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  • Thursday, June 30, 2005


    Notes on the Patriarchy

    "I never did mind the little things..." I was mildly interested in a post over on I Blame the Patriarchy about exactly who the "patriarchy" might be.

    Well, I suppose it is possible that I have been remiss in my duties, and that perhaps half an iota or so of the blame for the confusion rests upon my weary shoulders. Let's face it; I have omitted to prominently display a definition of patriarchy anywhere on the blog. I had assumed--rashly, it turns out-- that I preach primarily to the choir.

    I'd forgotten for a moment that feminists are required to waste at least half of their waking hours reassuring skittish fans of the status quo that we aren't man-hating nutjob conspiracy-theorists.

    Until such time as I have the leisure to more adequately address this pressing issue, kindly accept that when I deploy the term "“patriarchy"” I am alluding to "“The Establishment"” or "“the global megacorp,"” or, as the excellent Mimbreno of The Other Dark Meat more accurately suggests, "“the dominant culture."” This broad characterization of patriarchy makes it easier to blame it for everything.

    Patriarchy does not mean men. Seriously. Look it up.

    While I didn't think patriarchy meant men, I decided to find a few sites through Googling patriarchy. This is my idea of amusing myself. I'm such an odd little freak.

    From a glossary of terms about the Corinthian Church: patriarchy. A hierarchical social system and way of thinking where "fathers" or "patriarchs" rule which has become a model for every form of domination and subordination. Paul contradicts this system when he asserts that within marriage, women and men are equal sex partners (1 Cor. 7:1-7).

    Combining two interests of mine in one pleasing site is Buffy the Patriarchy Slayer.

    Then I found The Patriarchy Website. I admit I had a little trouble with the subtle phrasing of the following: "Contrary to common understanding, true Biblical Patriarchy is not man dominance, but God dominance through man as head of his household, where he must love his household as Christ loves the church and if necessary lay down his life for it. Biblical Patriarchy is the essence and timeless aspect of the Hebraic Roots."

    Oh, gee, once you explain it like that, I understand it's really about a male god dominating women, not just any ole mortal man.

    Then I came to a site that just infuriated me. Ostensibly "Refuting the Most Common Feminist Lies and Pseudo-Scholarship" is the Domain of Patriarchy. A cursory glance seemed to indicate a propensity for cherry-picking findings and facts to suit the bias of the author. Unfortunately, there was at least one item that I knew he might be correct about.

    Feminists and NeoPagans often say that the number of "witches" and heretics killed by the Inquisition in Europe over several centuries was between 3 and 9 million almost entirely women. My understanding is that primary research on court records from the period puts the number somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 killed. A good source on the revision of the number executed during this period is Recent Developments in the Study of The Great European Witch Hunt by Jenny Gibbons.

    Anyway, Domain of Patriarchy pissed me off mightily, more so that I didn't want to give even grudging acknowledgement to anything on the site. So I end this post grumpy and feeling like I too blame the Patriarchy. For everything. Dammit.

    Wednesday, June 29, 2005


    The Cant of Cant

    Cant, n: the expression or repetition of conventional, trite, or unconsidered opinions or sentiments; esp. the insincere use of pious phraseology. vi: to talk hypocritically.

    I have officially become cynical of any political figure who uses certain words or phrases in public speech. It's not that the words themselves are meaningless, just that current political use of them has rendered them null and void. These phrases are now overused options for filling in adjective and noun blanks. Blanks like the ones in Mad Libs(tm)™.

    I'm not asserting that these words are always meaningless in the mouths of politicians, just oh, 97% of the time. If these words appear, you can bet your fairy boots they are being cited to arouse a blindly patriotic knee-jerk or to focus hatred. I would like to suggest that when you hear these words, you substitute the following phrases. This should clarify the actual intent of the speaker and help you understand what is really being said.
    Now I know Democrats are almost as guilty as Republicans of using such inspiring/nauseating rhetoric but as an example try taking a look at President Bush's speech from June 28, 2005 on Iraq. Not all of the phrases above are in the speech but try interpreting his use of the ones that are in the speech. Make up your own interpretations! However I don't advise making a drinking game out of his use of the words terror or terrorist. You will end up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. There's about thirty instances of the words in the speech by my count.

    Tuesday, June 28, 2005


    Notes from a Dark Age

    There are plenty of single issues of importance and interest to progressives. What I find worrying is the lack of unifying philosophy and broad principles.

    It's easy to focus on a particular issue, to see the outcome of the particular struggle as being emblematic of a wider struggle. I certainly don't propose abandoning such issues but I wish I saw more overarching expressions of principle that hung together.

    I've seen some of this sort of thing over on Democratic Underground but I still find them too locked into a oppositional perspective, a "Bush and Republicans bad! We could do much better" attitude. But I don't see the politics they offer as being very philosophically different than the Republicans. Before anyone shouts at me, of course there are basic differences between the two. But beyond the sloganeering, the capsule descriptions of basic values, I find the differences more of jockeying for position than implementations of core beliefs. I still find the most radical Democratic proposals to be rather mild variations on a theme.

    Perhaps it is the nature of the US political system that eventually dilutes and makes bland all proposals. So what happens then? We come to rely instead on the charisma of leaders. I shouldn't have to point out why that it a bad idea. The cult of personality inevitably leads to abuse.

    I just wish for once I could see a truly democratic political philosophy of action rise up and be ascendent.

    Saturday, June 25, 2005


    Gitmo As a Model for International Relations

    The Guantanamo Bay prison camp is a fascinating example of exactly the kind of thinking the Bush Administration abhors. Its existance and the conditions are justified in public through all sorts of morally relativistic reasoning.

    When protests are lodged about the conditions of the prisoners, the administration claims the prisoners are in better living conditions than they experienced in their home country. Just ignore the isolation, the lack of legal rights, the indefinite duration of imprisonment, the mystery of actual charges against most prisoners. At least they have a roof over their head, a Koran, and three squares a day. What more could these prisoners want?

    When asked to detail the crimes or deplorable acts of the prisoners prior to incarceration, we are told these men are all the spiritual and military kin of the 9/11 bombers. The administration seems determined to conflate anyone who resists the US with "terrorists". (That's a term I find quite empty of common definition, particularly in the US where it has become almost a Rorschach in it's usage.)

    There are many questions about the treatment of prisoners at Gitmo. And while the Bush administration is loud in their proclamations about the transparency of the conditions, they also are not letting observers in. This is from Political Affairs Magazine:
    Further raising concerns about the mistreatment of US-held prisoners, a report in the respected New England Journal of Medicine says that its own inquiry into the medical practices of the US military at Guantanamo Bay shows that doctors, nurses, and medics caring for the prisoners there are required to provide health information to military and CIA interrogators.

    And despite public claims by military officials that medical care was separate from intelligence matters (a principle of international law), “[s]ince late 2003, psychiatrists and psychologists (at Guantanamo) have been part of a strategy that employs extreme stress, combined with behavior-shaping rewards, to extract actionable intelligence from resistant captives,” says the journal.
    According to the report, military intelligence officials used medical information provided by health care professionals to develop interrogation methods that, even with the approval of the Pentagon and the Justice Department, have been found to depart from international law and conventions banning torture.

    In a related story, the Bush administration has rejected bipartisan calls for an independent Guantanamo Bay prison commission. The White House insists that the military, the very organization suspected of systematically violating human rights, is perfectly capable of investigating the situation and punishing any offending parties.
    Now there's talk of imprisoning some of the inmates for life and executing some of them. Will we ever really know what's going on inside Gitmo?

    This is PBU26, another in a series of more or less weekly posts inspired by and in conjuction with the Progressive Blogger Union. Searching on "PBU26 progressive" (no quotes) should bring up other posts on this subject. (Adding "progressive" to the "PBU#" seems to cut down on false positive results.)

    Friday, June 24, 2005


    "Fixed" in the Downing St. Memo

    While I believe thoroughly in this interpretation of the word "fixed" in the Downing St. Memo, I can't help but play a bit of the Devil's Advocate.

    The use of "fixed" comes from this line in the Memo: "“But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."” Most people think this obviously means manipulating and massaging the intelligence to "prove" Saddam had WMDs and/or was a threat to U.S. interests. That's certainly one way to look at it. However, given the nature of military and governmental language, I would suggest the word is being used exactly as defined in the dictionary. This still indicates a narrowing of focus and discarding possibly valuable theories and perspectives concerning Iraq's weapons capabilities or more to the point, lack thereof. I just don't think a government official would use the word fixed as in "putting the fix on the information." It's far too slangy I think. I'm thinking more along the lines of a "fixed gun emplacement" or "fixed bayonets".

    Just for the record, let me put the definition of fix here. This is from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Mass.: G.&C. Merriam Co., 1972):
    fix vb 1a: to make firm, stable, or fast b: to give a permanent or final form to: as (1): to change into a stable compound or available form [bacteria that fix nitrogen] (2): to kill, harden, and preserve for microscopic study (3): to make the image of (a photographic film) permanent by removing unused salts c: AFFIX, ATTACH 2: to hold or direct steadily [fixes his eyes on the horizon] 3a: to set or place definitely: ESTABLISH b: ASSIGN [fix blame] 4: to set in order: ADJUST 5: to get ready: PREPARE 6a: REPAIR, MEND b: RESTORE, CURE c: SPAY, CASTRATE 7a: to get even with b: to influence the actions, outcome, or effect of by improper or illegal methods ~vi: to become firm, stable, or fixed syn see FASTEN.
    Note how far down the list of definitions is the illegal meaning of the word. Of course, this proves nothing; it's just an exercise to show that the current assumptions of the left of how the word was used in the minutes could be quite off. Even using the most obvious and plain interpretation of the word in the context of the memo indicates the "stabilizing" or "giving final form to" the intelligence around the policy.

    This could be as innocent as finalizing and prioritizing the intelligence in service of the policy. There is nothing inherently wrong with that process. However there are many, many reports of the way the raw intelligence was actively shaped in a political manner, apparently deliberately disregarding evidence inimical to the ends already decided upon, i.e., war. It's clear to me that however the word was actually used, the process and end result were certainly completely in keeping with the general interpretation by progressive forces making noise about the memo.

    Thursday, June 23, 2005


    Will Geek for Words, Part 8: K Street Words

    Being part 8 of an shambling parade of posts extracted from the Word Lover’'s Dictionary: Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words by Josefa Heifetz (New York: Carol Publishing, 1974, 1994). For beginning entries in this series, please see Part 1 and Part 2. If you want to find all posts in the series, search on the title "Will Geek for Words". Eventually I add them to the sidebar listing. Part 8 encompasses the letter K words and their definitions. I sincerely regret not being able to reproduce the pronunciation of the words. If you would like a hint about speaking them, leave a comment and I'll do my best to reply in a understandable manner.

    Amazingly, this is not a promotional stunt. I am not paid to plug this book yet here I am, mentioning it at the top of each of these posts. However if the publishers are interested in giving me a kickback, I wouldn't be adverse to accepting a nice certificate with a fancy border and calligraphy noting my devotion to language. An honorary degree would be great as well. (What I'll probably get is a nice "cease and desist" letter from their lawyers. No good deed goes unpunished for long.)


    Outsourcing the Military

    On a recent Democracy Now! there was a story on the use of private security contractors in Iraq. According to one source, there are up to 60 companies providing between 5,000 and 20,000 security workers in Iraq. Because these are private companies with no transparency, it is difficult to ascertain how many have been killed but an estimate on the show was 200 killed and perhaps 800 wounded.

    PETER SINGER: I think one of the things that was particularly surprising about what happened at Abu Ghraib was the mass presence of contractors there. The U.S. army found that 100% of the interpreters and up to 50% of the interrogators that were onsite there during the abuse period were private contractors; the interpreters from a company called Titan, the interrogators from a company called Khaki. The army also found in one of its reports that the interrogators who were contractors were involved in 36% of the abuse incidents. And one of the things that was disturbing about this, there's two levels here. The first is that the army looking back found that as many as a third of those contractors who were interrogators didn't have formal military training as interrogators.

    And then on top of it, you have the fact that they specifically identified six of them as individuals who were involved in it, and not one of those people, not one of those six contractors, has yet been even charged with a crime, let alone prosecuted or punished for it. And so you compare what's happened to the contractors to what happened to the enlisted men and women there who were rightly court-martialed for it, and it illustrates this gap in the law, this legal vacuum that contractors are in. One of the things that was interesting in speaking with a military lawyer about it is, he said, you know, the problem is that contractors exist right now in the same legal vacuum, the same legal netherworld that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are in. Basically, there's not laws there to create their status and what -- how you should deal with them under the law.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2005


    Not of This World

    My illusions of being a media whore and critic are shattered, dust in the wind. I live far too much in my head, unused to the realities of the Republican Noise Machine. I thought I was tough, a clear-eyed realist of progressive conviction and keen insight. Instead I find I am a wimp of enormous proportions, a weak whimperer when confronted with the massive wall of lies shouted from the TV.

    Let me whisper to you my secret: I am not stupid. Ah, you may think me a braggart or you may think I am confused. Not being stupid is a good thing, right? Wrong. I think. I think critically ofttimes, therefore most mainstream TV news is flawed. Those so-called pundit shows on TV? Apparently they have learned to constantly mouth nonsense, words strung together but rarely making sense. And yet people nod knowingly as if the gibberish was sage wisdom.

    Let me tell you how I came to my crushing realization. Fierce Celt with Axe, my housemate, had Tivoed an episode of Bill O'Reilly because Damali Ayo was going to appear on it. She originated the rent-a-negro site and recently published a book, "How to Rent a Negro." Ms. Ayo was going to appear on O'Reilly's show. Fierce Celt thought this might be amusing.

    Now apparently, despite having read much about O'Reilly in various media critiques, I haven't really seen much of an actual show of his. The first minute left me dizzy. I caught at least one obvious factual lie and several, um, let's say very deliberate spins of a situation. My mouth gaped open. Did this man actually live in the same consensual reality as I did? It wasn't that his politics were different from mine. I can actually respect sane and reasonable conservatives. But this was unreal. He lied, he blustered, he exaggerated. It struck me that he thought every word flowing from his lips was gold, brilliant in incisive edge. He was dazzling in his meanspirited slash and burn tactics. I thought he was a nasty piece of work, as the phrase goes. I can't help but wonder how well he would do in a debate situation where he didn't have all the power.

    So faced with this single example of the exceptionally extreme wing of politics, I fold like a wet blanket. This constant babble of lies, misstatements, accusations comes in varying intensity from these people. These flagrant fictions are on all the time. What value is my finger pointing at the truth I see? The tide of lies is great and strong. Yet still I rise because I must. (uh-oh, do I hear the swell of inspirational and emotionally manipulative music by John Williams?)

    OK, perhaps I'm not as weak as I made out. That's just a trope for writing this piece. I'm prone to that sort of thing. Feeling much better, thank you. Perhaps with more exposure to these chattering media monkeys I will be better able to withstand their outrageous distortions and astoundingly brazen dreck. Exposure may provide a sort of innoculation to these stupid shouters of blather. It's obvious this approach works to persuade many people. Are they all stupid? Or just susceptible to this method of repetitive indoctrination? If I listened to it often enough, it would certainly drive me to dull agreement with their views eventually.

    As Oscar Wilde might have said (but didn't): A reasonable person is rarely a match for a screaming fool. (If I could get paid for it, I swear I'd write epigrams for a living.)


    The F-Word Ezine

    I am easily confused by these initialed words. Sometimes my mind supplies the wrong word. However, I heartily recommend The F-Word Ezine. (hint: the f-word in question is... well, it's not obscene. 2nd hint: I recently admitted "why I love... f-words")


    Women's Autonomy and Sexual Sovereignty Movements

    Morgaine and Pseudo-Adrienne have started a new blog/site called Women's Autonomy and Sexual Sovereignty Movements. That's the splash page; read to the bottom to find the link to the blog. Morgaine explains a little of it thusly in What She Said! (emphasis added):
    Women's Autonomy is the best description I could come up with for a new wave of the women's movement. The tag line - The Third Wave just became a Tsunami - expresses the need for renewed energy feminists, and a deeper goal than just more opportunity and better pay. I want to see deep change in the way women are perceived. It's time for people to really "get it" - that women's rights ARE human rights, and we won't be an underclass when we are the majority. We are not property. We are people.

    The second issue, Sexual Sovereignty, involves a change in the way sexuality is perceived in this culture. I'm fed up with kowtowing to regressive attitudes about sex. If someone wants to practice some bastardized version of 2,000 year old scripture, that's fine for them, but I live in the 21st century. The mores of ancient tribes don't work for us in this culture - or any other, for that matter.
    I wish them luck with the project.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2005


    My Own Private Homosexual Agenda

    I think language is a fine and wonderful thing. Words are an excellent form of communication. There is a reason why I keep adding to my ongoing series Will Geek for Words: I love words. I love their sounds, their history, their ability to be quite precise and to be very general.

    That being said, I'm not a purist about words. I don't think words are static. Their definitions are not frozen in place. Language is a dynamic creature, changed by social winds and eddies. Slang is not something I fear; it is essential to the revitalization of language. The evolving usage, the vibrant flowering of new words and new meanings for old words indicates a society seeking new tools for communicating thoughts, concepts, and visions. Only the dead have a language that never changes.

    Dictionaries are, at best, a feeble attempt to cage the words we use. Dictionaries are like a well-drawn picture of a nude model in an art class; everything is very recognizable yet it is only a pale two dimensional copy of the actual living and breathing model. Dictionaries are compiled by human editors to sell in the marketplace of books. They are edited for a particular audience, usually the broadest and most general audience possible. To appeal to a broad group, they often try to be as inoffensive as possible. Thus the word "fuck" was not included in mainstream dictionaries until the 1960s and even now is often left out of most dictionaries. This despite the fact that its literary usage goes back over 500 years and is undoubtedly older than that.

    So I come to the goad for writing this post, Gays are not gays! by Cynthia A. Janak on Renew America. I feel sorry for the poor dear. She thinks she is acting as an arbiter of word usage. I believe she imagines herself a brave gatekeeper taking a stand on intolerable language creep, on mutable meaning, and on the sly subversion of plainly obvious words. Oh, pity the innocent words thus scarred and enslaved to perversion!
    Okay people I have had it with all this gay bashing. These people are not gay they are homosexuals, plain and simple. Let me give everyone a lesson in the definition of these two terms. I am going to use a dictionary that was published in the 1942. I don't care what the terms mean today. I am looking at the historical value behind the terms.

    This is taken from the "Webster's 20th Century Dictionary of the English Language":

    Gay - ga y, a. [ME. gay; Ofr. gai, O.H.G. gahi, quick, sudden, rash, lively.]
    1. - Merry, airy, jovial, sportive, frolicsome. It denotes more live and animation that cheerful.
    Belinda smiled and all the world was gay. - Alexander Pope.
    2. - Fine, showy; as, a gay dress.
    3. - Inflamed or merry with liquor, intoxicated, dissipated. [Colloq.]
    Syn. - Merry, lively, blithe, sprightly, sportive, hilarious.

    Ho "mo -sex'u -ä l - a. [Homo-, and L. sexualis, from sexus, sex] Of or pertaining to homosexuals or homosexuality, characterized by sexual inclination toward the same sex.

    Ho "mo -sex'u -ä l - n. In psychology and psychiatry, one whose emotions, feelings and desires are concerned with the individual's own sex rather than with the opposite sex.

    Ho "mo -sex'u -ä l' î -ty - n. In psychology and psychiatry, sexual feeling for or interest in an individual of one's own sex: sexual perversion; also, as a step in psychosexual development, the normal interest in and concern for a member of one's own sex seen in normal friendship, if carried beyond this stage, it becomes pathological and perverted, depending on its substitution for heterosexual love and its manner of sexual expression.

    In this dictionary there were no other definitions for gay. I printed exactly what was in the Webster's 1942 edition. If you do not like the definitions then too bad. Deal with it. I write only with truth and fact, historical and present. I will not shade or twist what the truth is.
    As I noted above, a dictionary is often a poor indicator of actual usage of words. Webster's, while a fine dictionary in many ways, is in no way a definitive authority for all meanings of the word gay. The following is from Wicked Words: A Treasury of Curses, Insults, Put-Downs, and Other Formerly Unprintable Terms from Anglo-Saxon Times to the Present by Hugh Rawson (New York: Crown Publishing, 1989). I'm uncertain whether it is authoritative but it certainly sheds a little more light on the use of the word. I have slightly abridged this entry.
    gay. [...]The homosexual sense of gay derives from the word's use in the heterosexual underworld. Thus, back in the 1600s, a dissipated or immoral man might be described as a gay fellow, and in the 1800s, a gay bit (or woman) was a prostitute, who might be said to lead the gay life, to live and work in a gay house, and to gay it when copulating (men could gay it, too). What happened was that in London, New York, and other large cities in the nineteenth century, prostitutes and homosexuals, both outgroups, frequently lived in close association and used the same lingo. Gay's first appearance in a dictionary in its homosexual sense is in N. Ersine's Underworld & Prison Slang, of 1935: "Geycat ... a homosexual boy." As far back as 1889, however, at the time of the Cleveland Street Scandal (involving post office boys in a male brothel in London's West End), a prostitute named John Saul used gay with reference to both male homosexuals and to female prostitutes when giving evidence to the police and in court...
    I'm sure Ms. Janak would find a way to dismiss this evidence because decent, respectable people did not use the word gay in these senses. And so I return to my point: words evolve, they percolate, and sometimes they are adapted by a subgroup or tribe of people for a while. The word changes the way coal under pressure changes into diamonds. The word transforms, tests it's new variant meaning out between friends, colleagues, gang members. For some reason, society needs this new meaning, needs this description of a thing or an event or an action. Suddenly, the word blooms, blossoms on a thousand tongues and spreads wildly. This is the joy of language. This is the gift of words. This is the renewal of communication.

    [Update 9/17/2005: An interesting addition to this is a related entry on "homo" in Wicked Words where the author relates that homosexual only dates to 1892, fifty years before the Webster's entry Ms. Janak references. Also of interest is the fact that the word homosexual is a linguistic bastard/hybrid. Homo is Greek (meaning same) while sexualis is Latin. Put another way, the word she holds up as the verbal essence of historical description isn't any older than the use of gay to describe certain people and acts. It is arguably younger. Of course, that isn't the point of her piece; the point is asserting control of language and making a statement for like-minded people to rally around. I get the feeling Ms. Janak would much prefer to use words like sodomite and pervert but, in the spirit of compromise, is willing to use homosexual in polite company.]

    (tip o' the mouse to Peek and Sadly, No!)


    Pausing to Think

    I'm a little slow in my thought processes. Sometimes I like to follow up a stray thought and see where it leads. Often reality passes me by while I take a side trip in my head to a conclusion. It's a little like thinking of the perfect comeback on your way home from a party or five minutes after it would be useful.

    I love documentaries. I'll watch almost any science program, history, etc. I often watch C-SPAN's "Book TV" on the weekends. If it's information, I want to know.

    This is where my slowish mind intersects with TiVo. I've come to depend on the ability to pause what I'm watching for a few moments. Sometimes I feel a need to think through the implications of what I've just seen or learned on the TV. In the past, I pretty much had to just allow the information to flow over me. Mostly I absorbed the content but not always all the details. And it was sometimes difficult to integrate the information.

    Now if I need a moment to think, I can take it. Sometimes five or ten seconds can make a big difference to me. Suddenly I don't have to just let the information flow over me. I have a chance to actually evaluate the information, decide how credible I think it is and draw my own conclusions. Just because I love documentary information doesn't mean I think it is always accurate or that I agree with the perspective presented. I particularly like being able to pause political discussions and examine a rhetorical point, looking for fallacies of logic or false assumptions.

    When I first had the TiVo installed, I considered it a luxury, a high tech toy. But I've become a slave to this ability to pause. I'm almost dependent on it. If I zone out for a moment and miss a bit on the radio news, I can't rewind it. It's lost to my wandering mind. So I'm not really completely certain this is good for me. Perhaps I need to play more computer games to speed up my mind.

    Monday, June 20, 2005


    Why I Love Feminists

    It may not be immediately obvious from my posting name but I'm a guy, a male human. Sexual preference? (why yes, I prefer sex. ha-ha.) Not always really distinct but I'm certainly sexually attracted to women. My sexual experiences have mostly been with women. Moreover, I like hanging out with women socially. I like talking with women and listening to women.

    But not all women.

    I like feminists.

    Leaving aside the sexual component here (although it's certainly a factor in who I'm attracted to), I prefer the company of feminist women. [I have to admit I'm having a bit of trouble writing this. There is a certain caution in finding the right tone without sounding like this is some dominance/submission fetishistic kink/quirk of mine. At least, I don't think it is. Plus there is the added awkwardness of being a man talking about feminism, a decidedly difficult thing for me to articulate.]

    Let me go through the process of elimination of categories of people I don't like to hang out with. First, misogynist men. Unsurprisingly, this includes the overwhelming majority of men. Surprisingly, (to me) this also includes an even larger percentage of gay men. During a period time when I was doing a lot of AIDS demos and actions, I hung out almost exclusively with gay men and lesbians. The gay men were predominantly white and often quite upwardly mobile. Usually AIDS was their first radicalizing experience of oppression. Their social culture to that point was one that had generally excluded women. They had never had a reason to question their attitudes toward women. In some ways, their misogyny seemed worse because they blithely assumed they couldn't possibly be sexist because they were gay. Sometimes I would be interested in one of these men up to the point where they said something so dizzyingly misogynist, I would feel like ice water had been dumped over my head. That was when I really, really knew misogyny was anti-sexy to me. Anti-sexy like anti-matter.

    Then there is another category of person I'm not keen to hang out with: non-feminist straight women. Sorry if this offends some people and I know it's rather a large group but it seems generally true for me. Actually, non-feminist straight women often give me the creeps, particularly if they are single and invested in gender role gameplaying. Then I start to become horrified and find myself trying desperately to disengage from the conversation.

    A feminist, to me, is a woman who's independent and wants her own life. She doesn't want to live her life primarily defined by her relationship to a man or men. Feminism is an ongoing analysis of gender inequity and the underlying economic and social reasons for it. Feminism is a desire for respect, opportunity, and equality. It's obvious but I might as well say it: I've never heard anyone speak against feminism who didn't have a stake in preserving the social and economic status quo of male supremacy. I find it interesting that women who speak against feminism often do so from positions gained through feminist advances. (I'm not denying their qualifications.) I also can't recall a single conservative woman who actively speaks against feminism who wasn't relatively economically secure.

    I don't really know how to finish this up. I went further in to my personal stuff than I intended and I think that is a distraction to my main point: I like feminism and feminists. And not in a freaky-deaky way. I like feminists enough that I'll show up at demonstrations where I'm welcome, put my body on the protest line, risk arrest and all that. These aren't hollow convictions. I will actually do something as a supporter of feminism.

    And I get more chicks as a sensitive guy.

    (OK, I couldn't help myself. The last line is a bad joke yet it seemed too good to pass up after all the earnest affirmation of being a pro-feminist man. Just for the record, I think it would be an outstandingly bad idea for a man to bullshit feminists about his support of feminism. A really, really bad idea.)

    (This post seems pretty crappy to me, kind of distracted and jumpy. And what's with that sarcastic ending? Flip irony? The tone is so uneven and I sound flaky even to myself. Proclamations and statements of the obvious. Well, it felt important that I write it so here it is. Apologies to any feminists who actually read this. Aren't you glad to have bumbling and stuttering male friends like me? Gahh! I'm ashamed yet compelled to post it.)

    [Update: I've been told I'm being too apologetic and should trust my readers more. I'm sorry I've been so apologetic. Wait, that doesn't sound right... Hmm... What Would Buffy Do? What Would Sara (Connor) Do? What Would Ripley Do? It's true, many of my role models are fictional heroines. So I think boldness is the best tactic. From now on, I will be bold blogger, confident and sure. Right. Glad I've got that sorted out.]

    Sunday, June 19, 2005


    Camper, Cruse, and Juicy Mother

    Last night we went into Food for Thought , our local non-profit worker-owned collective bookstore to take in an event publicizing the release of Juicy Mother, a book of gay comix. ("We" means my housemate and myself. I've decide to dub my housemate "Fierce Celt with Axe" for the purposes of this blog. I asked her if she liked the name and she seems either happy or tolerant of it for the moment.)

    Featured were Jennifer Camper, cartoonist and editor of JM, and Howard Cruse, cartoonist. We got there a little late and it was mostly question and answer by that point. At Pride 2004 in Northampton, Mass., I spent an enjoyable bit of time reminiscing with Howard Cruse while he signed my copy of Stuck Rubber Baby. We had some interesting common protest experiences during the 1980s.

    There is a good site for finding out about queer comic news and such: Prism Comics. All in all, a very nice evening.


    Flaws of Religious Charities

    Charities come in many stripes, fulfill many different services. There is a huge problem with current government focus on religious charities to minister to social needs, the so-called faith-based charities. Religious charities often focus on particular solutions which include proselytizing and they prioritize applicants by how open they are to the religious messages accompanying the charity offered. Will a devout Muslim be welcome in a Christian homeless shelter? Will accommodations be made for dietary restrictions? Is such a Muslim being overly-demanding to ask for some recognition of his/her religious needs, particularly when very obvious allowances are made for Christians?

    Religious charities should be able to offer services and aid to people in the manner that suits them. If a Catholic charity would like to focus on servicing their own denomination, I think that's their choice. But when a government gives money to a religious charity, very distinct problems arise as to how that money is spent and which people the money serves.

    This is merely my conjecture but I would guess that of the money that goes to "faith-based" charities, very close to 100% goes to Christian charities. Are there non-Christian "faith-based" charities? You bet. There are Muslim and NeoPagan charities, to name two I know of. Suppose there is a Satanist charity? Are they eligible for funds? (Given what I know of Satanism, it seems unlikely they are big on charity work but the point remains.) If they aren't eligible, why not?

    Giving money to Christian charities but not to other faith's charities amounts to state sponsorship of Christianity in very real, monetary terms. That is not broadly "faith-based", that is quite specifically "Christian-based". It needs to be called that. I don't play that "Clear Skies Initiative" game of false and misleading names.

    Friday, June 17, 2005


    Are Israeli Jews the New Aryans?

    Okay, my title is a little over the top but when I came across the following piece of commentary, I did a double take. Perhaps this vision of nationalist supremacy is typical of a certain type of ultrapatriot, no matter the country involved, but I find it really creepy. I swear that with only the slightest of revision these paragraphs could be exchanged for some Nazi propaganda about how German Aryans were the real civilizing force in Europe thoughout history. Please note I am not calling the author a Nazi, merely making an observation about the tone and the parallels of the obvious contempt of Arabs. I generally don't comment on Israel and struggles in the Middle East (Well, except for US involvement; I've got an opinion or two about that.) but I couldn't pass this up. From A Democratic Island in a Vast Sea of Barbaric Mediocrity:

    Israel is like the fabled Atlantis, so advanced in her civilization, humanity and technology that she generates envy and hatred among the Arab Muslim nations. [Hmm. They hate us for our freedom?] Had they taken in the Jews instead of trying to kill them for Allah, the Middle East could have been transformed into the Garden of Eden.

    It was not accidental that wherever the Jews settled, they brought with them the "Green Line". They made land, barren for centuries, into fertile farms with fruitful yield. This applied to the people within the Land. Even those who lived with them who weren’t Jewish, achieved a higher standard of living in all ways, health, wealth, education and improved human values. This talent and willingness to work smart and hard brought them no honor but only envy and hatred.

    Instead, the Arab Muslim nations swore to murder every Jew they could get their hands on (in the name of Allah). This was, indeed, a barbaric people slaved to a pagan religion that taught their children and followers to kill or enslave all other peoples - especially Jews and Christians whom they contemptuously called "Dhimmis". They intend that all other religions are eventually to be disposed of - with only Islam remaining.

    I can only barely understand the embattled and besieged feelings Israelis have about the predominantly Muslim countries around them but this sort of broad demonization serves only to stoke fanaticism on both sides. I don't have any solution, just trying to point to the relentless death grip all sides seem to have on each other.


    Low Lamentation of the Wordlackey

    I've been trying to get out more. No, not out of the house (altho I really could use more exercise) but out to other blogs. Sometimes it's good for me. Sometimes it's not.

    When I'm in a balanced and sane mental space, it's very good for me. I spark off other's thoughts, stimulated cogitation ticking over at high speed. Zip, zap, pow, zoom. Brilliant. And so easy to write out these insights.

    When I'm not so balanced, I get discouraged. Then everyone else seems much more articulate, much smarter than me. Why bother to write when other people have already said it so well? There's more than a trace of envy there, a feeling of being diminished by the accomplishments of other people. That, it should go without saying, isn't such a healthy attitude.

    Then I often resort to the expedient (and lame) tactic of putting links to those posts I think are good without much in the way of weaving the links into a narrative of my own. While this is an adequate solution, it does not soothe me at all. It feels flawed, a form of plagiarism, a way of relying on the sharp skills of other bloggers.

    The thing is it shouldn't be a problem. Recognizing perceptive writing in other blogs and pointing it out to readers of this blog isn't a failure on my part. I'm not always a finely honed intellect with perfect writing. In many ways I'm still learning to use the blogging format to express myself.

    Back to my opening point, I'm trying to participate in blogs I like. I'm trying to comment more on what has been written in these blogs, contribute something to the discussion. Sometimes I want to comment but feel verbally stuck and stupid. I strongly dislike making a token comment like "Yeah, me too!" I feel this kind of comment almost sucks the life out of the discussion. It certainly raises the signal-to-noise ratio in a bad way.

    Well, that's enough of this public narcissistic navel-gazing. Some days me be smart word writer. Yeah.

    Thursday, June 16, 2005


    Talking about Rape

    I found this thread started by Amanda on Pandagon. A link I found in the post was a page on Myths or facts about rape and sexual assault? which I thought a concise debunking of common myths around the subject.

    There is also another good post by Lauren over on feministe.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2005


    Current Littoral Sites

    My recent meanderings took in these sights/sites:

    Preposterous Universe shares some of my subjects of interest: the recent Women v. Kos (Starring Kos as the embodied Patriarchy! Thrills! Chills!!) bruhaha, Intelligent Design (sic), and other sundry items.

    Body and Soul recently posted on Aid and AIDS, Contractors in Iraq, and more.

    BlondeSense is full of amusing and serious posts, opinions on parade.

    All to the tune of "This Big Hush" by Shriekback.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2005


    A Legal Guide for Bloggers

    This is a very important document for bloggers to read. The legal issues involved in blogging have always seemed complex to me. I'm fairly keen on copyright protection yet I've often been troubled by the ease of copy and paste in blogs. Years of working in dead tree publishing have given me a good basic understanding of fair use. I have a general knowledge about the use of quotes for review and comment purposes but I'm not always entirely sure my facts are up to date. A Legal Guide for Bloggers answers many of my questions in one fell swoop. Really, really recommended.

    Read EFF's Legal Guide for Bloggers

    Read EFF's Legal Guide for Bloggers


    Path to War Timeline

    I was recently told about this Path of War Timeline over on Raw Story. It's a really quite excellent resource to help understand the current situation. Every point is sourced from news stories or books. I highly recommend it.

    There are a bunch of documents on Raw Story as well.

    One is "penned by the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw--the U.S. equivalent of Secretary of State--on Mar. 25, 2002 concerning a looming war in Iraq. Straw indicates the case for war is weak [and] that the Iraq situation has remained unchanged..." The text is taken from a .pdf and it can be found here.

    This memorandum, written by Blair political director Peter Ricketts and dated Mar. 22, 2002, indicates the challenges an Iraq war would face. "The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein’s WMD programmes," the document says.

    Several other documents are listed on Raw Story's main page but I don't know how long they will be there.


    10 Random Songs

    Picked this up from Lauren over at feministe. Set the randomizer function on your music jukebox or whatever and list the first ten songs that come up. I guess it's usually a Friday deal but as I like to say: I don't need no stinkin' Friday to play these games.

    Everybody's Happy Nowadays, Buzzcocks
    Sell Your Love, Extra Fancy
    Sunday's Best, Elvis Costello
    I'd Rather Have the Blues, Pat DiNizio
    Lucretia My Reflection, Sisters of Mercy
    Love Will Tear Us Apart, Joy Division
    Hold Me Down, Gin Blossoms
    Something To Sing About [Demo Version], performed by Kai Cole & Joss Whedon
    Astral Weeks, Van Morrison
    T.N.U.C., Grand Funk Railroad

    Monday, June 13, 2005


    Killing PBS for Its Own Good. Really.

    Soon the Republicans won't have Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to kick around. From Billboard Radio Monitor:
    The subcommittee in charge of finding money to help fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) decided to cut that agency’s 2006 budget by 25%—$100 million—from $400 million to $300 million. President Bush had only recommended a slight, $10 million cut in the CPB budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

    If those same lawmakers can maintain their vision of CPB’s future as the budget package winds through the House and Senate, the CPB will receive no government funding in future fiscal years.
    This year's cuts are apparently particularly targeted at children's programming. Show lesbian moms and a bunny, will they? Oh, wait, they didn't actually show that episode did they? There was a massive fear of damage to tender psyches of young bun-buns. Aarg! There's a fair summary of the proposed cuts at Spokane Public Radio. Another is over at TV Squad. What else is there to say?

    This post is in accord/solidarity with PBU24, a wholly owned/disowned bit of baggage based on a joyful noise disseminated by the Progressive Blogger Union.


    Bush Lies, Hard and Fast in the Middle of the Road

    There is some debate about whether Pres. Geo. W. Bush lies or is just uninformed. After some consideration, I would respectfully submit this opinion: he lies. A lot. Misinformed? Ignorant? Disengaged? I'm sure arguments could be made for all of these, but it seems to me he has spent the majority of his public life lying, cheating, and stealing. Let me delve a little into his liarly character.

    David Corn has written a whole book on the subject The Lies of George W. Bush. (2003, but a revised paperback edition is out.)

    Over on the Center for American Progress site, they have a nice compilation of stories from 2004 and earlier. They also have a searchable database of lies that's not as impressive.

    An interesting story from a New Zealand source in 2003 attempts to quantify and describe the various tactics Bush uses to lie. It names the techniques and has lots of examples.

    Damn, I thought I could stomach writing about this. I can't. I'd call him a weaselly liar but I hesitate to insult weasels. I actually think it would be easier to parse out the truth from his utterances than to attempt to list his lies which are myriad. You're on your own now.

    A general interest post in loose affiliation with the Progressive Blogger Union.

    Sunday, June 12, 2005


    Will Geek for Words, Part 7: The I-J Words!

    Being part 7 of an ongoing parade/tirade of entries 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." Part 7 encompasses I and J words, necessary letters for daily health and nutrition.
    Now don't say I never gave you anything. As they say "If you have your vocabulary, you have everything." Or was that health? I confuse the two.


    More Damning Memo Info

    And the hits just keep on coming. First there was the Downing Street Memo of July 23, 2002 detailing how Bush and Blair were discussing how best to initiate military action against Iraq . Now comes another memo from July 21, 2002. Here's a part that immediately caught my eye:
    1. The US Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.

    2. When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq's WMD through the UN weapons inspectors had been exhausted.

    Notice that date of the meeting of Blair with Bush in Crawford: April, 2002. So the timeline just keeps being pushed back. A full year before actual military action, plans were underway to carry it out. These don't appear to be contingency plans (i.e., what to do if Iraq initiates hostile military action.) They appear to map out a very premeditated course for Britain, particularly the legal justification. And yet, even this far back, these notes comment on how "little thought has been given [by the US Government] to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it." Bloody brilliant!

    As always, you can keep up on the dirty laundry around this issue at After Downing Street.


    The Real Point is Women

    Jeez, I sure like to hear myself talk. My original topic for my previous post was supposed to be about women and the ways in which they are often dismissed or insulted in online discussion. I made the point in passing but got sidetracked to the issue of democratic coalition building. See? Even when I'm trying to be a supporter of women I manage to put the focus on me and my opinions. Let's hear it for my pro-feminist expressions of support.

    The whole point was that while Kos reacted dismissively to women's complaints, this isn't an unusual response on his site or, for that matter, many other big-name (male) bloggers' sites. I found this tidbit over on Sampo about a very preliminary analysis of a kos discussion on ethics:
    In recent days there has been a fairly significant flap over a post at DailyKos where Kos basically told feminists to sit down and shut up after they were critical of an arguably sexist ad that ran on the site. Pandagon has a nice assessment of the issue and it's interesting to note that some female readers of DailyKos have set up a satellite blog for discussing issues of gender as they play out not only on DailyKos, but in the Democratic Party as a whole. What interests me about this issue is that there are troubling parallels between Kos' marginalizing behavior in this instance and the marginalization of female participants in a comments thread at DailyKos that I analyzed for Susan Herring's computer mediated discourse analysis course last semester.

    For my study (200kb PDF) I looked at the comments thread associated with Kos' January 17th post on blog ethics. Male participants dominated the discussion, being both more numerous and more frequently responded to than their female counterparts; of the 119 participants, 27 (21%) were identified as female, 80 (67%) were male, and 12 (10%) were of unknown or indeterminate gender. Though 51% of the comments made by male participants (79 out of 154 comments) were responded to, only 28% of the comments by women elicited a response (16 out of 56). What was most interesting was that there was no apparent cause for this disparity in the comments themselves.

    Males and females made humorous or provocative comments at roughly the same rate, for example, and when they were responded to the "quality" of those responses was similar (i.e. a flame from a woman is as likely to receive a flame in response as a flame from a male)... but they weren't responded to at the same rate. The literature related to this kind of analysis shows that men tend to adopt a combative conversational approach in forums like DailyKos and that female participants in male-dominated forums often adopt male norms, so what we see here is that, on DailyKos, playing by the same rules doesn't necessarily mean that you'll get the same response... or any response at all.

    So, as this quote says, even when women essentially adopt the tactics of men, they get significantly less response. And the men all seem to wonder why women seem frustrated and pissed about the dialog.

    [Oo, lovely update: Go see this post on I Blame The Patriarchy. (One of the best blog names I've ever seen, bar none.)]

    [Update 2: Lance Mannion has a great summary of this particular issue.


    Leaving the Game with My Ball

    A current dispute about an ad over on DailyKos highlights some of the current misunderstandings about the nature of politics. Here is Kos' view and here is a bit of a rebuttal by Shakespeare's Sister. I thought maybe I should point out a few things I regard as bottom-line realities of politics.

    First, Democrats did not lose the 2004 presidential election because of "single issue" voters. They lost because of an apparent failure to implement proper "coalition building." Coalition building doesn't mean simplifying and pasteurizing a party's message to the point where it won't offend anyone; it means reaching out, finding ways to work together, and creating a framework people can broadly support. Single issues aren't the problem. The problem is a party that doesn't include these issues in a practical, meaningful, and dynamic manner.

    Second, Democrats seem unwilling or unable to take women's issues and concerns seriously. Oh, I hear a fair bit of empty promises and noise about caring about women's issues (or their votes) but I see little in the way of substantive policy or proposals. I find this a sad state for the major party most likely to address these issues.

    Third, Democrat apologists argue that the Democratic Party is really the only game in town. The only viable national parties are the Democrats and the Republicans, so they say. And we definitely know where the Republicans stand, leaving anyone with even the faintest liberal/progressive impulse to settle dejectedly into the Dems side of things. Therefore, they argue, whatever the problems, liberals are stuck with the Democratic Party.

    I have to call BS on all of this rationalizing. If the Dems aren't willing to represent all their constituents in real and meaningful ways, then, ipso facto, Dems do not represent major portions of their membership. I know part of politics is compromise. I know some issues are difficult to take a public stand on. But, at a certain point, don't keep expecting people to vote for hollow promises never redeemed.

    Coalition building isn't easy. As a matter of fact, it is very hard. It requires much discussion, much evaluation of priorities. If the outcome of the process contains positions that support the leadership, there is probably something wrong with the process. If the outcome produces leaders who are able to represent a large majority of the party most of the time, then I think the process is working. Do you understand the difference? One is probably a plutocratic result and the other is democratic. A democratic leader doesn't just lead, s/he is a representative of the people.

    I'd like to gently remind the Democrats that they are particularly vulnerable to the disgruntled. Instead of blaming the victim in a burning building, it might be wise to offer some help and water. Just because someone has always voted Democratic in the past does not assure they will continue to do so in the face of verbal abuse and neglect of their best interests. Many people don't like Republican policies; this does not guarantee you are their only alternative.

    We might take our votes and look for a better game.

    Friday, June 10, 2005


    Me So Smart!

    When I had this realization about Bush and Tony Blair's statements about the Downing Street Memo, I knew I had seen an important aspect of their defence of their actions. It's not often I immediately know a particular insight is good and accurate. This was one of those times.

    I was gratified when Blogenlust and The Heretik agreed with me and linked to my post. I have an erratic mind. Some times it is quite keen but much of the time I just futz along as best I can with a myopic and disjointed focus. I also think my ad hominem description of Bush and Blair as "Chimpy and Toothy" deserves wider currency as well. But that may just be me.

    Thursday, June 09, 2005


    Blogging is not Enough

    Recent events in Bolivia remind me that blogging is not a substitute for actual physical action and demonstrations of conviction. I think blogging and online activism is valuable but of limited effectiveness. It's easy to forget this as I get caught up in the online cause du jour.

    I am one of the first to speak of the power of eloquent words to persuade, to bring light, to give a clear articulate message to other people. But words are meant to inspire and give direction. Words are only the beginning. Action is necessary to ground the words in reality, in results, in movement.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I need to check my hit counter.


    Draconian? You Judge

    During a recent Democracy Now! report on the Supreme Court ruling on medical use of marihuana, I caught an astonishing (to me) fact: People convicted of pot possession are no longer eligible for student loans. Now this should have been totally obvious to me with a minimum of thought; the government's ever-increasing criminal penalties for simple possession of pot have gotten quite outrageous.

    I'm not an advocate for pot but I think the situation of prosecution and jailing users is out of control. Pot is just not that dangerous. I found this information in a .pdf titled Increasing Awareness of Collateral Consequences Among Participants of the Criminal Justice System: Is Education Enough? by Florian Miedel, Esq.:
    If convicted of even a petty crime, a person may become ineligible for federally funded health care benefits, food stamps, housing assistance, federal student loans. She can be evicted from public housing, will be unable to enlist in the military, and her driver’s license will be suspended. She may not be able to serve on a jury or, in some jurisdictions be allowed to vote. Arrest, alone, can result in the suspension of professional licenses for security guards, taxi drivers, barbers, nurses. The imposition of many of these sanctions, most significantly deportation and eviction from housing, is virtually automatic following conviction for any of a large number of crimes.

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005


    Bush and Blair Miss the Point

    In an interesting clip of Bush and Blair yesterday, both of them said that of course they hadn't decided to go to war at the time of the Downing Street Memo in July, 2002. Why is it absurd according to them? Because they hadn't even introduced the matter to the UN, much less had a resolution passed by the UN.

    This is the most circular argument I've ever heard. The whole point of the Memo is that the Bush administration had decided in advance on the course of action leading to war as an planned result. The point is that the action was deliberately set out, irrespective of the UN's future actions. In other words, they are saying the apparent facts of the memo/minutes are misunderstood because that would be a premeditated violation of international law as embodied in the UN process. Duh! That is the reason people are outraged!

    So we're just supposed to trust that our governments would never do anything illegal or unethical. Right. I'm not too trusting of Chimpy and Toothy.


    By These Blogs You Shall Conquer

    A nod to In hoc signo vinces: By this sign you conquer. No, I'm not extremely classically literate but I used to smoke Pall Mall cigarettes. One of the few perks of my dissipated youth. I thought I'd take a moment and tell you of a few blogs I'm enjoying recently. Ms. Shakespeare's Sister does this on Fridays, but I don't need no stinkin' Friday to do this. I'm a force of nature, a wind from the south, a death trip from Iggy and the Stooges, something or other.

    feminist blogs seems to collect an assortment of entries from various (surprise!) feminist blogs and fellow travelers (I'm not using that phrase in a derogatory manner.) Very much worth checking out. If I don't come over all shy, I might see if I can join the party.

    Blogenlust is out of NYC I think. A recent post was on an ABC allegiance ("anybody but Clinton" except in the case of Cheney running then it's obviously "anybody but Cheney.") The point being that 24 years or more of the US presidency in only two family's hands isn't such a good idea. I admit the argument has some traction with me but I'm willing to wait and see how things develop.

    And when you're not around threesomes aren't normal... if only for her excellent sense of priorities in her Which Buffy Character Would You Sleep With post.

    Tuesday, June 07, 2005


    A Book Meme

    I seem to be in a meme mood. I was not tagged for this but I nonetheless picked it up from Pam at Pam's House Blend.

    Number Of Books I Own: I don't have the faintest idea. They're like tribbles around here, falling out of boxes, stored in the basement, etc. Thousands at a minimum but definitely less than a million. (Definitely. Time for Wopner.)

    Last Book I Bought: Why, I just got back from Raven Books, a local used bookstore and my idea of heaven on earth. Unusually for me these days, all five books are fiction (I guess The Onion's Ad Nauseam counts as fiction.) But I'll say The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad. (Sort of worked in a two-fer there.)

    Last Book I Read: I seem attuned to my short attention span recently: Strange Days #1: The Year in Weirdness by the editors of Fortean Times.

    Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me: You should know by now that I cheat on these lists, finding ways to cram more entries than the specified number so let's start with:

    The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis. Seven books for one spot on the list. I started reading them in third grade; I'm not about to stop now. And yes, I did finish them! I'm not that slow a reader.

    Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I admit to being an old school science fiction geek.

    Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs. My idea of good opinion writing. Like Spinal Tap, he goes to 11. His sparring with Lou Reed is sublime.

    The SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas. A delicate pamphlet of subtle rhetoric. An inspiration to me.

    Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. I thought carefully about this and realized it is a book I open and refer to often. It is definitely a book that has meant a lot to me.


    A Music Meme

    I wasn't tagged with this meme but I kind of liked it. I picked it up from Shakespeare's Sister who was tagged by maurinsky at Laughing Wild.

    Total volume of music files on my computer—6.37 gigs. If I ever get around to digitizing my oh, about 15 linear feet of vinyl, I might be in real trouble. I miss my sixties and seventies rock. And my blues. *sniff*

    The last CD I bought—New: With Teeth by Nine Inch Nails. Used: The Singles by The Clash (a workaround to avoid replicating my vinyl Clash albums.)

    Song I'm listening to right now—Just one? Ok, I do listen to only one song at a time but...just one? The Passenger by Lunachicks. Happy now?

    Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me—Oh, Gods... I can't name any off the top of my head so I'm going to rummage through my hard drive, obviously completely ignoring my vinyl (did I mention I have vinyl records?). The Origin of Love from the Original Cast version of Hedwig and The Angry Inch; Frenzy by Screamin Jay Hawkins; Rest in Peace from Once More, With Feeling, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode; Beak of Putrification by Hatebeak; Search and Destroy by Iggy & the Stooges; Red Right Hand by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Hey, I've already gone over five. Crap. Hell, a few more won't kill you. Pretty much everything on And All That Could Have Been by Nine Inch Nails; Behind the Wall of Sleep by The Smithereens; Dancing Barefoot by The Patti Smith Group.

    Bonus! Extremely unPC track: Get Your Hands Off My Woman by The Darkness.

    I'm generally in accord with Emma Goldman on this: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."
    (I often have the urge to source my quotes. So I had to go looking for the source for this quote from Emma Goldman and imagine my surprise at coming across this page claiming Goldman never actually said those words. The author of the page seems qualified to say this. Still, it's a marvelous statement and I love it anyway.)

    Monday, June 06, 2005


    Another Nail in Women's Health Care

    I don't even think I can add anything to this story. So if women don't feel safe being honest with their doctors, how good will the care they get be? If the courts can violate women's right to privacy about their healthcare records, what woman who knows this will want their complete health history in the doctor's files? From As Privacy Fears Grow, Women's Lips Grow Tighter by Ann Farmer:
    A woman seeking reproductive health care usually starts by filling out a questionnaire detailing her complete medical history including whether she is sexually active, past illnesses, number of pregnancies, number of live births, contraceptive use, marital status, gender of her sexual partner, occupation, address and more.

    Yet, as the legal battles over reproductive rights continue to increase in number and intensity, more and more women have become reluctant to be open and frank.

    And after May 30--when an Indiana judge denied the request of Planned Parenthood of Indiana to stop the state's Attorney General Steve Carter from accessing the medical records of its young clients--it may be even harder for doctors to gather an accurate health history from women and teens.

    Planned Parenthood of Indiana filed its lawsuit in March after the state attorney general's office implemented the state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which apparently overrides federal health privacy laws, to investigate whether more than 40 Planned Parenthood affiliates are properly reporting cases of rape and molestation involving girls under 14. The lawsuit also asked the Superior Court judge to require the return of records already taken by the attorney general's office. Following the judge's denial, Planned Parenthood requested a stay in the case and has vowed to appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals if necessary.


    Washington State Election and Court Case

    Today I am dumb. The topic this week for the Progressive Blogger Union is the Washington Gubernatorial Election Challenge Court Case. (Here's the link passed along to me: gobs of fodder at this link.) I went to the linked site, called the Pacific Northwest Portal, and was promptly overwhelmed at the information.

    I had totally forgotten about this challenge to the election results for the governor. Here's an abstract from a NY Times article from May 23, 2005:
    Dino Rossi continues his quest to unseat Gov Christine Gregoire of Washington, who beat him by 129 votes out of 2.9 million ballots cast last Nov; Republicans have sued to overturn results of election; trial will center on human and machine error in thinnest of margins: the 0.07 percent of vote that is being contested because felons or other illegal voters might have cast ballots; photos (M)
    No wonder it's being challenged; 129 votes? Hell, I'd challenge too, whether there was cause or not. For me, this isn't a partisan issue. I'm not pleased that it's a Republican doing the challenge but I think they are probably within their rights to challenge it.

    I admit pure ignorance in the matter, though; I have no idea about the validity of this action. And that's why I feel dumb. I live over on the east coast of the US and don't have a clue about the issues on the ground in Washington state. I'm not up to doing more research on the topic so I'm afraid I've failed to explicate the situation any better than before. You're on your own on this one; I am dull and slack-jawed tonight.

    This post is in accord/solidarity/conflation with PBU23, a wholly owned/disowned concept based on an idea disseminated by the Progressive Blogger Union.


    Verbal Zeitgeist

    Words change in our culture. Their dictionary or "official" meaning changes more slowly but popular perception of the word can change quite quickly sometimes.

    An easy and dramatic example is "nine one one". Before Sept. 2001, most people in the US would interpret this phrase as the emergency number to dial in the event of a fire, medical, or police emergency. Since Sept. 11, 2001, it is often used to refer to the airplane attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

    In Victorian times in England, it was extremely rude and improper in some segments of society to request a "thigh" or "leg" of chicken at a meal. These words were considered too suggestive to use, offensive to refined sensibilities. They were considered obscene.

    Particular eddies of broader culture, certain sub-cultures, are rich in their own jargon. They generate new words or re-purpose older words to reinforce a group perspective, to create a barrier to entry from outsiders.

    "Cool" used to describe a temperature, a perception of temperature, or an unemotional and calm demeanor. The post-WWII culture of the Beats (another interesting repurposing of a word) expanded on the calm and steady aspects of the word. From there, it moved into the anti-establishment movements of the 1960's. Eventually, the phone phreak/hacker culture and (I believe) hip-hop culture, with their penchant for phonetically respelling words, came up with "kewl," often used online today. (I have no scholarly sources for this; I'm just speaking off the top of my head.)

    Words have power, make no mistake about it. Certain words can incite people to kill in some situations. It's not the words themselves; words also carry emotional weight and nuance beyond their literal interpretation. Words can trigger strong and intense emotions. It is difficult to predict how a word will be heard or acted upon.

    If I say the word "Muslim" to a general, non-Muslim US audience, associative words immediately begin suggesting themselves. Given the recent past, many of those words will not have positive connotations. Most of these words will probably not be accurate in describing the majority of Muslims. This is part of the US verbal or linguistic zeitgeist at the moment.

    Saturday, June 04, 2005


    So much for Google bombing

    A few days ago I posted a message with a number of links in a coordinated effort to raise the visibility of the Downing St. Memo. I've deleted it because it obviously gave Google a very bad impression about my blog.

    In the last month or so I've been very surprised with how high my blog would rank in searches. It seemed rather inexplicable to me. When I followed up on visits to my blog with looking at the search itself, I'd find I'd often be in the top ten or twenty hits. And these were searches with quite a few results. Since I posted that Google bomb, when I look at the searches people came to my site on, I can't find my listing in the first 50 to 100 hits. And I'm suddenly getting much fewer stats from search results.

    I'll be curious to see how long it will take for my ranking to return to its original state. If it returns to its previous state.


    Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammo

    I love the feeling of reading something and there's the slow dawning light in my mind that things are not what they seem. Strangeness. Oddness. Perhaps Madness. You will just have to see for yourself. See the shocking truth of how a Life Sized Satanic Doll Serves As Masturbation Toy For America's Youth.


    Jeb Bush and Under-18 Girls

    I really wanted to title this "Jeb Bush F---s Underage Girls" but I thought that was going too far... I wouldn't want to go too far. It's tacky as well and probably not literally true. I have no firsthand knowledge. He just wants to protect family values, etc. Both of the following stories are via here and here. Directly related to the Jebber is this AP story Governor signs abortion law, Doctors must notify parents of minors:
    TALLAHASSEE · Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill Wednesday that requires physicians to tell parents when a minor daughter seeks an abortion.

    The law, which takes effect July 1, applies to girls 17 and younger who aren't married and don't already have children. Unless it's a medical emergency, doctors are required to notify a parent in person or by phone 48 hours before the abortion or, if that's not possible, by certified mail 72 hours in advance.

    Girls can go to a judge and seek a waiver, and a judge can grant a waiver based on a girl's level of maturity or because she has been a victim of abuse by her parents or if telling the parents is not in the girl's best interest.

    Bush signed the bill in private. In a release issued by his office, the governor said it was imperative that parents know when their children undergo any surgical procedure.

    "This not only ensures the safety of our children but also strengthens the family unit by maintaining open dialogue between parent and child," Bush said.
    Not directly related to the Jebster is another AP story from Florida:
    WEST PALM BEACH -- A woman has been charged with evidence tampering and child neglect after arranging an abortion for her 17-year-old daughter during an incest investigation.

    The girl's 40-year-old stepfather was charged Friday with familial sexual battery. The 33-year-old mother also was arrested. Both are free on $5,000 bond. The girl and her sister have been placed in state custody.
    The girl claimed that her stepfather had impregnated her late last year, and authorities say he had another sexual encounter with her in April.

    Friday, June 03, 2005


    Downing St. Memo Update

    Momentum continues on the Downing Street Memo. The site After Downing Street keeps track of various aspects of the emerging coverage. It's getting about a million hits a day. I think it's been up less than two weeks.

    I've joined in with the Big Brass Alliance in disseminating information.

    I'm trying not to be overly proud of posting on this memo back on May 10th in a post titled 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.
    An article in Newsday has an interesting confirmation about the contents of the memo:
    The newly disclosed memo, which was first reported by the Sunday Times of London, hasn't been disavowed by the British government. The British Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

    A former senior U.S. official called it "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired" during the senior British intelligence officer's visit to Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
    Again, if you want to read the complete memo go here. It isn't very long and I think worth the read. There is also a Raw Story article.

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