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  • Wednesday, August 31, 2005


    Honor and Bigger Penis

    I'm a sucker for these sites that allow you to add your own text to pictures. This one puts text of your choice as "message of the day" behind Pres. Bush. I might have used this power for good but I have a filthy, filthy mind.

    Click here to see my creation. Unfortunately, it's a flash or something so I wasn't able to cut and paste it here.


    My Origins in New Orleans

    Louisiana Plantation Map Posted by Picasa

    I was born and raised in New Orleans. I often refer to it as NOLA (New Orleans, LA. Geddit? Pronounced like Lola.) I have a love/hate relationship with the city. The picture above is a section of a large framed map I inherited. It sits on a wall in the garage/basement, gathering dust. Don't let the 184858 date under the title fool you: it's actually a 1931 reproduction on posterboard in a cheap frame.

    When Betsy, the last big hurricane to hit NOLA, came through in 1965, it almost killed me. My room on the third floor had two walls that were almost all windows so I slept in my sister's room down the hall. The next morning we discovered that none of the windows had broken in my bedroom but damage to the roof had allowed water to leak in and soak the thick stucco plaster ceiling. At some point, a huge section of heavy wet plaster had dropped directly on the top half of my bed from the ceiling. Actually, it was a direct hit to the pillow area.

    Map Detail of New Orleans, LA Posted by Picasa

    Currently my mother lives generally in the area of the red dot on the map. Well, at the moment she's in Memphis, TN I think, having left with my sister a couple of days before Katrina's landfall. I have no idea what's going on with her house or my sister and brother-in-law's house.

    Very soon, the remnants of Katrina will come through where I live in Massachusetts, carrying the particular scent of hurricane with it. I await it.

    Tuesday, August 30, 2005


    Manhood and Marriage

    Young Man, Play... With Yourself Posted by Picasa

    I didn't need to doctor this image, part of a full page ad for a book titled Manhood and Marriage. Chapter headings are sensitive as well:
    Where to begin with this? Should I even go anywhere with it? No, I think I'll just let it gestate and see if I come up with any biting analysis. Mostly I'm just astonished. Even though it's from the 1940s, it's still stunningly misogynist in its approach to "marital relations".

    Monday, August 29, 2005


    Regent University: I AM the Law!

    Pat Robinson's evangelical espousing of his view that assassination is a practical tool of US foreign policy this week allows me to revisit Regent University, that lovely Christian Law School. (My previous post is here.) I fully expect the graduates to be like Judge Dredd, thunderously proclaiming "I AM THE LAW!" before meting out the death penalty for infractions of the Bible Code. (No, not that one.)

    Biblical Dredd Posted by Picasa

    Over on NPR there's a story about the growing trend of Christian Law Schools.
    Regent University School of Law: Founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, Regent University School of Law was established in 1986 as a full-time, three-year law program. It gained full accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1996 -- the first religiously conservative law school to do so. Today, 500 students attend the school. Students come from 44 states, over 413 colleges and universities and numerous foreign countries.
    An interesting note on the Regent home page (link above) says "Regent University School of Law is distinctive among law schools approved by the American Bar Association because of the integration of Christian Principles into our curriculum." (emphasis mine.)

    I'm still trying to get my mind around the confluence of assassination and Pat Robertson's Christian values.

    This is PBU35, a semi-coordinated weekly blogswarm by members of the Progressive Blogger Union. Other member posts on the subject of Regent University can be found under the subject header "PBU35" at the PBU group at Flickr.


    Karl Rove: Image Manager

    Only as Pretty as You Feel... Posted by Picasa

    A flawed graphic meant to represent... oh, shit, I don't have the faintest idea. Perhaps a certain homoerotic attraction between Bush and Rove? Zoophilia? That Rove can make a pig look very pretty? And by pig I mean President Bush, of course. Oh, I'm just so confused! I work much better with words than with images. Graphic manipulation is not really my best skill although I envy those who are good at it. I guess that's why I continue to plug away at it, hoping that a shining moment of genius will eventually emerge. (dream on, space cowboy...)

    Sunday, August 28, 2005


    These Blogs, These Lucky Few...

    My mangling of Shakespeare aside, here are a few blogs I've recently checked out. You should check them out as well.

    Echidne of the Snakes
    Lab Kat
    Rox Populi
    The CultureGhost
    The Heretik

    Tell 'em I sent you on a scavenger hunt and ask whether they have a toupee you can borrow. If not, ask for a prosthetic limb or a glass eye. No, no, wait! Ask for a beer! And a glass for the beer! Har-har-har!

    On second thought, don't mention my name at all.


    The Fate of the World in My Hands

    Not really but I'm contemplating moving over to Typepad and that's a rather major decision for me. That involves actually paying for blog space but what I've seen of the options available indicates it might be worth it. And, to tell the truth, I'm also getting a little frustrated by my obscure blog name DemiOrator and my almost-as-confusing posting name of Wordlackey.

    I'm open to suggestions for a blog name but I'll undoubtedly disregard them and pick something personally meaningful or descriptive. A new posting name which is a little less self-deprecating might be nice as well.

    Not necessarily serious blog names floating around my mind:

    Euphemistically Speaking
    Interstellar Terrorist
    Miserable Bastard
    Dreaming Jewels
    Friend to Small Animals
    Flaming Bundle of Sticks
    Strange Convictions
    Second Source
    Unreliable Source
    Pestilent Fellow
    Honorable Contempt
    Madness of Hope
    Anarchy: It's Not What You Think

    Feel free to tell me your preferences in the comments.
    [Update: The comments are running rather strongly to "Flaming Bundle of Sticks" with "J'accuse!" second and an honorable mention to "Honorable Contempt." Cast your vote now.]

    Friday, August 26, 2005


    The "Afraid of My Mind" Friday Non-Random 10 Songs

    After complaining about lacking my vinyl music on my computer to include in the Friday Random 10, I've decided to instead pick random songs out of my head. This doesn't mean they are necessarily songs near and dear to my heart. This means that I'm attempting to pluck songs that float to the surface for the list with minimal conscious editing.
    1. Strange Fruit, Nina Simone
    2. What's So Funny 'bout Peace, Love and Understanding, Elvis Costello
    3. Crimson and Clover, Tommy James
    4. Urban Desire, Genya Ravan
    5. Out Come the Freaks, Was (Not Was)
    6. Oh, Bondage Up Yours!, X-Ray Specs
    7. Cuts You Up, Peter Murphy
    8. Everybody's in Showbiz, The Kinks
    9. Putting out Fire (with Gasoline), David Bowie
    10. Birth, School, Work, Death; The Godfathers
    OK, this is obviously not completely successfully random mind sample since I actually like all of these songs. I mean, where are all the damned top-40 AM bubblegum songs lodged in my brain like pesky bits of food between teeth? You know the ones I mean; the songs you would never admit to anyone that you ever listened to, much less that they still pop up unbidden and unwanted to the forefront of your mind. They replay on endless loop for hours, despite your best efforts to displace them with something tolerable. And the terrible thing: if someone else knows the song, you can infect them with it by humming or singing a few bars of it. Even while you despise them, they have hellish hooks. Or sheer repetition has carved deep pathways in your synapses.

    If you have no idea what I'm talking about, count yourself as blessed amongst modern mortals. There are some things it's best to not know. When your pop music past starts devouring your brain...

    Bonus Song: Don't Shake Me Lucifer, Roky Erickson and the Aliens.



    Sore Toes and UFOs

    Yes, boys and girls, in the old days this was how I amused myself. Found art and headlines clipped from the Weekly World News collaged together into a seamless piece of surreal oddness. Like so much of my creative output, it's more than pedestrian yet less than genius. At least I can use Photoshop to eliminate those unsightly clip lines from the Xerox. Just be glad I've spared you the ones with male genitalia mingled with advertising for cars. Hey, the ads started it! I was just making explicit what the ads implied. Heh.

    UFOs Are Coming! Posted by Picasa

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005


    Camp Casey and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

    I was struck by some aspects of the current gathering by Cindy Sheehan and other Gold Star mothers at Camp Casey outside the Crawford, TX ranch of Pres. Bush. Camp Casey is named after Ms. Sheehan's son who was killed in Iraq in April, 2004.

    In Argentina in the late 1970s, some mothers organized a group called Asociacion Madres de Plaza de Mayo or Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in an effort to demand accountability from the government for sons who had been "disappeared" by agents of theArgentineann government.

    In a similar way, the moral weight behind gold star mothers asking for accountability from Pres. Bush is very strong. While Pres. Bush will, in all probability, continue to refuse to meet with Ms. Sheehan, there is much more to this action than the typical political ramifications.

    Soldiers and their families have borne the most immediate and heavy toll in the US during this war and occupation of Iraq. In US military actions of recent memory, parents of soldiers were often grieving but proud of their children's sacrifice. I'm sure there were exceptions to this but this was the general impression.

    Now there are a number of groups trying to ask questions about the necessity of this course of action: Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace are two prominent ones. While Pres. Bush may consider these protests to be just another in a long series during his time in office, I think they are fundamentally different.

    Military families, even those who have suffered losses, are generally quite conservative and supportive of the status quo. In the US, there is a fairly distinct separation of the military from the political. The US has rarely seen an obvious military attempt at a coup. (I can't think of any offhand but I'll hedge my bets with "rarely".) This is because we think of the military as subordinate to the political process which puts our president and Congress into office and power. This is a good thing.

    The kinds of tensions and discord which can make military families speak against the president must be enormous for them to take public action. My understanding of the military culture is that, while soldiers and their families might privately disagree with political figures and particular courses of action, extremely public dissent is quite uncommon. This is why the symbolism of this protest is deeply powerful. This isn't just an "anti-war" protest by ordinary citizens; it is the voices of citizens most affected by war and usually publicly supportive.

    A protest of this sort and length outside the White House in Washington, DC is practically impossible these days. The permits would probably never be issued. There would be citations of "public nuisance" laws and charges of protestors blocking public access and littering.

    I think this event will end without significant communication from Pres. Bush but I don't think he understands how this protest plays out deep in the hearts and minds of many Americans. The right-wing noise machine will find faults with Cindy Sheehan, her actions and her motivations. Yet I can't help but see this as a kind of sea change for the American public's perception of the war.


    This is PBU34, a semi-coordinated weekly blogswarm by members of the Progressive Blogger Union. Other member posts on the subject of Camp Casey can be found under the subject header "PBU34" at the PBU group at Flickr.

    Sunday, August 21, 2005


    The Ethics of Borderline Comment Spam

    I received a nice comment from someone in my languishing blog Invisible Books. As is usual, I curiously visited the person's blog to check them out. The blog, named Juicy Fruiter, is four days old and has three posts on it. Yet the three posts have 178, 43, and 28 comments apiece. I am Jack's envy.

    Now the blogger, Juicy Fruit, has been visiting quite a few blogs and leaving nice, though brief, comments in blogs like mine. This is not quite spam, merely enthusiastic immersion in the blogosphere. I certainly can't fault Juicy Fruit for using this method to garner visitors to her blog. (I believe Juicy Fruit is female for pronoun's sake.) Most of the comments to her blog basically say "Thanks for your comment in my blog, like your blog too." [Update 1: Well, yes, I guess it is comment spam. It looks like she probably copied and pasted the same comment in all the other blogs she visited. The slight difference is it doesn't appear to be automated or for profit.] [see Update 2 below.]

    So I'm ruminating on the ethics of using this technique to drum up visitors. (None of this should be construed as a critique of Juicy Fruit. I wouldn't have linked to the blog if I was upset or found it annoying.) On one hand, I believe that comments in blogs are what make the blogosphere vibrant and valuable. If not for comments, blogs just become one way channels going out. It's the exchange of views that is stimulating for me.

    The issue of my blog traffic irks me a little. I somehow expect more visitors to my quaint little blog but seem unwilling to put forth the effort to gain steady readers. I often vow to be more involved in discussions in other blogs but I rarely actually do so. I feel both shallow and egocentric at once. (A common pairing, I think.) I've said a few times here that I dislike leaving short, almost content-free comments on blogs I visit. I just haven't seen a need to say something just to see my own words. Yet my reticence works against any sort of publicizing of my own soapbox. I like to flatter myself in thinking I post some items of value here, that I articulate a unique voice and point of view. Perhaps this is delusional.

    The thing is I don't know if I could even handle lots of traffic and comments. I would probably become overwhelmed, take criticism too personally, etc. I don't even take the time to make sure my blog looks good/OK under Internet Explorer because I use Firefox. So perhaps I'm just being weirdly narcissistic and neurotic. Perhaps I should be more aggressive in promoting this blog. If my traffic numbers went up, would I feel better about myself and this blog? Nope. DemiOrator is a process for me, not necessarily a goal. Still, I may consider a judicious and limited application of self-promotion in the future.

    [Update 2, 25 Aug. 2005: I take it back about it not being spam. Today I received two more messages on a different blog of mine, Sullen Oblations at Alien Altars (I've got fourblogs on Blogger but only DemiOrator is consistently active.) The interesting thing is that the email comes from a different address than the previous two messages yet is identical. This leads me to think the message and blog may be some low-level attempt at harvesting addresses of people who comment in the blog or perhaps a scam of some sort. Just a guess but I don't really have any concrete evidence.]

    Saturday, August 20, 2005


    Post-Feminist Feminism

    I try to keep up with the times, try to listen to what the youngsters have to say. (I ain't a youngster in my late forties.) Nah, I'm not trying to be hip and "with it" or pick up the lingo/slang. I just think young people often have different approaches and perspectives on problems than older people. This is refreshing and sometimes excellent ideas come from them. Do I sound patronizing yet? It's not intended but I have more than a bit of the surly curmudgeon in me, soon to transmute into crotchety querulousness.

    I've been a pro-feminist kind of guy since my teen years in the 1970s. I like to think I know a little about feminist theory, history, and practice. I actually read and agreed with much of the SCUM Manifesto. So it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that I often buy copies of Bitch and BUST on the newsstands. Both magazines have a feminist slant to them and are aimed at a young audience. Bitch's subtitle is "Feminist Response to Pop Culture" and BUST's is "for women who have something to get off their chests." I tend to prefer Bitch because it seems to have a much more explicit feminist analysis and editorial slant. BUST is, generally, a little more pop-y and short-attention span oriented in the length of their articles.

    I was somewhat surprised when the current issue of BUST had a theme of "Men We Love." This seemed a little... odd. I was trying to give them the benefit of the doubt but I still couldn't bring myself to buy it. It's not that I think feminists should hate men or have to be lesbians. I just couldn't quite understand the theme. I was having a bit of cognitive dissonance about it. Perhaps there was a really good reason why these were men feminists would love, men who were breaking patriarchal structures and gender roles. Perhaps.

    I skimmed the intro editorial for the issue and was horrified to read about the staff becoming giddy and "squealing" over some of the pictures of the men. Then I paused. Who am I, a man, to judge what these feminists think of these men? Who am I to pretend to be an arbiter of proper feminism? Then I thought, What the hell. Let the judgment flow.

    There seems to be a strain of feminism among twenty-somethings which I will call "feminism lite". (And yes, that accursed "lite" spelling is deliberate.) As far as I can tell, there is little I would recognize as feminism beyond having a pro-choice position. There's actually a kind of inversion of feminist analysis in some ways, a use of the term "feminism" to justify actions: "I am a woman and call myself a feminist, and I like and do these particular things therefore these are feminist actions."

    An article in the May-June, 2005 issue of off our backs ("Shaving is the Pits" by Robin Friebur) had a slightly different take on this phenomenon but is very close to what I'm talking about.
    The "slut feminism" embraced by some women in the 1980s and 90s made it difficult to question the rules about "sexy" appearance propagated by media moguls (rich men) and enforced by the less privileged men who may be our husbands, fathers, boyfriends, or sons. "Slut feminism" suggested that as long as we had our orgasms, it didn't much matter how we got them. If being "sexy" the way the media moguls said was sexy helped us get off, then we shouldn't question what "sexy" was, or those who insisted on its restrictive standards. And one of the most iron-clad rules of being sexy was, and is, shaving.
    Some women may see this particular issue as being a throwback to an earlier and more primitive vision of second wave feminism but it illustrates the current ascendancy of a form of self-esteem feminism. This is more about feeling good about yourself, your life, and your desires rather than changing yourself and trying to change society. I'm not saying these feminists are not challenging themselves or society. But I do see many of them letting attitudes and behaviors go unquestioned that would have been analyzed more thoroughly in the past.

    Often these feminists claim they are dealing with different issues than the 1960s and 70s, they have "progressed" beyond those old issues. Theirs is a new, modern feminism. It's hipper. It's Post-Modern and improved! This feminism winks slyly to the outdated feminism, sure it's doing much better.

    I'm not convinced.

    Thursday, August 18, 2005


    Freedom of Religion, Just not YOUR Religion, Part II

    I wrote earlier about this case. Fortunately, the appeal seems to have overturned the ruling to shield the tyke from his parent's non-mainstream religion. From
    A judge exceeded his authority by ordering an Indianapolis Wiccan activist and his ex-wife to shield their 9-year-old son from what his decree called their "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals," the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

    The appeals court threw out the order from Marion Superior Court Judge Cale Bradford, citing a state law that gives a custodial parent the authority to determine a child's upbringing -- including religious training -- unless certain exceptions are met.

    Divorcing parents can agree to allow such orders, or judges can find that certain limitations on upbringing are needed to protect the child from physical and emotional harm. [...]

    Wiccans contend their religion is becoming more mainstream. The parents' appeal said there were about 1 million pagans worldwide in 2002, more than the numbers who practice Sikhism, Taoism and other established religions in the United States. Among other things, the appeal claimed the decree was unconstitutionally vague because it did not define mainstream religion.

    But the appeals court based its ruling on state law. ICLU attorney Ken Falk said nobody fought the parent's challenge, so an appeal was very unlikely.

    "I think the bottom line is the court said a parent has the right to determine the upbringing of their child absent some compelling or strong reason," Falk said. "I have to tell you in reading all the cases, I've never found a case where both parents agreed yet a court directed some other type of religious upbringing."


    Security Means Never Saying You're Sorry for Killing the Innocent

    Although suspicions about the accuracy of reports concerning the death of a Brazilian man in the London subway have been abundant, the following shows just how far off the police were in shooting him. From the Christian Science Monitor.

    The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the leaked document and photos show that Mr. de Menezes was actually wearing a denim jacket, not a padded one, that he was not running from the police nor had he "vaulted" the Stockwell Underground turnstiles, as was originally reported.

    The Daily Telegraph reports that the evidence now shows that de Menezes walked into the Stockwell Underground station, used a farecard to pay for his ride, picked up a newspaper and sat down in a train car before he was rushed by undercover police and shot eight times, including seven shots in the head. The police had originally said he had only been shot five times. The evidence also shows that the police had pinned his hands behind his back before he was shot.

    In an editorial Thursday, the Daily Telegraph says that "This business has the makings of one of the worst blunders in the history of the Metropolitan Police." The BBC reports on the discrepancies between what the London police originally said, or allowed people to believe about the incident and what really happened.

    This makes the London police chief's earlier faint apologies about the event even worse. Such a cover-up is outrageous. I don't doubt the same thing is likely to happen in the US. Yeah, we can't have security without killing a few innocent people, right? Oops! Sorry!

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005


    A Fanatical Fetish for Fetuses

    Oo, Feminists for Life! There's a group that sounds interesting! This particular post was sparked by Twisty Faster and a Katha Pollitt column called Feminists for (Fetal) Life. Ms. Pollitt interviewed the president of FFL, Serrin Foster but seemed to have a hard time actually getting concrete answers to some of her questions.
    The problem is that FFL doesn't just oppose abortion. FFL wants abortion to be illegal. All abortions, period, including those for rape, incest, health, major fetal defects and, although Foster resisted admitting this, even some abortions most doctors would say were necessary to save the woman's life. [...]

    I got similarly evasive answers when I asked why FFL didn't promote birth control, and when I asked if FFL considered the pill an "abortifacient." She did tell me that "birth control doesn't work" for swing-shift nurses because they lose track of their body clock--interesting, if true--or for teenagers, which I know to be false. [...]

    In the FFL view, women have abortions because they are victims--of shamed parents, abusive boyfriends, prochoice propaganda and a society hostile to motherhood. Only a "few percent" of women who have abortions have what they need to choose childbirth instead--the rest are like prostitutes, Foster told me, coerced women falsely said to be making a free choice.
    I tried to analyze the FFL website but found it rather overwhelming. Not because of its complexity but because I found it remarkably uninformative. However I find it quite revealing that FFL doesn't promote birth control. This leads me to the conclude that they are anti-sex rather than just anti-abortion. Pollitt notes "Although FFL is not a Catholic organization, its rejection of therapeutic abortion follows Catholic doctrine."

    Despite the fact that many of the early Feminist leaders were anti-abortion, I can't help feeling the phrase "Feminists for Life" is some sort of cruel oxymoron. Not that feminists wouldn't be in favor of life but that these particular "feminists" would be so intent on imposing their view on other women. There's a difference between valuing life and creating a fanatical fetish for fetuses.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005


    My Current Interests (or Is ADD Guy a Method Actor?)

    Enough about you, let's talk about me for a while. I'm have a bit of a problem finding subjects I feel like blogging about. Perhaps it's ennui setting in, or my jackrabbiting mind being unable to settle to a single subject. Whatever it is, I'm reduced to using this post as a catch-all of divers items on my alleged mind.

    I recently bought an issue of off our backs, a feminist mag out of Washington, DC currently celebrating their 35th year of publication. There were two good remembrances of Andrea Dworkin. I'm trying to decide whether I'm going to subscribe. I've picked up quite a few issues over the years but never subscribed. There aren't many radical feminist mags these days (Actually, I can't think of another on the newsstands). I'd particularly like to support them for remaining focused on radical feminism. I'll think about it.

    Books I'm currently reading:

    Life of an Anarchist: The Alexander Berkman Reader, Gene Fellner, ed. (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1992).

    Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice, Rudolf Rocker (Oakland: AK Press, 2004).

    Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997).

    Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture, Katha Pollitt (New York: Modern Library, 2001).

    I seem to be doing some research on Anarchists. When I was in high school, I scrawled, in rather large letters, a lengthy graffito about property from Proudhon on a temporary construction fence outside our burned-out cafeteria. Oh, yeah, wasn't I the little radical?

    Monday, August 15, 2005


    President Bush on Apocalypse Vacation?

    Don't look now but more doom and gloom is on the horizon. According some sources, there are indications that nukes might already be planted on US soil. John J. Albanese writes about it in this article. It's not a pleasant thought.

    These August vacations make me nervous. Bush doesn't seem to pay inordinate attention to his decisionmaking process at the best of times, and much less when he's busy clearing brush.

    It doesn't ease my mind that President Bush will surpass 362 days of vacation during his tenure in office. I believe this will be the day count by the end of this current August, 2005 trip. Yes, I know he does some work on these trips but it's still a rather large amount of time to be on vacation. Nearly 20% of his time in office has been spent at the Crawford ranch. Of course, the reason he doesn't have to work longer hours is because he goes with his gut rather than his mind. Never mind all that "thinking" stuff. Thinking is for ordinary folks, not someone guided by a divine voice in his head. How nice for him.

    Perhaps this penchant for tough talk and minimal office work is the best indication that this is a laisse faire president whose "subordinates" actually do all of the policy research and planning. In other words, Bush is the figurehead while an evil cabal really controls the reins of power. This is nothing new, he's just an obvious and exaggerated case of it. It's been said often over the last decades that the presidency isn't won on policy or clear vision for the country, it's won on popularity. Is a popularity contest the best way of choosing? I don't think so.


    This is PBU33, counting down to the Apocalypse with the Progressive Blogger Union (not to be confused with the Union of Concerned Scientists or the atomic countdown of the "Doomsday Clock.") Other subjective and objective views on possible doomsday scenarios can be found under the subject header "PBU33" at the PBU group at Flickr.


    Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror

    I'm easily amused by satire and witty humor. Thus, Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror: Observations and Denunciations by a Founding Member of Monty Python tickles me a bit. Because the pieces in it were written as newspaper columns from just after 9/11/2001 to July, 2004 some have dated a bit but I still like them. They're pointed yet light.

    I particularly like Mr. Jones's observation about the grammar of the "War on Terror." "How do you wage war on an abstract noun? It's rather like bombing 'murder.'"

    Friday, August 12, 2005


    Some Differences Between the Civil Rights and Anti-Abortion Movements

    I guess there are those who say the anti-abortion movement is morally and/or ethically equal to the Civil Rights movement. Both (supposedly) broke laws in the pursuit of a higher justice. Yet the comparison breaks down rather quickly. There are several good posts on this subject. Over on Lawyers, Guns and Money is this breakdown of differences.
    Bitch, Ph.D has a examination of John Roberts past legal involvement with some cases. She also has another post on a recent NARAL ad. And in yet a third post is this tidbit mentioning Rust v. Sullivan "in which he [Roberts] argued that Operation Rescue did not discriminate against women, but instead 'pregnant people.'" The law is very strange when an argument like that can be put forward without being laughed out of court.

    Thursday, August 11, 2005


    Back Waters of the Internets

    Confession: I am one of the people living without broadband internet access. Approximately 41% of the US internet home users access it through dialup lines as of June, 2005. I try not to think of it as a disadvantage. I don't have a choice.

    I live in a rural area. No cable company services our town. Our telephone lines and junctions are too old for DSL. The telephone company says it would cost too much to rewire the town so they have no plans to do so. The only possible option is satellite internet which requires an initial investment of between $500-$1,000 and a contract for a year. This might not sound like much money to some people but it is to me.

    I'm not weeping about it. (Ok, this is a bit of pissing and moaning.) I've tailored my browsing habits to my pokey speed of 36.6 Kb. I've learned to avoid most downloads over 1 meg unless I really want it. I tend to shy away from graphic heavy sites or blogs. I like Norbizness but his page loads for several minutes at my speed. The text comes through fairly quickly, just the graphic take a while.

    So when I hear talk about the "digital divide," I understand it. For some of us, high speed access is not an option.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005


    Ad Deconstruction 1

    This is an exercise for me, a bit of casual deconstruction of the text of a magazine advertisement. Humorously, the closest I can find to a current "mainstream" magazine around the house is Organic Style, a freeby I got through some frequent flyer miles. I wanted to use a large company as an example but I've dismissed the auto ads in the mag because they are very visually oriented. So I'm stuck with toothbrushes. That's the breaks...

    Healthy Gums Posted by Picasa
    The tag line, the registered phrase "Healthy Gums. Healthy Life." is a perfect example of using associative grouping to influence the reader. As if having healthy gums will also translate into health of the rest of your body. Perhaps it's just attempting to draw equivalence between the two. Healthy gums=healthy life.

    "Research now shows that heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis are potentially linked to severe gum disease." In stage magic, this is called misdirection. The conclusion you are obviously intended to draw is that gum disease might be the cause of these other conditions rather than a symptom of them.

    None of this is earthshattering. Many people can easily see these lies and take them for granted. Yet I find such intentional lies woven throughout our media and not necessarily confined to advertising. That's the point. You're not supposed to question blatant lies or patent nonsense when it's presented. Advertising is intended to weaken your grasp of truth. It is designed to insinuate its slogans and images into your hindbrain, bypassing the rational to create positive associations whose source you can't consciously put your finger on.

    Advertising lies. A lot.

    UPDATE: My housemate, Fierce Celt, informs me that gum disease may induce/cause some types of heart disease. Oops. Hey, I'm not a doctor. If I don't give a reliable source for my info, you're on your own. And, for the record, I'm not saying you shouldn't take care of your gums or teeth, OK? Dental hygiene is important. 'nuff said. (Stop sniggering! Disclaimers are essential to helping me sleep at night.)


    Opinions are like...

    ...assholes; everyone has one. Or so the saying goes. But intelligent, informed opinion is much rarer and difficult to find.

    Bloggers are an opinionated lot. Many bloggers' stock-in-trade is opinion on current events. I visit many blogs for that exact reason: to find out what issues are making the rounds and what my favorite bloggers think about them.

    Blogs act as a vastly expanded Op-ed page or a letters column. This is good. Instead of relying on a newspaper as a gatekeeper to news and views, we have a chance to read many more people's opinions.

    Some blogs are very thoughtful, working to explore and understand the ramifications of events. Some are reactive, emitting clear opinion in firm tones with the addition of vituperative arrows aimed at the opposition. Along with opinion comes not-so-subtle ad hominem attacks intended to tear down the credibility of others. This is not unusual. It has historically (in the US) been the way public debate and discourse has developed.

    Boldness of language and volume of opinion does not automatically confer accuracy or truth.

    You may note that I have carefully declined to attribute such behavior solely to left or right commentators. This is because both sides participate in this kind of rhetoric and tactic. My opinion (and it's only my opinion) is the right currently does such attacks more frequently and more viciously than the left. However. The left is catching on and up, particularly focusing on the sometimes outrageously hypocritical public stances and private actions of some of the more prominent figures on the pundit circuit of the right.

    All in all, no matter how heated the words, it's still probably better than having a rumble or fight with knives, bats and chains. Probably.

    Monday, August 08, 2005


    Bush Skull Morph Boogie!

    I have a little problem with obsessive behaviour. Fortunately I've learned to channel it into semi-productive pursuits. Mostly. Is this amusing? You tell me.

    Bush Beneath the Skin

    Since I'm on dialup (a screed to come), the size seems a little large at 365Kb. But I think it's funny. Ha-ha. Does this fall under the rubric of parody or satire?

    Sunday, August 07, 2005


    Screed/Riff on Oil, Blood and Money

    [This started as a comment/reply but I felt it growing out of control so I'm using it as a basis for this post.]

    So-called "military adventurism" has been a part of US foreign policy for well over a century. Both Democrat and Republican administrations have used it. I think the Neocons are just more honest about what they want and fairly naked in their ambition.

    I don't think their philosophy is as bald as "war is good for American business." I'm sure it's planned as a series of logical and strategic engagements. The fact that petroleum is a dwindling resource means that much of this strategy is devoted to making sure the US has the best access possible to the largest supplies. This is why the US government is interested in Iraq and Venezuela, the second and third largest reserves of oil on earth that we know of.

    In my dark moments, I'm sure the upper echelons of our society and government want people at the lower economic end of the spectrum to have a hard time making ends meet. People who have to work really hard to survive don't have time or energy to think about protests or striking for better conditions. They are too busy to do anything but blow off steam on sports or TV or movies or alcohol.

    I personally think it's time for a resurgence of unionism, of collective action, of banding together to demand change.

    Saturday, August 06, 2005


    Bush on intelligent Design 2: The Watchmaker Rebellion!

    For once I'm on the leading edge of the current PBU subject instead of playing catch up. Will I rest on my laurels? Just refer you to my earlier post on Bush's dim thoughts on intelligent Design (ID)? No, because I'm the hardest working blogger in showbiz. (Hyperbole disclosure: I'm not in showbiz and blogging isn't what I would call hard work.) Of course, how could you not blog on Bush saying "Both [evolution and ID] ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about." It's an irresistible subject.

    Taking a page from Pam's House Blend, I went to the Free Republic (a well-known hang out for, um, conservatives) and gathered up a few quotes from their learned comments on the subject. Actual Freeper quotes:

    "When people make a religion out of science irrational hatreds and irrational thought in general follow. Science is science and religious belief is religious belief. Zealous anticreationist evolutionites don't understand this and make a simulation of what they think is biological science their god or idol."

    "Why couldn't he require Intelligent Design be taught as a prerequiste of federal funding? The government does that for a lot of other stuff. Or better yet, Creation Science."

    "Mr.Bush is correct on his views on Intelligent Design. There most certainly is an Intelligent Designer of the Universe and their is a plan that is unfolding."

    I particularly liked the emphasized sentences above. Does anyone else have trouble following them? Or, I think more accurately, "Project much?"


    This is PBU32, part of the Awards Ceremony hosted by the Progressive Blogger Union, a group of swell folks. Without their support, I wouldn't be here. I'd also like to thank the Academy, the Goddess Athena (love ya, babe!), and my homeys in the Dark Moon Gang. For more intelligent discussion on the Bush and the Intelligent Design Deus ex Machina, check the replies under the subject header "PBU32" at the PBU group at Flickr.


    Better Living Through Chemistry (not)

    The canary in the coalmine is a potent image. These are birds taken by coalminers into the mines to detect the presence of methane and other poisonous gases commonly found in coal veins. Methane is lethal. Canaries falling silent and dropping dead in their cages was the warning to evacuate the mine or die as well.

    A friend of mine has Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). There is strong evidence that people with MCS are the human equivalent of the canaries, the first harbingers and casualties of our chemically saturated living environments. This is something she wrote recently:
    And as an important footnote, for people (mostly in other blogs and communities) who are unclear on the concept - Multiple Chemical Sensitivities has nothing to do with whether or not we "like" the smell of a substance. It has to do with the neurotoxic chemicals used to create synthetic fragrances, and the solvents used to extract most essential oils.

    The FDA does not require that ingredients for "fragrance" be listed, and as they are not intended for ingestion, if you list it as "fragrance" you can include the same chemicals that are used in things like paint stripper, lighter fluid, spraypaint, airplane glue, dry cleaning solution, and other substances that one is advised are poisonous and should only be used with gloves and a mask in a well-ventilated area.

    Yet when these substances are put on your skin, they enter your bloodstream. When you breathe them in, they go straight to your brain.

    While those with healthy immune systems and intact livers may not notice these effects at first, they may be the reason you have fatigue, headaches, nausea, and other low-level to disabling chronic physical problems. And because the effects are cumulative, you may not feel sick at the moment you are exposed... but only hours or days later when your liver and kidneys overload at getting the toxins out of your body.

    We with MCS have just hit overload sooner. Whether through chemical injury or illnesses that damaged our livers and kidneys, we are like the Canaries in the Coalmines - the same things that make us sick are hurting your bodies, too. It's just that we are further down the road and manifesting symptoms before you do. The same things that give me migraines, or make me feel like I've been huffing solvents while you feel fine may turn up in you as cancer or asthma a few years down the road. By asking others to stop poisoning our bodies and the earth, we are not trying to be PC. We are simply trying to function at a basic level that most people take for granted.

    So the next time someone says, "I'm sorry, but your perfume/shampoo/essential oil is making me sick," we're not saying you smell bad, or that we just don't find the scent of your products appealing. The truth is, that to most of us with MCS, those toxic fragrances all smell the same - like toxic chemicals - and we're trying to find a way to co-exist without being crippled with pain.

    And though essential oils are less likely to be as toxic, they usually will make MCS folks sick, too, because of the solvents they almost always contain, or because the concentrated nature of the botanicals is setting off plant or pollen allergies. I used to love mixing and wearing my own essential oil blends. [...] And even on the days when I'm strong enough to handle exposure to essential oils, I know someone else I love isn't, and my desire to smell exotic or special is not as important at their right to be free of nausea and migraines. My "right" to parade around in a fog of toxins or allergens is not as important as their right to not be homebound. [all emphasis added.]
    A point I'd like to add is that almost all of the laundry detergents and products in mainstream supermarkets that are marked "Unscented" are not really without scent; the companies lie. How do they become unscented? Why, by adding more scent and chemicals. Counterintuitive? Yep.

    Here's the reason: The various chemicals and dyes that go into detergent have smells on their own, independent of added scents and fragrance. This is just the normal nature of the chemical soups in these products. In order to make them "unscented," they add fragrances designed to cancel the smell of the detergent. Even better, sometimes the smell is too strong to hide so they add smell deadening chemicals. Smell deadening is exactly what it sounds like: chemicals intended to shut down or block the scent receptors in your nose.

    For a reference, I recommend Peggy Munson's The Ever-Unstable World of Labels. Actually, all the articles on Peggy's main MCS page are worth looking at.

    Deliberately or inadvertently, our repeated exposure to these chemicals can eventually overload our bodies. The more I find out about how these chemicals are used, the more outraged I get. Remember Agent Orange, the Dow Chemical defoliant dropped in quantity on Vietnam? Causes birth defects and cancer? Although Dow denies it, it's probably an active ingredient in many weed killers currently sold in US garden stores and used by the chemical lawn industry. A little spina bifida and Hodgkin'’s disease are just the price of progress in the war on weeds, right? There are lots of products like this.

    If you think all of this has nothing to do with you, hark to the warning of the canary. If you don't, you may find yourself or someone close to you suffering permanent central nervous system damage. It happens every day in our chemically dependent society.

    Friday, August 05, 2005


    Return of the Cold War Rationale

    Pres. Bush, speaking from Crawford on his 320-odd day of vacation time since taking office, spoke about the release of a video by Osama bin Laden's number two man. I know Bush has used similar terms before but something about his phrasing made a clear connection in my mind.

    Essentially he said something about the spread of this "dark" brand of Islam, exporting it to nations all around the world. He could have been talking about cold war communism. He didn't quite talk about the "domino effect" but that was clearly what he was getting at.

    This has been the subtext all along with US involvement in the Middle East. Since the collapse of the USSR, the US has been trying to find a coherent global enemy to fight. Finding just the right branch of Islam to demonize has worked a bit but obviously we needed a beefier target. The occupation of Iraq has put this particular militant form of Islam on steroids, causing it to grow by leaps and bounds. Three years ago I doubt Al Qaida was anywhere near as strong as it is today.

    This is all to the good in the eyes of the Neocons who need a strong enemy as a stalking horse for their military and capitalist plans. This was played out all through the cold war until the Soviet system collapsed.

    Thursday, August 04, 2005


    Better to Curse the Darkness...

    ... than light a candle? These are my observations on right-wing pundit-speak. Mostly I'm responding to a gem on WorldNetDaily called 10 reasons I've grown to despise the Left... and why you should, too. Admittedly, the whole piece is feckless and lacking in logic yet it provides a convenient straw, uh, person for my faltering concentration. My mood requires an easy target.

    Belittle and dismiss everyone who disagrees with you.
    Speak in bold, unequivical statements of disingenuous disparagement.
    Do not use argument: declaim, denounce, and denigrate.
    Bring in religion: their lack of it and your suffusion with it.
    Impugn their morals and ethics.
    Say they are mindless automatons of doctrine (i.e., not human).
    Insult, insult, insult.

    Hmm. Less satisfying than I thought. I guess I'm wondering if this sort of yammering actually works to influence people or whether it is just a form of speech designed to bond the faithful together?

    I note that the majority of the writers I read on the Left generally make reasoned arguments. Most of the Right writers I read seem to rely heavily on slogans and simplistic smears. "The Left is dumb. Why? Because they're dumb!" This sort of bald statement abounds in right-wing polemics. When rhetorical reasoning occurs, it often seems to be circular reasoning.


    Subduction in Blue Velvet

    I'm thinking of the glories of Western Civilization. Yeah, the wonderment of sewers and poverty, of rich Libertarians and government lies, of chemical sterilization and religious fanatics. All things bright and beautiful and so on.

    I'm relatively incoherent tonight, striving to put these skeins of thought into relative order, into a passing semblance of logic yet failing. Some days it is difficult for me to put a sentence together properly. Some days I'm caught thinking only in phrases, rude and stubborn clumps of words, rebellious in their wired desire to stand out. This is one of those days. So here are some lyrics from an old Tonio K. song from 1978, The Funky Western Civilization. The curmudgeon in me likes them. They are not deep and they are not brilliant but I find them funny.
    come on everybody
    get on your feet
    get with the beat
    there's a brand new dance craze
    sweeping the nation
    and its called the funky western civilization

    well there's a riot at the courthouse
    there's a fire in the street
    there's a sinner bein' trampled
    by a thousand pious feet
    there's a baby
    every minute
    bein' born without a chance
    now don't that make you want to jump
    right up
    and start to dance?

    let's do the funky
    the funky western civilization
    it's really spunky
    it's just like a summertime vacation
    ... [lyric omitted due to ironic but sexist content.]

    they put jesus on a cross
    they put a hole in j.f.k.
    they put hitler in the driver's seat
    and looked the other way
    now they've got poison in the water
    and the whole world in a trance
    but just because we're hypnotized
    that don't mean we can't dance


    Wednesday, August 03, 2005


    Those Darn Dove Ads!

    I live a sheltered life in the woods so I had not actually seen these Dove ads purporting to be of "real women." Supposedly some people consider the models "fat." Right. And I'm the real Catholic Pope. Really, call the Vatican and ask for Pope Wordlackey, they all know me...

    Ms. Twisty Faster describes the models as "Kate Moss + 15 pounds" which strikes me as very accurate. She has a few of the ads at the top of this post and Part II on the same subject. Check them out.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005


    Bush's Lack of Intelligent Design

    President Bush apparently has the critical faculties of a moron. I actually suspect this is overstating the case; a moron might be a better judge of valid science.

    This article shows some of his muddled thinking.

    President Bush invigorated proponents of teaching alternatives to evolution in public schools with remarks saying that schoolchildren should be taught about "intelligent design," a view of creation that challenges established scientific thinking and promotes the idea that an unseen force is behind the development of humanity.

    Although he said that curriculum decisions should be made by school districts rather than the federal government, Bush told Texas newspaper reporters in a group interview at the White House on Monday that he believes that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution as competing theories.

    "Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about," he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added: "Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. . . . You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

    I'm fascinated by his thought process and his ability to warp scientific method to the end of advancing a pseudoscience. Compared to the theory of evolution, intelligent design is unprovable claptrap, not even worthy of the term "theory." I can't be the first person to call Intelligent Design "faith-based science."

    Let me leave you with this image:

    "I don't want no scientists tell me what to think. I'm smart," said Pres. Bush just before he squatted, shat in his hand and threw it at the gathered press corps.

    I specialize in cheap shots.


    Thinking of You. Love, John Bolton

    More tacky photoshopping of public figures. The "Poor Impulse Control" is a reference to (I think) Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. Some characters have legally mandated and imposed tattoos on their foreheads indicating their, um, social inadequacies. Kind of like warnings. Another funny one was "Racially Insensitive".

    Many thanks to Fierce Celt, my housemate, who helped me with the picture.

    John Bolton has an opinion about the UN Posted by Picasa

    Monday, August 01, 2005


    What To Do If You Are Raped

    This article in The Observer is notable for its lack of victim blaming and offering actual useful advice for the aftermath of a rape. Please note that this is from England. Protocols will be slightly different in the US but not much.
    What to do if you are raped

    Report the rape in person at a police station, Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) or the A&E department of a hospital.

    Tell a friend or family member so they can accompany you. Take a change of clothes - you'll have to hand over what you're wearing.

    Before you're examined, try not to go to the toilet or have a drink. Don't take a shower or wash.

    Keep all evidence, such as condoms and tampons.

    Try to tell as full a story as you can. Don't worry if you've taken drugs or are drunk - the police just want an accurate picture of what happened.

    Ask if there are facilities for your statement to be taken on video - it can be used in court later instead of you having to go through the whole story again.

    Try to get some counselling, either via a SARC, the NHS or privately; it will help you deal with what has happened.
    tip o' tha touchpad to Bitch, Ph.D.

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