Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Modest, Indeed

You want to know what the cost of not going for socialized medicine is?

Here it is: dead children. This kid's mother didn't have health insurance -- or dental insurance, of course -- so tough luck for her 12 year old.

"By the time Deamonte's...aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died."

And in case you're one of those social darwinists who are out there yipping evoluntion in action!, the actual cost, to us, the tax-payers? Over $250,000.00.

But hey! It's the free market! It's worth it!

Saturday, February 24, 2007


I have an agent on the line, nibbling at my hook, and she's a good agent too, and this is good, mind you; but it means I have to write a synopsis.

I don't think I can tell you how much I hate writing The Synopsis.

If I could write my book in 1000 words or less, wouldn't I have DONE that?


Also -- did I mention she's a REALLY good agent? So it's not like there's any pressure here or that.

I've been cussing all morning.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sexism and Other Hate

So I gave my comp students the Jane Mayer essay to read, the one about how the show 24 is teaching Americans that torture is a necessary and cool act?

This essay here, for those of you who haven't seen it yet:

We're at the point in Comp II where we are writing our own argument essay, and at that point in the semester I'm working with them on evaluating other people's argument essays, and I thought this would be a nifty exercise -- lots of them will have watched 24, I think, so they'll be interested in the essay, and it's a well-done piece of work, with lots to chew on.

So I have them work on a critique of it in class.


Most of them couldn't decide what the thesis of it was. Fifteen minutes into the session, I had to call a halt and redirect: "Okay, yes, she's talking about torture a lot. But that doesn't mean she likes torture. She's quoting Surnow as saying there are lots of ways to torture. She's quoting Surnow as saying he would torture someone to save his wife and child. What is she saying about torture?"

"She doesn't say anything," one student objected.

"She does," I said, holding onto my patience with all my teeth. "She wrote the whole essay. Her essay is saying what about torture?"

They want a thesis statement underlined in the first paragraph, or at the very least the last paragraph, you see. And Mayer hasn't given them one. So there is no thesis. Aargh!

But they finally got it.



Then, they had to come up with things that worked, things that didn't work in the essay.

It was like pulling teeth.

They did well at finding things that worked, because I have done, apparently, a really good job at showing them what good writing is. But at things that didn't work -- well, all of them wanted to claim that her thesis was wrong. Torture isn't bad! She's wrong to say it is bad. She's thinking like a girl, one kid said: that's what's wrong here.

The holy fuck, I said, do you mean by that?

Except I didn't say holy fuck. Only I wanted to.

Thinking like a girl, I said, restraining myself. What do you mean by "thinking like a girl"?

You know, he said.

I don't, I said. Tell me.

Like, with her emotions. Not with the facts.

I studied him. Show me where she does that in the essay, I said. Will you?

He knew he had fucked up, but he could not see why. He scowled. The whole thing, he said. She's not thinking about getting results, she's just thinking about how torture is wrong.

No, I said. Show me in the essay where she uses her emotions to argue and not facts.

He sulled up at me and would not speak.

I don't think she does that, I said. She brings in the guy from West Point. She brings in the soldiers from Iraq. She uses fact throughout, as far as I can see.

She leaves out other facts, he argued. Stuff that disproves her point.

Well, write that down, then, I told him -- sort of snappily, I'm afraid. Don't say she's using emotion instead of fact. Say she's leaving counter-arguments out.

And more of the same.

It was the same when I gave them the atheist essay. Atheists are evil, and that's all they need to know. It's right to torture our enemies, and that's the only fact they need to hear.

Man, am I discouraged today.

Monday, February 19, 2007


I had been trying to get a handle on just why the Marcotte/Shakespeare/Edwards event was making me as angry as it has -- Chris Bowers's post over at MyDD has helped clarify it for me.

He draws a line between what the low-level Wingers do to those whose politics they don't support and the terrorist activities of the anti-abortion movement -- in fact, as he points out, what happened to Marcotte is terrorist activity. What the low-level wingers do is de facto terrorism.

During the brief media frenzy surrounding my googlebomb campaign in October of 2006, I myself received about five dozen death threats that looked not unlike the ones Amanda posted at Pandagon. Also, when Michelle Malkin tried to attack two college students for engaging in anti-war protests, the college students also received dozens of death threats. Considering of this, it now seems pretty clear to me now that every right-wing media campaign against a mid-level Democrat or progressive is always accompanied with numerous threats of violence. It seems to be a ubiquitous back-up tactic of the American right-wing in the event that their media pressure fails to work, just as it failed to work against the Edwards campaign, and just as it failed to work against me when it came to the Googlebombs. As it the case with abortion providers, if you can't beat them using democratic means, and if you can't defeat them using your vast media empire, use death threats as a final tactic to force relatively powerless individuals to bend to your demands.Terrorism and the threat of violence against American citizens remains a key political tool for the American right-wing.

Read his whole post. It's convincing.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Feminism, Motherhood, Marriage, and That

The kid has been sick since Friday. I made the appointment with the doctor (the kid's doctor and I have a fine relationship, having bonded when the kid was three and the doctor was pregnant with her own daughter, so I suppose it's not out of line to expect me to make the kid's appointments, except, you know, I make *all* the medical appointments for our little household, includng those for mr. delagar and the dogs and the guinea pig, when Licorice the Guinea Pig was ailing who hunted up the only vet in the five county area that saw guinea pigs? Why yes, me.

Where was I?

I made the appointment. I fetched the kid to the doctor, leaving work early to do so. I hung about the waiting room interminably with her. I coaxed her through the five separate tests required (flu test, with the swab up the nose, being the worst, hurrah, because if they had required a blood test, good shit, you would not believe the trauma we go through with the blood test and Little Ms. Anxiety) and I took her to the pharmacy to buy the drugs after. (She has NOTHING, btw, no flu, no strep, no infections of any sort, just 102degree fever and vomiting and misery, but we're on Tamiflu anyway, b/c why not?)

I spent Friday and Saturday and today dealing with her. Cleaning up vomit. Fetching heating pads. Rubbing her toes. Reassuring her that she wasn't going to die from this. (See Little Ms. Anxiety above.) Trying to persuade her that one single dose of Motrin would really, really be all right, honest. (No go. Once when she was five she took Motrin and vomited. She's not making that mistake again!)

Of all the bits about being a parent? This one is not my favorite. I do it, mind you, because sick kids need parents, and I am the mama, but man, the 24/7 thing, what a BAD PLAN.

And does mr. delagar figure he ought to do it? Is he a parent too?

Funny you should ask.

mr. delagar is making a film, see. And teaching five classes. So, well. He has work to do.

Saturday he left at ten and didn't come back until five. Filming. Today he's been cutting film all day.

I've been thinking about a paper one of my students is writing, on whether men should marry feminists or not --whether they could have happy marriages if they marry women with careers. She started with that article that dipwad wrote for the WSJ, I think it was, last year, the one claiming that guys who married women who made more than 30 thousand a year were doomed to have miserable marriages, not to mention filthy houses. My student, who is smart and articulate, is nevertheless buying this shit. He's right, she says. Someone has to do the work around the house, she says. Men aren't going to do it, she says. Who will clean up if we don't? Who will do the cooking? The marriage will fall apart if no one takes care of it. I had been arguing with her gently, pointing out such things as in a marriage where one person is doing all the work how happy does she expect that one person is? And what kind of guy is that to be married to, one that expects his partner to do all the cleaning and cooking and caretaking in the marriage, does she actually want to be married to that guy? Does she actually think that counts as a happy marriage? I'm sure WSJ dude thinks it's a happy marriage, I said to her, but consider that it's highly possible he has his head up his ass.

Only, good shit, look around here. What kind of feminist game am I running?

It's a deal easier to talk about equality than it is to demand it. I'll tell you that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Let's Torture Brown Folk!

I've been mulling over this essay, "Whatever It Takes," in the New Yorker

by Jane Mayer.

It's about Jack Bauer and that show 24, which I confess I don't watch. I've seen the clips for it about a dozen times and I always wince and move on. Even before I knew it was a conservative hate-fest, I knew it wasn't a show I wanted to watch. Even before I knew Rush Limbo endorsed it, I knew it wasn't my thing.

Mayer gives me reason to know I was right. Apparently it's even more appalling than the 7 or 10 second glances I got of it before I could reach the remote made it seem. Apparently it is so appalling a U.S. Army General flew to L.A. to ask the show's producers to stop doing what they were doing because the show was having a "toxic effect" on actual U.S. soldiers.

This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24.” Finnegan, who was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country, arrived on the set as the crew was filming. At first, Finnegan—wearing an immaculate Army uniform, his chest covered in ribbons and medals—aroused confusion: he was taken for an actor and was asked by someone what time his “call” was.
In fact, Finnegan and the others had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. “I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan said of the show’s producers. “They should do a show where torture backfires.”

The meeting, which lasted a couple of hours, had been arranged by David Danzig, the Human Rights First official. Several top producers of “24” were present, but Surnow was conspicuously absent. Surnow explained to me, “I just can’t sit in a room that long. I’m too A.D.D.—I can’t sit still.” He told the group that the meeting conflicted with a planned conference call with Roger Ailes, the chairman of the Fox News Channel. (Another participant in the conference call attended the meeting.) Ailes wanted to discuss a project that Surnow has been planning for months: the début, on February 18th, of “The Half Hour News Hour,” a conservative satirical treatment of the week’s news; Surnow sees the show as offering a counterpoint to the liberal slant of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Before the meeting, Stuart Herrington, one of the three veteran interrogators, had prepared a list of seventeen effective techniques, none of which were abusive. He and the others described various tactics, such as giving suspects a postcard to send home, thereby learning the name and address of their next of kin. After Howard Gordon, the lead writer, listened to some of Herrington’s suggestions, he slammed his fist on the table and joked, “You’re hired!” He also excitedly asked the West Point delegation if they knew of any effective truth serums.
At other moments, the discussion was more strained. Finnegan told the producers that “24,” by suggesting that the U.S. government perpetrates myriad forms of torture, hurts the country’s image internationally.

Finnegan, who is a lawyer, has for a number of years taught a course on the laws of war to West Point seniors—cadets who would soon be commanders in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He always tries, he said, to get his students to sort out not just what is legal but what is right. However, it had become increasingly hard to convince some cadets that America had to respect the rule of law and human rights, even when terrorists did not. One reason for the growing resistance, he suggested, was misperceptions spread by “24,” which was exceptionally popular with his students. As he told me, “The kids see it, and say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about “24”?’ ”

He continued, “The disturbing thing is that although torture may cause Jack Bauer some angst, it is always the patriotic thing to do.”

Gary Solis, a retired law professor who designed and taught the Law of War for Commanders curriculum at West Point, told me that he had similar arguments with his students. He said that, under both U.S. and international law, “Jack Bauer is a criminal. In real life, he would be prosecuted.” Yet the motto of many of his students was identical to Jack Bauer’s: “Whatever it takes.”

His students were particularly impressed by a scene in which Bauer barges into a room where a stubborn suspect is being held, shoots him in one leg, and threatens to shoot the other if he doesn’t talk. In less than ten seconds, the suspect reveals that his associates plan to assassinate the Secretary of Defense. Solis told me, “I tried to impress on them that this technique would open the wrong doors, but it was like trying to stomp out an anthill.”

The “24” producers told the military and law-enforcement experts that they were careful not to glamorize torture; they noted that Bauer never enjoys inflicting pain, and that it had clearly exacted a psychological toll on the character. (As Gordon put it to me, “Jack is basically damned.”) Finnegan and the others disagreed, pointing out that Bauer remains coolly rational after committing barbarous acts, including the decapitation of a state’s witness with a hacksaw.

Joe Navarro, one of the F.B.I.’s top experts in questioning techniques, attended the meeting; he told me, “Only a psychopath can torture and be unaffected. You don’t want people like that in your organization. They are untrustworthy, and tend to have grotesque other problems.”

Cochran, who has a law degree, listened politely to the delegation’s complaints. He told me that he supports the use of torture “in narrow circumstances” and believes that it can be justified under the Constitution. “The Doctrine of Necessity says you can occasionally break the law to prevent greater harm,” he said. “I think that could supersede the Convention Against Torture.” (Few legal scholars agree with this argument.) At the meeting, Cochran demanded to know what the interrogators would do if they faced the imminent threat of a nuclear blast in New York City, and had custody of a suspect who knew how to stop it. One interrogator said that he would apply physical coercion only if he received a personal directive from the President. But Navarro, who estimates that he has conducted some twelve thousand interrogations, replied that torture was not an effective response. “These are very determined people, and they won’t turn just because you pull a fingernail out,” he told me. And Finnegan argued that torturing fanatical Islamist terrorists is particularly pointless. “They almost welcome torture,” he said. “They expect it. They want to be martyred.” A ticking time bomb, he pointed out, would make a suspect only more unwilling to talk. “They know if they can simply hold out several hours, all the more glory—the ticking time bomb will go off!”

The notion that physical coercion in interrogations is unreliable, although widespread among military intelligence officers and F.B.I. agents, has been firmly rejected by the Bush Administration. Last September, President Bush defended the C.I.A.’s use of “an alternative set of procedures.” In order to “save innocent lives,” he said, the agency needed to be able to use “enhanced” measures to extract “vital information” from “dangerous” detainees who were aware of “terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else.”

Although reports of abuses by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have angered much of the world, the response of Americans has been more tepid. Finnegan attributes the fact that “we are generally more comfortable and more accepting of this,” in part, to the popularity of “24,” which has a weekly audience of fifteen million viewers, and has reached millions more through DVD sales.

The third expert at the meeting was Tony Lagouranis, a former Army interrogator in the war in Iraq. He told the show’s staff that DVDs of shows such as “24” circulate widely among soldiers stationed in Iraq. Lagouranis said to me, “People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen.”

“In Iraq, I never saw pain produce intelligence,” Lagouranis told me. “I worked with someone who used waterboarding”—an interrogation method involving the repeated near-drowning of a suspect. “I used severe hypothermia, dogs, and sleep deprivation. I saw suspects after soldiers had gone into their homes and broken their bones, or made them sit on a Humvee’s hot exhaust pipes until they got third-degree burns. Nothing happened.” Some people, he said, “gave confessions. But they just told us what we already knew. It never opened up a stream of new information.” If anything, he said, “physical pain can strengthen the resolve to clam up.”

Elsewhere in the article, Rush (among others) is quoted -- he's a big fan of the show, as are most conservatives. "It's just TV!" he tells Mayer, and this is what the producer/creator of the show, Joel Surnow likes to claim as well. And what many of my students object when I make points about the TV they watch, the movies they view, the ads and signs and words they use.

It doesn't mean anything! It's only TV! It's just a song! They're only words! If you can't tell the difference between TV and reality, I feel sorry for you, that's all!

Jack Bauer tortures the bad guys and it works. A recent survey of Christian Americans found that more two out of three of us -- that's the Christians, folks! (you'll be glad to know the atheists score better!) -- think that torture is sometimes justified.

In shit is this coming from, I'd like to know, if it's not our media? If it's not Jack Bauer and the Passion of Mel's Christ teaching it to us, then who is? Not my blog, I'll tell you that for nothing.

Torture is wrong on this page, and it is always fucking wrong.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Conversation at the delagar household

mr. delagar: can we turn up the heat? I'm freezing.

me: here's an idea. You could put on a sweater. Or a shirt with sleeves.

mr. delagar: or we could turn up the heat.

me: you're going about in a teeshirt in the dead of winter and complaining you're cold. Good shit.

mr. delagar: that's what heat is for, you know. HEATING.

the kid: Some people are trying to read here, you know.

(Repeat 3X per day, at least.)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Results Are In

I've been meaning to blog about this, and when better than on a snowy day (classes got cancelled! Yay!) with more snow coming across the plains from Texas tonight, according to the Weather Channel Blog.

You'll recall the Kid went to the Spa Party.

You'll recall she was dubious about the whole patriarchy-opressed nature of the event.

You'll recall she went anyway, since the child whose party it was was her friend and such, and anyway there might be purple nail polish and purple is her favorite color?


What did I find when I returned after two hours to pick her up but a small child with glitter in her hair, running barefoot through the church community room -- barefoot because of course she had polish on her little toenails, too, silver polish -- spangly bracelets around her wrists, purple polish and stick-on pearls on her fingers, AND she had had an apricot masque I will have you know?

She has just run past on her way through the living room. "Don't tell them I am patriarchy-oppressed!" she cries. "Don't!"

Well, I won't. But she does want to wear nail polish now.

And who has bought her a tidy bag of mixed colors, all sorts? That traitor, Mouse.