the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, April 05, 2003  

Quick Picks, the 2nd:

Go read the latest Bitter Shack of Resentment archive, all the way from the Iraqi father and daughter at the top, through the Procter & Gamble information, to the end where she discusses the increase in soldiers seeking infromation on being conscientious objectors.

The tremendous BuzzFlash brings us links to stories on an army chaplain blackmailing soldiers into baptism, House Judiciary Committee finally gets around to wondering how the Patriot Act is being implemented, Republicans would like to ease uranium export restrictions and think that NYC police and firefighters shouldn't get overtime, and reader commentary on the blood money that will be made off this war.

Said on The Other America

A UN envoy on the potential for war with N. Korea.

"Turkey has voted not to allow U.S. troops into their country and Saddam Hussein said 'You can do that?'" - Jay Leno

posted by Natasha at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK |

Quick Picks:

Steve Gilliard subbing at Daily Kos says this war won't be over for a while. And he makes a good case.

TBogg talks about what Republican congressmen get up to in bars. Not pretty. If the link doesn't work, go to the homepage, where as of now it's the top post.

Lean Left points out that the GOP is blocking funds for port safety. Way to secure that homeland, guys.

"In a speech earlier today President Bush said if Iraq gets rid of Saddam Hussein, he will help the Iraqi people with food, medicine, supplies, housing, education. Anything that's needed. Isn't that amazing? He finally comes up with a domestic agenda, and it's for Iraq. Maybe we could bring that here if it works out." - Jay Leno

posted by Natasha at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK |

Better Dead Than Red

It was mentioned to me in an email, and I didn't have time to read it. But today, Body and Soul linked to it, and I finally went over to look. At a Guardian article about the present day consequences of Agent Orange in Vietnam. And you should go look, too. Particularly, you should remember this article when the government persistently ignores charges that depleted uranium is hazardous to the health of soldiers and noncombatants alike. In part:

...And this family is not alone. All the adults here, cycling past us or strolling along the dykes, are suffering from skin lesions and goitres that cling to necks like sagging balloons. The women spontaneously abort or give birth to genderless squabs that horrify even the most experienced midwives. In a yard, Nguyen, a neighbour's child, stares into space. He has a hydrocephalic head as large as a melon. Two houses down, Tan has distended eyes that bubble from his face. By the river, Ngoc is sleeping, so wan he resembles a pressed flower. "They told me the boy is depressed," his exhausted father tells us. "Of course he's depressed. He lives with disease and death."

This is not a specially constructed ghetto used to wage a propaganda war against imperialism. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has long embraced the free market. This is an ordinary hamlet where, in these new liberal times, villagers like to argue about the English Premiership football results over a glass of home-brewed rice beer. Here live three generations affected by Agent Orange: veterans who were sprayed during the war and their successors who inherited the contamination or who still farm on land that was sprayed. Vietnam's impoverished scientific community is now trying to determine if there will be a fourth generation. "How long will this go on?" asks Dr Tran Manh Hung, the ministry of health's leading researcher.

Dr Hung is now working with a team of Canadian environmental scientists, Hatfield Consultants, and they have made an alarming discovery. In the Aluoi Valley, adjacent to the Ho Chi Minh trail, once home to three US Special Forces bases, a region where Agent Orange was both stored and sprayed, the scientists' analysis has shown that, rather than naturally disperse, the dioxin has remained in the ground in concentrations 100 times above the safety levels for agricultural land in Canada. It has spread into Aluoi's ponds, rivers and irrigation supplies, from where it has passed into the food chain, through fish and freshwater shellfish, chicken and ducks that store TCCD in fatty tissue. Samples of human blood and breast milk reveal that villagers have ingested the invisible toxin and that pregnant women pass it through the placenta to the foetus and then through their breast milk, doubly infecting newborn babies. Is it, then, a coincidence that in this minuscule region of Vietnam, more than 15,000 children and adults have already been registered as suffering from the usual array of chronic conditions? ...

The US government sprayed it, and they knew what they were doing. They promised to stop using chemical weapons, and they kept going. Millions of Vietnamese are already dead from this poison, over a million more are now seriously damaged by it. But there will probably never be a war crimes trial for any of the individuals responsible for poisoning the genome of so many Vietnamese, for saturating their best land and reservoirs with it. Because war crimes are only committed by other countries, or something like that.

And in a final fit of irony, the sick among the Vietnamese are less than ciphers to a US government that to this day continues to look for the bodies of dead Americans. Just as, immediately after the war, the starving there didn't matter more than these dead Americans. And perversely, those dead Americans received more attention than the living American veterans who were sick and dying from being doused during their tours of duty. More attention than the sick or deformed children they had when they came home.

The US government wants marble monuments to the glory of the republic. The hallowed tombs of the heroic war dead. I guess a hydroencephalic child just doesn't fit the image they're going for. An ex-veteran that has the ill grace to waste away of cancer instead of being cut down in his idyllic prime by a hail of bullets doesn't pass PR muster.

Is this blaming America first? I don't know, and I don't care. Who else is there to blame? Did our communist rivals in Russia or China trick us into doing it? Did the Vietnamese impersonate our pilots and do it to themselves in some kind of insane propaganda maneuver? Was the fight against communism so important that we had to shake our fist at the rest of the world and say that we'll gladly poison as many people as it takes to stop it? I wouldn't be surprised if parents in Vietnam scare their children into behaving by telling them that the Americans will come to get them.

Everytime I read about things that were done in the name of the Cold War, my mind returns to the phrase "Better dead than Red." It's a phrase straight out of the Inquisition. And the US made it come true more than a million times over.

Go read the rest of the article.

posted by Natasha at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK |

Media Notes

Both Digby and Seeing the Forest point to a new LA Times poll that shows that over 75% Americans now think this war is justified. And Dave wonders how it is possible for close to 80% of the public to believe that Iraq has close connections to Al Quaeda and that 60% believe that they had something to do with 9/11 despite the lack of any proof.

Where are people getting their information? I think historians will see this as an important story. Democracy relies on the informed consent of the citizens. If the citizens are this badly informed we have already lost our democracy and the world is in great danger. The right can plant any idea into the public mind, cause an attack on any country to take their oilfields or whatever they have. I think we are in for a very rough period.

I find this poll unbelievably depressing. And it points to the sickness of the soul that fear, the constant lies and the war have instilled into our fellow citizens.

Steve Soto writes about how the media has abdicated its responsibility in educating people.

The media is definitely responsible for the current state of our ill-educated public and it has certainly been exacerbated by the constant gung-ho war coverage. And I'm afraid that it will only get worse.

This week's NOW program covered the proposed FCC change that would allow even more consolidation of the media into fewer hands. The final ruling will be made June 2nd. There is a wealth of information on NOW's page including where to go to make comments and how to find out where public hearings will be held. If there is one in your area, please go and let them know you don't agree with this change. We can't afford to have a media that is even worse than what we already have.

I guess that means I missed one item on my proposed agenda. We really do have our hands full trying to hold back the juggernaut.

posted by Mary at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK |

Thoughts on fighting back

If you are following the news lately, it seems like the gang in the White House is going absolutely bonkers. Digby has several really good essays about their latest endeavors (here, here and here [guest post by Thumb]). Everyday it seems like I find myself waking up in a world envisioned by Kafka wondering when the nightmare will stop. How do we stop them? What should we do to get some control over the agenda again? Here is the list of things I think we need to focus on:

1) stop any future invasions

2) stand up to the bullies and back our leaders when they stand up to the bullies

3) elect a sane person to the White House

4) reconnect Americans to their humanity

What is missing from this list? And how do we go about executing this agenda? John Kerry's standing up to the intimidation of the right wing seems to be a good example to applaud. I suggest we write letters to our local papers about how we appreciate his standing up for our right to express dissent even during wartime and are proud of his courageous stand.

Today I had a chance to read my copy of the American Prospect while riding on the bus. Robert Kuttner's article Beyond Left and Right was especially good, but it's not online(!) so I can't just provide a link. Kuttner says that the belief that Americans are turned off by the bickering of the left and right is off the mark and has been very detrimental to the liberal agenda. He talks about how it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no "radical center" when the two sides are the liberal side which tries to accommodate alternate viewpoints and the radical right side which refuses to compromise on anything. He says it is a fools' game to think that you can keep moving to the right when the right just keeps moving the goal until there is nothing left of an agenda that works for people. Yesterday on a dKos thread, galiel said very much the same thing:

For a long time, I bought into the argument that there is a kind of balance, a "moral equivalence", to use a hated term, between the right and the left, between conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats. For every nut on the right, so the logic went, there is an equal opposing nut on the left.

I also, almost, bought into the touchy-feely, male-drumming-circle Politically Correct idea that one must be tolerant, even of the most intolerant, and that there are no bad people, just misunderstood ones who weren't loved as children.

You know what? At 42, with an atypically diverse and broad life experience, I have learned that:

The world is not divided into left and right. It is divided into reason and unreason, critical thinking and blind faith, tolerance and inclusion on the one hand, and hatred and fear on the other. The enemy is not this or that political corner; the enemy is ignorance and dogma.

People who spread hate, and who live to dominate and who feel they can only "win" if someone else loses, are just plain bad for society.

Whether it is circumstantial or fundamental, the fact is that, at this moment in history, in the United States, the fearmongers, haters and dogmatic zealots dominate at virtually every level. That is a bad, bad thing for society. And you can't slough it off by trying to paint people who preach tolerance, cooperation and constructive, multilateral engagement as "merely" the other side of the seesaw.

As the tongue-in-cheek bumper sticker says, "Mean people suck". People like PY and Bag Dad are bullies, who get off on trying to demean others. Well, I for one am in no mood to indulge their violent sexual fantasies just to be "tolerant". To acutely paraphrase Barry Goldwater (who, incidentally, warned most vociferously, consitently and presciently about the danger of the ultra-right-fundie hijacking of the conservative movement), "intolerance of intolerance is no vice."

It is very important that we understand this because the radicals are playing for keeps. And I don't think I want to live in the world they create. So we really need to find ways to fight their negative agenda in order to create a world that is healthy for people.

PS: As a volunteer reporter for the Political State Report, I've been feeling guilty that I hadn't posted anything lately. So tonight I assuaged my guilt by posting an entry on the continuing saga of Oregon, Enron, PGE and the state of deregulation.

Update: it looks like Natasha and I both found the same good stuff on Digby's blog, including Thumb's great post on why Bush is a serial bully.

posted by Mary at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK |

Notable Posts:

Digby is hosting a guest column by Thumb, on dangerous people. It begins:

Throughout the 90's we employed anywhere from 6-15 people at any given time. Of all the destructive traits we had to contend with the sociopath was both the most destructive and the most difficult problem employee to identify. After several near ruinous encounters with this type of employee I developed a simple test; if someone made me psycho, they were a psychopath. On the small scale that is our company this has worked fine for years but now I find this same curious effect occurring with our present administration; they're making me psycho...

And it just gets better. Also, as is typical of Digby, scroll up, scroll down, good posts all around. He sends Godwin's Law packing up above, and responds to the 'punch them in the nose' school of dealing with protestors below.

Atrios outlines the failures of the media who seem to be collectively rubbing their eyes and blinking, as though they'd been napping when Powell brought trumped up evidence before the entire world at the UN, or when it became obvious that there was no Iraq-Al Qaida link, or when it became clear that the public was entirely misled about the nationality of the 9-11 hijackers. *Now* they start to get cold feet? Now!?

Alas, A Blog on how we talk about women in combat, and as casualties. Some great points, and a link to a good Mac Diva article at Silver Rights on the topic of how minority soldiers are being ignored in favor of 'conventionally attractive'* POWs that the media feels it can really get behind. Below that, a response, to a response, to a rejoinder, to which I haven't had time to reply.

Ruminate This talks about the Baghdad Marketplace Bombing. Yes, it was ours. There's also a link to a report in, of course, a foreign paper about the civilians killed at that checkpoint.

Body and Soul has a must-read on how pretty pictures can get people killed in Iraq, if they haven't already, and why military and humanitarian operations should not be mixed. (Go to the Body and Soul homepage if the link doesn't work.) Also, Jeanne directs us to this Stout Dem post which explores the irony and tragedy of reporter Michael Kelly getting killed in Iraq on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

Talk Left has a very important post about a very important, which is to say a very dangerous, bill that you should write your Senators about. It's called the Feeney amendment, and it would allow federal prosecutors more sentencing discretion than judges, and disastrously strengthen sentencing guidelines across the board. Including the punitive and ineffectual 'three-strikes' laws.

* Is there a better way to use the term conventionally attractive in this context that manages to show both recognition of a presiding social meme, and a certain disdain for it? I don't know, but that's what I was aiming for.

posted by Natasha at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK |

Friday, April 04, 2003  

Go read Estimated Prophet today. There was a particular post I wanted to link to, but they don't all seem to be working, plus there are several good posts. He even talks about the Freeping of polls (you know, those internet polls that get repeated on television like they're the Word of God), and if you're not sure what Freeping is, you should definitely go find out.

posted by Natasha at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK |

Drive By Rambling

So, last night I've got the news on (which I haven't much lately) and I'm sitting at the kitchen table doing my homework. And I hear that Aaron Brown is talking to a female correspondent (didn't catch the name) about the death of the protest movement, particularly in San Francisco. She was talking about the dwindling numbers of protestors, and that anymore, people only see pro-troop rallies. Then I hear, loosely, this:

Many people in San Francisco are really turned off by the demonstrators, particularly when they carry signs that say [and this is a direct quote] "We support our troops when they shoot their officers."

At this point, the little hamster wheel in my head came to a screeching halt. First, that there's some moronic jackass out there that would a) think that, and b) carry a sign like that to a *peace* protest. WTF!? Second, were all the demonstrators carrying those signs? I'd venture to guess that the answer is no. There may have been 10 signs saying "Support the troops, bring them home," but this doesn't make good copy.

Third, how does she know what people in San Francisco think? Did that one sign make it on all the local news coverage, directly dampening turnout? Did they do a poll? Not a push poll like "What do you think of protestors that carry signs suggesting that the troops shoot their officers", but a real one like, "What opinion do you have of the protestors." And the idea was never brought up that perhaps, after months of tireless organizing and marching, people can't march all day, every day. Some of us have lives.

But now, that one silly thing will be the defining example of protests in San Francisco to a bunch of people who may never have even met anyone who knows anything about it.

Then this morning, I woke up and realized about half an hour after getting up that in fact, we hadn't declared war on North Korea last night. It was just one of those fitful dreams you have when you wake up barely enough to turn off the alarm clock and resume sleeping in. Personally, I blame Atrios. Last night, I visited Eschaton and saw this post just before going to bed.

I had dreamed (it's fuzzy now) that I was watching a talking head show where the situation in Iraq was being discussed, and one of the commentators interjected that "Well, we're also at war with North Korea now." And thank god, too. Because I think the residual horror actually woke me up. I'm now afraid *in my sleep* that my pleasant Seattle suburb will be obliterated by a nuclear strike from North Korea.

posted by Natasha at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, April 03, 2003  

Greek words and wisdom

One of the things that strikes me about these times is the number of Greek words and mythological characters that seem to be useful as analogies for describing the world today. As such, I thought it might be good to have a review of the words or mythological figures that I've seen used and how these terms can elicit a better understanding of these times.

Cassandra: Cassandra, daughter of Priam and Hecuba of Troy, was Agamemnon's war prize whom he brought back home with him. Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy by Apollo in exchange for her favors, but when Cassandra reneged, he punished her by letting her keep the gift, but preventing anyone from believing her. The utterances of Cassandra were thought the ravings of a mad woman.

Having watched the approach of this war and predicting the utter insanity of trusting this President with conducting that war, I know I feel very much like a Cassandra. And I know a number of others feel the same.

Hubris: excess pride or arrogance, usually leading to ruin (a serious flaw in Greek heroes); excess of pride which shows disrespect for gods and man

This word seems to encompass so much of this administration that it is hard to point to one instance that is better than another. Perhaps it would be best to just point out that Perle continues to be an outstanding example of a person who displays excessive pride and arrogance.

Pandora's box: According to the legend, Pandora was created by Jupiter to take revenge on Prometheus for having stolen fire and giving it to humans. Her fate was to be too curious which led her to open a box that had been filled with every disease, sorrow, vice and crime that mankind knows. The only saving grace was that other gods added Hope to the box in order to make the rest bearable for humans.

This Iraqi war has indeed cast us into an unknown, but frightening future and Bush's decision can be said to have opened Pandora's box. I find hope during these times in the kindnesses and wisdom of people who refuse to give into the negative energy and who continue to find a way to help the rest of us fight for a more humane and rational country and world.

Pyrrhic victory: a victory won at excessive cost.

The aftermath of this war seems likely to show us the truth of this phrase. It is hard to see how any of the post-war plans devised by the gang in power will lead to anything more than a very nasty situation. In the early 20th century, Britain planned to "bring democracy" to Iraq and their time there should be a cautionary tale for us. And we do not know yet whether the battle for Baghdad will make the victory itself pyrrhic.

the Furies: classical play by Aeschylus. The sins of the parent rest on the head of the child, who seeks vengeance and expiation. First part of the Orestian trilogy, considered the height of Greek tragedy.

Sounds like the treadmill we are on now. Each act of vengeance leads to the next response. We seem to be following the path of creating our own hell like that found in the Palestine vs. Israel tit-for-tat. And today it is hard to see when we will be able to escape the Furies we have awoken.

Our language has been so distorted by the lies that have been told, that it becomes necessary to find words that describe the reality we perceive. These Greek words and legends tap into the most human themes and we can use them to reclaim the truth.

posted by Mary at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK |

Quick Picks

A former officer weighs in on women in combat, whom he judges to have earned the right to be there, and acquitted themselves well.

The Onion gives us I Should Not Be Allowed To Say The Following Things About America.

Mark Morford thinks that a little more sodomy would do this country a world of good. Also, he uses the following line in the article, which alone is a good enough reason to read it: "Of course, we're all going to Hell. Alas."

posted by Natasha at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK |


It appears the injuries to Pfc. Jessica Lynch previously reported may have been greatly exaggerated. Accounts from her family do not match those published in the Washington Post. My blogfather, Atrios, has the dirt. I noticed the golly-whiz tone of the story, but did not even suspect the reporter might knowlingly misrepresent the facts.

posted by J. at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK |

Post reports Lynch was a combatant

The Washington Post describes Pfc. Jessica Lynch's participation in the March 23 shoot-out with Iraqi irregulars in Nasiriyah:

Pfc. Jessica Lynch, rescued Tuesday from an Iraqi hospital, fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition, U.S. officials said yesterday.

Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk, continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting March 23, one official said. The ambush took place after a 507th convoy, supporting the advancing 3rd Infantry Division, took a wrong turn near the southern city of Nasiriyah.

"She was fighting to the death," the official said. "She did not want to be taken alive."

In addition, the story says Lynch was stabbed in close combat, which could explain the bloody apparel allegedly found in an Iraqi hospital room. There is no mention of Lynch having been tortured by the Iraqis, though that claim has been made previously. The account implies there wasn't really a fight inside the hospital and that only the basement contained military materiel, including items that could be used for torture.

"There was shooting going in, there was some shooting going out," said one military officer briefed on the operation. "It was not intensive. There was no shooting in the building, but it was hairy, because no one knew what to expect. When they got inside, I don't think there was any resistance. It was fairly abandoned."

The implications of Pfc. Lynch having fought back are intriguing, if this report is accurate. The anti-feminist argument that women are incapable of participating in battle is undermined. The 'girlifying' of the soldier that some in the media have questioned, i.e., portraying her as a little girl lost, also takes a hit.

However, murkiness remains. The story has an unquestioning tone, echoing military brass. Though much is made of the successful rescue, no mention is made of the previous failed attempt. Nor is any reason offered for the military expending so much time, expense and so many personnel, with several killed, to rescue one soldier while others languish.

posted by J. at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK |

How Dare You Say 'I Told You So'

Much earlier last century, conservatives thought that the New Deal would end American prosperity forever. All during the Cold War, they said that we would eventually have to invade Russia, and had to be held back like rabid dogs. Only about a decade ago, they thought that the Clinton budget would plunge our economy into (if you can imagine) even worse economic times than we were subject to under his conservative predecessors. And they said that social problems like crime and drugs were caused by the decay of morality, but it turns out that they responded pretty well to an abundance of jobs.

Only a couple years ago, Dick Cheney got up in front of the nation to say that California should quit bellyaching about being robbed blind during the wholly manufactured energy crisis, and forget about all this conservation nonsense. In case we'd been too distracted by the war to remember, that 'energy crisis' was the first big economic domino to come crashing down in a state that all by itself is the sixth biggest economy in the world. All those damn, snooty, California people getting taken down a peg or two. No more business trips, lavish parties, and big contracts for them. Think that caused any problems for the rest of the country?

Even more recently, they were all saying that the war would be pretty easy, fairly consequence free. They'll surrender in droves, they said. (We can still hope that's right, but...)

Do these people ever tire of being so badly wrong that it hurts to watch?

But here's the thing, if we liberals are so crass as to point out that they were wrong, why then, we must hate America and want it to fail. This may be simple jealousy over an abyssmal lack of 'told you so' moments, but for some reason, people still take their pronouncements seriously. Listen to Kristol going off, courtesy of Tapped:

...I'm talking about comments during the conduct of the war by serious Democratic politicians, including Mr. Rangel, by The New York Times editorial page, major leaders, opinion leaders of the American left which I believe reflect a deep desire to see George Bush and Don Rumsfeld embarrassed, and such a deep desire that they would like to see American setbacks in the war to vindicate their position...

You know what this is like saying? This is like when you're a kid, and your parents tell you not to put your hand on the stove, don't put your hand on the stove, ...g*dd*mmit, don't touch that! And then you touch it, and when you pull your hand away, you blame your singed little fingers on the person who told you not to do it in the first place. They must have *wanted* you to get burned.

And why, you might ask, do they think we want America to fail? Maybe this is just another instance of their projection complex. When Clinton was in office, they would have rather seen the whole national economy crash and burn than admit that his budget plan worked. Therefore, we must want the same thing now that their guy is in. Even though he's causing the economy to crash and burn just fine on his own. But more than that, they really don't seem to think of us as Americans.

They say we're traitors, fifth columnists, backstabbers, we hate our troops, and we should all be beaten or shot until we get the message. Well to that, I can only say that there is no group in America right now doing more harm to our economy, our troops, and our formerly good international relations than the Republicans currently in office. I've always just put this down to their being chronically misled, but maybe that projection complex is operating again?

Plucky Punk says: "Just because you're the president, and you can order a bunch of men and women to go and die for your personal gain, doesn't mean you should. I oppose the war the administration has started, not the mostly working-class men and women they are using as pawns and then refusing to take care of when they are sick and old." Boy that just seethes with hatred of America.

This is Max Sawicky: "...My response to the "now that we're in, let's hope for a quick and painless victory" is fat chance. "Victory" is nearly a non sequitur, since we are defining victory as presiding over a grateful, liberated population. The likelihood is not victory, but destruction, followed by decades of insecurity fueled by the extremists' fair share of hundreds of millions of Muslims. My hope is for an exit, the sooner the better. I don't want the U.S. to lose, and I don't want it to win. I want it to leave. How this can happen I'm not exactly sure, but it will involve declaring some kind of victory and effecting some kind of withdrawal.

"There is no dishonor in it. Every day somebody else will die needlessly. I wonder how the family of the last person who died in Vietnam feels. I doubt that if U.S. forces pulled back to its positions of two weeks ago, the Iraqis would come storming after them. The real dishonor would be to George W. Bush. That's something I can live with..." And he had more to say, so go read the rest.

So, let's try to get this straight once more. Liberals don't want anyone else, including our troops, to die in Iraq. We want the economy back the way it was when Clinton was running it. We would like for the rest of the world to stop hating us with a burning, fiery passion. And... we told you so.

posted by Natasha at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, April 02, 2003  

Recent readings:

Better Rhetor is back and you really should read his post One War, Two Languages, One Speech.

Gary Wills discusses religion and war in America. As always with Gary Wills, he sets the context within American history and into his own deep study of religion, contrasting the use of religious language (God is on our side) to what Madison tried to institute through the First Amendment:

In Madison's major statement on the relation of church to state, the ''Memorial and Remonstrance'' of 1785, Madison condemned the use of ''religion as an engine of civil policy.'' The results of this use are ''pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both superstition, bigotry, and persecution.'' Disestablishing religion, he argued, does not demote religion but protects it from exploitation by political authority, from ''an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.''

Wills tells us about how the religious leaders backing the war have gone to great lengths to justify their support and belittle those religious leaders that speak against the war.

The priests who do not bow to the War God are, in a chaplain's words that Dreher quotes with approval, reinforcers of the notion that ''religion is for wimps, for prissy-pants, for frilly-suited morons.'' This is what used to be called ''muscular Christianity,'' and Dreher thinks it is the only authentic form of his faith.

One of the muscular Catholics* that Wills describes was talking about how the Iraqi war was a Just War in this morning's NPR commentary. His argument which I hear more and more as justification for the war (now that liberating the Iraqi's doesn't seem to be panning out as a reason) is, "...failing to defend freedom is worse.... Waiting to act after America's foes attack first is commiting suicide." Of course, since suicide is a sin according to Catholic doctrine, this is the perfect excuse.

Wills worries that this leading to some dangerous times:

One gets the uneasy feeling, listening to the president, that the role military chaplains play in Dreher's life is provided for Bush by his evangelical counselors and consolers.... His calm assurance that most of the world and much of his nation is wrong comes from an apparent certainty that is hard to justify in terms of geopolitical calculus. It helps, in making that leap, to be assured that God is on your side. One of the psychological benefits of this is that it makes one oppose with an easy conscience those who are not with us, therefore not on God's side. They are not mistaken, miscalculating, misguided or even just malevolent. They are evil. And all our opponents can be conflated under the heading of this same evil, since the devil is an equal opportunity employer of his agents.

The belief that you are doing God's work and that anyone that disagrees with you is evil is most likely leading to the increasingly threatening rhetoric Orcinus is writing about these days.

*You have to wonder whether these Catholics ever listened to the Pope. (I always thought that one of the things the conservative Catholics were most concerned about in rescuing Catholism from these decadent times was restoring the authority of the Pope.)

posted by Mary at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK |

Why Conservatives Can't Be Feminists, a rejoinder

If you follow the link above, the Insolvent Republic of Blogistan has taken issue with yesterday's post# on feminism. He says:

Natasha at the watch has a thought-provoking post up on why conservatives can't be feminists, which--if Natasha hadn't defined conservative feminism out of existence--could be seen as explicating the differences between liberal and conservative feminism, which may or may not be the same differences as those between gender and equity feminism...

...And equity feminism is often defending the rights of hookers and strippers to make money, if only because gender feminism has no interest in defending those lines of work. My main point that I would want to make to Natasha is: didn't feminism win? Isn't everybody a feminist now? Excepting those who take an overt political stance against it, of course. But isn't feminism an established part of our culture now? There should be as many feminisms as there are subsections of our culture, and I don't think you can define them into being illegitmate--they're the mutiple heirs of the feminist revolution.

Yet another attempt, it seems, to make feminism one of those liberal terms whose meaning has become so broad that it no longer has one. It's a word that brings up good connotations, so conservative women have decided to be called feminists now, too. If everything that any woman ever thinks is defined as feminism, then by definition, it doesn't need to exist as a separate category. It can be relegated to that mysterious netherworld of "what are those chicks *on* about?"

Women, if folks weren't paying attention, have a wide variety of opinions. Loads. Ideas are equal opportunity residents of human skulls, whether those skulls belong to bodies that are male or female, and with a complete disregard for creed and color. The ideas may be rational, crazy, liberal, conservative, pig ignorant, superstitious, humane, or even brilliant. This is why we define ideas by their content, and try to avoid (harder than it sounds) defining them by who holds them.

From what I know of conservative ideals about equity, if that's what you imply by equity feminism, this is restricted to equity in print. In the law book, they say, the exact same wording must apply to every individual, or else it's a case of blatant discrimination. This same argument is employed against affirmative action.

But there's a precedent that goes back to the very beginning of American jurisprudence, and it's this: Every right must have a remedy.

If you have only a theoretical right, a right that lives in a book and has no bearing on actual events, then effectively there is no right. It's like declaring that you have the right to grow wings.* This should be clear to anyone.

Before WWII, Jews were subject to merciless discrimination in US society. They were often not hired, their businesses might be avoided, and they were excluded from many groups. There was no law that said they should be treated like this, they just were. Due to outside issues, it turned out that anti-semitism became unfashionable almost by itself, though not overnight. But before that, they'd had the same 'rights' everyone else had. Those rights simply weren't honored because there was no social penalty for singling them out.

Women's Work

Let's look at the subject of work. This issue is now framed in such a way that because women are out working, the feminists must have succeeded. This is often what conservatives mean when they say that feminism has already won. Pretty silly, because even a limited amount of exploration can discover that women have *always* worked. In fact, the strange world of "Leave it to Beaver" was quite the historical anomaly.

Taking care of a household used to mean that you were in charge of a small factory which produced food, prepared food, made clothing (sometimes starting with a spindle and a loom), mended clothing, beat out laundry on a rock, took items produced at home to market, etc. Soon after the beginning of the republic, excitable men were in a tizzy because they were worried that candle molds would produce sinful idleness among women who'd formerly had to dip their own. Read the "Little House on the Prarie" series, for love of pete.

And they have, for as long as we know of, worked in other people's households performing these tasks. They have worked in factories for as long as their have been factories, though not always in every particular industry. They have been farmhands for as long as there have been farms. And they have long been stalwart contributors to their family businesses, in a great many capacities.

The real issue is independence of choice in occupation, appropriate pay, and opportunity for advancement. Certainly, great strides have been made in this area, but there are still problems. For instance, that the wage gap between men and women is almost entirely accounted for by the hit in pay taken by mothers returning to the workforce.

Free Riders

In economics class, we learn that activities where money changes hands are good. They boost the economy, and the ever precious GDP. We also learn about the concept of the free rider. Someone who puts nothing into an endeavor, but takes a share of the results anyway.

Nannies cost money. Daycare costs money. All day pre-school costs money. Mother care is 'free.' But everyone wants to live in a society where there is as much mother care as possible, because it's allegedly a superior good. Everyone wants to be surrounded by fellow citizens who had a committed primary caregiver, because it's recognized that they blend into society better, and tend to be more productive citizens. Yet not a red cent of economic redress is given for this activity.

Mothers are not entitled to health care, worker's compensation, pensions, educational credits, or any other type of benefit that accrues to individuals who are not merely dirt poor. When a mother returns to the work force, she may as well say that she spent a couple years sitting on her hands in a closet. When she wants to work sane hours so that she can enjoy her family, she is relegated to a mommy-track job. If her partner would like to spend time with the children himself, he faces the same problems, but sometimes with even bigger barriers.

The employers, who benefit from having a work force raised by unpaid caregivers put a zero value on the actual act of caring for children. It confers no aura of experience, no recognition of any skills gained, and becomes a negative pull on a woman's earning potential. The government, which benefits from not having hordes of juvenile delinquents roaming the streets, puts a zero value on the people who make it possible.

Conservatives, in particular, actively work to dismantle or block laws that would lower the barriers to caregivers who would like to participate in the workforce in a capacity that both suits their experience and respects their commitment. And they have contributed, as far as I know, absolutely nothing to the discussion of how to make having a job more comfortable for all parents.

If a mother has the 'right' to work on a level playing field, when no such field exists, it means nothing at all. If her partner has the 'right' to take on a non-traditional role, when the barriers for any given family are likely to be too high, then it means that they rarely have a choice in the matter. And no choice, like no remedy, means that no genuine equal right exists.

The Sex Trade

First, the idea that liberal feminists don't address this issue is bunk. Many have come to the conclusion that they would like to see sane regulation applied to the industry, but would never advocate it in a serious setting. Probably because they would immediately be creamed by conservatives shouting that they were trying to utterly destroy civilization as we know it. And there isn't a single viewpoint on the matter, anyway.

Primarily, the focus is on combatting the aspects of this trade that are coercive. And there are many of them. There is still a global sex slave trade, and there is absolutely nothing noble or entrepreneurial about the participation of the workers. There is still unemployment and scarcity of education funding that makes this trade the last resort of many women who simply have nowhere else they can go. Many of them end up exploited by 'employers' who cheat and abuse them.

Reproductive Rights

The right to decide whether or not you're going to have a child is pretty fundamental to any type of control over your own destiny. If you do not, at minimum, believe that contraception and sex education should be available to anyone who wants it, you aren't a feminist. You can call yourself whatever you like, but you aren't a feminist.

If you agree with this in principle, but ignore the reality that in practice these things will not exist without some kind of direct action, you're either deluded or uninformed. In theory, everyone has the right to birth control. In practice, a rural woman whose only healthcare choice for miles is a Catholic hospital may have no such choice. No remedy, no right. More on this topic some other time.

Social vs. Fiscal

Liberal and conservative, in the general sense, can be applied to both the social and financial continuums of political thought. It's possible to be socially liberal, which is a prerequisite for feminism, and fiscally conservative. But it should be noted that the only such politicians that fit that bill are Democrats.

Republicans haven't been fiscally conservative for as long as I've been alive. They just believe in spending money on big explosives instead of childcare, schools, health care, roads, police, emergency response, and all those other things that everyone wants to have, but nobody wants to pay for. They also believe in running up massive deficits, to ensure that if by some fluke there were enough money to pay for those things, it would have to go towards interest on our astonishing level of debt instead. They believe in earning less, and spending more. Which isn't conservative at all.

It could be said that not all people who vote for Republicans agree with those practices. But hey, you voted for them. Therefore, in an absence of remorseful protest, I can only conclude that those policies are supported. Along with the socially restrictive legislation that continues to roll back the achievements of people committed to actual gender equity.

In closing, these are just a few small aspects of the many ways in which genuine feminist issues are still either disregarded or glossed over. We haven't won. It isn't over. And conservatives still can't be feminists.

# Do read the Ampersand post that started the discussion.

* There's even a relevant Monty Python joke. In "The Life of Brian", one of the male conspirators wants the right to have babies. Just the right, you see. And, to be called Stella.

posted by Natasha at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK |

Notable Posts

Ruminate This talks about Pfc. Lynch, though it was posted before her rescue, also, the discussion that follows is an interesting read.

Different Strings brings us the good news that there's been justice in Tulia, where a string of highly suspicious drug convictions are in the process of being overturned. How suspicious? A white ex-cop with a rap sheet got 40 or so black (all but one) residents of a small Texas town arrested on his (very inconsistent) say-so alone.

Alas, A Blog shows us to an interview with an independent journalist who, along with his colleagues, was threatened, detained, and beaten by US soldiers in Iraq.

Political Strategy talks about an insidious new form of domestic threat, the free speech terrorists. In point of which, Orcinus talks about an essay circulating among conservatives about how to beat up protestors. Allegedly, it's funny, but I'm not amused. Further discussion of the topic can be found in posts above and below the actual essay. Over at Eschaton, a Thug Watch is being kept on all the violence being directed at both protestors and individuals who have merely voiced sentiments in support of the peace movement, scroll down for more.

And Body and Soul continues the discussion on extremism. (Links are spotty today, if the direct link doesn't go, just head for the main page.)

My own perspective on the issue of leftist extremism is: please, may we have some more? Why? Because like at so many other things in political strategy right now, the Republicans have got us beat. The more extreme they get, the bolder they get. The more certain they get.

I'm sure that everyone reading this has had the following experience: One day you were in a group of people, and you weren't sure if you were right, but you sounded more certain about your guess than everybody else. And, to your own amazement, dazzled by your relative clarity of purpose, they did what you suggested. At least for a while.

The people off dithering in the corner have already lost the fight to lead the pack. Done. We need to pick liberal leaders who aren't afraid to be liberal, and aren't afraid to say why. Clearly. Loudly. Repeatedly. While everybody is still shell-shocked by the grievously poor judgement exhibited by the last winners of this silly pissing match style of decision making.

posted by Natasha at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, April 01, 2003  

Details of Lynch rescue are murky

The circumstances of Jessica Lynch's rescue are quite ambiguous. Atrios reports, via TalkLeft, that some observers previously claimed Lynch was held in a torture chamber at the hospital.

Friday :: March 28, 2003

U.S. Marines have found signs of U.S. POWs at a hospital that they have taken over in An Nasiriyah. They also found bloodied female U.S. uniforms and what they suspect was a torture room.

I am skeptical about that claim, partly for the reasons I stated in the Comments at TalkLeft:

I'm gonna wait and see. The notion the hospital room was a torture chamber seems to be supported by speculation, not evidence. A battery in a building that might lose its power at any moment is hardly conclusive. I would expect to see plenty of batteries and generators there. And, if they wanted to torture Jessica Lynch, the Iraqis wouldn't need to take her to a hospital to do it.

I also can't help but wonder if the desire to think the worse of the Iraqis might lead some American military personnel and embedded reporters to see the most mundane of objects as apparatuses of torture.

Today, TalkLeft says:

Hopefully, if one of the bloodied uniforms was Jessica's, the blood was from a gunshot wound, not from being tortured. However, MSNBC also is reporting that the gunshot wounds occurred during Jessica's rescue, and that she had been held in the hospital since March 23 when she disappeared. The Pentagon is being very close-mouthed about the details of Jessica's rescue and her captivity. We hope she wasn't tortured and wish her a speedy recovery.

Another area of murkiness is whether Pfc. Lynch received her wounds during the initial encounter with the Iraqi irregulars March 23, as the result of friendly fire during her rescue or was injured by her captors after being taken prisoner or during the rescue. The precise nature of the wounds that have made Pfc. Lynch non-ambulatory also are not known.

Lynch was said to be doing well, but CNN reported she had suffered multiple gunshot wounds at some point during her ordeal that made it hard to move her.

"I'm not sure where she is, but I'm sure she is being looked at medically to make sure she is alright," said Jean Offutt, spokeswoman for the U.S. military at Fort Bliss, Texas, where Lynch was based.

"If she were wounded, she would be cared for until she were stable and then returned to the United States."

Some additional details of the rescue have been reported.

Military sources said on Wednesday U.S. Marines staged a decoy attack on targets in Nassiriya to allow special forces to rescue her from a hospital in the embattled southern city where U.S.-led forces have faced stiff resistance from Iraqi fighters.

"U.S. Marines sent a large force led by tanks and armored personnel carriers to hit targets in the center of the city and to seize a key bridge over the Euphrates while the hospital raid was under way," a military source said.

Though one would never guess it from the self-congratulatory tone of that remark, the casualties taken in the one known unsuccessful rescue attempt and the successful raid of the hospital may be more than a score. We will not know the true toll until after the war is over, if then. As glad as we all are that reports of Pfc. Lynch's death were premature and that she will likely return to a much easier life in the United States than she had before, the price paid, by her and her comrades, and by any civilians injured or killed, has been quite high.

-- Mac Diva

Note: I published an earlier item about the rescue of Jessica Lynch at Mac-a-ro-nies.

posted by J. at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK |

Dehumanizing the Family

Something occurred to me the other day about why the way in which conservative groups' obsessive focus on the family really gets under my skin: I don't feel included in it.

I mean sure, I'm single right now, but I have a family. Like most Americans, I was even raised in one, if you can believe it of a liberal running cur like myself. One of these days, I even hope to start another branch of my family tree. But here's the thing, in between the time when I move out of my parents' house and set up my own little reproductive unit, I'm still part of a family. If you want to dispute this, you can go argue with my parents and grandparents.

But if I'd decided at some point to have a child on my own, the two of us would still constitute a family. And if a couple best friends and this theoretical child and I had set up as happy little house full of roommates, we would still be a family. And if I'd gotten sent to prison because a poorly chosen boyfriend bought drugs from a police informant from my cellphone, and the kid had to go live with the grandparents or an aunt, the whole motley group of us would still constitute that most sacred of conservative cows, a family.

In fact, conservatives would like you to believe that the only thing meant by the term family is a mom and dad and their offspring. As though it's a mystical state of being created by the marriage of two (christian*) people, and everyone else is... what?

What do they call a group of parents and their offspring that's been through divorce and remarriage, and wind up with 3 or more parents and assorted kids. What about twentysomethings who haven't taken the plunge. What about big, noisy, loving, immigrant families with three generations living together under one roof? What about people who never marry, but shower their neices, nephews, and other lucky children with as much love as they possibly can? What about people who move away from their families, to send money back home from a place with better job prospects, or even just to escape?

They say the family is under siege. By who? They seem to imply a faceless rabble of bureaucrats and (often) liberals, but there's only a world full of other people out there. And each of us, by definition, is part of a family. But they know that, so they must mean their chosen family structure.

And in choosing to make their preferred cultural model the only meaning of the word family, they take all the rest of us who don't fit into that definition and create a host of the undeserving. A vast supply of enemies of the family. A horde of people whose needs we don't have to pay attention to. Because, after all, it's only the family that needs saving. Their type of families.

The Gores wrote a book called Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Family. It's a lucid and almost prescient account of the changes that need to be made, and the problems that need to be faced, in creating an environment that's healthy for every family. Which, by their definition, includes all of us. Just another wistful reminder of what we lost in 2000.

* Come on, you knew that was implied.

posted by Natasha at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK |

Paul Krugman has more on how the steely-eyed folks in charge of protecting the Homeland are in fact shafting the most likely targets of domestic terrorism. In part:

...Even in the first months after Sept. 11, Republican lawmakers made it clear that they would not support any major effort to rebuild or even secure New York. And now that anti-urban prejudice has taken statistical form: under the formula the Department of Homeland Security has adopted for handing out money, it spends 7 times as much protecting each resident of Wyoming as it does protecting each resident of New York...

They keep forgetting where it is that all that money comes from. If the big blue states go down, the national economy goes down with it. Who else is going to pay for all the pork that the Republicans truck back to their home states?

posted by Natasha at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK |

Notable Posts:

Digby talks about the advice that the president and military are getting, courtesy of the very wingnuttiest folks of them all, Donald Rumsfeld and Newt Gingrich.

Daily Kos has a good run down of the criminal bilking of California, you know, the 'energy crisis' where it turned out that all the 'conspiracy-minded' California Democrats were actually right. Apparently, progressive taxation is bad, but stealing from liberals isn't. Also, Billmon has another missive up from a very disgruntled officer, and you shouldn't miss this tactical analysis. (Even if, like me, you don't know Jack about tactics.)

Courtesy of Body and Soul, we find an Electrolite post where Hayden responds to the desire of a New York Post columnist to see liberals shot while exercising their civil liberties, and more generally to the conservative line that all liberals are essentially traitors who represent a clear and present danger to America. The comments afterwards are a good read, as well.

WampumBlog with a boatload of good reasons for the Democrats in the Senate to filibuster every blasted thing that comes in the door.

Courtesy of The Sideshow (on hiatus, but wishing Avedon a quick recovery), Bear Left tells about what he's learned from the Bush administration.

If you didn't know, today is Make Fun of the Cheneys Day, courtesy of Neal Pollack. TBogg does his part pretty well, and also points us to an interview with Tony Brown that really just says it all. In small part:

..."The heartbreaking thing is, this is a turning point in history. Listen to me. I'm going on and on and on. But I love this country, I love the accomplishments of American democracy. But we've never done anything like what we're doing: waging war with imperial purposes. It feels very tragic, especially because it's being done in the name of 9/11. Before he was elected, Bush openly acknowledged a hatred for New York City, and now he's benefiting from our tragedy."...

Update: Liberal Oasis finds a rare, honest account of the killing of 10 fleeing Iraqis, and contrasts it with less accurate coverage. A small excerpt from the article:

...Fifteen Iraqi civilians were packed inside the Toyota, officers said, along with as many of their possessions as the jammed vehicle could hold. Ten of them, including five children who appeared to be under 5 years old, were killed on the spot when the high-explosive rounds slammed into their target, Johnson's company reported. Of the five others, one man was so severely injured that medics said he was not expected to live.

"It was the most horrible thing I've ever seen, and I hope I never see it again," Sgt. Mario Manzano, 26, an Army medic with Bravo Company of the division's 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, said later in an interview. He said one of the wounded women sat in the vehicle holding the mangled bodies of two of her children. "She didn't want to get out of the car," he said...

It'll be a cakewalk. We'll be welcomed with open arms and showered with roses. Or something like that.

posted by Natasha at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK |

Bad Bush Decisions

The Washington Post story, Advisers Split as War Unfolds, reminded me of a piece that I had read by Digby a while back. The WaPo story reported that people within the White House are complaining that Bush is getting some "bum advice". Really? Actually, the real problem appears to be that Bush is incapable of making good decisions when his advisors don't agree.

Administration officials are generally close-mouthed about their discussions and officially insist there is unity among Bush's senior national security advisers. But they also acknowledge that within this administration disputes among senior Cabinet officials are never really settled. With war now under way, the stakes in the debate over Iraq are much higher, affecting not only the course of the conflict but the world's acceptance of the U.S. invasion and its aftermath.

Originally, having strong advisors seemed necessary for people to believe there was an adult in charge, and so Dick Cheney was marched out to lend gravitas to the administration of George W Bush. But after 9/11, the story changed and Bush no longer needed a chaperone, but now was shown to be firmly in charge.

The example of the Bush as a strong and capable manager was most clearly spelled out in Bob Woodward's book, Bush at War.

Perhaps most compelling is the portrait the book paints of Bush himself, a picture brought into sharper focus by lengthy one-on-one interviews Woodward conducted with the president. Unlike Bush's critics, who see the president as a neophyte lightweight parroting the views of his seasoned advisers, Woodward portrays Bush as a commander in chief, truly in command.

He is the one talking of the need to be decisive, of inflicting real pain on the enemy and not just bombing tents in the desert. He is the one showing impatience at the indecision of the military planners, principally Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, CIA chief George Tenet, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as they tried to formulate a course of action.

The clear intent is to show that Bush makes the decisions. But, Bush's decisions are based on the input of his advisers, not on his own analysis or deep thought. So, Digby asked, yes, he has some strong advisors, but what happens when they don't agree?

So, the value of having these strong "division" chiefs to whom the president would delegate and "hold accountable" was set forth to answer the criticism that George W. Bush was too inexperienced and intellectually shallow to run the most powerful country in the world. We were to be simultaneously impressed with his humility in choosing far more qualified people than himself to advise him and comforted that these uber-advisors would give him the best guidance the country could provide. These broad-shouldered, square-jawed corporate superheroes would work in their separate spheres with singleminded ambition, motivated by their shared vision of a strong, wealthy compassionate nation, where empowered individuals would singlehandedly replace an ossified bureaucracy through sheer talent and hard work.

Needless to say, this is childish nonsense, whether as a fantasy of corporate ethos and practice or a reading of human nature in general. It is clear that the single most basic function of the U.S. President is choosing amongst the competing power centers of various advisors, competitors, ideologues and special interests whose egos, agendas, commitments and beliefs often conflict.

This was a remarkably insightful question on Digby's part, especially as we see it play out before us.

John Dean also points out this leadership flaw in Bush (via tendentious).

For example, Woodward reports that when disagreements arise within Bush's war council - as they have, for example, between the CIA and the Defense Department - Bush does not pursue the disagreement to settle it. Rather he turns to his able national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and instructs, "Get this mess straightened out."

Making trade-offs between different choices is indeed one of the most difficult jobs for those in charge. Much has been made of the fact that Bush is the first MBA president and thus trained in the business of making hard decisions. But one should note is that the business scandals of last year also came from the ranks of the MBAs. Does an MBA provide a good basis for making sound ethical decisions? Not necessarily, and surveys show that earning an MBA can actually diminish the understanding of what is right or good for society.

And what is abundantly clear is that students' sense of social responsibility decreases as they go through their MBA programme. At the beginning they may view the corporate world through the eyes of a consumer but once into the programme their perspective changes to that of a shareholder.

Like his good friend, Ken Lay of Enron, Bush has been very good at maximizing the value for his shareholders, but not so good at weighing the consequences for society. Bush's management style and attraction to risk created a big part of the problem we see today. Lacking a strong sense of right and wrong, attracted to the boldest, most reckless choices, Bush has chosen a war that has cast the world into a frightening, and unstable future, and he is ultimately responsible for the power he put in hands of the war-lovers and the mistakes made on his watch.

posted by Mary at 7:17 AM | PERMALINK |

Monday, March 31, 2003  

Why Conservatives Can't Be Feminists, a chorus

Keying off our own Mac Diva, Sisyphus had some things to say about the way antifeminists are talking about female soldiers, particularly the ones who have been captured or killed. She pulls up a number of interesting quotes from news columnists and bloggers, and you should go read it, but this comment of hers got me thinking:

If single mothers are given liberal leave and excluded from combat, it is hard to justify not doing the same for single men who are parents. If single parents are treated differently, can we really justify subjecting married parents to the risks at issue? After all, they are parents, the criterion being focused on, too.

My question is why we as a society only talk about these things en masse when there's a war happening? And also, why is the discussion limited to troops? They aren't the only people who die in wars. Last I heard, there wasn't any rule that clearly states that American soldiers can't shoot women (mothers or not), hence any discussion of what happens to our women in combat seems overly narrow without being concerned about what happens to any woman in a war zone.

And it doesn't address the larger problem that war zones are pretty inimical to all forms of human life. Women may traditionally be non-combatants, so they usually fall into the collateral category, but this doesn't confer special immunity to DU shells and cruise missiles. Or firebombing, or clusterbombing, or nuclear bombing, or carpet bombing, or napalm, or landmines.

In speaking with a rabid anti-feminist some time ago, his opinion was that feminism was emblematic of a cultural disdain for the lives of men. I think that's hogwash, mostly because it seems to me that the people who disdain the lives of men are the ones who are eager to send them willy-nilly to some far off place to kill other people's sons, brothers, and fathers. As well as their mothers, sisters, and daughters when they get in the way. Feminists aren't usually the ones who need to think about women coming home in body bags to decide that war is often a bad idea.

And this same crowd not only disregards the lives of people of both genders on the other side of the conflict, but they act like they're shocked and awed when the other side fails to consider our lives more worthy of sparing than theirs. But really, they knew that would happen. Or at least, the people in charge surely knew it. And the reason they pretend to be surprised is because it's the only way that they can convince families beforehand to spare precious loved ones to go participate in something even more dangerous than playing in traffic. Glory of the Halliburton Subsidiary, and all that nonsense.

Very Funny

Nor is this their only blindspot. Not only do they fail to apply a consistent value to life, but they fail to apply value to the culture of others, based on a complete failure of interest in those cultures. Lisa of the no-working-permalinks points us to someone who thought they'd be funny at a protest rally. They believed that this was just hilarious on a sign:

...a cartoon of a burqa-clad Muslim woman tied to a pole with a leash. The caption: ''Protect Islamic Property Rights Against Western Imperialism! SAY NO TO WAR.''

Ha. Ha. Which again goes to show that the only time conservatives seem to care about women's rights is during war, and in ways that defy even a casual sniff for racism, sexism, or even elitism. I doubt that you could find many Muslim women who think that the way to win their rights and improve their societies is a sustained bombing. And as a direct answer to the burqa imagery, many of them are concerned (if Ann Coulter and Peggy Noonan are reading this [hah!] they might want to sit down) with far more than what clothes they get to wear. Because it turns out that as grim as it sounds, leather miniskirts, facelifts, and $3,000 suits aren't what most women around the world have in mind when they think 'rights.'

If our conservatives had been running around loose in the 1940's, they might have come up with the cockamamie idea that we went into Japan to liberate women from their kimonos. Maybe we went to liberate rural German women from the little scarves so many of them wore. Because really, fashion is everything.

Indeed, it would be pretty obvious even to most conservatives, that the majority of Saudi men (for example) have more pressing concerns than the fact that most of them seem to be walking around in nearly identical white robes with red & white headcoverings. You would think they might instead be worried about rising unemployment, the poor quality of local education, the inconvenience of arranging transportation for female family members, and a diabetes epidemic not unlike the one that's hitting our population. And you'd be right. Not only that, but it turns out that these concerns are not that far off from the ones their female counterparts entertain.

But we don't have to travel far to find out what at least one Muslim woman who wears Islamic dress thinks about wearing it. Al-Muhajabah, a college-going paralegal wrote this article on wearing hijab (a headscarf). She seems to think that it's a test on her own spiritual path, and something that she chose voluntarily. You don't have to harbor any desire to wear Islamic garb to understand that in fact the entire point of it has to do with removing a component in human interaction that usually works to women's long-term disadvantage anyway. And she has this to say about whether or not it's proper for Muslim women to speak up:

...This means that the women addressed in the ayah are directed not to be submissive or deferential in their speech. Clearly, this does not refer to a quality in the sound of the voice, but to a manner of speaking or of certain types of words, which indicate submission. Women are quite capable of speaking in a non-submissive fashion!

This brings up another point. In order to obey the command "do not be submissive in speech", the women are directed to "speak an honorable saying" - they are NOT directed to be silent!! Obviously, the solution Allah SWT has commanded for the problem of submissive speech is for the women to speak honorable words, not for the women to be silent...

There's more feminist content in that little snippet than perhaps the entire run of 'Sex and the City.' If you can't understand why, you're obviously not cut out for feminism, and you're definitely not in a position to critique other people's traditional dress.

The Wrong People For The Job

American conservatives have a platform at home that consists of: Rolling back birth control options that make it easier for families to manage their lives. Rolling back family leave statutes that make it easier for parents to spend time with their children. Gutting whistle-blower protections and worker safety regulations. Reducing educational and after-school program spending. Diverting law enforcement resources from violent crime to 'moral' or, essentially, thought crime. And reducing the availability of health care while at the same time increasing health hazards.

These issues are modern feminism in a very definite way. The conservative response? Let them wear miniskirts. As long as you have the right to doll yourself up in public and don't have to wear a headscarf, you shouldn't worry whether you can afford college, if you can find a job, if your children have decent textbooks, or about what they're putting in the water. Don't worry your pretty, little heads.

But really, these people have no business going into anyone else's country on a war of liberation when they haven't even got it figured out at home. Indeed, the Muslim countries of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey have already beaten the extremely liberated US to having a female head of state. I'll take being president over having the freedom to let half my body hang out in public. Hell, it's only fun for about five years in the average woman's life, anyhow.

Queen Noor of Jordan was on C-SPAN Booknotes yesterday. I only watched for a little while, but this very savvy woman had this to say (loosely) about the mistaken impression that Islamic cultures did not value freedom for women.

First, that many things that are considered Islamic here are really cultural, and that the two shouldn't be confused. She pointed out that while we recently celebrated International Women's Day in the west, women in Islamic cultures have had many rights that western women didn't get until recently. In the 7th century, women in Islamic countries had the rights to own and inherit property, conduct business, get educated, and have a pre-nuptial contract. Since the time of the prophet, women have been poets*, business owners, and have served in armies.

So I have a better idea than sending American conservatives to the rest of the world to teach these backward people about women's rights. Why don't we petition Queen Noor and Khaleda Zia to select some envoys that will try to bring civilized attitudes to backward American conservatives. I bet they're smart enough to do it without requiring a single bomb.

*Being a poet is actually a highly respected occupation in that part of the world. Something the equivalent in the US today of saying that you have a couple major label recordings hovering near the top of the pop charts. But more dignified.

posted by Natasha at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK |

Must all that rises converge?

An American recently decided the times gave him permission to commit crimes. Reportedly inflamed since 9/11 and further influenced by the impending, than actual invasion of Iraq, Larme Price of NYC decided to go hunting. The quarry? People who look like those being killed by American troops in Iraq. But, since race is largely a social construct, 'looks like' can be a very ambiguous matter. It appears only one of the victims of of his rampage was of Middle Eastern descent.

The suspect, Larme Price, 30, confessed on Saturday to the four slayings, which terrorized residents and small-business owners and had been described as the work of a serial killer, the police said. Mr. Price said he was motivated by a desire to kill people of Middle Eastern descent after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, [Police Commissioner Raymond W.] Kelly said at a news conference at police headquarters.

Price is also being charged in two attempts that did not result in deaths.

The miasmas that often accompany such acts are present in this one, too.

Asked about Mr. Price's statement that he wanted to kill people of Middle Eastern descent, Mr. Kelly said, "I believe it fits the definition of a bias crime."

But Mr. Price's mother, Leatha Price, said yesterday that her son's anger at Middle Easterners was a matter of mental illness, not ethnic hatred.

There may have been a confluence between a mentally ill man and a society he perceived as giving him permission to be violent in regard to certain targets.

"I would get a bad vibe, and then a bad situation would happen," suspect Larme Price, 30, told police. "I got bad vibes from Arabs. When they spoke Arabic, they were talking about me," he said.

His confessed homicides may be the result of psychosis. I am not disputing that. However, circumstances can determine how psychotics act out their illnesses. The current environment of contempt for people from the Middle East may have granted Price the permission to act and determined who Price chose as targets.

There is something bloggers can do to lessen the probability of impaired people acting out in this tragic way. Many of our counterparts on the Right have contributed to creating an atmosphere in which some human lives are considered of less value than others. Some obviously revel in their hatred. Others rush to the defense of the worst of the lot.

Blogger Andrew Hagen began criticizing one of the most guilty parties months ago:

Let's focus on what Charles Johnson said. It's apparently okay for Charles to say without evidence, without reason that Islam is a monolith that hates the West, but it's not okay to say that based on his monolithic, stereotyped characterization of Islam, that Charles is a hater of Islam. Got that?

Islam is not a person, it's a thing—both a religion and a civilization. A thing can't hate.

I don't believe it is possible for liberal, moderate and progressive bloggers to repeat the second paragraph too often. We should repeat that statement again, again and again. It is the least we can do to prevent the Larme Prices of America, people whose own judgment is unreliable, from getting the idea that murdering some people is acceptable in these times. Hatred has risen. We must do what we can to stop it from converging.

-- Mac Diva

posted by J. at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK |

Selected Buzzflash Headlines

Because of the war in Iraq, China now thinks that the US is an imminent threat, and is considering adopting a more aggressive deterrence strategy. Thank you, Dear Leader Bush, for making us safer.

A Bush proposal would end overtime pay for millions of Americans.

More on the business of war, and also on the ties of the civilian Defense Policy Board to defense contractors.

The depleted uranium shells used by US and British forces are classified by the UN as illegal weapons of mass destruction. Increased instances of birth defects and cancer have been verified in US troops that were exposed to these munitions in GWI, as well as in the general Iraqi population.

Iraqi refugees feed undersupplied US troops whose rations have been cut due to inadequate preparations for the supply chain.

From thawing to openly hostile, relations with Syria are just another casualty of the Bush administration's drive-by attack on our country's standing in the world.

Violence flares up in Afghanistan, you know, that war we 'finished' before starting another one.

Eric Alterman on how conservatives control the media, and pretend that they don't.

And the capper... Just when you thought these people couldn't be any more, what's the way to describe it... dogmatic, fanatical, rabid, arrogant, infuriating, damn this is hard. Wait, I know, how about self-aggrandizing theocrats:

Thousands of marines have been given a pamphlet called "A Christian's Duty," a mini prayer book which includes a tear-out section to be mailed to the White House pledging the soldier who sends it in has been praying for Bush.

"I have committed to pray for you, your family, your staff and our troops during this time of uncertainty and tumult. May God's peace be your guide," says the pledge, according to a journalist embedded with coalition forces...

Oh yeah, and that other phrase: Bat**** insane.

posted by Natasha at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, March 30, 2003  

Notable Quote:

One vocal retired general has some pretty strong things to say about our current administration. Gen. Merrill A. "Tony" McPeak, retired former chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, was interviewed this past Thursday by the Oregonian. [Aside: Gen. McPeak turns out to be a neighbor of mine in Lake Oswego, although I've not ever met him.]

I believe that one of the elements of power is the ethical and moral authority that is conferred on forces when their use is seen to be legitimate. It's as important as bullets, in my opinion.

When we started bombing Kosovo, everybody in the world saw that -- how painful that decision was. They knew we weren't there to make Kosovo the 51st state; they knew we didn't go into Afghanistan to put George Bush's face on the money there. When we act with legitimacy, it gives our military actions a source of strength. I mean for me this is an aspect of the political maladroitness. I mean you just have to say that you wonder if there's anybody in the White House that's an educated adult.

Interviewer: But the administration would argue that, in the age of terror, unilateralism is valid, and we can't wait for another Pearl Harbor to make this war legitimate in the eyes of the world.

In my judgment, you can fight a war on terrorism and do it legitimately (and) do it without sacrificing civil liberties in the United States, but it requires a certain intelligence and sophistication be brought to the table.

So maybe we ought to start grading presidential candidates for an IQ. Although it's hard to see why anybody that's very smart would want to run.

An IQ test would indeed be a welcome idea.

I was glad to see his statement supporting our civil liberties as well. Even NPR is running stories about how we have to be "reasonable" and understand we have to give up our rights for security. Every time I hear or read a story like the one on NPR, I think it is part of the sales pitch to the public and to our representatives to be receptive to even further erosion of our rights through bills like the proposed Patriot Act II.

Regarding the current uneducated occupant in the White House: IMO, tarring and feathering the war-mongering gambler before running him out of town on a rail would be too easy. In addition to impeachment, what other punishment do you think would be appropriate?

[Courtesy of Josh Marshall.]

posted by Mary at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK |

What We're Reading:

Newsweek discovers the Agonist, delivers mystifying pronouncement regarding warbloggers:

(Many are delivered with withering remarks on the stories, most often from a hawkish perspective, though sometimes from a lefty perspective. Kelley leans left, but since the war has started has vowed to stick to the center.)

They also have a report on Al Jazeera, titled The Belly of the Beast, which article includes a fair bit of curious insinuation.

In the Guardian: The tragedy of Tony Blair and the menace of American conservatism. A retired general and arms dealer may run Iraq during the American occupation. The appointment of a Palestinian prime minister seen as a positive development.

More on the corporitization of water.

Why the Iraqi Shi'ites have stayed home in droves.

Blog newcomer Ekr gives us a mathematical analysis of kung fu movies.

posted by Natasha at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK |

Sanity Break

It isn't Thanksgiving or Christmas, but poverty never sleeps. Somewhere in your local area there is a foodbank serving the elderly, the disabled, and families that are having a hard time staying afloat.

I was reminded of this issue in the grocery store the other day, when for the first time (no munchkins yet) I happened to look at the price of diapers. They were $10-13 for a pack of 50-70. If you're changing Jr. a blithely conservative five times a day, that's got to cost at least $25 a month. When I was making minimum wage, $25 sounded like a lot of money, and it's not insignificant even now.

Consider that there are single adults making minimum wage that have to skip meals every day, people who are gainfully employed but still barely scraping by. Then consider that people are trying to raise families on those wages. Consider that there are people on fixed incomes, or with limited job prospects, for whom upward mobility means they can walk up the stairs to the front door.

There are probably very few of us that haven't gone through a time in life (hopefully, all my readers are doing swimmingly at present) when we could have anything for dinner we wanted, as long as it involved ramen noodles. Even if you want to do your damnedest to forget those times, remember the people who are still stuck there.

If you feel like the world has gone mad, like everything has gone wrong and there's nothing you can do about it, do this: Find a local grocery store with a permanent foodbank donation bin, and shop for groceries and household goods for someone else's family. Shop for them like you would hope someone would shop for you in similar circumstances.

Things to avoid putting in a donation bin: If you wish to donate perishables, contact the local foodbank directly and find out the best times to drop off such items as meat, bread, bakery items, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc. Remember that anything that goes in a donation bin may have heavy objects set on top of it, and may get knocked around. Choose packaging accordingly. Also, most foodbanks will reject unsealed or homemade food items.

Things to buy: Pasta, rice, pasta sauce, (dry) boxed meals, canned meat, canned vegetables or fruit, juice, dried fruit, cooking oil, flour, baking mixes (pancakes, corn bread, etc.), cereal, granola bars, sealed containers of bulk dry goods, nuts, sandwich fixings, meal shakes (for diabetics), canned soup or chili, diapers, toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent, or anything else you think might be useful.

Things to remember: Aim for food that constitutes a net nutritional gain. Don't donate anything that you would be insulted to get, even if you were about to get kicked out of your house.

P.S. Numerous psychological studies that I'm too lazy to Google for have demonstrated that helping others promotes mental health. And it's way cheaper than a shrink.

posted by Natasha at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK |