Saturday, June 28, 2003

"It's the greatest match in the history of players who can't play." This was the thoroughly offensive remark made by ersatz tennis announcer Bud Collins about some of the younger players on the women's tour. These players happen to be physically attractive, so the bet is on as to will be "the next Kournikova." Collins was quoted by ESPN writer Patrick Hruby in an article that is probably supposed to be either humor or social commentary, but it comes off as the same old sexism the women's tour has endured from its birth.

For competitors like Hantuchova, Sharapova, Dementieva and Docik to be called "players who can't play" is outrageous. Each of them is a proven tennis prodigy.

Hruby has a point, however, that some of the younger, physically attractive players have chosen to pose for fashion spreads and have taken high-profile endorsements. I think they should stay away from the runway, too, because entering the world of fashion and glamour detracts from their authenticity as superb female athletes, and tends to objectify them. But they are young and impressionable, and it is hard to turn down huge financial gains.

In these so-called postmodern feminist times, women are criticized for being "politically correct" if they eschew a sex appeal-driven image. But if they embrace that image, they are criticized for cashing in on their sex appeal.

For women, nothing really changes.

Monday, June 23, 2003

So the talking heads on MSNBC's "Hardball" are making a really big deal about the fact that Howard Dean, when "interviewed" by Tim Russert, was unable to name the exact number of American troops in Iraq on this particular day. "How embarrassing," they say.

Well, not as embarrassing as this: Shortly before the 2000 election, when asked to discuss the Taliban, George W. Bush didn't know what it was.

Those MSNBC guys have some really short memories.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Just in case you still have questions about why we invaded Iraq, here are the answers.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

It doesn't seem appropriate to say Happy Juneteenth, but it is certainly appropriate to observe the day. I recently visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute museum, and that is a difficult thing to do, especially if you top off your trip with a visit across the street at the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four little girls were killed by a bomber in 1963.

Some people say that slavery occurred a long time ago, and we should move on. Slavery is still very much a part of some cultures, and discrimination against African Americans is very much a part of American culture. The only way to "move on" is to end this discrimination, as well as discrimination against women, minorities, gay citizens, and the disabled. But first we have to admit that the discrimination exists.

Happy Juneteenth.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

A federal court has struck down the EPA's moratorium on using humans to test pesticide safety. The moratorium was first put into effect in the 90's by the Clinton administration, then it was quiety removed by the Bush White House. Former EPA director Christine Todd Whitman then put it back into effect, but--according to pesticide companies--she failed to use the proper procedures to do so. The court agreed, and now the ban has been lifted.

Critics of using human subjects say that there are never enough samples from which to extrapolate meaningful conclusions, and that the most vulnerable persons--children and the elderly--are never included in the studies. Using the usual method of animal testing, a conclusion is drawn and then multipled by 10, in an attempt to ensure safety.

While discussing the court's decision, an interviewer on a radio program asked her guest "Why would anyone want to subject a human to toxins?" This is a good question, but a better one is: Why would anyone want to subject any sentient creature to toxins?

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Some years ago, "Saturday Night Live" stopped doing parodies of news shows because such parodies were no longer fresh. Today, the SNL staff has a better reason for not doing them: The news shows themselves are parodies of real journalism.

This morning, CNN reported the case of the two 29-year-old Iranian women who are joined at the head and who, in July, will have surgery to separate them. The twins requested the surgery in 1994, but they were turned down because the chances of survival were so low. Today, with computer technology, survival chances are higher, but not much.

Still, it was nothing short of outrageous to hear the CNN anchor ask the talking head doctor why the women wanted the surgery when "they have lived like this for so long."

Just as outrageous was the doctor's reply: "Well, that's a fair question."

Oh, sure. They should be used to it by now. There should be no need for either of them to want any kind of life that would pass as normal. It has become perfectly acceptable for them to live what is generally considered to be the biggest freak-of-nature existence in the world.

There was more to come. Toward the end of his statement, the doctor talked about what "these girls" will have to endure. They are not girls--they are adult women. Of course, in our culture, women are continually infantilized and referred to as children, but I didn't expect to hear that from somone on a TV news show. Then I remembered--the women are also physically handicapped, and we can't resist infantilizing the disabled.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

This morning, Tony Snow of the Fox Network said, in introducing a statement about the Iraq situation, "The president, revered for his moral clarity...." A person with moral clarity generally is considered someone who doesn't spend much time in the gray area of values and morality. Right versus Wrong, Good People versus Bad People, God versus The Devil--that sort of thing. Of course, morality is a lot more complicated than that, but the Bush White House, fueled by fundamentalist Christian zeal, has designed its agenda to fit that of Americans who prefer to think in black and white terms. No point in complicating one's moral code with such factors as context, history, factual evience, or cultural difference.

To be fair, we are probably all moral absolutists about some things. It's just hard for all of us to agree on definitions and priorities.

But the black-and-white thinking part of Bush's so-called moral clarity isn't really what troubles me. That is, unfortunately, a trend in America. What bothers me is that for someone who claims to lay morals out in easy-to-follow extremes, Bush's behavior has indicated anything but an interest in moral clarity. He tells the American people that he is going to clean up Wall Street, but it is generally accepted (by anyone who has bothered to check the facts) that he committed insider trading when he sold his Harken Energy stock. He drops out of the sky to tell the troops how much they mean to him, then goes home and cuts major programs for veterans. He tells the world that he is committed to stopping the spread of AIDS in Africa, then designs a program that will endanger the Africans who most need help. He talks about the need to have a solid environmental program, then he opens a door wider than the Grand Canyon for pollutors to step through and do whatever they want.

The only clarity I can find is that the president is almost guaranteed to perform an action that is opposite what he is professing to be his belief about a given issue. Where I come from, this is called lying.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

The United States of America is the most violent nation in the free world, and probably one of the most violent nations in any world. Assault, armed robbery, rape, and the physical abuse of women, children and animals are common occurrences. Hundreds of American citizens are murdered every year. There appears to be little interest in curbing American violence: Child protection agencies and battered women shelters get smaller budgets every year; the criminal court system remains thoroughly disorganized; and hundreds of people (probably the same people who have no idea what is really in the Bible) have read ridiculous interpretations into the Second Amendment.

You would think that government leaders (I use the term loosely) and the news media would be concerned about the obscenity of this violence, but instead, they fall all over themselves with the Amber Alert so we'll know what a great job they're doing. Or they spend hours and hour talking about the Laci Peterson case, or whatever happens to be the hot murder case of the week.

It has to be truly horrific for Laci Peterson's family to know that every aspect of their daugher is being talked about every moment on radio and television. Which brings me to the question: Why Laci Peterson? Hundreds of people are murdered in the United States, and most of them barely get a paragraph or two in their local newspaper. So what is the process for determining who will be talked about ad nauseum for weeks? If there is a celebrity involved, such as O.J. Simpson or Robert Blake, it is undertandable that the news media would have a field day. But what about the other "hot" cases?

It is, of course, essential that the murder victim be white, and it seems to help a lot if the victim is a young female. This gives the whole event a kind of pulp fiction overlay, which appeals to the public's taste. I guess that says it all.