Monday, February 28, 2005

On chick bloggers

Okay, so I was going to leave this one (and its followup this one) alone. Plenty of others have addressed it more eloquently than I ever could (and special props to Mary at Naked Furniture, who addressed it more succinctly and profanely than I ever could). But then, this weekend, I was told that I was smart and had a big vocabulary - but that was okay, 'cause I'm cute anyway. Blogosphere, feel my wrath.

It goes without saying that, whether or not Kevin Drum recognizes their existence, the Internet is chock full of blogs run by chicks or with significant female participation. The majority of them aren't terribly well-known; notoriety depends on gratuitous linkage from The Big Guys, and The Big Guys (who tend to be guys) tend to link to other Big Guys. For any blogger, regardless of gender, breaking into the cycle is a challenge; for whatever reasons, it's even more of a challenge for women.

Here, on my very own blog, I blather about politics. I like politics. I find politics interesting, I feel that I have a responsibility to know what's going on with the people who run my country, and it's nice to have a soapbox to stand on when I'm feeling particularly passionate about a certain issue. I also, on occasion, blather about non-political things. Religion is a favorite topic of mine, especially as it relates to politics, and there's also the occasional vent about family stuff, dating stuff, whatever - it's my forum and I'll gripe if I want to. Everything that I post is basically stuff going on in the world, filtered through my own personal viewpoint. That viewpoint is colored by a lot of things - my job, my lifestyle, my environment, my friends, my family, my socioeconomic status, and, yeah, my gender.

One of Kevin's more moronic commenters makes this point:
Women writers seem too often to address every issue through the prism of being a woman first and their self images as women whether it be as a feminist or a soccer mom. A litmus test should be this: a reader should be able to read an oped piece without knowing the author and should not be able to tell whether it was written by a man or woman. I believe Anne Applebaum would meet this test but I can't think of any other woman writer, certainly not Maureen Dowd or Susan Estrich.

I tend to be an open-minded person, and I don't throw words like "stupid" around lightly, but that is one of the most stupid, stupid, stupid things I've heard in my life. Why should we expect any opinion columnist to hide his or her own perspective in their writing? Newspapers are filled with writing devoid of bias; it's called the news. We turn to the opinions section to read what other people think about the news.

Wwren doesn't care about perspective; he's asking, "Why can't a woman... be more like a man?" Male opinion columnists are just as influenced by their gender as women are; it just so happens that, for whatever reason (and I could rattle off a bunch of them), in this still-patriarchal-after-all-these-years society, the male perspective is accepted as the default. My writing isn't identifiable as chick blogging because I make an effort to reference my ovaries in every post; I just have the occasional perspective that men can't immediately relate to, 'cause they're carting around a penis. Does this make my opinions any less valid than corresponding male opinions? Only, apparently, if you're Kevin Drum.

For the record, here are some invalid reasons that women are underrepresented in the top eschelons of the blogosphere:
  • Women don't enjoy the vicious atmosphere of opinion writing. Bollocks. I love it. I love love it, and plenty of other women do as well. The fact is, half the time that we speak up, our voices are interrupted and drowned out by the much louder basso profundo of men who have, like, totally important things to say. And when we finally raise our voices loud enough to be heard above the fray, we're the shrews, and no one is interested in listening to us because we must have PMS or something. Oh, screw you so much.

  • Women are slower at picking up the technology. Double bollocks. Blogger is as easy to use as Hotmail, and there tons of women who are bright enough to, like, type stuff into it and click "publish post." Why do these women not get linked by The Big Guys? You'll have to ask The Big Guys.

  • We're all off popping out babies. Must... not... crush... computer. Guess what? The archetype of woman-as-baby-factory was out of style as of WWII. Some of have jobs. Some of us have hobbies. And some of us - not me, but plenty of others - have kids and yet still manage to post regularly - even on non-baby topics. I'm sure this revelation will shake the very foundations of our society; please remember to credit Practically Harmless.

For me, it's not a big deal. I started this blog as a clearinghouse for my own opinions, and the fact that I wasn't actually getting any traffic didn't bother me, 'cause at least I was out there. In recent months, when my traffic moved from "nonexistent" to "not a whole lot" (and for all I know, that's just due to my mom hitting "refresh" a couple of times whenever she visits), I thought it was spiffy that people were actually reading it. I'm not saying that I'm on any kind of level with Atrios or Kos - or Kevin Drum, for that matter. But don't you dare look me in the eye and wonder where I am. I'm handing it off to Kevin's commenter Morgan to sum it up quite nicely:
Fuck you asshole. The reason there are no 'women bloggers' is because you ass-hat men are not linking to them. They are everywhere. I read at least a fifty women bloggers who have a lot to say about politics and religion. But you're to busy jerking-off to see it. It's called a search engine shithead, use it.

Isn't that the cutest thing? The girl has a little opinion-winion! Yes, she do! Yes, she do! Don't worry, Morgan; you're cute anyway.

Update: Check out a pretty comprehensive overview of the entire controversy at Victory Soap.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

One one question answered

Okay, so I pondered, in a recent post, how I could be so scandalized by Europe and the US's inactivity in response to the genocide in Rwanda but still be opposed to Bush's actions in Iraq. I mean, if you think about it, Saddam Hussein's mass graves and torture chambers and rape rooms are just as horrific as the mass murders in Rwanda; why is one more worthy of intervention than the other?

Well, ask and ye shall receive. Commenter Festinog over at GWBWYPGN?! gives us this credible explanation:
One should have been a UN led Policing Action (which is VERY different from a war, not just in terms of its mandate, but how it is actually enforced on the ground), the other WAS a unilateral military invasion.

And that's it. What was needed in both cases was international forces marching in, the world united against what amounts to the forces of evil, to defend those in need of defense and lawfully remove all of those individuals - be they Rwandan rebels or Hussein's entire government - responsible for the atrocities in question. What was not needed was a unilateral action by a Western president grown too big for his britches, who went in unprepared for the sheer size and responsibility of such an invasion.

Had the US responded to news of the genocide in Rwanda by bombing the everliving crap out of the country, killing many of the people we intended to save and leaving the country with very little infrastructure worth rebuilding, we would have ended up with what we're facing now in Iraq: one group of grateful survivors, another group of seriously ticked-off insurgents, and one really awful reputation in the world. We can't change the past, can't change our actions or lack thereof. But we can - and should - learn from the past, and that involves cooperation with a coalition of the enthusiastic, not just the willing, and the realization that destroying a village in order to save it is a pretty crappy strategy. We can't ignore evil when it crops up in the world, but we also can't respond with such overwhelming force that when we're done, there's no one left to save.

On Nicene Christianity

Okay, so I know I've been on just the tiniest Christianity kick of late, but I think it's not entirely inappropriate, considering how religion seems to be heavily contributing to today's global climate of generalized insanity. Fundie Islam is struggling for power in Iraq, fundie Christianity already has plenty of it here, lesbian Wiccans are saving the world in "Buffy" reruns, and now the Reverend Dr. Giles Frasier over at the Progressive Blog Alliance HQ" introduces us to the idea of "Nicene Christianity":
Nicene Christianity is the religion of Christmas and Easter, the celebration of a Jesus who is either too young or too much in agony to shock us with his revolutionary rhetoric. The adult Christ who calls his followers to renounce wealth, power and violence is passed over in favor of the gurgling baby and the screaming victim. As such, Nicene Christianity is easily conscripted into a religion of convenience, with believers worshipping a gagged and glorified savior who has nothing to say about how we use our money or whether or not we go to war.

The Good Reverend Doctor goes on to expound upon the institutionalization of Christianity throughout the ages, subverting its revolutionary message of, like, peace, and being nice to people, and loving thy neighbor and stuff, and neutering Jesus Christ into "a gagged and glorified savior who has nothing to say about how we use our money or whether or not we go to war." This carries all the way up to modern times, where Bush The Younger perverts the presence of Jesus in his life in order to start wars, contramand the Constitution and lay the smackdown on gays and old people. Per Rev. Dr. Frasier, "Bush may have claimed that "Jesus Christ changed my life", but Jesus doesn't seem to have changed his politics."


Much thanks to Nick Lewis over at The American Street for the link.

Monday, February 07, 2005

On kangaroo courts/witchhunts/what have you

Okay, so courtesy of Kevin Drum we have the very reasons that the questions I asked in my last post may never be answered. We might never know, really, whether the invasion of Iraq has netted good stuff in the end, simply because we keep coming up with stuff like this from a military tribunal of a Guantanamo detainee:
"This is something the interrogators told me a long while ago," Idr complains during his so-called trial. "I asked the interrogators to tell me who this person was. Then I could tell you if I might have known this person, but not if this person is a terrorist. Maybe I knew this person as a friend. Maybe it was a person that worked with me. Maybe it was a person that was on my team. But I do not know if this person is Bosnian, Indian or whatever. If you tell me the name, then I can respond and defend myself against this accusation."

The tribunal president then responds, presumably with a straight face: "We are asking you the question and we need you to respond to what is on the unclassified summary."

Now, for all we know, this guy could be an al Qaeda operative planning terrorist attacks in his head while he's talking to the tribunal. Or he could be a taxi driver who got picked up in the expansive sweeps the US did at the beginning of the war years ago. If this is the way they're going to try him, we'll never really know; it's like dragging a random homeless guy off the street and saying, "Prove to me you're innocent."

And that's just the fit-for-TV version. The cable version includes what New York Times columnist Bob Herbert calls an "exercise in extreme human degredation" to the tune of abuses not conveniently caught by the camera of grinning Abu Ghraib MPs:
We know that people were kept in cells that in some cases were the equivalent of animal cages, and that some detainees, disoriented and despairing, have been shackled like slaves and left to soil themselves with their own urine and feces. Detainees are frequently kicked, punched, beaten and sexually humiliated. Extremely long periods of psychologically damaging isolation are routine.

And that's why we might never know if our intervention was really the best thing for Iraq - which should not be a question. What if European troops had charged into Rwanda to stop the genocide, only to lock up thousands of random Hutus and Tutsis, beat them into unconsciousness, and shackle them to the ground in a puddle of their own waste, all in the interest of putting down future rebellions? Would the net value of that intervention have been good or bad?

I realize that the following news is far from groundbreaking, but it's true: the tanner you are, the less value you have to much of western society. The Rwandans were dark enough that no one wanted to get involved at all. In Iraq, we were willing to get involved, but only on the condition that we could treat anyone like crap, lock anyone up, beat anyone down for information, in the name of peace. These guys are brown; if they're not terrorists, they know terrorists, or they could become terrorists, or at least they have no one to complain to. For a country that supposedly has so much respect for human life, we have a seriously funny way of showing it.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

On Hotel Rwanda

Okay, so I saw "Hotel Rwanda" with my brother on Saturday, and I have to say that that's probably the most powerful movie I've seen in my entire life. And I don't say that lightly. "Schindler's List" is a very close second, but "Hotel Rwanda" is first, probably because it's about something that happened in my lifetime. The Holocaust was truly horrible, but it's something that I read about in books and saw on the History Channel; the genocide in Rwanda happened while I was alive, while I was even old enough to remember it, and that makes it that much more real.

And it makes it that much more shameful. Watching the atrocities of that conflict, the things that people did to each other for no other reason than that this guy is a Hutu and this guy is a Tutsi, two completely arbitrary designations, is absolutely mind-blowing and made me ashamed to be a human being. I'm not saying that I'm a wonderful person or without stain or anything like that, but I can't imagine taking another life in cold blood. I have enough trouble imagining being able to take a life in self-defense, killing just one. But my brother pointed out that during that period in Rwanda, there were literally millions of murders. Not only were these people willing to look another person in the eye and then take his or her life, they were willing to do it again and again and again. Not even dropping a bomb on millions or herding millions of people into a gas chamber - killing millions of people one at a time, killing friends and neighbors one at a time. And for no other reason than that the people were in a different group as decided by their height or the width of their noses or the whim of a bunch of Belgians.

Watching the American and European reactions to those atrocities, though, made me ashamed to be a white human being. One of the characters mentioned that people would see news footage of the dead bodies and the men marching around with machetes and say, "Oh, my God, that's horrible" - and then they'd go back to eating their dinners. And that's what happened. I mean, I remember hearing about it, and wondering why the Hutus wanted to kill the Tutsis and vice versa, and thinking that it's horrible and I wouldn't want it to happen to me - but that's as far as it ever got. That's as far as it ever got with anyone - countries would come in, armed to the teeth, with thousands of troops to pluck out their own white citizens, and then the citizens and the troops and the arms would take off, leaving all of the brown people to get hacked to death with machetes. And we, the rest of the world, were okay with that. Three thousand UN troops for millions of people was plenty. As long as it was just "isolated acts of genocide" instead of genocide proper, no one had to intervene.

That made me think about my own attitude toward the current war in Iraq. Hadn't I really kind of been saying the same thing? "Yeah, Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, and there were the rape rooms and the mass graves and the ordered executions, but is that enough to intervene? Is that enough to risk American lives?" And as horrible as it sounds, I don't really have an answer to that question. Why are the two situations different? Is it because the atrocities are on a different scale, or because one was government sanctioned? Or am I just too stubborn to admit that Iraq needed outside intervention just as much as Rwanda did?

Stubborn or not, I've got a lot of questions that will only be answered with time. Reconciling more than a thousand coalition dead and thousands of Iraqi civilian dead with thousands of Iraqis murdered by Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction that never existed with democratic elections with America's loss of credibility in the world with... whatever might mean that the questions will never answered, or never answered to anyone's satisfaction. But they're questions worth discussing, if only to find out what we can do as people such that Rwanda and Iraq - and the Holocaust, for that matter - can be prevented in the future. And if there's a movie that can facilitate that discussion, I think it's beyond Oscar-worthy.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

On snappy answers to stupid questions

Okay, so Newsweek's Rod Nordland did a live chat on MSNBC yesterday to discuss the leadup to and results of the Iraqi elections. Some of the questioners seemed to have their stuff together, which is always a good thing; some seemed more intent on making their points than actually getting their questions answered, which is to be expected. Rod certainly seemed to have his stuff together. Read the whole thing, 'cause it's good reading, but do take note of the question that people keep asking and the best answer I've heard yet:
Dallas, TX: The pictures of voting Sunday in Iraq and the incredible turnout demonstrate the determined will of a courageous people. Even if President Bush was wrong in invading Iraq, doesn't the result make it all worth while?
Rod Nordland: It was indeed a very heartening occasion. Still, Bush didn't invade the country to bring it democracy. By that reasoning, we should also invade Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, etc., none of which have anything even remotely resembling democracy. No WMD, remember, which was one reason, and no al Qaeda, the other reason - until after we invaded. And Iraq now is the biggest producer of terrorists in the world, which it wasn't before.

... which barely topped this runner-up:
Hopatcong, NJ: Do you, Masland and Dickey mean "F---ing Murderers" when you say "insurgents" and "fighters" in your STUPIDITY? I've grown sick and tired of you "politically incorrect" reporters. Why don't you have the gumption to call a spade a spade?
Rod Nordland: OK, you're an idiot. How's that?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

On a lazy Wednesday evening

Okay, so it's one of those cold and rainy days in Atlanta where all you really want to do is curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea and/or a bowl of Italian wedding soup and watch "The West Wing" because we all want to be Allison Janney when we grow up. Alas, tonight, "The West Wing" is being pre-empted by a State of the Union address by a far inferior president. Now, I intend to watch the SOTU anyway, if only because I've been suffering of late from a low-grade nausea that I'm waiting to develop into something serious, but it would appear that The Regular Staple has plans tonight, because they've already done us the courtesy of pre-blogging the speech (and welcome to the blogroll, by the way, TRS, 'cause you made me snort Diet Dr. Pepper all over my keyboard).

I do have another reason for watching tonight's address, though. I'ma be listening hard for three specific words, and if I hear them, I will donate one hundred of my very own dollars ($100/VO) to a charity of my reader(s) choosing. Throw down suggestions under Comments, and anyone who watches the speech should let me know if they hear the words, just in case I miss them.

The words of the evening are Osama bin Laden.

On jumping on the courage train

Okay, so far too much of my really good really bad material comes from Atrios. In this case, we hear tell of Congressional Republicans who intend to show up at tonight's SOTU with purple fingers to show solidarity with Iraqi voters.

Okay, Repubs, it's time to get off the freaking train. Off. Off! You've never figured it out before, so I don't know why I'd expect you to get it this time, but this is not your moment. You didn't and have never and would never need to face down the danger they did in order to do something as simple as vote, and you've never and most likely will never feel the fear that they live with every single day. They didn't do it so that you could congratulate yourself on a half-assed job well done and take credit for everything that they accomplished, or so that you could wave your purple fingers around and pretend that all of the American and Iraqi lives lost are suddenly hunky-dory.

As with so many other things, someone else has said it better than I could; in this case, it's Charles Pierce (also, of course, courtesy of Atrios):
You do not own their courage.

The people who stood in line Sunday did not stand in line to make Americans feel good about themselves.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify lies about Saddam and al-Qaeda, so you don't own their courage, Stephen Hayes. They did not stand in line to justify lies about weapons of mass destruction, or to justify the artful dodginess of Ahmad Chalabi, so you don't own their courage, Judith Miller. They did not stand in line to provide pretty pictures for vapid suits to fawn over, so you don't own their courage, Howard Fineman, and neither do you, Chris Matthews.

You do not own their courage.

Read the whole thing. It should make all of us, on both sides, at least a little ashamed and embarrassed about the way we've ridden this election for our own purposes. It's time to get off. This isn't our train.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

On democracy in Iraq, f'real

Okay, so it would appear that elections in Iraq went off without any major hitches, which is fantastic. Despite threats of violence from, let's face it, lots of folks, Iraqi election officials estimate somewhere around a 60 percent voter turnout for Sunday's election, which is better than a lot of the elections here in the US (and American voters don't have to face down crazies strapped with explosives on their way to the polls). And while it sucks to say that the deaths of 44 Iraqis comprise a hitchless election, the fact that it happened at all is a good, good sign for Iraq.

Of course a shout-out goes to the Iraqi security forces that managed to keep the (relative) peace with such success, and an even bigger shout-out goes to the US troops that trained them - and especially those who gave their lives to make this happen. You'll never hear me say that the initial invasion of Iraq was a good idea, and I can't think of a single argument that will make me believe it, but the world is certainly better off without Saddam Hussein in power, and this first step toward real democracy for Iraq means that the abject chaos of the past few years might end well after all. Is it worth it? I'll have to get back to you on that. But in today's international climate, "ending well after all" is certainly better than nothing, and I'll be the first to admit that it's better than I had predicted.

So what happens next? Good question. Ted Kennedy seems to think that we need to pull our butts out of Iraq, and as much as I hate to say it - no, Teddy, no, for a lot of reasons. The first reason is the classic: we broke it, we have a responsibility to fix it. I won't argue that the presence of American troops isn't an irritant to most of the insurgents that are causing the trouble, but that isn't a reason to pull out before the job is done. I think that a scheduled pullout can be effective as long as departing US troops are replaced by equally trained and equipped Iraqi troops; otherwise, we're not only removing any source of authority but also telling all of the neighborhood kids when Mom and Dad are going out of town. As much as I hate to see Americans over there in the line of fire, I recognize that it's because Iraq isn't ready for us to go.


Bush has said that if the newly elected Iraqi government tells him to get out, he'll get out. Mr. President, I'm going to hold you to that. Among the many and ever-shifting goals you've listed for your invasion of Iraq is the spread of democracy to an undemocratic land, and that's done. If the democratically elected government says that they're ready to handle this on your own and that you need to be on your way, you have to respect that - even if you disagree. You can only give them as much help as they're willing to take, they'll have to have total self-government sooner or later, and a continued military presence in Iraq will do nothing but further chip away at your already shaky credibility. This is their party now, and you've given your word. Be a man for once.

On a completely unrelated lighter note - saw Laura Bush on the Today Show this morning, and she looked faboo. A woman her age needs to wear a little color around her face, as long as the color isn't that Barney-the-Dinosaur purple that she wore to meet Hillary Clinton at the White House. Laura, America loves you in that red suit - don't ever change.

Update: Sigh. Such is the price of premature blogging. I had only just hit the "publish" button when I came across this letter in the AJC, "Liberals owe Bush an apology." The letter writer says, "Now that the Iraqi elections have been held, I wonder whether the Democrats will have the character to congratulate President Bush on a job well done[.]"

Wonder no longer, Mr. Kazmarek - the answer is not no but hell no. Bush didn't do this. Thousands of coalition and Iraqi troops did this while he sat back and snarked for the cameras. Plus, while I'm still madly optimistic about peace and democracy on Iraq's horizon (which is odd for me, because I'm not the optimistic type), I also have to acknowledge the fact that this election isn't a magical Band-Aid that will quiet the insurgency, bring peace among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, and make lions lie with lambs. The withdrawal of US troops - which has to happen sooner or later - might well lead to the collapse of an unstable country further destabilized by Bush's invasion. So no, I'm not going to congratulate President Bush on anything other than his own dumb luck. I'm going to congratulate the American and Iraqi security forces that made this possible, and I'm going to congratulate the ballsy Iraqis who took their lives in their hands for the opportunity to vote.