aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Tucker trundles on
Talk yesterday that Tucker Carlson’s MSNBC show “is in real danger of being canceled” was followed quickly today by word from Big Head DC “that someone within MSNBC who doesn’t like Carlson floated the inaccurate rumors.”
Meanwhile on Monday he had Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal on the show. Jessica notices he sounds a lot like the anti-suffragists of old:
After Smeal remarked that we should be embarrassed that the U.S. is so far behind in terms of representation of women in politics, Carlson replied, “I’m actually not embarrassed by it at all.” He continued, and here’s the doozy, “I don’t know why that’s embarrassing. You could make the counter case that most women are so sensible, they don’t want to get involved in something as stupid as politics. ...They’ve got real things to do.” You know, like cook his dinner.
What’s hilarious is that this sentiment is actually very similar to the anti-suffragist arguments from back in the day: that women shouldn’t want to get involved in politics--they’re too good for it! There’s the famous quote, for example, from Rep. Thomas Girling who said that “women shouldn’t be dragged into the dirty pool of politics.”
Those were the good old days, right Tucker?
He’s earned his long slow ratings decline to oblivion.
Marriage Equality ads on the air in NJ
A word from Sister Merry Peter, SPI
It amazes me how far the story of sisters taking communion from the Archbishop travels and how, after so much media attention, a basic lie about this story continues to be repeated- most often unintentionally.
I want to share with you and your friends, that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence did NOT make that video (seen on YouTube and run in ceaseless loops on Fox News and Bill O’Reilly). If you knew us well, you would have realized that, since the lighting is atrocious and the angle very unflattering!
The video was actually shot by a right-wing, very homophobic group based in San Jose, CA called Quo Domine. They filmed in secret and then sent the tape to other right wing blogs like “Americans for Truth” and to Fox News.
Their intention was to create a controversy that would perpetuate the right-wing attack on “San Francisco values.”
The group has attacked Most Holy Redeemer parish in the past, because they vehemently oppose the church’s open ministry to queer people, whom they believe are living in sin and should repent. The group holds a fundamentalist inspired vision of the Church that does not welcome diversity.
The sisters who attended that day did so because they, like others in the Castro-neighbourhood parish, genuinely wanted to welcome the bishop on his first pastoral visit and because they wanted to remind him that this was a gay-affirming parish.
They were dressed in formal habits not because they sought to mock nuns, but because they ARE nuns, and this is the way we dress.
Neither the sisters in presenting themselves for communion, or the archbishop in giving it to them, did anything wrong. Catholic teaching is clear in its guidelines to eucharistic ministers who must give communion to anyone presenting for it unless they know that person to be in a state of unrepented mortal sin.
You may disagree with our politics and think our make up less than flattering, but last time I checked, being a drag nun was not a mortal sin!
Many of those angered by the sisters’ presence are angry because they think WE shot that video or because they feel we MOCK nuns.
As you can read on the official statement at the Sisters Website (http://www.thesisters.org) we celebrate the traditional vocations of religious women and choose to live them outside the convent walls. Like countless nuns before us, we dress in attire that identifies us with our particular community, and, in our case, enables us to reach people who would never be touched by organized religion.
Our vows, which we profess for life, call us to raise joy and remove guilt and shame. Living these vows often puts us at odds with church hierarchy, as it does with politicians and even queer community leaders, whenever any of them use their power or exposure to reinforce shameful stereotypes or hateful and divisive ideology.
We’re well aware that our “look” can be shocking for those not accustomed to us. But it most often leaves people lauging, and we see laughter as the open space between expectation and judgement where we have an opportunity to reach through stereotypes and bigotry directly into another’s heart. Many healing and life-changing blessings have come out of these spontaneous encounters.
It has saddened us that the archbishop, who knew exactly who these two nuns were, has first pretended not to know us and now, caved in to the pressure of the right-wing media. He missed a great teaching moment in which to remind the faithful of the gospel values of compassion and honesty and to oppose the right-wing attack on truth and the freedom of worship and expresssion.
I appreciate all you do as a blogger to keep the community aware of what’s going on. It’s an important service!
So, I just want to take a moment to share the facts behind the story and hope it helps you and your readers get a better sense of how this all started.
After 30 years of Indulgent Service, we’re not afraid of a bit of controversy and know how to spin a story as well as anyone! But we also know that the truth matters and that it’s a better starting place for honest and fruitful dialogue.
Thanks for all your great writing and for letting me have a chance to share my thoughts with you.
With indulgent gratitude,
Sr. Merry Peter, SPI, Mistress of Missions
* Her note is in response to my post, Assimilate or agitate?
From Ariel Levy’s New York Magazine profile of Al Franken’s senate campaign:
This used to be the charge against the left in general: that we’re all bleeding-heart, bellyaching babies-the people who brought you humorless feminists and Ralph Nader. But during the Bush years, Democrats have come to own funny. Our political discourse has been dominated by the hilarity of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and the Franken canon, while the right’s most prominent spokespeople-Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Dick Cheney-wouldn’t know funny if it sat on their faces. Republicans have become the outraged and the aggrieved, the touchy and the unamused. Power corrupted even their sense of humor.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Cannibalizing conservative books
Five authors have sued the parent company of Regnery Publishing, a Washington imprint of conservative books, charging that the company deprives its writers of royalties by selling their books at a steep discount to book clubs and other organizations owned by the same parent company.
In a suit filed in United States District Court in Washington yesterday, the authors Jerome R. Corsi, Bill Gertz, Lt. Col. Robert (Buzz) Patterson, Joel Mowbray and Richard Miniter state that Eagle Publishing, which owns Regnery, “orchestrates and participates in a fraudulent, deceptively concealed and self-dealing scheme to divert book sales away from retail outlets and to wholly owned subsidiary organizations within the Eagle conglomerate.”
Kevin Drum asks, “if a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, what do you call a conservative who’s come face to face with the naked face of vertically integrated capitalism?”
A model priest
Andrew Sullivan, to the best of my knowledge a practicing Catholic, points to:
James Alison, a man of the Gospels in every sense and an English gay Catholic priest, is always worth listening to. This lecture, “Love Your Enemy: Within A Divided Self,” is particularly sharp.
Andrew’s money quote:
For people like me, Senator Craig is, in a very obvious sense, an enemy: he has been a solid functionary of the system of hatred which has used people like me as a wedge issue to frighten people into acquiescence with other, and far more serious forms of evildoing. A system of hatred which is, thank heavens, far less strong in this country now than it is in the United States, and far less strong than it was in this country as recently as fifteen years ago. I say this, since there is an obvious sense in which I, as a child of my culture, am tempted to rejoice in the discomfiture of my enemy, to depict Senator Craig as the “not me” which gives me a tidy little identity. It was in this context that I was very moved to read a piece by one of the gay-bloggers in the US, fairly shortly after the Craig story broke, which helped remind me of the truth of the Gospel.
This blogger, whose name I cannot now remember, showed me something which enabled me to see sameness rather than difference.
He pointed out that Senator Craig was born in 1945, in rural Idaho. When he was ten years old, in 1955, there was a scandal in Boise, the Idaho State Capital, not too far from where young Larry lived. It was the big tabloid gay scandal of the 1950’s, coming just as America was in the grip of the McCarthy witch hunts, themselves helped along nicely by at least two self-hating gay men, “killer fruits” as Truman Capote wrily called them: Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover. It was revealed that in Boise, of all unlikely places, there was a network of public officials and influential citizens employing the services of a group of rent boys. Well, you can imagine what sort of impact the news of all this, the sensation of it, the hatred it revealed, might have had on a ten year old boy. It might well have taught him that if he wanted to grow up being good, then the one thing, above all else, that he was not, was gay (or whatever approximation to that word existed in his milieu at that time). A boy like that might well have been taught by his culture, just as he came close to puberty, simultaneously who he was, and who he was not; and faced with any little boy’s desire to grow up to be good, he may have been locked into a form of denial and self-hatred which could then perpetuate itself for many years thereafter.
Now you will notice that I have used the subjunctive form, “may”, and “mightÃ¢â‚¬Â�, throughout this description, because I don’t know Senator Craig personally, nor, I suspect, did the blogger who pointed out these background dates and events. But as I read the blog, I did remember a ten year old boy whom I knew in this country, fifteen or so years later, and so already in a much easier cultural climate, who found himself impossibly riven between the growing knowledge of who he was and the absolute cultural imperative that he not be that thing. Even in the much easier cultural climate of Britain in the early seventies that little boy came as close as dammit to opting for public “goodness” and success, denial and dishonesty, instead of the long route through the mystery of forgiveness and integration which was later offered to him by the Catholic Faith.
That little boy is of course myself, and what the blogger did for me was open up the possibility of my seeing Senator Craig not as an enemy, but as someone like me, riven by the same things I am riven, driven by the same things as those by which I am driven - “mon semblable, mon frÃƒÂ¨re”.
Born in 1954, I was riven too. I got lucky.
A priest comes out
I should say that I was raised catholic. And that I’ve known a fair number of actively gay Catholic priests in my day. I have never been friendly or close to one. I do not understand the moral gymnastics it takes to reconcile their lifestyle. If they’re going to be gay they should be out about it, an admonition one priest apparently took to heart this weekend:
Before a packed church of some 400 on the campus of the famed St. Joseph’s University, Father Thomas J. Brennan announced that he is homosexual. During the Mass he spoke of his homosexuality as one of “the worst kept secrets” on campus. He failed however to mention that homosexual acts are considered intrinsically evil by the Catholic Church.
Fr. Brennan, S.J., is an Assistant Professor of English at the University, who on his website lists “lesbian and gay studies” under “general fields of professional interest”.
The announcement came at the 10pm Mass to a congregation of mostly students and a smattering of alumni.
With that announcement comes a certainty that he won’t be coming on to Catholic school children. And no comment from the university. About those suspicions (aren’t there always some?) but not for the reasons one might expect:
Archbold, an alumnus of St. Joseph’s, suggested that suspicions on campus related to Fr. Brennan’s homosexuality may have been due to his having written a chapter in the book “Jesuit Postmodern” which was entitled “A Tale of Two Comings Out: Priest and Gay on a Catholic Campus.”
Right on, sisters!
Let’s start off with this rest stop bust of 20 men for gay sex off Interstate 684:
Among those arrested was the Rev. Gary Mead, a Catholic priest from Millwood assigned to St. Gregory Barbarigo parish in Garnerville. Police said he fondled an undercover officer and was charged with forcible touching.
Mead, 44, was previously assigned to St. Mary’s Church in Wappingers Falls and, in the late 1990s, was parochial vicar at Holy Family parish in New Rochelle. A message left yesterday with the Archdiocese of New York was not immediately returned.
The clincher to this particularly sorry story is this: The priest was the only one out of the 20 who was NOT married!
[I]n 2003, a grand jury concluded that Placa was at the center of a diocese-wide effort to cover up nearly 60 allegations of sexual abuse by its priests. Here’s the grand jury report -- you can read it for yourself. Placa is “Priest F,” according to numerous published reports.
Going back a bit, there’s George Bush’s Catholic outreach coordinator, 54-year-old Deal Hudson, who was outed as a sexual predator for taking advantage of a drunken 18-year old while he was a professor.
From Rome we have Monsignor Tommaso Stenico who was suspended from the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, which oversees the conduct of priests. He claims to have a list of others that he drew up because he was miffed at how long it took for him to be named bishop:
Father Tommaso Stenico, 60, had “a detailed dossier” of all the homosexual clerics at Vatican “with a list of names and circumstances implicating a certain number of priests and even bishops working at the Curia,” Ignazio Ingrao, reporter for the conservative news weekly said.[...]
A hidden camera in his office showed the priest, who worked in a Vatican department managing the 400,000 Roman Catholic priests around the world, declaring himself an “active homosexual” and making sexual advances to a young man.
On October 1, Italian television station La7 aired footage from the encounter showing the two men with their faces blurred.
Stenico argued he had been trapped and had falsely stated he was homosexual “in order to unmask those who really are.”
In Southern California, where the Roman Catholic Church has agreed to pay victims of pedophile priests $660 million, the archdiocese is ordering nuns out of convents so the buildings can be sold to fund the out-of-court settlement.
And finally there’s the Catholic school principal facing a prostitution charge after Louisville, KY police found him dressed like a woman and loitering in an alley.
That’s just the stuff I’m willing to post. The church has its challenges. Denial is no way to address them.
* In case you missed it, this is the story that got me so angry that I started on this tear.
MSNBC heading left?
From the media page of the NYTimes:
Riding a ratings wave from “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” a program that takes strong issue with the Bush administration, MSNBC is increasingly seeking to showcase its nighttime lineup as a welcome haven for viewers of a similar mind.
Lest there be any doubt that the cable channel believes there is ratings gold in shows that criticize the administration with the same vigor with which Fox News’s hosts often champion it, two NBC executives acknowledged yesterday that they were talking to Rosie O’Donnell about a prime-time show on MSNBC.
Via The Political Environment, “And if the moves include dumping Tucker Carlson - - great. He can move over to Fox where he belongs.”
There’s reason for optimism:
But even without Ms. O’Donnell, MSNBC already presents a three-hour block of nighttime talk - Chris Matthews’s “Hardball” at 7, Mr. Olbermann at 8, and “Live With Dan Abrams” at 9 - in which the White House takes a regular beating. The one early-evening program on MSNBC that is often most sympathetic to the administration, “Tucker” with Tucker Carlson at 6 p.m., is in real danger of being canceled, said one NBC executive, who, like those who spoke of Ms. O’Donnell, would do so only on condition of anonymity.
Assimilate or agitate?
In a recent post I praised the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and pointed to a protest in which two Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence receiving communion from Archbishop George Niederauer in San Francisco.
In comments, a new friend objects:
I know the Sisters do charitable work, but I have a problem with this stunt. I’m considering the people who went there to celebrate Sunday mass, and found themselves cast into an unwilling role in a videotaped political drama. I don’t think that is fair.
My suspicion is that the Sisters did it because they wanted to provoke a bigoted reaction. I’m sure Catholics could go to gay bars, order a few beers, and start saying the rosary, and that might provoke a similar reaction. In general, I think if we want tolerant society, it is best to refrain from things like this, and allow different types of people some space to be themselves.
You know, comfortable in middle age, I whole-heartedly agree. Though I’m not as sure I want a “tolerant” society, I think I may prefer a society that values “equality and justice.”
I’m not old enough to remember those first gay rights demonstrations. I was, however, lucky enough to sit with one who organized then and understand their belief that the only way their belief that the best way to get their message heard was to dress in jackets and ties and skirts.
I was equally lucky to have heard Sylvia Rivera - whose story may prevail among others more through the sheer volume of her telling than for the fact of it - talk about the night of the Stonewall riots, in which a standard issue bar raid became the violent birth of the modern gay rights movement.
Then yesterday I was disgusted to read this:
A prominent Jesuit priest accused of sexually victimizing teenage boys who were his valets as he traveled the world leading Roman Catholic spiritual retreats was taken into federal custody yesterday in Chicago. [...]
Victims’ lawyers released documents this week that showed that as far back as 1969 parents had contacted Jesuit officials to report that Father McGuire was behaving in sexually incorrect ways with their sons.
The order also received complaint letters from parents in 1993, 1994, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.
In that time, Father McGuire traveled alone with teenagers as young as 13, usually sharing a room and often a bed, according to the affidavit unsealed yesterday.
The actions continued despite orders from his Jesuit superiors in the Chicago Province in 1991 instructing Father McGuire not to travel on overnight trips “with any boy or girl under the age of 18 and, preferably, even under the age of 21.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
In 2001, Father McGuire was ordered not to travel or share a room with anyone younger than 30.
Investigators in the United States attorney’s office in Chicago interviewed three men who said that as teenagers they traveled with Father McGuire to dozens of states and overseas, often cleaning his laundry, cooking, helping him shower and giving him massages and shots for diabetes.
They said Father McGuire repeatedly showed them pornographic magazines and movies, sexually abused them and intimidated them into remaining silent.
Sometimes after the abuse, he would perform the rite of absolution. One of the reported victims said the first time Father McGuire molested him was at confession, when he was 9. The parents had considered it an honor when the prominent priest mentored their sons.
If you believe, as I do, that the institution of the church is perpetuating these behaviors through its denial and its outdated and oppressive practices; if you believe that those praying in the pews must be made uncomfortable because we’ve seen decades of this damage and there is no end in sight; then you may understand what the Sisters’ protest is about.
You won’t find me receiving communion in a nun’s habit (and I’m as supportive as can be of those who are working within the church to change things) but I believe we need both the agitators and the assimilationists. And I affirm here again my support for those who are willing to do the hard work of peaceful protest.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Male politicians: Stop playing the gender card!
We’ve got some advice for you: It’s time to stop playing the gender card. I mean, really—it’s unprofessional.
It’s just wrong to expect men to vote for you because you smell like Aqua Velva and cigar smoke, because you own a huge ranch and the Western wear to prove it, because you think America needs a ”commanding Daddy” to torture the bad guys. Fine, go ahead accentuate your masculinity by tossing a football around on the tarmac. Puff your barrel chest proudly. Reference the rugged wilderness. Even wear your pants a little tight in the crotch area. But does that telling bulge mean you’re going to be the best president? We don’t think so.
Elections should be about the issues, not about who has the biggest… uh, lead in the polls.
We get it. You’re dudes. You don’t have to keep trying to prove that you’re man enough by saying your opponents are wimpy ”girlie men” who get fancy haircuts. After all, this isn’t about gender, remember? Stop playing identity politics.
Politics is a genderless sport, obviously. Which is why you need to run on your qualifications, not your ability to appeal to the “cock vote.” Trust us.
Ann and Jessica
P.S. It wouldn’t be right not to mention the media’s role in all of this. So in tribute to Chris Matthew’s continued and unwavering support of the manliest of male politicians—whether it’s being amazed by a man’s ability to actually debate a woman, pondering which politician would win in a street fight, or waxing poetic about Al Gore’s “sublime masculinity”—we’re awarding him the first ever Feministing Golden Cigar Award for Excellence in Journalistic Man-preciation.
They credit Digby for the inspiration:
Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney are out there one upping each other on who will be the most macho sadists among the crowd of warring GOP thugs. Hillary goes to her alma mater and says that her education at the women’s college prepared her to do battle with the political boys club and the gasbags’ eyes roll back in their heads and they start drooling and whining that she’s broken the rules.
HILLARY TRAINING IN ATLATNA SATURDAY: Blog for Democracy has details.
Scorning the porn scorn
In his post entitled Our Culture War on Greed, Tom Perriello wrote against the “extreme culture of selfishness and materialism that has become mainstreamed today.” Included within it was a paragraph on porn:
[D]o any of us honestly believe that the ready availability of internet porn is not destroying something sacred within us? Study after study shows that porn tends to depict women in violently subjugated positions, and can shift norms of sexual expectations. Get a group of liberals in a room and there is little they will not pass judgment on, but when we start to talk about this in our politics, the conversation starts and ends with “So what are you going to do, censor it? Repress people sexually?” This is an irresponsibly false choice. Part of the conviction politics I outlined earlier this week is about calling things as we see it.
Evidently a goodly number of his readers see porn differently. Enough so to cause Nathan Newman to observe that condemning porn seems to offend people the same way porn does:
I’ll leave it to Tom to discuss the substantive differences between promoting legal censorship and just acknowledging that a lot of folks think too much porn-- and excessively large Big Gulps—aren’t good for our society, even if they don’t want to ban either.
But it is interesting that some liberals condemn religiously-based OPINIONS the way conservatives often condemn sexual imagery or other libertine values. You get the sense that some liberals aren’t really looking for a live-and-let-live society but to clone themselves and their values everywhere.
On the porn issue, there is a whole realm of non-conservative feminists who have deep antipathy to the values embodied in prevalent porn in our society. As long as they don’t jump to government censorship, why shouldn’t liberals celebrate the diversity of opinions as what makes a pluralistic society great?
I’m personally pretty much a libertarian atheist in my personal values, but I actually think the political values promoted by many liberal commentators is sometimes intolerant as many of the conservative values on the right in their rejection of diversity. Isn’t it kind of countercultural to be against porn in a culture saturated with it?
RELATED: Tolerance vs. Equality & Justice.
The Hedunit as party trick.
In his New Yorker piece on FBI profilers this week, Malcolm Gladwell observes that “Profiling stories aren’t Whodunits; they’re Hedunits:”
In the Hedunit, the profiler does not catch the criminal. That’s for local law enforcement. He takes the meeting. Often, he doesn’t write down his predictions. It’s up to the visiting police officers to take notes. He does not feel the need to involve himself in the subsequent investigation, or even, it turns out, to justify his predictions.
Apparently the F.B.I.’s approach to criminal profiling has quite a reputation. So how do the profiles work?
The answer, he suspected, lay in the way the profiles were written, and, sure enough, when he broke down the rooftop-killer analysis, sentence by sentence, he found that it was so full of unverifiable and contradictory and ambiguous language that it could support virtually any interpretation.
Astrologers and psychics have known these tricks for years. The magician Ian Rowland, in his classic “The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading,” itemizes them one by one, in what could easily serve as a manual for the beginner profiler. First is the Rainbow Ruse-the “statement which credits the client with both a personality trait and its opposite.” ("I would say that on the whole you can be rather a quiet, self effacing type, but when the circumstances are right, you can be quite the life and soul of the party if the mood strikes you.") The Jacques Statement, named for the character in “As You Like ItÃ¢â‚¬Â� who gives the Seven Ages of Man speech, tailors the prediction to the age of the subject. To someone in his late thirties or early forties, for example, the psychic says, “If you are honest about it, you often get to wondering what happened to all those dreams you had when you were younger.” There is the Barnum Statement, the assertion so general that anyone would agree, and the Fuzzy Fact, the seemingly factual statement couched in a way that “leaves plenty of scope to be developed into something more specific.Ã¢â‚¬Â� ("I can see a connection with Europe, possibly Britain, or it could be the warmer, Mediterranean part?") And that’s only the start: there is the Greener Grass technique, the Diverted Question, the Russian Doll, Sugar Lumps, not to mention Forking and the Good Chance Guess-all of which, when put together in skillful combination, can convince even the most skeptical observer that he or she is in the presence of real insight.
Glad to have you back Malcolm!
Pit Bulls are dangerous
Malcolm Gladwell is back. And
this is how he starts his story in somehow I got this February 2006 story on what pit bulls can teach us about profiling confused with his story in this week’s New Yorker on FBI serial killer profiling:
One afternoon last February, Guy Clairoux picked up his two-and-a half-year-old son, Jayden, from day care and walked him back to their house in the west end of Ottawa, Ontario. They were almost home. Jayden was straggling behind, and, as his father’s back was turned, a pit bull jumped over a back-yard fence and lunged at Jayden. “The dog had his head in its mouth and started to do this shake,” Clairoux’s wife, JoAnn Hartley, said later. As she watched in horror, two more pit bulls jumped over the fence, joining in the assault. She and Clairoux came running, and he punched the first of the dogs in the head, until it dropped Jayden, and then he threw the boy toward his mother. Hartley fell on her son, protecting him with her body. “JoAnn!” Clairoux cried out, as all three dogs descended on his wife. “Cover your neck, cover your neck.” A neighbor, sitting by her window, screamed for help. Her partner and a friend, Mario Gauthier, ran outside. A neighborhood boy grabbed his hockey stick and threw it to Gauthier. He began hitting one of the dogs over the head, until the stick broke. “They wouldn’t stop,” Gauthier said. “As soon as you’d stop, they’d attack again. I’ve never seen a dog go so crazy. They were like Tasmanian devils.Ã¢â‚¬Â� The police came. The dogs were pulled away, and the Clairouxes and one of the rescuers were taken to the hospital. Five days later, the Ontario legislature banned the ownership of pit bulls. “Just as we wouldn’t let a great white shark in a swimming pool,” the province’s attorney general, Michael Bryant, had said, “maybe we shouldn’t have these animals on the civilized streets.”
Pit bulls, descendants of the bulldogs used in the nineteenth century for bull baiting and dogfighting, have been bred for “gameness,” and thus a lowered inhibition to aggression. Most dogs fight as a last resort, when staring and growling fail. A pit bull is willing to fight with little or no provocation. Pit bulls seem to have a high tolerance for pain, making it possible for them to fight to the point of exhaustion. Whereas guard dogs like German shepherds usually attempt to restrain those they perceive to be threats by biting and holding, pit bulls try to inflict the maximum amount of damage on an opponent. They bite, hold, shake, and tear. They don’t growl or assume an aggressive facial expression as warning. They just attack. “They are often insensitive to behaviors that usually stop aggression,” one scientific review of the breed states. “For example, dogs not bred for fighting usually display defeat in combat by rolling over and exposing a light underside. On several occasions, pit bulls have been reported to disembowel dogs offering this signal of submission.” In epidemiological studies of dog bites, the pit bull is overrepresented among dogs known to have seriously injured or killed human beings, and, as a result, pit bulls have been banned or restricted in several Western European countries, China, and numerous cities and municipalities across North America. Pit bulls are dangerous.
Now that I’ve read about pit bulls I’m off to read about serial killers....
BTW, Gladwell concludes that banning the breed is easier but wrong! Aggressive dog bites usually result from “a perfect storm of bad human-canine interactions-the wrong dog, the wrong background, the wrong history in the hands of the wrong person in the wrong environmental situation.”
What we need is “a generalization based not on breed but on the known and meaningful connection between dangerous dogs and negligent owners.”
Giuliani’s very own “Southern Strategy”
Strategists for Rudy Giuliani are quietly preparing a significantly race-based campaign strategy to strengthen support among socially conservative white voters, in the South as well as in the North.
The themes the campaign are lining up for renewed emphasis are those reflecting Giuliani’s confrontational stance towards black New Yorkers and their white liberal allies, as well as his record of siding decisively with the police against minorities who launched protests alleging police brutality during the years he was mayor from 1994-2001.
Giuliani’s eight years as New York’s chief executive exemplified a Northern adaptation of the GOP’s politically successful “Southern strategy” - the strategy playing on white resistance to and resentment of federal legislation passed in the 1960s mandating desegregation - resistance that produced a realignment in the South and fractured the Democratic loyalties of white working class voters in the urban North from 1968 to 2004.
Via Steve Benen:
Giuliani will appeal to white conservatives by emphasizing his conflicts with NYC’s African-American community. The idea, apparently, is to deflect attention from his positions on abortion, gays, guns, and immigration by pointing to race - the implicit message being: “How liberal can Giuliani be if he constantly fought with black people in New York?” [...]
When assembling the list of reasons why Giuliani is an offensive presidential candidate, be sure to keep race high on the list.
Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney, the stars of the just-released documentary King Corn,
first developed an interest in food and agriculture as classmates in college. After graduation, they moved to Greene, Iowa, to find out where their food comes from. With the help of government subsidies, friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, nitrogen fertilizers, and potent herbicides, they planted, grew, and harvested a bumper crop of corn from a single acre of farmland. Curt's cousin, documentary filmmaker Aaron Woolf, came along to direct this hair-raising, heart-sinking foray into our corn-fueled food chain.
Berkeley food blogger Eve Fox interviewed Ellis and Cheney last week, and gave them some great questions to sink their teeth into, so we’re pleased to be posting her Q & A here. King Corn is currently playing-or about to open--in cities all over the country. Check KingCorn.net for theaters. Please go see it!
The turning of an atheist
Antony Flew wrote a short paper in 1950 arguing that “God” is too vague a concept to be meaningful. It became a heroic tract for committed atheists, and converting Flew became the mission of a determined few Christians.
The fruits of their labor, “There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind,” has just been released. In the NYTimes Magazine Mark Oppenheimer finds things are a good bit murkier for the long retired eighty-four year old philosopher:
As he himself conceded, he had not written his book.
“This is really Roy’s doing,” he said, before I had even figured out a polite way to ask. “He showed it to me, and I said O.K. I’m too old for this kind of work!”
When I asked Varghese, he freely admitted that the book was his idea and that he had done all the original writing for it. But he made the book sound like more of a joint effort - slightly more, anyway. “There was stuff he had written before, and some of that was adapted to this,” Varghese said. “There is stuff he’d written to me in correspondence, and I organized a lot of it. And I had interviews with him. So those three elements went into it. Oh, and I exposed him to certain authors and got his views on them. We pulled it together. And then to make it more reader-friendly, HarperCollins had a more popular author go through it.”
So even the ghostwriter had a ghostwriter: Bob Hostetler, an evangelical pastor and author from Ohio, rewrote many passages, especially in the section that narrates Flew’s childhood. With three authors, how much Flew was left in the book? “He went through everything, was happy with everything,” Varghese said.
In the end, neither side gets a clear win, though each can use the man to buttress their unwinable argument. And Flew himself:
From the start, the believers’ affection for Antony Flew was not unrequited. When Flew met Christians who claimed to have new, scientific proof of the existence of God, he quickly became again the young graduate student who embarked on a study of the paranormal when all his colleagues were committed to strict rationalism. He may, too, have connected with the child who was raised in his parents’ warm, faithful Methodism. Flew’s colleagues will wonder how he could sign a petition to the prime minister in favor of intelligent design, but it becomes more understandable if the signatory never hated religious belief the way many philosophers do and if he never hated religious people in the least. At a time when belief in God is more polarizing than it has been in years, when all believers are being blamed for religion’s worst excesses, Antony Flew has quietly switched sides, just following the evidence as it has been explained to him, blissfully unaware of what others have at stake.
SEE ALSO: On atheists in foxholes.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Obama on SNL: smart or not?
Conventional wisdom suggests it was a smart move.
There, commenting on the Oprah factor, he said that Obama’s got plenty of celebrity cred; he need no more. What he needs is to be seen as substantive, a heavy-weight ready to step into the role of president right away. Oprah, and SNL, won’t help that:
I think in an odd way she’s not good for him, she may even be bad for him because she’s a pop cultural figure. Any coverage of Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey is going to be about celebrity and electability and treating him like a member of the book club. That is not his problem. He’s exciting and he’s a celebrity… She undermines what I think his problem is. He would be better off, I think, being endorsed by retired generals than by Oprah Winfrey.
Russert wrong on Clinton’s 2012 archives release letter
Hillary Rodham Clinton was quizzed during this week’s Democratic presidential debate as to why correspondence between her and her husband from their White House years remained bottled up at the National Archives. Barack Obama said that was a problem for her as a candidate after “we have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history.”
One issue is whether Bill Clinton had sent a letter to the Archives asking that the communications not be released until 2012, and whether Hillary Clinton would lift any ban, a question raised by debate moderator Tim Russert. [transcript]
“She was incidental to the letter, it was done five years ago, it was a letter to speed up presidential releases, not to slow them down,” the former president told reporters Friday. “And she didn’t even, didn’t know what he was talking about. And now that I’ve described to you what the letter said, you can readily understand why she didn’t know what he was talking about.”
Russert’s question “was breathtakingly misleading,” Bill Clinton said. [...]
Clinton said that under the presidential documents law, he is not required to release any material until 2012.
Via Steve Benen, “Let this be a reminder to all of us - Russert’s quest for “gotchas” is so great, his questions are often wrong.”
Working for a better Farm Bill
Michael Pollan had an OpEd int he NYTimes yesterday. Weed it and Reap:
On Capitol Hill, hearings on the farm bill have been packed, and newspapers like The San Francisco Chronicle are covering the legislation as closely as The Des Moines Register, bringing an unprecedented level of attention to what has long been one of the most obscure and least sexy pieces of legislation in Congress. Sensing the winds of reform at his back, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told a reporter in July: “This is not just a farm bill. It’s a food bill, and Americans who eat want a stake in it.”
Right now, that stake is looking more like a toothpick. Americans who eat have little to celebrate in the bill that Mr. Harkin is expected to bring to the floor this week. Like the House bill passed in July, the Senate product is very much a farm bill in the tradition- al let-them-eat-high-fructose-corn-syrup mold. [...]
For starters, the Old Guard on both agriculture committees has managed to preserve the entire hoary contraption of direct payments, countercyclical payments and loan deficiency payments that subsidize the five big commodity crops - corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and cotton - to the tune of $42 billion over five years.
There are a number of programs in the bill - “mere fleas on the elephant in the room” - for “Americans who eat,” but the underlying architecture of our industrial food system remains unchanged and therein lies the problem:
We would not need all these nutrition programs if the commodity title didn’t do such a good job making junk food and fast food so ubiquitous and cheap. Food stamps are crucial, surely, but they will be spent on processed rather than real food as long as the commodity title makes calories of fat and sugar the best deal in the supermarket. We would not need all these conservation programs if the commodity title, by paying farmers by the bushel, didn’t encourage them to maximize production with agrochemicals and plant their farms with just one crop fence row to fence row.
And the government would not need to pay feedlots to clean up the water or upgrade their manure pits if subsidized grain didn’t make rearing animals on feedlots more economical than keeping them on farms. Why does the farm bill pay feedlots to install waste treatment systems rather than simply pay ranchers to keep their animals on grass, where the soil would be only too happy to treat their waste at no cost?
However many worthwhile programs get tacked onto the farm bill to buy off its critics, they won’t bring meaningful reform to the American food system until the subsidies are addressed - until the underlying rules of the food game are rewritten.
There’s still hope:
Mr. Harkin’s bill will be challenged on the floor and very possibly improved. One sensible amendment that Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, and Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, are expected to introduce would put a $250,000 cap on the payments any one farmer can receive in a year. This would free roughly $1 billion for other purposes (like food stamps and conservation) and slow the consolidation of farms in the Midwest.
A more radical alternative proposed by Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, would scrap the current subsidy system and replace it with a form of free government revenue insurance for all American farmers and ranchers, including the ones who grow actual food. Commodity farmers would receive a payment only when their income dropped more than 15 percent as the result of bad weather or price collapse. The $20 billion saved under this plan, called the Fresh Act, would go to conservation and nutrition programs, as well as to deficit reduction.
What finally emerges from Congress depends on exactly who is paying closest attention next week on the Senate floor and then later in the conference committee. We know the American Farm Bureau will be on the case, defending the commodity title on behalf of those who benefit from it most: the biggest commodity farmers, the corporations who sell them chemicals and equipment and, most of all, the buyers of cheap agricultural commodities - companies like Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.
In the past that alliance could have passed a farm bill like this one without breaking a sweat. But the politics of food have changed, and probably for good. If the eaters and all the other “people on the outside” make themselves heard, we just might end up with something that looks less like a farm bill and more like the food bill a poorly fed America so badly needs.
On “gender identity” v “sexual practices”
A couple queer conservative are reveling in a politics of personal destruction “gotcha” moment of the lefty gay blogosphere. Chris Crain and Stephen Miller see hypocrisy in Wayne Beeson, Pam Spaulding and Dan Savage who all want transgendered people included in ENDA, but then revel in the downfall of a cross-dressing Republican pol.
I posted this comment to Miller’s post at Independent Gay Forum:
There is a distinction between “gender identity” and “sexual practices.” To protect gender identity does not mean we sanction all sexual practices. Just as there are objectionable heterosexual practices, there are objectionable homosexual practices and there are objectionable transgendered practices. If I suport “T” rights I can still reasonably and ethically object to hypocrisy and criticize “T” behavior that I believe to be objectionable.
I have not slogged through the 15 pages of the Curtis police report so I don’t know that he’s crossed the line of what I consider objectionable. Evidently, his behavior crosses the line for Wayne, Pam and Dan. So I don’t find the gotcha moment there that you and Crain do, and it doesn’t help move me towards your side of the ENDA argument.
On the blackmail, it is the law that sets up the opportunity for blackmail. So I think it reasonable to hoot and holler when one who votes to expand or keep in place those laws is victimized by them. Such reveling does not sanction the blackmailer. (And yes, Chris, a politician’s ultimate power is in his vote so “votes are enough” to make you “very anti-gay.” I dare say that he’d be vulnerable to both the blackmail and the hypocrisy charge even if he weren’t married, though married makes it all that much worse.)
It is my personal goal to normalize gay, lesbian and transgendered people within the larger society. That is my goal both because I think it healthy for society-writ-large and healthy for the gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals within it. I believe that our laws play a very large structural role in blocking that normalization (and perpetuating the behaviors that I find objectionable) I owe it to myself and to my community to call out the hypocrisy that is part of the legal system that keeps that structure in place.
While your banner subhead would seem to suggest that we have some of the same goals, we disagree on how best to get there. In the end I don’t much care who’s right; I think the fact that both of us are trying to get there makes it more likely that we’ll succeed than if either of us was knocked out of the fight by the other side. So good luck to you, and may
the best manall of us win.
My only mention of Curtis was in a post that noted more straights arrested for lewd conduct at rest stops.
Bee Movie or Seinfeld Mee Movie?
Producer-writer-star Jerry Seinfeld and his minions say Bee Movie isn’t an ordinary, committee-made animated comedy. It’s one man’s vision, they say, and that makes it special.
And what is Seinfeld’s vision? Well, it’s a story about a funny guy (honeybee Barry B. Benson) who talks a lot about nothing. And who, though everything’s going great, decides that he and his buddies should stop working. (The humans are stealing their honey, you see, so no more pollination.)
When they do stop, the whole world becomes dreary. Everyone’s so sad. So after a while, our hero starts work again. Sure enough, things get brighter — flowers bloom, people laugh again.
Mr. Seinfeld’s, you’d have to say, is a fairly personal vision. Personally, I think I liked “nothing” better.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Implant the Internet in Your Brain
Among the findings in a Zogby Internet Attitudes Poll last month:
Americans may love the Internet, but most are not prepared to implant it into their brain, even if it was safe. Only 11% of respondents said they be willing to safely implant a device that enabled them to use their mind to access the Internet. Interestingly, men were much more willing than women. Seventeen percent of men said they were up for it while only 7% of women wanted to access the Internet using their mind.
I’d go for the implant. Then there’s this:
24% of Americans said the Internet could serve as a replacement for a significant other. Not surprisingly, the percentage was highest among singles, of which 31% said it could be a substitute. There was no difference among males and females but there was a split based on political ideology. Thirty-one percent of those who called themselves “progressives” were open-minded to the Internet serving as a surrogate significant other while only 18% of those who consider themselves “very conservative” would consider it a substitute.
Via On The Media.
Netflix kills a video store: bye bye Blockbuster!
Third-quarter results released Thursday show revenue slid 5.7 percent and the company had a net loss of $35 million. They closed 526 stores last year, and will reduce employees and overhead costs to the tune of $45 million thus year.
Don Reisinger says it’s time to say goodbye to Blockbuster:
Much like the print media and retail stores refusing to change, Blockbuster has been a victim on an online company finding new and inventive ways of bringing a product to a customer. And due to its size and outdated corporate culture, there really is no salvation for Blockbuster at this point. [...]
Simply put, Blockbuster is doomed. And while many of us have known it for a while now, it’s amazing to me that the chairman of the company admitted this in a not-so subtle way, as well.
For Blockbuster, there is currently no prospect for growth. Not only is it incapable of breaking the Netflix shell, the brick-and-mortar stores are failing, and there is little chance it will be able to capitalize on the future of movie rentals--downloading.
The way I see it, Blockbuster has two options: sell off the company as soon as possible or spend huge sums of cash on research and development and strategic partnerships with distribution companies to make downloading movies a viable alternative to Netflix.
But unfortunately, I simply don’t see this happening. I think Blockbuster will try to stay the course in the hopes it can find a way out. It won’t.
I’ll give it two years before this company goes under.
I’m old enough to remember when Blockbuster killed the neighborhood video store. And when video killed the radio star…
Toodleloo Tucker? (update)
...as he was signing off, MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson closed by saying, “That does it for us. Thank you for watching as always, we mean that sincerely to all eight of you. We’ll be back Monday. Up next, “Hardball” with Chris Matthews. Have a great weekend.”
A TVNewser tipster tells us “MSNBC management [is] infuriated” at Tucker’s flippant sign-off.
And Tucker underestimates his viewership by a factor of 10,000. His 10-day average in the A25-54 demo is 80,000. He finished in third on seven of those days, and fourth, behind Headline News, on three days.