Wednesday, June 18, 2003

What prompted me to think of returning: first of all, I've been reading some blogs from my new home in Spain, and sometimes I want to talk back to them a little. Second of all, something happened to a friend of mine that I wanted to write about. It's rare that I have a point to make that I don't anticipate eight million other people are making at the same time, but this time my point is fundamentally true, bizarrely and unjustly disputed by at least some people, and is at least infequently made. And that is:

women can rape men.

I don't know why some people try to claim this is not the case. First of all, obviously, women can rape men with foreign objects. But women can also rape men the old fashioned way. Penis-vagina sex can be forced upon a man. The people who try to claim otherwise say that a man won't get an erection if he doesn't want to have sex. This is bollocks. An erection is a physiological response to a given set of stimuli; it is related to, but not synonymous with, the volition to have sex. Claiming that you can tell a man wants it just because he has an erection is as dehumanizing as claiming you can tell a woman wants it because of the way she's dressed.

Why am I bringing this up? A friend of mine, Adam, was just raped by his now ex-girlfriend. This woman (Mary) has never been that mentally stable; their first attempt at a relationship ended when she grabbed a knife and threatened to stab herself if he left her. Because my friend is quite confused about his life, and has a tendency to grab on to a certainty of the month in an attempt to squeeze out some order and purpose, he decided a few months ago that Mary had grown, that he loved her, and that he was going to move across the country to be with her. Recently, he decided to move out, and pursue a more casual dating relationship with her to work out their problems. Upon hearing this news, Mary took it upon herself to impregnate herself against his will. She woke him up from a nap with a blow job, then took him by surprise and climbed on top of him, even as he protested, no, wait. One of his arms was pinned against the sofa, and he couldn't get her off of him until it was too late. Now she says she's pregnant, won't consider abortion, and is going to do everything she can to make Adam financially responsible for the baby and to control him with it.

This, of course, is phenomenally vile of this woman. She is violating basic principles of respect for a person's dignity, autonomy, and freedom. She's bringing a child into the world not out of love, but out of a desire for control. A few days ago, I was consumed by fury at her. Now I'm calmer, although I have no less contempt for her. I strongly advised my exboyfriend to make it absolutely clear to her that she would get nothing from him except financial support if it were legally mandated and that she would never see him, nor even know where he lived or have his telephone number, for several reasons: she might come to her senses and have an abortion or give the child up for adoption, but even if she doesn't, if she thinks the baby would deliver control over Adam, who knows what manipulative stunts she might try (oh Adam, I'm so depressed, I need you to come over. I'm feeling so bad, I'm afraid I might hurt the baby). It would be far better for him and far better for this kid if Mary didn't feel the baby were of any use to hurt Adam.

The day I found out about this, I was seething with rage, and I talked about it to a woman I worked with. The first words out of her mouth when I started to tell the story were "a woman can't rape a man."

In fact, Adam should be able to press charges against this woman, but I would never suggest it, because it's so unlikely he would be believed, and if presenting yourself as a female victim of a man's can feel shameful and humiliating, then presenting yourself as a male victim might feel even more so, because of the lack of masculinity it implies. He talked to a sexual assault counselor, which comforted him. But there are people in the world who don't even acknowledge the possibility of what happened to him. Women rape men a lot less frequently than men rape women. But it does happen, and it really denies men humanity to suggest that they can't have thoughts or emotions that might contradict what their erection is saying. It's fun to joke about men thinking with their penis (or woment thinking with their clit) sometimes, but in doing so we should remember that it's a joke, not a literal reality, and reducing a human being to the sum of their erogenous zones is sexist when it's done to women, and it's sexist when it's done to men. In this case, the popular attitude that an erection is synonymous with an interior desire and will to have sex is an effective accomplice to this woman and her quest to entrap my friend. I'd really like to see a world in which men's and women's sexual interiority were respected enough that all rape victims, regardless of gender, could expect to have their stories at the very least taken seriously, if not automatically believed. I suspect that that won't be the case for my friend.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

A few months ago, I retired. I'm thinking of returning. Some thoughts about this:

I wanted to take my blog offline, and in my past experience with blogger deleting a blog didn't accomplish this. So I set about deleting my posts one by one, until it occurred to be I could just make the template blank. Indeed, as I type this, the template is still blank, but if/when I take my blog back up I'll, uh, naturally make the type be visible. But some of the old posts are gone.

I've gone through and edited posts to make myself and everyone I know completely anonymous. I want, as always, to blog about my personal doings, and the lives of some of the people I know.

That is all for now.

Friday, February 14, 2003

What I am reminded of:

About a year ago I saw the Tony Kushner play Homebody/Kabul. Most of it (the last three hours) was awful, but the first hour, the Homebody’s monologue, was rapturous. You wouldn’t think the best part of a play would be an hour of a woman sitting down and speaking, but it was. (It does seem natural that since Tony Kushner knew more about being a sensitive overeducated Westerner contemplating people whose lives were much more dangerous than his, he would do better writing about a sensitive overeducated Westerner contemplating people whose lives were much more dangerous than hers than he would writing about Afghanistan. And it also seems natural that I would identify with that character.) There was point when she talked about the human tendency to believe that previous times were better and simpler then their own. The Homebody says that pessimists chalk this tendency up to self-deceiving nostalgia. But the Homebody is an optimist, she says, and she thinks that earlier times seem better because we have gained perspective. “Ah,” we say, “Now I understand! That was why we suffered so.” Because we can conceive of the past as a story with beginnings, if not always endings. The past is a part of a meaningful journey, whereas in the present we are just caught up in a roil of uncertainty. We have no sense of story, or journey, or progress in the present, so it’s necessarily darker and more painful.

One of the things that pains me about dying is not getting to see how the story turns out. Not finding out if the arc of the universe bends toward justice. Not knowing the purpose of the struggles of my own time.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

More about Iraq:

So I'm trying to work out for myself the merits of the opposing Saddam can be/can't be deterred aguments, with this
Foreign Policyarticle on the can side and Josh Marshall's Washington Monthly article on The Threatening Storm on the can't.

One point I was particularly interested in since it was brought up to me was the question of whether Saddam genuinely thought the U.S. would intervene if he invaded Kuwait.

Mearsheimer and Walt argue:

Saddam’s decision to invade Kuwait was primarily an attempt to deal with Iraq’s continued vulnerability. Iraq’s economy, badly damaged by its war with Iran, continued to decline after that war ended. An important cause of Iraq’s difficulties was Kuwait’s refusal both to loan Iraq $10 billion and to write off debts Iraq had incurred during the Iran-Iraq War. Saddam believed Iraq was entitled to additional aid because the country helped protect Kuwait and other Gulf states from Iranian expansionism. To make matters worse, Kuwait was overproducing the quotas set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which drove down world oil prices and reduced Iraqi oil profits. Saddam tried using diplomacy to solve the problem, but Kuwait hardly budged. As Karsh and fellow Hussein biographer Inari Rautsi note, the Kuwaitis “suspected that some concessions might be necessary, but were determined to reduce them to the barest minimum.”

Saddam reportedly decided on war sometime in July 1990, but before sending his army into Kuwait, he approached the United States to find out how it would react. In a now famous interview with the Iraqi leader, U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam, “[W]e have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” The U.S. State Department had earlier told Saddam that Washington had “no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait.” The United States may not have intended to give Iraq a green light, but that is effectively what it did.

Saddam invaded Kuwait in early August 1990. This act was an obvious violation of international law, and the United States was justified in opposing the invasion and organizing a coalition against it. But Saddam’s decision to invade was hardly irrational or reckless. Deterrence did not fail in this case; it was never tried.

In contrast, Josh Marshall says:

Pollack also reveals that, according to our best intelligence, Saddam assumed that when he invaded Kuwait, America would respond militarily. He just figured he could beat us.

First off, I'd like to say that disagreements like this are one of the reasons it's incredibly frustrating being an ordinary citizen trying to come to informed conclusions about foreign policy. I don't have a copy of The Threatening Storm on me, although I did go ahead and buy Pollacks Foreign Affairs article, On to Baghdad? (not available for free on the net).

Here's what I can conclude from my little efforts at poking around and researching: Mearsheimer and Walt are right that deterrence wasn't really tried to prevent Saddam from invading Kuwait. The U.S. didn't know Saddam was going to invade Kuwait; the U.S. misjudged. (I don't quite understand what the U.S. thought Iraq was doing with the military buildup on the Kuwaiti border. Bluffing? Testing?) However, I don't think there was anything close to a clear diplomatic greenlight. I haven't found any references to what Mearsheimer and Walt say the State Department earlier told Saddam, but I don't think the April Glaspie conversation could be intelligently construed as a greenlight. Here is a link to a version of the conversation: it's a New York Times publication of an ABC translation of a transcript provided by the Iraqi government. The State Department "declined to comment" on its accuracy. (I have no idea what that means. Here are some important portions of it:

GLASPIE: I think I understand this. I have lived here for years. I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. I know you need funds. We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.

I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60's. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly. With regard to all of this, can I ask you to see how the issue appears to us?

My assessment after 25 years' service in this area is that your objective must have strong backing from your Arab brothers. I now speak of oil But you, Mr. President, have fought through a horrific and painful war. Frankly, we can see only that you have deployed massive troops in the south. Normally that would not be any of our business. But when this happens in the context of what you said on your national day, then when we read the details in the two letters of the Foreign Minister, then when we see the Iraqi point of view that the measures taken by the U.A.E. and Kuwait is, in the final analysis, parallel to military aggression against Iraq, then it would be reasonable for me to be concerned. And for this reason, I received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship -- not in the spirit of confrontation -- regarding your intentions.

I simply describe the position of my Government. And I do not mean that the situation is a simple situation. But our concern is a simple one.

...

HUSSEIN: On this subject, we agreed with President Mubarak that the Prime Minister of Kuwait would meet with the deputy chairman of the Revolution Command Council in Saudi Arabia, because the Saudis initiated contact with us, aided by President Mubarak's efforts. He just telephoned me a short while ago to say the Kuwaitis have agreed to that suggestion.

GLASPIE: Congratulations.

HUSSEIN: A protocol meeting will be held in Saudi Arabia. Then the meeting will be transferred to Baghdad for deeper discussion directly between Kuwait and Iraq. We hope we will reach some result. We hope that the long-term view and the real interests will overcome Kuwaiti greed.

GLASPIE: May I ask you when you expect Sheik Saad to come to Baghdad?

HUSSEIN: I suppose it would be on Saturday or Monday at the latest. I told brother Mubarak that the agreement should be in Baghdad Saturday or Sunday. You know that brother Mubarak's visits have always been a good omen.

GLASPIE: This is good news. Congratulations.

HUSSEIN: Brother President Mubarak told me they were scared. They said troops were only 20 kilometers north of the Arab League line. I said to him that regardless of what is there, whether they are police, border guards or army, and regardless of how many are there, and what they are doing, assure the Kuwaitis and give them our word that we are not going to do anything until we meet with them. When we meet and when we see that there is hope, then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not accept death, even though wisdom is above everything else. There you have good news.

So, this is the transcript that came originally from the Iraqis. Unless it was horribly doctored by ABC and the NYT, then one should assume, if anything, that it was slanted to show the Iraqi side. I don't read this and see some kind of transparent green light. To say that the U.S. had no opinion on where the actual Iraq/Kuwait border was drawn is not the same as saying that it would be acceptable to the U.S. if Iraq decided to settle the matter by invading. (Again, I haven't found references to the earlier state department conversation with Saddam Mearsheimer and Walt refer to.) In that conversation, Glaspie stressed the U.S.'s desire that Saddam work it out with Kuwait diplomatically; that's why she repeated congratulations when he said there would be talks between Iraq and Kuwait, first in Egypt, then in Baghdad. This article by a foreign service officer strenuously makes the same points. Maybe Saddam heard it as a green light, but the whole argument of the Kenneth Pollack Saddam's-not-deterrable brigade is that while he's not crazy, he does severely miscalculate risk. So while this isn't a clear case of the failure of deterrance, it does put a check in the Saddam is irrational column. After all, he was wrong, wasn't he?

Until I get further information to the contrary, I think the hawks are right on this point (his invasion of Kuwait is a case for his irrationality). Not necessarily on any of the others, though.

Update: Here is an article by John Edward Wilz, a Mt. Holyoke academic type, who indeed argues (very thoroughly) that signals to Saddam were mixed and the Bush Administration could have prevented Gulf War I. It describes all of the relevant diplomatic communications with Iraq. This swings me more towards "the doves are right," but I think there's a distinction to be made: that Bush might have been able to prevent the first Gulf War by sending a stronger message does not mean Saddam was rational in taking the gamble, especially if its true, as Josh Marshall/Kenneth Pollack say (though I can't find other, non-Pollack references to this) that he thought he could win if the U.S. invaded. However, one unnamed State Department official says in the Wilz article that he does think Saddam made a rational choice, and if he had been in Saddam's position, he would have done the same thing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

here's an article arguing that Saddam can be deterred. I can't link directly to the article because of the weird way the website is structured, but it's on the front page.

sigh. What the hell do I know?

More on The Good Girl.

I'm having a conversation about it with a friend who has seen it. I'd like to reproduce it. This conversation has lots of specific plot details. If you don't want to read spoilers, don't read this post.

My original post.

My friend says in response to my post:

i'm definitely in agreement with you about it not being the world's most awesome movie, but it did make me think about some things, and i disagree with your value hierarchies just enough to reply reflexively to your email.

so, iyo, a movie can have despicable characters if your made to identify with them. then its ok. i guess what i'd argue that the movie does (that, obviously, i like) is reply 1)these characters aren't despicable and 2)you don't get to identify with them.

there's a certain strangeness, most apparent in jennifer aniston's character, but also definitely present in her husband (to lesser extents in jake and the husband's friend), that even with monologues and dialogues and speak-overs, we're not really getting inside the heads of other characters. which is pretty natural - you don't ever actually get inside the heads of anyone. movies trick us a little, soothe as a bit, that subjectivity's can be thoroughly plumbed and extrapolated if we just give the characters a two-hour boundary line, if we block them in, under glass, and just sit there and stare. i liked that the good girl seemed to say -

"yo, dude, it doesn't work that way. you don't get to understand why these characters do every little thing they do; you don't get to fit them into the mold of your own head. you don't get to do them the violence of interpretation." ok, it wasn't a blatant artistic statement that way, but it fell along those lines as far as i could tell.

at the end, you know that the good girl's been struggling with being good, and you know the outward appearances of what she's decided to do, so you assume that its because she decided that was the good. but you don't really get much more than that.

i'd also like to say that i think your criteria for juding the aniston character are pretty singularly you-centric; pretty capital-R-omantic. 'dyou ever read 'Mrs. Dalloway'? sometimes one picks the boring things (roger) because the exciting things (septimus/peter) would kill us, and we can't bring ourselves to be that selfishly dramatic when there's a world of more ambiguous pleasures/pains out there that remain. of course, ms. woolf actually did kill herself, so whatthefuckever.

I reply:

See, I don't think she did struggle with being good. She struggled with maintaining the appearance of being good. There was *never* a time in that movie when she made a generous choice or a brave choice. She only hesitated in beginning the affair for as long as she thought she could have it both ways. She fucks her husband's friend because she's afraid of disruption, not because she wants to be good. That she feels guilty about being bad does not constitute a struggle to be good. But to me the moment that most solidified my contempt for her was the scene in which she went to Jake Gyllenhaal's parents and told him he had imagined an affair with her--basically, she was gaslighting him by way of his parents. Obviously he did need mental help, but she could have brought that up to them without telling a truly despicable lie. She considers killing him with blackberries. She goes so far as to attempt it. She stops in the middle, but only because *she has to look at what she's doing.* Later, she figures out how to get someone else to do it: she reports J.G.'s whereabouts to the police. She's trying to use the forces of authority to excise a part of her life that's become inconvenient without doing any of the work herself (with the side benefit that she gains a little bit of authority's approval in the process). Never mind that that person is a human being who will very likely be severely hurt. She's surprised when she finds out J.G. kills himself, but only because her own lack of imagination shielded her from the probable consequences of her own actions.

I didn't dislike the J.A. character so much because she failed to make adventurous choices, I disliked her because she not only failed to make adventurous choices, but she didn't treat the life she had with real respect. She was at once very unintelligent (except in her voice overs--perhaps I should try to think about the significance of the way she is a fantastically dull and poor communicator with other people but does much better in her head) and totally ruthless in her protection of an existence even she expresses no love for.

And I've read Mrs. Dalloway. I'm not asking J.A. to live her life in a way that kills her. I'm asking her to live her life with a little bit of the joy Clarissa herself evinces, the ability to walk around London (or the Retail Rodeo) and feel love for the miracle of creation. The ability to have a drifting plastic bag moment, to summon another movie. Or more importantly, to express at least occasional love for another person. Clarissa feels it frequently. The only indication we ever get of Jennifer Aniston's possible feelings in this vein is when she says to her husband "you're the only man alive that I love." I will admit that the care in the way she framed it--"only man alive"--does indicate that those may have been true words (and probably the only true words, using a definition of "true" that implies something more than "not false") she spoke, and that sentence conveys sincere feeling both for her husband and for J.G. But without the access to her subjectivity--the lack of which you're saying is oddly refreshing--there is never another time when we get access to a part of her that makes us understand and empathize with her. To me, that lack of empathy-producing moments makes it very hard for this movie to do what (in my opinion) movies ought: make me understand something better about the world. It's so easy to distance myself from Jennifer Aniston because I feel so little resonance with her character. Because it's so easy to feel superior to her, I can shrug the whole movie-watching experience off and not feel as if I've been taught anything about my own life. I guess what I think is that life is full of people we don't understand and whose existences seem meaningless and disconnected from our own. Life is also filled with random, unconnected events. Most philosophies of art say that its task is to order those events into stories that have meaning. I would say at the same time that art should also create characters we have some meaningful access to. Otherwise, the J.A. character is no more than the next dull-witted depressive I might meet at the Retail Rodeo, or in my case, the Food Emporium.

I still don't know what I think of the last shots--when you see J.A. lying on the bed, facing away from her husband with the same blank, depressive stare she's worn for most of the movie, and then she's summoned and she turns and picks up the baby (and smiles?--can't remember)--whether we're meant to understand that the baby has given her the ability to value something outside herself or whether she's "acting" the same way she was before, and the depressive stare is a reflection of her real inner state. You're arguing that its ambiguous, and you like that the movie doesn't let us know. But I lean toward the latter interpretation, given the rest of the movie. She only rouses herself from the bed when the husband hands the baby to her. "Time to be a mommy now" might run her internal narrative. She is still not self directed or outwardly focused.


Mark Kleiman supplies the transcript of the Osama tape, and analyzes Instapundit.

He also makes two important points:

A note to the warhawks: This sort of stuff makes it really, really hard for those of us who are trying our best to support your cause but who don't like being bullshat.

A note to the peace camp, and especially to those on the fence: An idea isn't responsible for the arguments made on its behalf. There is no valid inference from the proposition "Bush and his friends are a bunch of liars" to the proposition "Saddam Hussein's acquisition of a nuclear weapon is nothing to worry about."
TalkLeft and others report the probable demise of Total Information Awareness. I think this is bad news for Patriot II, good news for us citizens. Before we get totally freaked out about some plans we hear floated, I think we need to remember that a lot of members of Congress probably feel pretty legitimately shitty for rolling over for Patriot I and aren't going to make these mistakes again. TIPS is dead, TIA is probably dead, Patriot II will go their way.

Now we just have to work on kicking these crazy theocrats out of the White House so we have something to celebrate besides just defeating their abominable ideas...
and everyone who has said that cringing around Kim Jong-Il while anouncing the intention to carpet bomb Baghdad only encourages nuclear proliferation has a good point.
forget oil. it's the duct tape merchants who are behind this war.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

The evolution of the bumper fish--from Jesus to Darwin to Lutefisk. The most interesting part of this article is the bit about the researcher who did the survey of what message people intend to convey with their Darwin fish. Some of the Darwin fish owners meant to convey that evolution could coexist with religious belief; some saw themselves as persecuted athiests fighting back against hegemonic Christianity.
I haven't even been to that many movies lately, and I'll be out of the country for the actual show, but I'm still enough of an entertainment junkie to care.

The Academy Award nominations.

It's the first Academy Award nomination ever for a fictional person: Charlie Kaufman's non-existent twin brother.
Tim Noah goes over to the dark side.

I might have said "comes," but as I said, I'm not sure of my own position. I thought it was a pretty good column, though.

Monday, February 10, 2003

wow, this test is hard. via Making Light. I got 179, which is not as good as a lot of the Making Light commenters but does put me in the 99.9th percentile. And I went back to my answers and discovered that two of the ones I got wrong weren't even difficult; my mouse must have just slipped, or I'm tired. But I'm sure I got a few others right by guessing wildly, so all's fair.
So I watched The Good Girl on video this weekend. It was pretty disappointing. I thought all of its attempts to raise questions like, “how well do we know the people in our lives?” or “is ‘goodness’ submission to duty or constructing--and then pursuing--ambitious goals?” were pretty much undercut by the fact that every single major character was so selfish, lazy, and most of all stupid that the questions facing them as characters didn’t seem to have larger relevance. At first as I was watching I was sort of perplexed as to why Jennifer Aniston didn’t just leave her husband. I thought as I kept watching I would care about her dilemma more and I would come to understand whatever internalized bonds kept her in her marriage—either that or I would realize her marriage meant more than I thought. Instead I realized that the reason Jennifer Aniston couldn’t leave her husband was that she was too stupid to imagine a life any different than the one she had, and the reason that she shouldn’t was that she was too awful to deserve any better; she was basically lucky to have achieved some material security. For this reason I guess the movie deserves some points for not falling into one of the narrative cliches of the red-state-gal-has-an-affair-but-ultimately-chooses-her-family genre. But the essential element of any movie that’s packed with repellant characters is that it has to make you identify with them—THEN it has impact. That was what Being John Malkovich did; it showed you unflinchingly how petty and grasping its characters were, how their love was just a desperate and conniving attempt to possess, and it made you feel like you were just like them. I wanted to vomit after seeing it. I couldn’t say I liked it, exactly, but I couldn’t deny that it was powerful. The Ice Storm took a different tack; it didn’t invite you to see yourself in the frigid, sensation-seeking materialism of its main characters, but it did give you a tragic sacrificial lamb in Elijah Wood, so you had some sense in the movie of what was valuable and beautiful in humanity that they were destroying, and you were moved in sympathy for that valuable and beautiful thing. But The Good Girl did neither of those things. There was no one in the movie to care about, really. Even the characters who weren’t identifiably bad didn’t offer up any aspect of themselves that was indentifiably good. But unlike the characters in Being John Malkovich, it’s very easy not to identify with any of them—you’re invited to see how stupid and pathetic and, well, Texan they are. It’s easy to deride them and their choices without deriding yourself. So then you’re left with a movie about stupid people living selfish, empty lives. It illuminates nothing about your own. So why watch?

Sunday, February 09, 2003

This Brad Delong post on the effect of import/export imbalances on the value of currencies and therefore the price of imports is, stylistically, somewhere in between Mario Vargas Llosa's postmodern epic Conversacion en la catedral--lots of scene changes and no attributions in the dialogue)--and Family Circus.
So now I'm thinking of going to the anti-war demonstration, more as a protest against censorship than against the war. I might make a sign that says something like, "The New York Sun calls it treason. We call it democracy."

Here is a petition you can sign to urge the Bloomberg administration to authorize the anti-war demonstration.
Did everyone see this already?

A Thursday New York Sun editorial:

- Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly are doing the people of New York and the people of Iraq a great service by delaying and obstructing the anti-war protest planned for February 15. The longer they delay in granting the protesters a permit, the less time the organizers have to get their turnout organized, and the smaller the crowd is likely to be. And we wouldn’t want to overstate the matter, but, at some level, the smaller the crowd, the more likely that President Bush will proceed with his plans to liberate Iraq. And the more likely, in that case, that the Iraqi people will be freed and the citizens of New York will be rescued from the threat of an Iraqi-aided terrorist attack.

...

So long as the protesters are invoking the Constitution, they might have a look at Article III. That says, “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”

There can be no question at this point that Saddam Hussein is an enemy of America. Iraq was the only Arab-Muslim country that did not condemn the September 11 attacks against the United States. A commentary of the official Iraqi station on September 11 stated that America was “…reaping the fruits of [its] crimes against humanity.” A government employee in Iraq reacted to the loss this month of the space shuttle Columbia by telling Reuters, “God is avenging us.”

And there is no reason to doubt that the “anti-war” protesters — we prefer to call them protesters against freeing Iraq — are giving, at the very least, comfort to Saddam Hussein. In a television interview aired this week, Saddam said, “First of all we admire the development of the peace movement around the world in the last few years. We pray to God to empower all those working against war and for the cause of peace and security based on just peace for all.” After the last big anti-war protest, the one in Washington last month, Saddam hailed the anti-war protests as proof that Americans back Iraq rather than President Bush. “They are supporting you because they know that evildoers target Iraq to silence and dissenting voice to their evil and destructive policies,” Saddam told senior officers, including his son Qusay, commander of the Republican Guard.

Of course, any country the United States is about to go to war with is an enemy. And by the logic of this editorial, any time an American questioned the advisability of that war, he would be giving comfort to an enemy (anyone think this editorial expands the definition of "aid and comfort" a bit too far?). In other words, any and all protests against the American government's use of force are by definition treasonous.

Of course, when you look at it that way, criticizing the President's domestic policy could diminish the show of unity we present to the world, and could diminish his standing and credibility here, making him less likely to be able to get domestic and international support for war. That must be treasonous too!

Good for Eugene Volokh for criticizing this editorial in the NRO. But it makes me wonder whether, on the same blog, Orin Kerr's not missing something (weird permalinking issues) about the plans floated by the DOJ for a sequel to the first Patriot Act with a number of very troubling provisions, among them that the government could take away U.S. citizenship based on an individual's group affiliation and inferences from their conduct. He says the press will focus on such aspects of the bill because "they're easy to understand" but that they "don't make much of a difference." I personally try not to be paranoid or to believe that the world is about to end, but when thoughtful people (I almost said "serious people," but that expression has now been ruined by its current trendiness, especially among hawkish circles) like Eugene Volokh have to take time out of their day to explain why a (yes, unsuccessful but still halfway to respectable) publication is wrong when it argues that all dissent from current foreign policy is per se treason, then there are some nut jobs in the room. And they are powerful nutjobs. These same kinds of nut jobs also have prominent positions in the federal government. To say that giving the government new powers to strip people of their citizenship based on the government's definition of implied intent to renounce that citizenship won't make much of a difference is, in my opinion, contingent upon a very sanguine estimation of the intentions of our current government, or of the ability of any government to restrain itself from abusing power. If he means it won't be that much of a step away from current federal law, that's frightening in and of itself.

My acrobat reader will not work well enough to let me read the entire Patriot II proposal, so I have to withhold some judgment. But I'm not cheery about it. I do think, however, that lots of members of Congress probably regret rolling over for Patriot I, and this one would have a lot harder time sliding through. Let's hope.


Did I mention that my ambivalence about the war in no way mitigates my profound distrust of/contempt for/disgust with this Administration? Looks like they've been letting a terrorist camp continue to operate in Iraq just so the case for war would be strengthened. At least, the Administration isn't providing any other explanation.

If you have to look the other way while the gun fires in order to get it to smoke, maybe you're too focused on punishment and not enough on prevention.

Jesus.

Also via Hesiod.
This is a pretty interesting post by Hesiod. Josh Marshall said Saddam's failure to disarm was suicidal, yet another indication of his fundamental irrationality, which is yet another example of why he'll be impossible to deter. Hesiod counterargues that since everyone knows Bush wants this war no matter what happens, giving up his weapons wouldn't be rational, since they would only diminish Iraq's ability to fight in an inevitable war. I think Hesiod makes a pretty decent point. The problem is that there are lots of other occasions when Saddam hasn't acted rationally. Saddam bet on U.S. military response in Gulf War I and thought he'd win. He tried to assassinate a sitting president, which, if it had succeeded, would have certainly gotten him killed.

In any case, I still don't know, and I'm still feeling tied up in knots about the whole thing...

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Some more mail, this time about my old porn post (which generates a lot of google hits, I have to say), which was then followed up by another short post:

I enjoyed reading your website. Since my job right now is insanely boring (document review which is completely pointless - adding insult toinjury) I started reading more and more of your stuff. While I agree with a lot of what you said, enjoyed reading what I didn't agree with, and was impressed by your knowledge of politics and foreign affairs, I did feel compelled to comment on something you wrote. Anyway, I wanted to respond to your comments about violent porn. As someone with dom tendencies, I have some of the fantasies that your
referred to in your blog. So part of my reason for writing you is simply to say, "lay off my fantasies." And my porn too, of course. Having had several relationships that, in large part, centered around exploring my dom fantasies as well as my gf's sub fantasies, I think I have a better perspective than people who have never had any true exposure to it, and it annoys me that people who don't know what they are talking about are talking about (possibly) banning something they don't understand.

Case in point, Avedon Carol's comment, "There are several adages floating around the BDSM community to the effect that the person who really controls a scene is the "bottom", not the "top". It doesn't take much thinking to realize that in a heavy bondage scene, it's the person who does all that tying up and beating who also has to do all the thinking and planning and work; meanwhile, the bottom or submissive just gets to lie back and be the center of attention."

Anyone who could write that has absolutely no experience as a top, and no experience in the 'scene. It may seem counter-intuitive, but, in my experience, it is part of the dom's purpose to push the limits of the sub, and the sub's to make sure that it doesn't go too far. Hence the prevalence of safety words and phrases - no top is ever going to say "Eclipse! I'm spanking you too hard and I can't take it." Of course, if the dom is observent and considerate, it wouldn't be necessary to use the safety word or phrase, as he was able to tell that the bottom was reaching her limits, or was at the limit of where they wanted to go that day.

But I digress. :) My point is that, while you recognize that the fact that you occasionally have rape fantasies doesn't mean that you actually want to get raped, you don't believe that a dominent person who has the same fantasies can keep them in the fantasy world. In fact, I find the idea of actually raping someone completely abhorrent, and I don't think that I am alone in that among dominent men.

Specifically, what I disagree with is when you said, "the commercial production of those fantasies to model those behaviors to others is a problem, because while self expression poses no dangers of modeling violent behavior and placing it in an acceptable light, distributing those fantasies for consumption by others does."

Would you agree with me if I said that the commercial production of those fantasies to model those behaviors to others is a problem, because while self expression poses no dangers of modeling [submissive]
behavior and placing it in an acceptable light, distributing those fantasies for consumption by others does. Is there any danger of you watching 'Slap Happy' and then wandering naked through Central Park? No one seems to
think that women will somehow develop a taste for being raped, while everyone is terrified that I will switch from happily living out a fantasy with consenting adults to raping women.

Rape has, unfortunately, existed for thousands of years, and we can't blame the media and violent fantasies for almost its entire history. I don't know what causes rape, nor do I have a good method to stop it, other than possibly chemical castration as a mandatory punishment for rape. But I do know that we won't eliminate rape by outlawing movies, books and animation that features it. I have absolutely no facts to back this
up, other then the knowledge that crime in Japan is much lower than in the US, but given the prevalence of rape in Manga and Hentai Japanimation, it would make sense that rape in Japan is much more common that in the
U.S., but I don't believe that to be the case.

Anyway, I should get back to work. I have no idea whether you find any of this interesting, but I felt like venting. I enjoyed your blog very much.

Tor

Hi Tor.
Thanks for your email. I totally don't think that anyone who had dom fantasies is going to turn into a rapist. I don't even think I implied it. I definitely don't think there's anything inherently wrong with a dom fantasy, just as there isn't anything inherently wrong with a sub fantasy. I was just saying I had read studies, which to me were convincing, which demonstrated that there was an increased likelihood (which is different from a definite outcome) that people who watched lots of violent behavior being modeled would actually behave violently. And since porn is less necessary to society than art or political speech, there could be a little more leeway in how it was restricted. However, even though I said that then, I think it was just a position I was trying on for size, and I'm probably going to reject it and go back to my free speech absolutism.

Katie

Tor writes:

I recognized that you are just 'trying the position on for size', but the defection of a single free-speech absolutist is unacceptable. Actually, I'm not sure I'm a FSA, but I do believe in free porn. When you say,
"And since porn is less necessary to society than art or political speech, there could be a little more leeway in how it was restricted," I have to disagree with your characterization of porn as less necessary. One of the seminal reasons the internet even exists is porn, as I can't think of another catalyst that would have provided the energy necessary for the internet to jump from ARPANET to the information superhighway. So I'm going to say that porn is responsible for the internet. But whether that is true or not, should the fact that people are ashamed of their porn mean that it is less necessary to society?

The fact that most porn owning or appreciating people will not admit to their use of porn shouldn't mean that porn is any less necessary than, say, commercial speech. In fact, as porn sites for a long time comprised a majority of the money making sites on the web, one could consider it commercial speech, and not obscenity. And the fact that people -apparently- enjoy porn so much should make it as necessary as 'fine art,' in kind of a value neutral way. I would venture to guess that more people 'appreciate' Playboy than Picasso on any given day. And more people 'appreciate' Playgirl than Caravaggio. Caravaggio is very underappreciated. I just think that if we are going to decide what is necessary to society, we shouldn't just pick the things people are proud of.

Tor

I got some email asking me how I could possibly support war in Iraq.

I’m not exactly supporting war in Iraq. I’m just pretty much in agonies of indecision over the issue. I’m not the only one I know who feels that way.

Believe me, I’m skeptical. I have no idea what post-war Iraq will look like, or how a peace could possibly secured that won’t just usher in another war, or at least several smaller scale conflicts, if heavy continued U.S. presence in the region prevents all out war. I don’t hear any realistic plans from the Bush Administration about post-war rebuilding. Like Atrios, I also don’t hear a major effort from the media to question the Bush Administration about their plans. I don’t hear a major effort from the media to question the Bush Administration about anything. That’s not the way the American media is structured. It’s very disturbing to me when I read about the coming Turkish occupation of Kurdish territory in Iraq, or I look forward to the probable U.S. control of oil production in Iraq. I realize that even if the U.S. is initially welcomed as a liberator, years and years of foreign occupation and profit from Iraqi resources could easily sour that welcome. I would love it if someone were in charge of these operations whose motives I wasn’t entirely suspicious of. Like Jeanne d’Arc, I get seriously freaked out when I hear about the U.S. government talking using nuclear weapons in Iraq. We should not be lowering the nuclear threshold for any reason.

But what are the alternatives on the other side of the fence? Are we to decide that we just won’t believe a word that comes out of Colin Powell’s mouth? I think a lot of the evidence presented in his speech was credible, and that Iraq is almost certainly in material breach of Resolution 1441. So what is our answer to that? Just let it happen? What is the point of the U.N. Security Council if its rules aren’t enforced? So what then? More inspections? It seems to me that it would take a heavily armed massive inspection team to make sure Iraq had surrendered all of its prohibited weapons, a team basically akin to an occupying force. I think the presence of such a team and the inevitable conflicts that would arise would eventually lead to a war anyway. And even if they didn’t, how long would the inspectors stay there, making sure that Saddam didn’t rearm? The rest of Saddam’s natural life? The will on the part of the international community wouldn’t last that long. The only reason it’s there now is because Bush pushed the issue so hard. I don’t think Saddam will use his weapons to directly attack the United States. But when you compare the situation in Iraq to the situation in North Korea, one is led to ask, why can’t we do anything about North Korea’s nuclear posturing? And the answer is because NK is in a good position to inflict serious harm on its neighbors. When dictators get their hands on very powerful weaponry, it makes them more belligerent and harder to control. There are lots of indicators that Saddam is not a rational actor, and he’s willing to take actions that jeopardize his own survival. So how would we stop him if he decided to reoccupy Kuwait and he were in possession of weapons of mass destruction, without massive loss of life? And even if our powerful desire to stop him is in part due to a desire to secure oil production in the region, does that change the fact that it’s bad if a murderous dictator gets to roll into a sovereign nation unchecked? And I know someone’s thinking right now, “Oh, like we’re about to roll into a sovereign nation?” But I think we’re likely to get a Security Council authorization for whatever action we take, and that does change the kind of precedent we’re setting. It’s not preemptive; it’s enforcing the U.N. Resolution, which we probably wouldn’t have gotten in the first place if Bush hadn’t announced his intention to do whatever he wanted. I guess those are the games you have to play. It just won't be good for anyone's peace, stability or security to have a nuclear-armed, belligerent, ambitious dictator throwing around his weight in the Middle East.

So basically, I don’t know. I think that invasion might be the right thing, but I wish someone else were in charge of it and there were a credible post-war plan. I know this is just a rehash of things you’ve heard elsewhere. I don’t claim to have anything new to say on the subject. I just want to explain my thinking, since I was asked. I do know that I can’t go to the anti-war rally, which several people have invited me to. I just don’t know that I oppose the war. Believe me, I don’t feel great about it either.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Wow, good for Andrew Sullivan, I have to say. My respect for him just skyrocketed. (It was pretty low before.) It's one thing to honestly support Bush's foreign policy (and even I'm being drawn a little further over to the hawks, but I still refuse to commit). My problem with him was always that he seemed little more than an apologist for Bush, incapable of criticizing anything he did, and at the same time he would misrepresent the positions of people he disagreed with. That last part is probably still true, but he just proved that when Bush behaves in a way that is not "conservative" in any sense of the word, Andrew Sullivan does have a core set of beliefs that will motivate him to criticize him. Good show.

Or maybe he just wanted to prove the lightbulb joke wrong.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

I'm sure everyone will have seen these by now, but here's the wonkish story about the Bush budget.

And here it is adapted for the screen.

Mark Kleiman comments.

This is the kind of thing I don't really have the expertise to be insightful about, but I figure I ought to link more regularly to things I think are important, even if I don't have much to say.

Here's my comment:
That plunging red line sure is scary. That's my future, or at least, it will be if someone fiscally responsible doesn't come along to dig us out of this hole, and even if the tax code gets fixed, the revenues will still be forever lost. I'm sorry, but how do raging budget deficits get to be conservative, much less compassionate?
I have a question for the technically inclined readers of my blog: Is there an html tag that keeps your blog from being crawled by search engines? The comments are weird lately, so maybe you should email the answer. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

You know, &c. posts like this one make me think Bob Somerby is right about everything:

WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT, the one person who seems to be unambiguously hurt by revelations of John Kerry's Jewish heritage is John Kerry. And the reason has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. As this Boston Globe article suggests, Kerry's evasiveness on the issue "mirrors a larger confusion about his essence: Who is he? What does he believe in? Whether the issue is war with Iraq or support for affirmative action, his political core is hard to pin down, perhaps as difficult as his personal roots." Talk about becoming a prisoner of your own media narrative....

Why on earth is &c. not the least bit critical of that narrative? Why is Kerry a prisoner? How is it that &c. can call the narrative "his own" when it is so clearly concocted by his opponents?

And why in God's name does having a Jewish grandparent mean you don't know who you are? I have a Jewish father and an Episcopalian mother. I know who I am.

This absurd Boston Globe article starts with the sentence, "Massachusetts voters could never quite figure out who John Kerry is," but provides no evidence for this assertion that this is a widespread attitude, other than that's now the press narrative. The article goes on to imply that this dialogue is somehow unclear or evasive:

McLaughlin: I remember -- and maybe this is one of the bases for the ''enigma'' rap, and that is that you -- your name is Kerry. You're obviously Irish, your dad.

Kerry: No, I'm a mixture.

McLaughlin: Well, your father's Irish. Right?

Kerry: No. My father came from Austria.

McLaughlin: Oh, did he?

Kerry: Yeah. And I actually came over, what . . . his grandfather came over originally in 19 -- gosh -- '10, '12, somewhere around there. But my grandmother converted from Judaism somewhere in the -- I don't know . . . we're still trying to find all the details of it.

McLaughlin: But the name ''Kerry'' is an Irish name.

Kerry: Oh, I presume. Irish, English . . .

McLaughlin: Does your father have some Irish in him?

Kerry: I don't know the answer to that. We're looking and I don't know.

How is that unclear? So he couldn't recite his entire genealogy from memory. He was certainly clear that his grandmother was born Jewish.

Why does &c read this drivel and not criticize it?

Next we'll be hearing about how Kerry claimed he discovered Chernobyl, how he said he and Theresa were the inspirations for
Titanic
, and how he claimed to have invented Morse Code.

Jesus. Oh, but I'm not Christian--I shouldn't say that. It might mean I don't know who I am.
As long as I’m taking issue with things Mark Kleiman wrote, I might as well take up the question of marijuana legalization.

He argues for keeping the commercial production and distribution of marijuana illegal, because, among other reasons

Being a pothead isn't nearly as bad for you, or for the people around you, as being a drunk. It doesn't cause violence, it doesn't rot your liver, and, for most people, the period of continual intoxication passes after several months and doesn't return. But some people -- everyone my age knows a few -- get caught in very-long-term patterns of dependency, and even the shorter period is nothing to write home about, putting aside the risk of being busted. If it happens to coincide with, say, the tenth grade -- and cannabis initiation happens much earlier now than it did twenty years ago -- some schoolwork, and some emotional growing-up, are likely to be missed, and not all of what's missed is going to be made up later.

I would never argue that nobody smokes too much pot, or that it’s inconceivable that habitual pot smoking saps people of motivation. However, I think observing that some people are lazy and apathetic for a long period of time, and then observing that they are also habitual marijuana users actually doesn’t demonstrate that its their marijuana dependency that’s causing their laziness and apathy. If you are listless, disaffected, or looking for a way to tune out of your environment, then marijuana provides a good way to do it. One of my experiences with it is that it makes things that are very boring much more tolerable, since it provides a certain degree of internal stimulation to concentrate on (whoah, my muscles feel all swirly), and reduces the degree to which your senses are invested in what’s going on around you. However, there are many other good ways to do it: video games, for example, and no one’s suggesting making them illegal, even though I can testify that my abuse of Civilization II was much more damaging to my psychological and physical health than any pot I ever smoked, and I’m not the only person I knew who had a problem with Civ. If you really want to disengage, you’ll find something to help you do it. Some people eat constantly as a way to concentrate on internal stimulation rather than thinking about their environment. I’m not arguing that marijuana is never the causative factor, I’m just saying that the coincidence of marijuana smoking and extreme disengagement is not prima facie evidence for the former causing the latter. Personally, I’ve known several heavy marijuana smokers (I’m defining heavy here as gets high once a day, and smokes enough to maintain it for say, 2-3 hours. I realize there are heavier ones), who lived very active, energetic lives. They just didn’t get high when they were doing their active, energetic things. They had no desire to sit around all day, or to find something (pot, video games, name your poison) that made it happen.

In any case, I think it’s just absurdly paternalistic for the government to keep commericial production of marijuana illegal because it makes some people lazy. U.S. citizens can exercise their own judgment and will power about pot the same way they can about Civ II or Little Debbie’s Snack Cakes. I also don’t like Mark’s grow your own plan; if it’s safe enough to grow legally, it’s safe enough to sell legally. Not everyone will live in environments where it’s easy to grow their own; why on earth should they not have the same rights as someone who does? Under Mark’s plan, there will still be dealers, and those dealers will still be unfairly criminalized. As someone who saw someone she knew and liked murdered because her murderers thought it was safe to rob her—she was a pot dealer and couldn’t call the police—I strongly feel there is no excuse for criminalizing honest business people who are selling a product that is no more dangerous than lots of amusements that are already legal. Sure, it’s sometimes abused. But it’s the responsibility of individuals, not the government, to make sure they use it responsibly.

Monday, February 03, 2003

As I frequently protest when posting to this blog, my blog is not really supposed to be political, because what I know about foreign and domestic affairs is about what Ben Shapiro knows about women. So I like to share little anecdotes from my personal life, or the lives of people I know, because that’s something I do know about, and perhaps hopefully add a little insight into the workings of human relations in friendships and families, if not on the world stage.

So I was inspired by this excellent piece of advice for straight men, found over at Two Tears and a Bucket, to issue my own public service announcement, mine for straight women:

Don’t take romantic advice from other women. Women give terrible romantic advice. Except for me, because having learned the reason most women give terrible romantic advice, I now correct for it in my own advice giving, and now my advice giving combines the best aspects of advice from both genders.

Who should you take romantic advice from? Men, straight or gay. Or women who’ve learned the error of their ways, like me.

Why should you never take romantic advice from women?

Women want to be reaffirmed. A lot. Because women want to be reaffirmed, they know that other women want to be reaffirmed. So when women are upset about an interaction with a man, their female friends want to offer reaffirmation. He's being a jerk, they nearly always tell the distraught woman. Also, it's a really unfortunate thing to admit, but Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus has some valuable insights to offer. Actually, I've never read that book. I just think its thesis, as I understand it--that most men and women have fundamentally different communication styles, and this will be a source of conflict in most straight relationships--is true in my observation. Even the femmest guy I dated (who practically everyone thought was gay), was a Martian at heart, in fact, he may have been the most Martian of all. Women understand the communication style and behaviors of other women. They don't understand the communication styles of men. So when they hear about a dispute between a man and a woman, the woman's behavior makes sense to them. The man's does not. Furthermore, they identify with the distraught woman. Her conflicts remind them of their own. If she's right in this situation, they were just a little more right in all the arguments they've had in the past. You're absolutely right, they tell the distraught woman. He's such an ass. Even when the advice-giving women are hip to the Mars/Venus dynamic, which they probably are, it doesn't make a difference, because then they assume that the "female" style of relating is better: "Why can't men talk about their feelings? What's wrong with them? They're so repressed." They don't seem to realize that it's a brave new relativistic world we're living in, and there's just no objective reason to think that the woman's way is better than the man's. Even if there were, it wouldn't matter, because it's still a man you're trying to have a relationship with, and the way to resolve conflicts is to compromise, to try it their way for a while, and in my observation of advice giving women (which is not all-encompassing I admit; I think I am now an exception to this rule; there may be scattered others), they don't urge the distressed woman to compromise at all. They just affirm, affirm, affirm, and often, women's romantic advice is the direct cause of major trouble in a relationship.

Here is an example.

I have a friend. I'll call her Sally.

I love Sally. Sally, as a matter of fact, is more like me in the way her emotions work than any other human being I've ever met. As soon as I discerned this similarity, I didn't even have to know Sally that well in order to know her really well. I know how certain dramas in Sally's life are going to play out before they do. But Sally is really self-deluded in some ways, ways I've been self-deluded, although I think I snap out of it a little more thoroughly than she does.

In 2001-2002 my friend Sally had a gentleman friend who was a member of the special forces of the Air Force. (Here’s some gossip: Did you know that the stealth bomber might give pilots brain cancer? Sally’s gentleman friend was a stealth bomber pilot. Another stealth pilot and he both got malignant tumors in exactly the same part of their brains. They were both young men and they both had no history of that kind of cancer in their families.) I would call him a fuck buddy. They met occasionally to spend the weekend together. He never told her he loved her or anything like that. Sally, naturally, hoped for more, although she knew intellectually it was never going to happen. He went off to the Middle East post-September 11th (but came back occasionally, and they would see each other). He also had other girlfriends. She hadn’t heard from him for several months, and she got worried, since he’d had brain cancer and he was sometimes called off in the middle of the night to paratroop somewhere, or some such thing. Finally, she got through to him via email. “Sally,” he said, “I’ve been trying to email you. Life is good. Married, with a baby on the way. Will talk soon.”

Naturally, Sally got this and was upset. She likes to think the reason she was upset is the way he told her (but he said he had sent her other emails; she doesn’t know what the content of those was), but in fact, she was upset because she was jealous. He had gone off and gotten married and didn’t want to be with her any more.

If she had been interested in being friends with him, the logical thing to do would have been to send him an email saying “Congratulations! Whoah, that was sudden. I’ll have to get details. Here’s what’s going on in my life.” She could talk about how upset she was, how he didn’t even have the consideration to pick up the phone and call her, how they promised that if they found another relationship they’d tell each other, etc. etc. to her friends. That’s the appropriate outlet for those sentiments. In fact, something along those lines was her first impulse. But then, she got The Advice.

“Sally,” said her friend, who is also my relative, “Nowhere in this email do you say that you’re angry at him. You should tell him how you really feel.”

So Sally writes him a big email telling him how mad she was (I didn’t see it). He wrote back (she didn’t tell me what was in it). She wrote him back telling him she didn’t like his response. And that was it. Later she told me, “I didn’t like the way he behaved, but I don’t need him in my life.” Oh the irony! She was supposedly mad at HIM for trivializing the value of their relationship, but stuffing it for a moment and extending a simple, uncomplicated congratulations was too much for her to do to preserve that relationship. In fact, she wasn’t interested in a real friendship, but she managed to turn it around so that he was doing the rejecting.

But anyway, the advice. If Sally had asked a man, the man would have said, “Look, the guy just got married. Who knows, maybe he got cornered into it by the baby. He’s not ready to talk about it right now. Cut him some slack and be understanding if you want to keep up the friendship.” Or something like that. And that advice would have encouraged compromise. Maybe sometime later, when their post-marriage friendship was in a less vulnerable stage, she could bring up that she had been hurt. Contrary to the Venutian ethic, it is not advisable to express one’s feelings at every moment of the day, especially when dealing with Martians.

In fact, that’s just about the advice I gave her, except I combined the best elements of female and male advice giving: I reaffirmed her and then I told her to stuff it: “I know, that’s just awful. He couldn’t have picked up the phone? I would be so upset if some ex-boyfriend of mine got married and didn’t even tell me. I totally understand. But you know, you don’t even know what’s going on with him right now; his life is probably really complicated. You don’t know why he got married. Maybe it was because of this kid and he might even be a little embarrassed. Men aren’t good at expressing their feelings like we are, so we just have to tolerate that. Also, another thing I’ve noticed that men often can’t do that well is maintain truly intimate relations with women other than their romantic partner. I’ve gotten totally dumped as a friend by some men as soon as they found girlfriends. So probably it’s hard for him to talk to you with the same frankness he did before. Your relationship will probably have to redefine itself. It’s totally natural to be hurt and jealous though, I would be. He didn’t treat your relationship like the important thing it was. But he probably just needs some time.”

Tragically, I came to the situation too late. She had already gotten The Advice and sent the angry email off. I did, however, have a temporary salutary effect, and a few days later she said she had been thinking about what I had said—that the news of his marriage was an ego wound, and that she was being narcissistic. I didn’t, in fact, say that, but I wouldn’t have disagreed, exactly, either. Anyway, she actually seemed to be drinking the notion in. But then she got an email from him and fired one back and that was that.

It may be that their relationship was destined to end anyway, and that it’s all for the best. But my point is about advice. My relative’s advice was designed to HELP THE RELATIONSHIP. I ask you, was it not terrible advice? Tragically, I’ve witnessed this advice being given by female friends all across the nation. It’s possible the phenomenon’s reach is worldwide. So if you’re a woman, and you take advice from women, try to discern whether their advice fits the pattern I’ve described. Do they endlessly support you while never seeing the man’s point of view? Do they encourage you to express your feelings at every turn? Do they tell you all about how this bastard is just like their jerk of an ex-boyfriend? If they do, those are tell-tale signs you’re getting some bad advice. If you’re interested in relationships that work rather than end, don’t take it. Get your romantic advice from a man. Be prepared for some ego bruising and some total incomprehension on their part, but they’ll know better than you do how to relate to your boyfriend.

Thus concludes my public service announcement.
As someone in the I-Don't-Know camp vis-a-vis Iraq, I don't feel I should participate in this campaign. But I'm happy to spread the word about Rice for Peace. Via Jeanne d'Arc.

Sacred Chow, always a pleasant place to get your lefty sentiment and your vegan cake, had signs up in front of their baked goods today: "Scones not Bombs." And my server was wearing a t-shirt with a picture on one side of a woman playfully pulling her undies down on one side and a picture of George W. on the other. The captions were "good bush" and "bad Bush."
I don't know whether or not we should invade Iraq. I do know, however, that I'd rather entrust the job to Scooby Doo than to our current administration.

At the very LEAST, if proposing a war, the necessity of which is not at all transparent, our fearless leaders must demonstrate that they do it not because they think it will all be a video game, but because their conviction of the necessity is strong enough that they can propose it even while staring the horrors of war full in the face. They must be able to ask for support for war from the American people with a stunning, graphic depiction of bleating animals, screaming women holding their dying babies, and men's bodies being trampled at their back. If they did this, then we could all be assured that they understood and were willing to confront the suffering we were about to cause, and they truly believed that the ultimate good we were striving for would redeem that suffering.

But that's not what they're doing. Even if the Bushies were not directly responsible for this, they should ask that the painting be uncovered, because its concealment is an affront to their honesty. But they won't do that.

What was that you were saying about Orwell, Mr. Sullivan? As the Rittenhouse Review would say, please call your office.

Via Atrios.