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  • Sunday, July 31, 2005


    Those Darn Witches!

    Looking to religion news, some Wiccans rented a Christian campground to hold a weekend gathering and festival in August. When the Christians realized the religion of the renters, they weren't so keen on having neopagans cavorting in their hallowed Christian camp. They tried to cancel the reservation but, surprise! the camp is in Yellowstone National Park and leased from the US government. It is therefore subject to nondiscrimination laws concerning religion.

    I sympathize with the Wiccans but have to ask: What did they think would happen when the Christian managers of Westminster Spires Camp found out the purpose of their gathering? Except for perhaps the Unitarian-Universalists (UU) who actually have a UU Pagan group, most Christians clearly associate paganism with 1) oppression of the early Christians in Rome, and 2) Satanists.

    Number one happened over 1700 years ago (although I think some modern Christians still yearn for payback.) Number two is not true. Since Satanism is, in essence, a rebellion against Christianity (Satan=rebel angel=opposition to Christ=etc.), Satanism is inextricably bound to Christianity as a kind of negative or mirror-image Christianity. Without Christianity, Satanism as Satanism would not exist. However neopagan religions like Wicca and others exist without reference to Christianity.

    The evangelistic fervor of some Christians leads to some interesting attitudes. One is a certainty that the Bible and Christianity has a lock on religious truth. They have no respect for non-Christian religions because they are certain these are not real religions. Hey, many Christian denominations don't even have respect for other branches of Christianity because of doctrinal differences.

    I hope it is noted that I am very careful in how I point my finger. Not all Christians by any means partake of this attitude of spiritual arrogance. But it is still depressingly common. And it is most often displayed in the public actions of loudly self-proclaimed Christian activists, whether about school prayer, monuments of the Ten Commandments in courthouses, etc.

    Interfaith tolerance is apparently not much of a Christian value.


    Lies of the Family and Marriage

    While watching Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) promote his new book It Takes a Family on The Daily Show, I was amused, stunned, and incredulous as he claimed that the nuclear family was the center of US society. He also claimed this kind of family was over four thousand years old. This is the triumph of television reality over factual reality. The family he is championing is almost purely a fiction of 1950s television shows.

    Let me be clear exactly what I'm referring to when I say nuclear family. This is the idealized family as defined by the far right, an autonomous unit consisting of a husband and a wife and their children. Elder generations and side generations (siblings of the husband and wife) are discounted in influence and consideration in this version.

    While much of the legal force of American society is set to emphasize and reinforce this particular configuration, this is a definition is designed to fragment society, not provide a foundation. Industrial society tries very hard to separate groups of people and keep them from joining in common cause.

    It makes perfect sense to me that gays and lesbians desire the legality and security of marriage. This one act extends all sorts of rights and privileges to the participants. To achieve even vaguely similar legal results without marriage requires complex legal documents related to power of attorney, wills, etc. Yet what I also notice is that this drive for marriage rights has also sapped energy from other collective endeavored. And this is the beauty of stressing the focus on this type of family: extended family and group bonds become discounted, less important.

    By forcing adults to rely primarily on only one other adult for emotional support and advice, I see an effort to keep groups of people from empowering themselves as a group. This keeps people helpless in the face of corporate or governmental injustice. Labor unions used to be (and still are in some instances) a central form of empowerment.

    So we've developed a structure that devolves responsibility for raising children to two parents. That's the idealized version. In actual day-to-day reality and detail, it more often means one adult, the mother. And if they need or have two incomes, perhaps paying someone else to take care of the children.

    Separate people from each other and stress will naturally create disfunctional or misdirected action. This is the beauty of the assertion of the primacy of the nuclear family: such a small and insular group is almost destined to implode, fragmenting the small unit into isolated individuals, helpless against the corporate culture.


    Nuclear Combat (or, How to Slowly Kill the World)

    Hmm, what sort of new weapons can we use? Why don't we blast in the future through the past? Tactical Nuclear Weapons, yeah, that'll work. Oooh, surgical strikes with nukes! That phrase makes me tingle in a special way...

    Over on Rubicon is an excellent post on the US plans for using nukes in war. It's got nice illos from Dr. Stranglove as well. Particularly charming is the idea of using nukes on Iran if there is ever another 9/11 type event in the US. Just as a sort of reflexive action, nothing personal. But the question is: How will this affect that darn oil in the region that our government covets so hard?

    Of course, the US has been using nuclear materials in battle for a while now. The effective fallout from these weapons is all over the land where they were used. Even better, there's no way of cleaning it up. It just gets everywhere. Most US soldiers have no idea that they are being contaminated by the particles left from the missles and armor piercing shells.

    This is PBU31, my personal contribution inspired (but not litigated) by the Progressive Blogger Union, a congenital group of soft-headed freaks who I love. If the countdown to Armaggedon interests you and you would like to see other blog posts on our manufactured Big Bang in battle, check the replies under the subject header "PBU31" at the PBU group at Flickr.

    Friday, July 29, 2005


    Profiting from Tax Cuts

    Sometimes the obvious reaches up and smacks me upside the head. Then I have to pay attention.

    Now it should be no surprise to you, dear reader, that the upper levels of the Bush Administration is full of millionaires. Lest you think me prejudiced, I do not think rich people are inherently evil. However the accumulation of great wealth in our society is rarely done in a manner without certain, shall we say, moral and ethical accommodations.

    Now, when you put rich people in charge of the government (I'm also including Congress here; there's a goodly percentage of millionaires seated there as well), they may choose the course of enlightened public servant. They may attempt to create policies and legislation to benefit a large portion of the population, particularly including those at the lower ends of the economic scale.

    Then there's naked and blatant self-interest. It should have been completely obvious to me that rich people would have an interest in cutting taxes for the rich. And it has been obvious. Yet how could I miss the personal profit to be made by cutting your own taxes? And this is where the following info comes in.

    Over on the slacktivist is some info and analysis of exactly how much Bush and his cabinet stand to make if a permanent estate tax repeal takes effect. Slacktivist got the info from a report by Henry Waxman (D-CA). How much can the President, Vice President, and 11 cabinet members save? Perhaps as much as $344 million dollars total. Admittedly, this is after the death of the person but these are family values: the surviving family reaps the rewards.

    For a current example, consider this fact sheet prepared by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., of the House Committee on Government Reform. It examines the personal benefits for the president and his cabinet if the estate tax is permanently repealed. Waxman notes that "it is impossible to know exactly how a person will structure his or her estate" or to know "exactly what assets a person will have at their death," so he provides a range of estimates. Here's a taste of what Waxman found:

    George W. Bush: $787,193 - $6.2 million

    Dick Cheney: $12.6 million - $60.7 million

    Donald Rumsfeld: $31.8 million - $101.3 million

    John Snow: $22.9 million - $69.8 million.

    Let's just take the low end estimates there.

    President Bush supports the abolition of the estate tax. This policy would cost the Treasury trillions of dollars over the coming years. It will cost the nonprofit sector billions of dollars a year, causing charities to shrink and cut back. President Bush offers no credible argument in support of this policy. If it becomes law, he will personally receive more than $787,000. [Wordlackey sez: As I said above, the surviving family will receive it, not Pres. Bush, but it's still a substantial influence on policy I think.]

    That's one hell of a bribe. $787,000 dollars. Yet we're supposed to believe that the prospect of reaping this huge sum of money has absolutely zero influence on George W. Bush's enthusiasm for this otherwise inexplicable piece of legislation.


    The Return of the Curious Case of CafePress

    I wrote about this a few months ago. As I think I stressed then, this isn't about censorship. The issue to me is more one of accountability and following the standards and guidelines CafePress set up for themselves. What I find interesting is the way CafePress apparently massaged their search engine to find zero results for "donkey punch" yet return 130 results for "punch donkeys." As much as I despise this phrase and its attitude, that's not my central beef. I'm feeling quite pissed at CafePress for having ostensibly "sensitive" standards for what they won't print and then turning around and ignoring these guidelines and standards. It's dishonest. It deceives people into thinking CafePress has good politics, then CafePress violates their own rules. I would have more respect for them if they just altered their standards or eliminated them altogether rather than pretend they abide by these rules. At least then it would be clear what, if any, limits they have on items.

    CafePress' guidelines are in the body of the message below. You can make up your own mind about taking action on this. I admit this is a rather slippery issue because it definitely encompasses free speech and censorship concerns. I'm not even 100% certain I endorse taking action on this item. Yet I find the manipulation and dishonesty of the company a telling point for me. I think CafePress should take responsibility for their actions rather than resort to sly evasions. That's my opinion.

    [Update/addendum: I've been reminded that censorship has a very specific definition and is generally related to publicly funded projects rather than a private and commercial enterprise like CafePress. Thus, if CafePress chooses to not print or produce certain items, the item could be taken to another commercial printer.]


    Dear Colleagues and Friends,

    Hey there! It's been two months since you've heard from us regarding CafePress, and no doubt you've been up at night pondering those few remaining questions about our earlier campaign to eradicate hundreds of women-hating products from their vast website. In short, we did a lot of good work, but unfortunately more work remains. More on that in a moment.

    QUESTION: Did CafePress ever remove all the hideous "donkey punch" merchandise from its site?
    ANSWER: Yes and no. At the campaign's inception, there were nearly 300 donkey punch products. Without ever admitting any wrongdoing, Candice Carr and Co. quietly removed the worst products until something interesting happened: the company manipulated their search engine so that if you searched for the terms "donkey punch," you got a no-results-found page. This is still the case. However, we realized that if you search for "punch donkeys," you can find about 130 products, including some infant clothing AND some brand new items, all featuring this hateful terminology. In other words, they found a (temporary) way to get the angry feminists off their backs while continuing to profit from misogyny.

    QUESTION: Did CafePress ever remove all the pro-rape products from its site?
    ANSWER: Not really. They (quietly) removed the most vile offenders, but chose to leave in two dozen products that say, "You can't rape the willing!" Which is like, technically true, but still a pro-rape sentiment. Additionally, CafePress continues to exhibit a stunning lack of quality control or any semblance of a screening process, ensuring that creative misogynists wishing to promote new and different forms of violence against women can find an eager sponsor with them. We are referring specifically to a brand-new gem of a slogan which states, "Its only rape if she says no...SO GAG THE BITCH." View all 17 nauseating items at:

    QUESTION: Did CafePress ever respond to the hundreds of emails we sent during this campaign? Did they ever satisfactorily explain their non-existent screening policy or why they routinely violate their own content guidelines?
    ANSWER: No and no. We have yet to see one email in response. Apparently, to respond to us would somehow be equivalent to admitting guilt.

    QUESTION: Did any of the feminist or anti-rape vendors we contacted close their shops because of our campaign?
    ANSWER: Nope. We are sorry to report that,,,, Trixie Films, Chicana Mama, Feminist Karate Union, and Annabelle Magazine have continued to sell their feminist or progressive products alongside the likes of White Trash Tees and Donkey Punch Farm. (We also note that the Director of Kalamazoo NOW was *particularly* hostile to our campaign, since it cluttered her inbox) On the bright side, we congratulate Men Can Stop Rape and Nikki Craft for closing out their CafePress accounts in response to this action!

    QUESTION: Are you going to ask me to write more emails and talk to Candice Carr again?
    ANSWER: Um, yes. Believe us, we're not exactly thrilled to have to take on the quality control responsibilities for this company, especially since they're not paying us, but we just can't keep silent when misogyny-for-fun-and-profit continues to flourish at this supposedly enlightened company. Hopefully, you are rested from the two-month hiatus and ready to renew the battle.


    1. The term "donkey punch" is still offensive, still promotes violence against women, and still violates your company's Content Guidelines.
    2. It is dishonest to pretend to remove donkey punch products and not actually remove them.
    3. It is nonsensical to remove dozens of these products in May, and subsequently add new products featuring this term. Please explain your logic.
    4. It is indefensible, as well as a violation of your company's Content Guidelines, to sell products that promote or glorify rape, such as the 17 items that say, "Its only rape if she says no...SO GAG THE BITCH" and the 23 that say, "You can't rape the willing!"
    5. It is unacceptable that CafePress has no screening process to remove woman-hating products from the production pipeline BEFORE they appear for sale, forcing us to use our own time and energy to continually monitor your content.
    6. We are continuing to boycott all of your products and will encourage everyone we know to do the same. This information has been widely circulated in the U.S. and internationally.

    The definition of a donkey punch, as found on
    "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."

    CafePress' so-called Content Guidelines:
    *Content that may infringe on the rights of a third party.
    *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 minors.
    *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

    The URLs of the products in question:
    131 DONKEY PUNCH PRODUCTS can be found at these stores.
    50 donkey punch products, including children's wear
    1 shirt
    1 hat
    40 products - a new vendor, not part of the May campaign
    11 products
    3 products
    13 products - another new vendor
    12 products

    17 "Gag the Bitch" products
    22 "Can't Rape the Willing" products
    1 "Can't Rape the Willing" thong

    The company contact information:
    Toll Free Customer Service Line: 1-877-809-1659
    Candice Carr's direct number: 510-877-1926
    various emails:,,,,,,,,,

    We hope you'll commit to one phone call or email, and forwarding this email to at least three other people. Of course, if you've got a mailing list, blog, or army, that's even better. If you need a copy of the original action alert, let us know and we'll send it along. Please DO NOT post this email address on the web or CC us directly on your emails to CafePress, although we'd be happy to read your letter in a Blind CC.

    As always, if you're swamped and want to be removed from this mailing list, tell us. Alternatively, if you like your activism a little more frequent, we can hook you up with the secret passwords to become full-on members of the AntiPorn Activist Network.

    Thank you in advance for your help,

    AntiPorn Activist Network
    one angry girl designs

    Thursday, July 28, 2005


    Open Source Radio Revisited

    When we previously left the story, it didn't look like I was actually going to be on the Open Source radio show. What is interesting is that the producers decided to completely scrap the whole "blogger" perspective on the unreleased Abu Ghraib photos and go with more conventional guests and sources (i.e., professors and book authors.) Their show, their prerogative.

    I was secretly relieved at not having to speak on the show. I am somewhat pissed that they got the Progressive Blogger Union (PBU) to go through the trouble of contacting members, put PBU volunteers in touch with the show's producers who later discarded this info and work without notification. At the very least, that's rude.

    However I also understand the difficulties of planning out this sort of radio show. Part entertainment, part news, they have to be informative as well as having guests who are knowledgeable about the subject. I know that when I talked on the phone to one of the women from the show, I was frank that my knowledge about the photos and videos in legal contention was generally limited to what was publicly available. I even sort of put on my radio voice for her. (Ah, you didn't know I had a radio voice did you? I did some news and I had a music show on public radio back in college. For me, this mostly consists of eliminating "um"s and other verbal tics, and speaking clearly and directly without hesitations. This is a Public Radio voice, not a Top 40 radio voice.)

    I didn't hear the word "blogger" once during the show but I also didn't hear about a quarter of the show. I'm on dialup at 36.6 bps and the audio stream was interrupted a number of times, almost surely from my end. Since the show isn't carried by any of our local stations, this was my only option. I even had trouble leaving an online comment. I decided against calling in because I was unable to consistently follow the conversation. My connection isn't usually this flaky.

    I also expected a more participatory web site for the show, perhaps some reading of comments being made in the blog on the show. Or maybe a web person moderating a simultaneous web forum on the current subject. I was rather disappointed at the lack of such options. I have no idea about their resources which, to be fair, are probably not very extensive. Still, since the show seems to stress its internet component, it should have a bit more real time interaction on the web.

    I know the planning of these shows is logistically difficult. How a show falls together can depend as much on circumstance and availability of guests as the originally planned concept. Yet the cynic in me has seen this kind of maneuver before. I've done a little PR work for Neopagan and AIDS demos in the past. The press is a fickle beast, even when they are in sympathy with your cause. And sometimes breaking news can completely derail a carefully planned article or TV segment.

    So I'm more annoyed than angry with the show's producers and research assistants. I'm philosophical about it. At least it didn't rise to the level of an AFGE - Another Fucking Growth Experience. I reserve that phrase for big disasters: missed plane connections, tire blowouts on the highway, emergency room visits, etc. This was not in that league.


    Deconstructing Oprah Magazine

    I remain in awe of Ms. Twisty Faster's ability to ironically demolish almost anything she turns her attention to. The results are always amusing to me. Here is a bit from her post Chucking Oprah:
    Having studied in my lab the magazine’s advertising, content, and tone (in searching the rich canon of women’s magazines, the aficionado of patriarchal propaganda will be hard-pressed to find a match for O’s tone: a bizarre coalescence of the authoritative, the slumber-partyal, the glib, and the insipid), I have determined that the magical world of Oprah is populated by just such a species of tip-and-trick-seeking woman. She is in her 30s, white, middle class, desperately miserable, with a deep sense of isolation from her distant, inscrutable man, and a pathological compulsion to shop. Judging by Oprah’s near-universal appeal, such women must exist in droves, the inevitable product of the dominant culture’s disdain for them as receptacles, as well as its enthusiasm for producing both distant, inscrutable men and shopping malls. But Oprah can save them! Every page is like a bright yellow box of Empowerment Bonbons (You’re Special! You’re Strong!), but with Crispy Cockroach Centers (Now change your impossibly inadequate self into a sleek, professional man’s woman! Here’s how!).
    For goodness sake, please read the whole thing.

    Wednesday, July 27, 2005


    Happy Birthday, Emma Goldman!

    I was reminded that July 27 is Emma Goldman's birthday by Bitch Ph.D. It's ironic that DemiOrator shares a birthday with her since I feel woefully undereducated about Goldman's life and times. Still, let me see what I can put together in her honor.

    First, that dancing quote everyone uses; it's wrong. Alix Kates Shulman has an article on it. Here's the closest Ms. Shulman can find to the quote:
    At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha [Alexander Berkman], a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause.

    I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business, I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. "I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everyboy's right to beautiful, radiant things." Anarchism meant that to me, and I would live it in spite of the whole world--prisons, persecution, everything. Yes, even in spite of the condemnation of my own comrades I would live my beautiful ideal. [Living My Life (New York: Knopf, 1934), p. 56]

    I think this quote is quite lovely, if not quite as pithy as popular version, "If I can't dance I don't want to be in your revolution."

    As Dr. B mentioned as well, the Wikipedia entry is worth going to for an outline of her life. For a look at some documents by and about her (including government documents), try Emma Goldman: A Guide to Her Life and Documentary Sources. Some of her later writings are also at the Emma Goldman Reference Library.

    And how could I pass up a site about the Emma Goldman Finishing School in Seattle?

    [Update: Er, Ms. Goldman's birthday is June 27, not July. Sorry 'bout that.]

    Tuesday, July 26, 2005


    Happy Birthday, DemiOrator!

    A year ago I embarked on a bright journey of blogging for a better tomorrow. I was full of the hope that I would change the world.

    As usual, I was wrong.

    I didn't really think I would change the world. I've been too cynical for too long for idealistic hubris to have much traction in my jaded mind. Yet I've been surprised that blogging has indeed changed my life.

    I've found a community of like-minded people among the blogs I frequent. They are brilliant, funny, insightful, and politically astute. Not always all at the same time, but still... I find such rich commentary on blogs that I rarely turn to mainstream sources for it. There comes a point now where I can quickly predict the exchange of opinions in the MSM. The predicability indicates an utter lack of originality of perspective. We can't abide with that lack any more.

    The best gift I've gotten from blogging is an indisputable improvement in my writing over time. In a sense, I've grown into the title of my blog. My writing-as-oratory theme has evolved into a fairly strong personal writing voice. I'm not always as focused as I would like but I'm still quite happy with my progress over the year.

    Thanks also go out to you, my dear reader, for attending to my humble ranting and screeds of awful pomposity. My egoism is clearly evident yet I hope it is leavened by humor and the occasional bon mot. Oscar Wilde isn't really my patron but I admit to copping some of his attitude if nothing else.

    So happy birthday to DemiOrator. No gifts, please! You're my guests. However, destroying the US/global military-industrial complex would be nice gesture of friendship and respect. If it's not too much trouble. Thanks.

    [Addenda: FYI, the Blogger dashboard informs me that this is post #630 for this blog. How the hell did I post 630 times? Don't I have a life? Also, I prematurely went over some of this retrospective territory in a post earlier this month called Blog's Progress. That post has somewhat different information in it.]


    OpenSource Radio

    So Open Source Radio might be doing an hour on the unreleased Abu Ghraib photos and videos on Wednesday, July 26, 2005 from 7-8pm EDT. BTW, the broadcast is webcast at the same time. I talked briefly with one of their associates about possibly speaking on the show. Unfortunately I have little more than a layperson's knowledge of the case. Of course, as a blogger, I've got opinions, lots of opinions. A telling point about my knowledge was when I was asked if I had been following the subject for a long time or whether it was just the "blogging subject of the week." Alas, it was the latter. But I'm going to see if I can bone up a little. I doubt they'll use me but I might call in and see if I have anything intelligent to contribute.

    They were put in touch with me because the Progressive Blogger Union had just done this subject this week. To see other PBU members' writing on the subject, go to the Flickr group of PBU.

    Open Source Radio is hosted by Christopher Lydon. I remember him as host of a call-in radio show out of Boston called The Connection. I guess it was nationally syndicated through NPR but I always thought of it as homegrown because I consider Boston my hometown. I thought very highly of the The Connection because Chris Lydon always seemed exceptionally well prepared. If an author was on, Chris had actually read their books or a least enough to talk intelligently and in depth. I don't mean he just skimmed; he obviously understood the main points and arguments and had a context for them. I found it rather astonishing how prepared he was. Obviously a very smart fellow.

    At the least, I'll listen to the show. I think. I'm not too sure it's carried on my local stations and I'm uncertain of how it will sound on my dialup connection.


    Tumescent Round Up of Current Idees Fixes

    The lateness of the hour and my laconic attitude conspire to limit my post. Thus I'm reduced to listing a few things that captured my attention and waterboarded me. Figuratively, ya know.

    Twisty over on I Blame the Patriarchy has some pointed research about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts. Plus Puppy Watch '05: Still Cute.

    It also doesn't surprise me to learn that John Roberts has belonged to the Federalist Society, a group of lawyers and judges dedicated to rolling back our legal system to the year, oh, 1800 or so. Here's an MSNBC story about it. Here is a Democracy Now! story: Bush Met With Judge Roberts One Day Before Crucial Ruling on Guantanamo Military Tribunals.

    Then there is that Brazilian fellow who was shot dead in London. There's a news clip I saw on Democracy Now! that had the most incredible quote from Sir Ian Blair, the (London) Metropolitan police commissioner. Unfortunately I can't find the quote online so I'll have to paraphrase. He said that the shooting of the wrong person was a tragedy but what if he had been a suicide bomber and he hadn't been killed. Then there would have been a larger tragedy. What if? What I found astonishing was this facile assumption that the killing of the wrong person was an unavoidable cost of preventing terrorism. The justification of this action as an unpleasant side-effect, an annoying incident, is appalling.

    That's it for now. Stay frosty.

    Monday, July 25, 2005


    Confidence, Certainty, and the Truth

    The relationship between facts and opinion is convoluted. I often have to sort through many facts in an effort to arrive at a comprehensive understanding or perspective that suits me. This isn't any different from what anyone else does but I feel an acute desire to be confident in the facts at my fingertips and the overall structure I fit them into.

    The thing is, everyone has levels of trust in the veracity of certain sources of information and distrust of other sources. This trust is usually dependent on a variety of reasons but often seems keyed to specific political or moral views. Sometimes trust of a informational source may be dependent on a opinion held by a pundit or a respected group. Perhaps someone says "This newspaper is obviously liberal and is not to be trusted because of their bias." And that will be enough for someone to believe it. The person may never actually look at this source. "So and so says the paper is liberal. That's good enough for me."

    The false labeling of ideas and sources can cause people to discount them before they ever actually look at the original idea/source and form their own opinion. This is the bane of public debate.

    Sunday, July 24, 2005


    Abu Ghraib Torture Photos You May Never See

    So there are other pictures of torture at Abu Ghraib than the ones you've seen. The Bush Administration has been blocking their release because of concern for the additional embarrassment and humiliation it would cause those pictured in the photos. The following is from the Center for Constitutional Rights press release:
    In June, the government requested and received an extension from the judge stating that they needed time in order to redact the faces of the men, women and children believed to be shown in the photographs and videos. They were given until today to produce the images, but at the eleventh hour filed a motion to oppose the release of the photos and videos, based on an entirely new argument: they are now requesting a 7(F) exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold law enforcement-related information in order to protect the physical safety of individuals. Today’s move is the latest in a series of attempts by the government to keep the images from being made public and to cover up the torture of detainees in U.S. custody around the world.
    Never mind that the process of redacting the photos should protect the people in the pictures. I notice that this littlemaneuverr happened on a Friday, traditionally the day the government likes to dump unfavorable information because of the slower news coverage over the weekend.

    Wikipedia has an article on the torture (Wikipedia warns that the pictures include a dead body and nudity but I think they've all gotten wide distribution in the media before.) This little tidbit is about a report on the actions at the prison:

    Taguba's 53-page report, classified "Secret" and dated April 4, 2004, concluded that U.S. soldiers had committed "egregious acts and grave breaches of international law" at Abu Ghraib.[4] Taguba found that between October and December 2003 there were numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" of prisoners. In violation of Army regulations, intelligence officers asked military police to "loosen up" inmates before questioning. The report estimates that 60% of the prisoners at the site were "not a threat to society" and that the screening process was so inadequate that innocent civilians were often detained indefinitely. Guards invented their own rules and supervisors approved of their actions. Personnel lost track of prisoners, did not count their prisoners, and kept no records regarding dozens of escapes. The facility held too many inmates and supplied too few guards. Training of those on guard was insufficient, and superiors neglected to visit the facilities in person. Top military personnel disagreed on whether military police or military intelligence should be in charge. Prisoner treatment varied between shifts and between compounds.

    Taguba cited numerous organizational and leadership failures at Abu Ghraib. Reservists tasked with guarding the prison population were inadequately trained, and Taguba faulted senior commanders for failing to address these deficiencies. Specifically, intelligence officers and members of one company, the 372nd Military Police Company, based in Cresaptown, Maryland, in charge of security, took part in the documented abuses.

    What I really love was Donald Rumsfeld's response when the original pictures hit the press.
    These events occurred on my watch as secretary of defense. I am accountable for them. I take full responsibility, I feel terrible about what happened to these detainees. They are human beings, they were in U.S. custody, our country had an obligation to treat them right. We didn't. That was wrong, To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. We're functioning in a --— with peacetime restraints, with legal requirements in a war-time situation, in the information age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon.
    Notice how he manages to make the whistleblower who gave the photos to the press seem like a criminal and security risk. I also really like the use of the word "unbelievable", strongly implying that the pictures might be faked or, um, taken out of context. Right.

    There are about 100 photos not seen by the public as well as two videos. While I'm not exactly looking forward to seeing them, I do think Americans need to see the actual details of what went on. No matter how the Bush Administration tries to make the war and occupation seem antiseptic, a mere matter of numbers and not flesh and blood people performing actions as a direct result of orders, it's clear that they are scared of the results of this disclosure. The mock concern for the safety of people in the images is laughable and rather a little too late. Where was the concern when these abuses were happening? Where was it when they should have been listening to investigators about the systemic levels of abuse condoned by the chain of command?

    The Bush Administration doesn't believe in mercy; I'm not inclined to show it to them.

    This is PBU30, a post inspired/instigated by the Progressive Blogger Union, a congenial and collegial consortium of fifth columnists. If you would like to see other blog posts on the subject of the torture photos the Bush Administration seems determined to hide (although it was really just a few bad apples, right?), check the replies under the subject header "PBU30" at the PBU group at Flickr.

    Friday, July 22, 2005


    Comment Spam

    I hadn't run into an actual example of this until today. I'd heard of it, it sounded horrible, etc. Then I found one in the comments over on feministing. Wow. So there's a comment with about a gazillion links in it, pretty much everything you might receive in email as spam but all in one place. Owners of sites usually delete the comment before it hangs around too long but I know it's been a big and persistent problem for some blogs.

    I view spam as just the logical extension of the advertising industry. If you went to a large advertising agency and said you could increase the visibility of their ads and decrease their price dramatically, what would they say? The only thing keeping the big advertisers from doing spam is the ill-will generated by it.

    I'm glad I haven't had to deal with it myself, knock wood.


    Brecht's Greatest Hits

    No, not really. Bertold Brecht wouldn't be caught dead in the dive known as DemiOrator. I once acted in a play by Brecht, In the Jungle of Cities, a rather depressing description of one man deciding to randomly ruin and destroy another man's life. Get it? Randomly? This leads to the actual purpose of this post: My Friday Random Ten Songs off my computer.

    1) Etta James, Sweet Little Angel
    I like to cruise the used music and cutout bins. I picked up a CD titled "Etta James Rocks the House" on a whim and have pretty much liked it. Ms. James comes from what I guess is called the "shouter" school. The album is from 1964.

    2) David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust
    I like early Bowie, up to about 1976-77 or so.

    3) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Nature Boy
    Nick Cave has his good points. I like him best when he's being creepy. We all have a serial killer in us. What? You don't? Well, excuse me!

    4) The Who, Won't Get Fooled Again

    5) The Lunachicks, E.D.G.A.R.
    I really want more Lunachicks. They did "The Passenger" on an Iggy Pop Tribute album called "We Will Fall" which led me to buy the only CD of their's I could find: "Jerk of All Trades".

    6) Hepburn, I Quit
    This is on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album, a bunch of songs used in the first couple of seasons of the series.

    7) Iggy Pop, Funtime
    Oh, The Ig is God. Just so you know.

    8) Deep Purple, Highway Star
    This song is so damn American! But Deep Purple was a British band. Go figure.

    9) The Standells, Why Pick on Me
    10) Fire, Father's Name was Dad
    Both of these songs come off collections called "Nuggets", very odd bits of psychedelia and pop songs from the 1960's.


    Thursday, July 21, 2005


    PsyOps Dogs

    These are serious dogs. They are attacking you with their MIND POWERS!. Posted by Picasa


    Crap, Not Poetry!

    Don't look at me! I'm hideous! I'm posting poetry... What wretched impulse drives this? I don't really know. Sometimes I just like to speak in images, attempting to communicate something less linear and dredged from my emotive sources rather than intellectual reasoning. I've tried to limit my poetry to my blog Sullen Oblations at Alien Altars but I'm feeling just perverse enough tonight to put it here. What does it mean? You tell me. Or, as Mr. Natural would say: "Don't mean sh*t!"

    Polis Via Necrovilla

    Shouting bane, collect the white moths
    For cliptych surcease, fraked and clever.
    Cowled Thanatos draws near, seeking the
    White house, a crypt of covert operation.

    Via polis is partaking of the vineyards,
    Sipping fresh vintage not yet decanted.
    Charm shark, do not strain the pulp concealed
    Behind fourth estate doors, old revenants
    Sinter’d and dry, a fine flaw revealed by
    Shaw as he shouts of inheritance and drama
    While sunken in wan candlelight.

    Torrid claims, flanked by golden seals with ribbons
    Showing mock importance, hide this rampant boy.
    (the stuttering mistake inadmission,
    collect signatories by ditto to
    revile traitors and silence contention.)
    The sound of one bozo clapping, an echo chamber
    Support system to the sham state of real fear.

    Last train to a necropolis, where the villa overlooks
    Shadow homes, shuttered amid the ruins.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2005


    Some Men are Assholes

    Tsk, tsk. Sometimes I despair of men, both in general and in particular. Despite nominally being one myself, I have to say men suck... and not in the good way. And yes, I'm generalizing. Do they all suck? Probably not. (I don't exempt myself from this condemnation.) But generally, yes.

    Bitch, Ph.D posted about a village formed of "outcast" women in Kenya and the rather nasty problems they were having with men displeased with these women's economic success. I thought it was a typical and exemplary of, well, men oppressing women. I didn't even think it a far throw from Kenya to US society. Yet some of the comments to her post missed her points by a mile. Some men were offended.

    I'm so sad. See a tear roll down my cheek. Poor oppressed men.

    Twisty has her own commentary over on I Blame the Patriarchy. Oh, and be sure to check out her cute new golden retriever puppy. Puppies make every day better. Well, except when they pee all over the house and chew everything with their pointy little puppy teeth. But pictures rarely do this so you should be safe.


    Honest Karl Speaks!

    I seem to be going through an "art therapy" phase, with Karl Rove as the unholy focus of my twisted affections. My shame is complete. But on the up side, I'm learning new Photoshop skills.

    Mr. Rove tells all. Posted by Picasa


    Some Abortion Data

    Yeah, I get all ambivalent about talking about abortion then I come across this article from the Washington Post (subscription required) which has some interesting stats in it.
    Six in 10 women who had abortions in 2002 were mothers.

    In the year 2002, about 1.29 million women in the U.S. had abortions. In 1990, that number was 1.61 million.

    The incidence of abortion spans the economic spectrum, but low-income women are overrepresented among those having the procedure. Sixty percent of women who had abortions in 2000 had incomes of less than twice the poverty level --below $28,000 per year for a family of three, for example. This is in part because "low-income women have lower access to family planning services" such as contraception and counseling provided by health departments, independent clinics or Planned Parenthood, Finer said.

    Almost 90 percent of abortions are performed in the first trimester -- during the first 12 weeks after the first day of the woman's last menstrual period -- with most performed before nine weeks. Because of newer surgical and medical techniques, the proportion of abortions performed at six weeks or earlier has almost doubled in the past decade.
    Most of this info comes from The Alan Guttmacher Institute report. If you want to read it, go here and click on "An Overview of Abortion in the U.S."

    Tuesday, July 19, 2005


    Hospitals in Iraq

    I originally heard this info on Democracy Now! None of it is new to me but I think it bears repeating because of the lie it gives to the "good news" about the occupation of Iraq. When hospitals and health workers are systematically targeted by military forces, it's a serious breach of international law. I can't think of any excuse for it. Insurgents using the hospital for propaganda value? Doctors treating wounded insurgents? Because once you start creating exceptions you start deciding denying medical attention to all sorts of people is acceptable.

    The following is from Dahr Jamail's Iraqui Hospitals Ailing Under Occupation. This report was submitted as evidence to the Jury of conscience during the culminating session of the World Tribunal on Iraq, Istanbul, 23-27 June, 2005.
    Early in 2004, prior to this report, Dr. Geert Van Moorter, a Belgian M.D., conducted a fact-finding mission to Iraq where he surveyed hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies. Van Moorter concluded: “Nowhere had any new medical material arrived since the end of the war. The medical material, already outdated, broken down or malfunctioning after twelve years of embargo, had further deteriorated over the past year.”[16]

    Findings in this report suggest that Dr. Van Moorter’s statement remains true today, albeit with the continued deterioration of equipment, supplies, and staffing, further complicated by an astronomical increase in patients due to the violent nature of the occupation of Iraq. This report documents the desperate supply shortages facing hospitals, the disastrous effect that the lack of basic services like water and electricity have on hospitals and the disruption of medical services at Iraqi hospitals by US military forces.

    This report further provides an overview of the situation afflicting the hospitals in Iraq in order to highlight the desperate need for the promised “rehabilitation” of the medical system. Case studies highlight several of the findings and demonstrate that Iraqis need to reconstruct and rehabilitate the healthcare system. Reconstruction efforts by US firms have patently failed, while Iraqi contractors are not allowed to do the work.
    And this is from the Democracy Now! interview:
    DAHR JAMAIL: Well, exactly. It's a grossly overlooked topic. The Ministry of Health was due to receive $1 billion of the reconstruction funds, and where has that money gone? Of course, corruption is rampant. But a larger question for the United States government is what has happened to the companies that were awarded the contracts for the rebuilding, such as A.B.T. and other companies, handed out the contracts from U.S.A.I.D. There's almost no oversight going on. Where is the reconstruction that they have said they have completed? The hospitals have received basically paint jobs and sometimes new furniture, but as far as equipment and supplies that they have needed and medicines, it's just not there. [...]

    Of all of the contracts handed out in Iraq since the invasion, roughly 2% of the value of all of the money available for reconstruction have gone to Iraqi concerns, so it's the same in the medical situation.


    Pensive Debate

    I recently posted a rather more muddled than usual bit on the video of the Libertyville anti-abortion demonstrators. This attracted The Pro-Woman Authority (yes, that's the name) from a blog titled The Pro-Woman Pro-Lifer. We had a good civil debate in the comments of my post. We were both polite in the discussion and that felt good. Yet I find myself feeling like I was not being completely engaged or honest.

    I'm sick to death of strident slogans being shouted from both sides of the abortion debate, forcing the evacuation of any middle ground. There's a feeling I compromised some of my own beliefs about the issue in discussion. This is perhaps inevitable when acknowledging that an opponent has integrity and legitimate ethical concerns. It's so much easier to say "I'm right, you're wrong. Not only that, you're stupid too!"

    This is part of the current political atmosphere: Attack your opponent, deny their humanity, deny any possibility they could have a valid and intelligent perspective. There's the feeling that conceding the least point weakens your position, lessens your strength. And it becomes a battle, a furious effort to keep or gain ground.

    So I'm left a little pensive and sad in the aftermath of the discussion.

    Slight update: There's also a strangeness to me that a sizable number of recent visitors to my blog are coming from an anti-abortion blog called RealChoice which mentioned me in a post. While I think the conversation I detailed above was fine and dandy, I don't really want to participate in such conversions on a regular basis. I feel less like a bridge in this instance.

    Monday, July 18, 2005


    I See a Bad (Rev.) Moon Rising

    The Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon is a man of faith. Mostly it is faith in himself and his works as the modern messiah. He talks about the doing the will of God but mostly it's what Rev. Moon says God's will is. It's easy to tell which side you're on. This is from a speech he gave on June 26, 2005 in Washington, D.C.:
    The choice is now yours. The Will of Heaven does not change. The teaching that I received in prayer 47 years ago is the same message I am giving to you who are living in the twenty-first century. The power and fortune of Heaven gave me the victory. Will you join in step with Reverend Moon as I rise, and work with me to establish true families, true societies, true nations and a true world on this earth? Or will you continue as Satan’s captive behind the wall of your religion, the wall of your culture, the wall of your nationality and the wall of your race, and spend the remainder of your life in agony and regret? Heaven is summoning brave generals who will turn this world of evil upside down and establish a new heaven and a new earth. [emphasis added]
    This is a very common message of authoritarian religious figures: Either actively join forces with them or you're willfully aiding the enemy, Satan. It's an easy world through Moon's eyes, divided into allies and everyone else. (I always find it strange that certain Christians insist that they are monotheists, believing in one God, when it's obvious they believe in two mighty dieties in constant struggle. Hello? No matter how you cut it, that's duotheism, belief in two gods. Although Christians assert Satan is a "fallen angel," not a god, many Christians sure act like he's a god.)

    Back to Rev. Moon: John Gorenfeld has an excellent blog on the antics of Rev. Moon called Where in Washington, D.C. is Sun Myung Moon. Included are details from an event held in the Dirkson Senate Office Building in 2004 where a U.S. Representative actually put a "crown of glory" on Moon's head.

    Although about 5 years old, a page on Rev. Moon, the Unification Church, and related businesses provides quite a lot of information, as does the Wikipedia entry on Rev. Moon. Currently, the Wikipedia entry is marked by a heading saying "the neutrality of this article is disputed." I guess it's very difficult to be neutral about the parental Moon and his happy family.

    If you're interested in some previous posts I wrote on Rev. Moon in May, 2005, look here and here. If my tone seems less than reverential, it's just that I find it a tad difficult to be serious about Rev. Moon, who claims to be the Messiah besides having very shadowy financial dealings.

    This is PBU29, a collegial consortium of loosely coordinated blog posts instigated by the Progressive Blogger Union. If you would like to see other blog posts on the subject of the good Dr. Moon, check the replies under the subject header "PBU29" at the PBU group at Flickr.

    Saturday, July 16, 2005


    Contents of My Bedside Table

    I picked this meme up from Lauren on feministe. I’m supposed to tell you what’s on my bedside table. Unfortunately, like life, the surface spills onto the floor. And, in the interests of personal boundries, I'm leaving a few items off this public post. Now don't say I never kept secrets from you.

    On the surface of the table: An ancient clock/radio (AM dial only) that came with the house, still bearing yard sale stickers saying "75 cents" and "Works." (that's an exaggeration; the clock works but I don't trust the alarm and no matter how loudly I tune in a radio station at night, it's inaudible in the daytime when the alarm goes off.) Several hair ties. A quart yogurt container holding pens, pencils, highlighters, scissors, other miscellany. A wristwatch with a broken band which I actually use for an alarm clock. Several coasters, one of which holds a mug of water at bedtime. Some lip balm. Moisterizer. A swivel arm desk lamp clamped to the edge. A folding knife. A flashlight.

    Under the table, on the floor: A couple of toppling piles of magazines (misc. computer mags, Home Power, The Progressive, In These Times, Mother Jones, Z, The Fifth Estate, Uncut, Shivers, Fortean Times, Ms., off our backs, Anarchy). Eight or so books (Anarchism, Guerin; The Iron Dream, Spinrad; The Weapon Makers, van Vogt; Wicked Words, Rawson; Paracon, Albert, The Hellbound Heart, Barker)

    Any surprises here? You tell me.


    Email Censorship

    This is a scary story. I've always figured that instances of the following would happen eventually. While we often take email for granted, the possibilities for abuse are always present. The tale is over on Shakespeare's Sister. Basically, mail with, an activist site, in the text is being blocked by a particular system. Here's part of the post.
    Bright Mail also serves other large ISPs in addition to Comcast.

    I asked Brad to email me a message containing the blocked phrase; he did—and I didn’t receive it, although I sent an email he sent immediately after without it. I can only imagine how many emails I have sent or been sent that have not been received. This is the first case I have ever heard of where a spam blocking measure was not based on the email address or IP address of the suspected spammer, or a phrase in the subject line. Perhaps the most outrageous thing about it is that I had no idea that my email was being filtered for this phrase. As far as Comcast and Bright Mail were concerned, infringing on my Constitutional right to organize was so easily discarded that they didn’t even have to let me know.
    Other information is available over on The Brad Blog.

    Thursday, July 14, 2005


    Rebutting the Talking Points on Rove

    The Radical Right Noise Machine is in full swing with talking points intended to prove that Karl Rove isn't an evil man. Oh, yes, Rove didn't really publically disclose the identity of a CIA agent to reporters.

    Over on The Left Coaster is an excellent and detailed answer to these points. It will be updated over the next few days but it already has plenty of good substance. Check it out.


    "Uh, I never thought about that..."

    Watching this video of anti-abortion protesters in Libertyville, IL is very educational. Give it a look-see, they even have a nice dial-up version that's only about 1.7 megs.

    The most obvious point is that, amid all the rhetoric and slogans, these people hadn't really thought through the consequences of making abortion illegal with actual penalties for women. Their answers also reveal what should have always been obvious about them: The reason these women are anti-abortion is because of compassion. They feel compassion and empathy for the embryo and that has obviously dominated their thoughts about abortion.

    Perhaps they've mostly thought of the women getting abortions as sinners rather than criminals or murderers. I don't know. They indicate that the women getting abortions are essentially forgivable (in their eyes). Almost all of the interviewees seem very troubled by the idea of having a woman who has had an abortion serve prison time, much less be executed for "murdering" their aborted fetus.

    I think it's clear this is a way of opening a dialog with some of these folks. Perhaps pointing to these inconsistencies will force some of them to become more assertive about criminalizing and imposing jail time on women. But I think it's important that anti-abortionists understand the consequences following the criminalizing of abortion. It will be their sisters, friends, nieces, and daughters who will end up on the sentencing end of a judge or jury's verdict. That isn't a theoretical result; it will clearly be direct result of making abortions illegal.

    A question I have to ask is: how many women in the US have had legal abortions? I haven't the faintest idea. 1 in 5? 1 in 3? I'd guess something in that range but if anyone could steer me to some stats on this, I'd appreciate it.


    Friday Dog Blogging and 10 Random Songs

    This is a two-fer Friday post of dogs and songs (and a day early). First the suspicious pair of dogs Sheena and Ripley, wondering if I'm going to make them leave the comfy couch. We live with animals.

    Sheena and Ripley share a moment. Posted by Picasa

    Second is a list of random songs off my hard drive.

    1) How Are You?, Cheap Trick
    2) Monolith, T. Rex
    3) My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks), David Byrne
    4) Richard Cory, Them
    5) I Looked Away, Derek and the Dominos
    6) Out of Your Life, Bob Mould
    7) How Soon Is Now?, The Smiths
    8) You've Got a Habit of Leaving, Davy Jones, The Lower Third
    9) Found Out About You, Gin Blossoms
    10) B Movie, Elvis Costello & the Attractions



    Nixon's Ghost Speaks to Karl Rove

    "Karl, wake up. I have to speak to you."

    "Wha...what? Who are you? Did Joe Wilson send you?"

    "It's Dick, Karl. I have a message for you."

    "Dick Nixon?! You're dead! And I have never met Don Segretti! Don who?"

    "Oh, Karl, that's good deniability...a very nice touch there. But I have something else to tell you. It's about your future."

    "You don't need to tell me. My future is bright and clear! I don't have the problems of an elected official. I can't be recalled and I'm too valuable to fire. I've got it made. What else can you tell me, Dick?

    "Karl, I'm afraid there's a problem. Everyone is focused on you, blaming you for very bad things. The scandal around you is making it difficult for the Bush administration to move forward and accomplish their destiny."

    "They wouldn't have a destiny if it wasn't for me! I got them here. President 'Squirrelly' Bush wouldn't even have made it to governor if not for my smart moves. They can't get rid of me. They'd be lost without my plans and tactics."

    "The decision is out of your control. A higher authority has decided it's for the greater good if you are removed from these events."


    "Yes, I've come to take you to your final judgment."

    "But I'm too young! I've got so much left undone! Can't I have a few more months? A year?"

    "No, Karl. It's time to go."

    "Oh, well... OK, let's go. At least I'm going to heaven."

    "What gave you that idea, Karl?" [Nixon laughs] "Are you kidding? You've earned your spot on the express elevator to Hell!"

    "But...but you said 'a higher authority'! Isn't that God?"

    "Christ on a crutch, no! The higher authority for us is Satan! C'mon, you didn't really think you were doing the Lord's work, did you? What are you, stupid? Now let's go."

    [Karl's soul and Nixon's ghost disappear in a flash of flame.]

    (An obvious tip of the mouse to Art Buchwald who I've never read much yet still his influence is felt.)


    Fear of a Woman's World

    Eh, the post title didn't quite come out as well as it sounded in my head where I was referencing "Fear of a Black Planet." "World" seemed to scan better but oh well...

    There is yet another entry in an apparently eternal and repetitive bleat from male bloggers asking (c'mon, all together, you know the words): Where are all the women bloggers? Twisty Faster has some biting commentary over on I Blame The Patriarchy in an entry titled At Last! Radical Feminism Explained By Right-Wing Dude. Har! Loved it! Sadly, male bloggers who might learn something from the post will undoubtedly take umbrage and sneer about how feminists don't have a sense of humor. I guess that's the cock tale they tell themselves over and over in order to maintain a sense of superiority.

    Let me spin you a tale of my own. A long time ago at a college far, far away, your humble correspondent was a member of a feminist editorial collective responsible for publishing the campus newspaper. "But," you may ask, "aren't you a... man?" Yes, I am. Yet I was part of the collective. And what a merry time had we!

    One week, our printer didn't like our pictures of "blood prints" on the front page of one issue and refused to print that issue. What are blood prints? A quick google search shows this doesn't appear to be well defined online so I must tell you. In brief, a blood print is made when a menstruating woman presses her genitalia to a sheet of paper. The result looks a little like Rorschach ink blots. Fortunately, we were able to find another printer and eventually got it published. [Wordlackey sez: This paragraph edited slightly since my original phrasing had a "Silence of the Lambs" vibe to it. Need I add this is a voluntary act by the woman?]

    Now why would I tell you this story? Because your individual reaction to the idea of blood prints says something. Part of the reason we ran those images was because of the taboos surrounding menstruation in our culture. This was intended to challenge the norms, the conventions of society. The thing is most of those societal taboos still reign.

    This draws me back to the beginning of my post. Some men lash out at feminism and feminists in a way so obviously rooted in insecurity and fear that it's unmistakable. Oh, I'm sure these men have intellectual rationales out the wazoo, with point-counterpoint worked out in great detail. But at core I mostly smell fear and anger behind their words. And I think it smells like an overripe locker room.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2005


    This Contemptible Band of Liars

    I am sick of this rotten administration. These people are a form of bubonic disease on American democracy. They lie with every breath they exhale, invoking national security as a shield for their crimes. They are driven by greed, power and arrogance to mortgage our nation's honor. Their concept of honor encompasses only profit margins and a shared thievery. They call it political realism, this rarified form of elitist beggaring of our nation. They call it spreading freedom as they massively borrow capital from our heritage and future to destroy any and all naysayers.

    On a lighter note, I vented my spleen on Karl Rove with some art therapy. I feel better now.


    Choosing a Bible to Read

    I want to read the Bible. Yes, you heard me correctly: I want to read the Bible. But not just any Bible. I want to read a Bible with an accurate translation with reference to the best linguistic and historical facts available. And I want footnotes if necessary to understand the context of the translation.

    Notice I did not say anything about religion. While the Bible is obviously intricately entwined with much of Christianity, I want to avoid the more religiously partisan translations. So I'd like to entertain recommendations of versions from my readers. Go on, put your thoughts in the comments.

    Monday, July 11, 2005


    Offered for Your Amusement (and mine)

    The depth of my badness in unknowable. Posted by Picasa


    Arnold says...

    Ah-nold Speaks His Thoughts Aloud (the horror, the horror...) Posted by Picasa


    More Search Term Fu

    I admit pure ignorance about the mysterious ways of search engines. But this recent search that led to my blog sort of stunned me.

    A "Christians are evil" search on Yahoo (no quotes) turned up 4,550,000 hits. My post Some Christians Are Evil was in the number 2 spot. I am perplexed, puzzled, astounded. It's like that line from Albert Brooks in the film Broadcast News: I write it here and it shows up there. I feel like I should have better credentials or expert experience to show for my placement and ranking. Then again: No one knows how stupid you really are on the internets.

    An unethical person might take advantage of this in some way. If only I were smart and unethical. But then I probably wouldn't be tip-tapping my wan thoughts here; I would be out doing some serious crimes. Because I'm a rebel. Yea, a troubled outsider of stoic disposition loitering with intent. That's me to a T. Watch out.


    Effete Snob of Epic Proportions

    I love hyperbole! Don't you? I am excited by my recent acquisition of a few books. What sort of books excite me? This is where my sense of excitement may differ from other people.

    Am I thrilled by the soon-to-be-released Harry Potter book? (A little but apparently much less than many people.) Am I fascinated by current New York Times bestsellers? (Very rarely.) Am I feeling an amphetamine tingle at getting my hands on popular paperback thrillers? (I indulge this appetite on occasion.)

    No. I'm roused by Samuel Johnson's Dictionary: Selections from the 1755 Work that Defined the English Language, edited by Jack Lynch (Delray Beach: Levenger Press, 2002). So. Selections from a dictionary 250 years old are important how? Because I love words! You should know this about me: I'm currently flushed on a nasty rush of mainlining linguistics. Oh, yes, I'm making the drug references. It's inevitable that one day I will get a copy of the microscopically reduced facsimile edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to satiate my lust for words and reading it will destroy my eyesight. And, yes, I'm making the sexual innuendoes about fecking words. Yes, I went there.

    Another book giving me shivers is Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography by Sidney I. Landau (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Let see, a book about the writing of dictionaries must be really exciting. But it is, Blanche, it is!

    So now I have revealed a supremely geeky side of myself. Can you ever respect me again? But I will not be ashamed by my admission. Yea, I will wear my love proudly, loudly proclaiming "I play with consenting words!" However I draw the line at marching with a banner at Gay Pride. I have some discretion, after all. I'm not ashamed but some of the words I consort with have families unaware of their dalliance in my mind.

    So, please, don't say a word...

    Sunday, July 10, 2005


    An Exercise in Demagoguery

    I was wondering if walking the fine line between insult and non-legally actionable words is easy. I am generally a polite person. I may impugn but I rarely use explicit insult and direct invective. Why not? Many right-wing demagogues in the media seem quite comfortable trading in the vilest of character assassination. Why should I be reasonable and measured in my tone and words? Does it lower me to a coarse level? Does it transform me from a steady Dr. Jekyl to a ravening Mr. Hyde? Exactly how easy is it to disregard facts and disfigure the truth? Perhaps a small exercise is in order, purely in the interests of science you understand.

    Since I recently did a post on Karl Rove that was in my usual mild voice, I shall use him as a test subject. Go.

    Karl Rove was very close to Donald Segretti. It's disgusting how close he was to Segretti. Rove may say it was a "normal" political mentorship but it's clear that Rove knew how to squeal like a pig when Donald told him to. Every relationship is beautiful in it's own way. Except this one.

    Rove has always latched onto political figures. He seems to like serving under such men. And he services them right back to the best of his abilities. He's really skilled at manipulation. He can suck a watermelon through a straw if that's what it takes.

    Of course it helps that he lies quite well.

    Hmm. This is a little more difficult than I thought. And implying Rove is homosexual is a nasty insult to homosexuals. I guess this is a technique requiring some diligence in developing. Plus I need to steal some from the radical right. I hesitate to call someone a traitor; this is a failing in this endeavor. This is the problem when I have a generally reasonable approach and the opposition has no compunction about using the tactics of fear, lies, and exaggeration.

    I must think on this.

    Saturday, July 09, 2005


    Karl Rove: Abomination or Cunning Devil?

    Karl Rove has a nickname, Bush's Brain. There's a book out by that name as well as a documentary film (based on the book, I believe.) Some recent reports say that he may be indicted for leaking the fact that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent. People claim that he is a brilliant political tactician but he may have made a mistake here.

    James Moore writes that, while Rove may be up for indictment on perjury, this is certainly less than a possible charge of treason.

    "Of course, I talked to the reporters," the reasoning goes, "I've got the same First Amendment rights in the White House as every other citizen."

    Positioning is Rove's favorite political sport and that's the purpose of this admission. It's a metaphorical "so what" shrug of the shoulders. But the sub text of Rove's words shows another strategy. The presidential advisor undoubtedly knows he is guilty of a federal crime but, for obvious political reasons, he needs it to be something less than treason. Perjury will be his default position. The political harm to be done to his president and his party for a conviction of treason is incalculable.

    This seems a favorite tactic and is often used by Republicans and the Bush Administration for introducing legislation and nominees. First, put forward a very extreme proposal or person. Then you seem reasonable during negotiations when you drop back to a position which is moderate only when compared to the original proposal but still closer to the extreme than the middle. Rove has honed this to an art.

    Like Tom DeLay, Rove may be finding the limits of consistently treading the distaff side of the law. Skillful manipulation of the press isn't enough to save him. I hope.

    This is PBU28, a conglomerate of loosely coordinated blog posts instigated by the Progressive Blogger Union. If you would like to see other blog posts on the subject of the smart but evil National Security sieve known as Karl "Red Rover" Rove, check the replies under the subject header "PBU28" at the PBU group at Flickr.

    Friday, July 08, 2005


    Feminism and Masculism

    Spurred on by a recent post on Feministe on Feminist Men, I was moved to seek out various definitions of feminism, particularly men's role in supporting feminism.

    One of the men who commented on the post seemed quite adamant about the "sexism" of some of the feminists. He used a word I vaguely remembered but couldn't quite place: masculism. While I could see a little validity to some of his critiques, I was disturbed by his generally aggressive and blaming tone toward feminism. After seeing the Wikipedia entry on masculism, I understood why I found it disturbing.

    There's a certain strong strain in the "men's movement" toward asserting men are at a disadvantage to women in a number of respects legally, socially and healthwise. My observation is this is used as a platform to attack women and feminism. The language appears to take quite a bit from feminist perspective and analysis but the goal is, essentially, a renewed vision of a patriarchal dominion.

    While I think the elimination of sexism and equality of treatment for men and women is something we should generally strive for, I don't see the so-called men's rights movement as being at all equivalent to feminism. The masculist rhetoric seems focused on two main points. First, the victim status of men is accentuated. In situations where women are traditionally discriminated against and remedies or correctives are attempted, masculists seem to see only a diminishing of their status and privilege. Though couched in terms of rights, the litany of men's "oppression" strikes me as more a search for symptoms rather than a significant broad spectrum of grievances.

    The second point is the attempt to find explanations, research, and rationale for "natural" gender role divisions (i.e., "traditional" US male/female roles). (Crap, can't I explain this without using "quotes"?) Conveniently, this can also excuse males acting in aggressive and dominating ways. Funny how it works out that way.

    I know there are men who are attempting to redefine what it means to be masculine, particularly while trying to be supportive of feminism. Much (but not all) masculism seems to me to be an intellectually retro justification for what used to be called male chauvinism. That don't fly with me.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2005


    I am not a crook

    Looky, looky, a picture of moi, processed and filtered to within an inch of its life! OK, actually only one Photoshop filter. I like the effect though. Who's a pretty boy? Well, who would like to think of he's a pretty boy while being neither? Yes, I am a self-deprecating comic. Ya wanna make something of it?

    The Beneficent Gaze of Wordlackey Posted by Picasa


    Blog's Progress

    So this month marks the one year birthday of DemiOrator, this disreputable weblog of mine. On July 27, 2004 at 10:53pm East coast time, I posted my initial bit of brilliance. The post was not auspicious or scintillating. I did not have the faintest idea what I was doing or where it would lead. This blog was an impulse born of the political heat of the moment. The Dems were having their convention and I wanted to express something inchoate within me. I had a Live Journal but that was not really doing it for me. (I still have the LJ.)

    I look over those initial posts and see how stilted my writing was with disuse. My writing had been in remission for many years with the occasional spastic burst of an article for newsletters and zines. Then there was adapting my writing to the form of blogging. Oh, sure, you can do all sorts of things in a blog but I had to discover my personal style for blogging. How formal or informal did I want to be? How personal did I want to be? I didn't really do a lot of thinking about it; I just blogged and let it develop in an organic fashion.

    I still rarely plan ahead for this blog. The closest thing to regular pieces are the posts I do almost every week for the Progressive Blogger Union. Those vary from being drudgery to being great research projects. My major complaint about my blogging is what I consider my continued narcissism and a dearth of participation or involvement in other blogs. Perhaps I'm more focused on developing my writing after such a long drought. I'm also not particularly glib when it comes to commenting. I think too much about what I write. It doesn't necessarily make me a better writer but it does make me a cautious one. Sometimes I end up spending 20 or 30 minutes to get out what eventually ends up appearing like an offhand comment. I'm a slow thinker. I don't like to say stupid things. Sometimes I'll spend time writing a comment in another blog only to erase it and not post it. Perhaps I'm too cautious for my own good.

    I have no grand designs for DemiOrator. I think it's turned into a pretty typical personal/political blog, uneven of tone and subject with flashes of wit and insight every once in a while. It's still fun for me and is getting more fun as time goes on. There are many other subjects of interest to me that I could write about in this blog but I think limits actually help focus my writing.

    I could get really narcissistic and dissect some of the early posts on this blog. That might be ugly or funny, depending. Nah, I think I'll just keep going ahead. Don't look back?

    [Update: Not really an update but something I forgot to mention. One of the things I really love about writing this blog is that I'm able to indulge my stylistic quirks and odd vocabulary. Most of the time when I'm writing prose for public consumption, I'm aware of avoiding unusual words in an attempt to write to a broader audience. I have no desire to write impenetrable sentences or use a flood of arcane words but I like having the freedom to use what I consider apt or appropriate words. My writing style here is probably the closest I've ever gotten to a "natural" voice, a voice more representative of my quaint and archaic thought process. I also like slyly slipping in obsolete meanings and usages of words. It's a delicious game for me and an essential part of my expressive matrix. I'm such a rogue!]

    [Update2: I wasn't consciously aware of it at the time I wrote the first update but the word "quaint" has also been used as a substitute for another word. What word? Hints: It's a four letter word and popularly considered obscene. Its origin goes back to 1100CE at least. If you can't figure it out, ask me in the comments.]

    Tuesday, July 05, 2005


    Capitalism Nurtures Lies

    This is nothing new but it bears repeating. The essence of capitalism isn't about the exchange of goods and services; the central characteristic of capitalism is lies. Lies, misrepresentation, falsehoods, inflated description, and positive spin are necessary manifestations of capitalist culture. We just take it for granted that the seller will seek the most positive description of their product and the buyer will have to minutely scrutinize the object and description for exaggeration.

    The propaganda is that competition will lower prices and increase quality. I would posit this only happens at a very specific period near the beginning of a product life. After that, maintaining profitability is the chief goal. At a certain point, prices will never significantly go down and quality will become increasingly shoddy.

    It might be argued that capitalism's biggest sell is itself. Think a moment about this: Practically every source of current news and information comes to you from a capitalist enterprise. Do we think that the information might be tainted by this? Do we think that the facts might be skewed or influenced by the advertising which is the lifeblood of networks, newspapers, and weekly news magazines?

    No conclusion. I don't have a solution. I'm just trying to be aware of the bias of news. Some people worry about the "liberal" media, a concept so laughable I forgot to laugh. I worry more about the all pervasive and omnipresent influence of capitalism seeking to protect itself.

    Monday, July 04, 2005


    Some Christians are Evil

    I'm a "live and let live" sort, particularly when it comes to spiritual practice and belief. Everyone should be free to come to their personal spiritual path. Or not. I think atheism and agnosticism are valid choices as well. Not that anyone needs my approval.

    However, some people are, um, obsessed and imbued with crusading spirit. I don't want to point any fingers but some American Christians are evil. I'm not using the term "evil" as a metaphor. I mean they actively seek the destruction anything not in complete accord with their very specific definition of Christianity and interpretation of the Bible. These are people who use their prayers as weapons. They call it "spiritual warfare". Some Christians use this phrase to refer to an inner spiritual fight to purify one's soul. That's cool. Others use the phrase in reference to an external fight against, well, pretty much everything.

    Some people think the DemonBuster site is amusing. It has a certain retro feel to it with the fire and brimstone tone of itinerant revival preachers shouting. Digging a little deeper, I find some very disturbing bits of prayer, examples of amazingly vicious hatred. A page on Winning over Witchcraft contains the following:
    Through the Blood of Jesus Christ we also bind up and destroy all their spirit-guides, helps, and shields of these workers of evil, and leave them without any strength - stripped of their evil power and influence.
    In the name of Jesus Christ, and by the Blood of the Lamb, we now seal up their powers within themselves, so that they cannot use them on anyone, and that their works might be destroyed, in the hope that their souls might be saved for the glory of God. AMEN.
    This may not strike you as very extreme but understand that their worldview imbues everything with evil. They believe they are under constant attack by Satanic forces, demons, witchcraft, etc. Apologies for the caps but, hey, that's part of the experience.
    In their quest to protect themselves, their answer is to attack everyone. Their answer is to spew prayer bullets in a 360 degree circle around themselves. This is a siege mentality of the spirit. There is no mention of love or compassion. What I notice most is the hate, the focus on destroying all they designate evil (and there is much they think evil.) There's a saying that you will become part of the thing you hate passionately. This is the path of fear, the path of destruction, the path of contempt and evil.

    I feel a wary pity for them. I wish them no ill-will yet they may see me as an enemy because in their world-view almost everyone is an enemy. I find it very sad, not amusing at all.

    Here's one last quote on the "snares the devil uses". Please note that you may not think of yourself as a "witch" but, after refering to the list below, you may understand they think of you as evil. All it takes is playing cards or burning incense. I've emphasized a few I find interesting:
    Witchcraft is the use of everything in the devil's arsenal to destroy any change of a human being coming into the full power of God. (To keep the person from being knowledgeable and powerful enough to "overcome" (defeat) him and his army of evil spirits.)

    Occult means unseen, so all these practices are hidden snare to involve humans in the devil's world to make the human think that he, the human, has it all. Here is a partial list of snares the devil uses.

    Occult Practices (partial listing): Fortune Telling, Ouija Board, Cards, Good Luck Charms, Seances, Edgar Cayce, Jeanne Dixon, Mind Control, Witchcraft, Four-leaf Clover, Rabbit Foot, Wishbone, ESP, Transcendental Meditation, Yoga, Hypnosis, Drugs - Tranquilizers and Pain Relievers, Incense, Dungeons and Dragons, Pendulum, Palm Reading, Automatic Handwriting, Pierced Ears, Horoscopes, Signs of the Zodiac, Voodoo, Magic, Levitation, Waterwitching, Tea Leaf Reading, Secret Organizations and Lodges, Eight Ball, Smoking, Chewing Tobacco, Dipping Snuff, Drinking Alcoholic Beverages, Kabala, Handwriting Analysis, Strychnine, Arsenic, Spirits of Gene and Chromosome Damage, Crystal Ball, Tarot Cards, Psychic Readings, Spiritualism, Sorcery - Drugs - Pharmakia, LSD, Rubik's Cube, Clairvoyance, Telepathy, Para-psychology, Enchantments, Potions, Ankh, Peace Sign, Star of David and Five Pointed Stars, Artifacts, Tatoos, Owls and Frogs, Snakes Self Realization, Deja-vu, Martial Arts, Buddism-zen, Hinduism, Taoism, Yin and Yang, Confucianism, Acupuncture, Hare Krishna, Bingo Gambling and Playing Cards Gambling, Astral Projection, Eckankar, Reincarnation, Arthur Ford, Ruth Montgomery, Divining for Metal or Minerals or Anything Else, Psychosybernetics, Mind over Matter, Pyramid Power, UFO, Trances, Dolls (Originated in Voodoo), Psychometry, Psychic Predictions, Clairaudience, Second Sight, Auras, Metaphysics, Mental Science, Vision, Superstition, Fetishes, Runes, Amulets, Talismans, Satanism, Indian Witchcraft, Sun or Moon Worship, Spiritual Healing, Italian Horn, Indian Religions, Warpaint, Maize Fertility, Christian Science Healing, Omens, Karma, Rock and Roll, Mediums, Hex Signs, "Jesus" Rock and Roll, Itial, Irish, Gypsy, German, Etc., - Witchcraft, Rappings, Poltergeists, Haunted Houses, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Tolkien, Conjuration, Incantation, Idolatry, TV Shows like "Merlin", Walt Disney, Rose Mary's Baby, Reading Hari, Biofeedback.

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