Saturday, April 30, 2005

Teh Gay

Heh. Amanda over at Pandagon blogs about the Bama legislator who made the mistake of reading a book one time...probly one his kid brought home from school...and it had gay guys in it!

So then he went out and got him another book, and what do you know? More gay guys! And he went and got another book, and...yes! More Gay!

In book after book, Allen reads what he calls the "homosexual agenda,"

Including, and I know this is gone to shock a lot of you, some of the plays by that Shakespeare fella.

So Rep. Gerald Allen wrote him a bill to ban any books in Bama that might, well, you know, have to do with The Gay.

Specifically he wants to ban books by gay writers and books having gay characters from schools and public libraries. He looks at this as ameasure to protect "the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

[On a side note: You can tell, just by thinking about that bill a moment, how many books this fella has read in his life -- how familiar he is with the world of books, I mean.

For instance: Who does he figure is going to winnow through every book in the public library, hunting out gay characters? Will he hire readers to read every book in the Books In Print and thereafter issue, as does the Vatican, say, a List of Banned Books in Bama -- this book is Not ALL Right because it has a minor character (page 37, waiter) who is gay; this book in Not All Right because it has a same-sex couple (chapters eleven to fifteen, inclusive); this book is Not All Right because from 1981 to 1997 the author was engaged in a bisexual relationship (see People Magzine Issue XXX) --

How's Bama going to pay for this army of readers? How's it going to pay for the appeal from the guy who's going to claim that the People article was a big fat lie? How's it going to pay for the lawsuits when the guy claims his career has been damaged by his book being banned?]

More importantly, as Amanda points out, look what this guy's going to have to ban if he goes down this road: Shakespeare (though he says no, no, he won't ban Shakespeare! Heavens, no!), Moby Dick, Oscar Wilde, Forster, Sappho, Plato, for God's sake, he's going to have to ban Plato, half our modern poets and dramatists, who does he think will be left to read?

Oh. Wait. Tim LeHaye, of course.

It all becomes clear.

Friday, April 29, 2005

We need that Prayer!

Here's one to watch:

The Virginia ACLU has filed a petition on behalf of Cynthia Simpson, who is Wiccan. The suit seeks to reverse a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals 3-judge panel's upholding of Chesterfield County's banning of Simpson from delivering the invocation at Board of Supervisors meetings. In 2002, when Simpson asked to be put on a list of persons who could deliver the invocation, she was told that anyone doing so[must] be Judeo-Christian. Earlier this month, the 3-judge panel ruled that Chesterfield County was within its rights restricting legislative prayer.

This is one I keep hearing from all my Far-Right Christian students -- how we need prayer in schools, how it will be okay if we have prayer in schools, because anyone will be allowed to pray, after all, we have freedom of religion in this country -- except by "anyone" they mean either Baptists or Lutherans or Methodists, they're not prejudice, oh no, and, as one of them told me the other day, "Jews can pray too, that's okay!"

"Okay," I said. "Suppose I'm a teacher, and I'm a Wiccan, and I want your daughter -- " her daughter was in the hallway at that moment -- "Suppose I want your daughter to pray to some Wiccan goddess. You're okay with that?"

She stared at me.

"Suppose I'm Muslim," I said. "I want your kid to pray to Allah. You're okay with that?"

"Well, no," she said. "But this is a Christian country!"

"Well, no," I said. "This is a country where the government doesn't endorse any specific religion."

"But the government is endorsing Christianity!" she told me -- with some triumph, I might add.

Heh. Indeedy. And that's the damn problem.

And this case is an example of what happens when we start saying we can pray in a state-endorsed venue.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Get this one:

How would you like the U.S. government to send you a check that would pay for five years' worth of gasoline?

Well, it can be arranged.

Not everyone is eligible, of course. But if you use a vehicle 100% for business and purchase it, new or used, from a select list of big-time gas-guzzlers, Uncle Sam is ready to help you out.Yes, I'm talking about the well-publicized special tax break for vehicles with a gross weight of at least 6,000 pounds.

Gross weight is the weight of the vehicle including fuel, passengers and payload. Because of this, gross weight can be a good deal more than the empty weight of the vehicle.Forty-one domestic and 15 foreign SUVs qualify for this tax break. The Porsche Cayenne, a notably business-like vehicle, is among them. As a consequence, while the depreciation write-off for any passenger car used for business is limited to only $2,960 in 2005, down from $10,610 in 2004, those claiming 100% business use of these SUVs could deduct 100% of the $89,665 price of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo during 2003 and until late October 2004. For those who bought in time, the write-off represented an immediate income tax savings of $31,383, provided the buyer was in the 35% tax bracket. Think of it as a bagatelle for the non-indigent from the Jobs and Growth Act of 2003.

One of the particularly compelling uses I've seen of this tax break was a bright parrot-green Hummer2 parked at a luxury marina in Burnt Store, Fla. A sign on the driver's door advertised a dress shop.


And hey? If you've got any complaints, don't take them to Mr. Capitalist Lion. He knows you don't have your own Hummer because you're just too damn lazy to work for it.

Passover Food

Oh, God, I'm so jealous.

Czeltic Girl apparently not only lives where she can just walk into stores and buy Passover stuff*, she lives somewhere where Coke machines are stocked with Passover Coke.


We have to get out of Arkansas.

*I so miss passover stuff. Cookies of affliction. The little mashmallow candies. Chocolate-covered matzoh that you don't make yourself. Jelly slices! I loved the KFP jelly slices! Christ, here in Fort Smith, you can't even get KFP Matzoh, much less all the cool stuff that goes with.

It's like that joke about writers? "In England, one can make a living as a writer; in America, one is allowed to be a writer; in Australia, one has to explain what a writer is."

Well, in the East, one can get all the cool stuff one wants for Passover, including, apparently, Passover Coke; in North Carolina, where we used to live, one could, if one worked ahead and went to the stores in the rich neighborhoods, get the minimum stuff one needed for Passover; in Fort Smith, Arkansas, one has to explain what Passover is.

Oh, yeah

This is an oh yeah another thing on Capitalist Lion's naive rebuttal post, the one where he says if we weren't too lazy to work all Americans would be rich enough to buy great health care --

-- because, of course, as I wanted to add, the problem Mr. Lion is missing with that neat bit of logic is that it isn't not working that's making us poor, it's buying health care under our current health care system, which is actually broken: not urben-legend broken, as your idea of the Canadian system is (one of his commenters trotted out the "in Canada patients have to wait a year to get an abortion!" myth, oh, it was very funny, and he's got one about patients in Canada having to wait up to a year for elective surgery -- hey, Mr. Lion? My father has been on a waiting list over six months for heart surgery. And that's right here in the U.S.A., with the greatest health care system in the world, and yep, he has insurance, and really good insurance at that).

Take my case, Mr. Lion. I'm not a minimum wage worker. I make decent money -- might even call me middle-class. Our household is in the 50-100,000 a year range. But last year we declared bankruptcy. Why?

Here's why: medical bills.

We pay six hundred a month for insurance. We pay, over and above that six hundred a month for insurance, a twenty dollar co-pay every time we actually see a doctor. Then, after we have seen the doctor, our insurance only covers %80 of the actual cost, of anything, and some things, like mr. delagar's sleep apnea, it does not cover at all.

When we moved, as academics do, we had to make giant COBRA payments to keep our health insurance active (what's that, you say? Do without health insurance, if your COBRA payments are too high? Well, yes, I tried that once, when I was young and an idiot, like you: I got cancer, without insurance -- that contributed to the medical bankruptcy I recently declared, quite a bit). That happened twice. COBRA is such a boon -- oh yes. Do you have any idea how high COBRA payments are for families? Ours was nine hundred a month. This was when we were bringing in, together, barely two thousand a month.

I also had a baby and major medical care in states in which the hospitals were allowed to charge interest on the money patients owed them: one hospital charged me twenty-one percent interest(Louisiana). The other charged me fourteen percent interest (Idaho). I had surgery in a state (North Carolina) where the hospital could turn patients over to collect agencies.

So Mr. Lion's little fantasy, about how anyone can get wonderful medical care in this country, no matter how much money they make, and paying for it won't be a problem -- well, Mr. Lion needs to get out in the real world and look around a bit. Or, here's an idea, do some research. Find out what he's actually talking about before he opens his big mouth.

Hey, what a concept.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Oh boy

Capitalist Lion has a new post, a rebuttal post, and it's even more clueless than his original post.

You'll remember Mr. Lion was the fella who said that because Canadians were crossing the border to seek health care here, that proved we had the best health care system in the world, huh, so there?

Well, apparently lots of folks pointed out to him, in emails and fiery comments, what a silly thing that was to believe, because he's written a lengthy post that essentially says two things:

(1) People who are poor in America are just too lazy to work, because everybody who wants to be a MILLIONAIRE in America CAN BE ONE! Just get a job at McDonalds and start WORKING! (I think this guy really believes this, by the way. Just go read his post. Not kidding.)

(2) Even if you don't have much money you can still get the BESTEST HEALTH CARE IN THE WORLD here in America and pay for it with your job at McDonalds. I think he believes this one too. Apparently he owed a few thousand to some hospital once and he paid it off a few hundred a month over a few years and everything was fine, so he figures everyone else in the country should be able to do the same, so what's the problem?

Mr. Lion, I'm guessing, (1) doesn't live in one of those states where the hospitals are allowed to charge interest on what you owe them; (2) never got cancer or any othr serious disease (3) never had anything bad happen to him while he was without medical insurance (4) does not himself have a chronic medical condition and does not have a family (he pays $250, he tells us, for his medical insurance) (5) doesn't live in one of the states that lets hospitals turn your bill over to collection agencies and (6) doesn't understand that anecdotal evidence isn't evidence.

Or, to put it more plainly, Mr. Lion, just because it happened to you doesn't make it universal truth.

Though I do realize, of course, that you are the center of the goddam universe.


Bible As Literature -- in Texas

Over in Odessa, Texas they’re going to teach the Bible in High School.

Which is fine, of course, so long as it is, as they claim, the Bible as literature.

The Bible is one of the main texts Western Civilization was founded on, and to understand Western Culture students ought to know it the way many of them know, say, Dawson’s Creek or Buffy the Vampire Slayer (can you tell I’ve given this speech before? Every time I teach Bible as Lit, in fact), when in fact, most of them, and I am including so-called Christians in this mix, have never read the text and could not explicate a quotation from it for you with a gun to their head.

So yes, great. Teach them the Bible. Please.

But really teach it to them – will you do that?

Or is this going to be just Sunday Revival in High School? Proselytizing about Jesus and giving your soul to the Lord and why God doesn’t want you to be gay?

Because the council that is pushing the class sure doesn’t exactly sound like they want the class taught for its literary value:

The [school] board had heard a presentation in March from Mike Johnson, a representative of the Greensboro, N.C.-based National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, who said that coursework designed by that organization is not about proselytizing or preaching.

But People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the council, saying its materials promote religion.

(Here’s the link to the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools:

National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools: )

And further – even if the school in Odessa has the most honest intentions – which I gotta tell you I doubt – do you really think the teachers in these high schools are going to stand up there and tell the truth?

No, the Bible is not the literal truth. No, it is not the infallible word of God. Yes, there are lots of contradictions and errors in it.

No, the Old Testament was written by the fiery finger of God on the stone

No, the four gospels were not written by the four disciples. Yes, in fact, the were written as much as ninety years after Christ died and not in the order they are presented in the text, and yes, Paul’s letters were actually written first, and no, not all of those letters are actually written by Paul, and yes, we actually do know this, and no, there is no actual historical evidence that Christ existed –

You think ANY high school teacher in Texas will stand up and say that to her fifteen year old Pentecostal students?

Hell, I get enough grief saying it to my thirty-five year old Arkies.

(Via Mustang Bobby at

UPDATE: In case you were wondering about the motives of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, check out the links on their web page:

A sample:

Wallbuilders - David
Creation Evidence Museum - Dr. Carl
America's Christian Heritage
Creation Science Evangelism - Dr. Kent
American Family
Christian Educators Association International
Mom's in Touch
Save America Now

Not exactly an organization dedicated to reclaiming a non-biased, non-theocratic approach to the Bible in the schools, I'm guessing. What do you think?

Back to the Agora

Here’s another one of those “poor people have lots of TV sets so they aren’t actually poor” arguments.

It also takes the NT quotation “the poor you always have with you” out of context, which is usual for ill-educate Christians, I have noticed.

Let deal with the latter first.

Yes, Christ did tell Judas it was okay for Mary to wipe a bunch of expensive perfume on Christ’s feet, saying, “The poor you always have with you, but me you won’t always have.”

And (ignorant) Christians have, ever since, been using this verse as an excuse not to give money to the poor, or to take care of the poor, or to serve the poor, despite everything else Christ said everywhere else about wealth and the poor.

Such as:

Matt 19:21: Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me.

Mark 10:21: Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Luke 6.20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed [be ye] poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.

Luke 14. 20: But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
Luke 14.21: So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind

And many other bits, about feeding the hungry and not worshiping wealth and not laying up treasures on earth, that all say essentially the same thing: Jesus wants people here on earth to take care of the poor; he wants people here on earth to give not just a few bucks to the poor but lots (or even all) of their money and lots (or even all) of their time to the poor.

But faux Christians, whose actual religion is, of course, Capitalism, are not happy with the real Jesus, the one who tells them, over and over again, that they cannot serve both God and money; that if they try they are doomed; Capitalist “Christians” like this love to quote the “poor you always have with you” snippet and pretend Jesus wants them to keep their money.

What’s actually going on with Christ’s crack about “The poor you always have with you”?

Well, it’s context specific.

(1) He’s talking to – scolding – Judas. Judas does not really have the interests of the poor in mind: that’s been made clear. Judas is interested (like certain Christians I might mention) in hanging onto the money.

(2) He finishes the statement with the very important clause: but me ye have not always. In other words, Christ is saying here, “You’ll be able to serve the poor for the rest of your life; this is the last day you can serve me.” What does this mean? Does this mean, “Fuck the poor, they’re hopeless, keep your money?” No, Grasshopper, it does not. It means, yes, the poor need money. You can give it to them all the rest of your days. Today, go ahead and use some to honor me.

(3) Why him this day? Well, duh, folks. He’s about to be killed. They’re putting perfume on his body. They’re prepping him for burial. That’s why. It’s a symbolic gesture that means that Christ is accepting his death: he’s accepting his status as a sacrificial animal.

Which brings me to the rest of what is wrong with Joshua Clayborn’s post.

Sure, poor folks in 2005 have (some of them – but heavens, Josh, get out in the world – not by any means all of them: been on the res lately? Been up in the Ozark hills? Out on the high prairie? Anywhere but your basement?) some poor folks have TV sets and access to public transport and food stamps and adequate housing. Sure, this makes them better off than my great-great-grandmother who, when her husband died, had to sell her children as indentured servants because she couldn’t afford to feed them (the youngest was a year old). Does this mean the poor are fabulously wealthy and should stop whining?

Define wealth for me, Josh.

What are we aiming for in a society?

Lots of TV sets and plenty of Moon pies? Piles of cheap clothing? 24/7 access to brainless entertainment on cable and X-Box and Faux News? That’s our goal for our citizens?

I’m thinking not. I’m also thinking how much stuff the poor has isn’t actually the problem.

(Pay attention to how Christ talks about stuff in your New Testament, Josh. It’ll give you a clue to how to view this issue. I know in the Great Church of Capitalism Stuff is all that matters, but actually? It’s about the least essential part of our existence.)

The poor are poor because they have limited choices.

They have limited choices because their education has been inadequate, because their early childhood nutrition, medical care, and environment (often) has been inadequate, and because their early career options are inadequate.

By this I mean no one is there to counsel them about internships or getting Fulbrights or applying to graduate schools or whether taking out student loans in order to go to a slightly better school is a good idea or whether joining the Navy to pay for university is worth it or to get them a gig in D.C. or any of the rest of it that folks in the upper crust take for granted.

Not to mention, because they didn’t get any of the help when they were thirteen, fifteen, seventeen, half of them have already screwed up somewhere along the line, and have a kid to raise, or a drug bust, or a drug addiction, or massive credit card debt, or some similar problem.

Or parents with similar problems. Or siblings with similar problems.

They are also, often, miles away from that free public transport that Joshua is certain they have access to. (You can tell Josh doesn’t know any actual poor people because he thinks they all have cars.) They are miles away from the shiny high school he is sure they can attend until they graduate – so that they can choose between riding the bus four hours a day or dropping out at sixteen. If they do drop out at sixteen, they are miles away from any useful or well-paying job they might get. They are miles from the clinics, the social services agencies, the trade schools, the universities. They’re really close, though, usually, to the bars and the stores selling Twinkies.

Also, of course, to the 24/7 Cable channels. He’s right about that.

So if our people have a lot of TV and a lot of Twinkies and everybody can, in theory, get to school and wear shoes, does that mean we have no poor people in America? Does that mean people in Josh’s Church of Capitalism don’t need to feel any pangs of guilt as they drive their Hummers past the projects? (Not, mind you, I am certain, that they do feel any guilt.)

Well, I guess not. Jesus said the poor would always be here. So Josh doesn’t have to worry about them. I mean, Jesus sure didn’t, after all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Prager Claims People of the Faith Not Afraid of Monkey-Bars

And this is what made America Great.

See, if you love God, you're not afraid to let your kid play on the monkeybars. Or eat peanuts when he's allergic to them. Or play in traffic, or ride without his seatbelt, or juggle knives, or go off and fight a stupid war for no reason except because the President wants to do a photo-Op in a flightsuit so that everyone can see how manly his bulge is. Because you are a Person of the Faith, and you Know This is Not the Only World.

I kind of already read this essay this week, in the NRO, when Gurdon was explaining to us that we never would have conquered the Great Plains if we had been wearing helmets when we went sledding in those days, so I was a little bored, but Dennis did have a few new points.

For instance:

Panic has been induced by trivial health threats. Most Americans really believe they will die if they breathe in the vicinity of someone smoking. A people afraid of secondhand smoke, a health threat so trivial that "lie" is not too strong a word to describe the dangers ascribed to it, is less likely to bravely confront terror. A country that raises its children to fear dodgeball, see-saws and monkey bars, and which bans peanut butter from schools where five children are highly allergic to peanuts, is not raising a generation prepared to confront terror.

Prager’s bringing out all his favorite fallacies here. First off, who are these “most Americans” who believe they will die if they breathe second-hand smoke? This is one of Prager’s favorite strawmen(I'm guessing he smokes), and one of the Right’s favorite new claims in general* – either that secondhand smoke isn’t harmful at all, or that the Left thinks it’s some sort of toxic gas that kills on contact, like mustard gas, ha ha those Looney Leftists, aren’t they silly?

No, Prager, that is not, in fact, why smoking has been banned in office buildings and in most public spaces. The scientific community does, actually, know that folks don’t drop dead when they breathe in a bit of secondhand smoke.

But what does happen? You might do some research, Dennis, into that. Your blood pressure goes up. Your blood cells get stickier. Your immune system responds to the threat. If (like me) you are one of the many Americans who has become allergic to cigarette smoke through repeated exposure, you may have an allergic reaction, that may range from mild to extreme. If (like many of my students) you are one of the many Americans who now suffer from asthma, you may suffer a mild to severe asthma attack, which may require anything from a hit of your inhaler to hospitalization.

But hey. No biggie. Dennis wants to smoke, and who am I to interfere with his rights?

Second: notice how he conflates something that’s pretty much not true -- A country that raises its children to fear dodgeball, see-saws and monkey bars – and essentially trivial – with something that is true, and a serious goddamn big deal -- which bans peanut butter from schools where five children are highly allergic to peanuts, is not raising a generation prepared to confront terror – and acts like these are the same thing?

What school is this where children are being taught to fear dodgeball and monkeybars? Does Dennis have evidence? My kid’s school still has monkey bars and plays dodgeball. So does every school I’ve seen, which, mind you, is not every school in the country, but does include schools in Idaho, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana -- so it's at least a broad sample.

And yes, schools that have kids attending them who are allergic to peanuts have banned peanut butter.

Guess why, Dennis? Because if those kids get near a peanut, or even a tiny bit of a peanut, those kids can die, Dennis.

What is it with you Wngers that makes you okay with that? You can't deal with the idea of aborting a ten day old embryo, you're (some of you) appalled by birth control, euthanasia of a brain-dead woman makes you wiggy, but it’s okay to risk a child’s life just so we don’t have to ban peanut butter? Just because banning peanut butter offends your conservative soul? (We always ate peanut butter for school lunches, therefore we always should eat peanut butter for school lunches!)

Do you think the kids are faking these allergies? Is that it? Do some research, if so. Look something up, once.

Or is it that these kids don’t count because you think they’re the kids of liberals? Only the kids of liberals would ever be allergic to peanut butter? Probably not the case, Dennis. I don’t think allergies discriminate like that.

And what, by the way, Dennis, does having an allergic reaction to peanuts have to do with confronting terror?

He goes on to say this:

On the positive side, when Americans are attacked, they tend to get angry -- as we saw after Pearl Harbor and after 9-11 -- and concentrate their attention on destroying the enemy. As we did in Afghanistan and Iraq, we will muster the courage to fight terrorists here. At the same time, just as with the war in Iraq, there will be considerable opposition to that fight. The dominant news media, the universities and other elites would declare this war "racial profiling" (as if religious conviction constituted race). But Americans (including individual Muslims, though not much of their leadership) would largely unite to uncover and destroy Islamic terrorist cells here.

Ri-i-ight. Because, of course, the terrorists that Dennis envisions attacking us will, of course, be Arab terrorists. How does he know that? Because he’s been reading Ann Coulter, I’m guessing. She’s got that nifty stat about the majority of terrorists attacks in the last 25 years having come from Arab males. Of course, it’s wrong, but hey, Dennis doesn’t care about little details like being correct.

In fact, of course, most terrorist attacks against Americans on American soil have been perpetrated by white males. Like, oh, Dennis.

Not to do any racial profiling or anything.

Anyway, enough of Dennis. He’s a blowhard. I do like how he claims at the end to still have faith in America because we were brave enough to elect Bush, though. That’s pretty funny, considering Bush got people to vote for him by convincing them that if they didn’t, terrorists would GET THEM ALL.

Yeah, that was brave all right, Dennis.

Pretty much as brave as you, fighting for your right to force six year olds with peanut allergies to endure anaphylactic shock, just so you can indulge yourself in fuzzy nostalgia about peanut butter and jelly sammitches, back in the good old days.

*It’s because of Crichton’s goofy book, I think, which has as many footnotes as any of Coulter’s. Crichton claims all the research on secondhand smoke is silly, that secondhand smoke never killed anyone.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Good God

According to this site

I'm REALLY normal.

Which just can't be true.

I'm going to go try again.

Zen Shorts

Read the kid a fine book this weekend, Zen Shorts. It's by Jon Muth, the same guy that wrote The Three Questions, another excellent children's book. That one was an adaptation of a Tolstoy tale; this one features a giant panda named Stillwater (who speaks "with a slight panda accent") who moved in near three children and follows his umbrella, one rainy day, into their backyard. The illustrations are amazing, but of course, words being my business, it was the story I came for.

Anyway, when each child goes to visit Stillwater in turn, he ends up telling a Zen koan (a Zen short) to the child (or, as my kid said happily, as the second one approached in the narrative, "Oh! Another story!"). The last story is my favorite. I'd love to tell it here. But that'd be a spoiler.

These are great books. Go find them.

Listening to Echoes

Krugman's right again.

Since November's election, the victors have managed to be on the wrong side of public opinion on one issue after another: the economy, Social Security privatization, Terri Schiavo, Tom DeLay. By large margins, Americans say that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and Mr. Bush is the least popular second-term president on record.

What's going on? Actually, it's quite simple: Mr. Bush and his party talk only to their base - corporate interests and the religious right - and are oblivious to everyone else's concerns.

The administration's upbeat view of the economy is a case in point. Corporate interests are doing very well. As a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, over the last three years profits grew at an annual rate of 14.5 percent after inflation, the fastest growth since World War II.

The story is very different for the great majority of Americans, who live off their wages, not dividends or capital gains, and aren't doing well at all. Over the past three years, wage and salary income grew less than in any other postwar recovery - less than a tenth as fast as profits. But wage-earning Americans aren't part of the base.

On the other hand -- from Bushco's POV? -- to hell with us. We're just a pack of losers anyway. If we wanted to matter in this country, we should have been (born) rich, like (most of) them.

Been in Arkansas Too Long?

You decide.

The kid's "sound" for the week (this is a kindergarten thing) is -tch.

So we're sitting at the breakfast table and I'm naming things that have the -tch sound in them.

"Matches," I say. "You could take a match. Well, maybe not. Matches at school. Not a good plan. What about a witch?"

She shakes her head. "Kate might get mad." Kate's the fundmentalist, her best friend.

"Ditch," I say. "Stitch. I don't know how you'd take a stitch to school, though." I think of bitch, of course, because she has lots of little toy dogs, but we had enough trouble when she took the ziggurat for Z.

She brightens. "I know!" She runs to get the little rabbit boy from her dollhouse. He wears yellow shorts.

"Rabbit doesn't have -tch," I point out.

"No!" She is annoyed at my slowness. She points at the shorts. "Britches!"

Missing the Point

Yet again.

Mr. Capitalist Lion crows in triumph that Our Health Care System is the Bestest! Honest it is! Cause look! Canucks is coming to use it cause their lines is so-o-o-o long!

And see? That proves that (insert rude name here) Clinton is wrong, as are all the other Leftists: we don't either need any medical reform. Nothing wrong with our health care system! If Canadians (any Canadians!) are abandoning theirs to use ours, then ours must (obviously!) be better than theirs!

Mr. Capitalist Lion has, of course, missed the point. Anyone who has lots and lots of money can indeed get decent health care in this country, so long as they don't run out of their money.

It's the other 90% of us, Mr. Capitalist Lion, that we need to worry about.

And your citing of Middle Class Canadians also taking this option, sir? So what? The reason they have homes to mortgage, sir, I submit to you, is that they haven't gone bankrupt paying a quarter to a half of their salary (or more!) in medical insurance, medical co-pays, and medical bills.

Nothing wrong with our health care system? My ass.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


We held the first night of Pesach last night, using a new Haggadah, a slightly xenophobic one (if anyone knows a really good Haggadah, could you let me know? We've been looking for years: one year we wrote our own, but that feels like cheating) that went into detail about how cool it was that God slaughtered all those Egyptian babies for us.

But otherwise a good seder -- I mean, as good as seders can be. It's all about affliction and remembering we were slaves in Egypt, after all, as I kept reminding the kid when she had to eat the bitter herbs and the matzoh and the parsley dipped in salt water (to remind you of the tears you shed, I tell her, when you were a slave in Egypt). We invited our liberal friends, as we always do, even if they weren't slaves in Egypt, including the kid's intended, Miles, who by the time we were a quarter of a way into the seder was insisting he had been a slave in Egypt too.

The kid and I had dipped matzoh in melted chocolate for dessert. It didn't help much. They were still matzoh. The bread of affliction.

They also were not kosher for passover matzoh. Can't get those in Fort Smith. If we had planned ahead and ordered them on line...but we were bad Jews. We did have three bottles of kosher for passover wine, one of blackberry wine, one of cherry wine, and one of grape, fetched down from Fayetteville by one of our liberal friends. Mmmm.

The wine of affliction.

So today I have a thumping headache.

Oh, well. Better than being a slave in Egypt.

Gurdon's Theory of Child-Raising

So in her usual cheery careening fashion, Gurdon here draws a straight line between prenatal testing (why bother? no matter what sort of baby it is, we're still going to love it, aren't we?) and having your child wear a helmet while she rides her bicycle (why bother? the pioneers never would have conquered the great plains if they'd worried about things like bicycle helmets, would they?).

I finish this column with my typical frustration. Because, you know what? It's just wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

(A) Study some history, Meg. Those pioneers -- well, the ones who succeeded -- took every precaution they could think of before they set out to "settle the great plains." Yes, as a matter of fact, they took along the equivalent of bicycle helmets, Meg: they took guns, they took extra water barrels, they took all the food they could pack, they consulted maps and more maps, they did research, they scouted around to find the best wagon train they could join up with, they worried about what season would be the best to start in and which route would be the best to take, they fretted and fretted and fretted and fretted. If helmets would have helped they would have had them, you dolt.

(B) And even so, thousands of them died along the way. The trails were lined with the graves of their children, Meg. Do you think that's cute? Imagine one of those parents reading your charming little column about your kids being forced, forced by the "nanny government" to wear a helmet (egads! what tyranny!) while she sleds. Think that parent is going to be nodding along and agreeing and saying, "Tsk tsk, what has our country come to?" No, I'm thinking not, Meg. Really not.

(C) Had a bike wreck myself once, Meg. Not wearing a helmet. Sixteen years ago. Hit my head. Momentary amnesia, which was entertaining, and six stitches in my eyebrow, figured I was lucky it wasn't worse. Except it was worse, because that bike wreck is probably the source of the migraine headaches I get to this day. Now really. How much trouble is it to put helmets on your kids? Also:

(D) Here's why you might want to put helmets on your kids: their BRAINS are in their skulls. Remember that whole fuss down in Florida a few weeks ago. Brain is sort of important, Meg.

(E) There might be a reason, Meg, while when YOU are at playground you hear "endless gull-like cries of fretful parents and nannies: “Don’t climb so high! Watch out with that stick! No running! No pushing! Don’t get on the slide until everyone’s off it!” I don't hear this when I'm at the park. But then I don't let my kid roam the world like a free-range chicken, doing whatever her heart desires, no matter what it does to the other kids in the park -- the way, oh, certain other mothers in the world seem to think they have the right to do with their kids. What I'm saying here is, if little Patridge has a stick and he's about to poke it in another kid's eye, well, maybe you should intervene, and not leave it to the other parents. Hmm? I know maybe in your fantasy out on the great plains, as well as in England and France and Canada, they probably just put up with a few lost eyes, crying, Lovely! Congratulations! Hurrah! Another one!but here? In 21st Century America? I kind of like my kid with both?

And parents like you? Who think laissez-faire parenting is the best parenting of all? Kind of piss me off.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Here's an interesting bit from our buds on the right:

Concerning a documentary that delves into Roosevelt's struggle with paralysis after surviving polio:

"Studying FDR from this angle is certainly long overdue, after all he governed as if everyone were as helpless as he."

*Update: I've been looking around this guy's site, and it's truly bizarre. I'm starting to think he's just a loon. I mean like actually certifiable. So maybe we should just consider the source.

Becoming Hitler for Jesus

You want something that's going to disturb you, go read this:

One night I asked Josh, a brother from Atlanta who was hoping to do mission work overseas, if I could look at some materials the Family had given him. “Man, I'd love to share them with you,” he said, and retrieved from his bureau drawer two folders full of documents. While my brothers slept, I sat at the end of our long, oak dining table and copied them into my notebook.

In a document entitled “Our Common Agreement as a Core Group,” members of the Family are instructed to form a “core group,” or a “cell,” which is defined as “a publicly invisible but privately identifiable group of companions.” A document called “Thoughts on a Core Group” explains that “Communists use cells as their basic structure. The mafia operates like this, and the basic unit of the Marine Corps is the four man squad. Hitler, Lenin, and many others understood the power of a small core of people.”

Another document, “Thoughts and Principles of the Family,” sets forth political guidelines, such as

21. We recognize the place and responsibility of national secular leaders in the work of advancing His kingdom.
23. To the world in general we will say that we are “in Christ” rather than “Christian”—“Christian” having become a political term in most of the world and in the United States a meaningless term.
24. We desire to see a leadership led by God—leaders of all levels of society who direct projects as they are led by the spirit.

And who belongs to this group? You'll be surprised. Though I wasn't.


This, from Harper's, is cool -- but then I love this sort of thing. My favorite class to teach is History of the English Language and I am always threatening my students that I am going to take a lengthy sabbatical to get my doctorate in linguistics --

Anyway, it's a tiny essay about a guy looking into the meaning of the word "cock-horse," as in, "Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross / To see an old woman / Upon a white horse." His niece asks him what exactly a cock-horse is, and of course once you're asked you must know, and for him the trip doesn't stop until he reaches ancient Greek tragedy.

Words are so cool.

You should look up weird some day. And lumber.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Friedman Review

Taibbi's review of Friedman's book is a hoot

But also has some serious bits. Here's my favorite:

Friedman is an important American. He is the perfect symbol of our culture of emboldened stupidity. Like George Bush, he's in the reality-making business. In the new flat world, argument is no longer a two-way street for people like the president and the country's most important columnist. You no longer have to worry about actually convincing anyone; the process ends when you make the case.

Things are true because you say they are. The only thing that matters is how sure you sound when you say it. In politics, this allows America to invade a castrated Iraq in self-defense. In the intellectual world, Friedman is now probing the outer limits of this trick's potential, and it's absolutely perfect, a stroke of genius, that he's choosing to argue that the world is flat. The only thing that would have been better would be if he had chosen to argue that the moon was made of cheese.

And that's basically what he's doing here. The internet is speeding up business communications, and global labor markets are more fluid than ever. Therefore, the moon is made of cheese. That is the rhetorical gist of The World Is Flat. It's brilliant. Only an America-hater could fail to appreciate it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Coulter? Lies like a Rug?

Who would have guessed?

Cloud, the fella who wrote the love poem to Ann Coulter in Time, has been a snifty and up in arms because so many on the left have been blasting him, mainly over his silly line in which he claims that Coulter's work is "mostly accurate," a claim that caused those of us who were at all familiar with Coulter's work to spit soup across the room.

So anyway, a number of bloggers protested, pointing Cloud to all the many, many sites he might have gone to look at, had he bothered to do one bit of research, which would have shown him that Coulter's work was not only not accurate, it was filled with not just errors, but big fat deliberate lies.

Cloud fired back in an interview in which, among other things, he claims that leftists ae just being touchy, ad how like them, and they're all just doing the same thing Ann is anyway, so wah wah wah:

Eric Alterman, among others, responds, in a brilliantly put together rebuttal, which demonstrates that, no, leftists are not, no Ann Coulter is, in fact, wrong; and that, yes, Cloud and Time were wrong to publish the piece they did on her-- that is, one which claimed that what she says is "mostly accurate," given that the things she goes around saying are, in fact, vicious hate speech:

My favorite bit:

We can debate the meaning of the word “lie” and whether it can apply to a false description. As the author of a doctoral dissertation and a 450 or so page book containing over 1400 footnotes spread over 91 pages on the topic of presidential lies, and a member of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, I like to think my vote should carry some weight when I say “yes.” But I admit the point is arguable. What is not arguable is that Ann Coulter’s work cannot be fairly described as “mostly accurate” by anyone with a modicum of respect for rules of evidence or the simple meaning of words. Again, I refer you to the countless examples listed above, not merely in What Liberal Media, but in Tapped, Media Matters, Spinsanity, Salon and many, many others.

But the whole thing is worth reading.

Go read:

(Via Atrios

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Oh and look

more good news!

Someone must be trying to make me happy.


Okay, I've been ranting for about sixteen bazillion posts, having apparently discovered my ANGRY side --

but this is cool:

(Via Infinite Stitch:

It's nice to see people doing something good in the world, isn't it?

Mmm. Makes me happy.


Wish I could say I was shocked about this

Less than two years after it was plunged into a rape scandal, the Air Force Academy is scrambling to address complaints that evangelical Christians wield so much influence at the school that anti-Semitism and other forms of religious harassment have become pervasive.

There have been 55 complaints of religious discrimination at the academy in the past four years, including cases in which a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet.

which was posted on Atrios today,

but I'm not.

I think I've posted here before about the guy in my Bible As Lit class who, calm as pie, stated one afternoon that, since the Jews did kill Christ, after all, they needed to start taking some responsibility for it (this was when he was arguing that I really needed to go see Mel's Passion, which wasn't, no matter what I thought, a piece of anti-Semitic crucifixtion porn) and do some repenting.

Since then, of course, we've had the incident where the kid was harassed for weeks by her fundamentalist classmate, because she was a Jew and Jews are going to hell.

We've had Bill O'Reilly and his buds, claiming (all a fat lie, of course) that they're being persectuted, PERSECUTED, I TELL YOU, because some clerk at some store (they claim, and even this turns out to be a fucking lie) says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas to you. (They're being persecuted? That's persecution?)

We've had the little incident where I was volunteering at the school yard sale and the bright and chipper mother who was volunteering with me took up a fistful of dollars and told me, in a bright and chipper voice, "I'm going to go on out there and see if I can Jew some of them down!" and darted out among the tables before I could get my breath back.

We've got a kid in one of my fellow instructor's classes last fall who called Shylock "that kike," and was bewildered when some of the other students objected. What could be wrong with the word kike, after all?

We've got some folk on the Right Wing musing that now might be the time to start shutting Mosques down. We've got Far-Right Christians using Stevens Creek Elementary to try to convince that country that evil liberals really are persecuting Christians and trying to destroy our Christian heritage. We've got the Frist declaring half the country -- all us Democrats -- to be "enemies of people of the faith."

And we've got David Limbaugh, yesterday on TownHall, declaring it's all just words, and words never did a damn thing to anyone, ever.

I love the Bushoverse. Except for the 24/7 vomiting, of course.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Horowitz whines some more

This is just hilarious:

David Horowitz is giving one of his lame speeches about how persecuted the Wingers are on university campuses these days, and some (admittedly lame) kids fling a pie at him (Luckily, he exclaims in his email, my glasses weren't broken!): and just like Ann Coulter when she gets pied, he over-reacts with massive hysteria, declaring this one of the many acts in a "wave of leftist violence against conservative speakers on college campuses."

(Although Ann, of course, over-reacted more hysterically, calling for the guys who attacked her to be killed. Pie-throwing, from Ann's perspective, is a capital offense.)

Anyway, Horowitz waxes furious about the "attack" he suffered in an email received by Brad at Sadly, No, calling the pie-throwing, among other things, "near-guerilla tactics." (He also creates wild hyperbole in many other areas -- claiming that the female guerilla warrior, for instance, "spewed" racial ephithets at his compatriot -- but if the alert reader checks the story, the alert reader will discover that, in fact, the female in question is pregant and, in fact, is charging the compatriot with assaulting her; and only after being charged by the pregnant female did the compatriot then claim that the female insulted him.

(From the story:

One pregnant student filed a complaint with police, saying Butler sociology professor Marvin Scott -- one of the people who pursued the pie-thrower -- assaulted her.
Scott, a Republican who ran for the U.S. Senate and lost to Sen. Evan Bayh last year, denied the allegation.
"I can tell you it's not true," Scott said.
Scott, who is black, said the student hurled some racial slurs at him.
"This is after I allegedly pushed her down. She was following me down the hall," Scott said.

In ANY case, as a commenter on Sadly, No notes:

Let me get this straight.

Abu Ghraib torture was a bunch of college pranks...

...and actual college pranks are guerrilla warfare.

Wow, "down" really is "up".

Posted by: Kenneth A at April 15, 2005 04:55 PM

You gotta love the Right Wing.

Crybaby Conservatives

Here's an article by Russell Jacoby over at the Nation covering exactly what's wrong with Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights,

starting with the total lack of any evidence that any problem exists at all,

Conservatives claim that studies show an outrageous number of liberals on university faculties and increasing political indoctrination or harassment of conservative students. In fact, only a very few studies have been made, and each is transparently limited or flawed. The most publicized investigations amateurishly correlate faculty departmental directories with local voter registration lists to show a heavy preponderance of Democrats. What this demonstrates about campus life and politics is unclear. Yet these findings are endlessly cited and cross-referenced as if by now they confirm a tiresome truth: leftist domination of the universities. A column by George Will affects a world-weariness in commenting on a recent report. "The great secret is out: Liberals dominate campuses. Coming soon: 'Moon Implicated in Tides, Studies Find.'"
The most careful study is "How Politically Diverse Are the Social Sciences and Humanities?" Conducted by California economist Daniel Klein and Swedish social scientist Charlotta Stern, it has been trumpeted by many conservatives as a corrective to the hit-and-miss efforts of previous inquiries by going directly to the source. The researchers sent out almost 5,500 questionnaires to professors in six disciplines in order to tabulate their political orientation. A whopping 70 percent of the recipients did what any normal person would do when receiving an unsolicited fourteen-page survey over the signature of an assistant dean at a small California business school: They tossed it.

Jacoby goes on to outline the problem with Horowitz's solution to this unproven "bias" on campus:

While some propositions of the academic bill of rights are unimpeachable (for example, students should not be graded "on the basis of their political or religious beliefs"), academic freedom extended to students easily turns it into the end of freedom for teachers. In a rights society students have the right to hear all sides of all subjects all the time. "Curricula and reading lists," says principle number four of Horowitz's academic bill of rights, "should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge" and provide "students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate."

"Where appropriate" is the kicker, but the consequences for teachers are clear enough from perusing the "abuses" that Students for Academic Freedom lists or that Horowitz plays up in his columns. For instance, Horowitz lambastes a course called Modern Industrial Societies, which uses as its sole text a 500-page leftist anthology, Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies. This is a benign book published by a mainstream press, yet under the academic bill of rights the professor could be hauled before authorities to explain such a flagrant violation. If not fired, he or she could be commanded to assign a 500-page anthology published by the Free Enterprise Institute. Another "abuse" occurred in an introductory class, Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, where military approaches were derided. A student complained that "the only studying of conflict resolution that we did was to enforce the idea that non-violent means were the only legitimate sources of self-defense." This was "indoctrination," not education. Presumably the professor of "peace studies" should be ordered to give equal time to "war studies." By this principle, should the United States Army War College be required to teach pacifism?

Not to mention, every case Horowitz has put up has turned out to be bogus. The Kuwaiti student was actually failed because his essay answer was incohorent and did not, in fact, answer the exam question, not because he "loved America"; the woman actually got a C and not an F, and got that C, and got it because she didn't answer the exam question, not because she defended George Bush; the professors that are said to mock Jesus endlessly in the classroom while swilling Scotch and spitting on the Holy Cross turn out to have actually just mentioned, once or twice, casually, that maybe the Bible wasn't literally written by the Fiery Finger on God in 50 A.D.; the evil feminists who have sex with goats while sacrificing male infants in the classroom over blazing fires of bras and the Constitution turn out to just be single women who won't date Republicans -- you know, that sort of thing.

A New Pope...

I'm not Catholic myself, nor an expert on Catholic issues by any means, but yikes.

NYTimes says this:

He has been described as a conservative, intellectual clone of the late pontiff, and, as the Dean of the College of Cardinals, he was widely respected for his uncompromising - if ultraconservative - principles and his ability to be critical.

As cardinal, he had shut the door on any discussion on several issues, including the ordination of women, celibacy of priests and homosexuality, defending his positions by invoking theological truth. In the name of orthodoxy, he is in favor of a smaller Church, but one that is more ideologically pure.


On Monday, at a Mass before the conclave convened, he delivered an uncompromising warning against any deviation from traditional Catholic teaching.

I've read elsewhere on the web that this "uncompromising" includes preaching that gay folk are moral evils, whether or not they actually act on their gayness.

AmericaBlog is a little more critical of this new Pope, who, by the by, during WWII did a stint with the Nazi Youth (hey, he was drafted!):

Limbaugh (The Other One)

And here's Dave's new column on Townhall

And his claim is almost as big a wet dream as Prager's is.

His claim is that no, really -- speech has no connection to action.

Rush and Ann Coulter and the rest of their pack can egg their pack of Red State jackals on all day long every day.

Ann can say the only way to talk to a liberal is with a baseball bat.

DeLay can insinuate that judges ought to die.

Preachers can preach from the pulpit that feminists are evil, that liberals are traitors, that Muslims worship Satan, that atheists are demons and hate America --

None of this actually means anything, according to Limbaugh!

Speech is meaningless! It has no connection at all to reality!

When a kid wears a teeshirt that says "God Made Adam and Eve Not Adam and Steve" to school on Gay Awareness day, that says absolutely nothing about whether that kid is going to pound the living shit out of gay kids in the parking lot later. NOTHING!

And when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City building, he wasn't wearing a teeshirt that read "Sic semper tyrannis."

In other words, this column is as big a jerk-off as that book of his is, the one that claims that no, really, Christians really are being persecuted all over America! Honest!


Poor Dennis

Prager's new Townhall column

is a Conservative's wet dream -- he's got a young girl gone off to that evil liberal university with her "rigid heterosexuality intact" (hey, these are his words, not mine!) and once there she is corrupted by her evil professors (they make her read that tricky Foucault and that feminist Judith Butler) into becoming a lesbian slut who is planning to "maybe" someday marry -- but not for Jesus! Oh no!

For the insurance benefits!

And for the tax break!

The little hussy!

Dennis means us to be shocked, I tell you, shocked.

I kind of like the kid, especially when she won't take any shit off of Dennis.

DP: All I'm saying about sexual choices is that society has a deep impact on sexual choices including whether it's same sex or opposite sex. So my whole position is: Thousands of years of Western civilization preferring male-female bonding leading to marriage and family is a good thing, and Anna feels that it's a bad thing. Is that totally fair? Or am I putting words in your mouth?

AM: I don't think it's necessarily preferable. I think that people should be able to make their own choices.

DP: So one is as good as the other.

AM: Yeah.

DP: So you're saying that for thousands of years, Western society has been wrong for preferring male-female marital bonding.

AM: I only think it's wrong in that it limits other possibilities, which are equally good.

DP: So it is wrong to tell people, wrong to tell little girls, to suggest in any way, subtly or non-subtly, that they should grow up and marry a boy?

AM: Yeah, I don't think that you should force anyone into --

DP: You said 'forced,' I just said 'suggest.'

AM: How would you just gently tell someone?

DP: By saying, for example, "Well, are you going to marry Jerry or Tony?" instead of, "Are you going to marry Jerry or Barbara?"

AM: I think that the coercion is on a sort of deeper level.

DP: So you feel it's [coercion] to suggest to a girl only male options for marriage?

AM: Right

Monday, April 18, 2005

Another Poem I love

But who doesn't -- still, I was reading it to the kid today, and I remembered how much I love this one.

And it's a poem for our time, God knows:


Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say '.Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."



which I got to via dr. b,

really hit me hard.

I remember reading a study a few years ago where a boy and a girl were asked to sit on a bench in a public place and not smile. At different times. The reactions of people passing by to the non-smiling children were recorded. The boy received no reactions.

The girl was instructed by passers-by to smile. She was told it made her unattractive. She was told that "whatever it was couldn't be that bad." One boy threatened to hit her if she didn't smile.

See, I was that kid. For various reasons, I was an unhappy, angry, depressed child, and I can remember teachers grabbing me by the chin and jerking my face toward them, ordering me to smile. I don't remember them ever doing this to a little boy in the class. Guys yelled at me out of car windows to smile. Men when I was in my teen stopped me in grocery stores and ordered me to smile. And they weren't kidding, either. It was a fucking command.

And this:

Bernadine P Healy says in the Journal of Women's Health, Vol 7(4), pp. 393-394: ".... studies have shown that within family life, women with or without children are actually angrier than men. As children arrive, and their numbers increase, women's anger increases even more.... Anger management strategies for women are suggested including biological and rational responses to anger stimuli and turning free-floating anger to constructive purposes."

Yes, you read that right.

Women are angrier than men.

Women with children are angrier than women without children.

Jeez Louise.

And I thought it was just me.

Knowledge is Cool

Here's a WSJ review of Steven Levitt's Freakonomics that's an absolute delight to read.

You'll remember Levitt as the guy that sent the Far-Right Christians into a tailspin awhile back when he noticed a correlation between the legalization of abortion and the decline in our crime rate -- and supported the link. First the FRC tried to claim he was wrong, that no such link existed (today I reckon they would just pretend it actually didn't it exist -- faith-based reality, you know) and then they argued that even if it did, so what? Abortion is still wrong even if it has a good effect on the world! So there!

Kind of like the argument that's being made by some on the right against the socialization of health care now.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

No Theocracy here -- move along, folks!

Those who consider themselves moderates in this country -- those who think Rush and Ann Coulter are nothing to worry about, just "entertainers" -- think there is no reason to worry about the religious right and what they are attempting to do to our beloved country.

I would think so, too, maybe, if I didn't live in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and if I hadn't just taken that trip to the deepest Red of the Red States, where things were truly scary; and if it weren't for things like this:

Shakespeare's Sister tells us, as other blogs have also told us, about Frist's upcoming telecast, in which he is going to come out against Democracts as being "against people of the faith," for blocking Bush's nominees.

That's right. We're anti-Christian. All Democrats are anti-Christian because we don't rubber-stamp Bush's nominees (never mind the Democrats in office have confirmed more of Bush's nominees than any congress since Reagan's

As of October, " Democrats had confirmed 95% of Bush’s nominees...well beyond the 81% approval rating granted Clinton, 77% granted G.H.W. Bush, and 88% granted Reagan [From Shakespeare's Sister].

Democrats are also anti-Christian because we dare to assert the wholly unAmerican idea that people ought to have have the choice to celebrate whatever religion they choose to celerate: Christian, Jewish, Wiccan, Muslim, or -- hey, get this one, dude -- nothing at all.

From Shakespeare's Sister:

My rights end where yours begin. It’s such a simple but powerful concept, yet it is anathema to Conservatives, because it necessarily excludes their desire to control and force their dissenters to succumb to their will. It isn’t enough that they can change the channel when Queer Eye for the Straight Guy comes on; the show must be taken off the air altogether. It isn’t enough that they can put up Nativity scenes in their churches and in their homes and on their lawns; there must be one at City Hall, too. It isn’t enough that their children can pray and learn about creationism at home and at church; they have to be able to do it at school, too, and so must all the other kids, irrespective of their families’ views. It just isn’t ever enough.


Only having rid the country of minorities, gays, feminists, evolutionists, atheists, pacifists, abortionists, stem cell researchers, the poor, the needy, the infirm, immigrants, environmentalists, animal rights activists, non-Christians, and anyone else who disagrees with them could they be happy. Or such is their claim. But without anyone upon whom to pass judgment, I wonder how long such contentment could possibly last.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Summer in Arkansas

It’s spring here in Arkansas. Have I mentioned how much I hate that?

I might like it better if we lived in a better place, or if I were the sort of person who liked the outside; but we live in a cave of a house behind these ratty apartments, next door to some thuggish pre-adolescents who really need the Supernanny Jo Frost to come stay with them for a month or two.

The apartments have malfunctioning cooling and heating systems that squeal and howl and keep up an alarming racket ten months of the year; the brats, who have their own swimming pool, giant wooden fort, trampoline, swing set, and so on, squeal and howl and so on all twelve months of the year, not to mention, I suspect, torment Big Dog from time to time, though I haven’t actually caught them at it yet.

Anyway, not only do I not have the sort of surroundings in which one can enjoy spring, this is Arkansas, and when spring comes, can summer be far behind?

Summer in Arkansas: baking hell. And the main reason I look longingly at job ads in Wyoming, Alaska, Maine, the Dakotas, anywhere north.

Right now everything outside my window is very green and blue, with fresh white flowers on the dogwood and pretty red flowers on the redbud, bright fresh air everywhere. Looks like paradise. But all I can think about – the six months of furious heat about to descend.

And how we have to live through it yet again. Negotiating for patches of shade in the parking lots, remembering to leave car windows cracked so the windshield won’t shatter, waiting until dusk to go grocery shopping or to take the kid to the park or for her walk, packing away everything except the thinnest shirts and all shoes except sandals, putting aluminum foil up on the windows that aren’t protected by the trees, sun hats everywhere and sunglasses all the time, never cooking hot meals because the air conditioner can't take the strain, not with the heat outside hitting 98 or 99 every day and the humidity thick as steam…waiting for October. Seems like we just got done with summer.

Which, of course, we did.

I hate the south. How do I keep ending up here?


Tbogg has the scoop on the pissy little brat Bushco wants to appoint to the U.N. -- the one the Winger blogs over there wailing, "Why would anyone oppose such a fine upstanding why this guy is PERFECT!"

Like we don't know exactly what they want to do to the U.N.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Our Charming Friends on the Right

Apparantly there's some bill in Illinois that been put up to make it a criminal offense for an ultasound to be administered without a doctor's order -- I'm guessing because Pro-Life Whacks were administering the things in their "clinics" in an effort to prove to women that "See? it is too a baby in there! Look! See? Toes! Cute little fingers? How can you MURDER something with cute little FINGERS?" -- and because, of course, ultrasounds are, in fact, though some on the Right may not recognize this, actual medical procedures -- and, thus, should only be done by actual medical professionals. That's why we have actual medical training for the procedure and actual licensing procedures and so forth.

But what is the GOP Bloggers response to this?

Well, obviously the only reason the liberals could want to stop the ultrasounds is so that there can be more abortions.

To quote mr. GOP Blogger: "[O]ne thing we know about abortion advocates is that the worst thing, in their mind, is for an abortion not to happen."

Yep. Because that's what being pro-choice is all about. Wanting abortions to happen.


Okay. One time. Very slowly.

Look up Pro-Choice sometime, buddy, would you? We want women to have a choice. We want women to be able to choose whether they will breed or not. (And no, this does not, as some of your charming commentors seem to think, mean that we want women to choose whether or not they will have sex: sorry, no, it doesn't. That you think it does just indicates your advanced stupidity.) Women get to choose whether they will have one child, or two children, or six children, or ten, or none. They chose that. Not me. Not you. Not some twit in Washington, DC or some twit with an ultasound machine or anyone else. The woman whose womb it is decides that.

Why does she get to decide?

Cause it is her womb. Her body. Her blood that will create the child.

How hard is this to understand?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

My Favorite Poem

Robert Creeley

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking - John, I
sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what
can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,
drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bad Ideas

It's a dead issue, I know, but I can't resist posting on it one more time, mostly so I can link to Infinite Stitch's post

which is exactly right:

No one makes banks lend money to people with bad credit ratings - the banks willingly do it on their own!! They lend all kinds of money to people who will never be able to pay it off. So if a bank choses to make a bad lending decision, I don't think the government has to make that bad lending decision into a profitable decision.

In addition, these sub-prime lenders charge enormous interest rates of 25+%, which they say is because the borrower has such poor credit rating. So the bank makes a knowingly bad lending decision, makes huge profits, and still expects the government to spend money and time to make good on the bank's bad lending decision.

Republicans say they want less government, but the hypocrisy. When it comes to the issues of the rich and powerful, then the Republicans want every kind of government intervention to help businesses who made bad business decisions.

Of course, this is really no surprise. Republicans -- the ones in power now, at least, say they're conservatives, say they want less government, but every move they make shows it's all about the power for this pack.

Jack-booted thugs, anyone?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Prager Takes On

Dennis Prager’s essays are always something of a challenge, speaking mildly, for those of us who demand reason in our argumentative essays, but today’s Townhall offering is a grand tour of lunacy.

Prager’s basic thesis seems to be that divorce is not, in fact, a threat to the institution of marriage, despite what those tricky liberals are trying to get you to believe. Nay, gay marriage is the real threat to marriage! Divorce does no harm! Gays are the evil that is hurting marriage today!

He opens with this sentence:

One of the most frequently offered arguments by proponents of same-sex marriage is that it is not gays wanting to marry a member of the same sex that threatens the institution of marriage, it is the high divorce rate among heterosexuals.

I had to read that a couple of times. I finally figured out what Prager was trying to say. He then told me that this argument was a “meaningless non sequitur.”

Hmm, I think. Does Mr. Prager know what non sequitur means?

Well, he does, of course. I happen to know that Mr. Prager is a scholar, so I know he knows what it means. He’s just hoping his readers don’t, I guess.

In any case, the argument that divorce is a bigger threat to the institution of marriage than allowing gay folks to marry is not, in fact, a non sequitur – which means, btw, “it doesn’ t follow,” and is a logical fallacy resulting when your conclusion does not result from your facts.

(Like so: Dennis Prager studied Latin. The phrase was in Latin. Therefore Dennis Prager must have had fish sticks for lunch. )

Dennis goes on to blather about how divorce does end “many a marriage,” but that this doesn’t mean it hurts marriage – laws no! – and that even if it did, that wouldn’t mean divorce threatens marriage.

I admit he loses me on the curve here. I think he loses himself, because he jumps into an analogy, and says, it’s like parenthood! Just because some people are bad parents, doesn’t mean we want to redefine parenting, do we?

Uh, yeah, Dennis, we do. Lots of people are really bad at parenting. So, yeah. We’ve been radically changing the way we parent over the past fifty or so years. I mean, you haven’t, probably. But the rest of us have.

Also? There’s the other fallacy you might have heard of? False Analogy? Look that sucker up for me, will you?

He admits we might need to refine the concept of marriage if it looks like it’s in trouble:

Why, then, don't we do the same regarding divorce -- think of ways to improve marriages and discourage people from marrying before they are ready?

But he doesn’t think we have to “radically redefine it…That redefinition is what threatens marriage.”

Well, you know, Dennis, that’s your opinion. It’s not based on fact. I think radically redefining it might help it. That’s my opinion. Lots of people share your opinion. Lots of others share mine. And before you drag out your blustery “all of human history has defined marriage as a man and a woman,” no, it hasn’t. So shut up with that, okay?

He then makes this kind of bizarre argument:

There is a second reason the divorce-rate-threatens-marriage argument is disingenuous: If gays marry, they will divorce at least as often as heterosexuals do.

And I’m like, and?

First, how does he know this? He doesn’t have any data to back this up.

And second, even if it is so, so what? Why shouldn’t gay folk be allowed to have the same sort of success/failure rate of marriage as straight folk do? I mean, Good lord.

His final argument is the really stupid one:

The third flaw in the argument is that it presupposes that every divorce constitutes a failure of a couple's marriage. Sometimes this is true; sometimes it is not. I know a couple married for 30 years who made a beautiful home for their three now-married children. The couple divorced last year because they had both concluded that they had drifted too far apart to continue living together in any meaningful way (one aspect of the drift was one partner's increasing devotion to religion and the other's decreasing interest in it). Who has the hubris to call their marriage a failure?

Okay. Whatever. This marriage is a wonderful success. So is a gay marriage that produces “years of comfort” to the couple involved and a “fine home to their children” it protects. So what’s your issue, dude?

Then he says this:

Finally, marriage is threatened not by divorce, but by people not marrying in the first place -- as is increasingly the case in the two European societies that have redefined marriage to include couples of the same sex. …Nothing provides the antidote to narcissism, or the environment for the healthy raising of children, or the way for people to take care of one another, as does the marriage of a man and a woman.

Okay. Shall we talk non sequitur? How does he get from “marriage is threatened by people not marrying,” from “the trouble is narcissism,” to “it’s got to be a MF marriage”?

By just declaring it. Fiat.

The trouble with Right-wing thinkers, I’m afraid – at least those who publish on Townhall – is that they seemed to have stopped doing much thinking.

Health Care Blues

Angry Bear, another of my favorite stops on the blogosphere, has a couple of good posts up. One is on our rotten health care system, and I choose the adverb carefully.

We frequently hear in this country how our health care system is the envy of the world. This makes folks in other countries either stare or laugh outright. Because, frankly, our health care system (a) sucks and (b) is famous for how it bankrupts its citizens.

(I remember reading about this in a book written for university students who were visiting our country: there was a whole section devoted to dealing with our bizarre health care system, and the authors had to explain over and over again that our health care system was scarily expensive, that every student had to buy insurance, no matter how bizarre the cost seemed, because if they got sick or had an accident, the hospitals and doctors would demand huge amounts of money from them, and so on. You could see the authors were writing this to an audience that was assuming a much saner system.)

Anyway, here’s the post:

He’s got an excellent chart showing how much we Americans pay per capita for health care, compared to other countries, and how little we get for it; and then some commentary.

Well, sure, says my boy from Johnny Rockets, they might get "free" health care in Canada, but their taxes are sky-high!

Look at the chart, American-Fries boy. You’re paying over five thousand a year for your health insurance. Folks in Canada? Half that.

(Oh, and by the way? Just because you snort and say, hah, no, I’m not – I’m 22 and I don’t pay for health care, I don’t have health insurance, I don’t go to the doctor? The hell you ain’t, Johnny Rocket boy. You’re paying for the health care of your grandma and all the folks who work at Wal-Mart and can’t afford health insurance. And when you grow up a bit? And get a wife and a couple kids? And need to buy some health insurance and health care and dentistry and such? Oh my, Johnny Rocket boy. Are you in for a rude surprise then. )

Okay, well, says Johnny Rocket boy: maybe their health care in Canada is cheaper, but they have to wait months to get to a doctor and when they get there the care is awful.

I just love this one, myself. You gotta wonder when the last time the folks who say it actually went to a doctor in the United States. I dread waking up to find the kid has a fever: I know that means six or seven hours in the urgent care waiting room, sitting among the workers comp cases and the junkies and people sneezing and moaning and dripping pus, unless I get astronomically lucky and her actual doctor has a cancellation and can squeeze her in. (We can only see her actual doctor, of course, with two week advance notice, not to mention a $20 co-pay, and then only 80% of the visit and tests will be covered.)

(And did I mention what I pay for this excellent health care I get? Nearly six hundred dollars a month in insurance, plus a thousand dollar deductible, rolling over every January, with a hundred-fifty dollar deductible on our drugs -- fifty dollars per person. And many things aren't covered, like mr. delagar's sleep apnea.)

But ANYWAY: apparently none of this is so in Canada, or Europe. For elective surgery, yes, surely, there is a waiting period. (My father's heart surgery? My father needed surgery on his heart. Six months waiting list here in the USA for that surgery. Hmmm.) But for basic health care? Apparently very little waiting time in Canada for basic health care. Imagine that.

Oh, but socialized medicine is e-e-evil!

Oh, but the system we have? It’s bankrupting our citizens. It’s an enormous burden on our businesses. It’s seriously damaging our health as a nation. (Think about what happens if you can’t afford to do wellness checks – which something like 40% of our citizens can't -- and so don’t find out that you have diabetes, or high blood pressure, or cervical cancer, or an STD, or TB, or you don’t find out that your two year old has been ingesting just a bit too much lead.)

I’ll tell you what’s e-e-e-evil. Putting the desire to make insurance companies and drug companies and a few doctors – not even very many doctors, not anymore – filthy rich over the welfare of our nation. That’s what’s evil.

Mr. Johnny Rocket.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Compassionate Conservatives

Here’s an email that’s skipping around the web. It was sent to me by a loving member of my family – have I mentioned lately that my entire family has morphed into members of the Far Right? Makes opening my email so much fun.

This arrived in my inbox over the weekend:

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel.

The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups: Liberals and Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered, it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early human ancestors were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That is how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to B-B-Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as "The Conservative Movement".

Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly B-B-Q's and doing the sewing, fetching and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the "Liberal Movement". Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as 'girleymen'.

Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the trade union, the invention of group therapy and group hugs, and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided. Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare. Another interesting revolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men.

Conservatives drink domestic beer. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, soldiers, athletes, and generally anyone who works productively outside government. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to "govern" the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans are. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America. They crept in after the Wild West was tame and created a business of trying to get MORE for nothing.Here ends today's lesson in world history.

I particularly enjoy the combination of misogyny, xenophobia, and liberal-bashing. It’s a hat-trick!

I've read through this about three times now, trying to decide what sort of mind would think this was (a) funny or (b) at all accurate. I know who, of course. That kid in the Johnny Rocket's who told me he sold American Fries -- that's who. He would stand up and cheer when he read that paragraph about Conservatives eating red meat and still providing for their women.

I despair.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Gas Price Worries

So not to send you into a tail spin of panic or anything, but I've seen predictions out on the blogs that oil prices, currently somewhere around $56 dollars a barrel, are supposed to nigh on double by this summer -- hitting somewhere around $100 dollars* a barrel by July, and sending gasoline prices at the pump over well over three dollars a gallon.

Before you scoff, corrected for inflation, that would be, I'm thinking, somewhere around what prices were in 1981. (Those of you who can actually do math should feel free to correct me.) You'll remember, of course, what those price did to our economy at the time.

(Here's a chart, though, that shows the correction for inflation as being somewhat lower than that: $2.88 a gallon and not the higher estimates I've seen elsewhere: Elsewhere, as I've said, I've seen the corrected-for-inflation rate as three dollars a gallon and higher. This chart sure is pretty, though.)

So anyway: Atrios asks this question today on his blog: ( At what point will higher gas prices start to influence your lifestyle choices?

When will you sell the Hummer? When will you start biking to the store, or moving closer to your job, or switching to public transport, or not taking the drive out to Grandmas because you just can't justify the gasoline expenses?

Or, in our case, can we afford to send mr. delagar to graduate school this summer after all? It's a hundred and ten mile round trip communute, and and fifty-five of those miles are straight up a mountain. (Course, the other fifty-five are straight down, so it's a wash, but nevertheless...) If gas price get above three bucks a gallon, and he's got to drive up there five days a week, which he will, for a summer course, I mean, yikes.

*This article ( )in the Salt Lake City Tribune, no bastion of the Liberal Media, attempts to put a positive spin on it, and will only predict a high of $90 a barrel, a high that will be caused, exaults the SLC Tribune by "the nation's economic growth!" So shut up if you're thinking it's anything else. Like maybe "the weakening U.S. dollar" mentioned earlier in the same article. Or an inept bunch of yahoos steering the ship? Or, um, that war in Iraq? (Which doesn't get mentioned at all. ) Or any kind of useless energy policy? Nah! It's because everything's going so well! That's why the ship's about to crash! Everyone knows that! That's why the ship didn't crash when Clinton was in charge! Because Clinton governed so badly! It makes perfect sense! In bizarro world!)

Media Bias

Here's more onthe Right's "argument" about how the media is biased about the Iraqi War:

My favorite bit:

As the incomparable Athenae wrote a couple of days ago, those who supported the war in Iraq fear any photo that doesn't involve waving flags and cheering crowds, despite their willingness to chant "freedom isn't free" to anyone who suggests that it wasn't worth the loss.