Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hell, I Don't Fucking Know

A few kind souls have posted comments recently wondering where I've gone and urging Bionic Posting Activity. I thank them very sweetly for caring, but I have to confess I'm at a loss to think what would be the point.

I don't mean that all drama-queenily, and I'm certainly not fishing for a chorus of 'We wuv you, BionOc, come back!'s. I honestly don't know what possible good I could do by posting the things I have to say about this festival of barbarity and global apology. For one thing, there's sterling opposition blogging going on all over the damn place. jews sans frontieres, the Tomb, Angry Arab, From Gaza with Love, and untold others are saying and reporting everything I can imagine contributing and much more.

Thanks to the heroic and indefatigable Jennifer Loewenstein (contact me if you want to get on her amazing mailing list), I am daily supplied with an avalanche of data, opinion, reportage, rage from all over the world's media. I struggle to keep up with the death counts (latest from Lebanon = more than 200 Lebanese : 24 Israelis, maintaining the steady 10:1 Arab-Israeli exchange rate that Europe and the US appear to feel is eminently reasonable; as for Palestinians, we're apparently not getting Gazan death counts anymore--the Gaza invasion is so July 11th, and where's the dramatic flair in death by pestilence, dehydration, failed health care and heat stroke?), the sundry analyses (it's Iran/it's Syria/it's Palestinian solidarity/it's, for fuck's sake, the Mideast Death Dance), the searing offensives and limp-dicked apologies, the statements of defiance and the endless, bloviating, self-aggrandizing, schmaltz-belarded lies.

I fight wearily on my med-student listservs with people who post things like 'Does anybody understand that Hizbullah and Hamas operate and hide behind women and children making it near impossible for Israel to avoid some civilian casualties? What about taking a stand against those Arab societies that teach hate in schools and encourage families to sacrifice their children?' (Nobody, but nobody, retails bankrupt fact-unimpeded racist caricatures as argument like thick American Zionist children. Honestly, a halfway-intelligent Likudnik would cringe with mortification to read this shite.)

So I spend my days reading, in a marinade of impotent rage and perma-beggared belief. How would it help anyone if I upchucked my bolus of bile into the blogosea? How would it not be an insult to the overpowering immediacy of Lebanese and Palestinian suffering if I used a blog to exorcise my personal little grief and rage from my cozy summer ass-plant in London? (I am aware that this could be construed as precisely what I'm doing in the present post, but it isn't. It's an explanation.)

By this, please understand, I intend no slight whatsoever to all those who are blogging this nightmare. So many people are providing vital information, analysis and energy that we're so desperately lacking from the official media. I'm especially awed by and grateful to those who find ways to blog from the ground, to make sure we see what this savagery actually looks like.

All I have to contribute is fury and grief, and that does fuck-all for anyone. So except for those circumstances in which I imagine I can actually do some concrete good by posting, I'm going to sit this out.

One thing before I go, though. I got the following article via email last night from Jennifer Loewenstein:
Last update - 01:14 18/07/2006
Senator Clinton: All Americans are standing behind Israel

By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press

Speaking at a large demonstration in support of Israel in Manhattan on Monday, United States Senator Hillary Clinton expressed unreserved support for Israel and commended President George Bush for his stance in the present crisis.

Clinton said on Monday that all Americans, whether Democrats or Republicans, stood behind Israel at this time.

The demonstration, which drew an estimated 5,000 people, was described as one of the largest Jewish events in recent years.

Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel also spoke at the gathering, which ended in a call to free the captured soldiers.

[...]
[Italics mine.] Parenthetically, this article has now disappeared from the Ha'aretz site, which may be the result of skulduggery on the part of She's handlers, or equally the general crapness of haaretz.com. Not the point.

Point is, FUCK YOU HILLARY CLINTON YOU PUTRESCENT DRAGGLE OF STINKING HUMAN WASTE. Don't you fucking DARE to speak for me and what I stand behind, now or ever. I hereby pledge to devote myself tirelessly to the struggle for your unelection and precipitous, humiliating descent into infinitely-deserved disgrace and obscurity, you foul, pandering, principle-shunning megalopportunist bucket of treachery. I spit on you.

That is all, for now.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Olmert: Did I Say UNIlateral Convergence?

I meant, uh, BIlateral convergence. I mean road map. I mean, oh, just shut it and suck up these facts on the ground. Reality is my bitch, bitch.
In light of the international opposition [B: e.g., the UK's ultrahardass 'reluctance' to see the 'very much second-best' solution of unilateral action--booyakasha] to further unilateral steps by Israel, the government has begun to draft an alternative plan that would essentially convert Olmert's unilateral convergence plan into a bilateral move carried out in conjunction with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

According to the plan now being drafted by the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry, Israel would propose to Abbas that they reach an agreement to establish a Palestinian state with provisional borders in Gaza plus about 90 percent of the West Bank. The provisional border in the West Bank would match the route of the separation fence, with one exception: Israel would retain security control over the Jordan Valley.

In this way, Israel hopes to present the convergence plan as an implementation of Phase II of the road map peace plan, thereby acceding to the demands of the United States, Jordan, Egypt and others that Israel resume negotiations with the PA under the road map.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tap Tap...Is This Thing On?

Um, hello world? Paging the fucking world? Could I have your attention for like 5 fucking seconds? Cause I was just curious about what exactly it might take for y'all to actually consider that maybe, just maybe, it might be a good idea to think about slightly a little tiny bit reining Israel the fuck in.

I mean, I get that bombing families to smithereens on beaches is not that tipping point for you. Your deafening silence has made that pretty clear. Nor do you appear to balk at Israel's attempts to put over the risible-if-it-weren't-so-utterly-filthy deceit that 'the explosion that killed Huda Ghalia's family was caused by a Palestinian rocket'. OK. So we know your threshold is high.

How about openly threatening to assassinate democratically elected heads of other states?
"Yassin and Rantisi are waiting for you, Haniyeh, if you implement the same stance of liquidating Jews, indiscriminate firing, and suicide terror attacks aimed at paralyzing Israeli society anew," said Hanegbi, chairman of the influential Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Anyone else remember Executive Action, the special assassinations wing of the CIA, revelations of whose botulism-cigar-spikingesque activities forced Gerald Ford to ban assassinations by US agencies some 30 years ago? A ban dutifully upheld by presidents ever since (though naturally, even as it was created ways were being found to pare its application down to virtually nothing outside of a CIA agent actually walking up to a foreign president in broad daylight, whipping out a sword and disembowelling him with a gleeful cackle--no cackle, no assassination).

Even the US of fuckin'A doesn't get to openly waltz around killing heads of state. Yes, everyone knows we do it anyway, but this is not my point. My point is, Israel is advertising it. Surely someone, somewhere thinks, Palestinian justice completely aside, this might not be a completely brilliant precedent. Anyone? Anyone?

P.S. No but really. Really. You have got. to be fucking. kidding me. When will it be fucking ENOUGH?!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

X-Men: The Final Solu--er, Last Stand

GIANT SPOILER WARNING:
I am about to reveal or refer indiscreetly to practically everything important that happens in 'X-Men III'. If you wish (though I don't advise it) to save yourself for the cortex-searing cocktail of geek disillusion and drop-jawed political aghastness that is this cinematic artifact, run away now. Also, much detail is required for analysis purposes, so this is fucking long. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Right. First let me preface by saying that I fucking love X-Men. I was ridiculously excited to see this film. Excited unto sitting through the ubiquitous trailers and TV ads with my eyes squeezed shut and my ears finger-stoppered chanting lalalalalalalalala, to the undoubted joy of my neighboring movie-goers, so as to escape the slightest hint of spoilage.

And of course I secretly knew it would be disappointing, as any 3rd epigone in a beloved franchise will inevitably be. (Beyond 3, I know better than to shell out even two hours of Sunday afternoon cable-watching, let alone actual coin.) What I didn't know was that it would be, hands down, the most overtly, unapologetically reactionary piece of 'entertainment' I can remember seeing. 'X-III', or as I like to call it, 'Kapos Without a Cause', is effectively a manifesto for the implosive capitulation of liberal political ethics into its own hollow, convictionless, security-craving heart. It is the Democrat Police-State Summer Blockbuster.

[Interlude: let me now, against the very slight risk of being blindsided later, allow for the possibility that this is in fact a shockingly sophisticated piece of left-political critique in deep, deep, DEEP cover. There are actually several things about the film that make me think this is a genuine possibility, but ultimately we have to engage with the argument the film appears to make and authorial intent be damned. And as it plays on the screen, this is a film about the heroism of kapos. But just in case it comes out that Brett Ratner is actually a savage Swiftian cryptoTrot for our time, let it be known that I thought of that.]

The premise: post the thwarted mutanticidal ambitions of William Stryker in X2, (American) humans and mutants are at last coexisting in apparent harmony, complete with (the freakishly appropriately-cast) Kelsey Grammer as a big blue furry Secretary for Mutant Affairs in the Presidential Cabinet. But of course all is not durable serenity: a pharmaceutical company has developed a 'cure' for mutants, copied from the DNA of a little mutant boy called Leech. (They keep him shaven-headed and white-clad in a sealed room with a very big television, as one will do. He seems limply ok with this plan, though no one on either side ever appears to ask him.)

Cue queer-style identity politics: many see the 'cure' (quite correctly) as an attempt to pathologize their mutant identity as a disease, while others queue up to get their normal-shots (including Rogue, whose sole, and blessedly scant, function in the film is to enact an odd little embedded High School Misfit narrative: her mutation means she can't touch her boyfriend, which granted does suck, and she miserably suspects him of running around with another girl. In the time-honored self-hating-misfit move, she runs off secretly to get fixed, and we confidently expect that at the last minute she will learn to Love Herself and Value Her Special Difference, and not get cured after all. Hold that thought). Protests, factions, confusion. Isn't it awful? What to do? Then Magneto shows up to organize a real resistance, and the fascist fun begins.

It quickly emerges that the 'voluntary' cure has already been weaponized by the government (poor Mystique is shot with it, and is turned speedily and permanently into a pink, naked and oddly chunkier Rebecca Romijn; NB: head-to-toe teal apparently slimming). By way of justification, the supposedly mutant-friendly President tells outraged Mutant Affairs Secretary Beast that 'I worry how democracy survives when a man can move cities with his mind.' Apparently in this model democracy survives by forcibly genetically bleaching that man, along with any other inconveniently-abled citizens. Beast has a hissy fit, denounces the weaponized cure, and walks out on the government to join his X-friends at Xavier's School, where they all stand around looking Very Concerned about how awful it is, consider packing it all in and then boldly decide to, er, continue holing up in their posh private school. This is the bold plan, mind you.

Magneto meanwhile has been busily gathering a throng of radical followers--naturally pierced, dyed, gender-ambiguous and gothed-up to a man-woman--and they all convene in a forest encampment that evokes, surely non-accidentally, Robin Hood. Magneto delivers an address rousing the Brotherhood to fight the 'cure', and rather desultorily gesturing toward some kind of vague mutant-supremacy platform. (This is one of a small handful of moments thrown in to present him as an eville, heartless tyrant-presumptive; the problem being that they're so lazily conceived that they're completely inconsistent with his character and thus completely unconvincing. The sloppiest, and nastiest, of these is when devoted henchmina Mystique, 'cured' and lying naked and helpless on the floor, looks up plaintively and says, 'Eric...?', to which Magneto icily replies, 'You're no longer one of us', turns and leaves her there. This makes exactly no sense in the context of his character, which has been notable for its loyalty, even to King Kapo Xavier. A clumsy smear-job.)

Meanmeanwhile, having died so promisingly in the end of X2, Jean Grey has come back as the unpromisingly dyed, issuetastic Phoenix and, rather redeemingly, appears right off to have iced Cyclops, her old lover. Dr. Xavier supplies the charming back-story of how, when Jean was but a wee mutantette, she was like totally the Most Powerful Mutant Ever, and for reasons unspecified (but in fact embodied in the entire program of the film) we couldn't have that, so he whisked her off to his school and handily created a series of blocks inside her mind. This caused her to develop a split personality and bury all her impulses of joy, desire, anger and power in the id-persona Phoenix, leaving the sensationally insipid control-shell Jean Grey to struggle pathetically at shifting pennies with her mind-fragment (not to mention at achieving some tepid flicker of chemistry with ultraweenie Cyclops).

Man just out and says all this, as if he'd committed a perfectly understandable, justifiable intervention, instead of, oh, criminal therapeutic child abuse. Now of course the hellcat's out of the bag, and she is one supremely fucked-off megamutant. She explodes Xavier, which to be honest he pretty much deserves, then schleps conflictily off with Magneto (who btw tried to stop her killing Xavier; heartless and disloyal my ass) to Sherwood Base Camp (stopping on the way to pick up some curiously ill-fitting gothwear). Now Magneto and his posse have The Ultimate Weapon. But ahhhhh, can they control her?

This is the last point at which the movie bothers to make any kind of narrative logical sense. Wolverine shows up to try to get Phoenix/Jean (Jeanix?) back, and on the way kills an absolute fuckload of other mutants in Magneto's camp, basically just cuz. (Wolverine's body count in these films has always dwarfed the entire rest of the cast's combined, but this is the first time we see him killing almost exclusively other mutants. I don't believe this is the slightest bit accidental. By the end he will become the prime motivator of the X-Men going out deliberately to kill untold other mutants in order to save [actively mutanticidal] humans--the precise inversion of his role in X2, and the sad resolution of the major ongoing storyline across all three films: the taming/reclaiming of Wolverine into a tool of the state that, in its most pathological [but still broadly sanctioned] incarnation, created him. Poor Wolverine; he was better than this. And to add insult to injury, they present his domestication as if it meant he's finally grown up.)

Jeanix just sort of looks at him for a bit, and then Magneto hucks him magnetically off into the forest far far away, so he mopes blowdriedly back to the school.

Magneto broadcasts a public service announcement on Fox News telling the humans to stay out of the Brotherhood's way and don't fuck with their mission, or prepare to get squished. That irritating fire-boy from X2 (now abruptly risen to #1 Magneto henchman; man does go through minions) blows up the pharm company's office building, and then they all set off to uproot the Golden Gate Bridge so they can take it to Alcatraz Island, where the labs and the cure-mutant are kept in ostentatiously remarked-upon impregnability. (Unclear to me why they couldn't simply have taken some kind of boat to Alcatraz, much as I did myself some years ago for the rather tedious prison tour.) All in all, we are rather generously treated to the spectacle of Resistance Going Too Far. As soon as we use violence, you know, They Have Won™. Thing is, though, nobody actually ever does argue that Magneto's position is in any way incorrect, either factually or morally. We're simply strenuously informed that he is being not at all nice about it.

Meanwhile, back at the plush, leafy Westchester X-ranch, the (mysteriously decimated; could they not afford scale for more than 6 speaking X-Actors?) gang are gearing up for war. Not against the government that is openly preparing to retro-eugenically bleach them. No suh. Rather, they get their war on and go jetting off in defense of the forces of genetic fascism, seemingly because Magneto's lot are preparing to inflict some property damage and kidnap Cure-boy.

Very Important Note: at no point do the (clean-cut and J-Crew-clad) X-Men ever actually say out loud why it is that they must go out to oppose Magneto's (gothy-punky) resistance. There is no 'But if he succeeds in doing Thing N, the world will end/humanity will be wiped out/mutanity will be wiped out/puppies everywhere will die horrible deaths! Quick, to the X-Jet!' In fact, quite the reverse. All that's happening is that the resistance is going to fuck up a factory, to stop production of the eugenic weapon that does in fact threaten to wipe out all mutants, including the X-Men. And yet without a second thought the latter are off to oppose the saving! At Wolverine's urging they stand, literally six of them heroically Holding The Line, to protect hundreds of human soldiers, who are at that very moment in the process of firing cure-weapons at their fellow mutants, from being overrun by Magneto's insurrectionary Brotherhood. Because here's the thing: it's not that the Brotherhood's opposition to the cure is aberrant; we got some terribly soul-sista-stirring lines from Storm earlier on about how awful and unacceptable the cure is. It's quite simply that they're doing it wrong. And when it comes down to a (really rather minor) crunch, the X-Men unhesitatingly lock and load on the side of Order, even when it means killing hordes of their own fellows to serve an authority that effectively wants to kill them all.

What does that make the X-Men? It makes them kapos. This is rendered absolutely clear in the final boss-battle with Magneto, who, having succinctly identified them as 'traitors to their own kind', is handily kicking their asses by flinging burning cars at them from the bridge. In their huddled bunker, Wolverine looks down and sees a little clutch of cure-cartridges fallen from one of the soldiers' magazine. He and furry blue quisling Beast exchange a dawning, manly, determined look, a look in which the two give each other implicit permission to abandon any last tatters of independent moral compunction: Beast to betray his own earlier principled stand against that very weapon, and Wolverine his very self, constructed in resistance against the genocidally normative forces that built both his skeleton and the cure-weapon. And so they make a sneaky little plan, and they go out and defeat Magneto by stabbing him from behind with that handful of cure-darts. They use the enemy's anti-mutant weapon to kill the mutant Magneto, reducing him to the helpless, unwilling human Eric Lensherr.

(The Eric Lensherr who, as all three films repeatedly emphasize, was not only a victim of Nazi genocide, but whose mutantness opened the whole trilogy in that searing scene that constructs the boy Eric's suddenly-emerging mutant identity as a desperate, somatic act of resistance against that genocide--an act that has its fleeting moment of efficacy before he is overcome and beaten down by the agents of fascism. These films will not let us forget that central fact of Magneto's identity. This is actually Thing #1 that makes me wonder whether something might be Going On with this film. The interplay between Magneto's mode of defeat and his so-emphasized Survivor identity is so overt and telling that, if it isn't meant as some kind of inversion, those responsible are astoundingly thick. I'm just saying.)

I can scarcely think of a scene more chilling in a film, ever. That's really the climax, or I should say the nadir, of the film. That's the money shot, the pragmatic payload of 'X-III': real heroes will stick at nothing, will collaborate in the basest atrocity, to fulfil their empty, mechanical, ineluctable, fratricidal obeisance to Order. For fuck's sake, no one even called and asked the X-Men to go stop Magneto. There was no actual content to their impulse, stated or implicit. They just upped and did it, because that's what they're for.

Does any of that start to sound familiar at all? Does it sound like an epically-enhanced depiction of a political party so abased before the imperative of Order that, unasked, it will savagely censure its own members rather than allow 'uncivil' opposition to the party it faintly purports to oppose? That it will freely deploy the enemy's ideological weapons of 'patriotism' against its own, rather than let them question the extinguishing of individual liberty in the name of Order? That it will volunteer legislation designed to out-draconian the demonic fever-dreams of the party in power, so that if it must attack that party it can do so on the grounds that the governing party is not sufficiently attending to the maintenance of Order?

That is the yawning moral vacuum, contentless yet bizarrely active, of the Democrat-liberal political existence, and it is not merely justified but celebrated in this film. The denouement is stunningly reactionary: status quo restored with a vengeance; well-behaved mutants returned to nice, quiet, separate-but-equal 'coexistence' in their lovely green island of mutants-only privilege [cough-Israel-cough]; nasty radical mutants violently killed or 'cured' or both; 1-2-3 manicured graves in the garden of the Xavier School, sedate monuments to those who fell in sacrifice to almighty Order (no graves for the scores of rebel mutants killed, most of them by Wolverine, the rest by the effects of being forcibly 'cured' while, say, clinging mutantly to the underside of a hundred-foot tower); and most jaw-dropping of all, Capo di Tutti Kapi Beast rewarded with, I shit you not, the post of Ambassador to the UN. (That's Thing #2 in my Something's Up Suspicions List: in the era of John Bolton, could anyone posit that reward with a straight face?)

(Thing #3, fwiw, is the extremely odd resolution of the Rogue subplot: she goes through with it. When she comes back to the school, we're quite obviously set up to expect that she's had the requisite change of heart and learned to love herself just as she is. And yet she just fucking hasn't. She's just gone and got normalized, in defiance of every teen film ever, and it's quite obvious from the unenthusiastic finger-twine she gets from Bobby that she is so not going to get the boy. What is that about? It's about something, clearly. This film's desperate, rationality-trumping need to stamp out desire in all its forms is the subject for a whole nother essay. Most obviously: in Boss-Battle 2, when Phoenix has gone all glowy and is threatening to bust up everything and everyone, why exactly is it necessary for Wolverine to kill her, when they have conveniently on hand the little cure-boy whose precise power is to deactivate other mutants? Because she is embodied desire, and you'll recall that we couldn't have that. It must be slaughtered in sacrifice. And poor Wolverine has to do it, to seal his self-surrender. And, most horribly, Jean has to recognize and welcome that necessity in the moment of her death, and forgive him with her eyes. A thousand, million, billion times ew.)

This film is an absolute paean to jackbooted collaborationism. One is accustomed to science fiction that critiques fascism from the liberal (and harder) left, as well as that which celebrates it from the right, and that which glares dyspeptically at both from the 'apolitical' outside. The startling, if dubious, innovation of 'X-III' is in presenting a glorious vision of the soi-disant left heroically facilitating the ends of fascism. A document for our times, indeed.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happy Catastrophemas

Monday is the 58th anniversary of the Naqba, the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and lands to make way for the Israeli apartheid state. Fifty-eight years of dispossession and savage oppression in full view of the rest of the world, which on its kinder days sat by and watched, and on other days (like today) jumped in and joined the fun. The Palestinians are a people so fucked by history it leaves me constantly gapemouthed and hollow-bellied with dismay. Just a few good points of reference to mark the day.

-Karma Nabulsi's excellent, angry Guardian piece on how the Naqba continues to define the identity of a new generation in diaspora.

-Virginia Tilley in Counterpunch on the moral and pragmatic bankruptcy of requiring Hamas to 'recognize Israel' as a condition for lifting collective punishment of the Palestinians.

-The Palestinian Center for Human Rights special report on Poverty in the Gaza Strip. Useful statistics:
From September 2000 to the end of 2005, the number of Palestinian civilians killed by IOF and Israeli settlers reached 2,936, including 651 children and 106 women. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were injured. The injured included 8,662 injured people from the Gaza Strip, including hundreds who now suffer from permanent disabilities.
And to bring the tally up to date:
In April and May, more than 40 Palestinians have been killed by the army - most of them civilians, at least eight of them children....Schoolchildren blown to bits while playing in Beit Lahia, like Mamdouh Obeid; Eitan Youssef, a 41-year-old mother from Tulkarm, shot in front of her children because troops "thought they saw a suspicious movement"; an old man, Musa Sawarkah, herding his flock in Gaza, gunned down; a taxi-driver, Zakariya Daraghmeh,"accidentally" shot in the back in Nablus.
As an American I spend a truly ridiculous amount of my life hearing people spout pompous bullshit about Palestinians' 'habitual slaughter of civilians', without the tiniest hint of awareness of the daily, unapologetic, unremonstrated civilian murder conducted by the IOF. Part of this is down to the media's criminal lack of interest in reporting these crimes. But at least as much is attributable to a stubborn moral blindness that has its roots in race preferences both long-standing and politically expedient.

The ongoing global abandonment of an occupied, brutalized people, the utterly disingenuous scapegoating of Hamas as the source of the current untenable situation, and most of all the deeply racist characterization of Palestinians as a pariah people devoted to the infamous 'cult of death', dedicated to the extermination of Jews, and the primary authors of their own misfortune: these are crimes in which we may be complicit or against which we can fight. There is no neutral position. Victory to the Intifada.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Question

Does anyone out there have a good bio-ecological definition for 'predator'? I'm trying to figure out what makes a predator specifically that, and why for instance a parasite isn't considered just a rather slow subset of predator. In what inheres predatorness? In pouncing? In killing quickly? In eating whole? In being larger than the prey? I can think of predators that violate each of these conditions.

When we talk about a species (e.g., humans) not having any 'natural predators', that presumes the exclusion of parasites, of which we got plenty. I can't find a good definition of predator to explain this to me. Anyone help me out?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Take My Agenda, Please

Approximately a-millionth in an occasional series on why the pro-choice, pro-contraception mainstream sucks so hard. Or rather, on how they do; I couldn't presume to guess at why.

Today's example comes from, bet you didn't see this coming, Glamour magazine. What? I read it religiously every week while I'm having my face botoxed! OK fine, somebody sent it around to one of my listservs. But I could read it...you don't know.

Ahem. The article, which is actually pretty decent, is about the sad state of sexual/personal freedom for American women, with special regard for how government agencies and programs have been hijacked by ultraright agendas, resulting in all those abstinence-only sex-ed classes, the FDA's shenanigans over Plan B approval, gutting of foreign HIV/AIDS prevention assistance, &c. It contains the following quote, from someone theoretically on our side:
"Abstinence is a laudable goal," says Deborah Arrindell, vice president of health policy for the nonpartisan American Social Health Association, an STD-awareness group. "But it is not how young women live their lives—the reality is that most women have premarital sex. Our government is focusing not on women's health but on a moral agenda."
What is a WHAT??! WHY please? Explain to me in 50 words or less why on earth abstinence is a 'laudable goal'. The only possible reason, absent a whole barrel of case-specific modifiers I don't see her providing, could be that sex is Bad. In fact, Arrindell's whole argument is framed around that notion: we tacitly acknowledge that sex is Bad and ideally to be avoided, but what can we do? Young women will do the bad thing, so we must take pragmatic action to pick up the pieces when they inevitably succumb to the not-laudable.

This is a horrifically patronizing argument, which like so many of the crypto-moralist 'necessary evil' arguments of the pro-choice mainstream (see especially the purulent patriarchalist William Saletan), accepts and expands on anti-choice's infantilization and moral de-agentification of women.

Look. I can't believe I have to spell this out, especially to our own damn side. Sex is not bad, nor is avoiding it in any way inherently admirable. Sex in 2006 is women's right, and what we as a society owe both young women and young men (but especially women, on whose bodies is visited so vastly much more of the consequences of ignorance) is the information and material tools necessary to exercise that right in a way that doesn't do harm to themselves or others.

If we cede the moral terrain once again to the forces of reaction, we're reduced to a position of shamefaced special pleading: we know it's wrong, but it happens so we have to deal with it. This is not only undignified and unnecessary, it's actively wrong. No fucking quarter for those who seek to infantilize and stigmatize women for having sex. By trying to shy away from taking a moral stand, we simply abdicate the moral position to those who are unafraid to prosecute their own repugnant one with vigor. We have the right, nay even the obligation to a moral stand. We who support sex education, contraception and emergency contraceptive measures for women of all ages have nothing to apologize for. We are young women's champions, not their corruptors.

And another thing. I admire Susan Wood for stepping down from the FDA over Plan B, I really do. She put her career where her mouth is, and good on her. But I confess I grow impatient with all the decent liberals who are only now finding themselves shocked--shocked!--to discover that politics plays a role in 'scientific' decision-making. 'Scientists do not normally engage in what is going on in Washington, D.C., or politics,' says Wood. The New England Journal of Medicine ran an editorial on the Plan B brouhaha entitled 'A Sad Day for Science at the FDA,' commenting that the decision 'appeared to reflect political meddling in the drug-approval process.'

No! Can it be that the sterile, impregnable fastnesses of scientific evaluation have suddenly and inexplicably been breached by the creeping contagion of political influence? How fucking tiresome and thick. If these people honestly believe that 'pure science', not to mention science concerned with product consumption like drug approvals, has not been thick-woven with political and economic influence from the Enlightenment on, they're--well, they're exactly as analysis-challenged as you'd have thought they were.

How do they think NIH grant allocations are awarded? By divine impartial fiat from the God of Meritorious Research? Do they think we're not all cruising around now gently farting water vapor from our hydrogen-cell vehicles into a clear blue ozone-rich sky because alternative-fuels research is a dead end and undeserving of funding? Do they think we have no specific data on healthy blood-cholesterol levels in women because women are physiologically identical to men and therefore don't require gender-specific research trials?

Science is always already lousy with politics, you lazy fucking ninnies. Read fucking Steven Rose, people. Read Levins & Lewontin. Even at the level of the individual investigator, there is no such thing as conducting scientific research without political/material bias. The best you can do is be aware of your bias, and how it interacts with the biases around you, and if possible use it to triangulate with the biases outside your control. But that requires acknowledgement that the bias is there, is everywhere. By perpetuating the bankrupt notion of 'pure' research unsmudged by the grubby pawmarks of politics and commerce, these people (often with, I fully allow, genuine good intentions) do as much as the Hagers and Winkenwerders to perpetuate the unchecked control and exploitation of scientific institutions by the wielders of capitalist political power.

Addition: Great Counterpunch piece here by Sherry Wolf saying, basically, exactly what I've been saying for a year: the Dems are profoundly not our friends in the pro-choice movement, and neither are NARAL, Planned Parenthood, NOW. Only she says it better, with more research, and in Counterpunch.

Budget Allocation's A Bitch (Like Certain Unnamed Senators)

The latest beauty to sashay down the runway in America's Spring 2006 'Xenophobia: Mexicans Are The New Arabs' Collection: a $1.9-billion reallocation for 'border security' just approved by the Senate. Where's that paltry sum coming from? Among other things, post-Katrina rebuilding 'efforts'.

And honestly, who can blame them? Katrina is so Fall '05. And it's not like over 50% of New Orleans' former residents have yet to return to the sodden, mold-contaminated piles of toxic debris they once called home. Or like Mayor Ray 'Chocolate City' Nagin has set up a Bring New Orleans Back Commission apparently for the purpose of directly panhandling random web surfers.

Maybe Katrina victims should just accept that their 15 minutes are over, and gracefully cede the spotlight to the plight of border-patrol agents who need their vehicles replaced so they can achieve smooth acceleration and better gas mileage running down Mexican women in the desert. Who speaks for their pain?

Oh but wait, guess who's had the cojones to stand up and protest this amendment? She, that's who. She speaks for the displaced and disenfranchised of New Orleans! She campaigns for government to take responsibility for its failure to protect its citizens! Mm, not so much. Not at all, actually. La Clintonessa in fact squawks against money being taken away from the (coincidentally also $1.9-billion) Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund.

Catchy name, that. First I'd heard of it. This is informative. Also some interesting stats on procurement. It appears, inter alia, that while feeling that the Navy had requested 1/3 too much money for Weapons Procurement, the Senate Committee concluded that Navy Aircraft Appropriations was simply not thinking big enough and handed it an extra $140 mil. Because what does a Navy need more than airplanes, really? How else will they stick it to the, oh, Air Force?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Dept. of Unrefusable Offers

OK, thought experiment time.

Say you go to war against a country, as one will do, and as part of your invasion plan, you occupy one of its islands (killing say a third of the civilian population) and you cover it with military bases. OK. War's over, you win, you get to keep the island as part of your package of valuable prizes.

OK, so then 27 years later, you officially give back the island, yet interestingly all your military bases are still there and operational (are belong to us, if you will [and if you are as ancient as I am]). Your troops occupy some 20% of the populated land area of the island, with all the innocent fun'n'games, civilian assault and general mayhem that entails.

Fast forward another couple decades (how time does fly!) and finally, in response not to years of massive local protests but to the rising toll of your military adventures in other lucky parts of the world, you decide to remove a paltry eight thousand of the 26,000 or so troops stationed on the island. Do you:

a) Throw them a rockin farewell party that keeps the neighbors awake till all hours and carpets their lawns with PBR cans and toilet paper?

b) Apologize for any inconvenience caused over the last 60 years, vacuum the corners and make a quiet, dignified exit?

c) 'Suggest' that your hosts pay 3/4 of the $10-billion cost of redeploying your own troops back to your own territory, or else nobody's going anywhere?

If you picked c), you have a bright future with United States Forces Japan.

Hey, what do they call that thing where you muscle around someone else's property making their life really difficult and maybe roughing them up a bit for emphasis, and then make them pay you to go away? Oh yeah! Protection.

Bonus Activity: Kids, try this at home! Go to this handy government info site and click on any of the links. Hmm?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

One Lucky Winner Becomes An Apostle!

Fine, I get it. I've been really lax on the blogging. So lax that the universe (inexplicably having noticed) has decided to just go all out and present me with my own special, personally customized Post-On-A-Plate. If you can't be fucked to blog this, the universe is clearly notifying me, you just really need to pack it in and stop swanning around, flaunting and preening with all the airs and graces that so naturally adhere to the status of Lefty Blogger in contemporary polite society.

So what am I gonna do, not post the contest the NYT is sponsoring to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Somewhere Dirty TBD with none other than Nicholas White Christ of Cambodia Kristof, the good lord's gift to copygenically-suffering women everywhere? Please. I may be a completely fucking crap blogger, sirrah, but withal I am a blogger still.

Without further ado then, I'll step aside and let 'Nick' describe it himself, as only he can:
Over the next month, I’ll be holding a contest to find a university student or two to accompany me on a reporting trip to the developing world. I’m not sure where yet, and that will depend partly on what’s in the news at the time. But to give you a sense of the kind of travel I’m thinking of, the possibilities include a jaunt through rural Burundi and Rwanda in central Africa, or an odyssey from the coast of Cameroon inland to the heart of the Central African Republic.

Don’t expect comfort so much as diarrhea. We’ll be on the go from dawn to late at night every day, interviewing anybody from peasants to presidents (usually the peasants are more interesting). We might visit a clinic, an AIDS program, a school, a factory.
Isn't he wild, like some kind of amazing Free Spirit? Isn't the whole thing just outrageously, titillatingly devil-may-care? You could go anywhere, so long as it's adequately sufferingful. You could wake up not knowing whether come evening you'll be dining with dull diplomats or fasting with far-more-interesting farmhands. Yeah. Are ya scared? You could get exotic parasites! Don't be so squeamy-square, man, with your western notions of hygiene!

You could meet unforgettable yet apparently interchangeable Real People from Somewherepooristan! But most of all, young one, you could be changed. Yes. Truly changed.

And all of it, all the joy, the ache, the laughter and tears and heartical lesson-learning, the wisdom will be immortalized in a multi-media webstravaganza for the vicarious changetastic edification of Times readers.

What you won't get to do, nIck assures us for legal reasons, is buy any Cambodian prostitutes (I note he doesn't, however, rule out sex slaves of any other nationality). So that's lost 3/4 of you right off the bat. As for the rest:

- you must be 18 or over

- you must be enrolled in an American university

- it doesn't say actually this out loud, but I'm betting it helps a lot if you're a nubile co-ed. Although to tweak WCoC's particular brand of cryptoneopatriarchal compensatory kink you'd most likely need to be the kind with long dark hair, a white buttoned blouse and studious spectacles who talks so impassionedly about global injustice, development theory and the work of Paul Farmer that one could almost fail to notice her boomin body and firm ripe young nectarine of an ass. Almost.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Do You Think

she wakes up in the morning already looking like the banshee of eternal shrieking damnation, or is it something she has to work at? Maybe it's Maybelline™?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

All Goes According To Plan In Gaza

The cage door closes. Is anyone surprised?

Murderous fucking barbaric ethnic cleansing scum. Dear christ how I hate them.

Just to clarify, for those at the back having trouble keeping up: this is what the Gaza withdrawal was for.
On February 16 Middle East Online reported that Dov Weisglass chief advisor to ailing Israeli PM Ariel Sharon and architect of the Gaza disengagement plan, strongly pushed for further measures to impoverish the Palestinian population. “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet but not make them die of hunger”, Israeli public radio quoted him as saying.
[source]

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

OK, am I the only one who's clocked this? Is anyone else aware that earth has been invaded and we're all about to die with our stomachs burst open?




































Forced to watch the utterly staggeringly shriekingly militantly pointless film remake of Pride & Prejudice on a transatlantic flight last night. Perhaps thus the conditions were uniquely propitious for the sudden realization that we have been infiltrated by that...thing, with its Jabberwock neck and its thin insectile lips and its terrifying predator's smile. Humanity is doomed.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

We've Come, Mmm, Actually Not Such A Terribly Long Way, Baby

Betty Friedan is dead, and we owe her, big time. We owe her thanks, and memory, and respect.

What we do not owe her is the obituary the Beeb news site gave her last night. Want to see the last paragraph? The last paragraph of Betty Friedan's obituary?
In 1947, she married Carl Friedan, with whom she had three children. The marriage ended in divorce after 22 years.
There you go. Betty Friedan's life in précis, courtesy of the BBC.

In case maybe you thought we didn't have to fight anymore.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Collective Punishment, With A Twist of Rank Hypocrisy


So now the US has come out, in the ever-winning person of AnaCondi the Snaky Charmer, and definitively said they won't provide aid to a Hamas government.
'The United States is not prepared to fund an organization that advocates the destruction of Israel, that advocates violence and that refuses its obligations.'
Ah. Unless of course that organization were, oh, Fatah, which let us not forget remains the largest constituent of that favored old whipping-boy, the PLO. The same party which spawned Black September, the group that carried out the 1973 Munich Olympic assassinations from which Stephen Spielberg is so handsomely profiting as we speak. The same party widely denounced as undealable-with terrorists until '93, and then treated pretty consistently as pariahs until Arafat's death and the installation of the pliable demi-quisling Abu Mazen. And for clarity, that would be the same Abu Mazen who wrote his doctoral thesis on Nazi-Zionist collaboration (which NB is verifiably true) and put the number of Jews killed in the Nazi holocaust at 'only a few hundred thousand' (which emphatically is not), and who was in fact fingered as responsible for funding those same Munich assassinations.

Now, that kind of organization that advocates the destruction of Israel and that advocates violence is worth funding. Funding, say, to the tune of two million USAID dollars spent expressly 'to ensure that the Palestinian Authority receives public credit for a collection of small, popular projects and events to be unveiled before Palestinians select their first parliament in a decade.'

[As an aside, this amuses me greatly: 'The plan was designed with the help of a former U.S. Army Special Forces officer who worked in postwar Afghanistan on democracy-building projects.' Ooh, is that what we're calling them these days? So tough to keep up.]
In recent days, Arabic-language papers have been filled with U.S.-funded advertisements announcing the events in the name of the Palestinian Authority, which the public closely identifies with Fatah. Some of the events, such as a U.S.-financed tree-planting ceremony here in Ramallah that Abbas attended last week, have resembled Fatah rallies, with participants wearing the trademark black-and-white kaffiyehs emblazoned with the party logo, walls plastered with Fatah candidates' posters, and banks of TV cameras invited to record the event.
Nice. US-financed 'black-and-white kaffiyehs emblazoned with the party logo' which I've reproduced for your handy reference above. The one with the tasteful machine-gun-and-grenade iconography. About which presumably our esteemed Kofi was temporarily forgetting when he pontificated--about Hamas, naturally--that 'to carry weapons and participate in a democratic process and sit in parliament, there is a fundamental contradiction'.

Of course, I could go on for days and weeks peeling back the umpteen-thousand layers of hypocrisy that swaddle the West's reaction to the election of Hamas. I will spare you that, and content myself with pointing out the obvious: that US leaders have taken a well-worn page from the Israeli playbook, and are fixing to visit one holy motherfuck of a collective punishment on the Palestinian people, for daring to exercise the right to Freeman Moxie in a manner not approved for the service of American interests. May they (again, still, yet more always) rot in hell.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Newsflash! UberJohn Kristof Still a Cock!

Whee! The brilliant and furiously eloquent Alexander Cockburn has just dealt out a well-deserved spanking to White Christ of Cambodia, aka Nicholas Kristof, Shady Purchaser of Prostitutes.

Seems Nick the Chick-Picker has branched out, geographically if not thematically, and is taking his annual brothel-crawl in India (registration required) this year. We all need a change once in a while, or things just get stale.

OK, I'll be honest. I haven't read this round of columns. I couldn't stomach it; man makes me sick. I couldn't choke down another bolus of that ultrasmarmy, self-adulatory, liberal-patronizing, wildly ahistoricizing indignation that is 'Hard-Bargain' Kristof's specialité de la maison. But luckily, turns out I don't have to. Cockburn's done it for me, and provided a far better-researched and more thoroughly indicting riposte than I could have managed.

In the tradition of my original post on WCOC, and indeed that of every reasonably intelligent, reasonably leftish response to his prostitutopsonatory oeuvre, Cockburn pours scorn on His Acquisitiveness of Poipet for crusading against prostitution without emitting the tiniest squeak about the socioeconomic conditions that make prostitution an inevitability. Happily, Cockburn goes on to correct that minor oversight for him, providing a substantial and compelling exposé of the depradations wrought on India's rural population by neo-liberal reform, as well as (not quoted here, but well worth reading in the piece) a look at some pretty great people who actually are finding ways to help prostitutes that don't involve personally retrafficking them.
India has endured more than a decade of virtually unimaginable rural torment amidst the imposition of the neo-liberal "reforms", endlessly hailed by New York Times reporters and editorially endorsed. With withdrawal of subsidies, collapse of farm credit and of markets there is a gigantic rural crisis, affecting millions of families.

As The Hindu newspaper's chronicler of these rural catastrophes, P. Sainath, (with whom I traveled around India last year) wrote to me this week, "Take Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh which saw the maximum numbers of farm suicides for any district in India (over 3,000 during the years of the NYT's poster boy of the reforms, Chandrababu Naidu [at that time the state's chief minister], every single NGO and social organization dealing with women's issues worried about how bad was the rise of prostitution as the agrarian crisis bit deeper and deeper.

"If you drove from Anantapur in Andhra to India's 'Silicon Valley' in Bangalore in the neighboring state of Karnataka, as I often did and do, you could see dozens of women hanging about the highway waiting for pick ups, mostly truck drivers. This was simply not seen on those roads ten-twelve years ago."
Take fucking that, Kristof you sanctimonious cock. You just keep riding around on your fat crusader ass, rubbing up against the most damaged women you can find and grinding their misery into columnfodder for that foul neo-liberal-boosting rag you pimp for. People are so on to you.

[Thanks CM for the pointer.]

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