Wed 26 April 2006
invasion! I first met these furry pests in the Louisiana swamps...now they're
infesting our local wetlands. And we don't even have alligators to help eat
Phillips, author of American Theocracy:
Let me start by saying that I don't think most Evangelicals should be thought of as anything like extremists. They have a personal religion which is concerned with revelation and salvation; but they are shaped by their leaders – LaHaye and others – into a force on behalf of a pretty aggressive Christianity, which has come up with a world view of almost Jesus the terminator; and then, God so loved you that He's bringing you World War III.
Just goes to show, there's no "crisis"
that Bush can't turn into an excuse to try to make life a little worse for all
of us. I really, really despise that man. I know he doesn't care. That's
part of why I despise him.
President Bush on Tuesday urged the waiver of clean air rules to ease
local gas shortages and called for the repeal of $2 billion in tax breaks for
profit-heavy oil companies. Still, experts said Bush's actions wouldn't have
much impact on prices at the pump.
The reason I put "crisis" in quotes? This isn't a crisis. Higher gas prices
are a natural and inevitable consequence of increasing world demand for a scarce,
non-renewable resource. Calling it a "crisis" seems to justify fundamentally
stupid, short-term "solutions."
Speaking of people I despise:
After nationally syndicated columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin posted the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of three members of Students Against War, they received a flood of obscene and harassing messages from around the country, including death threats. When a liberal Web site, in retaliation, published Malkin's cell phone number and home address, a full-blown blog war ensued.
"I am now forced to remove one of my children from school and move my family," Malkin wrote Thursday in an e-mail to the Sentinel.
She who lives by the sword, dies by the sword?
Somebody drowns in a tub nearly every day in this country...most of them in
western states. Not just California, which you might expect -- Wyoming is ahead
of the curve as well. Fear
the tub! Fear it!
I don't care if Rumsfeld
resigns, actually. That's because I'm reasonably certain that, as long as
Bush is in office, anyone else he appoints will be equally incompetent.
Because, you know, the appointer is a thorough muck-up. Oh, did I say "the appointer"?
I should have said, "the decider"
Just to cheer things up a bit, An inspiring story about a pastor running for office in Texas.
Horn said he eventually left Austin in 1990, when he could no longer "emotionally support the issues.
"The attitude then became very negative," Horn said. "The Moral Majority was neither moral nor a majority. No political party can claim moral superiority over the other as long as it’s made up of the same fallen people."
The shocker -- he's running as a Democrat! Oh my goodness! The end times are nigh!
I read this Sean
Hannity quote and had a serious, almost Pratchetty, mental footnote moment:
"Let me be straight with you - I like George Bush," Hannity said. "I think
he's a man of principle,*
a man of faith.**
I think he's got a backbone of steel***
and he's a real, genuine, big-time leader**** ...
He's a consequential figure for his time.*****
We don't see it right now."
*Principles mostly having to do with the innate superiority of the rich.
**Faith that his plans will work out the way he intends, and indeed, faith
that they have worked out the way he intended, in spite of
abundant material evidence to the contrary.
***Thanks to modern surgery.
****Of the sort who tends to be immortalized for getting lots of people killed
in stupid ways. Like Custer, for example.
*****Of course, The Worst President Ever and The Man
who Almost Singlehandedly Destroyed America is necessarily a consequential
figure for his time. Consequences don't have to be GOOD.
Permalink : Zeitgeist 060426
Thu 20 April 2006
High School of the Damned: Percival and the Brain (2)
Percival and the Brain continues, as our best friends navigate the murky, tumultuous waters of puberty.
Will their friendship survive? Tune in next fortnight and see!
There are some things about being a teenager -- well, a lot of things, actually -- and all of them are strange, and I think, as I have mentioned before, that most adults must sort of block those years out of their memory, or perhaps cover them over with a peach-colored haze of nostalgia. Were you ever, as a 15- or 16-year-old, told "these are the best years of your life"? Did you think, "thanks, Grandma, but that's one of the cruelest things anyone has ever said to me, and if I actually believed you, which I don't, I would have no choice but to kill myself right now."
Different people lurch through puberty on completely disparate timelines. Sometimes friends get out of synch, and sometimes they synch up again later. Sometimes they don't, and sometimes this leaves behind weird, bitter, painful residues. Falling out of love with your best friend can be as painful as losing the other kind of love. But when your relationship was based on sharing Barbies and horses, how does that work out when you enter adolescence and neither of you cares so much about Barbies anymore, but one of you remains highly religious while the other becomes a skeptic? Or perhaps (a little later in teenagehood) your relationship is based on a shared obsession over Lord of the Rings and the Beatles, but one of you strikes out from there to discover Stephen King and punk rock, while the other goes in a Terry Brooks, Mannheim Steamroller direction?
This kind of drifting apart doesn't stop in adolescence -- adult friends break up in much the same way -- but when you're a teenager, all of this stuff is happening to you for the first time and you don't always know how to handle it.
The very definition of teenager -- a social distinction having no basis in biology -- is someone who is neither a child nor an adult. In other words, someone who has no place in the world.
We created teenagers because our society is judged too complex for physical maturity (and a single well-defined ritual, for example, killing a bear) to be the only barrier to adulthood. Instead, we have a series of arbitrary gates that people stagger through: at 10 or 11 your school sends you to a sex education and shows you embarrassing films unless your parents have a religious objection, at 16 you can drive, at 17 you can see an R-rated movie, at 18 you are technically an "adult" but you still can't drink until you're 21 -- so when are you actually an adult? When you're 21 and you can go into bars? When you're 35 and you can run for president? When you start acting like an adult? When you get married, buy a house, have a kid?
Except, a lot of us could have had a kid -- in the technical, biological sense -- as young as 12.
And I'm pretty sure a 12-year-old isn't an adult. Is she?
Permalink : Percival and the Brain (2)
Tue 18 April 2006
Every time you do something stupid when drunk, an anti-feminist gets her wings
Hey, wanna get pointlessly outraged? Read this Wall Street Journal editorial by Naomi "I hate my own sex" Schaefer Riley.
Ladies, You Should Know Better
How feminism wages war on common sense.
Okay, first word and I'm already offended.
Not quite true. The word "ladies" offends me only in context, and I have to get to the end of the sentence to really pick up on the condescension.
And the offense is deliberate. Nobody calls me a "lady" in that smarmy tone or tells me that feminism is the opposite of common sense unless they want me to tweak out. Although, to be fair, the author may not have written the headline herself. So let's get on with the guts of the article.
Word came out this week that Darryl Littlejohn, the New York bouncer charged in the Feb. 25 rape and murder of graduate student Imette St. Guillen, has been linked by a DNA match to an October sexual assault on another woman. This latest revelation will no doubt (and rightly) lead to more angry cries about the failure of Mr. Littlejohn's parole officer to keep track of his violent charge and about the negligence of bar owners who do not check the backgrounds of their employees.
Okay, so, if it is "right" that this will lead to anger about ineffective parole officers, why does the sentence sound so snarky? Like she means just the opposite? Perhaps because she is being completely disingenuous? Let's read on.
But it should also serve to remind women, yet again, that it would be a good idea to use a little more common sense.
A police investigation has confirmed that on the night of her murder, Ms. St. Guillen was last seen in a bar, alone and drinking at 3 a.m. on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Got that, kids? Crazy rapists and murderers are a reminder that women should use common sense and avoid bars, New York, 3 a.m., and being alone. Got it. But you know what is, statistically speaking, more dangerous than all those things? Yes, even more dangerous than New York bars?
So, unless Ms. Riley is going to follow with a rant about how, if you get killed by a drunk because you are driving, heavens, an automobile at 3 a.m., and you should have used a little more common sense and somehow feminism has something to do with it...her logic doesn't hold up.
Oh, pooh, her logic doesn't hold up anyway. I guess logic is for those dastardly feminist types. Heh.
It does not diminish Mr. Littlejohn's guilt or the tragedy of Ms. St. Guillen's death to note what more than a few of us have been thinking--that a 24-year-old woman should know better.
It doesn't? Because I don't know why you'd bother to blame the victim in a situation like this unless you were trying to diminish either guilt or tragedy.
Yet there are forces in our culture (writing letters to this newspaper even now) that find this suggestion offensive.
Nope, not writing a LTE, just doing a bloggy point-by-point. But I submit, Ms. Riley, that you know very well you are being offensive, and it is quite deliberate on your part. Don't play the innocent. Just because you anticipate that your offensive statements will be found offensive doesn't make them not offensive.
If you have attended college any time in the past 20 years, you will have heard that if a woman is forced against her will to have sex, it is "not her fault" and that women always have the right to "control their own bodies."
Well, yes, being "forced against your will" to do something is not your fault
-- by definition. That's what "will" means.
Also, the way she puts "control their own bodies" in quotes makes it sound as if, perhaps, she thinks that women don't always have the right to control their own bodies. Which I suppose she might actually think if she is an anti-abortionist. But it still seems odd in this context.
Nothing could be truer.
Oh, I see. This is another case like "and rightly" in the first paragraph, where she attempts to ridicule a reasonable point of view, then backs away from the implications of that by claiming that no, really, she does agree with it.
But the administrators who utter these sentiments and the feminists who inspire them rarely note which situations are conducive to keeping that control and which threaten it. They rarely discuss what to do to reduce the likelihood of a rape. Short of re-educating men, that is.
Hmm. I'm a feminist, and I'm pretty sure I never suggested that men needed a re-education to know that rape was wrong. It's one of the most ancient and serious of human crimes, after all. There's murder, and there's rape.
But just as sociopaths exist on the Lower East Side, they exist on college campuses. One or two might even be playing lacrosse for Duke University.
And I'm pretty sure a few of them are serving in the Bush administration, but is that really the point? Sociopaths are, by definition, anomalous. They can be anywhere, but are not likely to be anywhere. So where is she going with this? Is she going to suggest that we should all plan every aspect of our lives as if we're going to encounter sociopaths? Murderous sociopaths? That seems like a good way to make yourself cripplingly neurotic.
The past few weeks have brought much hand-wringing about the alleged rape of a stripper at a team party in Durham, N.C. Understandably so: An email from one team member, just after the party, suggested that he was aroused by the idea of skinning a woman and killing her.
I'm not fooled for a moment by this tactic, Ms. Riley, but it's the third or possibly fourth time you've used it already in this essay and it's getting very tiresome.
Though the investigation is still under way, commentators have already blamed the event on everything from racism (the stripper was black, the accused players white) to the lack of moral instruction in colleges today.
Can we agree to blame it, provided it did happen, on the man or men who committed the crime? I'm fairly comfortable with that.
Which explanation is most credible? Perhaps it doesn't matter. Whatever the problem is, it won't be fixed this year or possibly ever, even with best sorts of attitude adjustment.
I just don't think this problem is as complicated as Ms. Riley seems to think it is. Either a crime was committed or it wasn't. Either man or men raped a woman, or they didn't. It strikes me as a job for law enforcement, not pundits.
Perhaps the law of averages says that, with 14 million men in U.S. colleges today, a few of them will be rapists. What to do? For starters: Be wary of drunken house parties.
Note the switcheroo here. Based on the law of averages, some men in college will be rapists. Her advice is not therefore to avoid men -- I suppose that would seem too "feminist" -- it is to avoid drunken house parties. Which is actually a non-sequitor. I think she expects us not to notice.
Now, readers may well assume that this advice is obvious and that no Duke coed would ever do what the stripper, by her own account, did: Upon finding 40 men at the party instead of the four for whom she agreed to "dance," she stayed and performed anyway. When the partygoers began shouting what she described as racial epithets and violent threats, she left but returned after an apology from a team member. A stripper with street smarts is apparently a Hollywood myth.
If this account is correct -- and I have no reason to believe that it is -- yes, this constitutes fairly foolish behavior on the part of the stripper. Once men have already shown themselves to be jerks, sticking around longer than you have to is inviting more jerkish behavior. But maybe they were paying her really, really well. Suspending your better judgment for the sake of a buck makes her a good capitalist, doesn't it? I would think the WSJ pages would be all in favor of that sort of thing.
Also, this example seems to make exactly the opposite case to the one stated in the headline. That is, I see putting up with guys acting like jerks, just because one of them apologizes or something, to be decidedly non-feminist behavior.
Example: this last weekend, at Norwescon, I ran into a guy I hadn't seen for years -- let's call him "Jerkface Oozebucket." Jerkface Oozebucket used to date a friend of mine. He was, at the time, the biggest misogynist jerk I had ever met, and seemed to be quite proud of himself on account of it. He seemed to think he was being suave or something. After knowing him a total of maybe six hours, I started wanting to smash his smug misogynist face into the floor with something heavy. Then something sharp, like an industrial cheese grater. Then something heavy again. Then break a bottle of Tabasco sauce against his skull and let it drip into the wounds, only probably not Tabasco, but rather a cheaper, inferior, but even more capsaicin-ful knockoff. Then let rabid dogs lick it off. Except dogs probably don't like hot sauce.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Anyway, when I ran into him over the weekend I didn't recognize him right away. I thought, "that guy looks familiar." Then he said something completely jerky and I knew who it was. Now, I don't really know anything about Jerkface Oozebucket other than how big of a jerk he is. And that he's fussy about his martinis, which just goes to show that jerks can have taste, sort of. But of all the men I've ever known, he strikes me as the one most likely to be a rapist. He's that big of a jerk. Anyway, part of why I won't put up with a guy being a jerk like that is because I am a feminist. Or maybe I'm a feminist because I won't put up with guys being jerks like that. Either way, Riley is not making her point here. Whatever her point really is.
But smart women at top schools are engaging in behavior that is equally moronic. In another recent incident, a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., apparently got so drunk on two liters of wine and a couple of glasses of beer that she didn't know that she had had sex with a Naval Academy midshipman until he told a friend of hers the next day to get her the morning-after pill.
This is another non-sequitor. I don't see much connection between performing in an uncomfortable situation somewhat against your better judgment and having it turn into one of the worst possible outcomes, and getting drunk as a lord and having sex with a guy then blacking it out. For one thing, stupid drunken blackout sex isn't actually a crime -- as long as you got drunk of your own free will, and as long as the guy had a reasonable expectation that you were consenting to the sex. I've been drunk like that once, when passing around a bottle of Jagermeister at a party while still sober is literally the last thing I remember, and I haven't touched Jagermeister since, and based on eyewitness accounts the person I was most likely to have had stupid drunken blackout sex with was female anyway, but you know -- had I woken up in some guy's bed I would have been horrified, but I wouldn't have pressed charges.
In a survey conducted two years ago by the Harvard School of Public Health, one in every 20 women reported having been raped in college during the previous seven months. Rape statistics are notoriously unreliable, but the kicker rings true: "Nearly three-quarters of those rapes happened when the victims were so intoxicated they were unable to consent or refuse." And those are just the ones who admitted it.
Hmm. This does touch on something that used to bug me in college -- the fact that a lot of women seemed to think that girl power meant claiming every incident of bad judgment re: sleeping with a guy, was rape -- but it has nothing to do with the stripper or the St. Guillen crimes. Nothing.
The odd thing is that feminism may be partly to blame. Time magazine reporter Barrett Seaman explains that many of the college women he interviewed for his book "Binge" (2005) "saw drinking as a gender equity issue; they have as much right as the next guy to belly up to the bar." Leaving biology aside--most women's bodies can't take as much alcohol as men's--the fact of the matter is that men simply are not, to use the phrase of another generation, "taken advantage of" in the way women are.
Is Riley serious? Is she trying to imply that getting a woman drunk so you can get her into bed with you is some kind of new, post-feminist phenomenon? Further, is Seaman seriously claiming that women didn't match men drink for drink (whether foolish or not) until recent history? Have either of them ever watched the Thin Man movies? And if they haven't, they should. On general principle.
Radical feminists used to warn that men are evil and dangerous. Andrea Dworkin made a career of it. But that message did not seem reconcilable with another core feminist notion--that women should be liberated from social constraints, especially those that require them to behave differently from men. So the first message was dropped and the second took over.
I feel the need to -- once again -- point out that this entire argument thread is a non-sequitor to the earlier blame-the-victim thread.
Really, what's happening here is this: Riley is trying to conflate, to smooge
together like nearly-gone bars of soap, two contradictory ideas: the pre-feminist
"she shouldn't of dressed like that" blame-the-victim mentality regarding unambiguous
criminal rape, and the post-feminist idea that, every time you have sex you
later regret, it's date rape. Not only are both these ideas wrong, they are
also sort of mutually exclusive.
The radical-feminist message was of course wrongheaded--most men are harmless, even those who play lacrosse--but it could be useful as a worst-case scenario for young women today. There is an alternative, but to paraphrase Miss Manners: People who need to be told to use their common sense probably didn't have much to begin with.
First: how dare she quote Miss Manners? Miss Manners is logical, consistent,
and, I am fairly certain, a feminist.I am outraged. I take umbrage. I don't
know where I take it, but I definitely take it.
Second: her conclusion hearkens back to the distinctly un-useful "assume everyone might be a sociopath" rule of thumb she halfheartedly attempted to establish earlier. Because any female college student (and I loathe the term coed and will not use it except to mention how much I loathe it) following such advice would have to, pretty much, never go on an unchaperoned date with a guy.
Rape is an issue of consent -- it's rape if there is no consent. But consent/not consent isn't always a clear toggle. If somebody jumps you in a dark alley with a gun, the lack of consent is unambiguous. If somebody puts sleeping pills in your drink without telling you, again, the lack of consent is unambiguous. But, if somebody gets you drunk without force or deceit, then has sex with you, the lack of consent starts to become ambiguous -- he may genuinely think that you are consenting, even though perhaps he should recognize that you are in no position to give meaningful consent. But if he's just as drunk as you are...
Statutory rape, a crime, occurs when both parties consent, but the younger party is assumed to be too young for that consent to be legally meaningful. (Mary Kay, I'm talkin' 'bout you.)
Anyway, if we're talking about drunk and stupid, drunk freshmen of both sexes are in danger from more than rape. When I was in school there was a kid who got drunk and fell off a balcony, giving himself a fatal head injury. Sometimes drunk people choke to death on their own vomit, or drown in hot tubs, or get hit by a car while walking home.
I really don't think it has much to do with feminism.
And I really don't think it has anything to do with being raped and murdered by a sociopath who followed you out of a bar.
Permalink : ...an anti-feminist gets her wings
Wed 12 April 2006
People in Quebec are making gummy
candies with a packaging motif of horrible gummy candy death -- by lighter,
cheese grater, automobile, drowning, etc.
Awwww....isn't that cute...
Of course I had to read an article titled "Paperweight
severs Calif. teacher's hand." Here I was, expecting to find out about some
kind of freak accident -- maybe a temporary gravity surge of some kind, or a
series of mechanical coincidences like the ones in the Final Destination movies.
Then it turns out the "paperweight" in question is a 40 mm shell which
went off when he used it to try to squash a bug. Which is less freaky
than I imagined. But a lot funnier.
stop teaching creationism. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams:
"I think creationism is ... a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories ... if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories ... My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it."
Also, I didn't know there was actually a name for the omphalos
hypothesis, that is, the idea that, when creating the universe, God pulled
a Dawnie* and all the apparent evidence of age and history is a fake-out, or
possibly a very obscure joke.
This thesis is sometimes referred to as Last
Thursdayism and is clearly not true, because of course Flying
Spaghetti Monsterism is true and they can't both be true, now,
*Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference. Refers to Buffy's "little sister"
Dawn, who was created at the beginning of Season 5 whole cloth out of a ball
of energy, including other people's memories of her as a child and physical
artifacts such as family photographs.
Norquist jumps the shark.
“Some people say Kleenex when they mean tissue,” Norquist said [of
his plan to trademark the phrase "K Street Project"]. “We will jealously
guard the real phrasing the way Kleenex and Coca-Cola do. We will sue anyone
who says it wrong and make lots of money.”
Why do I call it shark-jumping? Well, check out Norquist in 2004:
The Democratic Party is made up of trial lawyers, labor unions, government employees, big city political machines, the coercive utopians, the radical environmentalists, feminists, and others who want to restructure society with tax dollars and government fiat.
What? I leave town for a few days and Tom
DeLay quits? Maybe I should leave town permanently.
Because I sometimes have a juvenile sense of humor, I'm calling this Bush's
incontinence problem. Although I still don't know if you can trust a grown
man who calls himself "Scooter," Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's
former chief of staff, told a grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame leak,
that Libby leaked National Intelligence Estimate information to a New York
Times reporter after Cheney told him Bush told him to.
(huh? Let's try that again. Libby, who leaked the info, has just told a grand
jury that Cheney told him to, and that Cheney said it was okay with Bush.)
However, the court papers do not indicate Bush specifically authorized Libby
to disclose Plame's secret identity as a CIA operative.
However however, when this leak first became public, the president said that
anyone in his administration involved in the leak would be fired.
So, any day now, Bush will fire himself, or Dick Cheney, or both.
And pigs will fly. Pigs that glow
in the dark, are full of omega-3 fats, and possibly play the accordion.
Atheists are America’s
least trusted group, according to a national telephone of more than 2,000
households and interviews with more than 140 people.
I'm sorry about that. For what it's worth, I trust atheists as much as I trust
everyone else, which is to say, not a lot.
Actually, I think I trust atheists slightly more, because when people say,
"I'm an atheist" I tend to assume they're being truthful, whereas when people
say, "I'm a Christian" experience has led me to suspect they are lying.
got to be a joke but maybe it's not...part 1
According to this press release, "A nude Britney Spears on a bearskin rug giving
birth is the 'ideal' model for Pro-Life." "Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of
Sean Preston" is a life-sized statue, "an idealized depiction of Britney in
delivery. Natural aspects of Spears' pregnancy, like lactiferous breasts and
protruding naval, compliment a posterior view that depicts widened hips for
birthing and reveals the crowning of baby Sean's head."
Oh, yeah...annoying pop stars make ME wanna have a baby.
This exhibit is on view April 7th thru 23rd with a reception for the dedication
Now, if that reception were on April 1, I'd feel like I knew what was going
It's got to be a joke but maybe it's
You need flash to get full hilarity of this one, but it's worth it, to hear
the Glaucoma Hymn. Everyone must hear the Glaucoma Hymn.
No, really, it's not a joke...is it?
King Charles' Head: a subject that keeps popping up in a written work no matter
how much the author tries to steer away from it. Man, I hate
that George W. Bush.
So, it's craniopagus
parasiticus when a parasitic twin head with an undeveloped (or underdeveloped)
body is attached to the head of a developed twin. And it's fetus
in fetu when a partially developed fetus is found growing inside its twin.
I'm waiting for the right-to-lifers to pick up on this one. Come on, guys --
look as human as your typical fetus or brain-dead coma victim. Where's
your marches and desperate acts of Congress to save the parasitic twins?
Oh! Won't someone save the parasitic twins!
There was no joy in spaceville...Mighty
Falcon has struck out.
After years of development and no less than three scrubbed attempts, Falcon
1 rocket first launch of a privately operated rocket roared toward space Friday
only to be lost just after liftoff, its builders said. The debut flight of a
low-cost launcher developed and financed by Internet billionaire Elon Musk lasted
about a minute before the rocket failed due to unknown technical reasons.
Oh....so that's why
Regal Cinemas are so dreadful.
Every stage of your moviegoing experience -- from production to promotion to distribution to exhibition -- was controlled by one man: sixty-six-year-old religious conservative Philip Anschutz.
Named Fortune's "greediest executive" in 1999, the Denver resident is a generous supporter of anti-gay-rights legislation, intelligent design, the Bush administration and efforts to sanitize television. With a net worth of $5 billion, he is Forbes ' thirty-fourth richest American
Clearly, the man who invented the idea of showing me 20 minutes of ads before
the movie, and then trying to get me EXCITED about the ads,
has got to be some kind of greediest something.
However, I do have a major quibble with this article -- the implication that
the Narnia movie was primarily about pushing some kind of Christian
conservative agenda on the public. It seemed to me primarily about capitalizing
on the success of the Lord of the Rings pictures by filming the second
most beloved fantasy series of the 20th century. And C.S. Lewis, while definitely
a Christian, wasn't a particularly conservative one.
In fact, if you read The Great Divorce, he comes off as kind of a universalist. Shh, don't tell anyone.
Permalink : Zeitgeist 060412
Wed 12 April 2006
Fun with Helen and George
Fun with Helen and George:
Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused
the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis
for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not
to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the
moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet
officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason?
You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything
else. What was it?
THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question
and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume
I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --
Q Everything --
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.
Q -- everything I've heard --
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you
may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true. My attitude about the
defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got attacked,
I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American
people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to
think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized
on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life. And
I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made
to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect
our people. Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to
provide safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq -- hold on
for a second --
Q They didn't do anything to you, or to our country.
THE PRESIDENT: Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second.
They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda
Q I'm talking about Iraq --
THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe
haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted.
That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.
I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically.
That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to
pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose,
or face serious consequences --
Q -- go to war --
THE PRESIDENT: -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make
sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose
to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult
decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.
Permalink : Fun with Helen and George
Sat 08 April 2006
High School of the Damned: Percival and the Brain (1)
This is the first installment of the first real "High School
of the Damned" storyline: "Percival and the Brain." Which actually
takes place almost entirely before the characters even get to high school, but
that's kind of how this works -- if you want to understand an adult, go back
to high school, to understand a high school student, junior high, and so on.
You want to understand an infant, go back to the dawn of time.
Shelley and Byron had interesting, scandal-filled lives and died young after
creating enduring art, which was very rock star of them. Byron was a classic
cad -- he would seduce absolutely anybody, and abandon them completely when
they started to bore him. Even if they were pregnant. (Although he did have
one legitimate child, Ada Lovelace, who worked with Charles Babbage on his proposed
This sort of thing led to him being described as "Mad, bad, and dangerous
to know" by Caroline Lamb.
Shelley wasn't quite as infamous, though he did get kicked out of Oxford for
being an atheist. He merely practiced free love, whether or not his wife
agreed. So, during the summer of 1816 (when Mary famously got the idea for
Frankenstein and John Polidori -- one of Byron's many romantic castoffs -- got the idea
Vampyre) Mary and Percy were not actually married. They wouldn't get married
until after they returned to England and his first wife killed herself.
Any time somebody tries to tell you that people conducted themselves
better in the old days? Don't believe it for a second.
Permalink : Percival and the Brain (1)
Sat 08 April 2006
By now, you have probably heard that a crazy man killed six people and then himself early in the morning on Saturday, March 25, on Capitol Hill. What you might not know is that I used to live really, really close to 2112 East Republican Street, the address of the massacre.
The Stranger has a good, thorough narrative
of the events. The creepy thing to me is how normal it all starts out --
people at an event aren't quite ready to go to bed yet, and they all go to a
house to wind down with beer. They invite along a guy they don't know who seems
lonely and out of it -- a nice thing to do, right?
Then, a few hours later, the guy comes back with an arsenal and shoots everyone he can, after spray-painting the word "now" a couple of times along the way.
After something like this, there's always an attempt to fit it into an overall
narrative that makes the rest of us feel safe -- like such a thing can't possibly
happen to us.
The Seattle Times has taken a predictable won't
someone think of the children! tone, heavily implying that changes to the
city's all-ages dance ordinance would have prevented the tragedy, or at least
prevented any of the victims from having been teenagers. Because you know, when
a "10-year-old can attend dances along with 30-year-olds. This is asking for
(What kind of trouble exactly? Are ten-year-olds better off without any thirty-year-olds
around? Or are you implying that all thirty-year-olds who find themselves at
the same event with ten-year-olds are hideous perverts of some kind, because
of course, liking the same music as ten-year-olds is inherently bizarre and
untrustworthy? There was one girl at the Sisters of Mercy concert who looked
about ten, was every thirty-year-old -- or older -- at that venue some kind
of weirdo? When I spotted her she was moping outside the bathroom, and brightened
when a woman she knew came up to say hello, they hugged and talked a little
bit, should I assume that "trouble" ensued? Or that I was the trouble? Because
I noticed her there and liked her outfit?)
By the same logic, our consumer culture needs a major overhaul after the Dangers
of Christmas Shopping were demonstrated when a man
shot six people at the Tacoma Mall in November 2005. Of course, he took
hostages and eventually gave up without actually killing anyone, though one
of the victims may never walk again.
At least D.
Parvaz of the PI, and Josh
Feit and Dan Savage of The Stranger both seem aware that the
fact that all the victims had previously been at a rave is about as relevant
as noting that all the victims are homo sapiens. The rave simply explains how
they all came to be at the same place at the same time. Like in The
Bridge of San Luis Rey.
Other columnists are quick to blame
the availability of guns, which at least makes logical sense, as guns are,
in fact, the common thread among mass shooting deaths. Yet, even guns are not
the common thread among crazy people who kill other people, as the Unabomber
and Timothy McVeigh
and last year's London
subway bombers demonstrate.
The only real lesson: weird and horrible things happen all the time, and you
probably can't do anything to completely protect yourself from them. Because
they are weird.
The other lesson: don't talk to creepy loners, even when it seems like a nice thing to do.
Sorry, creepy loners.
Permalink : Capitol Hill
Sat 08 April 2006
Men, men, men, men -- men, men, men, men
Well, it's that pop culture time of the decade. Or half-decade. I'm not sure
of the cycle, but it goes like this: a bunch of rubbish about women (cf. Are
Men Necessary? and others) and then a bunch of rubbish about men, as in
this CS Monitor article Oh
Anybody remember Real men don't eat quiche?
Anyway, I was raised by a man (my Dad) and had brothers who were, more or less, future men, and friends who were almost men (in high school) and nominally men (in college) and, well, men, ever since. And then I married a man (my husband). So I think I know a fair amount about men, for somebody who's never been one.
And I do know something about our societal sex roles, given that I grew up in our society, and had a sex (female).
So, you know, I feel as qualified to weigh in on the topic as any other unqualified
pop-culture pundit. Why do I bother to weigh in? Well you might ask.
I'm a pop culture junkie. It's horrid, I know, but it's as addictive as a bag
of Zapp's Cajun Crawtator. It's a human
thing. Without that urge to shout back at the (metaphoric) television, there
would be no letters-to-the-editor pages.
Anyway, as usual, the women's rubbish seemed to be all about how smart women
can't get dates, how smart and educated (and wealthy) women are leaving boardrooms
in droves to stay home and fulfill traditional roles supervising nannies and
whatnot, and about how our twenty-first century lifestyle of earning money and
then spending it makes the modern woman feel an unspecified yearning somewhere
deep inside, the satisfaction of which probably involves reproducing her genetic
material, or possibly adopting a baby from China or Romania or Africa or somewhere
(I feel the need to point out here that a life comprised entirely of "getting
and spending" makes everyone feel kind of unfulfilled. Wordsworth
observed this in 1807, and it hasn't stopped being true.)
Also as usual, the men's rubbish is about how they feel vaguely, symbolically,
castrated by strong women.
That's not quite how they word it, of course, but what do you make of Frank Vincent (an actor who plays tough guys) stating in A Guy's Guide to Being a Man's Man, that "The women of the world are overrunning the guys...men got in touch with their sensitive side and gave away too much in the process."
Now, when guys complain about guyhood becoming too "sensitive" I find myself
in a quandary. I hate overtly and self-consciously "sensitive" guys because
I think it's fake, a pose often used to cover up a fundamental core of jerkiness.
But when self-consciously "manly" men complain about it I always think -- so
what's the opposite of sensitive? Insensitive? You think guys should be insensitive?
That's not quite how Vincent phrases it. He does opine that in order
to be sufficiently manly a guy should eat lots of steak, get a manicure but
never a pedicure, eschew novelty ties, and listen to Sinatra. Which
all sounds suspiciously GQ to me, but whatever.
Then there's Manliness by Harvard professor Harvey C. Mansfield.
Which, when you put all those words together, sounds like a pun of some kind.
He seems to think that we need something called "gender clarity" and that it
requires (surprise, surprise) "men and women returning to traditional roles
in the private sphere (girls dust/cook, guys fix/mow)." Although, on account
of it being the twenty-first century and all, he allows for women CEOs and stuff.
As he says, "Manliness can't be repressed because it is in our nature." Which sort of makes you wonder what the point of his book is.
He appeared recently and hilariously on the Colbert Report, in which he reveals that he thinks the "proper" domestic arrangement for a heterosexual married couple is for the female half to earn one-third of the money and do two-thirds of the housework.
(So...uh...what, you're supposed to crunch the numbers and if the woman makes too much money she should quit or something? Is there any couple anywhere that would actually do that? And if they did, wouldn't you think they were insane?)
He also reveals that he isn't quick-witted, doesn't have a sense of humor,
and is very soft-spoken. And that he looks sort of slouchy and soft next to
Colbert. Which, frankly, doesn't make him a very effective spokesmodel for the
new manliness. In fact, it makes him seem like a stereotypical insecure academic
wimp who is overcompensating on a national stage.
(Of note: his academic area is government, and he is an advocate of the "president is above the law" theory which conservatives currently favor. But just watch them backpedal next time the POTUS is a Democrat.)
It's funny, isn't it, how we keep "rediscovering" and "redefining" what it "really means" to be a man or a woman...and it always involves a return to the imagined social norms of the American 1950s.
I hate to break it to you would-be-manly guys, but if masculinity truly is an inherent and natural part of being a male homo sapiens, then it also has to be defined cross-culturally. And, you might be surprised to learn that not all cultures on the planet have always defined "traditional" sex roles the same way. For example, very macho Latino cultures think a lot of male touching and effusive emotional displays are manly. And the whole notion of women "working outside the home" would have been nonsense for thousands of years of agriculture, where work was the home.
I defy anyone to explain exactly why cleaning a house is inherently feminine, while cleaning a car is inherently masculine. Or why working with dangerous tools is a guy thing when those tools are used for woodworking, and a girl thing when those tools are used for cooking, unless it's a high-priced gourmet restaurant, where it's a guy thing again. And is balancing the household accounts and paying the bills a girl thing, because it pertains to the household, or a guy thing because it involves money? Huh? I really want to know.
Actually, I don't.
Every person is made up of an uncountable number of different unique traits
and abilities, and every household is made up of a seemingly inexhaustible number
of tasks that must be done, and a sensible household tries to match tasks to
persons based on abilities and opportunities, and doing this through the distortion
of external sex role expectations is simply idiotic.
I don't doubt that certain traits, if you were able to look at everyone in the world and average them all together, would strongly cluster in one sex or the other. Is that really the point? If you happen to be one of only five percent of females worldwide who really doesn't give a rat's tail about the cleanliness of your home, who cares? Somebody still needs to do the dishes.
About the only thing on Mansfield's list of manly traits that approaches universality
is a tendency to want to get involved in battles. Yes, warfare seems to be a
guy thing. Although it's worth noting that it's never been terribly manly to
send other people to die in a war without putting yourself at physical risk
-- the manly ones are the ones leading the charge who might actually get killed,
not the kings who sit back and tell 'em where to go.
And it's also worth noting that many men have recognized a love of war for its own sake as, really, kind of a character flaw, and the moral courage it takes to stand up and advocate for peace, especially when that position is unpopular, is also pretty manly.
So, anyway, whenever this cycle comes round again, just remember -- it's not very manly or very womanly to let a bunch of pop-culture pundits tell you what kind of person to be.
Permalink : Men, men, men, men -- men, men, men, men