Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Meet the Kallikaks

get used to it

An admirer of John Podhoretz envisions one-party, one-family rule for America:
An e-mail: "Let's see here. Bush will have done 8 years. Jeb could do 8 as VP and then 8 as President. Each of their kids kids could do the same. That would be a total of 72 years.

"We need another 72 years of Bush! Now that's a slogan!"
Are these people so uninventive that they can hope for nothing more enlivening than an infinitely receding horizon of dullards and opportunists holding the office of President until the Rapture sweeps away the faithful? Dumb question. Of course they can't. And to think that these people oppose cloning.

Now that I'm thinking about it, what, precisely, would the Noelle Bush administration look like? Any classier than the John "Jebby" Bush administration? By that point, and with no one on the planet left to bomb, I suppose we could do worse than living in the purple haze of Jenna Bush.

"Villains! Dissemble No More!"

From the president's press conference today:
THE PRESIDENT: I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that is -- promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way. It's just an absurd allegation.

In terms of the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. It just is....
I just love it when W. acts like Shaquille O'Neal and lovingly tries to teach the press a new word. Except, unlike Shaq, the president always fucks it up, rendering completely un-ironic his ham-fisted stab at irony. Disassemble, according to my American Heritage Dictionary, means "To come apart" or "To break up in random," as in "The unit disassembles easily" or "The spectators began to disassemble." What the president, a modern-day Warren Harding, meant to say was "dissemble," which means "To disguise or conceal behind a false appearance," "To make a false show of," "To feign," or "To disguise or conceal one's real nature, motives, or feelings behind a false appearance."

As in this classic passage from Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart":
No doubt I now grew very pale; --but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound --much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath --and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly --more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men --but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed --I raved --I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder --louder --louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now --again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous heart!"

Monday, May 30, 2005

Having an Empire Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

thanks for the memories — enjoy your picnic

Once again, from Friday's graduation speech at the Naval Academy:
We're using all elements of national power to deny terrorists the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they seek. We will not allow mass murderers to gain access to the tools of mass destruction. And we're stopping terrorists from achieving their ideological victories they seek, by working to spread the hope of freedom and reform across the broader Middle East. We understand that free nations do not support terrorists or invade their neighbors. We understand to make the world more peaceful and our country more secure, we will advance the cause of liberty.
And this from Saturday's radio address:
This Memorial Day, we remember ... all who have given their lives for our nation. And we honor them as we continue to wage the war on terror and spread freedom across the world. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are determined to secure their freedom, and we will help them. We're training Iraqi and Afghan forces so they can take the fight to the enemy and defend their own countries, and then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned.

Throughout our history, America has fought not to conquer but to liberate. We go to war reluctantly, because we understand the high cost of war. Those who have given their lives to defend America have the respect and gratitude of our entire nation.
As for those whose brief, hideous lives are extinguished in wars sustained by American arms sales, it would be really helpful if we could forget that. As a new report from the World Policy Institute reminds us, the rhetoric of liberty is quite an inexpensive investment, especially when contradicting it brings such fabulous rewards:
In 2003, the last year for which full information is available, the United States transferred weaponry to 18 of the 25 countries involved in active conflicts. From Angola, Chad and Ethiopia, to Colombia, Pakistan and the Philippines, transfers through the two largest U.S. arms sales programs (Foreign Military Sales and Commercial Sales) to these conflict nations totaled nearly $1 billion in 2003, with the vast bulk of the dollar volume going to Israel ($845.6 million).

In 2003, more than half of the top 25 recipients of U.S. arms transfers in the developing world (13 of 25) were defined as undemocratic by the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report: in the sense that "citizens do not have the right to change their own government" or that right was seriously abridged. These 13 nations received over $2.7 billion in U.S. arms transfers under the Foreign Military Sales and Commercial Sales programs in 2003, with the top recipients including Saudi Arabia ($1.1 billion), Egypt ($1.0 billion), Kuwait ($153 million), the United Arab Emirates ($110 million) and Uzbekistan ($33 million).

When countries designated by the State Department’s Human Rights Report to have poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse are factored in, 20 of the top 25 U.S. arms clients in the developing world in 2003-- a full 80%-- were either undemocratic regimes or governments with records of major human rights abuses.
If the fondness for oversimplification within the Bush administration had not already been exposed by our grotesque failures in Iraq and Afghanistan (1, 2), a report like this might provoke more howls of outrage. Instead, the duplicity of US policy has become such an exhausted proverb that the NY Times can only muster the enthusiasm to cover this story in its business section. The neoconservatives who write for the Weekly Standard, eat donuts and drain fellowship dollars from the American Enterprise Institute, or clog the Vice President's office are notably fond of the sort of "freedom talk" in which the president so obediently and smirkingly indulges. Yet this report underscores what might otherwise be regarded as a deep contradiction between the prose of neoconservatism — with its emphasis on democracy and its operatic vision of American global leadership — and the less seemly realities of the global arms market. From the 1970s onward, neoconservatives articulated the identity of the United States as being rooted in a strong military, messianic commitments to self-determination for all the world, a sense of near-total responsibility for the international order, and the resulting obligations to challenge those who defy American values. All this sounds positively delightful — or at least vaguely coherent — until one realizes that the pursuit of the first goal (national defense) has generated the sort of grotesque overproduction that can only be absorbed by international markets that grievously compromise the second goal (the spread of democracy) while ensuring a constant supply of challengers to "American values" (or at least to the recipients of our militarized generosity).

In the late 19th century, American imperialists sought new markets for US manufactures and agricultural goods; since the conclusion of the second World War, and especially since the demise of the Soviet Union eliminated any pretense of restraint from the market, arms sales — and the corpses we refuse to acknowledge or count — have subsidized the emergence of the new American imperium. Neoconservatives like Kristol, Wolfowitz, Perle, Ledeen and Feith are apt to compare the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) with the cold war struggle against the Soviet Union (or at least its Reagan-era incarnations). In nearly every respect, these comparisons are unpersuasive distortions of history. This report, however, reminds us that when it comes to the unwise provision of military assistance to heinous regimes, the political calculations that drove the cold war are still quite vivid. After all, as the NY Times put it on Sunday, "There's Democracy, and There's an Oil Pipeline."

Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

"The Tug of Love"

Not that James Dobson or Fred Phelps needed any more ammunition, but now comes this definitive proof of homosexuality's abomination in the eyes of God from the Weekly World News:

A BOMBSHELL discovery in an ancient cave in the Middle East may result in a rewriting of the entire first chapter of the Bible, say experts.

Following a map drawn in a Dead Sea-like scroll found weeks before, archaeologists discovered an old tomb in a cave on a hillside containing the remains of the first two humans created by God -- and DNA tests reveal they were both MEN!

And in another explosive revelation, the ancient scroll reveals that Eve did NOT give Adam the apple and she is not to blame for their being expelled from the Garden of Eden.


"According to the scroll containing the map that led us to the bodies, God was exhausted by the sixth day after creating the earth and all the creatures on it," says Von Ibson, head of antiquities at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

"He apparently lost his focus after creating Adam, so when he decided to give him a companion, he accidentally created another man, Ed, from Adam's rib.

"When he realized that there was no mate for Adam to procreate with to create more humans to populate the earth, God created Eve -- but the scroll does not say from what."

This caused the first love triangle and a horrible mess, says Von Ibson. "Since Ed was made from Adam's rib and was around before Eve, Adam took a tremendous shine to him.

"He actually preferred Ed to Eve and refused to cozy up to her." The tug of love between Ed and Eve continued with Adam as the prize. Both began wooing him with gifts.

"That's when Satan jumped in. He wanted to cause trouble, so in the guise of the serpent, he convinced Ed to bring Adam the forbidden apple. Adam bit and loved it and loved Ed even more."

When God saw that Adam preferred Ed and was refusing to pair off with Eve, he became furious, says Von Ibson.

"The ancient Hebrews called the Lord the Merciless Thunderer for good reason. In his fury at the gay couple, God drove Adam, Ed and Eve from Eden with a barrage of terrifying lightning bolts and horrific explosions of thunder," says Von Ibson.

Later, realizing that the Lord was angry at him and his gay lover, Adam tried to get together with Eve, according to the scroll.

"They mated and produced children," says Von Ibson, "but Adam still preferred Ed and would sneak off to see him."


"We don't know how they died, but apparently it was together and that's how they were buried. We still don't know what happened to the third wheel in the triangle, Eve."

"Why later Biblical scrolls retell the story as Adam and Eve is unknown. Apparently, ancient peoples wanted to downplay the importance of gays -- especially since they caused man to be banished from Eden."

Von Ibson calls the discovery "the most revolutionary find in Biblical history. . . ."
You just can't make this shit up. Oh, wait -- never mind.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Presidential Speech, K-Tel Edition


Morituri te salutant!

It's good to know those campaign stump speeches are still coming in handy for the president. Here he is waxing eloquent at the Naval graduation today, stitching together some of his favorite rockin' phrases from pointless speeches of days gone by:
Our nation is pursuing a clear strategy for the war on terror: We're using every available tool to disrupt terrorists and their organizations. We are taking the fight to the enemy abroad so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.) We're denying the terrorists sanctuary, and making clear that America will not tolerate outlaw regimes that provide safe haven and support to terrorists. We're using all elements of national power to deny terrorists the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they seek. We will not allow mass murderers to gain access to the tools of mass destruction. And we're stopping terrorists from achieving their ideological victories they seek, by working to spread the hope of freedom and reform across the broader Middle East. We understand that free nations do not support terrorists or invade their neighbors. We understand to make the world more peaceful and our country more secure, we will advance the cause of liberty.
Ah, the memories. Who can forget the sweet, soft-rock sound of the Bush administration's worldwide hit, "Clear Strategy"? You'll groove to that funky, bootie-shaking vibe as the president belts out his wartime classics, "Outlaw Regimes" and "Taking the Fight to the Enemy". Stand proud with the president and sing along to the anthemic "Cause of Liberty", "Hope of Freedom" and "Tools of Mass Destruction". That's not a funeral dirge you hear — that's the sound of Freedom on the march! Load up your iPods, kids, hop on your mountain bikes, and let the good times roll!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

On the Futility of the White House Press Corps

sperm cell 1.jpg33e05afa-c493-416d-900c-2b8769982a2dLarge

I'm smarter than Les Kinsolving

At today's White House press briefing conservative buffoon Les Kinsolving managed to waste everyone's time in his usual fashion with this line of questioning:
Q There are news reports this morning that parents and children who were guests of the President, when they visited Congress, wore stickers with the wording, "I was an embryo." And my question is, since all of us were once embryos, and all of us were once part sperm and egg, is the President also opposed to contraception, which stops this union and kills both sperm and egg?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has made his views known on these issues, and his views known --

Q You know, but what I asked, is he opposed -- he's not opposed to contraception, is he?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, and you've made your views known, as well. The President --

Q No, no, but is he opposed to contraception, Scott? Could you just tell us yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think that this question is --

Q Well, is he? Does he oppose contraception?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think the President's views are very clear when it comes to building a culture of life --

Q If they were clear, I wouldn't have asked.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and if you want to ask those questions, that's fine. I'm just not going to dignify them with a response.
This might have been amusing if it were Jesus' General doing the interrogating — asking McClellan about the rights of "Blastocyst-Americans" and such — or if Kinsolving were genuinely interested in critiquing the president's childish musings about a "culture of life." Instead, this moment underscored the utter banality of the White House press briefings, the daily burlesque show which the press corps itself has long since decided to attend only while nodding off in an alcoholic stupor. Scotty did his best to sound irritated with Kinsolving, who now writes for the diagnosably lunatic World Net Daily and sits somewhere among the press corps' top five in seniority. But everyone knows that Kinsolving's role is to run interference at these press briefings by cracking wise at the appropriate moments and consuming swaths of time that might be better spent asking America's Ombudsman about, say, torture, or the ongoing futility in Iraq, or the indictment of the Runaway Bride. Instead, we get a moronic Monty Python knock-off from a right-wing gasbag. All this came after an especially unhelpful, 15-minute experiment in bloviation as McClellan tried to explain his master's position on the Israeli security fence, Sharon's "disengagement" from Gaza, and the "Roadmap." In every respect, it was an all-too-typical embarrassment.

Excuses, Excuses


"You need my what?"

Blogging this week has largely consisted of alternations of CTRL-C and CTRL-V, with the usual 45 minutes consumed finding the perfect image to poach without attribution. Family obligations are to blame. In addition to yesterday's anniversary, my father — who in his retirement seems to have decided to go all LBJ on us and grow his hair long — has been visiting Juneau for the first time, so I've been entertaining him and his wife by taking them to all the usual destinations. Today will be no different. Instead of coming up with something interesting to say on my own, I give you weasel testicles:
Today Prof. Blogger found the following 13th century contraceptive remedy in Martha A. Brozyna's Gender and Sexuality in the Middle Ages:

"Item: testicles of a live, male weasel, castrated by a woman, and wrapped in the skin of a goose or similar, avoids conception" (p. 168).

The Professor wonders what woman has been so desperate for pregnancy-free sex that she attempted the castration of a live weasel. He suspects that the weasel might not be cooperative.
Answers to all the obvious questions about this may be found here.

And speaking of history and blogs, we read a cautionary tale from Ralph Luker at Cliopatra:
I continue to be amazed at what some people will post on the net, even under cover of anonymity or pseudonymity. I got into trouble once for remarking about a female history blogger who posted photographs of herself hefting her bosoms at the camera's eye. In the last two months, we've had a similar situation of a young male history blogger. He speculated about the adequacy of his -- ah -- his male organ, complained about the lack of direction from his graduate school professors, and confessed to indiscretions with privileged information about his fellow graduate students. Such candor won him favor in some sectors of the blogosphere, but just within the last 24 hours acquaintances from his institution guessed his identity. Suddenly, his blog was no more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Anniversary Blogging

There will be a brief blogging hiatus today as my wife and I celebrate 75 years of wedded bliss.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Garbage Day

I remembered to take out the garbage today, but I forgot to unload the little tin can we keep in the driveway. The little tin can contains the solid waste punted out by our two dogs, who weigh a cumulative 210 pounds. They are massive animals and prodigious shitters. Greta is dignified and predictable in her ways, always purging her bowels in one of two or three discreet locations, laboring quickly with a look on her face that signifies deep humiliation and regret. Hazel, by contrast, shamelessly ejects her mighty deposit wherever the mood strikes her; she is in fact so preoccupied with her own rubbish that she begins to sniff at it mid-act, twisting her head around to her ass and spinning in place, the end result being a perfect ring — a Stonehenge in small — of carefully-inspected turds that she somehow avoids stepping on most of the time.

Today's inspiration comes from Slavoj Zizek:
"In a traditional German toilet, the hole into which shit disappears after we flush is right at the front, so that shit is first laid out for us to sniff and inspect for traces of illness. In the typical French toilet, on the contrary, the hole is at the back, i.e. shit is supposed to disappear as quickly as possible. Finally, the American (Anglo-Saxon) toilet presents a synthesis, a mediation between these opposites: the toilet basin is full of water, so that the shit floats in it, visible, but not to be inspected."
I see now that Greta (left) is French, and Hazel (right) is German. Regardless, our driveway is not doing to smell very good this week.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Where the Homosexual Agenda Leads Us All

"Let's try the 'Rick Santorum' tonight, baby"

Via CNN, we learn today of a most unnatural relationship:
KROMDRAAI, South Africa (Reuters) -- A pair of orphans have formed an unlikely bond on a South African game park although horns and a love for horse pellets are about the only things they have in common.

Clover is an 11-month-old female rhino calf who was orphaned in the wild when her mother was slain by poachers.

Her constant companion these days is Bok-Bok, a young goat who was also lonely and abandoned.

Improbably, the two made a perfect match and have become inseparable companions at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve about 18 miles northwest of Johannesburg.

"One would never have thought that a rhino and a goat would get on very well. We were all shocked," said Fran Berkowitz, one of their handlers, as side-by-side the pair tucked into a meal of lucerne, a kind of hay used to feed wild game.

"It's amazing that two different species can get on so well," she said.

The two sometimes playfully butt heads and spend most waking moments close together.

Sentator Rick Santorum (R-PA), commenting on this new relationship, issued a statement to the press criticizing the South African government for sanctioning the relationship between the rhino and the goat.

"Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman, or between a goat and a goat, or between two rhinos." Santorum said. "Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. And little rhinos. And of course little goats — I don't know what they're called, but they're little. Monogamous relationships between animals of the same species — but different genders. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, rhino on goat, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality of marriage."

James Dobson of Focus on the Family agreed, and in a press conference today reiterated his opposition to rhino-goat relationships.

"Every individual is entitled to respect and human dignity, including those with whom we disagree strongly," said Dobson. "The problem is not with acceptance or kindness, certainly. But kids should not be taught that interspecies love is just another 'lifestyle,' or that it is morally equivalent to heterosexuality. Scripture teaches that all overt sexual activity outside the bonds of the species is sinful and harmful. Children should not be taught otherwise by their teachers, and certainly not if their parents are unaware of the instruction."

Anti-abortion activist Neal Horsely was equally indignant about Clover and Bok-Bok.

"When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule," Horsely told Alan Colmes on Fox News. "But not a rhino or a goat. That's just not right."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Triumph of Death


George W. Bush's Armies of Compassion

Via Erik at Alterdestiny, meditating upon the science gap between the US and the rest of the world:
The Right talks about a culture of life, but really I think they believe in a culture of death with their focus on military service and half-thought out actions in the Middle East, their obsession with the Apocalypse and the smiting of all not like themselves, their lack of concern over social programs that help make life worth living for millions in America and billions around the world, and their anti-science stance.
I think Erik's identified the filthy little core of the Right's brutal vision of the world. Whether they're garrotting science education, eradicating funds for social science research on gays and lesbians, undermining and humiliating federal employees working on climate change, or diagnosing brain injuries from the Senate floor, the American right — which thrives on rigid, foundationalist rhetoric — operates with miniscule regard for the life and well-being of future generations. It almost makes me wish I believed in hell.

Shitty Jobs I Have Known (Homeland Security Edition)

Sabotage front cover
Via Ann Bartow at Sivacracy, we learn of a new Department of Homeland Security report entitled the Insider Threat Study (.pdf here, which examines computer sabotage in banking and finance, telecommunications, transportation, emergency services, public health and other "critical infrastructure sectors." Now, I'm not sure what the precise mission of Homeland Security is — you can try to make some sense of it here — but the ITS report looks to me like yet another iteration of the simple but timeless proverb, "pissed-off employees are likely to fuck stuff up." The report finds that
The ITS’ examination of incidents of insider sabotage across critical infrastructure sectors found that most of the insiders who committed acts of sabotage were former employees who had held a technical positions with the targeted organizations. The majority of the incidents examined under the ITS were perpetrated against private sector organizations.

Insider activities caused organizations financial losses, negative impacts to business operations and damage to reputation. As a result of their involvement in the incidents reviewed for this study, almost all of the insiders were charged with criminal offenses. The majority of these charges were based on violations of federal law.
I'm not sure how this all fits in with the whole war on terror thing, except to note that traditional workplace sabotage now seems to fall under the ever-expanding rubric of "terrorist or terrorist-related activities." Some of the stories, however, are quite inspiring:
After more than four years of successful service marked by stellar performance reviews, management commendations, and nomination for the organization’s executive training program, a female employee filed multiple complaints with human resources against her male supervisor and male coworkers. She claimed her coworkers had made sexual remarks, overridden her technical decisions regarding databases (an area in which she was considered an expert), and contacted her team’s contractors regarding her projects without her knowledge. No action was taken by human resources, and the actions by her coworkers continued. The employee’s performance reviews declined sharply in the next two years, and she was demoted. Subsequent complaints to her supervisor resulted in a suspension for insubordination. Almost a year following her written complaint to human resources, she resigned and began employment with another organization. Two months later, she learned that only her more recent, negative performance reviews had been forwarded to her new employer. She used one of several shared DBA accounts to delete critical table spaces in the organization’s Oracle database, deleting crucial data. Due to a coincidental problem with database backups during the same time period, 115 employees had to spend 1800 hours to recover and re-enter the lost data.
You go girl.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Surreal Life


classy, like a fine wine

Via FindLaw:
SAN FRANCISCO, May 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Vince Neil, rockstar and frontman for legendary rock group Motley Crue, today announced the creation of Vince Vineyards, a joint partnership with notable wine & spirits veteran, Russ Dale. The two primary partners are joined by legendary music agent Burt Stein and plan on producing and releasing a variety of fine wines, food related products and future winery project.

"Vince and I met through mutual friends and spent a great deal of time discussing food and wine, so one day I suggested that he make his own wine and he loved the idea," said Dale.

Vince Vineyards will release its first two wines this spring. The first release is a 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, a gorgeous blend of seven different Napa Cabernets and a 2003 Sonoma Chardonnay, produced by renowned wine maker Harry Parducci. The wines are being manufactured by entrepreneur John Ott, who recently purchased Adler Fels Winery. "We are extremely excited about this wonderful opportunity and project", says Ott. "I have enjoyed great wine for most of my life and wanted to create something other wine lovers could experience and appreciate," said Neil. "Our first two releases are both amazing wines and I can't imagine enjoying fresh seafood or grilled steak with anything else."

Vince Vineyards wines will be available in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville and New York, with national distribution to follow soon after.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Where Albinism Meets the "Vague and Incomprehensible"


Brilliant. I'm now the number one hit for people seeking information on albino fetishes. This makes me feel good about myself, especially after receiving the latest round of reader comments on a journal article I submitted a while back:
I think the opening paragraph is fairly lame, and would suggest beginning with the second paragraph, though even here the formulation "mostly reversed narrative style" is surprisingly inept, I find.  Some other points I find very vague and almost incomprehensible:  "At no point in the novel . . . etc." (this sentence beginning on p. 5).  Careful copyediting overall will be needed (e.g., final periods in indented quotations--MLA; the sentence on p. 9 that ends "where the Soviet nuclear" -- up 6 from bottom; "wow they felt" --p. 13, middle; a couple other typos).
I just fucking love receiving vague and incomprehensible suggestions on how to address my vagueness and incomprehensibility.
I'm going to drink one of these now. We'll fucking see how vague and incomprehensible I can be.

Manifest Destiny: Now in Crystal Meth Flavor!


Historically, military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments -- both military and economic. During the rise of sea commerce, nations built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests. During the westward expansion of the continental United States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains, settlements, and railroads. As air power developed, its primary purpose was to support and enhance land and sea operations. However, over time, air power evolved into a separate and equal medium of warfare. The emergence of space power follows both of these models. Over the past several decades, space power has primarily supported land, sea, and air operations--strategically and operationally. During the early portion of the 21st century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare. Likewise, space forces will emerge to protect military and commercial national interests and investment in the space medium due to their increasing importance.
— United States Space Command Vision for 2020 (1997)
available (.pdf format) here.

The New York Times reported yesterday that the Air Force, just in time for the release of "Episode III," is requesting President iPod's permission to develop and deploy new offensive and defensive weapons in space:
The Air Force believes "we must establish and maintain space superiority," Gen. Lance Lord, who leads the Air Force Space Command, told Congress recently. "Simply put, it's the American way of fighting." Air Force doctrine defines space superiority as "freedom to attack as well as freedom from attack" in space.

The mission will require new weapons, new space satellites, new ways of doing battle and, by some estimates, hundreds of billions of dollars. It faces enormous technological obstacles. And many of the nation's allies object to the idea that space is an American frontier.
The awesomely-named Pete Teets, former COO of Lockheed Martin and former acting secretary of the Air Force, told The Times that while "[w]e haven't reached the point of strafing and bombing from space. . . we are thinking about those possibilities." One of the new capabilities, called "Global Strike," would involve a "space plane" carrying up to a half-ton of munitions; according to Lance Lord — where are they finding these incredible names? — Global Strike would offer "an incredible capability" to reach targets "anywhere in the world" in (no, Saddam, I'm not making this up) 45 minutes. It gets even better:
In April, the Air Force launched the XSS-11, an experimental microsatellite with the technical ability to disrupt other nations' military reconnaissance and communications satellites.

Another Air Force space program, nicknamed Rods From God, aims to hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground, striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon.

A third program would bounce laser beams off mirrors hung from space satellites or huge high-altitude blimps, redirecting the lethal rays down to targets around the world. A fourth seeks to turn radio waves into weapons whose powers could range "from tap on the shoulder to toast," in the words of an Air Force plan.
Why are these new weapons necessary, you ask? Because missile defense doesn't fucking work!
The Air Force's drive into space has been accelerated by the Pentagon's failure to build a missile defense on earth. After spending 22 years and nearly $100 billion, Pentagon officials say they cannot reliably detect and destroy a threat today.

"Are we out of the woods? No," Lt. Gen. Trey Obering, who directs the Missile Defense Agency, said in an interview. "We've got a long way to go, a lot of testing to do."
The Times claims, erroneously, that these new proposals represent "a substantial shift in American policy" away from the more "pacific" uses for space imagined by the Clinton Administration. If anything, the Air Force proposal affirms what many people have argued since 1967, when Lyndon Johnson proposed the Sentinel program, the forerunner of what is now called "national missile defense" — that the push for "defensive" space weapons is little more than a cover for the full-on weaponization of space. This is why the 1972 ABM Treaty and the lesser-known 1967 Outer Space Treaty were signed in the first place. With the cold war long over, however, the US has spent the past 13 years developing — under three successive presidents — a broad foreign policy demeanor that brooks no opposition to its "full-spectrum dominance." In the rejuvenated culture of American imperialism, treaties and conventions are rendered "quaint," and so they may be violated, obeyed or ignored as the situation requires. Got a problem with that? Suck on it, world! We've got "interests" to protect.

There are, however, no "national interests" worth defending through the deployment of weapons in space; the unsustainable expense of these projects would quite likely make the nation even more vulnerable to attack by diverting resources away from more worthwhile programs. (For some perspective on this just ask all the people working at American ports and nuclear plants how all that Homeland Security money is working out.) Moreover, the laughable failures of "missile defense" would lead a reasonable person to suspect that "Dildos from God" — or whatever they're calling it — are probably more thrilling in name than in practice.

None of this matters, though, when you've got a hard-on like Lance Lord. "Space superiority is not our birthright, but it is our destiny," he told an Air Force conference in September. "Space superiority is our day-to-day mission. Space supremacy is our vision for the future."

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Shorter Erik Loomis: "WTF?"

Pop tart container

I was going to blog about the weaponization of space this morning, but Erik at Alterdestiny caught my eye with this conundrum:
I know that everytime we go to the store, we see a new product that is laughably ridiculous. There are so many of these products that they become rather blase. However, last night I saw one that for some reason really blew my mind. It was a pop-tart holder made by Pop-Tarts in the shape of a pop-tart with a simulated frosting on it and of course it said Pop-Tart on it. And I couldn't help but wonder, is there any real use for such a thing? I mean it's not that such a product serves some kind of inner need for consumption, does it? I guess I could see where certain products might do that for certain people but not a pop-tart holder.

I mean, if you're going to eat something like that and you need to put it in something, don't you have something laying around the house that can do?

Maybe I just don't get consumption.
I awoke this morning wondering why — and in the name of what greater good — the United States would pursue a policy whose final outcome so clearly promises doom for us all. Now I understand. What else would one expect from a nation that produces something as profoundly redundant as a Pot Tart holder . . . in the shape of a Pop Tart?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

On this Date in 1986 (Part IV); Or, If I Could Go Back
in Time and Kick My Own Ass, I Would Do It Today

Senior Prom

As always, background info for this series is located here.

On this date in 1986, according to my Roanoke (Va.) Catholic High School Calendar:
May 17: Junior Achievement banquet and dance was a total BLAST.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Don't Make Me Shove This Koran Down The Toilet

(image purloined from The Propaganda Remix Project)

Via A Tiny Revolution, we learn of Force Ministries, born at the frightening intersection of evangelical Christianity and the Navy SEALs.
In this era of Gen-X extremism, it's proving harder and harder to capture the attention of the world's youth. If it doesn't go over 100 miles per hour, make a lot noise, put a hole in your lip, or turn your hair a different color, it probably won't get a second glace. This no doubt, makes evangelism challenging for many of today's ministries.

Enter Force Skydiving. Imagine a group of today's youth standing around with their skateboards and piercing's [sic], when all of a sudden, one of them looks up and sees an aircraft at 12,000 feet, with a smoke trail. What appear to be 5 human beings have exited the airplane, all of them trailing a stream of smoke. Nearly a minute later, brightly colored parachute with the single word, "FORCE" boldly visible, begin [sic] to open. All witnessing these daring stunts are curious to see if these guys can pull off a landing and live to tell about it. They quickly make their way to the 'drop zone' where they notice a thousand other kids watching the beautiful parachute formations and spectacular landings.

Immediately following the jump the jumpers quickly make their way to a stage were they began to speak a truth never before heard by many in the audience and soon a life changing realization comes over the newcomers. The enemy has just lost his grip on five more. This is the message that will be taken throughout the United States and soon the world, as the Force Skydiving team takes to the skies. We also minister to the military. The FORCE skydiving team is available to jump at air shows, onto aircraft carriers and wherever else there are members of the military gathered. We truly believe that because of the uniqueness of our show, thousands and thousands will be drawn to our exploits and the message of Jesus that each of us holds in our heart. Please pray that the FORCE skydiving team will hit it's [sic] mark upon this generation and those who have served our great nation in the armed forces and this generation. [sic]

Analogy is War Conducted by Other Means

Once upon a time, the United States went to war in a far-away nation about whose history most Americans knew little or nothing. The president, who hailed from Texas, argued for war based on incomplete information and outright distortions which were, it turns out, known to be such by many people serving within his own administration. Some critics argued that this war was a risky distraction from a broader, more important conflict. The president, asserting that the war was indeed necessary for the protection of American lives and the promotion of American values, claimed otherwise. Congress overwhelmingly granted the president the authorization he requested. Promising a quick and relatively inexpensive victory, the president commenced the war with few international allies and without authorization from the United Nations. Although ordinary Americans tended to support this war at first, it proved over time to be a profoundly divisive conflict, and over time public confidence eroded as the body count mounted and the light at the end of the tunnel grew farther and farther away…
This is an excerpt from the lecture I give in my History 132 survey, right about the time we begin studying — for the two days we can devote to it — the Vietnam War. After this introduction, I remind my students of Darwin's warning that analogy may be a "deceitful guide," and I explain why we should be exceedingly careful about the links we draw between present and past wars. More on that in a moment. I bring this issue up because Steve Gilliard, Marc Cooper, Dennis Perrin and a raft of others bloggers were brutalizing one another last week, among other things over the question of whether the Iraq War is now a greater disaster than the American war in Vietnam. On this issue, Gilliard and Perrin spoke in the affirmative, while Cooper argued otherwise. Gilliard, writing on May 3, argued that
The Iraqis are better armed than the Vietnamese were. Every Iraqi platoon goes into combat with automatic rifles and rpg's. They have military training. They control the highways, the have negated the use of airmobile tactics and kept US forces penned up in their bases. Americans can't even go out for a beer and a hooker.

Oh, if Iraq was like Vietnam, the US would have a professional Army to fight besides and control of the cities. Helicopters could be used freely and US units could be stationed all over the countryside. And there would be real Iraqi leadership. No, Vietnam would be a step up. Because we would control the highway to the airport.

But as to the rest of it, mistreating veterans, combat refusals, corruption, well it's 1970 all over again.
About a week later (and in response to a post by Perrin) Cooper disagreed, arguing that such comparisons are
demonstrably false, if only by the lesser magnitude of death in Iraq…a far lesser magnitude. War is evil. A war that kills 3 million people is more evil than one that kills 100,000. Or am I missing something? The whole formulation is beside the point. (Yes, there is some sort of wondrous political point to be scored by proving, say, that Bush is worse than Nixon. A game, by the way, we don't have the luxury to play).
Perrin then shot back:
The death toll in Vietnam is from a 13-year-period. We're only in year two in Iraq, which, if we make a direct comparison, is 1964 Vietnam-time. Millions weren't dead by that point, but the slaughter was underway. And as Gilliard stated, Saigon was never the free-fire zone that is Baghdad today. American GIs and journalists could move about the capital more or less freely, which is not the case in Baghdad. I caught Russ Feingold on the radio yesterday. He was in Baghdad a few months ago, and he said that even in the Green Zone, everyone wore helmets and flack jackets. Far from focusing solely on the "bad news," as Fox-watchers insist the Liberal Media does, Feingold said that if anything, the American press is "under-reporting" the madness in Iraq. It's that fucking bad. Go back and read press reports from Saigon in 1964, and see which situation is worse.
After that, the exchange got nasty. Whatever else one might have to say about this particular dispute — the posts (and subsequent comments) are all worth reading, as are their various other links — it's worth mentioning that historical analogies are only useful insofar as they assist polemical exchanges like these. Three years ago, those who endorsed Bush's policies were apt to invoke the legacy of World War II as the sanctifying touch for the war against terrorism; certain neoconservatives were rather more fond of mentioning the Cold War, which Norman Podhoretz always described as World War III. Dissenters were labeled "appeasers" or "fifth columnists" and were taken to the woodshed, to be clubbed with reminders of Neville Chamberlain, the League of Nations, or Henry Wallace. Now, with the violence in Iraq escalating, opinion polls indicating widespread American dissatisfaction with the war, and with no end in sight, the Vietnam analogies — boosted by the 30-year anniversary of Saigon's fall — have their obvious appeal.

We should not be detained long by the question of whether World War II offers the “correct” historical analogy to the war on terrorism, or whether the Vietnam analogy works well in our discussions of Iraq. All historical analogies are fallible in one sense or another because they emphasize certain aspects of the past while suppressing others to achieve the right fit. Yet we're probably incapable of living, thinking, or teaching without them, and for very good reasons (including the need to write polemics). Anyone who teaches or writes about history must be attuned to the connections between present and past, and as tools for developing that sensitivity, analogies are no more or less problematic than any other rhetorical device.

There are profound risks, however, in comparing the Iraq War (or the broader war on terrorism) with World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, or any other conflict. First of all, such comparisons — while creating the effect of historical context — are usually deeply ahistorical; measuring the wars in Iraq and Vietnam against one another may be useful as a thinking exercise, but it does very little to illuminate the actual causes and consequences of American foreign policy in the Middle East and Central Asia. Moreover, such comparisons tend to remove those earlier wars from their own proper place in the flow of history, encouraging a certain forgetfulness there as well. Do we learn anything new about the American war in Vietnam by comparing it with the current war in Iraq? Probably not. Instead, these analogies serve best as mood lighting, with "World War II" and "Vietnam" serving as the positive and negative poles in the ongoing disputes about American national virtue and the wisdom of its contemporary policies. Given that most of us are not asked to think in very complicated ways about the past, my suspicion is that wartime analogies tend to work as a substitute for rather than as a supplement to critical thought. And because our perceptions of World War II and Vietnam are such touchstones for various claims about the meaning and mission of the United States, it becomes quite difficult to invoke those histories without suffering immediately from certain forms of amnesia.

The second, related and more serious problem with wartime analogies is that they typically function only by erasing the historical vantage point of those people most immediately victimized by these wars — in this case, the Vietnamese and Iraqi people themselves. The Vietnam War analogy, for instance, only makes sense when seen from a particularly American vantage point. This repeats all the usual tendencies in American culture, which lead us to overstate the centrality of "our" experiences to all the wars in which the US has fought. (Indeed, one of the best-selling textbooks on the Vietnam War is subtitled, without any apparent sense of irony, "An American Ordeal.") In any event, I suspect very much that ordinary Iraqis are not inclined to see this war as "their Vietnam," just as the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos might not think of the wars in Indochina as "an American ordeal." It's important than Cooper, Perrin, Gilliard and others continue to highlight the consequences of this war for Iraqi civilians, in defiance of the conventional narcissism and against the appalling recommendations of some in the media that these consequences not be covered. Undoubtedly, however, the catastrophic civilian body counts in Iraq over the past two weeks — to say nothing of the past two years — are perhaps reminders of other histories that Americans would do well to learn and recall.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Shitty Jobs I Have Known (Disgruntled Sibling Edition)

In most families with three or more children, it seems that one or two wind up going completely, bat-shit insane at some point. Someone experiences a bizarre religious conversion, someone else marries a vile specimen of humanity, somebody votes Republican, or someone else commits himself or herself to an occupation that makes holiday meals unbearable and tense. Not in my family, though. There are four of us, and while we pretty much abused one another mercilessly in all the traditional ways as children — hiding stuffed animals, punching each other in the face and groin, stealing money from each other, blaming the youngest child for our parents' divorce — none of us have turned out too terribly loopy. Everyone married well; we tend not to punch each other anymore; we think the war on terrorism is a crock of shit; and as my sister's latest e-mail attests, we understand the agony of alienated labor:
[A]fter years of complaints followed by inaction, I am actually getting myself motivated to leave my shitty job! I've had it with this place, and things just keep going downhill. So after five years of 2% pay raises and 20% health insurance increases at a dead-end job, I am officially putting myself on the market.

I haven't turned in any applications yet, but I am getting my stack organized and updating my resume. This of course is taking time away from my usual internet trolling and blog reading activities, but I'm willing to make some sacrifices. My policy since returning from leave last July has been to work only the hours for which I feel compensated. So I come in around 10am and spend much of my time bitching with coworkers, hiding from the boss, eating snacks, pumping breastmilk (or at least shutting my office door and turning on the pump for sound), washing and sterilizing my pump parts, going on the occasional "homevisit" to Old Navy or Target, attending all the free training sessions I can find, picking dead leaves off my plants, checking all of your blogs, and making personal phone calls. It's been fun, but I sure feel like one hell of a loser most days.

And the old folks have started to completely gross me out too. Body odor, extreme poor oral hygiene, stray bits of food crusted on clothing, freaky mutant facial hairs, ill-fitting wigs, yellow toenails atop gnarly feet, leaky Depends, clothes that reek of moth balls. I'm over it. My decision was finalized last night when I had to take them to the annual "Senior" Prom. The city puts on this annual event, but recent budget cuts have caused them to forgo the trays of meatballs, fruit, cheese, fancy cookies, etc. and serve only green punch. So groups have to bring their own vittles to the dance. My guys brought chips, cheese doodles, and vienna sausages. We were the ghetto table, hands down. The highlight of my evening was having to enter a bathroom stall to hoist a very large, half naked, arthritic woman off the john. Not what I had in mind when I spend nearly 50K on grad school.

I can't wait to find something new and [my husband] is looking forward to an end to the daily rant. Plus, once I get a competitive salary we can take our student loans out of deferment and starting sending all that extra cash to the government! Whoo-hoo.

Anyway, if I don't have a new career by the end of the summer I expect to be mocked . . . Gotta go - time for a snack.

Friday Cat Blogging



Thursday, May 12, 2005

Friday King Crab Blogging

IMG_740Real Alaskans kill these things with their bare hands. But I'm not a real Alaskan.

Regardless, the fucker was mighty tasty.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Shitty Jobs I Have Known (Part I)

I believe the God created the Earth and put life on this Earth. I don't really believe in the whole evolution theory.

I believe that God also made us. I just think it's a lot easier to believe then the big bang theory, or any of the other theories about apes.

To say that this was all some big cosmic dice roll, and we went from fish to frogs to monkeys and monkeys to humans. It's just kind of almost ridiculous.

I think you have different types of scientists, and the ones that bring about, you know, theories of evolution, I wouldn't call them scientists they're just like philosophers.

I don't think a human body could have just come about. I think God definitely had everything to do in it, it's so complex, I don't think it could have just come.
— Quotes from high school students in Danville, Kentucky (PBS broadcast, 28 March 2005)

For about two months in early 1993 I worked as a telemarketer for a ski resort in central Virginia, in a town much like Danville, Kentucky. Our job was to lure our marks to the resort for a "free weekend vacation," where the "vacationers" would be pounded with hard-sell tactics until they wept like babies, peed their pants, and purchased a time-share at one of the resort's condominia. My role was to be the set-up guy. I'd dial the phone, speak gently and alluringly to the person who answered, using the word "free" as often as possible, and keep the victim on the line until he or she sounded interested enough to earn a call-back from the closers. This little victory was known as a "hit," and I was expected to make six hits in a five-hour shift. The closers, who lived off our hits, were a group of edgy, chain-smoking, foul-mouthed motherfuckers who worked on commission. They had a separate room with their own coffee pot and ashtrays galore. They shouted a lot, mostly at each other. Being with them was like watching a David Mamet play, only without the optimism and uplift. At least one of them had a mild stroke while I was employed there.

This was a heinous, $5-an-hour job that I endured only as long as it took to get fired. After a few weeks of genuine effort, for which I was rewarded with humiliation and failure, I decided that I would only pretend to work. Instead, I used the phones to call friends and family; I took dozens of bathroom breaks each shift, blaming them on bad tacos or sour milk; I sat with the phone to my ear, mumbling nonsense and listening to the dial tone as I doodled and wrote essays about alienated labor. Not surprisingly, my "hits" declined catastrophically, and the closers stopped letting me drink their coffee. After several lengthy pep talks from the supervisor, a former elementary school teacher who tried earnestly to make me give a shit, it was clear where this relationship was heading. The final straw came when she strolled by my table one night and caught me — phone cradled aimlessly on my shoulder — sketching a giant anvil dropping, Wile E. Coyote-style, on her pumpkin-sized head.

My colleagues in the set-up room were a strange mix whom I genuinely missed for about 20 minutes after I was fired. There was me, an English and History major eight months from jumping down the rabbit hole of graduate school; a genuinely psychopathic personality named Kelly who liked to show us pictures of the Iraqi solider he'd killed during the Gulf War; a 24-year-old woman with a heart defect and the 16-year-old kid she started, then stopped, fucking in the parking lot on breaks; a University of Kansas graduate who, if I recall correctly, sold the occasional slug of crack to make ends meet; another woman who was obsessed with the health of her colon, though not enough to quit her ferocious smoking habit; and a dozen other people afflicted by life in all the usual ways. But the co-worker I remembered most was a high-school junior named Torie, who had moved from Virginia Beach earlier that year and was having a difficult time at the publicly-funded Christian academy known as Harrisonburg High. When I wasn't diagramming ways to execute my boss, Torie and I would chat, mostly about school and work and how she might get the fuck out of Dodge after graduating the next year. One night, as she was describing her latest science project, she lowered her voice and confessed that she believed in evolution.

"I know that's kind of weird," she explained quietly. "But I've been doing a lot of reading for this project, and . . . "

She went on to explain how her fellow students and even her science teacher ridiculed her for suggesting that humans and apes shared common descent. I tried to reassure her that she wasn't the weirdo, that creationism isn't science and can't be taught in school, that this debate had been settled by the Supreme Court in 1987, and that all arguments to the contrary would be swept away as the rest of the nation slowly entered the twentieth century. Those days, I still believed in progress. I was a college graduate, and I think Torie actually believed what I was telling her. She seemed immensely pleased.

I've been thinking about Torie a lot recently, as the clamor over "Intelligent Design" accelerates in states like Kansas, as I see more Jesus-fish car magnets on the roads, as I see the well-attended churches in my community sponsoring seminars on evolution and the Bible, and as I read about places like Danville, Kentucky.

If we were still working together, I'd probably buy her a hit of crack and apologize.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005



Final grades have been submitted. Another year of intellectual promise has gone fabulously awry. By September, I suspect my pathetic, teacherly illusions — that I might transform a world or two through the magical touch of my words, or that I might encourage my students to hurl themselves into a life-long enthusiasm for the past, or that I might persuade my students to filet the rich and mount their heads on spikes — will revive themselves, just in time for another monotonous cycle of hope and exhaustion. Another year has passed in which I did not bring a shotgun to work, or create a nationally-televised hostage situation, or drink myself to death in my own office. Nor was I singled out for public ridicule in the local newspaper*, assaulted by disgruntled students on the sawdust floor of an untidy barroom, or poisoned by colleagues for my shoddy performance on university committees. There will be time, perhaps next year, for all that.

They're Like Muggings, Really

Adopting a trick I learned from Lawyers, Guns and Money, here's a shorter John Tierney:

"Yes, the media should cover suicide bombings in Iraq, but aren't we just making the insurgency stronger by exposing their deadly work? Isn't this like rubbernecking at a car accident, or like watching endless coverage of a natural disaster? I mean, suicide bombings are so 2004, and Americans are tired of all the gore. What if we imitated Giuliani and stopped giving so many details about these things? After all, it would probably make Americans less concerned that a car bomb in Iraq is going to kill them. We could get back to living our normal lives."

Garbage Day

I forgot to do a Garbage Day post last week, probably for the very same reasons I neglected to drag our actual garbage to the curb. Sometimes, you see, it's hard to let go. Maybe I needed another few days with that plump sack of cat turds and urine mounds; perhaps I wasn't quite ready to surrender that nasty old "Kenny's Liquor" baseball cap to Juneau's overstuffed landfill. Three 50-gallon tubs a week. The toilet of our lives. The toenail clippings and depleted cereal bags. The credit card offers and Boston Proper catalogues. The waste that resists classification. The unmentionables.

So many memories.

Here's something else to remember. And this, by the very same polluted mind.

Garbage Day has been good to you. Give thanks and praise.

Monday, May 09, 2005

More Reasons Why My Wife Should Have a Blog of Her Own

Yet another of those golden, middle-school moments, courtesy of the wife:
So Louis was telling a story at lunch today about how he was out with some friends at an old abandoned house down near the water. For some reason, he decided to take a crap in the front yard. I overheard him telling this story, and so I asked him why he would want to do something like that.

"I dunno -- I guess I've always wanted to take a dump in someone's yard."

Then he proceeded to describe how his dog, a few minutes later, walked over and took a shit on the dock. Louis was a little confused.

"Well," I suggested, "maybe that's because he figured the yard was already taken."

These Folks are...


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Muddying the Waters


In this week's Weekly Standard, Pamela Winnick explains that the immiserated condition of science education in the United States has nothing to do with religious folly, or the Bush' administration's open contempt for empirical research, but can instead be blamed on textbook publishers like Pearson and Houghton Mifflin, who prefer "political correctness" to scientific accuracy. Reminding her readers of a 2001 study that found hundreds of errors in basic science texts, Winnick blames the influence of cultural pluralism for the poor quality of the texts and, by extension, the low science proficiency of American students.
[T]here's lots that's puzzling about the science textbooks used in American classrooms. A sloppy way with facts, a preference for the politically correct over the scientifically sound, and sheer faddism characterize their content. It's as if their authors had decided above all not to expose students to the intellectual rigor that is the lifeblood of science.

Thus, a chapter on climate in a fifth-grade science textbook in the Discovery Works series, published by Houghton Mifflin (2000), opens with a Native American explanation for the changing seasons: "Crow moon is the name given to spring because that is when the crows return. April is the month of Sprouting Grass Moon." Students meander through three pages of Algonquin lore before they learn that climate is affected by the rotation and tilt of Earth--not by the return of the crows.

Houghton Mifflin spokesman Collin Earnst says such tales are included in order to "connect science to culture." He might more precisely have said to connect science to certain preferred, non-Western, or primitive cultures. Were a connection drawn to, say, a Bible story, the outcry would be heard around the world.
Here Winnick implies that while the "primitives" and their white liberal apologists are permitted to "connect science to culture," American Christians — the most persecuted minority of them all — are shouted down for trying to make the same links in Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Kansas and fifteen other states where evolutionary theory is being challenged by promoters of "Intelligent Design." Why should Algonquian creation narratives be granted space in science texts while Genesis is not? [Update: Yes, I know the "Intelligent Design" people claim to be making a different, more "scientific" argument than the creationists, drawing their ideas from data rather than sacred texts. But it's also evident that ID doesn't simply make space for supernatural explanations for natural phenomena; it requires it by spending all its time searching for alleged "gaps" in evolutionary theory, then using those gaps to imply the existence of a "designer" and to discount the entire idea of descent by natural selection. It's religious hooey, in other words. No wonder the Kansas hearings have proved embarrassing to the "serious" ID people so far, as witness after witness has spoken goofy about the age of the earth.]

Well, for starters, the chapter ridiculed here by Winnick utilizes a standard rhetorical strategy shared by textbooks in nearly all subject areas — i.e., begin with an interesting story, try to "draw the readers in," then move on to the more conventional displinary treatment of the subject raised. Anyone who reads, writes or assigns textbooks will recognize this approach as neither misleading nor relativist. Indeed, in most science texts, this strategy serves fairly traditional "scientific" values in its separation of (subjective) myth and belief from (objective) fact and research. One could, therefore, easily imagine a chapter in a biology text that opens with a review of Genesis before proceeding onward to a discussion of natural selection.

However, the "outcry" against this hypothetical chapter would likely come not from scientists but from Christian conservatives outraged by the "demotion" of Biblical creationism to the rank of just another narrative, on par with aboriginal superstition. For the Christian activists currently pushing Intelligent Design, the point is not to "connect science with culture," nor to suggest that culture and science mingle in interesting ways, but instead to rearrange the boundary between the two — to claim scientific status for a very specific form of religious belief that is already privileged throughout American culture. These people seek not merely to denigrate evolution but also to distinguish Biblical creationism from other belief systems deemed "inferior" (and "unscientific") by comparison. The racism implicit in this strategy is quite bald and should be named.

President Bush Sends a Hearty "Fuck You" to American Mothers


no, he doesn't

On Mother's Day, we pay tribute to the extraordinary women whose guidance and unconditional love shape our lives and our future. Motherhood often allows little time for rest. As President Theodore Roosevelt said of the American mother in 1905, "Upon her time and strength, demands are made not only every hour of the day but often every hour of the night." President Roosevelt's words ring as true today as they did 100 years ago.
— George Bush, 5 May 2005

[T]he man or woman who deliberately avoids marriage and has a heart so cold as to know no passion and a brain so shallow and selfish as to dislike having children, is in effect a criminal against the race and should be an object of contemptuous abhorrence by all healthy people.
— Teddy Roosevelt, 18 October 1902

From Amy Chasanov at The American Prospect:
President Bush wants to give American women a Mother's Day present we'd be better off without: He's cutting our Social Security benefits when he promises not to, and making us repay more than our fair share if we choose to open a private account.

The president's plan for Social Security, which combines privatization with changes in the way future benefits are calculated, would cut promised benefits substantially.

Wait a minute, you're thinking: Didn't the president say that current benefit levels would be protected for low-wage earners? And wouldn't women's lower wages actually protect more of them from benefit cuts? Not really. Here's the problem. Yes, the president said that benefits would stay the same for workers who currently earn $20,000 a year or less, and that only the top 70 percent of earners would face cuts. But that's not exactly true.

Working women are more likely to be in the lowest 30 percent of the career earnings distribution. Despite their increasing presence in the labor force, they are still paid less than men for identical work; they are more likely to work in low-wage, pink-collar jobs; and they are more likely to work part time or spend time out of the labor force to raise children or care for elderly family members. And, because many women's Social Security checks are based on their husbands' earnings, not their own, they wouldn’t be insulated from the president's benefit cuts. So much for protecting low-wage women.

Meanwhile, for the woman "lucky" enough to fall in the top 70 percent of earners, whether by virtue of her own earnings or her spouse's, the cuts would be progressively deeper over time. Eventually all workers would end up receiving about the same benefit, essentially transforming Social Security from its role today as a dependable, guaranteed retirement benefit into a bare-bones safety-net program.

For the American middle class, this plan means big cuts over time; an average earner born today would have her benefits cut nearly 30 percent. Middle-income workers can't afford it, as two-thirds of all retirees now get more than half of their income from Social Security. With employers offering fewer and leaner private pensions, future retirees will have even less income outside of Social Security.

When a worker no longer brings home the bacon due to retirement, disability, or death, Social Security provides baseline income security for not only the worker but also that worker's family. Wives (or husbands) of retired or disabled workers can receive 50 percent of their spouses' Social Security benefit if it's higher than the benefit they qualify for on their own. Because a wife's lifetime earnings rarely exceed her husband's, women are much more likely to receive spousal benefits as wives or widows.

In 2001, more than 6 million women had earned Social Security as workers but received higher benefits as a widow or wife. Their husbands are likely to be in the top 70 percent of the career earnings distribution. Not only would the husbands have their benefits reduced under partial price indexing, the 50-percent spousal benefit received by wives and widows (and children) also would be cut. That's why many women in the bottom 30 percent who are being promised that their benefits will not be cut are in for a nasty shock. This problem gets worse over time. The number of working women entitled to a higher benefit based on their husband's earnings is expected to grow from 28 percent of all women in 2000 to 38 percent in 2040.

That's not the only thorn on this rose. Private accounts would hurt women, too. Anyone who opens a private account would actually be borrowing money from the government. The government would keep lending you money to put into your account each year, and would keep track, just like a bank. At retirement, you'd have to pay back what you borrowed plus 3-percent interest and inflation compounded each year, leaving you with whatever -- if anything -- you'd been able to make above that.

Yale University financial economist Robert Shiller finds that, under a realistic rate of return, the life-cycle portfolio loses money 71 percent of the time. In other words, most folks lose the gamble and would have been better off never opening an account. But let's assume you're one of the lucky ones who made money. The government would convert your debt into a monthly repayment and subtract what you owe from the (already reduced, in most cases) Social Security check you get each month.

Workers who die sooner after retirement (read: men) wouldn’t have time to repay all they've borrowed from the government. Instead, workers who live longer after retirement (read: women) would pay the government back more than their fair share of what was borrowed.

I'm not sure how the lawmakers who are pushing indexing changes and privatization are explaining this to the mothers in their lives this weekend. I'd bet they're just sending roses.

Happy Mother's Day


Happy Mother's Day! As always with holidays and birthdays, I'm late with cards and gifts and such, but I notice on my calendar that Fête des Mères is not celebrated in France and Quebec until May 29, so I figure I'm within the grace period created by ambiguous and conflicting international holidays. Thank goodness for the dilatory French and their belated toasts to motherhood.

Today, we celebrate the women who grunted us into being, nourished us to maturity, soothed our wounds, comforted us in sickness, confiscated our drugs, embarrassed us in front of friends, and unintentionally promoted the beautiful spectrum of neuroses we will bear with us to the grave. Once a year, in recognition of their grace and martyrdom, we take time out to say, "Thanks, mom, for squandering what could have been the most creative and productive years of your lives on us, your sniveling, unworthy children. Here's a plate — the buffet table is over there. Go nuts."

In recognition of this day and the obscene glory of Motherhood, I recommend that everyone visit Loretta at Gone Feral, where we find one of the few "Mommy Blogs" worth reading. Where else can you find such an acute summary of motherhood and its carnivalesque implications?
I guess I ate too much pepper jack cheese the other day. Or maybe it was the garlic-stuffed olives.

My habits as well as my personal hygiene (and, you know, any sense of shame about writing this stuff publicly) have deteriorated since going feral, and I've picked up quite a few new bad habits along the way, as well as encouraged all the old bad ones to grow bigger. To wit:

1. Pre-feral: Sometimes dug in nose without a tissue handy.
Post-feral: Nursing is mama's special nose pickin' time.

2. Pre-feral: Sometimes dressed hastily.
Post-feral: Left the house in a shirt with a broken zipper. Discovered that I'd been walking around with my beller hanging out exposed all morning after ducking into Jimmy John's to take a hot shit. No wonder they looked at me like I was homeless.

3. Pre-feral: Flossed occasionally, usually after looking at E.'s teeth. Or hell, just being in E.'s aura.
Post-feral: Flossing is for pussies.

4. Pre-feral: Figured no one would notice if I wore the same pants two days in a row.
Post-feral: Laundry is for pussies.

5. Pre-feral: Sometimes ate odd combinations of things, especially if in hurry.
Post-feral: No meal is complete without olives and cheese. Wash down with a tall glass of O.J.
Gone Feral is a land stripped of illusions — motherhood without the bullshit ideology. Now that's good motherin'!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Apes, Angels and Victorians

Greatest hits from Red State Rabble's coverage of this week's Kansas Monkey Trials, clearly part of the Jayhawk State's campaign to upend Florida's reign as most embarrassing state:
As intelligent design witness after witness admitted under questioning that they have not read the majority draft of the science standards, board member Kathy Martin jumped in to save the day.

"I've not read it word for word myself," Martin said as the air went out of the room.


Daniel Ely, a cardiovascular physiologist and author of the science standards [in Ohio], was forced to admit under intense pressure from Science Coalition attorney Pedro Irigongaray, that he believes the earth is "somewhere between 5,000 and 4.5 billion years old. It may be much younger than most people think," he said.


During cross-examination, Science Coalition attorney Pedro Irigonegaray has forced each intelligent design witness to go on record about their opinion on the age of the earth, common descent, and whether human beings have evolved from pre-hominids.

So far, not one witness has said they believe the evidence supports a belief that all living things share a common ancestor or that they believe that human have evolved from pre-hominids.

Professional scientists who are monitoring the hearings commented that this position commits the witnesses to a belief in special creation for each plant and animal species now in existence.

On the first day, all the witnesses said they believe the earth is approximately 4.5 billions years old -- the scientifically accepted age. However, yesterday, cracks began to emerge in that consensus as one witness Bryan Leonard, a high school biology teacher from Ohio, categorically refused to answer, and two others, Daniel Ely and John Sanford said the earth might be less than 10 thousand years old.

"Less than 100 thousand years old," said Sanford. "Conceivably less than 10 thousand years old."


The afternoon was given over to presentations by Jonathan Wells, Bruce Simat, Giuseppe Sermonti, and Ralph Seelke (Red State Rabble was not present for these last two witnesses).

Wells, a disciple of the Rev. Sung Myung Moon, is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture and author of "Icons of Evolution."

Wells outlined what he sees as the three chief difficulties faced by what he calls "Darwinian" evolutionary theory: the molecular makeup of DNA does not provide confirmation of common descent, problems with the fossil record associated with the Cambrian explosion, and embryology.

Completely absent from Wells presentation was any discussion of how our growing understanding of genetics has provided convincing evidence of common descent since Darwin wrote "Origin of the Species." When it came time to provide supporting evidence of his claims on the fossil evidence, Wells power point presentation instead offered more of his dubious molecular evidence -- perhaps because Wells has come under intense fire for distorting (quote mining) sources on the so-called problems with the Cambrian explosion in his book. Recent, evidence (since 1950) has filled in the fossil record in this area persuading scientists that the organisms that once seemed to appear suddenly during the Cambrian explosion evolved over time. The problem is not one of evolution, but of plate tectonics destroying much of the fossil record.

The funniest exchange of the day came when Pedro Irigonegary got Wells to admit that his was a minority view.

"Most of them disagree with me," said Wells. "I enjoy being in the minority."

"More than being right?" asked Irigonegary to general laughter.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging



Happy Nurse's Day


Nursing is an art:
and if it is to be made an art,
It requires an exclusive devotion
as hard a preparation,
as any painter´s or sculptor´s work;
for what is the having to do with
dead canvas or dead marble,
compared with having to do
with the living body,
the temple of God´s spirit?
It is one of the Fine Arts:
I had almost said,
the finest of Fine Arts.
- Florence Nightingale

Props today to all the nurses who keep our sagging, inequitable American health care system from becoming a vast, squirming charnel house. When the streets are thick with entrails of our corporate masters, you will be among the first to receive your just recompense.

For all your nurse-blogging needs today, see Thinking Nurse, Head Nurse, The Unlikely RN, and of course Sonic Nurse, the best nursing/political blog of them all. All have been pre-screened and approved by yours truly. No right-wing nurses allowed — all sites with links to "Instapundit" and "Blogs for Bush" were automatically disqualified from consideration.

Also highly recommended is the massive roster of nurse romance novels on display at Tiny Pineapple. Cover art and brief excerpts included from such prize-winning works as Angels in White, A Nurse on Horseback, and My Friend, Dr. John:
Half the nurses at the hospital had, at one time or another, referred to the Senior R.M.O., John Reddman, as “My friend, Doctor John” — but that was as far as it had ever got.

Would Nurse Karen Mason be any luckier than all the rest of them?
I think we know the answer to that one. Oh, yes. I think we do.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

Zonite Douche ad 2
More from the wife:
So Nick decides to use the word "douche" today during silent reading class. I found a sandwich in a plastic bag and he yelled out, "that looks like a douche in a bag." When I asked him to come over and tell me what the word meant, he said he didn't know. I sent him to the library to research this topic in the sex book that he likes to check out on a weekly basis. He's been gone a long time.

Of course, every student is now asking, "Mrs. XXXXXXX, what is a douche?"
It's going to be one of those days where I get a parent phone call--I just know it.

Thursday Pre-Teen Gossip Blogging

It's been a brutal week here at the Axis. Much grading to do, much softball to play, and much of my own crappy research to be revising. I'm left with almost nothing to blog about, so I've resorted to stealing material from my wife, who teaches middle school and occasionally stumbles across fabulous relics of pre-teen angst. To wit:

Dear Ali,

Why did you do that? You told Serena what I told you @ Brian & Nick B's parties! I was joking when I told you that anywayz. I guess I can't trust you anymore or tell you anything. :-( Well, too bad because I was going to tell you a lot more but I can't! So, maybe you should wait to tell people things that weren't meant to get out. I don't even know what to say, I just can't tell you anything...I hope you're happy because now Christina & Krystal both hate me! :-(

Oh right. You can tell people that if they have something to say about me to come to me & say it.

If you show anybody this note....I will NEVER talk to you again.

Any notes I give you I hope you've never showed anybody.

Love Always,


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Yeah, Sure — If Thinking "Outside the Box" Means You Don't Have to Do Your Fucking Research

i'm a tool

"He's just a very interesting thinker. He thinks outside the box, has a very distinct worldview and I think he'll be a lot of fun. . . . He'll be writing about stuff in ways that no one else on our team does."
— Gail Collins, NY Times editorial editor 2 March 2005

Gail Collins' praise to the contrary (and while I'm thinking about it, did she actually use the phrase "outside the box?"), John Tierney's columns in the New York Times have thus far offered the sort of oversimplified, saccharine-populist mooning that David Brooks has claimed as a genre unto himself. It's almost making me yearn for William Safire to come out of retirement. Last week, Tierney served up a fact-free parable about the merits of Chile's privatized pension system. (Details and critiques here and here.) This week, Tierney continues his Bobo-licious mimickry by explaining why so many "Blue State" types just don't understand last week's triumphant comic stylings of Laura Bush. The First Lady, who killed like Seinfeld buffoon Kenny Banya at a White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, has been lofted upon on the shoulders of cable news for her saucy jokes about male strippers, the president's early bedtime, and horse schlongs. Writes Tierney,
Her timing had the audience howling, and the edgier lines had them gasping. Jokes about pent-up sexual frustration from a prim librarian? With her born-again husband sitting there and enjoying it? And cameras recording it for Republican preachers who are determined to get sex out of schools and off television?

. . . The coverage of Mrs. Bush's comic debut may change some minds, but for devout Bush-bashers, it's much easier to stay the course. If you live in a blue-state stronghold, a coastal city where you can go 24 hours without meeting any Republicans, it's consoling to think of the red staters as an alien bunch of strait-laced Bible thumpers.
As for these deluded snobs, Tierney continues, they'll continue to believe that middle-class Americans are "yahoos" and "zealots" who vote Republican in defiance of their own economic interests. But Tierney — and the great, warm, libertarian mass of common-sensical America — knows better.
[M]iddle-class Americans don't simply cast ballots for Republicans. They also vote with their feet, which is why blue states and old Democratic cities are losing population to red states and Republican exurbs. People are moving there precisely because of economic reasons - more jobs, affordable houses and the lower taxes offered by Republican politicians.
Now, I'm no demographer, but this sounded just a bit too simple to withstand scrutiny. Every US historian knows that population trends in the United States have been streaming toward the West and South since World War II and the onset of defense Keynesianism (i.e., massive federal spending on "national security"), which has continued to underwrite the economic vitality of the Sun Belt ever since. These population trends, however, did not take on a strong political tone until the rise of the New Right after about 1964. By the 1970s, the Southern and Western states emerged as the new geographic base for the Republican party, now comprised of dependent individualists who wanted "The Gum'mint" to build their roads, develop and protect their industries, keep their military bases open, and leave them the fuck alone. Meantime, the older industrial regions lumbered along, losing their (white) population and tax dollars as those left behind in the midwest and northeast subsidized the Southern Renaissance, which would indeed be quite Republican in character.

So yes, generally speaking, these kinds of demographic trends are useful for anyone wishing to understand the many dimensions of the 40-year conservative counter-revolution that preoccupies us so. But is the US really like Cold War Berlin, with residents of the Blue states fighting to get out rather than get in? Not according to the US Census Bureau, which has all sorts of great information — you know, charts and maps and shit — that people like Tierney have to ignore in order to float along on their raft of platitudes, guided (like Elian Gonzalez) by divine porpoises to the shores of Red America. In this short little .pdf file, for instance, we learn that of the 22 states that lost population between 1995-2000, twelve voted Bush/Ghraib in 2004, and most are dominated by Republicans state legislatures as well. The biggest Red State loser of them all was my own adopted homeland of Alaska, a sanctuary for Republican nut jobs if ever there was one. Not even free oil money, crazy gun laws and the lack of a state income tax could keep us from losing 51 people per capita in those years. Wyoming? A net loss of 12,500 people, no doubt fleeing all the limousine liberals in Laramie and Jackson Hole. And the Dakotas suffered a net loss of 40,000 people between them, probably because of all the gay marriages and EZ-Stop Abortion Clinics that sprung up following Tom Daschle's re-election in 1998.

Ah well. At least the poor liberals left behind in those states can now imagine their President giving a hand job to a horse. That'll cheer 'em up.