Sunday, February 25, 2007


Would You Share a Secret Handshake with These Women?

Poor Delta Zeta. At De Pauw University in Indiana, students identified its chapter stereotype as "socially awkward" in a survey conducted by a psychology professor at the school.

This phrase was in contrast to other campus chapter stereotypes, such as "daddy's little princess" and "offbeat hippies."

Apparently it's okay to be hippies and princesses, but Socially Awkward is another story.

Delta Zeta's national officers then showed how socially awkward they could be: they identified 23 members as being "insufficiently committed" to the chapter and asked them to vacate the sorority house in the middle of the academic year. Not coincidentally, the Insufficiently Committed members were overweight, African-American, and Vietnamese, not all in the same woman, of course. They also constituted two-thirds of the chapter's membership. The move left just 12 Sufficiently Committed members, half of whom quit in disgust at the national's ploy to bring on board more traditionally pretty members who would be acceptable to the school's fraternity men.

(Fraternity men?)

After the survey, the national descended upon the DePauw house like Hitchcock's Birds, interviewing sisters and planning for a more vigorous recuiting campaign in the future. It intimidated the members by insisting that they "look their best" for the interviews. Four members got the drift and immediately withdrew from the chapter. Others panicked, went out and bought new outfits and modelled them for one another before the Great Day.

They needn't have bothered. Before the actual interviews, the national conducted a mid-year recruiting event in which 25 members were told to stay upstairs, while a combination of traditionally pretty members from the school and some similarly exotic imports borrowed from an Indiana U chapter conducted the niceties upon unsuspecting first-year girls.

Clearly, a new ensemble was obviously only one of several demonstrable criteria for continued association with DZ. If a woman wasn't Sufficiently Committed to dump 20 pounds or to powder over an ethnicity or learn to chat about what He wants to discuss, forget it.

What's ironic, say the departed members, is that the most academically and socially committed --in terms of community service-- were let go. They even dumped the chapter president. Women who had done almost nothing for the chapter except to lend their traditional good looks were asked to stay.

I don't know about you, but the women in this picture look brainy, life-loving, independent, promising, and downright sisterly to me.

You ought to start your own club. I'll bet you could carry it off.

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Friday, February 23, 2007


Savior Ready to Kick Prophet's Ass

Jesus doesn't really need to break loose from the Cross as this image from Jesus of the Week suggests, because children's pastor Becky Fischer is busily recruiting Kids on Fire, as I recently learned from the documentary Jesus Camp. They can do the muscle flexing.

Actually, the film wasn't quite as creepy as I'd feared. I have long been a recipient of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, full of babies in Klan robes and gun-toting militia tots, so I was prepared for the worst. Pastor Becky does base her energy on developing in children the same fire-eyed franzy she sees in Muslim children who are ready to lay down their lives for their faith. I was bracing myself for camouflage-accented Armageddon maneuvers in the North Dakota countryside. I needn't have worried.

Pastor Becky isn't a pistol-packin' mama; she's busy imprinting the home-schooled children who attend her summer camp with the stamp of a special generation--a sort of Jesus Pepsi generation, if you will. Come alive! She proudly displays her many hands-on ways of indoctrinating her campers with all the enthusiasm of an elementary teacher. In education we'd call her tools manipulatives, and in this case, truer words were never spoken. We see six-year-olds in tears because their faith isn't all that their elders think it should be. We watch Becky tell the children that Harry Potter is with the forces of darkness. We listen to an eight-year-old admit that some of her dancing is "for the flesh." Pastor Becky puts a great big two-dimensional Dubya on the stage so that the children can pray for the efforts of One of Their Own in the White House.

Jesus Camp is a film that strives to be fair to its subject. A radio commentator sits in a studio commenting on the tactics of the extreme evangelical right. He is the mainstream's moral anchor as we watch a little girl pressing booklets into the hands of black folk ("I think he was a Muslim," she whispers to a companion as she walks away). Ted Haggard struts the stage of his mega-church denouncing homosexuals, his reputation and his ministry still intact.

It's interesting that Pastor Becky is as enthusiastic about the nomination of Jesus Camp for a documentary Oscar as those critical of her methods.

But as I've learned recently, such a variety of responses are possible to one thing.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Fuzzy Logic and Fluffy Stats

Auditors reviewing Justice Department statistics on anti-terror cases noted that Alberto Gonzales counted cases involving immigration violations, marriage fraud, and drug trafficking, even though no evidence linked them to terror activity. Overall, according to the audit, nearly all the terrorism-related statustics were either diminished or inflated.

Not so! responded Gonzales to his critics. They were merely fluffed and folded.

"My dog ate the first draft," the Attorney General told a House subcommittee, "and then we had to put them back together at the last minute. I guess that's when they got fluffed."

Fluffy, who accompanied Gonzales to the hearing, had no comment on the digestibility of the first report.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Fun with Free Market Dogma


I stand in awe of the Bush Administration's devotion to free market dogma, even as it swells the national debt in spending taxpayer money to prop up corporations. It's been a nasty habit to give corporations welfare for many an administration, Republican and Democrat, but these guys are truly the champs.


The General Services Administration, faced with a zillion audits to determine abuses made by independent contractors, both at home and in Iraq, has brought in some extra help for the massive workload. Their rescuers? Why, independent contractors, of course! They charge lots more than poor old government employees, ($105+ an hour), and they are not burdened by the same need to be accountable as our valiant civil service folks. Best of all, the Administration can claim that it has reduced the size of government, even if our free market chums are soaking us for more dough! Amazing! I guess those struggling stockholders will be happy.

Then there's poor old Iraq itself. I heartily recommend
Rajiv Chandrasekaran 's excellent book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone, a distressing but well told tale of the primacy of Bush loyalists over competent professionals in making the most of life after the invasion. Not only was an anti-abortion stance required of those who would bring "democracy" to Iraq; the idea of a free market economy was more important than the reality of common safety in the golden days after the Mission was Accomplished. Chandrasekaran recounts tales of twenty-somethings with no experience in finance managing Iraq's budgets and stock markets, an advocate for school vouchers being put in charge of educational reconstruction, Bremer's own insistance on imposing a flat tax and selling off Iraqi assets as a substitute for safety, security, and continuity of services. The food giveaways that propped people up under Saddam were halted; too socialistic. The jobs people had were pitched as assets were trimmed for possible sale to outside investors, creating thousands of newly unemployed Iraqis. The selection of leaders, the writing of constitutions, and the restoration of sovereignity were pushed up to deadlines, not to correspond to Iraqi readiness, but to correspond with U.S. political elections. And of course, let's not forget those pallets of cash that came into Iraq as Bremer was leaving. Fair exchange!?

I used to think that I knew what a conservative was. I was raised by conservatives who counseled me not to spend money I didn't have and not to lean on other people for my support. Although my own politics claim a greater gratitude for what I've been given and a willingness to go with systems to share it with people less fortunate, I have at least been able to see the respectability of that viewpoint.

These guys are something else. It's all about siphoning government funds off to campaign contributors while mimicking piety to the evangelical base.

How many days of this idiocy did you say we have left?

Monday, February 19, 2007


To the Righteous Priests Who Called Me Racist

It was a risky post, I know... trying to play off the word primate in an Anglican meeting in Tanzania. The new presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church was snubbed by a bunch of other bishops, some of them African, who were outraged at her acceptance of gay bishops, gay priests, gay everybody.

The articles I read about the conclave kept referring to the bishops as primates. I couldn't resist. I quaked some, aware of macaca, of racist connections between apes and black people. Still, I had my own connection to monkey-ness, to our physical selves, and let it carry the day.

Suddenly, from somewhere out in the blogosphere, I felt the sting of priest-spit. Proud racist! Sorry to see you stoop so low. The kindest of them called me misguided and suggested that I take the high road and remove the post.

They didn't get it. I don't consider the African bishops particularly monkey-like. I consider us all to be monkey-like. And if you are going to go around calling your top people primates, don't begrudge me a little bloggy free-association.

I'll probably never hear from the monkeys-in-chausables again. They seem like the judge-and-run type. They've probably run back to their own blogs to intone about the Church Universal, the non-monkey Body of Christ, and all that. For my regular readers (all three of you, now that Mum has died), a poem by my favorite poet, Irene McKinney:

Monkey Heart

The monkey climbs up a peepul tree
in Bhubaneswar. Monkey mind, monkey heart,
monkey glands that Yeats paid thousands for
to jump-start his sagging libido. Admonishing
ourselves, we say we're like the chimps, baboons,
and monkeys. But we should be so lucky
as to have such instincts and savanna-smarts,
to survive and thrive without a hat or dress
or shoes. The species we look down on
are not looking up to us. Blue-assed baboons
don't give a rat's ass what we think of
beauty, and I don't think resort to using
us as metaphors or formulating theories
that they sprang from man. They sprang,
and are springing even as we speak, and
if I told you we've been treating them like
dogs you might see what I mean. You'd
say you weren't serious, that some of your
best friends are dogs, and it was just a joke.
A woman in Charlottesville told me a joke
about West Virginians, involving mobile
homes and incest. When I didn't laugh she said
she'd mean no harm, that some of her best
friends were hillbillies. I didn't tell her
to stop monkeying around or that she
reminded me of an ocelot, albeit one
who had gone to Sweetbriar.
And now my monkey muscles
hurt, my monkey throat is dry. I'm
leaping headlong into monkey rage.
Forgive my monkey heart.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


This Image is Rated R-17

There's nothing like a children's book to whip up our protective sense for little ones. Most recently, the Newbery Medal-winning book, The Higher Power of Lucky, has the banners of books lining up to express their outrage. Its crimes against the young? The use of the word scrotum on the novel's first page.

It's actually the scrotum of a dog, (clearly not the Lucky of the title) and it's being bitten by a rattlesnake, in case you are in the act of reaching for your favorite sex toy as you finish reading this. And Lucky, age 10, the novel's protagonist, is going through the intriguing business of learning the real names of body parts, something I wish her luck in doing.

As those who have decided to exclude this book from their libraries have made clear, to them scrotum doesn't belong in a book for kids. Said one school librarian, "I don't want to start an issue about censorship, but you won't find men's genitalia in quality literature, at least not for children."

Another accused author and librarian Susan Patron of interjecting a "Howard Stern-type shock treatment just to see how far they [sic] could push the envelope, but they [sic] didn't have the children in mind."

Didn't they. Many of today's parents actually teach their children the real names of body parts and encourage their use. So long ho-ho and wee-wee; hello penis. Au revoir nuts, greetings, O fragile scrotum.

Lucky Trimble, the book's heroine, hears the word through a hole in the wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.

"Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much. It sounded medical and secret, but also important."

I don't envy school librarians in this day and age. Like teachers, they're often suspected of not having the best interests of children in mind, even as they devote their days to trying promote children's empowerment and education. I experienced the attempts at censorship first hand in my own classroom. However, buckling at a word isn't the way to encourage thoughtful, reflective reading. It's the way to strip away context and miss an author's larger point in order to obsess over the use of a word.

Someone thinks that The Higher Power of Lucky is good for kids. It's been awarded children's literature's highest award for writing, the Newbery Medal. That award is reserved not only for good writing, but for stories and themes that uplift children's spirits and encourage growth and the development of good character traits. The use of the term higher power probably hints at a larger, nobler destiny for the novel's heroine.

There has to be room for a scrotum in a book, especially a doggie-one that's been bitten by a rattlesnake.


Saturday, February 17, 2007


Primates Meet, Commune, Rejoice

Having been snubbed by other Anglican primates at the conclave in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, when eleven bishops refused to celebrate communion with her, American Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was welcomed to the Holy Table by Bishop Bonzo, a primate in his own right.

Bishop Jefferts Schori has been under fire for her support of both the American church's gay bishops and the blessing of gay unions.

"I'm so tired of the church's trying to control our genitals," said Bishop Bonzo through an interpreter. "I reserve the right to do it in the road if the spirit moves, and, let's face it, zoogoers have seen more than a couple of blow jobs in the cages. Sexual diversity has no impact on Jesus's charge to us that we love one another. In fact, it probably facilitates it. The lady wants to focus on feeding people, curing disease, and educating children, not putting our pee pees in concrete, for God's sake."

"As I've said before, a number of the primates have perhaps inaccurate ideas about the context of this (the American Episcopal) church. They hear from the [dissenting] voices quite loudly that this church is going to hell in a handbasket. The folks who are unhappy represent a small percentage of the whole, but they are quite loud. Bonzo is the most caring and sensible primate with whom I have worked."

The bishops celebrated a small, joyful communion and then retired to Bishop Bonzo's house for bananas.

Said Jefferts-Schori of the snub by the other primates, "Life is too short to get too flustered."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Isn't That Special

What a great way to celebrate Darwin Day... reading that John McCain is going to keynote a bunch of Creationists ... oops... neo-evolutionists next week.

In his untiring efforts to pander to the Christian Right, McCain will address the Discovery Institute Feb. 23, a think-tank that opposes the teaching of evolutionary biology and advocates its replacement with intelligent design. The Institute's financially backed by Howard Ahmanson, who's connected to the Chalcedon Foundation, a bunch that advocates the replacement of civil law with biblical law.

The Discovery Institute states in its web info that it does not favor the suppression of teaching evolution. "We all need to know about evolution." Instead, it promotes the teaching of neo-evolution, the criticisms of the theory, and it claims 600 scientists who agree with its stance. It's nicely phrased weasel-wordiness, and it should play well in the heartland.

Boyoboy... I have only the faintest recollection of McCain's 2000 Straight Talk Express, which must be lying wheels up in some ditch by now. That armpit embrace with Dubya and its attendant fascist pheromones have done big things to McCain's war stressed brain. Now he's embracing the campaign strategists who previously savaged him and rubbing rumps with the likes of Jerry Falwell.

Once upon a time, I actually associated him with potential integrity. I thought he was pretty decent for a conservative.

Johnny, we hardly know ye.

Monday, February 12, 2007



This comes from my friend, Sydney:

"Here's my pretty good entry for the Doublespeak Contest.
( from the New York Times):

'The inspector general’s report found that, while the Feith team did not violate any laws or knowingly mislead Congress, it made dubious interpretations of intelligence reports and shared them with senior officials without making clear that its findings had already been discounted or discredited by the main intelligence agencies.'"

Competitive, wot!?!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Stooge of the Right

Thank the gods someone has finally figured it out--the reasons for the 9/11 attacks, I mean.

In The Enemy at Home, Dinesh D'Souza has figured it all out-- it's our sick, liberal selves. Our "aggressive global campaign to undermine the traditional patriarchal family" has brought us to this un-pretty pass.

D'Souza is especially drawn to Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues and the campaign for gay marriage, which he sees as epitomes of irreligiosity and antifamily liberal culture, anathema to the observant Muslim, he says, and rationale enough for the current terror campaign. (Actually, just the use of the word in the title of anything is probably all that he can take of that mysterious organ. That's why we need the word sublimation.)

Back to that Higher Plane. D'Souza blames the left for fostering a "decadent and depraved American culture that angers and repulses other societies--especially traditional and religious ones-- and by promoting, at home and abroad, an anti-American attitude that blames America for all the problems of the world."
He's convinced that the left is now in cahoots with Islamic radicals to defeat Dubya's war on terror.

It's interesting to read that D'Souza is the Rishwain Research Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. It's as if the Hoover was paying him not to do any research, so fatuous are his "insights." You can tell that he has no idea of our country's history in the Middle East, or much of anywhere else, for that matter. There's only his discomfort translated into moral outrage for the moral issues he hasn't bothered to understand.

Hmmm... this sounds familiar. Let's give him his own version of 72 virgins... adapted to those upright, all-American sensibilities.

Okay... let's give this guy what he must desire most: a Moral Date with Ann Coulter, during which he breaks out a bottle of Clairol and tenderly, delicately, touches up those dark roots of hers.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Administration Cuts State Department, Launches Rice on New Mission

In a bold cost-cutting move, the Bush Administration today cut the Department of State to a half-time department, stripped Condoleezza Rice of her Cabinet status, and contracted her out to the Girl Scouts of America as its special ambassador for cookie sales.

"We no longer plan to pursue diplomacy in this Administration," declared Dick Cheney, as he packed Rice off on a commercial flight with her cartons of Thin Mints, and Do-Si-Dos. "However, in recognition of Condi's loyalty to the President, we have devised this mission for her. It's bound to spread American goodwill throughout the world and enable us to allocate more resources to the wars we will no doubt initiate."

President Bush added that the move would prove to America for once and for all that he was an environmental president, addressing the problem of global warming. "Condi's been burnin' up a lot of jet fuel, zippin' back and forth between all those photo opportunities. This'll bring real savins for the American people and for the environment."

Rice seemed philosophical about her change of status. "He's the Decider," she acknowledged. "I'm already hard at work on developing the right marketing strategy for the Girl Scouts' many potential markets. I think that the Filipino market will respond strongly to the Tagalongs. The Iraqi people will no doubt line up for the Thanks-a-Lots, particularly as their own food supplies dwindle."

Rice detractors wasted no time in dubbing the half-time Secretary of State the Cookie Monster, but Rice herself remains upbeat. "I am only really concerned for the Pink Pony, who may lose interest in the trajectory of my career. She gets so skittish around large, crashing noises."

Thursday, February 01, 2007



I knew that something was wrong when I read about the big dinner given to honor Molly Ivins last fall. Holy God, I thought, she's on her way out. Then there was the column from Nov. 26 that remained her latest far into December. Molly's always kept my spirits up. How will I go on without her smart mouth?

I was eager to grasp those January columns as a sign that she'd simply been going through another rough phase of cancer treatment. Chemo is rough, and I desperately hoped that she'd just hit another bad patch. After all, there she was again, urging us to campaign against the latest escalation of troop levels.

I'd searched out her home address on Zabbasearch and resolved to tell her, while there was still time, how very much she meant to me. Then I held off, a little unsure of what, exactly, I would say. Saying 'I love you' to a stranger is in dubious taste, but I loved Molly. Last night I determined once again to write that note.

It wasn't to be. Molly Ivins, the freshest, loosest, laughable-est, most insightful voice in Texas and national politics, is gone. Just like that. Her legacy: keep raising hell, and make sure people know how much fun it is.

I remember the first Molly-book I read. The title said it all: Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?

She could, she did, and we're better off for it.

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