Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What Is Not Said

"I'll never apologize for the United States of America. Ever.
I don't care what the facts are."
- George H. W. Bush, Vice President
1988 presidential campaign
(in reference to the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655

by the USS Vincennes )

Recently, Senator John McCain and Senatory Lindsey Graham and numerous others have made statements criticizing President Obama's position regarding the unrest in Iran. There has been a glut of video replayed of McCain singing "bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys "Barbara Ann" from the mid-April 2007 presidential campaign as accompaniment.

In contrast, I have been delighted by the deliberate, subdued tone of the statements coming from the White House. This President has shown a restraint in commenting on the events in Iran that was sorely lacking in the previous administration.

Likewise President Obama has received a great deal of criticism for his Cairo speech, including acknowledging the role of the United States in the 1953 overthrow of Iran's government, the first time an American president had admitted those actions. Those who criticize Obama take the position, consistent with the concept of American Exceptionalism, that to admit an error or wrong doing, on the part of the U.S., is to demean or diminish the dignity of our country, and to bring shame to us as a country, to us all.

I believe that the United States has done many things in the course of our history, both recent and older, which are greatly to our credit, things of which we should be justifiably proud. An objective reading of history however, shows me that we have done other things of which we should, in honesty, be much less proud, sometimes even ashamed. I do not see the acknowledgement of those things to be the essence of the shame, but the doing of them in the first place. Denial of the wrongs only compounds their evils.

Not only do we have on our national conscience the overthrow of a legitimate, democratic government of Iran in 1953, that was reversed by the 1979 revolution. There is the 1988 death of 290 civilians flying on a legitimate commercial air route while still in Iranian air space, when the USS Vincennes used surface-to-air missiles, SM-2MRs to shoot down the Airbus A-300, mistaking it for an F-14 Tomcat. The crew of the Vincennes were awarded Combat Action Ribbons for their actions, the captain of the ship William C. Rogers III was awarded the Legion of Merit, and the air-warfare coordinator, Lt. Col. Scott Lustig, received a Commendation Medal for heroic achievement, for maintaining his poise and confidence under fire. George H. W. Bush praised the crew for acting appropriately.

The United States paid $61.8 million, as a court awarded judgement for the deaths, after finding that the U.S. was at fault, but neither apologized nor admitted responsibility. There were accusations of a cover up, particularly after the United States tried to explain away the action of the Vincennes crew as a psychological condition, "scenario fulfillment". While I have not - so far - found any serious credit for the psychology of scenario fulfillment, it is described as a condition where individuals, such as members of the armed forces are unable to differentiate between the delusion of a training exercise scenario and the real experience, despite the clear indicators of reality. In the case of Iran Air 655, 18 members of the bridge crew suffered from an identical failure to identify reality from delusion.

I will leave comment on the military aspects of this event to Penigma, as he has a background in the armed forces that I lack. It does not require military experience to question why ribbons and commendations were awarded for delusional actions resulting in the deaths of 290 passengers (including 66 children). Above and beyond what were at best a bad response to the shooting down of flight 655, were the U.S. contributions to Saddam Hussein in waging war on Iran during the Iran Iraq war that lasted from 1980 to 1988. Some estimates of casualties are in the range of 2 million, and the weapons used by Saddam Hussein include some of his earliest experiments in massive use of poison gas as a WMD. The Iran Iraq War is in large part the reason that 70% of the population of Iran is currently under the age of 30. Currently, even as the Iran government is sending agents provacateur into Iraq against us, we are sending individuals into Iran to undermine the current regime.

One of the interviews criticizing President Obama included the commentator P. J. O'Rourke, who in response to a comment that the Iranians were unlikely to seek our involvement in their internal differences because of our past actions interfering with them, blew off the idea. "That was a long time ago. No one is going to remember all that stuff from the past." (I paraphrase his comments approximately) Rather, he asserted that we, as moral leaders of the world, should be setting an example by standing up for the rebelling factions. Even if the Iranian factions hadn't asked for our help - or our comments. This would be comparable to the citizens of the United States forgetting Pearl Harbor Day, AND 9/11, AND the Oklahoma City Bombing. This would be comparable to the USA telling the survivors of the Japanese American internment camps they should appreciate how morally superior we are as a country.

Similar statements were made by other conservatives/ right wing/ Republican hawks advocating a more aggressive policy, including John McCain. Senator Graham of South Carolina expressed not only the desire for more provocative statements from the President; he asserted that clearly the Iranians must be asking for our help because some of their signs were IN ENGLISH!

Apparently Senator Graham is unaware that not only is English the language of other countries besides the United States, but it is far more widely understood worldwide as the language of both business and diplomacy than Farsi.

It has been my experience when traveling abroad generally, and especially in the middle east, that the citizens of other countries have very good memories, very long memories, and consistently a better grasp of both history and geography than the average American. There seems to be a willingness to meet Americans half-way, in a spirit of good will, at least for individuals. Failing to acknowledge having ever done anything wrong anywhere at any time, is taken to be a foolish arrogance on our part that is incomprehensible to them. It is incomprehensible to me.

Thank GOD that Obama has the courage and strength to understand and admit our failures, in order to transcend them. Thank GOD that we have a leader who is finally sufficiently confident in himself to proceed carefully and with restraint; who will not let himself be stampeded or pressured into stupidity. A man who clearly understands the value of what is said, and also the sometimes even greater importance of what is NOT said, in being our face to the world.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution reads:

"
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."

It was passed in 1868, along with the Thirteenth and Fifteenth as a reaction to the Civil War. It was intended to ensure citizenship and equal protection under the law for all residents, and further to determine how to treat those who might act in open rebellion against the nation. Prior to the Civil War, no text in the Constitution dealt with this matter adequately.

For this purpose, it is Section 1 which I am concerned with - however, it is an interesting aside that there is a specific prohibition against questioning the faith and credit worthiness of the United States (Section 4) - it is interesting because so many out there in the land of extremism do so daily.

In Section 1, I mean specifically, "shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

This passage was used to define a "Right to Privacy" by Supreme Court Justices Samual Warren and Louis Brandies in his landmark decision in 1890.
http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/classes/6.805/articles/privacy/Privacy_brand_warr2.html

The principal point of the decision was that a person has the right to be secure in their actions and person without the intrusion of government without good purpose and due process. They relied HEAVILY on the 14th Amendment, in short finding that the government has no right to intrude or know what you are doing, without good reason.

It was from this decision that the Supreme Court, in 1972, decided that the government could not intrude upon the rights of women to seek medical treatment for pregnancy, including terminating a pregnancy by having an abortion so long as the fetus did not meet the standard of being considered a living person, by legal or medical standards. Meaning, if you aren't harming someone else, then medically approved treatments are your choice to undertake. They found that such prohibitions constituted an unreasonable intrusion upon the rights of women to be secure in their persons against unconstitutional intrusion by the government without due process. In short, the Government was violating the "Right to Privacy" of women, without justification.

Since the time of Roe V. Wade, the Neo-Conservatives have rabidly disputed such a right, despite the enormous respect given to Brandeis as one of the brightest Constitutional scholars in the country's history AND despite the irony/hypocrisy of their incessant claims that the Government should NOT otherwise intrude. They claim that Roe V. Wade is 'activism', legislating from the bench, when the 14th could hardly be more clear that as long as someone is not breaking the law - and medical treatment isn't breaking the law - that the government cannot otherwise intrude upon the privacy of the citizen. They fundamentally abhor the "Right to Privacy" despite its rather clear justification by Brandeis. They abhore it because they know that it is exactly the justification for Roe.

So, how utterly ironic that Michelle Bachmann, a Lawyer, LLM, and staunch Neo-Conservative who doubtless disputes the "Right to Privacy", would use and claim such a right to defend her nonsensical civil disobedience against the Census. She is a Court Officer, she doubtless is both educated and bright enough to know the Census is supported Constitutionally, and by both original Constitution of the Bill of Rights and Section 5 of the 14th Amendment, as well as Section 1, the Government has adequate right to request information. She hypocritically decries Roe - substantiated and underpinned by the 14th and Brandies, and then wraps herself in Brandeis (as do her fawning, unthinking anti-Government sychophants) when it suits her. She advocates for violating the law for no good or meaningful purpose, to appear as a Champion of the little people, but supports States intruding upon a woman's right to seek termination of pregnancy by passing laws to prevent such procedures - in essence dictating that women must carry to term.

So, she takes a 'moral stand' screaming "Don't Tread on Me!" on a fluff, trivial issue like Census questions, but she's all to happy to otherwise tread on our rights, to deny the "Right to Privacy", and to set the government to spying on the people (in fact investigating them for 'anti American sentiments') whenever it suits her purpose. Those of you who see her as defending you from the Government need to get a clue. She's a clever manipulator, taking stands for liberty when it doesn't matter, and complicit in usurping those rights, denying they even exist, when it does.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Role of Sex in History

"A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."
Saul Bellow

The Role of Sex in History

This title derives from a line of dialog in one of my favorite movies, "The Lion in Winter", said by the character of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Philip of France; the 1968 version, where Eleanor is played by Katherine Hepburn, with the screenplay written by the author of the original play.

I could not resist another post, however soon after my last, given how recent events tie together multiple posts here on Penigma:

A Consensus on the Census Con
A Party of Clay
First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage
They're Only Words

Rush Limbaugh (see They're Only Words) has now opined that the root cause for South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's marital infidelity (see A Party of Clay) was President Obama and the Stimulus Bill.

An approximate transcription of his statement:

“Do you know how many frustrated Americans there are out there at what’s happening? This Sanford business, I’ve got to tell you one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind with Mark Sanford. What he did defies logic. This is more than being 180 degrees out of phase because of lust or love…This is almost like I don’t give a damn. The country’s going to hell in a handbasket. I just want out of here. He had just tried to fight the stimulus money coming to SC. He didn’t want any part of it. He lost the battle. He said what the hell. The federal government is taking over. I want to enjoy life.”

Limbaugh also characterized Sanford as potentially "our JFK", although I don't think it was because Kennedy was also an alleged philanderer. At least, I hope that wasn't the basis for the comparison...

Now the niggling fact which confounds this assertion is that Gov. Sanford has confessed that he had known his mistress for a number of years, something like seven or eight, and that the affair has been ongoing for approximately a year.

Mrs. Sanford found out about the infidelity approximately five months ago. She threw Sanford out of the house some two weeks ago. (First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage)

Reporter Gina Smith, from the Columbia's "State", the newspaper that broke the story, indicated that the paper had incriminating emails in their possession for a similar period of time, five or six months, received from an anonymous source. Smith confronted the Governor at the airport in Atlanta on his return from Argentina, and informed him of the emails.

At that time, the Governor first attempted to lie about the affair, until he learned the emails were in the possession of the newspaper, and were about to be made public. That afternoon, in his rambling press event, he admitted to the affair, including his whereabouts, which was news to his wife as well.

The Stimulus Bill passed in February of this year.

The Governor lost in court a few weeks ago in his attempt to resist accepting stimulus money for the state of South Carolina, and the state assembly recently concluded their most recent legislative session.

Does Mr. Limbaugh really believe that his audience is incapable of putting news events in a proper chronological order? ARE they THAT incapable?

Because as much as Humpty, er, Limbaugh would like to blame anything and everything on Obama, and the Democrats/Liberals/ "Lefties", this is just tooooo great a reach, even for the most rabid of followers. Isn't it?

Unless you consistently and vigorously like to ignore and avoid those facts which don't support your position (see The Consensus on the Census Con) There is such a thing as spin, and then.... there is just plain dizzy.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Consensus about the Census Con

In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.

- Autobiography of Mark Twain

A Consensus on the Census Con

Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann recently made a statement to the media that she and her family would not be cooperating with the 2010 U.S. Census in answering most of the census questions. Bachmann fears the possible participation by ACORN in census taking, expressing two concerns:

1. She fears that the information requested by the Census Bureau exceeds the mandate of the constitution, and the questions are therefore improper.

2. Bachmann fears that ACORN will act as part of a conspiracy to provide false information to the Census Bureau so the data will be altered, changing the proper redistricting that would result from the correct census figures, and changing the resulting electoral votes.

Rep. Bachmann as a practicing attorney, a litigating attorney for the United States Treasury department for five years, should know that there have been multiple court challenges over the history of the Census to the various aspects of their legality. Certainly with her legal background she is capable of a more informed opinion.

Unlike the few people working for ACORN out of more than 13,000 who did not accurately fill out voter registrations for the 2008 election, census takers have to pass a proficiency test AND a background test, (which I understand is conducted by the FBI). Not one instance of fraudulent voting was ever connected to ACORN, so no results were changed in any election - including Minnesota's.

There are also multiple processes in place to verify the census data. Those processes involved in verification are far too numerous and extensive to be listed here, but they can be found under 2010 operations and FAQ at the Census website.

It would be extremely difficult, as well as risky, to attempt to alter the census data, an important fact which of course Bachmann also omits.

Given that the data from the Census is so very private - I could find no single case where confidentiality had been breached OR data altered by a census taker - we will never know if Ms. Bachmann actually completes the questions or not. This year, the short form is being used, with fewer questions than the previous census.

Well, strictly speaking that is not quite true about privacy. The data IS made public, but only 72 years after the census is completed, in the case of the 2010 census, in 2082. Ms. Bachmann will no doubt, at approximately 125 years of age - given she was born in 1956 - be long dead, and so will a majority of the rest of us who are adults now (or we will be too old to care).

Rep. Bachmann has a long and colorful career of getting facts wrong. Both factcheck.org, and politifact.org cite instances (including the assertion about money going to ACORN from the Stimulus Bill) as false - one of her 'facts' rates a 'pants on fire', and no statements which are true. Because Bachmann rarely if ever gets her facts straight. Politifact has give her statements about ACORN and the Census not one but TWO "pants on fire" ratings, their most extreme standard for falsification.

She earned a JD from the now defunct Coburn School of Law, part of Oral Roberts University, where the website makes the following statements,
under Whole Person Assessment:

"ORU helps you become spiritually alive, intellectually alert, physically disciplined, socially adept and professionally competent."

Does that sound to you consistent with getting so many facts wrong?

Rep. Bachmann has an LLM degree from the College of William and Mary, whose website states in part, under Academics:

"William and Mary is an academic powerhouse. Our undergraduate and graduate students choose W&M because of its celebrated liberal arts tradition and commitment to hands-on, original research. They know they'll work hard and that their uncommon efforts will be personally, academically and professionally rewarding."


All that "hands-on, original research" surely doesn't sound very consistent with those factual errors either.

I was not particularly familiar with an LLM degree, which stands for Legum Magister (feminine Magistra) but it is described as an advanced academic or research degree in Law. All of which taken together with Ms. Bachmann's startling pattern of errors of fact in her many highly publicized, one might say notorious statements, suggest not that Ms. Bachmann is simply stupid, but the contrary.

It suggests a pattern of disinformation rather than misinformation. Misinformation is simply errors in fact. Disinformation is an intentional strategy or tactic of misleading and deceiving people, usually associated with governmental, political, or military actions.

That Ms. Bachmann regards the attention she receives from these disinformative statements as a "Badge of Honor" further suggests these are intentional deceptions, deliberately inflammatory and unethical. Fear mongering poor, lazy, ignorant slobs politely characterized as the "low information voter", people who do not critically think, who are too lazy or ignorant to question what they hear so long as it appears to conform to an ideology that they follow blindly.

Contributing to the fear and misinformation campaign promoted by Bachmann is the effort of Chairman Michael Steele in a widely disseminated RNC email, quoted here in part:

"It seems the Obama Administration has plans to rig the Census results.

President Obama's old friends from ACORN, the leftist, urban "community" organization with a long history of promoting vote fraud, has been chosen by the Administration as a "partner" with the Census Bureau to determine population counts in cities around the country.

With this group's track record of coming up with countless fraudulent voter registrations in heavily Democrat areas to sway elections to ultra-liberals, you can be sure they'll be manipulating population numbers as well.
And after receiving millions in political payback from the Democrats' recently passed "Stimulus" Bill, ACORN's community organizers are eager to once again take action to aid their old friend in the White House. "


Except that ACORN did not receive millions in the recently passed Stimulus Bill. And partnering with the Census Bureau, along with many other organizations, does not involve collecting census data.

What is partnering with the Census Bureau for the 2010 Census?

That is an easy question to answer; all you have to do is to go to the official online website at http://www.census.gov/, where it clearly explains in the following quote taken from their section on partnering 2010:

"What is a Partner?2010 Census Partners are government, non-profit, corporate or community organizations that have formally pledged their commitment to share the 2010 Census message and mobilize their constituents in support of the Census Bureau's goal of achieving a complete count.
How can my organization become a 2010 Census Partner?To become an official regional/local level 2010 Census partner, please telephone the Census Bureau's,
Regional Census Center [PDF] that serves your area. To become an official national level partner, please email clmso.2010.census.partners.list@census.gov "

ACORN is not asking people to answer the 2010 Census questions. People who are hired and trained by the Census Bureau go door to door asking those questions. The Census Bureau takes a variety of measures to ensure confidentiality, and according to the website, there is a considerable penalty for violation:

"It is against the law to publish or disclose any data that identifies an individual or company – no names, no addresses, no Social Security numbers. Violating the law is a federal crime with serious penalties, including a prison sentence of up to five years and a $250,000 fine."

The other little fact that both Steele and Bachmann omit is that the only documented attempts to abuse the privacy of the Census data - at least, that I was able to locate - were by the FBI, which between 1939 - 1941 used data to identify individuals for the 1941 internment of Japanese-Americans; and an attempt in 1980 by the FBI to confiscate data that was blocked by the courts.

The rounding up of Japanese aliens and Japanese-Americans under an executive order from President Franklin Roosevelt was upheld by a 1944 Supreme Court decision, and later it was overturned by a District Court in the 1980s when it turned out the government had lied about the justification for the internments through "willful historical inaccuracies and intentional falsehoods". While it is true that census data did contribute to the round-up and internment, it was hardly the only resource for it. The areas where such round-ups occurred varied dramatically from one part of the country to another. Had the Census data not been available, I doubt that either the round-up or subsequent internment would have been avoided; some other method would have been used instead.

It is worth noting that the motivation for the round-ups and interments was FEAR. While Rep. Bachmann has expressed a paranoid concern about the possible creation of Stalin-style 're-education camps' as part of a public service program, there is no plausible indication that answering the Census questions will lead to Ms. Bachmann or anyone else being 'interned' in such a place.

If the FBI cannot take control of the data, is it REALLY plausible to be worried about ACORN? Of course not; it's not scary, it's just stupid.

Steele goes on in his widely disseminated official RNC email rant to say:

"If the Democrats and their friends at ACORN have their way, the Census will only "estimate" state populations and therefore be subject to political calculations. And surely their estimate will be far higher than the actual number of people, and voters, present. "

This paragraph presumably refers to the Supreme Court decision, Utah v. Evans, 536 U.S. 452 (20002), which upheld the legality of a statistical technique, hot deck imputation. Using hot deck imputation, Utah lost a representative to Congress; and North Carolina would have lost a Congressional representative had the technique not been used.

This has nothing to do with the influence of the current residents of the White House or the Obama administration - which didn't exist when the court made its ruling. And it clearly has nothing to do with ACORN either.

Steele next goes on in his RNC email to state:

"We must not let the Democrats and their radical leftist allies falsify the U.S. Census and manipulate elections in their favor. Our democracy, and the principle of "One Person, One Vote" are in jeopardy.

Please help the Republican Party's effort to spread the word about the Obama Democrats' misuse of power and plans to end free and fair elections. Support our effort to get the word out about this threat and ensure an accurate, non-partisan Census by making a contribution of $1,000, $500, $100, $50 or $25 to the Republican National Committee today.

Your gift will also help support the recruitment and election of principled candidates who will defeat the Democrats in 2010 and pave the way to send Barack Obama packing in 2012."

Here we get to the heart of the "CON", the swindle, the attempt to manipulate, deceive, in order to raise money through fear and intentional misinformation. Every bit as much as a two-bit hustler, just better dressed, and with a bigger mailing list. I would hope that all of us, regardless of ideology or belief, object to lying, to conniving, to deception and falsification, and most of all, to manipulation. Do not give these people your trust, your confidence, your support and most of all do not give them any of your money or your votes.

Do not fear too quickly or too easily.

Do not be manipulated - by anyone.

DO question what you are told - by everyone regardless of politics and idealogy. Be critical of the logic, verify the information from objective sources. There are many fact checking resources available through the internet. Use them wisely - and often.

A Party of Clay

A quote from DogGone - from Theoretikos, by Oscar Wilde:
"THIS mighty empire hath but feet of clay: Of all its ancient chivalry and might Our little island is forsaken quite"


South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford admitted to an affair yesterday. This is the same Governor who had condemned, time and again, actions by those who didn't value the family, those who didn't value the sanctity of marriage. He was an unrelenting, virulent voice against Bill Clinton, calling repeatedly for his impeachment or resignation.

He was caught, he didn't admit to it willingly, by reporters as he walked off his plane from Buenos Aires.

He had four visits to Buenos Aires paid for by the tax payers. He betrayed many, including his wife, who funded his campaigns in part, she was his campaign manager, she had four children with him.

He lied to his staff, he lied to his friends about his conduct, including his closest friends. He disappeared for nearly a week when he had responsibilities in his state.

There is nothing to be proud of about having an affair, yet, there is nothing that requires his political career to be over because of an affair, yet there is everything which ought to end his political career if he is to be consistent with the unforgiving, unyielding, and completely without understanding attitude HE had, and his party has, about everyone elses indiscretions.

This Grand Old Party, most especially the 'social conservatives' within it, condemn those who have abortions as sluts, say God kills Americans as retribution for the conduct of gays, and have no forgiveness for anyone who is in any other party, yet they of course frequently fail to be 'perfect' as well. In fact, if anything, they live less well harnessed by the unreal 'girdle' of pefection than many others. The reality is that their leaders, time and again, are found to have been cheating on their wives (Gingrich, Ensign, Livingston, Sanford, etc..), or to secretly be homosexual (which is no sin, nor is there anything wrong with it) - such as Mark Craig, Tom Haggerty or Mark Foley. It also has had it's chief spokesman (Rush Limbaugh) become a drug addict, a likely criminal (by getting his maid to 'shop' for his drugs), and had him travel to the Caribbean, where prostitution is legal, to go on a 'sex vacation.'

This party demands purity, which is of course unattainable, and so they wind up putting up charades as leaders. No one can live to ideals of never being tempted, and while they undoubtedly would say "of course we know people are tempted, people are human", they won't and don't actually apply that idea of grace to anyone who is a political opponent. Feet of clay are fatal to them if you aren't in the GOP, and mostly even if you are (of course not always as Gingrich and George Bush clearly show).

In short, they demand their leaders live up to a standard which is nearly impossible, and worse. demand that same lie from everone else. They beat their chests at their 'purity', they scream their righteousness from the rooftops, and condemn anyone who disagrees as not worthy of concern because they are dirty, mongrels, scum, and worse. They demand a lie from their leaders and force that same lie upon society.

Monday, June 15, 2009

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, then...

Sometimes.

We are all familiar with the childhood chant used to embarrass kids who might like each other, in that stage of life where we considered the opposite gender to have cooties.

When I first heard the words that form a version of the ring exchange section of the Church of England wedding service, I was taken by the expressive romantic poetry of them. Variously those words are (in part):

"With my body I honour you,
all that I am I give to you,
and all that I have I share with you,"

another version uses the even more erotic wording:

"with my body, I thee worship".

In the proclamation phase of the wedding service, the Church of England takes the position that the clergy does not marry the husband and wife; they marry each other. The role of the clergy is to direct the process and then to announce and proclaim that it has been concluded properly.

I find this an interesting observation to keep in mind when contemplating the current social discussions on both same-sex marriage, and the privatization of marriage. Some who hold to either a fundamentalist or conservative perspective, admit only one version of marriage to be correct, to be permitted, in a civilized society, to the vehement exclusion of all other possibilities. God is often marshaled in support of their thinking; they feel qualified to speak on His behalf in telling those who think differently how this institution should exist as an absolute.

Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli psychologist currently a professor at Princeton, recognized for his work in behavioral finance and hedonic economics. He is the 2002 Nobel Prize laureate for economics. I admire Kahneman's work for not only its brilliance, but its honesty. Kahneman developed the concept of visceral certainty to describe how he could feel himself so adamantly correct in his thinking, when objective evidence and the opinions of others indicated he was wrong. Kahneman excels at identifying the gap between theory and ideal, and practice and objective reality.

In his spirit of examination, I decided to make my own attempt to rationally examine the subject of marriage. Taking a long range look in the sense of distance, at how marriages exist around the planet, and taking a long range look in the sense of time, at how marriages have existed in history, there seems to be a considerably larger range of relationships than the one embraced by conservatives and religious fundamentalists. While the existence of these differences is not in itself a guarantee that they are all equally correct, it does argue that we have as a species been very flexible in this context, and that there is no one single way for marriage to be defined to the exclusion of all possibilities.

While marriage can be entered into as a sacrament, we do accept as married those who do not solemnize their commitment through any religion. Even in the early Christian era, up until the mid-16th century with the edicts of the Council of Trent, clergy and religion were not a requirement. Prior to that, in Europe all that was required was the agreement, the verbum, for individuals to enter into the relationship. If the wording of the agreement was in the present tense, the individuals were married from that time forward; if in the future tense, they were engaged or betrothed only. Sometimes the agreement was recorded by the church, but it was not required to be either recorded by clergy or civil authority. In some versions of Judaism, the act of marrying another person means merging into one soul from two, a view of the necessity for marriage to achieve spiritual completeness that is shared with some other religions where there is very strong pressure to enter into marriage.

Over many centuries, in European culture and other cultures, marriage was neither a civil nor a religious agreement; it was purely a personal commitment and a kind of contract, which in large part regulated control of property. A form of this idea is currently advanced under the concept of privatization of marriage. In privatization, the roles of both the church and government would be minimalized, and the emphasis would shift to individual commitments and contracts. The recognition by some states of common law marriage, where the relationship is established by a couple living together as if they were married, would be an example of a marriage that was neither formalized by religious ceremony or by formal government license.

While marriage can be entered into for the purposes of having children, we do not require couples to reproduce, nor do we any longer penalize those who reproduce (or are born) without benefit of marriage the way we did at one time. Nor do we widely restrict the role of parent to heterosexual couples; in our society, parenting sometimes falls to grandparents, guardians, single individuals, and even same sex individuals and couples; they sometimes do a superior job over the heterosexual individuals in a monogamous relationship. Recognition is progressing that gender orientation or relationship status with another adult does not always equate to parenting ability or emotional or economic stability.

The argument is sometimes offered that marriage is recognized by society because it benefits it directly, providing stability and greater prosperity. The divorce rate and the resultant destabilizing effects of what amounts to serial monogamy would suggest that is not necessarily the case.

The element of time in connection with marriage is a particularly interesting one. While we, as a nation, nearly always enter into marriage with the intent of "til death us do part", we follow a variety of time tables in practice. It surprised me to discover that there are marriage rituals that do NOT define relationship in forever terms. For example, in some locations the Shi'ah form of Islam recognizes term marriages, as have other societies. Spouses agree to be temporarily husband and wife, an arrangement that is renewable; not so very different from those marriages where spouses elect to renew vows ceremonially, only more so.

An overview of marriage customs shows some interesting variations: so-called ghost or posthumous marriages, where a living person marries a dead person; levirate marriages, where a widow marries her husbands brother to perpetuate his bloodline, and the reverse, sororate marriage where the widower marries his late wife's sister, for the same purpose. There are so-called "walking marriages" where the spouses do not live together, but maintain separate residences. While this seems contrary to our notion of a typical nuclear family, in practice often one or both spouses may spend regular periods separated without any loss of commitment; it occurs regularly in military deployments, and often occurs in civilian life where one or both spouses routinely travel, such as over the road truck drivers, salesman, and our political representatives, with either one permanent and one temporary residence, or perhaps two permanent residences being maintained by fully committed married individuals.

Legally and officially, we do not treat all relationships or individuals fairly or equally. The concept of (anti) miscegenation laws is commonly understood to refer to laws which prohibit formalizing the mixing of different races, originating in part from a lack of understanding of the concept that whatever skin color we may present, we are the same species. What fewer people seem to know is that the first miscegenation laws in this country addressed not marriages of different races, but marriages between different classes. Indentured servants were prohibited from marrying their contract owners, because such marriages prematurely ended their labor service (at least, in theory). The current remaining restrictions prohibiting marriage tend to be age; consanguinity - too close a biological relationship, such as between siblings or in some but not all states, first cousins); plural marriage, either polygyny or polyandry, or group marriage (multiple of both husbands and wives); and gender, with a decreasing majority of states prohibiting same-sex marriages. The possibilities offered by genetic science to anticipate problems in offspring seem to be superseding at least some of the restrictions on how closely related parties can be in marriage; it is unlikely that closely incestuous relationships will ever be permitted. Given the variations in plural marriages around the world, and as advocated by a variety of religions, it would not surprise me to see the marriage limitation to two people eventually change, but not for a very long time.

There is the so-called marriage 'penalty', where the tax rate for married couples is higher than the tax rate for single individuals. We are having to examine how to make accommodation for the discrepancies where some states allow same-sex marriages but others do not - or in the case of California, did for a while, but do not now. Our federal government does not currently recognize the status of same sex marraiges. Even the District of Columbia, which has the unusual situation of not being a state, and not being the usual kind of municipality, is wrestling with how to deal with residents from the 50 different states having 50 different definitions of marriage. As much as some conservatives and liberals alike would like to accord the authority for marriage to state government, so long as we have federal issues, and conflicting state laws, this is problematic.

Given the difference in attitudes towards same sex marriage in younger adults compared to older adults, it seems a reasonable expectation that same sex marriage will eventually be fully accepted, and legally recognized. Even some religions are changing their position, arguing in response to the phrase "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve", that God made Steve as well. The only remaining question to a wider acceptance of same sex marriages appears to be when - and where - not if.

I would argue that the intention and commitment of the two parties involved logically should define their relationship of marriage, in the form of a contractual agreement between them. The limitations of age that govern entering into other contracts would provide adequate protection for children not to be exploited by adults. It would allow for the participants to be of opposite or same gender, and it could be required as a contractual condition, that children that are part of that relationship, whether biologically or adoptively occurring, would be provided for by those spouses, both for support and for inheritance. The participants could choose if they wished to follow the dictates of their conscience through the teachings of whatever religion they profess, or none at all, if that is their choice.

It would permit the government to opt out of what is a divisive controversy at best, and to institute fairer and more equitable standardized treatment of individuals, regardless of their marital status. The intrusion of the government in different ways into the bedrooms of our society has never been a comfortable one for either the government, or the people into whose bedroom they intrude. It would offer a more sane, humane, and objective approach to an age old, much varied institution. Those who have a visceral certainty that they are right and everyone else is wrong - and that everyone else must be compelled to their way of doing things - are unlikely to ever consider any other options. But those who are thoughtful, and who have the integrity to recognize that they might be wrong no matter how right they feel, could do far worse than consider this possibility.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Face of God?

(Author's note - I make no pretension of knowing God's mind - but rather am reflecting here my own feelings about what I think I am called to do.)



Author Glen Cook writes a series of books called the "Black Company." The books are about a mercenary band of hardened, ruthless, professional killers. At the conclusion, Glen has the ethically tormented primary character consider the nature of the collective human conscience:

"I am not religious. I cannot conceive of gods who would give a damn about humanity's frothy carryings-on. I mean, logically, beings of that order just wouldn't. But maybe there is a force for greater good, created by our unconscious minds conjoined, that becomes an independent power greater than the sum of its parts. Maybe, being a mindthing, it is not time-bound. Maybe, it can see everywhere and everywhen and move pawns so that what seems to be today's victory becomes the cornerstone of tomorrow's defeat."

Without intending to, Mr. Cook touches upon the nature of something I also believe, specifically, that God or Christ, or Allah or Y'weh intend and intended for us to learn to 'find our way' collectively, to love our neighbor truly, to not set ourselves above the rest of us, not just as a precondition to salvation, but in fact AS the salvation. That heaven is not a place, or a time, or a thing, but rather a time and a place and a thing bound up in the idea of choosing to be kind, and decent, and forgiving over hatred, division, exclusion, and unconcern.

I admit it is a leap from Mr. Cook to the above - and the association is only loose, but often each of us sees a shred of a truth, or relates to that truth, in a different, but meaningful way. My good friend DogGone had this to add

"..Your post reminded me of John Donne's "Meditations" ( XVII - I looked it up to be sure I had it right):"No man is an Island, intire of itselfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine.."spelling is a tad antique.... but there is a similar idea in there. The Asian custom of greeting with palms together, fingers upraised, has a premise that I have always appreciated - that when greeting another, you acknowledge their soul defined as a small piece of god inside each person that is also connected to all other souls, in essence simultaneously greeting the other and greeting god and greeting another part of your self. Joseph Campbell expresses it far more eloquently than I do."

The Christians often call this concept the Holy Spirit, and refer to it as God working through us in acts of Sanctification - and I have no issue with that. In fact, as an Episcopal, I am a member of a church known as the "Church of the Embodiment", in which we are strongly called to "see the face of God in the world around us." So, perhaps I have a bit more propensity than most to think of the temporal world as the place where God is manifest in our daily lives, but one essential point follows..

Whether we believe in God or not, and what we see God as (or see Gods as if you are so inclined), the concept of 'the old man in the sky" type of God is antiquated at best. Theologians of today do not (in the main) promote such an obeisant view. The idea of hierarchical fealty and gratitude is to me, NOT the message we are called to live or convey. In fact, such an approach, I believe promotes the idea of superiority of one group over another. Rather, instead, it seems we were and are called to recognize our equality and equivalence with one another AND our shared fate. We are bound within, as a human race, the fate we bring not just upon ourselves, but upon others.

So, I suggest that perhaps God, rather than working us like some giant puppet-master, instead meant to wind us up, teach us, and set us free. His design is (I hope) to create a world where the way is manifesting a love of man resulting in a more perfect world. That manifesting that love means recognizing and accepting each other, including loving our imperfections and our differences. I therefore believe those who preach violence (like the murderer of Dr. Tiller), or division, or contempt, or disregard for the plight of others - who preach ever shrinking circles of care - are "straying far from the path" Christians are called to walk (or as DogGone clearly says - other religions call for as well). I believe, and feel there is abundant evidence of, in fact that it is more about the journey, i.e. walking the Samaritan's path & finding the face of God in the world around us- than it is about the destination, and that this is precisely what God (or Allah/Y'weh/Vishnu/Brahma/Shiva) intends.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

They're only words


(by DogGone - contributing author)


In 1865, author Lewis Carroll wrote the following words in chapter 6 of "Alice in Wonderland":"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.""The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean different things.""The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master – that's all."Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. "They've a temper, some of them – particularly verbs, they're the proudest – adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs – however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"




Statue of Humpty Dumpty, Mesa, Arizona, by Minneapolis artist Kimber Fiebirger, c. 2003

I could not help but notice the visual similarity, as well as other similarities, between radio host, Rush Limbaugh, and the nursery rhyme char acter Humpty Dumpty:













Rush Limbaugh (not Humptey Dumptey)

The similarity is not merely a visual coincidence; besides the more well known reference to a riddle which subsequently became the better known nursery rhym about an improbable 'egg', first published in the 19th century but dating orally to much earlier, Humpty Dumpty was also a reference to a cannon which supposedly blew up into fragments while firing from a castle in Scotland, the fragments falling to the base of those walls. The humorous photo similarity is self-evident. The visual comparison to the loved nursery character is offered as gentle humor. The other comparison, to an exploding cannon, is more serious.

It was well expressed by conservative radio host John Batchelor in his piece "My Party of Cowards" on the Daily Beast on June 1, 2009 (www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and -stories/author/john-batchelor ). Limbaugh is indeed a loose cannon, more damaging to conservatives and the GOP than to the Obama administration and Senate Democrats in his recent accusations of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as a racist. Limbaugh would rather whip up a frenzy of fear and dissent over untrue statements about Sotomayor, than to encourage an objective look at the strengths and weaknesses of her actual background and performance as a judge. The reality is too dull, too dry, too bi-partisan to serve Limbaugh's divisive and inflammatory intentions.

Sotomayor made a comment during a speech in 2001, apparently referring to herself. She said ""I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." "Latina" and "Hispanic" are both terms that refer not to race, but to a very broad, inclusive group of people who share either the Spanish language, and / or a national origin from Latin America which encompasses multiple races. A more correct word for Limbaugh's specious accusation of Sotomayor is not a racist, but a bigot, which Random house dictionary defines as a noun, meaning "a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion." Racism, in contrast, is defined by one of my favorite references,=2 0the American Heritage Dictionary, as "The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others" or secondarily as " Discrimination or prejudice based on race."

Sotomayor was advancing the premise that it as the rich experience of her background, rather than her gender or her familial geographic origins or her race that was the basis for arriving at a better, wiser conclusion. She elaborated further on this when she said "We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence. Yet, we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race and color-blind way that ignore these very differences that in other contexts we laud."

What also is not quoted in that regard is her statement that "No one person, judge or nominee will speak in a female or people of color voice. " These are clearly not the words of a racist, who believes in the racial superiority of any one group over another; nor are they the words of someone who is utterly intolerant of a differing creed, belief or opinion. An argument could be made that Sotomayor has an overly favorable opinion of her own background in comparison to a hypothetical white male who has not had the same struggles in his life, or one could argue it is an appropriate estimation on her part.

Given the statistics accumulated by the FBI regarding hate crimes in the most recent years for which statistics are available, there are only two categories where there has been an increase: 1. people targeted for what is believed to be their sexual orientation; and 2. people targeted for being, or being suspected to be immigrants from Hispanic / Latino countries. This includes immigrants and the descendants of immigrants, like Sotomayor, from Puerto Rico. I think this gives Sotomayor a reasonable basis on which to presume she has faced a different kind of challenge than would not be faced by the hypothetical white male in her quote. Recently someone who insisted Sotomayor was a racist, despite anything else she ever said or did beyond the 'latina woman /white male' statement, told me that "words have meaning".

Yes. They do. Sometimes more than one meaning, as so well expressed in an excerpt from the Led Zepplin song "Stairway to Heaven":"Theres a sign on the wallBut she wants to be surecause you know sometimes words have two meanings." That lyric expresses something that is common to both the left and the right, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans --- "code words" for what each side is supposed to REALLY mean.

When those on the right end of the political spectrum use the term "community organizer", the opposite end of the spectrum it is supposedly a euphemism for black; when those on the left end of the political spectrum use the word "empathy", it is a claimed euphemism for "activist". The one pattern that emerges is that words, from both sides, are not accepted as meaning what they say, but instead are defined negatively. It is always the opposite side which defines the meaning of the dreaded "code words".

The end result of misusing words to make inaccurate accusations, to obscure meaning instead of clear communication. It is beautifully summarized by returning to Lewis Carroll, "Alice in Wonderland", Chapter 10."I couldn't afford to learn it," said the Mock Turtle with a sigh. "I only took the regular course." "What was that?" inquired Alice. "Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with," the Mock Turtle replied; "and then the different branches of Arithmetic—Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision." "I never heard of 'Uglification,'" Alice ventured to say.

We certainly have plenty of Reeling and Writhing, Ambition, Distraction, Derision, and most of all, Uglification. Dictionaries define it as to make ugly; no two meanings about it.

fondly dedicated to K-Rod and SitD

Monday, June 8, 2009

The nature of Good and Evil

A few posts back I tried to coherently describe what I see as the nature of the division that cripples this country. I did not succeed. Instead of trying to 'tidy that up', I'm going to embark on writing what I feel are a couple of basic foundation principals upon which arguments should be based or built. The first is simply a question - what is good, and the inverse of course, what is evil?

Mortimer J. Adler (American philosopher c. 1920-1999ish) in his book "6 Great Ideas"described good as being of two elements, the first being something which we find appealing, or pleasing, such as a well baked cake, and the other as being something akin to compassion. I'm paraphrasing, and his writing is certainly MUCH more deep than that, but I don't desire to engage in parsing out Adler - he's profound enough to withstand my feeble barbs.

Yet, I don't agree with the first premise, and want to expand upon the second. "Good" may in a vernacular mean something like a pleasing taste, but in the philosphical sense, we aren't discussing a pleasant feeling we might get observing a masterpiece of art or theatre, we are instead (I think) talking about what is the basic nature of decency and proper conduct.

I believe there are two essential answers - both of which were penned by people other than me of course.

The first is this - good is doing the least harm possible given an open option of choice. I think, however, it must go a step further. Good is standing up for the principal behind what is in the end least harmful. Meaning, while I might save 1000 lives by taking one, the principal of ethical 'rightness' compels me to refuse to comply with the demand to take one life under duress or even of my own volition unless it is my life I am willingly giving as my choice. In essence, I must stand up for the RIGHT to life as much as life, they are in equal footing, and do not cancel each other. I can reasonably argue that by starting down the path of sacrificing rights, I eventually lead to sacrificing life, the 'slippery slope' of situational ethical decision-making becomes available, even unavoidable.

The second - and equally important is simply this - stated by a 15 year-old author by the way -

The difference between good and evil is the ends to which each will go to accomplish their goal, what 'means' will they use. While in many ways an echo, and restatement of the above, it has the quality of being concise and of conveying the idea of a good-evil continuum (correctly) rather than absolutism.

Armies, more importantly the soldiers within them, do not view themselves on the 'good' side and the 'evil' side, they ONLY view themselves on the 'good' side. However, it is in their restraint that they are defined and judged. Those who do ONLY the least harm, who adhere to the principals of law, of respecting life and human decency we rightly judge as good, and those which stray from that path we rightly judge as evil. The slogan/saying that "All is fair in love and war" was opined by someone 'pathological' to paraphrase Einstein. International law, philosophical history, and ethical and logical reasoning have shown that statement to be utterly flawed. It is a self-rationalizing fool's errand.

Coherence

I am not a gifted writer - (News Flash!) - I lack the ability to be consice most days, and nearly every day I lack the ability to cogently express what I can see clearly in my mind's eye, but cannot put words to adquately.

Yet, I would rather see well and listen, than speak well. For it is in the listening, we learn, in the seeing, we observe, and from both, we act. Words are merely the mechanism we use to let the world know why we act, what we were thinking, but our actions will still always speak more loudly. So I beg your forgiveness for my lack of precision, and my lack of clarity, and will seek absolution by attempting to be better in my actions than I achieve in my words.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The problem with screaming

The problem with screaming is that when everyone is screaming, you can't hear yourself.

Rush Limbaugh yesterday "observed" that Muslims had won far fewer Nobel Prizes than Jews. This was of course the same Limbaugh who decried the Nobel board for being decidedly anti-American and leftist when it gave Paul Krugman the Nobel Prize in economics. No matter, clearly (to Rush and only for now) they are a wizened group since he can "find evidence" of Muslim cultural inferiority in the ratio of awards. Apparently this leftist group was good enough for Rush when he wanted to use it - and apparently drawing cultural and religious stereotypes from data which certainly has to be looked at far more deeply than simple numbers, is totally OK not only with Rush, but with his fawning, unquestioning and "ready to lap up anti-Muslim slurs" listeners.


I'd direct Rush back a few centuries to look at the comparative development of the Ottoman Empire vs. Western Europe in say 1200-1500 A.D. - and then ask him to consider what he thought the effect of the Black Death had on both cultural development lines around religion and technology - as well as the relative stifling effect of a lack of raw resources with which to build industry might have had on the middle east. No matter, clearly Muslims are inferior based on Nobel Prize numbers. I suppose by the same measure, since the Chinese and Russians haven't earned as many prizes, nor have the Indians, they are inferior too. Clearly it's only us Christians and Jews who are on the top of the intellectual pile.

Two days ago a Conservative Republican (Hispanic) said that Hispanics were "like normal people, think like everyone else. They aren't like blacks." I don't think I need to expound upon the profound offensiveness of that comment.

With this sort of screed coming from the right, is it really any wonder why we don't take fatuous claims of racism about Sonja Sotomayor seriously?

Is it also any wonder why we (non-Republicans) STILL see the party as hateful and using racism as a tool?

The problem with screaming racism is that you often show only yourself to be racist.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Of Men and Menses

(by DogGone - guest writer):


Gordon Liddy gained notoriety in the Nixon administration for the famous burglary of the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate Complex, approximately 37 years ago, right around this time of year. That resulted in his imprisonment as a felon. Liddy recently spoke disparagingly on his radio show about the nomination of Judge Sotomayor. Mr. Liddy, a proponent of right wing conservative views, expressed very dire concerns over the quality of the decisions Judge Sotomayor might make while menstruating. Given Liddy's multiple violations of the law in the past, I find his expressed concern for our legal system disingenuous at best. His offensive comments are self-serving; Sotomayor doesn't share Liddy's political views. I haven't been able to find any similar observations from Libby when Sandra Day O'Connor was a Supreme Court nominee. Liddy's statement was not only ignorant, it was apallingly crass.

I do not know the status of Judge Sotomayor's reproductive organs, I do not want to know. Nor do I wish to know the reproductive health details of any of the current Supreme Court Justices, serving or retired. My disinterest is two-fold, that those matters of are of a personal nature that should remain private; and that those matters have no bearing whatsoever on how they perform their public, civic duties on the bench. In her very selectively quoted speech, "A Latina Justice's Voice", in a part not widely quoted, Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor speaks in praise of the writings of Judge Miriam Cederbaum:"Now Judge Cedarbaum expresses concern with any analysis of women and presumably again(st*) people of color on the bench, which begins and presumably ends with the conclusion that women or minorities are different from men generally. She sees danger in presuming that judging should be gender or anything else based. She rightly points out that the perception of the differences between men and women is what led to many paternalistic laws and to the denial to women of the right to vote because we were described then "as not capable of reasoning or thinking logically" but instead of "acting intuitively." I am quoting adjectives that were bandied around famously during the suffragettes' movement."

Mr.Libby would appear to be affirming the premise of those antiquated, disgraced paternalistic laws: that women should not be allowed the same civil rights as men, such as voting or public service. Those views assert women are inferior to men, because they are different. After a cursory look, I can find no indication that Liddy is personally acquainted with Sotomayor, so his fears about her judgement and menstruation must be an assumption, a generality, not based on either fact or experience. It could not be based on any behavior from the bench that Sotomayor has or has not done that was attributed to menstruating, because no one knows such intimate information. Unless Liddy gets an opportunity to interview Sotomayor, I doubt any member of the media will venture to ask such personal questions.

I would encourage readers from across the spectrum of political thought to read, in full, a very funny satiric essay written some 38 years ago by one of the feminist founders of Ms. magazine, Gloria Steinem. Before her role as one of the founders of Ms. Magazine, Ms. Steinem worked as a journalist, including a stint as a Playboy Bunny for an expose, a detail offered as background to the essay.

I found the essay on the internet; it is widely available. The essay, "If Men Could Menstruate", was written in 1971. It was published in Ms. Magazine, coincidentally during the term of President Richard Millhouse Nixon, in whose service Mr. Liddy committed the felonies of burglary, conspiracy and illegal wiretapping. The following quotes from the essay summarize the premise:"..the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless - and logic has nothing to do with it.
What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?

The answer is clear - menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event:
Men would brag about how long and how much.

Boys would mark the onset of menses, that longed-for proof of manhood, with religious ritual and stag parties."

The second quote from Ms. Steinem's essay:"Military men, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation ("men-struation") as proof that only men could serve in the Army ("you have to give blood to take blood"), occupy political office ("can women be aggressive without that steadfast cycle governed by the planet Mars?"), be priest and ministers ("how could a woman give her blood for our sins?") or rabbis ("without the monthly loss of impurities, women remain unclean")."

Mr. Liddy appears to be operating under the assumptions that all women are adversely affected by normal hormonal functions associated with estrus, to such a degree that women in positions of power or authority, such as Supreme Court Justices, are incapable of effectively, efficiently, and appropriately carrying out the duties of those positions. Presumably, Mr. Liddy sees no difficulties affecting job performance due to the presence of the equivalent male hormones in men, such as testosterone, despite the large degree to which testosterone levels fluctuate in individuals, over time as a function of aging, and in response to environmental stimuli. Healthy adult men and women naturally produce testosterone, an anabolic steroid, but the amounts produced by males are approximately 50 times greater than the amounts produced by females. Testosterone has long been associated with aggression, hostility, dominancy, and stress response, attention and memory, spatial ability, and key cognitive functions, even cognitive decline and risk of dementias such as Alzheimer's. The qualities of testosterone and its effects are far too complex to discuss seriously here in a fair and evenhanded manner; but it would be as ludicrous to take the above mentioned associations with testosterone, and assert that it being present normally in adult men negates their ability to function safely in any capacity, comparable to Mr. Liddy's alarms about menstruation in women like Justice Sotomayor. ARE there men who have testosterone related difficulties - either too much, or too little? Of course there are, but that does not generalize to all men. ARE there women who suffer from hormone imbalanced difficulties, such as PMS? Of course, but that does not logically extrapolate to women generally either, or to Justice Sotomayor specifically.

There is an interesting study that was done in 2006 by scientists at Cambridge University that is more objective than the opinions of Mr. Liddy on the differences in performance, particularly performance related to stress and risk evaluation. It looks at how the two genders perform differently, involving the monitoring of testosterone and cortisol levels. "Endogenous steroids and financial risk taking on a London trading floor", by J. M. Coates and J. Herbert, is available on the web site of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. For those who don't have the time to wade through it, there are numerous articles on the internet that summarize it in greater detail than I present here.

This study explores the fascinating field of neuroeconomics, measuring the changes in testosterone and cortisol levels of traders on the London stock market, the relationship to profitability and risk assessment, and the correlation to economic events, specifically the response to an exceptionally volatile kind of trading. In brief, the study indicated that too much testosterone destabilizes risk taking and risk evaluation, rather than enhancing it; too much testosterone correlates to underestimating risk; too much cortisol in connection with testosterone correlates to overestimating risk. It would be a mistake to over-reach the conclusions of this one study; the data gathering took place over a relatively brief time, and the numbers of subjects were small. There are other numerous studies that examine the correlation between the physiological aspects of brain, behavior, and hormones, specific to financial activity, and across other activities; I won't presume to present a comprehensive picture here. The point is that there are better, more objective sources than misogynistic stereotypes and 'old wives tales' for recognizing and understanding gender differences.

There ARE very real differences between men and women; it is foolish to assert we are all the same. It is equally stupid to assert that one gender is superior to another, the assertion suffers from the too broad flaw of glittering generalities. Every individual will have distinctly separate positive and negative qualities; we can only be assessed validly as an individual, not generic male or female. Liddy perpetuates superficial, noncritical thinking that is far more dangerous to our society and political institutions than the risks of an individual's gender adversely affecting their judgement.

(From Penigma: The contrast is serious and hilarious - but the final sentence sums it up well. The actions of those interested only in their political dominance, as evidenced by their often shallow and wilfully offensive views does more damage to our democracy than do any perceived differences of gender, race, or and even especially religion. People like Liddy pray upon the lack of interest or time of their followers to seek understanding, and instead play upon hatred and ignorance. That ignorance is the devil's playground, not hormones and certainly not the womb. Thank you for the excellent post (again), DogGone).