between: a whole new look, a whole new persona in each photograph. How disquieting. OK, scary.
Say what? While we're on the subject of disquieting, scary things, let's talk about the place of hair style analysis in a piece on Bush's inaugural speech and second term. The laws have changed, our international standing has changed, our respect for the rights of our citizens has changed, but thank god we can count on something: Laura Bush's hair. Oy vey.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Documenting the spread of democracy

In the process of looking for an estimate of the number of "insurgent" detainees in Iraq, I came across the Brookings Institute's Iraq Index. Updated three times a week, the index contains figures, charts and survey results ranging from carnage to war profiteers. It's pretty fascinating (in that car wreck sort of way). The table below, for instance, comes from a survey at the end of June 2004.

I still don't know the answer to my question, but I do know we're averaging between 2,000 and 3,000 "insurgents detained or killed" (no differentiation in status here) and there are 7,900 people in prison in Iraq.

From the Iraq Index

The dog days of winter

Via Yelladog comes the news that this is the most depressing day of the year:
And if you want scientific proof, then Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University has it.

He settled on January 24 after using an elaborate formula expressing the delicate interplay of lousy weather, post-Christmas debt, time elapsed since yuletide indulgence, failed new year resolutions, motivation levels, and the desperate need to have something to look forward to.

In short, all that's left of Christmas today is credit card bills and a pervading sense that the next holiday is months away.
Gosh, and here I was finally feeling better.

Dogs go on with their doggy life

Because the dog theme we seem to be running here at NMTE lately affords a good excuse, here is some timely Auden

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there must always be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

The dog ate my Constitution

Once again, the civil rights canary is gasping for air in the coal mine that is the current administration. The Supreme Court today overturned the Illinois Supreme Court ruling about using drug sniffing dogs during a routine traffic stop. Delivering the court's opinion (.pdf), Stevens writes:
The legitimate expectation that information about perfectly lawful activity will remain private is categorically distinguishable from respondent’s hopes or expectations concerning the nondetection of contraband in the trunk of his car. A dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment.
And so it seems that one is entitled to privacy only if one is law abiding. Or to put it another way, if your privacy is violated and you are found to have broken a law, that's a-okay. You didn't really have the right to privacy to begin with, you dirty drug addict.

Souter and Ginsburg dissented (Rehnquist didn't participate), arguing that one must "treat a sniff as the search that it amounts to in practice." And further, Souter writes, rather poetically, "The infallible dog . . . is a creature of legal fiction."

In the past, Ginsburg has argued "Fourth Amendment protection, reserved for the innocent only, would have little force in regulating police behavior toward either the innocent or the guilty," to which I must add "um...duh."

It's just all pretty frightening and terribly depressing isn't it?

I want to be his dog

Remember Rudolph Moshammer, mentioned below, the murdered German girlie man fashion designer who counts my governor among his clients? Well, he's left his home in Munich to Daisy, his yorkshire terrier. Dogs across Germany are apparently wearing black to show their solidarity with Daisy in her time of mourning.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A conservative revolution

This oxymoron brought to you by Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza:

He is planning such deep changes in internal policy that if they are carried through they will change America for good. He also spoke of these changes in his inaugural speech as being 'furtherance of freedom and justice.' If his plans are realised, then this will be a conservative revolution.
The BBC has world responses to Bush's inaugural speech. Here are a few of the excerpts:

Bush's speech focused on the 'power of freedom', saying that the best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world. On that, not many people will disagree. The differences are over what he understands by 'freedom' and how the benefits of democracy should be spread in the world - or indeed whether it is any country's business to export democracy to others... It is possible to have the freer world that Bush speaks of, but the idea that those who are strong and have a larger arsenal have an unchallenged right to impose their will on the weak, undermines democracy.

Kenya's Nation

Things are now clearer than ever: We have the right to feel a chill down the spine. To describe Bush as a madman with a mission at the head of a state bristling with weapons does not really get us any further... and, although insulting, it is no longer even particularly original. And yet this US administration sends a chill down the spine of anyone unwilling to become accustomed to listening to this madness.

Germany's Die Tageszeitung

The question is how much he has learnt... and how much he has forgotten. Mr Bush will be the president of the USA for the next four years, and whatever he ruins, he will ruin it for us too. So it is worth keeping our fingers crossed for him, for mere selfishness if for no other reason.

Hungary's Nepszabadsag
Um...well, Ireland really liked the speech.

It all started with Squidly Diddly

It appears the Dobsonites' deepest fears are proving true. SpongeBob is merely one small part of the vast undersea gay agenda. Now we come to find out that cuttlefish have been spotted cross dressing.

It casts a new light on those squid that Eponymous noted have been washing ashore the California beaches. Scientists are stumped, but I suspect the squid are merely cruising. Click through and tell me what you think.

Let me see if I understand this... addition to making your dick bigger, it makes your heart smaller. Hmm....

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Don't trust anyone under 30

In searching for something entirely different, I happened upon Students for War last night, from whom this rather frightening graphic display comes.

I'm reduced to a simple "wow, can you believe that shit?" It's yet another one of those "The Onion is really behind this" moments for me.

Among other homages to world domination, the site has a page devoted to France-baiting (which I admit, is pretty clever, especially if you scroll down to the bottom) and a page of links--one to a page "'Why We Know Iraq is Lying' A Column by Dr. Condoleezza Rice," in which Dr. Rice explains Iraq has not yet given a satisfactory answer to the question "Have you stopped beating your wife?" Um, yeah. We rest our case, kids.

Protesting in LA

And then there are the dogs of peace

Words cannot express

I am an occasional copyeditor (you'd hardly know it from my blog, I acknowledge), and one of my copyediting pet peeves is when someone writes something like "words can't express how I felt" or "it's impossible to put into words..." I always think, "So why are you writing this? Go into film-making or something, why don't you." Most of the time, that sort of statement is just a linguistic cop-out.

But...sometimes you really can't put it into words. NPR has a brief piece on In Other Words, a book of "untranslatable" words. There are a few that I think we should take up in the political public sphere. This one, for example, provides the most concise explanation for term limits I've ever encountered:
ilunga (Tshiluba) [ee-Iun-ga] (noun)

This word from the Tshiluba language of the Republic of Congo has topped a list drawn up with the help of one thousand translators as the most untranslatable word in the world. It describes a person who is ready to forgive any transgression a first time and then to tolerate it for a second time, but never for a third time.
And Japanese gives us language to describe our policies in the Middle East:
tatemae [tah-tay-mye] (noun)

A term often translated as "form," but it also has the specific cultural meaning of "the reality that everyone professes to be true, even though they may not privately believe it." For privately held views, the Japanese have a different term, honne, meaning, "the reality that you hold inwardly to be true, even though you would never admit it publicly."
And then there is this rather ominous discovery about an English word with no equivalent: "Arabic has no word for 'compromise' in the sense of reaching an arrangement via struggle and disagreement."

Once again, I say: it's going to be a long four years.

An answer to my question

Thanks to Marty Lederman of Balkinization, who has posted all of Gonzales's written responses to Senate Judiciary Committee questions, I have an answer to my question about the Geneva Convention below:
Moreover, Gonzales suggests that the Fourth Geneva Convention, with its protection of civilians, no longer applies to civilians detained by the U.S. now that the U.S. is no longer an occupying power. [QUESTION FOR THOSE WHO ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS: If Geneva IV does not apply to protect civilian detainees of a non-occupying power, which, if any, of Geneva's protections do protect such civilian detainees?]
I may have to send one of those Balkinization guys an email. I think they actually know what they're talking about, unlike me who is dilettante extraordinaire. Because now I have more questions. Am I wrong in thinking the implication here is that we can torture civilians with impunity as long as we've declared a war to be over? If we're in a "military action" (not officially a "war") with a country, can we torture civilians? If Rumsfeld takes a vacation in France and gets a bad baguette? What are we talking here?

Friday, January 21, 2005

Friday monkey blogging

In celebration of my renewed will to live, I am instituting Friday monkey blogging.

Second quote of the day

"You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty"

Jessica Mitford

I'm back

After about 48 hours of unadulterated wrath brought on by the inauguration, I have rediscovered my sense of humor. When they take my hope or my sense of humor, they've won. Some days they get the latter; they rarely get both. A keenly honed sense of the absurd is an absolutely necessary mixer for my rage cocktail. I can never take venom straight.

Strangely, going to the protest and march last night didn't really make me feel better. For one thing, there weren't enough people. When you grow up in Washington, D.C., you don't realize that in most other places in the world, people don't come in from across the country when there's a rally. For another thing, I got into a bit of morose reflection when I realized that I've been marching since before two of the compadres that joined me last night were born. I was lucky to grow up in an activist family, where singing songs and carrying signs was part of my birthright. I love that about my family, and some of my enduring memories are rooted in pickets and protests--including my great regret that, at eight years old, I freaked out so much when my sister and her friends coached me on the way to an impeach Nixon rally ("If the police are coming, run away so they don't hit you with their sticks..."), that I started weeping somewhat hysterically ("I'm afraid of the tear gas!") and we went home instead.

But I digress. The point here is that it just felt futile last night to me for a brief stretch of time. Chanting "the people united can never be defeated," and I'm thinking we've chanted that for decades and it ain't getting any better folks. And then there were the people with their teeny kids all big eyed holding their signs and candles. And the veterans.

I stayed and I marched and cried and chanted: "Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like..."

And once again, I wondered how to survive the next four years without committing homicide or losing my mind. I know that I need to connect myself with something. Blogging is good because I feel my virtual community around me--all of us out here breaking these binary rocks until the kingdom comes--but I need something else local. At the march I thought to myself: I'm not an anarchist, and I'm not a pacifist, and I'm not a Democrat. I don't believe we will have a revolution and I'd rather not spend the next four years spitting into Capitalism's wind. I'm happy to align my efforts with any and all of the above, and I feel a deep respect for and kinship with the pacifist/ anarchist/ liberal/ whatevers of the world (except when they are drenched with patchouli, at which point my fellow feeling dwindles), but my time and energy are so limited I'd like to use them where I feel most passionately.

So today I am sitting at my desk posting pictures of weeping Iraqi children and generally nurturing my bitterness so that it will reach full flourish, and I look up and see the Camus quote on my bulletin board: "The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." And I decide to climb out of my hole. Camus' Sisyphus is one of my all time heroes. At my best, I try to follow his example and just keep rolling the rocks up the hill and feel happy (or satisfied) because it gives my life purpose.

The latest rocks I am contemplating rolling? Well, I thought a lot about that "where do I fit" question last night. I was disappointed that the counter-inaugural was largely an anti-war protest. Don't get me wrong. I hate this fucking war with everything I can muster. Just as I hated the last war where we "bombed them back to the middle ages"--a condition they seem to have rectified in merely a decade. But I am even more anti-Bush than I am anti-war. That is to say, what disturbs me the very most about this administration is their disdain for the law, most fundamentally the Constitution. I know this is nothing new, but it seems to me their contempt is different in its application. These are folks who wouldn't even bother erasing the tapes. They would either 1.claim that "after 9/11 everything has changed," 2.make an academic argument that the law allows their actions, or 3.change the law.

So I'm mulling some options. It seems the SFV chapter of the ACLU is getting active. I'm going to go to their screening of Unconstitutional, a documentary about the Patriot Act. Maybe there will be work they are doing that seems right.

I'm also mulling the idea of resurrecting the broadside. (Know that in addition to a general fan, I am also an academic geek about the Constitution, having written my dissertation about the framing, the flag, and 18th C. pop culture.) I've been thinking about some of the comment-thread discussions on blogs I've had lately and the conversation I had in the airport during the airline sick-out. Sometimes people just don't have the facts or simply haven't considered a perspective. The women at the airport had never thought about how much a CEO makes relative to the union workers who were calling in sick, and they'd never asked themselves whether upper management was sharing the load in terms of pay cuts. One short conversation changed their whole way of looking at labor disputes. Blogs are wonderful. I love my weblog. I am a researcher at heart and I love reading transcripts and excerpting them and just generally mouthing off. But for the most part this is a preaching to the choir proposition. It sustains me, but what if once a month or so "the committee to resurrect the Constitution" (i.e., me and whatever friends I could strong arm into joining me) printed a bunch of really snazzy looking one-page, front-and-back info sheets on some topic in the news and just left them places--Starbucks tables, shopping mall benches... Just another thing I am turning over in my head.

And you know, I need to remember, one of those young friends with me last night had never been to a protest before, and she wouldn't have come were it not for me. And one of her friends came too. It's an incremental thing, isn't it? At least I'm not rolling rocks all by myself out here.

Wrapping ourselves in the flag

From LA Weekly

Helping others find their own voice

Let's review that inauguration speech again. How did that go? Oh yes, that's right:
America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal, instead, is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way.

And then there was that other part:
We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right.
Photos are of children crying after their parents were shot when they failed to stop at a checkpoint in Iraq. The blood is, apparently, their parents' not their own. (From a small, pretty amazing collection at the BBC.)

Quote of the day

The new Democratic Party motto:
"A moment of resistance, a lifetime of capitulation."

Jon Stewart (via Ratiocination)

What a field-day for the heat

Slipping through the net

If you haven't been to Oliver Willis yet to see the Fox clip about the inaugural, you should go watch it now. Judy Bachrach totally kneecaps "newscaster" Quinn by actually expressing a criticism of Bush's Cabaret. I particularly love the moment when Quinn--hosting a segment on a news station about a presidential inaugural--says she didn't know Bachrach was going to talk about politics. (Anybody in the industry looking for work, I have a sense Fox is hiring folks to vet their guests.)
And a very special thanks to my sponsor

Thursday, January 20, 2005

How you know you live in LA

Your friend valet parks her car to protest the inauguration.


Today in DC

"[R]ights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed."

George W. Bush
Second Inaugural Address
(Pic from DC Indymedia).

Solacing myself with irony

Via Corrente comes this marvelous story from CNN:
Poll: Nation split on Bush as uniter or divider

Wednesday, January 19, 2005 Posted: 4:19 PM EST (2119 GMT)

On the eve of President Bush's inauguration, a poll shows the nation is split over whether he has united or divided the nation, but a majority believe his inauguration festivities should be toned down because of the war.

During the 2000 campaign, Bush promised to be a "uniter, not a divider."

Forty-nine percent of 1,007 adult Americans said in phone interviews they believe Bush is a "uniter," according to the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Wednesday. Another 49 percent called him a "divider," and 2 percent had no opinion.
Isn't that fabulous, really? I figured if it can make me laugh today, I should certainly share it.

"We are all tourists in history, and irony is what we win in wars."
Anatole Broyard

Letters I sent to my senators yesterday

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I read the text of the Foreign Relations Committee hearing of Condoleeza Rice and saw that the final vote was 16-2 with you voting in favor of endorsing Rice. I would outline my objections here--torture is wrong, endless war is wrong, lying to the public is wrong...--but you are a smart woman and surely you know why Rice is a vile candidate for the post and why you ought to be ashamed of yourself for endorsing her. Thomas Paine said it better than I could:

"I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. I conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America.

There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one. There are persons too who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them, they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if they succeed will be merciful. It is the madness of folly to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object is only a trick of war: The cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf; and we ought to guard equally against both."

I hope you enjoy your stay in the Lincoln Bedroom or whatever other spoil of war you've traded your soul for.

Ashamed to call myself your constituent,

Dear Senator Boxer,

I just wanted to write and thank you for doing such a great job representing your constituents. I suspect you are the only ethical person left in the Senate, and I hope you keep on the alert so that you can continue to evade the mysterious soul sucking body snatcher that is turning your fellow democrats into pod politicians.

Your vote and voice in the Rice hearings and the challenge to the Ohio vote make me proud to be a Californian (even in the face of my other senator's obsequious performance). Please keep the faith Ms. Boxer. Know that even if some days, you may tilt at windmills, those battles have effects you don't see. You are helping some of us hang on for the next four years.

With the utmost admiration,

Reading around

Below I complained that I was getting tired of referencing 1984 over and over. Could we please come up with a new proof text, I asked. As if reading my mind, Richard J. Leon of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia has issued a judgment on the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. The Supreme Court, you may recall, has ruled that the prisoners can invoke Habeas Corpus. That is to say, they can demand that federal court determine whether they are imprisoned legally. So seven prisoners have petitioned Leon's court. The NYT reports that Leon:
said the seven prisoners who brought a claim in his court could not be granted what they had asked for, writs of habeas corpus that would have required the federal courts to consider whether they were lawfully detained. . . . He made a distinction between the right to file for a habeas corpus petition before a judge and the right to obtain one.
I personally want to thank Judge Leon for answering my plea and turning our attention to Catch-22 and The Trial as explanatory texts for our time. Variety is the spice of life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Four more years

16 to 2

I know, I said it in the post below, but I feel the need to reiterate: the vote to endorse Rice was 16 to 2. All I can say is, they're going to have a hard time finding enough room in hell when this generation dies off. Here's a snippet from yesterday's hearing (evoking more than a little, Gonzales' hearing). Shouldn't this alone be enough to make any ethical Senator vote no:
SEN. DODD: Let me just come back to the point. I just want to make this simple question.

MS. RICE: Yes.

SEN. DODD: Is it your view, as a human matter, that water- boarding and the use, as we saw, in prisons in Iraq of nudity -- is that torture in your personal view, as a nominee here for the --

MS. RICE: Senator, I'm not going to speak to any specific interrogation techniques, but let me talk about Abu Ghraib, because that was not acceptable.

SEN. DODD: I'd like to just get your views on just a simple matter. It's a simple question I'm asking. I'm not --

MS. RICE: Well, you asked me about the incidents in Iraq, and --

SEN. DODD: (Off mike) -- asking about some very specific techniques that were used, whether or not you consider them to be torture or not.

MS. RICE: Senator, the determination of whether interrogation techniques are consistent with our international obligations and American law are made by the Justice Department. I don't want to comment on any specific interrogation techniques. I don't think that would be appropriate, and I think it would not be very good for American security.

SEN. DODD: Well, let's leave it, if that's your answer, there. It's a disappointing answer, I must say. The face of U.S. foreign policy is in the person of the secretary of State, and it's important at moments like this to be able to express yourself aside from the legalities of things, how you as a human being react to these kinds of activities. And with the world watching, when a simple question is raised about techniques that I think most people would conclude in this country are torture, it's important at a moment like that that you can speak clearly and directly without getting involved in the legalisms questions. I understand these involve some legal determinations, but as a human being how you feel about this, about to assume the position and be responsible for pursuing the human rights issues that this nation has been deeply committed to for decades, is a very important moment.

MS. RICE: Senator, I maintain the commitment and will maintain the commitment of the United States to norms of international behavior and to the legal norms that we have helped to --

SEN. DODD: Let me ask you this, then. What would happen if someone did this to an American? What would happen if we saw on television that a captured American was being subjected to these kind of activities? How would you react to it?

MS. RICE: Senator, the United States of America -- American personnel are not engaged in terrorism against innocents.

SEN. DODD: I wasn't asking you what they have been charged with. I'm asking whether or not, if you saw an American be treated like this, how would you react?

MS. RICE: We expect Americans to be -- because we are parties to the Geneva Conventions, we expect Americans to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

SEN. DODD: Of course we do. And do you consider these kinds of activities to violate the Geneva Conventions?

MS. RICE: We believe that there are certain categories of people, the al Qaeda, for instance, who were not covered by Geneva, that in fact it would have been a stretch to cover them under Geneva, would have weakened Geneva to cover them. But the president said that they had to be treated, as military necessity allowed, consistent with the application of Geneva.

SEN. DODD: Do me a favor. At the end of all of these hearings, I'd like you to spend about 15 minutes with John McCain and talk to him about this stuff. I think you'll get some good advice when it comes to the subject matter, someone who has been through this, about what the dangers are when we have sort of waffling answers about these questions and then Americans can be apprehended and what happens to them.

Let me move on, because I don't want to take up the committee's time on this particular point, but I'm troubled by your answer.
Boxer, of course, picked up the topic as well. After hammering away at it, she was able to obtain only a feeble legalistic answer saying basically, it's okay to torture people.

BOXER: Now last Thursday we find out that after the Senate unanimously approved an amendment to restrict the use of extreme interrogation measures by American intelligence officers, you wrote a letter, along with Mr. Bolten, to the members of the conference committee, asking them to strike that language from the final bill. And unfortunately, that is what they did, at your request.

Now -- (to staff) -- can you bring this over here, so I can see it? I want to read you the operative language that you asked to be struck from the bill, that was struck from the bill. "In general" -- and by the way, this was written by Joe Lieberman and John McCain -- John McCain, a man who knows what torture is. So he wrote this, with Joe Lieberman.

"In general, no prisoner shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States." Pretty straightforward, pretty elegant, bipartisan -- passed the Senate, that amendment, unanimously, every single member.

A letter comes, and the newspaper writes that at your request, "At the urging of the White House, congressional leaders scrapped a legislative measure last month that would have imposed new restrictions on the use of extreme interrogation measures by American intelligence officers. In a letter to members of Congress sent in October and made available by the White House on Wednesday" -- this is last week -- "Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, expressed opposition to the measure, on the grounds that it, quote, 'provides legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled under applicable law and policy.'"

MS. RICE: I was making -- I was making a broader point, Senator, which is that the Geneva Conventions should not be extended to those who don't live up to the obligations of the Geneva Convention.
Here's what I don't get. Truly. If the argument is that the Geneva Conventions don't apply to terrorists, any terrorists, because their identity as terrorists supersedes their identity as citizens of a nation that is a party to the Geneva Conventions, how is that argument valid when you're torturing people that you don't even have enough evidence to charge or try for a crime? I'm certain I must not have all of the information. And if I do, why didn't anybody in that hearing room say that to either Gonzales or Rice? What am I missing here?

These are the times that try men's souls

Upon the eve of the inauguration and the night after Rice's 16-2 Foreign Relations Committee vote, I am reading Thomas Paine. I am thinking of sending the following to Feinstein as I don't think I could do a better job expressing my disgust:
I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. I conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America.

There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one. There are persons too who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them, they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if they succeed will be merciful. It is the madness of folly to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object is only a trick of war: The cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf; and we ought to guard equally against both.
And that folks, is why I was an eighteenth-century scholar, in case you're wondering. It's easy to forget we had a revolution in this country.

Yes, I was inspired by tonight's West Wing episode, and I'm embarrassed to admit I seemingly cannot watch the show anymore without crying. Will we ever have an administration that cares about anything important again? Four years is a long time. I am so depressed tonight that, were I to see a therapist right now and tell him that my emotions were a result of a romance, I'm sure he would try to medicate me. As it is, because they are the result of a presidency, he'd probably try to convince me they were the result of a romance or a childhood trauma. I'm not sure how to survive the next four years. I've been searching my memory banks, trying to recall if I ever felt this way before--this despairing about the political situation. I do remember sinking into the slough of despond during the first Gulf War. (By the way, did anyone catch Rice's comment during her hearing: "In the Middle East, President Bush has broken with six decades of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in hoping to purchase stability at the price of liberty." Say what?? We did "bomb them back the middle ages" not so long ago, didn't we? Did I hallucinate all of those yellow ribbons and reports about smart bombs?) In any case, yes, I was pretty depressed then. I think I may be more depressed now. I know I am more fearful of our collective future. I'm grateful for my likeminded friends here in LA and the virtual friends I've met over the last little while. Keep passing the open windows everyone.

Why it is criminal to associate Rice with King

Here is King speaking to the Southern Leadership Council six months before his assassination:

I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about "Where do we go from here?" that we must honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. (Yes) There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. (Yes) And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's marketplace. (Yes) But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. (All right) It means that questions must be raised. And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, "Who owns the oil?" (Yes) You begin to ask the question, "Who owns the iron ore?" (Yes) You begin to ask the question, "Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that's two-thirds water?" (All right) These are words that must be said. (All right)

Now, don't think you have me in a bind today. I'm not talking about communism. What I'm talking about is far beyond communism. (Yeah) My inspiration didn't come from Karl Marx (Speak); my inspiration didn't come from Engels; my inspiration didn't come from Trotsky; my inspiration didn't come from Lenin. Yes, I read Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital a long time ago (Well), and I saw that maybe Marx didn't follow Hegel enough. (All right) He took his dialectics, but he left out his idealism and his spiritualism. And he went over to a German philosopher by the name of Feuerbach, and took his materialism and made it into a system that he called "dialectical materialism." (Speak) I have to reject that.

What I'm saying to you this morning is communism forgets that life is individual. (Yes) Capitalism forgets that life is social. (Yes, Go ahead) And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis. (Speak) [applause] It is found in a higher synthesis (Come on) that combines the truths of both. (Yes) Now, when I say questioning the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. (All right) These are the triple evils that are interrelated.
Who owns the oil, indeed. I am too busy to comment right now on this, but to say King was one of this country's all time greats. Conservative attempts to coopt his speeches and ideas are nothing short of ethically criminal.

Praise god and pass the rice

If I had the energy, I would go through the transcripts of yesterday's Rice hearing and cull the 847 times Birmingham and Dr. King were brought up. But I don't, so instead I give you an excerpt from Feinstein's opening remarks. You might want to make sure there's a trashcan or bucket handy to barf in before you read them:

. . . Dr. Rice's story began 50 years ago with her birth in Birmingham, Alabama. A precocious child, she began piano lessons at age 3, could read by 5, and skipped the 1st and 7th grades. She attended public schools before enrolling at Birmingham Southern Conservatory of Music in 1964. Her mother and father are here in spirit today. Her father, an educator and pastor, aptly nicknamed his only child Little Star. Today, she is, indeed, a big star. Dr. Rice's family moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1969, where she entered an integrated school for the first time as a tenth grader. Staying close to home, she opted for the University of Denver, and was awarded her B.A. degree with honors at the age of 19.

. . .

She returned to the White House as the first African-American woman to serve as national security adviser in January 2001. As a young girl, Condi stood at the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with her father, telling him, that, quote, Daddy, I'm barred out of there now because of the color of my skin, but one day I'll be in that house, end quote. She's delivered on that promise. Now she is the president's choice to be our country's next secretary of state. As both the chairman and the ranking member have so well stated, American foreign policy today is at a crossroads. In Iraq, across the Middle East, in North Korea, in our relations with China and in so many other places we face major challenges. I would submit that Dr. Rice has the skill, the judgment and the poise and the leadership to lead in these difficult times. If confirmed, she will have the deep personal trust and confidence of the president; a real asset. She's been by his side for every crucial national security decision in the last four years. My sense is that the president trusts her implicitly. When Dr. Rice meets with Hu Jintao or Ariel Sharon or Vladimir Putin, there will be no doubt that she speaks for and on behalf of the president of the United States. The problems we face abroad are complex and sizable. If Dr. Rice's past performance is any indication, though, we can rest easy. It's difficult to know ahead of time how anyone will perform as secretary of state. Time and events test vision, facile thinking and resolute problem solving. But indeed, this is a remarkable woman that I introduce to you today, and it is with great pride that I do so.
At least Boxer came out swinging as she'd promised to do. I really urge any of my fellow Californians to write her and thank her for remaining one of the few stand-up members of our government.

First she points out a moment of excessive candor:
And if you're going to become the voice of diplomacy, this is just a helpful point. When Senator Voinovich mentioned the issue of tsunami relief, you said -- your first words were The tsunami was a wonderful opportunity for us. Now, the tsunami was one of the worst tragedies of our lifetime, one of the worst, and it's going to have a 10-year impact on rebuilding that area. I was very disappointed in your statement. I think you blew the opportunity.
Then she, having done her homework, plays a game of "catch the weasel" by quoting Rice's own contradictory statements about the Iraq war:

BOXER: Well, you should you read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that particular vote. But again, I just feel, you quote President Bush when it suits you, but you contradicted him when he said, Yes, Saddam could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. You go on television, nine months later, and said, Nobody ever said it was going to be.

RICE: Senator, that was just a question of pointing out to people that there was an uncertainty, that no one was saying that he would have to have a weapon within a year for it to be worth it to go to war.

BOXER: Well, if you can't admit to this mistake, I hope that you will rethink it.

RICE: Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much.

BOXER: I'm not. I'm just quoting what you said. You contradicted the president and you contradicted yourself.

RICE: Senator, I'm happy to continue the discussion. But I really hope that you will not imply that I take the truth lightly.
This last bit has been cited in the papers quite a lot, often with a disparaging tone. For example, my own LA Times runs an article today titled "Rose and Thorn" about Feinstein and Boxer. If you know me, you can imagine my teeth gritting when reading that. Could we please evolve to the point where we don't need to use floral metaphors to describe good girls and "thorns" to describe one of the only members of the Senate who hasn't been stricken by the mysterious spine-eating virus? For fuck's sake. Would it ever occur to anyone to call Biden or Kerry or Feingold a rose or a thorn? Aaargh.

And for that matter, what on earth is a hearing for if not to question the integrity of someone who feigns an ethical stance? Are they all gathered there to exchange Birmingham stories and thereby sully the memory of one of America's greats? I find it repulsive that Feinstein joined in the effort to hitch Condi's wagon to King's star. My only wish is that Boxer could have actually quoted some of King's speeches on non-violence or the war in Vietnam and asked Rice how she felt about that.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


JibJab has an inauguration piece up. I'm too depressed about the mere fact of the inauguration to be amused by much, but somebody might appreciate it. (And they're selling posters of that fine LA Times piece.)


The results are in for Bleach Eating Freaks' Office Bricolage contest in which you try to make the most destructive weapon possible from random office supplies. It's very much a Dilbert meets Travis Bickle kind of thing (right up some of y'all's alleys, I know).

The winner is the "office bow of death," and I am very sorry I'm unable to get the video to play. Starting with just 4 wooden rulers, a box of PaperMate pens, a bag of 84 size rubber bands, strapping tape, and a small length of Cat5 cable, you end with a potentially lethal weapon, as the creator notes:
Note**: This information is provided as "Educational Knowledge".
This weapon can actually penetrate flesh, muscle and eyeballs.
I am not responsible for the mis-use of this knowledge.
Don't try this at home, kids. Gives whole new meaning to nsf. (And they taunt me because I spend my spare time blogging.)


These are the headlines for YahooNews' top five stories right this minute:

Rice Links Iraq Withdrawal to Security

Gunmen Kill Three Iraqi Candidates

U.S. Man Charged in Oil-For-Food Probe

World's Largest Passenger Plane Unveiled

Exit pollsters to release election report to media
Really the synergy is killing me. Can I just go to sleep and wake up in four years? Hmm...I guess not.

I think it's a good rule of thumb

not to trust people who have oil tankers named after them. I am so glad I'm at work today so that I don't have to listen to the panderfest.

I'm all for truth in advertising

but this just seems like the sort of thing that need not be regulated. If you really think you can trade in that wrinkle cream for a career in a classroom, you deserve what you get. It's right up there with believing that if you buy that car, suddenly beautiful women with big breasts will drape themselves over the hood, in my book.

Tonight we're going to party like it's 1999

Have I mentioned how glad I am I no longer live in DC? Tom Ridge has reassured us all today that all is well for the "Celebrating Freedom" inaugural:
We will have 24-7 surveillance of key Inaugural facilities, as well as portable x-ray equipment to examine packages, as well as commercial vehicles and delivery trucks entering these areas. In addition, we will deploy trained Homeland Security personnel to augment the work of local law enforcement.

We anticipate there will be about 6,000 law enforcement personnel here from dozens of federal, state and local agencies. We will utilize record numbers of canine bomb teams. We're spending a great deal of money in the Department of Homeland Security very appropriately on the technology of detection, but you get back to the basic canine team, they're about as good as they get.

We'll increase security at hotels to protect both the buildings and the ventilation systems, and we will monitor and protect key transportation systems.

. . .

We're just going to remind everyone, as often as we can, to remain vigilant. If you see any suspicious items or activities, we just ask you to go up to one of those local law enforcement personnel and report it. Vigilance is the added level of security that those who are participating in the Inaugural events and the citizens of the community can add to our security effort.

You can well imagine that the security for this occasion will be unprecedented. Protective measures will be seen; there will be quite a few that are not seen. Our goal is that any attempt on the part of anyone or any group to disrupt the Inaugural will be repelled by multiple layers of security.
Good luck to you my brothers and sisters who will be protesting there. I hope you have bail options lined up before you go.

Monday, January 17, 2005

You know what I would really love?

I would really love to feel hard pressed to make an analogy with 1984; I really would. I think I've brought the damn book up about twelve times in the last two months. It would really make me happy if we could change the proof text of our historical moment to something different (and please no one suggest Blade Runner)

Riding with the bad boys

I'm not comprehensive. That's part of what I love about a blog (as opposed to, say, a dissertation): there's no imperative to be comprehensive. Nonetheless, sometimes I think "Gee Trav, everybody's talking about x or y. Don't you want to weigh in?"

These past few days, there were two things "everybody" was talking about. First, the rather absurd comparison between Armstrong Williams and two bloggers on the Dean payroll. The answer to the above question, "Don't you want to weigh in?" is, in this case, no. I am not enough part of the blognoscenti to know these folks and there are plenty more hip to the scene than I who are talking about it.

The second thing showing up on blogs-a-plenty is Seymour Hersh's article in The New Yorker. That's a different matter. If you haven't read it, make the time. The short version is, welcome to the world of ceaseless, unending war perpetrated with no governmental oversight:

Rumsfeld added that America was committed to staying in Iraq and that there would be no second-guessing.

"This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone," the former high-level intelligence official told me. "Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign. We've declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah--we've got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism."
I know I am a pessimist when it comes to these sorts of things, but does anyone really believe that it's possible to eliminate terrorism??? For fuck's sake. It's whack-a-mole with AK-47s. What an absurd mission. Why am I having a "war against drugs" ptsd moment all of a sudden? But we're not just fighting a war no one can win against country of the month, we're also rewriting the rules for accountability and checks and balances (checks and balances are, like, so last week):

The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

The President's decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books--free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A.
War with Iran? You betcha. Death squads? And how. The Pentagon answering to no one? Right on.
"Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?" the former high-level intelligence official asked me, referring to the military-led gangs that committed atrocities in the early nineteen-eighties. "We founded them and we financed them," he said. "The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren't going to tell Congress about it." A former military officer, who has knowledge of the Pentagon's commando capabilities, said, "We're going to be riding with the bad boys."
Truly, I am beginning to believe we should outlaw the western as a genre. These guys watched High Noon one too many times.

On the brighter side of things my other PhD friends who are thinking of flying the academic coop should be able to get work at the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, I figure. They'll need a cadre of people to replace those reports about war in Eurasia Eastasia Iraq with ones about war in Iran.

The coolest tattoo I have ever seen

Indirectly via BitchPhD

My bad

The photo posted below of the tsunami (the one with the umbrellas), as well as those found at the link in the post, were in fact, taken in 2002 China according to Snopes.

Second Amendment

Amidst all of this talk about the dems (Roemer) reconsidering their position on reproductive rights, I've been thinking about a different shift in position. While I couldn't agree more with the notion that the DNC chair should not be trumping the politics of capitulation, I do think the dems might want to rethink or at least nuance their position on gun control. Personally, I don't like guns. I'd be fine with a Constitution that never gave us the right to have them, but that's not the Constitution we have, and I think it's tough to hold a hard line position on free speech, right of assembly, and separation of church and state all the while legislating to take away guns.

Oliver Willis has written a lot about "brand democrat"--how to market the party, and I've always liked the idea of the "party of rights" or the "party of the Constitution" or something like that. It seems to me that new thinking on the right to bear arms might be a good way to appeal to a broader swath of the US. That is to say, democratic candidates need not go duck hunting (sigh), but they could talk about upholding the Constitution as a national obligation that involves compromise for each citizen. The Constitution as a sit down meal, not a buffet.

Just something I've been mulling over.