Jesurgislac’s Journal

September 30, 2008

What kind of person still wants to vote for McCain?

McCain and Palin had a bad week, and it was entirely of their own making. (“I’m going to suspend my campaign and fly to Washington to fix the crisis!” said McCain. “Well, I think so -POIT- but where do you stick the feather and call it macaroni?” said Palin.)

The US is in the middle of a financial crisis. This guy (via) has Palin-level solutions (and shares Jerry Falwell’s notion of Christianity).

He thinks the problem is that the State of Maine isn’t sufficiently pro forced pregnancy: that taxpayers support family planning: that marriage isn’t defined in the state constitution and ought to be: that in Maine same-sex couples have some of the civil rights of marriage and ought to have none: and that Maine sets certain standards for education that discriminate against Christian parents who want their children taught only that God created the world in six days a little over six thousand years ago. Oh, and he thinks that “unleashing the private sector” would make Maine “energy independent”. Goodness knows how. Treadmills?

It seems, you see, that what this McCain voter objects to is Governor John E. Baldacci’s work to make Maine more energy-independent, less oil-dependent:

“From my earlier experiences and frustrations, we set up this Office of Energy Independence and Security when oil was $20 a barrel. At that time I knew the public wasn’t going to understand that this was an important measure, because there wasn’t anything dramatic going on with energy then, but I hoped it would give us an opportunity to become a laboratory for energy saving ideas. We started buying hybrid Priuses, and doing car and van pooling. We now use 100 percent renewable energy for state government’s electrical needs. By using biodiesel for State buildings, we save about 13,000 gallons of Number 2 heating oil every year. We started conservation methods in all departments. We’re doing things smarter by using the resources we had.”

So, in summary: a typical McCain voter believes that the country can be saved (and God will “crack a smile”) if more women are forced through pregnancy against their will, same-sex couples are denied basic civil rights, scientific education is rolled back to the 19th century, and there’s none of this nonsense about the state government offering programs that help people become more energy efficient.

“Right now, there is not a single voting system on the market or in use anywhere in the country that meets current federal voting standards, and very few people realize it.” – Douglas Kellner, co-chair of New York State’s election board

But I’m sure John McCain is among those few.

Tuesday Recipe Blogging: All About Chilli

Well, okay: not all about chilli.

I first made a pot of chilli about four years ago. Curries I was used to, but the theory and practice of chilli had passed me by. But, here, for what it’s worth, is all I know about making a big pot of hot, comforting, wonderful vegetarian chilli.

You need: beans, tomatoes, chillies. You will want, when the chilli is ready to eat, at least one of the following accompaniments: grated cheese, sour cream or thick plain yoghurt, guacamole, salsa, bread or tortillas or rice.

You can make very good use of: vegetable stock, garlic, paprika, tabasco sauce.

You may find goes well: smoked tofu, nuts, mushrooms, soy sauce, beer, wine.

September 28, 2008

Being “Pro-life” has nothing to do with being pro life

A few years ago on Obsidian Wings, Von (then one of the conservative front-page posters) put up a pic of a fetus and titled the post Why I’m pro-life. (Von added that his partner is pro-choice, and that they have long ago quit having dinner table conversations about it.)

When debating with or about pro-lifers, I am in the habit of using their own name for their own movement, because I do think people have a right to name their own identity: but I also feel that it’s necessary to point out that being “Pro-life” is not actually, literally, about being pro-life: it’s about being pro forced pregnancy.

One of the “pro-life” commenters on my post The basics: why pro-choice is the only moral option took exception to my pointing this out: Opple claimed it was an unfair attack, but of course it is not:

Being pro-choice means that, regardless of your personal opinion about abortion, in general or in particular, you support every woman’s right to decide for herself whether or not she will have a baby, and every pregnant woman’s right to make decisions for herself, in consultation with her doctor, regardless of how advanced her pregnancy is. Although being pro-choice and being feminist are intrinsically intertwined (a person who believes women ought not to be allowed to control our own bodies is patently not a feminist…) a person need not necessarily be a feminist to be pro-choice: you could hold sexist beliefs about women without necessarily believing that women ought to be used as incubators.

Being pro-life means being part of a movement that believes the government should have the right to force a woman through pregnancy and childbirth against her will, and that the legislature and the courts should have the right to make medical decisions for pregnant women, overriding their wishes and their doctor’s advice. Von’s excuse for being part of this movement is, he asserted by his post, the cute li’l fetus argument: which would make more sense if those cute li’l fetuses really did incubate in jars rather than requiring a pregnant woman to make use of her body and blood and resources in a nine-month effort that may jeopardise her life.

I adopted a cute lil’ American fetus
from Fetusmart! Hooray fetus!

Forced pregnancy, or as a friend says “forced labour”, is a much more accurate name for the movement to deny women the right to access abortion: but pro-life is so utterly contradictory that it almost works as a label so divorced from the reality of their political movement.

Around the world each year, more than 500,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth due to lack of proper care. What does the pro-life movement focus on?

The Global Gag Rule

The Global Gag Rule was reinstated by President George W. Bush on his first day in office in January 2001. Officially termed the Mexico City Policy, these restrictions mandate that no U.S. family planning assistance can be provided to foreign NGOs that use funding from any other source to: perform abortions in cases other than a threat to the woman’s life, rape or incest; provide counseling and referral for abortion; or lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their country.

Called the “gag” rule because it stifles free speech and public debate on abortion-related issues, the policy forces a cruel choice on foreign NGOs: accept U.S. assistance to provide essential health services – but with restrictions that may jeopardize the health of many patients – or reject the policy and lose vital U.S. funds, contraceptive supplies and technical assistance. (The Global Gag Rule Impact Project)

The Global Gag Rule Impact Project notes that “the gag rule is eroding family planning and reproductive health services in developing countries. There is no evidence that it has reduced the incidence of abortion globally. On the contrary, it impedes the very services that help women avoid unwanted pregnancy from the start”. (Over a year before Bush reinstated the global gag rule, a paper was published that showed countries that have poor family planning services have a high rate of abortions: there was no global correlation between easy access to safe/legal abortion and a high abortion rate.)

Von and Sebastian (both front-page pro-lifers on Obsidian Wings – though both are currently on hiatus) have both consistently argued against universal free health care in the US – both only support people having access to health care if it can be made profitable to someone. They have consistently refused to explain how their ideological belief that anyone too poor to have health insurance does not deserve decent health care, fits with their ideological belief that no woman ought to be allowed to decide to terminate a pregnancy: and it is that refusal that firmed my belief that even pro-lifers who otherwise come across as decent, sensible, honest people, are being more or less insincere when they claim that they only want to prevent women from having the legal right to choose because they care about the fetuses. “Care for fetuses” is not expressed by denying women healthcare, or denying pregnant women mandatory paid maternity leave with the right to return to work, or by arguing that the baby can always be taken away from the mother as soon as born and given to wealthier parents – the old “adoption instead of abortion” argument, which in any country with so many unwanted children in need of adoptive parents, is just about the ugliest argument for forced pregnancy that anyone could possibly make.

I wrote this over four years ago:

We can all agree that abortion is a bad choice to have to make. Where are the pro-life Republicans calling for free health care for pregnant women and for all children to the age of 18? That basic, human help alone could make the difference between “Can afford” and “Can’t afford”. Where are the pro-lifers calling for free contraception to be available to all? For free daycare and nursery schools available to all low-income parents? For good, detailed, thorough sex education (the Netherlands have an excellent model) available to all children, well before they’re old enough to be actively interested in sex themselves, and regardless of their parents’ opinions on how much their children ought to be kept in ignorance? How many pro-lifers – Republican or Democrat – are actively campaigning for parents to have federal employment rights enabling them to maintain a career and be good parents? (I’m not just talking maternity leave or paternity leave or even “children’s sick days”. I’m talking an end to the work culture that says you don’t get promoted unless you’re putting in 12-hour days at your desk and always have unused leave at the end of the year.)

I’ve written similar comments since: no conservative pro-lifer has ever tried to engage this argument, and justify their denial of care to pregnant woman with their insistence that every fetus must be protected.

September 26, 2008

ID Cards Don’t Work

The Guardian:

Brandishing an example of the baby pink and pale blue polycarbonate document, Jacqui Smith promised it would combat identity theft, help prevent illegal immigration and enable people to prove their identity more easily.

Wow, all by itself? How’s it going to do that, then? Not just a card that lets the government keep track of all your details on one giant database, but SuperCard!! Faster than a speeding bullet, it combats IdentityTheft (though folks do say behind its back that Identity Theft is actually SuperCard’s nebbish alter-ego), zooms round the country batting illegal immigrants back into the sea, and shows up, shiny-faced and bright-arsed, squeaking “I know that person, officer! Now just wait till I look them up and I’ll be able to tell you who they are, who they work for, what they earn, where they live, what serious illnesses they’ve had, if they’ve ever been picked up by the police before…” Or possibly, SuperCard will tell the police all about the person with the ID number that’s just one digit off yours. Who knows?

Join no2id.

PS: A voice from 2006, Philip Johnston points out that back in 1996, before Tony Blair had come to power with a large majority in Parliament, Bambi’s thinking was that “Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards, let that money provide thousands more police officers on the beat in our local community.” (My Vision of a Young Country, Tony Blair, 1996).

Left Behind: After five years

Nearly five years ago, on 17th October 2003, Fred Clark began to write a notable series of posts dissecting one of the worst novels ever to achieve commercial publication: “These books are evil, anti-Christian crap. This weekend, I’m beginning a new series of posts in which I’ll go through these books, page by page.”

(The first couple of posts tagged Left Behind were written just over five years ago: Hide the beer, the pastor’s here and In the sweet by and by. These are useful to read if you’re interested in the religious side of it, but do not deal directly with the appalling novel.)

Left Behind: Pretrib Porno introduces Rayford Steele:

The first words of Left Behind are “Rayford Steele,” the protagonist’s name.

L.B.: Meet Buck Williams and L.B.: Meet the GIRAT

The Buck Williams of Left Behind is even more of a superstar. He’s a kind of journalistic James Bond. The Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time.

Anyway, here’s how the GIRAT reported, firsthand, from the scene of an all-out nuclear surprise attack:

To say the Israelis were caught off guard, Cameron Williams had written, was like saying the Great Wall of China was long.

Just remember, when L&J discuss good writing, this is what they mean.

L.B.: The denial of death:

Left Behind has been praised by some as an “evangelistic” book, but it’s not. Although the book does attempt to scare people into conversion, that is secondary. The authors’ real message for those they regard as unsaved is to thumb their nose and do a little victory dance. “You just wait until Jesus gets back and proves we were right and you were wrong. Then we’ll see who’s laughing at who.”

At the moment, the earliest posts about Left Behind are on page 22 of the tagged posts: but if Fred (as he promised) continues with Tribulation Force, this will change. Typepad’s unhelpful paging system makes the old comment threads a pain to read, which is a pity, because there were some terrific comments in there.

But there are insufficient words to praise Fred Clark’s achievement. Go, read. This is great stuff, and Fred Clark deserves all honour and praise.

September 25, 2008

I don’t understand economics

But I especially don’t understand this:

The US National Debt is currently $9 795 830 535 000 and rising: that is, nine trillion seven hundred and ninety-five billion, eight hundred and thirty million, five hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars that the US already owes. (See the US National Debt Clock for the current figure: between September 2007 and September 2008, it’s been rising by an average of $2.17 billion per day.)

Given that, how could anyone imagine that you could make the economy better by inventing money that the US doesn’t actually have, and offering to buy assets that don’t really exist?

Of course that may not be the point. Avedon at Sideshow linked to that scary prediction from 2005 that Julian “Never Been Wrong” Robertson predicted “utter global collapse” within 10 years as a consequence of the bursting of the world-wide property bubble.

And for much of this “doom”, interestingly, he blames the Bush-Cheney “regime”. “They have now consolidated power and money on the planet to the maximum extent possible. The planet’s net liquidity, that is its, net free cash flow. Is now a negative number. The planet is not simply sinking into a sea of red ink; it is already sunk. The people just don’t realize it yet,” he said.

According to Robertson, “the Bush-Cheney regime is preparing the nation for transition from democracy into dictatorship because a dictatorship will be necessary to control, in 5 years time, food and water riots.” He said “the federal government, that part of Patriot II Act, the internal exile, that the government is going to have to build now huge detention compounds on federal lands, probably in the West where the land is available, to potentially house 50 million or more citizens that will be in financial ruin.”

In 10 years time, whoever is left will be effectively starting again, he said. “More importantly, and I’m trying to think how we imply this or how we express this to the people, what extraordinary times we are living in and how the destruction of the planet has been engineered by the Bushonian Cabal from 1980 to 1992, and then from 2001 to present, which has effectively destroyed the economic liquidity of the planet,”
he said. link

If you just ask for $700 billion dollars with three page memo, it suggests you don’t expect to be refused. And certainly, Bush is not in the habit of accepting a refusal from Congress to let him have whatever money he’s told them he wants.

Snopes: still campaigning against Clinton

Filed under: Bad Stuff Happens,Internet — jesurgislac @ 8:00 am
Tags: , ,

On the Snopes page about the Clintons, there are two pages Hillary Clinton’s resume and Play by Play Analysis which are apparently incomplete.

What Snopes is famous for is taking circulating inbox fillers and debunking, rebutting, confirming, and analysing them. These pages, however, are listed as “undetermined”, and consist of nothing but inbox filler: Snopes has effectively republished politically-motivated attacks on Hillary Clinton on their own website, without any alterations.

I first reported this problem to Snopes back in February, but by April Snopes had still not responded. The page “Hillary Clinton’s Resume” has been added to since I reported it, but not with Snopesian analysis: just with added material from the attack e-mails.

As Avedon Carol noted in April, Snopes has

never been very quick to debunk lies against Democrats, particularly those named “Clinton”.

Their motivation for posting these circulating attacks on Clinton in February-March, and leaving them up till now, is fairly obvious: they were campaigning against Clinton, and didn’t care about maintaining the integrity of their website over their partisan political stance.

But Hillary Clinton has lost the primaries: the Democratic Convention is over: the US is heading into a campaign between McCain/Palin and Obama/Biden: time for Snopes to quit campaigning against Hillary Clinton. If you would like to tell them so, their contact form is here.

September 24, 2008

Traditional Values: How dare an uppity black woman think she can make her own rules!

The Traditional Values Coalition wants you to crash Oprah Winfrey’s e-mail server. (Thanks to Ben Wolfson at Unfogged for the heads-up.)

Oprah’s crime: she has set a rule that she’ll interview no candidates for President on her show (Barack Obama has appeared on her show twice, both times before he announced he’d be running for President: since then, though Oprah has made no secret of supporting Obama for President, he has not been interviewed on Oprah).

The Traditional Values Coalition (among those “traditional values” must be “being a whiny baby”) has written an e-mail for their supporters to send (they don’t permit their supporters any alterations except in the subject line of the e-mail). I did consider sending one with a subject line Oprah Rules, Sarah Drools! More Traditional Values Coalition Bullshit but then I thought, nah, the whole point is clearly to crash the system with sheer numbers, I won’t join in. They squeal that Oprah’s “honoring the accomplishments of all women” is an illusion, as is her belief in “fairness and impartiality”. The e-mail refers to an invented item on the Drudge Report that Oprah had refused to interview Sarah Palin, tp which Oprah responded:

The item in today’s Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show. At the beginning of this Presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over.

Apparently, making rules for who will and will not appear on the show means Oprah is not “the advocate for all women” – after all, Sarah Palin is just a career Republican hack hockey mom. Oprah’s uppity decision to publicly support a Presidential candidate and to set rules for her own show must, to these “traditional value” people “mean only one thing – you put Obama’s interests ahead of the interests of your viewers”. Yeah right.

Still, though I would not wish Oprah to reverse her decision not to interview any of the candidates on her show, I would very much like to watch Oprah push Sarah’s head through the wall. Metaphorically, of course, and I’m sure Oprah would do it ever so nicely; Sarah might not even know how badly she’d been beaten till she saw the reruns.

PS: Someone already did the analysis much better.

Paying attention: why Florida 2000 still matters

In November 2000, the Presidential election had come down to the 25 electoral votes in Florida. Gore had won the popular vote, and, by exit polls proven reliable in every country in the world, he’d won Florida.

By December 2000, the courts – not the voters – had decided to hand Florida’s electoral votes to Bush.

Many Americans are under the strong (yet incorrect) impression that Bush “won Florida”. They are incorrect about this – but hardly to be blamed: no US news services ever clearly and unambiguously reported, at any time after the courts had awarded the White House to Bush, that – if all the votes had been counted, which they never were officially – a majority of Florida’s voters had voted for Gore. (This does not count the voters who were intimidated away from the polls nor the voters who were illegally removed from the electoral rolls prior to the election, which I was reading about in the UK news and hearing about on the BBC in November 2000 – along with the news that an attempted recount had been halted by Republican party operatives from another state who showed up to violently protest the recount.)

If all the votes had been counted, according to Florida electoral law in November 2000 – count the ballot if the voter’s intent is clear – Gore had won. (There’s an interesting interview in Research in Review that makes the point that Gore won by tens of thousands, not by a close count of a few hundred, with the author of The Battle for Florida: An Annotated Compendium of Materials from the 2000 Presidential Election.)

September 23, 2008

Tuesday Recipe blogging: mushroom roast

Apologies for taking so long to find this. It’s been years since I made mushroom roast: it works best (in my opinion) as the main dish in a festive dinner. It’s a considerable amount of work to make, unless you have a food processor, and even if you do – don’t try to process the mushrooms in it. Slice them properly. I’m not just being pickily low-tech: you can make the breadcrumbs any way that suits you (my parents used to use child labour), you can slice the onions perfectly well in a food processor: but mushrooms turn to mush too easily if they’re fed through a processor.

The basic ingredients are: mushrooms, breadcrumb, onions, and cheese. You may also want: garlic, herbs, vegetable stock, and an egg or two.

The basic process is: cook onions in butter to a savoury, soft mess (with herbs and garlic). Add mushrooms, and cook over a low heat until the mushrooms are cooked enough to suit you. You want a fairly soft and semi-liquid paste of onions and mushrooms. Stir in the breadcrumb. If it’s too dry, add some vegetable stock – you want a fairly moist mixture. Stir in grated cheese. When you are ready to bake the roast, add an egg or two (depending on the size of the roast) and put the whole mixture in a deep, greased casserole dish and bake until it’s crusty on top.

Proportions are important.

For every kilo of mushrooms, you want a kilo of breadcrumb, 500-750 grammes of onions, and 500-750 grammes of hard cheese. This size of roast will take about 90 minutes to bake in a medium hot oven. [Update: Yes, this is a LOT of mushrooms: it makes a big savoury for a festive meal. You can always halve or even quarter the amount for a smaller dish… just keep the proportions, by weight, the same.]

I like garlic… lots of garlic… and do the obvious: subtract the weight of the garlic from the weight of the onions. See the nut roast recipe for thoughts about herbs. (There is also the foodpairing website, though I find it more fun than useful.) Instead of regular vegetable stock, you can use Marmite, a couple of teaspoonfuls in about 150ml of boiling water – do not add the whole quantity, just mix it up and stir it in until the texture looks right: you’re after a glopping consistency, soft and moist, not liquid).

This is not a vegan recipe. The cheese in the mushroom roast isn’t just there to make it coherent: the combination of cheese and mushroom is what makes this a rich, glorious dish. Figure on about one egg to every half-kilo of breadcrumb – but add the eggs one at a time, to make sure the texture stays right. You don’t want to over-egg the pudding.

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