Christopher Nolan's TENET:
3D Time & a Utopian Longing for Normalcy
Monday, September 07, 2020
I saw Tenet in a theater in Toronto with fancy seats that vibrate and tilt along with the action. I don’t think the seat’s enthusiasm contributed much, but I did enjoy the show. I went to see it for two reasons: One is that science fiction films flood the cultural discourse and change narratives, and this one is playing partly in what I consider my space, so I felt like I needed to know what is in it. The second is that I just finished writing something long and my brain needs a break from rehearsing and reworking my own prose; it helped to clear my head.
Before I went, I read reviews and internet takes. Most people who had seen it were concerned with trying to figure out what is going on in the film, because it has scenes in which time flows both forwards and backwards. After reading the article in the Washington Post about their decision not to review the film because Christopher Nolan gave reviewers no choice except to see it in a theater with other people, I considered whether to skip it. But in the end, I went. I would not make the same decision two weeks from now, because I expect the incidence of the virus to spike up once schools are open. Having seen it as the director intended, unless you are really excited by watching stuff blow up, there is no particular reason to see it in a theater. Inasmuch as the film is good, it won’t lose much if seen instead on a big screen TV.
Continue reading "Christopher Nolan's TENET:
3D Time & a Utopian Longing for Normalcy" »
On the Question of Trump's Legitimacy as President-Elect
Sunday, November 13, 2016
I hope -- if you are eligible to vote in the US Presidential Election -- that you voted.
If you cast a vote that you now feel called upon to defend, I hope you think deeply about your civic responsibilities as a voter. A ballot is something much more serious than a Like button. But that is all water under the bridge now.
What sane and rational plans the US political class seems to have had are shattered on the ground. And although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, garnering about 2 million votes more than her opponent, the geographical distribution of the votes has placed on the track to assume power in January Donald Trump, a man incapable of running a country in such a way that we would recognize it as the United States of America we thought we knew. His incoming cabinet is a motley crew, intent more on vandalizing government than running it.
They say hindsight is 20/20. I don’t think we have achieved that clarity of vision yet. However, one thing that is clear is that Obama’s election made many people overly optimistic. Obama himself allowed and cultivated a real death star of a national security apparatus, the NSA, to which he will, apparently, be handing Trump the keys on January 20th.
Did it not occur to Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton or to any of the architects of this system that their panopticon and their assassination drones might, one day, be in the hands of a vindictive narcissist with an enemies list? And that that day might be January 20th, 2017?
As for the rest of us, we squandered a lot of time that might have been used securing the social progress reflected by the election of America’s first black president.
In 2012, for example, Brian Stephenson gave an impassioned TED talk about ending mass incarceration. Mass incarceration is one of the most effective and permanent methods of voter suppression. The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any major country in the world. How can that be, in the land of the free?
There are three factors driving this: 1) The effectiveness of mass incarceration at suppressing the black and other minority vote; 2) the availability of prison labor; 3) the profits to be made by private prisons.
Obama did, by executive order, discontinue the federal use of private prisons.
The 13th amendment ending slavery has a loophole for the use of prison labor. Closing this loophole allowing slavery provided that the slaves are prisoners would reduce another economic incentive that drives mass incarceration.
But laws allowing prisoners to vote and restoring voting rights to those convicted of felonies would eliminate what may be the strongest factor driving mass incarceration: suppression of the vote.
For those not familiar with the timeline, the era of mass incarceration begins shortly after the passage of federal civil rights laws.
So what did my progressive friends talk about for most of the last eight years? There was a lot of talk about micro-aggressions, how nuances of phrase by otherwise well-meaning people might give offence. This gave way to discussions of the political battle over the Hugo Awards, this incursion being led by the writer Vox Day, a notorious racist. Eventually, awareness of micro-aggressions and awards gave way to discussion of macro-aggressions, the frequent shooting of unarmed black men by police, Black Lives Matter.
We had gone from discussing things like the nuances of who might be called a Person of Color and the relative merits of 2nd wave vs. 3rd wave feminism to whether it was OK to shoot unarmed people in the street. Perhaps we should have started with the matter of the shooting of unarmed people and worked in the other direction.
(Parenthetically: I remember -- some time between the micro-aggression era and the Hugo stuff -- trying to engage people I thought would be interested, who had been discussing on Facebook the abstract problem of mass incarceration, with the matter of the use of prison labor in my own community. Upon seeing the discussion, I went down the street with my camera and took pictures of actual prisoners tearing down a structure on the Essex County Fairgrounds three blocks from my house, and I posted this to the discussion. I really don’t know why no one much reacted on the occasions when I have raised this issue.)
I should have said more. We should have said more. But, in retrospect, I think we were worried about yet another member of the Bush family becoming president and had not imagined, instead, the rise to power of fascism. There were overtones of fascism in the GWB administration, but not like Trump.
Obstructionist Republicans have gamed the system so as to mostly immobilize the Obama presidency in his second term culminating in their refusal to hold hearings for his Supreme Court nominee no matter who he nominated. And the Democratic party offered no real solution to obstructionism except loyalty to the Democratic party in the next election. And I/we (or some large portion of us) trusted them, more or less.
So here we are. We are asked to recognize Trump’s election as “legitimate” and to acquiesce to some kind of “unity.” Trump himself claimed repeatedly and emphatically that the election was “rigged.” Week by week, during the election, more hacked information in the service of Trump was released to the public. So. If I understand this correctly we are to believe the proposition that Trump told lies about the integrity of the voting process as a condition of accepting the proposition that he will be the legitimate President of the United States. (This reminds me of the logical problem of judging the truth of the statement “I am lying.”) Why not just take him at his word?
Why should we recognize Trump’s legitimacy before Obama—whose legitimacy has constantly denied by the GOP despite his being democratically elected twice—is allowed to appoint Scalia’s replacement to the Supreme Court? Otherwise it would seem the legitimacy of a president entails being white.
And then there is the matter of the FBI’s interference with the democratic process, interceding on Trump’s behalf at the 11th hour. . . .
Recapping: we are asked by a political party that refuses to recognize the current sitting President as legitimate to accept the legitimacy of a President-Elect who claimed the election was rigged, who was helped extensively by hackers (possibly in the employ of a foreign government), who lost the popular vote, and whose dishonesty we are asked to take as a given.
Why would I do that? Why should any of us do that?
I think, instead, we should start securing voting rights, and agreement by all that it is not OK to shoot unarmed people in the street, and that the FBI has no place intervening in the Presidential election, and so on. And once all of this is accomplished, if the matter of Trump’s legitimacy is still on the table, we can take it up then.
Further reading: "Am I Free to Go?" by Kathryn Cramer on Tor.com, December, 2012.
Driving around Vermont, Thinking
Monday, October 13, 2014
Friday and Saturday, I spent a lot of time driving around Vermont. I also spent a lot of time thinking while driving. I was thinking about whether to expand on my most recent blog post and what it is safe to say. These were the most beautiful drives I have ever taken in Vermont.
The leaves were at peak and the air was still, so there were many reflections. (Unfortunatly, I didn't stop to take pictures.)
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The strange hunt for an Icelandic woman in Plattsburgh, NY
Friday, November 06, 2009
For a couple of days I've been following a series of creepy news stories in the Plattsburgh, NY Press Republican. In the first one, there were helicopters over Plattsburgh looking for a fugitive. On the afternoon of November 3rd, they posted the story headlined, Helicopter search on in Plattsburgh. It was very brief but suggestive of the possibility that something deeply unpleasant was going on:
PLATTSBURGH — Helicopters were searching the area around Route 3 just outside the City of Plattsburgh’s West End Tuesday afternoon.
State Police and Homeland Security helicopters were assisting with a Border Patrol search in that area, according to State Police based in Plattsburgh.
Helicopters could be seen circling around Cogan Avenue and Healey Avenue.
No further information was available Tuesday afternoon.
The first thing I thought of when I saw the story was an author's remark, declining an invitation to come from Montreal to come visit us in Westport, NY, that, "We do not go to your country for fun."
The next story, on November 5th, was headlined, Woman escapes custody downtown; search ensues.It explained that an Icelandic woman named Linda Bjork Magnusdottir had escaped:
City Police, State Police and Plattsburgh State University Police assisted federal agents looking for 42-year-old Linda Bjork Magnusdottir, who was taken into custody by federal agents as an illegal alien, according to a City Police news release.
She was in the process of being arraigned on that charge when she escaped at about 6:30 p.m.
The woman, who was apparently detained for some kind of infraction when she was coming into the country at the Champlain border crossing, allegedly got away when she told authorities that she needed to use the restroom.
The woman is described as white, about 5 feet 10 inches, with long, straight blond hair and a slender build. She was last seen wearing black clothing.
Authorities said the woman is not believed to be dangerous.
Police blocked streets surrounding the Clinton County Government Center and were using a helicopter believed to belong to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to conduct the search.
So let me get this straight: This woman, who is not dangerous except for being 5 ft. 10, was trying to enter the US at a border crossing and the Border Patrol decided to arrest her. The cops did something dumb, and she got away.
(A couple of years ago, a Spanish science fiction editor was detained for a while at the US border when trying to come into the US to be a Guest of Honor at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. After several hours, as I recall the story, he managed to convince them to let him go by showing them a story note in an anthology he had with him; the story note mentioned him and so they were convinced to let him go and proceed on to the convention.)
And so now the giant blonde, who bears a passing resemblance to the woman on the poster for Attack of the 50 ft. High Woman, is in custody, thanks to the vigilance of some local citizens who had seen her picture on TV and knew she was a wanted fugitive. Here is today's headline news: Escapee caught in store after tip - Icelandic woman sought transport out of region.
"She came up to us and asked where we were headed," Mrs. Whalen said. "We said home, and she asked if that was going toward Albany. We told her no."
The woman went on to say that her car had broken down and she was in a fight with her husband and had to get out of town.
"I looked at her, and I knew who she was, and my husband knew who she was," Mrs. Whalen said, adding that they had heard about the search over the scanner and later saw her picture on the news.
She said Magnusdottir had paper towels in her shoes because she didn't have any socks on. She was wearing all black, with a tear in her shirt.
"She was nervous — very, very, very, very nervous," Mrs. Whalen said. "She was looking out the (store) windows when we got in the truck .... She wanted out really bad. She wanted a ride really bad."
So, other than trying to enter the US without the right papers, just why were there helicopters after this woman?
Gunnar Jonsson from the National Icelandic Broadcasting Service said Magnusdottir was once a leader of a religious cult in Iceland, which later went "belly up" after she allegedly had an affair with a younger member of the congregation. Her former husband was the preacher of that group.
Apparently Magnusdottir had been dating an American and living in America until recently, Jonsson said. She reportedly had temporary work in Canada.
She had been coming into the United States at the Champlain border crossing when she was detained.
In all this is very strange and unsettling. Immigration could have simply turned this woman away at the border crossing.
Maybe, just maybe, there is something there in the cult story. But what seems to be going on here is that Homeland Security is using the heavy equipment just because it's there.
What is news here? That a giant blonde woman with cult-like religious beliefs and no American citizenship is on the loose in Plattsburgh, or that Homeland Security is all dressed up with no place to go and breaks out the helicopters at the slightest excuse because they're bored?
Just why was Magnusdottir worth hunting? Is there an answer? Or is this a story about the pernicious effects of Homeland Security money?
Oppression, Feminism, & Motherhood
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I was on several excellent panels at Anticipation which I hope to write about later, and on one panel that was hopelessly ill-construed. It was a panel on which four white people were assigned the task of discussing whether ethnic and sexual minorities ought to write for the mainstream sf audience or whether they could or should write for more specialized audiences more connected to their concerns, and if they were to do that, how would they make it into the SF canon (this last point was illustrated by a quote from Joanna Russ.).
One of the designated panelists did not attend the convention, one overslept and missed the panel by accident, so it was me and this white guy who later remarked online that he has clearly been assigned to the wrong panel.
This was not THE most socially awkward panel assignment I've ever been given. That would be the panel entitled "Politics & Bad Manners" at a Minnicon many years ago, where as I recall one of my fellow panelists was dressed in a monk's habit, and everyone but me had known in advance that this was the annual Libertarian revival panel. I spent the panel defending things like the existence of public sidewalks. But this pannel at Anticipation was certainly up there.
Several audience members seemed to have a lot to say on the actual topic assigned, so I invited "Ide Cyan" and a woman whose name badge said "Isobel" to join me as panelists. "Isobel" declined, but made many productive comments from the audience. "Ide Cyan" joined me on the panel, but only after anxiously showing me her name badge so I would know who I was tangling with. She tried hard as a panelist, but also was extremely tense and trembling and talking very fast, as though frightened of me. (I think that is the first time I've ever been on a panel with someone who appeared physically frighten of me.)
The panel went how it went, which is as well as could be expected given both the panelist problem and an oddly constructed mandate. (Canonicty is a completely separate issue from the economic and artistic viability of subgenres with specialized audiences.) I'm told that Jo Walton had written beautiful and lucid panel descriptions that were then mercilessly pruned by a clumsy editorial hand. I think this panel description was one of the victims.
"Ide Cyan" argued that the central issue was oppression. I attempted to get her to unpack her argument, and asked interview style questions about what she meant by oppression. Another blogger has described her as becoming "tongue-tied" when presented with this line of inquiry.
After the panel, I invited her to join me for a cup of tea for further discussion, but she declined; she and a group of other audience members, who seemed to be a portion of Fail Fandom, left as a group. According to their blogs this group went off and discussed how appalling it is that I claim to be oppressed because I am a parent and because of where I live.
Before departing, "Ide Cyan" instructed me to read Joanna Russ's book What Are We Fighting For? Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism, a book which as it happened was sitting on my night table. A while back I blogged my dismay with the opening chapter. It is a book that Joanna worked long and hard on, the book in which she intended to reconcile socialism and feminism, and which was published too late to have the impact it might have had because it took her so long to write. (Our collective recollection is that she was already working on that book when I attended the Seattle Clarion in 1984; its copyright date is 1998.)
Joanna Russ was my first science fiction mentor. She was my professor at the University of Washington for two years. I spent many happy hours taking up her office hours when everyone else was scared to talk to her. A few decades ago, I knew her pretty well. She was in chronic pain. She was on heavy-duty anti-depressants that messed up her short-term memory in ways that were sometimes comical. She is also a genius, and I treasure the time I spent sitting at her feet (sometimes literally) listening to her hold forth.
That having been said, I don't think What We Are Fighting For? works in the way she intended. In trying to reconcile socialism & feminism, she has for the most part left out the problem of motherhood and the relationship between the parent and the State. Her discussion of motherhood is extremely slight. The most extensive passage I was able to find, via index and skimming, is a mother-blaming section on the role of families in perpetuating oppression and sexism. (p. 347) Clearly, something had to go or this book never would have got finished, but I think it is unfortunate that the oppression of mothers by the State was omitted from discussion.
So what is oppression? Its definition is not one of Joanna's central concerns in this book; she is writing for an audience that thinks it already knows what oppression is. Oppression is depression — "a feeling of being oppressed"; persecution —"the act of subjugating by cruelty"; and subjugation — "the state of being kept down by unjust use of force or authority." In my daily life, I have experienced all three in connection with being a mother and it is not a minor thing. It is a major force in my life.
I seriously doubt that Joanna Russ I know would argue that I and other American mothers are not oppressed. And I wonder by what right self-described feminists discard out-of-hand claims by individual mothers that they suffer oppression.
Is 21st century feminism really feminism at all? If it has abandonded mothers as such, it has abandoned its task of advocating the liberation of women.
"Defining Characteristics of the Posthuman & the Emergent Transition to the Transhuman: a Dystopian Scenario" by Kathryn Cramer
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Posthumans communicate electronically. Pay no attention to the geek behind the handle.
A posthuman outnumbers a human: their emergent relationship is often predator and prey.
Humans are single, identifiable individuals. Posthumans are legion; they are multi-headed hydra. When fully developed, they contain multitudes, as many identities as they need.
Posthumans are the heroes of their own stories.
Humans may have several social identities, usually dependent on contexts such as work, parenting, gaming. Posthumans have more.
Humans are cursed with continuous lives; posthumans are not. Posthumans can go underground with a keystroke. Bingo, another identity!
Posthumans are lonely, they are looking for love and companionship and attention. Self-love does not ease the ache for another, more satisfying identity. Perhaps even as a superhero.
Posthumans are disinhibited.
Posthumans are thrill-seekers, enjoying the rush of the group demagogic skydive.
Posthumans live in constant fear of exposure as insignificant meat.
Posthumans argue against the unique identification of moral actors.
To protect them from predation, children are taught in elementary school how to become posthuman when going online. As with many top predators, by adolescence, these proto-posthumans with have learned the role of predator. Social networking plays a major and perhaps even Darwinian role in this socialization.
Posthumans hunt in legions. If no one else will hunt, posthumans become the legion.
Posthumans bear no responsibility for the past. For posthumans, electronic life is an organizing principle imposed on the past, which is chaos.
All the truth posthumans need is available online. And if it isn’t there, they can make something up and put it online.
For a human to seek a human's address and phone number, she looks in the phone book. For a human to seek a posthuman's address and phone number is stalking!
Humans privilege relationships formed in and founded on what they call "real life." Posthumans either deny a distinction between “real life” and online relationships, or disparage the idea that "meatspace" relationships have any privileged meaning.
Posthumans like to watch. They especially like to watch humans and other posthumans fighting.
Posthumans find inflicting pain easier than do humans. Posthuman demagogues easily replicate the results of the Milgram experiment again and again, since posthumans are drawn to such experiences.
Posthuman culture changes at a much more rapid pace than human culture, such that the social protocols of online communities less than five years old are often regarded as ancient and venerable traditions. Still, most bad ideas go back a long way.
Truth is the consensus of posthumans today. Tomorrow's truth will be different. There is no fact outside of constantly-shifting consensus truth.
Humans are limited to no more than 3 or 4 romantic entanglements at a time. Posthumans may pursue 15 or 20 simultaneously; those posthumans augmented by bots can pursue hundreds. For some posthumans, this can prove highly profitable, particularly those who specialize in widows and the elderly.
Posthumans can blogswarm from jail!
The posthuman condition is a happy state for registered sex offenders.
Posthumans have solved the problem of professional ethics: The ethics of posthumans are completely undiscussable. How dare you raise the issue of ethics!
Posthumans are becoming the natural prey of Intelligent Agents, currently in the service of humans and adept at parsing social networks and friends lists. Intelligent Agents perform due diligence.
A posthuman’s HR department already has the posthuman’s Charles Manson fanfic on file; is already aware of the disturbing themes in the posthuman’s Shirley Temple Second Life porn; the posthuman’s Flickr account has already been run by legal. Legal has advised management to let him dig himself in a little deeper.
Posthumans are losing security clearances for unexplained reasons.
Posthumans are now being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Now posthumans lose their jobs.
Intelligent Agents take over. Truth is the consensus of corporately owned Intelligent Agent systems.
The era of Transhumanity is at hand.
History has ended. Posthumans have no history.
Copyright © 2009 by Kathryn Cramer.
Metafilter moves in mysterious ways
Saturday, August 15, 2009
So my name has been taken in vain in a post on Metafilter. I am left wondering exactly how my objections to people using pseudonyms leads anyone to the idea that I think that "The future is all straight, white men?"
Certainly, most of the assholes on the Internet are straight white men, though that does seem to be changing. But whoever wrote that post clearly doesn't read either my blog nor my books, nor know me personally.
Cowards, cowards, cowards.
Wiscon program item noted without comment: "Something Is Wrong on the Internet!"
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
UPDATE: Two accounts of the panel, one from Laura, in the audience, with several unattributed quotes about mobbing:
Program Item Name Something Is Wrong on the Internet! Track(s) Feminism and Other Social Change Movements (Reading, Viewing, and Critiquing Science Fiction) Description What keeps you going at 4 a.m. when there's so much fail, and only you and your fellow Internet drama addicts stand against it like stubborn superheroes? Let's talk about why Internet drama is important to us as activists and as fans, why we engage or disengage, and what it all means when ideas and personalities clash in public discussion of sf/f books, tv, fic, and culture. Location Capitol B Schedule Sun 10:00 - 11:15AM Panelists M: Vito Excalibur, Piglet, Liz Henry, Julia Sparkymonster
Hint of a fail is when a person says “There is a mob after me!”
. . . and . . .
If you never shut up about things, then you will continue to be mobbed.
And one from Liz Henry:
danny: what seems to spark a particularly bad reaction is a bunch of people's reactions being called a "mob" - it is not a mob it is a lot of individuals having their own valid reactions.
Xe Evil Blackwater Dudes!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Blackwater changes their name to Xe to avoid critical comments. Much hilarity ensues. Xe is supposed to be pronounced like the letter Z, as in Xe Evil Blackwater Dudes.
See also TPM Muckraker.
SHOCK: Michelle Malkin helps Bill Ayers sell books!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
God damn America . . .and lets her readers know where to meet Bill Ayers and where to buy his book and get it signed:
He’ll be at Georgetown Law School on Monday and at a book-signing at Busboys & Poets at 14th and V St in Washington DC on Monday night at 6:30PM.Is Malkin palling around?
Any why does Michelle Malkin hate America?
GOP Vocabulary Word of the Day: to nationalize, "To convert from private to governmental ownership and control."
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Providing further evidence that the Republicans have run out of the conservative solutions generally associated with their party and are now borrowing from the far left, the US government has nationalized AIG. From Floyd Norris, writing in the Business Section of The New York Times:
Socialism, 21st Century Style
The government tonight nationalized the American International Group, the financial giant that could not find anyone else willing to lend it the billions of dollars it needed to stay afloat.
That is not the official version. Fed staffers, who briefed reporters at 9:15 tonight, don’t even want us to say the government will control A.I.G. The government will name new management, and will have veto power over all important decisions. And it will have a warrant allowing it to take 79.9 percent of the stock whenever it wants. But they contend there is no control until the warrant is exercised.
President Truman once tried to nationalize the steel industry, arguing that a strike that halted production in wartime created a national emergency. The Supreme Court ruled that was illegal. This time, however, the company agreed to the nationalization. It was the only way to get the cash it desperately needs.
Invoking extraordinary powers granted after the 1929 stock market crash, the government seized control of the insurance giant American International Group to preserve a crucial bulwark of the global financial system.
The move to lend the Wall Street giant up to $85 billion in exchange for nearly 80 percent of its stock effectively nationalizes one of the central institutions in the crisis that has swept through markets this month.
Not long ago, the Republican party was associated with the notion of "privatization" and in the last eight years, many formerly governmental function were privatized.
Today's question for John McCain: what else would he nationalize if elected President? Or is he still in favor of privatization?
My reading of McCain's position in Social Security as described on his campaign website is that he still favors a partial privatization.
Reform Social Security: John McCain will fight to save the future of Social Security and believes that we may meet our obligations to the retirees of today and the future without raising taxes. John McCain supports supplementing the current Social Security system with personal accounts -- but not as a substitute for addressing benefit promises that cannot be kept. John McCain will reach across the aisle, but if the Democrats do not act, he will. No problem is in more need of honesty than the looming financial challenges of entitlement programs. Americans have the right to know the truth and John McCain will not leave office without fixing the problems that threatens our future prosperity and power.
A week or so ago after the government -- as Forbes put it -- "effectively nationalized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," DialyKos summed up the new GOP position as Privatize Profits, Socialize Losses.
See also CNNMoney's video Government's growth spurt.
McPalin Culture Wars Round-Up
Thursday, September 04, 2008
A couple of favorite pieces:
First, there's the New York Times op-ed Running Against Themselves:
The difficulty for the Republican ticket in talking about change and reform and acting like insurgents is that they have been running Washington — the White House and Congress — for most of the last eight years.
Mike Littwin of the Rocky Mountain News: Palin isn't making this easy
I don't think John McCain understood exactly what he was doing picking Palin. He was looking for a new face in a party dominated by old faces, a Republican who wasn't tied to the rest of the Republicans (read: George W. Bush). But what he also got was another battle in the culture wars.Indeed, I don't think the political strategist who have brought us to this point understand how complex and unpredictable the politics of mommyhood are. (And no, Sarah, your family doesn't have "the same ups and downs as any other.") To work full or part time or to stay home with ones kids are complex decisions about which American women pronounce judgement upon each other every day. Every school PTA is split between the stay-at-home and part-timer moms who do most of the PTA work, and the full-time working moms who (despite Palin's PTA credentials) mostly don't.
I leave it to Rudy Giuliani, of all people, to give us the lesson.
It's Giuliani - not your typical Republican on issues such as abortion and gay rights and wearing dresses at New York balls - who was Palin's warmup act. And in fact, he did about 20 minutes of standup, mostly mocking - and that's the right word - Barack Obama to the delight of the crowd, but in way that had to be cringe-making for much of the rest of America watching at home on TV.
Every employed mother has decisions to make about when to work and when to drop everything and take care of the needs of a child, and mothers pass judgement on each others' choices every day. New baby, special needs child, pregnant teenage daughter, five kids -- each of these individually might cause even a suburban upper-middle class mother in a left-leaning community to be subjected to peer pressure to surrender her ambitions in favor of taking care of her family. How can this fly?
Are questions about whether Sarah Palin should be spending more time taking care of her family fair? Perhaps not, but our culture isn't fair to mothers, and worse, mothers are not fair to other mothers.
Margaret Wente in The Globe and Mail has an interesting piece entitled The culture wars are baaack!:
For a while back there, I thought the culture wars would not be a big deal in this election. We had two serious men of substance who had vowed to grapple with the serious issues of the day - the staggering economy, America's shattered moral leadership in the world, the health-care mess, loose nukes, stuff like that. Silly me! It turns out the real issues are abortion, evolution v. creationism, the role of God in public life, why Sarah tried to get her no-good ex-brother-in-law fired, what's up with her mother-in-law, and whether she herself was pregnant when she got married.In it she quotes a McCain adviser:
"Frankly, I can't imagine that question being asked of a man," snapped John McCain's campaign manager, Steve Schmidt. "A lot of women will find it offensive."Oh, were Sisterhood that power! Wouldn't it be nice if women didn't say terrible things about other women's mothering choices all the time?
In his speech last night Rudy Guiliani asked, "How dare they question whether Sarah Palin has enough time to spend with her child and be vice president?" They dare, Rudy. They dare. They dare all the time.
She is apparently breastfeeding. Wouldn't it have been fascinating if Sarah Palin gave last night's speech while breastfeeding her infant? (I have nursed an infant from the podium, though out of necessity, not for fun; it's a good way to keep a baby quiet while mommy talks to the audience when the expected convention childcare does not materialize.) Having her pregnant daughter hold the baby doesn't deflect the scrutiny that a new mother out in the world is subject to. And Palin hasn't really explained who is taking care of the kids. The implication of what is left unsaid is partly that the kids will take care of themselves and each other, an impression I wouldn't dare give at the World Science Fiction Convention, let alone the national convention of a political party.
Jonathan Freeland, The Guardian also discusses the culture wars theme: Who knows if Palin will bring victory or defeat? But the culture wars are back
In his stirring speech last week, Obama urged America not to "make a big election about small things". Yet here we are, discussing not Sarah Palin's record or programme but Jesus, guns, and as one feminist blogger put it yesterday, "the uterine activity of her family". This is a setback for women, especially in a year that seemed to promise a breakthrough, but it is also a setback for America itself.For obvious reasons, conservatives would like to see this mess in a different light. Janice Shaw Crouse of the conservative think-tank Concerened Women for America writes,
The media’s frenzy over the Palin nomination contrasts negatively with the positive way that the Palin family is coping with their daughter’s pregnancy; it shows how out-of-touch the media is with the rest of America and how distorted their view is of pro-life Americans who put feet on their policy stances. . . . The media frenzy also demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of social conservatives and the importance of the social issues for most Americans.Is the fuss all about whether Palin is alienating the very conservative base she was supposed to lock in? I don't think so.
What Palin and her complications represent is a social conservative running against a broad personalized non-political type of social conservatism concerning childbearing and childrearing; she presents an entirely new model of conservative motherhood that bears a lot of explaining in order to seem like responsible behavior.
UPDATE: See also Nancyy Gibbs in TIME: Can Palin Escape the Parent Trap? and Teresa Nielsen Hayden on Making Light: Pay attention to the little man behind the curtain.
What Were McCain's Advisers Thinking? The Republican Party Just Gets Wilder!
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
When I was in elementary school (in maybe 1970?), my mother ran for the Washington State Legislature and I door-belled for her campaign. She would take one side of the street and I would take another. I remember distinctly being told by one lady on a front porch that I was a smart and beautiful little girl and that she wasn't going to vote for my mommy because my mommy should be at home with me and that I should tell her so. And so despite the strong odor of Reality Show that Sarah Palin brings to the presidential election, I am deeply uncomfortable with what I see being said about her.
I was particularly uncomfortable about Maureen Dowd's breast pump remark, because there is a significant minority in our country who feel that lactating women should be completely invisible. Women are such easy targets for vicious Internet memes.
Who knew that the news coverage of the Republican National Convention would be all about how McCain's Veep choice is HOT and her daughters are easy? Culminating in the oh-so-tasteful comparison between Britney Spears's little sister Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin?
I wonder how the editors of the Christian Science Monitor can with a straight face publish the headline McCain pick of Palin helps win over party's conservative base; it begins:
Moments after Senator John McCain announced his running mate - Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, an outspoken abortion opponent - his campaign sprang into action to fan flames of enthusiasm among his party's demoralized conservative supporters.
At a lunch in Minneapolis, two of his top advisers - Charlie Black, a veteran political operative, and Dan Coates, a former senator from Indiana - were extolling Palin's virtues to about 150 influential evangelicals as evidence of McCain's ideological commitments.
Charlie Black, what were you thinking?
I have a really odd connection to Charlie Black, though we've never actually met or spoken: We were both conned by the professional con artist Joseph A. Cafasso during the same time period during the summer of 2005. There used to be more about this on my blog, but I took it down after legal threats seemingly made on his behalf by one of his close associates who is ironically a former CNN exec. On January 15, 2007, she wrote:
THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NON-NEGOTIABLE WITH ME OR CHARLIE OR ANYONE ELSE WHO IS AFFECTED! TAKE THAT STUFF DOWN NOW! . . . Cramer -Take this shit off the Internet! No one wants to have a conversation with you. We would rather you vanish as fast as you invaded our lives! Either take this crap down or you will be sued!
So. All right then. (Quoting from private email? Absolutely. Fair use? Yup.)
In any case, what I wonder -- as I see the Palin PR disaster unfold -- is whether Black was fooled again as he was fooled by Cafasso. Or whether he's just fooling himself.
In February, Firedog Lake's Christy Hardin Smith wrote an interesting profile of Black which mentions his association with international con man Ahmed Chalabi. Yesterday, Firedog Lake posted a "Sarah Palin Goodbye Watch."
Put down your best guesses for when, why, and how Sarah Palin will bail from the GOP ticket.
So far the blog entry has 360 comments. (Their server seems to be having some problems, so be patient if the links don't work.)
Meanwhile, the Financial Times editors, presumably also with a straight face, publish the following headline: McCain counts on character to clinch it while at the same time running an image of McCain with Bristol Palin and her boyfriend, Levi Johnston.
Looks like the Republican Party is in full swing, and the party is getting wilder and wilder. What's next? These are not your daddy's Republicans!
Fortune reports that there is an online prediction market on "whether Palin will be dropped from the ticket": Betting on a Palin withdrawal.
Intrade, an online prediction market based in Dublin, created a contract Tuesday morning on the likelihood that John McCain will drop Palin as his running mate. After opening at a probability of just 3%, the odds on Palin being cut from the ticket hovered around 14% yesterday. Predictions plateaued today at 10%, perhaps in response to yesterday's speeches by Fred Thompson and Joe Lieberman. Both praised the governor for her reformist qualities.
. . . Placing a Palin withdrawal at even 12% seems bullish; no presidential candidate has withdrawn his VP selection since Thomas Eagleton left Democratic candidate George McGovern's ticket in 1972.
See also The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.
I am not placing any bets. I am just rubbernecking at how fast Bristol Palin has become an instant Pop Tart and Sarah Palin the new Victoria Principal. One message for the rest of us is, Don't aim too high. Don't let this happen to you.
CNN's current at 7:52 PM 9/3/08: Palin to slam Obama in convention speech. What an awful political spectacle it will be to see if she can conceal her anger at what has happened to her over the past few days. Will she be saccharine or Janis Joplin? Or will she not be able to contain the anger? Can we look away? And don't you feel like a voyeur?
So. Sarah Palin: Victoria Principal, Harriet Miers, or Janis Joplin? What do you bet? Watching this shows just how tough Hillary is.
Hurricane Gustav determined to be a presence at the GOP convention one way or another
Friday, August 29, 2008
Is there anything more emblematic of the Bush presidency than a hurricane? And so it is fitting that a hurricane seems determined to attend the Republican convention. From the LA Times, in an article about whether the convention will be postponed:
In Washington, Bush -- scheduled to speak at the Republican convention Monday -- was receiving what White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said were "regular updates" about the storm's progress.
Perino said it was "too premature to say" whether Bush would alter his plan to speak to the convention.
Matt Burns, communications director for the Republican National Convention, emphasized that officials have not made any changes in their plans related to Gustav.
"At this juncture we are moving ahead with the planning of our convention, and there have been no changes to our schedule of events. We obviously share the concerns of many Americans as we watch the developments," Burns said.
Accuweather's model tracking of the path of Hurricane Gustav is here. Whether or not Gustav goes to Minneapolis St. Paul, it seems very likely to hit New Orleans on approximately the third anniversary of the Katrina disaster and a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans seems imminent:
New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin left the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday and announced that he would order a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans if a Category 3 storm got within 60 hours of his city. Meteorologists predict Gustav will swell into a Category 3 hurricane, defined as a storm with winds between 111 mph and 130 mph.
UPDATE 8/30/08: Gustav becomes a Category 4 hurricane and McCain's people float the idea of turning the GOP convention into a Red Cross fundraiser:
A senior McCain source said Saturday that officials are considering turning the convention into a service event, a massive telethon to raise money for the Red Cross and other agencies to help with the hurricane.
. . . as opposed to a fundraiser for McCain? (I'm not making this up.) How 'bout this: why don't they just pledge to donate all the money raised by the McCain campaign between now and next week to the Red Cross?
Meanwhile, on a very serious note, here is a list of the key words that brought the last ten visitors to my website:
Recent Visitors by Referral Search Words
Detail Search Words Referring Web Site
1 new orleans levee map google.com
2 new orleans levies map search.yahoo.com
3 before and after images.google.com
4 new orleans levee breaks search.yahoo.com
5 new orleans levees google.com
6 "new orleans" levee map google.com
8 new orleans levee map google.com
9 escape routes from nola google.com
10 new orleans levys google.com
While I did do a lot of work on disaster relief maps following Hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan Earthquake, I do not have detailed maps on how to escape from New Orleans in the event that levees fail again. I hope someone else does.
Update: The President's Butt
Monday, July 23, 2007
So the media have spent three days worshipfully peering into one of George W. Bush's orifices, only to discover that there was no reason to give the man additional sympathy. (Or perhaps you'd like to follow that link to Fox News coverage after reading this satire of Fox News coverage.)
Where will they look next? And will they stoop and lower to get there?
So. Do we think people will stop asking where the women bloggers are?
Friday, February 16, 2007
Following the right-wing group assault on Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan for having the audacity to take jobs on a Democratic presidential campaign and Michelle Malkin's video proving that Malkin is descended from a screech owl, do we think, maybe, people will stop asking where all the women political bloggers are?
Nah. I doubt it.
By the way, screech owls are descended from dinosaurs you know.
PS: Can someone explain to me why William Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious & Civil Liberties is getting paid over $300,000 a year to use a 501C3 corporation to harass Amanda Marcotte and Melissa Ewan?
(His employment history does not seem to justify this level of compensation.)
UPDATE: See also Melissa's tale in the Guardian. And do read the comments for the Republican Rape Machine you have and orifice so we can fill it; you were begging for it girl mob psychology.
See also Jesus General. (Just why does loyalty to Catholicism make men think about what they could do to women bloggers with their penises? I missed that part of the Bible. If her blog offend thee, send her lewd sexual suggestions via email.)
CIA Got Too Cozy with the Bad Guys
Friday, February 02, 2007
There's a really intriguing story in The New York Times concerning the CIA's relationship to a major figure in the Afghanistan drug trade, Haji Bashir Noorzai: An Afghan's Path From Ally of U.S. to Drug Suspect by James Risen.
The best line: "In Afghanistan, finding terrorists has always trumped chasing drug traffickers," said Bobby Charles, the former top counternarcotics official at the State Department.
At times, there was confusion within the government about what to do with Mr. Noorzai. In 2002, while he was talking to the American officials in Afghanistan, a team at C.I.A. headquarters assigned to identify targets to capture or kill in Afghanistan wanted to put him on its list, one former intelligence official said. Like others, he would only speak on condition of anonymity because such discussions were classified.
The C.I.A. team was blocked, the former official recalled. Although he never received an explanation, the former official said that the Defense Department officials and American military commanders viewed counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan at the time as a form of âmission creepâ that would distract from the fight against terrorism. . . .
D.E.A. officials say . . . Mr. Noorzai was a major figure in the Afghan drug trade, controlling poppy fields that supplied a significant share of the worldâs heroin.
. . . in January 2004, Mr. Charles, the State Department official, proposed placing him on President Bushâs list of foreign narcotics kingpins, for the most wanted drug lords around the world.
At that time, Mr. Charles recalled in an interview, no Afghan heroin traffickers were on the list, which he thought was a glaring omission. He suggested three names, including Mr. Noorzaiâs, but said his recommendation was met with an awkward silence during an interagency meeting.
There is a subtext of symbiosis here; a deeply mutualistic relationship between the CIA and the Afghan (and even world) drug trade. The development of such relationships was obviously a big mistake.
Oh, by the way, this is Ground Hog Day.
Moninder Singh Pandher, Surendra Koli, & India's Grisly Child Murders
Sunday, January 14, 2007
India's serial killer case seems to be emerging as a perfect storm of discrimination based on class and weath, police apathy and hostility toward the poor, the wrong two guys teaming up, and perhaps a few other factors. This resulted in a situation in which Moninder Singh Pandher and his servant Surendra Koli could systematically and methodically hunt and kill children and the occasional woman with complete impunity for several years, probably at least a rate of more than one a month. Koli went to work for Pandher in 2004. My esitmate is based only on remains actually found so far; a bunch of the many skulls don't seem to go with the bodies found so far. Pandher is emerging as India's own Gille de Rais.These guys were very well organized. From Newindpress.com:
In his confession before the police, Surendra allegedly said that Mohinder would often call prostitutes to his house. "I would also arrange domestic helps of the locality for my master. And when no one was available, Mohinder would ask me for small girls," he reportedly told the police.
Surendra allegedly said that many small children came to play in the open space near the water tank just behind the bungalow and he would lure them with chocolates and sweets. Surendra said Mohinder would rape these children. First the master, then he, Surendra allegedly told the police.
Then he would strangulate them, chop off the bodies into small pieces, and would dump the skulls and the belongings behind the house, and the rest of the body parts in the drain in front.
Police claimed that Surendra would often immerse the body in a drum of acid to prevent the stench from spreading. Noida SP Saimitra Yadav said: "Surendra had also killed two small boys who happened to be victims of mistaken identity. The two were very young and Surendra could not make out their gender by their appearance. But since they had been taken inside the house, they had to be killed. They were not sexually assaulted though."
This confession was elicited by "truth serum" (Sodium Pentathol). Apparently, the confession also involves claims of cannibalism. Surendra was Pandher's cook.
The Indian media is having a hard time coming to grips with the idea of psychopathy, attempting to reconcile Pandher's former classmates' claims that he seemed like a "wonderful chap" with the notion that he was a peophile and a serial child killer. Biographical details on Pandher are a bit sparse. But there are a few.
One of the most interesting to me is that Delhi's St. Stephen's College, from which Pandher has his college degree (Batch of 1974-77. History (Honours). Third Division) has some significant amnesia about the accused, an amnesia which seems to extend beyond what simple embarassment could explain.
While confirming that he studied at the college, officials at the principal’s office added: “He is a horrendous exception to college’s glorious tradition of grooming gentlemen out of students.”His daddy was rich. Could he somehow have a degree from the college without having attended? Interesting. A guy who has problems in his fifties may have had some issues that interfered with his studies in college. But apparently, he's on record as having a degree.
Even students in the History batch of 1977 that had 45 students do not seem to know him. “I just cannot recall him. I’m sure there is some confusion. I know all my batchmates but cannot recollect this guy,” said Sandeep Dayal, who studied in the same batch and works in a travel agency.
Since the day Dayal read about Singh in the paper, he has been frantically calling up friends from his batch to check if they can recall him. “It was so shocking to read about him so I just called up my batchmates but like me, they too are clueless,” he added.
Singh is also missing from the college’s annual directories that list its alumni for years 1980, 1984, 2004 and 2006.
Professor Mohd Amim, who taught History at the college between 1949 and 1993, said: “It’s up to the students whether they want to list themselves with the college. As of now, there is no trace of him.”
Pandher inherited the family "transport business, which spreads across Delhi, Noida, Chandigarh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh."
Yesterday, the police for the first time took the media inside the Noida house where the children were raped and murdered. Journalists who visited the place say that Moninder Singh had a luxurious lifestyle and loved hunting and fine spirits.Also, there is an interesting history of deaths in the family:
Walls of Moninder's living room are decorated with huge photographs showing him with hunting gear and the prey. The house sports a mini-bar stocked with Indian and imported spirits.
Moninder Singh is said to be fond of Goldschlager, a spirit with flakes of gold floating in it. He also had Drambuie, Bardinet Curacao Blue and Gold Napoleon in his collection.
His mother died when Moninder was eight. His uncle, who he was close to, was murdered in the 80s apparently over a business rivalry.Hard to know what to make of this.
Both men are married. Pandher has been estranged from his wife Devinder Kaur for some time; they have a son who is a college student in Canada, Karandeep Singh, who is currently staying in India with his mother. Surendra is also married and has a three-year-old daughter.
One does not start up a meticulously orgazined system for child molestation and murder at this rate of "production" from scratch. Apparently, they had special techniques for decomposing bodies involving the use of an insecticide. This is something one works up to over a long period time. What exactly was Pandher doing when he was supposed to be going to collge those many years ago? Did the college make some deal that he would be allowed to attend as long as he didn't actually attend?
The Indian media needs to find out a good bit more about how Mr. Pandher has spent his time. And worse, if he can live like this, other people of his class can, too.
Wikipedia lists a few other Indian serial killers. The entry on Auto Shankar contains the telling passage:
During his trial Auto Shankar blamed cinema for "making a devil of him", but a month before his execution, he revealed to reporters a more sinister force. According to his account, he had kidnapped the girls for powerful state politicians, subsequently disposing of them after his patrons had raped them.My belief is that Pandher and Koli have lived their lives as violent psychopaths, and that there is much investigation than needs to be done of their earlier lives. The Indian press has serveral stories about events in Pandher's life that might have lead him to this, but life as a psycho killer does not start at 50. Nonetheless, the deterioration of Pandher's marriage and other events may have countoured the course of his disease.
From Punjab News & Information:
Moninder Singh Pandher, the accused in Noida human remains case, had strained relations not only with his wife Davinder Kaur but also with his brother iqbal Singh. Pandher’s wife had reportedly separated from him two year ago, while his brother had severed all ties with him over a six-year-old property dispute dating back six years. According to information, Davinder Kaur severed ties with Pandher several years ago because of his relationship with another woman, but they patched up - only to separate again, two years back. . . . Expressing shock at the Noida revelations, iqbal said, “Moninder was always a trouble-maker but i never thought he would stoop so low.” iqbal said he didn’t know much about his brother because they had been living separately for the last six years. “i had even got a case registered against him because i feared for the safety of my family,” he said.From The Psychiatric Times, a discussion of the progression of violence in several American psychopaths:
Social isolation, loneliness and associated emotional pain in psychopaths may precede violent criminal acts . . . . They believe that the whole world is against them, eventually becoming convinced that they deserve special privileges or rights to satisfy their desires. As psychopathic serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Nilson expressed, violent psychopaths ultimately reach a point of no return, where they feel they have cut through the last thin connection with the normal world. Subsequently their sadness and suffering increase, and their crimes become more and more bizarre . . . . Dahmer and Nilsen have stated that they killed simply for company . . . Dahmer tried to make zombies of his victims by injecting acid into their brains after he had numbed them with sleeping pills. He wanted complete control over his victims, but when that failed, he killed them.But unlike Dahmer, Pandher seems to have had significant social connections which he almost certainly made use of while pursuing his bad habits. This bit, from The Telegraph in Calcutta, suggests where this story might be going:
Moninder Singh Pandher, the alleged mastermind of the horror at Nithari, has scalped an unexpected victim — the Congress party. At a time when Congressmen were busy chalking out strategies to corner CM Mulayam Singh Yadav over police inaction in the disappearance of children, skeletons came tumbling out of the Congress’s own cupboard. The killer has been widely reported to be a relative of a Congress MP from Punjab. The recent discovery of four more bodies of small children from a warehouse owned by Congressman, Jagmeet Singh Brar, in Punjab’s Muktsar has undoubtedly made matters worse. Brar’s supporters, however, claim that this was a dirty trick pulled on him by his long-term opponent, Amarinder Singh . . . .So is the idea that the political parties have the bodies of young children stacked up somewhere like cordwood to be planted on their opponents when need be? That's quite a strange claim to make about the nature of Indian politics. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.
Pandher also had some kind of US connections, apparently in Los Angeles, From the Indian Express:
The police now suspect Moninder Singh Pandher, accused in the Noida serial killings case, may be part of an international child pornography racket. They have seized photographs of nude children from his D-5, Noida residence apart from pornographic literature, a laptop computer and a webcam.So who were his US contacts? Where did he go and who did he visit in the US?
The Indian Express has learnt that several photographs showing Moninder in the company of nude children were recovered from his house. SSP R K Singh Rathore, when contacted, said that the Noida police were in possession of these photographs and Moninder would be questioned about these.
Moninder visited Los Angeles, Switzerland, Dubai, Canada and China last October. While some photographs show Moninder watching a dance being performed by nude children, others show him in the company of some foreigners. Police say two of his family members accompanied him on the tour.
The children in the photographs are Indian. “These photographs, if true, could expose Moninder as till now the Noida police are banking on circumstantial evidence to get him convicted,” said Rathore.
One of the many questions that Noida police have requested forensic experts to ask Moninder is why he went abroad four times. Police suspect that Moninder provided pornographic videos made of children to clients abroad. Among the material recovered are photos that link Moninder to paedophilia.
First Worldwide Official Public Hanging?
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Am I mistaken, or is the execution of Saddam Hussein the world's first worldwide official public hanging?
While I am certain that the world is a better place without Hussein, I am not certain that it is a better place for us having reached this particular macabre milestone. A return to public hangings, using the whole Internet as the village square, does not seem to me a step forward for humanity.
There was a time when, even in places like London, public executions were "perhaps the most anticipated and popular form of mass entertainment." From PBS:
. . . the punishment of criminals that was perhaps the most anticipated and popular form of mass entertainment. Whippings, floggings, being paraded through the streets in chains and enduring the "pillory" -- an open forum for mockery and verbal abuse -- were common punishments for petty crimes. Executions were an even more elaborate affair and quite often were set aside as public holidays. Occasionally, engraved invitations would be sent out. . . . Large crowds of rowdy, jeering onlookers - sometimes in numbers of 30,000 or more (80,000 was the record) -- would arrive in the morning to follow the prisoner to the hanging platform.
Of course, nothing like this can happen these days without being a carefully staged media event. If the public opinion in the US were to be that public exectutions are beneficial to the public, the State of Texas, all by itself, could have its own Execution Channel. So I wonder, out loud, what were the intentions of those who staged this media event. Clearly, this is intended as a world-changing event.
But what kind?
UPDATE: Tony Blair's response to the execution seems to me to display an acute awareness of England's own history of execution as a form of entertainment. This is from this morning's New York Times:
Perhaps the most delicately choreographed response came from Britain, whose prime minister, Tony Blair, took a lead as America’s closest ally in toppling Mr. Hussein while his Labor Party prides itself on opposing the death penalty.
In a statement issued an hour after the execution, Margaret Beckett, the foreign secretary, said: “I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein has been tried by an Iraqi court for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. He has now been held to account.”
However, she said, "the British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else. We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime. We have made our position very clear to the Iraqi authorities, but we respect their decision as that of a sovereign nation."
Mr. Blair himself — who faced wide public opposition to the Iraq war, which has shaped his political legacy — refrained from commenting as he vacationed at the Miami waterfront home of Robin Gibb, a singer in the BeeGees. A spokesman for him said Ms. Beckett’s statement had been issued on behalf of the entire government, including Mr. Blair.
One does wonder if he watched the execution video with a BeeGee. Oh, the post-modernity of it!
Nonetheless, I'd say Blair's response shows an awareness of the larger cultural implications of reviving the tradition of public hanging as spectacle on a global basis.
Do we really want this sort of thing in our Internet Utopia? I don't.
I Missed the Malkin Fuss & Accompanying Buffoonery
Friday, December 15, 2006
We've been frantically finishing both the Year's Best SF 12 and The Year's Best Fantasy 6 (yes, I know it's only December), plus our wonderful cat is dying: two weeks following surgery to remove tumors, she's developed some blood clots, one of which went to a hind leg, and today she seems to be losing use of her back legs.
So I completely missed the whole Easton Jordan/Michelle Malkin fuss, which culminated in Jordon graciously offering to fly Malkin and friend to Iraq. A quick review of the situation (between episodes of waiting on the cat hand and foot) is quite entertaining. Apparently, Wingnuttia thought Easton Jordan was a stuffed trophy on their club house wall. How dare he launch a blog, let alone a blog in collaboration with Robert Young Pelton.
My favorite entry into the wingnut strutting was this guy Curt at Say Anything (apparently living up to the name of the blog). Curt doesn't seem to get out much.
What has become even more curious to me is that a assistant (sic) of Eason Jordan, Robert Young Pelton, has been making the rounds of the blogs commenting on various Jamil Hussein posts. He is basically trying to dismiss many of our worries that this is a media stunt of some kind. But in one comment at Blackfive he made this assertion:
Hi guys, Robert Young Pelton just to clarify. The offer is genuine, nothing strange or unusual. We go to Iraq all the time so we figured if Michelle wants to see for herself why not. More importantly this is not a military embed. The iraqi in question is not part of any US project. His stated location is currently a no go zone for the US military so she will have to arrange her own security.
So Robert, or RYP as he likes to call himself in the comments, is trying to assert that the US Military cannot go into the Yarmouk district. That make sense to anybody? Since when has the US Military not been able to go into ANY area of Iraq? Oh, but the AP sure could.......
If it were me, I'd take Pelton absolutely literally: Either pick up the phone and call a private military company for a security detail or cancel the trip. Pelton actually goes places and reports back, and people rely on and trust their lives to his info.
I would recomend that Mr. Curt read the section in Pelton's Three Worlds Gone Mad concerning the trip to Chechnya before taking Pelton's comments as a slight to our military.
NYT Editorial: Desperately Seeking Ethics
Saturday, December 09, 2006
A notable passage from a New York Times editorial:
No, not every error or failure should be a violation, but certainly the ones that lead to an elected official’s sexually stalking teenage boys while his colleagues turn a blind eye or cover it up should be. We’d set the bar at least there. Apparently, it’s too high for the House.Indeed. But after absurd political debates on subjects like what constitutes torture and to whom it's OK to do unspeakable things, this latest turn of events fails to surprise.
The 21st century is turning out to be a very bleak place indeed.
"The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.": An Opportunity for the Republican Machine
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Oh, goodness. A study of political preferences of psychiatric patients (conducted by a Reagan-Republican working on his masters thesis), apparently broken down by diagnostic category, reported on by the New Haven Advocate.
From the article, given the inflamatory title Bush Nuts: Are George W. Bush lovers certifiable?
[Christopher] Lohse, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush.
Lohse says his study is no joke. The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.
But before you go thinking all your conservative friends are psychotic, listen to Lohse’s explanation.
“Our study shows that psychotic patients prefer an authoritative leader,” Lohse says. “If your world is very mixed up, there’s something very comforting about someone telling you, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’”
The study was an advocacy project of sorts, designed to register mentally ill voters and encourage them to go to the polls, Lohse explains. The Bush trend was revealed later on.
(Via Lot 49.)
The Neurontic grumbles about the popularity of this news story, especially with science bloggers:
Considering how much ink has been spilled in scientific circles over the Bush Adminstration’s willingness to skew science to further its political agenda, I find it appalling that normally levelheaded bloggers got swept away in this quasi-scientific brand of conservative bashing.
I understand Neurontic's irritation, but the Bush administration's industrial-scale denial of the scientific method is not comparable to leftish bloggers chuckling publicly over their morning coffee over a hilarious result from a seriously intended scientific study. A really good skeptical discussion of the issues involved in the design of the study can be found at Respectful Insolence.
Not nearly enough research is done about the political ideologies and theories of the mentally ill and how they play themselves out in the public arena. I'm tempted to say more research should be done, except for the dystopian scenarios that arise: the Far Right Hate Machine secretly obtaining lists of those prescribed Zyprexa and making sure they are all registered to vote and turn out at the polls. (This has the makings of some really dark political satire!)
Naked Science note's Tom Tomorrow's thought on all this:
Via Tom Tomorrow, who dryly notes: "Anyone who's spent any time reading right wing blogs already understood this to be true." Indeed.
Despite the fun and games to be had with this study, though, it does not make a statement about the mental health of Republicans, it does not say that Democrats cannot be psychotic, or anything of the kind, though the far-right blog Barking Moonbat Early Warning System is most amusing on this subject:
You’re mad ... all of you. Totally insane. Around the bend. Fruit loops, even! Or so says a new study out of Southern Connecticut State University. Yes, I’m talking to you - you certifiably insane Bush-lover. All of you need to have your heads examined. Maybe then you’ll wise up and vote for Kerry ... in which case you’ll not only be barking mad but certifiably stoopid ....
It simply observes that among a relatively small sample of the mentally ill, the more psychotic the patient, the more likely the patient-voter to support Bush.
I don't see this study as an attack on conservatives, so much as an unexpected result from a study focused on something else, resulting in a political opportunity for the Karl Rove wannabee sick enough to pursue it: Trust me! I know what I'm doing!
So how will the Republican Machine react to Christpher Lohse? Swiftboat him? Or offer to fund his next study? Or ignore him and make much deeper cuts in the treatment of mental illness?
The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us. —Michel Foucault
The American political landscape is a very strange place.
The Onion's Presidential Radio Address: This Is Not Happening
Monday, November 13, 2006
There as been a certain too-good-to-be-true dreamlike surrealism about the election results.
The Onion flips that pancake nicely in this week's "The President's Weekly Radio Address," entitled "This Is Not Happening." Highly recommended.
Fox Dismisses Danger to Hen House
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
From the NYT: Rumsfeld Defends Pick for C.I.A. Chief
WASHINGTON, May 9 — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld laughingly dismissed speculation today that the Central Intelligence Agency might lose its independence if Gen. Michael V. Hayden is confirmed as its new director. . . .
As for changes in the intelligence bureaucracy since the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Rumsfeld described the evolution as "a collegial and open process," nothing like the bureaucratic struggles described in the news media.
FORTHCOMING: Rumsfeld defends Iran as a future source of fine green glass that glows in the dark for use in nightlights.