Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Clarity Is Good: How Not To Write Like You're Compensating for a Small AHEM

Before:

Of course, this being CBS, I’m not quite so willing to rule out knowing malfeasance on the part of their production and editorial staffs, however slyly they may have distanced themselves from potential repercussions by relegating the report to their website. After all, the mainstream press in this country has clearly chosen sides in the prosecution of this war, which makes much of what they do, even when their mistakes are inadvertant and the result of confirmation bias and/or reportorial laziness, rightly suspect, especially given that they now have a clearly-drawn metanarrative of the Iraq war both to (re)inscribe and protect.

And this is CBS, the network that practically canonized the “fake but accurate” maneuver—a trope I once thought would redound to their shame, but one that in the years since Rather’s humiliation seems to morphed into an acceptable weapon in the arsenal of journalists who have come to think of themselves as teaching the lessons of news rather than simply reporting on it. The Doctrine of Truthiness, if you will.

After:

I think those bastards at CBS did this deliberately, then tried to minimize the blowback by publishing the video only on their web site, where it would be seen by fewer viewers. I think this because, although we warbloggers have been wrong about everything lately, there was that one time a couple years ago when we genuinely, honest-to-God caught that no-good CBS in some funny business--and by cracky, we're gonna ride that train 'til the track rusts to pieces and the wheels fall off.

Or, for brevity:

This is all Dan Rather's fault, really.

The meaning is no better, of course, but at least the afters read a solid 50% less like they were written by a jackass.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Now It Can Be Told

Congratulations are in order for Amanda, who's heading off to Chapel Hill to blog for the Edwards campaign--and congratulations are in order for me-me-me-me-ME, who gets to pitch in a little at Pandagon while she's away.

The timing of this looks real suspicious, I imagine, to some people. All I can say to them is that they're just jealous that I can do better French braids than they can, and that I'm way more fun at slumber parties than they are.

It's funny, you know: If I suggested that Darleen got a gig blogging at Klown Kollege because she'd been sucking that infamous cock, that'd be horrible, and I'd earn a ration of well-deserved grief for even thinking it. But suggesting that I write what I write because it makes the lefty gurlz go crazy is A-OK.

That's enough of my grudge-nursing bitterness, though. Time to celebrate!

The neat thing is that I'm going to get to do whatever it is I do in front of a bigger, tougher crowd than I'm used to, and you're going to get to read more Genni here, with any luck. And I'll tell you what I'd like to do, both because Genni is a busy woman and because I just think it would be fun:

I'd like to open this blog up to anyone who wants the opportunity to blog a little differently from however they usually do it, where "differently" is defined however--if you normally do a lot of diary blogging and you want to try your hand at punditry, great. If you normally do a lot of advocacy blogging and you'd like to do more silly stuff, excellent. If you want to cross-post stuff from your own blog and not change anything up at all, that's fine too. If you don't even have a blog but you'd like to mess around with this one, come on down. But if you just want to post a picture of your ass on the internet, step off, because that's my gig.

See, most of the people who read me already have blogs, so I can't really offer A New and Exciting Adventure here. Plus, I have a small crowd, so I can't promise anyone greater exposure. About all I can do is offer it up as a playground where people can goof off without much risk or hassle. Low risk, because I don't have a huge audience--no one's gonna wind up profiled in the Times from blogging here. Low hassle, because all you have to do for maintenance is delete TomGower's comments every 10 minutes. Did I say every 10 minutes? I meant, uh, once or twice a month. Like at the MOST. Honest.

You can make up a new name for yourself, or you can use your usual handle and hype your blog (that probably gets more traffic than this one anyway), or whatever you like.

In summary, I am offering you one weak, lame, rusted-out-junker of an opportunity here, and I think you should take it! Email to myfirstfakename period mylastfakename at gmail period com. Offer void if you're TomGower.

The Rollback Stops Here

Amanda's got a good post up about racist rhetoric on the right--basically she's seeing an increase in it (and she's not the only one, but I'll list my own examples another time). One of the examples Amanda cites is from good ol' Rush Limbaugh. You can read the full transcript here, but what I believe is referred to as the "money quote" is this:

Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.

Amanda goes after "There, I said it," and doesn't really need any help from me to do it, but I just have to pile onto this "there, I said it," business anyway:

For a group that never tires of mocking the concept of "truth to power," wingnuts sure use their own corrupted version of it a lot; "their own version" being things like proudly claiming themselves "politically incorrect," or championing "free speech," or even writing torturous 45,000-word essays that attempt to divorce intent from context. It's an "Ooh, I'm such a rebel" pose that doesn't actually rebel against anything. Whatever--you've got the low-brow versions and the faux-high-brow versions and all the versions in-between, but it's the same thing.

It's what you see this guy doing in the comments here: Don't you tell ME what I can and cannot say. Or, if you must try to tell me what I can and cannot say, then first you have to give up something you'd ordinarily say in exchange (and then I might not honor my half of the bargain anyhow, but too bad, so sad--I made you go first!). That it's not a fair exchange to begin with doesn't bother these people; the hierarchy must be preserved.

Right there, that's how you know it isn't about "free speech," a concept so abused anymore that poor Madison must be rolling in his grave like the insides of a Ronco Rotisserie. See, if it were about free speech, white guys wouldn't get so upset that black people react differently to a word depending on who's using it. There is nothing against free speech in acknowledging different contexts. If this were a free speech issue, there would not be this demand that black people give those words up before asking white people not to use them. That demand isn't made to honor free speech. That demand is made to preserve white privilege.

I don't know how to weave this in neatly, but it's relevant, so I'm just going to drop it here--piny on reclaiming:

When you reclaim an epithet, you take it and use it against its meaning in order to deflate its meaning. You are practicing verbal civil disobedience. You are refusing to maintain the original, hateful sense of the word and attempting to force the word to carry a new meaning, your meaning. Reclamation is the name given to this strategy because it is so frequently practiced by the original targets of the hatred. In fact, they are in the best possible position to practice this kind of reverse engineering, because they often have difficulty taking the place of the original users without destabilizing the hater/hated dichotomy that makes epithets valid in the first place. They are also in a better position to recognize the difference–which can be fine in a society where hatred is transparent–between ironic and earnest use.

Piny includes numerous examples that demonstrate the difference between reclaiming a slur and perpetuating it. That's the difference commenter Tom doesn't get--at this point, I suspect willfully, because more than one person's tried to explain it to him, though none better than Sylvia:

With all due respect, the problem isn't the word itself; it's how it's used. I don't understand why white people don't get that. I don't understand why black people have the onus of censoring themselves because white people don't have the good sense to know that particular word in their mouths almost always becomes a weapon. It wounds; it doesn't build solidarity. There are very few contexts when it doesn't have that effect.

When black people use it, it's like a family nickname. Familiarity. Skepticism. Love. Hate. It's all there. Since all of us got lumped into some culturally imposed blackness, and the power of that imposition carried under that word as a banner, it shouldn't be hard to understand that when black people became self-determinant and worked on forming their own identities, that word traveled with some of them.

The only objection I've got to that comment is that Tom isn't due any respect.

I've always avoided a comment policy because I like to give myself as much leeway as possible, and policies limit my ability to judge comments on a case-by-case basis. But this case isn't hard to call: I'm done with this shit. Listen up, all folks suffering from a surfeit of entitlement:

There must be fifty other blogs on which you can hash out this reactionary bullshit, fifty other blogs at which you'll be welcomed with a chorus of sympathetic agreement from other ostensibly oppressed persons who think it really sucks that they can't have racist theme parties or Photoshop politicians in blackface or say the n-word or call women "cunts" or call queer men "fags" or WHATEVER.

You post THERE. I'm not hosting it here. You mount your rollback campaign to drive us back to the Good Ol' Days that were really only any good for one group in particular at those blogs. This blog is not for you.

And no more of this "Why can't you identitarians just be logical?" from people who can't even tell when they've committed a whopping logical fallacy. No more of this "but you didn't address my argument!" whining from halfwits. And just so we are crystal fucking clear what I'm talking about, here's an example for everybody: A comment of Tom's I deleted. This is what I am talking about:

Now here's my key points again

There's no vast conspiracy of white people to say it. There's a multiracial culture of Americans and within that culture both white and black people say it, which helps perpetuate it.

You mean the entitlement of suburban white kids to sound like their favorite hip hop stars and stand ups who cynically market racist stereotypes of black people to those same kids and then get upset when those kids actually repeat them back?

... and Ilyka really, I know committed the unpardonable sin of actually presenting arguments you can't answer, but the classy way out of that is to put up more posts and push the discussion further down

Or you could just posture a lot and pretend that identity politics won and collect your Me Toos

"Arguments I can't answer" is really a keeper considering those arguments were refuted by seven or eight different people, repeatedly. But this is what I mean about the wingnut capacity for debate taking a nosedive, because this is the preferred companion to Death by Nitpick: Sheer bloodymindedness, or, "I'm going to keep repeating my ONE argument, no matter how many dozens of different ways you debunk it, and then when even I get tired of repeating my one argument, I'm going to complain that you didn't address my argument."

Well, not here you aren't. You go to Klown Kollege to do that.

Here is a short summary of Tom's unaddressed argument:

Me, in post: "Hey, white people who love to quote Chris Rock's black-civil-war routine? You forgot the part he said after, which is why you can't say the n-word. Here! Let me transcribe it for you."

Tom: "Chris Rock sux and Eddie Murphy does too. Trust my humorless asshole opinion on that. Also, anyone who wants to see an end to people saying [redacted], should stop using the word. As long as black people keep using it, they're helping to keep it alive. And if they're going to use it non-stop, it becomes impossible to take the outrage seriously. If I called myself a shithead all day, can I then get outraged when someone else does it?"

Me: "The example you used to support that assertion is not relevant, which I will now demonstrate by plugging the word 'shithead' into the traditional context in which '[redacted]' has been used by white people."

Tom: "Having been shown that I am not very good at making applicable comparisons, I will now bolster my argument by making increasingly inapplicable comparisons about Normans, Saxons, and a gross factual error about how you say 'black' in Spanish that ignores the rules of Spanish pronunciation, in a sad homage to the ol' slippery slope. Then I shall restate my argument, which is that black people need to quit saying the n-word, because that's what's really driving all this racism."

Sylvia: [see also above] "That word means different things when it's used amongst black people than when it's used by guys like you, Tom. When we use it, it isn't always bad. When you guys use it, it usually is."

Chris Clarke: "No, Tom--Andrew Dice Clay sux."

Lesley: "Spanish does not equal English, Tom, and just because you enjoy referring to yourself as a shithead doesn't mean you'd enjoy it if I did it."

Tom: "Andrew Dice Clay was funny. Chris Rock sux."

Tom: "Are you thrillin' to my mad logix skillz yet, peeps? Because you should be. Check this out--I'm about to whip more irrelevant comparisons on you: How can people "forfeit" a right to make a point? Especially based on the color of their skin? Either something is a valid argument or it isn't [ignores that using a slur is not the same as making an argument; ignores the effect of context on the meaning of language; ignores all sense entirely and probably gravity besides]. Can we use racial metrics to determine who gets to make the case for mathematical theorems too? [Ignores that no one's talking about math.] [Now watch me pull the reverse racism card:] This is how political correctness degrades and is as racist as a klansman. [Ignores that no one's called Tom a dumb cousin-fucking cracker--yet.] Ooh! I am making myself so crazy with love for my many logix!!!"

Tom: "Sylvia, it isn't that black people are obligated to do what I say; it's that I'm not going to give them the respect they ask for until they do what I say. See the difference? Say! Did you notice that black comics and musicians use this word a lot? It's not fair that they say it so much and I can't say it at all. Now I am going to put 'nuance' in scare quotes to suggest it is a silly concept that only silly people invoke, because that's what all my wingnut brothers do, even as one of our leading wingnut pundits complains about the inability of liberals to appreciate HER nuance. Irony is dead and people like me helped to kill it."

And so on, and so on, and so on, ad stupiditum. It's reached the point where I have to ask, "Why am I giving this tool a platform? I already know what stupid looks like. I already know what poorly masked hatred looks like. I am not learning anything here. I don't need this, and neither does anyone else. Shit, I'm naive. I thought we'd worked this all out back when The Jeffersons was still on."

So no mas, people. Everyone wave bye-bye to the dumb cousin-fucking cracker, for chances are we will not see his like again until the next time some habitual skidmark-sniffer links me at Klown Kollege.

You're blowing my mind here, Republicans: Your party's in the shitter, most people think the President smells, and the first thing you can think to do is alienate more people. What the fuck kind of strategery IS that?

Monday, January 29, 2007

But Chris Rock Said I Could Say the N-Word

Fools. No, he didn't. Here's the last bit of the routine that appears to have confused a lot of dumb white people into thinking they could say it:

I know what all you black readers think.

"Man why you got to say that? Why you got to say that? It isn't us, it's the media. The media has distorted our image to make us look bad. Why must you come down on us like that, brother? It's not us, it's the media."

Please cut the shit. When I go to the money machine at night, I'm not looking over my shoulder for the media.

I'm looking for [redacted].

Ted Koppel never took anything from me. [Redacted] have. Do you think I've got three guns in my house because the media's outside my door trying to bust in?

"Oh shit. It's Mike Wallace. Run!"

And here's the very next thing Rock says after it. The only text in-between the excerpt above and the excerpt I'm about to transcribe below is a subheading which reads, "Mommy? Can I say '[redacted]?'"

That oughtta be your first clue as to what the answer's going to be, but some of you are a little slow, so let's not skip anything:

I just said "[redacted]" a whole lot. You probably think I shouldn't use the N-word, but that rule is just for white folks. Any black person can say "[redacted]" and get away with it. It's true. It's like calling your kid an idiot. Only you can call your kid that. Someone else calls your kid an idiot, there's a fight.

Yet some white people still wonder why black people can say "[redacted]" and they can't. Believe it or not, it's a very common question. I hear it all the time.

WHITE PERSON: Chris, can I say "[redacted]?"
ME: Why would you even want to?
WHITE PERSON: I don't mean anything bad by it. I've traveled the world. I got a yacht. I fucked Raquel Welch. Now, if I could just say "[redacted]," everything would be complete.
ME: No. After I smack you upside the head everything will be complete.

So, white people? If we could all never again justify using that word because a black comedian said it that one time, literally only that one time, years ago, in a routine he'll never perform again because guess why--

This controversial routine on HBO's "Bring The Pain," made Rock a star back in 1996: "There’s, like, a civil war going on with black people, and there’s two sides. There’s black people, and there’s n------. And n------ have to go."

Why does he think it got so much attention?

"I think a lot of people were thinking in those terms and hadn’t been able to say it. By the way, I’ve never done that joke again, ever, and I probably never will," says Rock. "‘Cause some people that were racist thought they had license to say n-----. So, I’m done with that routine."

--then, everything will be complete.

(Honestly, this has been one of those days when I feel like I'm stuck in this movie. Next thing you know people are going to be putting sports drinks on the crops and wondering why they won't grow.)

Tears and Cocoa and Rainbow and PONIES

Comment moderation OFF. Knock yourselves out.

Civilly, though. Civility is very important around here.

(You might find comments at one or two posts closed to new comments, but don't worry: I have extra hankies for anyone who needs to have a good cry about that.)

Welcome Your Manly-Man Robot Overlords

Bleep, blort!

Civility and the Limits of Abstraction

One thing that's bound to come up in a few of these recent discussions, that Darleen even alluded to here:

Their opprobrium is not for America's enemies, but for its own citizens. From the unseemliness of Jane Fonda, recipient of such opportunities that only this country has had to offer her to the spittle-flecked rants of others

--is how all-fired uncivil The Left is, with their opprobrium and their unseemliness and their neverending spittle-flecked rants. It just isn't nice, how they do. They are so Not Our Kinds of People.

I was emailed a link to a post about this a few months ago that I thought was quite good on the subject of civility. Let's see if I still have it . . .

. . . and, no, I don't, but I found it for you anyway. Read it, and try to read it with an open mind, because I'm in about 50% agreement with what Judith has to say about relations between Democrats and Republicans:

They [Democrats] always start political conversations. None of us do. We have learned that no one wants to argue issues on their merits, that the room gets very quiet and unfriendly, that people start screaming at you, or rant the most loopy beliefs and conspiracy theories. We just assume that is not a topic anyone can treat in a dispassionate manner.

But they always provoke political conversations. Well, not conversations, which would be enjoyable and enlightening. They make pronouncements. And look around the room to see if anyone not only doesn't agree, but doesn't agree enthusiastically. As a friend deep in the closet in the theater world put it, you can't just sit quietly and wait for the topic to change. No, you are suspect if you do not vocally endorse the official opinion of the group. You thought you were in a project meeting or a coffee klatch or a dinner party, and all of a sudden it has turned into the Communist Youth League Self-Criticism Session.

And then, after they have assumed, because no one in the room has fangs or horns, that a political support group is what everyone wants (and they do, except for you) - if you express your difference of opinion, they are offended that you spoiled the intimate feeling in the room by being other than they assumed, based on their superficial reading of you. In other words, they brought up politics, but they are the only ones who get to play. If you join in, you are the one who soured the conversation by bringing up politics. Because they weren't trying to start a political discussion, they just wanted to commiserate with friends. You party pooper.

Yes, I have had experiences like that. I'm in a mood to borrow off of Chris Clarke today, so let's call such incidents the Inbred Cousins of the Berkeley Theater Experience:

It reminds me of sitting in a movie theater in Berkeley with Becky and Ron and Joe watching O Brother Where Art Thou, and having a handful of the audience members applaud when the Cyclops Klan character played by John Goodman got spanked by the burning cross. Because, you know, it’s possible that the rest of the audience in Berkeley might actually have felt support for the Klansmen in the movie, and only by the brave action of booing Klansmen in a dark movie house in Berkeley, California could those folks make sure that their stalwart opposition to cartoon evil was made known in every possible venue. One wonders if those folks hiss “sexist!” at Snidely Whiplash when watching the Cartoon Network.

So I get where Judith's coming from on "they just wanted to commiserate with friends." It's really a passive-aggressive way of ranking your friends by ideological purity--and that makes the person doing it the real party-pooper, not the poker pal who turns out to favor the flat tax.

I'm also in strong agreement with this side note of Judith's:

Spirited argument is sexy to me (think William Powell and Myrna Loy), and a marriage with someone who disagrees with me on various issues sounds energizing and playful and always interesting. (I would insert a link to Mary Matalin and James Carville here, but I think Carville is just too weird.) But most people don't feel that way anymore, at least not liberals. Champions of diversity, they want lovers and friends just like themselves.

I know one couple who broke up over politics. (Well, the wife tells me, there were deeper problems, and that just exacerbated them.) But I know several couples who just agree to disagree, and it's clear they are a team and politics is just not a good enough reason for estrangement.

. . . not least because that last sentence about sums up my own relationship. If you think we haven't had some horrible, heated clashes over foreign policy in this house, think again. But I don't run and cry to this blog every time it happens because I like knowing that the person I'm with isn't a doormat, that he'll disagree with me boisterously and often if the subject's important to him.

Here's where I have my problems with the current conservative view of civility, though. Speaking of Josh Trevino, Judith says:

If you read this blog you know I disagree with Josh's description of and attitude towards the gay marriage movement, but I think his diagnosis of liberal cultishness is right on. And I know that if Josh and I got to sit down for a cup of coffee - as we kept trying to do when he was in town for the GOP convention in 04 and never found the time - we would enjoy each other's company and have a friendly argument about it. (Hell, Josh had been reading my blog for over a year when he emailed me to let me know he would be in town, and he wanted to hoist a few anyway.) And I know if we each had three kids the same age, he would allow them to play together even if I had an Andrew Sullivan magnet on my fridge.

The reason why Judith and Josh could have "a friendly argument" about gay marriage is that neither Judith nor Josh is personally affected by the issue. Neither of them is gay. Neither of them is struggling to obtain health insurance coverage for a same-sex partner. Neither of them is dealing personally with any of the issues related to the inability of same-sex couples to obtain legal recognition of their partnerships. They can have a friendly argument, a dispassionate argument, because for most heterosexuals, gay marriage is an abstract issue. I mean, it's just politics. It's an issue a heterosexual can care very, very much about, but at the end of the day, a heterosexual retains the privilege of being able to throw that issue overboard, of being able to table that issue in order to emphasize some other issue that is personally more important to him or her--like, say, terrorism. And I ought to know, because that's exactly what this heterosexual did in the 2004 elections.

"I really hate social conservatives. But, ooh, Kerry threw his medals and loves teh terror! I'm voting for Bush. Besides, if the terrorists win there won't be any homosexuals anyway. We'll all be dead."

I'm not going to get into whether that was a "just fine" or a "totally not okay" thing to do. We all have to prioritize our decisions as best we see fit. I AM, however, going to assert that having cast my vote as I did, I would have some nerve objecting if a homosexual friend got uncivil with me for doing it. "Well, fuck you too, Ilyka," is not an uncivil response in that context.

The problem with "relax, it's just politics" is that it can only be "just politics" when you abstract out the other human beings affected by those politics. Sometimes you have to do a little abstraction just to begin talking about an issue. Sometimes you have to start dispassionately. But it is not civil to stay dispassionate. It is not civil to forget you are always, always talking about the problems of other human beings.

I always used to wonder what some liberals were going on about when they'd say something made them feel "erased." "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent," I'd chirp back, and wander off to pick daisies with a song in my heart and a spring in my step. Silly liberals, always erasing themselves like that! But this sort of thing, this is what they are talking about--the colossal arrogance it takes, not to discuss issues that don't affect one personally (for all of us who are not either Iraqi citizens, or active-duty members of the military, do that every time we discuss the war), but to expect that the actual human beings who are affected by those issues personally should not become personally offended by one's friendly discussions of "just politics."

Here's another example: Ann Althouse, of whom you will recall I am not exactly a fan, shares her reaction to some of the panel discussions at the Liberty Fund colloquium, whatever the hell that is. I am going to quote a lot of it, but (are you sitting down?) I really think you should read the whole thing:

I came away surprised that some people, especially the libertarians, were hardcore, true believers, wedded to an abstract version of idea and unwilling to look at how it played out in the real world. I had come to the conference thinking I had more in common with libertarians but was quite put off by them in person. By contrast, the conservative position, because it had more to do with the real-life context, was much less troubling to me. This surprised me, because I disagree with so much of what social conservatives favor.

. . .

What disturbed me was the assertion in the writings that the public accommodations provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were pernicious. And when I said that at the conference, a lot of the participates immediately challenged me. Did I think the law was right?!! This is what I mean by the excessive belief in the libertarian principle at the abstract level. These folks -- including Bailey, I think -- would have left restaurants and hotels to continue discriminating against black people as long as they pleased. Someone asserted that the free market would solve the problem better than government regulation. I said that the restaurant in the case about the constitutionality of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in fact made more money by seating only white customers and serving take-out to black people. One other person at the table agreed, but the point was pushed past. It didn't fit the abstraction.

And more from Ann, responding to Ron Bailey's remarks, which I've placed here in italics. I have also added emphasis to those points of Ann's I particularly applaud:

One session at the end of conference was devoted to Meyer's defense of federalism-his idea is that the constitutional structure that divides state power among political subdivisions tends to limit the power of the state over individuals, thus enlarging the sphere of personal liberty. The tragic historical abuse of federalism was state-mandated racial segregation which Meyer defended. As I understood Meyer's argument, he believed that preserving federalism as bulwark [sic] against the growth of central government power was more important to him than vindicating the rights of black Americans.

Big of him, huh? He really believed his principles, so deeply that black people were just going to have to suffer for his beliefs. What a guy! But you tell me: How do I know he loved his principles first and felt just terrible about how other people were going to have to pay the price for his lofty commitments or whether he actually came to love his ideas because of where they would lead? Why do you love the abstractions you love? To ask this question is not to fail to be an intellectual. To fail to ask this question is to fall short as a thinker.

I know everybody here just fell over dead because I not only quoted Ann approvingly, I quoted her approvingly on at least the tangential subject of what defines an intellectual. Blame my father, who has always been fond of saying, "When you're right, you're right." Here, Ann's right, and Ron Bailey is being repulsive. For that matter, so is Radley Balko:

Apparently what so offended Althouse is that anyone could possibly believe that a private business owner should be permitted to privately discriminate on the basis of race. This, to her, isn't a position that's compatible with civil discourse. Or, at the very least, if you hold this position, the burden is on you to prove to Althouse that you aren't ignorant, racist, or sociopathic.

Well, yes. Like Hubris once said:

It's interesting how this rhetorical method has become sort of a stupidity-powered shield against being called what you truly are, e.g.: "Ohhhh, I said 'nigger' so I guess now you're going to call me a RAAAACIST!"

Yep, you called it, asshole.

If your commitment to the abstract principle of "liberty" outweighs your commitment to the concrete treatment of human beings, don't look all who-farted? when someone suggests you don't value human beings very much. I italicize "abstract" and "concrete" deliberately here, because fucking hell, libertarians, Ayn Rand went over this distinction. She went over it A LOT, in great detail, with much verbiage. You're supposed to have read that shit, libertarians. No Howard Roark gingerbread-men cookies for you!

This mixing-up (and often deliberate confusing of) the difference between the abstract and the concrete is what's leaving too many on the right side of the blogosphere baffled by so-called leftist incivility. It is not uncivil to become offended by bigotry. Keep that in mind, and see if your dinner parties and cocktail hours don't run a little more smoothly from here on out.

Moment

Ah, that's better. Now that I have flamed the tar out of people who desperately deserved it, for their obstinate stupidity in assuming they know my motivations, when they scarcely even know me, let me get to one of the things that actually did change my mind about the war in Iraq.

This article.

Really, that's most of it. That one article. That one article that I had missed completely when it first appeared in May 2004.

I found it instead just a few months ago, probably at Sadly, No!, which blog I was only reading to get in good with my leftist pals, if by "my leftist pals," you mean "my boyfriend," a man who longtime readers will recall was never on board this let's-liberate-Iraq joyride in the first place.

Anyway, you trying sharing a residence with a guy who's always leaving the browser at sadlyno.com and see if you don't wind up reading it once in awhile. Except, a true wingnut would hold out and never read it, and would probably dump my boyfriend for being a big ol' traitor besides, and that brings me to the first crack in the foundation of my belief that conservatives were mainly reasonable, rational people: The first crack struck when I realized that too many of them take pride in how much they don't read. "I don't read that liberal biased horseshit." "I don't dive in that dumpster." "Oh, no, I don't need to look at that America-hating filth."

Who the hell is proud of not reading? Idiots, that's who. Idiots are proud of not reading.

But in May 2004 I was too busy getting all upset about Robert McNamara to read that Washington Post article. It's doubtful I would have found it mentioned in the blogs I was reading at the time, anyway. It's not an article you'd have wanted to get much traction, if you supported the war:

Others from across the District responded affirmatively to the same e-mail [offering job opportunities in Iraq], for different reasons. Andrew Burns, 23, a Red Cross volunteer who had taught English in rural China, felt going to Iraq would help him pursue a career in humanitarian aid. Todd Baldwin, 28, a legislative aide for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), thought the opportunity was too good to pass up. John Hanley, 24, a Web site editor, wanted to break into the world of international relations. Anita Greco, 25, a former teacher, and Casey Wasson, 23, a recent college graduate in government, just needed jobs.

For months they wondered what they had in common, how their names had come to the attention of the Pentagon, until one day they figured it out: They had all posted their resumes at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank.

And:

When Ledeen's group showed up at the palace -- with their North Face camping gear, Abercrombie & Fitch camouflage and digital cameras -- they were quite the spectacle. For some, they represented everything that was right with the CPA: They were young, energetic and idealistic. For others, they represented everything that was wrong with the CPA: They were young, inexperienced, and regarded as ideologues.

Several had impressive paper credentials, but in the wrong fields. Greco was fluent in English, Italian and Spanish; Burns had been a policy analyst focused on family and health care; and Ledeen had co-founded a cooking school. But none had ever worked in the Middle East, none spoke Arabic, and few could tell a balance sheet from an accounts receivable statement.

Other staffers quickly nicknamed the newcomers "The Brat Pack."

"They had come over because of one reason or another, and they were put in positions of authority that they had no clue about," remembered Army Reserve Sgt. Thomas D. Wirges, 38, who had been working on rehabilitating the Baghdad Stock Exchange.

Some also grumbled about the new staffers' political ties. Retired U.S. Army Col. Charles Krohn said many in the CPA regard the occupation "as a political event," always looking for a way to make the president look good.

I read that article and something jogged loose from my memory and landed as one thought, WHUMP! in the center of my consciousness:

I've read this before.

And in fact I had read it before:

From: Ambassador Louis Sears (Sarkhan)
To: Mr. Dexter S. Peterson, Sarkhan Desk, State Department, Washington, D.C.

Dear Dex,

I'm writing this to you personally (even typing it myself) because I need help and I want to make sure you know what the score is out here in Sarkhan. Honest, Dex, these Sarkhanese are really tricky. Sometimes I think they're all Commies. And to tell you the truth, I'm not so sure about the loyalty of some of the Americans here, either.

I guess that by now the Department's been reading all the press lies about Sarkhan. The stories that reporter for the Times wrote are false. . . .

. . . what I need in a hurry for my staff are some people I can trust who have initiative. . . . For one thing, we need a new public affairs officer. This girl Maggie Johnson is all right, but she agrees with the native press too much. And she keeps bringing newpapermen--especially Americans--in to see me. They pester hell out of me about problems which are none of their business, and which Miss Johnson should handle on her own.

Yes, I had definitely read it before:

"What about learning to speak a foreign language?" a small wiry girl asked. "I understand you have to learn the language of a country before you go there."

"Now, just a minute," Joe said, his voice full of good humor, "someone gave you the wrong dope. Uncle Sammy is not crazy. How many people do you think we could round up in this country who can speak Cambodian or Japanese or even German? Well, not very many. I don't parlez vous very well myself, but I've always made out pretty well in foreign countries. Fact is, we don't expect you to know the native language. Translators are a dime a dozen overseas. And besides, it's better to make the Asians learn English. Helps them, too. Most of the foreigners you'll do business with speak perfect English."

It was so familiar:

In 1954, at a dinner party in Rangoon in honor of Ambassador MacWhite, someone said to U Maung Swe, "British prestige certainly is low in Southeast Asia. What about America?"

U Maung Swe said, "Poor America. It took the British a hundred years to lose their prestige in Asia. America has managed to lose hers in ten years. And there was no need for it. In fact, she could get it all back in two years, if she wanted to." In the discussion which followed, U Maung Swe answered these questions:

What in general has caused America's loss of prestige?

The Americans I knew in the United States were wonderfully friendly, unassuming, and interested in the world. No one who has ever visited America and come to know the country could fail to trust and respect her people.

For some reason, however, the Americans I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They're loud and ostentatious. Perhaps they're frightened and defensive, or maybe they're not properly trained and make mistakes out of ignorance.

I could go on--there must be a dozen other passages that fit.

The Ugly American deals with Southeast Asia, setting most events in the fictional country of Sarkhan. We're not dealing with a Southeast Asia problem right now, we're dealing with a Middle Eastern one. But we're not dealing with problems abroad any better than we were fifty years ago:

* We're still staffing foreign agencies based on perceived loyalty of the applicants, rather than on their abilities to perform the job well.

* We're still adopting a patronizing attitude towards citizens of foreign countries: They should learn English. They should be grateful to us for liberating them. Maybe they even owe US an apology.

* We're still devaluing diplomacy--it's too effeminate, it's totally for fags, and after all, we're Americans. People should be diplomatic to us, not the other way around.

In short, we haven't learned a damned thing--probably because we were all too busy being so proud of how we'd never read a book with such a hateful title as The Ugly American, a book I first read when I borrowed it from my very-and-lifelong-Republican mother.

(But you know, frankly?--They just used to make Republicans different. There wasn't always this slavish devotion to the Executive branch that there is now. Religious extremists were called, properly, religious extremists, and not "the base." People who boasted of their isolation and ignorance were called idiots, not "true patriots." And so on.)

I haven't wanted to get into any of this, because I've been watching what passes for argument these days on the right, and it's really bad. Y'all are down to one strategy, one boring and tedious strategy that you never change in the slightest, and that strategy is Death by Nitpick. The "Forest? What forest? Come over here and check out the teensy mite on this one leaf on this one branch of this one tree!" style of argument. And I have to tell you, few things bore the piss outta me like nitpicking.

Fauxtography (and just fuck you all to hell for coming up with that term, a term even more twee than "blogosphere") was one big, sweaty, wanktastic nitpick, you tools. This should not even need to be said; in the company of sane people, it wouldn't need to be said. It would be right there, as plain to all as 2 + 2 = 4. None would remark upon it.

But this is the internet, so when a stringer added extra smoke to a photograph, obviously and badly, you all shit yourselves over it for a MONTH.

Now: Did it change the central fact that buildings were blown up in Lebanon? Of course not. But it's the principle of the thing, right? The principle that photographers should not alter their photographs, that's a sound principle. Journalistic integrity, that's another sound principle. The endless hysteria over the smoke, the smooooooooooooke, though, that was just entirely fucking stupid, and not useful in the formulation or practice of sound principles at all.

So I haven't wanted to say what I think about how badly we're screwing up Iraq, how much our foreign policy sucks, or how little any of this has changed in fifty years, because I have not wanted visits from your Pablos and your BumperStickerists and your other assorted drooling cretins who want to fight over details of dubious relevancy, while hurling the same tired accusations like you supported Saddam then, right? and I guess you think we should have trusted the U.N. to fix everything and huh, another victim of Bush Derangement Syndrome and--and, you know something? At this point I would not be one bit surprised to be accused of anti-Semitism, too, because yes, wingnuts, some of you have become THAT brain-damaged. What happened to you? Were you always this stupid and I just didn't notice?

I just haven't wanted to get into it, not because I find my position difficult to defend, but because asking me to defend it from the death-by-a-thousand-cuts-style attacks of utter imbeciles is asking me to waste my time. And if I'm going to waste time, I'm afraid I've got better ways to waste it.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

This is Me, Flecking You with Much Spittle

Oh Darleen, Darleen, listen: If you've got to lump me in with the moonbats (and how'm I supposed to attend a war protest, huh, when I never leave the fuckin' house? This agoraphobia really cuts into my activism), could you at least not punt to something I wrote to do it?

Their opprobrium is not for America's enemies, but for its own citizens. From the unseemliness of Jane Fonda, recipient of such opportunities that only this country has had to offer her to the spittle-flecked rants of others who just want to be accepted by the in-crowd du jour, one is confronted with people who substitute feelings for thought.

Their feeling is America is not perfect so it must be remade into their image of what it should be. Their image is flawless and anything less than that image is an afront to them and so are the people who support such a flawed creation. It is a strange kind of absolutism that would not be accepted in any other situation.

Consider, what would you think of a husband who constantly, and publicly, criticized, belittled, humiliated and embarrassed his wife? What if he actually seems to get a kick out of his behavior and rarely says anything good about her? Would you accept as sincere his protest that he really does love his wife, he only points out her flaws because he wants her to improve?

Yeah, where have I read that critical-husband/flawed-wife analogy before? Permit me the brief conceit of stating how much better I liked it when I wrote it.

Thank heavens I'm not the sort of thin-skinned super-serious blogger who starts talking shit about libel and lawsuits, because what a mess that would be for everybody, huh? But, see, actually, I don't have opprobrium (which I admit I just had to look up) for America's citizens en bloc. I sure as hell have my hate on for some of 'em, but it's demonstrably false that I hate me some America--though, out of respect for my Canadian readers (the dirty hippie socialist peaceniks!), I do prefer to refer to my country as "The United States" rather than "America." It just seems more inclusive, seeing as how America is a continent and all, and the United States is not the only country occupying it.

Glory! I've become such a fucking moonbat!

Darleen says expecting the United States to improve is "a strange kind of absolutism that would not be accepted in any other situation." And I suppose it is, when that's all a person ever has to offer, when it's just "AmeriKKKa sux" over and over again. Youthful Rage Against the Machine fans I have known spring to mind here. But that's not what I do on this blog, and what makes Darleen a lying sack of shit here is that she knows it.

Let me tell you what else is "a strange kind of absolutism that would not be accepted in any other situation:" Expecting that American citizens should just lie back and take it when you imply they don't love their country, just because they're sometimes angered by actions their government, their representative government, takes in their names, on their behalf. Who really hates U.S. citizens: The person who disapproves of the Bush administration, or the person who opposes everyone who disapproves of the Bush administration? Because that's a long list of your fellow citizens to hate ya got there, Darleen. Hope you're an early riser.

No, seriously: You want a spittle-flecked rant? Then how 'bout you take that conflation you made between me and terrorist sympathizers and you shove it up your fat ass, you ignorant cow. There. There's your spittle. Listen, it ain't me spending my weekend nights quaffing scotch and rallying my girlfriends to go--oh, what was that phrase you always used to say, Beth?--Right: "Take a dump all over this moonbat's comments." No, that's the province of your merry band of dipshits, and how welcome to it they are. I despise people who can't act as individuals, you know. I despise people who can't act without the support of a mob behind them. I despise fucking cowards. But there, that's how wars are won, isn't it? By ganging up to shit all over your fellow citizens. Absolutism, indeed.

Which brings me to this classic case of projection that Beth started and Darleen, in her post, is only too happy to continue: That my opinions have changed because I'm trying to fit in with all my new leftist buddies. Check it: Beth, the former cheerleader, says this to me, the former almost-dropout/reform-school student. The mind boggles at how the fuck that works, because believe me, my ass didn't land in reform school from wanting to fit in with the "in crowd du jour," most of whom were doing crazy shit like actually attending their classes; but I think it might start when you overlook that my closest online friends have been reading me from very nearly Day One and they're still here--unlike Beth, who just wanted someone to say all the shit to conservative male bloggers that she and the rest of her crew only had the spines to say to each other in email. "Hey, we're being treated like pieces of meat; what should we do? I know: Let's recruit Ilyka! She's crazy. She'll say anything! And then we can bust in when she goes too far and make a show of reining her in, so that we keep our good standing with Teh Menz. It'll be all Good Cop/Bad Cop! It can't fail. Plus, this way one or two of us can still guest-blog occasionally for John Hawkins. I know he writes all that mean stuff about women, but he's always been a perfect gentleman to me."

See, I'm thinking it might be best if y'all just found some other blog to read, one that doesn't stir your bowels to frenzied movement. I don't keep this up for you to take dumps on. I don't keep this up for you to cluck your forked tongues over. I don't keep this up for anyone but me, and right now this is me, completely washing my hands of all of you--and of all this spittle.

Admin Note

Comment moderation is in effect until further notice. Yes, I know, it sucks. We'll all have a good cry and some hot cocoa later, I promise.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Woof

I offered my half-baked theory on why The Crazy Cat Lady is such a popular stereotype of single women in the comments here, but, honestly, who knows why it persists? Why can't we pick on the single dog-owning women once in awhile, huh?

Marie Provost did not look her best
The day the cops bust into her lonely nest
in the cheap hotel up on Hollywood west
July 29

She'd been lyin' there for two or three weeks
The neighbors said they never heard a squeak
While hungry eyes that could not speak
said even little doggies have got to eat

She was a winner that became a doggie's dinner
She never meant that much to me
Whoa oh poor Marie

That's what happens, ladies, if you fail to ketch a man: You die (almost) alone, your pet eats you, and an ex-pub-rocker turned new-wave poseur memorializes your tragic fate in a cheerfully infectious pop song, claiming all the while within it that you "never meant that much" to him. Is that what you want out of life, ladies? Three minutes of immortality? Well? Is it?

It kind of is what I want out of life, I admit, but then I'm a little crazy, on account of the cats and the singleness and a bunch of other aberrations, no doubt--so if you have a gift for writing lyrics, auditions for the honor of composing my memorial pop song are open starting . . . now. Good luck trying to rhyme "Ilyka;" maybe we should just call me Margo or Sally or something?

UPDATE: Another reason you should never own cats, and this one's straight from my gluttonous heart:

I can't eat pistachios because I have one cat who's obsessed with them, and he just makes the whole pistachio-consuming process very irritating, what with his constant begging and cuteness and occasional fetching of pistachios from random corners of the house, especially the way he drops them at my feet like, "Look what I brought you!" Aw, it's a cat-spit-covered pistachio! HOW SWEET. Who's Mama's good boy?

It was only today, however, that I discovered that Barkley eats peanuts. Now see here! I didn't GIVE him any; he just STOLE them, right out of the palm of my hand.

Just like he's probably planning to do with my liver when I die. Well, with any luck I won't actually be holding my liver in the palm of my hand when I die, but you get the idea.

Incidentally

I realize there is something of a flame-fest going on here, and I do intend to address some of it in a post later--not the ad-hom shit, of course, but certainly the substantive stuff. So the good news is, it'll be a pretty short post.

A Quick Note on a Too-Common Refrain

I am only about a third of the way through this critique of Falling Down at The Unapologetic Mexican, but already I am loving it, partly because I hate Falling Down and even more partly because I hate Michael Douglas.

In the comments here, Lesley and I were sharing our hatred of Viggo Mortensen (note to self: Quit threadjacking coblogger's excellent posts! Why am I always such an asshole?), but I have to tell you, that hatred pales next to my hatred of Michael Douglas; it is as nothing. See, I don't just hate Michael Douglas; I hate the dead skin cells that slough off daily from Michael Douglas, creating layers of dust for other people to clean up. I cannot stand Michael Douglas. Please attempt no defenses of Michael Douglas in the comments, for I will delete them! There is nothing you can say to make me change my mind about this. Some things just are: Death is inescapable, taxes are inevitable, Michael Douglas is loathesome, The End. We're not arguing about this. This blog is not a democracy.

That, however, was not what I wanted to talk about here. I wanted to give a big cheer for this observation of Nezua's:

Sometimes in conversation or these kinds of talks one may hear "you are parsing too much." But oye! Not a cherry pit appears on screen that is not intended to affect you (save the frequent camera crew reflection in a glass door type of incident). This I studied. This I did. This I know. Although I imagine most readers of blogs are pretty media-savvy vat@s, I say this because of my own arc. Even aware of media, I used to entertain the notion—buying into the Art Director's skillz—that a background might (sometimes?) be as-is. Real life. Or just populated with random objects. That was before I became parts of fueds between a D.P. (me) and an Art Director, in a struggle over the Director's ear and creative lean. Now I know that every item is deliberated over, and all springs from the Director's interpretation of the script.

I have a friend who also studied film and would back him up on this. Every detail matters.

But more generally, I note that "you're over-thinking this," "you're reading too much into that," "you're being too sensitive," and all these remarks are common methods of camouflaging a simpler desire, one normally verbalized as "Shut up." Feminists get it, people of color get it, transgendered people get it--everyone who deviates from the norm gets this one at some point or another. And it's not that you can't debate intent versus context in specific situations; you can, and people do. But when someone who knows more than you do about how films are made, or how novels are written, or how sculptures are created, or how bridges are designed, or how it feels to be non-white, non-Christian, non-male, non-heterosexual--how it feels to be outside the dominant culture--when that person speaks, if your impulse is to yell "shut up," even if you mask that impulse with "quit taking everything so literally," you're the ignorant one, and you'd be better off listening to the one you've mentally labeled "too sensitive." Nine times out of ten it is not that they are too sensitive. It is that they see with a keener eye.

And now, back to enjoying the view through a keener eye. Some days the internet's not so bad, you know?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday Fun

Sheila fuses acting and blogging, or that is how I'm thinking of it, anyway. Go meet the cast of characters--so far Cat Lady, Pleading Woman, and Wings of the Dove Lady have been posted.

I think the thing I like best about Sheila is that she has so much fun just goofing around on her own. I like people who can be happy by themselves, who don't HAVE to have people around 24/7.

Plus, those Cat Lady glasses are killing me.

Cleaning Out the Bloglines

Some old, some new, but all stuff I never got to posting about, despite my excellent (I swear!) intentions.

* Alicublog: Moral Guidebook - Copiously Illustrated! Anyone who's ever spent more than a few minutes reading Ace of Spades will recognize the irony here.

* The Anti-Essentialist Conundrum: In Solidarity and Love. More on Little Light's post and one of the uncharitable reactions to it.

Well, Heart, I think Robin Morgan would be proud of seeing her words, of realizing a kindred spirit has felt the same wounds and emerged from the same ashes. I neither do nor want to speak for all feminists. I don’t subscribe to a moratorium of personal thought and feeling. I respect boundaries, and I take accusations of transcending boundaries seriously. But I see no transgression; all I see is a woman asserting her identity as a beautiful human being.

And your Audre Lorde example is bunk, in my opinion. I’ve seen many people talk about the master’s house and the master’s tools in context after context. Before I knew Lorde’s name, I knew those words. If I wrote something personal about myself with that reference incorporated, and I encountered a reaction like yours, I’d have two reactions. I would jump at the excitement of figuring out where the words originated, but I would also feel a sense of regret at sharing my experience at all. There’s a difference between comparing voices and using one voice to suppress another, especially when both painfully need to speak.

Bold and underline that last sentence especially. Some posts make me want to cheer; this was one of them.

* Echidne of the Snakes: A Sexist - And Proud of It. Something I don't acknowledge enough when I write is the debt I owe other writers. Amanda was right to credit Faludi as a strong influence on this post, but Echidne's another woman who got there first on the topic of exceptionalism:

The problem for the women who have drunk patriarchy's KoolAid has always been the schizophrenia of looking down on all women yet being one of that despised species. How to solve this dilemma? The obvious solution is to ask for an exemption: Though women are headless hens cackling away and good-for-nothing but taking care of children (funnily enough, the Most Important Job in other conservative contexts, yet something that can be trusted to cackling hens), the woman stating these opinions is NOT a cackling hen. In fact, she is not a woman at all, but a miniature version of the Calm and Always Logical Great Man.

"I'm not like other women" definitely goes on the Top Ten list of Phrases I Never Want to Hear Again.

* Echidne of the Snakes: Your Dream Is My Nightmare. One of those anger and civility posts that I love:

Remember political correctness? P.C.? Remember how viciously the wingnuts attacked it? Well, political correctness did have a strong flavor of civility, the idea that people should be called what they want to be called rather than what ever smearword others have invented for some group. Limbaugh decided that feminists were feminazis. I don't remember many articles on the need for Limbaugh to learn civility.

But times change, of course. Now the liberals and progressives are called traitors and terrorist-lovers and so on. But civility, well, that is a problem on the left side of the political spectrum. Because the left is ANGRY. And what is the right? Never angry, it seems. Only moral and virtuous.

The right is just as angry; it's just that they think their anger (at welfare queens, Islamofascists, illegal immigrants, NARAL, and the media) is justified, while the left's isn't. You're not bad for being angry; you're bad for being angry at the wrong stuff.

* Pandagon: How Not To Sound Like a Creepy Jackass. Yeah, from November! I am nothing if not timely. Anyway, it's about that study that tried to credit internet porn with a decline in rape, and the fellows who wanted to believe that so bad it hurt. Amanda takes them on in that nonchalant, this-is-too-easy style I love:

I said and Rob said, “Rape is caused by anger, not horniness.” This guy’s retort, “Yes, but rape is caused by horniness, which science says is about reproduction and blah blah bunch of words to disguise the fact that I’m basically saying that men rape because they are horny, an easily disprovable fact.” Bringing up the scientific theory about the main purpose of sex (though by no means the only purpose of sex) as if your audience didn’t know that erections and reproduction have anything to do with each other, does not make you sound more knowledgeable.

When I pointed out to him that all he was saying was that men rape out of some sort of animalistic horniness, he got backed up by a guy who wanted to argue that there’s no way a woman could know what motivates men to rape, since men have this animalistic horniness, you see?

I do see! Men and Women Are Different. You never really escape that one, do you?

* Plum Crazy: Boxer v. Rice. Lesley lays it out so I don't have to:

If the only price women are seen as being able to pay for their country in wartime is their children (and husbands), what does that mean for single, childless women? Given the culture we live in, it's really not hard to read that as "you're selfish." It's not as if single and/or childless women don't get fed that message constantly anyway. "Selfish." "Unwomanly." "Failure." That's the environment in which Boxer made her remarks.

I get that a lot of the outrage over Boxer's remarks was faux outrage, because equality for women is not and never has been a goal for the right; so for right-wing bloggers to pretend suddenly that they cared about the implied insult to Rice on feminist grounds is a joke. That said, I think Lesley's right, because you never escape context, either. Not even if you're Barbara Boxer.

* Slant Truth: My Lived Life Is All The Theory I Need. This was written in response to Jeff Go1dstein's post on how race is a social construct (see discussion here), so why don't we just invalidate the construct? Except that by "invalidate the construct," he really means, "you people of color just need to get over yourselves." White people don't have to do anything. Happy Martin Luther King day!

Someday someone must explain to me why anyone pays any attention whatsoever to anything Jeff says, even though he's so transparent, his agenda's right there floating in a soap bubble. But if someone must pay attention it may as well be Kevin, because he's got it:

I love me some theory, but I have a big problem with theory that doesn’t and can’t match up with lives as they are lived. This is the problem that I have with those of the “race is a fiction” crowd. In the world that I live in, race is quite real. Every time I walk outside of my door I’m confronted with the fact that race is quite real. Here’s a story: one of the earliest memories I have is of being 4 or 5 and pulling into the donut shop with my moms and watching a dude on a motorcycle jump off, lunge at me and scream “fucking niggers” while (thankfully) being held back by his friend. That’s real. All of your talk about race as socially constructed will never erase that memory from my mind.

Read the whole thing. Don't miss any of the links, either.

* Yellow Is the Color: Maureen Dowd: Bipolar, Schizophrenic, or Just An Idiot? I vote the last one; there's no call to be insulting bipolars and schizophrenics like that. Anyway, I'm saving this one for the next time a conservative gets all confused about Maureen's feminist credentials:

I finished reading “Are Men Necessary?” by Dowd over break. I remember a lot of people posting about this when it first came out, so I’m a bit behind the times, but I found the book way too immensely frustrating not to rant about it in some way.

I should have known to stop reading after the first three sentences:

I don’t understand men. I don’t even understand what I don’t understand about men. They’re a most inscrutable bunch, really.

I should have put it down right there, I really should have. There’s not much I can stand less than writers/comedians/etc. pulling out the whole “Whoa! Aren’t men and women so different?!? Isn’t that SO crazy and funny?” shtick. But for some reason I kept reading (I really think my initial decision to give the book a chance was because I so liked the pulp/noir graphics on the cover), and as I have a self-imposed rule about not quitting books once I’ve read more than a chapter or so, I soon found myself in a position where I had to finish the damn thing.

And now it's your turn to go finish the damn thing.

Old and Late

But not never: Last week's 60 Minutes interview with George W. Bush. It's stabbing me. It's stabbing me in the same place I felt stabbed back in 2004, when a favorite Iraqi blogger of the right tried to talk about the murder of his cousin at the hands of American troops, and a bunch of super-patriotic American commenters yelled at him for it:

I can't stress how disgusted and dissapointed I am with the people who are still in denial:
"Oh no our soldiers are good and educated, they would never do that!"
"Our soldiers would have no motive to lie".
"I would never trust a former Republican guard officer".
"I can't give judgement until the investigation is over".

Well people, picture this. Suppose I had published a similar account of Iraqi Fedayeen pushing two American soldiers in a river, drowning one of them in the process. Would you have reacted in the same manner? Would all you armchair analysts say "Oh no, lets not rush to conclusions. We should wait for the investigation results"? Would you all suddenly be so 'open minded'?

No, you would be jumping all over it crying and condemning the 'murderous' Fedayeen.

You have no idea how insulting this all is to me.

I kick myself, because I should have known THEN: I should have known then that if this grand Iraqi experiment in democracy were to go wrong, we, the people of the United States, would never examine ourselves critically, would never troubleshoot our own plans, our own execution--oh, no. We'd blame the victim. It's what we do with rape and it's what we do with any other situation we Keystone-Kops our way into, then hastily blunder out of again. It's our oldest and noblest tradition, and it's right fucking here in the words of our President:

PELLEY: Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?

BUSH: That we didn't do a better job or they didn't do a better job?

PELLEY: Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion.

BUSH: Not at all. I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.

No, Mr. President, that is not what I wonder. Believe it or not, I have got through every day since this grotesque misadventure began without wondering whether the Iraqi people were thanking our soldiers, or you, or me, enough. I first believed, then hoped, then hoped against hope, then despaired of us ever being enough for THEM.

No more experiments in democracy abroad. No more, no mas, es todo. Until we can work out how in the hell we elected the kind of guy who asks, in all seriousness,

That we didn't do a better job or they didn't do a better job?

--I don't want to hear about it.

Did you ever write Zeyad a letter of apology and support, Mr. President? Did you ever say, "What happened to your cousin was tragic and wrong, and I am wholeheartedly sorry for it, and I want you to know how much I appreciate you and every other Iraqi blogger who stands with the United States even despite these abominations?"

No, you did not.

Neither did I. Oh, I mean--I left Zeyad a comment, I think.

That's a lot of consolation, isn't it? A comment.

I Can't Have Been the Only One To Have Done This, Right?

So listen: Does anyone who uses Paypal remember some noise last . . . uh, last spring, I think? About how you had so-many (but-no-more) days in which to sign some agreement with them, or they'd boot you? I don't remember whether it was a privacy agreement or a terms of service, or what. I just remember going (like I always do), "Oh, yeah, I need to remember to do that." And I remember doing that through several further email reminders from them.

"Oh yeah, I need to remember to do that."

Well, you know, tomorrow never comes until it does, and now I can't use Paypal, even though there are still tons of bloggers who use it, people to whom I'd like to give a buck or two.

Has this happened to anyone else? How did you solve it, if so? Because last I poked around the Paypal site, there was no solving it; it was the big "too bad, so sad, loser." Okay, so they gave me half a dozen reminders! It still seems harsh. Where're my 43rd and 44th chances, huh?

Do you know what I think the stupidest thing any company can do is?--Make it difficult for you to spend money. This should be EASY. I should be able to spend money blindfolded and intoxicated, with one arm chopped off, while hemorrhaging. This is America.

UPDATE: Maybe the "it wuz ph1shers, d00d" crowd (wait, that's ALL of you) could explain why I get this when I attempt to sign into Paypal?



Those emails I was receiving weren't asking me to click a link or do any of the usual stupid phishing tricks; they were asking me to log into my Paypal account (and they didn't care how I did it) and acknowledge an updated-something agreement, which I never did, and ever since I've gotten the above when I've attempted to log in.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Brief Note on What I Would Like for This Blog

Pursuant to some comments here:

I would like this blog to be a place where people don't always get things right, because I don't always get things right. And trust me: There are plenty more examples where that came from.

I would like this blog to be a place where people can (please forgive the therapy-speak) process, because I'm still processing.

I would like this blog to be a place where people can agree to disagree if one or both of them is just not ready for a change of heart, because I have often had to table an issue mentally until I have been ready for a change of heart.

I would like this blog to be a place where people can sit on the fence about things as long as they need to, because my own ass has seen its share of fence splinters.

I would like this blog to be a place for both/and more than a place for either/or. I saw enough either/or on the right, thanks.

I would like this blog to be a place where everyone keeps in mind the distinction between doing or saying something [fill in the blank]-ist, and being a hopelessly unregenerate -ist by nature. That distinction is, to my mind, this: Anyone and everyone can and does say or do -ist things, but some of them can be persuaded--not badgered, hollered at, or nagged; persuaded--to stop doing them. On the other hand, someone who is unapologetically committed to such behavior, as evidenced by his or her attitude and past patterns of behavior, is probably a lost cause, and to hell with them. I would like for this blog to be a place where we start by assuming the former case rather than the latter.

I would like to be able to say these things without being called an apologist tool, but I accept that some people are going to say it anyway. I would like it if I could remember more that words on a monitor, or stupid crap on the internet, is just words on a monitor and stupid crap on the internet. I would like it if everyone who participates here could keep that in mind as well. I am quite a fan of perspective, when I remember to be.

I would like for this blog and its comments to be messy and imperfect, but not malicious or cruel.

I would like for anyone who wishes to comment here to feel comfortable doing so, even if he or she has a dissenting opinion from the majority, provided he or she refrains from malice or cruelty; which so far, I'm happy to say, everyone has mostly done.

That's what I'd like for this blog.

Not an Object

A woman's sexual activity level as consumer good: Will this comparison ever die? No. No, it won't.

Faced with two oh-the-horror examples of similes of this kind (one oldie-but-goodie involving a used car; the other involving a [gulp] piece of tape), commenter Nik at Feministe is forced to break it to the ladies: These analogies persist because they're right!

I suspect you lot essentially just don’t like the fact that they are right. The fact is people who slept around a lot in the past are more likely to sleep around a lot in the future than people who haven’t. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re after a long term monogamous relationship, then you are better off going for someone who’s walked the walk and is not just talking the talk. (I know Hugo’s pimping the Xtian redemptive stuff, but the real world doesn’t work like that).

Many, many people rebut, but I'm fond of Lesley's response to a followup remark by D.J. Jazzy Nik:

You cannot take one action and assume that its statistically significant predictive values apply to completely unrelated actions. You have to study each action separately, because there are different factors that go into each. No reputable social scientist would make the leap you have. They would look at what influences people to do each of those actions and construct a model that accounts for those factors. Then they’d run the regression. You’re completely lacking any consideration of separate influences.

Let me take an example. Adults who watch a lot of Barney videos. The majority of adults who watch a lot of Barney videos do so because they have young children. Let’s even assume that they have a pattern of watching Barney videos, because they had three children in a 6 year span. In 10 years, assuming they don’t have any more children, their rate of Barney video viewing would decrease tremendously (probably to zero). We expect that, because we know what factors go into adult viewership of Barney videos. We don’t look at it and conclude that it’s like every other activity one might perform. You just can’t do that.

. . . although I'm also partial to this from Michelle:

Why does no on ever ask how you’d feel if you bought a sausage and found out that someone already took a bite out of it, ha? I’ve never heard that analogy.

THANK YOU AND AMEN.

Look, I'm very tired of this, because this should be so basic by now, but apparently it isn't, so once more with feeling:

A vagina is not a toilet or a bathtub, where you're willing to overlook a little grime and germs provided they're only YOUR grime and germs, and not some other guy's.

A vagina is not an object; oh, technically I suppose it is, in a sense, or at least you can use it as one in a sentence, but unfortunately for the Niks and for way too many other fellas in the world, a vagina is not much use isolated from the rest of the body; you know, from the person who's sporting it? Hello? Up here! Look in the eyes: This is what a human being looks like.

I will take your concerns about the purity or integrity of women's genitalia seriously--well, never, really, because it's not your concern, because women are not your property. But could you at least humor me by pretending occasionally to care where your dicks have been? Could you fake a little concern for me there, just for consistency's sake? Could you wonder whether that bad boy may have accrued a few too many miles on it? Say, how's the chassis looking? Do you think it might be time to rotate the tires? Or perhaps you prefer the tape metaphor: Do you ever find your balls feeling, you know, not so sticky?

Enough! A woman is going to fuck who she's going to fuck; if you want it to be you, and not some other guy, then dump these idiotic new/used, adhesive/nonadhesive analogies over a cliff and never recycle them again. And for fuck's sake do not invent NEW ones. I do not want to hear about how a woman's hooha is just like a battery or a refrigerator or a plasma television or whatever the hell else you come up with.

Cease and desist. You are being stupid, and we are losing patience.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Been Kind of a Week

Yeah, it's one of those sorry-for-not-blogging posts that I personally hate to read on anyone else's blog, so why'm I doing one here? I don't know! It is a mystery.

Also apologies to all email correspondents; I have been added to some feminist mail loops (good) but this has taken my email situation from head-just-barely-above-water to head-six-feet-under (bad, blub-blub-blub). Send oxygen tanks to ilyka period damen at-symbol gmail period com.

How is everyone?

UPDATE: Wait, I can't let this go:

Little Light wrote a beautiful post some time ago; when I first read it, via link from here, the comments were appropriately supportive and complimentary.

I learn now they didn't stay that way.

All I can really offer here is a weary request that some radical feminists please quit sounding exactly like Bruce McCulloch in this Kids in the Hall sketch:



OMG, Little Light! You totally stole that post off Robin Morgan's workout tape! You're such a copycat!

Please, Heart and Company: This is crap. If your first response to reading Little Light's post is to cry plagiarism, you are (1) confused about what plagiarism is (see this comment, particularly, for exactly why you are wrong), and (2) missing the point so badly you might as well be searching for it from a whole 'nother dimension.

If we could just try behaving like step class school professionals, and not like common skanks, that would be great.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Dear Northeasterners

It was kind of cute the first time, but, really, you can have your weather back. I don't mean to sound ungrateful; thank you for the loan of it and everything, but honestly, I thought it we were all clear that this was only supposed to be a one-time, remember-that-year-it-snowed-once? kind of deal.

Not that it's warm now or anything: Tonight's overnight low forecast is for 18 degrees Fahrenheit, too-fucking-cold degrees Celsius. I know I always say I like cold, and I do, but when I say "cold" I mean "the kind of fake cold that someone who has spent most of her time in the southwestern United States would call 'cold.'" I do not mean temperatures below 30, at all. That is not what I call "cold." That is what I call "insanity."

And just think: I almost didn't snap up that down comforter for a third of the retail price two weeks ago on the grounds that we'd "hardly ever need it." Ha! I say. HA! That down comforter and I are getting MARRIED. That's how tight we are.

Exciting Cat Update

No microchip + negative feline leukemia test = I now have three cats.

His name is Barkley.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Love Thyself


Leg, originally uploaded by ilyka_damen.

Zuzu asked people to list at least five things they liked about themselves and their bodies. I thought rather than list 'em, I'd show 'em. Click the picture to see the other four.

I agree with everyone in the Feministe comments who said this exercise wasn't easy. It isn't easy, and in hindsight, shit, next time I'll just write some stuff, because the camera, at least in my clumsy Photoshop-free hands, doesn't lie as nicely as I could have. And I would have been tempted to lie, because lying would have been easier than telling you how much I love my scarred-up, hairy calves.

But I do love my scarred-up, hairy calves. The scars mean I did things, that I was willing to risk injury to do them, that sometimes I failed to do them gracefully, but nonetheless, here I am. The hair simply means I would rather do things other than shave, and there's nothing a bit wrong with that, because shaving is tedious.

No, to be perfectly honest with you, I fucking love my legs. They have always done just what I want them to, they clean up swell, and they don't look half bad in heels, either.


UPDATE: "Brent didn't laugh long once he was scooping his flesh up off the floor."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Catblogging: You Knew This Was Inevitable


The_stranger, originally uploaded by ilyka_damen.


Stray cat grooving on my ugly-ass slipcover. Hey, at least someone in this house likes it.

And an update: He isn't declawed after all (I'd taken the boyfriend's word on that previously). He's just extremely polite about not extending his claws at people. See what I mean? A very good boy indeed.

With any luck he has a microchip implanted that will allow the original owners to be found, and I won't wind up with a third cat. But you know how fickle luck can be.

In the meantime, I've treated all cats for fleas and, hey: Can anyone tell me about the efficacy or safety of over-the-counter anti-tapeworm pills? I should have asked that before I bought them, I guess.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Never Fails

I knew if I just waited long enough after my cat Cocoa died, I'd get another one. I wouldn't have to go looking for one; one would just find me.

And that's why I'm only a little bit surprised that there is a beautiful young tomcat howling at my door tonight, wondering why he can't come inside. Didn't I give him a can of cat food and two helpings of kibble? Didn't I give him fresh water? Didn't I pet him and hold him? Didn't I lay out a spare kitty bed for him? And wasn't he appreciative of all that? Wasn't he a good boy?

Of course he was! He is a very good boy. That's plain. He's had people at some point in his life; he isn't a bit mean, and he's nowhere near as wary as he ought to be in this world.

He's also declawed.

But he hasn't been neutered.

These, these are the people whose heads I would like to beat against rocks: The kinds of people who make it a priority to remove from an animal his chief defense mechanism, but the part of his body that will cause him to wander for miles and miles until he is hopelessly lost? That part of his body that will help create dozens, if not hundreds, of other homeless cats? Oh, no: We keep THAT part. Heaven forbid we emasculate the poor fellow.

And don't tell me it's about money. It isn't! Declawing is expensive, but I once paid a whole $15 to have a cat neutered, and not that long ago, either--within the last 10 years. There are low-cost spay and neuter programs everywhere, even here, in wouldn't-you-really-rather-have-a-dog? land.

I'll be taking this little guy into such a program tomorrow, if he's still around. I hope he is. He is very sweet. He licks noses and likes sitting in laps.

Alas, poor Shane: Your time as a baby was so short.

Downgraded from Soldiers to Rent-A-Cops

I wandered into Kung Fu Monkey a few months back*, thought to myself, "Say, this is good stuff," and wandered right back out without subscribing to its RSS feed, just as I do with 95% of the good blogs I find occasionally, because I'm a disorganized airhead who can't remember to click one little "Subscribe" button.

That situation has just been remedied, and this is the post that did it. That is my clever way of telling you to read it, all of it, but here's some of it anyway:

There is truth in the idea that soldiers are our designated warriors. But the accidental revelation in these attitudes is the bizarre concept that by soldiers choosing a life of taking risks on our behalf, these war supporters are somehow absolved of any responsibility to them other than emotional support and approval. There is the stink of ... the troops as employees. Like, say, gardeners. Not that I would ever make such a crude comparison.

But the fact is that soldiers make this choice in a specific context. They are not just entering a job. They are, to pull up my Catholic high school education, entering into a covenant with us. They take an oath to sacrifice their lives, if need be. That is, in my faith anyway, the holiest thing a person can do. In return, the civilian side of the covenant is a deep responsibility, a responsibility far beyond the emotional support one gives a sports team, or the minimal responsibility one has with employees. Our oath is simple:

We will make sure you have the equipment you need.

We will make sure have a clearly defined mission.

We will make sure that such missions are as well-planned as possible.

We will take care of your families while you are gone.

We will take care of you when you come home.

That's not a lot to do for someone who's out there getting shot at for you.

Indeed it isn't, but right-wing blogs are so formulaic these days that I know exactly how this is going to go over. If this post is not ignored entirely, it will be met with a response like:

The overwhelming odor of sanctimony in this post by some numbnuts leftist is particularly piquant when one considers how seldom any member of The Left can be found making even the most superficial show of support for our soldiers; they can't be bothered to slap a ribbon magnet on the Prius, much less send a care package. But "support the troops" means different things to different people, and to liberals, it means "Make a hollow gesture of supporting the troops, and then only as a last resort when other, more satisfying means of raging against President Bush have temporarily lost their appeal."


Seriously: One or more of the usual suspects has something very, very like that in draft mode right now. I should take bets on this, because I would win, except that (1) none of you are stupid enough to take that bet and (2) none of us will ever be able to prove how completely right I am about this, though I am, I really am. Just you wait and see what floats to the top of the sewers tomorrow.

This is why any right-wing response will have to be something like the above: Because there is no way around the validity of what Rogers is saying in his post. They can't say that the post from The Corner that Rogers is responding to ("I am a loser, hypocrite, chickenhawk, and barely half a man in the War on Weeds. I tried digging them out of my yard, but found I didn't have what it takes, so now I sit in my comfy chair and watch while other people's loved ones put themselves at risk.") didn't set things up for everyone to make the employee comparison, because it did all that and more--it sent out engraved invitations for everyone to make the employee comparison. And they can't say "Of course our soldiers are our employees; what's wrong with that?" because only reprehensible shitheels would say such a thing, and while some bloggers on the right are certainly shitheels, they don't usually prefer to display that shitheeliness so brazenly.

No, the only thing left to do here is attack Rogers' credibility with some bloated, gassy verbiage amounting to nothing more than a big nyah-nyah-nyah (or bwa-ha-ha): "You don't fool us, commie! We all know you don't really care about the military. Now suppose you run along off the internet, maybe drive your little hempmobile down to Starbucks for a nice soy milk latte, fag, and leave this 'blogging' stuff to tha professionals." And having so thumped their chests they will then sign that very post with some nerdy, homoerotic handle, and not even notice what they just did there, because irony is dead.

Last chance: Are you sure you don't want to bet me on this?


*Then, as now, I'm pretty sure I got there via Sadly, No!

And that's another thing: There seem to have been a few temper tantrums on the right recently that blogs like S,N! or TBogg, I think was the other one, don't do anything! Except pick on other bloggers! Other bloggers who are reporting actual news! News which is fiction half the time, but by gum! At least it's original! Not like you hacks, TNo!

Even if all of the above were 100% true, tantrum-throwers, I'm afraid Sadly, No! and TBogg would still be doing me a great favor, because before I found them I had to read you jokers myself, and the contents of my skull are much less for it. I was this close to needing a 24-hour caregiver just so I wouldn't walk into walls; whereas now, my doctors tell me that if I keep working hard at therapy, I might someday be able to remember not to stick forks in the toaster.