Monday, February 28, 2005

More profundity from Mr. Rogers

Have I mentioned that I have a page-a-day calendar: The World According to Mr. Rogers? It was a kitsch Hannukah present from my buddy Mike, but I have grown to really love it in a non-ironic way. Today's quote:

All our lives, we rework the things from our childhood, like feeling good about ourselves, managing our angry feelings, and being able to say good-bye to the people we love.
I never liked Mr. Rogers as a child--though I have always liked cardigans--but I have new found appreciation for him.

Won't you be my neighbor?

In other international news

We're pretty much telling Canada to go fuck itself lately too. Linda McQuaig writes in the Toronto Star:
It's now clear how the Bush administration sees things: Canadian sovereignty exists only at its pleasure. If we do what Washington wants, we retain our sovereignty. If we don't, all bets are off.

This is what U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci clarified last week in his angered response to Paul Martin's announcement that Canada won't join the U.S. missile defence scheme. Cellucci noted that Washington would simply deploy its anti-missile system over Canadian airspace anyway, and expressed puzzlement over Canada's decision to "in effect, give up its sovereignty."

No doubt the Soviets felt similar puzzlement as they rolled into Czechoslovakia in 1968. What's with these crazy Czechs? Don't they get it? All they have to do is co-operate with Moscow and they can retain their "sovereignty."
McQuaig makes the comparison "it's only rape if you resist, and really the logic is that stunning. Sovereignty here is that thing you get when you agree with the United States. I'm really hating my country today.

The difference between an antihero and an unheroic person

I need to get my feelings about Hunter S. Thompson off my chest. My friends who admire him, I hope will forgive me. I understand he has his fans. I am not one. Leaving aside the question of his writing and even leaving aside the fact that he framed out of control drug abuse as heroic, the man shot himself in the head while his wife was on the other end of the phone. Having been that person--on one end of the phone while your spouse and, in my case, a rifle are on the other end, I need to tell everyone: it's not heroic. Okay? It's awful. The guy was an insane addict whose last hurrah was an act of aggression. He could have crawled away somewhere, but no, he needed to make sure he had an audience to the end. Ugh.

Just my two cents. I admit, I'm sure I'm projecting. I have, after all, had to pay an ambulance bill with the line: "Reason for conveyance: head in natural gas oven."

Okay, maybe it is time to move

Happily, I only have a few more reproductive years left in me.

The opening of the UN's session to reaffirm the Beijing Declaration has been dominated by the US's insistence "that any new declaration did not create "the right to abortion."

According to the BBC:

The 150-page Beijing declaration called for governments to end gender discrimination in areas including education, health care, politics and employment.

It stated that women have the right to "decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality... free of coercion, discrimination and violence."

But attempts at the time to refer to abortion as a sexual right were dropped amid heated debate, and instead it was treated as a public health issue.

However, the Beijing conference's action plan did call for governments not to punish women who have undergone illegal abortions.
My cursory search fails to reveal any other news on the topic, so I'm not entirely clear just how exactly the US is being obstructionist beyond the info in the BBC story. Regardless, it's nice to know we live in a country garnering an increasing reputation for throwing Puritanical spanners in the international accord works.

In other abortion news, the Supreme Court refused to hear Norma McCorvey/Jane Roe's appeal last week. Thank fucking god.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Where I've been

I went for my first flight in a small plane today--a Piper Cherokee. It was quite amazing. I went to help J conquer her fear of flying, and she squeezed my hand so hard she drew blood. But by the end of the flight she was beaming. We only flew to Camarillo and then back to Van Nuys, but it was lovely nonetheless. Approaching Camarillo, the ocean peeks out at the horizon and the hills are mossy and green from all of our rain. And to watch someone face down a fear like that--what a privilege. Words don't do it justice, but despite that I am writing a story about it.

Which goes a long way to my explanation about the paucity of posts lately. I have been writing my other stuff. All I want to do is stay home and write poems and stories. Everything else feels like an inconvenience. And along with that, it has been nutty busy at work. I am multi-tasking to a degree that makes me nervous, I feel like the space shuttle when those little pieces break off. "She's doin' all she can Captain..."

So that's what's happening. I am really happy to be writing so much. It's sad the blog is suffering, but maybe I will find that warp in the time-space continuum yet. I have been looking...

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Because every sperm really is sacred

We don't miss a chance to call readers' attentions to a good story about them. In the news today: quite an astonishing story about a woman who impregnated herself with sperm that she somehow salvaged from an oral sex act (I fear to think) and two years later won child support from the poor unsuspecting donor who seems to have purchased himself the world's most expensive hummer. He's now suing for emotional distress, though the courts will not hear a theft suit:
The judges backed the lower court decision to dismiss the fraud and theft claims, agreeing with Irons that she didn't steal the sperm.

"She asserts that when plaintiff 'delivered' his sperm, it was a gift--an absolute and irrevocable transfer of title to property from a donor to a donee," the decision said. "There was no agreement that the original deposit would be returned upon request."
My oh my oh my. More reason not to trust women who won't swallow I suppose. In any case, do be careful boys. And here I used to complain that my ex never gave me anything.

Vocabulary words we need

Emotipon: The little smiley face associated with finally getting your period and beginning to shake the pms. (Those who read NMTE regularly will be unsurprised to hear Andrea is the source of this most excellent word.)

Must-have kitchen accessory

I just love this

From Viceversa. Their baby bottle is pretty special too.

Sometimes I scare myself

Tuesday I lamented the Pope's recovery from the flu, and today, lo and behold, he's back in the hospital. I think I should start blogging about a mysterious illness striking the entire Republican party.

And the sun is out.

I may yet live to fight another day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

You know what really sucks?

What really sucks is when you leave work at a quarter to eight and find out you have a flat tire, that's what. Of course, because my city is under water, god only knows how long it will take AAA. I am on hold with them now, even as I post.

Deep and heavy sigh.

Did I say something about rolling rocks up hills already?

Quote of the day

The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Albert Camus

(This being the consciousness I am striving to reach in a life that seems increasingly rock-filled)


There are toadstools growing in front of my office. Note: I live in the desert. This should tell you something. At this exact moment when I am writing, the sun is shining. True, there are menacing clouds in the sky, but I am hopeful that eventually the rain will end before all of LA washes into the sea.

The rains have been epic, let me tell you. Really ridiculous and on a Revelations scale. Born agains all over LA are selling their cars in preparation for the rapture. If it continues much longer, I will grow gills.

One of my favorite novels ever, The Passion, features a protagonist who has webbed feet--a common trait among children of Venetian gondoliers, the novel has it. Well, it won't be long for us Angelenos. Sigh. Maybe I'll go back to posting with more regularity if it ever stops raining here for more than seven minutes.

Dogs and frogs

Leftists, it appears, are not the only ones struggling to kick the habit. Australian dogs are developing quite the cane toad habit, sneaking out at night for just one more lick. The Courier-Mail reports:
"They lick the toads and only take in a small amount of the poison - they get a smile on their face and look like they are going to wander off into the sunset."
So if you notice your dogs grades are dropping, their friends have changed, or their attitude is different, you should talk to them. Tell them: don't think of the first toad, think of the last toad.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Funny hat, evil ideology

The Pope's latest book is out, the BBC reports. Andrea and I were both pretty excited about that flu, but sadly he rallied and lived to publish his fifth book, Memory and Identity, in which he compares the legality of abortion to the Holocaust:
The Pope writes that both abortion and the mass murder of six million Jews came about as a result of people usurping the "law of God" beneath the guise of democracy.

"It was a legally elected parliament which allowed for the election of Hitler in Germany in the 1930s..." he writes.

"We have to question the legal regulations that have been decided in the parliaments of present day democracies. The most direct association which comes to mind is the abortion laws...

"Parliaments which create and promulgate such laws must be aware that they are transgressing their powers and remain in open conflict with the law of God and the law of nature."
Can't he just die already? Bush doesn't get to appoint his successor.

The best spam I've ever received

Without a doubt.

Just got this from some random stranger in South Africa. My network blocked the nasty spyware bits attached, but the accompanying text is quite amazing:

Politi, politi

God can only do for you what He can do through you.
Desire, like the atom, is explosive with creative force.
Books are divided into two classes, the books of the hour and the books of all time. Imagination... its limits are only those of the mind itself.

The world is divided into two categories: failures and unknowns.

I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom.
The greatest evil is physical pain.
Every private in the French army carries a Field Marshall wand in his knapsack. Clever people will recognize and tolerate nothing but cleverness. We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten.

Lavishness is not generosity.
He who dies before many witnesses always does so with courage.

A man can be destroyed but not defeated.
The more business one has, the more you are able to accomplish, for you learn to economize your time.
It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned.

The preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality.
The court is most merciful when the accused is most rich.

I don't generally feel anything until noon, then it's time for my nap.

I guess I haven't hit a bottom yet

I guess Gail Penniman is on her Twelfth Step, as she's trying to reach out to us on the left to usher us into recovery. Gail says we on the left are, once again, on the wrong side of history. I'll wait until a little more time unfolds before drawing that conclusion. Here's a nice excerpt from her "12 Steps for Recovering Leftists":
I feel sad for leftists because they are stuck in their addiction. Strong wording? I think not, because I was there. Leftist ideology is a powerful and cunning potion, and if it gets into the mind at a young enough age, it can be extremely difficult to kick. Let me explain.
. . .
There is no way for a "cradle" conservative to imagine the pain that a recovering leftist goes through when the veil is finally lifted. The second step in official 12-step programs is belief in a higher power, believing that your higher power can restore you. In recovering from leftist thinking, this step is not a requirement, but for me it was essential. In fact, during my 30th year I experienced a spiritual awakening that initiated many changes in values, which in turn brought me to my first conservative action step: voting for Ronald Reagan in 1980. To borrow Michael Medved’s term, I had become a "theo-con."
Me? I say bring on the strong stuff, and save me a wake up. I guess I'm just in denial.

The Fifth Reich and the Fourth Estate

Reemerging from too much work (and then too much fun) into the world where news takes place, I was rather hoping to have a Wizard of Oz sort of experience (except that I really don't want to wake up in Kansas), whereby one says "Gosh, it was like this place only there were a bunch of evil criminals in charge and there were way too many flags." Alas, the rest of you who have been keeping up can imagine my disappointment.

One of the abundant collection of distressing stories from last week is the court's attack on journalism. It looks like Judith Miller and Matt Cooper may have to go to jail for refusing to reveal their source(s). I don't need to explain why this is really not okay, right? Of course, Miller and Cooper are far from the first journalists to face prosecution for respecting their sources, but even so, in our current climate it's hard for me not to see this as more of the continuing creep of tyranny (to use the word we eighteenth-century scholars are so fond of). Meanwhile, what kind of sentence is Gannon facing?

In other news of the beleaguered Fourth Estate, U.S. District Judge William Quarles has ruled that it's perfectly okay for the Governor of Maryland to order employees not to speak to the press:
Politically, the dispute has helped the governor, especially with supporters who share his distrust of the newspapers and enjoy seeing them "get poked in the eye," said Matthew Crenson, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Last fall, Ehrlich's office sent an e-mail to 225 government officials, barring them from talking to The Sun's Statehouse bureau chief, David Nitkin, and columnist Michael Olesker.

"No one in the Executive Department or Agencies is to speak with David Nitkin or Michael Olesker until further notice," said the e-mail. "Do not return calls or comply with any requests. The Governor's Press Office feels that currently both are failing to objectively report on any issue dealing with the Ehrlich-Steele Administration. Please relay this information to your respective department heads."
I find it pretty appalling that the court is ruling in favor of an administrative decision to create a blacklist, but hey, I'm sensitive to these things, or so I've been told. You know, when I lived in Maryland, we had a democratic governor, and nothing like this ever, ever happened. I'm just sayin'

Monday, February 21, 2005

Finding Neverland

My advice: bring kleenex.

I am still alive. Despite rain to inspire ark building, LA has not yet washed out to sea (no wisecracks now). My lack of posting is only due to a rather astonishing weekend, about which I will say no more because, quite frankly, it's no one's business.

That and the fact that I have yet to come up with a word that means "ghoulish only worse," so I find I cannot comment on Negroponte's latest post.

More after some rest...

Friday, February 18, 2005

All I wanted was a Pepsi

In my in box this morning from Andrea:

Today it is raining, as usual, in this desert town.

I decided last night that I was going to spend the day inside, working. I didn't even get dressed. I was doing laundry, checking email, minding my own business
and getting revved up to look at the prospectus.

You know, there's a fair amount of traffic on my street - it's a popular rush-hour shortcut, and every afternoon the ice-cream truck goes by, playing its little song. So I didn't think much of it the first time I heard the clown horn.

But it persisted. Honk honk, honkhonkhonk, honk, over and over. I finally gave in to my curiosity and went to the window. There were two electric wheelchairs in my driveway. No other vehicles were around.

I put some clothes on and went out. "Can I help you?" I asked, trying to pretend this was normal. A this point, the second wheelchair had disappeared but the first was halfway to the wheelchair ramp on my porch, stopped.

"I'm here about the apartment," said the driver of the rickety little thing. He was not wearing shoes, but had on clean white tennis socks and shorts. There were sores all over his legs and he had a plastic bag in his lap.
"I'm so sorry," I said, "but I don't have an apartment."
"But you're renting a room," he insisted.
"No, I'm sorry."
"But it's right here in the newspaper," he said, pulling a neatly folded classified section out of his bag an holding it about an inch from his eyes. "It's right - oh, I"m sorry, I have the wrong address," he said.
The driver of the second chair, who might as easily have been his wife or his mother, whirred up the street and said, "wrong house, it's down here."
"Gosh, I"m really sorry," he said, making no move to leave.
"No problem," I replied. "Good luck."

"One more thing," he calls, as I started to close the door. "Could you give me a push? I'm stuck."
When I came down the steps, I saw that the little plastic front wheels were buried past the axles (or whatever you call them) in the gravel. I got down on all fours and dug the chair out while he rocked vigorously back and forth, like a turtle trying to right itself. At last, I got my shoulder behind the seat (the handles were broken off jaggedly) and shoved, and off he went.

"Bye bye," he called, "thanks!" and rolled down the street, honking his little clown horn.

Apparently, when the gods of the surreal have me locked and loaded in their sights, there is no point in trying to hide. If I stay in, they come to my door, honking their little horns and refusing to be ignored.

I am very afraid.

Maybe I was wrong

when I said "terrorism is the new communism." It appears to be a supplement, not a replacement. Yelladog and I had an exchange this morning about this list--Horowitz's enemies of the state yearbook site (via Michael Bérubé). The whole site is fairly horrifying to me. Here is Horowitz's explanation:
The database provides a complete guide to all the principal groups responsible for organizing the national protests against the war, their leaders, their core agendas and beliefs. . . . While the database cannot account for the motivations and beliefs of all the individuals who participated in these protests or who came in an unorganized fashion to oppose the war, it . . . shows that without exception the agendas of these groups and the individuals who ran them were anti-corporate and socialist (often Marxist-Leninist), rather than pacifists and non-violent or merely liberal, as described in the general media.
Anyway, if you're feeling too complacent today, have a look around. Guaranteed to get the blood flowing.

When Yella began formulating his own list, I realized I'd probably need to make a trip to Georgia so that my virtual comrades can give me target practice lessons. Y's response: "Any Jew who doesn't own a gun is living in denial of history." (Did I get that right?). Never forget . . .

and keep your powder dry.

In a nutshell

This email from this morning pretty much sums up where I work in one brief paragraph:

It appears as if our roofing maintenance had some good and bad affects. Most, if not all, of the existing leaks appear to have been stopped but some new ones seem to have sprung up. We have contracted for one prepaid call back, so please report any confirmed leaks as soon as you can.
For that matter, it's probably a pretty good operative metaphor for all kinds of things.

I had to facilitate a day long meeting yesterday. Today I'm back to my desk but feeling a bit like I've been thrown down stairs. I am so excited about the three-day weekend I feel like I found a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Those offensive Quakers

Eponymous has the story about Veterans for Peace and a Quaker group getting ousted from a Cookeville, Tennessee high school informational fair. It seems a parent (singular) complained that the materials distributed at the booth (not forced on people, mind you) were "anti-American and anti-military." One of the subversive ("terrorism" is the new "communism") quotes comes from that revolutionary Eisenhower
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed. Those who are cold and are not clothed.
So now if the flag burning peaceniks want to come back, their materials must be pre-approved and they can only be presented in "a classroom setting that would allow an opportunity for a 'balanced' presentation." And what exactly does that mean--some Quaker/NRA Jane-you-ignorant-slut smackdown? For god's sake this shit sets my teeth on edge. I'm quite certain the students of Cookeville don't need to worry about an excess of liberal propaganda. Let's make sure they don't have an opportunity to think. They're too young for that.

Why are women's hormones so fascinating?

There are two news stories about women and their hormones today, both of which are fascinating in a sort of scary way. First, they are working on a sort of countdown mechanism for women and their biological clocks. Just in case we weren't neurotic enough already, if the researchers reach their goal we will know exactly how long we have to establish ourselves in our careers (get tenure, whatever) before we lose the chance to grab the brass procreation ring. There's a really good Margaret Atwood novel in this notion, I am certain. I have this hideous vision of women with these wristwatches on (or some sort of blog ticker) either getting their yayas in until the last practical moment or increasing their daddy search as the time draws to a close. It's not a pretty vision.

The second story has the intriguing title "Study: the Pill Changes Women's Taste in Men." Sadly, the story content isn't nearly as interesting as one would hope. In brief, women with higher progesterone levels are more likely to be attracted to "healthy looking" men (whatever that means). The researchers draw the conclusion that this may be due to an evolutionary imperative to reduce the risk of infection to developing babies. That seems sort of spurious to me. (What's the logical fallacy when you have a conclusion in mind and shape the evidence to fit it?) It's all about the fetus. It's always all about the fetus.

Am I wrong to be creeped out by all of the attention paid to women's reproductive capacity lately? It makes me nervous. Is it just because I've chosen not to spawn? I don't know. I guess any sort of "biology is destiny" argument gives me the heeby jeebies.

Okay, enough about hormones, time for West Wing.

Lessons from the heartland

Though I come from a coast and I live on another coast now, I did spend more than a decade in Wisconsin. I learned a lot about "third party" politics when I lived there. Wisconsin has a long history of Progressive (capital-P) politics (think of Proxmire, for example) and while the state may be marred by the long shadow of McCarthy, that's only part of the story. Parts of Wisconsin provide a fine example of how the Democrats can increase their base by appealing to populations that, while they may vote Republican, are not wholly sympathetic to the neocon agenda. Perhaps the majority of people in Wisconsin vote Republican because they want a plain spoken, common sense Executive; they don't like taxes and they are keen on "fiscal conservatism"; and of course, they are staunch Second Amendment supporters. But. . . and here's the part I think the Dems can lose track of, they are also strong First Amendment supporters along with Fourth Amendment etc. They don't want the government in their private lives, they want the freedom to be able to speak their minds, they are fans of family farms and small businesses and are as skeptical of large corporations as they are big government. What I'm trying to say is that there is a vast population that doesn't feel fully represented by either party.

What brought all of this on you may wonder. Well, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is having Ward Churchill come speak. Bravo to the UW. I always rolled my eyes at the quote inscribed in front of Bascom Hall:
Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.
But in these times, this seems a quite noble mission. Bravo to the UW.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

More on W's death-to-Social-Security tour

Dave Lindorff talks about his thwarted attempt to join the crowd when W brought his campaign to eliminate social security to Lindorff's town. Apparently the blacklists were no longer needed because the events are now ticketed and tickets are distributed by folks like Santorum. Lindorff kind of stumbled upon the event:
"Do you have a ticket?" one of the big guys asked, unsmilingly.

"No. Where do I get one?" I replied.

"You can't. It's too late." Now there was a smile.

"Where did you get them, before it was too late?" I asked him.

"Senator Santorum," he said, referring to Pennsylvania's junior and extremely right wing senator, Rick Santorum, who is up for re-election next year.

"How would I have known that?" I asked. "I don't recall reading any announcements in the media about how to get tickets for the president's visit."

"I don't know," the young man said. Now the smile had become a smirk.

. . .

"So who are you guys?" I asked them. "You don't look like Secret Service."

"We're from the Republican Party," one of them answered.
Lindorff calls it a "Leni Riefensthal moment" and I'm inclined to agree.

All the news that's fit to print

The headline of the week goes to the Washington Post's Sunday story. Note that the story appeared on the second page of the A section. They're giving USA Today a run for their money.

Maybe the DNC can hire PETA's PR person

What do Pamela Anderson, Alice Walker, and the Dalai Lama have in common with Al Sharpton?

Who knew

There's a blog devoted entirely to squid.

I want this

Via we make money not art comes news of Phil Worthington's Wearable Warnings (clothing that bites back). The prototype coat acts like cat fur only better. That is to say, when the wearer feels threatened, the fur on the coat's back stands on end and then if the creep doing the threatening touches it, the coat shocks him. Here's a Quicktime video example of a thwarted assault. (I think I may have to beef up the Commodity Fetishism section on the sidebar. This tip alone should earn we make money not art a place of honor.)

$250 a ton

That's how much extra money in fees Maryland is considering levying on owners of SUVs that weigh more than 6000 pounds. Oh my Maryland friends, please write your senators and tell them to say yes to this bill. Just think, that would mean my Governor would have to pay at least $5400 extra for his six Hummers. What a glorious thought.

Pet of the week

It's not a new clip--in fact I first got this via email at least four years ago. Nonetheless, I just got it again today and it made me laugh until my sides hurt once again, so in case you missed it the first twelve times around, here is Pinky the Cat.

(Yes, I know there are real things going on in the world. They may well have to wait until after work though.)

End show

I love The Onion. Having just returned from a conference where I had to help with a number of presentations--and being someone who dislikes PowerPoint to begin with, how could I not love "Project Manager Leaves Suicide PowerPoint Presentation"?

Monday, February 14, 2005

DoL as Sam Walmart's bitch

Wal-mart has settled allegations of breaking child labor laws (while denying them), agreeing to pay a $135,540 fine (as a point of reference, Wal-mart's annual sales last year were $284,800,000,000). The Department of Labor seems satisfied with the resolution, calling the agreement a "fairly standard thing." Labor Blog (via skippy the bush kangaroo) has more on the story including this:
As part of the agreement, revealed yesterday after it was secretly signed in January, the Labor Department agreed "to give Wal-Mart 15 days' notice before the Labor Department investigates any other 'wage and hour' accusations, like failure to pay minimum wage or overtime."
I don't know about you, but I'm heartened by our Labor Department's attempts to deal cooperatively with organizations like Wal-mart. It's time we tried to end the petty tensions between labor and management and asked "why can't we all just get along?" Wal-mart has been explaining their attitude toward labor for years:
Unions (For U.S. Operations Only)

At Wal-Mart, we respect the individual rights of our associates and encourage them to express their ideas, comments and concerns. Because we believe in maintaining an environment of open communications, we do not believe there is a need for third-party representation.
And I'm cheered that our government seems to really be listening. It's time to think beyond that "us and them" attitude and those pesky regulations and just try to love each other.

Our new labor secretary is the right woman for this job of transforming America's labor politics. Her remarks at last week's prayer breakfast beg us to ask, "Aren't we all God's children?"
I remember when I was eight years old, my family and I came to America. We didn't speak English. We didn't know anyone. We had no family or friends nearby. We were fearful of so many things in this new country. What sustained us and gave us hope and encouragement during those difficult times was our church community and the power of faith. The power of faith kept us going. It showed us that we had a chance to survive in this new country, which seemed so just and had such generous and wonderful people. Faith gave us confidence that there could be a better tomorrow.
Who needs laws when you've got Jesus?

The ultimate stalker gift

Worried your wife is catting around on you while you're out of town? Try this for a Valentine's Day gift. How creepy.

Getting caught up

Because I was off the grid for a half week, I have spent most of the day getting caught up--answering emails, making calls... But that has been almost entirely work related. I still am not all the way in the world yet. I need to read the papers that have piled up and visit my friends' sites to get the news not in the papers. Sometime this week (maybe tomorrow) I will email everyone about the fascism site and start to get coordinated there too.

All of which is to say, no commentary on current events at this moment.

Since it is Valentine's Day, I offer you this story from Lancaster's Intelligencer Journal as an illustration of the culture of Lancaster from which I am emerging. Don't get me wrong--I've been in love before. I have no principled objection to an article titled something like "52 ways to say I love you." True, I am not a fan of shmatlz, but I remember the good feeling of doing sweet little things for someone else, and I suppose I can endorse a piece that encourages it. But this one...oy. If they are going to suggest that women put together pin up calendars of themselves or take belly dancing lessons, can't we at least add "for once in your life, take the trash out without your wife asking you too."

Anyway, that's where I spent four days. Here.

I'm glad to be back in LA.

Back on the grid

Two words about my accommodations in Lancaster: "web TV" (or is that one word?). I think that pretty much says it all.

I had an indicator of what I was up against when I got to the front desk just in time to see Lou Rawls' band get turned away because the hotel could not find their reservation.

It was another epic journey back to LA thanks to bad weather in Chicago and other assorted fun things. It's 4:00 a.m. right now (which is, of course, 7:00 a.m. Lancaster time) and I am finally going to sleep, but I could not wait until tomorrow to share a quick story about the flight out.

I'm sitting next to a woman who is also obviously traveling for business (as it turns out she is a "consultant" for Alcoa, whose job is to travel to plants and maximize profits). She tells me she travels to LA from Pittsburgh, where she lives, every week. She spends four days a week in LA and three in Pittsburgh.

Me: Wow, that must be rough. I would have a hard time living in two places

Alcoa lady: Well, you do get used to it. And I love LA so that makes it better.

Me: Yeah, at least they aren't sending you to Stillwater, Oklahoma every week.

Alcoa lady: I'm from Stillwater. That's where I grew up . . . Well, outside Stillwater really.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

In case you are not convinced

about the "f-word," Bushflash sums it up concisely in this flash movie. (Thanks to Democrappy for the link)

What do you all think?

In writing my last post I thought about linking to some recent stuff on blogs I read a lot. So many of the blogs I read every day have been posting on fascism (you guys mostly know who you are). I'm wondering if anyone would be interested in a fascism watch blog where we aggregate those posts. We could call it fourth reich watch or something. If a few of us cohosted, and others agreed to forward their posts, it would be a pretty simple matter (non-time consuming) to collect them all in one spot. Anybody interested? (It could be just that I'm the queen of make-work, but I thought I'd volley the idea out there to see if it appeals to anyone else.) I think such a site could be a really good resource for folks.

Is that the sound of jack boots I hear?

I am leaving for Pennsylvania Dutch Country tomorrow--home of our first national experiment to abolish science in favor of mysticism. And the combination of the proposed budget and the HR 418 have me feeling actually genuinely frightened today. I am too busy to elaborate right now, but perhaps I will try to articulate my fears about the rise of fascism better from the ground in PA. For now, I'll just note a few things.

First, the budget. Andrea says it best:
The new budget guts social spending at a level that is revolutionary. It's a junta. It changes the nation from a republic with any sense of social responsibility to a military power with a subject population from which to draw. No shit, no exaggeration.
The budget both outrages me (how can a person even suggest cutting military benefits right now, really) and frightens me. I lived through the Reagan era and am hardly shocked by the widening gap between rich and poor (which continued to widen through Clinton's administration), but the naked savagery with which this administration steals from the poor to give to the rich feels like something new to me. This budget is vampiric.

Then, there is HR 418, endorsed by 137 Congresspeople, reported on in the "mainstream media" solely under the headline "House Moving to Make Asylum Policy Harsher." The reality is, the headlines could just as easily read "House Moving to Institute National ID System and Close National Borders" or "Bill Grants Homeland Security Secretary Unprecedented Level of Power." As is so often the case, one must hunt for real reporting on the issue. I read the bill last night and am happy to see the Raw Story reporting on it today. It's really quite chilling Fourth Reich stuff.

We can look forward to more stories like this one. (Or this one.)

Yes, we are all talking about Fascism these days. It seems almost every blog I read is posting things about "the f-word" with lines like "maybe I'm wrong" or "perhaps I'm an alarmist." There's an old expression, if one person tells you that you have a tail, you can call him crazy; if two people tell you, you might start to worry; if three people tell you, then you'd better turn around and look.

What is to be done?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Fuck the poor

Treasury Secretary John Snow discussing the budget before the Senate Finance Committee

Turn off the news


Let's hear it for Fargo

In re. the Fargo bluelist, The Progressive has reprinted a letter to the Fargo Forum from the city commissioner. It's worth reprinting in its entirety. And let me say it's an indicator of how really rotten things are getting here in America that I would think for even a nanosecond about moving to Fargo after reading such a thing.


I think we can all agree that it is a momentous day when the President of the United States visits our city. And I think we can also all agree that one of our most deeply cherished American values is the right of every person's voice to be heard.

The "do-not-admit list" saga is one of those Small Dumb Things That Mean Something Bigger scenarios that happen from time to time. Clearly, it was the result of an "overzealous" individual who felt they were doing the right thing for their home team. What made this story resonate and spiral into a national news item is the gut-level twinge of anxiety it elicits in each of us, "Am I on a list somewhere? Would I even know? Could this happen to me someday?"

While those are questions that we don't ask ourselves on a typical day, it was jarring to realize that someone, somewhere, thought that making this list was the right thing to do. Sadly, the climate of keeping voices of disagreement at bay has become a well-known characteristic of this administration.

I would suggest that the people of Fargo and of North Dakota could help President Bush with some basic prairie down-to-earth advice: Let everyone be heard. Listen carefully and respectfully to all sides. Ponder what others have to say.

A wonderful advantage to living in a sparsely populated state is that governance is extremely up close and personal. Anyone who has served on a church committee, PTA, school board, township board, park district board, city commission or council, service club office, county commission, non-profit board (in other words, nearly everyone) understands that disagreements, conflicts of opinion, impassioned arguments and fiercely contested issues are not only frequent but normal and healthy. This is how solutions are arrived at in a democratic process - by spirited debate, give and take, wisdom contributed from all sides, and occasionally some heated argument thrown in for spice.

And the next day, we go back to our daily lives side by side with the people we were in disagreement with. There is no room for secret lists in small towns. We conduct our public work in the open, with our neighbors and fellow citizens, and we understand that one side or the other never has all the answers.

President Bush, you may have come to North Dakota to convince our so-called "red" voters to apply pressure to our "blue" senators to see things your way on Social Security, as you plan to do in similar states as ours. But perhaps what you will take back to Washington with you is a little bit of North Dakota wisdom. Out here we vote for who we think is the best person for the job, regardless of the letter after their name. Out here we think for ourselves, given the best information we can gather. Out here we carefully listen to all sides of an issue, because those speaking are our neighbors.

And, most importantly, out here we don't shut people out of the room for simply expressing their opinion.

Linda Coates
Fargo City Commissioner
Co-owner, Raptor Recording Studios and Barking Dog Records

The thing about living in Southern California

is that it unfits you for much of the world. That is to say, I am going to Lancaster, Pennsylvania Thursday and it's inconceivable to me that it will be in the 30s. How did I live in Wisconsin for 11 years???

Twice shy

Does it sound like a really bizarre thing to say that this story and this story are very linked in my head?

Consider this excerpt:
Although no formal cease-fire was signed at the summit, it was widely seen as a step toward talks on a U.S.-backed "road map" for a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
. . .
Palestinians and Israelis at home voiced doubts that the truce would lead to an immediate end to hostilities.

"I don't think anyone in Israel thinks it will be different tomorrow and there will be quiet," said 32-year-old Israeli graduate student Yoav Kanyas. "However, there is some sort of optimism for peace, which was not there until now."
And this one:
Last April, after celebrating his second year sober, he relapsed again, disappearing for two weeks. His sponsor, who had become a close friend of Nick's, assured me: "Nick won't stay out long. He's not having any fun." Of course I hoped that he was right, but I was no less worried than I was other times he had disappeared -- worried that he could overdose or otherwise cause irreparable damage.

But he didn't. He returned and withdrew on his own, helped by his sponsor and other friends. He was ashamed -- mortified -- that he slipped. He redoubled his efforts. Ten months later, of course, I am relieved (once again) and hopeful (once again). Nick is working and writing a children's book and articles and movie reviews for an online magazine. He is biking and swimming. He seems emphatically committed to his sobriety, but I have learned to check my optimism.
I do hope this time it will be different for Israel and Palestine. But I've learned to check my optimism. Sigh.

Happy Chinese New Year

It's the year of the rooster. Aesthetically speaking, I'm not sure that's such a good thing.

The year 3697

It's a quiz. Everyone guess the significance of the year 3697. What will happen that year? I'll give you a hint: it's 1692 years from now. I'll give you another hint: go check out Pinko Feminist Hellcat's post on Wal-mart.

I can hear you all now: But Travis, we'll be dead by then. Our children's children will be dead. The world will probably have blown up. If any humans have survived they'll all be living in the offworld colonies somewhere.

Okay, okay, I'll tell you. That's the year the total combined pay (from 2005 until 3697) of the average Wal-mart worker will add up to one year's compensation for H. Lee Scott, Wal-mart's CEO--which is to say, Scott makes 1692 times what that worker makes.

To put it another way, Scott will make $13,925 dollars during your lunch hour. That's $232 a minute.

Anyway, go read the post at Hellcat for more information. And check out Multinational Monitor's Top Ten Worst Corporations of 2004.

I cannot say enough good things about the AFL-CIO's Executive PayWatch Database. If you're feeling like you're low in righteous indignation, poke around for a little while. It will get your blood flowing.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Get politically active now; ask me how!

A friend just forwarded an email to me from Generation Engage, a new 501c3 that aims to get "young people" more politically active. I do wish them the best of luck. But going to their website the first thing I noticed is the fogey-like graphics. The site sort of says "Hi, we're your parents." And so you get paragraphs like this:
Generation Engage is distinct from other youth voter initiatives in that it explicitly strives to reach all young people, including those not affiliated with academic institutions. Generation Engage is premised on the notion that young people do not engage politically – or more specifically, vote – because they do not feel tied to the political process. They feel politically fragmented and detached from one another. Generation Engage strives to address that.
But the kicker for me was this:

It's a pyramid scheme for political engagement. Can I interest you in some vitamins while you register to vote? Or perhaps some cosmetics?


While I am so much of a leftist to still warm to the idea of Capitalism's demise, I do also like stuff. Call me a Whitmanesque Americanist ("Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself.") After a silly surfing binge the other night during which I went on one of those link-after-link expeditions through a bunch of design-oriented websites, I determined to add a new section to my blogroll. So you see now, on the left side of the page, the "Commodity Fetishism" section added yesterday. (I expect it will grow--or maybe not.) Then today I went out for Chinese food and got this fortune: "You will be surrounded by things of luxury." I suspect it's karma, though I do wish that adding others to the main section of my blogroll would grant me a fortune like "your current administration will soon be overthrown by leftists." Ah well.

"The delusional is no longer marginal"

The title of this post is a quote from a Bill Moyers essay "There is no tomorrow" I just received via email. It's not a new essay--though it's new to me. And I just can't quite make myself buy Moyers' point 100%. Am I in deep denial? Moyers argues that radical Christian fundamentalism is on the rise and that, among these vast numbers of people, the destruction of the environment is positive insofar as it hastens the rapture:
A 2002 Time-CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. . . . people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?"
. . .
It is hard for the journalist to report a story like this with any credibility. So let me put it on a personal level. I myself don't know how to be in this world without expecting a confident future and getting up every morning to do what I can to bring it about. So I have always been an optimist. Now, however, I think of my friend on Wall Street whom I once asked: "What do you think of the market?"I'm optimistic," he answered. "Then why do you look so worried?" And he answered: "Because I am not sure my optimism is justified."
I'm with him on that last part, but am I wrong to be skeptical about the rest? Someone please reassure me that it's not that bad.

So maybe I do have some cheesehead in me

Okay, I'll admit it out front: I lived in Wisconsin for 11 years. Be that as it may, I would love Russ Feingold regardless. Initially I loved him like 60s teens loved the Beatles. I'm a little less fervent about it now. That Ashcroft vote knocked him right off the pedestal. And of course, as I was reminded today, he voted for Rice. How will he defend himself to the progressives, I was asked. And that is the question that inspired me to post again about Russ.

His voting record is really amazing. Yes, he capitulates at times. God knows, he tried to do some deal making for campaign finance reform. But in the main, he makes Kerry look like a brownshirt. Kerry earned the by-now-infamous label "the most liberal man in the Senate" because he scored 100% on the ACLU's scorecard. Well that's because he was only present for 1 of the 9 votes they counted. Feingold has an 89% and he was there for all 9. He was the only Senator (THE ONLY ONE) to vote against the PATRIOT Act. He also imposed voluntary campaign finance reforms on himself during his second run for Senate (his opponent did not). He's one of the "poorest" Senators (it's all relative). And his first bid for Senate featured an endorsement by Elvis.

I know I shouldn't get my hopes up

I know this is like harboring a fantasy, as a 12-year-old girl, that I will really get a pony for Hannukah, but I can't help but dream. . .

Maybe next time it will be different.

If Dean were chair and Feingold got the nomination, well fuck, I can't even tell you how happy I would be. I would wet myself with glee like those puppies who get so excited about going out for a walk.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Frozen things cannot be killed

Yet another news item that makes me do my Linda Blair impression: Alison Miller and Todd Parrish have been granted permission to pursue a wrongful death suit against the Center for Human Reproduction in Chicago, which accidentally discarded frozen embryos belonging to the couple:

In an opinion issued Friday, Cook County Judge Jeffrey Lawrence said "a pre-embryo is a 'human being' ... whether or not it is implanted in its mother's womb."

He said the couple is as entitled to seek compensation as any parents whose child has been killed.
Here's what I want to know: there were nine embryos in question, does that mean that the couple would be guilty of criminal negligence had they not implanted all nine, one after the other, in Alison's womb? Could Alison and Todd have declared them as dependents on their tax forms? For fuck's sake. I'm not nearly as reasonable and generous about this as Shakespeare's Sister, from whence comes the link. I think it's patently ridiculous that we are at a point in our history where we confer human status on a small bunch of frozen cells all the while massacring thousands in other countries. I's an obvious point. Forgive me; I nonetheless need to utter it now and then.

(In other news of how your reproductive rights are receding into the sunset, Prof. B. has the story of why you should not patronize La Quinta.)

I am not a litigious person

but were I Soheyla Zolfaghary I would be on the phone to a lawyer before I even got out of the OB/Gyn office.

Marx as a founding father of America

In light of the Internet buzz over the recent survey of high school students that found most students think the First Amendment is over-rated, let me provide those on the left with some good news. Apparently, most people think that the Constitution contains (or could contain) Marx's maxim "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." A 2002 Columbia Law School survey asked respondents whether that phrase was in the Constitution. 35% said yes; 31% said no; and 34% didn't know.

For more information, see the press release and Michael Dorf's commentary. (News of the survey comes via an LA Times editorial by Molly Selvin that I can't find online "We the People, Ignorant and Tuned Out")

HWSS -- How Would Summers Score?

Rich irony for the day: via popgadget comes news of a Harvard's Project Implicit. The project works with web interfaces to uncover biases of various kinds. Visitors can take a number of different Implicit Association Tests on subjects ranging from weight to presidential popularity. The tests are designed to measure bias and preferences (whether conscious or not).

The irony part? One of the tests, in this Harvard-based project, is the Gender-Science IAT which "often reveals a relative link between liberal arts and females and between science and males."

Looking out for the "underchicken"

I'm no fan of factory farming; it's indisputable that animals are treated in a vile and disgusting manner--chicken farming being particularly disgusting. Nonetheless, I do find it laugh-out-loud funny that Al Sharpton is now a spokesperson for PETA's KFC boycott campaign. You can view the video here--and yes, Sharpton does actually say KFC is hoping we "won't care about what they do to the underdog, or in this case, the underchicken." Warning: don't watch it if you want to continue to eat chicken guilt-free. (link via Secede from the Union)

Meanwhile in Yemen...

...while we are making such great progress in our curing-terrorism-through-torture program, a Yemeni judge, Hamoud al-Hitar, seems to be making converts to non-violence through religious debate. Al-Hitar heads Yemen's Theological Dialogue Committee, which sends senior Muslim clerics into prisons to debate the merits (or lack thereof) of terrorism with prisoners. It's a sort of Ben Franklin meets The Christian Science Monitor reports:

Seated amid stacks of Korans and religious texts, Hitar explains that his system is simple. He invites militants to use the Koran to justify attacks on innocent civilians and when they cannot, he shows them numerous passages commanding Muslims not to attack civilians, to respect other religions, and fight only in self-defense.

For example, he quotes: "Whoever kills a soul, unless for a soul, or for corruption done in the land--it is as if he had slain all mankind entirely. And, whoever saves one, it is as if he had saved mankind entirely." He uses the passage to bolster his argument against bombing Western targets in Yemen--attacks he says defy the Koran. And, he says, the Koran says under no circumstances should women and children be killed.

If, after weeks of debate, the prisoners renounce violence they are released and offered vocational training courses and help to find jobs.
Though one wonders if this is just an iron fist in a velvet glove situation, where prisoners say whatever they need to in order to escape punishment, it actually seems to be working. Hitar claims that there have been no terrorist attacks in Yemen since the first set of dialogues, and he has been invited to France, Germany, and London to speak about his successes.

It's worth noting that while theological discussion is making inroads in reducing Yemen's struggle with terrorism, it doesn't appear to be effective in reducing animosity toward America, according to the IPS News Agency:
"U.S. mistakes in the region may inflame Muslim anger and create more extremism and hatred," political analyst Mohammad al-Sabri told IPS. "We cannot convince militants that America is not against Islam while we see the U.S. forces inhumanely abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, and unlimited U.S. support for Israelis against Palestinians."

Sheikh Haza'a al-Maswari, Islah party member of parliament declared at Friday prayers recently that "we cannot tell militants don't terrorise Americans, or don't attack their interests. Those who plant hatred will harvest hatred."
Perhaps needless to say, this is yet another news item that has been buried under the avalanche of reporting about Michael Jackson and Brad and Jennifer. As I said below in the post about the Stop Government Propaganda Act, I think this is one of the most fruitful functions of blogs: writing about neglected stories that belong above the fold. I am certainly given to hand-wringing harangues about the well reported news, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing. We are the culture's smoke alarm at this point. What I am saying is that I think sometimes we can get a bit caught up in the buzz--wanting to talk about what everyone is talking about. Let's not stop there. Let's keep our commitment to unearth and talk about the stuff no one is talking about. (Don't mistake this for a finger-shaking post--most blogs I read do this very thing--it's more of a "keep up the good work" idea I'm trying to express.)

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Blue scare

That's what I'm calling it--this current McCarthy era. The LA Times (via Yahoo) has another piece today on Churchill "fighting for his academic life." (In this instance, the reporter seems to have actually read the essay in question rather than borrow O'Reilly's Cliff Notes.) Much of the article is taken up with the issue of Churchill's bloodlines. On the topic of Churchill's politics and writing, there's this:
"One argument that could be made is that his writings and speeches have degenerated to a point where they are representative of professional incompetence," said Paul Campos, a law professor at the university and a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News. "In the same way, a college would not tolerate a member of the history department who said the Holocaust didn't happen."

Campos said even professors should have limits.

"A position that says you cannot fire a tenured professor because of anything he says is untenable--politically, morally and ethically," he said. "And I have had people in positions of power tell me that if this guy can't be fired, they can't support the notion of tenure."
Well, you know what Campos, if this guy is fired for that essay, there is no notion of tenure for a person to support.

I can't even comment. I'm not exaggerating when I say it makes me physically nauseous to read a law professor comparing Ward Churchill to a racist who denies the existence of the Holocaust.

St. Vincent de Palimpsest

The patron saint of bad art's second chance. That is to say, the wurst gallery has an online exhibition of art acquired in thrift stores and reanimated by contemporary artists. It is extremely cool (the site shows the original pieces and then if you mouse over them, it shows the end result), but I need to say my friend Adam was there first with his derigible series (or are they blimps, or are those the same thing--I cannot remember). In any case, it's worth the click.

(via Josh Rubin whose site is also extremely cool)

Keep those passports updated

Scalia is campaigning:
Scalia has been active on the Washington social scene in recent weeks, hamming it up with the political crowd. Some court observers say this may be an effort to counter White House concerns that the brusque Scalia is ill-suited for a job demanding consensus.
. . .
During the presidential campaign, Bush cited Scalia, 68, and Thomas as justices he admired because of their narrow interpretation of the Constitution. Thomas privately has made it clear that he is not interested in becoming chief justice, according to friends and former clerks.
Or should I say he's "doing nothing to discourage the talk." If you're not convinced he's a pig, read Center for American Progress' short list of scary opinions.

Scalia will at least have Reid's vote:
But the Nevada Democrat said that he could support Thomas' fellow conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia, if he were nominated.

"I cannot dispute the fact, as I have said, that this is one smart guy," Reid said of Scalia. "And I disagree with many of the results that he arrives at, but his reasons for arriving at those results are very hard to dispute."

Citing a hunting trip Scalia took with Dick Cheney before hearing a case involving the commission the vice president set up to work on an energy bill, Reid said the justice has some ethics problems.

"So we have to get over this," he said.
Would that we could somehow populate the halls of Congress with more Searchlight, Nevada natives. If only we could count on more incisive, hard hitting Senators like Reid. Such an inspiration for liberal America.


Last week Churchill wrote a response to his critics, which I suppose should be titled, "In case you are too dumb to understand the article that is clearly written in plain English." His ending point hits it straight on. We have to be free to discuss these matters. If academics are punished, fired and demoted, for raising these issues, we are in a pretty scary place, folks.
Some people will, of course, disagree with my analysis, but it presents questions that must be addressed in academic and public debate if we are to find a real solution to the violence that pervades today's world. The gross distortions of what I actually said can only be viewed as an attempt to distract the public from the real issues at hand and to further stifle freedom of speech and academic debate in this country.

Friday, February 04, 2005

More on Churchill and academic freedom

Below I mention Bill O'Reilly's hard-on for Ward Churchill. Today someone sent me an LA Times story with a note saying "nothing is ever as simple as it may appear." The story begins:
AURORA, Colo. — A student protest turned into a brawl here Thursday, shutting down a meeting of the University of Colorado board of regents after it agreed to investigate a professor who compared the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to Nazis.
The article takes up three main topics: the protest, the content of Churchill's article, and the question of Churchill's ethnicity (is he an American Indian or one step up from a cigar store replica?). Leaving aside the latter (in part because I am uneducated on the question and in part because I really tire over arguments about who is "authentic" and who is authorized to speak about what), here are some excerpts about the first two:

School officials struggled to be heard as students in the room screamed "Fascist regents!" and "Let the public speak!" One protester got into a shoving match, then a full-blown fight with police. Chaos erupted as students dove over chairs to taunt officers while regents were shuffled out a side door for their own safety.

"What country am I living in?" shrieked one demonstrator.

Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, later decried the scene as "mob rule" and repeated his calls for Churchill's dismissal. Meanwhile, the state Senate passed a resolution Thursday denouncing the professor's remarks as "evil and inflammatory."

The furor over remarks by Churchill, 57, began last week. He was asked to speak at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., about Native American prison issues. But professors there discovered a paper he wrote after the Sept. 11 attacks titled "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens."

Churchill called those working in the World Trade Center "technocrats of empire" and "little Eichmanns," comparing them to Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi mastermind of the Holocaust. He said the workers were "civilians of a sort."

"But innocent? Gimme a break," he wrote.

Churchill said the "combat teams" that killed nearly 3,000 people "manifested the courage of their convictions." In a taped speech, he said that if the Pentagon wasn't a legitimate target, "I don't know what is."

Outrage ensued, and Monday Churchill stepped down as chairman of the department of ethnic studies, though he retains his $94,200-a-year teaching job. Hamilton College canceled his speech, saying it had received so many threats that it couldn't ensure his or the students' safety.

Churchill, who specializes in Native American issues, has said his writings were taken out of context, and that he meant that if America behaved unjustly it could not expect to be spared from attack.
Sadly, I am so tired I won't give this subject the justice it deserves, but I want to say a couple of things, if only in brief. First, I have read a slew of articles recently about bloggers, articles that praise weblogs for their attention to stories that might not otherwise come to the attention of the general public. But almost all of the articles have some sort of "but they're not real journalists" provisos. Why? Because of tone and a lack of objectivity. Many of my companions online have already pointed out the obvious--we're not pretending to be objective. But the LA Times is, and let's look again at the above article. There's a word choice issue ("shriek," "dove," "taunt," "chaos"...). There's a sentence structure issue ("though he retains his $94,200-a-year teaching job"). There's a framing issue ("after it agreed to investigate a professor who compared the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to Nazis" not "after it bowed to pressure from conservative pundits such as Bill O'Reilly and agreed to investigate a professor who argued that all Americans are culpable for policies that result in starvation and death").

And there's a plain old sloppy thinking, bad reporting issue. I have read Churchill's paper. It's damn easy to find. Type the title into a search engine, and there it is. I would be willing to bet hard cash that the journalist who wrote this article did not. I'm not going to try to defend the essay as a brilliant piece. I think it's pretty problematic in some ways. It's a polemic, written immediately following September 11 (like on the 12th), it is a passionate and angry piece. But it doesn't focus on condemning World Trade Center workers and praising the pilots of the planes. It focuses on sanctions and war, the resulting dead, and our mutual responsibility for supporting a regime that systematically kills middle easterners. Here is a piece:
All told, Iraq has a population of about 18 million. The 500,000 kids lost to date thus represent something on the order of 25 percent of their age group. Indisputably, the rest have suffered – are still suffering – a combination of physical debilitation and psychological trauma severe enough to prevent their ever fully recovering. In effect, an entire generation has been obliterated.

The reason for this holocaust was/is rather simple, and stated quite straightforwardly by President George Bush, the 41st "freedom-loving" father of the freedom-lover currently filling the Oval Office, George the 43rd: "The world must learn that what we say, goes," intoned George the Elder to the enthusiastic applause of freedom-loving Americans everywhere.

How Old George conveyed his message was certainly no mystery to the US public. One need only recall the 24-hour-per-day dissemination of bombardment videos on every available TV channel, and the exceedingly high ratings of these telecasts, to gain a sense of how much they knew.

In trying to affix a meaning to such things, we would do well to remember the wave of elation that swept America at reports of what was happening along the so-called Highway of Death: perhaps 100,000 "towel-heads" and "camel jockeys" – or was it "sand niggers" that week? – in full retreat, routed and effectively defenseless, many of them conscripted civilian laborers, slaughtered in a single day by jets firing the most hyper-lethal types of ordnance.

It was a performance worthy of the nazis during the early months of their drive into Russia. And it should be borne in mind that Good Germans gleefully cheered that butchery, too. Indeed, support for Hitler suffered no serious erosion among Germany's "innocent civilians" until the defeat at Stalingrad in 1943.

There may be a real utility to reflecting further, this time upon the fact that it was pious Americans who led the way in assigning the onus of collective guilt to the German people as a whole, not for things they as individuals had done, but for what they had allowed – nay, empowered – their leaders and their soldiers to do in their name.
Thus the "roosting chickens" in the title: "Globalization: 'Some People Push Back' On the Justice of Roosting Chickens."

Anyway, I am tired, thus the too-long-ness of this post. But despite my less than sharp rambling here, I think you probably understand what I'm getting at: to simply say "compared the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to Nazis" is really a gross misrepresentation of Churchill's argument. Don't get me wrong, he is beyond uncharitable to the dead and wounded of September 11, but his is an argument about individual responsibility for a systemic problem.

All of which adds up to a couple of "no duh...time to go to bed Einstein" points: first, media coverage of the Churchill controversy doesn't even seem to be making the effort to disguise itself as anything other than shrill, biased propaganda. And second, we are in a McCarthy era. Mark my words, Churchill is the canary in this coal mine.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Time out for history

I've been thinking about the Declaration of Independence lately, and last night I reread it and gosh darned if these past four years haven't breathed new life into that document for me. The part that kept sticking in my head was the litany of complaint against King George, which has always reminded me of that point in the seder when you stick your pinky in the wine glass to make drops on your plate for each of the plagues. So here it is, you tell me:

The history of the present King [George III] of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
And so on.

Sound like someone you know? Kind of mind boggling isn't it.

A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Why I resist the postmodern

I was all set to write a post titled "soylent green is nextel" about biodegradable cell phones, but now Chris at After School Snack has me thinking, "no, soylent green is paper." It seems there is a "chef" in Chicago making inkjet maki. The NYT article begins by talking about the paper sushi Cantu flavors and imprints with pictures of raw fish in seaweed, and it degenerates from there:

Mr. Cantu is experimenting with liquid nitrogen, helium and superconductors to make foods levitate. And while many chefs speak of buying new ovens or refrigerators, he wants to invest in a three-dimensional printer to make physical prototypes of his inventions, which he now painstakingly builds by hand. The 3-D printer could function as a cooking device, creating silicone molds for pill-sized dishes flavored, say, like watermelon, bacon and eggs or even beef Bourguignon, he said, and he could also make edible molds out of cornstarch.
Call it "why Baudrillard should not be allowed in the kitchen."

"How would you like your simulacrum, sir?"

"Oh hyperreal, of course."

I'm sorry folks; I'm just a die-hard modernist at heart.

Someone found a box of spines

Okay, I was wrong to condemn the entire party just because Harry Reid grew up in Searchlight, Nevada. I'll acknowledge that I was, shall we say, a bit reactionary. It appears that while Harry was crafting his, ahem, rebuttal, other Senators were really doing the work of an opposition party.

Yesterday the "Stop Government Propaganda Act" was introduced in the Senate. (This is FAS's copy of the Congressional Record. You can also find it at, but it's messier). I haven't read through the whole thing myself, and I'm too tired to be willing right now, but at first glance it looks like a damn fine statement. Obviously inspired by the mounting discoveries of the Bush empire's media bribes, it addresses a wide ranging set of infractions including Social Security employees being pressured to back false crisis claims. It's snowball-in-hell legislation to be sure, but I for one, am going to write Lautenberg and Kennedy (who it seems were the originators) and thank them. The thing has bite.

Check this out from the explanatory statement:
When the GAO finds that taxpayer funds are misspent for propaganda purposes, and the agency fails to follow the GAO's ordered actions, our bill would call for the head of that agency's salary to be withheld.
. . .
As we seek to establish democracy in Iraq, let's first remove this taint from our own democracy.
Go Frank!

And can I ask where is the media coverage on this. Um hello? When you type "stop government propaganda act" into yahoo news, you get six hits. One is a decent, if short, Newsweek piece on payola that includes this call to action:
There's likely more to come. While Bush said last week that he wants his departments to cease paying columnists, his administration has doled out $250 million in taxpayer money to private public-relations firms, twice what had been spent before. More of that indefensible largesse will likely turn up in propaganda masquerading as journalism. That is, after all, the point of public relations. The story will emerge slowly because the Democrats don't control Congress and can issue no subpoenas, and because there's so little digging into what goes on inside federal agencies. Why? With daily deadlines and frequent TV gigs, Washington reporters are stretched too thin.

So can the bloggers ride to the rescue, as they did in Rathergate? They offer readers a huge new menu of tasty and often nourishing bite-size appetizers, while keeping what they call the "mainstream media" (MSM) from spitting in the soup [well, that's not really what we call you, but okay]. And the democratic din of thousands of competing voices is exactly what the Founders envisioned when they sought to protect the rights of pamphleteers, who were the bloggers of the early republic.
Okay folks, Newsweek has given us our marching orders. Long live the broadside!! Everyone go post about the Stop Government Propaganda Act now. (When you type that into Technorati, you get 120 hits.)

As an aside, I will admit that I am predisposed to like any piece of legislation that uses the word "puffery" in its definitions.

Documenting the blacklist

It's beginning to smell a lot like HUAC folks.

Tis the season

A gift suggestion from me.

It's all over but the screaming

So they have 58 votes for Gonzales. NYT tells us:
But by mid-afternoon Mr. Gonzales did have the support of at least three Democratic senators, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Ken Salazar and Ben Nelson, both of Colorado.

Mr. Lieberman said he believed that a president should be able to pick his Cabinet team, barring compelling reasons to the contrary. The senator said he had met with the nominee and was satisfied that Mr. Gonzales's allegiance was "to the Constitution and the people of this country," not simply to President Bush.

Mr. Salazar introduced Mr. Gonzales to the Senate and later said he had been reassured by a letter from the nominee in which Mr. Gonzales unequivocally rejected torture.

And a spokesman for Mr. Nelson, David DiMartino, said today that Mr. Gonzales had had a private meeting with the senator and eliminated any reservations Mr. Nelson might have had.
Did they share a cigar? I'm wondering.

There is no opposition party. I love big brother. In fact, I fucking adore him. I want to bear big brother's children.

Can you say "cult of true womanhood"?

From AP today: "Women Provide Emotion at State of Union":
They met just before the speech began: the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq and the daughter of a man killed by Saddam Hussein's regime. They found some comfort in a spontaneous moment that electrified President Bush's State of the Union address.

The two women, both touched by death in Iraq, reached out for each other while lawmakers, military leaders, the president and the nation watched. Their hug inspired the longest applause of the evening.

Bush said the women's locked embrace was a touching moment and an expression of compassion and appreciation from an Iraqi who enjoyed the freedom to vote on Sunday. . . .

Pain etched lines in Norwood's forehead as she held al-Suhail. Norwood finally let go, took her husband's arm and rested her head on his shoulder. . . .
From Godey's Lady's Book (February 1850):
There is a beautiful parallelism between the condition of woman in her domestic life and the character of a nation. She is the mother of men, and the former of their minds, at that early age when every word distills upon the heart like the dew-drop upon the tender grass. There is to that young mind no truth or falsehood in the world but that whose words flow from the mother's lips. There is no beauty in character, nor glory in action, which has not been concentrated by her praise. . . . It is thus that society is formed in its social and moral ideas; and thus its condition must ever present, on a large scale, a parallelism in its moral life to the condition of woman. It is not n matter of fancy, but a great social fact. Edward D. Mansfield.
Groundhog Day, indeed. This is like the Wal-mart approach to gender ("We're rolling back social progress!")

The Rights of the "True Woman":

The right to love whom others scorn,
The right to comfort and to mourn,
The right to shed new joy on earth,
The right to feel the soul's high worth,
Such woman's rights a God will bless
And crown their champions with success.

How dumb is he?

This dumb. (via Bitch. Ph.D.)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The mouse that roared

Giving whole new meaning to the phrase, "monkey on your back," ScienceDaily reports that rhesus monkey testes have been grafted onto the backs of mice and produced viable sperm. Needless to say, the article discusses potential implications for humans, and again, I'm sure I need not mention the frightening images conjured up in this blogger's mind. Andrea and I turned over a few of these. (The images, not the mice.) After running through the obligatory round of jokes ("What makes girl mice walk like cowboys?" "Are those monkey balls on your back or are you just happy to see me" . . .) we realized that this little experiment provides a metaphorical lens through which to view our current political situation.

We're thinking Bush and company are sort of like the mice: tiny and, well, tiny. Desperate for more potency, they are looking for that WMD graft. Wolfowitz and Ashcroft -- they pretty much sewed the monkey parts onto the mouse.

The Dems, on the other hand? They are donor monkeys. Hence Reid's stump speech tonight.

Whence the acronym MOT

Member of the Tribe, that is, for my goyish readers.

I think even the non-Zionist Jewish readers will appreciate Harry's story of one day in the life of an Israeli soldier. Heading back to base, Harry flags down a tour bus for a lift:
As soon as I get on the bus, the tour guide, an Australian fellow throws a warm smile in my direction. He sees my seventh brigade tag and starts telling the group of American tourists my unit's historical significance. I ask him in English where the group is from and he says Long Island, New York. I think to myself this isn't happening and before I know it, regretting it as I begin speaking, I tell him that I grew up on Long Island. He immediately informs the tour group who begin to bombard me with questions.

"Where are you from on the Island?"
"Port Jefferson Station"
"Is that near Port Washington?"
"No, it's near Stony Brook"
"Where did you go to school?"
"SUNY Albany"
"Did you know my daughter Deborah Finkelstein? She was in AEPhi!
"No, I didn't really hang with the sorority girls."
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
"Debbie would be perfect for you."
"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind next time I'm in NY"

Amidst the rumbling I hear a voice call out, "Oh My Gawd. Harry? Is that you?"

I cringe. This isn't happening. Who could possibly know me on this bus?

"Harry, it's Fay. I play mahjong with your mother every Tuesday!"

Jesus fucking Christ. What are the chances? I needed to get off that bus immediately. I might be smiley and look happy, but eyes are glancing outside to see how much longer I have to deal with this until I get to my army base, which had suddenly become my fortress of solitude.

"So how are you Harry? You look great! So tan! I can't wait to tell your mother I saw you!"

"Thanks. Tell her to send me more chocolate licorice and a few more books. The classics. I feel neglected!" I said jokingly.

"I'll send her the message!" she tells me. Suddenly, she turns around and yells to everyone on the bus...

Harry, we all feel your pain. Well, not the bris pain, the mahjong-playing Fay pain. (Story comes via the amazingly named Protocols of the Yuppies of Zion)

Oddly, this really relates in my mind with the last post on the naked juice bar porn palace. I did go to South Dakota once. My family jointly owns ranch land in northwestern South Dakota (truly a scary region I must say). It's been handed down and no one lives there but a tenant farmer and a bunch of soybeans, but I got it in my head to make a pilgrimage one time. En route, I stopped at "hometown" where my dad grew up, and my aunt and uncle gave me a tour of the town. I made the great mistake of asking something like "It must have been tough to grow up here in a Jewish family." No, my aunt explained, there were plenty of Jews. And the rest of the tour was, in fact, the Jew tour, with aunt and uncle pointing and explaining "And there, that family is Jewish. Oh and you see that dentist's office? He's Jewish." And so on. In their defense, I will say that rarely have I felt so very Jewish as when I rolled into Faith, South Dakota in a Honda with my New Yorker friend. Regrettably, we had forgotten our ten-gallon hats. Someone must have alerted the authorities because we actually got a speeding ticket on our way back from the ranch land. ("Hey, get out there, Cletus. There's two Jews in a Honda driving.")

An acronym waiting to happen

Okay, I've decided that I'm just going to post a bunch of utterly silly stuff now to try to cleanse my system of the State of the Union. Sort of like a blogging colonic only more pleasant.

Via The Washington Monthly comes news of the active protest movement in South Dakota: Citizens Against Nude Juicebars and Pornography. Since I work in Chatsworth, California, my first thought is, were such an organization successful here, the entire economy could be in jeopardy. In any case, one of the leaders of this fifteen-member organization, salon owner Maxine Pulse, in her role as spokesperson, cogently articulates CANJP's grievance:

"There's a line between right and wrong, and it seems like anymore nowadays that line has got all jumbled up."
I'm with you Maxine. Get some pasties on those juice waitresses. All those men downing wheatgrass shots and those jambas jiggling. God help us all. Thankfully, state senator Clarence Kooistra is on the case and has legislation in the hopper:

"We do not want the Salem area and McCook County to be known as Sin City, South Dakota," he says.
And here I need to interject and say my father, oddly enough, was born in South Dakota. Happily he escaped before the line got jumbled up. He found the line, in fact, to be quite straight and narrow. "I don't know if people live longer in the Midwest," he would say, "or if it just feels that way."


Jo Miller read my mind about Harry Reid. I did watch the Democratic response, which, had I not recognized Harry and read the caption on the screen, would have been largely indistinguishable to me from the Republican platform Reid is purportedly rebutting. That is to say, the opening anecdote about Harry's humble upbringing and his family's hardscrabble approach to life (how did he put it, "we never asked for any favors" or something like that?) and their firm, if unspoken values... The bile rises.

Please, mother of god, do not let this be the Democrat's "strategy" (or is that "strategery") for 2008. There are plenty of genuine values in the Democratic platform; there's really no need to pilfer the Republicans' values. But could we just stop talking about family values and religious values??!! Let's talk about populist values and Constitutional values. Why is this not obvious???

I know I've read too much Habermas, but I need to say here that the whole idea of a citizen (rather than just a guy) is that of a person who puts aside their private interests to become a rights-bearing member of the public. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing for the Democrats to think about framing their ideas in terms of values, but for heaven's sake, stop trying to make private choices into public values, and start talking about the god damned Constitution and Bill of Rights. Is there some sort of mass lobotomy movement going on that I don't know about?