Saturday, May 06, 2006

Catching up on a view from behind the NYTimes paywall: Bob Herbert

In retrospect, I should have included Bob Herbert among those journalists recognized by Lyssa Strada as being Real Men. All along, before and during the war, Herbert has consistently written about the impact of the news on the lives of real people. The war, the tax breaks, Katrina, the increasing wage gap and the new uneasiness of the now precarious middle class, are among the stories he has tackled with humanity and insight.

In a recent column, "Warfare as It Really Is" (May 1st), Herbert describes some of the realities of war as seen in the documentary, "Baghdad ER," (due to be released on May 21st). An excerpt:

Above all else, war is about the suffering of individuals. The suffering is endured mostly by the young, and these days the government and the media are careful to keep the worst of it out of the sight of the average American. That way we can worry in peace about the cost of the gasoline we need to get us to the mall.''

Baghdad ER'' is going to tell us right in the comfort of our living rooms that there is really horrible stuff going on over there in Iraq, and whether we think this is a good war or a bad war, we need to be paying closer attention to the human consequences.''

We tried to put a human face on the war,'' said Sheila Nevins, the head of documentary programming at HBO. ''It's a part of the story that hasn't really been told.''


A member of the operating room team, commenting on the amputation of a soldier's thumb and the partial amputation of his ring finger, says that the patient who immediately preceded him ''lost his left arm and his right leg above the knee. And, you know, there was a couple of marines in here the other day, one lost both his arms, the other lost both his legs. And this is a bad injury, but certainly could have been worse.''

The movie does not shrink from those instances in which the G.I.'s do not survive. We see doctors all but begging the patient to make it. We see buddies weeping. We see a chaplain speaking softly to a mortally wounded marine:'

'We don't want you to go. We want you to fight. But if you can't, it's O.K. to go. It's O.K. to go. But we'll be right with you. If you get better, or if you go.''

In an even more recent column, "When Warriors Come Home" (May 4th), Herbert bemoans the invisibililty of the wounded to most Americans, who are shielded from such images by a press that is all too willing to oblige the president by not writing about the devastating personal cost to those who serve in Iraq, and are grievously wounded, yet survive injuries that will change their lives. Not to mention, the effects on their families...

The extent of the suffering caused by the war seldom penetrates the consciousness of most Americans. For the public at large, the dead and the wounded are little more than statistics. They're out of sight, and thus mostly out of mind.

The media are much more focused on the trendy problem of steroids in baseball than, say, the agony of the once healthy young men and women who are now struggling to resurrect their lives after being paralyzed, or losing their eyesight, or shedding one or two or three or even four limbs in Iraq.

The truth is that the suffering comes in myriad forms. I spoke by phone this week with Stefanie Pelkey, a former Army captain who lives in Spring, Tex., with her 3-year-old son, Benjamin. Her husband, Michael, a captain with the First Armored Division, was sent to Iraq just a few weeks after Benjamin was born. Michael was a big man, 6 feet 4 1/2 inches tall, who loved to play golf and, like President Bush, ride his bicycle.


A civilian family therapist eventually told Captain Pelkey that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and recommended that he be put on medication. Ms. Pelkey said her husband seemed hopeful after receiving the diagnosis, but just a week later he shot himself to death in their living room.

Ms. Pelkey told me that her husband had been reluctant to discuss his time in Iraq, but she knew that he had seen soldiers die, and that he had been affected by the sight of civilian casualties and the suffering of children.

In Ms. Pelkey's view, her husband was as much a casualty of the war as a soldier killed in combat. ''Just as some soldiers perish from bullet wounds or other trauma of war,'' she said, ''Michael perished from the psychic wounds of war.''

Dark Ages America

I came across this snippet from Robinson Jeffers' poem, "Perishing American Republic" in Morris Berman's excellent book, "Dark Ages America."

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity,
heavily thickening to empire,
And protest only a bubble in the molten mass, pops
and sighs out, and the mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make
fruit, and the fruit rots to make earth.

Jeffers wrote this in 1925.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hope in Arizona

A young beautiful girl of my acquaintance, still in high school, was all set to go to her prom. She had her gown and matching mask all picked out for this masked ball. Hope springs eternal for girls of this age, the world seems ripe with possiblity and youthful crushes are everywhere. She had a date and was going to the social event of the school year.

But then, as seems to happen so often in these chaotic times, change came into her life. The boy she was to go with decided at the last minute that he wanted to take someone else.

What did this girl do? Instead of crying that her life was over and nobody loved her enough to take her to the prom, she decided she would go without him. Her best girlfriend and her boyfriend decided to ask my acquaintance to join them on prom night.

In their best dressed fashion, the three friends had dinner and a marvelous time together. To start the evening off on a nice note, the boyfriend presented both girls with flowers.

My friends, manners are not completely dead and independent young women are blooming in the desert. Let these 3 friends give us hope for the future as we applaud them for their love and support of each other. And let us encourage them as they show the true meaning of friendship and equality, regardless of gender.

MSM's Reluctant Epiphany-- Stephen Colbert is HOT!!!

See update from comments at Political Physics at the end of this post.

Okay, let's put aside all discussion of: comedic theory and whether self-deprecating humor is more evolved than its ancient ancestors of irony and satire (not!); whether Colbert was playing to the room or to those of us in cable-land and cyber-space; the sycophantic & disgusting chumminess of the WH and its Press Corps; what it means to go over the line & who gets to decide where the line is drawn. Ultimately, those issues are not what this very hot debate is really about.

Sure, we all have our opinions on these topics, and, as the President pretends to feel, reasonable people can disagree. My own opinion, one with which he would likely disagree, is that the powerful often lose their sense of humor along the way to the top... most likely because no one likes to be laughed at for being considered pompous, whether true or not. (How many Republicans do you know who actually have a decent sense of humor? Few enough to count on one hand?)

The real reason that the WH and its Press Corps, and, by extension, the cable news guys, the less-than-moderate members of the GOP, the ReligiousRighteous-- that whole unlikely cabal of electoral votes-- are so threatened by Stephen Colbert, is because they know, even if only subconsciously, that there are a lot of us women who find him incredibly appealing. In fact, we think he's damn hot!

Is it his boyish charm, or his incredibly expressive eyebrows, or his ability to maintain focus, or his lean build? Or, maybe it's that twinkle in his eye, or the wry grin? Sure, he's got all that and more, including being incredibly smart, which is another big turn-on for many women. But, it's really because the man is an honest-to-goodness testosterone unit like we haven't seen in years-- and especially not in journalism-- that we are all so enamored of him.

Name just one man in the MSM-- just one other man-- who could have, and would have, stood there on that dais for 20 minutes, and kept both his charm and persona intact, while within reach of the President, an often testy man, who is considered to be in pretty good shape for his age, not to mention all of those Secret Service guys standing by who have no compunction against removing vegetarians and Quakers from the Republicans' no-longer-open-to-Americans, pre-screened political events. [tick tock, tick tock] I can't think of many, either, although I'm betting that Kurt Vonnegut and Lewis Lapham and Bill Moyers and Garrison Keillor might have been up to creating their own versions of such a spectacle. But, among the usual suspects, the ones we so affectionately refer to as the MSM, I'm drawing a complete and total blank.

The other team prefers to make light of Colbert's nerve, insisting that we do, after all, live in a society where one is free to speak one's mind. Tell that to Cindy Sheehan, who was removed from the SOTU speech for not complying with the federal T-shirt code, or to the Colorado Three, who were removed from a Republicans-only, but tax-payer-funded, event in Denver, not for anything they said, but on the basis of their car's bumper stickers. Tell that to the Quakers and other anti-war and peace groups who have been monitored by the Feds. (It's all so secret, I'm not even sure which agency.) Tell that to Moyers, whose outstanding public affairs program, NOW's, very existence was threatened by a Bush appointee-mole because of Moyers' own truth-telling, prompting him to retire from the show prematurely, in order to prevent it from becoming a conservative lightning rod.

Of course, there have also been a few generals, and a senator or congressman here or there who have spoken the Truth and suffered its Consequences (the Republicans' talking point denials not withstanding). All the more reason to be impressed by Colbert, for having witnessed their firings and ostracisms, and being marginalized by the MSM, and still being man enough to stand up there alone, under the lights and the President's glare. The other men I've mentioned, as appealing as they may be, because they are just enough older than we are, just the tiniest bit, might elicit a response from us more appropriate to an uncle or a father. Besides, none of them are in the MSM. Even Moyers, who has spent most of his adult life in both broadcasting & journalism, cannot properly be called a member of the MSM.

It is more than ironic that a woman of a certain age, one who is past the age of caring only about a pretty face, and yearns, instead, to see a real man in the Public Square-- slaying the dragons that threaten our Constitution and our way of life-- it is ironic that she must turn not to athletes, elected officials or those who jealously guard the power they wield in their fiefdoms-- and wallets-- but must look instead to the Arts, to find a Real Man. It is surreal. A man who merely pretends on TV to be a Republican sycophant appears to us as more manly than his intended targets of irony.

I can forsee Lyssa Strada instituting an annual post on our own version of the sexiest men in public life, timed each year to coincide with the aftermath of the WHCA Dinner (if it survives) . In the spirit of this occasion, I would like to nominate Vonnegut, Lapham, Moyers and Keillor, as well as the inimitable Colbert. They are all Real Men.

Any other nominations?

UPDATE! UPDATE! Laughingcat, who also posts here, nominated a few more candidates at Political Physics...

I nominate Joe Wilson and Ray McGovern

For facing up to the dirty power players and still maintaining their integrity, and the integrity of all men (and women) in the "intelligence community," an oxymoron if ever there was one. For Joe and Val to sit at the dinner, laughing and applauding Colbert, knowing that Rove was also in the room? I'd have been shooting daggers of ill will Rove's way. Joe and Val are a class act if ever there was one. And Ray taking on Rummy in a public forum is bold, strong, and noble. These are real men, unlike the pinhead meanspirited vermin in charge. (And I know I'm beginning to sound like the Captain in the Tintin series in my invectives!)

"If not here, where? If not now, when?"

[This piece is cross-posted at Political Physics] publishes a manifesto

To cut to the chase... (Updated, at the end of this post...)

There is a silent crisis in America. Mothers and families are in trouble. The wage gap between mothers and non-mothers is now greater than between women and men: One study found non-mothers earn 10% less than their male counterparts; mothers earn 27% less; and single mothers earn between 44% and 34% less.

This wage hit has a direct impact on families--a full quarter of families with children under six live in poverty, at least 9 million children don’t have any health care, and far too many parents can’t afford to stay home with sick children. Working toward common sense family-friendly policies like those covered in The Motherhood Manifesto will help all families.

The above paragraphs were part of an email we received from Joan Blades, one of the founders of (and a co-founder of Please sign their petition and include a comment, if you wish (it's your opportunity to say what you really want to say), and then pass it along to friends and colleagues.
has a goal of obtaining 50,000 signatures and comments before Mother's Day and delivering them to leaders in Congress. I'll bet they collect many, many more. You can order a copy of the manifesto here.

Side note: How is such a widening gap even possible? Well, apparently, it is entirely legal in many states, including the one where I live, for an employer to pay a woman who does not have a husband, but does have kids, less money than a woman with a husband, or without kids. Incredible! Here is a short excerpt from one woman's story that was included in the email:
His response was as candid as it was horrifying. "He said if you don't have a husband and have children, then I pay less per hour because I have to pay benefits for the entire family." The attorney noted that a married woman's husband usually had health insurance to cover the kids, and since Kiki didn't have a husband, he "didn't want to get stuck with the bill for my children's health coverage."

It was the first time Kiki pushed for an explanation, and she was appalled by the answer. "I said to him, 'You mean to tell me that if I am doing the exact same work, typing the same exact subpoena as a coworker, you're going to pay me less because I have no husband and have kids?' And he very smugly told me, 'Yes, absolutely.'"

That really should [have] put the lie to the age-old excuse for paying men more: because they have a family to support. The given excuse is never really about what it says it is, but is always about the gender.

* * *

And in a related matter, NOW is beginning a campaign to raise the minimum wage. Truly a worthy and worthwhile effort, and long overdue. We learned about it while reading Lynn Harris's post in Salon's Broadsheet.

And Senator Ted Kennedy has a petition you can sign to show your support for an increase in the minimum wage. Frankly, this bill is a very modest one in my opinion. The Senator writes that during the nine years that the Republicans have controlled congress, this piece of legislation has been completely stalled. He summarizes:
The Act will raise the minimum wage from its current level of $5.15 to $7.25 by 2008. That's an extra $4,400 a year for these hard-working families to spend on basic necessities like food, housing and childcare.
How is $7.25 possibly enough to consider as a minimum wage, especially for a single woman with several children? Wouldn't $10 per hour be a much more realistic, and still very modest, amount for a minimum wage? Well, that's what I wrote, tho' not quite as nicely, in my comment, when I signed the petition.

Grandmother being shipped to Iraq

This one is for real, folks.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Stereotypes Simpsons Style

This week's episode of "The Simpsons" dealt with the stereotypes of learning math. A new principal is appointed and she instantly divides the school along gender lines.

The girls' side of the school is "unicorny" and arty (Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefe hang on the walls). The grounds are clean and imply Cinderella's castle. The furniture is comfortable and modernistic while the math lessons are about feelings.

"Is 7 an odd number or is it just different?" asks the principal. When Lisa asks if they are going to be actually solving any problems, Madam Principal pooh poohs the idea and has the girls join in a conga line and sing the "self-esteem" song.

Disgusted, Lisa escapes to the boys' side to be challenged by math, only to be kept out because she is a girl.

The boys are depicted as violent, rude, slovenly yet smart enough to take the extra challenging math class. Their school grounds are reminiscent of riots with a burned out school bus smoking outside the window. During recess they play "punch for punch" and beat up on the smaller kids.

With Marge's help, Lisa disguses herself as a boy. Bart teaches his sister to behave like a boy, including making herself cool by beating up on the weakest boy on the playground.

At the end of the year, the award for best math student is given to Lisa who unmasks herself in triumph cheering, "I won because I'm the best and I'm a girl!" Bart derides her by saying, "She's the best because I taught her to be a boy."

The disturbing undercurrents of this episode give pause. Stereotypes come from somewhere, but they are twisted and distorted out of proportion and applied to an entire class of people. They are gender, race and age specific and they are mean and wrong.

Not all women find math hard (present authorship excepted, of course). What of Marie Curie, Countess Ada Lovelace, Eileen Collins or Mae Jemison?

Yes, physiologically there are reasons that more boys than girls succeed in math and sciences. [Note: I have since been brought to my senses by statements to the contrary made in the comments and a tiny bit of research, which I should be doing before I make sweeping generalized statements. TN] But, that doesn't mean that girls should be left out in the cold when it comes to those subjects. They should be exposed to it and encouraged to explore it. Just as boys should be exposed and encouraged to subjects that girls typically excel in.

There is a reason I work in SpecOps, saving literature's plots from ne'er do wells. My brain just does not grok math or science, believe me I have tried. My pet dodo Pickwick has more chance of doing long division of polynomials correctly than I. I wasn't insulted when Barbie said, "Math is hard," because it is, for me. But not all women fit into that category, nor should they be forced to.

Shame on Matt Groening for going over the top and missing the point he was trying to make. And shame on Lisa Simpson for foregoing her usual activist instincts and pandering to the stereotype that says only boys (or girls in disguise as boys) can do math.

Why? in, "Why this blog now?"

Because of this and our need for persistence and solidarity;

and because of the shame of this;

and because of our outrage over this;

and because of this reminder that, no matter what men may say, the most horrific battlefields are not sand, or turf, or oil fields, or even abstract principles, but the bodies of innocent children and their mothers;

but ultimately... because of this, the work of a 15-yr-old girl from Alabama. How can we not all be shamed by the very fact of her work? [Some of these scenes are definitely not for children or the squeamish.]

Thank you, to Steve, posting as Sandy Underpants, at The Aristocrats for that last link.

Church reconsidering condom use... possibly being the "lesser evil." In this case, the greater evil is AIDS, but only in the context of a marriage between a man and a woman, in which one of them is infected with the virus.

It will surely be quite a conundrum for the Church to debate how to debate this issue-- even behind heavy oak doors. On the one hand, the Church must continue to affirm life, not death, including needless, senseless, preventable, death. On the other hand, condoning any proplylactic measures at all when it comes to sexual practices, might seem like serious backtracking to the church's conservative base.

And so, that the Church might even consider what amounts to sanctioning non-procreative sex is highly unusual.

Even more unusual, is that we didn't make up this story. Nor has Hell frozen over (more likely to flood now, given climactic changes). No... we found this story in the New York Times, and expect to see it elsewhere before long.

Ultimately, the Church's position on condoms is unlikely to change. However, even this tidbit of news about the Church thinking that maybe, possibly, perhaps, there are some things that are worse than condom use... is a tiny rent in the bubble of religious evangelism. And any kind of leak is a leak is a leak is a leak.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why we fought the Taliban.

I have a blog on titled "Open Letters to George W. Bush ( The letters are written by Bush's shadow advisor, Belacqua Jones who is a Karl Rove on Methamphetamines. I am cross posting one of his letters which explains why this country went to war with the Taliban.

Dear George,

The most exciting thing about war is not the adrenalin rush of combat; nor is it the euphoric high that comes from killing the other son of a bitch. No, George, the most exciting thing about war is that we become what we fight. We are like the warriors of old who ate a vanquished enemy’s heart that they might ingest his spirit. It is an erotic admixture of attraction and revulsion in which we are drawn to enemies who mirror us even as they repel us. When two countries clash, it’s a marriage from Hell.

Look at our history. At the end of the nineteenth century, we were highly critical of imperial Europe, so we went to war to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule and then proceeded to colonize both her and the Philippines. Whereupon we crushed a revolt by the Filipinos with a cruelty that made the Spaniards look like Girl Scouts.

When FDR took office, he pulled us out of the Depression with an exercise in social engineering unprecedented in our nation’s history. So whom do we go to war with? That master of social engineering, Adolph Hitler.

So it is interesting that right after 9/11, we went to war with the Taliban. What could this mean?

Let’s go to the video tape!

Think back to the nightmare that was the late sixties and early seventies (or look back to what little you remember of it). Who spearheaded all the screaming, hysterical demonstrations? Women did! Who gobbled down birth control pills by the handful so they could lead the sexual revolution? Women did! Who went bonkers at Kent State over a dead student? A woman did! Who burned their bras? Women did! Who is in the forefront of the battle to kill embryos? Women are! Do you see a pattern here, George? This great country almost went down the tubes because of raging female hormones! Do you see now why the Taliban attracted us even as they repelled us? It is in their spirit that we continue the battle to return women to the pedestal from which they tumbled forty years ago. Let us bring back the hats and the white gloves, the spiked heels and the valium.

Look at all your administration has accomplished. You’ve gone beyond simply packing the judiciary with anti-Roe judges. You are doing your best to lock the women of America into a statutory chastity belt. You are teaching the young women of America to keep their legs crossed until there’s a ring on their fingers. You are teaching the young men of America to throw their condoms away and keep their peckers in their pants.

On top of that, you are striking major blows against the female libido. The FDA recently refused to approve a hormone patch called Instrinsa, which is a feminine Viagra. A wise choice. Viagra is for men, only. What does a woman need a libido boost for? She can fake it; a man can’t.

Then you listened as the religious right rallied against a vaccine to prevent Human Papillomavirus (HPV), an STD that is the cause of 70 percent of the cervical cancer cases in this country. They opposed its approval by the FDA because a condom will not protect against HPV. This gives them a major talking point in their campaign against their use and a clever way to scare the young into abstinence. As a spokesman for the Family Research Council put it, “Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex.” O! The horror of it all! Thank God, the FDA did its duty and sent the vaccine back for “more testing.”

The beat goes on, George! We’ve kept the morning after pill under the counter, and refused to fund overseas charities that advocate abortion as well as charities that refuse to advocate abstinence as a way to prevent the spread of AIDS. The decency that tells others how to live their lives is making a comeback, and the world will be a better place to live because of it. It’s all about Purity Of Thought (POT), George.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Election Reform - Women Deserve More Representation in Congress

by laughingcat

Hello all! I floated this idea years ago, most recently in this post at Political Physics and believe it is one of the quickest ways for women to achieve a greater influence in our government and therefore our social policy. Though I have heard many objections (usually from men!) I think this idea has great merit and would break the good old boy system presently strangling our country. In fact, it would open up the public dialogue like few other things, and if we could accomplish this one thing, it would change the course of our country forever, empowering women in every state and eventually every country on Earth.

Part of a several-part plan, it is simple and constitutes true election reform. This proposal brings the makeup of the government more in line with the original intent of our Constitution and restores key elements of our democracy. To implement any part of this proposal would be to upset the entrenched interests now running our government. It is a way to begin to fix a system that seems broken. We certainly need some new ideas about how this government should function. This proposal forever ends the two-party male money monopoly.

Another part of this proposal, "More Congressional Seats opens up the game," outlines the need for more members in the House of Representatives to increase our ability to be represented, and the Constitutional basis for expanding the numbers representing us in Congress. I attracted some interesting feedback from that one, and it seems as though there are other people also directing their efforts at increasing our representation and breaking the power monopoly a few hundred people have to determine the lives and affairs of hundreds of millions of Americans. What follows is key in restoring proper representation to the female majority of our population.

Fair representation for women is in the interests of representative democracy and the enfranchisement of many millions of our citizens who are under-represented. I recall reading somewhere that we once considered an election format for Iraq so that women would be guaranteed a certain percentage of legislative seats. This would supposedly ensure their continued enfranchisement in the Iraqi government and the laws being made.

I believe we should try the same format in our country. Instead of open elections that historically have been dominated by men as a result of favored wealthy connections, I propose that we set aside 1/3 of all seats in the House and Senate for women, 1/3 for men, and 1/3 open races where either gender may compete. At the most skewed, we would have at least 1/3 gender representation, a much more fair proportion than what exists today. I am willing to concede that this proposal may yield some objections, but if true fairness were to be shown, then we would have to reserve about 53% of all seats for women. I'm sure this proposal would yield even more objections.

This point is not about race, or beliefs, or any other "minority" criteria than biological. If we were to designate a decent percentage of legislative seats for the female majority of our population, I have no doubt that there would be some radical changes in the public dialogue about budget priorities and like matters. And I'm willing to guarantee we would have health care reform quicker than the present Congress has ever imagined!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Aristophanes reincarnated... ?

Either Stephen Colbert is brilliantly channeling Aristophanes and the spirit of his original comedic satire... or else Aristophanes has chosen to inhabit Stephen Colbert's skin in his newest incarnation. We don't really care which it is... let's just hope it lasts long enough to effect a lasting change, if not in the current administration, then at least in the [com]media lazily basking on a raft in the main stream's current.

Comedy did not begin as the self-deprecating sort of humor we have grown so accustomed to in recent years, the kind that the president tried to use last Saturday night to blunt the devastating effect of his plummeting poll numbers. Comedy, that is, satirical comedy, began in the days of Aristophanes, as a way of needling those in power who often deserved it.

Stephen Colbert hearkens back to those ancient times. Then, in those days before journalists and political correspondents and press secretaries, we had playwrights, storytellers and poets. True, Colbert doesn't wear a mask or a codpiece, or even a toga; nor does he speak in verse. Yet, he does wear his persona as sycophant to an incompetent, war-mongering, president to devastating effect. And he does it with wit and charm and style.

Update: Political Humor has the best video and transcript of Colbert's fearless performance that we have found. Thank you, Political Physics!

Another Update: from Greg Mitchell at Editor & Publisher, an autopsy on the media's slant:

Many say Stephen Colbert went too far in lampooning President Bush at the White House Correspondents Dinner, or was just "not funny." Where was all that disapproval when Bush, at a very similar gathering two years ago, built a whole comedy routine around not finding WMD in Iraq?

In this same piece, Mitchell quotes former CIA analyst Ray McGovern:
At that same Downing Street memo forum at the Capitol last year that Milbank mocked, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, after cataloguing the bogus Bush case for WMDs and the Iraqi threat, looked out at the cameras and notepads, mentioned the March 24, 2004 dinner, and acted out the president looking under papers and table for those missing WMDs. “And the media was all yucking it up ... hahaha,” McGovern said. “You all laughed with him, folks.” Then he mentioned soldiers who had died “after that big joke.”

Dana Milbank, who seems to like a good laugh, did not mention this in his hit piece the following day.

Another Update Called For: Follow the links from Peter Daou to Digby to Marshall and back to Digby, for their reasons on why the Press deserved everything they got from Colbert on Saturday night.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Conflict of Interests... ?

Men have decided during the past two millennia which books of the Bible (and the Torah, and the Koran!) would be considered acceptable for the masses to read, and which would be deemed apocryphal; which interpretations would be disseminated, and which would be condemned. Naturally, their decisions favored those books which most benefitted men, at least in the short term, and women have consistently (at least in the Abrahamic religions) drawn the short straw. The circularity of their logic never seems to have dawned on the men in power... such is the occult nature of their circularity.

Centuries prior to the common era, there had been a brief wisp of hope when Aristophanes, a 5th C BC playwright, used his female characters, albeit cynically, to make a point: that even those creatures of the lowest status, i.e., barely human, could figure out how to end a war and save a culture, even if the male citizenry could not.

Unfortunately, he did not then have the good grace to include women in his idealized vision of what the world could and should be like. Aristophanes' oversight, however, shall not be repeated here...

In the meantime, thousands of years have passed... bearing lots of sordid patriarchal history with them, and the sun is finally setting on the Piscean age. Aquarius dawns, and with it, we peer into the sun, hands shading our brows, at a new spirit of cooperation, for now a mere speck on the horizon.

Borrowing a page from the 20th Century's Pirandello,[1] but altering it to suit their own needs, the spirits of Aristophanes' 5th C characters have risen up to search, not merely for another author, but for a new kind of power, and the liberty to organize themselves to enjoy it.

Although one might think that they would be best served by a team of professional comedy writers, they want something more, a sort of deep comedy. Let's call it "Method" Comedy. You know it when you see it, though it is rare (most especially in geographical areas that demand declarative sentences to be the norm). It is the kind of comedy that reaches in and grabs your heart or your guts, wrenching you at the core, and yet, also has the power to make you laugh. And Cry. Simultaneously. When was the last time you did that?

[1] The most popular of Pirandello's comedies, [...] his masterpiece, is Six Characters in Search of an Author. The premise of the play is that these six characters have taken on a life of their own because their author has failed to complete the story. They invade a rehearsal of another Pirandellian play and insist on playing out the life that is rightfully theirs. Suggesting that life defies all simple interpretations, Pirandello's characters rebel against their creator. They attack the foundation of the play, refusing to follow stage directions and interfering with the structure of the play until it breaks down into a series of alternately comic and tragic fragments.
One of my GCSE (16+) Drama groups has devised a piece about men for their practical assessment in a month. Part of the presentation comprises statements made by women about the opposite sex. These are the utterances selected.


I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.

You see a lot of smart guys with dumb women but you hardly ever see a smart woman with a dumb guy.

Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.

Instead of getting hard ourselves and trying to compete, women should try and give their best qualities to men - bring them softness, teach them how to cry.

Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.

The source of all life and knowledge is in man and woman, and the source of all living is in the interchange and the meeting and mingling of these two: man-life and woman-life, man-knowledge and woman-knowledge, man-being and woman-being.

Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man.

Men are gentle, honest and straightforward. Women are convoluted, deceptive and dangerous.

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes."

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.

If the world were a logical place, men would ride sidesaddle.

Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

Nobody will ever win the Battle of the Sexes. There's just too much fraternizing with the enemy.

The vote means nothing to women. We should be armed.

Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.

Men weren't really the enemy -- they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.

Why are women ... so much more interesting to men than men are to women?

A man has every season while a woman only has the right to spring.

Woman was God's second mistake.

Zippers Go 2 Directions

England is having yet another sex scandal mixed with its politics.

Deputy PM John Prescott had an affair with civil servant Tracy Temple. And, when she went public with the details (garnering 10,000UK in the process), Prescott has called her names and discredited her at every turn.

Here's a little secret for you: Dude, we don't care about the details. What we care about is the you are a married man and you committed adultery and now you are trying to wiggle out of taking responsibility for it by blaming the woman you had an affair with. Just say no! The zipper works both ways, up and down.

For Tracy Temple, she could have avoided the entire mess if she had just said no as well. Of course her friends have abandoned her, they weren't really her friends. It's no longer politically expedient for her friends to be her friends.

PM Tony Blair is supposed to decide what the fate of Prescott will be. It will, more than likely, be no more than a slap on the wrist and a request to resign from office. Prescott and his wife may "fix" their marriage and Tracy Temple's life will be in tatters, suffering the worst of it for being the "other woman."

Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where people can tell each other "no" fearlessly and take personal responsibility for their actions? Let this action start with each individual. Learn to say "no" when you're about to do something incredibly daft and learn that the zipper works in the fully upright position too.

(Bill Clinton, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Jack Abramoff, Condeleeza Rice to the white courtesy phone for a clue please.)

Yemeni Women Get It On!

From NPR comes this story about Yemeni women testing their "traditional" roles in a muslim country.

I only caught bits and pieces (I had to feed the hungry dodo, Pickwick, before she ate something of real importance) but it seems that efforts by the women in this country are making the men nervous, which is always a good thing in my opinion.

One woman had 6 children and kept busy looking after them and their rundown hotel with her husband, until he died. Now she has not only turned the original hotel around, she owns 2 others despite pressure from traditionalists not to do it because it was unseemly for a woman to be involved in business. She still dresses in the traditional robes that cover her from head to toe, only her eyes visible as she conducts her business. Her laughter was happy as she told the reporter about turning one hotel into three.

The other woman is running for president, something unheard of in Yemen. She has no illusions about her chances of winning but wants to make a point about how times and attitudes are changing in the Middle East. One of two wives to her husband, she says that learning how to negotiate with the first wife has prepared her for a life in politics.

[NOTE: Islam allows a man up to 4 wives, so long as he can provide from them equally. The women must consent to the arrangement. First introduced by the prophet Muhammed (peace be unto him) during a time of war and codified into the Quran, this law is meant to protect women and children who have been widowed by the war. It is not unlike the Judeo-Christian's Old Testament admonition for the brother to marry the wife of his dead brother in order to take care of her.]