Jul 26, 2005

Getting The Finger [LINK]

A California prison inmate sued the manufacturer of the vegetarian meals served in his cell for $75,000 after he bit into a human finger severed in an industrial accident. Unlike a recent fraudulent claim against Wendy's, the manufacturer admits to the error and there is no speculation the finger might have been planted. The inmate was originaally sentenced 15 years for drug, firearms, and assault charges, plus another 8 years for assaulting another prisoner, the reason he was in solitary confinement at the time. (via Boing Boing)

Jul 21, 2005

"Deferred Success" [LINK]

In Great Britain, members of the Professional Association of Teachers considered a motion to banish the idea of "failure" in favor of "deferred success."

Jul 20, 2005

"The role of female reproduction in the project of empire" [LINK]

Descriptive catalog text for Robin Truth Goodman's Infertilities: Exploring Fictions of Barren Bodies, published by the University of Minnesota Press. Maybe we shouldn't teach Darwin in schools after all...

An original analysis of the role of female reproduction in the project of empire.

In today's global market, ideas about family, femininity, and reproduction are traded on as actively as any currency or stock. The connection has a history, one rooted in a conception of feminine identities invented through a science interwoven with the pursuit of empire, the accumulation of goods, and the furtherance of power. It is this history that Robin Truth Goodman exposes in her provocative analysis of literary and political representations of female infertility from the mid-nineteenth century to our day.

Goodman takes Darwin's studies on sterility between species as her starting point, exploring evolutionary science as the intersection of a colonial worldview based on class struggle and the pathologizing of female identities that fall outside of reproductive normalcy. She then examines how Joseph Conrad constructs a vision of feminism as a product of miscegenation, how Alejo Carpentier and Mario Vargas Llosa deploy female figures of miscegenation to recast Latin American literature as "difference," and how ecological devastation in the Brazilian Amazon is envisioned through failures in Indian marriage. Locating points of conjunction between queer, feminist, and postcolonial theories, Infertilities points to the role of lesbian representation and reproductive politics in ongoing critiques of globalism.

And a description of Taking the Field: Women, Men, and Sports, by Michael A. Messner:
A hard-hitting look at the persistent inequities in women's sports participation.

In the past, when sport simply excluded girls, the equation of males with active athletic power and of females with weakness and passivity seemed to come easily, almost naturally. Now, however, with girls' and women's dramatic movement into sport, the process of exclusion has become a bit subtler, a bit more complicated—and yet, as Michael Messner shows us in this provocative book, no less effective. In Taking the Field, Messner argues that despite profound changes, the world of sport largely retains and continues its longtime conservative role in gender relations.

To explore the current paradoxes of gender in sport, Messner identifies and investigates three levels at which the "center" of sport is constructed: the day-to-day practices of sport participants, the structured rules and hierarchies of sport institutions, and the dominant symbols and belief systems transmitted by the major sports media. Using these insights, he analyzes a moment of gender construction in the lives of four- and five-year-old children at a soccer opening ceremony, the way men's violence is expressed through sport, the interplay of financial interests and dominant men's investment in maintaining the status quo in the face of recent challenges, and the cultural imagery at the core of sport, particularly televised sports. Through these examinations Messner lays bare the practices and ideas that buttress—as well as those that seek to disrupt-the masculine center of sport.

Taking the Field exposes the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which men and women collectively construct gender through their interactions—interactions contextualized in the institutions and symbols of sport.

"Negativity recedes" [LINK]

Decrying the current state of American education, film director David Lynch announced that he was funding the launch of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, which would provide courses on transcendental meditation (TMTM). Rather than wallow in stress, Lynch said students "will start shining like a bright, shiny penny, and their anxieties will go away. By diving within, they will attain a field of pure consciousness, pure bliss, creativity, intelligence, dynamic peace. You enliven the field, and every day it gets better. Negativity recedes."

Jul 17, 2005

Michigan Considers Ban on Direct Wine Sales [LINK]

After the Supreme Court struck down a New York state ban on interstate wine shipments from producers to consumers (bypassing distributors), Michigan legislators responded with a bill to outlaw all direct shipments to consumers, even from within their state.

Jul 13, 2005

Prisoners Banned from Smoking [LINK]

The state of California adopted yet another smoking ban, this time among prison inmates, who are no doubt expected to abide by the law.

(via Reason Hit & Run)

"Something was bound to come out somewhere, sometime" [LINK]

More bad karma, this in a letter from a Montreal resident to the Boston Globe:

Kudos to Derrick Jackson for his July 8 column ''A look in the mirror" and to the Globe for publishing it.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, ''an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere." The Bible teaches that ''you reap what you sow"; Hinduism (and others) speak of the law of Karma. Now, with all the death, destruction, and mayhem that Bush-Blair have given our world recently, something was bound to come out somewhere, sometime.

It is horrible and horrendously unjust that this something had to happen to innocent Londoners going about their daily business. There is no justification for attacking civilians in such a callous manner, irrespective of any argument that the US-UK invasion of Iraq has killed thousands of innocent civilians. As we all know, two wrongs do not make a right.

The problem is that the West is one of those two wrongs.

Jul 12, 2005

Irish Need Complain [LINK]

A New York City mayoral candidate had to apologize after describing her experience in the civil rights movement, being arrested and hauled away in "paddy wagons."

(via OpinionJournal: Best of the Web)

Terrorized, but just for a little while [LINK]

Following the London bombings, the BBC deviated from its usual practice and used the word "terrorist" to describe the attacks and its perpetuators. But after about 24 hours, on-line texts were altered to refer to them simply as "bombings."

(via Andrew Sullivan)

Grand Theft Auto Probed for Sex Scenes [LINK]

The Entertainment Software Rating Board, an industry body that sets age ratings for video games, is investigating whether the popular game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas edition contains sexually explicit scenes that are hidden and only available by making an obscure modification to the software. If true, it could lead to an adult-only rating that would severely limit sales of the game. To be acceptable, the game may only feature gratuitous violence such as carjackings, drive-by shootings, and gang warfare.

"A brutish flaunting of wealth and leisure" [LINK]

Sarah Boxer of the New York Times comments on the We Are Not Afraid website, set up in defiant response to the London terror bombings:

[M]ore and more, there's a brutish flaunting of wealth and leisure. Yesterday there were lots of pictures posted of smiling families at the beach and of people showing off their cars and vans. A picture from Italy shows a white sports car and comes with the caption: "Afraid? Why should we be afraid?"

A few days ago, We're Not Afraid might have been a comfort. Today, there's a hint of "What, me worry?" from Mad magazine days, but without the humor or the sarcasm. We're Not Afraid, set up to show solidarity with London, seems to be turning into a place where the haves of the world can show that they're not afraid of the have-nots.

(via Althouse)

Jul 11, 2005

"Repulsive and speciesist" [LINK]

Another letter to the Globe. Note that the Endangered Species Act does not apply to the Congo:

Of course we need the Endangered Species Act. How could anyone think otherwise? The Republican administration's attempts to water down the act are repulsive and speciesist. The Endangered Species Act is an important human-to-Earth gesture, and it must stay strong and give other species their due, i.e., a decent chance at coexistence on Earth.

But our track record in helping other living things is not pretty. Daily, we mindlessly take over the habitats of living things without a second glance or thought. And, then again, we displace other species to mine minerals like Coltan for cellphones and other unnecessary technical toys. This mining alone brought the Grauer's Gorilla in the Congo down from 8,000 to 1,000. Someone said to me, ''But, we have dominion over the animals." We do, and look where it's gotten them: on the endangered species list.

Ah, yes, we are insatiable, greedy, compassionless critters, canvassing the planet with power-fisted man-to-man war and violence with enough of a hint of fear and terror to keep us in line so the capitalists can collect contaminated cash. Our egos spew industrial waste, manmade poisons and an ugly anthropocentric attitude.

In today's technology-driven society, nothing is fast enough, big enough or expensive enough. Who do you think is going to be the last entry on that manmade endangered species list?

"So what happened in London?" [LINK]

While this weblog's purpose is to document exquisite examples of intellectual error emanating from the contemporary left, casual readers may conclude it merely reprints every letter to the Boston Globe, the most pronounced artifact of such reasoning in my daily routine:

George Bush and Tony Blair are both fighting the war on terror abroad so we don't have to fight it at home, right? Isn't that their mantra, repeated over and over again?

So what happened in London? Why have extremists launched their attacks on London and Madrid, both originally partners in our Iraqi debacle? Is not this further proof that we may not be fighting the right war?

No, we're just warming up. Presidential adviser Karl Rove was recently criticized for characterizing reasoning such as the following as a liberal trait:
The London bombing is a terrible tragedy. Too frequently the innocent suffer. There are, however, questions that must be asked.

Are the 8,000 British troops in Iraq the cause of the bombing? Did Tony Blair's support of Bush's illegal war play a role? What is the role that religion plays on both sides of this conflict? I believe that religion practiced within a larger sense of humility about the human condition may be helpful to those who need it. But practiced under the guise of hubris and arrogance, it leads to the calamities we experience too often today.

The London episode is horrible but, in my view, finds its roots in a disastrous view of life on this planet. Winona LaDuke gave a talk in Concord on July 7, and described the Native American view of life as cyclical, meaning that all actions today are taken with a view toward the future. She says the Western way is linear. Run out of resources and conquer other lands to find new resources. Don't worry about tomorrow. Oil, thy name is holy!

Western karma is not in good shape these days. We should remember the play, "Inherit the Wind" and the source for the title. "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind" comes from Proverbs (11:29). We have troubles in our own house with political and economic hegemony around the world. We rape the land and disrespect the human condition at home and abroad. And now we reap the results.

Jul 7, 2005

It "brings together history and fantasy" [LINK]

From the Fall/Winter catalog of Duke University Press, a description of Queer/Early/Modern, by Carla Freccero, Chair of the Department of Literature and Professor of Literature, History of Consciousness, and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz:

In Queer/Early/Modern, Carla Freccero, a leading scholar of early modern European studies, argues for a reading practice that accounts for the queerness of temporality, for the way past, present, and future time appear out of sequence and in dialogue in our thinking about history and texts. Freccero takes issue with New Historicist accounts of sexual identity that claim to respect historical proprieties and to derive identity categories from the past. She urges us to see how the indeterminacies of subjectivity found in literary texts challenge identitarian constructions and she encourages us to read differently the relation between history and literature. Contending that the term “queer,” in its indeterminacy, points the way toward alternative ethical reading practices that do justice to the after-effects of the past as they live on in the present, Freccero proposes a model of “fantasmatic historiography” that brings together history and fantasy, past and present, event and affect.

Combining feminist theory, queer theory, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, and literary criticism, Freccero takes up a series of theoretical and historical issues related to debates in queer theory, feminist theory, the history of sexuality, and early modern studies. She juxtaposes readings of early and late modern texts, discussing the lyric poetry of Petrarch, Louise Labé, and Melissa Ethridge; David Halperin’s take on Michel Foucault via Apuleius’s The Golden Ass and Boccaccio’s Decameron; and France’s domestic partner legislation in connection with Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptameron. Turning to French cleric Jean de Léry’s account, published in 1578, of having witnessed cannibalism and religious rituals in Brazil some twenty years earlier and to the twentieth-century Brandon Teena case, Freccero draws on Jacques Derrida’s concept of spectrality to propose both an ethics and a mode of interpretation that acknowledges and is inspired by the haunting of the present by the past.

"Few people are affected, but the payoff is great" [LINK]

Stellar economic reasoning in a letter to the Boston Globe:

There is a movement in Congress to repeal the estate tax, or reduce it by 80 to 90 percent. That's $1 trillion over 10 years that could be used to finance public education, healthcare for the elderly, better benefits for our soldiers, a safety net for workers whose jobs have been outsourced, and many more of our community's needs.

In 2001, when the estate tax was at full strength, only 2 percent of all estates paid the tax. This amounted to only 52,000 people in the entire United States. Few people are affected, but the payoff is great. The estate tax generates enough revenue to provide health coverage to 22 million children. Currently, there are 10 million uninsured children in the United States.

The estate tax was created for a purpose. It ensures that the small percentage of wealthy taxpayers who have the resources to legally avoid paying all sorts of other taxes pay their fair share and contribute to our national well-being.

Fair is fair. We need the estate tax. Our senators should be looking out for all of us, not just the few who are lucky enough to be wealthy.

"Instead of scolding the citizens"... [LINK]

A letter to the Boston Globe:

JIM COLMAN of the state Department of Environmental Protection was quoted as saying, ''If more people recycled, reduced, and reused, clearly there would be less need for landfills (''Trash goal might be tossed aside," City & Region, July 5).

Instead of scolding the citizens (some of whom are doing their best), Colman might consider introducing legislation that would force a reduction in the amount of packaging big corporations and retailers foist on unwilling customers.

Ireland recently passed a law whereby stores have to charge 5 cents for every plastic bag they hand to a customer.

The reason people are throwing away more trash is that there is more trash. The trash stream must be attacked where it starts — with big corporations and retailers and their wasteful, expensive, pointless packaging practices. And while Colman is at it, he can do something about all that junk mail and catalogs we didn't ask for.

Jul 5, 2005

"It lacks an annoying quality" [LINK]

From an account of an anti-war demonstration in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Members of the Breasts Not Bombs contingent, which included seven women, three men and two young girls, said the war in Iraq is indecent, not their nakedness....

"Hey! Explain this to me!" said an agog visitor from Florida, approaching San Francisco police Sgt. Carl T., who was assigned to keep an eye on the crowd and who really has only a letter for a last name.

"It's not illegal," the sergeant told the woman.

"All right!" she said, giving him a high-five.

Technically, the sergeant explained, nudity can be considered misdemeanor indecent exposure if the person in their birthday suit has an intention to titillate. Because the protest is political, not sensual or lewd, it really doesn't count, he said.

And it doesn't fall into the category of public nuisance, because it lacks an annoying quality, like the guy who was doing naked yoga at Fisherman's Wharf near a children's school bus stop, he said....

Breasts Not Bombs said they are trying to make people uncomfortable to get their anti-war message across and to also desensitize people to nudity....

Since the event featured young girls, some observers who snapped photos wondered whether having the pictures processed would mark them as pedophiles.

"Unconcerned with the cost of the Iraq war" [LINK]

A letter to the Boston Globe:

It is paradoxical that Americans seem unconcerned with the cost of the Iraq war and occupation, with daily reports of lives lost, dollars spent, and loss of national respect. There have been few demonstrations to end our involvement in the war, and few demands that the Bush administration change its policy or even state it clearly.

The paradox persists because the administration does not demand any sacrifice, and Americans choose to go along with it. For example, there has been no appeal to cut gasoline consumption. There has been no request for new taxes to support the war. The administration has actually cut taxes and created a huge deficit. There is no plan to deviate from an all-volunteer military. There will be no draft, according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

It is to the administration's advantage that we not sacrifice, and it is in our own self-interest not to sacrifice. Along with sacrifice will come demands that the administration justify its handling of the war.

This moral shortcoming, the failure to experience meaningfully the effects of a war we are waging, prolongs the war, increases the number of dead and wounded, increases the deficit, and exacerbates our loss of respect among the family of nations.

D.C. considers smoking ban [LINK]

The D.C. City Council is considering a bill that would make it illegal to smoke in a bar, even if the owners, employees and customers all agreed that smoking should be permitted.

Jul 4, 2005

Government in our bedrooms, especially around the baseboards where the dust-bunnies collect [LINK]

In Spain, there is now a law requiring husbands to perform half of the housework. No word on what responsibilities their children may have, or whether wives would be required to go out and get a job.

"A huge mystery to most women of my generation" [LINK]

Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick in a New York Times op-ed, on the retiring Justice O'Connor:

IN the fall of 1992, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor spoke to my first-year law school class at Stanford University, her alma mater. My class, which was almost 50 percent women — black, Hispanic, gay and disabled women among them — received her warmly. She is, after all, a feminist pioneer. The first woman on the United States Supreme Court, Justice O'Connor broke through glass ceilings the way women of my generation broke nails. She, more than any other woman in the legal profession, proved that we could be whatever we wanted.

Which is why her speech was so stunning: it was curt and unsentimental and — if recollection serves — it concluded with a lament about how annoying it is to receive late-night telephone calls from death row petitioners with only moments left before their executions. I left the hall furious, wondering how a woman could be so heartless.

She shocked me again in the fall of 2000, when I was covering oral arguments at the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore. Justice O'Connor, 70 years old at the time, was listening to an argument about how to count the notorious "butterfly ballots" that had confused Florida voters, especially the elderly. Her characteristically tart reaction to the voters' difficulties — "For goodness' sakes, I mean it couldn't be easier" — crushed any liberal dreams that some heightened feminine compassion would decide this case for Al Gore.

Suffice it to say, Justice O'Connor is a huge mystery to most women of my generation. How could someone who blew open doors for generations of women after her show so little empathy to female victims of violence in the 2000 case of United States v. Morrison, for instance, where she joined with the court's conservatives to invalidate the Violence Against Women Act, or to teenagers facing the death penalty in Roper v. Simmons last fall? How could someone who so embodies minority advancement not use her new power to pull everyone else up with her?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg made more sense to my female colleagues....

Jul 3, 2005

"Representations of the black queer body" [LINK]

Promotional text for Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology, edited by Patrick Johnson and Mae Henderson, a new offering from Duke University Press:

While over the past decade a number of scholars have done significant work on questions of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered identities, this volume is the first to collect this groundbreaking work and make black queer studies visible as a developing field of study in the United States. Bringing together essays by established and emergent scholars, this collection assesses the strengths and weaknesses of prior work on race and sexuality and highlights the theoretical and political issues at stake in the nascent field of black queer studies. Including work by scholars based in English, film studies, black studies, sociology, history, political science, legal studies, cultural studies, and performance studies, the volume showcases the broadly interdisciplinary nature of the black queer studies project.

Essayists consider the ways that gender and sexuality have been glossed over in black studies and race and class marginalized in queer studies; representations of the black queer body; black queer literature; and the pedagogical implications of black queer studies. Whether exploring the closet as a racially-loaded metaphor, arguing for the inclusion of diaspora studies in black queer studies, considering how the black lesbian voice that was so expressive in the 1970s and 1980s is all but inaudible today, or investigating how the social sciences have concretized racial and sexual exclusionary practices, these insightful essays signal an important and necessary expansion of queer studies.

The "diffusion and regulation of panic" [LINK]

Duke University Press's catalog entry for Panic Diaries: A Genealogy of Panic Disorder, by Jackie Orr, Associate Professor of Sociology at Syracuse University:

Part cultural history, part sociological critique, and part literary performance, Panic Diaries explores the technological and social construction of individual and collective panic. Jackie Orr looks at instances of panic and its “cures” in the twentieth-century United States: from the mass hysteria following the 1938 radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds to an individual woman swallowing a pill to control the “panic disorder” officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. Against a backdrop of Cold War anxieties over atomic attack, Orr highlights the entanglements of knowledge and power in efforts to reconceive panic, and its prevention, as problems in communication and information feedback. Throughout, she reveals the shifting techniques of power and social engineering underlying the ways that scientific and social scientific discourses — including crowd psychology, Cold War cybernetics, and contemporary psychiatry — have rendered panic an object of technoscientific management.

Orr, who has experienced panic attacks herself, kept a diary of her participation as a research subject in clinical trials for the Upjohn Company’s anti-anxiety drug Xanax. This “panic diary” grounds her study and suggests the complexity of her desire to track the diffusion and regulation of panic in U.S. society. Orr’s historical research, theoretical reflections, and biographical narrative combine in this remarkable and compelling genealogy of panic and its manipulation by the media, the social sciences and psychiatry, the U.S. military and government, and transnational drug companies.

We "have killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein ever did" [LINK]

The free-thinking Molly Ivans in a syndicated column:

The first thing I ever learned about politics was never to let anyone else define what you believe, or what you are for or against. I think for myself.

I am not "you liberals" or "you people on the left who always. ..." My name is Molly Ivins, and I can speak for myself, thank you. I don't need Rush Limbaugh or Karl Rove to tell me what I believe.

Setting up a straw man, calling it liberal and then knocking it down has become a favorite form of "argument" for those on the right. Make some ridiculous claim about what "liberals" think, and then demonstrate how silly it is. Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and many other right-wing ravers never seem to get tired of this old game. If I had a nickel for every idiotic thing I've ever heard those on the right claim "liberals" believe, I'd be richer than Bill Gates....

Since my name is Molly Ivins and I speak for myself, I'll tell you exactly why I opposed invading Iraq: because I thought it would be bad for this country, our country, my country. I opposed the invasion out of patriotism, and that is the reason I continue to oppose it today — I think it is bad for us. I think we have created more terrorists than we faced to start with and that our good name has been sullied all over the world. I think we have alienated our allies and have killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein ever did....

Jul 2, 2005

"Our ability to conceive of abstract concepts" [LINK]

A short item in The Week, a digest of the international press:

In the 1950s, a chimpanzee named Congo captured the British public's imagination when he learned to paint on a popular TV show. He eventually produced some 400 works of "abstract" art. Now, more than four decades after Congo passed away, three of his pieces have been sold by the London auction house Bonhams for $26,352. The proud owner is Howard Hong, a California telecommunications consultant. "On a purely artistic level, when I saw the paintings they struck me," he said. "The style looks like an early Kandinsky." Hong added, "It is said that what makes us human is our ability to conceive of abstract concepts. This totally contracts that theory."
Another sure sign of intelligence is to have just enough wit to misinterpret the evidence of your senses.

Jul 1, 2005

"A daily helping of herring" [LINK]

A Reuters dispatch from Amsterdam:

A Dutch woman who swears by a daily helping of herring for a healthy life celebrated her 115th birthday on Wednesday as the oldest living person on record.

Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, a former needlework teacher, was born in 1890, the year Sioux Indians were massacred by the U.S. military at the Battle of Wounded Knee....

ABC Pulls "Neighborhood" Show [LINK]

ABC pulled plans to air a new reality show, "Welcome to the Neighborhood." In the show, several families compete to win a large house near Austin, Texas. To win the house, they must meet the approval of their would-be neighbors, all of whom are white Bush voters. The show's focus was how they would deal with their latent prejudice when confronted with a set of people carefully chosen by the show's producers for the most exquisite provocation — not only the requisite black, Latino and Asian families, but two gay men with an adopted black baby, a Republican couple covered in tattoos, a seemingly normal family whose mother secretly works as a stripper, and a pair of Wiccans.

ABC canceled plans to air the show not because it represented a perverse new cultural nadir, but because of fears it violated the federal Fair Housing Act.

Update 7/13: Brent Bozell notes that members of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) prescreened episodes of the show. Their displeasure with depictions of anti-gay prejudice — even if the participants eventually grow to accept the potential gay neighbors — apparently contributed to the show's cancellation. This arguably represents a free-speech "chilling effect" that would be readily denounced in other contexts. Christian conservatives also noted their displeasure over the depiction of the neighbors as bigots, but unlike GLAAD, their input was not solicited.

"How depraved can humanity get?" [LINK]

A letter to the Boston Globe from Robert Daubenspeck of White River Junction, Vermont:

Recently, National Public Radio did a piece about military recruiters. What a horror, people going around saying, ''Come, join us and we can teach you better how to kill." How depraved can humanity get? Imagine how much better life would be if we had people saying, ''Come, join us and we can teach you how better to care for people."