Monday, June 28, 2004

Americans have so many problems with honorifics. Back in the 70's, women had to get very firm in order to get acceptance for the term "Ms." Prior to the use of "Ms." a woman's marital status was automatically designated when an honorific was placed in front of her name. A man, of course, kept his marital status confidential because he was always called "Mr."

To this day, there are people who say "Miss" and "Mrs." but very few. There is an etiquette issue here, too, as well as a feminist one. For example, if your name is Mary and you are married to Ronald Jones, you cannot be Mrs. Mary Jones; you are Mrs. Ronald Jones (are there still women who have made themselves disappear altogether by having no name at all?). So the term "Ms." was needed for social as well as political reasons.

The U.S. Senate rollcall takes a particularly sexist angle with regard to honorifics. The only women who are referred to as "Ms." are the ones who are unmarried or have kept their family names. By calling them "Ms." and the others "Mrs.", the Senate is, in effect, practicing the same gender discrimination that was practiced with the use of "Miss" and "Mrs." but with a slight twist. I have no idea why this occurs, and even less idea why the women in the Senate put up with it. It is offensive.

Americans have the same problem with "Reverend," which is not an honorific at all. It is a title. We would not call Sandra Day O'Connor "Honorable O'Connor." She is Justice O'Connor. "The Honorable" is her title; "Justice" is her honorific. So it is Mr. Jesse Jackson and Mr. Al Sharpton. Interestingly, neither of these gentlemen ever corrects the news media for misusing his title. It is no surprise, however, that the news media always uses the title incorrectly.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Think you can handle a bit more compassionate conservatism? Then welcome to the Department of Agriculture! Eric Bost, the department's undersecretary for food and nutrition programs, was quoted a couple of weeks ago as saying he was skeptical of claims that food needs among the nation's poor were increasing.

"There's a bump, but how much of that is due to people taking the easy way out? I don't know."

Yes, whenever I want to take the easy way out, I sleep in my car, budget for one meal a day for my family and receive no health care unless I travel almost a hundred miles and wait in line for eight hours. Just think--you, too, can get free cheese and canned goods if you play your cards right.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The propensity of the Bush administration to give top jobs to crooks would be funny if it weren't so disgusting. Nothing seems to embarrass them or provide a lesson for them--not Thomas White, not John Poindexter. Of course, when we consider that an insider trader is in the utmost position of authority, it all becomes clear. And the American public certainly doesn't seem to mind (that goes double for you, California).

The latest two attempts are Thomas Griffith and Cristina Beato. Griffith, who is Bush's nominee for the federal appeals court in Washington, has been practicing law without a license for the past four years. He failed to get his license renewed in the District of Columbia, so when he moved to Utah, he could not be granted a state license unless he took the Utah bar exam. Griffith showed up for the test but declined to take it, then walked out and set up an illegal practice.

Beato was nominated almost a year ago to one of the nation's top health policy positions, assistant secretary of health for the Department of Health and Human Services. She is having trouble getting confirmed, however, because there is suspicion she fabricated part of her resume. Some of her alleged "colleagues" at several of the institutes where she "held" positions do not recall her, and others say that the roles she performed were far less significant than her resume states.

When you have poor moral judgment, vetting should be a real priority.

Friday, June 18, 2004

The group "Move America Forward" is busy demanding that movie theaters not show Michael Moore's new documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, which opens across the nation June 25. The group's members are upset that the film is being released before the presidential election, and that it alleges that the Bush family is connected to top Saudi families, including the Bin Ladins.


For all of you who are supporting this movement, I have some big news. Are you ready?

The Earth is round. Germs cause disease. The LAPD still hasn't found Nicole Brown's killer.

And here's something else. If you want to speed up the destruction of the country you say you love, there are two key ingredients, and you've latched on to them: censorship and willful ignorance. Congratulations.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Bush administration hates women. It showcases a few key--and extreme right-wing--women to throw off a largely ignorant American public. Gale Norton, Condoleezza Rice, Ann Veneman and Karen Hughes serve a double purpose: They make Bush look "pro-woman" and they help to advance the extreme right-wing agenda of the administration.

Bush's very first act of office, on the day he stepped into the White House, was to stop funding of any programs overseas that pay for abortions and abortion counseling. This means that the countless women who are raped in societies where rape is acceptable are now forced to give birth. The hundreds of girls who are victims of incest are also forced to give birth. There is no counseling for women and girls who have already had abortions.

Even more tragic, Bush's move also means that thousands and thousands of girls and women can no longer receive birth control information or information on how to prevent the spread of STDs.

At least 200,000 (some studies estimate as high as 400,000) women a year commit suicide because of botched or self-inflicted abortions.

This is Bush's version of returning morality to the White House.

But there's more. At the 2002 U.N. Special Session on Children, six countries voted to restrict giving information on STDs to adolescents: Iran, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and the United States. The U.S. "delegates" (Bush has replaced all of our public health experts with Christian Right lunatics) also objected to providing post-trauma services to child victims of war on the grounds that the girls who were raped might be offered abortions.

Hold on...there's more, in case you've forgotten. At the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, the U.S. tried to destroy the inclusion of genital mutilation of girls, forced child marriages, and "honor" killings of girls and women as human rights violations.

From removing dozens of women's issues articles from government websites, to lying about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing STDs and AIDS, to bullying the FDA into ignoring their own scientists and rejecting over-the-counter emergency contraception, to nominating federal judge candidates with solid anti-woman records--this administration has shown full contempt for women and women's rights.

Granted, neither major political party has much interest in women's rights, despite giving all kinds of lip service to feminism. The ERA has never been revived, wage and salary discrimination continues at an alarming level, crimes against women are increasing, and the popular culture demeans women and girls just as it did before the Second Wave of the women's movement came about.

But the vicious misogyny of the Bush administration is spectacular.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Former president Reagan's claiming he wanted freedom for everyone was kind of like the social services worker who gives aid to countless clients, then goes home and beats his children. When Reagan said he wanted people to live in freedom, he didn't necessarily mean American people.

When he was in Hollywood, he covered his back by naming a few names to the McCarthy Commission. Not exactly courageous (another attribute somehow identified with the former president). But that wasn't all. In secret, he named enough names to put McCarthy into ecstasy. In secret, like the "courageous" straight-shooter guy he was.

When Reagan was governor of California, he went to great lengths to destroy free speech on university campuses, calling on university officials to throw protestors out of the school, claiming "they don't deserve the education they are getting." Apparently, Reagan wasn't big on education about the First Amendment. He also colluded with the FBI to destroy the career of UC president Clark Kerr.

Reagan was certainly no fan of the freedom to worship as one chooses; one of his pet projects was his attempt to return prayer to the classroom. He used the same ridiculous argument that is used by today's Christian Right: that no child would be "forced" to pray if s/he didn't want to. The problem with that argument, of course, is that when you're a child or adolescent, the biggest social suicide you can commit is to refuse to conform. The stakes become even higher when you are refusing to conform to the so-called moral requirements of existing authority.

You could say that Reagan didn't want gay men to live in freedom. In fact, you could say he didn't much care if they lived at all. During the worst American public health crisis of modern times, Reagan was totally silent, offering no leadership, while 60,000 Americans--most of them gay men--died of AIDS. This was after they had suffered painful symptoms and were socially and medically ostracized.

Where I come, the type of person Reagan was is called a hypocrite. Same goes for those who worshiped him.

Friday, June 11, 2004

John Edwards is called the potential Democratic vice presidential candidate with the "estrogen factor." Women in North Carolina have supported Edwards strongly in his political career, and he was the only Democratic presidential candidate to get more support from women than men in several of the primaries.

One reason for Edwards' popularity with women is that he doesn't swagger around broadcasting his masculinity (a trait that seems to really appeal to men: note Chris Matthews' swooning over Bush's tightly wrapped crotch). Also, he talks a lot about issues that concern women--families, children and education.

For these reasons, a lot of women are saying to John Kerry, "If you want us on board, pick Edwards."

Well, nothing against Edwards, who is an appealing candidate, but if American women are so interested in being represented, why aren't they demanding a female candidate? What a concept, huh? But no, in this 21st Century America, women call on men to do everything, including act like women.

You haven't come that far at all, baby...

Monday, June 07, 2004

The Republican National Committee wants to woo Latino citizens to vote for Bush. A web page published in Spanish asks for Spanish-speaking citizens to sign up for news alerts and topics. The usual demographics are collected: name, address, email, etc., then the person filling out the Web form has to check off his or her occupation or career. That's where it gets interesting, or--put another way--can you spell B-I-G-O-T-R-Y? There are only four choices: war veteran or retired military, teacher or educator, senior citizen, farmer or rancher. Because everyone knows Latino people certainly don't hold down any other positions in the U.S.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

If, as Claire Booth once said, no good deed goes unpunished, then within the White House, no bad deed goes unrewarded. Former Senator John Danforth was just appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Of course, knowing in what contempt the White House holds the U.N., perhaps the choice of a liar and a hypocrite is appropriate.

But the White House isn't alone in its adoration of Danforth; he was also approved by Congress as the special investigator for the Waco Branch Dividian confrontation.

Danforth, it should be noted, is also an Episcopal priest. During the Clarence Thomas hearings, when he was still a senator, he was willing to do anything to get Thomas ratified, so he made up some truly nasty and outrageous lies about Professor Anita Hill, who had accused Thomas of sexual harrassment. Only he would take some time out on Fridays to run down to a nearby church and celebrate the Eucharist.

Danforth has admitted to lying and trashing Hill's reputation. No one in the White House, Congress or the news media seemed to think that made him unfit for either the Waco job or the U.N. job. After all, Professor Hill was just a woman. A black woman.

This behavior, of course, is brought to you by the people who scream "values!" at every opportunity, and who have pledged to bring "morality" to the White House. At least Danforth isn't a criminal, like some of the White House appointees.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

It always amazes me when I hear people say that the feminist movement has achieved its goals. Right. That's why there are only 14 women in the U.S. Senate, even though there are more women than men in the U.S. That's why crimes against women are on the rise in this country. That's why--depite a valiant Second Wave effort to stop them--there are still beauty pageants. That's why female American soldiers are routinely raped and sexually assaulted by their peers. That's why--when Martha Stewart is emerging from a courtroom in a complicated, politically charged federal case--all any of the anchor morons can talk about is her choice of clothing.

A recent report based on 2000 census figures gives us some concrete numbers to study. This report reveals that unless an American woman cleans up harzardous waste or installs telecommunication lines, she is not going to earn as much as men who do the same job.

Consider this: In the field with the highest proportion of female workers, kindergarten and preschool teachers (98 percent women), men had median earnings of $22,000, $5,000 more than for women. Among registered nurses, 91 percent were women, and their median income was $42,000. Median income for men was $45,000.

This is a sexist society, and our lawmakers are not going to do anything to change it unless they are forced.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Singer Patti LaBelle is either willfully ignorant or not the principled person she is said to be. First she was the spokeswoman for Premarin, a hormone replacement product that is not only potentially harmful to women, but involves terrible animal abuse in its production. Her latest gig was to appear as a cheerleader for the Wal-Mart corporate team, which is trying to convince its employees to ignore its exploitation of them. Actors Susan Lucci and Halle Berry joined LaBelle in the Wal-Mart gig. Wal-Mart is the subject of a huge gender discrimination suit, as well as charges that it denies disability benefits to employees and ignores their safety.

Of course, these women aren't alone. Every day, we see some famous person endorse a questionable product or endorse a product whose production involves animal abuse, human exploitation, or both. Isabella Rossellini was the Lancombe model for years; Lauren Hutton was the Premarin spokeswoman before LaBelle took the job. And in all fairness to these people, most Americans don't really care who was tortured, killed or abused in the making of their beloved products.

What makes the LaBelle incidents annoying is that the singer is known as a humanitarian. However, for an African American woman to be involved in promoting products and corporations that exploit both African Americans and women isn't exactly humane.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

A new World Health Organization study reveals that the rates of mental illness are higher in the United States than in any other country. According to the study, one-quarter of Americans suffer from some type of mental illness at some time in their lives.

Some mental health and sociology experts believe that the real number is actually much higher. Others believe that the U.S. numbers are so high because Americans are more likely to be truthful in a survey about mental health. A look at some of the other countries' numbers would seem to confirm this theory. There is still a stigma attached to mental illness in America, but probably not near as great a stigma as in many other cultures.

But even given the high probability that many people from other nations were not truthful in discussing their conditions, 27% is still a very large portion of the population. There are numerous possible reasons for the surge in mental illness in America:

1. America is a very violent country, with an overwhelming amount of child abuse. Children who are physically or sexually abused are likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, substance abuse and personality disorders later in life. People who live in violent neighborhoods suffer constant stress, making them vulnerable to mental illness.

2. Thousands of children are emotionally neglected or abused in this country. These are the victims of parents who have absolutely no clue about how to properly raise children, and who pass on to their children the terrible treatment they received from their own parents. Parental anger, narcissism and envy are not uncommon.

3. The American culture is one that produces anxiety. There is a lot of pressure for people to conform to specific gender, economic and social roles. Those who do not conform to these arbitrary roles may be ostracized or suffer socially and economically. Educated, professional people often have to deal with a so-called work ethic that demands that they adopt unhealthy lifestyles in order to survive.

4. There is a lot of poverty in America, and poverty produces chronic stress, as well as ineffective coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse.

5. The large number of unchecked toxins in the nation's food, water and air supplies are just as likely to affect mental health as physical health.

6. There is a growing movement toward unhealthy religious practice in the United States. Such practice discourages thinking and individualism, and scapegoats various segment of society, such as women and gays.