Saturday, October 28, 2006

Just two more examples...

...of how FUBAR America has become under the Bush idiocy.

Case #1: Lee Raymond, former CEO of ExxonMobil who is currently rolling in oil money while thousands of lives are lost in Iraq in a war fought (let's face it) over oil interests, HAS BEEN APPOINTED BY THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION TO SOLVE OUR NATION'S ENERGY CRISIS. Lemme guess. The "solving" is going to look a lot like not doing anything as long as Big Oil is raking in the dough.

Isn't this, I dunno, kind of a conflict of interests? If Bush was really serious about energy independence, wouldn't he make sure someone... I dunno... QUALIFIED was in this position?

GroovyGreen via Shakespeare's Sister.

Case #2: The headline says it all: "Bush Asserts Constitutional Right To Hire Incompetent People At FEMA." Congress, for once in its history under Bush, attempted to -- I won't go so far as to say, "hold someone accountable for a major f*#$ up" -- acknowledge that cronyism is not the best way to choose a FEMA director. Congress's bill stated that the FEMA Administrator should have 5 years experience of leadership in the private or public sector, and should, you know, KNOW something about emergency management and homeland security. The suggestion seems to be, hey, maybe next time don't choose the head of the International Arabian Horse Association?

For a president that ignored a major hurricane and allowed a bad situation to get worse (while all the time claiming that only he can "protect" Americans), you'd think that this bill would be the very, very least he could do to atone for his actions/sins.

But of course, you'd be wrong. Bush, with his hubris glaring in the midday sun, rejected this request. He even stated that this would "rule out" qualified persons.

From Think Progress:

It’s unclear how requiring someone to have five years of management experience and some knowledge of emergency management “rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified.” Georgetown Law School professor Marty Lederman noted, “It’s hard to imagine a more modest and reasonable congressional response to the Michael Brown fiasco,” he said.

Nevertheless, President Bush has “asserted that he has the executive authority to disobey” the law.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Political roads... those not taken, and those to come

My favorite passages from Kristof's op-ed in the NYT on the 24th:

For every additional second we stay in Iraq, we taxpayers will end up paying an additional $6,300.

So aside from the rising body counts and all the other good reasons to adopt a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, here's another: We are spending vast sums there that would be better spent rescuing the American health care system, developing alternative forms of energy and making a serious effort to reduce global poverty.
In the run-up to the Iraq war, Donald Rumsfeld estimated that the overall cost would be under $50 billion. Paul Wolfowitz argued that Iraq could use its oil to "finance its own reconstruction."

But now several careful studies have attempted to tote up various costs, and they suggest that the tab will be more than $1 trillion -- perhaps more than $2 trillion. The higher sum would amount to $6,600 per American man, woman and child.

"The total costs of the war, including the budgetary, social and macroeconomic costs, are likely to exceed $2 trillion," Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-winning economist at Columbia, writes in an updated new study with Linda Bilmes, a public finance specialist at Harvard. Their report has just appeared in the Milken Institute Review, as an update on a paper presented earlier this year.

Just to put that $2 trillion in perspective, it is four times the additional cost needed to provide health insurance for all uninsured Americans for the next decade. It is 1,600 times Mr. Bush's financing for his vaunted hydrogen energy project....

Of course, many of the costs are hidden and haven't even been spent yet. For example, more than 3,000 American veterans have suffered severe head injuries in Iraq, and the U.S. government will have to pay for round-the-clock care for many of them for decades. The cost ranges from $600,000 to $5 million per person.

Then there are disability payments that will continue for a half-century...

The administration didn't raise taxes to pay for the war, so we're financing it by borrowing from China and other countries. Those borrowing costs are estimated to range from $264 billion to $308 billion in interest.

The bottom line is that not only have we squandered 2,800 American lives and considerable American prestige in Iraq, but we're also paying $18,000 per household to do so.

We still face the choice of whether to remain in Iraq indefinitely or to impose a timetable and withdraw U.S. troops. These studies suggest that every additional year we keep our troops in Iraq will add $200 billion to our tax bills.

My vote would be to spend a chunk of that sum instead fighting malaria, AIDS and maternal mortality, bolstering American schools, and assuring health care for all Americans. We're spending $380,000 for every extra minute we stay in Iraq, and we can find better ways to spend that money.

This upcoming election will be interesting. I'm reminded of a recent article I read by a Repub. arguing that there needs to be a balance between Congress and the president -- that it's actually bad to have the same party holding both powers. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and all that. But I don't know how much can really be done at this point, except perhaps to hold people accountable.

Another week goes by...

Haven't updated in a while -- it's been a busy week.

Last weekend, James, Meredith, & I went hiking in the Open Space area -- mainly in Monte Bello. Beautiful sunny day, and it was lovely to be outdoors enjoying it. And no mosquitoes! On Sunday we went to the farmer's market, and I bought a bouquet of greenery for my new vase... the bouquet is currently hanging upside down to dry (I wanted something fairly permanent). Desperate Housewives was excellent, and we're expecting an even better episode this Sunday, as it seems everyone who shouldn't be sleeping together, is... Classes are interesting, I was reading Marx this week, and last night I treated myself to an evening of Middlemarch. I'm currently about halfway through, and thoroughly loving it.

I'm finding that this quarter is much more about independent reading and thinking. Perhaps after an entire summer of fairly solitary work, I'm just more invested in finding what I want to get out of my classes, reading group, etc. Or maybe it's because this is the first quarter that I'm actually doing "just for me" reading on the side. Or maybe it has something to do with developing my PWR course. Not sure, but I hope it lasts.

This week I had a presentation in my seminar on the 18th century essay form... I was looking at contexts for the debate around animal cruelty. Some Bentham (what's important in making moral decisions about another creature isn't "Can it reason?" but "Can it feel?"), some children's lit., some Hogarth prints (The 4 Stages of Cruelty), etc...

So to conclude this update on what I've been doing this week, I'm going to quote from Marx's "On the Jewish Question." Because in the margins on one page I wrote, and I quote: "Wow. Repubs & Evangelicals" and "YES!! faith-based office." Marx is discussing the problem of the imperfect state claiming religion as its basis. This is one snippet of what I felt was incredibly pertinent to U.S. politics right now, especially in the wake of David Kuo's book Tempting Faith:

"The so-called Christian state, on the other hand, has a political attitude towards religion, and a religious attitude towards politics. It reduces political institutions and religion equally to mere appearances."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Repubs advertising for terrorists

Olbermann is freaking incredible.

Here are selections from the transcript discussed at Crooks & Liars:

The commercial, you have already seen, it is a distillation of everything this administration and the party in power have tried to do these last five years and six weeks.

It is from the Republican National Committee, it shows images of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. It offers quotes from them, all as a clock ticks ominously in the background. It concludes with what Zawahiri may or may not have said to a Pakistani journalist as long ago as 2001, his dubious claim that he had purchased suitcase bombs. The quotation is followed by sheer coincidence, no doubt, by an image of a massive explosion. "These are the stakes" appears on the screen, quoting exactly from Lyndon Johnson's infamous nuclear scare commercial from 1964, "Vote November 7th".

There is a cheap Texas Chainsaw Massacre quality to the whole thing. It also serves to immediately call to mind the occasions when President Bush dismissed Osama bin Laden as somebody he didn't think about, except, obviously, when elections were near. Frankly, a lot of people seeing that commercial for the first time have laughed out loud, but not everyone. And therein lies the true threat to this country.

The dictionary definition of the word ‘terrorize' is simple and not open to misinterpretation: "To fill or overpower with terror; terrify; coerce by intimidation or fear." Note please that the words ‘violence' and ‘death' are missing from that definition. For the key to terrorism is not the act-but the fear of the act. That is why bin Laden and his deputies and his imitators are forever putting together videotape statements and releasing virtual infomercials with dire threats and heart-stopping warnings.

But why is the Republican Party imitating them? Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; the Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear.

The Republicans are paying to have the messages of bin Laden and the others broadcast into your home! Only the Republicans have a bigger bankroll.


Eleven presidents ago, the chief executive reassured us that ‘we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.' His distant successor has wasted his administration, insisting there is nothing we can have but fear itself.

The Vice President, as recently as this month, was caught campaigning again with the phrase "mass death in the United States". Four years ago, it was the now Secretary of State, Dr. Rice, rationalizing Iraq with quote, "we don't want to be…the smoking gun to be the mushroom cloud." Days later, Mr. Bush himself told an audience that quote "we cannot wait the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

And now we have this cheesy commercial, complete with images of a faked mushroom cloud and implications of mass death in America.

This administration has derived benefit and power from terrorizing the very people it claims to be protecting from terror.
It may be the oldest trick in the political book: scare people into believing they are in danger and only you can save them. Lyndon Johnson used it to bury Barry Goldwater. Joe McCarthy leaped from obscurity on its back. And now the legacy has come to President George W. Bush.

Of course, the gruel of fear is getting thinner and thinner, is it not, Mr. President? And thus, more and more of it needs to be made out of less and less actual terror. After last week's embarrassing internet hoax about dirty bombs in footballs stadiums, the one your Department of Homeland Security immediately disseminated to the public, a self-described former CIA operative named Wayne Simmons cited the fiasco as quote "The, and I mean, the perfect example of the President's Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the NSA Terrorist Eavesdropping Program-how vital they are."

Frank Gaffney, once a respected Assistant Secretary of Defense and now the president of something called The Center for Security Policy added "one of the things that I hope Americans take away from this is not only that they're gunning for us. Not just in a place like Iraq, but truly worldwide."

Of course, the "they" to which Mr. Gaffney referred, turned out to be a lone 20-year-old grocery bagger from Wisconsin named Jake. A kid trying to one-up some loser in an internet game of ‘chicken.' His threat referenced seven football stadiums, at which dirty bombs were to be exploded yesterday. It began with the one in New York City, even though there isn't one in New York City and though the attacks were supposed to be simultaneous, four of the games were scheduled to start at 1:00 pm Eastern time and the others at 4:00 pm Eastern time. Moreover, the kid said that he had posted the identical message on forty websites since September. We caught him in merely about six weeks, even though the only way he could be less subtle, less stealthy and less of a threat was if he bought an advertisement on the Superbowl telecast.

Mr. Bush, this is the what–100th plot your people have revealed that turned out to be some nonsensical misunderstanding or the fabrications of somebody hoping to talk his way off a waterboard in Eastern Europe? If, Mr. President, this is the kind of crack work your new ad implies that only you, and not the Democrats, can do, you, sir, need to pull over and ask for directions. The real question, of course, Mr. Bush, is why did your Department of Homeland Security even release that information in the first place? It was never a serious threat. Even the first news accounts quoted a Homeland spokesman as admitting strong skepticism. The kind of strong skepticism which most government agencies address before telling the public, not afterwards.

So that leaves two options, Mr. President: the first option, you and your Department of Homeland Security don't have the slightest idea what you're doing here. Thus, contrary to your flip-flopping between saying, "we're safe" and saying, "but we're not safe enough", and contrary to the Vice President's swaggering pronouncements about the lack of another attack since 9/11, the last five years HAS been just an accident.

Or there's the second option: your political operatives leaked this nonsense for the same reason your political operatives put out that commercial. To scare the gullible.

Obviously, the correct answer, Mr. Bush, is: all of the above.


Setting aside the fact that your government has done nothing else for those five years but pat itself on the back about terror, while waging pointless war on the wrong enemy in Iraq and waging war on the cherished freedoms in America, just on this subject of counter-terrorism, sir, yours is the least competent government in time of crisis in this country's history.

These are the stakes indeed, Mr. President. You do not know what you are doing. And the commercial, the one about which Zawahiri might say, "hey, pretty good, we love your choice of font style," all that further needs to be said about that is to add three words to Shakespeare. Mr. President, you and that advertisement of terror are full of sound and fury, signifying–and competent at–nothing.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bush has never been stay the course? Huh?

The political sidestepping -- nay, outright lying -- is beyond ridiculous. Bush says we've "never been stay the course." Um... what? As Crooks and Liars notes:

BUSH: Well, listen, we've never been "stay the course", George. We have been, "We will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we're constantly adjusting the tactics"…

BUSH: We will stay the course. [8/30/06]

BUSH: We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. [8/4/05]

BUSH: We will stay the course until the job is done, Steve. And the
temptation is to try to get the President or somebody to put a timetable on
the definition of getting the job done. We’re just going to stay the
. [12/15/03]

BUSH: And my message today to those in Iraq is: We’ll stay the course.

BUSH: And that’s why we’re going to stay the course in Iraq. And that’s
why when we say something in Iraq, we’re going to do it. [4/16/04]

BUSH: And so we’ve got tough action in Iraq. But we will stay the course. [4/5/04]

Bush, America isn't as dumb as you wish we were. We know how to type "stay the course" into a Google news search. You want to get the hell outa Iraq now that you've f-ed things up, but you don't want to say "cut and run," even though your own advisors know Iraq is now an unwinnable war. So call it what you want. A change in tactics, a change of heart, a revised plan, whatever. But don't pretend that you aren't doing exactly what Dems have been pushing for all along.

Oh, and about this:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it seems like every month we're going farther from that.

BUSH: Well, I don't know why you would say that. I mean…

STEPHANOPOULOS: The casualties are going up.

BUSH: … if that's the definition of success or failure, the number of casualties, then you're right. But that's what the enemy knows. See, they try to define success or failure.

This is ridiculous. People dying = things are not good. Success does not equal large scale death and destruction. Who is the "enemy"? Iraqis? Those crazy people saying, hey, we think 600,000 people have died as a result of this war?

STEPHANOPOULOS: James Baker's a smart guy. He's got a solid group of people on that study group. But what can he come up with that you and your military commanders haven't already thought of?

BUSH: Well, why don't we wait and see? I don't — you know, we're not in collaboration with the Baker-Hamilton committee. I think this is a good idea, to get people outside to come and take a look.

That's an interesting question. I'm looking forward to seeing the answer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, a lot of people think we shouldn't wait, and that if a change of strategy is needed it shouldn't come after the elections, it should come now.

BUSH: Well, we're constantly changing tactics, constantly changing tactics.

WHAT?? Why aren't you in collaboration with every resource we've got? Why is change so late in coming? What the hell do you mean, let's "wait and see"?! This isn't oh, let's wait and see what the weather does. Answer old Stephanopoulos: why isn't change coming now? And what sort of change, seeing that your supposed "changing" of tactics have all failed, miserably? Your administration is broken. *Ding ding* Time for new leadership!

And the part of the transcript that isn't at Crooks and Liars, is also really interesting... in which Bush has a paranoid view of why violence is escalating, and who's behind it. You'd think it's because of Sunni-Shiite violence, right? Because of civil war, right? WRONG! It's the terrorists! It's al Quaeda! And the people behind this sectarian violence are -- NO JOKE, BUSH ACTUALLY IMPLIES THIS -- trying to influence midterm elections!! *gasp*


Nice attempt to scare the sh*# out of the few people who still have an iota of trust in what comes out of your mouth.

American Prospect on FFL

I was scrolling through Feministe, and was curious about an article by Adele M. Stan on Feminists for Life. Had to link to it, as I just covered this last week. She comes to the same conclusions: FFL adopts the rhetoric of pro-choice activists for a very anti-choice agenda. Stan is quite clear that this is a group which has whole heartedly embraced the Catholic Vatican's stance on contraception and birth control, leaving women with no choice but to sacrifice their own lives/health for whatever blastocyte might come along (whether by accident or rape). Note: they don't support any exceptions, ever.

Anyways, I'll let Adele Stan handle it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Country That Works

That's the title of Andy Stern's book. I just saw an interview with him on the news, and he was amazing. He points out that this economy -- although up and running according to the numbers -- is not working for most Americans. That we need to realize health care linked up with our labor does not make sense in a global economy. In other words, instead of paying for healthcare for workers, companies simply relocate to Canada. That we need more middle class jobs. That trickle down simply does not work. That the rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer, and the gap shows no signs of closing unless something changes. Basically, that America needs a government that works (clearly the present one isn't working). That invests those billions of dollars not in a war of choice, but in America's common good (and before you believe Iraq has anything to do with terrorism: where exactly is Bin Laden?). OK so the idea of the "common good" is coming to me from Clinton's amazing speech the other day.

Anyway, so here's Stern in an interview:

The world is changing; this is not our fathers' and grandfathers' economy. And even Alan Greenspan, Bob Rubin, Warren Buffett, and yes, President Bush's new Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, acknowledge growing problems with the market not working for middle class Americans.

Second, Stephen, your one defense to show that living standards are improving for middle class Americans was the increasing number of Americans who own stock.

Wrong again: The Federal Reserve and the Economic Policy Institute report that less than half of all Americans are invested in the stock market in any fashion directly or even indirectly through mutual funds or 401(k)s.

In fact stock ownership DECLINED from 51.9% in 2001 to 48.6% in 2004. And this decreasing "Ownership Society" also has produced less stock market assets for individual households. The percentage of households with more than $5,000 in stock FELL from 40.1% to 34.9%.

But here is the inequality gap in black and white: The wealthiest 20 percent of all households in America own 90 percent of all stock value and the wealthiest 5 percent own 65 percent of all stock value directly or indirectly.

This is not a country growing together. A rising tide is only lifting the luxury liners.

As I write in my book, we can make this A Country That Works, but it means facing up to reality and recognizing difficulties confronting hard working Americans. Stephen Colbert intends to be funny. Stephen Moore cooking the books on TV, radio, and in print is not funny. We need a serious effort to find ways together to put America back on track – for our kids and grandkids.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

3 Years, Shmoopy

It's been three years since I met Andrew over coffee, with Dale playing chaperone, and we talked until past Andrew's dinner time, and went to Friendly's, and I couldn't finish my salad. From dating at MHC, to a summer in Boston, to vacations together in CA & WI... it's been three busy & happy years. Love you, honey!

Awkward moments at Stanford

Many people find the Stanford campus aesthetically pleasing. I get it. I even appreciate it. The arcades, the red tile, the palm trees, the fountains, the symmetry. But I'm still appalled by the sheer number of tourists. Buses come up Palm Drive, park along the Oval, and unleash their camera-toting multitudes to wreck havoc on the Main Quad. Usually I can take this in stride. Like how I deal with the fact that every time I bike to the department in my hoodie on a weekend morning to print some article or grab some last minute materials, I bike through the after shocks of a wedding. This is how things are. But sometimes, it becomes too much.

Cases in point: In the space of one week, both of the following happened to me.

1. Beautiful sunny day. I'm minding my own business, walking down the arcade parallel to Serra. Suddenly I realize that this guy walking perpendicularly to me is not manoevering to avoid me, but rather is on a crash course to intercept me. I look up. Young European-looking blond guy is handing me a camera and wants his picture taken with the sculptures and Memorial Church in the background. I do so, and he has to repeat directions on how to press the button as I try to get a pic that doesn't have too many other people in it.

2. I had just picked up the 1964 compilation of Harper's Magazine from the library, because I want to use the essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" in my PWR course. And I have this dream of inspiring students to use the library by giving them a copy of the actual magazine from 1964. Anyways. So I'm sitting at the bus stop flipping through 40 year old ads for vermeoth and vacations to Egypt -- Let me interrupt myself: While getting these old magazines, I happened to look at some mags from the mid-70's, which were advertising cars with 24 miles to the gallon. And I thought, Christ, this is depressing. Fuel efficiency hasn't improved in the last 30+ years. Imagine what technological improvements could have been initiated if big oil didn't own our government. It's not inconceivable that we could have been much less reliant on the Middle East, and could therefore have saved ourselves a few trillion dollars and many thousands of lives. But I digress.

So I'm sitting at the bus stop with my ads for scotch and typewriters, when this man and young woman approach me, camera in hand. "Can we take a picture with you?" At first I thought he was asking me to take a picture of them. But no. He sat by me, asked if I was a student ("Yes, in English"), put his arm over the back of the bench, and the lady snapped a picture of us. I smiled. He said something which I at first thought was "You should come to China," but was actually "I'm from China" (or something to that effect). Shanghai, in fact. Sounds like he's going to be a student here. To which I commented on the distance and the nice weather in CA, and to enjoy it.

What makes this even funnier, is that the same thing happened to Jessica when she visited a couple of weeks ago. She got her picture taken by a tourist in the bookstore coffee shop, despite her protests that she doesn't actually go here yet.

Who knew that Stanford students were a curiosity worthy of photo documentation.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


God I love this pudding.

My only complaint: I wish they kept the cookie crumbles separate from the decadent vanilla pudding. Otherwise, during the whisking process, the two become this very drab gray conglomerate. (But it still tastes good.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Who Killed The Electric Car?

Too cute

Sweet Tired Cat

The aesthetics of cuteness.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

FFL: "F" for "Fear"

"Feminists" for Life is a particularly problematic group. And they just bought Susan B. Anthony's historical house. If you visit their website, you'll find all sorts of questionable material. The first sign of trouble should be their ambiguous stance on contraception. You'd think that a group trying to empower women and to prevent abortions would be all over this *obvious* and *effective* way to do both at the same time. But not so much. Here's their FAQ page on contraception:

Feminists for Life's mission is to address the unmet needs of women who are pregnant or parenting. Preconception issues including abstinence and contraception are outside of our mission. Some FFL members and supporters support the use of non-abortifacient contraception while others oppose contraception for a variety of reasons. FFL is concerned that certain forms of contraception have had adverse health effects on women.

Our membership enjoys a broad spectrum of opinion that reflects the diversity of opinions among the American public.

In the time of the early American feminists, sex between married couples was not always consensual. Many women bore 20 or more children, of whom only half survived. In order to affirm women’s rights within marriage, most feminist foremothers promoted “voluntary motherhood,” whereby women would have the education and right to fully participate in the decision to have sexual relations. FFL likewise supports life planning by focusing on one's education and career plans coupled with mentoring and empowering programs for teens.

God, that's tricky, right? The reason it's so vague and side-stepping is because they aren't very well going to f-ing tell us anything. But let's, you know, try to decipher this.

First point: This is a group whose mission is to prevent abortion, and they're seriously saying that contraception and abstinence stances are outside of their focus??!! This should raise, oh, a few red flags. The purpose clearly isn't to help women NOT HAVE TO CHOOSE by never having an unwanted pregnancy in the first place, but to convince women that the only right choice is to carry the unwanted pregnancy.

Second point. They don't mention any specific "non abortifacient contraception" methods. Maybe because they aren't so sure what this means. According to the medical definition, this is a straight-up oxymoron. You can't contracept (prevent pregnancy) and abort (end pregnancy) at the same time. The only way you can even imagine this, is if you change the definition of pregnancy, which anti-choice activists have attempted to do (totally ignoring that the sperm-meets-egg moment, even under ideal conditions, still has only a 50% chance of implantation under the best of circumstances). Anyways. You would think that they could at least commit to condoms, right? This should raise more red flags. They're clearly pandering to a base that buys into the idea that a "contraception mentality" is bad.

Third point: So what's going on with this disclaimer that they're concerned about "adverse health effects" of contraception on women? This is pure baloney. What types of contraception exactly are they claiming has adverse effects? They don't say because they don't know. Contraception is far, far safer than either having an abortion or giving birth. There's also the side benefits (like the pill & clearing up acne). So unless we're never going to have sex (highly unlikely), we're probably going to opt to use contraception.

Fourth point: They do, however, seem to take some stance on what happens pre-pregnancy. But this is further shrouded in ambiguity. The rhetoric here is incredible. I've bolded it for your viewing pleasure. So first they take a look back at pre-modern contraception methods of advocating that women be able to choose whether or not to engage in sexual relations. This is a "duh" moment. Then they say "FFL likewise supports..." We might well be confused. So do they only really advocate abstinence from sexual relations? Are we never to have sexual relations unless we're trying to get pregnant? Should we therefore have sex around, oh, twice in our lifetimes?

The part that should be scary, is that they don't say otherwise.

Also scary, is the fact that you can't get to many straight answers on their website. And sometimes when you do, you wish you hadn't. Example is their "medical expert" on abortion. They try to paint it as a dangerous, scary procedure, with their "right to know" page detailing anything that could possibly go wrong. They oh so conveniently overlook the fact that an abortion is SAFER than giving birth. And that contraception is safer than either. And what really pisses me off is the blatant lies:

Finally, some of you may be aware that recently there have been reports that link breast cancer with abortion. Since abortion has been legal for over 20 years, and sometimes it takes 20 to 30 years for a cancer to develop, this link is just starting to surface. More research is needed, especially since so many women have abortions every year coupled with the fact that so many women also die from breast cancer.

More baloney. The medical establishment is more than clear on this, and these sorts of lies have actually gotten many abstinence-only sex ed. groups in trouble. Because it's a lie carefully crafted to play on women's fears of breast cancer, and because it ignores all the (better and more up-to-date) studies that show no link whatsoever between abortion and breast cancer. Actually, let's do what any intelligent-person-with-a-conscience-posting info.-on-health-concerns would do before dissemeninating said info. Let's look at what the National Cancer Institute has to say about it:

The relationship between induced and spontaneous abortion and breast cancer risk has been the subject of extensive research beginning in the late 1950s. Until the mid-1990s, the evidence was inconsistent. Findings from some studies suggested there was no increase in risk of breast cancer among women who had had an abortion, while findings from other studies suggested there was an increased risk. Most of these studies, however, were flawed in a number of ways that can lead to unreliable results. Only a small number of women were included in many of these studies, and for most, the data were collected only after breast cancer had been diagnosed, and women’s histories of miscarriage and abortion were based on their “self-report” rather than on their medical records. Since then, better-designed studies have been conducted. These newer studies examined large numbers of women, collected data before breast cancer was found, and gathered medical history information from medical records rather than simply from self-reports, thereby generating more reliable findings. The newer studies consistently showed no association between induced and spontaneous abortions and breast cancer risk.

Well, lookey here! Should we trust the National Cancer Institute, or the one "expert" over at "Feminists" for Life?

This has been brought to you as another demonstration on "The Rhetoric of Fear."

Fights over feminist roots

I've been interested in how groups like "Feminists" for Life have coopted the early figures of the American suffrage movement. It's always struck me as strange: these were progressive women, bucking conservative dogma, and proposing radical changes. Compare them to groups like "Feminists" for Life, which try to take away rights that women have fought for (namely, safe and legal abortions and many types of contraception). To me, it's never made much sense. So you can imagine my excitement over this NY Times piece, by a Pulitizer Prize winning historian, Stacy Schiff (it's aptly titled "Desperately Seeking Susan"). I'm excerpting my favorite parts:

There is no question that she deplored the practice of abortion, as did every one of her colleagues in the suffrage movement. Feminists for Life cites an 1869 article in her newspaper denouncing “child murder,” labeling abortion “a most monstrous crime,” and advocating its end. “No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed,” blares the article. “It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death.”

What is generally not mentioned is that the essay argues against an anti-abortion law; its author did not believe legislation would resolve the issue of unwanted pregnancy. Also not mentioned is the vaporous textual trail. According to the editors of Anthony’s papers, the article is not hers.

In her personal life Anthony was clear in her conviction that women were not preordained to motherhood, that sometimes a woman and her womb might go their separate ways. A devoted aunt, she claimed to appreciate her colleagues’ offspring, some of whom even felt warmly toward her. But she had little patience for maternity. At best she was the ever-helpful friend who asks if you realize what you are in for just as you have vomited your way through your first trimester. At worst she was a ruthless scold...

Above all, the drillmaster of the suffrage movement had no patience when it came to dogma. She won few points for her free thinking but forged ahead all the same: “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” She cast her vote always for tolerance, acting from a simple conviction: “For a people is only as great, as free, as lofty, as advanced as its women are free, noble and progressive.”

The bottom line is that we cannot possibly know what Anthony would make of today’s debate. Unwanted pregnancy was for her bundled up with a different set of issues, of which only one truly mattered: rescuing women from “the Dead Sea of disfranchisement.” In the 19th century, abortion often was life-threatening, contraception primitive, and a woman as little in control of her reproductive life as of her political one. The terms do not translate, one reason time travel is a risky proposition. No amount of parsing the founding fathers will reveal what they think of the war in Iraq, just as no modern chorus of mea culpas will explain away their slave-holding. To suggest otherwise is to wind up with history worthy of those classic commercial duos, Fred Astaire and his Dirt Devil, Paula Abdul and Groucho Marx.

For what it’s worth, Anthony has ceded her place on the dollar to another steely and resourceful woman, the face of manifest destiny, who — coincidentally? — appears always with a child strapped to her back, the original rendition of backwards-and-in-heels. Sacagawea may have been a crackerjack scout, but she left no paper trail. Who knows what she thought about white men or westward expansion? She’s up for grabs, an icon without a cause. Feminists for Life may want to hurry, before the logging industry gets there first.

I love the effort to contextualize Anthony's views, especially as I agree that we can't so easily map our own terms onto these figures. I mean, OF COURSE they didn't advocate abortion: at the time it was unsafe, and it would have won them no political allies. When you're fighting for the vote, you can't very well get five steps ahead of yourself.

Next post will be on FFL.

5 day weekends

So I haven't updated in over a week. And I did do some interesting things lately:

- Namely, went into SF w/ the cohort to see a play, Travesties. I loved it. I had no idea how they would stage it, especially since one needs quite a bit of background to understand what the hell is going on. You've got Lenin, Joyce, and Tzara bouncing around during WW1, filtered through the (failing) memory of Henry Carr, organized around the structure of Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. And if you don't have that play in the back of your mind, I imagine it makes very little to no sense. Anyways, the perfect play for 2nd years to see post-quals. So the production did some kitschy things to signal when Carr's memory is on replay, and the set was awesome. Moving picture frames, a library cart rolling around the stage, etc.

- Desperate Housewives nights.

- Trips to the eye vision center. Amazingly, my eyes didn't deteriorate over the summer. Now my right eye has finally caught up with the left, so I won't have to worry about keeping different prescriptions straight.

- Bar night after sexual harassment training (that is, training as to what to do about responding to concerns, not HOW to harass).

- Putting together my comp & rhetoric course for winter and spring quarters. My theme is "The Rhetoric of Fear."

- Ebaying. I decided to buy a vase. It's French shabby chic.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Jersey Girls respond to Woodward's book

I found this story interesting after some recent accusations Bush has made, about Democrats being a party that "waits" for an attack without doing anything. This seems to be yet another example of the Republican administration transferring criticism they deserve to a group that doesn't deserve it (ie, some have tried to blame the pages for Foley's indiscretions, or pretended they didn't want to be seen as "hating gays" for calling Foley out. Come on, this is the party trying to ban gay marriage by inciting hatred, and suddenly they're afraid of being seen as homophobes?)

Anyways. Clinton has made it clear that he was after bin Laden, and passed on plans/suggestions that were clearly not followed by the Bush administration. We know that the administration had multiple warnings in the months and weeks leading up to the attacks. And we know that Ashcroft conveniently was told not to fly in commercial airliners. Too bad the administration didn't see fit to question whether the rest of the American public was safe.

Here's from the Jersey Girls:

Statement Regarding al Qaeda Threats
October 5, 2006

Astonishingly, five years post 9/11 the public is made aware about an urgent July 10, 2001 meeting that took place between former CIA Director George Tenet and then, National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice. This information comes from Bob Woodward's newly released book, "State of Denial".

Despite this Administration's rhetoric that they had "no warnings" leading up to 9/11, it has become abundantly clear, that key Administration officials were made aware of the vast array of Al Qaeda threats and warnings that existed in years prior, and more importantly, in the weeks leading up to September 11, 2001.

When we add the July 10, 2001 meeting to the plethora of other clear warnings that our government had, a very concise view of the al Qaeda threat emerges. Those other warnings include, but are not limited to:

* Warnings from leaders of other nations and foreign intelligence apparatus' of terrorist threats

* June 30, 2001 Senior Executive Intelligence Briefing (SEIB) entitled "bin Laden Threats Are Real"

* The threat of President Bush's assassination at the G-8 Summit by al Qaeda in July of 2001 – using aircraft to dive bomb the summit building

* July 2001 Phoenix memo, which told of potential terrorists taking flight lessons

* 52 FAA warnings – five of which mentioned al Qaeda's training for hijacking

* August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief entitled "bin Laden Determined to Strike in US"

* National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)entitled "Islamist Extremists Learn to Fly"

* Intelligence agency heads describing themselves with their "hair on fire" to characterize the imminent nature of the threats they were intercepting from Al Qaeda and their sense of urgency in relating them to the Bush Administration

* The arrest of Zacharias Moussaoui in August of 2001

* FBI Agent Harry Samit's 70 unsuccessful attempts to get a FISA Warrant to examine Moussaoui's belongings

So in conclusion: the party that waits for an attack? That'd be Bush's Republican administration.

(Oh, not to mention this new scheme for a wall on the Mexican border. Um, are we seriously worried about terrorists coming from Mexico? Seems like an expensive project with little potential payoff for preventing terrorist attacks. What about securing freight? What about securing our chemical plants? Oh yeah, Bush is waiting for an attack before he does anything about those.)

"My job is to do my job"

Jon Stewart makes everything better.

In this clip from Crooks & Liars, Stewart covers the 20 million in taxpayer dollars allotted for a celebration of "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan (more like fiasco), Bush's Biblically laden comparison of the botched job in Iraq to a "comma" in the history books, his dismal job approval rating (36%), and a delightful montage of Bush sounding, well, like Bush (i.e., dumb as a rock. Except that a rock would be a whole helluva lot less dangerous to the world).

Friday, October 06, 2006

Movie Trailer

American Blackout Trailer

This looks amazing.

"Lies...atop lies"

Keith Olbermann is incredible. Video & text from Crooks & Liars.

Why has the ferocity of your venom against the Democrats, now exceeded the ferocity of your venom against the terrorists?

Why have you chosen to go down in history as the President who made things up?

In less than one month you have gone from a flawed call to unity, to this clarion call to hatred of Americans, by Americans.

If this is not simply the most shameless example of the rhetoric of political hackery, then it would have to be the cry of a leader crumbling under the weight of his own lies.

And thank God that some people are still reporting on the Bush administration's decision that "eh, we can do without the 800+ year belief in the value of habeas corpus." Somehow, "Predatorgate" has overshadowed the further dismantling of the Constitution.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


It's been a good week.

Last Tuesday I had my second chance at quals, and it went much, much better. It was what I wanted to get out of quals. It was motivating. It was the capstone to a very busy summer.

Prof. M -- is amazing. And his "The Bourgeois" is a huge class. The reading list is a dream. This week we read Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the "Spirit" of Capitalism. Next week: re-reading Robinson Crusoe.

I'm also taking Prof. G --'s course on the 18th century and the essay. Very interested in what she was saying about these periodicals growing into the serialized novel of the 19th century...

So I'm actually taking courses with the same two profs. as last spring... But this time I'll definitely be writing individual papers!

I've done lots of shopping, outfitting the apartment and my pantry. God knows I need to have enough food to survive a zombie attack. Last week after my quals, I bought A REAL LAMP. This is a huge development. For the first week I was using my little crappy Ikea desk light in conjuction with my accent lamp. This involved putting said lamp on a chair, and scooting it next to the couch, and crouching under the desk light, which was set up on one of my breakfast bar stools. It was ridiculous. Anyway, so this lamp was the most expensive thing Target had. It was still only around $60. It has a real lamp shade. And I "splurged" and bought the $2.75 light bulb (full spectrum and actually white light). And it was very good.

The weekend was eventful... with Thursday night's cheesecake event, and Saturday's welcome party for the first year English students (let's just say, I got back at 3:30 am, even though I refused to accompany Steve to the English dept. on the back of his bike with a backpack full of alcohol). Sunday I slept till, I kid you not, 1:33 pm. And the only reason I got up then, was because someone set off the damn fire alarm. In the evening, I had Jessika & Saquib over for Desperate Housewives and dessert. I think this season is quite promising.

Today I had an eye appointment. They dilated my eyes. It was not good. I tried to ride my bike home, and was squinting uncontrollably. Luckily it was a very quiet time of the day as far as traffic goes. It was hours before I could see normally.

Anyway, what prompted this post was the fact that I just finished writing up my course description proposal for PWR (that's the composition & rhetoric course for all first year students, which I'll be instructing in the winter & spring quarters). And it was surprisingly enjoyable and empowering. Here's my tentative course title:

The Sky is Falling: The Rhetoric of Fear in the News and at the Movies

And now, time for bed!!