Monday, June 28, 2010

The Drop Down Menu for Titles

If you are ever shopping on a British website, when the time comes to enter your information, you are in for a mild shock when the drop down menu for "Title" falls off the page.  Besides the standard Mr., Mrs, Miss, and Dr. there are Lord, Lady, various military titles, Countess, Dame, Earl, Viscount, Duke...  You can have fun with Brits, I'm told, by asking them to rank said titles.
Also interesting, you often can't enter your own address.  You enter your postcode and get a drop down menu of your address options.  (Postcodes are assigned by building just like that huge dorm at UT Austin.) Sometimes websites at home, especially government websites, also suggest an address, but here you don't have the option to choose the one you originally entered.
Last point, I live on an island, so why is standard delivery 5-6 working days?  I could go off on the whole working day thing right now, but that really deserves a dedicated post.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feminism and Shoes

There is shoe/clothing obsession comes up often in the girl power meme.  Sex and the City is only the most popular example.   The idea seems to be: we are here, we are powerful, and we like shoes.  The writers are trying to sell you the powerful woman while retaining a bit of realism, that women like to accessorize; they are trying not to apologize for fashion fetishes.  

This annoys me to no end, but it wasn't until today that I pieced together exactly why.  

While sitting with the twins and watching Barbie and The Three Musketeers—Terremoto loves the dancing and the fencing—I braced for the part when one of the aspiring girl Musketeers, the fashionista one, delivers her 'Make my day' line of, "Don't mess with the dress."   My mind jumped to something that Michael Drury said in a book, now out of print,  something along the lines of toilets need to be cleaned but should not be the center of your life.  I couldn't find that quote this afternoon, but this one will do:
Life comes as daily usage even to heads of state and great artists; they too must have clean socks and a cup of coffee, and sometimes must provide it for themselves.  But menial necessities are not a reason to be living, and energies tied down to such service are blinded from perceiving even that they are tied. 
There is no need to make heavy weather of keeping house, or even raising children, and only a mind otherwise unengaged would whip up a storm around it.  A wife does not need to be a career woman, but she needs to be a whole person with brains and hands.  One is born female, but being a woman is a personal accomplishment. 
The shoes/clothes shtick hits me the same way as the previous house cleaning obsessions.  It is important to look good, to care about your appearance.  We must shop, and groom.  Fashion can be artistic.  Sometimes we exchange tips and notes.  Fashion should not, however, be a focus of our lives.  It is like cleaning toilets.  It has to be done and done competently (and unlike cleaning toilets, we enjoy it) but frankly shouldn’t command more focus that that.   

Modern day women think that anything in the life administration strata is hack work that is beneath a power woman.  Leaving fashion in that category weakened women in their eyes.  So since feminists couldn't get us to give up fashion (they certainly tried), they had to elevate it to Something Important.  Some are rehabilitating the love of fashion as just one of those woman things--good because it is female.  (Yes, this begs a question about feminist view of motherhood.  See next post.)  Hence shoe obsessions and ‘don’t mess with the dress’ meme becoming par for the course in the modern tales of power women.  

But it is all a house built on sand.  Elevating life admin to a higher status does as much damage to our lives as degrading life admin to something too base to do.  It is just different damage.     

Monday, June 7, 2010

What if the WMD is in Syria?

I remember when the possibility of Saddam's WMD in Syria was first discussed, when the Syrian reporter broke the story.  I also remember being very frustrated with the British for asking us to waste time trying for a second/eighteenth UN resolution on Iraq and WMD.  Among other things, conservative commentators worried that Saddam would try to hide his WMD.  Logically, it never made sense that Saddam didn't have them.  First, he of course had them; he'd already used them.  Second, multiple intelligence agencies thought he had them.  One or two agencies' belief could have been analyst gut, but all of them with reason to know?  Third, some of those countries didn't think he had WMD.  They knew he had WMD because they had sold it, or components, to Iraq.  Since we didn't find the WMD, then logically, the only remaining possibility is that they are still hidden.

And what about Bush and Blair then?  To believe that they lied about the WMD is to believe that they are evil.  Stupid is off the table.  You can't dupe the majority of the Western World with crap intelligence if you're stupid.  Evil or earnest are the only options.  

If they went to war, sacrificed soldiers, on intelligence they knew was crap then they are evil liars.  Based upon the vitriol that often accompanies their names, it seems this is a perfectly reasonable position to some people.  But if they are evil, then why weren't they devious enough to plant some WMD on Iraq?  Crooked cops do it all the time.  If they are talented enough liars to get us to go along with invasion on crap intelligence, then aren't they good enough to make us believe that they didn't plant the goods?  It would have saved them both PR fiascoes at the very least and might have saved their respective parties future elections at home.

One might argue, on the other hand, if they were actually earnest and believed the WMD existed and about Saddam stashing it in Syria, then why didn't they go after it?  Good question.  The answer, however, might be rather simple.

If the WMD was hidden in Syria, Saddam had two main goals: keeping it from capture and embarrassing, hopelessly embarrassing, the US and Brits.  In order to keep the big secret and embarrass the West though, the WMD had to remain hidden.  If chemical weapons were unleashed in January 2004, for instance, for whatever reason, then the world would know that Saddam had hidden his stash--and that Syria and Russia helped him do it; yet another reason for secrecy.  So Bush and Blair had taken the weapons out of play, not permanently as intended, but for long enough that they didn't need to chase the weapons down.

Over generalizing a bit, I see that Brits have two alternative negative views of Blair.  Some think he is just an evil a liar like Bush (that Bush is a warmongering liar is a given).  This isn't a credible option.  Evil, simply isn't supported by the facts.  Second, that Blair was just our poodle, coming to heel on liar Bush's leade; he wasn't evil himself, just incapable of standing up to Bush.  (Hence that Prime Minister fantasy speech from Love, Actually.)  But the root of all of this--Bush is bad, Blair is bad or weak--is the bad intelligence, the "false cause for war".   And the intelligence was obviously bad because we didn't find WMD.  What comes then if this Syria tale is true?  

Granted, a cynic can note that this new information comes from Israel who needs a few allies about now, and what better way to get some support than to rehabilitate the US's reputation and scare everyone else about the stockpiles of WMD.  Maybe.  But I'll stick with logic.  I'm not alone either.  I got to this article from news about Obama's pick for intelligence director believing the Syrian tale.  This is a story to watch.  It won't play out tomorrow, but 10, 20 years from now Bush and Blair might be judged differently.