With the incendiary claim that the “Obama presidency is the greatest threat the American people have ever faced,” Gingrich has launched a massively funded effort to mobilize ten million conservative voters this November. In an online video promoting the “Power of 10” campaign by his American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF) 527 group, Gingrich rails against the “genuinely radical, secular socialist machine” of the “Obama-Pelosi-Reid team” who “simply run over the beliefs and values of the American people.” Images of Tea Party rallies and the right-wing enemies list — Michael Moore, Sean Penn, and Katie Couric — scroll by as Gingrich pleads for “we the American people” to “go all out”:
You know, I don’t remember any time in American history where we had such a threat to our basic way of life: A genuinely radical, secular socialist machine ramming things through with no regard for American values or the beliefs of the American people.
c. 1700: Sex “invented.” “Some time in the 18th century, sex as we know it was invented,” writes Berkeley historian Thomas W. Laqueur. Before that time, Laqueur argues, most anatomists accepted the ancient idea expressed by the Greek doctor Galen that there was really only one gender: Women’s sexual organs were essentially the same as men’s, except they were inverted due to a lack of “vital heat.” The vagina was matched by penis, the ovaries by the testicles (“stones of women”), the labia by the foreskin, the uterus by the scrotum. This appealed to classical notions of cosmic harmony, and allowed doctors to argue that women were simply inferior versions of men. But in the 18th century, scientists began to see men and women as complete biological opposites – profoundly different creatures, distinct in body, character and even soul. (This was no great improvement for women’s rights, since male thinkers promptly argued that men were “sexually charged” and essentially active, and that women were essentially passive).
c. 1730: Female orgasm officially demoted. For most of Western history, doctors believed (despite some fairly obvious evidence to the contrary) that conception could only occur when both men and women experienced sexual pleasure; this immutable law of nature was even written into many handbooks for midwives in the Renaissance. Scholars believed the buildup of “female semen” in unsatisfied women could be downright dangerous, resulting in hysteria and melancholia. Then, around 1730, anatomists proved that the female orgasm was not essential for reproduction. The Dark Age of the bedroom had begun, as male medical experts played down the importance of female satisfaction to the sex act and to women’s happiness in general. By the Victorian era, doctors were asserting that women were not, in fact, capable of a true orgasm. “As a general rule,” intoned the English urologist William Acton in 1875, “a modest woman seldom desires any gratification for herself. She submits to her husband’s embraces, but principally to gratify him; and were it not for the desire of maternity, would far rather be relieve of his attentions.”
1864: Smut identified. The word “pornography” first appeared in the English language at the height of the Victorian period, when Webster’s Dictionary listed it in 1864 to describe “licentious painting employed to decorate the walls of rooms sacred to bacchanalian orgies examples of which occur in Pompeii.” The word had actually been invented in Italian four years earlier by the Neapolitan museum curator Giuseppe Fiorelli, when he wrote a brief catalog to the notorious Secret Cabinet of the Naples Museum, packed with ancient Roman erotic art for discerning (and generally lascivious) visitors. Fiorelli combined the ancient Greek word for prostitutes, pornai, with writing, graphos, to describe the restricted-access collection. Over time, pornography became synonymous with any image that should be viewed privately and furtively. Cultural censorship had been born.
1892: Homosexuality acknowledged. It wasn’t until 1892, three years before the Oscar Wilde trials, that the word “homosexual” entered the English language, when an 1868 work by the Austrian sexologist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebbing, Psychopathia Sexualis, was translated. (Along with this “male-on-male activity,” the word “bisexual” also premiered in the same opus). Although sodomy had been illegal in Britain since 1533 — and a capital offense since 1562 — men had never been labeled purely “gay” or “straight.” Obviously, this is not to say that homosexual activity did not exist. Far from it. In ancient Greece, it was openly acceptable for men to have physical relations with teenage boys. In the Middle Ages, the prodigious amount of homosexual behavior was regarded as just one of the many categories of carnal sin, to be dealt with by priests and church courts, not the state. However, as the 19th century wore on, there was an increasing tendency for men to define themselves — and be defined by the law — as part of a distinct sexual category, either heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Although the death penalty was dropped from sodomy charges in the 1860s, pressure built for the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1885, which made acts of “gross indecency” between males “in public or in private” subject to two years of hard labor. The criminalization of homosexuality, copied in the United States, remained on the books until the 1960s.
1908: Age of Aquarius foreseen. According to Virginia Woolf, the modern world began on the day fellow author Lytton Strachey visited her apartment and, pointing to a stain on her friend Vanessa Stephen’s dress, inquired politely, “Semen?” The upper-crust Bloomsbury author was impressed by the refreshing openness about the body, which she contrasted to the hypocrisy of the 19th century: “It was, I think, a great advance in civilization.” As if to confirm her conviction, a mini sexual revolution got underway after the First World War, heralded by popular books such as Dr. Harland Long’s Sane Sex Life and Sane Sex Living (1919) and Dr. Lee Harlan Stone’s classic It is Sex O’Clock (1928).
“So how does a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations get a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street? That turns out to be easy. Beneath the surface, the Tea Party is little more than a weird and disorderly mob, a federation of distinct and often competing strains of conservatism that have been unable to coalesce around a leader of their own choosing. Its rallies include not only hardcore libertarians left over from the original Ron Paul “Tea Parties,” but gun-rights advocates, fundamentalist Christians, pseudomilitia types like the Oath Keepers (a group of law- enforcement and military professionals who have vowed to disobey “unconstitutional” orders) and mainstream Republicans who have simply lost faith in their party. It’s a mistake to cast the Tea Party as anything like a unified, cohesive movement — which makes them easy prey for the very people they should be aiming their pitchforks at. A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.”—Matt Taibbi
Once a serious journalist, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward now makes a very fine living as chief gossip-monger of the governing class. Early on in his career, along with Carl Bernstein, his partner at the time, Woodward confronted power. Today, by relentlessly exalting Washington trivia, he flatters power.
Essentially, news reports indicate that Woodward’s latest book, Obama’s Wars, is an updated script from the 2002, Bush at War. The characters have different names, but the plot remains the same. So we learn that Obama political adviser David Axelrod doesn’t fully trust Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. National security adviser James Jones, a retired Marine general, doesn’t much care for the likes of Axelrod, and will say so behind his back. Almost everyone thinks Richard Holbrooke, chief State Department impresario of the AfPak portfolio, is a jerk. And — stop the presses — when under the influence of alcohol, General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, is alleged to use the word “f**ked.” These are the sort of shocking revelations that make you a headliner on the Sunday morning talk shows.
Based on what we have learned so far from those select few provided with advance copies of the book — mostly reporters for the Post and The New York Times who, for whatever reason, seem happy to serve as its shills — Obama’s Wars contains hints of another story, the significance of which seems to have eluded Woodward. The theme of that story is not whether Dick likes Jane, but whether the Constitution remains an operative document. The Constitution explicitly assigns to the president the role of commander-in-chief. Responsibility for the direction of American wars rests with him. According to the principle of civilian control, senior military officers advise and execute, but it’s the president who decides. That’s the theory, at least. Reality turns out to be considerably different and, to be kind about it, more complicated.
Obama’s Wars reportedly contains this commentby Obama to Clinton and Gates regarding Afghanistan: “I’m not doing 10 years… I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.”
Aren’t you, Mr. President? Don’t be so sure.
Obama’s Wars also affirms what we already suspected about the decision-making process that led up to the president’s announcement at West Point in December 2009 to prolong and escalate the war. Bluntly put, the Pentagon gamed the process to exclude any possibility of Obama rendering a decision not to its liking. Pick your surge: 20,000 troops? Or 30,000 troops? Or 40,000 troops? Even as Obama opted for the middle course, the real decision had already been made elsewhere by others: the war in Afghanistan would expandand continue.
And then there’s this from the estimable General David Petraeus: ”I don’t think you win this war,” Woodward quotes the field commander as saying. “I think you keep fighting… This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”
“I wanted to come here tonight to tell you that working in Albany is just like watching SNL: There’s a lot of characters, it’s funny for ten minutes, and then you just want it to be over.”— Governor Paterson on SNL, delivering the only funny line in the entire show
It is a cliché that the brain is the “largest sex organ,” but the repetition of the phrase doesn’t make it any less true. The mechanics of its role during sex are less obvious and less well understood than that of the body’s other sex organs, but by using brain imaging scans, neuroscientists have begun to get a sense of what parts of the brain light up during sex, especially at the moment of orgasm.
One early study of orgasms suggests that the subjective experience of orgasm is very similar between men and women. Despite having different anatomies, men and women seem to be hard-wired to experience sexual pleasure in the same way. But does this translate to a similarity in the brain? (…)
Much more so than men’s brains, female brains go mysteriously silent during orgasm. In particular, the left lateral orbitofronal cortex and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, areas involved in self-control and social judgment, respectively, are deactivated. Brain activity also fell in the amygdala, suggesting a similar, albeit more drastic, drop in vigilance and emotion as in men. “At the moment of orgasm, women do not have any emotional feelings.”
Rutgers psychologist Barry Komisaruk's research suggests another way that women’s brains are different than men’s when it comes to sex: some women can “think themselves off”—induce orgasm without any physical stimulation. This special talent, he says, comes from the fact that “when women think about their finger being stimulated, or they think about their toe being stimulated, or their nipple, the corresponding part of the body, the representation of it in the sensory cortex… is actually activated just as if they are really being stimulated physically.”
"The question is, if we can see our own brain activity in near real time in specific regions, can we voluntarily increase the activity of that part of the brain just by thinking about it."
At this point, I didn’t believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record. In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki’s father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration late last night, according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims. That’s not surprising: both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality. But what’s most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is “state secrets”: in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate their legality.
I would hope that nobody needs me or anyone else to explain why this assertion of power is so pernicious — at least as pernicious as any power asserted during the Bush/Cheney years. If the President has the power to order American citizens killed with no due process, and to do so in such complete secrecy that no courts can even review his decisions, then what doesn’t he have the power to do?