Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Got Milk? [SHUDDER]...I need a shower...

Two Percent Company:

Normally, when Jesus & Mo directs us to a month-old New York Times article outlining one of the thousands of fatwas to come out of a Muslim government, this one declaring it proper for a man and woman to work together without requiring her to cover up in the traditional Muslim fashion provided that she has breast-fed the man five times, thus establishing a family bond between the two under Islamic law, we'd be forced to make a few comments about how terribly backwards religion is, how obtuse its die-hard adherents tend to be, and how the twisted and tortured logic involved seems utterly insane, all the while making rude jokes about sucking your co-worker's tits around the water cooler while discussing Thursday night's sitcom line-up or just squeezing her nips into your morning Java as you spread hummus on your halal bagel, and then we'd sum up by casting aspersions regarding the ulterior motives the (male) Islamic leaders may have toward their secretaries.

Oh. Neat. Our work here is done.

Brought to you by the fine people of What Passes For Feminism In The Fanatical Muslim World (WPFFITFMW).

Yeah. Cause if you only drank the breast milk of a coworker 2 or 4 times, it might be...weird.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Video games as art.

There has been an interesting kerfuffle over the artistic value of the video game.

Movie critic Roger Ebert takes umbrage at the idea that a video game, with open endings and consumer controls is an art.

In response, Clive Barker, respected horror writer, retorted.

Responding to film critic Roger Ebert’s infamous comment that games cannot move beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art, Barker noted: “It’s evident that Ebert had a prejudiced vision of what the medium is, or more importantly, what it can be.”

“We can debate what art is, we can debate it forever. If the experience moves you in some way or another… Even if it moves your bowels… I think it is worthy of some serious study.”

Barker said he faced similar prejudice against his genre of choice, horror. “It used to worry me that the New York Times never reviewed my books… But the point is that people like the books. Books aren’t about reviewers,” he said.

“Games aren’t about reviewers. They are about players.”

Addressing Ebert’s criticism further, Barker explained: “I think that Roger Ebert’s problem is that he thinks you can’t have art if there is that amount of malleability in the narrative. In other words, Shakespeare could not have written Romeo and Juliet as a game because it could have had a happy ending, you know? If only she hadn’t taken the damn poison. If only he’d have gotten there quicker.

“If something is so malleable, full of possibilities not under the artist’s control, then it cannot be art,” he continued. “That’s where he is wrong.

“We should be stretching the imaginations of our players and ourselves. Let’s invent a world where the player gets to go through every emotional journey available. That is art. Offering that to people is art.”

“I’m not doing an evangelical job here. I’m just saying that gaming is a great way to do what we as human beings need to do all the time - to take ourselves away from the oppressive facts of our lives and go somewhere where we have our own control,” Barker concluded.

More from Ebert:

Ebert recently responded to Barker’s comments on his blog, and muddies the waters a bit by amending his stance to be that games cannot be “high” art...

Ebert dismisses the idea of art presenting choices, asserting that if one is offered ‘every emotional journey available’, then each is individually devalued...

He also took exception to Barker’s assertion that art can be linked to escapism. Ebert does not believe that the two are linked by necessity. Great movies can be escapist, but escapism itself does not make “great” art. He also called Barker’s desire for escapism as “spoken with the maturity of an honest and articulate 4-year old.”

Finally, Ebert puts forth his criteria for accepting a video game as art:

I mentioned that a Campbell’s soup could be art. I was imprecise. Actually, it is Andy Warhol’s painting of the label that is art. Would Warhol have considered Clive Barker’s video game ‘Undying’ as art? Certainly. He would have kept it in its shrink-wrapped box, placed it inside a Plexiglass display case, mounted it on a pedestal, and labeled it ‘Video Game.’

Ars Technica writer Ben Kuchera examines Ebert’s reply, and takes issue with the fact that Ebert seems willing to debate whether games can be art, but completely unwilling to step into the realm of gaming to see if his conclusions are well founded, citing gaming as a waste of time and “childish”:

I’ve enjoyed reading the back and forth between Barker and Ebert because I enjoy conversation about art, especially as it pertains to games, but I get upset when Ebert can’t be bothered to actually look at what’s he’s writing about, even topically. If he’s going to have a stance on an issue, he needs to become informed about it. He has a large audience, and they deserve better.

CM: The “high/great” art comments only add to the confusion as to what Ebert would actually classify as art. Sometimes he states that games cannot be art, at other times, they cannot be “high” art. So can games be “art” but not “high art”? On the subject of a “smorgasborg” of choices, does that mean that games that are non-sandbox are “art” because they DO restrict the player to an “inevitable conclusion”?

His criticism comes off more as ignorance and dislike of something he just doesn't get.

Gaming Addiction


Video game addiction?

To Jason Della Rocca, them’s fightin’ words.

The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) headman appeared on MSNBC recently to dicuss the American Medical Association’s unsuccessful bid to have video game addiction classified as an official diagnostic disorder.

In lieu of a transcript or video of the interview, Della Rocca has updated his Reality Panic blog with a few thoughts on the subject of so-called game addiction:

There’s no denying the concern for someone that does something on an extremely excessive basis… In most cases, this has more to do with the person than the thing: mental stability, depression, social anxieties, low self-esteem, whatever…

Americans average approx 28 hours of TV watching a week. Stereotypical gamers do about 7 hours of gaming a week. That’s 4x more for TV. I don’t see any calls to declare TV watching as a formal disorder…
A formal declaration [of game addiction] is a precursor to further legislation and censorship by the government. And, as an expressive medium, video games should be given the same level of respect and protection as other forms of art and entertainment.
I have been there, drawn into a game. But if I look at the TV viewing my house in comparison, it is far far more. I have a TV on often when gaming. And when I get tired of playing, the game goes off, the TV stays on. And that isn't an addiction? No, wait. And that isn't an addiction.

Think about it.

Like I was looking for more reasons to dislike Mitt.

Following the release of a new TV ad on Monday, the Mitt Romney campaign has been hitting the video game content issue hard this week, most notably during a swing through Colorado.

A new press release lays out a Romney theme “protecting our children.” Following along the lines of the “ocean of filth” TV spot, the campaign pledge says in regard to video games:
Governor Romney Will Punish And Fine Retailers For Selling Excessively Violent And Sexually Explicit Video Games To Minors.

While the current system of voluntary self-regulation of video games has improved, we still need to do more to protect our children. There must be strong punishments and fines for retailers that sell violent and sexually explicit video games to minors.
GP: We’re not quite sure what Romney is saying here. While he gives props to the strides made by the ESRB, he’s clearly advocating retail sales legislation. Does he have a secret plan to circumvent the constitutional issues that have sunk every other such attempt?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Weekly Feminist Reader

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco (D) signed three anti-choice measures into law banning dilation and extraction abortions and requiring providers to offer fetal anesthesia.

How Bush's war on women is also a war on science.

The pay gap is still wide in Europe.

Christian white male supremacists the Promise Keepers are regrouping.

On women and their marvelous "multitasking" abilities.

Two former sexworkers are running for seats in Parliament in Turkey.

Rumors are circulating that Don Imus might be back on the air soon, but groups are lining up to try to prevent that.

Gay veterans go on the road to oppose "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

The EPA is changing its reporting requirements, which is bad news for women's health.

Local small businesses are adopting the "babe chain" approach to selling their services.

Making movies based on books with a strong woman of color as the protagonist? Awesome. Casting white women to play the lead role when the movie is actually made? Decidedly not awesome.

How to the '08 presidential candidates measure up on the issue of sex ed?

Real Women, Real Voices has ongoing coverage of the Alabama clinic protests. (Anti-choice leader Flip Benham was recently arrested.) See also Gloria Feldt on who's responsible for reining in clinic protests.

The IRS rejects a transwoman's write-off of her sex-change surgery, calling it cosmetic, not medically necessary.

On gender roles in action films, specifically Live Free or Die Hard.

Cara rounds up some inane Hillary coverage.

Bad girls, bad girls, whatcha gonna do? Increase ratings, of course.

Anti-choicers want permission to wear "Right to Life" logos while working the polls.

Nigerian human rights activist Dorothy Aken’Ova faces osctracization and intimidation.

The Washington Post botches its Plan B coverage.

On not identifying as trans.

Saudi Arabia is creating "women only" work centers.

The IWF talks about sex, baby. (Without, of course, taking a stance on the availability of contraception.)

House committees investigate abstinence funding in anti-AIDS programs.

Where curly-haired women gather to get the kinks ironed out.

Violence against women in Afghanistan is skyrocketing.

Amnesty International defines reproductive rights as human rights (YES. Finally!), and responds to critics.

On the absence of abortion in this summer's hit movies.

British police are offering a 20,000 pound reward for information about people involved with female genital mutilation.

My girl Lauren reports that some transgender kids are receiving hormones to delay the onset of puberty.

On Pakistan's "Burqa Brigade" of moral militants.

The charges against former Israeli President Minister Moshe Katsav are spurring more women to come forward about their own sexual assault experiences.

The evolution of Katie Roiphe.

Female inmates in New Hampshire speak out about overcrowding.

Ghanaian women push for more property rights.

Colbert Instant Classic - "Susan B. Anthony of pole-dancing."

Feministing links to a great bit that the Colbert Report did on pole dancing classes.

People these days seems eager to tie feminism to sexing up things. Colbert mocks the whole claim with aplomb.

If feminist aren't tarting it up, they're being gay, if you listen to Hillary Duff. But if you are listening to Duff about life advice...you are in a world of trouble.

Fattening up the kiddies


Well, this is sort of hilarious.

In addition to the UK study last year which said that working mothers are big drunks in front of their kids, new UK research is showing that being a working mom will also make your kids fat.

The researchers said: 'Long hours of maternal employment, rather than lack of money, may impede young children's access to healthy foods and physical activity.

'For example, parental time constraints could increase a child's consumption of snack foods and / or increase television use.'

They said working mothers were also less likely to breastfeed for the recommended amount of time.
They're malnourishing their babies! Oh wait, I mean making them fat! Well, they're malnourishing them, and then making them fat! Working mothers are just bad for your health, trust us!

Fat babies, here I come.

Turkey's elections.

AMERICAblog has an interesting and informative look at the Turkish elections. Islamist won, but through the ballot box. And they could be pushed back out in the next election if they fail the people.

Isn't that what We want?


You have to respect a politician, or their campaign, that has a sense of humor. And when it ties well into a major political issues, that is a beauty.

AMERCAblog: Hair! by the John Edwards campaign.

It jabs at the MEDIA's eager jump onto the price of his hair cuts, and points to the major issues the U.S., from poverty to disaster relief to war to health care. It is a grand and witty indictment, with a catchy classic song.

Calling Brooks out

Crooks and Liars:

From Meet the Press, Woodward calls Brooks (conservative hack) out.
MR. WOODWARD: And the problem, though, is, we don’t know. People can say, “Oh, it’s going to be a disaster.”

MR. BROOKS: Uh-huh.

MR. WOODWARD: I mean, you cite numbers which you have pulled out of the air of 10,000 dying. I mean, that’s—that—where does that come from?

MR. BROOKS: It’s based on this unknown. I don’t think there’s any possibility that within five years that we’re going to see a drastic diminution of violence. So we could be losing 125 Americans every month for five years.

MR. WOODWARD: I mean, that’s just…

MR. BROOKS: On the other hand…

MR. WOODWARD: …politically impossible.

MR. BROOKS: But, but—so you think OK, get out.


MR. BROOKS: On the other hand, if we leave…

MR. WOODWARD: Glide plane.

MR. BROOKS: Well, if we leave, we could see 250,000 Iraqis die. You had the John Burns’ quotation earlier in the program. So are we willing to prevent 10,000 Iraqi deaths a month at the cost of 125 Americans? That’s a tough moral issue, but it’s also a tough national interest issue because we don’t know what the consequences of getting out are. And the frustration of watching the debate in Washington, very few people are willing to, to grapple with those two facts, that there’s—that the surge will not work in the short-term, but getting out will be cataclysmic. And you see politicians on both sides evading one of those two facts. But you’ve got to grapple with them both.

MR. HAYES: And, and one of the things that the president said at this discussion that David was at, and I was at as well, was that he intends to make the case that, “Look, this is going to be a disaster if we get out.” He didn’t say it in exactly those terms, but he’s going to start making, in many cases, the negative case. “Look at what Iraq will look like if we leave. We have a moral obligation to the Iraqis to stay.”

MR. WOODWARD: And the problem, though, is, we don’t know. People can say, “Oh, it’s going to be a disaster.”

MR. BROOKS: Uh-huh.

MR. WOODWARD: I mean, you cite numbers which you have pulled out of the air of 10,000 dying. I mean, that’s—that—where does that come from?

MR. BROOKS: Well, A, it comes from John Burns. Second, it comes from the national intelligence…

MR. WOODWARD: Well, no, he doesn’t say 10,000.

MR. BROOKS: Well, no, no, but it talks about genocide.


MR. BROOKS: So I just picked that 10,000 out of the air.

MR. WOODWARD: OK, but that—we’ve got…

MR. RUSSERT: But, David Brooks, you, you will hear a lot of people will say, you know, “The administration has made misjudgments before about WMD, about the level of troops needed, about being greeted as liberators. They could be wrong about what would flow from a redeployment of American troops.”

MR. BROOKS: Absolutely they could be wrong. And, and so we’ve—and, and it could be that peace will break out. But I think, if you look at Iraq, you see four or five civil wars going on at once. You see Shia fighting each other. You see the Sunni-Shia thing. It could be that there’s—this is just a process they need to go through, and there’s no way we can stop it in any case. Joe Biden was very honest this week. He said it’s a moral failure if we leave, but we’re going to have to do it. That at least is grappling with the issue.

MR. RUSSERT: Steve, I want to read a quote from your book in a second.

But, Bob Woodward, last week on this program I cited a piece you wrote in The Washington Post about the head of the CIA, General Hayden, ranking threats to Iraq security, and had al-Qaeda last. Senior intelligence officials sent us a statement saying, “He was not rank ordering the causes of violence. He does not list al-Qaeda last.”

MR. WOODWARD: Well, he list—at that moment, he listed it last. And that’s, and that’s all I said. And clearly there’s a debate about whether it’s al-Qaeda, is it sectarian violence, is it criminality, is it all of these things. The point is, in, in that report, it was General Hayden saying late last year that the situation of the government governing seems irreversible. Now, that is a giant word. Irreversible, meaning we can’t change it whether, he said, in the short run or in the long run.
via MTP
Man, it is nice to see someone call Brooks on the facts and numbers he throws out.

HOW DARE YOU...speak the truth...

The Chair of Republican National Committee, Robert M. "Mike" Duncan, just launched a full-scale attack on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The funny thing is that the first line of the e-mail could be a fundraiser for Democrats:
On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called President Bush "a liar" and a "part of the culture of corruption."
Both true.

Duncan's e-mail devolves into a rant from there. But you have to love the fact that the RNC is attacking Reid for doing something most Republican will never, ever do: Tell the truth.
Yeah. I object to...to this use of the truth. The president and White House have slipped from one lie to another for years now. Thankfully, the American people are becoming a bit more aware and savvy. Still the administration does lie, again and again. It is bad enough that the press corp shy away from calling them on it. We need the Congressional leadership to speak.

And, really, it always surprises me how much the media loathes to call out liars. I suppose allowing and passing on lies is a part of objectivity. Should have been a journalist. Maybe then that would make some sense.

America falls through The Net

Crooks and Liars:

In 2001, after the explosive growth of the Internet and online businesses in the 1990s, the United States had taken the lead online. In terms of percentage of the population with high-speed access, countries like Japan and Germany had half the penetration we did. France had less than a quarter.

Now, all three of those countries have passed us. We’re falling behind in providing high-speed access to the Internet, and just as importantly, our high-speed connections are much slower and more expensive than other countries.

How’d this happen? How did the U.S. go from setting the pace to falling far behind? Paul Krugman explains.
[T]he world may look flat once you’re in cyberspace — but to get there you need to go through a narrow passageway, down your phone line or down your TV cable. And if the companies controlling these passageways can behave like the robber barons of yore, levying whatever tolls they like on those who pass by, commerce suffers.

America’s Internet flourished in the dial-up era because federal regulators didn’t let that happen — they forced local phone companies to act as common carriers, allowing competing service providers to use their lines. Clinton administration officials, including Al Gore and Reed Hundt, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, tried to ensure that this open competition would continue — but the telecommunications giants sabotaged their efforts, while The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page ridiculed them as people with the minds of French bureaucrats.

And when the Bush administration put Michael Powell in charge of the F.C.C., the digital robber barons were basically set free to do whatever they liked. As a result, there’s little competition in U.S. broadband — if you’re lucky, you have a choice between the services offered by the local cable monopoly and the local phone monopoly. The price is high and the service is poor, but there’s nowhere else to go.
Effective market competition and effective regulation produced quality results. Then Bush took office.

(Nicole: Look how Sweden is raising awareness of faster internet speeds)

The fact the lights come on in the morning, the social security checks get out, and the sun rises everyday are truly miracles...with these idiots in the White House.

PRAISE THE HEAVENS, for those lifetime civil servants. They are standing between us and The Road Warrior.

Master of Comedy

Crooks and Liars:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says he’s staying at the Justice Department to try to repair its broken image, telling Congress in a statement released Monday he’s troubled that politics may have played a part in hiring career federal prosecutors.[..]

Do I even have to continue? Cause this bit alone if freaking hillarious. This man is a comedy genius. HE'S going to restore the DOJ's image? God damn, that's brilliant!

Moore on Matthew's

One Good Move has some clips of Michael Moore's visit to Hardball.

Michael Moore - Chris Matthews
Chris Matthews interviews Michael Moore about his documentary Sicko and U.S.
Healthcare. Near the end of this segment Chris Matthews talks about Metformin a drug he uses as an example of the benefits of U.S. system. I wonder if he knew that,

Metformin, an oral antidiabetic drug marketed by Merck, has a long and eventful history. The breakthrough of metformin, a dimethylbiguanide, was made possible by Jean Sterne (1919-1997), a French physician and pharmacologist, in the mid-1950s. Twenty years earlier, scientists had already documented the blood sugar lowering effect of biguanides. Because of its unique mechanism of action and comparatively few and mild side effects, metformin is the only biguanide to have stood the test of time and continues to be a mainstay in the management of type 2 diabetes. Glucophage® (the Merck brand of metformin that literally means "glucose eater") was first launched in 1958 in France by Laboratoires Aron, a Suresnes (Paris)-based French company. . .
Way to be on top of the story and your own point. Guess that should stand in the way of some good old fashion flag waving.

Michael Moore - What Would Jesus Do?
Michael Moore: I think that any individual who is in this
country should be able to see a doctor if they're sick.
Brian Smith: Even if they're not a citizen?
Michael Moore: Well of course, they're a human being. I
mean what would Jesus do right?
Brian Smith: So what would keep . . .
Michael Moore: Do you think Jesus would ask to see your
citizenship papers?
It is fun to turn this on the Christian grandstanders. WWJD? I guess He would only ask that question when it was convient.

A good example.

Want a good example from a religious figure?

Check out this good reverend (via Feministing) and his question to the You Tube debate last night.

I have plenty to be critical of, in regards to religion, but their have been many good people enmeshed in Faith.

But it is important to point to the fact that the president, Pope, and other religious leaders espouse hate, fear, and a denial of rights, for the sake of a god. And it is sad to see the numbers of older black Southern Baptist that brag about their church's work for civil rights and then curse gay rights and say homosexuals don't deserve them.

It isn't the magic fairies that make them do bad. It just gives them a reason to, and an authority to act. And to back up God, how often do they turn to lies or fake/faulty evidence?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bush's magic friend



But Bush is not blind to the realities in Iraq.... Rather, his self-confidence survives because it flows from two sources. The first is his
unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea. Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday: "It's more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn't exist."

Talk about an argument against Faith.

On being without Faith

PZ Myer:

The first is a story from Canada about the growing godless movement. It's very positive and avoids the cheap tactic of presenting this as a scary or worrisome prospect.
Ms. Gaylor [of the Freedom From Religion Foundation], who said her group has grown from 7,000 to more than 10,000 since the fall, is not sure that the recent rash of books is winning converts to atheism, but she is certain it is emboldening those in the closet.

When Herb Silverman became a professor of mathematics at the College of Charleston in South Carolina in 1976, people would say to him: "You're the only atheist I know," and he would respond: " No I'm not. You know hundreds of atheists, I'm just the only one who acknowledges they're an atheist."
I predict a slow, steady growth of atheism in the coming years — not because all these vocal atheists have been converting people, but because they are removing the stigma from atheism and getting people to take some pride in their freedom from faith. And what are all these atheists going to do? One of the annoying, baffling habits some people have is to dismiss the idea, because all atheists could possibly do is sit around and talk about nothing. Not true!
"Big questions have been monopolized by religious institutions," says Justin Trottier, 24, who has a degree in engineering, comes from a secular Jewish background and is the centre's executive director. "Atheists are just as interested in questions of meaning, purpose and beginning. Why shouldn't we have a place where we can chat?"
See, we can talk about and do important stuff, the same as goes on in religious institutions … we just do it without larding it full of supernatural monkeypoop, or worse, elevating the monkeypoop to the status of the Most Important Issue. A secular institution should be more effective than a religious one in any significant endeavor, since it doesn't bear the burden of commitment to dogmatic malarkey.

This other story from the LA Times is more depressing. It's about a reporter, a fervent Christian, who joyously leapt into the religion beat, and steadily lost his faith to the incessant corruption of pedophilic priests, greedy Prosperity Christians, and faith-healing frauds. I see another goal for the godless here:
My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago --
probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up.

Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either
you have the gift of faith or you don't. It's not a choice. It can't be willed into existence. And there's no faking it if
you're honest about the state of your soul.
It's a painful piece, and you can tell the writer is grieving for the loss
of his faith — but faith is not a gift. Faith is a delusion. This is a man who should be grateful that he has opened his eyes. He's opened them to an ugly, disillusioning world, true enough, but now he is better able to do something about it. Something far better than praying for an intervention that will never come from an entity that doesn't exist. There should be no sorrow in casting the scales from your eyes.

Clinton and the DOD

Crooks and Liars:

AP via Yahoo: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton hit back Friday at a Pentagon aide who charged that her questions about Iraq withdrawal planning have the effect of helping the enemy - calling the accusation a spurious dodge of a serious

Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner for president, had
asked the Pentagon to detail how it is planning for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq. She first raised the issue in May, pointing out that whenever troops leave, it will be no simple task to transport the people, equipment, and vehicles out of Iraq, possibly through
hostile territory.

Eric Edelman, the Defense Department’s undersecretary for policy, offered a sharply-worded response, saying such discussions boost the enemy.

“Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S.
forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia,”
Edelman wrote. His tough language in a letter obtained Thursday was surprising in part because it came in correspondence with a member of the Senate Armed
Services Committee, which has oversight of the Pentagon.

Clinton responded Friday in a letter to Edelman’s boss,
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, asking if he agreed with Edelman’s charge.

BREAKING: Clinton, Kerry To Require Pentagon To Brief Congress On Redeployment Plans

Copy of Clinton’s letter to Gates below the fold.

From an email:


Dear Mr. Secretary:

On May 22, 2007, I wrote to you to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress - including the Senate Armed Services Committee - with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, I asked for an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning.

I am in receipt of a letter from Eric Edelman, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy who wrote that he was responding on your behalf. Under Secretary Edelman’s response did not address the issues raised in my letter and instead made spurious arguments to avoid addressing contingency planning for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

As I noted in my original letter, “the seeds of many problems that continue to plague our troops and mission in Iraq were planted in the failure to adequately plan for the conflict and properly equip our men and women in uniform. Congress must be sure that we are prepared to withdraw our forces without any unnecessary danger.”

Rather than offer to brief the congressional oversight committees on this critical issue, Under Secretary Edelman - writing on your behalf - instead claims that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies. Under Secretary Edelman has his priorities backward. Open and honest debate and congressional oversight strengthens our nation and supports our military. His suggestion to the contrary is outrageous and dangerous. Indeed, you acknowledged the importance of Congress in our Iraq policy at a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in March, when you stated, “I believe that the debate here on the Hill and the issues that have been raised have been helpful in bringing pressure to bear on the Maliki government and on the Iraqis in knowing that there is a very real limit to American patience in this entire enterprise.”

Redeploying out of Iraq will be difficult and requires careful planning. I continue to call on the Bush Administration to immediately provide a redeployment strategy that will keep our brave men and women safe as they leave Iraq - instead of adhering to a political strategy to attack those who rightfully question their competence and preparedness after years of mistakes and misjudgments.

Other members of this Administration have not engaged in political attacks when the prospect of withdrawal planning has been raised. At the June 7 Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing on Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, I asked General Lute “what level of planning has taken place” and “whether the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs have been briefed about the level of planning.” I also asked General Lute to determine “what kind of timeline would exist if a decision for either military or political reasons were taken to begin withdrawal” and if he considered this kind of planning to be part of his responsibilities.

General Lute replied, “Thank you Senator. I do think such an adaptation, if the conditions on the ground call for it, will be part of this position.”

I renew my request for a briefing, classified if necessary, on current plans for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq or an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning. I also renew my concern that our troops will be placed in unnecessary danger if the Bush Administration fails to plan for the withdrawal of U.S. Forces. Finally, I request that you describe whether Under Secretary Edelman’s letter accurately characterizes your views as Secretary of Defense.

I would appreciate the courtesy of a prompt response directly from you. Thank you for your consideration.


Ignore Egnor...That's what you do with trolls.

PZ Myer:
John Scopes was prosecuted for teaching the theory of evolution. He used a textbook called A Civic Biology, by GW Hunter, which, if you ever seen it, is a rather awful book, and is certainly something we wouldn't want poisoining our classrooms today. Michael Egnor, as behind the times and obtuse as ever, uses the ugly racism of A Civic Biology to falsely damn evolution. He quotes some nasty bits of the book, such as suggestions to prevent breeding with the feeble-minded and its equation of civilization with white skins, and then concludes with a foolish switcheroo.


If Egnor hadn't already shown himself for a fool, he wants to remind us all that he can be dishonest.

Social Darwinism - Evolution NOT THE SAME THING. How hard is that?

Propagadist and Cowardly Lion, no wonder Petraeus can't focus on the war.

Crooks and Liars:
After Gen. Petraeus’ appearance on the Hugh Hewitt talk show, there is simply no denying that the good General is a political puppet. Some of you may not know why I call Hewitt “The Cowardly Lion.” It’s an unbelievable exchange he had with CNN’s Michael Ware some time ago. (OK, make sure you rinse and spit after reading that…)

Petraeus needs to worry about the war in Iraq and not go on shows like HewittWorld. I didn’t know he had the kind of time to waste on a propagandist, who cares little for the country itself. I think John Cole should be honored that the Cowardly Lion named him in a post. Here’s some propaganda for you:
I am not surprised that the Bush haters like Sullivan and Cole are outraged that General Petraeus would be interviewed by an admirer of the president, or that the anti-war extremists like Greenwald, Yglesias and the others cannot disguise their contempt for the military (though they think their attack on General
Petraeus’ integrity won’t identify them as anti-military.)

You can always tell a propagandist by their use of the military as a wedge issue. The Daily Dish sums it up this way:
Just look how Hewitt coopted the military leadership for the Bush-Cheney narrative. This is pure Weimar: stab-in-the-back reactionaries trying to coopt the military for an agenda of one-party rule in defense of the homeland. Petraeus will regret his misjudgment. For him to aid, abet and ally himself with such a vicious and extreme partisan can only serve to undermine his critical presentation in September.

It is okay to flip flop when you have an R after your name.

Crooks and Liars:

It’s really ridiculous the Bizarro-world in which we live. This same bill
that Bush threatened to veto back in May he is now using to slam his critics

The Gavel

President Bush, (Friday morning):

I’m joined by veterans and military families here to express support to our troops and their mission in Iraq. I want to thank you all for being here
today. We’ve just finished a really good meeting. In our discussions, these folks had a message that all of us in Washington need to hear. It is time to
rise above partisanship, stand behind our troops
in the field, and give them everything they need to succeed. In February I submitted to Congress a Defense Department spending bill for the pcoming fiscal year that will provide funds to upgrade our equipment for our troops in Iraq and provides a pay raise for our military - a comprehensive spending request - that Congress has failed to act

President Bush, May 16, 2007:

Military Pay: The Administration strongly opposes sections 601 and 606. The additional 0.5 percent increase above the President’s proposed
3.0 percent across-the-board pay increase is
Bob Geiger:

I would ask how George W. Bush sleeps at night but, knowing that he’s not much of a deep thinker and doesn’t possess much in the way of conscience, I would bet he sleeps more soundly than Rush Limbaugh on an Oxycontin ender.

The latest bit of reality-defying hypocrisy from Bush comes in the form of a speech he gave yesterday morning, in which he bashed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Democrats for yanking the Defense Authorization bill from consideration — after Republicans filibustered yet another Iraq vote — and implied that Democrats are against a military pay raise.

“It is time to rise above partisanship, stand behind our troops in the field, and give them everything they need to succeed,” said Bush. “Even members of
Congress who no longer support our effort in Iraq should
at least be able to provide an increase in pay for our troops fighting there.”
Argh…Must. Resist. Temptation. To. Throw. Something. Think
has the video and Reid’s response to Bush’s underhanded and hypocritical jabs.

UPDATE: Taylor Marsh rightfully slaps down the Washington
for their White House stenography of the debate. Maha and Booman weigh in as well.

Collin's rage

It's understandable that Susan Collins is lashing out via her campaign staff, she is after all in increasing danger of losing her job because of her staunch support for George Bush and the war in Iraq. Susan Collins represents everything that is wrong with the Republican party today - it's people like her who forced me to leave the GOP over a decade ago. She thinks her only job is to be a rubber stamp for George Bush's failed war and failed administration. So, yes, Susan now thinks that anyone who disagrees with her about the war is a hate-filled, quasi-violent extremist (sounding a bit like Bush and Cheney, demonizing anyone who disagrees with you, eh Susan?). Also, note her staffer's use of the word "quasi-violent". Classic Susan Collins. She simply can't take a clear position on anything. Always trying to split the baby in half. So it's not "violent," it's "quasi" violent, whatever the heck that wishy-washy word means. It will be nice next November when Maine replaces Susan with a real Senator.

Susan Collins, the quasi-Senator.

Specter's lament


Was waiting for an article about how Senator Arlen Specter was upset that he couldn't pontificate on the Senate floor on Wednesday. I was watching C-SPAN when Harry Reid shut him down. Great moment. Of course, Specter has turned his bruised ego into some grand attack on the the Senate leadership. He's pathetic:

Arlen Specter is a senior United States senator who expects to be allowed his say on the Senate floor. So he bristled when Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, brusquely cut him off at the end of the Iraq debate.

“The leadership is setting a dictatorial tone,” Mr. Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said Thursday, still furious over his treatment the day before. “Senators didn’t get here to be pushed around.”

It may seem small-minded to bicker over a few words at the end of a 24-hour debate. But the clash between the two veteran senators is evidence of a larger breakdown in relations in the Senate, a deterioration in cooperation that is hobbling the Senate’s ability to get things done. The situation is not likely to improve with a presidential election on the horizon.

The breakdown in the Senate isn't about Arlen Specter's ego. Or about presidential elections. It's about the Iraq war. It's about Senators like Arlen Specter who have protected and enabled George Bush for the past five years.

True to form, Specter made this all about his fragile ego. You'd think Senators would really be more concerned about the thousands of dead soldiers and the tens of thousands who have been injured. Not Specter.

Harry Reid should keep smacking around those GOP Senators who want to keep the war going. He's doing it for the rest of America.

No doubt Specter misses the gentile days of a vice president coming to the floor and swearing at senators that don't bow down. It is an unfair world, he used to be able to pontificate on and on. But they won't let him. So sad.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Future the for Fight

The president showed the country a nice bit of gall today in his big speech. Like McCain earlier in the day, he had plenty to say, but I was really struck by one attempt to scare his audience, America. He warned us, we have to succeed in Iraq for the sake of our children and grandchildren.


But let we put these questions forward. For such a critical struggle…Where was the president’s effort? Where was his determination? Where was his commitment?

Yes, the president is determined to stay there. But not to do it well. He has shown the commitment of a gambler looking to keep a hand in a game, but not really win.

When the planning was underway, why was the plan based on Neocon spitballing and need to prove their pet theories? Why was the planning for post war anemic? Why were and are the troops under supported (in equipment and manpower) and under protected? Why were the most capable and knowledgeable shunned from postwar reconstruction? Why was international support squandered?

And there is oh so many more questions. Read Imperial Life in the Emerald City, it’s rundown of the administrations thinking is DAMNING.

Vital struggle? Really? I have seen no evidence of that in how the president has led and in the resources he and his have made available. He wants to lay the blame for the troubles in Iraq on everyone but himself. And seeing as he okayed the decisions and decision makers, he deserves blame. And seeing as, in the lead up to war and right after it ended, he had Congressional support he has no one to blame. Any money and support he wanted or needed he had available. He let it go to waste.

Now our military is overtaxed, stressed out, and overstressed. So the idea that we can expand the Surge is laughable. And what brilliant new strategy will reshape the geography? Partitioning? And then what will Turkey do? Neither they nor Iran want a new Kurdistan. And when the Sunni and Kurds want to decide who gets Kirkuk? That is not going to be pretty.

There is no glorious solution here. No shining victory. No clean cut. It would be nice if the president would acknowledge this for the public’s sake. As it is, he seems to know, but want to smile and grandstand until out of office. Saved by the bell. No ones buying him out of this “business decision.” He must almost wish for removal from office.

Chris Matthews is silly

It has been said plenty. But I do like him at times. He can be hard on both sides. He can be quick witted. But then he just turns and goes soft inexplicably.

And then you have these times when he goes plain goofy. When the ridiculous claims and stories about Gore came out, he did shows about how bad Gore looked, how bad the stories were. Did the fact the stories were twisted or false come up? No. He was just having too much fun, and laughing it up. It is hard to figure.

Then you have today, and his love affair with McCain. They were pointing out how unpopular he is in the media, i.e. he isn't be deified. And Matthews was perplexed, and needed to quickly point out his love and eagerness to bask in his manly glow. Then he complained about how unmanly Giuliani and Romney were. They didn't go to Iraq and where flak jackets. They didn't tour Baghdad making asses of themselves. He seemed so bummed and frustrated.

He is an odd duck. And I have never been able to figure why he goes from Hot to Cold so often and inexplicably. I think I have it figured, it's his series of man crushes.

Can Fred Thompson come into town and sweeps Chris up in an woo him?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Writing on women

A "modest" appropriation of feminism

Modesty maven Wendy Shalit is back with a new book, Girls Gone Mild, and (like any book that says girls are too slutty) it's getting some interesting press.

I've written about this modesty nonsense before, so if want to know how I really feel about it read this article I penned for The Guardian.

But I do have to say that I'm massively annoyed at how Shalit is appropriating feminist language and action to promote a very anti-feminist agenda.
Luckily, Ms. Shalit argues, a rebellion is under way. In "Girls Gone Mild," she claims that more and more young women today, put off by our hypersexualized culture, are reverting to an earlier idea of femininity. They wear modest clothing and even act with unbrazen kindness. They don't mind abstinence programs at school, and they prefer a version of feminism based on self-respect rather than sex-performance parity.
Interesting how "modest clothing" and adhering to inaccurate and dangerous abstinence-only ed programs are conflated with "self-respect."

The article even mentions the Abercrombie girlcott as an example of this "return to modesty." With an unsourced quote from one of the girls talking about how icky the National Organization for Women is, of course--to appropriately distance them from "mainstream" feminists. (Note: I actually find this quote very sketchy and am looking into where it came from.*)
Ms. Shalit has little patience for the thinking of the older generation of mainstream feminists. They are, she says, "so committed to the idea of casual sex as liberation that they can't appreciate or even quite understand these younger feminists." To them, modesty is a step back, even a betrayal of the liberationist spirit. "They don't understand," Ms. Shalit says, "that pursuing crudeness is the problem, not the solution."
I love when people talk on behalf of "younger feminists" to promote their own agenda. So classy. Well as someone who actually, you know, IS a younger feminist (and works and speaks with younger feminists), I can tell you this: We don't think that women's moral compass is located in between our legs and that what we do sexually (or how we dress, as Shalit seems to be so concerned with) has anything to do with how good of a person we are.

So modesty gals, if you want to push for a new generation of chaste, obedient girls who bake apple pies (seriously that's in there), go for it. But don't try to use feminism to do it.

*UPDATE: I called the folks at Girls as Grantmakers, who organized the girlcott, and Executive Director Heather Arnet (who was present when Shalit interviewed all the girls) is contesting the validity of the quote. How nice that Shalit sees fit to co-opt the activism of young women.

Money Magazine Senior Editor's advice to women: Marry rich

Well this is just lovely. What's the best advice that Marlys Harris, Senior Editor of Money Magazine, has for women? "Snag" yourself a "Richie Rich."

True, it's not politically correct to go hunting for a marital meal ticket (or for that matter, to write about it). But just for a moment imagine the life that could be yours if you did.

Forget the fabulous baubles, designer clothing, cutting-edge electronics and palatial mansions that your golden goose - uh, spouse - might heap upon you.

Consider the more pragmatic bonuses of the good life. No more scrimping and scraping to make your annual Roth IRA contribution. No more working until you drop to ensure a comfortable retirement. And no more worries about where your children will get into college (or how to pay for it).
That's of course until you're served with divorce papers and find yourself with no job, no work history and...well, generally just fucked.

But why encourage women to seek out higher education or give them advice on finding high-paying jobs when you can just recommend marrying a billionaire? But Harris does say you should get a degree and work on your smarts--just not for silly things like success or personal fulfillment.
To worm your way into a billionaire's business, and eventually his heart,
you need the right career. An M.B.A. will give you the most flexibility.

...Ultrarich men once gravitated toward women with the showiest plumage - or plastic surgery. That has changed, says Richard
Conniff, author of The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide.

"Arm candy is now seen as déclassé," he notes. These days, the more prestigious your credentials and the brainier you are, the better.
Amazing how an article about money can be so devoid of any class.

On how we speak,

This is a good story on how conceptls like anti-immigrant and English only affects us.


"This is America. Please speak English when ordering."

Growing up in upstate NY, I remember going anywhere with my father meant dealing with people that did not understand him. My father moved to the United States when he was 30 and he has a thick Indian accent. Public encounters were always traumatic. People would treat him with such frustration and disdain as though he were a child, even though in actuality he has an MBA in Finance and runs a business.

I remember all throughout my life people making faces and having trouble understanding my father because of his accent. When I was really young it embarrassed me a lot, but as I got older I began to realize that his accent wasn't actually that bad. It was his name, the way we looked and our foreignness that was the problem. People didn't just hear our accent, they saw it and there was no way phonetic breakdowns were going to get us passed that.

Those memories haunt me now in light of the failed immigration bill and some of the sentiments that inform its failure. I grew up in an America that was hostile towards immigrants and especially brown ones. That America has not changed. Just ask this pizza shop owner in Philly.

Then, as now, immigration was the hot political topic of the day, and Joey had turned up the heat. He had been reported to the authorities for having a sticker on the sliding door of his stall, which featured a picture of an eagle and the phrase: "This is America. Please speak English when ordering."

For some, he had struck a chord, struck a blow for ordinary Americans. For others, this was brazen discrimination.

English is a language that Joey's Sicilian grandfather never mastered when he came to the United States in the 1920s. "But he tried," Joey told me, "and he knew that was what it meant to come here."

Well this article certainly struck a cord for me as well. Also, one of the ugliest forms of xenophobia for me is when it comes from people that are descendants of folks that came here and didn't speak the "proper" English. As though the only survival mechanism they could come up with was to hate on others that remind of the pain and hardship felt by their own families.

I have many friends who's parents didn't teach them their native language upon immigrating to the United States with fear they would be discriminated against. I have traveled all over the world and nowhere have I come up against this attitude of, "I am sorry, what did you just say, I don't, can. . . can you just speak English?" as I have in the US.

The "English-only" sentiment isn't so we can all get along and communicate. It is to let people know who is in charge. Other languages, other communications styles, alternative forms of English--well those are just too threatening for our racist Americans--so we have to suppress, silence, destroy and detain them.

What languages were denied to you from fear? Or have you ever experienced discrimination because of the language that you speak?

It is sad what we teach each other to fear. I remember as a kid being on group trip to Washington DC, and a kid from another state, standing near me, asked if I would be offended if he talked on the phone in Navajo. It was the the weirdest question I had ever heard. Why should I care what language he used in my presence? Why should he worry about my reaction.

It is sad that life teaches you answers to questions you never want to have answered.

We sometimes are just not that tolerant a nation.

Just when you thought it was safe to be from South Dakota!

South Dakota state Rep. Joel Dykstra--who The Hill reports has entered the race for the Republican nomination to face Sen. Tim Johnson (D) in 2008--has some interesting ideas about sexual assault:

"I think 'rape and incest' is a buzzword. It's a bit of a throwaway line and not everybody who says that really understands what that means. How are you going to define that?” --South Dakota state Rep. Joel Dykstra
(R-Lincoln County) on why the state legislature didn't include those
exceptions in its abortion ban, April 20, 2006.
I'm pretty sure that the women (and men, for that matter) in South Dakota know exactly what rape and incest mean. Maybe Dykstra needs someone to explain it to him.

Via Crooks and Liars
As if we need another reason for Tim Johnson to marshal his way back to full health.

Rape and incest, yeah, really tricky.

Weekly femme news

Time to start speaking up about the toll HIV/AIDS is taking on black women.

New Missouri TRAP laws go into effect, which Planned Parenthood says could force it to spend more than $1 million on remodeling. Also, new abstinence-only requirements apply to educators in the state.

Men and women are equally chatty.

An anti-choice protester wins his appeal after being arrested outside a clinic. His lawyer said, "It struck a very positive tone for a pro-life protestor. In most courts around the country, they are treated like they are maniacs.” Gee, wonder why that

Can't say I'm surprised at these kind of images of a powerful woman in politics.

Nancy Goldstein explains why she's keeping her gay money to herself this election cycle.

An Australian campaign tries to combat speeding by questioning manhood.

And speaking of manhood, why are TV talk show types completely obessed with how awesomely manly the Republican presidential candidates are?

One of the federal funding streams for abstinence-only education has officially dried up.

And speaking of abstinence, Laura Bush says she's now down with promoting condom use in Africa.

On books for women in Saudi Arabia.

A New Jersey school blocks out a photo of two male students kissing.

What the Supreme Court's "resegregation" decision has to do with gender.

Rebecca Traister on Jane Austen mania and the myth of the "perfect man."

Egypt bans female circumcision.

Meet the Creationist

PZ Myer:
A scientist, Charles L. Rulon, debated an ID creationist, and here are the opening remarks he gave to justify joining in the debate. He first gave a list of reasons to not
debate, which I'll summarize in my own words here:

It pits oratory against science in a venue where you'll be judged on your rhetoric.

It gives publicity to creationists.

Creationists can generate more lies more quickly than you can refute.

Debates artificially give equal time to two sides, falsely elevating creationist trivia to equality with scientific substance.

The debates are often used to recruit members to fundamentalist Christian organizations.

OK, these are all very good reasons, and I agree with them. However, after giving all these reasons to shun debate, Rulon says this:
Today the United States is being confronted with large numbers of scientifically ignorant, politically active Christians who are locked into ultra-religious, anti-scientific views and who want to force these views on others through our elected officials, our courts, and our schools. That's why I'm here today.

I don't know how the debate went, but I doubt that it went well if he began the whole mess with that kind of non sequitur. His reason for going ahead with the debate did not negate the several reasons he had just given for not debating; he missed the whole issue.

Here's the situation: we must engage the public in open discussion of science, and one reason is to combat the ignorance Rulon mentions in his last paragraph. This isn't questioned by any of us who regularly battle with creationists. The question is one of how you're going to engage them, and Rulon's list is a set of arguments that says the generic 'debate' format is inappropriate.

I've been asked to participate in these debates before. Here are some constructive
suggestions on how to respond.


Myer follows up with some excellent advice for knowing when it is a trap, trick, or opportunity. And what to do to help or turn the tables...by which we mean make it a serious event, not a circus.

Who are we fighting?

Oddly enough, the president used to be fairly responsible when describing al Qaeda's role in Iraqi violence. Not too terribly long ago, Bush described "the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda" -- not even the network itself -- as the "smallest" component of violence in Iraq.

As the political winds shifted, so too did the administration's rhetoric. In May, Bush declared that al Qaeda is "public enemy No. 1 in Iraq." A few days ago, he reiterated the point at the Naval War College, describing al Qaeda as "the main enemy" in Iraq.

The point is as subtle as a sledgehammer. If the administration can transform al Qaeda from a minor player in Iraq to the sole purpose for our ongoing presence, simply through rhetorical games, Bush might reframe the debate: us vs. them. Americans against those responsible for 9/11. Forces of freedom vs. forces of terrorism.

I understand the appeal of such a dynamic -- it would make the war in Iraq so much easier -- but it's simply, unquestionably wrong. Worse, it's a shamelessly cynical ploy to rally public support under false pretenses. Americans don't support U.S. staying in the middle of a civil war, but maybe, the White House thinks, Americans will support a war against al Qaeda. It's a transparent con job.

Glenn Greenwald recently had an excellent item explaining that several major media outlets, most notably the New York Times, have been buying into the administration's rhetorical shift. Today, to his enormous credit, the Times' public editor, Clark Hoyt, tackled the subject head on a terrific column.

[I]n using the language of the administration, the newspaper has also failed at times to distinguish between Al Qaeda, the group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, an Iraqi group that didn't even exist until after the American invasion. [...]

I went back and read war coverage for much of the month of June and found many stories that conveyed the complexity and chaos of today's Iraq.... But those references to Al Qaeda began creeping in with greater frequency. Susan Chira, the foreign editor, said she takes "great pride in the whole of our coverage" but acknowledged that the paper had used "excessive shorthand" when referring to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. "We've been sloppy," she said. [...]

On Thursday, she and her deputy, Ethan Bronner, circulated a memo with guidelines on how to distinguish Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia from bin Laden's Al Qaeda.

It's a good move. I'd have been happier still if The Times had helped its readers by doing a deeper job of reporting on the administration's drive to make Al Qaeda the singular enemy in Iraq.

Military experts will tell you that failing to understand your enemy is a prescription for broader failure.
There's certainly no guarantee that the White House will stop playing cynical rhetorical games just because they got caught -- they are a shameless bunch -- but items like Hoyt's help set the record straight. With a little luck, they might even help improve reporting on the war and discourage the Bush gang from playing the electorate for fools.

Fred Thompson shoots his horse in the starting gate

Fred D. Thompson, who is campaigning for president as an antiabortion Republican, accepted an assignment from a family-planning group to lobby the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and several people familiar with the matter.

A spokesman for the former Tennessee senator denied that Thompson did the lobbying work. But the minutes of a 1991 board meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. say that the group hired Thompson that year.

His task was to urge the administration of President George H. W. Bush to withdraw or relax a rule that barred abortion counseling at clinics that received federal money, according to the records and to people who worked on the matter.
More TPM:
Following up on Josh's item about Fred Thompson lobbying for pro-choice policies on behalf of a family-planning group, the story represents a double threat to the nascent presidential hopeful.

First, this is a major new challenge for Thompson, who has struggled a bit to prove his anti-abortion bona fides, to prove to the far-right GOP base that he's sufficiently right-wing.

Taking up the defense for Thompson, however, is John Hinderaker, who makes a passionate case that a lobbyist should not necessarily be judged by his or her clients. Lobbyists, like lawyers, may take on patrons with whom they disagree.
That's nice. A conservative merc can fight against all they believe in, as long as when running for office they work to undo those works...Yeah, you know? That sounds exactly like a classic Republican.
(I do feel the need to point out I am being facetious. There are many fine Republicans...and many that give the party a bad name.)
But the story here is not just that Thompson lobbied for a pro-choice cause, but that he's vociferously denying it now.
Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo adamantly denied that Thompson worked for the family planning group. "Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period," he said in an e-mail.

In a telephone interview, he added: "There's no documents to prove it, there's no billing records, and Thompson says he has no recollection of it, says it didn't happen." In a separate interview, John H. Sununu, the White House official whom the family planning group wanted to contact, said he had no memory of the lobbying and doubted it took place.
The response is ... odd. The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. produced the minutes of a 1991 board meeting that say the group hired Thompson to lobby on the group's behalf. Judith DeSarno, who was president of the family planning association at the time, said Thompson lobbied for the group for several months, and noted the multiple meetings and conversations she had with Thompson about his progress in lobbying for her cause. What's more, the LA Times spoke to "three other people [who] recalled Thompson lobbying against the rule on behalf of the family planning association."

Former Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.), Thompson's former law-firm colleague, helped connect Thompson to the family-planning group in the first place, and said it was "absolutely bizarre" for Thompson to deny his lobbying work.

"I talked to him while he was doing it, and I talked to [DeSarno] about the fact that she was very pleased with the work that he was doing for her organization," Barnes said. "I have strong, total recollection of that. This is not something I dreamed up or she dreamed up. This is fact."

If Thompson wanted to make the Hinderaker-like argument that he took on a client with which he disagreed, he could try to make the case and hope the Dobson crowd bought it. But it's far more peculiar for Thompson to simply deny the work outright.

Getting away with lobbying for a pro-choice client is an awkward hurdle. Getting caught lying about it can dog a presidential campaign for quite a while.
Maybe he plans to come out and claim he was secretly sabotaging the family planning group from within...Yeah, yeah. that's the ticket.


Any comment, senator?

Thompson gave an oblique response when asked about the matter, first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

"I'd just say the flies get bigger in the summertime. I guess the flies are buzzing," said Thompson, who is considering running for president as a social conservative. He refused comment on whether he recalled doing the work.
That ought to clear things up.
I don't know about you, but I feel mollified.
But I am sure desperate Republicans are rocking to and fro, saying, "Good enough, good enough..."

TPM thoughts

From July 4th TPMtv, on the Big Picture.

This Libby quasi-pardon is not good. It is a joke. But that is not the story. What came before? The lies? About what? About a possible cover up? Of what? Of a leak? On what topic? CIA cover operatives. That does seem serious. Why would they? It did distract from the serious opposition to going to war...so there we are. Bush stopped his friend from going to jail. The friend who helped stone wall the legal attempt to uncover wrong doing in outing a CIA operative involved in stopping WMD's. An outing that hurt a major opponent to the war.

It is a lot to remember, it is sure as hell obvious that the press has forgotten. No doubt the people have as well.

Mission accomplished, George.

And on to terrorism.

This from FOX news.

Fox News goofball Neil Cavuto explains why universal health care programs are a leading source of terrorism.

Private health care seems to be the right prescription for a secure homeland.
That is why conservatives are afraid of it. If you have universal health care, the terrorist win. GEEZ!!!

50% of Public Health doctors are foreigner (You know...THEM!!!). While in a God fearing, flag loving real man private health plan, only 25% are...THEM! And that percent are a made up only made up of those good kind...you know the good ones. And that is why God gave us private health care.

Ridiculous, right?

Well look at MSNBC.

Now from MSNBC: Terrorism one of the "unintended consequences of universal healthcare."
Now from NBC. And this colonel. He didn't seem so bad a year back. But he has been getting more and more rabid. Now he is just spouting the most patently ridiculous tripe.

I'm so glad MSNBC has a retired colonel to keep them up to date on our health care issues.

I feel safer already.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bio Hazzard

PZ Myer has an excellent article in the attitudes towards biology, as represented by science fiction.

Peggy has an excellent discusion of the peculiar attitudes towards biology held by physicists and engineers, which includes this wonderful complaint by Jack Cohen.

In summer 2002, I was at the Cheltenham Festival of Science. Lots of biologists presenting, for sure. But… one very popular event was a presentation by three famous astronomers: 'Is There Life Out There?' I prefaced my first question to them by a little imaginative scenario: three biologists discussing the properties of the black hole in the middle of our galaxy. It was very clear that the astronomers really believed that they could discuss 'life' professionally, whereas everyone saw biologists talking
about black holes as absurd.

Oh, and let's get started on how SF treats biology…

Authors, film producers and directors, special-effects teams go to physicists, especially astrophysicists, to check that their worlds are workable, credible; they go to astronomers to check how far from their sun a planet should be, and so on. They even go to chemists to check atmospheres, rocket fuels, pheromones (apparently they're not biology….), even the materials that future everyday clothes (not only spacesuits) will be made of. They do go to self-styled "astrobiologists", who are usually astronomers or astrophysicists who remember some Biology 1.01 (or think they could if pressed). Between them they invent reptiloid "aliens" (who are cold-blooded enough to do all those dastardly things no warm-blooded American male could do…), feline aliens (who
have the psychology of the household cat writ large, especially by more mature female authors…), dinosaur "aliens"…. Or giant ants. Or were they mut-ants, I don't remember (but how many screen mutations have you seen that change the recipient, not its progeny?). Or a vast array of "alien" human actors with a bit of wax, as easy on the Special Effects Dept as the Pure Energy aliens, or the Aliens on mid-day TV shows who magic things out of the air and see through clothing (do their eyes emit or receive X-rays?), and which otherwise free the writers from having to produce a consistent plot. Or Vulcans who can produce viable offspring with humans (when even our cousins the fish can't - mermaids are even less breedable than Spock). These people know that they don't know
about physics, or astronomy, or chemistry. Those disciplines are real science. So they get help. But the biology seems so 'obvious' to them … and they don't realise that it feels just the same to be sure and wrong as sure and right! Of course, those of us that agree biologists can see that all those anthropomorphs can't be alien, they're vertebrate mammals and must share our ancestry here on Earth. They can't see that ET can't be e-t, that the 'Alien' doesn't work - except in its primary purpose, scaring the living daylights out of the audience with the bursting-out-of-chest routine (how can a parasite pre-adapt to immune-responses, and not being felt in the chest when it's bigger than your heart?). Biology questions don't seem professional to the people who design these scenarios; it's like folk psychology or philosophy - everyone has "a right to" an opinion.

There just aren't many SF authors who do good aliens or even good biology. Sterling and Cherryh come to mind; Brin and Vinge come up with some excellently weird aliens, but sometimes they don't seem very organic to me, but more like little black boxes of biological contrivance (it's even worse for authors like Niven—I get the distinct impression they're just plugging weird components together to build an alien, as if they were assembled with bio-legos). Robinson really gets into ecology, and writes more like I imagine a real biologist would do SF. Bear gets a lot of press as someone who writes about SF biology, but I find his books unreadably wrong, right there in the uncanny valley of using a lot of biological terminology while not understanding the concepts very well.

But of course it's all because biology is easy, it isn't a hard science, it doesn't have any math … all ideas that are completely false, but perpetrated on science-fiction convention panels as willfully and as routinely as you'll find in creationist tent revivals.

And here I thought astrobiology sounded so interesting. Like talking to a Futurist, an astrbiologist is just wildly spit balling about dreams and clouds.

But what could life be like. We are very limited in our knowledge. Still, some basic rules exist and deserve to be respected. If you want to brag about your realistic use of Relativistic speed and effects, when you have the Cat-Women of Omega 9 look to mate with through strapping human hero, deal with the biological implications, impossibilities, troubles, etc. Heck deal with the psychological ones.

And often the aliens are a metaphor. Klingons are the USSR. Ferengi are the extremes of greed. The Krell are the heights of tech brilliance and arrogance. the Ewoks live with nature. Many 50's creatures were out for women (ala...we won't go there), or to devour the world (ala communism), or blow it up (ala Nuclear War). And so on. They act as ciphers. And that is fine.

But anyone with some knowledge has to wince at the casual way biology goes out the windows. I mean...just the abuse of the word evolution...not to mention the meaning. Suddenly becoming a light being IS NOT evolution. Turning into a large-headed telepath, or a monkey, or lizard is not evolution, or devolution...It just isn't so STOP IT! So Star Trek, Babylon Five, and the rest, NO MORE. Okay?

Man, a little bio 101 won't hurt.

Now, watch me step on my own words in writing.

Moyers and Murdock

I had seen that Olbermann had been going through Rupert Murdock's (0wner of Newscorp, FOXS, etc) shady history, double dealing, and blights on journalism.

Bill Moyers, on PBS's Bill Moyer's Journal, also took him to task, just as he looks ready to buy up the Wall Street Journal, The editorial page may be suspect, the rest of the paper does good work. After Murdock is done, it'll be another New York Post.

If you can't catch Moyers on TV, you should check out the interviews and profiles online at the shows archives.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Gee, thanks.


Man apologizes for torching women's clinic.
Um, yeah. 46 year-old David McMenemy was sentenced to five years in prison Friday for trying to burn down a women's health clinic in Detroit that he thought performed abortions. (They didn't.)

Alrighty then.
Israeli president steps down, gets plea bargain in return.
Well this seems fucked.

Israeli president Moshe Katsav stepped down from his presidency yesterday due to the rape charges that have been brought against him, but only to be rewarded with the dropping of the actual rape charges.

The prosecutors, who had originally said they had intended on charging him with raping two women that could land him 20 years in jail, are now in talks with Katsav about a plea bargain which would allow him to just confess to sexual harassment. Because, you know, it's all the same shit anyway.

A protest of over 20,000 in Tel Aviv resulted in outrage over the bargain yesterday, which has been frozen for at least 24 hours before any final decisions are made.
It seems worthwhile to note that this is a country that has gender segregated buses in places for the more fundamentalist minded sorts. And when a woman gets out of line on the bus, sits in the wrong seat and doesn't want to move, what happens to her is her own fault.

But, hey, they are our ally.

Egypt bans female circumcision.
Yesterday, Egypt announced they are banning all forms of female circumcision just days after a 12-year old girl died from the procedure.

It was actually officially banned in 1997, but doctors were allowed to do the procedure for "exceptional cases." Health Minister Hatem al-Gabali has now announced that every doctor or medical professional is banned from carrying out any form of circumcision, and if the act is committed, it "will be viewed as a violation of the law and all contraventions will be punished."

But despite the "exceptional cases" rule from 1997, a 2000 study showed that the procedure was still carried out on 97% of the country's women. So how much will actually change now?

Does anyone know more about the history of FGM in Egypt?
It took them long enough to realize that this problem was still there. Hopefully the government willingness to act now reflects a change in Egyptian society. But at 97% it is hard to believe it is so.

Something's missing.
In reference to Samhita's mention in a recent post of Jessie Davis, a pregnant woman in Ohio who was murdered, I had to bring attention to its media coverage on the murder and accused boyfriend: Why isn't anyone talking about intimate partner violence? Let's look at some stats:

On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day. In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner. The same year, 440 men were killed by an intimate partner.

Women are much more likely than men to be killed by an intimate partner. In 2000, intimate partner homicides accounted for 33.5 percent of the murders of women and less than four percent of the murders of men.

Pregnant and recently pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause, and evidence exists that a significant proportion of all female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners.
All the media can talk about is how horrific it is and how upset the parents are, etc. But why not talk about why this happened, talk about the bigger issues at hand here?

On the other hand, some conservatives think the bigger issues involve blaming the
victim for being a mother out of wedlock, among other "immoral" life choices. Amanda and Jill have more.

Jen's Hungover Feminist Report: Supreme Court session wrap-up edition

I'll be honest, I really am hungover today, so this is going to be quick. And trust me, you do not want to look at me on video today. The Supreme Court session has ended until the fall. Let's take a moment to enjoy some of the lowlights from the last few months of decisions that we've covered here at Feministing. Feel free to add others in comments.

April 18th - Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood\

The Supreme Court decides that outlawing abortion methods is fine, even if a woman's health is at risk.

Vanessa summed it up well. "We're fucked." From the decision:

Respondents have not demonstrated that the Act […] imposes an undue burden on a woman's right to abortion based on its overbreadth or lack of a health exception.

Congrats, ladies. Your health is irrelevant.

May 29th - Ledbetter v. Goodyear

The Supreme Court decides that you can't file a pay discrimination complaint more than 180 days “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.”
Ann breaks it down, " 180 days isn't much time to figure out a pay disparity exists. How many people -- especially, for example, women in nontraditional professions -- talk openly with their coworkers about how much they're earning?"

June 28th - Parents Involved v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education

The Supreme Court strikes down, K-12 voluntary integration programs in public schools. The consideration of race for admissions was determined to be constitutional in colleges a few years ago. I guess they figure kids can wait.

Chief Justice Roberts said, "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

Pissed off me says the way to make schools more racially diverse is to fucking make schools more racially diverse.

Samhita notes:

The policy, cultural mindset and economic racism has been in place for a long time, but today the Supreme Court made the few slightly effective attempts at desegregation, that much less possible.
Quite a year they're having down at the Supreme Court. Fuckers.