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Saturday, February 19, 2005

If it Quacks Like a Duck...

the happy roves

A lot of my friends outside the blogosphere are slow to understand the glee with which I've been chortling over the Gannon/Guckert story this week. They can all appreciate the grand irony of the fact that a guy who's a media whore for the White House is actually a real-life whore, and all it takes is a quick description of the tasteful photo layout of to get everyone flying to AmericaBlog for a glimse of Gannon's cannon. It has lead many of them to a deep crisis of faith in the major news media outlets, feeling cheated that ABC, CBS, Faux News and others have all failed to alert them to the delightful details of the story. Makes everyone wonder what else they might be missing.

But the larger political implications are not immediately obvious to people who don't spend most of their waking hours thinking about what this bunch of crooked bastards has done to the country -- until they start to connect the dots. CBS News may not be willing to cover the G/G story onto their nightly network newscast, but Dotty Lynch, Senior Political Editor for CBS News, is asking the obvious question in an online column (emphasis mine):
Rove's dominance of White House and Republican politics, Gannon's aggressively partisan work and the ease with which he got day passes for the White House press room the past two years make it hard to believe that he wasn't at least implicitly sanctioned by the "boy genius." Rove, who rarely gave on-the-record interviews to the MSM (mainstream media), had time to talk to GOPUSA, which owns Talon.
The fact is that G/G slid straight from a career as a Beltway rentboy into the White House press room with no previous journalistic experience and no background check, and he did so at a time when terror alerts were flickering from lilting fuscia to enraged magenta and the administration was strip mining civil rights in the interest of "national security." Somebody quite powerful had to vouch for him -- grease his wheels, so to speak. And knowing the complete control of all things media related (and otherwise) that Rove maintains, it is inconceivable that G/G did not have his blessing.

G/G knew about the secret CIA memo Valerie Plame had written about Joe Wilson. He bragged about knowing of the bombing of Iraq before it happened, information which could only have come from someone with extreme insider knowledge. He managed to get daily passes to white house briefings for two years when Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Maureen Dowd was turned down.

So the speculation is furious in the blogosphere over who his "patron" might be, for obvious reasons. Could the man who crafted a Bush victory by fanning the flames of hatred against gays be himself indulging in a little love that dare not speak its name? A trip over to the Freepers to listen in on how the wingnuts are responding to the Gannon news gives us a hint of how said relationship might resonate with the GOP base:
I am just not comfortable with a homosexual claiming to support the conservative cause. It undermines the integrity of Conservatism and does nothing but hinder the GOP agenda.
Now, at this point it's all just furious speculation and fun with finger pointing. But if by some wild chance that's the way this story inevitably goes down, folks, I'll be giving it up to the greatest dramatic ironist of all time -- God.


Friday, February 18, 2005

Friday Poodle Blogging

Boo Boo takes a stroll with his girlfriend Peggy

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Who loves me will also love my dog.
-- St. Bernard of Clairvaux, France

(photo: Marian Christensen)


US - No More #1?

some records just shouldn't be broken

According to a study by the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, China is now the top consumer of four of the five primary commodities -- grain, meat, coal and steel. The only thing they lagged behind the US on was consumption of oil.

I can't claim access to any crystal ball that tells me BushCo. had this in the back of their little reptilian brains when they charged into Iraq and attempted to secure the world's second largest oil supply. But at the rate China's industrial development is expanding, competition for a finite supply of fossil fuels is growing to grow ever more fierce.

Thomas L Friedman wrote a great article in the New York Times this week called No Mullah Left Behind, arguing that the conservative theocracies of the Middle East are now awash in cash, spurning US investment and pursuing nuclear programs with impunity. "It's a perfect example of the Bush energy policy at work," writes Friedman:
By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that?
The idea that a nation held hostage by a natural resource primarily provided by an extremely politically unstable part of the world out to try and conserve that natural research should, for most, come under the category of the "bleeding fucking obvious." Especially when competition for said natural resource is becoming extremely keen. Wouldn't you think?

Not so. Now a physicist named Mark Mills has written a book entitled The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy, and an appropriately skeptical Jon Stewart had him on the show last night. I haven't read it, I'm not going to read it, and I'm usually down on people who criticize books they've never read, but I'll go out on a limb here and say this guy's got some awfully convenient timing to be doing the talk show circuit pimping a book that dovetails so neatly with the BushCo. energy policy just now.

Anyone want to run the FOIA query on this guy?

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng )


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Is Heaven Filled with Blastulae?

so, how 'bout those Lakers...

I caught the new Ron Reagan/Monica Crowley show on MSNBC this morning. You know, the one where Ron Reagan gets to represent the "left" and you keep hoping the rictus will thaw out of Monica Crowley's face long enough for that thing she does with her mouth to contort into something resembling a smile.

I have no excuse. It was on.

Anyway, just to make sure everyone knew that Ron is on the "left" and that he is, indeed, a Reagan, they decided to dust off that old war horse, stem cell research. On the pro side they had Alta Charo, professor of bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, and on the con side they trotted out Some Dude whose name I can't remember, whose personal style is cribbed from a 1957 issue of Gent and whose contention is that life begins at the moment of conception when sperm meets egg and having been thus blessed by the Divine Hand of the Creator it is henceforth entitled to the same protections as an adult human. In fact, more protection than if the life happens to belong to some African American on death row, but now I'm off topic and I don't even want to get into that right now. The ultimate conclusion is that Embryonic Stem Cell Research Is Wrong.

So Alta brings up the conundrum that's always guaranteed to set wingnut heads a-spinning and green pea soup spewing from their mouths, which is basically a riff on "if a fire breaks out in a fertility clinic, who do you save -- a Petri dish with five blastula or the two year-old child?" Suddenly everyone's yelling, Monica's mouth starts doing that other thing it does which is not a smile, and the whole show devolves into a split-screen talking head orgy of indignation. Nobody ever answers the question, by the way.

Whenever I hear wingnuts arguing about stem cell research I always get the feeling that they are doing so under duress, like reluctant Visigoths who've been forced to carry the battle into a town they really don't care about sacking. But having made the argument that women should not have control over their own bodies and be entitled to an abortion because even the littlest zygote amongst us is sacred, and not because they hate and fear women and want to relegate them to the social role of biological functionaries, they have to naturally extend the argument and oppose embryonic stem cell research as well. You know, for consistency's sake and all.

This is going to surprise a lot of people, but I actually respect that argument. If you really believe that life begins at conception and that all life is sacred, and therefore the destruction of any life is unethical, I really can't argue with you. Because I can only say what I believe, which is obviously not that, but I can't claim to have some sort of ultimate dispensation of knowledge that will answer the question of when life begins. So if someone wants to claim that life begins at conception, and works diligently against any, and I mean ANY procedure that would result in the creation of a cluster of cells that might one day result in the development of a human being only to ultimately thwart that process with its destruction, I have to respect that as an honest position.

But here's where it starts to get prickly. Because Ron then proceeds to point out that during the in vitro fertilization process numerous embryos are created but only the first one to "take" will produce a child. Mr. Needs to Update His Personal Style then argues that this is actually okay, because the embryos that are not used are not destroyed; they are merely frozen for all eternity. And since I was consumed at that moment with peeling an orange and drinking half of a flat Coke from yesterday I didn't get it all down word for word, so I'll have to paraphrase, but in a nutshell Ms. Charo's response was that after a certain length of time the embryos are no longer viable anyway so who are you fuckin' trying to kid, Jack.

Well now I'm consumed by curiosity about how the wingers address this thorny issue so I cruise on over to the NRO to consult that self-professed Oracle of all things Right, K.J. Lopez, and I found an article by her on in vitro fertilization cleverly entitled Eggheads. It's filled with the usual NRO "ooh, Science scary" tocsins, as well as a dig at working women ("The demand side of the market comes mostly from career-minded baby-boomers, the frontierswomen of feminism, who thought they could have it all"). But then she goes on to note that 15% of all mothers in this country get a little help on the fertility front from science, and since that probably includes no small number of Iowa fundies looking to increase the flock of the faithful, she stops short of casting Joe and Sally Christian who just want to breed, breed breed into the fiery ovens of eternal damnation if they happen to brew up a few extra embryos they never intend to use along the way. A strange omission.

Or maybe not. I surfed around to various anti-choice websites, trying to find out if there was any kind of consistent voice on this front, and it took me to a lot of dillies, but I found that most of them simply sidestepped the issue altogether. Some didn't, several of the Catholic ones were vocally opposed to in vitro fertilization, and I tip my hat to them for the consistency of their argument. I can hardly claim to have made a comprehensive and exhaustive exploration of the subject, because, you know, I had to finish the rest of that Coke. But on the whole it seems to be a bit of a sticking point that the fundies would just rather not address.

But it does lead to this other question that nags at me. When John M. Opitz of the University of Utah testified before the President's council on Bioethics in 2003, he noted that between 60 and 80 percent of all naturally conceived embryos are simply flushed out in a woman's normal menstrual cycle in the first 7 days after fertilization, and that women never even know that conception has taken place.

(As a side note, at the same meeting, Harvard government professor Michael Sandel, also a member of the Bioethics council, noted that "If the embryo loss that accompanies natural procreation were the moral equivalent of infant death, then pregnancy would have to be regarded as a public health crisis of epidemic proportions: Alleviating natural embryo loss would be a more urgent moral cause than abortion, in vitro fertilization, and stem-cell research combined." Although I enjoy Dr. Sandel's sense of humor and appreciate the presence of a smartass on the Bioethics council, I really do, let's just chalk this one up to "God's will" for the moment and proceed with the question at hand.)

Now, I'm certain by most fundamentalist assessments that when I die, barring some sort of deathbed recant of the Lee Atwater variety, I am going to hell. (That last vote for John Kerry probably put me over the top.) But say by some fluke God has a soft spot for unrepentant preacher's kids who are good to their dogs, and I wind up in heaven. Is 60 to 80 percent of the population going to be filled out with people who never made it past dome stage blastula? I mean -- conversation is liable to be a bit thin, don't you think? What can you really say beyond "congratulations on winning the big swim?"

The sensible answer is, of course, that God works in mysterious ways that man cannot always comprehend. But if medieval theologians spent endless hours contemplating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, I'm sure some sad bastard has put a great deal of thought into cogitating an answer. And one day, thanks the to the internets, I sincerely hope to hear it.


Monday, February 14, 2005

An Open Letter to Jeff Gannon

Well, this week's gotta be a bitch for you.  With each new embarrassing layer of information that gets peeled away I'm sure you're feeling extremely vulnerable. When I saw you on Wolf Blitzer I have to admit that even as a confirmed lefty, I still felt really bad for you.  You looked like you were struggling for air, just trying to keep your head above water.  And now all this personal stuff comes out.  As someone with a colorful personal history myself, I can well imagine that having it all laundered in public by other people couldn't have been easy.   But I digress.

I'm writing because I wanted to have a chat about the whole outing thing.  Okay, a one-way chat, but still.  I can understand that you might be feeling that your privacy has been invaded, that your sexuality is your business, and that whoever took it upon themselves to expose your personal life was really striking a low blow.  

But you see, there's a whole segment of the population right now who feel just like you do, that they've had targets placed on their backs.  By an administration whose policies you have been doing your utmost to promote.  Can you understand that people who are having their civil liberties stripped away might look at your complicity and resent the hypocrisy of someone who insulates themselves from the consequences of such policies with money and power?  And that they might rightly assume that the only way to defend themselves is to expose the grand hypocrisy of the policy makers in the first place?

I don't know for certain that you're gay.  I've known a few straight men who have turned a few tricks in the past, though nobody with a web site quite like that, so I'm pretty much assuming that you are. And I have no idea what kind of a life you lead that brought you to turning tricks, but as a fallen Magdalene type myself I'm guessing it was a big relief to leave that life behind and be accepted into the white house press corps, even if it entailed shilling for people who would hate you and shun you if they knew what you were.  

Harvey Milk said that coming out to the people you know was the most important political act any gay person could commit.  Not only was it an act of extreme self-respect, but Harvey felt that while it's easy to hate people you don't know, it's much harder to hate someone based on their sexuality if they have a name and a face. Rather than comport with people who despise what you are and live a shame-filled life of deep identity conflict and extreme self-loathing, I think you might want to take some time and read up on Harvey.

And Christopher Isherwood.  Leonard Bernstein. Walt Whitman. Vita Sackville-West.  James Baldwin.  Colette.  The list of phenomenal gay thinkers, artists, writers, philosophers and other historical figures is endless.  A study of gay culture should give anyone something to be proud of.  It would certainly strike a sharp contrast with what your website reflects to be your self-image.  'Cos right now, fella, you look like you could use a little positive identity affirmation.

When I was a teenager I was a little punk rocker living in San Francisco and working as a cub reporter for the Bay Guardian. I'd met Harvey Milk, he was always around, always at the center of progressive causes.  He was someone who really made a difference in people's lives, both gay and straight.  And the week he was killed, it seemed like the whole world was turned upside down. Only a week before the People's Temple members who had fled San Francisco had killed themselves in Guyana.  And then Dan White climbed in to City Hall and shot both Harvey and George Moscone.  

I was living on my own for the first time, trying to make sense of it all and coming up short in the way of answers.  There was so much rage and hatred and violence and confusion in the air that it all could've exploded into complete nihilism.    I didn't know squat about gay culture or really much of anything at that point.  I only knew a deep sense of loss and fury that this guy, Dan White, was being totally coddled by the police as one of their own.  You just knew that this was not going to end well.

And then it just happened. Rather than vent their rage in senseless destruction that would have been a poor tribute to the man who had given so much, everyone in the city came together.  Gay and straight.   They say it was a hundred thousand strong but I couldn't tell you, it seemed like the whole city was there.  Marching silently down the street carrying candles. The river of people stretching so far you couldn't see to the end.  I remember the incredible healing power of that march that reminded us that no amount of hate or persecution could take away what Harvey had done or had meant to so many.  A lot of people found the courage to come out that night.  It was an amazing tribute to both gay culture and the human spirit.

That strength is available to you if only you look above the chaos of the moment and avail yourself of it.

So I really wish you well.  On a personal level, I mean.  On a political level, I hope this is only the beginning and that it doesn't stop until the whole Administration and all their deep-seeded corruption and hypocrisy comes tumbling down.  But speaking to someone who has been newly outed, I hope that this experience, although awfully painful, can help you liberate yourself from that shame-filled place and bring you into the light where there are a lot of people who won't hate you and fear you and manipulate you for what you are.

You're only as sick as your secrets.


The Good Perfesser Speaks

kinda like god, only not

Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake, you simply gotta spell things out for me. I'm admitting I'm a bit confused right now over the ardent and maybe not-so-ardent right-wing view that failure to support the war in Iraq renders one "unpatriotic." As Glen Reynolds of Instapundit articulates it (emphasis mine):
I certainly don't think that there's anything necessarily unpatriotic about being a leftist or liberal. I do think that those people who are rooting for our defeat, or showing a strange eagerness for a Vietnam rerun, and so on, are in fact unpatriotic, as surely rooting for your own country's defeat in time of war counts as unpatriotic.
Now, I'll start up front by saying that I'm not one of those people rooting for defeat in Iraq. And it really has nothing to do with patriotism; quite simply, I'm not so anxious to have been right in my predictions of doom that I want to see millions of people suffer for it. I'd really like there to be a happy ending to the story, I'd love to be wrong, I think it would be great if a peaceful democratic regime could be established in the region. Despite the fact that such an ending will never re-write the web of lies and distortions, the mis-management, the death, and the ruthlessness with which the war was waged. But the karmic burden for that should not be borne by the Iraqi people.

No, I'm really more concerned with the essential logic behind the argument of Dr. Reynolds and the pro-war crowd that to root against one's own country during a time of war is un-patriotic. Is it only true for Americans? Because if it is true, shouldn't it also be true for Turks and Rwandans and Nepalis and Canadians?

Let's say you're a Turk. And tomorrow a duly elected, sovereign government comes to power and decides they want to slaughter a few Armenians for good measure. Or vice-versa, doesn't matter, just for the sake of argument. Not unheard of in Turkish/Armenian history, certainly loads of bad blood between the two one could conceivably exploit in a craven grasp for power. As a good Turk, would one suddenly be "unpatriotic" if one decided not to support the efforts of the government in this war? Or, as Dr. Reynolds seems to be arguing, once war was imminent and the country was engaged, should one put aside one's personal feelings about genocide and hate mongering, buck up and swallow the bitter pill in the interest of nationalism?

'Cos now we're at the part I don't get. The argument breaks down for me at the point where as a true patriot, one must acknowledge that victory in this situation would be the best thing for one's country. The "America right or wrong" argument. Which I'm just not buying. If you believe your country is engaging in a war that will only result in a loss of life, dignity, and the destruction of values for which that country purportedly stands, then isn't it the duty of a true patriot to advocate for its cessation?

Take the "America" out of it, and think about what's being said. We consider Germans who refused to collaborate with the Nazis, who opposed their efforts to wage war to be heroes, and we credit them with loving their country so much that they could not sit by idly and watch its values twisted and debased by a madman. I'm not equating the US with Nazi Germany, I'm just asking. If someone looks at the non-existent WMDs and the other lies that lead to US involvement in Iraq, if they look at the Abu Ghraib and other scandals that have come as a result of this incursion and they truly believe that the cost of waging it to the American moral fabric is just too high a price to pay, then how can you question their patriotism?

So, to take Dr. Reynolds at face value, this argument seems to leave you with a pretty narrow definition of patriotism that says "agree with me or else." That people must swallow the supposition that winning is always better than losing, that any war is a good war once you're in it, and that the cost in lives is worth whatever our leadership says it is. And I'm just not willing to turn that large a chunk of my brain off and indulge in the blind faith necessary to enable that ideology, regardless of nationality and no matter who's in power.

I'm willing to acknowledge that you could believe that having the US go down to defeat in Iraq might be the best thing for the country and the world, that it could quickly put an end to the march through Syria and Iran that the Administration seems to be contemplating. I might not agree, but I certainly wouldn't question someone's patriotism who held those beliefs. Calling into question someone's patriotism seems to be the last defense of those who know their argument is intrinsically, inimically flawed, and have no other recourse than to cry foul.

(Photo by courtesy of


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Some Valentines Day Observations

photo hosting and image hosting by

Media Girl is holding a contest for blogs who write with a feminist perspective on Valentines Day. This is my contribution to the effort:

Valentine's Day always seems guaranteed to disappoint. The grand bouquet of roses are NEVER from the guy you want, indulgence in that box of chocolates has an attendant pricetag of self-loathing, and the grand poobah of Valentine's gifts -- the DeBeers diamond -- comes courtesy of a company founded by a man who colonized much of Africa based on notions of white racial supremacy. The whole holiday has definitely got some insidious totemic problems, not to mention the not-so-subtle message that if you are not on the receiving end of these things you are somehow valueless.

So this year, Kobe (pictured above) is my Valentine. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, here is a list of things I will not have to overlook in order to stay in a relationship with him:

1. He will not present me with a box of chocolates as a gift after I have announced I am on Atkins
2. He will not download tons of porn onto my computer then think I won't find out if he empties the cache
3. He won’t show up for a date with a box of Viagra and leave it out in the bathroom
4. He will not sleep through my party -- in my bed
5. He will not call his mother to come fix his broken car
6. He will never make me listen to the Dave Matthews Band
7. He will not rack up a bunch of parking tickets in my car and never tell me about them
8. He will never make the claim he and his friends are responsible for the newfound popularity of the term “jackass”
9. He's never gonna "wake & bake"

Alas, in their time, all of these things seemed worth it for whatever I was getting out of the relationship, and I thank each of the men responsible for these experiences in my life. But I just want to point out that the totems come with a pricetag, and it can be a hefty one to pay if you're hanging your self-worth on it.

Update 2-17-05:: I won the award for Best Admonishing Advice from Mediagirl for this post. It wasn't really advice -- Kobe does all of the above quite naturally without prompting -- but I'm thrilled about the win & will wear my award with pride.