Scattered thoughts on other people’s posts

Posted by Sappho on September 3rd, 2009 filed in Blogwatch, First Day School, Greek News, Sexuality, Torture


Chris M., in Something I just learned from children’s religious education, writes about all the reasons that children’s religious education is working well at San Francisco Monthly Meeting. In my decades first at Palo Alto Friends Meeting and then at Orange County Friends Meeting, I’ve seen children’s religious education work variably; it’s well worth sharing ideas with other meetings about what works when things are going well.

Andrew Sullivan writes on Levi Johnston’s latest dishing:

So, according to Levi, Governor Palin was very, very interested in avoiding embarrassment for her daughter – and a political problem – by passing off someone else’s child as her own and adopting him. This kid’s name was Tripp. But this exercise is called “proof of principle.” If anyone believed that Palin wasn’t nutty enough to try to pass off her own daughter’s baby as her own, they need to reassess.

So, just for the record, the reason I thought it was bizarre for Sully to keep on Palin’s case about her youngest child was not that she “wasn’t nutty enough to try to pass off her own daughter’s baby as her own”; that actually never struck me as particularly “nutty,” since there’s a long history of mothers sometimes doing just that with out of wedlock babies of teens. Maybe an unusual thing for a mother to do, but not outlandishly unusual. No, my reason for being impatient with Sully’s questions was that I didn’t think Bristol was “nutty enough,” if you will, to have gotten pregnant again practically minutes after she’d given birth to a special needs baby (with a disability that in any case is more common for babies of mothers Sarah Palin’s age than for babies of mothers Bristol Palin’s age).

On the other hand, one of the things I follow Sully for is his faithful carrying forward of the case against torture, and so I’m pleased to see one of his guest bloggers link this article in Slate by an FBI agent making the utilitarian case against torture:

A second and arguably more important goal of the FBI is to persuade some of these people, or “targets,” to change sides and share the information they have about their own governments and countries with us. It’s the real-life James Bond scenario: developing “double agents” and obtaining critical foreign intelligence in the interest of national security. The FBI uses the fact that it operates on American soil to its advantage. FBI agents, unlike their CIA counterparts, can operate openly, rather than covertly. FBI agents also do not have to worry about hostile host governments discovering their activities and disrupting their intelligence networks. This means that the FBI is in a relatively strong position to produce a steady stream of valuable intelligence that is difficult to obtain abroad….

But getting people to flip is primarily a psychological game rather than a material one. After all, the FBI is asking its targets to commit the ultimate act of disloyalty to their country—treason. Few people are willing to make this leap quickly, even in exchange for the most lucrative or attractive offer. It’s an FBI agent’s job to slowly win the target’s trust and help him rationalize his decision to switch his allegiance. In my experience as a former FBI agent who both participated in and observed successful recruitments, it’s much easier to do this when a target has, at some level, a sense of admiration and respect for the United States. A nugget of goodwill toward America offers an agent the chance to step in, gain the target’s confidence, and convince him that playing for Team USA is worth the risk.

Policies like the use of torture make it more difficult for the FBI to develop relationships based on trust. Even when torture is used on a few people and in another country, and by a different agency, it casts doubts on the U.S. government’s overall willingness to act in good faith….

My husband’s ex-girl friend has a byline now on discount fashion; here she is on being thrifty about shoes. (No, I’m not cyberstalking her; she and I stay in touch by email.)

I thought that criticism of handling of the recent wildfires might put an end to Prime Minister Karamanlis’ plan to have early elections, but evidently I thought wrong. Asteris, on Twitter, posted this photo taken seven minutes after snap elections were announced in Greece.

Alter Destiny’s list of the six greatest Senators in history.

The Jewish custom of Writing and Reading Ethical Wills.

Eve Tushnet’s Against Safewords parts one and two. (The first one’s by her, the second a link by her to a piece in First Things.

I have to admit, I’ve got a narrow meaning in my head for “safewords,” in the context of sex, that differs from the meaning Eve’s using; I’ve heard the term used by people in the BDSM community to mean special, consensually negotiated words for “no,” for people who for whatever reason don’t want just plain “no” to mean “no.” As such, though not myself into BDSM at all, I love the term, because it is, for me, the perfect answer to people who complain that women don’t always want their “no” to mean “no.” Fine, I say, if you and a woman who doesn’t want no to mean no care to tangle, the two of you can negotiate your very own safeword, and have the time of your life having the sort of sex where she screams, “No, no, no!” and you know for sure that her “no” means “Yes, yes, yes!” That way, you leave the rest of us out of it, you know, the overwhelming majority of women who use plain English and really do mean “no” when we say “no,” women who, absent the “negotiate a safeword if you don’t want no to mean no” convention, are left with no clear way of really saying no, since we can’t possibly mind read what a man will accept, who doesn’t accept plain English. That’s assuming, you know, you’re actually arguing in good faith about wanting to consensually play the “no doesn’t really mean no” game, and not just using this meme to justify rape.

Eve, though, is talking in a broader sense about whether sex can be “safe.” And, I think “safe,” or at least “safer,” works fine as an adjective pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases, because, when it comes to STDs, a) thinking of people as autonomous individuals who can demand, and take, sufficient precautions to take care of themselves kind of works, and b) it really is, in epidemiological terms, possible to dramatically reduce risk by using condoms. More complicated are the emotional risks of sex – do you even really want to be “safe” in that sense? – and the pregnancy risks, where it’s both the case that you can dramatically modify the risks by appropriate use of birth control and also that you still want men to take responsibility for whatever babies they wind up fathering anyway (so that the truthful thing to say is neither “birth control is useless” nor “birth control by itself is enough to make you fully safe”).



One Response to “Scattered thoughts on other people’s posts”

  1. Camassia Says:

    [...] engaging in a dangerous sex game and making things up as they go. As Lynn alluded to in her own post on this discussion, seeing sex as a game, but where nobody really agrees on the rules, leads some [...]