Monday, August 29, 2005

Wingnuts callin' the kettle black, OR: Who's doin' the exploitin'?

Soundbitten responds to the latest talking point re Cindy Sheehan--namely, that she's exploiting her son's death. He also includes a helpful table for determining what's crass and what's tasteful. Hint: that 9/11 Freedom Walk and Clint Black concert coming up doesn't fall under "tasteful."


I spent the weekend in the Poconos with Le Sweetie and friends. It's beautiful up there. However, it started raining on Saturday and was totally soggy on Sunday. Plus, I came down with a cold. Argh!

And now Hurricane Katrina has hit the south. Crap.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Abstinence Pledges and British Folk--Yes, They're All in the Same Blog Post

I read Pam Spaulding's piece on virginity pledges while listening to "The Trees They Do Grow High," a traditional English folk song about child marriage. The song exists in many forms and has been recorded by Joan Baez, Pentangle, and Martin Carthy. Steeleye Span (one of my favorite folk groups) recorded a verion titled "Long A-Growing."

The storyline is as follows: A nobleman marries his daughter off to a much younger bridegroom. By "much younger," I mean mid-teens: most versions place the husband's age at fourteen or sixteen, and in one version of the song, he's twelve. The bride isn't too happy about the arrangement, but the father assures her that her husband, with some education, will become a proper young man. Alas, it's not to be: the husband marries one year, sires the next year, and expires the next.

More information on the song and its many variations can be found here.

So, what's this got to do with virginity pledges? Well, all this "wait 'till you're married for Jesus" rhetoric gets me to thinking that 500 years ago, these kids wouldn't be thinking about abstinence unless they were in a convent or monastery. They would likely be married by their mid- to late teens. All you Shakespeare fans should keep in mind that the Bard's tragic lovers--Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Ophelia--would be considered lovesick puppies on the schoolyard today. Desdemona? She would've been a sixteen-year-old girl married to a much older man. Today, the thought of a grown woman marrying a thirteen-year-old kid a la Mary Kay Letourneau turns our stomachs--as it should.

Part of the reason our ancestors were considered sexually mature so early in was because life expectancy was lower. Not only that, but there was no birth control and no prenatal care. For royalty and noble classes, marriages were arranged early in life for political purposes. There were royal couples who married for convenience yet loathed each other with a passion. (King George IV and his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, are particularly infamous examples.)

So what's all this got to do with abstinence pledges and whether or not they work? Well, it's important to accept that teenagers are sexually curious. However, that doesn't mean they should be sexually active. I personally think they should wait until they're of legal age before having sex. The more mature, the better. Sometimes, teenagers have sex for all the wrong reasons.

There is so much talk about sexual activity and not enough talk about sexual responsibility. Abstinence-only education, it seems, is a pretty flimsy substitute for teaching responsibility.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Feingold: The Democratic Leaders Knew Better, But...

From the Booman Tribune, an interview with Senator Feingold. Feingold says all the things that the Democratic leadership should be saying about Iraq:

Steve: In your announcement this week you spoke about the "taboo" of suggesting withdrawal. Has the administration been effective in framing the Iraq issue as a matter of patriotism, and in turn, make overt opposition muted and tentative?

Senator Feingold: Unfortunately, until very recently, they have been extremely effective. I mean, we could have won that election in 2002. We were way ahead on domestic issues, but the Democratic Party and Democratic leaders decided to take a pass on the Iraq war. They decided to defer to the President, and I have to tell you many Democratic leaders knew better. This was a bad idea, but they allowed the Bush administration to brilliantly intimidate them into not standing up and saying this doesn't fit in with the fight against Al Qaeda and the terrorists that attacked this country on 9/11. Of course, I didn't buy into this and I voted no, but I was even in the minority among Democrats in the Senate. And now were making the same mistake, now that it's clear that the administration took us into Iraq under false premises. We have a situation where they are doing a terrible job managing this war. They are doing a terrible job of having a plan to win the war and win the peace. Yet, Democrats are allowing the President to set the terms of the debate. If somebody says "what about a plan to bring the troops home", the President labels it cut and run. Democrats have become silent, so I do think perhaps that we have allowed this to become a taboo. My purpose this week is to break that taboo, let other Democrats know it's safe to go in the water. It's safe to talk about how we can succeed and bring our troops home. Why shouldn't we Democrats be talking about that?

Why not, indeed? Please, someone explain to La Hill, Lieberman, and the rest of the DLC that they should be on the same page as the majority of Americans, who are now deeply opposed to the war.

Oh, and someone tell Joe Biden (aka Senator Smarm) to SHUT THE FUCK UP.

Feingold continues:

I started trying to get other Senators interested in some kind of approach that has a real plan and vision of how we can leave. It was like pulling teeth. But, I predict after the August recess, that they are going to have a very different attitude....So, I believe this thing is reaching a critical mass and if Democrats don't get ahead of this issue it will just be another sign to the public that were not ready to govern.

Well, we can only hope they do sense that the wind is shifting. I think Reid's proven to be a pretty tough, effective minority leader, but this is the party's chance to a. come up with an exit strategy and b. establish their own agenda.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

From Utah...Now, THIS is interesting...

Via One Pissed Off Veteran comes this news item about the kind of welcoming committee the mayor has planned for the Preznit. And there's no accompanying quote from Orrin Hatch. Aw gee.

I did NOT need to see this.

From Ayn Clouter. Ow, my poor tummy.

Gee...You Think?

With this proclamation, Senator Chuck Hagel wins this week's Counselor Troi Award for Most Blatantly Obvious Commentary.

"We should start figuring out how we get out of there," Hagel said on "This Week" on ABC. "But with this understanding, we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilizes the Middle East. I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur."

Hagel said "stay the course" is not a policy. "By any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq ... we're not winning," he said.

Naturally, another GOP senator, Mark "Party Line, All the Time" Allen, disagrees. Like Hagel, Allen is considering a 2008 run. If we are (God forbid) still in Iraq by 2008, expect to see a lot GOP nominees duking it out over the Iraq issue.

Last week, Senator Russ Feingold was pushing for a deadline for US withdrawal from Iraq--preferably December 2006. I liked an earlier proposal he had: identify goals in Iraq, figure out how to meet said goals, and come up with a timetable for withdrawing troops. Don't know how effective a timetable would be, but Feingold seems to be one of the few people in Congress (and the only senator) suggesting anything remotely resembling an exit plan.

Feingold never supported this war to begin with, so it's only fitting that he now supports a deadline.

Man, the more I read about Feingold, the more I respect the guy. If he runs, he's got my vote.

The Eleventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not--I reapeat, NOT--Snark on Santorum at a Book Signing

I am not sure whether to be amused or horrified or both. Moore proof of how thin-skinned today's wingnuts truly are.

"Oh no! She snarked on Rick Santorum! She was even going to have him sign a Dan Savage book!"


Oh, crap. Another young actress nearly kills herself

In a galaxy of lissome, insubstantial, and undistinguished blond starlets, Natasha Lyonne stood apart--husky voice, head of reddish-blond curls, and a choice of roles that ranged from quirky cult films to ensemble blockbusters. I first saw her in "Slums of Beverly Hills," and she was fabulous as a teenage girl in 1970s California with a flat-broke dad and a crazy cousin. Certainly more deserving of megastardom than Lindsay Lohan. (Not that Lindsay's a bad actress, but she's gotten overexposed and seems way to fragile for all this press attention.)

Anyway. Back to Natasha Lyonne. She's in the hospital with a host of medical and drug-related problems. I'm usually not the sort of person to follow celebrities, but this just so sad. She once had so much promise. Here's hoping she makes a full recovery and gets her act together.

Someone really, REALLY wants to be President

Senator Bill "I'm the Senate Majority Leader, so why shouldn't I get the 2008 nomination" Frist now supports (not so) intelligent design. From MSNBC via Jon Aravosis.

First, he can diagnose patients by watching them on video. Then he supports stem cell research. Then he supports "intelligent design." Either Bill Frist got through med school by cheating off other students on exams, or he's just spouting this nonsense to make nicey-nice with the religious right, in the hopes that they won't demolish his presidential hopes.

Still, it's pretty funny every time he opens his mouth. If he keeps flip-flopping, he'll make himself dizzy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Fiona Apple--FINALLY

Well, a couple of Fiona Apple tracks are now on iTunes for download. I, music fan and wary admirer of her talent that I am, went ahead and downloaded them.

Now that her album is FINALLY coming out, I feel a little cheated. I suspect everyone was led to believe that she was a victim of label politics. Jon Brion gave the sob story about Sony leaving the album on a shelf because there was no apparent single. "Free Fiona!" cried her fans. My guy wondered if perhaps she could buy back the album and take it to a nice, sympathetic indie.

But now rumor has it that Apple herself is the reason the album was delayed. (Of course, no one can explain how the thing got leaked onto the net in the first place.) Oh poopy. That's not as exciting as the concept of Fiona vs. the Record Industry. Anyway, her new album, "Extraordinary Machine," will be out October 4. Here's hoping she can avoid flaking out.

In Which The Truffle Goes to a Vigil

I went to one of the city's many, many vigils in support of Cindy Sheehan. We were right in front of the NBC building, in fact, and perhaps they'll run a ten-second segment on it at some point or other. Feh. The hell with TV news.

I've been to demos, but never a vigil. It was a well-mannered but passionate affair. Lots of people were holding candles and the occasional sign (with slogans gladly provided by I got one of these small candles that I put in a Dixie cup. It's very easy to put a candle in a cup. You use the melting wax, let it drip into the cup, and stick in the candle. Presto.

There were a few women from Code Pink (a feminist peace organization that I know very little about). They were identifiable because of their pink outfits and hot pink buttons. They do seem like an interesting group. I'd like to find out more--but as for getting involved, there's a problem: I look awful in pink. It's my worst color.

Weirdly enough, earlier that day, I sent a care package to a US soldier in Iraq. There's a site called, which has listings for US troops needing snacks, toiletries, letters, and other good stuff. I wanted to do something for the troops, so I did it. Two bottles of body wash and five paperback novels. Not only am I supporting the troops, I'm also getting rid of some old books of mine. Man, did I need to clear off the shelf space!

The Rude Pundit, meanwhile, weighs in on the Preznit and the grieving mother. It has the splendid title of "President Who-Gives-a-Shit (Part 3, Wherein President Who-Gives-a-Shit Reveals That He Is the Exact Same Kind of Selfish Baby Boomer His Party Accused Bill Clinton of Being)." Classic stuff.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

More from Chase Comley's family

A follow-up to yesterday's post re moms, grandmoms, and other antiwar voices. Via Kos, I stumble onto this piece by Missy Comley Beattie, whose nephew, Chase Comley, was killed in Iraq.

For those of you who still trust the Bush administration -- and your percentage diminishes every day -- let me tell you that my nephew Chase Johnson Comley did not die to preserve your freedoms. He was not presented flowers by grateful Iraqis, welcoming him as their liberator.

He died fighting a senseless war for oil and contracts, ensuring the increased wealth of President Bush and his administration's friends.

He died long after Bush, in his testosterone-charged, theatrical, soldier-for-a-day role, announced on an aircraft carrier beneath a "Mission Accomplished" banner that major combat was over.

He died in a country erupting into civil war and turned into a hellhole by Bush, a place where democracy has no chance of prevailing, a country that will become a theocracy like Saudi Arabia.

Have we won the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people? Apparently not.


Read the rest of the letter. This is truly powerful stuff.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The new antiwar voices: Mothers and grandmothers

These days, the right-wing noise machine's got a problem when it goes up against the antiwar movement. The new symbol of Iraq war opposition isn't some 1960s holdover. It's not some goofy Marxist academic. It's a mother. Specifically, the mother of a fallen soldier.

Suddenly, they can no longer frame antiwar activists as a "fifth column" in American life, and they can no longer smear them as traitors to their country. Not when they're moms. After all, motherhood's one of those things that Americans are supposed to love and defend--along with Uncle Sam and apple pie.

Smear a grieving mother, and you come off as a heartless dick. Suggest her motives are less than pure, and you risk a raised eyebrow.

"She lost her son!"

"Have a heart!"

Those are some likely responses you'll get.

Of course, the right-wing noise machine won't give up trying. But their desperation, their flailing, their rush to find something to use against Cindy Sheehan, are all too apparent. As Billmon notes:

There's a kind of comical desperation about it -- like watching cartoon elephants dance in hysterical fear at the sight of a cartoon mouse. I said recently that the Rovians attack what they fear most. And when your greatest fear is the mother of a combat soldier who wants to ask the president why her son had to die in Iraq, you know you've got some serious PR problems.

They're going to get more nervous really soon. Now, even grandmothers are following suit. I stumbled onto the following Lexington Herald-Leader story by way of Daily Kos. It's about the funeral of 21-year-old Marine Chase Johnson Comley:

But on Friday, Comley's grandmother, 80-year-old Geraldine Comley of Versailles, described herself in an interview as a former Republican stalwart who is "on a rampage" against the president and the war.

She said she would like nothing better than to join Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier who has been holding a peace vigil outside President Bush's ranch in Texas.

"When someone gets up and says 'My son died for our freedom,' or I get a sympathy card that says that, I can hardly bear it," Geraldine Comley said.

Chase Conley's aunt (and Geraldine's daughter), Missie Comley Beattie, didn't mince words either:

"I've never seen my father cry, but I've heard him cry this week," she said. "And he will look at the picture of Chase that's on their hearth and say 'George Bush killed my grandson.'"

But wait! It gets even better! A group called the Raging Grannies attempted to enlist--something none of the right-wing pundits have done or encouraged their audience to do.

Mothers and grandmothers and grieving family members are emerging as the new faces of the antiwar movement. Suddenly, the Iraq war cheerleaders have reason to be nervous. Because this time, their opponents aren't crazed, wild-eyed hippies. They're the people we're supposed to love, cherish, and revere. Parents and grandparents.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Another wingnut cartoonist makes stuff up.

There's a reason why "conservative humorist" is such an oxymoron these days. They don't dare poke fun at the Bush administration, even though the Bush administration is to blame for the mess in Iraq, the ballooning deficit, the limp economy, the Plame case, and just about every single mess we're in.

Well, they could dare. They could poke a few holes in the president's hypocrisy or lampoon his ever-shifting excuses for the Iraq war. They could cast a withering satirical eye at Bob "This is EXPLETIVE DELETED" Novak.

But, as
Carl Moore's State of the Union strip
makes clear, it's easier and less embarassing to just make stuff up.

Now, really. Nonsense like this makes "Mallard Fillmore" look smart and insightful. Someone kept a straight face while drawing this?

A good political cartoon takes a current event--something rooted in fact--and offers a new perspective that makes the reader grin and, maybe, think. This goes for liberal and conservative cartoonists alike. This one, however, is based on a lie--specifically, a lie told by Karl Rove.

Satire based on something that didn't happen and doesn't exist doesn't really qualify as effective satire. "Mallard Fillmore" and "State of the Union" are cartoons based on straw men, bogus information, and stuff that the cartoonists just made up.

It's gotta be hard to be a conservative humorist these days.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Awww. Diddums get mad on live television?

Or, "S is for schadenfreude, that's good enough for me." Robert "What journalistic ethics?" Novak threw a hissy fit LIVE on the set of "Inside Edition." Not only did he have a hissy fit, he said a SWEAR WORD! Ooooooooh! Bad Novak, bad! CNN doesn't like it when their pundits swear and curse live on the air, so they've suspended him. Here's the Cliff Notes version from USA Today.

Sounds as if James Carville was trying to get in a few digs at Novak, and Novak couldn't take it. The fact that they were planning to ask Novak about--AHEM--Plame probably also had something to do with it.

This is one of the funniest examples of an on-air meltdown I've ever heard of. Novak has thus far emerged unscathed from the whole grand jury investigation into the Plame case (probably because he blabbed about everything to save his skin) and continues to be welcome on polical TV gabfests. Why this man isn't a pariah in the punditverse is beyond me.

See Bob in action right here!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Wingnuts Invade the Romance Writers Convention!

Last week was the Romance Writers of America's annual convention in Reno, Nevada. Nora Roberts was supposed to be the emcee. It was supposed to be, in Roberts' words, "a celebration, a night of fun and anticipation for the nominees, and an entertaining and sparkling event."

But the idiots in charge of RWA had other plans, and when Roberts saw the script for the thing, she flipped and refused to take part.

As it turns out, even romance writers can be freepers. Selah March has more.

Instead of a celebration of RWA and romance fiction over the past 25 years, the RITA/GH awards ceremony included the following:

* a video and audio rehash of every national and international tragedy that's taken place since 1980, set to a back-drop of kicky tunes from each year represented.

Imagine, if you will, footage of the tanks rolling through Tiananmen Square with "Don't Worry, Be Happy" playing in the background. Apparently, only a last-minute edit managed to save the ceremony attendees from being forced to watch the shuttle Challenger explode in mid-air and...AND...the Twin Towers fall.

Think about that. All those NYC agents and editors in the audience. Think about it some more.

Yee-HAW. We're celebratin' NOW, baybeee...

** images of political leaders flashed on the screen, looking handsome and honorable.

Okay...wait. Let me rephrase. Images of REPUBLICAN political leaders--specifically Presidents Reagan, Bush I and II--flashed on the screen, looking handsome and honorable.

Word has it the only time President William Jefferson Clinton--you remember him? Rhodes Scholar? Two term president? Led the country through a time of exceptional prosperity? Had a little trouble keeping it in his pants, true, but left the nation with a JILLION DOLLAR SURPLUS?--was shown was in conjunction with the Monica Lewinsky nonsense. Biased much?

(Hey, I understand political bias. I'm a walking, talking political bias, lefty lunatic that I am. But I'm not leading a 9K-strong organization, either, and if I were, I'd put aside my political leanings when organizing a FREAKIN' AWARDS CEREMONY, and understand that I need to TRY to reach EVERYBODY. Or, at least, to openly offend as few as possible.)

*** virtually no positive images of women. Lewinsky was there, as noted. Lorena Bobbitt made a showing. Donna what's-her-name...the one that sunk Gary Hart's political career? She was pictured. Princess Diana got the full treatment, and--GET THIS--they called her story a FAIRY TALE.

What were these people smoking and where can I get some? 'Cause most fairy tales I read don't end in adultery, divorce, and gruesome death for the HEROINE.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg? Nowhere to be seen. Sally Ride and Oprah were mentioned, apparently, but not shown. Anyone could spend ten minutes and come up with a list of names appropriate to celebrate in a venue such as that and do a better job...but the ceremony organizers had another agenda, I'm thinking.

**** virtually no positive images of people of color. O.J. in his white bronco they got, ad nauseum. Bill Cosby flashed by once, so I'm told, and, as I said, Oprah got a brief mention.

Really? That's all they could come up with? How hard were they trying, do you think?

And over top of it all, let's not forget the music. And the stretch limos, right up there on stage. And the slow-as-molasses fashion show.

The adjectives I'm hearing to describe this event range from "unfocused and unenjoyable" to "hideous, conference-ruining mess." Folks don't understand how any of this was supposed to celebrate romance fiction or educate the members on how far RWA has come in the past 25 years.

A retrospective on romance trends from the eighties, nineties, and today? Maybe with a slide-show of the RITA-winning covers from the past 25 years? Safe, staid, boring, you say?

Tell it to the bitca who thought watching the Towers fall was the best way to say "I love RWA." Thank God cooler heads prevailed on THAT one. And yes, I know which specific individual organized this morbid little homage to bad taste, but I'm not saying. I'll let Nora herself tell you, in the letter to which I've linked, down below.

People are talking. People are PISSED. People are writing letters to the BoD, and to the RWR (Romance Writers' Report).

Other people--the usual suspects, otherwise known as the Ladies Who Lunch, aka: the Stepford Wives of the RWA--are pooh-poohing the uproar with the standard "can't please all of the people all of the time," and spreading the rumor that Nora bowed out because she was "sick."

Don't. You. Believe it.

Nora wasn't so much sick as SICKENED.

I'm a book editor. I work on romance novels. I live in New York City. And I remember watching the Twin Towers burn and collapse.

And some shrew at RWA thought it would be a great idea to show a "patriotic" montage of national tragedies? With cheerful oldies playing in the background? Someone was actually so devoid of common sense and good taste?

Okay. They're romance writers. Go ahead, laugh. It's just a convention with women writing lovey-dovey stuff. So what?

Romance novels are supposed to be about love, faith, struggle, and living happily ever after. Instead of celebrating them, RWA's leadership decided to shove a tacky political agenda down people's throats.

So many conservatives are devoid of sensitivity and regard for others. I think we all know that by now. But this defies explanation.

At least Nora Roberts did the right thing and pulled out rather than be part of it. "I can't comprehend how such tragic events and images had a place at a ceremony meant to showcase the nominees and the twenty-five years of the organization," she writes (follow Selah's blog for the link). Neither can I, Nora. It's just that the RWA freepers have other priorties.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Back in the swing of things...

I spent a nice long weekend on beautiful Long Beach Island in New Jersey. My guy and I stayed at a motel by the beach and spent our days bicycling, swimming, and going to Beach Haven's amusement park. Meanwhile, I did some early bird Xmas shopping. (My mom is worse than I am. I suspect she has all her shopping done by August.) Also picked up the requisite souvenirs (t-shirts, postcards, etc.).

Work is busy but not too busy. Just as it should be. I got my check for a freelance writing gig, so I'm feeling happy. Am also looking to do freelance editing while I'm at it. I've been too busy having fun and keeping up on current events to think about it,'s always nice to have extra money.