Advertise with blogads!

June 30, 2003

"Getting" the new liberal talk radio

Last week Rush Limbaugh spent some time talking again about the efforts of liberals to break into the talk radio scene. He said, basically, that the liberals don't get what makes the conservative hosts a success. He also pointed out - and this is very amusing to me - that none of the media who've written on it have ever called him to ask him what he thought made it a success. Now, how much of a no-brainer is that? Shows clearly the bias the reporters brought to their research.

Rush did highlight an article he said was written by a columnist back in February who came the closest to "getting it": Samantha Spivack in The [San Francisco] Examiner. Here is her main point:

What the creators of the liberal radio network don't grasp, unbelievably, is that conservative radio grew organically because it provided a refuge from the daily deluge of gloom, doom and class warfare presented as news, and not as an alternative to existing political commentary.

The incipient market for conservative radio was an audience heartened to find information that had been consistently omitted from headline stories of environmental devastation and public policy crises. That it came packaged as commentary didn't matter, especially since it was often obvious that the daily news was derived from the press releases of special interest groups, with little effort to provide balance.

While Democrats view themselves now as outsiders in a GOP nation, that's the second and lesser condition necessary to draw a politically alienated audience to the radio. The primary necessity is a national press that excludes your views.

The whole column is worth reading, even if it's a few months old, because it does a nice job of explaining why the Dems in general don't get it. Interestingly enough, another column in another San Francisco paper - The San Francisco Chronicle - showed that even liberals who have been talk radio hosts don't get it. This, from Emil Guillermo - first establishing his bona fides:

...I've been cast as a "liberal Rush Limbaugh." Certainly, I was nowhere near him in terms of fame or fat. But I was definitely a liberal talk-show host -- in San Francisco, no less... If Limbaugh had "talent on loan from God," I was an Asian-American guy with talent on loan from Buddha...

Let me help you hear my show in your head. I was against California's Proposition 187, the anti-immigrant measure. I was naturally against the petition for Proposition 209, the anti-affirmative action initiative. And, for good measure, I was pro-choice. Listeners would call in to vilify me. I was passionate. They were insulting. Can't you feel the love?

Unfortunately, the show had no audience...

When I got fired at KSFO, I was one of the only ethnic minority hosts in existence. I thought it would be easy to land something full-time somewhere else. I was a real talk-show host, after all.

I just had to point out that he thought his ethnicity would assure him a job, as well as show you that he does, indeed, have legit talk show host experience in the Limbaugh sense. So now for his discussion of what talk radio is about:

Rush's secret is that he's no politician, just a pure radio guy. He's a DJ in the old sense of the word, an entertaining personality, a platter-and-patter guy.

Since Rush is also no journalist, he's free to mix in some biased news and half-truths. And it's just the amount of news the audience wants. In a recent survey, a Gallup poll found that 22 percent of Americans got their news from talk-radio shows, double compared to four years ago. And nearly twice as many Republicans as Democrats listed talk radio as their news source. They don't want information. Just something to parrot. Rush and his audience are not about debate. They confirm each others' existence from the same side. They don't call themselves Dittoheads for nothing.

The bottom line is, the talk-show pros know what they're doing. They've built an audience, and it's a pool of all the same fish...

Notice how different that is from what Spivack says. In essence, she says conservatives listen to talk radio because the mainstream media is mostly canted liberal so conservatives going where they have more trust - or at least can get it canted the other way so they can get closer to the truth. Guillermo takes the traditional liberal stance - all conservative talk radio listeners are there because they don't want to be bothered with truth. Quite a contrast, isn't it?

One of the things Guillermo points out in his column is that KSFO, where he had his show, dumped the liberals for the conservatives during the Congressional election sweep of 1994. That's pretty interesting because one of the questions Rush had - with no answer - was, just who is Samantha Spivack? I googled her, and found that at least last October someone with her name was a... reporter/ producer for KSFO and host of Your Town Hall on another station. And that name also shows up in this forum of the Golden Gate Libertarians, which indicates her ideology is firmly in line with theirs.

The main point of this post is that the Dems just don't get talk radio, and I think Spivack nails it, just as Rush said. A secondary point is just what interesting little connections and information you can piece together from Googling. Spivack's political viewpoint doesn't obviate her ability to understand the conservative talk show thing - probably enhances it - while Guillermo's ideology (and bias) clearly impedes his own ability to do so. Funny.

And one last question: Why do all derogations of Rush include "fat"? For one thing, he's not anymore. For another, that's a physical characteristic, not a character issue. How about we start saying "Big-toothed Ted Kennedy" (or fat, as it applies more there these days), or "bulbous-nosed Bill Clinton". Maybe "road-map wrinkled Hillary"? It's just annoying, that's all. And from the people who'd freak if you said, "limp-wristed Barney Frank". Certainly "fat" is descriptive, but it's not meant to be a neutral term when applied to Rush.

Posted by susanna at 01:05 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Not quite an apologetic

A few days ago I posted a fisking of a column about Saudi elections which appeared in the Arab News. Yesterday, I received an email that fisked my fisking - in a nice way. The following commentary on my post cames from a career diplomat with wide experience in the Middle East. While he asked that I not use his name or position in this post, I'm satisfied after a few email exchanges that he is legit and knowledgable. I'm reprinting it whole, including my original post, because I think his perspective is an important and, certainly, more informed one.

I've added notations - [comment] and [column] - to the email to differentiate between my post, his annotations and the original column. My comments, after the original post title (in bold), are the ones that aren't indented. Those and the [column] sections were in the original; the [comment] sections are the diplomat's annotations. It's a little complicated to follow, but I think you'll find it worth the time.

LATER NOTE: I've changed this, it was just confusing - the comments are now in italics rather than double indented.

Dear Susanna,

I read your Cut on the Bias blog on "No to Saudi elections?" and would like to suggest that you've got the story from the wrong end. I suspect that this is simply because you do not know the context from which Siraj Fathi wrote his article.

Siraj is pro-democracy, so you really do misconstrue his arguments. But as English isn't his first language, he's also to blame for the large measure of ambiguity in his article. This is exacerbated by a Saudi tendency toward oblique argument.

If I can beg your forbearance, I'd like to go through his article and your comments, annotating where I think you misunderstood.

The context of democratic reform in Saudi Arabia must be seen in light of early attempts by Kuwait and Bahrain--in the 1970s--to establish elected parliaments, as well as what happened in Iran in 1979. The two parliamentary efforts ended in disaster as power went to the heads of the elected. They had no background in liberal civic society and each became a petty dictator, playing to the mobs to such a point that the entire experiment had to be shut down. In Iran, the revolution of the mullahs put paid to any efforts toward liberalization for now nearly 25 years. The House of Saud has no desire to repeat these mistakes.

The Saud royal family, believe it or not, is the most liberalizing force in the country. It does push progressive reform and liberalization of both the society and economy, but exactly because it is not an absolute monarchy, it cannot do so by itself. It needs to bring the people along with it. And the Saudi people are conservative, religious, xenophobic, and largely adverse to any change.

I don't expect you to take my word solely on this, so I do advise you cross check my assertions at any school of Middle Eastern Studies. I would not count on the media to do a very good job on this, although Christian Science Monitor probably has the best reporting on the region.

No to Saudi elections?

I'm not sure if this is a letter to the editor, an opinion piece or what, but in the Kingdom section of Arab News is this interesting take on elections in Saudi Arabia, by Siraj Fathi. I'm quoting most of it, but there are a few excerpts I left out (which you should read too):

[Column] The more I hear of a parliamentary or presidential election campaign being held anywhere, the more I am convinced that the entire process is simply a game. The one who masters the tricks of the game will reap the benefits.

From this we're supposed to decide that the "election game" is worse than the "absolute ruler game"? I can't disagree completely with this, but stating it baldly without comparison to the other option isn't fair.

[Comment] First, to correct a factual error: Saudi Arabia isn't an "absolute" monarchy, as you suggest. Kings are selected--from among the House of Saud--by the consent of a) the family, b) tribal rulers, c) the religious leadership, d) major merchant families. "Oligarchy" might be a closer term, but even that isn't quite right because membership in groups b & d is not contingent upon money. All, however, are contingent upon popular respect. There are several "democratization" schemes being batted about at present. One is to make the Consultative Council wholly elective; another is to make it partially so. One could start with municipal elections and work up, over time, to regional and national elections. One could develop two houses of legislation, one elective, the other not, similar to the House of Commons/House of Lords set up in the UK. Any of these could work. Their point, though, is to give the chance of a liberal civic society to develop before putting all power in the hands of the people. Given the general level of ignorance of the Saudi people about the world, this is probably a wise idea.

[Column] On one hand are the common people who continue to live under the illusion that by voting for this or that candidate, they may improve their lives and solve their problems. On the other are the privileged, the intelligentsia, party leaders and activists who are the real beneficiaries of any election...

And there are the royals, who will be the real losers in any election. Again, the lack of comparison to the current system just screams out at you. At the very least, an election would give the common people a chance to have a say in which despots will rule them.

[Comment] Susanna, your assumption is wrong here. Yes, there is not direct democracy. Yes, there are no elections. But it would be very wrong to say that Saudis have no say in who runs the country. Every week, political leaders, from the Crown Prince on down to city mayors have a "majlis" that is open to all (males) in their regions (the princesses and wives of the others hold their own majalis for women, btw). People come to speak their say, to present petitions, to have wrongs righted. These are open to the public and American reporters have written about them. They run so counter to the stereotypes, though, that I guess they don't stick.

[Column] To have elections there has to be diversity — which means the people who are candidates belong to different cultural and intellectual schools and have different approaches to solving the problems facing the country.

And this is a bad thing?

[Column] This necessarily calls for having parties that reflect political and cultural diversity. But as far as we know, our laws do not allow the formation of political parties or any such organizations.

There you go. We can't have an election because our laws say we can't formally express differences - which is to say, we can't disagree with the royals. And since we can't disagree with the royals, we can't have parties, which means we can't have elections, so what's all the fuss about?

[Comment] You've missed his point. It's not that royals are inhibiting the process. It's that there are extremely ignorant and narrow-minded people who are going to screw things up. Laws, which are in serious need of reform, inhibit but do not prohibit the formation of groups, though that is changing. The government is, in fact, encouraging them, but is also anxious that they not provide cover for terrorists. If you want to see the difficulty in getting this right, you might want to ask John Ashcroft about how to balance it.

[Column] Are we then witnessing a new era that will usher in a total transformation, allowing the presence of political parties and elections?

We can only hope.

[Column] Regardless of whether the answer is yes or no,

Yes is still an option?

[Column] I say no to parliamentary elections if they are going to result in spilling the blood of a single individual in this country.

[Comment] This is where you're missing the unspoken bit, the one that's understood very clearly by Saudis: "we cannot let the mobs take over politics because the mobs are reactionary and will lead us to 'one man, one vote, one time.'

It seems more fair to say, "If it will result in more killing than the current regime inflicts on us". And actually, there are few meaningful political changes of that magnitude that don't involve a little bloodshed, given that the ones in power will fight losing it. Why doesn't he say, "And I admonish the royals not to kill a single person in this transition of power"?

[Comment] Do you have some source for your insinuation about political killings? I'd love to see it, because it'll come as a complete shock to US intelligence agencies. The Saudis are trying to avoid a revolution because it's not going to end up with the good guys winning; it's going to be Iran, except this time with really deep pockets. The value of Saudi Arabia to the US is not, as many think, oil. We import only about 17% of our oil from Saudi Arabia. What is far more important are a) over-flight rights for the US military (take a look at the map) and b) having a friendly government as the titular head of Islam.

[Column] I say no to elections if they will create psychological barriers and an atmosphere of animosity and hatred;

And they don't exist now?

[Column] I say no to elections if they are going to benefit a few at the expense of the many,

That isn't what happens now?

[Column] and I say no to elections if they are intended to please this or that world power

Your royals don't try to do that now?

[Column] or would give rise to a fifth column living among us.

There isn't one now?

[Column] Elections would be acceptable if they build rather than destroy,

At least, more than the current regime does.

[Comment] Susanna, you've got really bad and biased sources if you think this true. Shall I suggest a reading list?

[Column] unite rather than divide,

Because the current regime is so egalitarian.

[Comment] His point here is that political arguments about religion should not be used to divide the country: there's room for all. The Saudi gov't is a unifier, not because of "egalitarian" impulses, but because it holds together a country the size of Europe, or the size of the US, east of the Mississippi.

[Column] and if they produced a legislative assembly that truly reflected the pulse of the street and spoke for all,

Which of course the current regime does, all... 5000+? of them living off the public teat.

[Column] those living in fashionable urban neighborhoods

Mostly royals, friends and foreigners.

and those who live in a tent in the desert.

The ones who will be screwed regardless - the only question is, screwed less by what form of government?

This is such a thinly disguised effort at assessing a movement toward democracy objectively while actually arguing against it, setting a bar that would be difficult to meet while ignoring the fact that even with great imperfections a democracy would be an improvement over the current regime. But then, it is the state-owned Arab News.

[Comment] As I said up front, you've got the story by the wrong end. Yes, democracy will be an improvement, but it's not the only possible future. Holding elections is the last chapter of democratic reform, not the first. Saudi Arabia needs transparency, rule of law (beyond Shari'a), an open economy and a lot of other things before it has elections.

As a simple point of fact, Arab News is not "state-owned." No Saudi newspapers are, in fact, state-owned. Arab News, as its sister Arabic-language paper Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, are owned by the Saudi Research and Publishing Co., very much a for-profit entity, headquartered in London.


There you have it. Read and discuss. I will likely have a few comments later, but I'm running late for work now. He's definitely someone who has reason to know the facts, so while everyone speaks from a bias I'd say he's more on it than most if not all of the American media. And that's where I got my information and impressions - from the American media. Yes, I know.

Posted by susanna at 08:28 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 29, 2003

Beauty, ay?

Here's the brother and family waiting for the PATH train at the Harrison station, on our way into Manhattan last Monday:

ACs at Harrison station 6-03.jpg

We were considerably wilted by evening's end, but it was a blast. Once Traci ships me some of her photos, I'll post those. Of course my camera died shortly after these were taken. Sigh. Can you say "neglected to get backup batteries"?

For more on the brother, he's got new stuff up at Theosebes, including commentary on the dangers of Bush's "faith-based initiative" for the churches that participate.

And if you want more elaborate vacation photos (of a much more elaborate vacation), check out Dodd's travelogue - very cool.

Finally, thanks go out to CG Hill, who considerably brightened my weekend with a copy of James Lileks's Gallery of Regrettable Food and New Favorite, a CD from Alison Krauss and Union Station. Both arrived from Amazon yesterday; I've already finished reading the book, and am even now listening (for about the fourth time) to the CD.

Lileks's book is very good; I laughed a lot, but had to confess to liking at least one thing he identifies as vomitous in the book. At least... I did like it before. Now I don't know if I can get his version out of my head. I have quite a few of those old pamphlets in my collection of 90+ cookbooks, so it was all frighteningly familiar.

I still like Jello, though. With fruit cocktail. And Dream Whip. Frozen. So there.

Posted by susanna at 02:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 28, 2003

A blogging journalist is a trustworthy journalist

Steve Safran has a very good column on why journalists should blog - in summary, it would enhance the credibility of a currently untrusted media. He says what I always hammer on - there is no true objectivity anyway, so full disclosure is a good idea.

[Link via Heath Row's Media Diet, who agrees with Safran and, incidentally, me.]

Posted by susanna at 05:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Time for a smackdown

I'm getting really tired of this:

The U.S. military is investigating the deaths of two soldiers whose bodies were found Saturday 20 miles northwest of Baghdad (search)...

News of the deaths came amid a relentless slew of guerrilla-style attacks and sabotage that have marred U.S. efforts to reestablish order in Iraq.

At least 61 U.S. troops have died in Iraq since major combat ended May 1, including at least 23 in attacks.

The people who are doing these attacks are the same ones who would fester and burn to attack the US and its citizens and allies if we hauled anchor and went home. They're not concerned about their country or the promise of a prosperous future for Iraqis. They're the equivalent of the terrorist groups in Palestine who, I believe, relish the turmoil their groups engender and the sense of importance it gives them, peace and protecting the innocent be damned. I'd be very surprised if more than half of them are Iraqi - I think a lot are pouring in from neighboring Arab countries in an effort to derail efforts at an Arabic democracy because it is not a Wahhabist theocracy.

The leaders of those groups cannot be persuaded, cannot be trusted, and their followers should get no quarter. The Iraqis should join hands with the allies to protect their country, and the allies need to excise this cancer from the land. I don't want any more of our soldiers to die, but I don't think the solution is to leave now. I think the solution is to crack heads and clean out the vipers. Yes, my patience is thin, but not for the US government's decision to be there - it's thin for the ones who feed on chaos, blood and viciousness.

"These are guys who want us to fail. They'd rather see their country burn than have it succeed," said Maj. Scott Slaten, of the Army's 1st Armored Division.

No mercy. That's my advice.

Posted by susanna at 01:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mote, meet beam

I just got this email in my junk bin (appropriately enough):

**Media Advisory**
Date: June 27, 2003

Contact: Daniel Borchers

Founder and President

Citizens for Principled Conservatism

(240) 476-9690

Ann Coulter Extols McCarthyism in Treason

Ann Coulter has carved out a niche for herself as the Joseph McCarthy of our era, even surpassing him in the process. Rather than denounce specific individuals and particular groups for treason, as McCarthy did, Coulter declares the entirety of liberalism treasonous.


Coulter has out-McCarthyd McCarthy.

Coulter’s instant best-seller, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terror, has been kept under wraps until now. Just released portions presage an upcoming media blitz. In her first "exclusive extract," Coulter praises Joseph McCarthy, hailing him an American hero.

Even before 9/11, Coulter contended that liberals are traitors. Just being liberal is treasonous in her eyes. Coulter has concocted her own Axis of Evil: liberalism, terrorism and treason. In Coulter’s contorted, conspiratorial mind, they are virtually synonymous: liberalism = terrorism = treason.

Ann Coulter is the Joseph McCarthy of the 21st century. McCarthy tarnished Conservatism for literally generations. Coulter’s elevation within the Conservative Movement as its standard-bearer poses the same danger. The evisceration of Conservatism is upon us.

Daniel Borchers, Founder and President of Citizens for Principled Conservatism (CPC), is available for interviews in person, by telephone, and via email. CPC is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration of principled leadership and moral clarity within the Conservative Movement.


You know I have no brief for Ann Coulter, but I was very amused at this. It seems Mr. Borchers is testy about Coulter's hyperbole and self-promotion, and expresses it in a flood of... hyperbole and self-promotion. Oops! Nothing like irony to get your point across.

Posted by susanna at 01:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tomorrow - replacing MoDo!

Scott Ott at Scrappleface has scored another first, and an especially fine one at that:

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has reprinted one of his posts as a real, honest to goodness, saying what needs to be said editorial.

I think I want to subscribe to the Times-Dispatch now. Apparently they get it.

It's funny though that, at least online, they don't make it clear where the Scrappleface part begins. It's a little confusing, which is unfortunate, because as usual Scott was dead on.

Posted by susanna at 12:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 27, 2003

Chante goes up the river

Chante Mallard, who hit Gregory Biggs with her car and then left him to bleed to death, pinned in her windshield, has received 60 years prison time for his murder, 10 of it for tampering with the evidence.

In the cross-speak of our correctional system, this means that she will be eligible for parole in 30 years. I couldn't tell from the article if the sentences run concurrently or consecutively, but I suspect the former.

Posted by susanna at 07:06 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Never forget

It's easy to go back to our normal lives with the war in Iraq ostensibly over, and companies coming home. But soldiers are still dying, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Keep the soldiers in your prayers, and their families too. And prayers for accelerated democracy in Iraq wouldn't go amiss - the sooner we're done there, the sooner our soldiers come home, and the fewer will die.

Posted by susanna at 11:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Like something out of a book

Lawyers for novelist Michael Peterson, a former journalist himself, subpeonaed notes of local journalists in an attempt to prove that detectives lied on the stand in Peterson's murder trial for killing his wife; the effort was denied by the judge. It sounds like the stuff of novels itself, with one of the prosecution's top pieces of evidence being the similar death of a woman friend of Peterson's in 1985, in Germany. Here's more about it in the local newspaper:

Judge rules
Money evidence presented (to establish motive)

There are a few more articles there, but the rest are behind the registration wall in their archives. Apparently they're free for now. Pretty fascinating stuff, especially the fact that his wife died falling down stairs, and so did the woman in 1985. Hmmmm....

Posted by susanna at 10:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 26, 2003

Mundane evil and a guilty verdict

Chante Mallard has been found guilty of murder. Don't remember her? Maybe this will help:

A former nurse's aide was found guilty of murder Thursday for hitting a homeless man on a highway and driving home and parking in her garage with his mangled body still lodged in the windshield.

Just precisely how did this go down? Here's the timeline. And here it is in more graphic terms:

...Dr. Nizam Peerwani, the Tarrant County... medical examiner who performed the autopsy, testified that Biggs probably lived two hours after being hit and could have survived with medical treatment.

Biggs, a bricklayer who had been living in a Fort Worth homeless shelter after losing his truck and home nearly two years earlier, bled to death and had his lower left leg nearly amputated by the crash, Peerwani said.

Biggs' injuries were aggravated when Mallard stopped briefly after hitting him, trying in vain to smash out more of the windshield and remove his bloody body, and when she continued her journey home, Peerwani said.

Max Courtney, a forensic expert, testified that blood spatters in Mallard's car indicated that Biggs wheezed or coughed and gripped the passenger door pocket.

Mallard was a nurse's aide. She not only knew how to help Gregory Biggs, she knew how wrong she was for not doing so. She sat there and apologized while he died in agony. Why? Because she didn't want to go to jail. Her freedom, threatened because of her own free will choices that led like falling dominoes to the moment this man slammed through her windshield, was more important than the life of an innocent:

In her statement to police, Mallard said she cried and repeatedly apologized to Biggs as he moaned after she lowered her garage door. She said she was too afraid to call for help.

We tend to think of evil in terms of Nazi death camp operators, of Uday Hussein, of Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. But this is also evil, the small personal evil of self-absorption and me-first. Someone who is willing to let a man die horribly rather than admit her own reckless and harmful behavior is someone who would join in larger evils for her own advancement, if assured she won't suffer for it. Hitting Biggs while under the influence should have resulted in punishment for Mallard, even if she'd reported the accident and he had lived. But her tears and pain at his injuries weren't about him - they were about herself, and how sorry she was that she was in this fix. The world would be a better place if she received the death penalty. She deserves it. But it's not on the table, so the best we can hope for is a life in prison.

It's more than Biggs got.

Posted by susanna at 02:21 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Peer review of peerless column on the role of peering at porn in peer-to-peer journalism

(No, I couldn't resist. Live with it.)

Yesterday Glenn Reynolds posted this column (may not be work-safe, if they're strict where you are) on how the online porn industry could serve as an economic model for peer-to-peer journalism online. He made a number of good points, but I think he overstated a few times, as well as made some incorrect assumptions. Ryan at The Dead Parrot Society has done a nice job of analyzing Glenn's column, making a number of points that I would have made had I gotten there first. I suggest you read both before going on with my brief comments.

Done? Okay. I think the biggest flaw in Glenn's argument is the type of audience that pays for p0rn vs the audience for blogs. He does address the issue of finding audience, which is key, but it's not just finding people who are interested in your material. It's also finding people willing to pay for it on a continuing basis. Look at the product and its long term useability:

P0RN: A monthly subscriber to the site gets new girls to watch, girls he can't see somewhere else. Or whatever cranks his gears, doesn't have to be girls. He can download and stockpile what he likes, and will likely reuse it repeatedly. His desire for more can lead to his developing a habit where he's willing to spend hundreds a month on various sources of p0rn, the gift that keeps on giving. The provider of the p0rn can operate on the cheap, as Glenn details, with nothing more than him or herself, or a few friends, maybe a few models desperate for cash or, um, exposure. Not high cost or high effort.

BLOGS: Or, more broadly, peer-to-peer journalism where original material bypasses the major media. A subscriber to a subscription site gets new information, yes, from a specific perspective. But these are not typically people who spend obsessive amounts of time reading news and commentary, not people who will spend $300-$1000 a month obtaining it, and they won't be stockpiling it for later reference/use. Essentially, once they've accessed a specific story once, they're done with it, and asking "What have you done for me lately?" Given the lesser amount of time and money this audience is likely to dedicate, people relying on the peer-to-peer market will find themselves competing intensely with each other for a narrow market share. The money itself is less - Obsessive P0rn User wouldn't blink at ponying up $20/month for his fix; Obsessive Blog User would be hard put to pony up $20 a year for very many writers. Glenn quotes $120,000/year for your mom & pop p0rn producers, and Sullivan - the acknowledged top peer-to-peer journalist now in operation - made only $80,000 last fall on his pledge drive. He's had another one, and I don't know how successful that was. It's possible he's gone over the $120,000. But can he sustain that? Plus, he's top dog, not mom & pop in the basement.

Also, producing consistently good journalism that will keep an audience and bring in new folks willing to part with cash is in order of magnitude more difficult than finding new ways to say "uh! uh! uh!" into a basement microphone. That's my concern about the intersection of the p0rn and blog economic models. The technology of getting information on the Internet may have benefited from p0rn innovations, but peer-to-peer journalism isn't about technology - it's all about content. So I guess we'll see, won't we?

Oh, and don't forget the tipjar there on the right sidebar, before you head off on your blog rounds. ;)

UPDATE: Heath Row says all I said, and in just two sentences:

Life-long learning is a moving target. A foot fetish isn't.

I wish I'd said that.

Posted by susanna at 12:08 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


This post on how we came to have regional commands in the US military, the role of CENTCOM and the likelihood that General John Abizaid will be the next CENTCOM commander is why reading Steven Den Beste is always a pleasure. It's something I didn't know that deepens my understanding of current events, and it's written both plainly and elegantly, which is a talent. And I don't feel talked down to, which says as much about Steven as it does his writing talent. Very nice.

Posted by susanna at 11:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Supremely incoherent

Steve at Little Tiny Lies brings his keen legal mind to bear on the Supremes' decision on affirmative action in college admissions. I'm not fully on board with all the analogies, but for the most part he scathes through it with refreshing insight and, I think, dead-on analysis. One of my favorite passages:

So, just to recap, the Supreme Court wants to have minorities in positions of national leadership, and it thinks that putting minority students in law school will do the trick, because if you put an ashtray in a good law school, it has a good chance of becoming a Congressman. So there's a compelling interest and affirmative action is okay. BUT when a state gets the nutty idea that it can get minority leaders by that letting minority districts vote for minority candidates in Congressional elections, the Court can't figure out what the compelling interest is. Yes, it's a brainteaser.

It gets a little long, but it's worth the effort to stick with it to the end.

UPDATE: And don't miss Cox & Forkum's take. [Link via Kevin at blogoSFERICS]

Posted by susanna at 11:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sir Denis Thatcher - RIP

The husband of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Sir Denis Thatcher, died this morning at the age of 88.

A prayer goes out for Lady Thatcher and their family. He had a good run, and was a blessing not just to his family, but to the world.

[Title for Thatcher corrected, per the comments]

UPDATE: Here's a tribute to Sir Denis; this is particularly noteworthy:

...anyone who ever saw the two of them together was in no doubt this was, most of the time, a partnership of equals.

I like that very much. And I would say that one reason it was so successful is reflected by this quote from Lady Thatcher:

"I could never have been prime minister for more that eleven years without Denis by my side..."

This is unabashed acknowledgement of his importance in her life, and, to me at any rate, evidence that both of them put their relationship before all else. That doesn't mean that sometimes the work of one or the other of the couple doesn't take precedence in terms of time and effort, for a while. It means that the decision to go in that direction is made as a couple, not an individual decision made with a "like it or lump it" attitude toward the other half. A lot of marriages would be much happier today if the health of the partnership reigned over the egos of the people involved. I think that's what happened here.

Contrast that with the marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and you'll see what I mean.

Posted by susanna at 07:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Inadvertent truth

Online Journalism Review has a good interview with the editor of Slate, Jacob Weisberg. There's a number of things to tackle in it, but I'll focus on the one that amused me, about the new collaboration between Slate and NPR that's brought some flak to NPR:

Q: Some people have given you a hard time for his deal, including OJR, which raised the point that there could be some conflicts of interest, mainly for NPR. What do you think of that?

JW: We were sort of infuriated by that, for a couple of reasons. The main one is the idea that -- I mean, we take our integrity very seriously, and the idea that it's somehow corrupting for NPR to work on a show with journalists from Slate, we didn't understand why, just because Microsoft happens to own us, why we're impure in some way that they're not...

...if NPR is tainted, it's tainted by all the funding sources it has to have, from foundations that have an agenda to various corporations that sponsor, including Microsoft.

Weisberg's point is that of course Slate won't bias NPR! What he does inadvertently, though, is point out that Slate won't bias NPR more than they're already affected by their other sources. He means, they won't be tainted. I'm saying, he's showing exactly why they're already tainted, and he's right - the Slate deal won't do more than add a little more texture to the taint.

Maybe they'll do a sequel to The New Fiction evidenced by Hillary!'s new book - they can call it, "NPR: The Ultimate In Objectivity".

[Link via Romenesko]

Posted by susanna at 07:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

They're mad now!!

Well, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has annoyed the anti-gun idiots activists by making the first sensible policy statement of his campaign - that the states, not the federal government, should set gun laws:

"Let the states decide for themselves what, if any, additional gun control laws they want," Dean is quoted as saying on his campaign website.

"If you say 'gun control' in Vermont, Tennessee or Colorado, people think it means taking away their hunting rifle," he continued. "If you say 'gun control' in New York City or Los Angeles, people are relieved at the prospect of having Uzis or illegal handguns taken off the streets.

"I think Vermont ought to be able to have a different set of laws than California," Dean added.

That's so sane it's almost conservative! So naturally the Brady folks are frothing:

"It makes no more sense to leave gun policy up to each individual state than it would to let each state set separate environmental standards," Barnes said. "Guns cross state lines as easily as pollution."

Guns as pollution. It's logical - if you're an anti-gun idiot activist.

The balance of the article is given over to Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, who makes good points but is obviously dealing from a similar pro-gun bias. At least he argues verifiable points, as opposed to the scare tactics of the Brady Bunch. I have no problem with bias and debate, as long as both sides bring, you know, actual facts and reasoned philosophical stances to the discussion. I don't know if it's because of bias on the part of the article's author (although he does link their press release), but it appears that the anti-gun folks left their brains at home on this one.

Posted by susanna at 07:12 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Shower the love

James Lileks' wife has been fired from her position as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota. While this shows that the Attorney General of said state is clearly incompetent, at least as a manager, that doesn't help the Lilekses replace the income. So... remember how Sullivan raised $80,000 from those who love his work? How many of you read Lileks every day, and have never dropped a tip in his jar, or even bought his book? I confess I've done neither.

Now's the time.

Lileks is that rarest of things - a person of true, refined talent who is also just a really great person (at least, he seems so on his blog, and how could Gnat have a yucky daddee?). He's been keeping us entertained for a long time now with no effort on our part. So go, as soon as you can, and let him know how much we appreciate him. I can't until next payperiod - my budget goes bust pretty quickly - but I'll be right there as soon as the paycheck hits the bank. Buy the book. Hit the tipjar. And say a prayer for his wife, that she deal with this emotionally and that she find an even better job soon.

I feel for her, very much. I was fired once and it was not a fun thing. It was from a newspaper job, and as a part of the firing I was told I couldn't write and should possibly seek another career. So charming to hear. But I had another full-time temporary job in a week, filling in at various newspapers in a small local chain for the summer. After three months of moving around and living in motels, I was offered my choice of three jobs with the chain, including editor of a newspaper. It was a great validation. But one thing that being fired does - it removes forever the sense of "it can't happen to me". And that's no fun.

From all Lileks has said - and from her choice of him to begin with - it's clear that Mrs. Lileks is a fine person and excellent lawyer. She'll have another place soon, I'm sure. I'm just sorry that they have to go through this, that they lost the great deal on their mortgage, that Gnat will have a few weeks at least of sensing the anxiety vibes of her parents. So please, join me in showing Lileks that we aren't just readers, we're friends and supporters.

Posted by susanna at 07:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Explaining journalism

Dave Barry does the heavy lifting. I feel so much more informed now!

What's funnier than his column? That it actually almost rings true.

[Link via Ken Layne]

Posted by susanna at 06:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A CoulterGeist DisFest

Although I did hold a contest to see whether Ann Coulter's legs are better than Katie Couric's, I really haven't a lot of respect for the minds of either. At least, in the case of Coulter, I guess I should say I don't respect her approach to discussing what's on her mind. She sounds like an attack dog who never learned the command "Down, girl!" This is, unfortunately, based on a very limited sampling of her work as I tend not to listen to or read her.

It appears I'm not alone in this. Coulter is supposed to be starting a new blog, but has yet to actually post anything. Undaunted, at least two blogs are decrying her lack of posts with a tone that indicates they'll be decrying the posts themselves as soon as they begin appearing. Ryan at The Dead Parrot Society compares her to Michael Moore, referencing this post at Heretical Ideas from way back in March. And Steve at Begging to Differ in this instance agrees with Ryan.

Best I can tell, there are those who love Coulter and are yelling "more!" not "Moore!" Should be interesting, at any rate, to see the hair 'n legs 'n mouth chick tangle with the blogosphere mano a mano.

Posted by susanna at 06:36 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 25, 2003

No to Saudi elections?

I'm not sure if this is a letter to the editor, an opinion piece or what, but in the Kingdom section of Arab News is this interesting take on elections in Saudi Arabia, by Siraj Fathi. I'm quoting most of it, but there are a few excerpts I left out (which you should read too):

The more I hear of a parliamentary or presidential election campaign being held anywhere, the more I am convinced that the entire process is simply a game. The one who masters the tricks of the game will reap the benefits.

From this we're supposed to decide that the "election game" is worse than the "absolute ruler game"? I can't disagree completely with this, but stating it baldly without comparison to the other option isn't fair.

On one hand are the common people who continue to live under the illusion that by voting for this or that candidate, they may improve their lives and solve their problems. On the other are the privileged, the intelligentsia, party leaders and activists who are the real beneficiaries of any election...

And there are the royals, who will be the real losers in any election. Again, the lack of comparison to the current system just screams out at you. At the very least, an election would give the common people a chance to have a say in which despots will rule them.

To have elections there has to be diversity — which means the people who are candidates belong to different cultural and intellectual schools and have different approaches to solving the problems facing the country.

And this is a bad thing?

This necessarily calls for having parties that reflect political and cultural diversity. But as far as we know, our laws do not allow the formation of political parties or any such organizations.

There you go. We can't have an election because our laws say we can't formally express differences - which is to say, we can't disagree with the royals. And since we can't disagree with the royals, we can't have parties, which means we can't have elections, so what's all the fuss about?

Are we then witnessing a new era that will usher in a total transformation, allowing the presence of political parties and elections?

We can only hope.

Regardless of whether the answer is yes or no,

Yes is still an option?

I say no to parliamentary elections if they are going to result in spilling the blood of a single individual in this country.

It seems more fair to say, "If it will result in more killing than the current regime inflicts on us". And actually, there are few meaningful political changes of that magnitude that don't involve a little bloodshed, given that the ones in power will fight losing it. Why doesn't he say, "And I admonish the royals not to kill a single person in this transition of power"?

I say no to elections if they will create psychological barriers and an atmosphere of animosity and hatred;

And they don't exist now?

I say no to elections if they are going to benefit a few at the expense of the many,

That isn't what happens now?

and I say no to elections if they are intended to please this or that world power

Your royals don't try to do that now?

or would give rise to a fifth column living among us.

There isn't one now?

Elections would be acceptable if they build rather than destroy,

At least, more than the current regime does.

unite rather than divide,

Because the current regime is so egalitarian.

and if they produced a legislative assembly that truly reflected the pulse of the street and spoke for all,

Which of course the current regime does, all... 5000+? of them living off the public teat.

those living in fashionable urban neighborhoods

Mostly royals, friends and foreigners.

and those who live in a tent in the desert.

The ones who will be screwed regardless - the only question is, screwed less by what form of government?

This is such a thinly disguised effort at assessing a movement toward democracy objectively while actually arguing against it, setting a bar that would be difficult to meet while ignoring the fact that even with great imperfections a democracy would be an improvement over the current regime. But then, it is the state-owned Arab News.

Posted by susanna at 06:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Student development arrested by diversity police

John Leo has an excellent column about the diversity police and what they're doing - or have already done - to the nation's K-12 textbooks, based on Diane Ravitch's new book, The Language Police. It's one major way of inserting bias into our society, and is one situation where efforts to eliminate stereotypes creates as big or bigger problem. It's worth a read.

Nothing in the list of the things the Left hates was a surprise, but I was intrigued by the list Ravitch gives as taboo to the "religious right":

The right objects to evolution, magic and witchcraft, gambling, nudity, suicide, drug use, and stories about disobedient children.

I can see how some of these would be hot points, especially if they were glorified as the thing to do - you wouldn't be much inclined to admire disobedient children always winning out over adults if you yourself were daily fighting the battle to raise conscientious, respectful children. But I was very surprised to see evolution as expressly taboo to the religious right. Those who have read this blog for very long know this is a battle I've repeatedly fought with mixed results - that is, the battle for evolution to be presented as "in our opinion, the best fit for the facts at hand" rather than "this IS the way it is, and if you disagree you're brain-dead, frothing-at-the-mouth, anti-intellectual fundamentalist god-idiot!" It's bad for the debate when some who fight that fight actually fit that epithet, and I think any effort to keep evolution from being presented in textbooks fits that description fairly well. Present evolution; leave room for some reasoned dissent.

What we need here, on both sides, is balance and age-appropriate handling of delicate subjects, not blanket exclusion or value-neutral presentation. Students should know that witchcraft exists, was involved in the Salem Witch Trials, is banned by various religions, and is practiced by some people today. They don't need to have a "witchcraft day" where everyone wears robes with stars and moons, and learns a spell. Conversely, students should learn about religion, the impact it has had and continues to have on the world, how people feel about their religions, what cultural impacts it has had, etc., but they don't need to have "Muslim Day" where they dress in burkas, eat Middle Eastern food and pray at the sound of the prayer call. In other words, we need common sense and sensibility, not sensitivity.

I tend not to think about textbooks a great deal because I don't have children. But that's our next generation of leaders, teachers, politicians, journalists - they need to know the extent of this messy world, not given some vanilla pabulum that has little in common with reality. And that's a matter for all of us.

UPDATE: An Experiment in Scotch disagrees with my take on evolution.

Posted by susanna at 04:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 24, 2003

Enjoyed all I can stand

Well, not really. But yesterday was tiring, although lots of fun. We packed up the kids, backpacks and stroller yesterday and caught the train for Manhattan at about 10 a.m. Everyone was peppy and cheerful, including Molly Katherine, who thought the whole business of hanging onto poles on the train was very cool. Every time she could, she leaned out of her seat in momma's backpack and grabbed a pole too, grinning and looking around, very proud of herself.

We left the PATH train at 14th, caught the L to Lexington, then took the 6 to 68th Street. It's rarely straightforward getting anywhere by public transportation. We strolled to Park Avenue, then entertained ourselves looking at the beautiful architecture of both the park and the buildings facing it as the trees overhead blocked the sun. The sidewalk was rife with women pushing strollers, and I'd say 80% of them were nannies. The stroller density was greater at the Central Park Zoo, but it appeared the nanny-to-mommy percentage dropped to about 50%.

I noticed on the train over an advertisement from the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office saying that you can significantly reduce your children's likelihood of using marijuana if you have at least one meal a day with them. That's not exactly right - I'd say the research instead says that children who share meals once a day with their parents are less likely to use drugs. It's a subtle language difference, but important - the point is parental involvement, and one co-occurring factor is sharing meals. It's not having the meal together that matters - if you aren't talking to your kid and showing you care about what goes on with him or her, then you can share all your meals and your kid wouldn't be less likely to toke. Sharing meals doesn't have a talismanic impact, magically removing temptation from your child's path.

And then I thought - who wouldn't have at least one meal with their child anyway? After seeing the nanny-raised kids, it was a little more clear. Not that only NRK suffer from that, but think: You get up in the morning, get ready for work, dash out the door after kissing little Johnny or Sarah. They have breakfast with Nanny. They have lunch with Nanny. Then, because you have to work late, they have dinner with Nanny. You dash in to kiss them, read to them and tuck them in bed by 8:30, then you have your own dinner. Or, you yank them up in the morning, drop them at daycare, they eat two meals there, then you pick them up, drive through McDonald's, they eat their happy meal on their way home, and it's bath and bed when you get there. A sobering thought. But sitting at the same table while you're eating isn't going to fix the "I don't have time for you" syndrome. Why have kids if you're going to hire other people to raise them?

The piranhas were a big hit at the Central Park Zoo, as were the penguins and assorted birds in the tropic zone aviary. The zoo is the perfect size, big enough to keep adult interest, small enough not to lose the little ones to hysterical exhaustion before the last red-rumped baboon. Haydon only melted down twice, and MK alternated between intense bouncing interest and deep sleep. We left the zoo in search of the carousel, bemoaning the lack of a map but finally getting there - following directions from a juice stand guy and the sounds of carousel music drawing us like the pied piper's pipe.

Haydon and parents, with sister in her bouncy backpack seat, took the first ride. The carousel is just like those you read about in books but rarely see anymore - wooden horses and elaborate sleigh seats, twirling about as the horses rise and fall, no plastic in sight. It's now in a brick building - I assume once upon a time it was not - with openwork cast iron fencing in front for doting parents to watch through. I rode the second time with Haydon, and put her on the outside horse so Mommy and Daddy could see her easily. She leaned into the pole, the horse's reins securely wrapped around her waist and buckled. Each time we came toward the front, I'd nudge her and say, "There's Mommy! Wave!" Finally she looked at me and said, in a very early-teens tone of irritation and mild derision,

"We don't have to wave every time!"

It was spooky, watching the 13-year-old Haydon speak through her three-year-old mouth. A warning of things to come. Not rude, not ugly, just... 13. Ouch.

The rest of the day was walking, walking, walking, in the bright and happy sunlight, so thankful for a cessation of the weeks-long rain spell. We stopped by to visit my friend Dory in SoHo, then ended up creaking and groaning at La Mela, the best Italian restaurant in Little Italy - best, that is, if you like your food family style and yummy, and the atmosphere relaxed. Mmmm.... gnocchi. Sated, we strolled to Strand bookstore (16 miles of books!) for some browsing. Or, they strolled. I took a train part of the way, unused to all that walking. Finally, laden with tired girls, new books and memories, we squeezed ourselves back on the very crowded PATH train and headed home.

I hear the Supreme Court messed up and Dick Gebhardt wants to fix the world with Presidential Executive Orders, both things I need to opine about. But that will be for later today, when I feel less like I was beaten up with that Louisville Slugger I was metaphorically wielding early this week. Percoset, anyone?

Posted by susanna at 09:00 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 22, 2003

And the heavens opened, and the floods came...

It rained yesterday. And rained. And rained. And then rained some more. We had thought of going to beach, but crashing waves and delicate 10-month-old babies don't mix very well. We all slept in, then while Traci and the girls got ready, Alan and I ran errands. In the rain.

We unloaded boxes at Goodwill, then went to the local Pathmark grocery store to get the newest Harry Potter book. No drama - other than the rain. Last time I pre-ordered at Amazon, and felt all special when a FedEx truck rolled up to my door early on the morning of issue day with the latest Potter. This time I waited for my brother, since he wanted to go into Manhattan to hang at a bookstore there. That plan died when they arrived late with tired kids on Friday night, so we were happy to get the book with no fanfare and - this is the very best! - $11 off retail.

A spin through Marshall's, a brief stop to get my laundry, and we were back at the apartment to pick up the kids and Traci for a trip to IKEA. For those of you who've not heard of it, IKEA is a huge furniture and home goods store, with good quality (mostly Scandinavian design) things at very inexpensive prices. Shockingly enough, it was still raining when we headed off again. I sat in the front of the van giving my brother directions while the traffic on the NJ Turnpike splashed by in a stormy frenzy. And I got it wrong. I knew how to get there, but I was duped by the sign on the tollbooth - and as a result, we spent about 30 minutes getting untangled and back where we should be. New Jersey - where nothing's ever easy.

Finally we arrived at IKEA realizing that apparently everyone in northern New Jersey had the same idea. The parking lot was the size of two football fields (or maybe four), and we had to park so far away I thought we'd have to have energy bars to make it to the store. It was still raining, and the parking lot was awash in rainwater. The store was packed. It's set up like a commercial maze, very clever for retail but diabolical if you're tired of wrangling little kids and want to get out. We had a great time for almost two hours - Haydon desperately wanted to play with the toys, and finally we got there. She played in a tent, she went into raptures at the child-sized pots and pans (yes, Aunt Susanna forked over for them), and generally wore herself out until she was whiny the rest of the way out of the store.

And the people. Nearly 100% of the ones we came into contact with were ... well, rude is the nice word. Example: We had two strollers with one girl in each. We were on the second floor. I went to punch the elevator button while they brought the girls, and they arrived just a bit before a group of about seven other people showed - only one of them had a stroller, and one was carrying something big. The door opened, I held it for Traci and MK - then a steady stream of these other folks launched themselves into it like they would be locked in the store overnight if they didn't get on this very elevator trip, nearly leaving Alan and Haydon stranded. At the end I was barely able to squeeze on - and then one more man decided to get on. A big man. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you his belly pushed me further into the elevator and I was never less than 20" from his face. Charming.

The checkout was a nightmare that I won't inflict on you, but my hair was sweaty and I was casting about for anything that looked like a Louisville Slugger by the time we emerged outside. At IKEA, a lot of the furniture is "to be assembled", so shoppers typically have lots of boxes to load. To accommodate them, the store has a cul de sac - like a lozenge with one end chopped off - tucked right outside the registers. It's lined with back-in parking spaces all along the curve and side. My brother had gone to get the van, and as we rolled the cart down one side we saw him. It was still raining. Hard. Water pooled on the asphalt. We stopped behind a parking space and waved at him to back in. It was about 1 1/2 lanes from where he was, so he turned to back in, starting across. This was a loading area, he was obviously backing up. People kept swooping around him to continue, in both directions.

Finally, I'd had enough.

I stepped out into the rain. I stepped into the line of traffic. I put my arms straight out with my palms facing the traffic, like a crossing guard. I gave the evil eye to all the traffic in the place. And I stood there until my brother backed the van into the space.

Traci was nearly hysterical laughing.

No one tried to run over me or blew their horns, so maybe it was a more courteous group that normal. But maybe they were afraid I'd suddenly morph into the Hulk (smash Jersey rude drivers!). It wasn't an unreasonable concern right then. And still it rained.

Fortunately for my blood pressure and unincarcerated future, the rest of the day was uneventful. We loved our purchases, the children were happy to be home, we made spaghetti for dinner (with that famous pork roast - remember?), and then turned in early, because we had church the next day.

Which was today. A peaceful day, easy. Church, KFC for lunch, naps, church, leftover KFC for dinner, kids in bed, watch a L&O rerun, us all in bed. Tomorrow, Manhattan!

Do they have collapsible Louisville Sluggers?

Posted by susanna at 11:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 21, 2003

Like a pig in mud

Last night, again at the advice of my experts, I uninstalled several programs from my computer. Today, my Internet connection is working like a charm, and now I'm as happy as a pig in mud. Or Hillary! Clinton at a DNC-managed booksigning. Or even a kid getting the first copy of the new Harry Potter book.

That's happy indeed.

There are still a few kinks, and I have a few more things to do - likely including reinstalling Windows 98, just on general principle. But I'm luxuriating in a veritable flood of websites right now; I'll get to the rest later.

Oh, and the family made it in safely last night about 10:30 p.m. The girls are precious. But then, you knew that.

Posted by susanna at 11:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 20, 2003

If Lileks can do it...

Life is forever taking its little twists and turns, no matter how clearly we think it's mapped out. Mine bids well to become a positively torturous path in the next week, in a mostly good way, so I'm going to approach my blog in a Lileks way for the duration. I may do a screed or two, but for the most part I'll try to put up one post a day that summarizes what went on. My brother and his family are here for a week, starting tonight, so I'll have brother, sis in law, 3 year old Haydon and 10 month old Molly Katherine enlivening my life. In addition, a cough cough unmentionable physical difficulty I encountered a few weeks ago has decided to reappear, so I may find myself undergoing further indignities on a doctor's table. I'm adjusting to actually being able to walk down my hallway without having to turn sideways to get around the boxes, and getting out of the shower/tub without ripping a hole in my leg on the set of shelves that used to be there. How are all these connected? Well, not by much other than that they're happening to me. I'll also be railing on the news of the day, so this won't be just a "what happened this summer" piece.

Speaking of my hallway, I started about two months ago to seriously divest myself of the junk I've been hauling around for more than a decade. I really started some years ago, when I got rid of half the glasses I owned (and still had about three dozen left), but things accelerated in April. I'm not quite sure why; perhaps I reached that mysterious tipping point. At any rate, Goodwill has been the silent but I'm sure grateful recipient of boxes of clothes, books, knickknacks and (let's face it) a little bit of junk. I really have tried not to unload total dogs on them, but I'm sure I failed somewhere. I put three coated-wire shelves (bookcases? four shelves per thingy) on the sidewalk with a "PLEASE TAKE - FREE!" sign on them, at different times, and all disappeared fairly quickly. Twice I had to put one back on the sidewalk because my landlord put them with the trash. Right now there's a big box with vases, books, polyester stuffing (like for stuffed animals) and, I think, a lamp on the landing outside my door, wanting to go to my car. For the first time since I moved there four years ago, I can actually sit at a table in my kitchen to eat breakfast, and see the neighborhood out the window. It's not much, but it's a small pleasure that gets my day off well.

I refuse to discuss the closet literally packed with more boxes to go through, the overflow stack in the computer room and the three sets of shelves I've yet to tackle. It's very unkind of you to bring it up.

I've been really going at it hard this week, since my brother and his family are visiting. My sister in law Traci is a very good housekeeper, although she would not admit it, and I don't want her to feel the need for surreptitious dusting. Also, some of those dust bunnies I vacuumed up could probably have stared down Molly Katherine (or MK, as we tend to call her), and maybe beat her in arm wrestling. I have underhanded plans to give all my refrigerator magnets to Haydon, who will love them even while her mother rolls her eyes.

My brother and I will talk politics (he makes me seem like a soft-shelled liberal), religion and anything else that occurs, while Traci will knit or chase babies. It's not that she doesn't have opinions or can't express them intelligently - she does, and always is articulate. But my family has to discuss everything to death, while she feels no need to rattle on to fill the space. There is some suspicion that Haydon is going to be her dad's daughter in this way too.

Speaking of politics, I dumped a can of Pepsi in my lap around noon today and had to go home to change, all sugar-sticky and annoyed. Because of that, I was in my car driving back to work when To The Point came on NPR with British historian Niall Ferguson and [flaming liberal] Asia specialist Chalmers Johnson discussing the US and empire. I only heard a few minutes of it, but I was about to buy a plane ticket to see Chalmers Johnson and deliver a fisking in person. You could almost see the spittle forming as he ranted about Bush, calling him the "boy emperor" and claiming that the US is run by the military. Johnson has written a book - Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire - where he apparently makes the point that the US is taking over the world, to the world's detriment. I didn't get to listen to the second part, where Bill Kristol chimed in, but Ferguson seemed quite reasonable - not an unabashed "I love America" commentator, but measured and thoughtful in his criticisms and making the point that some parts of the world would be much better off if the US did intervene. He pointed out that the UN clearly showed itself incapable of any useful actions without help (i.e. the US) throughout the 1990s. But the hate radiating from Johnson was so white-hot and poisonous that there wasn't any chance for a true debate.

Should we go in and fix things in other countries? A part of me says - yes. We should stop anarchy in Africa and help those peoples build democracies. We should stabilize other floundering governments. We should... we should... but we can't. Just like I can't feed and give jobs to all those homeless people I see in NYC. Whenever I feel drawn in that direction, I see in my mind the image of trying to save a drowning person, so beyond reason that he will drown you too in his frenzy to save himself. You have to be stable yourself, you have to preserve yourself first, or you won't save him - you'll die together. So then the question becomes... how far out can you reach to save before you lose yourself?

Deep thoughts for a dark day. It's been raining almost constantly for over a week and it's threatening to continue for another week. I hope there are a few days of sun, for sightseeing with my family. We were going to the shore tomorrow, but that looks unlikely now - while I like stormy beaches, I don't think the little ones would be much impressed. Maybe it's a good day for pasta at La Mela.

And while I'm running around, handing off refrigerator magnets, take some time to check out my new feature, Site of the Day, and the first highlighted site, The Dead Parrot Society. It's a very cool group blog, chock full of all kinds of experts - journalist, statistician, actuary, epidemiologist and even two lawyers. A few other places to visit:
Tales from the Yeti Suit, where Yeti interviews WonderWoman;
Theosebes, chock full of new posts, although since the blogger in that instance will be on vacation and living in my apartment this week, he may not post much more for a bit;
Ipse Dixit, which is really excellent; in one of my brief bursts of internet connectivity yesterday, I called up the site and read it all, starting at the top. Dodd is just always interesting and a very good writer. Reading it all at once reminded me of that;
Junk Yard Blog, where Bryan Preston is back from Japan and posting up a storm of good things, as usual, ably assisted by his co-blogger Chris Regan;
and finally, don't miss Shanti Mangala, who never fails to intrigue me at Dancing with Dogs, with something I hadn't considered before. And this week she's hosting The Carnival of the Vanities. That woman rocks.

Posted by susanna at 04:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Back in the saddle

As you may have guessed, I've been home the last two days with my recalcitrant Internet connection, not feeling well and certainly not inclined to wrestle with it. A very kind reader sent some suggestions, which I tried to no avail. So. I'm going to list what the situation is and what I've tried, and those of you with more savvy than me are ... begged, pleaded, groveled at ... to try to help me fix this. I might even be persuaded to ship off homemade cookies...

Anyway, here's the deal: I reboot the computer. As soon as it's all back up, I log on, no problem. Flamingly fast. MSN Messenger loads automatically. At least half the time the Verizon dialer window won't close on its own and I have to do an end task to get it to. If I try to open IE while MSN is loading, sometimes they both lock up and I have to end task both and start them separately.

Once I'm on, I open IE and it loads fine. I do 5-10 page loads, and then I get a slow load and that's it - it goes to Cannot Find Server or DNS Error. I can open multiple windows when it's working, and that's what I've done - I open several things I want to read, and then I can read them when the server stops connecting. It seems to be a time thing too. If I don't open anything for a few seconds, it always trips to the CFS. Meanwhile, MSN Messenger works just fine. I've talked on it for an hour after the IE window has given up the ghost.

The Verizon techie had me cut down what loads on start-up, had me redo the DNS default, and clean out all manner of cookies and offline files. I did the Ad-Aware cleanout. My Reader-Benefactor had me ping things, and both the number and text locators pinged just fine. He had me do "ipconfig /flushdns" and "ipconfig /registerdns", which didn't seem to affect anything. However, he did take some time with it and for that I am much appreciative. At least we know what doesn't work.

That's where I am. I hauled out my Verizon Online software CD and thought tonight I would reinstall it to see if that worked. The only other thing I can think of is reinstalling Windows 98, which seems a major pain and I'll probably screw it up. But one thing is sure: It's been two weeks since it worked right and I can't play around with it much longer. I'm not going to pay $50/mo for something that doesn't work. Since MSN Messenger works fine I'm inclined to think it's my computer. I may have to bit the bullet and bring in someone who knows what he's doing to troubleshoot.

However! I am going to try to post as least once a day from now on, regardless of the troubles. Yes, I will reboot five times just to bring you your Daily Dose Of COTB. I know, I'm good to you. And you're good to me. Thanks.

Posted by susanna at 11:44 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 17, 2003

The next stage

You've probably seen a link to Hiawatha Bray's piece in the Boston Globe on the corporate world discovering blogs. What you may not have seen is this post by Ryan at The Dead Parrot Society. Ryan, a professional journalist himself, outlines a practical method and reason for journalists to connect to blogs, which expands on Glenn Reynolds' discussion of how the NY Times could utilize blogs to make its own pages more accurate and dynamic.

The concept of using blogs as a means of finding experts is a good one, and not new. I had only been blogging a couple of months when a reporter from the LA Times contacted me for comments on a story he was writing comparing the case of a man who killed his children to Andrea Yates' situation. He found me by googling the case and coming across a link to this post on my old site. He didn't just take me at my word that I was capable of speaking to the issue; he asked me what my credentials were. And he got a good quote for his piece, one that came from across the United States from his own usual resource area.

But another point Ryan makes - kind of in passing - is an important one. I think newspapers shortchange themselves by not knowing more about their own journalists, who are natural resources for a media outlet. For example, with my educational emphasis on criminal justice, I'd be a natural to cover crime, law enforcement and other such topics. But I'm also a quilter, a cross-stitcher, an avid reader of romances, mysteries, sci fi, fantasy and cooking magazines, and a pretty decent Southern cook. I have a pretty good working knowledge of the Bible, I know something about what it's like to move from a rural area to a dense urban setting, I negotiated by myself for my first new car, and I love Bluegrass music. None of those things are evident from my professional qualifications. But all of those areas might be covered in the pages of the local newspaper, and while I wouldn't necessarily want or be asked to cover any of them I would be a very good resource for a journalist writing on any of them. Are those things my previous newspaper employers knew about me? No. Did they care? No. Should they have? Yes.

Blogs are one means of discovering the range of people's interests. I don't think the news media should stop there. But when have they ever listened to me?

I'm just one of those "criminals at the computer".

(And here's a post I wrote last year, just five weeks after I started blogging, about the future of blogs.)

Posted by susanna at 03:07 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Good on Australia

Australia has banned Hezbollah in that country, the national parliament officially identifying it as a terrorist organization. This despite the fact that the UN has not identified Hezbollah as terrorist, as the author of the article snippily notes.

Well, of course the UN hasn't done so. They're probably checking into the organization to see which of its leaders they can invite to head the Security Council sometime soon. I mean, how can the UN call itself an international organization when some terrorist group, somewhere, has slipped past without having an official representation there?

Posted by susanna at 01:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Real Stuff

This Stars & Stripes article detailing the actions of Navy pilots - all receiving either the Individual and/or Strike Air Medals - in the recent war gives us insight into what heroics went on there. These pilots probably won't get movie contracts, or have CBS rename a building after them after putting their entire family on the payroll as "consultants". But they're examples of the reason why the US has the best military in the history of mankind.

I do, however, want to know why one of them is known as "Paula"...

Posted by susanna at 01:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Fashion plate steps down

Victoria Clarke, the Pentagon spokeswoman who did a lot of press briefings during the Iraq war, is stepping down from her post, citing personal reasons. I'll miss Clarke, who enlivened my war-time television watching by wearing very brightly colored and sometimes oddly designed suits. I remember a color-block jacket that had a weird mix of cool and warm, bright and subdued tones that nearly gave me a headache. She did a good job, and presented as a very smart, efficient and capable woman - with a fashion sense that needed a bit of a sepia wash to take the edge off a little.

My question is: Why is the photo of her with this article one where she's wearing a very boring corporate suit? I suspect a revisionist at work.

Posted by susanna at 01:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Posting, pork and panic

(I wrote this last night about 8 p.m., and after rebooting about five times and nearly taking a baseball bat to my computer, I gave up. So I'm posting it now from work. And I did call Verizon Online, but was informed by Disembodied Mechanical Woman's Voice that their reps were busy, too busy for the likes of me! and even their backup lines were full, who DO I think I am anyway, and DMWV hung up on me. Yes, we love customer service.)

The Internet connection here at the Chez Cornett continues to be iffy, although I've done everything everyone has suggested that I possibly could, up to and including all suggestions by the Verizon techies (who I will be calling again soon). I even did an Ad-Aware scan and removed everything it recommended. No change. I have zero clue what is happening, but I'm under a tight deadline - my brother and his family are visiting with me starting Thursday and I have been informed that Things Will Get Ugly if I don't have my Internet cleared up by then. (Oh no! I'm scared!)

The impending visit coupled with the unexpected time boon from a mostly dead Internet has resulted in an unprecedented cleaning frenzy here. I've been throwing away everything I can get my hands on, and the sad thing is I still have too much stuff (hundreds of books, anyone? four big Rubbermaid bins of fabric?). But things are looking better. It's joining with my cleaning out of the pantry and refrigerator. Remember that? This morning I hauled a ziploc bag of pork tenderloin out of the freezer and stuck all three pounds of it in the crockpot; now I have to weigh it out in 4 oz servings and stick it back in the freezer in neat individual ziplocs. Tsk, the chores, the chores!

That pork tenderloin has a history. I needed to keep a few things in my friend Dory's freezer for a bit, and so I packed the tenderloin and a big bag of frozen strawberries over there. A couple of days later, I got a phone call.

"Susanna, this is Dory."

"Oh, hi, Dory!"

"Susanna, you put pork in my freezer! What were you thinking?!"

And it hit me in a blinding flash - DORY IS JEWISH! What was I thinking, indeed?? I had one of those gibbering moments of sheer horror when you aren't sure if you should apologize or just get it all over with by stepping in front of a bus. Fortunately, before my brain unfroze and sent me plunging into the street, Dory laughed and I remembered. She's Jewish but doesn't keep kosher, and has even, in the past, eaten pork herself before she got all healthy and stopped eating red meat and pork. She was yanking my chain. Evil, evil Dory.

But it was still an oops. I'm glad she laughed.

(It's good, btw. With barbeque sauce. Mmmmm.)

Posted by susanna at 09:45 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 16, 2003


My goodness, is Maureen Dowd in full blown catty mode! Oh, honey!

Dowd's gotten her dander up over the Stepfordization of modern women, who apparently Came A Long Way, Baby! only to fall from grace with a thud, clad in nothing but a frilly apron and clutching a bowl of cookie dough to her enhanced chest. She sounds quite bitter about it, and uses the occasion of a remake of the classic movie "The Stepford Wives" as an opportunity to rant. For those who weren't around in the 70s or who have eschewed modern culture for decades, the Stepford Wives is a story about a high-end suburban town where the men got testy - infuriated, even! - at their suddenly self-actualized, anything-you-can-do, I-can-do-better wives. So, instead of getting in touch with their inner Alan Alda, these men replaced their wives with essentially robotic versions that were more womanly built, better cooks and generally focused on making their man happy.

This was the horror movie of the 1970s - a woman who not only cooked, but enjoyed it! Ditto a woman who not only loved her husband, but wanted him to be happy! I'm terrorized just thinking about it. Advances Were Made in the decade or so following, according to Dowd, but now We're Losing Ground:

If 70's feminism produced the squat and blunt Betty Friedan, this decade has produced the sensual and zaftig Nigella Lawson, who wryly calls herself a "domestic goddess" and is a purveyor of what fans call "gastro porn." More of a male fantasy than Stepford husbands could ever conjure up, the British cooking show hostess is always in the kitchen purring hot home economics advice such as mangoes are "best eaten in their natural state, and preferably in the bath."

There's even a retro trend among women toward deserting the fast track for a pleasant life of sitting around Starbucks gabbing with their girlfriends, baby strollers beside them, logging time at the gym to firm up for the he-man C.E.O. at home.

There you go. A woman who owns her own business and is a successful author and television personality is an example of the downfall of The Modern Woman because she encourages women to nurture their sensuality. The. Horror. Next thing you know, Oprah will be the epitome of The Anti-Feminist because she encouraged her friend Gayle to date! We know men are the enemy, don't we, girls? Yes, those he-men C.E.O.s that at least 99.9% of the women in the United States are married to has lured women back into the seductive world of "Stand By Your Man", using all the tangled and dubious glories of techonology - Botox, breast implants, and anti-depressants. And we know what's behind it too, courtesy of the new version's screenwriter, Paul Rudnick:

Mr. Rudnick says the plot has only increased in resonance because men have grown even more anxious about gender issues and begrudge having their hegemony shredded by women, gays and minorities. "Straight white males act like the angry new endangered minority," he says. "Men only evolve with a gun at their head."

There you go. It's not just those hard-edged out-of-their-place women that get on the nerves of these he-men C.E.O.s, but blacks and gays. I guess this means that all the couples in the new movie will be unrelentingly Anglo-Caucasian. I'm sure there'll be heroic Modern Women, warm and honorable gays - no Botox or fake breasts allowed! - as well as successful, concerned and "real people" minorities who will be cast in the movie as those figuring out the problem and fixing it.

Generally I'm not a fan of surgical enhancements, and I think having some kind of physical ideal that can't stand the reality of no makeup and a strong light is the road to relationship disaster. But Dowd is just some kind of shrieking freak here, trying to a) deny differences between men and women; b) refuse to allow women to make their own choices about how to live their lives (wasn't that the point of the women's movement?) and c) once again demonizing poor innocent men who do no more than women to make the whole relationship thing a game of mirrors and mores. All she does is manage to come off as an old, embittered woman who's found commercial success (risen beyond her talent, if you ask me) only to find that she's not draped in boytoys, darn it! Where are my boytoys! After all, those he-men C.E.O.s have girltoys!

There's a good point to be made about a world where many women - and men - feel this compulsion to match the airbrushed unreality of a Calvin Klein or Victoria's Secret ad. And there's also a very real power issue in couples where the woman makes more money, but it's not always or even usually a deal breaker. But not many of the men and women in my usual sphere spend huge amounts of time worrying about those things. They have normal, average lives to lead - families to protect, guide and love, jobs to perform successfully (and yes, a lot of times that job is staying home raising children - get over it already), and yes, spouses to nurture, entice and support. They will see the remake of The Stepford Wives as more of a comedy than A Sudden Realization Of Where My Life Went Wrong. But the likes of Dowd and Rudnick won't stop their doomsaying until the enemy of the universe - Caucasian American males of Anglo-European descent - are finally in their rightful place as second class citizens. After all, that's where they've tried to put everyone else, right?

And we won't even get into the rank elitism that Dowd shows by her description of the wives of her acquaintance. I don't think that represents 90% of the wives in America, do you? The women I know can't afford Botox, work too hard to spend much time hanging out at Starbuck's, and aren't married to CEOs.

I was particularly amused by Dowd's column because of a conversation I had this weekend with a friend of mine who is writing a romance novel. She was talking with another writer friend about a report one had read about a dip in romance readership. The two of them decided that the problem was: beta men. Yep. That's right. Women who read romance novels don't like beta men with alpha females! They don't want to read books about a man getting in touch with his feelings, coming to peace with the realization that he's second banana to the woman in his life, becoming submissive to his hard-driving mate so she can Run The World. There've been a lot of those books out in the past 20 years, and they've run their course. That's not to say that women want to read books where the men treat women like a simpleton with a hot bod. That's not going anywhere either. But, to put it in words that Maureen Dowd can understand, women don't fantasize about Alan Alda, they fantasize about... well...

a he-man C.E.O.

Or at least Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movies.

And a lot of them want to bake cookies for their guys! Of course, they also appreciate it when their guys bake cookies too, or change the oil in the car, or otherwise do those things that make real life work. But you can't be bothered by reality, Maureen.

Of course, you're out of luck anyway - since it takes a gun to a man's head to get him to evolve, and you want to outlaw guns...

Edited to remove some details, on request - ed.

UPDATE: Ok, the little "edited" note has gotten undue attention. Not that I mind, but the editing is so not interesting. I had a fuller, more elaborate description of the conversation between the writer friend of mine and her friend, and the writer friend was not very happy with her conversation winding up on my blog. So I edited it to her specifications while leaving the point intact. Sorry to be unduly mysterious. And trust me, if Maureen had asked me to remove details, Martin, I would have laughed maniacally and added more More MORE! hahahahaha

Posted by susanna at 12:58 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Just wondering

There's a good article in the NY Times on Liz Cheney, the daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne, a success in her own right. Liz Cheney, 36, is now working in the State Department on a project to advance economic development in the Arab world, including increasing women's public role there. But this is what most caught my eye:

Although the program provides only a small part of the $1 billion in annual economic aid that the United States gives to the Arab world, its goals are an unusual amalgam of ideas usually associated with liberals, such as improving the status of women in the developing world, and with neo-conservatives like Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, who argue that the United States has an unparalleled chance to spread democracy throughout the Middle East after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Now, why did they name a conservative, Wolfowitz, and not a specific liberal? I don't think Wolfowitz has a lock on wanting to spread democracy (but then I don't think the liberals have a lock on wanting to improve the status of women anywhere, including the developing world). I think they should have either identified a specific person in each camp - liberal and conservative - or none at all. And am I just being paranoid to read the "unparalleled..." bit as a thinly disguised way to say "imperialist! He's an imperialist!"? Hmmm.

It really seems overall an even-handed piece. But that little bit just ... got me a little.

Posted by susanna at 11:46 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 14, 2003

Saturday fun

A little more on Jersey City, because I know you can't get enough! I'm saving after each photo, because who knows when my Internet connection will die again.

This was taken as I stood in the side entrance of the building where I work, looking to the left. My morning greeting to Jersey City:

What I see going to work 6-03.jpg

Looking down Bay, across Erie toward Newark Avenue

There's a lot of renovation going on in the downtown section of Jersey City, and I'm not quite sure what I think about it. Here is a building in the process:

Facade construction on Jersey 6-03.jpg

Shopfront renovation, Jersey and Newark avenues

Now, I can understand why this is not the face that Jersey City wants to present to the world:

Facade needed Newrk Ave 6-03.jpg

Shopfront, Newark Avenue

But I don't know that this is what I want to see all over that part of town:

Facade example Newark Ave 6-03.jpg

Example of standard facade after renovation, Newark Avenue

They've done essentially this front to about half a dozen stores so far, the main difference in them being the colors they're painted. I don't know what style is represented. Is it faux Colonial Williamsburg? Or just generic Disneyworld Middle America? Certainly neater, but I think I'd rather the buildings be taken back to a cleaned up version of their original style instead of imposing this bland facade on the city.

(And I only had to reboot seven times to bring you this post.)

Posted by susanna at 04:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 13, 2003

Normalizing pedophilia?

The American Psychiatric Association recently held a symposium where members discussed removing paraphilias from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), which is the standard reference for identifying psychological and psychiatric disorders. Paraphilias, according to, are "Any of a group of psychosexual disorders characterized by sexual fantasies, feelings, or activities involving a nonhuman object, a nonconsenting partner such as a child, or pain or humiliation of oneself or one's partner. Also called sexual deviation." Thus, the behaviors under discussion include pedophilia, fetishism and other such sexual predelictions - including piercings for sexual purposes - that society typically terms deviant, in some way socially unacceptable.

So should they be removed? While the CNS article makes it clear that the APA is not currently considering removing paraphilias from the DSM, I think there is an argument to be made for it, although I doubt my argument would run along with the one made by Dr. Charles Moser, the lead author of the paper presented at the APA meeting. Before I make my argumentation, I think it's useful to know a bit more about Moser, and point out that the CNS article is not precisely an objective coverage.

First, Moser: He is the author of a book, Health Care Without Shame, subtitled "A Handbook for the Sexually Diverse and their Caregivers". According to this highly supportive review of the book (warning: explicit nude illustrations), Dr. Moser has made a career of working with and serving as an advocate for "sexual minorities" whose "sexuality steps beyond heterosexual genital intercourse". The review does a nice job of implying that any type of sexual behavior other than that described in your 7th grade health book as equally deviant in the public's eyes, and I think that's where the leading edges of normalizing behaviors like pedophilia are now - easing in the biggies (pedophilia, for example) along with the "why is that bad?" ones (piercings). But it's not a valid comparison; most of middle America are not that tightly wound. For example, while I'm quite traditional in a number of ways, including generally very conservative politically and religiously, I don't have much problem with any sexual activity that doesn't harm someone and fits within what I see as the Scriptural parameters (i.e. in marriage). I also see a range of most behaviors as going from healthy to unhealthy - a man who really really enjoys seeing women wearing very high heels is not the same as a man who steals a woman's high heeled shoe and rubs himself with it for sexual pleasure. Ditto with a couple who consensually enjoy a little of the domination/submission thing vs "pierced, tattooed, bisexual transgendered polyamorous slaves and owners of human property". In other words, admitting one type of behavior into social acceptability does not require that all levels of related behaviors must necessarily follow. It's pretty clear that Moser and I would disagree on this point.

On the other hand, the article at CNS is not without its own bias: for example, it quotes representatives of NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality), who caution against removing paraphilias from the DSM, without pointing out specifically that it is an organization that supports therapy for homosexuals seeking to be heterosexual. From its position statement:

We believe that clients have the right to claim a gay identity, or to diminish their homosexuality and to develop their heterosexual potential.

The right to seek therapy to change one's sexual adaptation should be considered self-evident and inalienable.

The article, written from a conservative slant, also quotes other physician researchers without a clear ideological connection, all of whom basically say that removing the paraphilias is a bad thing. And ultimately I agree, for some of the reasons they state. But at the same time, I don't know that removing it completely would be the death knell of efforts to keep the majority of paraphilias marginalized or, in the case of things like pedophilia, illegal. To think so is both defeatist and ignoring the reality of our criminal justice system.

Open-mouthed coughing at dinner, without even the grace to turn your head or use a napkin, is frowned on in most parts of polite society. So is killing your spouse. There are both moral and social contract components to each, but only one is going to land you in jail. Traditionally we've not had much trouble distinguishing between the involuntary, the socially gauche and the actively harmful. However, in recent decades, the disease model of behavior increasingly took hold (actually it's been in vogue for over a century, but the predations on criminal code didn't really accelerate until the latter half of the 20th century). The disease model, at its extremes, takes individual responsibility out of the equation completely and lays the blame for behavior at the feet of some disorder, physical or mental or a combination of both. Since, in our society, we believe generally that culpability follows responsibility, the disease model led to an upswing in rehabilitation programs and a lot of defense lawyers claiming that their clients couldn't be held responsible for what their brain made them do involuntarily. And, increasingly, the DSM became a means of identifying what disorders were open season for a disease model defense - alcoholism, post-partum psychosis, and others.

Pedophilia, here defined as "the act or fantasy on the part of an adult of engaging in sexual activity with a child or children", has a mixed history both in the world as a whole and in the United States. What is defined as a child? Pre-pubescent? Some arbitrary number codified into law? At times in this country, girls marrying as young as 12 or 13 was not uncommon, although usually somewhat frowned on. Country singer Loretta Lynn married at 13, to a man over 20. Was he a pedophile? Did the act of marriage take him from pedophile to socially and legally correct? Is an 18 year old man who lusts after his 17 year old girlfriend a pedophile? How about a 30 year old man who goes after a 15 year old girl? What if he marries her? It's legal in some states. Despite those rough edges, we as a country have agreed on two things: sexual contact between an adult and a pre-pubescent child is always wrong, and most sexual contact between a pubescent child or teen and an adult is also wrong.

And I don't think that will change whether or not pedophilia is removed from the DSM. In fact, if it reduces the level at which pedophilia is considered a disease (outside of choice) vs a choice (a conscious decision to engage in it, with a clearly understood and available option not to), it would be a good thing. The problem with an approach like Moser's is not that he wants the paraphilias - including pedophilia - removed from the DSM, but that he wants them removed as a recognition that they are naturally occurring sexual preferences that should not be socially stigmatized. It's this characterization that is harmful, that seeks unequivocal normalization of all sexual behavior.

Surely, you say, there are some that would be excluded? Well, that's presupposing that there are sexual behaviors that no one finds enjoyable. For example, there are men and women who have rape fantasies, and would (do?) enjoy (although probably not in a way I would define "enjoy") acting them out, up to and including actual physical damage to the one "raped". I'd say in some of those situations, the term "consensual" becomes nebulous. Therefore, it's necessary that we as a society draw lines that divide acceptable and unacceptable behavior even though there will be adults who would choose the unacceptable ones.

That gets us back to where we started. Should paraphilias be removed from the DSM? On the whole, I agree with the experts in the CNS article - no, they shouldn't. Disordered behavior is different from illegal behavior, and we do well to keep the two strictly separate in definition. There could be overlap, and there could be situations where disorders contribute to the issue of culpability, and thus have an impact on what sanctions are imposed. But deciding that something is no longer "disordered", as in a disease, is not the same as saying that it is now socially acceptable to do. I support removal of the paraphilias - most specifically pedophilia - only to the extent that they then become understood as chosen behaviors, so any illegalities associated with them face a clearer, higher level of criminal culpability. In my world, pedophilia would not be seen as diseased - it would be understood as pure evil.

Posted by susanna at 01:11 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 12, 2003



(i'm getting a migraine)

Posted by susanna at 04:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

NRO and missing logic

NRO has an excellent editorial that I think is right on - while it's not unimportant that we've taken down a tyrannical, inhumane regime by removing Saddam, the impetus for the Iraq war was not the humanitarian impact it would have, but rather the WMDs we thought Iraq had. I'm quite uncomfortable with the shift in the debate that a lot of the war supporters have shown. I do think that the supposedly soooo humane anti-war types are showing their true colors in their callous disregard for the mass graves that have been uncovered. However, they do have a point regarding WMDs. The US and its allies have to either make the case that Saddam had them, or discover why the evidence was so strong (or presented that way) prior to the war when it's not panned out afterward.

NRO counsels patience, and I agree. It may take a long time, months yet, to find the full extent of what Saddam was up to. But we can't set aside the importance of finding the kinds of WMDs and WMD program(s) that were used as the impetus for war. It's a credibility issue, and one that can't be covered over even with the bones of the innocent Iraqis dead at Saddam's hands.

Posted by susanna at 12:19 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

This is not funny!

It's going on five days that my access to Internet at home is limited by some mysterious force in my computer. As you likely know, I ditzily unplugged the modem last weekend and didn't realize it until I was talking to the Verizon techie about why I couldn't get online. Ouch. It's all plugged in again now, but for some reason there's another problem. This time? I can log on fine, I open the browser (IE), it loads my home page fine, I go to a few websites or read a few emails, but invariably no more than 10 page loads into the session, it returns a "cannot find server" message. And that's it. I can't get it to load any more sites until I reboot the computer and log online again. I've called the Verizon folks twice about it, and they've run a series of diagnostics which have resulted in faster loads and the end of my RAM-eating problem I had for a while, but it's not fixed the "cannot find server" problem. They've now pretty much concluded that the problem is my computer, not my connection to Verizon. So I'm completely at a loss as to what to do now. I do have Norton Anti-Virus - the version you actually pay for - that scans my system daily, so I don't think it's a virus. My patience is wearing mighty thin.

So that's the saga, and that's the new reason for low posting lately - that and a huge crunch-time at work. I'll post some at lunch today, and tonight sometime, but until I get this whatever-it-is problem fixed at home, I don't know that I can be very prolific.

Posted by susanna at 10:01 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

June 11, 2003

God bless America

Patriotism lives in small-town - and urban - America. Here are a few photos from my town.

Ribbons at school 6-10-03.jpg

At least two public schools in the area have this kind of display;
the other one is tattered and faded, but it's obvious the school keeps this one fresh.
Notice the little Twin Towers at the bottom of the sign.
The children who attend this school would have been able to see
the towers burning from the ridge above their school.
They may have had family or friends who worked there.
This is, I think, a remembrance of 9/11 as well as of the soldiers in Iraq.


Stewart's of Kearny is the local Scottish foods retailer; they also import foods from England, Ireland and Scotland.
You can buy from them online too.
I thought their sign was very cool. (And I can personally vouch for their food. Mmmmm. Meat pies.)

Flags as I drive by 6-01-03.jpg

I caught this as I drove to work one morning; it's a little blurry as a result.
But I was impressed that someone who lives in this little house tucked in between businesses,
along a busy highway, took the time to dress up the yard and fence
with patriotic and yellow ribbons.


A marine comes home. It speaks for itself.

There's a lot of beauty in America, but the most beauty is in the hearts of its people.

God bless America.

UPDATE: I really like this post by L.T. Smash on who Americans are and what they believe. It's a nice complementary post to this one - I recommend you read it, if you've not already.

Posted by susanna at 10:14 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 10, 2003


Bigwig shows us a way to (maybe) put a spoke in the wheel of the Saudi mutaween - the Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

I encourage you to participate early and often.

Posted by susanna at 05:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

That whole shaming thing

The Newark, NJ, City Council is considering taking out newspaper advertisements listing those arrested for prostitution and soliciting prostitutes. Hookers and johns. Or janes, I guess - I wonder if there are many women soliciting prostitutes, male or female? An interesting question. They're not limiting it to prostitution, either - they're also wanting to list the names of those arrested for illegal dumping and drug sales/use.

Anyway, obviously this is another effort at using that oldest of community corrections, shaming. It's actually fairly effective in some contexts, although these days usually conducted informally or as a by-product of another type of punishment. But in this situation, I'm not much in favor. Why? For a few reasons.

First, I don't like the idea of someone listed for being arrested. I know a lot of communities list arrests as a matter of course, and that's one thing. But to be singled out in a paid advertisement when it's possible it was a mistaken arrest seems unduly harsh. I also don't like listing just name and town, because how many people share names? A lot. And finally, just how effective will shaming be for the majority of the ones caught? I'd say most prostitutes and drug dealers really don't care - all it will do is get their name out there for new people (customers?) to find them. Some few might care, and maybe those will be deterred. Is the cost worth the benefit? I don't know that either. And I can bet you that the Newark City Council doesn't either.

I've worked for city governments, and covered both city and county governments, before, and I know generally what goes into the decisionmaking process. In instances where this type of public policy is considered, the thinking goes something like this: "I want to do something about this problem. I think people would be really ashamed if their name was in the paper. It wouldn't cost much. It'd make a big splash. My constituents would know I was doing something. It's a win-win. Let's go with it!" I seriously doubt the councilmembers in favor of this have had their staff find out what research has been done on this type of activity, to see if it actually works.

I'll give an illustration as an example. When I was a research analyst for a city government down south, one of the councilmembers asked me to look into improving the security of convenience stores, because a late-night clerk had recently been killed during a robbery. The councilmember - I'll call her June - had already decided to bring forward an ordinance requiring that two clerks be on duty at all times in all convenience stores in the city. This, mind you, despite the fact that there were three on duty when the clerk was killed - one was in the bathroom, one was in the stockroom, and the third - the one killed - had come out from behind the safety glass for some reason, which is what left her vulnerable. So already June was ignoring the facts of the case in bringing forward her solution.

As it turned out, one of my professors has an international reputation for research in what's known as situational crime prevention, most especially a technique called target hardening. It's very straightforward - crime goes down when you make it harder to commit the crime. A lot of research has been done on what specific actions a potential victim - say, a convenience store - can do to lower the risk of victimization. So I contacted my professor, we chatted about the situation, and he both gave me his advice (a free consultation for the city) and pointed me to research specifically on, yes, preventing robberies and thus killings in convenience stores. The basic answer was: More lighting in the parking lot. Removing posters from the windows so the interior was readily visible from outside. Nighttime protective booths that the clerk did not emerge from when customers were in the store. And it was specificially pointed out that two clerks in the store did not significantly decrease the likelihood of robbery.

I gave all this to June. I don't know whether she even read it. She sponsored the two-clerk ordinance.

Corrections in this country is a horrible mishmash that has resulted partly from historical conventions, partly from actual research on what works, and partly - mostly, I'd say - from just the kind of half-brained political idiocy evinced by June. I don't know that the Newark City Council is forging ahead without or despite research on this plan. But I wouldn't be surprised if it was so.

Posted by susanna at 03:39 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Helping out the good guys

A couple of weeks ago, Kevin at The Primary Main Objective (himself deployed) told us about a tent fire that destroyed the belongings of 41 military men stationed overseas for Operation Iraqi Freedom. He set up a PayPal account where bloggers and blog readers could contribute to a fund to help the guys replace what was lost; while I've been MIA, he reported that a total of $2775 was donated, which rounded to about $67 per soldier. That total tally isn't on his site; it was in an email he sent to me as a contributor, which I'm sure went to all the others as well. He also said everyone was quite surprised at where the contributions came from.

I thought it was excellent of Kevin to both make the effort to collect the money and to trust us to come through; I'm proud of the blogosphere for responding so generously. I know I often feel disconnected from the people I'm trying to help whenever I donate something, so this kind of very direct contributing is satisfying. Although $67 doesn't seem like much, it's more than they would have had otherwise, and I'd say that as much as the money was appreciated, the knowledge that average Americans cared that much about their small (in context) loss was a morale booster.

Posted by susanna at 01:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mmmm... chocolate!

An exhibition on chocolate opens at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC this weekend - now that's one exhibition I can sink my teeth into. I'll be making the trip, and soon. The article about it in the NY Times is quite interesting, and makes me want to go drink chocolate foam (you'll have to read the article to see why). I was amused, however, to see this headline:

Before Kisses and Snickers, It Was the Treat of Royalty

Why amused? Because the article itself says this:

Ms. McNeil guesses that the simple pot may have been a collective offering from peasants. "I tend to think that most people would have had access to cacao at Copán," she said. "I would be surprised if everybody didn't have a little of it. Most people would have had a cacao tree on their patio."

...Although widespread, cacao is not easy to grow, and many archaeologists have thought that only the rich and powerful had access to it. But research at a village known as la Joya de Cerén in El Salvador indicates otherwise

...Dr. David L. Lentz, a scientist at the Chicago Botanic Garden, said(,) "It was previously believed that the commoners had no access to chocolate, but that was definitely not the case at Cerén. This was a peasant village. These were just farmers."

Hmmm. The headline states something that the article is, in two separate places, at pains to contradict. Apparently the headline writers at the Times don't read the articles, but instead rely on what they think they know already. I'm shocked, shocked!

Posted by susanna at 12:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Back on track

It's difficult to get back into the swing when you've been sporadic for... well, it seems like weeks. Events swept on past, everyone else is covering them, and it's hard to step into the middle with anything meaningful to say. So I'll do what I can, maybe go back and pick up some things I left dangling before, and return to daily posting. Even if it means reading dead tree newspapers, staying after work to post, or going to school on Saturdays to use the Internet there. Oh, the things I do for you!

Posted by susanna at 10:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 09, 2003

Mainly a note to Meryl

(Editor’s note: I wrote this post yesterday morning, early, and tried all day yesterday to post it, with the results outlined in the post below this one. It’s still pertinent, although a lot of people who should have seen it probably won’t now.)

Meryl Yourish has responded as well to David Sims' post on the KKK at Clubbeaux. You should check it out.

Meryl also calls shame on me at the end of the post for referring in my post to "non-leftists", pointing out that she and a variety of others who are decidedly not lacking the ability to call evil evil are in fact liberals. If her point were accurate, it would be well taken. However, when I chose the term "non-leftist", I did so specifically with Meryl in mind. That's why I didn't use the term "non-liberal", because I know a lot of liberals have no difficulty making that point. I make a distinction between "liberal" and "leftist", the latter being the lunatic fringe of the liberal side of the aisle, the place where people like Noam Chomsky set up shop (and I think, although I couldn’t find the link, that Meryl herself has made the “left vs liberal” distinction). It's those people who are the "Blame America First" crowd, and also, incidentally, the ones like Rachel Corrie who are quick to "Blame Israel First" too. And they often make judgments on right or wrong based not on an absolute morality, but rather finding someone's "victim" status sufficient reason for defending all manner of atrocities. So when I made the comment I made, it was to say that there is a certain faction out there that does think that some type of oppression automatically excuses the sufferer from any type of moral culpability for striking out harshly - even more harshly than the oppression itself - in response. And I know quite well that all - or even most - liberals do not fall in that category.

After all, some of my best friends are liberals.

Posted by susanna at 01:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Internet curse

Well, since Saturday night I've been under another Internet access curse, this one apparently not of my own making. I got online beautifully, not a hiccup, but once I got there being able to load a webpage was hit and miss. About half the time I immediately got a "cannot find server" warning and the other half I got to load up to five sites before the "cannot find server" page mockingly captured my screen. I tried to post yesterday, and nearly lost what I'd written to one of those CFS pages. Finally I called Verizon, we thought we fixed it, and then almost as soon as we got off.... CANNOT FIND SERVER!! HAHA HA HA HA HA! So I shut the whole thing down and left the room in a miff. Fortunately a blogger friend called and I got two hours of bloggish chat without even being online! (Thank you!)

Today I called Verizon again, and so far it seems that the 45-min session did fix things. I now know far more about my computer than I ever wanted to. We'll see if this will post. Then I'll go for the "answering Meryl" post that stuck yesterday.

Could... could this whole thing be Meryl's fault? Could it be the woodpecker curse has morphed into a susanna's-computer curse because I was going to disagree with her (a little)? Hmmm....

UPDATE: Well, it didn’t get fixed, and the post didn’t go through on its first try. I’m hoping this post will slip through before it freezes again. I’m at my wits’ end (not that it was far to go). And if I don’t reply to any comments you post, it’s not because I don’t care – it’s because I can’t read them, at least until I either get to work or to school. Sigh.

Posted by susanna at 01:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 07, 2003

Half-truth - more pernicious than lies

One of the things that very evil groups play on is the reality of difficult times for people without much power. Very real poverty and mistreatment often make people vulnerable to the call that things can be better, quickly, if only we remove this or that group. It’s how Hitler came to be so strong, it’s how the Czars of Russia were overthrown for the competing horror of communism. What’s scary is that humans continue to be sucked in by groups that give truth as an argument for change and extend it to falsely legitimate behaviors as bad or worse than the injustices they claim to right – the sunshine of truth is used to disguise the black night of evil. The modern groups who most immediately come to mind are the I.R.A. and the various Palestinian terrorist organizations.

But we as Americans, and most especially non-leftist Americans who see that the reality of the pain of the perpetrators does not mitigate the horrors they instigate, are supposed to see through that, to understand the nature of such organizations and expose them for what they are. And that’s why I was surprised to see David Sims of Clubbeaux, who in my experience is an intelligent and compassionate blogger, fall victim to the twilight reasoning of the KKK. I've seen no evidence of racism in David's blog (in fact, the opposite), and he makes very clear in his post that he condemns the horrible actions of the KKK through the generations of its existence. But on some level he defends its followers, and that is just – in a word – wrong.

Here is David’s post, but in summary he tells about covering a march by the KKK in southwestern Virginia when he was a young reporter in 1987. Admirably, he went into it with an open mind, wanting to hear what the KKK followers had to say for themselves rather than essentially writing the story in his head before he even got there. He was startled to hear rationales from the KKK followers that sounded true to his ears – reasons for their actions that were grounded in truths about economic and social powerlessness. The followers themselves condemned the actions of more vicious KKK groups, leading David to conclude that there are “otherwise rational, pleasant people” in the Klan who were there because they “were concerned about what was happening to their own lives in the name of racial ‘justice.’ “ Much of David’s post is given over to discussing the types of inequities for other races that have developed in the name of providing black Americans with equity. There’s a lot there I’d agree with in principle, although he gets heavier into class issues and near-conspiracy theories than I find appropriate. But the foundational premise of his post - that some in the KKK aren’t so bad after all, because there is some truth to their complaints – is frightening.

In his post, David compares the evil behaviors of some in the KKK vs the “good” motives of others to the sexual sins of priests in the Catholic church vs the wholly godly behavior of other priests. It’s not a comparison that works on any level. The genesis of the Klan is to intimidate and harm non-whites – and most specifically blacks – in an effort to ensure white superiority, even if only economically. Certainly some have likely used the Klan as a convenient cover for behavior that is sociopathic; I think it likely that some of the more egregiously vicious behavior the Klan is known for was done by people who were in their normal lives vicious people, and who would have found another outlet for it if the Klan did not exist. However, that’s not true of all of such Klan behavior, and it doesn’t change the fact that the power of the Klan – the reason that anyone would join it with the thought that it could actually effect change – lies in its violent and intimidating history. The people who join the Klan who are not vicious and who would not try to run off the black family who moved in next door still understand the nature of the group they’ve joined, and if their intent was to effect change without call to the Klan’s violent history, then they’d either form a group of their own or join another one with legitimate social equity goals and no such history. Having legitimate gripes and rational goals does not mitigate joining a group like the Klan.

The Klan is in truth like a younger, less sophisticated philosophical cousin of such groups as Hizbollah. There are organizational branches of Hizbollah which provide needed humanitarian aide and social support. Some people who donate to Hizbollah no doubt see themselves as supporting those humanitarian goals. But the reality is that the legitimate needs Hizbollah serves do not in any way mitigate its evil, its concerted violent attacks on Israel that has killed children, the elderly, teens, innocents doing nothing but living their daily lives. Do the Palestinians live in dreadful circumstances? Yes, often they do. Does that excuse the violence against Israel and Jews elsewhere as well? No, not even a little teeny tiny bit. The same is true of the Klan. It does not matter what good and rational reasons underlie the motives of joining it – anyone who does join it does so with a full knowledge of its history, and at the very least more of a concern about their own problems than a concern about the evil the organization has done over the years. Those “otherwise rational, pleasant people” are at best showing callous indifference to the anguish the perpetuation of the Klan causes. There are other ways to achieve the legitimate ends of the Klan, ones that don’t involve innocent victims.

A second issue that bothers me about David’s post is the connection to the South and “rednecks”. He makes the point that the inequities that angered the Klan members he interviewed are problems in other parts of the country too, and I accept that. But he continually talks about the poor and downtrodden in a “them” kind of way, a monolithic powerless group that has no say and must rise up where they can even if it means associating with vicious bigots. Well, I grew up in one of the most poverty-ridden areas of the South, in Appalachia. My high school had the highest drop-out rate in the state of Kentucky when Kentucky had the highest drop-out rate in the nation – 50% of my freshman classmates had left school by the time the class graduated. In a classroom of about 35 students in elementary school, I was usually either the only one or one of maybe 3 students who paid full price for lunches – the rest were on some type of government assistance. So the “poor” and “rednecks” are not a concept to me, but my community, the people who live where I call home. (Please see the MORE section for additional comments about the poor South, that don't fit here.) Yes, the life there can be hard. Yes, it sucks when someone gets something unfairly, in any context. And yes, they have a lot of legitimate gripes about how government works – as we all do. But the poor of the South, or anywhere, are not different from the non-poor in their responsibilities to each other. Certainly it’s admirable to try to improve their lot. But they are not without choice, and they know better than to seek equity through the KKK. To say otherwise is to imbue them with either a rural simplicity that is insulting or to excuse their wrongs on the basis of the right they are trying to accomplish. The question every person – no matter where he or she lives, or what their socio-economic status is – must ask is, “When I seek to right a wrong, do I start with the premise that advancing wrong against others is acceptable to right my wrong, or do I start with the premise of least harm, even if it means my wrong is not fully righted?” Poor Southern "rednecks" are no less capable of asking and answer that question than anyone else in the US.

Finally, it troubles me that David does not see that he is excusing wrong. I genuinely believe he doesn’t see it as that, because he strikes me as a good person. But he is making the mistake many many people make in the face of evil – we think we will recognize it by its outward behavior or appearance at all times. How many times have you heard people say of a serial killer, “He seemed very nice”? How hard is it to believe that someone sexually molested his daughter, or killed her husband, or embezzled millions from needy elderly? Evil isn’t always, or even usually, unrelieved black. Most people, even the Ted Bundys of the world, have some redeeming or at least non-evil features. As a friend of mine repeatedly points out to me, Eva Braun truly loved Hitler and found in him something worthy of love. Was he protective of her? Gentle in loving? Kind, nurturing even, at times? Perhaps. Does that mitigate his other behaviors? Not even a teeny tiny bit.

Certainly joining the KKK is not on the order of becoming a Hitler. But finding that “otherwise rational, pleasant people” are in the Klan is not a reason to find the Klan any less than unmitigated evil. Finding that “otherwise rational, pleasant people” are members of the Klan is reason to ask why “otherwise rational, pleasant people” can countenance evil.

An unrelated tirade

I get really really tired of people setting aside low-income Southerners, especially those who live in the mountains or foothills of Appalachia, as either stupid racist toothless incestuous dregs-of-life or some kind of noble white savage along the lines of the Noble Native American meme. The truth is, they're people just like the ones who live in Detroit and Brooklyn and Malibu and Santa Fe and the plains of Iowa. Yes, there are cultural and speech differences from other parts of the country, but that's true of all regions. Yes, there are poor people and evil people; there is ignorance - some of it chosen; and there are people who struggle to understand how the world is changing, without a lot of guidance in assimilating. That's no different from any other community, but since often the poor Southerner is a new creature to the ones doing the writing and filming and commenting - usually an urbanite from one of the major population centers, or someone from Middle America who apprenticed in one of those MPCs before being dispatched to the South - the image created is some kind of stereotype made up of equal parts Beverly Hillbillies, Deliverance and Huckleberry Finn.

The poor in Appalachia are like the poor everywhere in the world: they're often misused by the government, almost always misrepresented by the power elite, and frequently treated as human as animals in a zoo by the sociologists and liberal do-gooders who parachute in for a semester of "helping the poor in Appalachia" for their resume. I don't defend what idiocy and evil are there, and I know better than 95% of my readers just what problems exist in Appalachia. But I'm sick to death of the condescension. You're cordially invited to put it where the sun don't shine.

(This tirade is not directed at David Sims. My response to him just stirred the fury on this general topic that I carry with me a lot of the time, so I took the time to vent.)

Posted by susanna at 03:05 PM | Comments (40) | TrackBack

June 06, 2003


Remember I told you I hadn't been able to get online from home for a couple of days? Weird thing, etc? Well, I called Verizon today to ask why my DSL didn't work. We did this trouble shooting and that trouble shooting until we figured it out.

(Okay, swallow and put down your drink.)

I had unplugged the modem from the telephone jack.


You see, my computer is located in the one place in the apartment with no nearby phone jack. So when my modem was a dial-up, I got a mongo long cord and connected it to the jack in the next room, which meant (because I'm a lazy thing and didn't run it along the baseboard) that the cord is just laying across the middle of the room. For four years. I never said I was a good housekeeper.

A couple of days ago, I was going through boxes - I'm on this kick to get rid of things - when I realized that the cord was still there and now I Have DSL! So why do I need that goofy old dial-up phone jack thingy? Silly me, waiting months to disconnect it! So I unplugged it from the jack, rolled up the cord and stuck it off to the side. A little while later, I noticed that I couldn't get online. And...


You know the rest.


(And I told you this because I thought you needed a laugh, and I really don't mind... too much... if it's at my expense. Sheesh. Can you say "genetically blonde"?)

Posted by susanna at 08:43 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Sorry for the dearth (again)

This has been another odd week, and I'm sorry for not posting much. I hope to get back in the swing of things soon. I've had two doctor visits as well as a major grant application to complete this week, so it's been hectic during daylight hours, and for the past two days there's been something thoroughly weird with my home Internet connection. I don't know what the problem is (I'm on the phone right now with Verizon seeking to discover it), but the net result is I haven't been able to log on from home. I hope the problem is resolved today, but if not I may drop off the face of the earth until Monday, in Internet terms. But then! THEN! we'll see what trouble I can get into.

Posted by susanna at 05:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2003

Please hurry!

It's raining raining raining here, so it made me laugh to be reminded of this, which I've seen along Interstate 68 for the four years I've been making the drive between Kentucky and New Jersey. It's not changed appreciably in that time, as far as I've seen. I guess I can't count on help from this storm front.

[Link via The Hillbilly Sophisticate]

Posted by susanna at 02:48 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Well, well, well, where is your mother?

I love that JC Penney commercial where the little boy is making a huge mess at breakfast, and his dad says, "Where is your mother?" in just that end-of-the-rope tone. What does that have to do with this post? Not a whole lot, other than that I'm linking to some serious snark going on, and the title seemed to work.

Hot on the heels of my posting the forever-long entry below on blog influence in media, Jeff Jarvis has this rant about jealous webloggers picking on big media. Jarvis thinks it's unfair, because we have a great media! Just leave them alone! Andrea Harris, as is her wont, vents her spleen at Jarvis's post, and does a very nice job of it.

I think Jarvis falls into his own pit on this one. Yes, there are bloggers who are nothing but one long anti-media diatribe, and readers get very tired of that very quickly (at least this reader does). But there are many many bloggers - some of them professional journalists themselves - who produce valuable criticism of the media, including the damage that big corporate ownership does. Truth is, Big Media vs small media is a tradeoff, kind of like Wal-Mart - gotta love the prices and the convenience and the selection, but gosh, you just miss mom and pop and the barrel of pickles over by the display of hammers and nails. I'm not well-versed in the whole FCC deregulation issue, but I don't think blogger criticism of Big Media is primarily a jealousy thing, just like Wendell Berry's criticism of big supermarket chains isn't exactly all about an unfilled desire to own a Kroger.

It's all very interesting, though, isn't it? You know bloggers have made it when mass blogger criticism results in accusations of bullying.

(Note: And since I don't know what's up with Jarvis's snark thing at Lawrence Lessig, or to what extent Lessig deserves it, I won't even go there.)

Posted by susanna at 02:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 03, 2003

Can blogging improve media?

I'm sure you've all by now read the blogger symposium on media over at Right Wing News (haven't you?!). Ryan at The Dead Parrot Society has a good point in his post on the symposium:

...I wonder what a campaign [by bloggers] to actively improve journalism, instead of reactively criticize it, would look like.

What could it look like? I spent some time thinking about this, and I don't know that I've broken new ground. But at least it's worth thinking on.

Reviewing the recent scandals at the NY Times and other media outlets, as well as academic studies and papers by partisan think tanks, I narrowed the problems to these:

1) Lack of accuracy (in facts and quotes)
2) Narrow focus on issues the media find compelling; not casting the net wide enough
3) "Crusades" for specific political ends (change in law, policy, public opinion, etc)
4) Evident political slant through word and quote choice, as well as topic selection
5) An entertainment imperative that encourages journalists to either seek out more sensational topics or tailor coverage of existing issues to be more provocative than the actual situation merits

Notice that I didn't say, "A leftward slant", although I think we could support a contention that the slant is more left than right. However, as was discussed at the symposium, your judgment of left and right depends on where you stand. Also, I think a discussion of how to improve media through blogs can apply to blogs from the whole political spectrum. I don't think it improves things to pull media to the right; I think it improves media to either bleed the slant out of it, or admit to the slant so readers can allow for bias when consuming news and news analysis.

So what possible role can bloggers have in regards to the media? I've identified three: original reporting; original punditry; and criticism of media coverage. When I look at the blogs on my usual rounds, I see all three already happening. Salam Pax and L.T. Smash are examples of original reporting from Iraq. The examples of original punditry are almost endless, but particularly good examples would be Jane Galt and Steven Den Beste; of special interest are blogs critical of oppressive or corrupt governments, such as this one in Venezuela. And criticism of media is almost more ubiquitous than punditry - for the sake of the point, I'll note Media Minded (although he's on vacation) and Smarter Harper's. And what do you call it when a blogger goes after a particular situation so that it's a combination of original reporting, original punditry and media criticism? A good example of that would be Clayton Cramer's role in the uncovering of Michael Bellesiles' misdeeds.

And I think we're addressing all of the areas of problems I identified with the media - I could, if I had all night, find numerous examples of bloggers posting about all of those areas, and doing so with clarity, wit and keen insight (that should get me lots of links). It seems to me the role bloggers would have in improving the media would be to do more of what we are already doing. The problem isn't what we're doing, but who knows what we're doing - the reading public and journalists themselves.

A friend of mine who is quite conservative - more so than me on some issues - has been in despair over the media for many years. She felt somewhat isolated in her views, because it seemed all the news she saw came from a liberal slant. She didn't get online a great deal, nor take the political magazines, so her sources were the television media, the local daily and Newsweek magazine. In other words, she was pretty much an average educated American with, if anything, a greater scope of knowledge because she at least read print media too.

Then I started my blog, and she discovered a whole new world when she began reading it regularly and following the links to other blogs. She felt more informed, she felt encouraged, and she viewed the traditional media in her sphere with even more focused and knowledgeable skepticism. She prints off articles and posts to give to her husband to read; I'm sure at times those inform his discussions with his coworkers. And it works in reverse too - she brings things to my attention constantly, and we discuss them at length. Sometimes those things make it onto my blog, and thus into the thoughts of my readers. I think this cycle is probably repeated frequently throughout the blogs - people discovering like minds and new ideas, then both commenting on the ideas to the writer and filtering those ideas out through their own circle of acquaintance. So gradually, a better informed audience is developing - informed on the issues and informed on both the type and manner of distortions that come through traditional media.

The other audience for blogs is the journalists - big media - themselves. The blogs can have an impact there through the "fact checking" role that they've done so very well. And there's also "idea-checking" - pointing out the slants, and how they have crept (or leapt) into a newspaper or broadcast news. Both are important functions, and address problems 1 and 3-5 I listed at the beginning. But I think there's another, very important, way that blogs are having an impact on the media, and it's something I think will grow as the whole concept of blogs matures. I think blogs will become bigger players in agenda setting in media coverage.

It's already happened to some degree too, through two different routes. Most directly, bloggers have crossed over into mainstream media as pundits. Steven Den Beste was published in the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal online; Salam Pax is writing for The (UK) Guardian. There are numerous examples of blogging journalists - Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, Jeff Jarvis and Tim Blair, for example. They both draw ideas from and insert ideas into the blogosphere. Glenn Reynolds is a bit of a mix - prior to taking up blogging, he already had published a book, and certainly had the stature to make it as a pundit in professional venues. But I think his blogging has brought him greater prominence than he had before, and more so than he might have had within the same time frame if he'd gone the traditional route into media punditry. Now he has columns at MSNBC and Tech Central Station, is frequently quoted by big media and avidly read by same. Does he attempt agenda setting? Can you say "FCC and Big Media" or "space settlement"? That is, you understand, not a bad thing - it's an example of how ideas gain footholds.

A subset of direct influence is through working journalists - not pundits, but hard news types or editors - who themselves have blogs. Their involvement with blogging can have a direct impact on their own work, through such avenues as opening their eyes to new aspects of a topic; looking more closely at their own and their colleagues' work to check for intentional or inadvertent distortions; and becoming aware of new issues they did not know about before. They haven't the visibility of a Sullivan, but will, I think, increasingly affect journalism at its base.

The second route for agenda setting in Big Media by blogs is through journalists reading blogs. Certainly Instapundit has a heavy media following, but even my humble blog has netted emails from a wide range of journalists, including some for national publications. Journalists will learn that they can't get by with sloppy work, because they'll wind up on a blog. They will come to understand that news stories which snag in the blogosphere have the potential to make it big generally. And they will, I think, increasingly look to blogs for article ideas. What better source? You have bloggers from all regions of the world, almost all walks of life, a wide range of income and careers, and the full political spectrum. How could you not take advantage of such a rich resource, right at your fingertips in this hectic information age? I wouldn't be surprised if, for instance, the stellar group blog The Command Post had an influence on war coverage by Big Media, even if only in a small way.

Among the most prominent of the agenda-setting bloggers will, I think, be the ring of experts, such as Eugene Volokh or Sydney Smith, who have the ability to write clearly and readably about a range of complex topics the average person might find difficult to tackle on their own. That's a whole post by itself, but I know I'm personally grateful for them. I think they will serve as a bridge to deeper knowledge for the average blog reader, and be used increasingly as sources by journalists who discovered them online.

And that - affecting agenda setting - will address the second problem with media: not casting the net wide enough. New stories will come to their attention, new perspectives, which with a calling to account for old narrow ways will, I think, widen the range of stories the media will know about and thus cover.

So I don't think the nature of blogs themselves needs to change for them to achieve their maximum impact on Big Media, which, while not necessarily huge, will nonetheless be important. I think the way blogs will improve Big Media is through educating Big Media's audience about what Big Media is doing and how they're going about it; by bringing original reporting and punditry directly to an increasing audience of opinion influencers; by sending many of its best into Big Media to be published for wider, non-blog-savvy audiences; and by helping set the agenda of what Big Media should cover. It's going to be fun to watch, and I don't think the movement will be over anytime soon.

[Thanks to Instapundit's archives for the fantastic resource they are.]

Posted by susanna at 10:03 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Eating the pantry clean

I have a bad habit of stockpiling. That's my only excuse for things like the six cans of Libby's Pumpkin that I bought a year or more ago for 22 cents a can. What a great deal! Do I use pumpkin much? Um, no. But what a deal! I did make pumpkin muffins a couple of times, and winnowed the cans down to two. But what to do with those two?

Last night, after staring at my pantry shelves for several days and contemplating the mishmash filling them up, I finally pulled out every single can and organized them by product on the stovetop (my kitchen is so tiny that if I didn't do the dishes in the last 10 minutes there are no countertops available). I began making recipe lists, separating out as many things as could possibly go together and then writing down what I needed to actually make something edible out of it. So the cans of beans, the chili spice pack and cans of tomatos will become chili, once I buy an onion. The refried beans, salsa, blue corn chips and taco spice pack will become Mexican nachos when I buy ground turkey, sour cream, lettuce and tomato. The Cheez Whiz, rice and cream of mushroom soup will become broccoli rice casserole when I get the broccoli, onion and green pepper. And it even gets exotic: the garbanzo beans and couscous will become an aromatic (or so the recipes says) vegetarian Moroccan entree once I buy zucchini. I wonder how many of these things will freeze well.

But what to do with the Taste of Thai coconut milk that I bought before I moved to New Jersey four years ago? A dilemma. And what's up with the tender cactus nopalitos, and the can of black olives? I hate olives!

There's still a bunch of cans on my stovetop - three of fat free evaporated milk, for some bizarre reason, one of hominy, two of tuna, a couple of corn. There's a whole section left of various forms of canned tomatoes, which should resolve nicely with the stack of freak pasta I dragged home (why oh why do I need a big bag of gnocchi shells?). I'm ignoring, for now, the huge Ziplock Fresh! bag of dates that mocks me from a lower shelf. Muffins? Date-nut pinwheels? I do still have some pecans... Hey! And I have eggs - maybe the evaporated milk would do well in quiche.

It's a scary thing, confining yourself to the dregs of your pantry until it's all cleaned out. I can only buy groceries which complete pantry meals, for now - that's my pledge. And don't even think of suggesting Wendy's.

Posted by susanna at 08:40 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

June 02, 2003

Getting out of trading spaces

Uh oh, not everyone likes Trading Spaces.

Posted by susanna at 12:42 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Speaking of the media...

Howard Kurtz has an excellent column today hitting on three areas: the NY Times and its continued problems; the identification of bias at the LA Times by its own editor; and another journalist excusing plagiarism by saying, in essence, "I'm too busy to worry about attribution!"

The Times discussion stands on its own; all I can say there is that I hope when all is said and done the NY Times is closer to a real "Newspaper of Record" than it's been in quite a while. More interesting to me today is the memo John Carroll wrote to the staff at the LA Times addressing bias in an article on abortion counseling in Texas. It's not new (to us, anyway) that bias is at the LA Times, but Carroll identifies precisely what I've pointed out before as the locus of much bias - wording in the story (in this instance on counseling about whether there is a connection between abortion and breast cancer):

The memo, obtained by the Web site LAObserved, says: "The apparent bias of the writer and/or the desk reveals itself in the third paragraph, which characterizes such bills in Texas and elsewhere as requiring 'so-called counseling of patients,' " Carroll writes. "I don't think people on the anti-abortion side would consider it 'so-called,' a phrase that is loaded with derision.

The memo goes on to note that the article emphasizes the view that the science is wrong, not getting to a scientist who says the science is right until the end of the piece - and then doesn't give substantive scientific reasoning for his view, but emphasizes his political stance instead. These are the subtle ways that liberal views slip into print, and I'm delighted that Carroll has cracked on it. As I've said repeatedly, it's not so much that people have biases as that they refuse to admit them and thus cannot consciously work to minimize their impact in a news article. This gives me hope for the LA Times, but it has a long way to go.

And finally, the food columnist who twice lifted information online and inserted it in her columns. She's shocked, shocked! that she's been accused of plagiarism:

She [food writer Karen Mamone] says she got the information about the drink online and was "in a hurry. . . . Frankly, I didn't think it was any big deal. This was a food column, after all. Should I have used direct quotes or explained more where I got it? Yes, but I was more concerned about the flow of the sentence."

That's right, the flow of the sentence is much more important than silly little things like quotes or attribution - you know, style is so far beyond accuracy as a hallmark of journalism. I mean, please! Get off her case!

At least she didn't say that her yellow legal pads were at fault.

Posted by susanna at 10:08 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Media - The Blogger Symposium

Last night I got together with Juan Gato from The Shallow End, N.Z. Bear from The Truth Laid Bear, & Eugene Volokh from The Volokh Conspiracy over at John Hawkins' Right Wing News to discuss media and blogs. It was a great discussion, and lots of fun, as you can tell from this cleaned-up transcript of it posted now on John's site. I'd be interested in your thoughts about what was said.

Posted by susanna at 09:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Men - the cause of everything wrong!

Some days I'm thankful not to be Canadian. All the other days I'm so far beyond thankful that there isn't a word for it. Here is one of the reasons why:

A federally funded report says "masculinists" are orchestrating a backlash against feminism and blaming women for oppressing and discriminating against men.

The report's authors claim that masculinists portray men as victims and link feminism with boys' poor performance in schools, male suicide, loss of male identity and discriminatory divorce and child custody laws.

My first response is, "From what I've seen the "masculinists" are mostly right". My second response is, "The taxpayers of Canada paid $75,000 for this?" Pretty sad.

I think first I need to define what I think feminism is in this context - it's not just a desire to see women succeed without having to fight the impediments of male prejudice, whether individual or institutional. I think there really are some barriers still there that are inappropriate. But the kind of feminism that I think these researchers evince is a "women first" attitude, a sense that women are superior to men and thus should, essentially, have their cake and eat it too. That works out practically to be that women should be considered on equal footing with men when it's to their advantage, but when it's to their advantage to be considered superior or different in some way, then they should have that privilege too. That's the radical feminism that situates women as superior to men, just as radical black leaders consider blacks to be superior to whites.

For decades, radical feminism has hammered away at men as oppressors until even reasonable people began to wonder if it was true. Finally some men (and women) stepped up to say, "Whoa! This isn't my experience. And not only have you demonized men in general, but you're working hard to make them second class citizens. Stop it already!" That is, in my judgment, the genesis for the men's groups that this study identifies as "masculinist". It's only logical that as women began to realize ways they have been treated unfairly, men would do the same*. And in today's society some of those ways are quite real: for example, a very big issue is custody rights. A woman is generally presumed to be the better parent to get primary custody, all other things being equal. Is that a fair assumption? It may be true in many cases, but it's not so universally true as to make that assumption fair.

I was actually amused at the term "masculinists" with its obvious (in this context, anyway) perjorative intentions. It made me want to rush in and declare myself a masculinist (hey, if Alan Alda can be a feminist...).

This, however, is scary:

Among the report's recommendations is that an organization similar to Hate Watch be established to monitor men's groups on the Web, that inciting hatred on the basis of gender should be a hate crime and that women's groups establish a network to counter the masculinists' views.

No, no and no. A hundred times no. "Masculinists" have as much right as feminists to express their views, and I've not seen them as any more oppressive than feminists - if as much so. This is another attempt to get an opposing viewpoint declared virtually illegal to stifle it. Any such action should require first that it be proven scientifically that any masculinist group had caused harm to women in specific, measurable ways before they could be termed a hate group, and then only very specific actions could be crimes. I would hope this effort wouldn't fly in the US, because it seems a direct flouting of the right to freedom of speech.

And finally:

They [the study's authors] say men's groups view feminism as a movement to oppress and discriminate against men.

Well, HELLO! Many feminists do openly advocate just that. Not all, mind you, and some aspects of the feminist movement through the generations have resulted in a better society for everyone, not just women. But it's being willfully blind to say that men's groups are unreasonable in thinking that at least some feminist groups want to discriminate against men.

This research is just goofy, and the Canadian government is goofy to solicit it from someone who identifies herself as a feminist. She does modify her stance by saying that "just because I am a feminist, does not mean that I am incapable of seeing that boys are having certain difficulties. Nor do I put all men in the same basket. Not all men are like those I identified in the report." But to advocate a "hate watch"? On what grounds other than a few men spewing bile? If that is the criteria, then we'd have had a "hate watch" on feminism over a century ago. How chilling and unfair would that have been?

[Thanks for the link go to Capt. J.M. Heinrichs, my Canadian stringer and sufficient reason to think that there's hope for Canada.]

* Sure there are men who still think women have only two legitimate places - the bedroom or kitchen. But they're no more numerous than women who think the world would be a better place if men were sequestered on a isolated island and used only for harvesting sperm - and that only until the labs can find a way to fertilize an egg using another egg.

Posted by susanna at 08:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Thanking the Commander-in-Chief

L. T. Smash, in response to President Bush's visit to the USS , sends him an open letter of thanks. It's a fine expression of how a soldier sees his Commander-in-chief and the conflict that took the soldier away from home. Go read.

Posted by susanna at 07:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 01, 2003

Well, doh

Actor Richard Chamberlain officially "outs" himself in his new book, Shattered Love. This USA Today article on Chamberlain and the book includes this comment:

... it's risky to be out in Hollywood, he says. "I think if I were a young actor, I wouldn't talk about it. I personally would still be leery if I were playing a romantic leading man."

One of the things you look for in a romantic movie is chemistry - the sense that the two lead characters actually could be interested in each other. If you know that one of the characters is homosexual, and it's a heterosexual romance, then you know that any chemistry that you observe is actually phoned in. It's not there, it's faked. Sure, it may be faked between two heterosexual people, but at least you know there's the possibility that it's real, and that's enough to support the fantasy. A good enough actor - like, say, Richard Chamberlain or Rock Hudson - could very well fake it well enough to be convincing. But if you know unequivocally that it's faked, well... it just doesn't work for me. That's why I never could work up any interest in going to see Six Days, Seven Nights, the movie Anne Heche and Harrison Ford made during the time when Heche was in her Ellen Degeneres phase. And trust me, I love Harrison Ford enough to just about be able to turn off the sound and watch him for two hours without complaint.

It's a consequences thing. I'm not going to be impressed with an actor advocating the delights of beef if I know he's a vegetarian. I'm going to suspect condescension in every word if a known urban snob plays a role as a country woman in a movie. I'm not going to believe Janeane Garofalo if she stars in a movie as Phyllis Schlafly, no matter how good Garofalo is at it. And if I know an actor is gay, I'm not going to be able to believe that the character he's playing in a movie is really interested in the female lead.

So, yes, if you're wanting to be a romantic male lead in movies about heterosexual romance, then I'd say outing yourself as gay is not the sharpest career move. It's a matter of how much credulity viewers can bring to a film. Hey, be a submarine captain. Be a hard driving shoot-'em-up renegade. Be a priest, or a doctor saving the world, or a vicious villian. But don't expect me to buy the romantic lead. It won't be happening.

(Note: My credulity does get seriously stretched sometimes, though. I continue to believe that Aragorn is a wonderful most excellent man of character and intelligence, despite the fact that he's played in the LOTR movies by the beautiful but wellspring-of-political-stupidity what's-his-face. I don't want to know his name*. I will deliberately ignore that LOTR's Aragorn actually is brought to life by a human by the name of.. whatever-it-is. I'm just happier that way.)

Yes, yes, I know it's Viggo Mortensen. But allow me my fantasies.

Posted by susanna at 10:24 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack