Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Vatican's latest statement on feminism is obscene. "The drive for equality," the Vatican said, "makes homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent." What the campaign for women's rights has to do with homosexuality and heterosexuality, I don't know, except for the obvious plea of lesbians to be noticed as equal human beings. But this is the typical Vatican/Falwell talking point: When women start asking for equal rights, there is a collapse in morality, and when there is a collapse in morality, it means that gay people want to be recognized as human beings with rights.

The statement, written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, argues that recent approaches to women’s issues are marked by a tendency “to emphasize strongly conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men.”

I wish I knew about these "recent appraoches." All I see are women lying down and letting the system run over them. Democratic women, for example, are content--once again--to allow two white males to represent them on a presidential ticket. They are content to let the Democratic Party machine not even address equal rights on a serious level. They permit the media and the advertising business to treat them in an insulting way that wasn't permitted as late as the 70's.

But hey, here's a news flash for the Vatican: When you emphasize "conditions of subordination," you do tend to give rise to antagonism. At least I hope you do. The problem isn't the emphasis on subordination--the problem is subordination. And if the antagonism isn't to be directed toward men, who in the hell is it to be directed toward?

In fairness, I should add that some antagonism needs to be directed toward women, who have accepted the gains they received from the Second Wave, while ignoring the rampant sexism that still exists in the culture. Of course, I am talking about the American culture, which obviously has less sexism than say, our close friends in Saudi Arabia.

My favorite line from the report about the vatican is "The document also took issue with a 'certain type of feminist rhetoric that 'makes demands for ourselves.'" Oh, no! People who are treated like garbage by the culture at large are making demands for themselves. How could they?! Why don't they shut up? Okay--they are raped, sexually assaulted (it can't be that bad; the governor of California does it), beaten up, paid less than men, kept out of venues where important financial decisions are made, denied child care, insulted for having traits that--in men--are considered virtues, and talked about in terms of their bodies and clothes, no matter what they are saying or contributing.

And that's just in America. In other cultures, they are stoned and beaten if they show their faces, talk to men who are not their husbands, or are raped. They are also denied voting rights, control over their own bodies, and education (it was just a few decades ago that this was true in America), and denied medical care.

But really, according to the Vatican, women need to get over it. How women (and men of conscience) can remain in the Catholic Church is a mystery to me, and not a holy one.

Friday, July 30, 2004

In an effort to package Senator Kerry as a winning candidate, one of the recent descriptions of him is that he is "an avid hunter and deeply religious." For some of us, that phrase has the same oxymoronic ring as "humane slaughter." But that is what our culture and many other cultures are all about: "I love killing, and I love God." It's certainly what the Bush message is all about, but that is only because it is the message Americans want to hear.

At least we can make a very educated guess that Kerry, unlike Dick Cheney, does not participate in those hideous canned hunts.

One of the most disgusting moments in American hypocrisy occurred when television news channels showed videos of dogs used in poison gas experiments by Al Qaeda. Americans were outraged, which is beyond ironic, since--at the same time--then-EPA Director Christine Todd Whitman was permitting the unnessary torture and deaths of millions of laboratory animals in the United States. Also, millions and millions of factory farm animals were--and are--subjected to torture that is so obscene, I can barely stand to think about it, much less read about it.

We kill billions of animals a year, and the majority of them do not die a "humane" death. As late as the 18th Century, scientists and medical experts still maintained that animals did not feel physical pain, and all forms of experimentation were done on conscious animals, whose screams were said to be simple reflexes. Hardly anything has changed. Just as 18th Century scientists really could not have been stupid enough to think animals felt no pain, 21st Century farmers and scientists are not stupid enough to think that torture is justified. They do it for the same reason their predecessors did it: It is convenient, and it satisfies an immense greed.

The Pilgrim's Pride factory workers who tossed chickens against the wall and stomped on them said they did it "to relieve stress and boredom." Their KFC customers do not care. People get very upset when PETA says there is "a holocaust on your plate." But just as those who came before us did not believe that Jews were sentient or that Africans were sentient, our society still believes that non-humans are not sentient. Oh, many say they do not believe that, but they continue to particpate, as consumers, in the torture, and that is all that matters.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The trashing of Ricky Williams is just another example of our culture's fake ideas about loyalty and cohesion. "He betrayed his team" is the phrase seen and heard throughout the sports media now that Williams has left both the Miami Dolphins and football. This outrage is a misplaced emotion linked to a long-dead ideal about what it means to play professional sports in America.  An ideal which, in fact, should probably never have existed. The concept that a team for whom you play for money is a "family" is as flawed as the concept that the corporation for which you work is a family.

Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, puts it best: "When you can't play, they'll get rid of you. A guy gets hurt in practice, and they move the drill and keep going. That's the lesson players learn, and some learn it later than others. This is a business." Exactly. If Williams had not performed up to expectations, had he been significantly injured, had he asked for too much money--he would have been cleaning out his locker faster than you could say "It was a mutual decision."

Attacking Williams is nothing new, however. When he played for the New Orleans Saints, he used to notice things like the excessive crime and dirt in the city. The response was always "Shut up and do what you were hired to do." It also bothered people that he didn't want to give interviews. Later, he revealed that he suffered from social anxiety. He entered treatment, and eventually was able to stop taking anti-anxiety medication.

Williams got into trouble a few times for using marijuana. In a scathing editorial in the New Orleans Times-Picayune a few days ago, the writer wondered, if Williams didn't need his medication anymore, why was he still smoking marijuana? Can you imagine someone writing "If Williams didn't need his medication anymore, why was he still having a beer?" It is this type of pseudo-logic that is usually employed to attack someone who goes against the grain.

This is not to imply that Williams is without flaws. No one is. But Ricky Williams' strength has always been playing football, not being a jock, so he doesn't fit in. He wants to travel, take photographs, and get on with his life. How "disloyal" can  you get?


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Will people please leave the Bush twins alone? One of the more disgusting stories to emerge recently was this statement by Artists and Activists United for Peace protesting Jenna Bush's desire to teach at a school in Harlem:

"We don't think she is of a high enough moral character to teach school, considering her past adventures," organizer John Penley was quoted by The New York Daily News as saying. "Her taking this job is keeping a black person from getting the job. We think she and her sister should enlist in the military," he added.

High enough moral character? Yes, she drank a lot in college, and oh, is that aberrant behavior. Whoever heard of someone in college going to too many parties and drinking too much?

Though it is true that, theoretically speaking, thousands of us are waiting for the Bush twins to enlist in the military--on a personal, non-political level, the Bush twins can do whatever they damn well please. It isn't our business what career track Jenna takes.

Here is a young woman who has every economic and social privilege that exists, yet she wants to be a teacher. And naturally, someone shows up to criticize her.

Isn't Jenna already unfortunate enough, with a parent who is bent on destroying the nation's security, economy, environment, and democratic structure? Leave her alone.

Monday, July 26, 2004

A few days ago, I reported that, according to witnesses, about 300 people left during Linda Ronstadt's Alladin Hotel concert encore, whereas Alladin officials said it was over a thousand. Witnesses also said there was no drink-throwing or other riotous behavior, also contrary to the official report. Now, Ronstadt has come forward to say she was not even escorted from the property. She said some people booed her, which she expected, and that when an employee told her that the hotel owner wanted to talk with her, she rode off on her tour bus.

One of the curious things about this situation--if Ronstadt is reporting it accurately, or if the employee with whom she spoke was speaking accurately--is that the hotel owner was willing to drive to the hotel to confront the singer.

According to Ronstadt, she has now been invited back to the hotel. In the meantime, well-known music manager Irving Azoff has pulled his acts out of the hotel. A few nights after the Alladin event, Ronstadt performed for a  packed house at Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, where she received a very warm reception, encore and all.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Recently, about 200 immigrants were gathered at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville for their naturalization ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, they were given, according to custom, voter registration forms. However, these forms were a little different--the Republican Party affiliation was already checked in blue ink. Some thoughtful Republican committeeperson decided to bypass the democratic process--for newly naturalized citizens, no less--but the irony is probably lost on the Florida Republican Party.

Whoever did this committed a felony, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for her or his prosecution. Considering the recent problems in Florida elections, it appears that very little--if anything--has changed. Felons who have regained their voting rights are still being purged from the rolls, the governor is still saying that everything is just fine, and the news media, through its silence, is a co-conspirator in this now long-running vote scam.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Yesterday I went to Circuit City to buy some electronic equipment, and while I was there, I decided to look around in the music department. As I walked down the aisle where the country music CD's were, on my way to the rock section, I was taken aback to see that the section had been renamed Country/Americana.  My first reaction was to be offended, and then I realized Circuit City was on to something: In the 21st Century, country music probably does best represent the American culture.

I am not referring here to the musical roots and styles of country music, some of which I like a great deal. I am referring to the culture surrounding country music in the United States: the NASCAR, bomb-the-terrists, Bush-Cheney, Amurica-love-it-or-leave-it, good-Christian-folks, why-don't-you-move-to-I-raq-if-you-don't-like-it crowd. 47% of Protestants and 13% of Roman Catholic Americans now identify themselves as born-again Christians, and at least half of the country thinks that the lying idiot in the White House is either a god, or--at the very least--competent to run a major country.

Hence, we have performers like Toby Keith, who actively participated in fueling the death threats against the Dixie Chicks and their children, and Darryl Worley, whose song, "Have You Forgotten?," actively promoted the White House lie about Iraq:

Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside
Going through a living hell
And we vowed to get the ones behind Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?
Americana indeed.

Friday, July 23, 2004

The Harper's Index always contains jaw-dropping information. In the lastest issue, there is this gem: The chance that a member of the New York Army National Guard was in Iraq in June was 1 in 4; the chance that a member of the Texas Guard was there was 1 in 31.

Did the Texans all die early in the war? When they heard "Mission Accomplished," did they just get on planes and fly back to Texas and no one noticed? Are Texans such bad solders that no one wanted to send them to fight? Are New Yorkers lining up to go to Iraq? Is this type of mathematical gap a wild coincidence? Is my eyesight really bad? Or could it be something else?

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I want to make sure I have this straight: If you stand in an arena and use visual aids to say that Natalie Maines is an associate of Saddam Hussein, thereby fanning the flames that led to death threats against the Dixie Chicks and their children, you get rewarded with applause. But if you dedicate a song to Michael Moore, you get thrown out of the Alladin Hotel.

Alladin officials say that over 1,100 people walked out of Linda Ronstadt's concert when she dedicated "Desperado" to Moore. Eyewitnesses say it was about 300, but hey--anyone can make a mistake. Ronstadt, a life-long liberal, has dedicated the song--her perennial encore--to Moore throughout her tour, so the Las Vegas attendees shouldn't have been surprised that she did it in Las Vegas.

It would be interesting to know how many of the Alladin officials have ever seen any of Michael Moore's films. Or how many of them can discuss the machinations of PNAC. Oh, wait--I forgot. They can't even count.


Monday, July 19, 2004

Ralph Nader appears to have learned a thing or two from his mistakes with women in 2000. In that election, he dismissed reproductive rights by saying Roe v. Wade would "never be overturned." He also told feminists (the few of us who are left) to stop using the term "patriarchy." He was similarly dismissive of gay rights, saying he didn't want to get involved in "gonadal politics." Gloria Steinem called on women to vote for Al Gore, whose campaign indicated a serious concern for the rights of women. The Green Party should have been embarrassed by Nader's dismissal of women and gays, and should have confronted Nader. Instead, Greens took the position that "well, we don't all agree on everything." Right. But can you imagine what it would have been like if Nader hadn't had an environmental policy? Or a policy for African Americans?
This time around, Nader has endorsed the entire NOW women's agenda, and he also includes women, of course, in his platform's affirmative action plank. Nader has also endorsed full civil rigths for gay citizens. He is no longer running on the Green ticket; indeed, Nader is not a Green. His running mater, Peter Camejo, is a Green. Camejo is a Venezuelan-American, and though Venezuelan-Americans are white in terms of race, they are an ethnic minority. Green Party candidate David Cobb has Pat LaMarche as a running mate. Of the so-called progressives, it is only the Democratic Party who, in the 21st Century, still has two white males on its ticket.

Friday, July 16, 2004

For most people, the person to watch during the Martha Stewart trial has been Martha Stewart, but for me, it has been New Yorker writer and CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin. It wasn't that long ago that Toobin laid out every piece of paper and every phone log he had found in a lengthy piece for The New Yorker. If you followed the paper trail in that article, the only logical conclusion you could reach was that Stewart did nothing wrong.
Stewart was, of course, subsequently indicted. Now, on CNN, Toobin is calling her arrogant and stupid for not apologizing to the court months ago for the lie he formerly implied she did not tell. A number of things could have happened:
1. Toobin was duped by Stewart and is now taking revenge. But if Stewart deceived Toobin, why didn't he say so?
2. Toobin was duped by Stewart and did say so, and I missed it.
3. CNN doesn't want anyone on the air implying that Stewart may be innocent.
I have no idea which of the above is true. A few months ago, Toobin did write another analysis for The New Yorker, which takes a different turn than his original one did.
No matter what happened, it is still very suspicious that the government, using my tax money, has convicted Stewart of lying about a crime with which she was never charged--a crime that netted her very little money. It has a real Through the Looking Glass Red Queen feel to it. Commit insider trading--go to the White House. Don't get charged with insider trading--go to prison. Got it?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

In her blog entry today, Margaret Cho bemoans the fact that feminists do not come forward to defend Courtney Love. Poor Margaret--I think she is under the delusion that we still have a feminist movement.

At any rate, I couldn't agree more that Love has become a popular scapegoat for our culture's hatred of women. This is not to imply that Love hasn't brought many of her problems on herself. Of course she has: She is a substance abuser and has been known to be violent. But that is not the point that Cho makes. The point is that if Love were a man, she would be tolerated, or even idolized as a rock god.

When male rockers use illegal drugs and smash things up, hey--they're just leading a rock and roll life. But when Courtney Love does those things, she is the devil. The most important point Cho makes, however, is that when people talk about Love, they talk about her behavior, and never about her music. Love is an exceedinly gifted songwriter, singer, and musician, with a marvelous vision of what it is to be a woman in rock.

But like Yoko Ono, she was married to a male music god, so therefore she must be evil. She was able to record only because of her husband. She must have killed him. We've heard much of this before. And Cho is right, the complicity among women to unfairly trash Love is deplorable. But since the self-image of American women is hovering somewhere around where it was in the 50's, what can you expect?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The FMA will not pass. There aren't enough votes. The Democrats know that. The Republicans know that. The White House knows that. The White House and the Republican majority have aggressively blocked any discussion of homeland security in order to debate the FMA--which will not be passed--because the White House needs desperately to throw a bone to the religious right, and to minority communities who are interested in fighting bigotry only when it is aimed at them.

The African American community in particular is practicing a destructive sort of politics. Not only are many African Americans condemning another minority, but in doing so, they are helping to advance the already alarming spread of AIDS in their own community. Harsh attitudes toward homosexuality and bisexuality keep African Americans on the lowdown and in the closet.

While our nuclear plants, bridges, highways, planes and trains go unprotected (and while the civil rights of millions of Americans go unprotected by the Patriot Act), the White House refuses to even discuss homeland security. That's your tax money at work.

When the next terrorist attack takes place, who will be the first to stand up and say "Gee, I'm so relieved we spent so much time trying to deny citizens the right to obtain a marriage license?"

Monday, July 12, 2004

How did gay citizens ever get the right to vote, and shouldn't we take it away from them? How about the right to own property? The right of due process? How did all of those rights sneak in? After all, by denying gay Americans the right to marry, we are barring them from participation in a legal process. Why not bar them from participation in all legal processes? It makes no sense.

This is what right-wing Christians and various other confused Americans don't understand, and it is scary that they don't understand it: Marriage is a legal institution. It can be blessed by a church, but it is a legal institution all the way. If you are Roman Catholic and you divorce and remarry (well, that is, if you're not one of the thousands who are granted annulments), your marriage is no longer recognized by the church, but it is legal. You continue to receive all of the benefits of your marriage, as do your children.

Those cowards who want to call gay unions something other than "marriage" are capitulating to the ignorance of the same citizens who screamed and shouted that black children would never enter their schools. The civil rights movement spawned the states' rights movement, and "states' rights" became a code word for segregation. Now, the Republican Party--which has spent decades cheering for states' rights--isn't interested in the concept at all, but wants to change the Constitution so that gay Americans cannot participate in a legal process.

There are probably thousands of Americans who do not have a strong fear of anything homosexual, but who do not think that gay marriage is an important issue. Well, it's very important if you're gay. But beyond that, any time a religious movement seeks to alter the foundation of our government and restrict which Americans can have legal rights, it is very, very important.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

This is what your government has done for you this week:

1. Arrested a FEMA employee and her husband because they dared to wear anti-Bush T-shirts outside of a "free speech zone."

2. Voted to keep the horrific Patriot Act exactly as it is, including the parts about the government's being allowed to know what you (yes, you ) are reading.

3. Refused to permit Senate discussion of homeland security appropriations, despite the fact that we are being told that terrorists are about to attack us. (In all fairness, there was a Republican offer to deal with the matter on Friday, as long as all busines was completed by Monday--both are Senate travel days.)

4. Decided to continue to permit prosecution of people who use marijuana for medical purposes.

5. Dismissed one of the most important lawsuits of our times--translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmunds'September 11 suit to allow her to disclose what she knows about intelligence failures. The information Edmunds has is enough to frighten the White House into invoking the rarely used state secrets privilege.

Feeling better now?

Monday, July 05, 2004

Hail Cara Black!

Though much is being made of Maria Sharapova's Wimbledon victory--and much should--the real superstar of the tournament was Cara Black of Zimbabwe, who won not only the women's doubles championship (with Rennae Stubbs), but also the mixed doubles championship (with her brother, Wayne).

This accomplishment is wonderful on its own, but the way Black did it is amazing. Because of rain delays, she was forced to play the mixed doubles semi-final match on Sunday. She and Wayne Black defeated Lindsay Davenport and Bob Bryan, 7-5, 7-5. Then Black went to another court, where she and Stubbs defeated Liezel Huber and Ai Sugiyama 6-3, 7-6. After accepting her trophy, Black was off to play for the mixed doubles championship, in which she and her brother defeated Todd Woodbridge (who also broke a record by landing his ninth doubles title) and Alicia Molik 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, and Black accepted another trophy.

Unfortunately, the sports world cares little for tennis doubles, and there are few doubles matches shown on television. Sharapova is now a household world, but the real champion of Wimbledon will continue to be the Black in "Who's Cara Black?"

Sunday, July 04, 2004

The good news is that no longer do almost half of America's citizens think the First Amendment "goes too far" in guaranteeing rights. The bad news is that 30% still do.

The 2004 First Amendment survey represents a return to pre-September 11 hysteria, but still reflects a nation in which many do not believe in free expression or in a free press. There is also a significant difference between what people say they believe and what they want to see put into practice. For example, nearly 80% of those surveyed believe the press has a government watchdog role, yet 40% believe the press has too much freedom.

One of the more frightening results of the survey is that 41% of those responding believe that the press should not be allowed to freely criticize the American military.

The idea that all persons and institutions have an equal right to nonviolently express their beliefs is a fundamental tenet of any democratic form of government, but it is not one that goes over well with many Americans. We have failed miserably in teaching people that at any time, for any reason, they could suddenly be part of the minority voice. When that happens, they will want their First Amendment rights, just as they will desperately want due process rights the day they are arrested for political reasons, or for crimes they didn't commit.

Friday, July 02, 2004

I sometimes think I have heard everything, but I am always proven wrong. Today, for example, I was driving down the highway with my radio on, and it's a wonder I didn't drive off the road and have an accident, so extraordinary was Rush Limbaugh's latest complaint.

You have to get ready for this: He was upset because the news media always feels compelled to present two sides to every issue. He said it several times, so I know I didn't hear it wrong.

What got him going was the reporting of Saddam Hussein's trial. The statement, though--coming from someone who has paid for his pills by spreading the ridiculous myth of the "liberal" media--is astounding. For years, he has done nothing but complain that the media doesn't present both sides of a story. You just can't please this pompous idiot.

And that wasn't the end of it: He then made the obscenely irresponsible comment that if Saddam Hussein were to be found not guilty, the American left would love it.

There is no one--no one--who isn't horrified by the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein. I know of no one who believes he didn't commit them. What Limbaugh and other right-wing commentators do is take the argument that we bombed the hell out of Iraq on false pretenses and then accuse anyone who disagrees with the bombing as a person who "supports Saddam Hussein."

The most elementary study of logic shows us that this is a false syllogism, but more and more, Americans are not interested in logic or even reasonably clear thinking. The two issues are not related. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a horrible dictator. Yes, Dick Cheney and his gang of liars bombed Iraq for no reason at all, and as a result, we are even less safe than we were before.

If the Cheney White House really cares about the Iraqui people, I hope they don't "care" about them the same way they do about the poor people in Afganistan. After reducing Afgahnistan to rubble, they moved on to Iraq. Whereas before, women and children--and many men--were terrorized by the Taliban, now they are being terrorized by both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance.