Many thanks to my lovely guest bloggers for keeping the lights on while I was away!
Thank you, ladies!
Yeah, I know, I'll be waiting a long time. After all, it's not as though it's something important, like being able to play golf at a country club. But hey, I guess the Gloria Steinem crowd needs to have its priorities!
I thought this was a grand verse when we sang it Sunday, only to discover it's by Alexander Pope, 1712. That's cheating.
See a long race thy spacious courts adorn;
see future sons and daughters, yet unborn,
in crowding ranks on every side arise
demanding life, impatient for the skies.
The tune is stirring, you'll probably recognize it, though the first few notes on the midi site are an intro flourish, and kinda confusing therefore. Hear the hymn here. Say that five times fast.
... Ith invited me to help guest-blog during her absence. I discovered too late that my user ID had vanished, probably during the upgrade.
And here I had such brilliance lined up to unleash on Ith's unsuspecting readership. Heh.
Now that Ith's back, I have my user ID and password back. So I'm just in time to welcome back our fearless blogmistress. Hope you had a great time out there, girlfriend. :)
The Blog Princess awoke this morning in a decidedly blue funk.
Long before rosy fingered dawn began painting the sky outside her western Maryland home, she swung her shell pink toes over the side of her bed and trudged dutifully down the hall to make an extra strong pot of coffee. Waiting for the reassuring smack! of the daily fishwrap on the driveway, she began snidely calculating the odds. Would the Paper Dude maliciously hurl it into the hydrangeas, giving unsuspecting passersby an enchanting view of her derriere as she rooted around blindly in the dark? Or would the vile wretch manage to decapitate the daylilies that were just now appearing in the flower bed over the stone wall?
Always a crap shoot - she really ought to have tipped him. Finally, blessed relief landed [WHOMP!!!] on the driveway. What fresh hell awaited the Princess? The waves of cognitive dissonance emanating from the
Op-Ed News section were already clashing with the mind-control rays beaming from the Pentagon. How was a poor blog princess to hear herself think with all this noise going on, anyway?
Settling down on the sofa, she opened the WaPo and beheld her salvation - nay! the salvation of a nation longing for something to rescue it from an oozing quagmire of miserable failure. There it was, right on page A2; what we'd been waiting for all these years - a Plan! And we didn't even have to listen to John Kerry drone on for once!
Nan Pelosi for President! And Secretary of State! And Supreme Commander, Multinational Forces-Iraq! Yeeeeeeaaaarrrgggghhhhh!!!!!!
"I do not stand alone," Dennis Kucinich said as he stood, alone, in front of a cluster of microphones yesterday evening.
The Ohio congressman, a Democratic presidential candidate, was holding a news conference outside the Capitol to announce that he had just filed articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney. But subsequent questioning quickly revealed that Kucinich had not yet persuaded any of his 434 colleagues to be a cosponsor, that he had not even discussed the matter with House Democratic leaders, and that he had not raised the subject with the Judiciary Committee.
Kucinich did have one thing: a copy of the Declaration of Independence. And he was not afraid to read it. "We hold these truths to be self-evident," the aspiring impeachment manager read at the start of his news conference. He continued all the way through the bit about the right of the people to abolish the government.
"These words from the Declaration of Independence are instructive at this moment," he said.
A reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer encouraged USS Kucinich to contact planet Earth. "But Nancy Pelosi says this is not going anywhere," she pointed out.
"Have you talked to her today?" Kucinich shot back.
"Yes, I did," she replied.
Kucinich had not expected that answer. "Then I would say I have not talked to her," he acknowledged.
It was not an auspicious beginning for the impeachment of Richard B. Cheney.
Oh come on, Dana. Where's your sense of humor? It's not every day America gets to see another Rethuglican Dick get impeached.
Of course it's not surprising people are scratching their heads on Capitol Hill, considering some of the mind-boggling oratory being produced courtesy of our tax dollars. According to the Democrats, there was a Great Disturbance in the Force last November. The American people rose up in anger against an administration they think didn't have a Plan for this war. And so they elected... the Democrats. Who, from all available evidence, don't have a clue what to do about this war either:
....consider the mental gyrations performed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as he rationalized the recent comment from his majority leader, Harry Reid, the leading light of Searchlight, Nev., that the war in Iraq "is lost."
On "Fox News Sunday," Schumer offered this clarification of Reid's off-the-cuff comment. "What Harry Reid is saying is that this war is lost -- in other words, a war where we mainly spend our time policing a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis. We are not going to solve that problem. . . . The war is not lost. And Harry Reid believes this -- we Democrats believe it. . . . So the bottom line is if the war continues on this path, if we continue to try to police and settle a civil war that's been going on for hundreds of years in Iraq, we can't win. But on the other hand, if we change the mission and have that mission focus on the more narrow goal of counterterrorism, we sure can win."
Everyone got that? This war is lost. But the war can be won. Not since Bill Clinton famously pondered the meaning of the word "is" has a Democratic leader confused things as much as Harry Reid did with his inept discussion of the alternatives in Iraq.
But never fear! Halp is on the way! That same party which gave us The Strong Strength of Strongness is about to restore direction. Yes, what America needs right now is A Firm Hand At The Wheel of the Ship of State:
Pelosi said Democrats will produce an issue agenda for the 2006 elections but it will not include a position on Iraq. There is consensus within the party that President Bush has mismanaged the war and that a new course is needed, but House Democrats should be free to take individual positions, she sad. [sic]
(...wait for it)
"There is no one Democratic voice . . . and there is no one Democratic position," Pelosi said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors.
Pelosi recently endorsed the proposal by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) for a swift redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq over a period of six months, but no other party leader followed, and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) publicly opposed her.
And we can rest assured that this nation is also capably represented by Senator Harry Reid, a man for all seasons who manages to be the living embodiment of Speaker Pelosi's "there is no one Democratic voice...there is no one Democratic position" platform on the Iraq war.
Indeed, reading over Senator Reid's various pronouncements on the war, it would appear he is hearing not one, but several voices inside his head. The only question is which one will pop up like Whack a Mole to entertain us this week?
They say every cloud has a silver lining. The next few years should be highly entertaining, whatever else they may be.
Drink up, my friends. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
(hey, who isn't?)... If you live in So. California, there's a happenin' you might like to go to. This Sunday, April 29, is the 400th anniversary of the landing at Jamestown, and the cross-planting and Anglican service held by Fr Hunt, the expedition's chaplain, at the Cape Henry beach.
This was a signal event in American history, and is being celebrated as a huge deal on the east coast, where festivities will culminate in a visit by Queen Elizabeth. Here in the west, Anglican parishes (and anyone else with a sense of adventure) are gathering in Corona del Mar for a picnic, cross-planting, and Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer used in 1607.
St Mary of the Angels in Hollywood is organizing--I know this group, VERY welcoming and fun. Plus one of the parishioners is/was? a Klingon. Wish I could join them, alas, but maybe you can go instead. Info here.
I can honestly say I shed no tears earlier today when I read that Rosie O'Donnell is leaving The View.
"I have decided that we couldn't come to terms with my deal with ABC, so next year I'm not going to be on 'The View, " Ms. O'Donnell said on the show just after it began broadcasting live at 11 a.m.Bye, now! Drive safe. Don't come back...
First, schools became peanut-free, so that the one student out of two thousand who has an allergy wouldn't prove natural selection to the masses by standing too close to someone's PB&J. But this...
On April 11, a white student placed a ham steak in a bag on a lunch table where Somali students were eating. Muslims consider pork unclean and offensive.
The act reminded students of a man who threw a pig's head into a Lewiston mosque last summer.
The school incident is being treated seriously as "a hate incident"
The boy said he looked up at students he thought were his friends. "I felt angered, offended."
He suddenly felt like he was alone. "At the school the next day, I didn't feel safe. I felt like everybody was against me. Before I felt like I fit in, and everything was normal."
He began to think white students didn't like him, and the act was their way of letting him know.
On Thursday, several students came up to him and said, "Those guys who did it were jerks. I apologize for them, and I hope you feel better."
The boy said they did make him feel better. "But for the rest of my life when I remember middle school, this will pop up right away."
I realize no one's been waiting for my input, but here I be, and full of banalities. Let's see, what's there to say... well, the one thing on my mind lately's been moving. What a job. What enormous work. But this morning I walked through with the landcretin, handed over the keys, and am quit of the place.
Valuable lesson for those in Monterey/Salinas area: hire Maria Ramos and Co. to do your moveout clean. Phenomenal work, very fast, cheapest price going: $420 including carpet steam-clean for a 4/3 townhouse.
My son and I tiptoed through the perfumed house last night and were in awe. Could this be the same hovel of the past five years? Are those our old stove, icebox, and floor softly shining? And yet they were.
Remember the scene in the Michael York version of Three Musketeers when the Duke of Buckingham is being secreted into the castle and he traverses the room where the drenched, semi-clad ladies are scrubbing the laundry and pauses and says he will henceforth look upon his shirts with respect (or something to that effect)? That's the feeling--these people are geniuses of clean.
They say even a stopped clock is right twice a day. But in a world where miracles are in short supply, imagine our surprise when the Grey Lady not only stumbled across the Truth, but (mirabile dictu!) found it fit for our rough, untutored eyes:
“There is no one issue that is motivating people,” said Robert B. Holland III, a Texas businessman who served as the United States member of the bank’s board until last year and who is a strong supporter of Mr. Wolfowitz. “There is a built-in ideological opposition to Wolfowitz that was there from day one. The opposition has been looking for any opportunity to exploit to get him out of there.”
Mr. Holland said that Mr. Wolfowitz had sought from the outset to trim the bank’s bureaucracy and enforce new standards of honesty in countries receiving bank assistance.
But such steps as cutting off money to programs and countries suspected of graft alienated two groups of officials: the bank’s 24-member board of directors, which runs the bank’s daily affairs in tandem with Mr. Wolfowitz, and a group of 30 or so vice presidents and their equivalent.
Mildly intrigued by this tiny grain of wheat amongst the usual piles of chaff in the pages of the Times, the half vast editorial staff went searching for more. But alas! the crack investigative reporting staff at the Times consider "bank sentiment" more relevant than checking into the actual facts relating to the charges against Mr. Wolfowitz:
Bank officials said that after several days of canvassing hundreds of employees, about 25 vice presidents of the bank were preparing to document that the overwhelming majority of the employees favor Mr. Wolfowitz’s departure.
Since the Times is not interested in the facts surrounding this scandal, those interested in the truth must look elsewhere. The Washington Post is a good starting place. This weekend's Op-Ed pages should give the high tech lynch mob cause for sober reflection:
The allegations against Mr. Wolfowitz, which have angered many bank employees, are by now familiar. After arriving at the bank in the summer of 2005, he arranged a generous employment package for his companion, Shaha Riza, then a senior communications officer at the bank with expertise in Middle East affairs. These terms mandated a salary increase from $132,660 to $193,590, assigned her to a job outside the bank and laid out a path to further promotion and raises. This has been characterized as an underhanded deal that undermines Mr. Wolfowitz's campaign against corruption in poor countries applying for World Bank aid.
Unfortunately, that thumbnail sketch omits some highly relevant facts. It was Mr. Wolfowitz who, before taking over at the bank, called the potential conflict of interest to the attention of the bank's ethics committee. He asked to be recused from any personnel decisions involving Ms. Riza. The committee agreed that a conflict existed, but it said that could probably be solved only by Ms. Riza leaving the bank, either permanently or on loan to another agency. The committee also told Mr. Wolfowitz that, if she chose to go elsewhere, Ms. Riza should be given a raise because she already had been short-listed for a promotion. So when Mr. Wolfowitz dictated her new terms of employment he was responding in part to the committee's instructions. Further raises were intended to be equal to what she might have earned had she stayed at the bank, responding to the committee's advice that she receive "compensation to offset negative career impact" from her reassignment.
Was the package nonetheless too generous, even by cushy World Bank standards? The executive directors should answer that question. But there's a relevant fact here, too. The ethics panel reviewed the situation again a half-year later, in February 2006, after receiving an anonymous complaint from a bank employee precisely on the issue of excessive pay. Once again it found, "on the basis of a careful review," that the allegations "do not appear to pose ethical issues appropriate for further consideration by the Committee."
But even the Post's analysis lacks context. Fuller disclosure of the facts surrounding L'Affaire Wolfowitz should profoundly disturb his critics, progressives, and ardent feminists: The entire, sad affair is well bracketed by three excerpts released by the Ethics committee of the World Bank:
First, I would like to acknowledge that Mr. Wolfowitz has disclosed to the Board, through you, that he has a pre-existing relationship with a Bank staff member, and that he proposes to resolve the conflict of interest in relation to Staff Rule 3.01, Paragraph 4.02 by recusing himself from all personnel matters and professional contact related to the staff member.
July 27, 2005 – Memo from Ethics Committee Chairman Ad Melkert to PW
“Having considered different options, the EC advises:
a) That the staff member will be relocated to a position beyond (potential) supervising influence by the President and therefore will withdraw from the current selection procedure for job promotion within the MENA department;
b)That at the same time the potential disruption of the staff member’s career prospect will be recognized by an in situ promotion on the basis of her qualifying record as confirmed by her shortlisting for the current job process and as consistent with the practice of the Bank;
April 9, 2007 – Memo from Shaha Riza to Chairman of the Ethics Committee
“I have now been victimized for agreeing to an arrangement that I have objected to and that I did not believe from the outset was in my best interest. My effort to accommodate the Board’s Ethics Committee and avoid creating distractions for Staff, Board and Management from their noble mission while protecting my interest, has only resulted in the most vicious public attacks on me.
“I would like to reiterate that I did not wish to leave the Bank and I did not, and do not expect any special considerations. My commitment to the mission of the Bank is unshakeable and I still believe that my career and professional future is inextricably linked to this great institution and I hope, and would very much like, to return to the pursuit of my career from within it as soon as possible.”
So in short, Paul Wolfowitz, a Jew, committed the crime of having a sexual liason with Shaha Riza, a Muslim.
For this "crime", which he openly disclosed to the board of directors of the World Bank at the time he joined that institution, he and his lover are now being lynched in the press. How, exactly, was Mr. Wolfowitz supposed to behave?
He disclosed the relationship.
Ms. Riza, an exceptionally well-qualified female employee, was forced to withdraw her name from a shortlist of candidates for a better paid position within the Bank. On the recommendation of the Ethics Committee she was transferred outside the World Bank; a move she did not want to make as she would have preferred to remain right where she was. The sole reason for moving Ms. Riza was to avoid conflict of interest and place her in "a position beyond (potential) supervising influence by the President".
So for the crime of having a private, consensual sexual relationship, two unmarried people who never lied about their affair and bent over backwards to comply with World Bank regulations and the recommendations of the Ethics committee are being crucified in the press. So much for the cries of the uber-progressive community that sex is a private matter! They rushed to defend Bill Clinton against what they deemed "vicious partisan attacks" when he cheated on his wife, lied while under oath, and impeded an investigation into violations of sexual harrassment laws women fought for decades to see enacted.
Will they now defend Paul Wolfowitz, a unmarried man who behaved with honor; cheated on no one, promptly disclosed his relationship to the Ethics Committee, recused himself as required by World Bank regulations, and as a result has been vilified in the press for following the written recommendations of the World Bank Ethics Committee, which, if we are to believe his detractors, are profoundly unethical?
Dick Meyer has it right. Our public bloodlust must be sated, and Paul Wolfowitz makes the perfect victim:
It isn't hard to understand why there are so many character lynchings. There are a lot of rats and phonies in this world. Is the national supply of famous creeps higher than at other points in our history? Absolutely, simply because the supply of media is so vastly greater. More media, more bandwidth to create celebrities and then stalk them.
And with the Internet and ubiquitous television, geographic proximity is no longer necessary for a mob mentality to arise. We have virtual mobs. For briefing, shiny sick moments all eyes are focused on Imus — or Anna Nicole, Michael Jackson, Jack Abramoff or Ken Lay.
Our media and our culture have become expert at creating celebrities and other phonies.
We can turn a contestant on a game show into a household name in a week. And like some cheesy Hollywood threat: "We made you, and we can break you."
So many of the celebrities in politics, sports and entertainment are undeserving, greedy, hubristic, ostentatious, coarse, egotistical or vulgar. Of course we love it when they crash and burn. We wouldn't be human if we didn't. Some of them deserve everything they get.
And spotting these parasitic unworthies, calling them out, cheering on their demises seems like the only tool we have to fight societal fakery and fraud. How else can we fight back this amorphous enemy but to collect scalps? We wait vigilantly for their flameouts to lighten the loads of our lives with a little innocent gloating.
I do this in my column all the time. An aspect of this process is, of course, necessary to check the people who have power and abuse it. The game is different for people who hungrily seek fame, fortune and power; they're in the game by choice, they know the stakes and the risks and they want to play. That doesn't mean we should be quite so happy when they fall.
The problem is that we are devouring ourselves. We can create celebrities, but not leaders. We generate fame, but not honor.
Perhaps the most we can do, you and I, is try not to let this unforgiving quality of public life seep into our private lives.
No, Mr. Meyer. We can do more. And you, especially, must do more. It is your job to find out, and report, the truth. To do anything less is professional malpractice. And you ought to be ashamed.
We all should.
What a difference a few months makes:
Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader
Sen. Reid (D-NV) on the Iraq Study Group report ...“The Iraq Study Group has done a tremendous and historic service to the American people and to the troops serving in harm’s way in Iraq. Their report underscores the message the American people sent one month ago: there must be change in Iraq, and there is no time to lose. It is time for the Iraqis to build and secure their nation, and it is time for American combat troops to be redeployed. “Each day the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate. Yesterday, Defense Secretary Nominee Robert Gates said ‘we’re not winning.’ Today, the Iraq Study Group said Iraq is ‘grave and deteriorating.’ Like the Iraq Study Group, I urge the President to change course. He will find Congress ready and willing to work with him. The Senate will do its part next year and conduct strong oversight to ensure the President carries out an effective change in policy. Our troops in Iraq, including hundreds of Nevadans, have sacrificed so much. It is time for President Bush to reward their effort by bringing the country together around a new way forward.”
Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he plans to continue an aggressive push for an early withdrawal from Iraq and does not particularly care that Republicans will try to paint that position as a lack of support for U.S. forces. “We are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war,”
And that Iraq Study Group Report that was such a "tremendous and historic service to the American people and our troops serving in harm's way?
The report does not set timetables or deadlines for the removal of troops, as contemplated by the supplemental spending bills the House and Senate passed. In fact, the report specifically opposes that approach. As many military and political leaders told us, an arbitrary deadline would allow the enemy to wait us out and would strengthen the positions of extremists over moderates. A premature American departure from Iraq, we unanimously concluded, would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions in Iraq and possibly other countries.
The goal of the United States should be to help Iraqis achieve national political reconciliation and greater effectiveness of their security forces, the report said, so that Iraqis can assume more of the security mission. This in turn could allow for an orderly departure of U.S. troops. An important way to encourage Iraqis to work together is to hold them to the type of benchmarks that Congress, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have all considered. If the Iraqi government does not meet those benchmarks, the United States "should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government," the report said. But we did not suggest that this be codified into legislation. The report doesn't recommend a firm deadline for troop removal unless America's military leadership believes that the situation warrants it.
Nothing has happened since the report was released that would justify changing that view. Setting a deadline for withdrawal regardless of conditions in Iraq makes even less sense today because there is evidence that the temporary surge is reducing the level of violence in Baghdad. As Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq. The Iraq Study Group said it could support a short-term surge to stabilize Baghdad or to speed up training and equipping of Iraqi soldiers if the U.S. commander in Iraq determines such steps would be effective. Gen. David Petraeus has so determined.
The president announced a "new way forward" on Jan. 10 that supports much of the approach called for by the Iraq Study Group. He has since said that he is moving to embrace our recommendations. The president's plan increases the number of American advisers embedded in Iraqi army units, with the goal that the Iraqi government will assume control of security in all provinces by November. It outlines benchmarks and indicates that the Iraqi government must act to attain them. He has approved ministerial-level meetings of all of Iraq's neighbors, including Syria and Iran; the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council; and other countries.
Photo courtesy of Lex
It shouldn't, but it does. And that means I, RightGirl - guest blogger extrordinaire, am sitting in my charming military accommodation and finally getting around to some blogging.
Because I'm covering for Ith's absence, I thought she might appreciate some mountain scenery that reminded me of Scotland - writ large. Ith, here's the Pali lookout and Pali State Park, Oahu.
A few words of introduction for those who don't know me. My name is Cass and I normally hang my hat over at Villainous Company, a den of vile knavery and ill repute just across the blogosphere. Oh, and don't worry. Not all my posts are this long.
Sometimes I really get carried away...
The words, read several months ago but never forgotten, lie unquietly in the back of my mind. Though I never wrote about them, they refuse to go away:
Some of my best friends are women--heck, I am a woman--but I've come to the conclusion that we've seen too much of the fairer sex. For me, the final straw came last month when Britney Spears jauntily revealed her waxed nether-regions to waiting photographers as she exited her limo. Britney's stunt made her the Internet smash of the season. But in providing America's workers with this cubicle distraction, Britney was doing a lot more than making her own privates public.
In fact, Britney was following to its logical end what has become the first rule of contemporary American girlhood: to show that you are liberated, take it off. Liberty means responsibility . . . to disrobe. Paris Hilton, Britney's BFF (Best Friend Forever), taped her sexual escapades with an ex-boyfriend, though even she was tactful enough to pretend that she hadn't meant for the video to go public. Courtney Love, Lindsay Lohan and Tara Reid have also staged their own wardrobe malfunctions. But flashing is hardly limited to celebrities. The girls-next-door who migrate to Florida during spring break happily lift their blouses and snap their thongs for the producers of "Girls Gone Wild," who sell their DVDs to an eager public.
Nor is it just young female flashers who are driven to expose themselves to the masses. Older women, whether because of lingering traces of reticence or doubts about the camera-readiness of their intimate anatomy, use the written word to bare all. There are legions of women bloggers who write about last night's bed tricks, their underwear preferences and their menstrual cycles (yes, Virginia, there is a tamponblog.com). More sophisticated exhibitionists turn to tasteful erotic memoirs. In "A Round Heeled Woman," Jane Juksa gives us a detailed description of her varied sexual adventures after, at age 66, she advertised for sex in the personals of the New York Review of Books. In "Surrender," the ex-Balanchine dancer Toni Bentley tells of the spiritual transcendence she experienced during the 298 times she had anal sex with a former lover--making this the first transcendent sex ever to involve a calculator.
Now, this is the point at which the enlightened always begin grumbling: What's wrong with women showing that they are "sexual beings"? In this vein, the show-or-tell-all is an act of bravery, demonstrating a woman's determination to throw off society's taboos against full expression of her sexuality.
...But this Puritans-are-coming! stance, validating, as it does, someone as cracked as Paris Hilton, finally implodes. The problem with a Britney or a Bentley is not that they are floozies. It is rather that they are, paradoxical as it might seem, naive. They underestimate the magnetic force field created by intimate sexual information and violate the logic of privacy that should be all the more compelling in a media-driven age. People in the public eye always risk becoming objectified; they are watched by hordes of strangers who have only fragmentary information about them. When that information includes details that only their Brazilian waxers should know for sure, it's inevitable that, humans being the perverse creatures that they are, all other facts of identity will fall away. Instead of becoming freer, the exhibitionist becomes an object defined primarily by a narrow sexual datum.
It is perhaps the crowning irony of my short life that, though I heartily share Ms. Hymowitz's distaste for Britney's Brazilian moment, I can't help but wonder why it is we women love to go picnicking on each other? Is this really the best argument we as conservatives can make against such displays; that the acts of today's new age sexual Fem-Warriors should be judged by the reactions of the madding crowd, that where they erred was in making themselves 'too available'?
Would not a better argument be that these women have, perhaps, betrayed their own values? Or even just values worth upholding?
Oddly enough, the fact that Ms. Spears soon depilitated another part of her anatomy in a gesture oddly reminiscent of the ritual humiliation meted out to whores suggests she may not have been too proud of her own actions. Why, then, do Ms. Hymowitz's words continue to fill me with such disquiet? My mind drifts back to a balmy evening under the stars. It seems almost a lifetime ago.
I am lying on my back in the cool grass on the campus green in Hanover, NH, staring at the night sky with a young man from my karate class. The day before he broke a tiny bone in my foot as we sparred in class. Since then, I've been hobbling around gamely on crutches which I'll soon throw away in irritation. He's been hovering over me contritely (after initially telling me the whole incident was 'my fault', a remark which set off a characteristic bout of eye-rolling on my part and which, I suspect, also caused the mildly annoying behavior of the last two days).
We are talking about the future, about having children. I say I want sons. This is not surprising for I like men very much. Most of my friends are male.
He wants daughters.
This does surprise me, for he freely admits he neither likes nor trusts women (present company excluded, he magnanimously allows). He thinks women are manipulative, meaner than men, and spoiled rotten. So... I ask, not really wanting to hear the answer: why does he want a little girl?
So he can spoil her.
I stare at the sky quietly, feeling intensely sorry for his future wife. And they say women are illogical? Finally, I ask him, "So, how do you think these girls you dislike so much get that way?" He cheerfully admits men like him cause the problem when they raise spoiled, self-centered daughters. But let someone else worry about that. He had to put up with it, now he is going to get "his".
I left college not long after that, stunned by the collision between my somewhat rose colored view of the world and harsh reality. Then, too, I realized I simply was not ready to buckle down and work hard at my studies. I lacked direction, and the temptations of 24/7 Animal House hedonism were not something I cared to abandon myself to. Even at eighteen, if I was going to destroy myself I needed a better reason than a wild streak and way too much time on my hands.
A short three years later I was a young wife, married with a small son while my friends were still in college. The Virginia belle who used to go out partying every night of the week now stayed up late every night working on various projects.
She sometimes didn't see a beer for ages. She didn't even talk to other men, or look at them, or frankly, even miss all that male attention most of the time. She was just too busy making a home for her family, taking care of her children, welcoming her husband back home when he got back late at night after months away, smelling of sweat and dirt and the unfamiliar world of men and big guns. Life was good. Anyway, she was busy.
Every now and then the Spring winds would blow and she would feel restless for a moment, remembering those heady girlish days, some crazy midnight escapade. But in those days life moved at a slower pace. The outside world didn't press in so insistently from every conceivable angle: the 24/7 news cycle, the Internet, cable TV, movies on demand. The world was immediate, limited to what was around you: your family. Your neighbors, friends, perhaps a trip to the mall on Sunday or a leisurely drive down to the city to see what the Other Half were up to, what you might aspire to if you worked hard enough and were patient and diligent.
In such a world, the actions of one person had a limited effect on others because communication was slower, more limited, less instant. Now Britney Spears bares her privates and half the world instantly has access to live Britney-cam. Do we really need to see this? To discuss it? To blame Britney for giving us what we so desperately want?
Because that is what bothers me so much about Kay Hymowitz's essay.
Like my friend under the stars that night, for months I have listened to conservatives berate women young and old for exercising their newfound sexual freedoms, for doing what good old mother nature programmed them to do: seduce men who like to look at pretty, half-clothed women. I listen to them hypothesize that young women who play the field (as young men have done for centuries) are, by definition, "low in self esteem". No one ever seems to worry about the self esteem of the young men they sleep with - multiple conquests being an esteem-enhancing thing for men, you see. I hear them weep and wail over the shameless dress of today's women, yet don't you dare suggest that advertising, or cable TV pornography, or any of the myriad cultural influences one might logically expect (and show marked correlation over time with the rise of such behaviors) have anything to do with such phenomena. Apparently young women dream these things up on their own from some natural desire (heretofore undiscovered) to impress other women, who for some odd reason must be titillated by fake DD breasts and skimpy clothing. The same people who shake their heads at Britney will scream like banshees at the mere suggestion that perhaps - just perhaps - their disapprobation might be equally well trained on the hordes of men who flocked like lemmings to leer at her.
Why on earth do they think she did what she did? This is, after all, a two-sided coin. Why I wonder, is the age-old answer, whether you are a conservative American from the National Review or a Muslim scholar from Islamabad to tell women we have "seen enough" of them? Does it never occur to these people that if flashing her privates were truly considered a shameful act, she would not have done it; that if she'd garned no attention for exposing herself, there would have been no reason to go there? That society sees nothing really wrong with what she did, though we don't want our family, our daughters to do it. But the same man who would punch you right in the mouth for looking sideways at his daughter doesn't think twice about looking up Britney's beaver shot. Offensive, isn't it?
The truth is, Britney gave America what we wanted to see and in classic American style, we despise her - and ourselves - for it. Like my friend on the green that night, we don't really respect women who give too freely of themselves, but we reward them anyway because they give us exactly what we want to see. And the really despicable thing is this: we tell ourselves that men are just being men. That they're programmed by nature to enjoy looking at women. And this is true.
But there is a darker truth we don't really want to face. We women are programmed by nature too: the Madonna-whore complex wasn't made up from whole cloth. Except it's not really an either-or proposition.
Not long ago I found myself again fighting back tears of fury after reading the comments over at Ace of Spades. I can't remember the post. I liked what Ace wrote, but then I often find him to be unusually, incisively, even bitterly thoughtful. Some of his commenters, however, made me want to scream. They are what reminded me so sharply of that young man thirty years ago on that balmy evening.
Sometimes I read remarks from married men to the effect that women stop liking or wanting sex as soon as they are married. I invariably wonder what planet they are from? To me, the glorious freedom to enjoy - nay, wallow, even - in that aspect of life in an atmosphere of trust has been the most wonderful thing about marriage. I often think such men don't really like women much, don't want to know them as people. A women doesn't want to give herself to a man unless she trusts him. I don't think most men appreciate how much, even though we may feel perfectly independent and capable in our own right, we want and need someone strong and masculine to shelter and protect us? Someone who, in turn, we would die for. Someone to "belong" to. I think this need is deeply ingrained in both sexes, albeit in very different ways, and all the modern thinking in the world can't train it out of us.
If try to ignore these needs and remove the cultural traditions developed over centuries of human experience to fulfill them, our bodies propel us in the same age old directions but this time with no purpose. Is it any wonder we end up feeling empty and betrayed?
Proof that the sex lives of college women remain an object of intense cultural fascination can be found in a book like Laura Sessions Stepp's Unhooked which documents the semi-anonymous "hooking up" that is now the norm. Stepp's intention was to study this phenomenon open-mindedly, "hoping to understand rather than intending to censure." But journalistic objectivity was soon replaced by alarm and even horror. She found girls who were "exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually" by the practice. The girls' behavior is starkly contemporary, but the adult's characterization of it -- and of the specific ways that sexuality can deplete a woman -- could have been lifted from a 19th-century tract. In placing the blame for these developments on three forces ("the ethic of female empowerment; parental expectations for academic and professional achievement; and reluctance on the part of authorities on campus to intervene in students' social lives"), Stepp occupies the squishy middle ground where many progressive women unhappily find themselves: Yes, yes, yes to female freedom and empowerment, but Jesus Christ, why are these girls giving blow jobs to guys they hardly know?
She pulls herself together long enough to conclude the book with a "Dear Daughters" letter. It's the kind of "sex is a beautiful thing, when it's between two loving people" lecture that has been making young girls want to jump out of the nearest window from sheer embarrassment since the early 1970s. (My lecture arrived, in my mother's Palmer Method handwriting, on my bedside table midway through 12th grade, and the extent to which it mortified me -- my mother was a nurse and knew how to draw a fairly precise medical illustration -- cannot be overstated.)
I'm sure that lectures from Mom on how to have super great sex don't always fall on deaf ears. But Mom's voice becomes a distant whisper once a young woman arrives at college, where she will no longer be regarded as a cosseted girl-child in need of protection and limit setting. It is impossible to imagine nonreligious colleges involving themselves in the kind of sexual decision making that concerns Stepp, because to be an undergraduate today is to be treated as a fully independent adult, as even a cursory glance at the admissions materials of most schools demonstrates. (I would never have attended a college that monitored my sleeping arrangements; like most of my friends in the women's dorm, I often spent the night at a boyfriend's apartment.) Obviously, the young women Stepp describes in her book were almost all nice girls raised by nice parents in nice neighborhoods. But just as obviously, they changed in some ugly ways when left on their own. Given the coarsening of the culture, the intense peer pressure and corresponding desire to fit in that have always marked college life, and the way very young women are defined today as at once independent and exploitable, the bitter pill for many parents sending their daughters to college is that there is no possible way to protect them from what they will encounter once they have been dropped off at the freshman dorm.
That last line, the part about protecting girls, is what rankles. Why protect girls, and not boys? Do they have no needs worth protecting? And why should women need protecting from our own sexual desires? There is something a bit dishonest is this prescription, this black-and-white view of men and women. Despite my lifelong distrust of feminism, there has always been more than a grain of truth in the feminist message. It's just that like many movements, feminists only tell us half the truth
Yes, society has always tried to repress and control women. But society has always tried to channel the natural desires of men, too. As I commented long ago, society rightly fears unbridled masculinity; thumos or male aggression and adventurism. So, too, we instinctively fear and seek to limit the unrestricted hedonism and sensuality that lie in the hearts of women. We do this by cherishing and reinforcing the ideal of female purity with morality laws, church, with corsets and layers of restrictive undergarments, purity rituals, debutante balls and symbols of chastity, white wedding dresses, quinceaneros parties. When a woman marries, we bury her in yards of white organza and baby clothes and mounds of household appliances. And so we lull entire parts of her being to sleep, and then we wonder why she doesn't feel like doing the Dance of the Seven Veils after running the kids to soccer practice and cooking a three course dinner? The final insult comes when we accuse our wives of being joyless scolds who don't like sex, when inside each of them is that same young girl, dying to get out, who slipped into the back seat of that Chevrolet on a summer night years ago and made your heart explode inside your chest. She never went away.
You just stopped calling her name.
We can't protect our girls against their natural desires any more than we can protect our boys and it is insulting to them to try. We would do better to recognize that they are driven by ancient forces no less powerful than those which drive our sons. A better response is to teach both our sons and our daughters to couple their desires to moral ends; that sex is fun, but it is even richer and better when there is love and trust and commitment between two people. That like anything else in life, you get out of your sex life what you put into it - perhaps if you're bored, you're not working hard enough. That if you cherish her, she will do anything for you. That it is wrong to bring an innocent child into the world without two loving, committed parents. That sex and feelings cannot always be divorced from each other, even for young men.
We would do better to teach our young that we open Pandora' box when we think we can do whatever we please with no rules. There have always been rules and there have always been consequences. Adults know this. And adults know that the rules apply to both sides and not just to women.
Looking at the clash between Islam and the free West, it is not hard to see why the jihadists fear unrestrained democracy. We are rapidly dismantling age old human institutions with nothing to replace them. They rightly wonder what will become of society when the stabilizing forces of marriage, of religion, of public morality, of respect for law and civil authority are gone and there is nothing to restrain our darker natures?
I'm going on vacation, and while I'm gone, A&C will be graced with several lovely guest bloggers.
See you in a week.
By NAZILA FATHI
TEHRAN, April 18 — The Iranian Supreme Court has overturned the murder convictions of six members of a prestigious state militia who killed five people they considered “morally corrupt.”
The reversal, in an infamous five-year-old case from Kerman, in central Iran, has produced anger and controversy, with lawyers calling it corrupt and newspapers giving it prominence.
“The psychological consequences of this case in the city have been great, and a lot of people have lost their confidence in the judicial system,” Nemat Ahmadi, a lawyer associated with the case, said in a telephone interview.
Three lower court rulings found all the men guilty of murder. Their cases had been appealed to the Supreme Court, which overturned the guilty verdicts. The latest decision, made public this week, reaffirms that reversal.
“The objection by the relatives of the victims is dismissed, and the ruling of this court is confirmed,” the court said in a one-page verdict.
The ruling may still not be final, however, because a lower court in Kerman can appeal the decision to the full membership of the Supreme Court. More than 50 Supreme Court judges would then take part in the final decision.
According to the Supreme Court’s earlier decision, the killers, who are members of the Basiji Force, volunteer vigilantes favored by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, considered their victims morally corrupt and, according to Islamic teachings and Iran’s Islamic penal code, their blood could therefore be shed.
The last victims, for example, were a young couple engaged to be married who the killers claimed were walking together in public.
Via The Corner
For one day only, today, Amazon has the
entire seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on sale for $98.99
A bit of humour for the afternoon:
So I went looking for Malaysian Cookbooks, and look what I found!
And then I took a detour off to one of my favourites -- Middle Eastern and Mediterranean:
Now, which one do I get first?!?! If only I had a few hundred bucks lying around! Yes, I have a cookbook addiction.
Thoughts on the Stargate finale in the extended entry.
I know there's going to be two movies, but this all seemed like 'The End'. I got way more emotional than I expected. Starting with the destruction of the Asgard, which really upset me, especially that Jack wasn't there. By the time we got to the last scene, I was crying. Oh, and I hated Daniel for how he treated Vala -- it really seemed so OOC. Daniel has never been a favourite of mine, but even I expected better from him than how he acted. and now, it's all over, except for a few straight to DVD movies [sigh] all that's left is Atlantis, which while I enjoy it, isn't SG1 and doesn't have that place in my fangirl heart.
Been watching Dresden Files and Blood Ties. A little discussion about both series, and the Blood Ties books in the extended entry.
First off, I always thought her name was 'Agent Mai' not 'Ancient Mai'! But how awesome was it that she was a dragon?! Squeee! I really enjoyed this episode. And the episode prior with his rat bastard uncle. Dang, Harry's been through a lot! But Bob, I love Bob [sniff] I think this has to be one of my favourite new shows! I can't believe it's already all over for the season.
As for the books, I haven't read any yet, but I'm thinking of trying to get through a few while I'm on vacation.
Which brings us to Blood Ties. I'm on the fourth book in the series, and I'm having a hard time sustaining interest. I know the series has a lot of fans amongst my friends, but honestly, if I hadn't been loaned all of them, I'm not sure I would have gone on past the second one. I don't read a lot of vampire fiction, and when I do read books in that genre, I'm looking for a more... erotic sort of read, I guess. And the books just don't push any of those sorts of buttons for me. I don't care whether Vicki is with Henry or Mike. and I actually find Mike more attractive than Henry -- what's with that? [g]
At the end of the incubus episode, I really did enjoy the interchange between Henry and the Incubus. Very amusing! But I thought the fighting over Vicki thing between Henry and Mike a little over the top. Actually, it's a little much in most of the episodes I've seen so far.
A happy belated Easter to you all. I hope everyone had a great weekend!
Holidays are the times I really do miss my family since they've moved out of state. Keep reminding myself that this time two weeks from now, I'll be seeing them all.
Nin and I had a very non traditional Easter dinner -- Thai food. We went to Cost Plus to get a single bottle of Torani Raspberry Syrup (for Raz Mojitos), and came out with an overflowing cartload of stuff. Fugitive Jen, on Friday, had been talking about a brand of Thai seasoning she'd just bought and how it tasted as good as what she ate out. Lo and behold, they had it at CP. Now, I have very little experience with Thai, and have never had Pad Thai, but that's what we had. Along with Miso Soup and Sake. It was okay, but not anything I'd have again, which is pretty much what I've said the few times I've had Thai food before. I think I've finally realized what it is though -- it's too 'sweet' tasting. I don't like food that's sweet, unless it's dessert. I think I'll stick with Malaysian, Japanese, and Chinese Schezwan style.
I was also able to get two kick ass canisters for my flour and sugar -- on clearance no less! I've needed decent ones since we moved in here, and these will most definitely keep my sugar from crusting up and clumping in the damp! And they're huge! Which means being able to keep a full bag in the canister. Yes, anything to do with my kitchen and cooking fills me with glee! You should see me fondle my one good knife! You should see the Amazon Wishlist I keep just for house and home type stuff.
So yes, we were at Cost Plus, and got Thai stuff, Miso, Udon Noodles, a case of mixed wine since they had an awesome sale on, and I was able to finish off my Japanese tableware set. I now have a four place setting, as opposed to two. Then we went to Tarjay aka Target, so Nin could get storage containers. Wait for it .... she's actually cleaning her room!!! You can now see the floor!! Celebration! So I think she deserved the three margaritas, and the chocolate chip cookies I made her [g]
Sorry, but I had to put it back on. Just the two days it was off, I was once again drowning in spam. And no, the comments still aren't working properly. To comment, after you'd logged in to Typekey, you have to exit the blog entirely and then come back and comment. Otherwise you get trapped in a loop that keeps telling you you need to register.
I apologize for the inconvenience. Maybe if Six Apart ever makes MT a decent piece of software again, an upgrade will fix the problem. But considering what a piece of crap it is now, I'm not hopeful.
I thought that, for Tartan Day, I'd share one of my favourite recipes:
4 chicken breasts, skinned and boned
2 or 3 tablespoons of Drambuie
8 tablespoons (4 fluid ounces or 125ml or US half cup) chicken stock
8 fluid ounces (250ml or one US cup) double cream (whipping cream)
3 ounces (125g or 3/4 stick) butter
1 ounce (25 g) flaked almonds
A little flour, salt and pepper
Flour and season the chicken breasts and fry in hot butter in both sides. When they are well browned, sprinkle with Drambuie, add the chicken stock, cover and simmer for ten minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, peel and core the apples. Cut them into thick slices and cook gently in butter until fairly soft - do not stir to avoid mashing. Remove the chicken to a serving dish, when ready, and keep warm in the oven.
Make the sauce by adding more Drambuie, if required, to the stock left in the pan and gently stir in the cream. Heat but do not boil. Add the roasted flaked almonds. Cover the chicken with this sauce and garnish with the sliced apple.
Scots Wha Hae!
Welcome to Tartan Day 2007 and the Fourth Annual Gathering of the Blogs.
On the blogroll below are the participants in this year's Gathering. You will find a bounty of Scots related posts on their blogs. So feel free to explore what we have to offer for this year's Tartan Day celebration!
House M.D. this week was truly an amazing episode. It made me cry. The most powerful moment being the baby being operated on in his mom's uterus, reaching out to grasp House's finger.
If you didn't see it, there's an article and a vid link here.
A trailer for the new Tolkien novel, The Children of Hurin.
It's on my Wish List!
Well, aparrently comments still aren't working properly. So, just for today, I've switched the blog to open commenting for the virtual book tour.
I'll switch it back tomorrow.
Today is the day that the virtual book tour for Synergy makes a stop here at A&C. Authour M. D. Benoit will be here most of the day to answer your questions in general, and more specifically on the theme of this stop on the tour:
There are three themes that appear in Synergy, two of which pretty much crop up in all my writing. The themes are water, time, and, in Synergy’s case bioethics.
Water. I was raised around water: my hometown has a river running through it (wasn’t that a movie title?) and as a child I spent my summers at the lake. As we step into this new millennium, scientists are already talking about water shortages, droughts and riots for the near future. We take water for granted. In Synergy, the world is slowly coming out of a global thirty-year drought; the villain (yes, there is one) is obsessed with owning his own desalination water plants, which will allow him to control a great portion of the world. The city —the Greater Ottawa Metropolis —is under a melting heat wave. Growing gardens is an anathema since it wastes precious water, yet Laslo Radic, the man who is the catalyst for the story, has a small garden outside his office window as a sign of his economic and social status. Like time, water flows through the story.
Time. This book came to life in part because of my own collision with time. There I was, minding my own, when all of a sudden, smack. Time hit me in the face and showed me how fast it was going while, in my head at least, I thought it stood still. Time can be as insubstantial or as concrete as water. It trickles, flows, rushes, freezes. Time surrounds us, carries us, runs through us. We can’t rewind it, or speed it up. In Synergy my two main characters, Torver Lockwood and Demetria Greyson, defy time each in their own unique way. Torver travels people’s lifepaths, sees into their past, and uses their deepest secrets. Demetria has visions of the future. Together, their synergy will allow them to manipulate the silver thread of their lifepaths to find the cure for a deadly disease.
Bioethics. Synergy is the first of three novels that explores ethics in science, and specifically ethics in genetic engineering. In 2096, people own their genetic code, and it is illegal to perform human genetic research without government approval. Yet, strange mutations are cropping up at an alarming rate. One of them threatens the life of Laslo Radic’s child. Defying the law, he hires Torver Lockwood and Demetria Greyson to find a cure before the disease kills his son. When Torver finds the solution, he realizes that his cure could also be used as a targeting genetic weapon.
Synergy asks difficult questions. Should scientist be burdened with ethical conduct? Does the acquisition of knowledge, pure or applied, justify the possible consequences and dangers inherent in advancing science? When a scientist knows in advance that his/her research results could be used in a negative way should he/she conduct the research? Who gets to decide? The scientist? The institution? Government? Philosophers and ethicists have been debating these issues for as long as science existed, and I don’t presume to answer them in Synergy, or to even offer an opinion. I hope, though, that my readers will take enough from the story to ask themselves these kinds of questions. They are important. The answers may —and probably will —affect life as we know it.
You can read the first chapter here.
Ask your questions here in the comments of this post.
I think the problems with commenting have been solved -- at least, no one's complained lately [g] If you log in to type key and it still won't let you make a comment, leave the blog entirely and then reenter, and that should solve the problem. But I'm hopeful that's no longer a problem [keeps fingers crossed] I've instituted open commenting for today.
If you're unable to comment, please email me (edithna (at) yahoo (,) com) your questions and I'll post them for you.
I hope you enjoy this day of the book tour! And thanks to M.D. for choosing A&C as one of her stops!
Hope to see you here!
I know, I know, crap like this shouldn't shock me or surprise me, and I probably shouldn't let it get to me. But that being said, this is GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! & ARHGGGG!! inducing
A school needed to put on a mock terror drill for law enforcement practice. But gee, who were the terrorists?
...The mock terror attack involved two irate men armed with handguns who invaded the high school through the front door. They pretended to shoot several students in the hallway and then barricaded themselves in the media center with 10 student hostages.
Two Burlington Township police detectives portrayed the gunmen. Investigators described them as members of a right-wing fundamentalist group called the “New Crusaders” who don't believe in separation of church and state. The mock gunmen went to the school seeking justice because the daughter of one had been expelled for praying before class.
Seen at The Corner
Just a reminder that Dominique Benoit will be here on Thursday to discuss her new novel. She'll be answering your questions in general, and on the theme of this stop on the tour, a discussion of the three main themes of the
story: time, bioethics, and water.
You can read an interview with her here.
Hope to see you here Thursday!
Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Governmentbacked study has revealed.
It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.
There is also resistance to tackling the 11th century Crusades - where Christians fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem - because lessons often contradict what is taught in local mosques.
I should be surpised, but sadly, I'm not.
We're going for a fourth year! It's a tradition now, I guess.
If you want to participate in this year's Gathering of the Blogs, subscribe yourself here. You DO NOT NEED a Yahoo account. The only thing I'm using this for is to organize all the participants in a way as to create less work and confusion. If you're totally Yahoo phobic, then send me an email, or leave a comment, and I'll do all the work of subbing you. My email is edithna AT yahoo (.) com . It is set to announce only. You will get no more mail than if I emailed you directly. Again, this isn't an email list for people to post to. So if you're worried about getting a ton of unwanted email, please don't. The only email you'll get will be from me with what you need come Tartan Day. You will also have access to Tartan Day buttons and banners, and the blogrolling code. Of course, you're more than welcome to create your own. If, after all that, you still don't want to be on the official list, you can email me and ask to be added to the blogroll. However, any updates and such, you'll have to keep an eye on this blog for as you won't receive email updates.
As Tartan Day approaches, Tartan Day participants are encouraged (but not required) to start making Scottish related posts on their blogs, and put up the Tartan Day blog roll (Many of us keep the blogroll up all year, and you're welcome to as well). On Tartan Day itself (April 6), all participants will have a Tartan Day/Scottish related post up on their blog, and the blogroll. If for some reason you're unable to put up the blogroll of participants, please link back to the post I'll put up on Tartan Day with the blogroll.
We had a lot of fun the last few times, and I hope we will double the fun this year!
Your contribution on Tartan Day can be anything from a photo, a recipe, a bit about your Scots ancestry, or some Scottish activity or food you're fond of. It can even be a link to an article about Scottish history, travel, or culture. Basically anything that somehow has some Scottish content is cool. You don't even need to have a drop of Scots blood -- we're big on adoption :)
So sharpen those Claymores, tie up your dancing shoes, and warm up those pipes!
For the current 2007 list of participants, see below!