Special Saturday Night Pub

Sorry I've been AWOL all day, Shakers. I have some kind of horrific flu, and I've spent about 4 of the past 24 hours out of bed. I'm so feverish that occasionally I have to check the mirror to make sure I'm not actually on fire, and every time Mr. Shakes looks at me, he just laughs and says, "Poor fingle!"

So, drink up at the pub. I'll be over in the corner with a glass of water and a pathetic face, lol.

Open Wide...

The Virtual Pub Is Open

TFIF, Shakers! What's your poison?

"Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.? That's a tough one, but I'll take a shot. Say I'm working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had a no problem with get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', "Oh, Send in the marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie takin' shrapnel in the ass. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And of course the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin' play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive, so he's got to walk to the fuckin' job interviews, which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starvin' 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure fuck it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president."—Good Will Hunting

Open Wide...

SNN Breaking News: Bush Talks Out Of His Ass

The FISA deal is now dead in the water. Dubya would like you to believe that it's the Dems' fault for not meeting his strict requirements for signing the bill:

[...] I'll ask one question, and I'm going to ask the DNI: Does this legislation give you what you need to prevent an attack on the country? Is this what you need to do your job, Mr. DNI? That's the question I'm going to ask. And if the answer is yes, I'll sign the bill. And if the answer is no, I'm going to veto the bill.

And so far the Democrats in Congress have not drafted a bill I can sign.
A key Democrat in the negotiations, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), says that a deal had in fact been reached with McConnell, who has been busy lobbying Congress on a FISA update all week. "We had an agreement with DNI McConnell," Hoyer spokeswoman Stacey Bernards tells TPMmuckraker, "and then the White House quashed the agreement."
So, did McConnell lie about the agreement or did Bush simply not give a shit? I'm thinking the latter. Either way, these two boys are being sent to their rooms without supper or dessert until one of them fesses up. And no backsass from either of you, misters!

Open Wide...

Friday Cat Blogging

Classic pix, because I can't find the fricking cord for my digital camera. Ironically, I've no doubt one of the girlz dragged it off somewhere in a rousing game of "Chase Me! Chase Me!"

Olivia: Big Yawn

Matilda: Big Crazy

Open Wide...

More Damon

Angelos mentioned in comments that Matt Damon was on Letterman the other night, so here's that:

I remember that Matthew McConaughey impression; it was fucking hilarious—mostly for how much it tickled David Letterman. So here's that:

Wev. It's Friday.

Open Wide...

You're out of order! You're out of order! You're all out of order!

Petulant has the lowdown (including video, natch) of the Congressional chaos last night, during which all hell broke loose in the House over an agricultural vote and dozens of Republicans stormed out of the chamber. (It was downright British, bitchez!)

He's also got an update on the goings-on today and notes: "HA! Just like the rest of the country, the voting machines in Congress are broken. … The sheer insanity of our Congress over the last 24 hours is appalling." Totally.

[More at Balloon Juice from John Cole—who I still like even though he's not especially fond of me or the rest of "the crowd who dares not shave their legs." Actually, I wonder if he'd even write that shit now, or try to disguise it as "humor." Hmm.]

Open Wide...

Matt Damon on The Daily Show

Feminist crushworther Matt Damon was on The Daily Show last night, and won me over even further with the cunning use of the word "ornery" and the Walden-esque "In my quiet moments, I remind myself of Schwarzenegger."

Open Wide...

Oh Lawdy!

Mitt Romney speaks approvingly of Hezbollah's social welfare network; conservative heads begin to explode. Never mind that it was some sensible advocacy of a wise diplomatic strategy.

Go read Steve Benen, who makes an excellent point about how differently this would have played out had a Democratic candidate said it.

Open Wide...

The Noonanator Strikes Again

Headline: Spouse Rules

Subhead: Advice for the ladies who seek to become first lady.

Opening Paragraph: "It's gotten catty out there. Jeri Thompson is a trophy wife, as is Cindy McCain. Michelle Obama is too offhand and irreverent when speaking of her husband, and Judith Giuliani is a puppy-stapling princess. Even Hillary Clinton was a focus, for wearing an outfit that suggested, however faintly, that underneath her clothing she may be naked, and have breasts."

Dear Peggy Noonan:

Hillary Clinton is not running for first lady. She is running for president. Please keep her and her breasts out of your bullshit, retrofuck advice column to the female spouses of male candidates.

With all due contempt,
Melissa McEwan

Open Wide...

Religious Matters

Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for the Bush administration, says that Mitt Romney's Mormonism shouldn't disqualify him from running for president.

Without intending or desiring it, the Romney campaign has poked the sleeping bear of debate about the role of religion in American politics. Liberals tend to argue that all theological beliefs, including Mormonism, are fundamentally private and dangerously coercive as the basis of public policy. Some religious conservatives are concerned that this particular theology is too eccentric to be welcomed at the White House.

Facing even deeper suspicions about his Catholicism while running for president in 1960, John Kennedy gave a response at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association that was politically masterful, historically influential -- and should not be Romney's model. Kennedy said that a candidate's "views on religion are his own private affair," which should not be "imposed by him upon the nation." Kennedy did more than reassure Americans that his public decisions would not be dictated by the pope. He claimed that his public decisions would not be influenced by his religious convictions at all.


Romney, however, should not make Kennedy's mistake and assert that all religious beliefs are unrelated to politics. What Mormonism shares with other religious traditions is a strong commitment to the value and dignity of human beings, including the unborn, the disabled and the poor. This conviction is unavoidably political, because it leads men and women to act in the cause of justice, not in order to impose their religion, but to protect the weak.
The problem with that, however, is that all too often politicians have used their faith and religious beliefs as an excuse for their political actions. Religion is the great cop-out for societies to blame our human failings on, using it both as the scapegoat and the cudgel to control others. It's a very handy way to amass power in a small and select oligarchy, answerable to no one since they derive their power from God. That makes them invincible: to doubt them is to doubt God, and that's heresy. Slavery was acceptable because it's in the Old Testament. Racism is acceptable because some passage somewhere in the bible says so. Demonizing gays and lesbians is done at the behest of Leviticus, and reproductive choice is denied to women because, again according to the bible, they are subservient to man and life begins at conception. (The bible is not known for its scientific accuracy; according to Genesis, the earth is 6,000 years old and flat.)

I frankly don't care if Mr. Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I don't care if he's a Druid. And I don't care if it's his religion that informs his beliefs -- no matter which way he flip-flops -- about gay marriage, reproductive choice, or NAFTA. What I do care about is his or any other candidates' use of religion to say that he or she holds a particular belief because of their religion and therefore can't be questioned on those views because to question them is to challenge or mock their faith.

It's disingenuous to use religion first as a weapon then as a shield, and if you're going to bring it into the give-and-take (not to mention the kick-and-gouge) of a political campaign, it becomes fair game. The electorate and the citizens of this country deserve more than "the bible tells me so" as an answer to their questions as to why a candidate would deny some citizens the right to get married or why they should have control over their own bodies, or veto stem-cell research. (And they certainly deserve to know if a candidate is going to coldly manipulate the religious voters into voting for their party only to get into office and then take them for granted -- or worse, mock them once they're in power.) Defend your stand based on science, logic, the law, and the Golden Rule, which pre-dates the bible and Christianity by eons (and is the foundation of our Constitution), not on fable and superstition. Give credit to human nature to establish a free and fair civilization, and accept the fact that religion and its rites are the inventions of mankind. Like all inventions wrought by us flawed humans, it can be used and abused by the corrupt and cynical among us to manipulate the foolish and the weak. Fortunately, our innate sense of fairness and our human capacity for empathy and caring can outweigh even the most evil use of something that was invented to try to explain the mysteries of life. And if you want to call it God or Allah or Jehovah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster that guides your hand, that's fine. Just don't expect everyone to accept it without question, and don't accuse them of blasphemy if they ask you for more than a ten-word answer.

Mr. Gerson says that Mr. Romney's religion shouldn't disqualify him. But it also shouldn't give him a mantle of respectability, wholesomeness, and gravitas that he otherwise wouldn't earn without the scrutiny that our secular political system bestows on a person regardless -- or in spite of -- their faith.

Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

Open Wide...

Trent Lott: Town Crier

Oyez Oyez Oyez! Heed these words, friends, and flee! Flee for your lives lest ye be caught unawares with a pirate's terrorist's sword at yer throats (on or about August 3rd through September 11th):

Without mentioning a specific threat to the Capitol, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) ominously advised Thursday that Congress needed to pass changes to terrorist surveillance laws before leaving for the August recess and warned that otherwise “the disaster could be on our doorstep.”

When asked if people should leave Washington, D.C., during the month of August, Lott responded, “I think it would be good to leave town in August, and it would probably be good to stay out until September the 12th.”
Trent certainly missed his calling. For all we know, he may very well have been a bell-slinging crier back in the day, warning colonists about the dangers of ass-pimples.

I like his implied imagery of Al-Qaeda twirling their collective mustache and screaming "Curses! Foiled again!" at the moment the surveillance law changes get passed. I don't like his initiating his own bomb scare for the months of August and September. Is this another bowel movement, courtesy of Chertoff's gut, or did Trent pull this one out of his ass all by himself? I just hope, for Trent's sake, that he has enough room in his summer home to house all of the DC population that need to skip town for a few weeks.

Open Wide...

Gay Old Bogota

At this rate, we're going to be left in Latin America's gay dust, yo!

[I]n Colombia, where Catholicism still reigns and a conservative president is serving an unprecedented second term, gay men and lesbians are closer to getting national legal rights than in any other Latin American nation.

Earlier this year, the country's Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples should have the same rights to shared assets as heterosexual couples, a decision that even the Catholic Church supported.

And in June, pushed by a coalition of conservative and leftist congressmen, legislation giving gay unions the same social security, health and inheritance benefits as heterosexual couples passed the House and the Senate…

That legislation, which has conservative President Alvaro Uribe's support, is expected to pass in the coming months.
Colombia is the first Latin American country to move to nationalize LGBT rights. Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and Rio Grande do Sul have already legalized same-sex civil unions. Let's hope this movement through Latin America just continues to pick up momentum—and continues to change attitudes toward the LGBT community along with it.

Let's also hope that the US doesn't end up the meat in a retrofuck sandwich, bordered to the north and the south by nothing but countries who are more enlightened than we are.

[Thanks to my girlfriend Miller for passing that along.]

Open Wide...

Woot! Chris Dodd Tears Falafel Man a New One

[If anyone can find a transcript, please drop a link in comments.]

[Transcript is here. Thanks, Kevin!]

I just love how wound up Billo gets about this stuff. "Vile!" he screams, his face getting redder. "Hate! Vile! Hate!" About Photoshopped pictures, for crying out loud. If he finds this picture vile…

…I'd love to know what he thinks about this one:

Hey, how'd I get in there?!

I have to think it's so metaphorically nonsensical that it blowz his teensy wee mind, sending him into a red-faced rage that culminated in a spectacular head explosion: "Vile! Hate! Vile! Hate! Hate! Vile! Vile! BLURGH!" Poof.

Open Wide...

ZOMG: What's the world coming to?

Senate Passes Children’s Health Bill, 68-31:

The Senate defied President Bush on Thursday and passed a bipartisan bill that would provide health insurance for millions of children in low-income families.

The vote was 68 to 31. The majority was more than enough to overcome the veto repeatedly threatened by Mr. Bush. The White House said the bill “goes too far in federalizing health care.”

…The House passed a much larger bill on Wednesday, presenting negotiators with a formidable challenge in trying to work out differences between the two measures.

Still, the strong commitment to the issue by Democratic leaders virtually guarantees that they can work out a compromise before Sept. 30, when the program is set to expire.
A compromise which will nonetheless still likely provoke a veto from Bush, because that's what compassionate conservatism is all about—denying healthcare to children.

Drum suggests that screaming "socialized medicine" and letting that kill bills like this one has seen its day, and it "just isn't going to do the trick this time. It looks like the Senate has enough votes to stop a filibuster and override a veto, and it's possible that a moderate bill will pick up enough House support to override a veto as well." Awesome.

Drum adds: "Alternatively, George Bush might come to his senses and realize that compassionate conservatives aren't supposed to veto legislation that helps poor kids get better healthcare."

That option, however, is predicated on George Bush having sense, which I believe is best described as a fact not in evidence.

So let's hope for the numbers when it comes down to a vote.

Open Wide...

Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Empty Nest

Open Wide...

More Beauchamp

[It's not often that the contributors around here disagree on something, but this seems to be one of those rare cases. While Kathy was writing her piece below, it seems, I was writing this one about something that just isn't sitting well with me. Anyway, I just wanted to mention this wasn't written in response to Kathy, because it's more interesting, IMO, that we both read the same thing and came to different conclusions. Even though we ultimately probably agree more than not.]

The New Republic has completed their investigation, and, aside from one error—an incident purported to have taken place in Iraq actually took place in Kuwait—everything written by Scott Thomas Beauchamp has been corroborated by current and former soldiers, including five other members of Beauchamp's company, forensic experts, and other war journalists, with assistance from Army Public Affairs officers.

So…all good, right?

Well, I'm about to say something that I expect will be deeply unpopular with a lot of Lefties. I'm not sure that error noted above is No Big Deal.

The incident in question was from the piece "Shock Troops," which was about the effects of war on soldiers, how "the things we soldiers found funny were not, in fact, funny." Beauchamp was recounting "how he and a fellow soldier mocked a disfigured woman seated near them in a dining hall," and the clear implication was that the horror of war had made them this callous, that Beauchamp had become the sort of person who cruelly mocks a disfigured woman, detailing her "severely scarred" face and "half-melted mouth," because he'd been in the shit.

But—if the incident really took place in Kuwait, "prior to the unit's arrival in Iraq," then can he honestly attribute it to war? Is there a qualitative difference between being in a war and on its edge? Knowing soldiers consider some assignments better than others even in the war theater itself, I have to imagine there is indeed a distinct difference between being in the war and, well, not.

Obviously, I have no experience on which I can draw here. I'm not a soldier, and maybe my impressions are just. plain. wrong. I absolutely don't doubt that even heading off to war is frightening as fuck, nor that sitting on a border waiting to be sent across it into war itself seriously alters one's psyche and emotions. So maybe I'm being unfair. Really. Maybe I am.

But, if I'm honest, it seems like an important difference to me, at least important enough that it can't just be glossed over like nothing, even if it wasn't a deliberate lie, not when it was the centerpiece of an article about what this war can do to soldiers. And not when the woman in question is herself either a solider or contractor who damn well did see the horrors of war, and damn well had been indisputably changed by them for real. Doesn't that matter, too? Shouldn't it?

Ugh, I feel a bit like Lieberman giving bipartisan cover to some heinous administration policy, because I know there are a lot of rightwingers who are still going after this with gusto. And I really don't agree with a lot of their complaints; I don't think that Beauchamp's "ideological agenda," whatever it may be, makes him any more or less representative a soldier than any other—soldiers' politics span the spectrum—and it's a sad little bit of mendaciousness to suggest that TNR meant to suggest he was emblematic of "the troops." The piece was labeled a "diary," for goodness' sake; it doesn't get any more my-voiced than that. And I don't give a rat's ass if Beauchamp is married to someone who works at TNR. Wev.

But I don't think the Iraq-Kuwait discrepancy is nothing, either. That is, in the context of this one blogospheric kerfuffle over one article written by one soldier about the war in which he's fighting.

Of course, in the scheme of the war as a whole, it's pretty much as close to nothing as it gets. That's another place where my opinion appears to diverge from my rightwing colleagues.

Open Wide...

Question of the Day

Yesterday's QotD was about teen idol crushes. Let's get a little edgier this time.

Who's your #1 celebrity opposite-sexuality crush?

(In other words, straight people pick someone of the same sex; gay people pick someone of the opposite sex. Bisexuals, just go nuts and name your ultimate crush.)

Ever since I first saw her, I've had a thing for Kirstie Alley.

(For those of you keeping track or with great memories, yes, this is a repeat from February '06; but good ones are worth repeating. Thanks, Melissa!)

Open Wide...

William Saletan: Slightly Less of a Gigantic Tool. Sort of.

So, people rightly let William Saletan have it for his piece last week suggesting that people should trade their fat friends for thin ones, so as to avoid catching teh fat -- while retaining the health benefits of multiple friendships! Win-win!

Today, he's published a "clarification" of that piece, which is about two parts "Um, you're getting warmer, I guess" to one part "OMFG, when in hole, STOP DIGGING."

First, he says he probably shouldn't have ended the piece by saying:

And realistically, to add normal or underweight friends to your circle, you have to relegate others who are overweight. That may be bad for your fat ex-friends, who will lose your friendship as well as your thinness. But it's fine for you, since you'll have just as many friends as before.

Maybe it's not nice to speak these truths. But maybe being nice, when you should be speaking the truth—especially to your friends—is the problem.

'Cause what he really meant was, of course you shouldn't ditch your fat friends! And of course friends aren't just interchangable like that! And of course you should stand by your friends!

He just forgot to say any of that. Honest mistake, y'all!

Then he admits he goofed in suggesting that eating too much and not exercising are the only things that make you fat. And to make amends, he busts out the Fat Bingo chestnut (actually, I'm not sure if it's on one of the cards, but it should be), "Some people can't help being fat, but most of us can get fat just by slacking off!" ("Slacking off" is his phrase, btw.)

Never mind that there's absolutely no proof that naturally thin people could get fat just by "slacking off," or that most fat people have "slacked off." He admitted he shouldn't have used an absolute! What else do you want from him?

An apology for saying we should stigmatize fat people more, perhaps?

Well, okay. It turns out he thinks you shouldn't stigmatize the good fat people, but you should still stigmatize the bad ones. And since you can't tell by looking if you're dealing with a Good Fat Person or a Bad Fat Person, maybe you shouldn't go ahead and act like a complete asshole.

But he really does believe there's not enough stigma directed at fat people. The proof? FAT PEOPLE AREN'T GETTING THIN. If we stigmatized them sufficiently, they would!

It's scientific, y'all.

But wait, that's not enough proof for you? Well, let's whip out that study showing that most overweight and obese people DON'T KNOW they're overweight or obese!

And let's not talk about the fact that all that study really showed is that people don't know which BMI category they fall into, not that they don't fucking know if they're fat.

Let's definitely not talk about the fact that this is an obese person:

Or that when the very same currently obese person was a size 6 she was in the "overweight" BMI category.

(Also, let's not talk about her roots.)

Because those trifles clearly have no bearing on the study in question. FATTIES DON'T KNOW THEY'RE FAT! Someone must tell them!

Finally, his ace in the hole? A study that shows fewer people now agree with the statement "[a] person who is not overweight is a lot more attractive" than in 1985. Clearly, SOMETHING'S NOT WORKING!

Or, you know, people factor things other than looks into their perceptions of "attractiveness" Or they just don't think thin people are a LOT more attractive than "overweight" people, though they might think they're moderately more attractive. Or they just read that stupidly written question wrong and thought they were being asked to agree with "A person who is overweight is a lot more attractive."

Or this group actually was defining "overweight" according to BMI, and were therefore saying no, a woman who wears a size 6 is not a LOT less attractive than one who wears a size 2.

But ZOMG, what if it really does mean fewer people think fatties are nasty? What would we ever do? IT'S CONTAGIOUS, PEOPLE!

Stop digging, Saletan. For Christ's sake.

Open Wide...

There Once Was a Man from Nantucket

An email exchange between Melissa and I today:

Liss: Check this out. Cue the Freeper heads exploding...NOW!

Spudsy: I dunno, do you really think the Freepers give a shit over who's poet laureate? "That poetry shit's for fags, man!"

Open Wide...

Caption This Photo

"Now, on which aisles can I find fava beans and a nice Chianti?"

[Thanks to Shaker Jeff for the image and the caption!]

Open Wide...

If Only There Were Some Brush That Needed Clearing…

Submitted without comment:

"We in the federal government must respond, and respond robustly, to help the people there not only recover, but to make sure that lifeline of activity — that bridge — gets rebuilt as quickly as possible," Bush said in the Rose Garden following a Cabinet meeting.
Okay, one comment: Wev.

Open Wide...

How Odd!

Reuters' "Oddly Enough" continues to piss me off with its weirdly misogynist designations of what constitutes "odd news." Scrolling through their collection today, I find:

Woman kept dead husband by bed for a year: "A woman in Mexico City kept the body of her dead husband by her bedside for a year until neighbors, disturbed by the smell, called the police." [1]

Woman arrested over body parts in fridge: "Malaysian police have arrested a woman in connection with the murder of a man whose body was chopped into 11 pieces and stuffed into a refrigerator in a posh apartment in the capital." [2]

Clinton campaign insulted by cleavage article: "Insulted by a fashion article about Hillary Clinton's cleavage, her presidential campaign is trying to use the incident to raise money." [3]

Sheikh delays plane over seating: "A Qatar sheikh held up a British Airways flight at Milan's Linate airport for nearly three hours after discovering three of his female relatives had been seated next to men they did not know." [4]

Broken Record Time: In recent months, I've read under the heading of "Odd News" stories about a man branding his wife with a hot iron, a man coercing his wife into having plastic surgery to look like his deceased first wife, wives/girlfriends/exes being held against their will in various "odd" places including a coffin, women being traded for "odd" objects or offered as reparations for "odd" transgressions, "odd" forms of abuse against women, and women doing notable things good and bad, that, while newsworthy, only seem to be "odd-worthy" because they were done by women, all reported alongside such frivolous fare as Chocoholic squirrel steals treats from shop.

This strikes me as one of those nuances of sexism that many men don't notice or understand. To have women's experiences like this trivialized as "Odd News" is just infuriating, and being obliged to think about someone chuckling over the hilarious oddity of a one of the most powerful women in the world being insulted by a cleavage article—and having the hilariously odd notion to make lemonade from the stinking lemons by raising awareness and funds with it—can make a gal angry as fuck, particularly as she recognizes that the constant positioning of humiliated women as the butt of jokes humiliates us all. This shit is important, and even as I say it, I know why it doesn't seem like it is, or should be.

The thing is, the real cost of sexism to women is not in our paying a single emotional penny here for this insult and a single emotional penny there for that disgrace, but in the cumulative negative balance it leaves inside each of us. Even if we let this thing or that thing roll off of the thickened skins of our backs, we pay another penny each time; letting it roll off your back is just another way of saying keep your complaints to yourself, but it doesn't change the reality that sexism takes its toll, whether one has the ill manners of mentioning the offense or not.

As I've said before, the word that comes to my mind when I try to explain how sexism affects me is history. And I don't mean history in an academic sense, as in the history of the feminist movement, but as in my own history—a thousand threads of experience that come together to weave the fabric that I regard as my life. That history contains lots of wonderful and not wonderful things, related and unrelated things. Little things, things like seeing so many stories about the mistreatment of women culled under the heading of "Odd News," prick at a particular thread as though it's a guitar string, but instead of producing sound, it produces memory, memory of all the other times I have seen women or their stories belittled for others' amusement, memory of all the times such degradation has been used to mask the need for helping women in real need of assistance, or even just in need of being regarded with some basic fucking dignity.

I don't carry these memories with me because I want to. I carry them with me because they have left indelible prints upon me, affected my understanding of who I am to other people. I don't want to be bothered when I notice things like the treatment of women in "Odd News" features. But it doesn't matter what I want. To protect myself against this reaction is to deny my experience, to deny part of myself.

I write posts like this in the hope that they will speak to a man who has never had to think about what it means to be a woman in the world, who doesn't understand what women are "still complaining about," or wonders why we can't just let pass without comment, without anger, a sexist t-shirt or a misogynist slur or our irritation at the way stories about women are presented in the news. But mostly, I write posts like this for other women, who see things like this every day, and feel it chipping away at them, and whose pain is assuaged only by knowing that other women share it. In other words, I write posts like this for me.


1 Sad, pitiable, and gross are all adjectives that come to mind before "odd." But it's about a woman who's also non-American, so naturally it found its way into Reuters' Oddly Enough.

2 Heinous. Cruel. Despicable. Not so much "odd." But hey, it was a non-American woman, and she was upper class, and that's the trifecta for odd-newsiness.

3 This "odd" news story contains the hilariously "odd" contention from senior advisor Ann Lewis that donors can "take a stand against this kind of coarseness and pettiness in American culture… Frankly, focusing on women's bodies instead of their ideas is insulting. It's insulting to every woman who has ever tried to be taken seriously in a business meeting. It's insulting to our daughters—and our sons." Odd, odd, odd!

4 Ooh, even better than a non-American woman doing something terrible, it's non-American women having something terrible done to them! Oppression is just so darn odd!

(And I'm not presuming that the women in question actually felt like something terrible was being done to them. I'm just trying to capture the typical vibe of the Odd News stories, in which any cultural differences affecting women are implicitly framed as oppressive. Some actually are; some actually aren't—depends on the individual story.)

Open Wide...

McCain's Found Something to Sink His Teeth Into

The ethics bill.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) plans to take a break from the campaign trail to speak out against the Democratic lobbying reform package Thursday before it hits the floor at the end of the week, according to one of the bill’s chief opponents, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)

DeMint held up final negotiations on the bill for weeks, arguing that earmark provisions that purport to provide more transparency do nothing but maintain the status quo…

The junior senator from South Carolina said McCain shares those views and plans to participate in a press conference Thursday morning, along with other opponents of the ethics measure. He could even vote against the entire bill, DeMint said.

“It wouldn’t surprise me,” he noted.
Hey, me neither! Who knew Jim DeMint and I had so much in common?

Open Wide...

Hillary Slaps Back

Say what you will about Hillary Clinton, she doesn't take shit from anybody, and that includes unique creatures.

On Larry King Live earlier this week, Vice President Dick Cheney said that he agreed with the snotty and arrogant letter that Undersecretary Eric Edelman sent her last month in reply to an inquiry she had sent in May about DOD contingency plans for withdrawing from Iraq. Mr. Edelman basically told her that she, a U.S. Senator, had no business inquiring into such plans and that by even asking the question, Sen. Clinton was giving aid to the enemy. Last week she got a letter of apology of sorts from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying that he didn't agree with Mr. Edelman's view and that he would be happy to provide whatever information he could to the Senate on such plans.

When Sen. Clinton heard what the Vice President said, she fired off a letter.

Your comments, agreeing with Under Secretary Edelman, not Secretary Gates, have left me wondering about the true position of the Administration. Therefore, I am writing to President Bush asking that he set the record straight about the Administration's position regarding the role of Congress in oversight of the war.
So not only is she slapping back at the vice president, she's ratting him out to his nominal boss, President Bush.

As Greg Sargent notes, this little feud between Sen. Clinton and the White House will shore up her assertion that she isn't "Bush-Cheney lite" as Barack Obama labeled her. It also shows that unlike some Democrats in the past, she will not shrink in the face of being bullied by the Bushies. (Her campaign learns fast; they're asking people to add their signatures to the letter.) One can only imagine what John Kerry would have done in this situation; chances are he would have ignored it, dismissed it, and let it fester while he went wind-surfing or something.

Far be it from me to give advice to the GOP, but they'd better learn that if they plan to attack Hillary Clinton, be ready to get as good as you give. And about damn time, too.

Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

Open Wide...

Quote of the Day

"What Giuliani is, is George Bush on steroids."John Edwards, who went on to add that "Giuliani, Romney and the rest of the Republicans running for the nomination are going to give the country four more years of crony capitalism, which is exactly what we have now. We have insurance companies and drug companies and oil companies running this government. They need to be stopped. And Giuliani just wants to empower them."

Open Wide...

Today in Dumbassery

There's a new phrase in the Texas state pledge: "one state under God". Which, generally, would be filed under inane religious political stunts--what makes this a bit more than a generic pandering stunt is that, in Texas, school children are required to pledge to the state every day (and the country and have a moment of silence). From the article titled: Students must remember 'God' in Texas pledge (emphasis mine):

Texas students will have four more words to remember when they head back to class this month and begin reciting the state's pledge of allegiance.

This year's Legislature added the phrase "one state under God" to the pledge, which is part of a required morning ritual in Texas public schools along with the pledge tothe U.S. flag and a moment of silence.

State Rep. Debbie Riddle, who sponsored the bill, said it had always bothered her that God was omitted in the state's pledge.

"Personally, I felt like the Texas pledge had a big old hole in it, and it occurred to me, 'You know what? We need to fix that,' " said Riddle, R-Tomball.[...]

By law, students who object to saying the pledge or making the reference to God can bring a written note from home excusing them from participating.

[...]"Most Texans do not need to say this new version of the pledge in order to be either patriotic or religious," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "This is the kind of politicking of religion that disturbs many Americans, including those who are deeply religious."

Texas has had a pledge of allegiance since 1933. In 2003, the Legislature required all schools to pledge allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags and observe a moment of silence every morning at the beginning of classes.

I find it interesting, in a "you've got to be shitting me" sort of way, that students must give written record of their objections to so that they can be free to not partake in make-you-patriotic rituals that have nothing to do with school itself. Students should be free to not participate if they object, for whatever reason, without putting themselves into a file.

Open Wide...

Bridge Footage

A security camera caught the bridge collapse on film. It's both captivating and upsetting, in a way not unlike the collapse of the World Trade Center was. I don't know if this is something people want to see or not; I figure some will want to see it and some won't. (And I hope those who don't will understand I'm not trying to be exploitative or insensitive.) The second video is an aerial view of the scene after the collapse.

Open Wide...

Get Off My Lawn, You Damn Smoochers

The Wingnut's Dream is alive and well in Singapore:

Singapore has banned an exhibition of photographs depicting gay men and women kissing, a gay rights activist said yesterday, calling the move "absurd". The city-state's media development authority denied organisers a licence because the photographs "promote a homosexual lifestyle", said Alex Au, founder of a Singapore gay rights group, People Like Us. The show features 80 shots of same-sex kissing by clothed models, said Mr Au, the photographer. Singapore deems gay sex "an act of gross indecency", punishable by up to two years in jail. It bans gay festivals and censors gay films.
I'm sure the Freepers are turning cartweels over this, but I'll leave that to Pam to check. I'm just wondering when we're going to evolve beyond the point where a simple kiss can be seen as "an act of gross indecency."

Open Wide...

Stop the Presses: Obama Was Ambitious

Obama's 'Hidden Side' is the ominous headline of a story in the Chicago Sun-Times, which breaks wide open Obama's secret, dark, reprehensible past, riddled with the villainy of—gasp!—ambition.

On the stump, presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama suggests his political career was an afterthought. He tells of returning to Chicago from Harvard Law School to be part of a civil rights practice and teach law.

However, a new book reveals a reason Obama joined a politically connected law firm: to give him entree to the powerbrokers in Chicago's elite liberal political community who helped elect Mayor Harold Washington -- a job the new lawyer had his eye on.

Obama actually pondered a political career early on, even telling Craig Robinson, his future brother-in-law, he might get into politics after Harvard and "maybe I can be president of the United States."
ZOMG—the bastard!

Presuming for the moment that the recollections of Obama's nefarious aspirations to, um, be a leader or wev in Obama: From Promise to Power are accurate, so fucking what? The same charge of naked ambition is routinely lobbed against Hillary Clinton as if it's a bad thing. "She's always wanted to be president, the horrible bitch!" Well, fuck me! The unmitigated nerve of extended planning and preparation for what is arguably the most difficult job on the entire fucking planet! How could they?!

By most accounts, George W. Bush never really considered being president with any seriousness; Jeb was the real go-getter. Dubya stumbled from a failed Congressional campaign, bad business deals, and a stint in baseball to the largely ceremonial governorship of Texas, at which point it sounds like Karl Rove got designs on the White House and figured Dubya would be just the patsy for the job. By Dubya's own admission, he spent the first half of his life in a directionless haze of immaturity and drunkenness. He never planned on being president, and—dare I say?—it shows.

He was categorically unprepared for the job—had never traveled, didn't understand the world, barely comprehends (or likes) the country itself or the people in it. He is a poor manager, a terrible leader, an embarrassingly abysmal speaker, an intellectual lightweight, and an irrepressible bully, who surrounds himself with incompetent cronies. He is disrespectful, dismissive of legitimate dissent, and disdainful of the opposition. In every aspect, from protocol to personality, he is unfit for the presidency, in no small part because he walked into the job without a moment's forethought, expecting the role, the office, and the rest of the world to bend to his shape, rather than having formed himself in its image.

So maybe an ambitious nature ("hidden" or not) shouldn't be treated like a disqualification, but instead the most fundamental prerequisite for the job. Someone who takes the presidency seriously, who respects the gravity of the position and all it entails, is to be commended, not condemned. It turns out, being the sort of guy with whom it would be "fun" to drink beer isn't actually the most important qualification for being the leader of our nation. Go fucking figure.

Open Wide...

Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

A Different World

In this completely shitty underground newspaper Todd and I wrote in high school, my nom de plume was Jasmine Guy. Heh.

Open Wide...

Michael Vick "Would Have Been Better off Raping a Woman"

Because CNN sports anchor Larry Smith's contention that dogfighting is worse than raping a woman just wasn't offensive enough, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Paul Zeise figured he'd go ahead and say what's evidently on lots of sports commentators' minds:

"It's really a sad day in this country when somehow ... Michael Vick would have been better off raping a woman if you look at the outcry of what happened. Had he done that, he probably would have been suspended for four games and he'd be back on the field. But because this has become a political issue, all of a sudden the commissioner has lost his stomach for it."

I'll just give you a moment to let that sink in.

Vick would have been better off raping a woman because then no one would have cared.

The best part is that his apology appears to be to Michael Vick, rather than, ya know, the women whom he suggested ought to have been his target: "I regret the poor choice of analogies I used to characterize a professional athlete's legal situation." Oh, well, that's all right then. As long as we've cleared up that he didn't mean to misrepresent the good Mr. Vick's legal situation. Fates fucking forbid this shitbag regret that he talked about women like pieces of meat and sexual violence against them like it was No Big Deal.

I honestly don't even know what to say anymore. American men clearly need a serious education about rape and sexual assault against women; even lots and lots of good men who would never assault or harass a woman just simply aren't aware of how prevalent it is.* But I just don't know what it's going to take to get this national conversation started.

I despair at the lack of outrage. Rape serves as constant fodder for jokes among way too many men; I cannot even watch an allegedly progressive-minded comedian without being slapped in the goddamned face with "a bit" about a man who raped his own wife to wrap up his show in spectacular fashion. This is not healthy. Our culture is sick with misogyny, and we keep treating it with increasing doses of apathy then wondering why it never heals.

And if you haven't yet noticed the plague, then you're not paying enough attention.

So let me hold up a magnifying glass once more to the words of Paul Zeise: "Michael Vick would have been better off raping a woman." A woman. Any woman. Maybe someone you know. Maybe me. Doesn't matter. Every woman is invoked by these words.

He would have been better off raping a woman because then no one would have cared.

The worst part about it is that it's probably true.


* If I'm not talking about you, then I'm not talking about you, know what I mean? No need to take offense if you're a dude all up to his neck in rape awareness. Of course, if you really are that dude, you already know what a rare bird you are, and I don't even need to say this to you.

[H/T to Blogenfreude and Shaker Kevin, both via email.]

Open Wide...

Question of the Day

Okay, Shakers, time to dust off the 45's, the leather jackets, the DA haircuts, and the poodle skirts. In honor (or in spite of) the revival of Grease with the leads chosen by the viewers of a reality TV show, tell me true:

Who was your teen idol crush?

For me, back in 1964, it was Paul McCartney. Pretty much nailed the am-I-gay question for me.

Open Wide...

Assvertising: Brokedick Mountain Edition

I don't find the commercial offensive in any way. I just can't believe that someone thought "a bunch of doodz sitting around a cabin going all Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas to (literally) sing the praises of Viagra to the tune of 'Viva Las Vegas' before zooming off to fuck things" was a good marketing strategy.

Or maybe it's just that I fear it's a good marketing strategy.

Can't decide. Both, maybe.

Open Wide...

Quote of the Day

"I know of nothing that suggests that. I know that I would not engage in a cover-up. I know that no one in the White House suggested such a thing to me. I know that the gentlemen sitting next to me are men of enormous integrity and would not participate in something like that."—Donald Rumsfeld, who decided to testify at the Tillman hearing after all, after being asked if he thought there was a cover-up by the Defense Department.

So there must not have been a cover-up, then. I mean, if you can't trust a war criminal, who can you trust, right?

Open Wide...

Who Would Jesus Flash?

Holy Moly:

A Baptist minister has been charged in Tennessee with indecent exposure and driving under the influence.

Police said 58-year-old Tommy Tester of Bristol, Va., was wearing a skirt when he was arrested last week after allegedly relieving himself in front of children at a car wash.

A report also accuses Tester of offering police officers oral sex and says an open bottle of vodka and empty oxycodone prescription bottle was found in his car when Tester was arrested Friday.
In addition to being a minister, Tester is also an employee of a Christian radio station, which has no doubt broadcast many fine hours of programming about the evils of being gay and/or trans.

I love, by the way, how a dude "wearing a skirt" is obviously supposed to be equally as alarming as pissing in public and drunkenly soliciting cops.

Aside from the godbotherer part, it sounds like a night out in Edinburgh.

[H/T Petulant.]

Open Wide...

The Dude Abides


[Via Recon.]

Open Wide...


Maybe it's just me, but my impression of the battle among Democratic presidential candidates over who best represents "change" is that it's a huge waste of time. I can't honestly imagine there is a single American voter even remotely inclined to vote for a Democrat in 2008 who wouldn't view any one of the contenders as a massive improvement from George Bush. Strictly speaking, defining "change" literally as simply a departure from what we've got now, I bet there aren't any voters predisposed toward Republicans who wouldn't view them all as agencies of change, either. So save your breath, Dems.

We know none of you would let New Orleans drown or let oilmen write our national energy policy or fire Arabic translators for being gay. We know that you care about the healthcare crisis and that you believe government can actually work. I think most of us know that even those of you who were dumb enough to vote for the war wouldn't have started it yourselves, and that any one of you probably would have captured, tried, and convicted bin Laden by now.

And, unfortunately, which one of you is the most innovative of your group has been rendered rather moot by the enormous clusterfuck Bush will leave behind that you'll have to clean up. Quite honestly, that's going to demand less visionary thinking than plain, old-fashioned elbow grease—knowing how to get shit done combined with a willingness to make some unpopular decisions. Classic leadership, friends.

I'm not saying there's no need for imagination, but your creative assets will only be as good as your work ethic come January 2009. You don't need to convince us you'll bring change; you need to convince us you're willing to trudge, because that's what'll save us.

[Damn, that sounds a lot like someone who should have been our president once upon a time…]

Open Wide...

Choice Schmoice

Of course women are infants—so we definitely need to give men the right to control abortions.

A group of legislators in Ohio are pushing a bill that would give men a say in whether or not a woman can have an abortion.

"This is important because there are always two parents and fathers should have a say in the birth or the destruction of that child," said [Rep. John] Adams, a Republican from Sidney. "I didn't bring it up to draw attention to myself or to be controversial. In most cases, when a child is born the father has financial responsibility for that child, so he should have a say."

As written, the bill would ban women from seeking an abortion without written consent from the father of the fetus. In cases where the identity of the father is unknown, women would be required to submit a list of possible fathers. The physician would be forced to conduct a paternity test from the provided list and then seek paternal permission to abort.
Written notes? Submitting a list of potential fathers? Sometimes I think that anti-choice folks forget that women are, you know, adults.

But seriously here's the best part of the bill:

Claiming to not know the father's identity is not a viable excuse, according to the proposed legislation. Simply put: no father means no abortion.
Fuck. You.

But wait, it gets even better. Women would be required to present a police report if they want to "prove" that the pregnancy was a result of rape of incest. Because women can't be trusted, obviously.

I would just note in response to Rep. Adams that requiring a father's signature for an abortion is more than giving him "a say." It means giving him veto power. If he doesn't want to consent to an abortion, he can simply refuse—and that's that. There is no provision in the bill for this eventuality.

Leave it to me to state the obvious, but that would result in the exact situation which Adams asserts he is trying to avoid, except instead of a father charged with financial responsibility he doesn't want, there's a mother charged with financial responsibility she doesn't want—with the additional burden of a pregnancy and delivery, and all the health risks, costs, and personal inconvenience (to put it lightly) such entails, including the very real possibility of missing work for an extended period or losing her job altogether. I'd love to find out what Adams' justification is for this legislation, were some enterprising reporter to point out to him that his current rationale is blatantly misogynistic.

As I've noted before, men already have plenty of “say” over this decision—but much of it happens before the pregnancy. They have “say” over the women with whom they choose to have sex. They have “say” over whether they choose to discuss in depth with a partner what they would do in the case of an unintended pregnancy—and what their partners would do. They have “say” over whether they put a condom on. Once a woman is pregnant, men’s legal “say” ends (though it's only fair to note that the vast majority of women give their partners' opinions due consideration). Men don’t have the right to demand abortion, and they don’t have the right to demand carrying the fetus to term, because conferring those rights would allow them to exact control over another human’s body, which is simply an untenable position.

And guys who don’t like that need to take it up with the Almighty, or the Intelligent Designer, or Mother Nature, or whatever, which in its infinite wisdom decided that only one sex should have the ability to get pregnant.

LeMew has more. So does Echidne.

Open Wide...

Running Scared

The Republicans are absolutely stark staring skeered of Hillary Clinton.

Over the last year, as Republicans have sought out their next standard bearer, no candidate has excited their passions and united their focus more than the Democratic senator from New York. Clinton is regularly evoked in stump speeches, presidential debates and fundraising events as a symbol for all that the Republican voters stand to lose in the coming election. She is, in many ways, the glue now keeping the Grand Old Party from further splintering into disarray after the 2006 elections.

"It unifies the party. It motivates a part of the base," explains Grover Norquist, a longtime party activist who runs the group Americans for Tax Reform. "Hillary can be scary."


The Republican focus on Clinton may say more about the Republican Party than it does about her inevitability as the Democratic nominee. Though she polls better nationally than her Democratic rivals, she currently trails slightly in most Iowa caucus polls to John Edwards, and she has been surprisingly outstripped in fundraising by Barack Obama. But this has not stopped Republicans from referring regularly to the Democratic Party as a shell organization at the beck and command of the Clinton family, even if that's a flimsy caricature at best.

Norquist, for one, insists he is confident that Clinton will come out on top. "The Clintons run the Democratic Party the way the Bhutto family runs the PPP," he said, in a reference to the corrupt and dynastic Pakistan People's Party. Republican leaders, such as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, long ago elevated the Clinton family to nearly mythic stature, claiming that the Clintons are backed by a vast "George Soros-funded, Harold Ickes-led shadow party." But Republicans have a history of glaring disconnection between their strategic prognostications about the Democrats and the way things actually turn out. As recently as the fall of 2003, presidential advisor Karl Rove was betting hamburgers in the White House that Howard Dean would be the Democratic nominee. A few months later, Dean's campaign deflated after the first caucus returns in Iowa.
If this proves anything, it's that after six years of bug-eyed fearmongering about terrorists and such, the Republicans have begun to believe their own press releases about the Worst Thing that Could Happen.

It also tells you that the most important thing to the Republican Party isn't fixing what's wrong with the country: health care, education, the infrastructure, and providing solutions or ideas for fixing them. The most important thing to them is winning an election and clinging to power, so they don't care about finding a candidate that could do anything more than win an election.

I'm not sure which is more disconcerting: the idea that the Republicans still think they can run on fear or that they believe the voters will buy it. Either way, it shows you how little regard they have for the electorate, the system, and their own ability to field a candidate who can acutally offer something more than just the slogan "I can beat Hillary."

Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

Open Wide...

Schadenfreude Rules!

I love Chicago. Because, among other reasons, we are a bunch of seriously stubborn bastards.

When Federated (now Macy's, Inc.) decided to turn Marshall Field's into Macy's, the entire goddamned city said, "Don't do it, idiots. We will stop shopping there."

Federated said, "Nonsense! We've done it in several other cities with no problem! You say you won't shop at Macy's, but we know better!"

The entire goddamned city said, "Dudes, this is Chicago. And you are coming in here with your New York store and fucking with Marshall Field's. And if you don't get what those two things mean, then you really, really don't get your market here."

Federated said, "Ha! We'll see about that!"

Well, they saw about that. Chicago Carless catalogues the mind-boggling string of fuck-ups by the Chicago Macy's, including their declining sales, store closures, and recent fruit fly infestation at what used to be the best food court in the city. It's delicious reading for locals -- and anyone else who hates big corporate entities who think they can increase profits while refusing to take into account the human beings needed to purchase their wares.

Like so many Chicagoans, I was raised loyal to Field's. And I mean loyal. Like, there was no other department store worth bothering with, period. (Is that remotely reasonable -- especially when Field's had already changed hands repeatedly, and the quality and service were declining for years before Macy's ever came along? No, of course not. But it is what it is -- a simple fact for a whole lot of us.) After I moved away, I would go to Field's State Street and drop a bundle every time I came to visit. When I moved back, I was giddy about being able to go down there and wander around the awesome flagship store any time I felt like it. And I brought my credit cards.

I've spent money on clothes there once since it became Macy's, and then only under duress. The only other money I've given them in the last year has been at the food court -- and that's clearly not gonna happen again now.

Dear Macy's, Inc.,

Dudes, this is Chicago. You came in here with your New York store and fucked with Marshall Field's.

And now you're scrambling to keep it open.

Are you getting the local market yet?


Kate Harding

P.S. I spent $300 at Nordstrom yesterday.


Open Wide...

More Dangerous Dissembling about Weight Loss Surgery

Etta James is in the hospital because of complications following unspecified "abdominal surgery" last month.

As of 9 a.m. central time, there are three articles about this that mention Etta James had weight loss surgery a few years ago. The AP article didn't mention it. Which means a Google news search on Etta James returns 273 articles that didn't mention it.

I wish Etta James a speedy recovery and all good things. And no, of course, I don't know for certain that James's recent abdominal surgery had anything to do with the WLS. She could have had a hernia or something.

Nevertheless, I feel comfortable calling this total bullshit.The chances that someone who had WLS would end up in the hospital after completely unrelated abdominal surgery are pretty fucking small.

It's bad enough that celebrities have their viscera renovated and then lie about how they lost the weight. But passing off complications as something unrelated is just brain-breakingly disgusting. Judging by the AP article, the press release from the James camp did just that -- but even so, it ain't like an intrepid journalist would really have to knock herself out to connect the dots. Sure, you couldn't speculate openly about the nature of the recent abdominal surgery in an AP article, but you could bloody well do what those three other journalists did and mention that she had WLS, so readers could do their own speculating. I mean, seriously, if a celebrity known to have had breast implants were in the hospital for "chest surgery," would the former point go unremarked?

Downplaying the risks of weight loss surgery is just one more way the media reinforces that getting thin at any cost is all that matters. And it's not just the mainstream media; it's the goddamned medical journals, too.

In an article in the Oct. 13 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers unveiled encouraging news for people seeking surgery to reduce their weight. JAMA reviewed the results of 136 studies and found that surgery to lessen the size of the digestive tract resulted not only in weight loss but also reversed diabetes in 77% of obese patients, eliminated high blood pressure in 62%, and lowered cholesterol in at least 70%. The study was funded by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ ), a maker of instruments used in such surgeries.

Emphasis mine, but big, fat kudos to Business Week for noting that at all. And of course what rarely gets mentioned when studies like that trickle down to the mainstream media is that there's no proof whatsoever that being less fat caused the reversal of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Weight loss surgery doesn't just make you thin; it makes you physically unable to eat large quantities of food and in most cases, much less able to digest fatty or sugary foods. So basically, it forces you onto exactly the kind of diet already recommended to control diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol -- the kind of diet that, absent WLS, might not make you much thinner, even if it makes you much healthier.

But people don't stay on diets like that! And healthcare costs are out of control! So why not force the fatties to behave and save us all some money?

Well, here's one reason:
Two years ago, the rationale that the surgery can cut down on the health-care costs associated with being obese also took a blow. A large ongoing study in Sweden found that [sic] the use and cost of drugs in obese patients to be about the same, whether or not they had the surgery. Those who didn't have the procedure needed medication for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, while those who underwent it needed treatment for gastrointestinal-tract disorders, anemia, and vitamin deficiency.

Those who undergo the surgery are also more likely to die within a few years from complications related to the surgery than they would have been from complications related to obesity. There's that.

But oh wait, if they die young, that's less money the rest of us have to pay for their healthcare. Not a problem, then.

H/T Corinna from the Fat Studies list.


Open Wide...

In Things That Make Me Laugh

No one in the Bush administration can recall a thing, but Keith Richards is writing a memoir.

Open Wide...

Wednesday Morning Conchords

Another fab episode fashioned from a gazillion little bits of hilarious goodness stitched together with golden strands of awesomeness, all wrapped up in a big bow of brilliance and topped with a cherry of jocose absurdity.

Jemaine and Bret learn how to "flip the bird" after they experience prejudice against New Zealanders, and Murray writes a love song for the "leggy blonde" in tech support.

Episode 7: Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Open Wide...

I Detect a Pattern

It's almost like the Bushies have contempt for the law or something: "Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will not testify at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday on the friendly fire death of Army Specialist Patrick Tillman, RAW STORY has learned. The former Pentagon head 'has a conflict' that will prevent him from appearing, but will not face a subpoena."


The Great Not-Gonna-Testify-a-Thon of 2007 marches on...

Open Wide...

Today in Great Ideas

In yesterday's LA Times, Jonah Goldberg had an op-ed arguing that since a " very high percentage of the U.S. electorate isn't very well qualified to vote, if by 'qualified' you mean having a basic understanding of our government, its functions and its challenges," perhaps we ought to start restricting voting only to the well-informed.

Amusingly, he presents this idea as if it's new (see Mustang Bobby at his place and David Neiwert for the history lesson you probably don't need but Jonah evidently does about Jim Crow laws, which included such things as "literacy tests" to disenfranchise "undesirable" voters) and wraps his argument around this pithy puzzler: "Immigrants have to pass a test to vote; why not all citizens?" Of course, immigrants don't have to pass a test to vote; they have to pass a test to become citizens, at which time they are granted the right to vote irrespective of their grasp of the issues, which is what really makes one a truly "qualified" voter; knowing there are two Senators given each state is great, but understanding Senatorial candidates' positions is even better.

Nevertheless, Jonah states as if it's fact immigrants must pass a test to vote, either signaling his own ignorance of how our government works, or, more likely, depending on the ignorance of readers to nod their heads at his sagacity—by gum, he's right; we should make people pass a test to vote!—convincing the ignorant via their ignorance to rescind voting rights from the ignorant. And there, in a nutshell, is how conservatives get people to vote against their own best interests.

I could probably spend an inordinate amount of time fisking the rest of the prattling twaddle he submitted to the Times and they inexplicably printed, and point out all the ways he is a racist, xenophobic, classist gobshite, but I shant. Instead, I will simply respond to his chief recommendation: "Instead of making it easier to vote, maybe we should be making it harder. Why not test people about the basic functions of government?"

Clearly, Jonah wouldn't suggest a voting test if he weren't convinced it would help the Republicans—and, on its face, it might seem like it would, given that access to education generally correlates with an informed citizenry. Surely, the wealthy and powerful and privately educated, who are disproportionately Republican, would score off the charts!

Yeah, well, maybe they would. But those folks aren't called the One-Percenters for nothing.

So let's go ahead and put voting to a test across the land. Let's see how the Republican base—the Fox News watchers, the Bush supporters, the Saddam-Did-So-Have-WMDs-and-Was-Behind-9/11-Believers—stacks up against the Democratic base, against The Daily Show viewers (who "know more about election issues than people who regularly read newspapers or watch television news, according to the National Annenberg Election Survey"), PBS watchers, NPR listeners. Let's see how those can't-spell, can't-string-a-coherent-sentence-together, can't-form-a-logical-thought conservatives that troll in my comments do on a voting test next to the Shakers. Let's go.

I'm all a-twitter to see how it turns out.

Open Wide...

Warrantless Wiretapping Was the Tip of the Iceberg

Hardly surprising; totally infuriating: The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, in an effort to clear up inconsistencies in Alberto Gonzales' testimony, has confirmed in a letter to Senate Intelligence Committee member Arlen Specter (R-PA) that "President Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president previously described."

Last week, Gonzo's latest round of testimony left only two options—that he had lied under oath, or that the Bush administration had "a second secret, internally controversial intelligence program of dubious legality." I'm not sure I quite expected it would be the latter. And yet so it is.

The disclosure by Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, appears to be the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that Bush's order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005.

In a letter to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), McConnell wrote that the executive order following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks included "a number of . . . intelligence activities" and that a name routinely used by the administration -- the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- applied only to "one particular aspect of these activities, and nothing more."

"This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly, because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has been officially acknowledged," McConnell said.
So possibly Gonzo did not perjure himself (at least on this issue), but the specter of yet another secret administration program, over which there was internal dissent and presumably no Congressional oversight, now haunts us. Kate Martin, executive director of the Center for National Security Studies, notes, quite rightly, "They have repeatedly tried to give the false impression that the surveillance was narrow and justified," and wonders why it took "accusations of perjury before the DNI disclosed that there is indeed other, presumably broader and more questionable, surveillance."

Utter madness, this. A coup by a thousand cuts. And now we're suddenly turning our attention back to secret domestic spying in the middle of Attorneygate, and I can't help but get the feeling that the next 16 months are going to be a game of whack-a-mole as the investigation of one administration misdeed leads to another, and another, until their time just runs out.

And that's probably the best case scenario, provided we don't all drop dead where we stand from chronic outrage fatigue first.

[More at Think Progress.]

Open Wide...

Two-Minute Nostalgia Sublime

Jake and the Fatman

Open Wide...

Question of the Day

As promised last night*, today's QotD is: What movie, if forced to watch over and over on a loop, would constitute your personal Hell? Pretending, naturally, that Hell exists, we're all going there (duh), and it's comprised of a screening room with a single uncomfortable chair to which you're strapped for eternity.

I'm sticking with the abysmal Barry Lyndon.


* That was, btw, one of my favorite QotDs evah! Good one, Mama Shakes!

Open Wide...

The Unique Creature Can't Recall

Highly shocking! The Douchicorn "can't recall" whether he dispatched Gonzo and Andy Card to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room in 2004 to cajole Ashcroft into signing off on the administration's domestic spying program.

Today on CNN, in a preview of his interview with the Vice President tonight, Larry King said he asked Cheney about the allegation. "I asked the Vice President about that and the story that he was the one that asked him to go," said King. "And he said he had no recollection."

"He did not want to deal with specifics, which tells me, they’re looking at trouble," King added. "If you don't want to deal with specifics…I think you’re looking at trouble and you're looking the other way if you're denying it."
Cheney's exact response to King's question is: "I don’t recall—first of all, I haven’t seen the story. And I don’t recall that I gave instructions to that effect. … I don’t recall that I was the one who sent them to the hospital."

In other words, he totally was. Wev.

Impeach them. Impeach them all now.

Open Wide...

News from Shakes Manor

Nerd if By Land, Geek if By Email: Why We're Married Edition

Shakes: Check this out. [Warning: Elements of the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are revealed at the link.] Really interesting, and I think spot-on, especially the bit about sci-fi v. fantasy. It makes sense, when you think about it, because fantasy is rooted in tradition and sci-fi is rooted in progress, literally anti-tradition. Which makes the bar scene in Star Wars a possibility in a way that it would never have been in LotR. And sees Leia a princess and Padme a senator/queen, but Eowyn a Shield Maiden of Rohan." Etc.

Mr. Shakes: That is interesting, and like you say, spot on. Thanks for forwarding it. How cool are you, btw, that you know the term Shield Maiden of Rohan?

Open Wide...

This is the Best We Can Do

So, I see the headline House Approves Funding to Combat Abuse, Rape of Indigenous Women, and I get all excited, since an April Amnesty International report found that "indigenous women are at least twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as other women in the US. One in every three indigenous women will be raped or sexually abused in their lifetime." And then I read what the funding to "combat" rape actually funds:

In response to a recent Amnesty International report detailing the disproportionately high levels of rape and other forms of sexual abuse committed against Native American women, the US House of Representatives has authorized $2 million in funding to protect Native women from sexual assault. Passed by a 412-18 vote, the budget amendment calls for the allocation of $1 million to create a tribal sex offender registry and for an additional $1 million to fund a baseline study on violence against Native women.
Not to state the obvious or anything, but a sex offender registry doesn't actually protect women from rape. In theory, it identifies convicted rapists so that women can avoid them, but in reality, that's just another way of handing the responsibility of rape prevention to women, which, as we know, doesn't stop rape.

Meanwhile, a baseline study on violence against Native women may, in the long term, help with the development of practical violence prevention strategies, but is not in the here and now going to do anything to immediately begin to combat that violence.

And if I sound cynical about its potential to manifest as superb rape prevention strategies, well, there's a good reason for that—it's because I am cynical. It's not like there have never been studies on what works and doesn't work as regards combating violence against women; over and over we see that educating men and promoting egalitarianism is what works. But was a fucking dime of that $2 million earmarked for educating men about rape? Nope.

Nor was there any funding or legislation that would immediately solve some already-identified problems:

At least 86 percent of these assaults are committed by non-Native men, yet these non-Native perpetrators are rarely prosecuted or punished, Amnesty found, due to a complex maze of tribal, state, and federal jurisdictions. A still-standing 1978 Supreme Court ruling renders tribal governments unable to prosecute non-Indian criminal defendants, even if the alleged crime took place on tribal land. The authority of tribal justice systems has been further undermined by chronic under-funding and a lack of adequate resources like rape kits and nurses. As a result, many crimes go unreported by victims who are frustrated by the untimely response of understaffed tribal authorities and the lack of successful prosecutions.
Now I'm not sure why, if it takes $1 million to set up a sex offender registry and $1 million to do a study, more funding was not provided to address these issues. (Maybe that $85 billion tax break Bush gave the top 1% wasn't such a good idea after all, huh?) But let's say there was only $2 million to spare—might it have been wiser to prioritize the things that will actually help convict rapists? That sex offender registry doesn't do very much damn good if there's no one on it because of unreported rapes and unsuccessful prosecutions. Ahem.

And, call me crazy, but it seems to me that getting known rapists off the street might help curb rape, too. In the fucking short term.

Ultimately, all of this horseshit can be explained by returning to the first paragraph of the post, which notes that "indigenous women are at least twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as other women in the US. One in every three indigenous women will be raped or sexually abused in their lifetime."

One in every three.

Instead of the usual, acceptable, unremarkable one in every six.

One in three gets you $2 million in funding.

To label rapists and do a study.

One in three.

And this is the best we can do.

Open Wide...

Clap for Alaska!

You know, usually Louisiana takes first prize in any competition for most corrupt state, followed closely by Illinois. But Alaska has certainly established itself as a major player, hasn't it?

Alaska has 3 members of Congress, all Republicans, 2 senators and an at-large House member. Judging by the news, neither the House member, Don Young, nor the senior senator, Ted Stevens, is likely to be at large for very long-- and the other senator, Lisa Murkowski, from one of the most corrupt political families in the history of the state, was just caught in some financial and real estate improprieties which aren't likely to be swept under the rug too quickly either.

That's impressive! A lot of states would accidentally elect one honest congressperson or senator, but not Alaska! No, sir, that state's 100 percent corrupt, and proud of it! So be proud, Alaskans. No longer are you just known as a state that, in the words of the Simpsons movie, pays its citizens to let the oil companies despoil its natural beauty. No, you're also the most corrupt state in all the Union. And overwhelmingly Republican -- though I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

Open Wide...

House Passes Lily Ledbetter Act

The House has started to undo some of the damage that the Roberts court wrought last year, passing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Play Act, which undoes the incomprehensibly stupid SCOTUS ruling that if you only find out two years after the fact that you've been discriminated against, well, tough. Speaker Pelosi sez:

The New Direction Congress achieved a crucial victory today for justice and equality with the passage of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This legislation corrects a recent Supreme Court decision that severely restricted the right of workers to have their day in court when their employers have engaged in pay discrimination.

The Supreme Court’s decision ignored the reality that most workers do not discuss their paychecks with their colleagues, which makes it extremely difficult for employees to know if they have been the victim of pay discrimination. By rectifying the Court’s decision, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restores balance in the law and allows victims of wage discrimination to seek justice in the courts.

Of course, I'm sure the SCOTUS will find a way to make the new law not say what it plainly says too. After all, how are businesses supposed to keep the women and minorities down if they can't actively discriminate against them?

Open Wide...

Are You Sitting Down?

Star Jones admits she had gastric by-pass surgery.

You mean, she didn't just lay off the cheeseburgers and join a walking club? Who'da thunk?

And get the smelling salts ready for this bit:

It was a success, she says, though she found she was "still consumed with the same anger, shame and insecurity as before."


The more interesting confession, if you ask me, is that she gained so much weight through compulsive overeating. Rachel's posted about why weight loss surgery is a terrible idea for compulsive overeaters, and I couldn't agree more:

If one is mentally unable to stop themselves from assuaging their feelings with food, why would they then undergo weight loss surgery in which they risk irreparable physical harm and even death should they not be able to withstand the impulse to binge again?

Star Jones didn’t need weight loss surgery; she needed therapy.

No kidding. As I've said before, compulsive overeating is not well understood and very difficult to treat. But having your guts rearranged so that you get violently ill if you overeat is probably not the way to go. When a big part of your problem is fetishizing "bad" foods, making yourself physically unable to consume them without serious pain and misery is pretty unlikely to take away their power, wouldn't you think?

Also a bad idea? Lying through your teeth about how you lost the weight, when people see you as a role model. Grrrrr.

Honestly, I feel bad for Star Jones after reading all this. She has an eating disorder, a chopped-up stomach that rejects a whole lot of food, a questionable husband, and she was in her forties before she figured out you "can't control what other people think." It's not a bloody wonder being thin hasn't made her feel any better. But I still reserve the right to hate her for spending the last few years indirectly promoting the myth that a little willpower can make you drop 160 lbs.

Open Wide...