Monday, April 30, 2007

A trigger to pull?

Turns out that Congress can enforce its own subpoenas. A radical move, but the Democratic leaders have shown some gumption in pulling up little-used parliamentary rights, and this would certainly be the time...

Chick schtick

femsignI was going to blog this depressing bit about how the recent Supreme Court ruling will make doctors afraid to treat pregnant women in any meaningful way other than as a Consecrated Incubator (my framing, not the author's), let alone with health of their own. Instead, I've decided to celebrate Twisty's rant about the indignity of finding "decent" swimwear in the absence of anything that might "need" covering up.
“Mastectomy swimwear,” see, doesn’t mean “no-boobs swimwear.” It means “swimwear that maintains, for the comfort of the entire community, the illusion that you never had a socially awkward deadly cancer, and could still turn dudes on if you weren’t so old and pruney.”
Let's just call it a day to Shake Fists at the Patriarchy and then get on with the week. Fight each fight as best you can, and enjoy the eloquence along the way...

Update: Oh, what the heck, why not get a full Twisty Overload and go read her rant about the inherent oppression of porn. That's always good for some outraged blow-back (and consequent readerly amusement)!
A woman is a member of the sex class whether she “chooses” it or not. This pre-existing condition forms the backdrop to any fun feminist’s conclusion that her compliance with the patriarchal sexbot mandate is voluntary. She may believe otherwise, but her belief does not alter the fact that patriarchy — a social order predicated on an oppression to which she is already subject — is real and in effect and entirely beyond any unrestricted control she may wish to exert and only too glad to welcome her as a team player and sign her up for the rewards program.

The fun feminist confuses “empowerment” with the decision to acquiesce. This is understandable; it’s the one actual choice she has in this game: surrender, or stand and fight. She doesn’t have to be Candida Royalle to recognize that if she chooses the latter all she’ll get for her trouble is ridicule, hostility, suspicion, and the threat of bodily harm.
(The wording of this argument necessarily brings to mind this classic mind-bending cartoon...)

What it takes to get by

Local blogger pal Above Average Jane had a good piece this weekend on how much it costs to eat, thinking about whether she or someone in her community could make do on the tiny amount allotted by foodstamps. She details her imagined solutions, but also comes to realize that even those minimalist meals depend on many structural resources in her life -- from choice of grocery stores to up-front cash to buy the supersizes -- that are unavailable to those who actually must live on so little. An illuminating reflection.

Jon Stewart rocks

His interview with McCain last week was powerful precisely because Jon had been enjoying the mavericky silliness of the previous McCain incarnation, and thus dealt a double blow by being unwilling to accept talking points this time. Anyway, the interview on Bill Moyers show (30-min video or transcript at link) was great. Stewart doesn't want to accept too much credit as a revolutionary voice (after all, the Daily Show has a good dose of fart jokes and the like), but he speaks well to the frustration of watching the press and the White House play set roles, or of Congress and the President talking past each other on issues that are critically in need of serious discussion.
Nobody is saying, "We don't have a problem." Nobody is saying that, "9/11 didn't happen." What they're saying is, "We're not a fragile country, trust us to have this conversation, so that we can do this in the right way, in a more effective way."
It gets better and better -- worth finding the lunch hour to watch it, whether you watch the Daily Show or know little about it.

(thanks, Mom!)

also linked from the same page (part of the same episode?) is a great interview with Josh Marshall, which lays out the story of the US Attorneys -- how "the bloggers" uncovered it, how the pieces fit together, why it matters. A good background for those who find the coverage a bit hard to unravel (and pleasantly framed like a mystery hunt).

Making us safer!

Yes, folks, our leaders, undermining our ability to respond to a pandemic (by politicizing the appointment process until a huge number of posts are left empty) and overlooking food safety issues until pets start dying (and then trying to keep quiet the degree to which the human food chain might also be contaminated). That ever-smaller government is really dedicated to keeping the American people safe!

-- sound of head hitting desk --

Friday, April 27, 2007

Quote of the day (+)

lone rock with raked sand ripplesThe dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.
- Archibald MacLeish,
poet and librarian (1892-1982)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Big fat racist

I already thought that Rush Limbaugh was a jerk and a liar, but this is really astounding. And we wonder how the values of the patriarchy come to be reinforced . . .

(via Atrios)

So tie-tie

This has been a long week for me, so I relate to this tiny kitty -- just wish *I* could flop down where I am and nap for a while. Instead, I have a backlog of work looking up from my desk.... sigh.

What we're really fighting about

Josh Marshall has an important post about "winning in Iraq" -- what it meant originally, what, if anything, it means now. I think he's onto something fundamental (emphasis mine):
It's often been noted that we've had a difficult time explaining or figuring out just who we're fighting in Iraq. Is it the Sunni irreconcilables? Or is it Iran and its Shi'a proxies? Or is it al Qaida? The confusion is not incidental but fundamental. We can't explain who we're fighting because this isn't a war, like most, where the existence of a particular enemy or specific danger dictates your need to fight. We're occupying Iraq because continuing to do so allows us to pretend that the initial plan wasn't completely misguided and a mistake.
He argues that any talk of "winning" or "losing" is meaningless, although I would counter that "losing" is just shorthand for "have nothing further productive to gain," and that most Americans understand it that way. Anyway, he goes on to say,
The reality though is that the disaster has already happened. Admitting that isn't a mistake or something to be feared. It's the first step to repairing the damage. What the president has had the country in for four years is a very bloody and costly holding action. And the president has forced it on the country to avoid admitting the magnitude of his errors.
peace ribbonThis is the critical truth, and I think it's precisely the way that the Democrats should be explaining this. Unfortunately, we have two more years of Bush at the top, and it's clear that appearances (esp. admitting no mistakes) are much more important to him than realities (such as coming up with any Plan B for ending this mess). Too bad for those still on the front lines...

Three quick bits from local sources

Started my day in the local news section, and caught these three quick bits that are of more general interest:
  • An Inquirer piece looks at the post-lightbulb future, in which offices may have lighting systems that adjust for incoming sunlight, use low-energy LED technology, and generally beat the pants off even the usual office fluorescents on both cost and efficiency fronts. They cite DOE statistics that 30% of home and business energy costs go to lighting, so that could add up to a lot of savings.

  • Tony Auth offers a pithy visual condemnation of the double standard that the Bush Administration applies to political use of the war and related concerns.

  • Daddy Democrat, a Pennsylvania blogger, notes a key point from Bill Moyers' recent coverage of media failings in the run-up to the Iraq war: even when some wire reporters (at Knight-Ridder) did ask the right questions, local paper editors often chose not to run those stories, choosing, perhaps, less "controversial" but more misleading options. Don't let up on your local publications!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Yeah, how red are *our* faces!

Tom Tomorrow holds the pundits accountable. If only somebody with a bigger megaphone would...

(via Atrios)

Thursday signs of spring

We went from a snowy Easter weekend to shorts weather within a fortnight. Not stabilized of course, but happy to see that the warmth has lured new leaves onto my frost-bitten pyracantha, flowers are opening on the dogwood, and a host of buds threaten to turn my little lilac bush into an obscene purple cloud sometime soon. The patio furniture covers are off, and I insist on its being spring from now on!

robin in snow

Somehow this photo by Dooce put me back in my grandmother's kitchen
(even though we had a pretty popular birdfeeder of our own).
She always loved images like this of regular visitors . . .

A different way to appreciate books

A range of artists make books into sculptures and other art -- striking, but makes me a little pained for the ruined texts . . .

(via GirlHacker)

Total disregard

new elephants -- what have they become?Evidence mounts for what was previously speculation, including use of all arms of government to advance partisan goals, even where it's strictly illegal (you know, "how can we oversee government properties in a way that helps elect more Republicans next fall?" and other absurdities). And you'd think that the threat of hearings and subpoenas would strike some fear, but they just blow it off. I'm not just angry about how the Bush Administration has abused this country and its institutions; I'm actively frightened that there is no longer any rule of law here. Their arrogance is astounding, and appears unresponsive to any check.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Two things, unrelated

Because apparently giving them separate posts is Just Too Much. or something.
  • VoteVets, who had some powerful ads during the fall elections, have a new project called Videovets, which involves filming veterans and their family members talking about how easy it is to support the troops and oppose the war. Some touching tributes to those still over there, some not coming back, some home for good. I'd seen one or another linked from various blogs, but they have a whole array of testimonials at their site. A great idea and probably a gift to all involved.
    (via dailyKos)

  • On the lighter side, A4 papercut is an amazing array of artistic creations made by cutting shapes out of a standard sheet of paper, and folding the removed parts into 3-D forms -- the resulting shapes (animals, buildings, etc.) and the negative space they leave behind (often more than structural) create amazing resonances. I could look at these all day.
    (via Medley)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Incremental progress

recycling symbolHere in Philadelphia, we're fighting to make our leaders care about recycling. Meanwhile, around the nation (most notably in California), innovative leaders and governments are trying to make the whole idea of "trash" a thing of the past through comprehensive recycling and repurposing, from the factory to the consumer.
They want industry to mimic biology, where one species' excrement is another's food. "We're not talking here about eliminating waste," McDonough explains. "We're talking about eliminating the entire concept of waste."
Very exciting stuff here, if usually behind the scenes -- I recommend reading the whole thing for a little optimism buzz for the day.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

That pesky pay gap

Everybody knows there's a gap between when men and women get paid, but I was still struck by the notion that it starts right out of college and widens steadily over the decades -- and that the difference holds up when you control for marital and family status and a lot of other factors. Yes, each life decision (colored by societal expectation) can set a woman back a bit more, but the fact of the matter is that the deck is already stacked against her, and age only makes the pay ratio (like all other responses to women) worse.

But, you know, the need for feminism is over. Pesky humorless shrills.

(via Medley)

Inspired goof

A vision of how Gilbert & Sullivan might cover Sir Mix-a-lot:
Baby Got Back
(via boing boing)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Look who's giving up now!

Harry Reid created a bit of a kerfluffle last week by stating the obvious expressing the common perception that "Iraq is no longer winnable" (and he perhaps chose his words to spur debate). Turns out, not only do most Americans agree, but even such a stalwart of Endless Conflicts as Henry Kissinger agrees that military victory is now beyond us...

Quote of the day

raked sandThe human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice.

from "Poems and Other Prevarications" by Quell
quoted in "Altered Carbon" by Richard K. Morgan

Friday, April 20, 2007


The New York Times is driven to snarkiness by Gonzales' performance in testifying before the Senate:
If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had gone to the Senate yesterday to convince the world that he ought to be fired, it’s hard to imagine how he could have done a better job, short of simply admitting the obvious: that the firing of eight United States attorneys was a partisan purge.

Mr. Gonzales came across as a dull-witted apparatchik incapable of running one of the most important departments in the executive branch....
They even go on to say that it's becoming ever more critical that Rove et al. testify to clear up who really was calling the shots on this one. Fight on!

How did this slip by?

Apparently there are now state databases of all medical prescriptions, which are available for the perusal of a host of law enforcement and/or medical system employees. And apparently this system came into being two years ago! Don't you feel safer (and healthier) every day?! ack!

(via Medley)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Another round of homegrown

It really frustrates the hate-mongers when violence is perpetrated by Americans, let alone Christians. There goes the towel-head argument! Sigh.

Thursday kittens

Has been a bit of a tough weeks all 'round, in honor of which I offer this snap of our kittens snuggling -- it dates from over a year ago, when they were still scrawny adolescents (now nearing two years old!)...

Pasha and Pixel heads

Pasha raises a head in greeting, though neither she
nor Pixel could open an eye from sunbaking...

More than just posturing

Machismo is mostly lost on me, but I'm completely gratified by the latest show of spine from our Democratic leaders (on the notion that more war funding should carry requirements for demonstrated progress).
"Reid made it clear to the President that he understood that the President and Vice President after the veto would come after him and Speaker Pelosi with everything they have. Reid said that he and Pelosi would respond just as aggressively. He said he was convinced that they were on the right side of the issue."
The American people certainly agree. Hope the "war room" has great strategic ideas for what the response will be -- I can't imagine a veto working for Bush at all, so there's lots to be said, and I'm starting to trust that Reid and Pelosi have good plans brewing...

Beyond ludicrous

ack!Here's a personal account that makes clear the ridiculous situation that women find themselves in because of the tangle of laws surrounding reproductive choices, medical decisions, and legislative triumphalism. There's no way to read this story and think that the debate is about "saving babies" -- it's clearly putting women's lives at risk even when there's no baby to save. You don't have to involve coat-hanger imagery to get outraged here!

(via Hullabaloo)

Update: it's worth reading this piece about the recent Supreme Court decision -- how the language reveals that even "moderates" like Justice Kennedy are now accepting the frame and rhetoric of the anti-abortion movement (like calling the obstetricians involved "abortion doctors" and taking a patronizing stance to the women facing their choices)...

Themes worth repeating

From John Edwards recently:
I think some people really believe that all you have to do to succeed in this country is pull yourself up by your bootstraps and work hard.

Well, I can tell you, I have traveled all over this country and I have been in the places where people's bootstraps are worn to a thread from all the pulling they've been doing. Places where all the hard work in the world hasn't helped to pull them out of poverty—because the system discriminates and opportunity isn't equal. But if we come together and are honest about it, we can change that and build an America that gives every American an equal chance.
This nation needs more empathy. For every loafer there are dozens, if not hundreds, of people trying and trying and just not getting anywhere, and if we ignore that, we not only doom them to lives of poverty and frustration, but we risk a future in which large swaths of people feel no investment in our nation as a whole. Change is long overdue.

(via Medley)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Through the spin clouds

The President is ranting, but the American people are hearing the truth anyway. That is, they can see who cares about the right next strategy. Am very interested to see how this apparent showdown between the branches of government plays out; if Bush is hoping to rally the public, he's really suffering the echo chamber delusion...

(via Atrios)

Good news, bad news

That kind of day so far.
  • Good news: those feisty libertarian Montanans come out strongly against national ID cards, planning to defy the Real ID Act at home and lead the fight against it at the national level.

  • Bad news: those "beloved of precedent" conservative jurists at the Supreme Court are throwing out precedents that are 7 and 15 years old in upholding the right of states to pass abortion restrictions (specifically the "partial-birth" kind); as Bitch PhD puts it, they're declaring the legislature smarter than individual women about the fates of their families and their own health. Great.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


wacky neonI'm not at work today, having a flurry of errands and appointments to keep, so here are a few gleanings from recent weeks to keep you amused until tomorrow...
  • The virtual whale -- see any part of a grey whale close up (only a bit at a time, of course).
    (via Medley?)

  • A sample of edible oragami cranes, made out of wonton wrappers.
    (via kottke)

  • And here's another collection of art made with sushi, from computer screens to classical paintings.
    (via boing boing)

  • A French skyscraper allows passers to play video games using its lighting, including tetris and other faves -- imagine your screen at 30 stories!
    (via Bouphonia)

  • Here's a classic impossible structure, rendered in three dimensions. (Mind bending, but of course it only works when viewed a certain way...)
    (via Follow Me Here)

  • And finally, here's one man's life reduced to pie charts -- from the ludicrous to the profound.
    (via boing boing)

Oh, and this

Just had to laugh (in that world-weary way) at this: antifeminist bingo. Inspired.

(via Medley)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Cretins of habit

There's so little room for satire these days -- this ladies' reservation page at American Airlines pretty much leaves me totally agape. Perhaps they meant to target the information-fearful in a non-gendered way? Sigh.

(via Tom Tomorrow)

Quote of the day

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.
– St. Augustine
(via This Modern World)

Laughing pug

thumbnail of laughing pugThis pug is laughing pretty hard. At the moment, it feels like he's laughing at all of us here in Philadelphia (and many places northward along the coast) who got hit with torrential rain all yesterday and then awoke to sleet and gale-force winds this morning. Really, the joke's on anybody who has to drag themself out of bed and shlep to work... (grumble)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Better than I could have done

Markos (of dailyKos) really irritated me yesterday, by blundering into a heated topic in that has had several weeks of much more informed discussion (see my input here) and dismissing the seriousness of online harassment (it's not the same thing as trolling or general asshatery, of which there is also plenty) with an airy wave. It's frustrating to see a leader in the progressive community show such a blind spot, and it's also hard to make any effective response.

Anyway, all that by way of saying that Bitch, PhD, does a good job of explaining the error of his ways in an open letter, but also of reiterating that major megaphones have a larger than average responsibility to help set the code of conduct for their communities and the larger online realm. Perhaps he'll wake up, perhaps he won't, but at least *his* crap isn't getting a free ride.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Presented without comment

Old photo of a mother disguised as a chair, to support a formal baby picture.

The big, bad bogeyman

The Republicans are constantly beating the drum of voter fraud, talking about dead people registering to vote, people showing up several places in town, and on and on. Has never resonated with my experience in any of the states/cities where I've lived, so I was dubious, but I imagined they must have at least a few regional scandals to point to.

But nope. There's just about no proof of more than a handful of frauds anywhere in the country, mostly individual misunderstandings, nothing systemic.
Here's the nickel summary: In 2002, DOJ changed their guidelines to make it easier to prosecute voter fraud. They made it a priority to find voter fraud cases. They appointed a clean slate of U.S. Attorneys loyal to the Republican Party. They set up training classes to help prosecutors charge and win voter fraud cases. But after all that, they managed to demonstrate fraud in a grand total of only 86 cases over four years. And even then, many of the cases of confirmed fraud were simply mistakes, while virtually none of them were actually designed to affect the outcome of an election.
Meanwhile, ID laws threaten to turn away large numbers of voters in low-income neighborhoods, huge amounts of money are being wasted chasing phantoms, and occasional lives are being ruined over simple oversights. Classic Bush Administration in action.

(via Medley)

Update: more here.

The passing of Kilgore Trout

an impish photoKurt Vonnegut is no more. A sorrow to many, myself included. Here are a few links, the tip of the iceberg of the literary, cultural, and personal analysis bound to come:
  • New York Times obit

  • A Hullabaloo post that ends with a nice excerpt of his writing

  • One example of his wit applied to current events

  • Vonnegut's homepage, with a stark yet poignant image

  • A personal reflection over at Salon offers perhaps the best summary quote for the day:
    Vonnegut had an incomparable way of mixing bleak pessimism with avuncular warmth. He could inspire even in the moments when he was underlining, highlighting and italicizing just how fucked up and criminally insane the world really was.
Thanks for keeping us on our toes, or at least trying.

Update: Indexed adds a nice tribute in her inimitable style...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another reason to stay well

medicine at work!Because if you have to take a bunch of antibiotics, and end up killing off all your beneficial gut bacteria (leaving you susceptible to all kinds of nasty infections), you might have to drink a turd cocktail to get them back. Now will you finish your vegetables, Johnny?!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Another stellar take from Indexed.

After May there's always November

Interesting numbers on the Presidential match-ups. I'm starting to feel like Edwards might be the best choice for internal party reasons, but it's easy to imagine his being the best choice by a long stretch once you involve Republicans and Independents in the mix too. Feels like less than a year away!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Quote of the day

small candle There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
– Albert Einstein
(via A Mindful Life)

Ok, this cinches it

People in San Francisco really are more crazy do have more fun: Easter Day Big Wheel races down legendary Lombard Street.

(I'm amazed adults can squeeze into those things!!)

Two months in

Surprising few: the surge isn't working.
What, we're not being greeted as liberators? maybe that was something else...

(via Talking Points Memo)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday cat-blogging

Today is dedicated to cute, clownish Pasha (see, e.g., here), always on the move, rolling and writhing and barging to take over any opportunity for play. Not in full action, but always poised for mischief...

Pasha on the bed
Lounging (or disturbed from a nap)

Time for a good belly-cleaning...

(I wish the lighting were this good elsewhere in the house!) As always, click "cats" below for more bengal-blogging and other cattage.

It's ok if you're a Republican (installment #84759084)

Clearly there are bad Catholics, and then there are bad Catholics who need shaming. Or something like that. sigh.

(via dailyKos)


on the TV!I'm no fan of Geraldo Rivera, but it takes a seasoned yeller to keep up with Bill O'Reilly's antics. Watching the video makes my blood pressure rise, but good for Geraldo for not letting O'Reilly get away with his crapulant spin. Eesh.

Tee hee!

Coworker t-shirt of the day: I'm out of my mind. Please leave a message.

A sobering sense of scale

People have been talking about the "housing bubble" for a while now, but it wasn't until I saw this graph that I had a sense of what they're really talking about -- it looks nontrivially scary. In Philadelphia, most of the housing market rush is a correction of years of undervaluation, but I'm sure we're not immune to some future corrections too. Anyway, a more entertaining rendition of the graph can be had as a rollercoaster ride. (So far, no final drop...)

(via Medley)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Well *that* surely makes us all rest easy!

The GAO finds troubling lapses in I.R.S. security management on many fronts, ranging from lack of employee background checks, insufficient training in confidential records management, and physical security laxness. But heck! all they're getting is your complete personal and financial records!!

Nice economy you got there

A couple of graphs that help explain why Bush can keep crowing about how strong the economy is while most people feel an increasing pinch in their pocketbooks:
  1. GDP versus wages showing that the former has gone up 15% in the last five years while the average worker (median wage) hasn't seen any of that increase in his own take-home pay.

  2. Current economic expansion versus average past cycles shows that almost everything has grown more slowly (employment, investments, even GDP) except for corporate profits, which have skyrocketed.
money grows on trees, right?As Kevin Drum said, if you think these shifts are coincidental, you haven't been paying attention: Bush reports to the corporate interests, and thus defines a "good economy" as one like this, that has benefitted them. He appears not to care at all what's happening to the little guys down the totem pole...

To heck with the rising tide/boats business if you live on a mountain! Tally ho!!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Lowered expectations

August nails it. Simple functionality is almost unimaginable...

In case you're having a late lunch

bright ideasI really have to recommend this post by Amanda Marcotte. It's about arguments over environmentalism, feminist men, and all sors of things, but at root it's about how we balance short-term versus long-term benefits, and how we can convince some folks to give up the (clearly visible) former in favor of the (distinctly more abstract) latter. Good stuff, and in the comments too. Long, but worth a lunchtime read...

You always suspected it...

Refs are affected by crowd noise in assigning of fouls, an effect large enough to account for most statistical home-team advantage.

It's all in how you look at it

The headline of this article seems laughable -- much more on point is this quote:
"Look at al Qaeda's plans," said Michael Scheuer, who once led the CIA team devoted to finding al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. "They're very simply defined in two phrases: spread out America's forces and bleed the United States to bankruptcy. I'd argue America has been under attack successfully every day since 9/11 from that perspective.
Ouch. Sounds about right to me, given the multiples of our national budget that are being poured into the Middle Eastern sands.

(via Echidne)

Looking ridiculous

elephantJosh Marshall thinks that McCain has jumped the shark, calling his absurdist trip to Baghdad (see how safe it is when you bring the whole army with you?) his "Dukakis-in-a-tank moment." Only time will tell; remember that it's the media that can make such things stick, and they sure love Republicans McCain...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Carnival wackiness

This past weekend's Carnival of the Cats is particularly noteworthy for the artistic liberties that the host took with many of the submitted photos. Pasha visits space, and Pixel takes a turn as Big Brother... heh.

Science rumination of the day

Sometimes it's good to unpack your useful but misleading metaphors, and this article does just that: 10 Important Differences Between Brains and Computers and the practical significance of those differences for cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience. Interesting on both scientific and philosophical levels, and accessible to non-scientists (with a few jargon caveats).

(via Cognitive Daily)

A lot of anger flowing downhill

Readers here may or may not have heard about a recent development in the blogosphere, in which a prominent tech-blogger decided not to make her keynote presentation at a conference after receiving an escalating heap of hate mail and death threats. This one blogger's choice to publicize her experience has brought forth many stories of similar experiences from other women, and to some soul-searching about the relative merits of developing a thick skin versus fighting for some measures of protection.

I've been wanting to blog this story, because it disturbs me but doesn't surprise me, but I hadn't found the right essay out there or the right way to express my thoughts. femsignHowever, yesterday Orcinus totally captured the essence of my reaction, which is (a) that this treatment is more than a bad feature of those nasty anonymous Internets, but is, rather, a simple extension of the misogyny that's been keeping women "in line" for centuries:
Hate crime is a low-level form of terrorism designed to disenfranchise, stifle, and ultimately remove certain people from the public sphere by forcing them to erect imaginary boundaries of fear in their own heads. It causes people to change their behavior, shrink their horizons, and stop participating fully in their own lives. Suddenly, there are places -- the synagogue, the clinic, downtown after dark, professional conferences, the comments threads that form the living rooms of their own online homes -- that they can no longer approach with a feeling of acceptance, belonging, and safety. Walsh notes that the hate mail she gets has definitely had this effect on her own writing, and that of her other female writers.
Further, I agree with the subsequent argument (b) that such misogyny, in plenty of evidence in recent years, is part and parcel of the increasingly prevalent social norm encouraging violent fantasies about anybody that is disapproved -- most notably liberals, women, anti-war activists, immigrants, and academics.
Given that, it seems possible that Kathy Sierra may have been collateral damage in the right wing's continuing escalation of hostilities, both in the real world and on the Web. Years of acrid bile form Coulter and Malkin and Rush have corroded the tenuous bonds that keep these people civil, and given overt sanction to outrages that any serious civilization would regard as barbaric. It's hardly surprising that all those years of misogynist hate speech from the right have congealed into eliminationist threats against a woman who did nothing more than show her face in virtual public.
I don't wan't to discourage you from reading the whole thing, but it's noteworthy that the author thinks that people who find such threatening behavior acceptable will only change their minds when some respected male authority figure tells them otherwise. All rational men should keep this responsibility in mind.
Misogyny has always been a core piece of authoritarianism; and so many of the issues feminism addresses -- sexual violence, silencing women's public voices, respect for female authority -- depend, utterly and completely, on how effectively we can identify and reduce the authoritarian impulse in our culture. When women like Joan Walsh and Kathy Sierra are tempted to stifle their voices or hide their faces to shield themselves from a never-ending onslaught of male rage, we all feel a measure of exhaustion at how very far we have left to go.
(via Medley)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Filling a need I never considered might exist...

For blind people with allergies, fears, or other reasons that keep them from utilizing guide dogs, there are apparently guide horses, of the extremely miniature variety. Supporters rave about their calm attentiveness and long lifespans, etc. Who knew?!

(via boing boing)

Giving the cats a run for their money!

blue slugLots of bloggers untertake Friday cat-blogging and the like, but it's a much rarer and more elegant project to work up a weekly nudibranch -- a sort of sea-slug that appears to occur in a mind-boggling array of shapes and translucent colors. Many of these photos are transcendantly beautiful.

(via Echidne)

Quote of the day

In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have.
-Lee Iacocca,
automobile executive (1924- )
(via A.W.A.D.)

From interesting quarters

The latest blow for environmental sanity is struck by the Supreme Court, of all folk, who are ordering the EPA to get moving on vehicle emissions and global warming. Will be interesting to see what follows.