Tuesday, May 31, 2005

 

Justice Delayed

Even the Germans came to terms (mostly) with their barbarous past. When will we?
In Tulsa, Keeping Alive 1921's Painful Memory
Recognition, Reparations Sought for Race Riot


She heard tapping on the roof of her home in Tulsa, and in her young mind Olivia Hooker thought it was hail from a Midwest storm. Her mother grabbed her hand, crept to a small window and explained, to the 6-year-old's horror, that it was actually raining bullets.

"Up on the hill was a machine gun with an American flag on it," Hooker, now 90, said in testimony at a recent hearing in the House before members of the Congressional Black Caucus. "My mother said, 'They are shooting at you.' "

It was Tuesday, May 31, 1921, and the worst race riot in U.S. history was underway. It is an event that hardly anyone commemorates on Memorial Day weekend, because its existence has been all but erased.

More than 1,000 homes and businesses were destroyed in less than a week, and at least 300 people were killed, and then buried, possibly in unmarked mass graves, according to a 2001 report on the incident by an Oklahoma state commission.

The official death toll surpassed the totals of the 1965 Watts riot, the 1967 Detroit riot, the 1968 Washington riot and the 1992 Los Angeles riot combined. Some historians estimated that the toll reached 1,000, based on photos of trucks full of bodies as they rolled out of town, according to a member of the commission.

A quest for reparations by surviving victims ended two weeks ago. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed without comment a class-action suit against the city of Tulsa, its police department and the state of Oklahoma.

The rejection left in place a lower court's ruling that a two-year statute of limitations on claims had expired in 1923. According to law, the judges ruled, it mattered little that segregated courts in which Ku Klux Klan members held judgeships refused to hear claims of black victims immediately after the riot, or that evidence of its devastation was erased or hidden until the 2001 report.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, based in Denver, said that legal avenues had opened to black complainants over time, citing the 1960s as an era when claims could have been brought, or perhaps the 1980s.

"Why did they just pick that date?" asked Eddie Faye Gates, who sat on the commission. "Seems to me they were looking . . . for a loophole." Charles J. Ogletree, the Harvard law professor and civil rights lawyer who argued the case for victims, said the ruling "doesn't make sense."

Before the rulings, Larry V. Simmons, the Tulsa deputy city attorney who fought the case, told the Tulsa World newspaper that "this complaint should be disposed of as a matter of law." He was out of the office last week, according to an assistant, and could not be reached to comment.

Ogletree promised to try to bring the case before the House Judiciary Committee to keep the case in the public eye. "I think now we have even more compelling reason to not let this disappear," he said.

Tulsa's prosperous Greenwood community was the prairie's own small turn-of-the-century Harlem. It began to grow when slaves who had been owned by Seminoles, Cherokees and other Indian tribes populated the area. The Indians themselves had been forced to march from the South to the Plains by U.S. officials in what is known as the "Trail of Tears."

Over time, black hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and law offices sprang up. In those days, according to the Greenwood Cultural Center's Web site, the neighborhood featured "what may have been the first black airline in the nation." "We had everything the whites had, and I suspect more," said Otis Clark of Tulsa, a 105-year-old riot survivor who testified at the hearing.

On the last day of May 1921, an African American delivery boy, Dick Rowland, was accused of assaulting a white woman, Sarah Page, on an elevator after a clerk heard Page shout and saw Rowland hurriedly leave the building.

There is no report of what Page told police, but charges against Rowland were eventually dropped, according to historians. The Tulsa Tribune ran a story with the headline "Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Elevator." About 10,000 white men gathered at the courthouse where Rowland was held and demanded that the sheriff turn him over.

A group of 80 black men, some of them World War I veterans, armed themselves and went to the courthouse to protect Rowland. At the time, shootings and lynchings of blacks were common on the prairie.

A white man tried to disarm one of the black men, a shot rang out and the riot began.

The police chief deputized white men who could get a gun and ordered them to go get a Negro, using a less polite racial slur. The state's National Guard was called in, and its soldiers disarmed African Americans and marched them through the streets to a holding area.

Black survivors and newspapermen spoke of incendiary bombs being dropped on houses from private airplanes, but the commission found little evidence to support those allegations. But there was ample evidence of marauders with torches made of oil-soaked rags.

"The first thing they did was burn my doll clothes," Hooker, who now lives in White Plains, N.Y., recalled in her testimony. "Then they came in the house. My mother put us under the table. We had not fled because my mother was trying to save the house."

Hooker's home was spared, but her family ultimately moved to Topeka, Kan. "We didn't stay because they had blown up the schools, and my parents couldn't stand the idea of having five children and no schools," she said.

Thousands of others were left homeless, Clark said. "When we got back to Tulsa our homes were burned down," he said. "Nobody saw the older folks. We never saw them again. They say they put them in a grave. We didn't have a funeral for nobody. They never did nothing for people there. Never gave us nothing."

Throughout the reparations case, Tulsa officials seemed unmoved, said Michael Hausfeld, a Washington lawyer who was part of the legal team that sued for reparations. Hausfeld had helped win reparations for Holocaust victims from Swiss banks that accepted money stolen by Nazis during World War II.

"We clearly heard remarks by Tulsans that were racially directed, like 'It's time that you people let this rest' and 'Don't push too hard - you may regret it,' " he said.

Hausfeld said the Tulsa case seems more egregious than the case against the banks because African Americans were "blamed for their own mass murder" and the court system failed to respond.

"If these victims were white, in my judgment, no one would be arguing that they be denied an opportunity to have their case heard," he said. "We haven't even been given a right to present the issue."
If this happened in another country (except, perhaps, Darfur or Uzbekistan or Pakistan, you know, where we need the local dictators' help even after "9-11 changed everything), U.S. conservatives would be shrieking. But it happened here, so we can whitewash (forgive the expression) our own filthy racism.

It's not that America is worse than other countries, or even as bad. It's that our own rhetoric and self-image demand that we be better. Otherwise, it's not a self-image - it's a self-delusion.

Friday, May 27, 2005

 

South Carolina high school students going to Hell

This is from the state's official high school biology standards:
Biology Standard B-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of biological evolution and diversity of life.

Indicators

B-5.1 Summarize the process of natural selection.
B-5.2 Explain how the process of natural selection results in the continuity of life forms over time and the diversity of present day life forms on Earth.
B-5.3 Explain how diversity within a species increases the chances of its survival.
B-5.4 Explain how genetic variability and environmental factors lead to biological evolution.
B-5.5 Exemplify scientific evidence in the fields of anatomy, embryology, biochemistry, and paleontology that supports the theory of biological evolution.
B-5.6 Classify organisms into a hierarchy of groups and subgroups based on similarities that reflect their evolutionary relationships.
Not a word about "intelligent design" or how "evil-lution" is "only a theory" or "has never been observed" or "can't possibly be true, seeing as how the universe is less than 10,000 years old." What's the matter with South Carolina, do they want their kids to be Left Behind when the Rapture comes?
 

But no one's blaming George W. Bush, because he's such a strong leader in the war on terror

Meanwhile, if this had happened while Bill Clinton was president...yadda-yadda-yadda...
Well, we started out fine, but then we got into this case-modding contest and time just slipped away

Good thing the House of Representatives approved that $31.9 billion budget for the Homeland Security Department last week, because the agency clearly needs the additional funds. According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, the DHS Information Assurance and Infrastructure Protection Directorate has failed to complete any of its 13 assigned cybersecurity tasks and is generally ill-equipped to protect the nation's critical information infrastructure. "DHS cannot effectively function as the cybersecurity focal point intended by law and national policy," the report said. "There is increased risk that large portions of our national infrastructure are either unaware of key areas of cybersecurity risks or unprepared to effectively address cyber emergencies." I'll say. According to the GAO report, the DHS lacks even a plan to secure our data networks. Astonishing -- all the more so since the GAO has been urging the department to complete just such a plan since 2001. "The DHS has failed to meet the responsibility for critical infrastructure protection. And even worse, this report proves that a national plan to secure our cyber networks is virtually nonexistent," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, said in a statement. "As long as our critical infrastructures are interconnected and interdependent, the likelihood that a cyber attack will disrupt major services or cripple our economy will remain and the threat will increase."
And just in case the press or anyone else gets tired of us endlessly pointing out what the reaction would have been had something-or-other happened under Bill Clinton, there's a real simple solution - START BLAMING GEORGE W. BUSH FOR ALL THE DISASTERS HAPPENING WHILE HE'S PRESIDENT!!!!!
 

Friday Blog Blogging: Bush Is Wrong, Not Strong

Steve Gilliard's News Blog is an excellent "reality-based" look at the news and other people's looks at the news. Here he talks tough to our side.
Stop endorsing failure

Atrios picked this up from Big Media Matt
Tactics, Strategy

Continuing a trend of writing blog posts criticizing people who I'm soon going to be collaborating with (more on that later, as the kids say). By way of introducing my criticism, let me say that I really like the conclusion of Kenny Baer's latest New Republic column:
Democrats need to remember that for decades they have been able to speak to Americans' deep sense that we are a unique "city on a hill" and a "light unto the nations." Democrats must reclaim that heritage and make the case that Republicans have undermined America's moral standing (and, by extension, our security) both in the world and at home. If they do that, Democrats not only will win over security voters of all faiths and win elections, but they also could once again become the automatic choice of the chosen people.
I think those of us who'd classify ourselves as being among the more "hawkish" brand of liberals have a media strategy problem. Roughly speaking, a lot of Democratic voters don't like us very much. What we need to do is convince more liberals that they should like us. That means spending more time trying to convince liberals of the merits of our views, and less time re-enforcing the impression that we're just opportunists searching for votes out there in some ill-defined center. Give the people a convincing argument for a plausible hawkish policy (Kosovo, for example) and plenty of liberals will come along for the party.
Let me start by saying that I like Big Media Matt. He's a nice kid. But he's wrong, talking out of his ass actually.

Matt, if you are "hawkish", I think there are recruiting station in Boston Common, Times Square and off the Mall in DC. Any one will accept your enlistment. Because if you are going to support interventions, you need to get your ass in the Army and support it as an 11B. This is real life. You can sit on your ass and proclaim policy and not be taken seriously, or you can get a commission, lead a platoon for a couple of years and have real world experience. Because, otherwise, you are pretty much a chickenhawk suggesting poor people die for your ideas. And I think you're smarter and better than that.

Kenny Baer is an idiot. I would suggest that he read Russell Weigley and Williamson Murray before putting pen to paper. Then for light reading, some Stephen Ambrose, maybe toss in Ronald Spector.

Then, when finished, read Hackworth's full bio, Andrew Krepenivich, Andrew Bacievich and Patrick Cockburn.

When finished, he should end his reading with Daniel Yergin's The Prize.

Why? Because he knows fuck all about the military, forget strategy. Baer could be talking about his period for all his supposed knowledge.

First of all, Jews are not a monolith and all the Jews who want to live in Israel live there. The AIPAC crowd dominates Washington, but they have little sway in New York. We see nuance here and there are more than one opinion on Israel.

Second, "security" Dems need to state the obvious: Bush's policies have failed. Thay have made the country far more dangerous than need be. By their racism and imperialism, they have made the US far less secure. The US needs a very different and cooperative military, and one with radically new weapons to meet a new threat, light infantry armies mobile in light vehicles. We need a radical rethink of how we fight wars.
Which, to be fair, is what Donald Rumsfeld was pushing for, before Bush pushed him and us into a war Rumsfeld probably knows (and probably knew then) was totally unnecessary and most likely self-destructive.
You need to cut the bullshit out about National Service and the disguised draft. You aren't sending your kids to Ft. Leonard Wood under ANY circumstance you can avoid. Stop seeking to send the poor there. America has had a draft for about 43 years of its existance. That's it. Raise the pay, lessen the impact of IRR and improve family lives and once the war is over, people will join again.

Matt, there is NO plausible reason for a hawkish policy and if you think Kosovo is it, you're wrong. We were stopping a civil war between the drug funded KLA and the criminal Serbs. It took the better part of a decade to get to that point. Bosnia was turned into an abattoir before the US jumped in. We watched people bring concentration camps back to central Europe before we dropped a bomb. And then we moved with our allies.

The reason most Democratic voters don't like you is because you seem to keep finding ways to get their kids killed while sitting behind a desk. Ever been in a VA hospital? Well, that's where the victims of your ideas wind up.

The Democratic hawks are fools trying to sell an already discredited package. I don't want to emulate a failed foriegn policy which is going to destroy the US Army twice in 30 years. Why would anyone want to say we have a varient of that utter and complete failure.

Democrats have to define national security as prosperity at home and alliances abroad, with an army which is trained and equipped to fight the next war, not the last one.

Republican foreign policy has been all talk and failure. Do Israelis sleep secure at night? Do Iranians have free and fair elections? Is Cuba a democracy?

All GOP failed policies. Every one.

We talk big, and for the most part, people run. But when they don't, like the NVA and the Iraqis, they find out we do not have the will they do. And one hopes that the Iranians don't find this out the hard way. Or the US soldiers in Iraq.

American foreign policy needs to be smarter, for one thing. We have to be serious members of the world community. We cannot pick and choose to join the ICC and the Kyoto protocols. We need to be credible, in word and deed. We need to stand behind our ideals, like closing Guantanmo and using the Internation Criminal Court, to endorse them, to bolster them.

Swinging dick imperialism is advocated by those who will never be at the sharp end of it. We need more friends. Friends who will disuade our enemies from attacking us, by standing side by side with us, as they did after 9/11. We need to be honest brokers, as willing to respect Islam as we do Christianity.

Stephen Ambrose described the American Army of 1945 thusly: "Whenever someone saw an American helmet, that meant they were free". That is the greatest legacy of the US Army in World War II, that when American troops rolled in a German or Italian town, or Okinawan village, that we were there to do more than kill and destroy, but to help. That Filipinos, Karens and Kachins, and Yugoslav partisans could fight side by side with us, knowing we had no designs on their land or people and only wanted them to share the freedom we were fighting and dying for.

It was not perfect. It was not ideal. But as we brought home the POW's and liberated concentration camps, we knew what we had done was right, without question or hesitation.

Imperialism is fool's gold. The worst war the US fought until Vietnam was the Conquest of the Philippines. We murdered and raped and pillaged to subject them for over three years. Now forgotten, it is one of the darkest legacies of US military and foriegn policy.

I am for a strong, effective foriegn policy, which not only includes allies and respect for human rights, but an Army which is trained and equipped to fight effectively, one where soldiers do not get loans for armored vests, do not uparmor their vehicles with "hillbilly armor" found in Iraqi scrapyards and coated with god knows what chemicals. Or field expedient gun trucks. Soldiers who do not fire with abandon with rifles which may jam.

The Group of Soviet Forces Germany is a memory. Why do we still train to fight it? A real foreign policy, a real, tough, democratic policy would build on success, not failure, call the GOP policy for what it is, a quagmire, not only in Iraq, but North Korea, Iran, the West Bank.

The time has come to call the GOP policy for the fraud it is and frame "toughness" as a way to promote and protect this country without claiming an imperial right. The right has failed and the left needs to state that and offer real, credible alternatives.
Tough but fair. George Bush is wrong, not strong. That's our mantra.

Wrong, not strong.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

 

Strong But Wrong

Meanwhile, the public still persists in seeing George W. Bush as a "strong leader in the war on terror." As Bill Clinton said, "When people feel uncertain, they'd rather have somebody who's strong and wrong than somebody who's weak and right."
A Lawmaker Works, Oddly Enough, to Keep His Voters' Backyards Dangerous

By ADAM COHEN

It is no surprise, given the close ties between industry and regulators in Washington these days, that Joe Barton is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Mr. Barton, a Texas Republican, is such an energy industry loyalist - and so soft on air pollution - that his hometown paper dubbed him "Smokey Joe." He has regularly helped his industry friends by weakening environmental laws and handing out tax breaks. But now he seems poised to do something far more disturbing: block legislation to secure chemical plants against terrorist attacks.

Chemical plants are probably the nation's greatest vulnerability. President Bush's former deputy homeland security adviser, Richard Falkenrath, told Congress last month that they stand "alone as uniquely deadly, pervasive and susceptible to terrorist attack." The death toll from a chemical plant attack could easily outstrip 9/11. The Department of Homeland Security has warned that a single chlorine tank explosion could kill 17,500 people.

Two of the country's most dangerous chemical facilities, which threaten more than one million people, are in Dallas, just outside Mr. Barton's district. There is also toxic waste being transported through his district on rail lines and highways. Mr. Barton's committee chairmanship is likely to give him an enormous say in whether chemical plant security legislation passes this year.

That decision pits the interests of his energy industry supporters against the well-being of his constituents who live or work inside the kill zone. Unfortunately, so far Mr. Barton has tilted in favor of industry.

If corporations were allowed to pick congressmen, Mr. Barton is probably just the one the chemical industry would choose. Before his election, he was a consultant for Atlantic Richfield Oil and Gas Company, and he has accepted more than $1.8 million in campaign contributions from the energy and chemical industries. In Congress, his causes have been an energy and chemical industry wish list. He has fought to weaken air quality standards that apply to Ellis County, Texas, his home county, which has three enormous cement plants that spew large amounts of toxins. And he has pushed to exempt makers of MTBE, a fuel additive that has spilled into bodies of water across the country, from paying to clean it up.

Even for congressmen used to giving the energy and chemical industries what they want, chemical plant security is a sensitive subject. Individual members are often reluctant to take a public stand against strengthening security, for fear of appearing soft on terrorism or because they do not want to be blamed if there is a successful attack. Senator Jon Corzine's chemical plant bill was unanimously voted out of committee, where senators had to record their votes, but then was quietly blocked when it got to the Senate floor.

Mr. Barton, however, is one of the few congressmen who have spoken out publicly against chemical plant security legislation. In 2003, when there was a serious push to pass a bill, he said he did not see a need for a tough new law. "If there are enough terrorists who are dedicated enough and equipped well enough," he told The National Journal, "they're going to overwhelm everything that you put up short of some sort of Fort Knox - which doesn't make much sense, given the cost and the relatively remote possibility that any specific site is going to be targeted."

The notion that unless chemical plants are as secure as Fort Knox they do not need any security at all is ridiculous. The unfortunate truth is that chemical facilities, including the most dangerous, are so unprotected that they are vulnerable to attack not just by Al Qaeda, but also by much smaller and less sophisticated groups who might be deterred by armed guards and concrete barriers.

I recently visited two plants near Mr. Barton's district, both of which were on the list of the 123 most potentially deadly facilities in the country, and found what appeared to be shocking vulnerability.

At Petra Chemicals, which has large amounts of deadly chlorine on hand, there was a no trespassing sign, but security on the perimeter was minimal. An environmental expert and I parked outside and walked around for more than a half-hour without being stopped. We had no problem walking up to a large railroad car just outside the plant that had a skull and crossbones, and markings indicating that it held up to 90 tons of chlorine. At Harcros Chemicals, another chlorine facility, the fencing was somewhat better. But again, we saw no guards, and no one stopped us when we parked and walked along the plant perimeter, looking as suspicious as we could.

In his much-cited book "What's the Matter With Kansas?," Thomas Frank laments that conservatives have succeeded in getting red-state voters to vote against their own interests on important issues. The Republican Congressional leadership's opposition to a serious chemical plant security bill could test the limits of this phenomenon. If Mr. Barton - or Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who is leading the fight in the Senate - sides with industry against his own constituents on averting a Sept. 11 in their own backyard, he could hand his opponents an issue that resonates powerfully with ordinary voters.

That is the narrowly self-interested reason why Mr. Barton, and every other member of Congress, should want to get a strong chemical plant bill through Congress this year. But there is also the test by which all homeland security initiatives should be measured: whether, if there were another terrorist attack, they would feel they had done everything they should have to keep Americans safe.
Barton isn't worried. When Petra Chemicals explodes, killing tens of thousands, he'll do what Republicans have been doing since Sept. 11, 2001 - blame Bill Clinton.

(For another take on Cohen's editorial, read Sam Rosenfeld in TAPPED.)
 

17,000 desperate housewives called to claim it

Again, never let anyone say that Malvolio is too proud to blow off (sorry) the easy joke.
Bomb Scare Caused By Plastic Device - Suspicious Package Was Fake Foot-Long Plastic Penis

The “suspicious package” that caused Interstate 75 and Daniels Parkway to be shut for more than an hour Monday was not an explosive pipe bomb — but rather wrapped-up plastic foot-long penis.

“Someone took construction-grade plastic, molded it into a penis and wrapped it with duct tape,” said Lee County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Charles Ferrante.

“They wrote ‘Happy Father’s Day’ on the duct tape.”

The device was first described by the sheriff’s office as a prosthetic penis. Later, it cops described it as a paper sculpture made to look like a penis.

"(The rumor that it was actually a prosthetic penis) just took a life of it's own," said Cpl. Larry King.

Ferrante later spoke with a member of the bomb squad who described it in more detail.

“Somebody molded it to look like a penis,” Ferrante said. “It was not detected until the suspicious package was removed.”

A motorist called the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Monday shortly after 3 p.m. about a suspicious package on the side of the road under the northbound Interstate 75 overpass.

The cylinder was more than a foot long in a plastic bag and wrapped with duct tape. It looked like pipe bomb and was in a position that could cause structural damage.

Deputies arrived and alerted the bomb squad, which used a robot to disable the cylinder. The north- and southbound lanes of Intestate 75 were closed for about an hour between Alico Road and Colonial Boulevard. Traffic was blocked on Daniels Parkway at the overpass for an hour while the device was removed.

The closures left the heart of Lee County's road system without any vehicles as rush hour approached. After the drama ensued there were back-ups for about 15 minutes, but then traffic cleared to its normal levels.

I-75 is the main north-south artery in the region and Daniels is one of the major east-west corridor in south Fort Myers, connecting Gateway, Lehigh Acres and Southwest Florida International Airport with the region's retail power centers and tens of thousands of homes along the way.
Brings new meaning to Douglas Adams's line, "Your plastic pal who's fun to be with."

The entire removal operation cost Lee County more than $167,000, turning the fake manhood into the second-most expensive dildo in history, after the Strategic Defense Initiative.
 

Whine whine, moan moan

The last line will make you gasp, unless you are a totally unreconstructed Christian wingnut.
FSU's Bowden enters religion debate

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden said Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry is fighting the government over the role of religion on his team.

Bowden brought up DeBerry while speaking to the Southern Colorado Fellowship of Christian Athletes on Sunday.

Last season DeBerry was asked to remove a banner from the locker room that bore the Competitor's Creed, including the lines, "I am a Christian first and last. ... I am a member of Team Jesus Christ."

"Fisher is fighting a heck of a battle over here at your academy [with] the U.S. government," Bowden was quoted as saying in the Gazette of Colorado Springs. "He's fighting a heck of a battle because he happens to be a Christian, and he wants his boys to be saved. I want my boys to be saved."

Bowden's comments came as a Pentagon task force investigates claims of religious intolerance at the academy, including cases in which a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ-killer by a fellow cadet.

"We realize we have other religions with us," Bowden said.

"The coach has a responsibility to these boys to try to influence their spiritual life, their physical life and their academic life. ... We know we're going to get challenged on it, but that's what we believe in. I ain't going to back down."

Bowden also said prayer was a large, yet voluntary, part of his football program and encouraged athletes to be more vocal about their beliefs.

"The problem with us Christians is we won't speak out," he said.
A coach at a taxpayer-supported public institution - especially at the United States Air Force Academy - has a responsibility to respect the Constitution of the United States. If he doesn't want to do that or feels like he can't do that, he can resign and become a preacher. And if he doesn't understand that, he should be fired.

Which would only lead the Christian wingnuts to whine and moan even more.

They don't speak out? What part of "bullshit" does Bobby Bowden not understand?

I am not anti-Christian. They can believe anything they want. But when a small group of self-righteous intolerant triumphalist bigots starts to try to force me to believe it or gangs up on me because I refuse to believe it, then, yes, I become anti-them.

Which they also seem incapable of understanding.

Of all the nauseating right-wing self-pity we've recently been inundated with, this has to be the most egregiously worst.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

 

Play ball!

This is incredibly cute:
Infield Fly Rule Haiku

Jackals home opener ticket giveaway #2: Create a haiku explaining the infield fly rule. Leave your answers in the comments with your real name (we need to leave it at the "will call" window.) Guys get two tickets for a good haiku. Gals get four.

Tickets are for next Thursday night at Yogi Berra Stadium.
Here are some entries:
The Infield Fly Rule
Who knows what it is? Not me.
Please get me more beer.

The Infield Fly Rule
states, when badgered by flies, swat
often and quickly.

No dropping the ball
To put on a double play
You're already out

Two runners on base
Infield popup, the batter
Is out, runners not

Green summer meadow
Children play, so engrossed
They do not need rules.

Baseball widow, I
retreat for greener pastures:
"Desperate Housewives"

Who can catch a fly?
Not me. Luckily I don't
Need to. I play third.
Most of the entries don't specifically concern the infield fly rule. Here's mine:
Two runners on base
Infielder catches the ball
No one has to run
Not the most inspiring, but it certainly explains the infield fly rule, and I did write it in all of about 30 seconds. I'll do better tomorrow.

Speaking of haiku, in 2001 I won the Vogon Poetry Contest at Toronto Trek 15 with some Vogon haiku:
Space is really big
Really, really, really big
Really, really big
(Imagine a Vogon so bloody-minded as to not only write poetry but to insist upon writing haiku, and counting on his fingers to make sure he has the right syllable count.)
Space is really dark
Really, really, really dark
Really, really dark

Space is big and dark
Just like my bowel movements
Whoops, that one is huge!
Of course I won.
 

Yow.

This one hurts for personal reasons (I will detail afterward).

His Rudeness scores mightily.
If Stalag 13 Had Been Like Bagram

Alas, Hogan's Heroes. And poor LeBeau. He never stood a chance. The second that Sgt. Schultz discovered the receiver in the coffee pot and then sputtered a report to Colonel Klink, who then discovered the comically obvious bugs in his office, LeBeau's fate was sealed. But there was so much to go through before the sweet kiss of death finally sucked the last breath from the ill-fated Frenchman.

Sure, when Klink called Col. Hogan to his office, Hogan expected to do the usual song and dance - flatter Klink, make implicit threats about the Commandant's status within the Luftwaffe, plant yet one more bug, wink at Helga, Klink's big-titted secretary (would Hogan have it any other way?), head back to quarters, and send more messages to the Allies about Nazi plans. Except not this time. No, when Hogan entered Klink's office, the monocle was off and Gestapo Officer Hochestetter was there with two big guards. Hogan wasn't sure what happened when the first rifle butt hit him in the nose, but the next thing he knew, his clothes were being cut off him and a hood was being placed on his head. He heard the Germans laughing at his cold, frightened, shriveled cock, disappearing like a turtle head into his body. Then Hogan made his biggest mistake.

Every other time Hogan had invoked the Geneva Convention (for instance, "Colonel Klink, I must protest as a violation of the Geneva Convention the private interrogation of my men by a Gestapo officer"), Klink had crumbled like a house of cards. But when he tried this time, he was slammed face down on Klink's desk as the Commandant exhaled a frustrated, "Hooogannnn. I'll show you what we think of the Geneva Convention." And then Hogan heard a thick sheaf of papers being rolled tightly. Well, this is poetic, Hogan thought, just before he felt the searing pain of the Geneva Conventions being shoved into his ass. Schultz protested briefly, but Klink asked the bumbling Sergeant what he would say to any investigators.

"I see noth-ink," he exclaimed. "I see noth-ink."

Hogan would not crack. He would not give up the names of anyone who had collaborated with him to enable the Allies to stop so many attacks, so many Nazi plans. By the time they threw him into the freezing cold cell, near the cells where LeBeau, Kinch, Newkirk, and Carter cowered, all naked, all chained into forced kneeling positions, Hogan had been beaten repeatedly, he'd had electrodes attached to his nutsack, he'd been half-drowned over and over, but he wouldn't give them a name. Even when they raped him with Klink's swagger stick, Hogan stayed true to his men, his mission.

God, the way the months progressed after that. The dogs they used on Kinch, the way they bundled Newkirk and Carter up in the middle of the night and sent them to Nazi areas of Northern Africa, where they would be tortured and mutilated until they gave up every bit of info they had and lied about so, so much more. How many times can you be hung by your ankles, had your balls pressed in a makeshift vice, your asshole probed with broomsticks, snakes, and ballpeen hammers, how much can you take until you are willing to say anything, sign anything, consign your family to death. Carter lasted about six months until the poor, dim bastard didn't have anything else to make up and he took one electric shock too many. It was worse for Newkirk. He lived until just about the end of the war, when, in a panic, the Gestapo sold him to a caravan of lonely Bedouins.

But LeBeau. The Gestapo decided to use LeBeau as a way to soften up Hogan, that tough motherfucker. They screamed at him, kept him awake for three, four days at a time. They forced him to stand for hours and hours and every time he fell, they would kick him in the side of his leg. They'd chain him by his arms and legs, a modified rack, and force him to sing "Deutschland Uber Alles," to call himself a "filthy Jew," and more. When he'd shit himself, they'd force him to roll around in his own shit and then hose him off with freezing water. They would take him down occasionally, to show him to Hogan, to question him some more. LeBeau would twitch, his muscles stretched to uselessness, uncontrollable. The twitching would enrage his interrogators, and they would beat him more. When Schultz finally started beating him, LeBeau just gave up. His official cause of death was a heart attack, caused by blood clots from all the torture. C'est la vie, eh?

Hogan was sent home after the war. When he is asleep, when he is awake, he hears screams, from his men, from himself. Fifty years of screams. And he thinks he's lucky.

Remember: Hogan's Heroes were guilty. They committed espionage. They thwarted the Germans every chance they could. The Germans in this version were being good soldiers, according to the paradigm the Bush administration has created. They were trying to stop imminent attacks on their own men. Hogan and the other prisoners wouldn't have given up any information if the niceties of the Geneva Convention had been followed, right?

And if they had been innocents, if LeBeau had simply been driving past Stalag 13, delivering wine, well, that's just collateral damage. It's a shame, but, god, don't you understand the price we must pay to sleep safely at night?
As a child, I watched Hogan's Heroes - yes, I surely did. For that sin, my descendants will have to say Kaddish for the full 11 months on my behalf.

Meanwhile, the wingnuts and warbloggers and talk radio blowhards see noth-ink! Absolutely noth-ink!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

 

Wow. What the heck was the New York Review of Books THINKING?

Steve of No More Mister Nice Blog shreds and keeps right on shredding.
The New York Times Magazine's profile of Rick Santorum was bad, but it wasn't the most disheartening mash note to the Christian Right I read this weekend. That honor goes to Joan Didion's article on the Terri Schiavo case in The New York Review of Books.

Yeah, she's on the other side on this one. She thinks Michael Schiavo is a creep, she thinks his lawyer is a creep, and she thinks the national rancor the case generated was essentially our side's fault. She thinks the majority of doctors who examined and diagnosed Terri Schiavo might be part of a vast death-loving conspiracy, and she strongly suggests that Dr. William Cheshire, who says Schiavo may have been in a "minimally conscious state" rather than a vegetative state, was a hero speaking truth to power.

"Some doctors and bioethicists with interests in the matter suggested that, as a conservative Christian, Dr. Cheshire brought a bias to the case," Didion writes. What Didion fails to say is that Dr. Cheshire did bring a bias to the case:

Cheshire has been associated with the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, an organization formed in the 1990s by leading Christian bioethicists. A poem attributed to him about assisted suicide is posted on the Web site Ethics & Medicine (www.ethicsandmedicine.com):

"The notion of a right to die/ In reason finds approval nil,/ From such a harsh judicial lie/ Would obligate doctors to kill."


(The poem is here. It's not subtle.)

But this is a bias Didion seems to share. I really wasn't expecting this:

...even if we had managed to convince ourselves that this case involved the right to die, a problem remained. No one even casually exposed to religious teaching believes any such right exists. "So teach us to number our days," the Episcopal litany asks, "so that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." This is a prayer for the wisdom to accept that death is inevitable, not a plea for control over its timing. "Control" itself, when it comes to the natural processes of life and death, is seen as an illusion, an error we learn through life to relinquish. This is by no means a view confined to Christian fundamentalists. It is a view shared by anyone whose ethical principles or general idea of how life works have at any point been touched by any of the world's major religions.

What is she talking about? In hospitals every day we use, or agree not to use, "extraordinary measures"; we limit ourselves in some cases to palliative care; we write "DNR" for "do not resuscitate" on medical charts. That's "control," and quite often we have it, regardless of what the Episcopal litany says. And in this country, inevitably, most of the people who exercise this control, or ask that it be exercised, are believers.

:::snip:::

Didion chides those on the right-to-die side in this case for excessive certainty and inability to imagine a different point of view, but says virtually nothing about the certainty and insensitivity of the pro-feeding-tube side, as seen, most shockingly, in assertions by members of Terri Schiavo's family that appeared in the report of Jeb Bush's guardian ad litem for the case, Jay Wolfson:

Throughout the course of the litigation, deposition and trial testimony by members of the Schindler family voiced the disturbing belief that they would keep Theresa alive at any and all costs. Nearly gruesome examples were given, eliciting agreement by family members that in the event Theresa should contract diabetes and subsequent gangrene in each of her limbs, they would agree to amputate each limb, and would then, were she to be diagnosed with heart disease, perform open heart surgery.... Within the testimony, as part of the hypotheticals presented, Schindler family members stated that even if Theresa had told them of her intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn, they would not do it.

The Schindlers, in fact, are virtually absent from Didion's article -- Didion says nothing about their extreme views, or about their retinue, which included Operation Rescue's Randall Terry and Gary McCullough, a onetime spokesman for murderers of abortion doctors.

Leaving the Schindlers mostly offstage (and their advisers entirely offstage) allows Didion to chide Michael Schiavo's brother Brian as a "hothead" because he appeared on Larry King Live on the night of Terri Schiavo's death and told the Schindlers and their hangers-on and supporters to "pound sand." Readers of Didion's piece could have no idea what Brian was reacting to: namely, murder charges. Schiavo's brother and sister had invited Father Frank Pavone, the self-promoting head of Priests for Life, to sit and watch Terri Schiavo die. By his own account, Pavone "was at Terri Schiavo's bedside during the last 14 hours of her earthly life, right up until five minutes before her death." However, he did manage to interrupt his vigil in order to make certain opinions known to the media:

The night before Schiavo died, Pavone said: "If I speak to Michael, if I speak to [Florida state Judge George] Greer, if I speak to any of these people, I will not hesitate to call them exactly what they are: murderers."

On Larry King Live hours after Terri Schiavo died, Pavone preceded Brian Schiavo and said,

Well, Larry, I've reached out to Michael very publicly over the last month. I've preached on many televised masses directly appealing to Michael to sit down and dialogue about this, to work towards reconciliation, to take into account the serious concerns people have about what Terri's killing says about the path America is taking.

I've heard nothing from him. You know, it's one thing to avoid bitterness. It's another thing to avoid truth. And reaching out in kindness and compassion and in respect, which is the attitude I have and I try to foster, is very, very different from distorting the truth. We have to accurately describe what happened here. And what happened here is that Terri was killed. And a lot of people don't accept the explanation of why.


Brian Schiavo was upset at that? Brian Schiavo was "hotheaded"? Well, for crissakes, I certainly hope so.

Pavone's name doesn't appear once in Didion's article.

:::snip:::

Didion goes on to refer to "the first news cycle," as if the first news cycle in this story was in the days before Terri Schiavo's death. In fact, Terri Schiavo was a cause celebre on the right as far back as 2003. It's not clear that Didion even knows that. She doesn't seem to know that a mini-version of the recent drama took place a year and a half ago, complete with emergency legislation rammed through the Florida legislature and cries of "legalized murder" from the national right-wing media. This was a major battle in the culture wars long ago, and the religious right fired the first shots. What offends Didion is merely the rest of America fighting back.
It's said that hard cases make bad law. Which, of course, is not an excuse for not making law. But it is a cautionary note to be very careful when dealing with an overly emotional case.

Still - I always thought the New York Review of Books was a liberal publication. What the heck are they doing publishing a deliberate piece of hack-work like this?

Friday, May 20, 2005

 

Friday Blog Blogging: Josh Marshall sings truly

Not that Josh Marshall needs it, but I think these two posts deserve widespread dissemination.
For all the constitutional mischief they're in the midst of making, we should probably thank the 50+ senate Republicans for giving us an extended moment to see so clearly just who they really are.

Remember that this entire political uproar is supposedly about originalism, the need for judges who will interpret the law and the constitution not according to our personal wishes or the political needs of the moment, but according to its original and long-settled meaning. That is, we're told, their aim. And yet to accomplish this they are quite happy to use a demonstrably bogus interpretation of the constitution to overturn two centuries of settled understanding of what the document means and requires.

Before everyone's eyes, everything about the constitution is subservient to their need for power.

Their very victory, should it come to that, is their badge of hypocrisy. Their arguments are all at war with themselves. But they don't care. This is just about perpetuating their own power by any means necessary, using narrow majorities to lock in their power for the long haul.
The problem is, the press is letting them get away with this. The press is reporting the day-to-day tennis match, not taking a step back and looking at the big picture, the drastic implications.
As we wait on the sidelines for the seemingly inevitable chain reaction to take place on the senate floor, it is worth observing and considering the fact that every Republican senator certainly knows that the proposition they're about to attest to is quite simply a lie. Perhaps they have so twisted their reasoning as to imagine it is a noble lie. But it's a lie nonetheless.

What do I mean?

Whether you call it the 'nuclear option', the 'constitutional option' or whatever other phrase the GOP word-wizards come up with, what "it" actually is is this: the Republican caucus, along with the President of the Senate, Dick Cheney, will find that filibustering judicial nominations is in fact in violation of the constitution.

(Just to be crystal clear, what the senate is about to do is not changing their rules. They are about to find that their existing rules are unconstitutional, thus getting around the established procedures by which senate rules can be changed.)

Their reasoning will be that the federal constitution requires that the president makes such nominations " http://www.house.gov/Constitution/Constitution.html "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate" and that that means an up or down vote by the full senate.

Nobody believes that.

Not Dick Cheney, not any member of the Republican Senate caucus.

For that to be true stands not only the simple logic of the constitution, but two hundred years of our constitutional history, on its head. You don't even need to go into the fact that other judicial nominations have been filibustered, or that many others have been prevented from coming to a vote by invocation of various other senate rules, both formal and informal, or that almost countless numbers of presidential nominees of all kinds have simply never made it out of committee. Indeed, the whole senate committee system probably cannot withstand this novel and outlandish interpretation of the constitution, since one of its main functions is to review presidential appointees before passing them on to the full senate.

Quite simply, the senate is empowered by the constitution to enact its own rules.

You can think the filibuster is a terrible idea. And you may think that it should be abolished, as indeed it can be through the rules of the senate. And there are decent arguments to made on that count. But to assert that it is unconstitutional because each judge does not get an up or down vote by the entire senate you have to hold that the United States senate has been in more or less constant violation of the constitution for more than two centuries.

For all the chaos and storm caused by this debate, and all that is likely to follow it, don't forget that the all of this will be done by fifty Republican senators quite knowingly invoking a demonstrably false claim of constitutionality to achieve something they couldn't manage by following the rules.

This is about power; and, to them, the rules quite simply mean nothing.
Of course the rules mean nothing. As I said yesterday, they are drunk with power and they do not think there will ever be a reckoning. They are on a crusade and completely suffused with their own overwhelming sense of absolute righteousness. Coupled with their nauseating self-pity and inexcusable ignorance of the entire rest of the universe, you get little kids being indulged by their negligent parents while they trash a relative's home. God help us when we finally have to clean up their mess.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

 

God help us when the hangover comes

People trying to rationally parse the Senate Republicans' actions are wasting their time. There's no grand strategy, no reasonable approach that can be dealt with by reasonable men on the other side. The Republicans are drunk with power, pure and simple. For whatever reason, they have become immersed in the notion that they are the only aggrieved people in America and that their grievance is so grievous that it excuses any and all actions they take. Couple that with their appalling self-righteousness and the lamentable fact that they are acting as if their temporary monopoly on power is a God-ordained permanent one, and you get what we are seeing: nauseating triumphalism coupled with petulant self-pity. If we had a truly free, independent, unemasculated press, this would be pointed out so frequently that even red state morons would get it. But IOKIYAR.

Still, it's important to remember that this is what's going on. Democrats who try to reason with Republicans are playing tiddlywinks against the Steel Curtain. Liberals who try to argue rationally with wingnuts are like a kitten against a starving wolf. The right wing is drunk with power and rage, they feel like they've been oppressed for centuries and finally - finally! - they are free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, they're free at last! And, since their monopoly is permanent and God is on their side - ignoring Lincoln's dictum that one should pray that one is on God's side - why shouldn't they do whatever they want? They won, didn't they? The American people have spoken, and will not do so again for another 18 months. In the meantime, anything and everything they do is what the American people voted for.

At some point, history being what it is, things will change. More progressive leadership will emerge - heck, I'd settle at this point for more centrist leadership! But oh! the damage that is being done as these drunken elephants trample every constitutional principle, every check and every balance, stomp America's reputation abroad into the mud, preside over frightful human rights abuses and a war that begins to resemble a Stalingrad in the desert, give away more and more of America to the corporations, permit themselves to be saddled by the most extremist version of Christianity imaginable, and then have the nerve to lecture the rest of the world on democracy and freedom.

What a bad taste we are going to have in our mouths on the morning after this bender.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

 

So that's what I have!

Dr. Corrente, 20 ccs of impeachment hearings, stat!
B.S.S. (Bush Stress Syndrome)

Isn't it time we had a talk about B.S.S.? B.S.S. isn't in the DSM_IV, but it's unquestionably real. My symptoms are:

1. Headache

2. Exteme irritability

3. Constant sense of nausea

4. Uneasy sleep and bad dreams

5. Urge to throw the nearest object to hand at TV or radio

What are your symptoms?

[Oh God, it's coming on again! Where's that damn bucket?!?!?]
I would add:
6. Investigating how to obtain citizenship in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Tristan da Cunha...

7. A "fuck everybody" attitude.

8. Nostalgia for George H. W. Bush.

9. Nostalgia for Ronald Reagan.

10. Nostalgia for Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, or even Warren G. Harding

11. Counting the hours till The Daily Show.

12. Stunned disbelief, married to a strong desire to climb under the covers and stay there.

13. West Wing reruns. Lots of West Wing reruns.
Imagine a First Lady who makes you long for the return of Nancy Reagan!
 

Funniest post of the year

Or since the last Fafblog! post I blogged.
How Do You Solve A Problem Like Korea?

So all Giblets hears these days is "Oh North Korea has nukes, oh what are we going to do about North Korea, oh we have to negotiate with North Korea." Well Giblets has the solution to ending the North Korean nuke program in minutes! But what would Giblets give North Korea? What "carrots and sticks" would he use? Behold - the possibilities are endless!

NOTHING!: Giblets does not negotiate with rogue nations! Instead he will devastate them by periodically shaking his fist and going "ooh you'd better not" and "ooh you'll be sorry" until they relent.

MORE NOTHING! What do you give the rogue nation that has nothing? More nothing! Sanctions will make North Korea go from Starvingest Stalinist Dictatorship to MORE StarvingestER Dictatorship EVER! Let's see how much longer Kim Jong Il can take the pain after Giblets sanctions away his janitor's children's sumptuous dirt buffet!

NOTHING... PLUS ANTI-BALLISTIC MISSILES!: Giblets does not negotiate with rogue nations... and he doesn't HAVE to, because he has spent over $200 billion on a vast and array of brokwn anti-ballistic missiles! When those North Korean missiles see Giblets's far more expensive and non-functional missile shield, they will be so impressed and intimidated they will drop harmlessly into the ocean to be eaten by large fish.

DELICIOUS KLONDIKE BAR: What would you do for a Klondike bar? Would you shut down your nuclear weapons program, submit to a thorough inspections regime, and disarm your stock of ballistic missiles? Well Giblets doesn't care, because Giblets does not give ice cream to rogue nations. That would only encourage them to develop nuclear weapons just for the sake of obtaining delicious ice cream.

FAKE OUT: Giblets goes "Hey look over there - an aid package and a non-aggression pact!" While North Korea turns around goin' "Where?", Giblets makes off with up to six nuclear warheads, 100 No-Dong missiles, and 8000 spent fuel rods. Suckers!

FAKE OUT 2: Giblets promises that in exchange for the dismantling of its nuclear program North Korea will receive a "wet willie," an unspecified prize too enigmatic for North Korea to resist. When the agreement is signed, however, North Korea gets nothing more - and nothing LESS - then a moistened finger swirled in its ear, to its bitter shame and eternal embarassment!

THE WEE FOLK: Giblets sits it out and waits for an assortment of mischievous pixies and gremlins to replace North Korea's plutonium with swiftly vanishing, treacherous fairy plutonium! Or for the vaporization of Tokyo, whichever comes first.
I myself would have said, send North Korea to bed without its supper, but their Dear Leader (Kim Jong Il, not George. W. Bush, he's our Dear Leader) seems to have done that already.

Bush's response to North Korean nukes reminds me a bit, sadly, of a Simpsons episode (it's only a slight exaggeration to say that everything reminds me of a Simpsons episode - everything else reminds me of a Monty Python bit) in which Ned Flanders's hippie father, unwilling to discipline his unruly son, begs a psychiatrist to do it for him: "We've tried, like, nothin', man, and we're outa ideas!"
 

No religion here

Aka, "No sex, please, we're Christian."
ACLU suit sees religious content in abstinence plan

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court in Boston yesterday challenging the US government's funding of a faith-based abstinence program called the Silver Ring Thing, arguing that the public contribution of more than $1 million violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

The nationwide initiative, which has held four events in the Boston area since 2002 and is planning more, urges middle school and high school students to forgo premarital sex and buy silver rings to symbolize their vow of abstinence. The three-hour events have drawn tens of thousands of young people since the program began 10 years ago.

In its suit against the US Department of Health and Human Services, the ACLU contends that the program's primary aim is to spread Christianity. The civil libertarian group cites several pieces of evidence, including a Silver Ring Thing newsletter that says the Pennsylvania-based ministry instructs young people that "a personal relationship with Jesus Christ [is] the best way to live a sexually pure life."

"Federal tax dollars are clearly underwriting religious indoctrination," said Julie Sternberg, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, which prepared the suit. The federal government can fund faith-based programs that perform social services, Sternberg said, but it cannot bankroll activities that explicitly promote a religion.

Denny Pattyn, the founder of the Silver Ring Thing, said in a statement that his group's goal is to teach adolescents about the risks of sex, including teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The organization, he said, believes it is using its federal dollars properly. Pattyn did not return several phone calls yesterday.

Nikki Dingle, a 19-year-old freshman at Salem State College, attended a gathering held at Merrimack College. Partway through the event, she said, organizers allowed the young people to participate in two group discussions about chastity -- one rooted in Christian values, which she participated in; the other that had no religious theme.

The ACLU acknowledges in its suit that Pattyn, who leads the events, allows teenagers to participate in the secular discussion group. But the ACLU, some of whose members attended a Silver Ring Thing event at Gordon College in Wenham in September, alleges that young people feel pressured to participate in the religious discussion -- those who want to participate in the secular discussion, for example, have to switch rooms, while the religion-based discussion group can stay in their seats, the suit says. The ACLU contends federal money funds both the secular and religious presentations.

The ACLU also notes that the silver rings that youngsters buy for $15 are inscribed with a reference to a verse from the New Testament that says, in part, ''God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin." Adolescents who buy the ring also receive a Bible.

Pattyn, according to the suit, is also executive director of the John Guest Evangelistic Team, an evangelistic ministry based in Sewickley, Pa., that IRS records show has the same address and federal tax identification number as the Silver Ring Thing. The federal money, according to the suit, helps fund salaries and benefits for the Silver Ring Thing staff, along with stage equipment and transportation of program officials to events.

A study released in March in the Journal of Adolescent Health indicated that young adults who took virginity pledges as teens were as likely to be infected with sexually transmitted diseases as those who did not. The study by two sociology professors -- one at Yale, another at Columbia -- said people who make the pledge generally have fewer sex partners, start having sex later, and marry earlier. But they are less likely to use condoms and more likely to experiment with oral and anal sex.
And, therefore, more likely to divorce earlier, too. But hey, we'll just make 'em sign up for "covenant marriages" which is all we need to take care of the divorce problem, right?

There's nothing wrong with abstinence, in theory. Teenagers want to have sex, but they also want to drink, drive, and do other adult things when they're way too young, too. The problem with abstinence is, for the Christian right wing, that's where sex begins and ends in their minds for teenagers. You shouldn't do it, therefore, you shouldn't talk about it, either.

But what happens if you do do it? Christian right wingers have no answer. If you don't want to get sick or pregnant, be pure and holy and you won't get sick or pregnant. And that's true. But that's their answer to everything. Don't want to be gay-bashed? Don't be gay. Don't want to be mocked or harrassed at the Air Force Academy for not being an evangelical? Don't not be an evangelical (I suppose).

Kids are going to have sex, whether we like it or not. There's no way to turn off all those surging hormones. I think we should be teaching teenagers how to be responsible, not telling them, "Just say no."

In any case, the Silver Ring Thing may be effective. But it is also clearly intended to do more than just promote virginity; I don't see how anyone can deny that it has a strong secondary goal of promoting Christianity. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as they do it with their own money.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

 

Sic transit gloria Hollywood

I'm reading Will in the World, Stephen Greenblatt's biography of Shakespeare. Shakespeare started his career as an itinerant player, the profession of playwrite still nascent. At the time of his first entry into London, Christopher Marlowe was enjoying fame for his play Tamburlaine. Greenblatt writes:
The part of Tamburlaine was created by an astonishingly gifted young actor in the Lord Admiral's Men, Edward Alleyn, at the time only twenty-one years old. At the sight of the performance, Shakespeare, two years his senior, may have grasped, if he had not already begun to do so, that he was not likely to become one of the leading actors on the London stage. Alleyn was the real thing, a majestic physical presence, with a "well tuned," clear voice capable of seizing and holding the attention of enormous audiences.

Will in the World, pp. 190-191.
In other words, the Russell Crowe of his era.

It's interesting. At the time, Alleyn must have been the toast of London, but no one has heard of him for 400 years, while Shakespeare's name will live forever. There were probably noted thespians in Dickens's time, but again, nobody remembers them and everyone knows Dickens.

Part of that, of course, is because we can read Shakespeare and Dickens, while there are no records of Edward Alleyn. The names Eleonora Duse, Sarah Bernhardt, and Sarah Siddons are known, even what they looked like, but not what they were like on the stage.

Makes you wonder - even with movies and TV, DVDs and whatever replaces DVD, will the future remember Tom Cruise or Pierce Brosnan, Meryl Streep or J-Lo? Or will they fade and vanish, except to a few cultural historians? Who today really remembers Gloria Swanson or Douglas Fairbanks? Or even Clark Gable or Claudette Colbert?

Granted, I can't think of too many writers from this era who deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Shakespeare and Dickens. Although they tend to be thought of as "literary" these days, in their own time they were the purveyors of the most popular of popular art. Larry David and David Chase have a very long way to go before they become immortal.

Again, granted, temporary fame is not a bad second place to eternal glory, and most of us would happily settle for the former. But for all their enormous celebrity, the odds are strongly against the future having a clear memory of most of today's biggest stars.

Monday, May 16, 2005

 

Drama queens

Tolerance is bad, mkay?
Drama Lesson

How a Playwright Learned Improvisation


Sabrina Audrey Jess, figures she has about half an hour before the cast party begins. With an actor friend to keep her company -- a friend who will come and go, leaving at one point to get out of costume -- she scrunches in one of the back rows, pressing her feet against the seat in front of her. This is where Sabrina begins to explain how "Offsides," her one-act drama about a high school football player who realizes he's gay, landed her in an ugly political brawl.

"I had a lot of senior friends last year who went through a really hard time," she says. "Some of them didn't tell anybody because of how scared they were. There were some who told people, and their parents said they were going to get kicked out of their house, or they had to go to counseling, and if they didn't go to counseling they would be forced to leave the house -- it was just a lot of stuff. And it didn't make sense to me."

So Sabrina wrote "Offsides" -- but only because she needed something to direct for the school's annual one-act festival and couldn't find what she was looking for. She didn't have a particular topic in mind. She was just hunting for a comedy.

"I liked a lot of them," she says, "but none of them really stuck out to me. So I was like, 'All right, how bad can it be? I'll just sit down and try to write one.' "

"You didn't get a comedy," her friend says with a giggle.

"It was far from a comedy," Sabrina agrees, and the girls crack up.

This is gallows humor; after the play was performed in early February, Sabrina didn't exactly have a lighthearted time. "Offsides" was the second of five one-acts on the bill, and a few folks walked out. Says Sabrina, "The people I saw leave during the show had little kids, which I completely understand." The play contained a tentative and ambiguous homosexual kiss that was blacked out almost before it began; more unsettling were the physical beating and blistering ostracization the football star then endured from his friends.

For Sabrina, the real fallout came in the following days. Her play was the hot topic of the next county school board meeting, which was preceded by anti-"Offsides" leaflets and even an e-mail campaign urging constituents to tell school board members that "it is inappropriate to promote homosexuality in our public schools." That came from the office of Del. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun), who later stated that he didn't write the e-mail but was simply passing it on.
Thus, of course, and, I'm sure, entirely unintentionally, making her point for her.

What is it about this that the homophobes and wingnuts don't get? That calling for tolerance - for kindness and respect and understanding - is not the same thing as "promoting homosexuality"? I'm baffled. I realize many people are uncomfortable with homosexuality, for a number of reasons. But how is it "promoting" homosexuality to call for an end to gay-bashing? Other than a true nutcase like the evil Fred Phelps, can anyone really be in favor of someone being beaten up simply because he's gay? Or being thrown out of his house by his parents? Or committing suicide rather than keep dealing with the taunts and the threats and the beatings?

The people who quote Leviticus to justify their homophobia are also the people who, for the most part, don't follow a single other stricture from that text. They don't keep Kosher, they violate the Sabbath, they wear garments made from more than one thread, etc. What it is, is, they don't like gays, so then they go find a Biblical justification to back up something they've already decided.

And in any case, whether or not you think homosexuals should have any rights at all, if you truly believe in that "culture of life" that the right wing Christians and Republicans seem to think they have a copyright on, you should be in favor of simple tolerance.

But they aren't. They get almost hysterical the instant anything other than vicious condemnation of the "gay agenda" makes even the most minimal public appearance. It's as if they have some kind of right not to have any of their tender sensibilities affronted by having to consider the existence of anything they don't approve of. Not being in charge of everything is discrimination against them. Not being able to discriminate against others is discrimination against them. Not being able to beat up a fag is anti-Christian. After all, if he doesn't want to keep getting beaten up, all the queer has to do is choose to be straight!

I'm constantly being reminded of what G. K. Chesterton wrote: "Christianity hasn't failed. It's never been tried."

Friday, May 13, 2005

 

And you're not singing the national anthem loud enough either!

Only 3 feet by 2 feet? What kinda commies are they?
Law forces schools into flag chase

More than 15,000 American flags need to be replaced in public school classrooms in Central Florida by the end of the school year because they are smaller than a new state law requires.

The law, requiring every Florida public classroom to display an American flag, includes a 3-by-2-foot size requirement. Many flags used in classrooms aren't that large.

"We already had flags in every classroom," said Richard Wells, Seminole County's school district spokesman. "They just weren't the ones specified by the law."
(The law also says the flags should be paid for with donations.)

China's eating our lunch, India's stealing our software jobs, but Florida's kids'll at least have BIG FLAGS.
 

A little learning may not be a dangerous thing...

...but it's surely not as good as a lot of learning.

The Daily Reckoning, a (what else?) daily e-newsletter, has this to say about America's coming collapse:
On the cover of one of this week's newsmagazines is a story about China. It is the world's second super-power, the piece tells us. We don't doubt it. But now our little system of connected thoughts has turned into a galaxy. We look all the way back to the 18th century...when Britain and America stole a march on the entire world. While the Chinese were still tilling their fields with wooden hoes, the Anglo-Saxons were building mechanized looms...and steam engines...and then railroads...and skyscrapers...and airlines. They worked like mad...saved their money...and built up a base of capital that sent them racing far ahead their potential rivals. The Chinese...the Indians...there were vast groups of the world's population that had plenty of manpower. What they lacked was capital, know-how and a market culture that rewarded risk taking and innovation.
The "Anglo-Saxons" so lauded in this encomium were a small fraction of greedy, ruthless men who exploited their workers almost as cruelly as Pharoah did the Israelites. They forced farm laborers off their land, they summoned the yeomanry any time the workers even thought about organizing, they polluted the land and the air and the water, stripmined coal, turned vast numbers of women into prostitutes and children into factory hands, and did a whole host of other awful things.

For every "Anglo-Saxon" who "built a mechanized loom," there were 50,000 who were all but chained to them. They "worked like mad," all right, because it was either that or starve. They didn't save their money, however, because none of them had any. They lost limbs and eyes, they coughed their lungs out, saw their children die in infancy and died young themselves.

One can argue that this was the price of progress, what Marx called "primitive capitalist accumulation," and that without it we would not have become the richest countries in human history. There is a lot of historical accuracy to it. But if you're going to make that argument, don't cast it as if it was the calculated choice of an entire society from whose superior discipline we have sadly gone astray. I guarantee you that nearly every British worker who suffered during the Industrial Revolution would have chosen less progress if it meant he did not have to work a 12- or 14-hour day tending unfenced machinery in a stinking, dark, smoky, din-filled cavernous factory for pennies a week.

That doesn't mean he would be right, either. Most of human history has been mightily cruel to most humans. Poor people have suffered for millennia, and it's only due to their suffering that we have a better world today. But at least acknowledge that. Don't lionize the greedy bastards who profited off their suffering. Lionize the inventors, the artists, the writers and composers and poets and explorers and scientists and doctors and nurses and teachers and discoverers and statesmen, the philosophers and humanitarians. The ones who actually made the world better.

As for us - well, yes, too many Americans are addicted to credit cards (as if the economy could possibly function if we weren't). But we work plenty hard. If we don't save enough, whose fault is that? Bush gave tax breaks to the wealthiest - why aren't they saving more of it? I thought that was the whole point - give money to the monied, who don't need it and who will therefore invest it in ways that will eventually redound to the greater profit of all. Doesn't seem to have worked that way, huh? Oh well, I guess the next round of tax cuts will cure all diseases.

In any case, China is now going through the "primitive capitalist accumulation" Marx was certain was a prerequisite for any eventual communist revolution. He was a good describer, much better at that than as a prescriber. It's hard for any country to go through that twice, although if the Republicans have their way, we're going to have to (labor movement, environmental protection laws, all the victories we thought we'd won). There are many reasons why Britain led the way industrially and commercially, and many reasons why China is taking off so shockingly now. Lecturing and scolding us will not lead to enlightenment on these complex issues, especially not when your history is faulty. Businessmen are a necessary evil. They should not be celebrated for that - letting them get rich is enough reward.
 

Crime definitely pays - for right wing politicians and their media handmaidens

We can be rational and effective or we can be irrational and ineffective. Unfortunately, we all know which way America has chosen. (And to think this country used to have a reputation for being pragmatic and practical.)
Unlocking the Prison Within

“Illiteracy is a prison. Education is my way of tearing down the walls, my liberation, a journey to other worlds." These words, strongly metaphoric in their imagery, are spoken softly by a man named Sammi in a place where you would least expect poetry: the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. Sammi is, in fact, serving a 98-year sentence for first degree murder. And yet, behind the walls of the oldest continuously operating prison in America, Sammi has achieved a sense of personal freedom he has never experienced before - by learning how to read and sharing that gift with other inmates.

Sammi and Nathaniel, another convicted murderer he is tutoring, are two of the central subjects in "How Do You Spell Murder," produced by Academy-Award winning filmmakers Susan and Alan Raymond. The documentary explores the relationship between illiteracy and crime.

The Raymonds' work has taken them to four war zones around the world, from Belfast to Bosnia, and into the worst inner city neighborhoods around the United States. "I used to look back and say to myself, what were we thinking," says Susan Raymond. "We had a young child but we were both young, and we wanted to chase our careers and have the life experience. But to have both parents in a helicopter, both parents covering a bomb scene. I just say thank God we made it."

Susan is the narrator, producer, writer, and director half of the husband-wife team, based outside Philadelphia, who rank among the most influential and distinguished independent documentary producers and directors. Their "young child," a son, is now 16 years old. Susan and Alan Raymond have been working together for more than 30 years. They made their mark in the documentary field with the 1973 PBS cinema verite series "An American Family," which captures the daily life of the Loud family, foreshadowing America's rising divorce rate and the emergence of the gay liberation movement.

In 1994 they won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary for "Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School," a film that depicts the life of an inner-city elementary school and in the process chronicles the deterioration of the nation's public school system.

"Once you've won an Academy Award," says Alan Raymond, who does the producing and the shooting, "you realize you don't have to spend your life dreaming of getting one. It's wonderful. It gives you a certain imprimatur. We live in a very competitive field now in television where editors are inundated with shows. It's hard to get a major review or feature article, so the award gives you a certain credibility."

They specialize in long-form storytelling, focusing on social issue documentaries an hour or more in length. "Our basic hope is that our work will affect public opinion," says Susan. Telling the story of the link between crime and the numbers of prisoners who are functionally illiterate, often because of a learning disability, was a natural choice for a couple committed to social change. Making "How Do You Spell Murder?" became especially pressing for the Raymonds when they discovered the L.I.F.E. program at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and found out that as many as 75 percent of the prisoners there are considered illiterate.

"A film like this is a reference for prison groups," says Susan. "The tape is being used by educators and researchers. We know it's being passed around to people who write legislation. Of course on the other side there are the victims' rights groups who have aligned themselves with the conservatives. These days there's a lot more sympathy out there for the victim than the criminal who doesn't know how to read."

Her husband concurs. "The link between illiteracy and crime is an important societal issue that no one wants to address. Our film first aired on Cinemax Reel Life on September 24, 2002. When we went to do the publicity and press, very few writers wanted to touch the subject. It was very chilling to see that there was no sympathy for that population." He points out that it's a very conservative time in the state and federal prison system, when less than one percent of state and federal prison budgets is used for prisoner education. "And yet this is while every study shows that education is the best way to rehabilitate, the best way to prevent recidivism."

"Learning to read is a basic human right," says Susan. "It borders on criminal behavior on the part of society to deny that right to some, and that's why we believe it's a human rights violation. Prisons don't put effort into rehabilitation. None of that prison time has been used productively to prepare the inmates for real life."
A basic notion that demagogic politicians, hyperventilating right wing radio talk show hosts, and macho assholes (the kind you see staggering around drunkenly outside some prisons on the night of an execution, baying bravely as if they are about to slay the prisoner themselves in single combat) seem incapable of grasping is that we treat prisoners humanely not simply for their sake but also for ours. A society that takes out its anger about crime on criminals simply because it can is a deeply sick society. That pretty much all of human history has demonstrated this sickness is no excuse.

I know the argument, why should my tax dollars go to give some vicious thug a free education? Well, why shouldn't it? If it will keep him from committing crimes in the future? Is that not a wise investment?

But the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O'Reillys and Sean Hannitys and Michael Savages of the world - to say nothing of the Dobsons and Robertsons and conservative "Lawnorder" Republicans - will eat you for breakfast if you try to make that argument. "Willie" Horton (he never called himself that, you know, nor did anyone else before Lee Atwater) worked. The public wants and needs monsters. The press and the politicians are happy to feed that fear. Effective solutions against crime definitely do not fit their bill.
 

Friday Blog Blogging: Back to the basics

I usually use this spot to highlight new or obscure stuff, but sometimes you have to go with the classics, if for no other reason than to remind yourself why they are classics in the first place.

Two outstanding posts on Daily Kos:

Reid under attack

by kos
Thu May 12th, 2005 at 23:41:49 PDT

Frist wants to be president bad. Really bad. And he's willing to drag down the rest of his party in order to fulfill his ambitions.

Seems that his battle over the filibuster is going so poorly, he's hired a known thief to lead a smear campaign against Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid. The first salvo has been hurled by partisan "journalist" Charles Hurt of the Washington Times.

Minority Leader Harry Reid strayed from his prepared remarks on the Senate floor yesterday and promised to continue opposing one of President Bush's judicial nominees based on "a problem" he said is in the nominee's "confidential report from the FBI."

Those highly confidential reports are filed on all judicial nominees, and severe sanctions apply to anyone who discloses their contents. Less clear is whether a senator could face sanctions for characterizing the content of such files.
And the punchline:
Republican aides pointed to Standing Rule of the Senate 29, Section 5: "Any Senator, officer, or employee of the Senate who shall disclose the secret or confidential business or proceedings of the Senate, including the business and proceedings of the committees, subcommittees, and offices of the Senate, shall be liable, if a Senator, to suffer expulsion from the body; and if an officer or employee, to dismissal from the service of the Senate, and to punishment for contempt."
And then Reid is lectured by a thief.
"Harry Reid is a disgrace to the Senate and to [his] Church of Latter-day Saints," said Manuel Miranda, who was forced to resign as a Republican Senate staffer after downloading files on judicial nominees from Democratic computer servers.
So let's take a moment to digest this.

Reid is a disgrace to the Senate and his church, and should face expulsion from the Senate, for mentioning that Judge Saad has an FBI file. Got it. That secret FBI file. The one that was discussed in the Detroit Free Press a year ago.
Levin and Stabenow testified Thursday during the private meeting. They said before the meeting that they would discuss information from Saad's FBI background check that raised doubts about his ability to serve, but they wouldn't elaborate.
The secret FBI file that was discussed by Gannet News Service also last year.
The Judiciary Committee held a private meeting to discuss Judge Saad's nomination after a routine FBI background check on the judge uncovered allegations of "very serious nature."
It is indeed an act of sleaze and desperation for Frist's office to try and use this to rally rebel Republicans to his side on the Nuclear Option.
How much you want to bet that at least some "moderate" or "neutral" so-called MSM journalists pick this up and run with it, ignoring Bush's tumbling popularity, DeLay's sleaze, Frist's incompetence, and the way the war in Iraq is going so well?

Onward (and, alas, downward):
The Extremist War on Moderates

by Armando
Thu May 12th, 2005 at 23:41:02 PDT

The Extremists in control of the Republican Party are at war with the moderates of their own party, and the moderates have started to notice:
The next squeeze, for the moderates, will be the explosive question of whether Republican leaders should change Senate rules to bar Democrats from using the filibuster, a two-century-old parliamentary tactic, to block the judicial nominees. Dr. Frist is advocating the change, and a confrontation is widely expected next week.

. . . Mr. Specter is in a particularly tight spot. He is trying to remain neutral, but as Judiciary Committee chairman is expected to advocate for the nominees. John Breaux, a centrist Democrat who was in the Senate until last year, said defying party leaders could be especially risky for a committee chairman. "They can put an awful lot of pressure on you," he said of the leaders. "They say, 'Look, you're a chairman because your party is in control, and you've got to be with the party.' So when you break with them, you have to be fast on foot to explain it."

Ms. Collins, chairwoman of the domestic security committee, is also taking that risk. Along with Ms. Snowe, she has expressed reservations about the rules change, as well as the Social Security plan. Last week, the two returned to Maine to find themselves the targets of an advertising campaign on the judicial nominees, a campaign that had the endorsement of Dr. Frist.
Can you believe that the Senate Majority Leader has approved running ads against Senators from his OWN Party? It is the Dobsons and Robertsons who run the Republican Party. The most extreme elements in the Republican Party call the shots now. But the moderates now realize it:
By this week, Ms. Collins seemed a bit worn down by that debate. "It seems like it's issue after issue this year," she said, adding that she often envies "those senators for whom everything is black and white."

Ms. Snowe, meanwhile, had a message for fellow Republicans: "Frankly," she said, "the election of the president drew from Americans who describe themselves as moderates, which is about 45 percent of Americans today. That's something we overlook at our own peril.
"
With due respect to Sens. Snowe and Collins, you overlook at your own peril that the head of the Republican Party is now the Reverend James Dobson of Colorado Spring, Colorado.
Another development the MSM is completely going to miss. This one is harder to figure out why, though. Keeping Bush in office is good for the corporations (at least short-term), so it figures they'd try to ignore bad news about the Republicans or at least seek distractions such as fictitious bad news about the Democrats.

But how is it in even Rupert Murdoch's personal or class interest to see America become a theocracy under the "guidance" of James Dobson and Pat Robertson? Or do he and his fellow plutocrats think they can ride the tiger? For a chilling cautionary tale of how that worked out once before, read David Abraham's The Collapse of the Weimar Republic: Political Economy and Crisis (Princeton University Press, 1981).

Or perhaps they don't give a shit, figuring that if America goes belly-up, they can simply own China or India instead. Which is a whole lot of help and comfort for the 99.9% of the country without that option.

America - especially its rational propertied classes - had better wake up soon.
 

The theocracy is here - and it's full of hypocrites

Surprise surprise.

Don't have the energy to quote. Just go read here and here.

Then answer me this: I know 51% of America voted for Bush (which means, of course, that 49% voted for Kerry. Some "landslide.") Do you really think they voted for this?
 

Congress to reality: Go away, kid, stop bothering me

Strong men getting weak at the knees at the thought of their daughters – well, not exactly their daughters, since, as far as I know, nobody in Congress actually has a daughter - or a son – in the serivce - facing combat – but you know what I mean.
For Female GIs, Combat Is a Fact
Many Duties in Iraq Put Women at Risk Despite Restrictive Policy


Jennifer Guay went to war to be a grunt. And the 170-pound former bartender from Leeds, Maine, with cropped red hair and a penchant for the bench press, has come pretty close.

It was mid-February and Guay, 26, an Army specialist who was the first woman to be assigned as an infantry combat medic, was spending 10 hours a day on missions with the 82nd Airborne Division, dodging rockets and grenades in the crowded streets of Mosul.

"Break-break-break: U.S. soldier down!" a hard-edged voice came over the radio. A gun battle had just broken out.

In less than five minutes, Guay was at the scene. She dashed to Sgt. Christopher Pusateri, 21, who was lying on the ground, a bullet through his jaw. "I was in charge of this man's life," she recalled. Pusateri had "a massive trauma injury, and I had to get him off the middle of the street."

Day after day, Guay has faced situations that would test the steel of any soldier. And female soldiers like her -- as well as Army officers who support them -- are seizing opportunities amid Iraq's indiscriminate violence to push back the barriers against women in combat. As American women in uniform patrol bomb-ridden highways, stand duty at checkpoints shouldering M-16s and raid houses in insurgent-contested towns, many have come to believe this 360-degree war has rendered obsolete a decade-old Pentagon policy barring them from serving with ground combat battalions.

"The Army has to understand the regulation that says women can't be placed in direct fire situations is archaic and not attainable," said Lt. Col. Cheri Provancha, commander of a Stryker Brigade support battalion in Mosul, who decided to bend Army rules and allow Guay to serve as a medic for an infantry company of the 82nd Airborne. Under a 1994 policy, women are excluded from units at the level of battalion and below that engage in direct ground combat.

"This war has proven that we need to revisit the policy, because they are out there doing it," Provancha, a 21-year Army veteran from San Diego, said from her base in what soldiers call Mosul's "mortar alley." "We are embedded with the enemy."

Dozens of soldiers interviewed across Iraq -- male and female, from lower enlisted ranks to senior officers -- voiced frustration over restrictions on women mandated in Washington that they say make no sense in the war they are fighting. All said the policy should be changed to allow, at a minimum, mixed-sex support units to be assigned to combat battalions. Many favored a far more radical step: letting qualified women join the infantry.

But Congress is moving in the opposite direction. A House subcommittee, seeking to keep women out of combat, passed a measure this week that would bar women from thousands of Army positions now open to them. In Iraq, female soldiers immediately denounced the vote.

"I refuse to have my right as a soldier taken from me because of my gender," Guay wrote in an e-mail. "It is my right to defend my country. . . . I am well aware of the danger. . . . Let me (us) do our job."

For many inside Army camps, the disconnect between Washington officialdom and the reality that female troops confront in Iraq was epitomized by President Bush's Jan. 11 declaration of "No women in combat."

"That's an oxymoron!" said Sgt. Neva D. Trice, who leads a female Army search team that guards the gates of Baghdad's Green Zone, where many U.S. and Iraqi government facilities are located. "If he said no women in combat, then why are there women here in Iraq?"

Dozens of soldiers interviewed across Iraq -- male and female, from lower enlisted ranks to senior officers -- voiced frustration over restrictions on women mandated in Washington that they say make no sense in the war they are fighting. All said the policy should be changed to allow, at a minimum, mixed-sex support units to be assigned to combat battalions. Many favored a far more radical step: letting qualified women join the infantry.

But Congress is moving in the opposite direction. A House subcommittee, seeking to keep women out of combat, passed a measure this week that would bar women from thousands of Army positions now open to them. In Iraq, female soldiers immediately denounced the vote.

"I refuse to have my right as a soldier taken from me because of my gender," Guay wrote in an e-mail. "It is my right to defend my country. . . . I am well aware of the danger. . . . Let me (us) do our job."

For many inside Army camps, the disconnect between Washington officialdom and the reality that female troops confront in Iraq was epitomized by President Bush's Jan. 11 declaration of "No women in combat."

"That's an oxymoron!" said Sgt. Neva D. Trice, who leads a female Army search team that guards the gates of Baghdad's Green Zone, where many U.S. and Iraqi government facilities are located. "If he said no women in combat, then why are there women here in Iraq?"
Whatever happened to Kipling's "The female of the species is deadlier than the male"?

Besides, we've got a serious manpower - sorry, person-power - crisis in Iraq now. Kick the women out and we'll be totally in the shit.

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