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  • Tuesday, May 31, 2005


    Insane? Or am I TOO sane?

    Oh, I think I need to enter Adobe Illustrator Anonymous or something. In the course of an evening I cranked out about 30 graphics for the top of my blog. I admit I went a little crazy with power over fonts. Umm. And, since I was tired of the whole "Ill-Trained Rhetor" subtitle, I, um, changed the subtitle on almost all them. But the real insanity is that I've inserted code to randomly rotate all 31 graphics. It is amazingly self-indulgent. I also like to think some of them are moderately amusing as well. I particularly like "DemiOrator: Secular Satanist for Hell on Earth." It has a certain poetic ring to it. Then there's "DemiOrator: the tears of a clown with the claws of a queen."

    Is this just a ploy to get more refreshes of my blog? It didn't start out that way but that's not such a bad idea. Yeah, that's it: I'm a brilliant salesman. Now if only I can find someone to sell my soul to...


    Will Geek for Words, Part 5: The G Edition

    All entries below are from Word Lover’'s Dictionary: Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words by Josefa Heifetz (New York: Carol Publishing, 1974, 1994) For previous entries in this series, please see Part 1 and Part 2. If you want to find other posts in the series, search on the title "Will Geek for Words." I'm not going to update each part manually from now on. I'm considering combining the various parts at a later date but the size of the resulting post may violate the copyright of the author. And I respect the rule of law. Most of the time.

    It should go without saying that these are just some of the words in this book that tickled my fancy. Oh, didn't I mention my lexiphilia has a kinkier side? What I do with words in the privacy of my own home is, well, between me and consenting words. 'nuff said. Here are some G words.


    Stan Goff on Porn

    A friend sent me a link to The Porn Debate: Wrapping Profit in the Flag by Stan Goff. I rarely see men writing about the nasty results of prostitution and the pornography business. According to him, it is "the world's third most lucrative industry (right after weapons and drugs)." It's definitely worth reading.

    The ubiquitous nature of internet commodified prostitution and pornography has only served to reinforce the notion of sexuality as an abstraction and to hide the concrete reality of sexual degradation and slavery. The reality of the world's third most lucrative industry (right after weapons and drugs) is that it is a daily social catastrophe among millions of women... as well as millions of children, where in the real world beyond the white American comforts of so-called sex-radicals, these women and children have been thrown off the land and into various forms of sexual slavery. The sex libertarians of the porn industry won't mention this, even though a significant number of the women featured in much of this new porn are precisely these refugees from global destabilization and poverty.

    When Dr. Sun and others point out that this is an industry, all we hear from Nina Hartley and her partisans are paeans to so-called 'sex radicals,' like Carol Queen, who claim it is a culture. After Linda Marchiano (renamed 'Linda Lovelace' by her rapist-pimp husband, Chuck Traynor) went public about how Traynor had habitually beaten her, sold her to other men, forced her to have sex with a dog, and forced her to make porn films for his own profit, Hartley's pal Carol Queen referred to Marchiano dismissively as "Linda-he-had-to-put-a-gun-to-my-head-to-make-me-fuck-that-dog-Lovelace." This, presumably, is the 'sex-radical' take on rape and battering.

    Pornography and prostitution _ in the material world _ are overwhelmingly not 'choices.' They are vast, exploitative, patriarchal-capitalist industries, largely violent, very lucrative, controlled by women-hating men, and destructive of the women (and children) who are victimized by them. Most of the women who are prostituted (including those who are used to produce pornography) are poor, disproportionately from oppressed groups, frequently drug-addicted, the vast majority showing clear signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, and wanting out. The majority suffered from sexual abuse as children, and many were first 'turned out' as minors. Many new prostitutes are 'broken in' through gang rape, and constantly abused by pimps.

    Monday, May 30, 2005


    Memorializing War

    I often see a certain popular confusion around the meaning of our war dead and the meaning of our country's policies which lead to their deaths. The individual death of a soldier in a time of war is certainly about bravery and sacrifice for their country but the enacted policy that led to the circumstances of their death is a different matter.

    It's easy to see the problem. If the particular war itself seems to have been fought for unjust reasons, then there is a sense that this diminishes the individual sacrifice, sullies the bravery of those who fought and died. I don't think this is so.

    Soldiers fight for their country for a number of reasons but in my final analysis they fight and die to uphold the principles and honor of their country. If the war itself is based on lies or reasons incompatible with the core principles of the country, then those war dead deserve to have this corrected. To not protest unjust wars is to dishonor the dead. To make sure such sacrifice is absolutely necessary is very important.


    The Madness of King Rev. Moon

    OK, perhaps this is just going too far but I'm thinking of delving into the Unification Church's website for quotes from Reverend Sun Myung Moon and putting them up here as an occasional post. This guy is pure gold to quote. I can practically close my eyes and pick something out and it will almost assuredly be weird and provocative. I may just have to let this minor obsession of mine play itself out. I hope I don't drive you, dear readers, away with this. Be thankful I have more than a little bit of ADD; I will undoubtedly become bored with this shortly.

    The following is from: Congratulatory Banquet, Crown of Peace Awards, Washington, D.C., December 13, 2004.

    Look at the world. Young people, now liberated from the yoke of communism, are enjoying their freedom to such an extent that they are in danger of running pell-mell off the cliff of debauchery. Instead of seeking God's ideal of creation, they embrace the perspective of selfish individualism and become slaves to free sex. This gives rise to all manner of social evils. Homosexual activists have hoisted the flag of the so-called "gay" movement. They advocate marriage between people of the same sex. Put simply, this is barbaric and it infuriates Heaven and humanity. Imagine, for a moment, the world that would result from what they advocate. Humanity would become extinct within two generations.

    Those who turn away from Heaven's will dig their own graves in the soil of decadence and immorality. The evil of this age has its own punishing consequences. The incurable disease known as AIDS is a sign of this from Heaven. Even as we sit here, is not this cursed plague infecting thousands of innocent people? Is it not casting them onto the path of death?

    Another plague, known as divorce, is destroying family values. It is throwing humanity into an unprecedented crisis. Children suddenly find themselves separated from one parent and being raised by a stepfather or stepmother. In some cases, they are even placed in foster homes and orphanages. They are not at fault, yet their tiny hearts are left with scars that will never heal. Who will compensate them for the parental love that was snatched away from them?


    Who's Your Media Daddy?

    As the saying goes, freedom of the press goes to those who own the press. Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the very rich messiah-at-large, owns a pretty good bit of press. He owns the wire service UPI and the Washington Times. Here's a little bit from Toward a 'Faith-Based' Fourth Estate by Rory O'Connor.

    Reverend Moon'’s followers claim the Washington Times, UPI and other messianic media holdings are independent. The official public relations line --presented as fact as far back as in a June 15, 1987 Time magazine profile --– maintains that the ownership of the newspaper resides with "“a group of Korean investors affiliated with the Unification Church."” But it has always been obvious that "‘investment"’ in the Times really meant a subsidy. News World Communications, the privately held parent company of the Washington Times and other Moon media outlets, was never obligated under the law nor willing to disclose its financial secrets. But it is not secret that Moon'’s top Church officials were also executives of the Times and top officials of the Korean CIA.

    According to a report by Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR) "“the Moon organization functions as a highly integrated unit; each component may maintain the appearance of independence as a means toward larger ends. And former top Church official Steve Hassan told FAIR he believes that the “Times” is a '“Trojan horse'” within the conservative movement, and that "“Conservative politics is glad to have a voice through the '‘Times,'’ but ultimately it has nothing to do with conservatism. It has to do with fascism."”

    The FAIR study concluded, "“The '‘Washington Times'‘ is a creature unique in American history --– a newspaper of national influence owned and operated by foreign nationals of demonstrated malevolent intent to American political institutions. But the paper and its backers have not yet received the scrutiny they deserve."”

    And how independent is the once-proud UPI? As Moon noted on Nov. 30, 2000, shortly after buying the news service, "“The best way to become famous will be to write articles about Rev. Moon. The media organization that employs the reporters who write such articles and publishes them will be respected around the world. UPI was purchased just as it was about to collapse, and it is being supported now. UPI can write such articles."” Or as the Rev put it on another occasion, to establish "“the journalism of the Kingdom of Heaven"” one first needs "“the wire service of the Kingdom of Heaven..."”

    Owners of big media are often an eccentric lot, to put it mildly. But Rev. Moon, now he's in a different league of strangeness. Self-described messiah and savior of humanity, he's got every other media owner beat hands down. I took a little stroll over to the Unification Church's homepage, randomly picked a year (1983) from the 1956-2004 archives of Rev. Moon's speeches/sermons and selected what I considered a modest topic: "About Myself." This was only the first part of two parts and, oddly, he spent most of it talking about God. I sort of picked up the impression that God=Rev. Moon. Here's a little sample:

    It was at that time that the Unification Church emerged. If Christianity, America and the rest of the free world had listened to Reverend Moon when he emerged, many problems would have been solved once and for all. However, Reverend Moon was opposed by them and, at the same time, God was opposed by them. Thus communists today are openly striking out against God and all the free world.

    Now God must work to restore the mistakes of America and the free world through the Unification Church. That is why we oppose communism. Because both the people of the free world and the communists are opposing Reverend Moon at this time, they are working together in a way. What is the position of the United Nations? Where is the godly side within the United Nations? One thing is certain-a United Nations must be born on God's side. This Godly United Nations must win over the satanic United Nations through superior theory and practice and form a unified realm on God's side.

    Communism is the principal occupant of the earth. There is only a small segment of the earth which is occupied by the Unification Church, but Reverend Moon has come out and proclaimed our advance against the power of Moscow and our determination to expand God's territory on this earth. This is the war we are engaged in at this time. This is the reason why we must fight against communism.

    He seems able to go on like this for hours. Although 1983 might explain his strong anti-communist stance, his views apparently have not changed much since the fall of the Soviet Union. Note his reference to himself in the third person, sometimes considered a sign of serious mental illness. But I guess messiahs are different than "normal" people. And this is a guy who owns a major paper in our nation's capital. I can't really recommend reading his speeches but even a casual purusal of these sermons reveals some extremely batshit crazy beliefs. Did you know Korea is the most spiritually advanced country on earth? Or that Korean is the most perfect language because Moon and his wife speak it? I take back not recommending these speeches; I actually encourage you to go read them. You can't get a good glimpse into his, um, perspective from quotes; you should get the full context. It is truly eyeopening. But don't put salt in your eye while it's open; that hurts.

    This is PBU22, a post in association/solidarity with the fabulous tea party known as the Progressive Blogger Union.


    Theocracy Watch

    I have great interest in following the ever growing trend of involvement of a certain type of Christian in our government and public discourse. My short series on Dominionism is an example.

    I found an excellent resource on this subject at Theocracy Watch. The opening page has an article on the Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party. Here's a brief quote:

    The powerful Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, Tom DeLay (R-TX) embodies government by divine guidance:

    He [God] is using me, all the time, everywhere, to stand up for a biblical worldview in everything that I do and everywhere I am. He is training me.

    Tom DeLay represents an ultraconservative religious movement seeking to impose a narrow theological agenda on secular society. Chip Berlet and Margaret Quigley, senior analysts at Political Research Associates, have named this movement the theocratic right:
    The predominantly Christian leadership envisions a religiously-based authoritarian society; therefore we prefer to describe this movement as the "theocratic right."

    Television preacher Pat Robertson sent out a memo to his political organization in 1986 calling on his followers to "Rule the world for God." That call to arms sums up the goals of the theocratic right, and explains their Congressional leadership which suspends the basic rules of Democracy: all that matters is winning, because it is for God. The ends justify the means.

    Sunday, May 29, 2005


    My Jaw Drops Hard

    A little snippet I heard on the radio got me curious about the starting salaries for pharmacists. A college administrator was saying pharmacists with a B.A. often start at $90,000 right after graduating. Whaaa? Really? That is damn good money.

    So I go looking here and here and although the figures aren't quite that high, they are still quite respectable: about $71,000. Base pay has gone up $12,500 in the last two years due to a shortage of pharmacists that will probably get worse. Man, I missed the boat on this one. Tell me again why I wanted to be a writer? Must have been the fame 'cause it sure ain't the fortune.

    Friday, May 27, 2005


    Freedom of Religion, Just not YOUR Religion

    This story isn't a big national scandal but it's a scandal to me.
    An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."
    What is this horrible religion the child needs to be shielded from? Wicca, a religion which includes among its hallmarks: worshipping a female deity (translation=Goddess), reverence for nature and all life, and a view that the human body is not shameful even when naked.

    The parents' Wiccan beliefs came to Bradford's attention in a confidential report prepared by the Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau, which provides recommendations to the court on child custody and visitation rights. Jones' son attends a local Catholic school.

    "There is a discrepancy between Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones' lifestyle and the belief system adhered to by the parochial school. . . . Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones display little insight into the confusion these divergent belief systems will have upon (the boy) as he ages," the bureau said in its report.

    Gee, I was raised Catholic, a fairly mainstream religion. I guess I was a little confused when, during a Catholic church service as a child, I became convinced that I was about to be sacrificed on the altar, screamed bloody murder and had to be taken out of the church screaming and kicking. Perhaps it was the mention of the body and blood of Christ and the ritual cannibalism.

    A lot of religion doesn't make sense to children yet we allow most religions to instruct children in their doctrines. Well, except when we don't like the religion. Or its adherents are not "white." Or we find the beliefs strange.

    Religion is not always rational. Almost any religion, looked at from the outside with a semicritical eye, is irrational and strange. Yet freedom of religion means just that: We are free to choose the religion that suits us.


    Responsibility for Slavery

    It is common for (white) people in the US to deny any ancestral responsibility for slavery. "My family never owned slaves. No one in my family would have supported slavery. Why can't black people just get over it? The Civil War ended 140 years ago!"

    Unfortunately, I've never had the ability to deny my family's active participation in the institution and practice of slavery. They were undoubtedly slaveowners. Although the details aren't too well known to me, there are a few certainties. Part of one side of my family has lived in New Orleans and Louisiana for a long time. They also owned and operated a plantation on the Mississippi River prior to the Civil War. While this is circumstantial evidence, there's never been any doubt in my mind that my ancestors were slaveowners. Hell, I can see the modern expression of racism writ plain in parts of my current biofam.

    So do I work super hard to fight racism because of this family legacy? Am I a fierce avenger? No. Probably like many people, I try to do my best in my day-to-day life to combat my own racism. I try to say something when I see it expressed by other people but more often I am silent, allowing a slur to pass uncommented upon, unquestioned. I should be braver, be more willing to speak out. And so here's another statement of white guilt, of "what can I do? I'm just one person."

    Yet there are moments when I surprise myself by being clearer, firmer, more assertive in a situation. I don't know where it comes from, this upswelling of clear justice. Then I think it's the result of those small moments of self reflection about racist attitudes in myself, that I am somehow transforming myself. Then I think maybe I'm not just wallowing in guilt, maybe I am changing, becoming better able to see and act in the face of blatant racism. It's a nice thought. I hope it's true.

    Thursday, May 26, 2005


    Senfronia Thompson

    My admiration for Molly Ivins is great. A recent column she wrote was about a speech by Senfronia Thompson in the Texas Legislature. Ms. Thompson, a black woman and a veteran of three decades in the Texas Lege, spoke against adding an anti-gay marriage measure into the state constitution. Here's a quote but read the whole thing. Ms. Thompson obviously has a remarkable ability for scathing oratory when it suits her.

    "Let's look at what this amendment does not do: It does not give one Texas citizen meaningful tax relief. It does not reform or fully fund our education system. It does not restore one child to CHIP [Children's Health Insurance Program] who was cut from health insurance last session. It does not put one dime into raising Texas' Third World access to health care. It does not do one thing to care for or protect one elderly person or one child in this state. In fact, it does not even do anything to protect one marriage.

    "Members, this bill is about hate and fear and discrimination... When I was a small girl, white folks used to talk about 'protecting the institution of marriage' as well. What they meant was if people of my color tried to marry people of Mr. Chisum's color, you'd often find the people of my color hanging from a tree... Fifty years ago, white folks thought interracial marriages were 'a threat to the institution of marriage.'

    Wednesday, May 25, 2005


    I (heart) Sodomites

    I just have to go back to this In These Times editorial because it's full of crazy-great quotes.

    To sell the idea to the public, the Christian right has gathered under the banner of the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration. The group’s April 7–8 conference, “Confronting the Judicial War on Faith,” highlighted a number of Christian right luminaries and elected officials. (DeLay had to bow out to attend the pope’s funeral.)

    At the conference, Phyllis Schlafly said Justice Kennedy’s citation of international legal standards in his opinion against executing juveniles was “a good ground for impeachment.”

    Christian legal scholar Edwin Vieira disagreed. He said Kennedy should be impeached because his opinion striking down Texas’ sodomy statute “upholds Marxist, Leninist, Satanic principles drawn from foreign law.”

    Why stop with impeachment? Vieira invoked Joseph Stalin’s infamous line: “Death solves all problems: no man, no problem.” “It worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty,” Vieira said.

    How many folks can pull off quoting Stalin favorably in one breath and denouncing "Marxist, Leninist, Satanic principles" in another? I admire Mr. Vieira: I doubt I would be able to walk with balls that big.

    Oh, the title of this post? I just want to be clear about which side I'm on. I prefer the company of sodomites any day to vicious hatemongers like these people. Well, except when the sodomites are being catty. Then perhaps I'll go get a cup of tea. And lesbians, I generally like their company as well. What's that you say? They don't like to be called sodomites? Well, I think c--ksuckers is rude. Oh, gay? Fine, I'm happy too. (shite. never go for the obvious joke.)

    OK, some of this is jest but it is also quite serious. Back during the beginning of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, there was a distinct whiff of "round the gays up and put them in concentration camps" going around. You know, "for the greater good" kind of thing. That was where I really grasped the concept of solidarity, not in a labor or union struggle, but as a collective statement of "if you want to take this person away, you'll have to take me as well." It may not stop anyone from arresting us all but at least I'm clear on my position. (on my knees? ho-ho.) Very much in the vein of...

    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me--
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    --Martin Niemoeller
    (This is apparently the original quote. I took it from here where there is a bit of explanation of how it is often misquoted or deliberately rewritten.)


    I saw the best minds...

    An extraordinary post over on The Dark Wraith Forums by, of course, The Dark Wraith. Mr. Wraith is a college teacher and his piece Analysis: Fire and Seeds is a sharply observed description of students, particularly male students, in that milieu. I found it beautiful, tragic and insightful. I suggest you hie over there and read it. Well, quit loitering! Go!


    Yes, G.W. Bush is the Worst President

    (Tip 'o the mouse to News for Real)

    An informal survey of historians came up with the interesting finding that 4 out of 5 of them rated the Bush presidency as a failure. About fifteen percent said he was the worst president ever. Another 17% ranked only Nixon as being worse. Here are some quotes:

    The second most common response from historians, trailing only Nixon, was that the current presidency is the worst in American history. A few examples will serve to provide the flavor of such condemnations. “Although previous presidents have led the nation into ill-advised wars, no predecessor managed to turn America into an unprovoked aggressor. No predecessor so thoroughly managed to confirm the impressions of those who already hated America. No predecessor so effectively convinced such a wide range of world opinion that America is an imperialist threat to world peace. I don 't think that you can do much worse than that.”

    “Bush is horrendous; there is no comparison with previous presidents, most of whom have been bad.”

    “He is blatantly a puppet for corporate interests, who care only about their own greed and have no sense of civic responsibility or community service. He lies, constantly and often, seemingly without control, and he lied about his invasion into a sovereign country, again for corporate interests; many people have died and been maimed, and that has been lied about too. He grandstands and mugs in a shameful manner, befitting a snake oil salesman, not a statesman. He does not think, process, or speak well, and is emotionally immature due to, among other things, his lack of recovery from substance abuse. The term is "dry drunk". He is an abject embarrassment/pariah overseas; the rest of the world hates him . . . . . He is, by far, the most irresponsible, unethical, inexcusable occupant of our formerly highest office in the land that there has ever been.”

    “George W. Bush's presidency is the pernicious enemy of American freedom, compassion, and community; of world peace; and of life itself as it has evolved for millennia on large sections of the planet. The worst president ever? Let history judge him.”

    “This president is unique in his failures.”


    Constitution Restoration Act of 2005

    When it rains, it pours. I was tipped to the Constitution Restoration Act of 2005 in an editorial in In These Times, a progressive, often labor-oriented magazine. Here's a bit which alarmed me (I'm always getting alarmed; I should be used to it by now.):
    The act does three things. First, it prohibits the Supreme Court from ruling against any government official or government body whose actions acknowledge “God as the sovereign source of law, liberty or government.” In other words, enshrine the Ten Commandments in public places. Second, it prohibits federal judges from citing the laws or judicial policies “of any foreign state or international organization or agency.” This is aimed at the likes of Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Anthony M. Kennedy, who have all cited international judicial norms in their rulings. Third, the act provides that any judge who rules in either of these two ways “may be removed upon impeachment and conviction.”
    Holy Zeus! So much for that whole separation of Church and State thingy. Hmm... Wasn't part of the American Revolution about creating a form of government NOT based on the divine Right of Kings? Guess it's not too important.

    Wait a minute. Are they telling the truth? How much support does this have? Well, it was sponsored by six senators and 30 representatives, according to In These Times. I start wondering: maybe it's not as bad as they say, maybe they're misinterpreting it. So I mosey on over to Thomas, the government site of the US Congress with transcripts, legislation and all sorts of fun stuff. Your government in action. Yep, there it is and to my surprise the bill is fairly easy to understand. Here's the bit on the first point:
    `Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer or agent of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official or personal capacity), concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.'.
    I'm not too clear on what a "writ of certiorari" is but everything else is pretty obvious. (From Tech Law Journal: "Writ of Certiorari. A decision by the Supreme Court to hear an appeal from a lower court.") What are it's chances of passage? I don't know. My understanding is that an almost identical bill was introduced last year called, surprise!, the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004. Obviously it didn't pass then.

    Well, what are the uber-conservatives saying? If they are pimping it, it is probably evil. (Sorry, moderate conservatives, but you must know this is true by now.) What's this? has an article on it. How interesting! GOPUSA is the ex-home base of Jeff "Don't call me Bulldog" Gannon/Guckert, the "journalist." Here's what Kay R. Daly says on their site:

    As a matter of law, Congress could convene today and abolish the entire federal judiciary, with the exception of the Supreme Court. It could also create a federal court to hear nothing but Terri Schiavo cases within the bounds of federal legal jurisdiction as enumerated in Article III, Section 2. The Congress has already created specific federal courts on tax law, national security and even maritime issues, so it has been done before.

    In the past couple of years, we have seen examples of judicial tyranny in landmark cases about the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments, and gay marriage, to name but a few. Judicial activism and judicial tyranny has expanded exponentially only because "we the people" and our elected Congressional representatives have allowed it to happen.

    That's pretty clear. She thinks Congress controls all federal courts. Maybe it does. I'm not much of a scholar in this area. But the bill actually dictates what the Supreme Court can or can't consider. That just don't seem right to me. I seem to recall that the branches of government provide checks and balances on each other. If Congress starts really manipulating the judiciary and directly infringing on it, well, that's cause for a little action. The thought of it makes me go over all surly and angry. I'm not prone to anger much which is why it's not a good idea to rile me up. And why am I writing in this yahoo-type voice? Must be my bedtime.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2005


    Bush's Judicial Nominations

    (Tip 'o the mouse to Bitch. Ph.D.)

    The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has an interesting factsheet about current judicial nominees and confirmations. Here's a little bit:
    218 - The number of judicial nominations made by President George W. Bush

    208 -The number of Bush nominees that have been confirmed.

    95% - The percentage Bush’s judicial nominees have been confirmed.

    24% - The percentage of the federal judiciary appointed by President George W. Bush (208 of 862 judges).

    The judicial vacancy rate is at the lowest it has been in 14 years.
    I was particularly struck by the 24% figure of total appointees. Is it any wonder that the Dems are trying to keep a few of the worst off the bench? If memory serves (and it may not), Clinton had 111 nominees refused or held up in committee. Bush has had 10. Even accounting for the unequal time periods involved that seems quite a huge difference.


    Target of Opportunity

    This is one of those websites I feel a certain reluctance to mention. Target of Opportunity purports to list "enemies" of America, people and groups who have advocated violence or property destruction. Certainly some of the quotes on the site (assuming they are accurate) seem to advocate this. The worst case of actual destruction I saw documented on ToO was the firebombing of a SUV dealership and graffiti on SUVs in the Los Angeles area.

    What I find fascinating and disturbing is the commentary and the philosophy underlying the site. The site is careful to never explicitly direct specific violence against the listed "enemies." However it is difficult to miss the meaning of the site's name: Target of Opportunity. In case you're not familiar with the term, target of opportunity is a military term meaning "A target visible to a surface or air sensor or observer, which is within range of available weapons and against which fire has not been scheduled or requested." My understanding is that such a target can and should be fired upon if the gunner has no other direct orders or objectives. The implication is obvious. Photographs of individuals are posted, helping to identify them. In several instances, information on the individual's children is also included.

    The rhetoric certainly skirts the edge but the implication is relatively clear: Any American ultraconservative patriot who has the means and the inclination should take it on themselves to at least harass these "enemies" of America. Kill them? Probably not but, hey, that's up to the particular patriot's individual conscience and skill level.

    How influential is this website? The webcounter reads around 2,200 hits but it is a part of a conservative webring. Am I giving it free publicity by listing it here? Maybe, but I think it is very important to be aware of this sort of site. It isn't unique. I think it's a rather dangerous tactic and obviously patterned after the sites that list specific doctors who perform abortions. Those listings also provide information and urge people to attack the doctors. Some doctors listed on such sites have been killed and wounded from gunshots.

    Disguised as protecting America from subversives and revolutionaries, this sort of thing is aimed at inciting violence against specific people and groups. It's a nasty tactic, a form of brownshirt intimidation.

    Monday, May 23, 2005


    In Comes the Tidal Blog

    I'm no good at multitasking. One reason you rarely find me suggesting new blogs here is that I have a limited capacity for taking in new information. Compared with other bloggers I feel like I'm moving my lips as I read blogs because of my slow pace. It takes some effort of will and concentration for me to explore new blogs. My RSS reader has about 10 personal-ish blogs in one group and about 20 more newsy blogs in another. I note that at least two of the personal blogs in my reader have over 100 unread entries apiece. I have trouble keeping up with my reading.

    I feel like a bad associate for other blogs, like I'm letting them down by not keeping completely current on their posts. How can I expect anyone to read my blog if I can't even be a loyal reader of the blogs I really like? The guilt and the low self-esteem bother me. But what can I do? I also share my dialup connection with my housemate who has plenty of online business to attend to herself. Woe is me. Eh, I'll get over it.

    Sunday, May 22, 2005


    Open Thread: Tell me something new...

    Other blogs I visit sometimes have open threads for readers to post about whatever is on their minds. I don't think I have enough regular readers to really sustain something like this but, hey, prove me wrong. I'm always happy to hear from readers. Recommend blogs for me to check out, tell me I'm a commie freak, etc.


    The Dying Filibuster

    There are all sorts of reasons to care about the possible elimination of the filibuster from the Senate but I think the most important is the role it plays in helping the minority party have some last ditch option for blocking legislation or nominees. Daily Kos has a fairly good summation here.

    Because our national political system is almost entirely a two party affair, I think there is a place for some finessing by the minority party. If the ruling party can essentially do everything it likes through simple majority decision, it starts to seem rather futile for the minority party to even show up. Why participate if you can have no affect on the outcome?

    Something I was surprised to learn is that filibusters no longer mean actually standing (or sitting, I guess) in the Senate chamber and reciting the phone book or such like. Apparently Senators can sign a "intent to filibuster" and just skip the hard hours of actually being there. I'm thinking this is a little flakey, even (dare I say it) wimpy. If the matter at hand is important enough to invoke the filibuster, I think it's important enough to do the hard work of an actual filibuster, not a virtual one.

    This is PBU21 in solidarity/association with the Progressive Blogger Union.


    Fleeing Amerika

    At a recent gathering of friends, discussion inevitably turned to the state of the United States' economy, politics, and current use of military force. Questions were asked, quite seriously: "When do we leave the country? What is the event or point at which conditions in the US become intolerable to us? Where is the best country in the world to relocate?"

    Although comparisons of current US conditions to pre-WWII Nazi Germany may seem overblown and inaccurate to many, these basic questions remain: When does further participation in public life of a country seem futile? When do political possibilities and options seem irreparably damaged for the foreseeable future? When does public dissent not only begin to feel like an imprisonable offense but actually is one? I'm not talking about being a Democrat out of power in Congress. I'm not talking about being frustrated and feeling like your voice isn't being heard by politicians. I'm talking about deep fear. I'm talking about peace groups such at the American Friends Service Committee now being labeled terrorist or supporters of terrorism. AFSC is a group founded by Quakers. You know, the pacifists who can actually get CO status because their religious opposition to war?

    One friend's signposts are the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the establishment of a true dynasty with the presidential election of Jeb Bush. Then it's time to get out of Dodge for her. Several others are feeling the point is already past and are making plans to exit the country permanently.

    There is a certain popular sentiment that wishes us good riddance, that if we don't care enough to stay and make the country better in a conventional way then they're glad to see our backsides. But most of us have done that for years, in many cases decades. We've lobbied, protested, written letters, engaged in dialog with people, oriented our lives in harmony and congruence with our politics and core beliefs. And, while often frustrated and sometimes despairing, we have continued to believe in the power of change and truth in American politics and society. At some point, like in an abusive relationship, you have to recognize when hope is becoming a lie you tell yourself. Sometimes you have to back off, look carefully and realistically at the situation, decide what fruit will ever be born of your efforts and act accordingly.

    There was a consensus in this meeting that the US is headed for severe economic and social collapse in the not-too-distant future. Oh, it's probably not going to happen this year (probably). But I would be surprised if it took longer than 10 years. My forecast is about 3-5 years based on general gut feeling, not anything concrete. Once such a collapse happens, I doubt exodus will be possible. I believe this collapse might be worse than the 1929 depression. Cheery, aren't I?

    There's no conclusion to this. I make no claim to Cassandra-like powers of vision. But we're beginning to make plans.

    Saturday, May 21, 2005



    At various times we (friends and myself) have gathered information on herbal abortifacts. It has never seemed to me that legal and relatively safe abortion was a given, that Roe v Wade would always be the law of the land in the US. So we researched info on methods which were not dependent on surgical knowledge. Unfortunately, many of these herbal methods are very dangerous for women. Like chemotherapy, most herbal methods involve ingesting herbs in quantities that are toxic and induce fairly severe reactions in a woman's body. These are not methods for the inexperienced or misinformed. Death or permanent damage to organs is not to be laughed at.

    This brings me to this article on The Contraception Museum. Here's a quote:

    The museum emerges in a time of intense controversy over contraception.

    In March, the same month that the museum opened, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive health issues, reported a high level of hostility to reproductive health rights in Congress and state legislatures and potential harm to contraceptive services from proposed cuts in Medicaid.

    "You can count on some attack on family planning in Congress and something you didn't expect," Adam Sonfield, a public policy associate with the Institute's Washington, D.C., office, said.

    The Guttmacher Institute estimates that 16 million sexually active women rely upon two publicly funded programs--Medicaid or Title X of the Public Health Service Act--for contraceptive services. These include nearly 700,000 in Ohio alone.

    Medicaid funding could take the brunt of a $20 billion cut in domestic programs in the budget plan submitted by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in April. Even a 1 percent loss in family planning funding would affect tens of thousands of women, reported Guttmacher.

    Friday, May 20, 2005


    Friday Dog Blogging Featuring Sheena

    We love all our dogs very much. However I admit Sheena enjoys a certain favoured status. Perhaps it's because she's smallest.

    Sheena dozes Posted by Hello

    Thursday, May 19, 2005


    Galloway Lashes Senate Committee

    Wow. If you want to read just how good a tongue-lashing can be, read this transcript of G. Galloway testifying to a Senate Committee. He's been accused in the media of taking money from Saddam Hussein and personally profiting from the oil-for-food scandal. It is blistering and entertaining. Here's the beginning but the whole thing will only take a couple of minutes to read.
    "Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

    "Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

    "Now I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in this dossier and I want to point out areas where there are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want to put this in the context where I believe it ought to be. On the very first page of your document about me you assert that I have had 'many meetings' with Saddam Hussein. This is false.

    "I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein."


    Female Orgasm: A Theory

    From the New York Times:

    Over the last four decades, scientists have come up with a variety of theories, arguing, for example, that orgasm encourages women to have sex and, therefore, reproduce or that it leads women to favor stronger and healthier men, maximizing their offspring's chances of survival.

    But in a new book, Dr. Elisabeth A. Lloyd, a philosopher of science and professor of biology at Indiana University, takes on 20 leading theories and finds them wanting. The female orgasm, she argues in the book, "The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution," has no evolutionary function at all.

    Rather, Dr. Lloyd says the most convincing theory is one put forward in 1979 by Dr. Donald Symons, an anthropologist.

    That theory holds that female orgasms are simply artifacts - a byproduct of the parallel development of male and female embryos in the first eight or nine weeks of life.

    In that early period, the nerve and tissue pathways are laid down for various reflexes, including the orgasm, Dr. Lloyd said. As development progresses, male hormones saturate the embryo, and sexuality is defined.

    I am not a learned biologist but I have a modest theory for the female orgasm. Perhaps it serves to keep women from ripping the balls off men during coitus. Just a theory.

    Wednesday, May 18, 2005


    You Will Know Them By The Trail of Their Blogs...

    The Following being a Cruise through some Sites of Interest, some of Subtle Beauty, others of Banned Material, possibly of a Salacious Nature. (That's not accurate but I get in these odd literary moods, crudely aping a particular style. Mimicry afflicts me.)

    I started at Bitch. Ph.D. who I find is going on vacation until mid-June. Buh-bye, Dr. B.! Pleasant journey.

    There I find a link to Feminist of the Day on Lovely site and informative. You can put a box on your blog that updates every day with a new feminist.

    Spacefem's links lead me to media girl, full of commentary on feminism and, what else, media things. I like this recent post on those inconvenient feminists.

    Sifting through media girl's feminist links (do you sense a theme emerging?) I follow two links: and Pen-Elayne on the Web. The first is fairly self-explanatory. Pen-Elayne I know mainly for suggesting making March "Estrogen Month" to allow showcasing of women's blogs. My pitiful sidebar list titled "women/feminist blogs" contains the remnants of my participation.

    The shout-outs at blackfeminism suggest two more sites: Bitch magazine and feministing. I read the dead-tree version of Bitch fairly regularly and like it. I don't visit feministing very often but I always find interesting commentary.

    This concludes our short tour of links. Please exit in an orderly fashion.


    Good Women, Bad Women and Sister Punishers

    How to talk about women who are obviously anti-woman in their professional lives? Perversely, feminism has also created a breed of professional woman who appear quite adamant about keeping most women poor, pregnant and in the kitchen. Amanda Marcotte on Pandagon calls them "Sister Punishers."


    Macro Sociology, or Misanthrope Gone Wild on Spring Break!!!

    My greatest bane is lack of knowledge. I have these flashes of insight, "Aha!" moments, immediately followed by doubt about the value and originality of the insight. "I can't be the first person to think of this, there must be whole branches of academia studying this subject. Why bother to mention it? I'm just lacking in basics of knowledge, a small intellect striving to think big thoughts. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained."

    So my grand thought du jour is this: The majority of societal movement and change occurs in ways beyond our grasp or comprehension. In this model/metaphor, all of human society on earth is like a single organism. Let's use a mammal as an example, a squirrel perhaps. All the world's subcultures and political divisions are akin to organs: kidneys, liver, skin, etc. This is a general model so please try not to attribute any particular organ (e.g., the anus) to a specific subculture (e.g., conservatives.) The organs operate separately but are also interdependent; a malfunction in one organ can quickly affect other organs.

    Some of the pressures and influences affecting changes in subcultural societies are obvious and direct (passing a law.) Other influences are less quantifiable but probably much more important (people deliberately ignore or disobey the new law.)

    This concept is sort of akin to the "inventions occur and spread when the technical and social conditions are ripe" school of thought. My concept is that none of us has more than the vaguest inkling of the ponderous forces shaping and moving us individually or the course of our society as a whole. We always impose meaning, context and direction on our lives and the lives around us. On a larger scale, we recognize situations, trends, cultural signifiers (i.e., poverty, fame, etc.) and either help propagate them, work to change them, or try to avoid thinking about them. If we see poverty in the United States, as individuals we might ignore it, give money to a charity or political group, volunteer at a soup kitchen, etc. As individuals, we weigh pros and cons, intellectually and emotionally, logically and impulsively, to make decisions and move forward in our lives.

    I'm sure there is a nice depressing school of philosophical thought that encompasses this "pawns of the universe" concept but I don't recall what it is at the moment. What I'm suggesting is not philosophical or a matter of personal perspective; it is that there are real effects of unknown motivations and forces acting on and within us. I'm not talking about a deity or deities, nor am I referring to supernatural agencies. A simple unpleasant example: If rats are kept in overcrowded conditions, some of them will kill and cannibalize others. This relieves the overcrowding. And, no, I don't think humans are like rats, mostly. But there are social conditions, conditions of life, where almost inexplicably, people will act impulsively, seemingly irrationally. Maybe part of it is some Malthusian forces at play.

    I'm sure all this shows more about my sorry psychological makeup than as a theory of social change and action. "Tsk, tsk. Poor fellow, lost in some fatalistic miasma of his own creation. If he could just smell the flowers, greet the joy of the sunrise, he might escape this sullen nature of separation and alienation he's cultivated and nurtured." Perhaps.


    Don't Believe It!

    I've recently been on a binge of reading books about media consolidation, the process of journalism, news critiques, etc. One book I'm really loving is Don't Believe It!: How Lies Become News (New York: Disinformation, 2005) by Alexandra Kitty. Here is the Disinformation page on it and here is the Amazon page with editorial reviews.

    I've read plenty of books about the rightward swing of the press and the whole influence of the press by right-wing talking points and such. This is one of the best I've read. What sets Don't Believe It! apart from other books of this type is a more neutral approach to detecting bias and false reporting. Instead of just detailing particular instances or the general structure of "The Republican Noise Machine" (David Brock's book), she analyzes the particulars of the journalist's craft, the points where it is prone to manipulation, and the weaknesses of the current state of mass media in general.

    If you want to become a savvy consumer of news, this is the book to read.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2005


    Apologies to Commenters

    Sorry to all commenters who have left messages for me. I thought Blogger was supposed to email comments to me but I wasn't getting any. Then I figured out that perhaps I should go check Haloscan. Lo! There they are. Hopefully I'll be keeping up with them from now on. Ciao.


    Newsweek's Craven Retraction

    Newsweek recently retracted their story that interrogators desecrated the Qur'an in front of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Apparently unmentioned with this mea culpa are numerous other confirmed reports of same behavior. There are a couple of stories mentioned in this piece from Dissident Voice.
    Take the August 5, 2004 report by The Independent in London, which reported that ex-Guantanamo detainees “Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul ... said one inmate was threatened after being shown a video in which hooded inmates were forced to sodomise each other. Guards allegedly threw prisoners’ Korans into toilets, while others were injected with drugs, it was claimed.”

    Or how about a story by James Gordon Meek and Derek Rose for the Daily News in New York published the same day as The Independent's story, where they reported that Asif Iqbal, writing of his time at Guantanamo, lamented: “They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it.”

    On March 6, 2003, Marc Kaufman and April Witt, in an article entitled “Returning Afghans Talk of Guantanamo; Out of Legal Limbo, Some Tell of Mistreatment” in the Washington Post wrote, “The men, the largest single group of Afghans to be released after months of detainment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, gave varying accounts of how American forces treated them during interrogation and detainment. Some displayed medical records showing extensive care by American military doctors, while others complained that American soldiers insulted Islam by sitting on the Koran or dumping their sacred text into a toilet to taunt them ... Ehsannullah, 29, said American soldiers who initially questioned him in Kandahar before shipping him to Guantanamo hit him and taunted him by dumping the Koran in a toilet.”


    OK, Angry Now

    I was stunned by the following email. I'm more than a big fan of freedom of speech. I'm a little fuzzier about commercial speech. If someone is making money on the marketing of a slogan, it's less sacred to me. Certainly a slogan that advocates sexual violence against women is worth speaking to the company about it. (shakes head in disbelief) Just read it, you can decide for yourself whether it's worth taking action on this matter.

    PLEASE NOTE!!!: I typed the phrase "donkey punch" into the Cafe Press catalog and came up with zero entries. Unless I somehow made a mistake, it seems like they have withdrawn the 225 items mentioned below. I still think this is worth reading. If I get additional info I'll post a follow up.

    [UPDATE Weds., 5/18/05: Apparently the "donkey punch" items are "hiding" and are only visible if you do store particular searches. I'm not going to reprint the list of links here but if you'd like to get an email with them, write to: SPAMBUSTING ADDRESS: antiporn_activist(AT)yahoo(DOT)com.]
    Dear Colleagues and Friends,

    You have received this email because you participated
    in a previous action led by the AntiPorn Activist
    Network or one angry girl designs, or because you are
    known for your work to stop violence against women.
    We are sorry to report that we have something new and
    awful to share with you.

    Many of you may be familiar with CafePress, the online
    store that sells shirts, stickers, and buttons
    featuring the artwork and slogans of everyday people.
    Handling the printing, inventory, and shipping while
    extracting a reasonable fee, CafePress is a conduit
    for creative folk with something to share but not much
    of a budget. Sure, sometimes people might submit
    artwork that's simply too offensive to grace a
    t-shirt, but CafePress has its own guidelines to
    screen out the truly hateful stuff.

    But violence against women? Well, apparently
    CafePress has no guidelines for that.

    Recently, we learned of 24 stores within the CafePress
    family that sell a total of 225 products featuring the
    urban slang term "donkey punch." We were blissfully
    unaware of this term, which is not found in Webster's,
    but an internet search of urban slang sources yielded
    the following disturbing definitions:


    "Donkey Punch: The supposed move involves the male
    punching the female in the back of the head or neck
    immediately prior to orgasm. The alleged purpose is to
    cause the muscles around the vagina or anus of the
    female to contract around the male's penis, creating a
    supposedly enhanced orgasm for the male. A variation
    of the practice may be enacted to distract the female,
    allowing for the surprise penetration of the anus. It
    has been speculated the term may refer to the
    surprised female at this point "bucking" like a
    donkey. "

    "Donkey Punch: Banging a girl doggy style and then
    moments before you come, sticking your dick in her
    ass, and then punching her in the back of the head.
    This gives a tremendous sensation, but for it to work
    correctly, the girl must be knocked out so that her
    asshole tightens up. "

    Apparently the element of surprise is key in producing
    the desired effect. In other words, a woman's consent
    to be punched in the head is not requested in advance.

    We have no way to confirm that donkey-punching is
    actually being practiced (since it can cause injury or
    death), but it is certainly being promoted at
    CafePress. Visit their homepage, type in those two
    key words, and you will be confronted with 225
    products ranging from hats ("Give this to your
    girlfriend, and tell her to wear it backwards next
    time you take her to bed") to shirts ("A Donkey Punch
    is the greatest thing invented. Women love it whether
    they want to admit it or not").

    By now, you're probably curious about those
    aforementioned content guidelines. For your
    convenience, we have included them:

    CafePress's General Guidelines for Prohibited Content
    (found at

    * Content that may infringe on the rights of a third
    * Items that make inappropriate use of Nazi symbols
    and glamorize the actions of Hitler.
    * Use of marks that signify hate towards another group
    of people.
    * Hate and/or racist terms.
    * Inappropriate content or nudity that is not
    artistic in nature.
    * Content that exploits images or the likeness of
    * Obscene and vulgar comments and offensive remarks
    that harass, threaten, defame or abuse others such as
    F*** (Ethnic Group).
    * Content that depicts violence, is obscene, abusive,
    fraudulent or threatening such as an image of a murder
    victim, morgue shots, promotion of suicide, etc.
    * Content that glamorizes the use of "hard core"
    illegal substance and drugs such as a person injecting
    a vial of a substance in their body.
    * Material that is generally offensive or in bad
    taste, as determined by

    We reasoned that "donkey punch" merchandise, which
    promotes sexual violence against women, constituted a
    clear violation of several of these guidelines, and
    that these 225 products somehow slipped through the
    cracks. Silly us. One APAN member spoke at length
    with Ryan in Customer Service and Candice in Content,
    expressing concern about the items, and has been
    informed that the company had already reviewed the
    matter and found no policy violations.

    We disagree. We hold the quaint view that a t-shirt
    glorifying the practice of punching a woman at the
    base of her skull to enhance one's orgasm is
    "generally offensive or in bad taste," that it
    "depicts violence," and that it does "signify hate
    towards another group of people." We are hoping you
    feel the same, and will promptly make your views known
    to the confused individuals at CafePress.

    We estimate this action will take about 30 minutes of
    your time. In order for it to be successful, everyone
    receiving this email should participate. Here are
    your marching orders:

    1. Call CafePress toll-free at 1-877-809-1659 between
    7AM and 7PM PST. Ask for Candice in the Legal
    Department. If they won't put you through, her direct
    number is 510-877-1926. If Candice isn't available,
    ask for Maureen or Lindsay. Once you have a live
    human, explain why you are offended by the 225 "donkey
    punch" products currently in CafePress stores. If you
    have bought from the company in the past, mention
    that. Refer specifically to the content guidelines
    and ask the staffer to explain in detail why these
    products do not violate them. If they cannot do this,
    ask to speak to someone who can. Try to keep them on
    the phone as long as you can, but remain polite.
    Conclude by saying that you will refrain from buying
    any CafePress products until the offending items are
    removed, and will encourage others to do the same.
    Promise to follow-up your conversation with an email,
    and request the best email address for this purpose.
    They'll probably give you
    (INTERNATIONAL ACTIVISTS: call Candice directly at
    510-877-1926 or skip ahead to #2)

    2. Write an email to:,,, and (or any other email you were given).
    Summarize your feelings about the "donkey punch"
    merchandise available through CafePress. Include the
    URL from your keyword search. If you spoke with a
    live staffer, summarize your conversation, noting
    whether or not you were satisfied with their
    responses. Refer specifically to the content
    guidelines and ask the email recipient to explain why
    these products do not violate them. Say that you look
    forward to all of these products being withdrawn from
    their website, and that you will postpone any
    potential CafePress purchases until they are
    permanently gone. Request a reply.

    2a. (optional) We have identified a number of
    CafePress clients who sell pro-feminist,
    anti-violence, or pro-gay merchandise. Write them
    emails expressing your concerns and requesting their
    help in convincing the company to withdraw the
    offending products. Don't threaten to boycott them.

    [Note: I'm deleting this list because of spam concerns. Write the address below for more information.]

    3. Circulate this email far and wide, particularly if
    you run an organization, maintain a mailing list, post
    to a blog, or command a small army.

    4. Forward any relevant communication to
    [Spam-buster address follows] [antiporn_activist ATT yahoo DOTT com] so we can keep track of
    our progress. Please DO NOT include this address in
    your communication with CafePress.

    We thank you in advance for your help. Updates will
    be forthcoming as the action gets underway. As
    always, if you wish to be removed from this mailing
    list, please let us know.

    Kind regards,
    AntiPorn Activist Network and one angry girl designs


    My Casual Dissection of Punditry

    Pundits are big business on TV. These nattering hobgoblins of opinion construct their own world; we just live in it. They stir up strong feelings for and against their positions and personalities. I thought I should draw up some observations on the "rules of punditry." This way I can be a kind of informal pundit on pundits. A little pundit on pundit action, if you will. That's hot!

    I'm only going to state the rules here. Perhaps at a later time I'll fill in some details, expand them into a book and name it "7 Traits of Highly Offensive Pundits."

    1. Always have an opinion.
    1a. Your opinion is always right.

    2. Remember your guests are always inferior to you. If they get uppity, cut their tongue out, er, their microphone, cut their mic.

    3. Pad your resume. Who's really going to look up whether you got a Peabody Award?

    4. Arrogance is a virtue. The money you make proves it.

    5. Lie. Make stuff up.
    5a. Never, never admit to a mistake.

    6. You are a victim when people point out your obvious falsehoods.

    7. You champion the common man and are just like them except for your wealth.

    Monday, May 16, 2005


    Bill Moyers Still Sexy and Smart

    Bill Moyers gives good speech. Democracy Now! carried much of his closing speech at the National Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis Missouri. You can see the rush transcript here. Here's an excerpt. Oh, and one of my fave performers, Patti Smith, was there as well. Go, Patti.

    Who are they? I mean the people obsessed with control using the government to threaten and intimidate; I mean the people who are hollowing out middle class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class to make sure Ahmad Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq’s oil; I mean the people who turn faith-based initiatives into Karl Rove’s slush fund; who encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets; I mean the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy. That’s who I mean. And if that’s editorializing, so be it. A free press is one where it’s okay to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence.

    One reason I’m in hot water is because my colleagues and I at “Now” didn’t play by the conventional rules of Beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.

    Jonathan Mermin writes about this in a recent essay in World Policy Journal. You’ll also want to read his book Debating War and Peace: Media Coverage of US Intervention in the Post-Vietnam Era. Mermin quotes David Ignatius of The Washington Post on why the deep interest of the American public are so poorly served by Beltway journalism. “The rules of the game,” says Ignatius, “make it hard for us to tee up on an issue without a news peg.” He offers a case in point: the debacle of America’s occupation of Iraq. “If Senator So-and-so hasn’t criticized postwar planning for Iraq,” says Ignatius, “it’s hard for a reporter to write a story about that.”

    Mermin also quotes public television’s Jim Lehrer, whom I greatly respect, acknowledging that unless an official says something is so, it isn’t news. Why were journalists not discussing the occupation of Iraq? “Because,” says Jim Lehrer, “the word ‘occupation’ was never mentioned in the run up to the war. Washington talked about the war as a war of liberation, not a war of occupation. So as a consequence, those of us in journalism,” says Lehrer, “never even looked at the issue of occupation.” “In other words,” says Jonathan Mermin, “if the government isn’t talking about it, we don’t report it.” He concludes, “Lehrer’s somewhat jarring declaration, one of many recent admissions by journalists that their reporting failed to prepare the public for the calamitous occupation that has followed the liberation of Iraq, reveals just how far the actual practice of American journalism has deviated from the First Amendment idea of a press that is independent of government.”


    Butt-Ugly Graphic Intrusion

    All I seem to be posting this week on this blog is "look at me, I'm a blogger, ooh, changing things around, dammit take me seriously! Do I look pretty? I'm very introspective." All very tiring.

    I've been playing with a tryout version of Adobe Illustrator CS. Very fun. I actually own an old version of Illustrator, version 6 or something. CS (approx. ver. 11) is full of tools to do a zillion graphic effects. I may insert a few of the results here so don't be surprised if the title graphic changes several times in the near future. Warning: I am not a professional artist! This will surely result in items that clash in nauseating ways. If overcome by vertigo, please breathe deeply and look away from the monitor.

    Sunday, May 15, 2005


    Evangelical Law Schools

    Evangelical law schools are in the process of organizing and getting accreditation. These schools intend to turn out lawyers with Christian values who, presumably, will argue and practice law from a Christian perspective. These schools are a long range project. Eventually these lawyers will be considered for judgeships and other public offices.

    Pat Robertson's Regent Law School in Virginia Beach, VA has the following on their home page:
    Regent University School of Law is distinctive among law schools approved by the American Bar Association because of the integration of Christian Principles into our curriculum. It is this balance of professional legal training and the affirmation of biblical principles that enables our graduates to provide excellent legal counsel to their clients.
    While I'm sure this makes excellent press for these evangelical institutions, I'm not overly worried about the resulting lawyers. In time, as graduates become more integrated into the legal community they will find it difficult to overemphasize the "Christian" values in their practices. The "law" in the US is made up of case law and precedent. Unless a compelling argument can be made based on precedent and/or solid interpretation of current law, it is difficult to sway a judge or a jury to some theoretical Christian position . No matter how much some Evangelicals might wish US law was based on Biblical law, it's not true.

    I know some in the radical right or the Dominionist movement like to make a great fuss about the few Bush judicial nominees who were not confirmed (12 out of 217.) They say the nominees are being persecuted for applying their religious beliefs to cases before them. Everything I've seen indicates that they were denied confirmation to a federal judgeship because they were bad judges, misinterpreting the law in cases before them. A virtue of precedent law is that it has an enormous inertia behind it. It is very difficult to alter without very major political legislation or legal decisions in the higher courts (i.e., Circuit and Supreme Courts.) This inertia is also the bane of anyone who wants to change longstanding inequities embedded in the system.

    This PBU20 published in conjunction/solidarity with the Progressive Blogger Union.


    Critique of Impure Blogging

    I am currently on a round of attempting to explain to myself why I blog. This kind of self-absorbed reflection is probably not too interesting to the outsider (i.e., you, dear reader) but I’m afraid you’re stuck with it. Just skip to the next post if I bore you.

    I have many tics and faults in my blog writing. One exceptional annoyance to me, and undoubtedly to the reader, is when I overstate an “inspirational” theme: The people united will never be defeated, nurture hope, shout “freedom!” and storm the gates of tyranny, blah, blah, woof, woof, jump now. (Greetings, Antiochians.) The cynic in me doesn't believe this stuff for a second but obviously I still have a soft idealistic underbelly still yearning for it. I'm a frustrated manifesto writer in search of a Cause to dedicate my rhetoric to. Failing that, these simpering and treacly phrases drip from my pen/keyboard. I'm trying to rein them in but I admit they seem to have a certain immunity from my generally well-developed editorial skills.

    I've been writing for pleasure and for print publication for over thirty years. There is a level on which I really get blogging, the immediacy, the informal tone, the ability to reference web sources as hyperlinks. There's another level that I still feel tied to the limits and cycles of printed medium. In print when I finish an article, it could be weeks or months before it is actually seen by an audience and before I get feedback from it. I find blogging encourages me to conceive, develop and publish at a much faster pace. In some ways, too fast. I rarely work on a post for more than a couple of hours. The medium encourages the expression of emotion and opinion. That's good but I remain wary of emotional arguments and opinionated appeals. See previous paragraph.

    I love and distrust being able to include quotes from other places on the web with more or less proper reference and linkage to the original source. It's like footnoting on the fly. The downside is continually evaluating the veracity and accuracy of these references. If I'm just drawing attention to other blogs or a very mainstream story, this isn't important. If I'm trying to do extensive research on a more obscure subject for a particular piece, then, in the immortal words of Bender on Futurama, "I'm boned." Not everything is on the web. If I want to bring in such sources, I have to type it in. I'm lazy and blogging does not encourage taking such effort. And if I'm researching something on the web, there's a distinct possibility that I don't know enough to properly evaluate the source material. I like research. I think it's fun. I don't like finding out a source is bullsh*t. Of course I try to check various sources and cross-reference them like a proper researcher instead of a half-assed one but I do come up against the immediacy factor.

    No real end to this post, just the awareness there is plenty of room for improvement here.
    (I really need to get clear on who I'm writing for. I'm quite erratic at inserting pop references in my posts. The title of this post is a take-off of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason yet there's also a quote from a cartoon. I gotta standardize... (shakes head sadly.))

    Saturday, May 14, 2005


    Detritus of a Windswept Mind

    There's a level I'm trying to find with this blog, some balance of personal commentary with astute observation and analysis. (ha. pull the other one, why doncha?) Actually, I generally try to leave my more personal items aside unless they're pertinent. I'm not too successful at it. I'm sloppy in attempts at pure distance and that whole omniscient narrator pose thing. Tonight I'm feeling disgruntled at nothing in particular, restless of mind, lacking focus.

    I'm casting my gaze around the internets, looking for a subject, looking for a story to write about but I'm left wanting. Oh, I could certainly pick something out and work up a post. This is somewhat contrary to my wish that this blog remain fun for me. I work best when I don't feel it's work at all. Then I'm all research this and cite that, damn I'm a clever bugger, isn't this fascinating, isn't this sad? Then I'm all Clothos over it, spinning and weaving threads together. Tonight nothing seems to come together, just disparate items jangling against each other, lacking a catalyst.

    Item: I saw a film on Howard Zinn, You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train. I wasn't aware of his history of involvement in activist causes. Duh! I'm not stupid, I just act like it. A lot. Considering I spent much of the seventies in the Boston area generally consorting with leftish activists and he was in the same area, you'd think I could have panhandled a clue. Until now, I've not been particularly impressed with Zinn's personal presentation. Perhaps it just took a longer exposure to him. I've always thought his "A People's History of the United States" was an excellent breakthrough in conceptualizing history from differing viewpoints. But. I've never done more than skim it. (hangs head) I've been a bad, bad intellectual.

    Item via Bitch. Ph.D.: A blog called Coming Out Colored is really worth checking out.

    Item: The previous item also led me to Globe of Blogs, another clearinghouse of blogs.

    Item: Bedtime for me.

    Thursday, May 12, 2005


    The Freak in Me Speaks

    It may surprise you, dear reader, if I reveal that my real name is not Wordlackey. Shocking, I'm sure. People online, bloggers, may have reasons to be circumspect about using their legal names in their blog. I can't speak for anyone else so I'll speak for myself.

    Everything I write in my blog is public. Anyone with access to the internet can find my posts in all their ragged glory, contorted sentences and all. I am fortunate: I do not currently have a job where what I write here might turn up at an evaluation. (For an example of what could happen, here is a story about The Phantom Professor.) But the internet has a long memory and it's only getting longer. I signed a petition twenty years ago, not online but a real paper petition. That petition with my name attached to it is online. I'm not embarrassed by it, I still agree with the petition but I have mixed feelings about this sort paper trail being available to anyone with access to Google.

    For me, a pseudonym is not something to hide behind, a license to libel or slander. I take responsibility for everything I've written on this blog. I try to be truthful and honest. I sincerely believe anything I say under my blogging nom de guerre I would also say publicly under my legal name. I may be self-deluded in such a belief. I often use a question as a test: Would I say what I'm writing to the person's face in conversation? I don't always live up to this standard but I attempt to.

    There is certainly a level at which my blogging involves exploring and developing a persona, a particular aspect of my character, a style of presentation. I don't think it's false because of the circumstances. Rather, it is a personal adaptation, a process of gaining fluency in the form. As John Turturro snarls in the film Barton Fink, "I'm a writer!" Writing involves explication. I could write "Bush lies." I would call that a slogan for a protest rally or a simple statement lacking in supporting detail. More interesting to me is an explanation of how Pres. Bush publicly professes certain beliefs while he plans to implement obviously contradictory action and policy.

    I am attracted to a certain style of loud punditry, not because I desire to emulate it but to understand its appeal to so many people. I once thought pundit meant someone with a certain specialized area of expertise, capable of analysis in light of extensive knowledge and experience. Most so-called pundits today are opinion mongers, mostly versed in speaking with faux authority. Today, pundits are usually declaimers and shouters, blusterers and meanspirited hypocrites. Their skills mostly revolve around control, domination and the ability to continually spew vehement opinion lacking factual foundation. Yet they seem very popular. Their populist appeal (in the negative sense) is a result of popular alienation, our ever-growing sense of being at the mercy of social forces beyond our control. We divide, we label, we despise the "others" of whatever group is our target today. We increasingly do not identify together, we identify in smaller and smaller subgroups, never claiming the power of collective action to change society for the better.

    And here I am, declaiming as well. Because I believe in the power of words, in the ability of people to read and think about what they read. I too am an opinion monger but I have few delusions that my opinion is much more than a opinion. I have little in the way of specialized knowledge to contribute to social or political discussions. I have never worked in politics or Washington, DC. My journalistic background is slight and never in a truly professional capacity. I have no academic credentials and never graduated from college. Much of my work history is as a temporary worker, a office drone, an hourly wage slave. Of course there's more to my life and history than what I've just outlined. But mostly I'm a guy trying to figure out what's wrong, trying to gain a little insight, and trying to communicate some of this through my writing. And the reason I share my writing is hope: Hope people might find some resonance, some commonality with my questing words. I hope to change through writing: change myself, change other people, and somehow change our consumptive society.

    So why should I worry about using my real name here? What is my fear? I'm not exactly advocating revolution in this blog (although I'm not sure revolution would be such a bad idea.) Yet I remain a bit cautious, a little paranoid-ish around the edges. To me, the US is taking on an ever more distinct tone of authoritarianism, of intimidation of progressive opinion, of intolerance of dissent. Our government has a long history of targeting and harassing those speaking out against it. It's grandiose of me to believe my voice is worth a millisecond of thought by anyone in our government much less actual action. Yet the caution remains and I make rudimentary gestures toward hiding my identity.

    This, of course, is a false security. This blog could be tied to my real name and identity without much effort. I've made no really serious attempt to hide my identity beyond getting a separate e-mail account and using it for my blog and comments in other people's blogs. Practically everything online is traceable. Privacy only comes if no one looks for the information. Perhaps it's to keep possible future employers from being able to google my name and find these posts. Perhaps it's a slight deterrent to keep my biofam (biofam=biological family, parents, siblings, etc.) from reading these words. I admit I'm not sure.

    So I use my self-deprecating, unpretentious, don't-take-me-too-seriously name: Wordlackey. And I use it semi-proudly, perhaps cultivating an impression that I might just be a fool, a fop with low self-esteem, an unlikely threat to the status quo. Yeah, what can a lackey of words do against the majesty and might of US imperial rule? Throw words at soldiers? Shout imprecations at tanks? Write manifestos no one will read or heed? Yes. Words can describe a path, create a possible future, and nurture hope. Words can inspire, stoke fires of resolve, and burn tyrants from their citidels. Words are a weapon as sharp as a sword. Words are songs of resistance, of union, of consensus. Freedom and liberty are not empty words. (well, maybe when Bush uses them.) See? I'm just a funny fool, laughing at myself in amusement, hardly a danger. Humor and satire are hardly weapons of mass destruction, are they? Depends on who they're pointed at.

    Now you know why I really secrete my real name: shame and embarrassment.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2005


    Anger is an Energy

    Over on Shakespeare's Sister is a fine blast of articulate anger about the recent pusillanimous positions of Democrats on gay marriage. Well worth reading. So what are you waiting for? Click through the link and warm yourself.


    Deconstructing the Blog

    I recently dug up a John C. Dvorak column from PCMag dated April 23, 2002 titled Deconstructing the Blog. I think it's hilariously on target. I'm a firm believer in having a sense of humor about blogging. It's necessary. Here's a little bit from it:
    2. Community. Prove that you're a dedicated blogger by citing at least five other blogs that you just read. Praise them ad nauseum. Then comment on links that their authors discovered and cut and paste these links to your blog. If you're trying to jazz up your blog, italicize the text that you cut from the other blog. Add a sentence or two as to why each link is so cool. Teasers work well too. "Can you believe this?" or "What is he thinking?" or "How can anyone be so wrong?"
    3. Humility. Blog daily. If you miss a day, use the next day's entire blog entry to apologize profusely. Explain in detail the fascinating adventure you had that caused you to miss a day of blogging. Make sure to rave about how great blogging is and why everyone should blog and how blogging will change the world.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2005


    The Discreet Charm of Tony Blair and Iraq

    I guess this is the way preemptive wars are fought. It's like a convention organizer: You book the venue, get sponsors and sell booth space, advertise publicly and make private contracts. You have to plan things ahead of time to make sure it goes off smoothly.

    So we come to what I would refer to as a "Memorandum of Understanding." You know, like the 36 page document drawn up for the Kerry/Bush debates. The broad outlines of the acceleration of tensions toward full war is basically outlined in a recently disclosed memo. The following is from a Newsday story:
    The document, which summarizes a July 23, 2002, meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair with his top security advisers, reports on a visit to Washington by the head of Britain's MI-6 intelligence service.

    The visit took place while the Bush administration was still declaring to the American public that no decision had been made to go to war.

    "There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable," the MI-6 chief said at the meeting, according to the memo. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD," or weapons of mass destruction.

    The memo said, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

    No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

    The White House has repeatedly denied accusations made by several top foreign officials that it manipulated intelligence estimates to justify an invasion of Iraq.

    It has instead pointed to the conclusions of two studies, one by the Senate Intelligence Committee and one by a presidentially appointed panel, that cite serious failures by the CIA and other agencies in judging Hussein's weapons programs.

    The principal U.S. intelligence analysis, called a National Intelligence Estimate, wasn't completed until October 2002, well after the United States and United Kingdom had apparently decided military force should be used to overthrow Hussein's regime.
    PM Tony Blair is quite the gladhander. It must be his charming smile that won the hearts of the British.

    This is PBU18, posted in association/solidarity with the Progressive Blogger Union

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