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    Friday, September 30, 2005

    Wonkette on Bennett

    Too good not to quote in full:

    Bill Bennett's Planned Parenthood
    Yes, yes, yes: The Bill Bennett thing. We've refrained from commenting on his assertions that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down" largely because, well, in a very literal sense he's not wrong. Aborting every white baby would also reduce crime, as well as free up space in Ivy League colleges and country and western bars. Aborting every baby of any color would virtually eliminate crime, and we have no idea why someone hasn't run on that platform before. Bennett himself hedges that "these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky." Perhaps he'd like to bet on it?

    ALSO: Bennett uttered these words of wisdom on his radio show, which you now know exists.

    Others on the Bennett thing:

    The Sheep's Crib


    The New Underground Railroad

    The Grape's Vine

    Low Rent Rat

    Steve Sailer's iSteve.com

    GOP Vixen

    Echidne of the Snakes

    We New Yorkers Embarass Ourselves Again

    In their
    Sunday Times preview, Editor and Publisher reveals the results of a humiliating poll of NYC residents (why doesn't anyone ever ask me this stuff?):

    Almost one in three Democrats in New York City say they would never date a Republican, and one in four Republicans there feel the same way about Democrats.

    * 28% claim they would move to the suburbs "only under penalty of death."

    * Asked which animal would make the best mascot for the city, 12% said "rat."

    * "Ambition" was picked as the best quality of New Yorkers, and "impatience" the worst (these may overlap, of course).

    * Asked what size building should be erected at Ground Zero, more than half said any size "as long as they stop arguing about it."

    * 56% call themselves Democrats, only 12% Republicans.

    * 78% agree with the statement that "if you can make it here you can make it anywhere."

    Now, I have no problem with the fears of inter-political dating. It's that last one that really makes me cringe. (The "ambition" thing isn't so great either.)

    Everything Bad Is Good For You: The Elevation of TV (Finally!)

    In The Small Screen Gets Its Sundance, Matea Gold of the LAT discusses the New York Television Film Festival:

    As the first event of its kind, the television festival represents an initial step toward creating an alternative way to develop programming outside the studio and network system. But it remains to be seen whether the five-day event has the potential to remake the television industry the way Sundance and other film festivals affected the movie industry by jump-starting an independent film movement in the 1990s. Now fixtures in the film world, the events — including the New York Film Festival currently underway — have elevated the profile of indie filmmakers and introduced bolder fare that breaks the traditional model.

    As a firm believer in television, particularly serial drama, as one of our culture's finest art forms, I am happy to see that the opportunities available to filmmakers are being offered to artists in the TV medium.

    Born to Lie

    Scientists have discovered that, like homosexuality, gender identity, intelligence, sex drive, mental illness, cleanliness, and sickle cell anemia, lying is inborn.

    People who habitually lie and cheat — pathological liars — appear to have much more white matter, which speeds communication between neurons, in the prefrontal cortex than normal people, the researchers found. They also have fewer actual neurons.

    The differences affect a portion of the brain, located just behind the forehead, that enables people to feel remorse, learn moral behavior and plan complex strategies.

    The surplus of connections between neurons might enable these people to be more adept at the complex neural networking that underlies deceit.

    Lying is hard work and these brains may be better equipped to handle it, the researchers said.

    "Lying is cognitively complex," said USC psychologist Adrian Raine, the senior scientist on the research project. "It is not easy to lie. It is certainly more difficult than telling the truth. Some people have a biological advantage in lying. It gives them a slight edge."

    So what we have to fear is that we are breeding liars, as liars are more likely to cheat and therefore probably having more sex.

    Sad Sad Sad Sad Sad

    Poor abandoned baby of Queens:

    Valerie, in fresh clothes and clutching a new teddy bear yesterday, was found in Middle Village early Sunday. A 4-year-old girl was found wandering a Queens street in the middle of the night — and city authorities are trying to figure out who she is and why she was all alone.
    The girl — who has told police that her name is Valerie — was found on 76th Street in Middle Village Sunday at around 1 a.m., according to the city's Administration for Children's Services.

    She is extremely bright and understands that she is lost. But she was only able to give very sketchy details about how she ended up on the street.

    The girl said her mother's name is Monica, her father's name is Caesar and she has a cat named Gary.

    She also mentioned another father named Felipe.

    "I got lost when I was sleeping," she said. "He [her father] took me in the car and took me outside with no shoes. So I was crying. And some people found me and they gave me a sweater and everything."

    People who live on 76th Street said they heard noise in the street and stumbled on the child when they went outside.

    "She was crying, 'Mommy, Mommy,' " said Branko Petrovic, 39, who came Valerie's aid the night she was abandoned. "Someone just left her alone. I couldn't believe my eyes."

    The Commitment

    Louis Bayard writes a great review on Dan Savage's new book
    The Commitment
    . Some highlights:

    I've always felt that my "dignified" gay relationship really does have a certain dignity, which is largely the product of surviving in the face of society's vast indifference. I don't think I could have expressed it, though, as well as Savage does: "Unlike heterosexuals, we had to do the hard work of building a life together in order to be taken seriously, something we did without any legal entanglements or incentives. Without the option of making a spectacle out of our commitment -- no vows, no cakes, no rings, no toasts, no limos, no helicopters -- we were forced to simply live our commitments. We might not be able to inherit each other's property or make medical decisions in an emergency or collect each other's pensions, but when our relationships were taken seriously it was by virtue of their duration, by virtue of the lives we were living, not by virtue of promises we made before the Solid Gold Dancers jumped out of the wedding cake at the reception."

    I admit that I feel this way, a bit. I take my own relationship with A more seriously than I take married or engaged heterosexual relationships who have been together for a shorter period of time beause I feel like we earned something by being together for six and a half years and living together for more than five and a half. A lot of these couples I know who are marrying or married never lived together before they said their vows. We moved to New York City from a little city in the West together. If we hadn't been together as long as we have and been as strong as we have, we wouldn't be taken seriously because we aren't married. We had to make our relationship "real" through serious commitment and hard work and insistence, rather than just saying, "We're real because we're having a party about it."

    "The problem for opponents of gay marriage," Savage writes, "isn't that gay people are trying to redefine marriage in some new, scary way, but that straight people have redefined marriage to a point that it no longer makes any logical sense to exclude same-sex couples. Gay people can love, gay people can commit. Some of us even have children. So why can't we get married?"

    I love this argument. Marriage has become an institution decent enough that queer folks actually want to join it. And we can thank the feminist movement for making marriage a contract between partners. Gertrude Stein, in 1917, said "There's no such thing as being good to your wife." She would know; her relationship with Alice B. Toklas was far too similar to most hetero marriages at the time. These days, such a quote might seem unduly harsh. (Though I would say the word "wife" still often has the connotation of "personal assistant/slave".) At any rate, now that marriage is about signifying commitment between two equal partners, it actually bears some application on the lives of queer folks who want to commit to their partner, whereas it once meant the mimicry of a pretty sick, oppressive institution.

    Mind you, I don't think marriage has been entirely rehabilitated. And I don't think it will be for some time.

    The Gore-for-Porn Story

    If you're curious about this weird photo swap- dead Iraqis for amateur porn- the Washington Post has an excellent summary on their World Opinion Roundup blog, which provides links to the best of the coverage out there. Not surprisingly, the best stuff tends to come from the porn-obsessed blogosphere, and we can thank bloggers for keeping the story alive and framing it as "The Next Abu Ghraib". The international news outlets, particularly those online, were the other source for good coverage, as American mainstream media seemed strangely uninterested in what should be BIG NEWS.

    The scary part is that, unlike the Abu Ghraib scandal, this seems to have died on the vine, despite the fact that this is also a direct violation of the Geneva Convention.

    Brown said some of the pictures are "far worse" than any taken at Abu Ghraib. "But they show the same tangle of lust for flesh, power and killing."

    Aljazeera.net suggested the story's political implications have yet to be felt in the Middle East. "It is pictures such as 'Cooked Iraqi' -- showing a group of smiling US soldiers standing over the charred remains of an Iraqi -- that may spell trouble for the Bush administration."

    Why aren't mainstream journalists jumping on this? And why doesn't the military seem too concerned? Things involving the convergence of violence (war especially) and sexuality and very difficult to cover. These things, like Abu Ghraib, can be covered as violations of international law with the sexual elements all but ignored. That, to me, was one of the most frustrating things about the coverage of Abu Ghraib- props to Richard Goldstein for his willingness to confront the sexual issues of Abu Ghraib. I think it would be difficult to cover the gore-for-porn story as simply as that; the directness of the sexual element would resist a desexualized or mostly desexualized portrayal. Even above in the overall excellent coverage from the WaPo blog, the language used is "lust for flesh", which makes it seem like a reiteration of "violence", rather than simply "lust" or some such word.

    The other thing is that, frankly, I don't think anyone will be that scandalized. For one, pornography, as we hear all the damn time lately, is mainstreamed enough that few but the most rabid anti-porn crusaders would be surprised or disturbed by the idea of American soldiers consuming it in serious quantities. Especially as the form of the porn is so very unthreatening to most people- amateur "girlfriend" porn which is pornographic photos of women and couples in partnered relationships, rather than, say, fetish porn or S&M or, gasp, gay porn. And most people would be fascinated by pics of dead Iraqis. Dead people in general. Death is fascinating. So, the trade makes sense. Needs served through exchange. And, after all, they're Iraqis.

    Andrew Brown's piece in the Guardian is quite well-done, juxtaposting the language of online porn with the imagery of brutal violence:

    A burnt and crumpled Arab face rests in a blue kitchen bowl. It doesn't look as if the back of the head is there, but it's impossible to be sure because everything behind the eyes is hidden in a pool of blood and everything below the jaw is missing. Underneath the picture are two discreet text ads for "Free amateur teen pictures" and "Mother and Daughter omfg! They are whores lol!"

    That second line, where the body of the dead Iraqi is obscured and surrealized, is strangely fitting for a comparison with pornography.

    Merkel and Schroeder: We Can Work It Out

    After two weeks of what the Times calls a "stare-down" between Merkel and Schroeder, they've decided they
    can do the coalition thing after all

    A day after meeting with leaders of the Social Democratic Party, Mrs. Merkel said Thursday, "The possibility or likelihood of a coalition with the S.P.D. is much higher than the other constellations."

    Mrs. Merkel has claimed a mandate to put together a government since her party, the Christian Democratic Union, gained a narrow victory over Mr. Schröder's Social Democrats, though it failed to win a majority. Her position has strengthened, political analysts said, as her party has stood behind her.

    Mr. Schröder, who had earlier ruled out even contemplating a coalition with Mrs. Merkel's party unless she consented to his remaining as chancellor, now sounds amenable to a deal. "It will be possible to form a stable constellation that will keep Germany on its reform path for four years," he said.

    The two did not try to resolve their dispute over who would be in charge; they merely put it off for another day.

    Still, the constructive tone at the meeting in Berlin suggests that Germany's dueling leaders accept the logic of a so-called grand coalition, and are grappling with how such a government would tackle Germany's ills, which include a stagnant economy and soaring unemployment.

    There is growing optimism that such an arrangement might work quite well, contrary to initial predictions that it would lead to gridlock and then collapse of its own weight, necessitating another election.

    What would have happened if Kerry and Bush had had a coalition government? What would such a thing look like? Would John Roberts still be Chief Justice? I think so. (I apologize for my America-centric understanding of world politics. I am wholly unworldly.)

    Freddy Can't Win Week

    The Politicker started out this week calling it Freddy Can Win Week and has ended the week here on Friday with a revision: it is actually Freddy Can't Win Week.

    Why? The Times is fairly clear on the sitch: Ferrer Being Hurt By Self-Inflicted Wounds. Hmmmm. I'm shocked.

    So, he starts the week saying he went to public school when everyone knows the guy graduated from Catholic school. Then, he goes campaigning in a school. Well done.

    Ferrer aides said yesterday that the week's missteps were being overblown by the city's tabloid papers, one of which put a picture of Mr. Ferrer on the front page wearing a dunce cap. Yet last night, WCBS-TV broadcast an unusually harsh report asking whether the Ferrer campaign was "ready for prime time."

    I wish had that NY Post picture, but I couldn't track it down. You shouldn't have to use much imagination though.

    I feel compelled to add that I saw one of Mike's tv spots the other day and I hated the hell out of it. So, I wouldn't say he's "ready for prime time" either. Though I think they're both perfect for Saturday morning cartoons.

    This One's Personal

    In the NYT Travel Section today, theY have a bit on Durango, CO, which is the site of my first "real" vacation (i.e. trip not to Grandma's).

    The first night we went to see a dinner theater.

    The next day we spent a Mesa Verde, climbing rock faces and seeing incredible cliff dwellings.

    The last day we traveled on the Durango-Silverton railroad via real, actual steam engine.

    Thursday, September 29, 2005

    Last Weekend's Anti-War Protest

    My partner, A, and I were amazed at the generally un-freak-a-lizing coverage of this past weekend's anti-war protest. Mainstream news outlets like CNN and MSNBC offered perspectives from people who weren't wearing t-shirts campaigning for high office on behalf of parts of their sexual anatomy:

    While united against the war, political beliefs varied. Paul Rutherford, 60, of Vandalia, Mich., said he is a Republican who supported Bush in the last election and still does — except for the war.

    “President Bush needs to admit he made a mistake in the war and bring the troops home, and let’s move on,” Rutherford said. His wife, Judy, 58, called the removal of Saddam Hussein “a noble mission” but said U.S. troops should have left when claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction proved unfounded.

    “We found that there were none and yet we still stay there and innocent people are dying daily,” she said.

    While I still don't see such protests as politically effective in this day and age, I have taken part in them and respect the sentiment that draws people to such events, so I am comforted when activists are treated respectfully by the press and are made to look like capable, intelligent, not-rabid representatives of those who share their views (at least to some extent- God help us if the rest of us don't tend toward a bit more nuance). But it was not comforting to conservatives.

    Indepundit links to Tantor's Conservative Propaganda for his pictures of the Saturday March and Rally. Guaranteed to make you cringe. One sad-but-true quote:

    The demonstration was huge. It could well have been a hundred thousand people there. It wasn't really an anti-war protest so much as dozens of protests against everything under the sun all hung on the central theme of hating Bush. That brought out a rather representative slice of the left side of the country. And when they come out in the light, what you see is a freak show.

    I can't help but point out a particularly scary moment in their comments:

    TANTOR says: This commie babe was hawking copies of the "Socialist Worker" for a buck apiece. I told her that I rejected such crass capitalistic exchanges and would prefer to wait until the revolution was complete and all things would be free to the workers. OK, so I was flirting with her a bit. I know, I know, she's a commie and commies are bad, well, worse than bad, pure evil. But she was cute. It kinda looks like she was buying my line of crap, too.
    StinKerr said...I don't blame you for hittin on the commie babe. She might have shown you a new trick. After all, her head is hollow.

    By the way, the Socialist Worker dish appears above left.

    John Leo also rakes them over the coals in US News and World Report:

    When the mainstream press approves of marches and demonstrations, it can't resist gussying them up to make them seem more wholesome than they really are. The Times used to do that with gay pride marches, excising the nasty and crude contingents and the sex-with-children advocates but focusing on the stable and well-dressed gay neighbors next door. The media has a habit of doing the same thing with antiwar rallies. In February 2003, they offered a mainstream motherhood-and-apple-pie image of the marchers. But if you poked around the Internet, you could pick up images that didn't fit the press theme–hate-Israel cards, hammer-and-sickle flags, pictures of Che Guevara, the usual "Bush is Hitler" signs, and the huge banners of the sponsoring Stalinists at ANSWER.

    I think it's a bit extreme to expect first-time activists to know who's who and what's what in the radical Left when all they want to do is go to protest the Iraq War. That said, I hope that this information coming to light will organize new anti-war arms of the movement who are thinking strategically, pragmatically, and inclusively, because I think the ridiculous span of interests Lefties bring to protests actually does damage to our ability to be inclusive; it makes people think, "Wow. If I'm here to protest the war, I also have to be a Socialist, anti-Israeli, secular, Mumia-freeing zealot."

    DeLowdown on DeLay

    Justice DeLayed in Slate:

    Democrats would have to be nuts to root for DeLay's scalp, something many of them admit in private. He's the best villain they'll ever have. DeLay's got troubles hanging from him like charm bracelets. Not only does he have the Texas mess, but he's been knocked three times by the House ethics committee for misusing his post, and he's been closely linked to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. At the level of personality, he positively oozes meanness, making him a perfect foil for Democrats. His poll numbers have been tanking. And now he's under indictment. DeLay makes an even more potent symbol bookended by Senate Majoriy Leader Bill Frist, who is having his own ethical inquiries into his stock sales.

    Not So Bosom Buddies in Newsweek gets into the relationship between Bush and DeLay, which hasn't always been BFF. Which we all knew and didn't get either of them off the hook.

    The Hammer Falls in Salon is a fascinating look at the Republican money machine and DeLay's role in it:

    At its height, the first great political machine of the 21st century worked like this: In Congress, Texas Rep. Tom DeLay controlled the votes like a modern-day Boss Tweed. He called himself "the Hammer." His domain included a vast network of former aides and foot soldiers he installed in key positions at law firms and trade groups, a network that came to be called the "K Street Project." He gathered tithes in the form of campaign cash, hard and soft, and spread it out among the loyal. He legislated for favored donors. He punished those who disobeyed, and bought off those who could be paid.

    Conservative activists, who had grown up in the heady days of Reagan's America, patrolled the badlands of American politics for new opportunities. None did it better than Jack Abramoff, a former president of the College Republicans, who had a taste for expensive suits. Abramoff opened a restaurant, Signatures, where the powerful came to be seen and, in many cases, treated to free meals from a menu that included $74 steaks. He pulled in tens of millions of dollars from Indian tribes and the Northern Marianas Islands to help fund other operations -- skyboxes at the MCI Center where DeLay could hold his fundraisers and all-expense trips to Scotland where DeLay and friends could play golf.

    Others were drawn into the web as well. Abramoff kicked down money to his old college buddy Grover Norquist, an anti-tax crusader whose role was to keep the right-wing ideologues in line. He hired Ralph Reed, a former advisor to the Christian Coalition, who helped keep the religious right on good terms with the Republican leadership. He hired Michael Scanlon, a former aide to DeLay, as his assistant. He leaned on former lobbying colleagues, like David Safavian, who was working in the Bush administration and could do favors for his clients. Susan Ralston, Abramoff's former gatekeeper and executive assistant, went to work for Karl Rove in the White House.

    Across the aisle, The National Review's Targeting DeLay, asks and answers the important question:

    Following the indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, conservatives are left wondering what to make of the charges. The answer is simple. The charges are absurd and should be thrown out of court. . .

    One needn't be a DeLay flack to see this. We have had criticisms of DeLay ourselves — his support of the Medicare-drug benefit, his relationship with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and his recent comments about the “pared down” budget all come to mind. But this indictment is outrageous and should not be allowed to succeed as a tactic. While the political fallout of this indictment will take time to sort through, this case makes one thing clear: Campaign-finance regulation makes prosecution a continuation of politics by other means.

    Also worth reading is Stephanie Kirchgaesser's piece in the Financial Times, bloodying still more hands in the Republican party:

    A political committee controlled by the newly named House majority leader Roy Blunt has paid tens of thousands of dollars to a political consultant that was indicted this week along with Tom DeLay for illegally funneling campaign contributions to Texas republicans.

    Rely on Your Beliefs Fund, a political action committee controlled by Mr Blunt, has paid James Ellis, a political consultant who was indicted on Wednesday with Mr DeLay, the former house leader, $94,000 in fees since 2003, according to Political Money Line, an internet tracking service.

    But, in my opinion, the best coverage of the DeLay situation comes from The Voice, with three very thorough investigations: Laura Rozen's What's the Deal with the DeLay Indictment?, Ward Harkavy's BushBeat calls DeLay An Extinguished Christian Statesman, and James Ridgeway gets to what we care about most: will he take Bush down with him?

    He's In

    John G. Roberts Jr. was confirmed as the 17th chief justice of the United States today in a formality that intensified speculation over who will be President Bush's next Supreme Court nominee.

    The Senate confirmed the nominee by a vote of 78 to 22, with unanimous support from Republicans and with many Democrats voting for him as well. He was sworn in at the White House this afternoon by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens amid expectations that the president will announce his next choice for the court very soon.

    Though I think that confirming him was the best strategic move for the Democrats, I admit I'm proud that both on my Senators (Clinton and Schumer) voted "no". And Kerry did too.

    Now, onto the real question: Who's next?

    Of Oprah and Men

    The illustrious, influential John Kenney
    takes on that low-brow Oprah Winfrey
    in an uproarious bit of humor, tellingly published by the New York Times. Some of my favorite bits appear below:

    MAY I first say how lovely you looked on the latest cover of your marvelous magazine, of which I am a very big fan. What a neat idea, putting yourself on the cover of every issue. You certainly like the color red. (How weird, me too!)

    Let me also say that I do not care for the work of Jonathan Franzen. What "corrections" was he even talking about? And that whole bit where Chip goes to Ukraine? Hello! I might add that if you were to invite me on your show or pick my novel (which at no point mentions Ukraine or lesbian sex or what was, to my mind, a very cruel, though, in its own way, a very funny depiction of an incontinent elderly Alzheimer patient) for your book club I would say what my parents taught me to say, which is "Yes, Oprah, thank you very much." James Joyce often wrote run-on sentences.

    Did I mention that I recently completed my first novel? It's called "Pass the Gravy, Nana."

    It is, Oprah, a novel about family. Well, more a dysfunctional family (aren't they all, ha-ha!). . .

    You ask me what my "writing" style is. Ironically enough, it is Wally-Lamb-meets-Toni-Morrison- has-lunch-with-Walt-Disney. I would remind you that a woman is the central character of my book, and, coincidentally, many women are part of your book club, which I think should have a T-shirt, which I would wear!

    Question: Has anyone ever finished Don DeLillo's "Underworld?" . . .

    I bet Jonathan Franzen wishes he lived in Wisconsin! Although I did like it when he wrote about how when Al, the father, was falling into the water from a cruise ship, he was thinking about his three children, and says, "Because in the end, when you were falling into water, there was no solid thing to reach for but your children." That was pretty incredible writing, though, like you, I still find Mr. Franzen and his windy book rude and snobbish, though I have never personally met him.

    I've enclosed my notes on "Nana." I'd be happy to get a completed draft to you by Christmas. Or tomorrow. Also, your choice of James Frey's memoir "A Million Little Pieces" is an excellent one, though I have not read the book yet. (A quick thought: "A Million Little Nanas?") I look forward to hearing from you.

    Same guy who published this howlingly funny piece on Harry Potter in July. What a mind.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2005

    I Guess This is Education Day!?

    James Piereson has an interesting article in the Oct 3, 2005 issue of The Weekly Standard, entitled "The Left University".

    His thesis, that American universities are liberal-o-rama, seems fun to disagree with, but, despite being fully entrenched in academia, I can't really be sure if he's right or wrong.

    Piereson gives a good bit of history and analysis:

    Shils was certainly correct to emphasize the far-reaching consequences that followed in the United States from the adoption of the German university model. In the United States, as in Germany, the research model transformed the status of the professor from a teacher to an independent scholar and researcher. Professors would no longer pass along established truths and traditional moral ideals, but would subject these truths and ideals to scrutiny in the search for new knowledge. The faculty, as the new priesthood of the research enterprise, would shortly claim authority to decide all matters dealing with curriculum, new faculty appointments, and promotions. The modern doctrine of academic freedom, which gives professors wide latitude to teach and conduct research as they wish, also followed in due course as a consequence of these premises. Much as Oliver Wendell Holmes said that the law is what the judges say it is, the reformed university would henceforth be whatever the faculty decides it is.

    As the modern university took shape, faculties began to organize themselves into specialized departments, or disciplines, with their own formal rules for study, research, and publication. It was in this period that the various academic associations were formed, including the American Historical Association (1884), the American Economic Association (1885), the American Physical Society (1899), the American Political Science Association (1903), and the American Sociological Association (1905). These were national membership associations that held annual conventions and published their own journals containing research studies representing authoritative work in the respective disciplines. These associations were, in a way, national communities that reoriented the attention of professors away from students at their own college and toward colleagues working in the same discipline at other institutions across the country. The status of professors in their various disciplines was based on their published research, which established in turn a new basis upon which to rank departments and entire institutions.

    The emergence of the modern university thus created a new class of professional intellectuals--that is, men (and a few women) who worked with ideas for a living. Until this time, intellectual life in America, such as it was, was dominated by ministers and patricians (the Founding Fathers), and then in the 19th century by independent writers who generated income by publishing books and articles. Now for the first time, university professors such as Charles Beard and John Dewey became famous for the books and articles they published. Perhaps it is true, as has been said, that classes of people with a common interest eventually begin to think more or less alike. Certainly this has been true of the professional intellectuals who have populated the American university.

    I think the schools that I have attended are not even remotely diverse politically. I would classify The New School and CUNY as pretty far Left. In only one class I ever attended was there any consideration of not just conservative, but even politically moderate or mainstream ideas. I enjoyed this because it meant I could go as far as I wanted to in exploring the ideas with which I had a "natural" (and let's not read too much into that word choice) affinity. But, honestly, I am starting to tire of it. Everyday a professor makes a comment assuming the political agreement of all students. This allows so much to be knee-jerk and unconsidered, which is precisely what the German system tried to avoid.

    Because academia, not as much undergrad, but definitely grad school, is about contradicting former models, it makes sense that it would be liberal and that it would become more conservative in the coming years as liberal ideas have had their hold on the academy for quite some time. (However, I have noticed that the Left side can always push things a little further, finding some way that even the anti-racists are homophobic, the feminists are classist, the queer liberationists are sexist, the Black writers anti-Semitic, etc. I admit to being among these hyper-critics. So who knows how long it can be kept up?)

    All this said, I live in New York City and deliberately attended some of the most Leftist institutions in the country. I know a professor at a community college in Washington who says her students regularly spout blatantly racist, sexist, and homophobic sentiments along the line of "Women can't do math" and "Gay people are disgusting" and such. So, let's consider that what we mean by "academia" is elite institutions.

    In Praise of Political TV

    I am a sucker for movies and television about politics, electoral or activist. My favorite television plotline of all time is the 3rd season mayoral campaign in Queer as Folk. I thought it was just my pleasure, but Alessandra Stanley (yes, that Alessandra Stanley) makes the public-service case for it:

    It's easy to scoff at some of the prosaic license taken by "Commander in Chief," but the very fact that viewers can quibble with depictions of presidential power or protocol, and not just whether contestants on Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" really can, is kind of neat. Crime and medical series demand a leap of faith; most of us are not schooled enough in microbiology or legal procedure to judge just how far series like "House" or "Law & Order" stretch the facts. But most viewers vote, or say they will, and foreign policy is a home game everybody can play.

    Ours is a culture where videos like "Girls Gone Wild" inspire campus copycats and even serious dramas like "CSI" inspire students to sign up for forensic-science courses in droves. It would not be so bad if "Commander" prompted some young viewers to study foreign affairs or even just buy a map.

    Tonight's the night, folks. Commander in Chief premieres!
    But we can't all be happy.

    More on Commander in Chief.

    Integration By Income: Reinvesting in Brown v. Board of Ed

    Alan Finder's article on integration by income in Raleigh public schools is fascinating:

    Over the last decade, black and Hispanic students here in Wake County have made such dramatic strides in standardized reading and math tests that it has caught the attention of education experts around the country.

    The main reason for the students' dramatic improvement, say officials and parents in the county, which includes Raleigh and its sprawling suburbs, is that the district has made a concerted effort to integrate the schools economically.

    Since 2000, school officials have used income as a prime factor in assigning students to schools, with the goal of limiting the proportion of low-income students in any school to no more than 40 percent. . .

    "Kids are bused all over creation, and they say it's for economic diversity, but really it's a proxy for race," said Cynthia Matson, who is white and middle class. She is the president and a founder of Assignment By Choice, an advocacy group promoting parental choice. . .

    Many low-income children are bused to suburban schools. While some of their parents are unhappy with the length of the rides, some also said they were happy with their child's school.

    "I think it's ridiculous," LaToya Mangum said of the 55 minutes that her son Gabriel, 7, spends riding a bus to the northern reaches of Wake County, where he is in second grade. On the other hand, she said, "So far, I do like the school."

    Melissa Wade asks an important question:

    how do students take part in after school activities. I spent 7th and 8th grade at a private school some distance from my home and while my parents and later a Junior drove me to/from school, I couldn’t take part in anything extra beyond the football games in the Fall as my parents refused to drive me. While it wasn’t an income issue for us (although we were much lower-income than the majority) and more of a parental involvement one, if a parent is low income s/he is less likely to have the time or the means to foster such activities.

    If children want to participate in after-school activities, there should be bussing or school-organized carpooling to accomodate them. Whether there is funding for this is, of course, the question. As we can only assume there isn't, I have a few things to say.

    1) I think that the seven hours a day a student is in school are more important than the two or three hours a day that said student could be involved in extracurricular activies. This is not simply a consideration of time, but also of priorities. I think extracurricular activies are vitally important, but I think they are emphasized (often at "inner-city" schools) because they are easier to fund and organize (these activities and events are offered many times by volunteers and outside nonprofits, rather than dipping into school coffers) and they keep kids "off the streets" longer. However, that often leads to a bunch of kids who think they're going to be pro athletes or pop stars, rather than kids who know how to read and write. Academics should be prioritized.

    2) Because bussing in shifts would be expensive, I think this emphasizes the role that community centers and groups need to play. If kids are being bussed into schools filled with affluent kids who have piano lessons and Sunday school and karate everyday, I would be willing to be that a number of lower-income kids will want to be involved in afterschool activities like their more monied peers and nonprofits and community groups can fill the void.

    3)Bussing low-income kids into affluent areas seems less effective than bussing affluent kids into low-income neighborhood schools. The middle-class kids are more likely to have parents who will come pick them up from afterschool activities and less likely to be taking advantage of programs like Free Breakfast, which require that participating students arrive earlier. Also, the presence of more middle-class folks will raise the standards for the school facilities and will therefore effect the quality of life in the neighborhood generally.

    4)Carpooling is great, but usually only encouraged among higher-income parents, though, with institutional contribution of gas money, could save the school in bus costs. Organizing carpools, afterschool programs, and other school participation could be a great way of knocking out welfare-to-work requirements and getting good non-vocational job experience for lower-income parents.

    Mark Lerner
    , rather counterintuitively in my opinion, sees the article as an argument for school vouchers.

    What this whole situation is Raleigh speaks to is the strength of having affluent children (and therefore parents) involved and invested in public schools. Vouchers would not change much of anything; low income kids would still be in the schools that could be afforded, i.e. the schools that require the voucher only and no further funding on the family's part. These schools would still be in the lower-income areas and would put the same kids who would have been in the struggling public schools in struggling private schools. More effective would be educational tax pooling, which would redistribute taxes for public schools more equally. As it is, if you are an affluent kid growing up in Westchester County, you are able to attend their excellent public schools as the money pours in to finance them. If you grow up in Bed-Stuy, the taxes are only barely supportive of having a school at all. As such, in the way that the monied get access to better educations by buying them in private schools, the same happens through the allocation of tax monies for public schools via region. (The only difference is that the parents of students in top-notch public schools have ever more money to support their children's extracurricular activities, SAT prep classes, etc.) Each school should get the same amount per pupil and parents and other community members should get tax incentives for participation in local schools.

    Reality Speak posts an angry open letter to Ms. Matson:

    Dear Cynthia,

    I bet kids are actually bussed all over for economic diversity, and I agree with you that that might very often break out along racial lines… However, I really doubt that one is a cover for the other - they are probably just two things that are very closely related.

    Which leads me to the question: Why might it be that "economic diversity" many times equals "race" in North Carolina?... Why the f*&# might those two things be related… hmm?...

    Is there anything in North Carolina’s history or recent past that might explain how those two things got artificially linked to the point where they could be almost be used as synonyms?

    You know what Cynthia? … I just thought of something that might explain it. Maybe 100, or 150 years or so of legal subjugation of people on one side of that racial line, maybe if that group was smaller than the other group, you know? Like what if the system wasn’t setup fairly and the one group was in the minority when it came to making decisions on how resource distribution would go for schools… Know what I’m saying?

    Maybe that separation or segregation if you will, of school resources was a step up from when the people of the one race weren’t even considered people.

    I share the anger at Ms. Matson. What I find funny is that good ole Cynthia seems to say this may be racial as if that would make it very controversial- income intergation is okay, but racially desegregating public schools? An outrage.

    Christopher's Windy City, a blog written by a teacher on Chicago's South Side, says:

    Of course there are differences between black culture and white culture. One has only to look as far as conventions for naming children, a trend which Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer has studied as part of his examination of “where blacks went wrong,” as he puts it (and which Steven Levitt outlines in his fascinating book Freakonomics). But many, perhaps most, of these students have internalized the idea that D’Gray made explicit yesterday: black kids are unruly and don’t care much about school.

    Here is a thesis that bears some research: where do these attitudes in back culture come from? It certainly doesn’t help that President George W. Bush’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina makes him look like a racist bastard (although I’m sure the oversight was more an issue of socioeconomic blindness than racism), and makes many blacks in this country feel marginalized, even if they’ve never been within 500 miles of New Orleans (all of my students are convinced that George W. Bush is unrepentantly racist).

    But here is the thing that scares me the most, the thing that bears the most research (or maybe Fryer or others like him have already done it and I’m just not aware of it): to what extent are these attitudes being disseminated within black culture by other blacks? Research—and even casual observation—has shown that black audiences statistically prefer black music, black television shows, black movies, and anything else that somehow becomes associated with “black culture” (Levitt notes on page 182 of Freakonomics that Newport cigarettes enjoy a 75 percent market share among black teenagers, for example, while the same cigarettes have only 12 percent of the market share among white teens, who statistically prefer Marlboros).

    Although it is illegal to create any kind of forced segregation in this country, de facto segregation does exist, the kind imposed from outside (group A moves out of the neighborhood as group B moves in, for example) and the kind imposed from within (group A flocks to see the opening of a new movie starring a member of their ethnicity, while group B statistically ignores it). This being the case, my very unscientific but extremely gut reaction is that blacks get most of their negative stereotypes about blacks from other blacks.

    Something I learned when I started teaching here, for example, is that skin shade carries with it all kinds of social value: light-skinned blacks are often more high-status than dark-skinned blacks. Maybe I was just sheltered and naïve, but I found that truth rather shocking. Maybe I had just seen too many documentaries about the civil rights movement, films like Eyes on the Prize that made the “black cause” seem monolithic in its unity.

    But again, the real issue isn’t race, it’s socioeconomics. Statistically speaking, poor kids go to poor schools and do poorly in school. The poor, regardless of their ethnicity, often have narrow views on things like ethnicity and politics and sexual orientation. The poor and disadvantaged usually see the world in stark black and white; they haven’t learned to recognize, appreciate, and savor the shades of gray that make up life. Only education will broaden their minds and their horizons, but the drop-out rate among blacks and Hispanics in this country is astronomically high.

    It may be a bit off to characterize the views of the poor as "narrow" in any kind of comparison with people of means, but it's interesting to hear this from the mouth (or the fingers) of an inner-city public school teacher.

    For further reading, check out these excerpts from Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities.

    Monday, September 26, 2005

    Age and Gender: Public Restroom Politics

    Ask Amy, the Chicago Tribune's Ann Landers, discusses the ever-fraught issue of gender policies in gendered public bathrooms.

    Dear Amy: About a month ago, while eating out, I had to use the men's room. When I entered, a man was standing by the sink with his young daughter who appeared to be about 5, drying her hands. There was only one stall, which was occupied, and one urinal, which was in plain sight of where the man and girl were standing.

    I just stood there while I tried to make up my mind about whether I should proceed with what I needed to do. After maybe 30 seconds, the man and his daughter left.

    I tried convincing myself that I had merely experienced the reverse of what women have encountered for decades when mothers bring their small sons into ladies' rooms. But really, it's different.

    Women's rooms are entirely stalls. Little boys whose mommies take them to the bathroom are unlikely to see things they ought not see. Little girls whose daddies take them into men's rooms are in a different situation. Is there a correct protocol for this?

    --Pee-Shy and Polite

    Dear Polite: You should not urinate in front of a young girl--you did the right thing to give this father and daughter time to finish.

    Fathers are in a terrible spot when it comes to using public restrooms with young daughters. I've noticed that more institutions are responding to this by installing "family" bathrooms.

    Young children should never be allowed to go into a public bathroom alone, so dads need to find creative ways to deal with this pickle, either by letting a trusted mom take their daughters into the women's room or by using a stall in the men's room. Dads should ask other men to wait for them to hustle their girls out.

    I hope that you and other men will continue to be patient with dads and their daughters until they have more acceptable options.

    Little boys in the "Ladies Room" have been driving me crazy for years. I can't even tell you how many times the little miserable twerps looked up under the stall doors and made lewd comments- yes, boys little enough to be brought into the restroom with their mothers. (Although there are those mothers who feel the need to bring their twelve-year-old boys in with them.)

    Now, I don't believe in the separate-but-equal policy for restrooms; all public restrooms should be single stalls. But this question is funny. The letter-writer is nervous that the little girls will "see things they ought not see". But men should see each other's penises, that's implied. I doubt that most hetero men would say, "Gee, yeah, it's fine with me when men look at my penis." Yet, the idea is that these men stand next to each other with their penises out and they should not look. Why are men's restrooms designed this way, so as to force people to avert their eyes from the genitalia two feet away? Men are seeing without looking; those who are looking are outed. It also reinforces the sameness/difference myth which underlies the assumption of heterosexuality.

    Now that fathers are starting to also be parents, we have this lag between the realities of family life and the structures in place to accomodate those realities. Amy suggests "family bathrooms", when trans activists have argued for single-stall or ungendered bathrooms for quite awhile now. Why not accomodate everyone?

    Everything Bad Is Good For You: Buyer's Remorse, Renter's Revenge

    Are you "throwing money away" by paying rent each month? According to this weekend's NYT, the answer is NO. You're saving!

    "I am a proponent of buying," said Tchaka Owen, 37, a loan officer and licensed real-estate agent in Miami who is renting a two-bedroom apartment overlooking the bay there. "But you can get so much more for your money, renting instead of buying. We're paying half the amount we would be paying if we owned this place."

    In Manhattan, 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom apartments on the Upper East Side now rent for about $3,700 a month. Buying a similar apartment costs around $1.1 million, which can translate into monthly payments of $6,000 or so.

    Yes, it's an investment, but that housing bubble is going to burst and we're going to be surrounded by affordable, beautiful properties. Ha!

    I'm waiting for the day when NYT reports that those brats with blossoming 401ks are gullible chumps and we big spenders are the smarties.

    It's a Dumb Slogan, But It Could Be Dumber

    Freddy wows us again:

    Is that the best Freddy could do?

    That question was on the lips of some Democrats and media wags Wednesday when the mayoral campaign of Fernando Ferrer unveiled the tagline of its latest television commercial: "It's a great city. It could be greater." . . .

    "Using 'it could be great' hits the so-what problem, because it doesn't convey a sense of urgency for voters to do anything," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant and message-maker. "There's no emotional potency. But that's the story of the Ferrer campaign."

    It's funny because there's 12 million advisors, but these things slip through. How? Freddy has the final say. Sigh.

    Religion is the New Sex: So Much For Academic Freedom

    From The Chronicle of Higher Education David Glenn details the rightward drift of Haworth Press:

    Following an outcry from social conservatives, Haworth Press announced last week that it had canceled the publication of an edited volume on homosexuality in classical antiquity. The conservative activists had complained that one of the book's chapters -- an essay by Bruce L. Rind, an adjunct instructor in psychology at Temple University -- amounted to a defense of present-day sexual relationships between men and adolescent boys.

    (Is it really a "rightward drift" though? I seem to recall the
    outrage of Leftist organizations
    when the brilliant Capturing the Friedmans was nominated for an Oscar. The issue of sexual abuse seems to raise the hackles of a lot of people, despite the love for Lolita lately.)

    I think that a well-argued defense of absolutely anything should be publishable. The study of sexuality in particular (but most good academic research) deserves to exist only insofar as it can continue to press outward on the boundaries of what everyone is already saying and writing. It is sad to me how often people think that, even in the hallowed halls of academia, things they disagree with, things they have decided are wrong, should be banned. If one's own case is so utterly convincing, why are you afraid to put both arguments alongside each other?

    Certainly, Haworth has no obligation to print any particular thing, but the idea of academic presses following Haworth's lead is a frighteningly final one; has the Right really, actually, seriously, totally won?

    Duct Tape has this to say: I am all for free speech but I do think the time is long past when the ability of those favored by circumstance and thereby enabled to mold extreme views as "mainstream" ought to be either promoted or ignored. Ideas are powerful. Ideas are wonderful. Ideas are dangerous. Personal integrity and charcter, social cohesion, personal ambition and societal industry, cultural substance and direction are all dependent upon the free flow and measure of ideas; and when that free flow and especially that discrimination between sound ideas and chaos falls apart, a society and a nation can easily corrupt and disintegrate.

    It's also interesting to take this particular incident and draw the lines to all the obsession with porn lately. It's no wonder our discussion of sex becomes no-brained and Girls Gone Wild and The Man Show- intellectual discussions of sexual history and practice are not allowed to breathe in this market. If we want an environment less cluttered with stupid sex and moronic non-discussions of it, we need to allow the spectrum of practices and views, as long as they are coherently and respectfully argued.

    Friday, September 23, 2005

    MacArthurs are out!

    And Gawker brilliantly headlines it: Lethem Wins MacArthur; Franzen, Foer Feel Out-Jonathaned.

    Other winners:
    • Documentary filmmaker Edet Belzberg*
    • Painter Julie Mehretu
    • Bronx activist Majora Carter
    • Sculptor Teresita Fernandez
    • Photographer Fazal Sheikh

    *indicates one degree of separation from EL

    Surprise! Happy Friday!

    Lester Crawford resigned as Commissioner of the FDA!

    Crawford's resignation came just two months after the Senate, in a long-delayed move, elevated the longtime agency deputy and acting commissioner to the top job.

    His three-year tenure at FDA was marked by increasing criticism and a particularly rocky final 12 months. The painkiller Vioxx was pulled off the market for safety problems, FDA was embarrassed last fall when its British counterparts shut down a supplier of U.S. flu vaccine for tainted shots, and over the summer recalls of malfunctioning heart devices mounted.

    Finally last month, morale at the agency plummeted when Crawford indefinitely postponed nonprescription sales of emergency contraception over the objections of staff scientists who had declared the pill safe. FDA's women's health chief resigned in protest.

    Nerve on Sexual Harassment

    About a lesbian fired for sexual harassment of her female co-workers:

    When I was hired at Last Chance Loans, part of my induction was a grave-faced and long-winded explanation of their sexual-harassment policy. As the human-resources director read me the list of potential offenses, I imagined a balding, suited, leering man committing them: the ass slap, the crotch-cup, the lewd comment about wanting to fuck famous women, the needless brush of the passing groin, the inquiries about my sex life. (As a waitress, I got this all the time. Most colorful was from an elderly sonofabitch who asked as I refilled his coffee, "What do you girls do, anyway? Bump tacos and giggle?") How I hated the sexist hypothetical bastard — he'd never mess with this dyke! I nodded along with Miss HR, glad to know that her hard-ass policy would have my back if I ever needed it. . . .
    Ten minutes later, it seemed funny. En route to my train, I called all my friends. "I'm a sexual predator!" I crowed.
    "That's what you get for defecting to corporate America!" they laughed. And I did too.
    But in all my merriment, something lingered. For the next week, a little voice piped up every few seconds to remind me — you're a pervert. People who knew you were grossed out by you. People you shared cigarettes with were disturbed enough to trot downstairs and report you. However absurd their definition of sexual harassment, I had met it. Their reports were accurate.
    I've always thought that if a woman felt sexually harassed, then she was, end of story. After all, if a victim had to prove malicious intent on the part of the harasser, then only the most extreme incidents would warrant reporting. Relentless dirty joking, the casual display of porn, and other acts that would create a threatening atmosphere would be exempt.
    So I was rightfully fired. But what if the "victims" were uncomfortable with me because I was gay?

    About sexual harassment in general, with specifics about the American Apparel and Friends cases.

    Meanwhile, employers concerned about ever-more-prevalent workplace romances are increasingly asking employees to sign "love contracts", liability waivers that protect the company from the consequences of fishing trips conducted off the company pier. Take, for instance, this excerpt from a sample boilerplate contract circulating among human resource managers:

    "Dear [Name of Object of Affection]:
    I very much value our relationship and I certainly view it as voluntary, consensual and welcome and I have always felt that you feel the same. However, I know that sometimes an individual may feel compelled to engage in or continue a relationship against their will out of concern that it may affect the job or working relationships... I want to assure you that under no circumstances will I allow our relationship or, should it happen, the end of our relationship, to impact on your job or our working relationship. Though I know you have received a copy of [our company's] sexual harassment policy, I am enclosing a copy [Add Specific Reference To Policy As Appropriate] so that you can read and review it again. Once you have done so, I would greatly appreciate your signing this letter below, if you are in agreement with me…"

    While legal aphrodisiacs and the new California court decisions might serve to reinforce the limits of appropriate behavior, some critics say they're doing just the opposite. "People are always on guard, because the category of "hostile environment" is so loose and continually changing," says Daphne Patai, a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst The feminist push for stricter sexual-harassment codes now serves as ammunition for conservatives.
    who has written several books criticizing what she calls the "sexual harassment industry." "The courts have arrived at some crazy situation where you don't have to show any economic damage," says Patai. "Sometime in the mid-'80s, they decided that you don't have to show economic or psychological damage, you just have to show you didn't like it. And that's not a reasonable legal standard."

    To some degree, I understand the nervousness around sexual harassment getting so strict. I know that, if I wanted to, I could claim sexual harassment in every workplace in which I've ever been employed. But sometimes I thought things went too far and sometimes I didn't and perhaps I've gone too far and not known it.

    I don't, however, understand the reluctance of people to sign these so-called "love contracts". Who gets hurt? It may make romance a little less *spontaneous*, but that seems a reasonable price to pay. Simply signing something, even for a kiss or whatever, that says it was consensual seems like a great idea.

    And there are those cases that are hard to deny:

    An Oklahoma judge caught using a penis pump in court as he was presiding over a trial has lost a bid to keep the jury from viewing the device.

    Donald D. Thompson was charged in January with three felony counts of indecent exposure after a court reporter complained to authorities that he was using the pump in her full view. At the time, Thompson was presiding over a murder trial.

    Thompson had a reputation for handing out stiff sentences. He once tried to send a man to prison for life for spitting on a police officer . . .

    Thompson was caught in the act on numerous occasions by the court clerk and trial witnesses the complaint said.

    Thompson allegedly shaved his pubic area, applied lube, and slipped on the pump, using it until he climaxed.

    Penis pumps are reputed to enhance the size of the organ and are often used in masturbation.

    The complaint also said that Thompson, 57, masturbated on a number of occasions in full view of Lisa K. Foster, Thompson's court reporter for 15 years.

    Foster said she first started hearing a noise that “sounded like a blood pressure cuff being pumped up.” Foster told investigators she witnessed the judge’s sexual behavior “fifteen to twenty times.”

    More "Pork" Talk

    I never stop being amused by the use of word "pork" to refer to excessive government spending. If I were William Safire, it would be my next Sunday column.

    But that's not my point. My point is that this, despite my disagreement with the writer on Social Security and prescription drug benefits, is a great article. The greatest thing about it is that it's in one of the leading conservative magazines!

    President Bush must endorse a serious, realistic set of budget offsets, and the most promising area is corporate welfare.

    It doesn't have a natural base of support, and cuts in it will be much harder for Democrats to oppose. Republicans should have taken it on long ago. Now is a perfect moment. According to the RSC, eliminating corporate welfare would cut $5 billion in 2006 and $50 billion over ten years. Take one example: The Advanced Technology Program was instituted in the late 1980s, an overwrought response to the Japanese economic tiger. This program, funded to the tune of $150 million per year, gives grants for research and development on products with "significant commercial payoff." That is, the money funds research on only the most marketable products, those that companies have the most incentive to fund anyway. General Motors, Motorola, and IBM have all cashed in. Over 35 percent of ATP funding has gone to 39 "Fortune 500" companies, whose combined 2003 revenue was $1.4 trillion.

    It's not sexy, but Bush and anti-spenders in Congress should also be pushing to reform the congressional budget process, which favors free spending. Making the budget resolution binding, for instance, would rein in appropriators who ignore it to lavish money on their own priorities. . .

    The most important ingredient at the moment, however, is presidential leadership. It has been absent for five years on spending.

    Michelle Malkin lays waste to Alaska Republican Don Young fiscal madness. We've found their weakness and we're not going to let it go! Finally!

    Found it on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish.

    Cocaine Kate

    My journalist-crush, Rebecca Traister, takes on the hypocrisy of the Kate Moss cocaine situation:

    Of course, Moss' real error was in getting caught on tape, a situation that is certainly unfortunate for her, but just as inconvenient for fashion companies, now forced to place their favorite clotheshorse in the stocks, and to distance themselves from her by proclaiming their wide-eyed innocence.

    What this drama has done is lay bare the ugly skeleton that holds up a fashion industry that for some time has prized hollow cheeks and vacant eyes, stunted, prepubescent frames, and jutting collar bones from which fabric drapes beautifully. In other words, the body that is appealing to designers -- and thus to consumers -- is a body that looks like it has been ravaged by drugs.

    Amanda Fortini of Slate sounds a similar note:

    It's an open secret that models dabble in drugs, particularly cocaine. ("Shock; horror—models do drugs? Oh my God, the world is going to stop," Michael Gross, author of Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women, said in response to the incident.) It's even sort of understandable: How else to stay as thin as a prepubescent boy? Though we are regaled with stories of fast metabolisms, of Gisele's miraculous ability to inhale ice cream and yet fit into Victoria's Secret's smallest panties, most of us know that it is a rare woman who can consume an adequate amount of food and remain a good 20 pounds underweight. Many models subsist on a diet that includes generous quantities of cigarettes, caffeine, and cocaine, which doesn't exactly make for a person who is healthy, wholesome, and sound. Moss has, in the past, admitted to trying drugs because she was worried about getting fat. And at 31, post-pregnancy, she looks not all that different than she did at 14, when her gawky body defined the term "waif." This emaciated look is what the fashion industry demands of its models, so the policy toward methods of weight-loss has generally been don't-ask-don't-tell. If there weren't pictures to substantiate the drug allegations, it is unlikely a word would have been uttered.

    I think it would be awesome if one of the companies for which she models said, "Yeah, she does cocaine. Duh. Why do you think she looks like that? It's pretty much an unspoken clause in our contract with her, so we're pleased as can be."

    Karen Puppy's Tale and, naturally, Gawker weigh in.

    Support Companies With a Perfect Queer Score, Part 2

    I don't drive, but I like this site for helping you find the gay-friendliest car.

    Found it on Queerty.

    I am happy to tell you that driving this car around makes you a good gay or gay-ish person:

    I'd Rather Go Naked Than . . .

    Haila Faisal was not prosecuted for her
    public indecency last month, according to the police, when she stepped into the fountain at Washington Square Park, removed her clothing and revealed the words "Stop the War" and "No War" splashed across her body in red paint. This Ms. Faisal, a 47-year-old artist and antiwar advocate from Greenwich Village, did not dispute . . .

    "I use my body like a canvas," said Ms. Faisal, whose nude paintings of women are on display at the Village Quill Gallery in TriBeCa. Asked if New Yorkers could expect a repeat performance, Ms. Faisal paused and said, "Yes, because I feel bad if I don't say what I believe in."

    Thanks to the judge who threw this out. The only unfortunate thing is that she "uses her body like a canvas" so that's how she's going to "say what [she] believes in", since it worked so well in stopping the war this time around.

    Here's to effective organizing to stop the war in Iraq. If we've learned anything about activism from this administration, it's to keep on with the same dumbass shenanigans, wear your "Lick Bush" t-shirt, run around in body paint, dance around in a Cheney suit, chant, and watch Roberts saunter right on to the Surpreme Court, thousands die in Iraq, and Louisiana (and Missisippi and Alabama and Texas and Florida) fall into the sea.

    Tete a Tete 2

    Having investigated the substance of the
    Beauvoir-Sarte relationship
    yesterday on My Amusement Park, we now turn to the equally obsessing and obsessed-about literary love affair of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

    Michael Frank discusses the new exhibition at The Grolier Club in New York City, called "No Other Appetite: Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes and the Blood Jet of Poetry":

    Exhibitions like these have curators, of course. Inclusion itself is a biographical gesture. So is omission. So are labels that supply context, bridge gaps, help parse the mysterious and the fragmented. To go in thinking that this show presents Plath and Hughes utterly raw is a mistake. But at least they have not been fully baked into a biographical pie, and the mission at hand appears to be a fairly neutral and open-ended one.

    If there is a way of thinking about the Plath-Hughes relationship that we haven't seen yet, I am amazed. Though I am not a Hughes-hater (Plath was easily the superior poet, but she was also crazy, so I can't blame him entirely for his choices), I do find he always looks like an asshole in photographs, so, if the exhibition is fair, it will keep the pictures to a minimum.

    Vatican: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

    I hesitated to comment on the ridiculous decision by Pope Benedict to expel gay men from the priesthood. I hesitated because I am sick of the constant embarassment I feel about being Catholic. There's always some new idiotic policy and it seems that Catholics have left the intellectual liberal domain of Jews and entered the Bible-thumping conservatism of the fundamentalist evangelicals. And what's even sadder is that I think the Church is doing a lot of this gross stuff to get respect from those evangelicals, whose communities have excluded, oppressed, and even lynched Catholics in the past. And now Catholics are simply among them, like Rick Santorum and John Roberts. I'm not saying the Catholic Church was always stellar, but it was not the counter-Christianity practiced by conservative evangelicals.

    Two things mystify me about the new anti-gay policy:
    1. We really don't have enough people entering the priesthood as it is. The survival of the profession was, to a great extent, reliant on gay men's internalized homophobia leading them to seminary. That's why it's bizarre that women aren't allowed and bizarre that gay men are not allowed. The Church really shouldn't be turning any qualified person away.
    2. How on earth will "Vatican investigators" determine whether or not a priest is gay? If it was based on sexual behavior while a priest, his expulsion would already be doctrine, regardless of the gender of the person with whom the sex act was performed. So, is it about behavior before entering the priesthood? If so, what if people "repent"? Are we dealing with "openly gay" priests? I don't know. It all just seems bizarre.

    Guess Who's Back? Back Again?

    Oprah's Book Club's back, tell a friend.

    It never really left, but it did experience a descent in popularity upon her decision only to use classic literature. (People didn't want to wade through Faulkner, but I love her for trying.)

    Oprah Winfrey said yesterday that she was expanding her highly influential television book club to include the works of contemporary authors, reversing a policy of choosing only classic novels and once again offering authors and their publishers the hope of huge sales resulting from her picks.

    "I wanted to open the door and broaden the field," Ms. Winfrey said in an interview. "That allows me the opportunity to do what I like to do most, which is sit and talk to authors about their work. It's kind of hard to do that when they're dead."

    The first book she selected was James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, a memoir on drug addiction and rehab which has already garnered positive critical attention. It has already risen to #1 on Amazon's bestseller list in Books.

    I think it's really great, in a way, that Oprah's book club will get her viewers to read contemporary books, given the dearth of readership and it's steady decline over the past decade. Jonathan Franzen is correct that it may very well translate only into an increase in women reading books, women already making up the majority of the reading public, but Oprah was savvy in starting with a memoir by a man, which will allow her a wider range of choices as the book club continues. I am sure that publishers are overjoyed and I think that writers will have new opportunities to be published because there is immediately a larger market for literature.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    Tete a Tete

    In The New Yorker this week,
    Louis Menand explores the ever-fascinating relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre:

    Three years after Sartre’s death, Beauvoir published a collection of his letters to her, in which he described in detail his activities in bed, but she edited them to conceal identities. She died in 1986; in 1990, her executrix, Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir, published Beauvoir’s “Letters to Sartre.” These were unedited—“Is it not, by now, preferable to tell all in order to tell the truth?” Le Bon de Beauvoir wrote in the preface—and they shocked many people. The revelation was not the promiscuity; it was the hypocrisy. In interviews, Beauvoir had flatly denied having had sexual relations with women; in the letters, she regularly described, for Sartre, her nights in bed with women. The most appalling discovery, for many readers, was what “telling each other everything” really meant. The correspondence was filled with catty and disparaging remarks about the people Beauvoir and Sartre were either sleeping with or trying to sleep with, even though, when they were with those people, they radiated interest and affection. . .
    And the Beaver is the great mystery at the center of the whole system. What explains her? One theory is plainly wrong. That is the theory that her relationship with Sartre was a post-patriarchal partnership of equals, combining genuine mutuality with genuine autonomy, and rejecting the superstitious equation of sexual fidelity with commitment—in less pretentious terms, an open marriage. But it is clear now that Sartre and Beauvoir did not simply have a long-term relationship supplemented by independent affairs with other people. The affairs with other people formed the very basis of their relationship. The swapping and the sharing and the mimicking, the memoir- and novel-writing, right down to the interviews and the published letters and the duelling estates, was the stuff and substance of their “marriage.” This was how they slept with each other after they stopped sleeping with each other. The third parties were, in effect, prostheses, marital aids, and, when they discovered how they were being used, they reacted, like Bianca Bienenfeld, with the fury of the betrayed.

    Menand gives momentary treatment to the theories of their relationship, but concludes:

    If “The Second Sex” can’t be squared with the life, we are reduced to the final, depressing theory that the pact was just the traditional sexist arrangement—in which the man sleeps around and the woman nobly “accepts” the situation—on philosophical stilts. Sartre was the classic womanizer, and Beauvoir was the classic enabler. In the beginning, the bisexuality was her way of showing the proper spirit. “I’ve a very keen taste for her body”: who is speaking that sentence? The woman who wants it to be heard, or the man who wants to hear it? Later on, she had other men, but finding a man willing to enter a sexual intimacy without strings is not the most difficult thing in the world. (Algren turned out not to be one.) Beauvoir was formidable, but she was not made of ice. Though her affairs, for the most part, were love affairs, it is plain from almost every page she wrote that she would have given them all up if she could have had Sartre for herself alone.

    Now, it's been awhile since I was reading Beauvoir, though I read her extensively (including the letters exchanged with Sartre) for a few solid months, but I feel that both parties were working out their tortured sexual psyches with each other and that it would be difficult to construe it as the traditional sexual relationship or as a perfectly open non-marriage. These were two incredibly disturbed people, disturbed by their own intelligence as much as anything more tangible. And, it's too obvious to say, but I'll say it: they were EXISTENTIALISTS. It seems knee-jerk to envision their relationship as falling neatly into a "traditional sexist arrangement". I mean, for one thing, she was sleeping with other men!

    Do Republicans Hate America?

    Well, yes.

    Sirotablog offers the iron-clad proof:

    In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush and Republicans in Congress have refused to consider rolling back the $336 billion in new tax cuts that the richest 1 percent are slated to get over the next five years. They say we need to pay for reconstruction not by asking the wealthiest to sacrifice just a little bit, but by massive cuts to spending. And now we see what that means: The Navy Times today reports that those cuts "include trimming military quality-of-life programs, including health care." This, while troops are in battle.
    The Republicans have put their cutting efforts in military terms, calling it "Operation Offset" - a further insult to the men and women in uniform they are now trying to screw over. The specifics are ugly. They are, for instance, asking troops to "accept reduced health care benefits for their families." Additionally, "the stateside system of elementary and secondary schools for military family members could be closed." In the past, this idea "has faced strong opposition from parents of children attending the schools because public schools [in and around bases] are seen as offering lower-quality education."

    I really hope the media covers these brilliant ideas until every American with a television set or a radio gets it. I'm glad that we're "talking about poverty" now, but I think we're talking about it in this strange isolated way: "People are poor! We need to help them! Some people are poor because we don't have decent government programs to help them because the money is going back into other people's already full Gucci wallets. I keep thinking that, if people knew what was going on, they'd think, "Well gee, that's stupid." But most likely they know and don't care.

    What the "Elite" Women Are Doing

    Bad news for the rich brats of the future:

    Mom's already clearing her schedule to be on hand for your field trips.

    At Yale and other top colleges, women are being groomed to take their place in an ever more diverse professional elite. It is almost taken for granted that, just as they make up half the students at these institutions, they will move into leadership roles on an equal basis with their male classmates.

    There is just one problem with this scenario: many of these women say that is not what they want.

    Many women at the nation's most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others, like Ms. Liu, say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment.

    My first thought? Please, please, get your spoiled-Ivy-ass into the kitchen and the nursery and leave a couple of opportunities for the rest of us. My second thought? As if any of the rest of us women will find those opportunities left open for us.

    I often think this so-called "opting-out" is a response to the hopelessness women feel, knowing that the favoritism of and competition with men they are experiencing will go on forever. Why not let their husband, who is likely to make better money anyway, support them so that they can do the one thing in which they are unlikely to be competing with very many men? They can be PTA president, they can be Room Mother, and they can be the 19th century ideal of the "republican mother" who instills her child with American virtues and wields her power in the household as power in the public sphere via her male children. This manifests in the upper class because those women are the ones bred with the need to be the best and being the best is more important than doing any one particular thing.

    They are also smart enough to know that, in order to really succeed in the current system, it's best to have a wife.

    And let me add that this is not new!

    There is an exquisite post on Next Left that you must check out.

    I also enjoyed Phoebe's take:
    We as a country may be at a tradition-embracing moment, but for every child of the 1960s who swore she'd never, ever move back to the suburbs and raise a family and then found herself doing just that, there will be one of this generation who will read NYT archives 20 years from now, from her home in San Francisco, where she and her wife of ten years work as corporate lawyers, and will chuckle at her own publically-declared plans to raise her husband's kids.

    The Dyke Squad also weighs in.

    Finally, Tiki Stitch debunks the whole thing.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    A Sex Stop on the Way Home

    Strangely, this is among the most popularly emailed articles in The Times.

    "I can't tell you how many guys I've had here who were wearing wedding bands, with baby seats in the car and all kinds of kids' toys on the floor. It's on their way home and they don't have to get involved in a relationship or any gay lifestyle or social circles. They don't even have to buy anyone a drink or be seen in a gay bar. They just tell the wife, 'Honey, I'll be home an hour late tonight.' "

    Regulars say that the married men enjoy the risk and recklessness of semipublic sex, which usually means receiving oral sex in their cars or having other sexual encounters in the woods nearby.

    "Some aren't getting it at home," the man added. "Some say, 'I'm not even gay. I'm just bored.' "

    Blog discussions include iwalt:
    The New York Times is apparently trying to compete with supermarket tabloids, the NY Post, and other salacious news publications by printing stories of gay men cruising for sex in parks and public spaces. In this story, Mr. Kilgamon draws up an updated list of gay cruising spots around the New York City area where men—both married and gay—look for anonymous sex in suburban parks, parking lots, and wooded areas. Though it's no secret that gay and closeted men have cruised each other for years in places like Central Park, the Chelsea Piers, and the Meatpacking district, others who are not as lucky to live in Manhattan search for sexual partners wherever they can find willing partners who share their sexual desires.

    and, of course, towleroad:
    This jaw-dropping article in the New York Times about men picking up other men at various cruising spots on Long Island is perhaps one of the most offensive pieces of trash I've ever read in that newspaper, and includes an equally offensive photo (at least in the online edition) of an older man from the waist down standing outside of his car. The focus of the photograph is the man's crotch.
    Andy's readers respond:

    From "Garoo": Geez, if you really want to be a prude, you might want to cut back on the pictures of half-naked men.

    I can't find anything offensive about this article (past the legitimately curious and amused tone of someone discovering that men have fun so simply in the outdoors, right out of the seventies). If you're offended that straight people might find out many gay men are promiscuous, well, tough: it's true.

    From "Don": Andy, I see you're running an ad for The White Party. Suppose an NYT reporter goes down there to report on the circuit party phenomenon. I wonder what would be in that article and what conclusions the straights would draw from it. What, exactly, do you want, Andy?

    And from "Fishman":

    The issue Andy is hitting on, and everyone seems to be overlooking (which, by the way, if Andy pisses you off so much, why are you here???) is that it focuses on gay men being lonely and sleazy. An evenhanded article would have removed the "gay," and just focused on men.

    Everywhere throughout Queens there are straight strip clubs with lap dances and champagne rooms. In my world...paying for sex is more pathetic than trolling for it. Men are horny beasts, and just because the outer boroughs provide "acceptable" places for straight men to engage in their activities does not make them any less so.

    And if all the gay men on here are like "gay men are promiscuous." Check your self-loathing self-hate at the door. Straight men (and in a lot of places straight women) are very promiscuous...so, if everyone is...does that make reporting about the promiscuous nature of gay men ridiculous...yes.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I feel compelled to add that Corey Kilgannon was also responsible for this queer moment.