Friday, December 31, 2004

Friday Cat Blogging begins now!

Roxie (right) and Velma relax at home on their moire chaise Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Greed, negligence, and tragedy

The lack of warning by Asian officials about the possibility of a tsunami is a sickening reality. One theory, though denied by the Thai government, is that in that country, no warning was given because of fears of hurting the tourism industry. There is scant reason to believe the Thai government's denial, since the probability of a major natural disaster was very small, and the probability of ruining a major industry was significant.

But even if the failure to warn was due to sheer bad judgment--as it doubtless was in non-tourist destinations--it was still unconscionable. No doubt, many citizens would have used equally poor judgment and chosen to remain in harm's way, but others would have heeded the warning, fled, and saved their lives and the lives of their families.

It is safe to say that no one will be penalized for what amounts to mass negligent homicide. No one ever is. In the United States, we even reward such negligence: The airlines who allowed known terrorists to board planes and attack landmarks on September 11, 2001 were given significant financial aid. No airline official was prosecuted, and the news media spent little time and space discussing the industry's chilling negligence.

In America, people--especially conservatives--love to go on and on about personal responsibility, but when it comes down to actually demanding it from authority figures, the crowds grow silent.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Enough to make ME want to spit...

The Red Hat women irritate the hell out of me. It isn't that I think women over 50 are treated well in this culture--anyone over 50 is considered computer-illiterate, incapable of identifying Missy Elliott, and hopelessly out of it, and over-50 women are the target of every imaginable type of stupid humor. I deeply sympathize with the Red Hat group's condition, but I am turned off by their solution.

From their website:

While visiting a friend in Tucson several years ago, Sue Ellen impulsively bought a bright red fedora at a thrift shop, for no other reason than that it was cheap and, she thought, quite dashing. A year or two later she read the poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph, which depicts an older woman in purple clothing with a red hat. Sue Ellen felt an immediate kinship with Ms. Joseph. She decided that her birthday gift to her dear friend, Linda Murphy, would be a vintage red hat and a copy of the poem. She has always enjoyed whimsical decorating ideas, so she thought the hat would look nice hanging on a hook next to the framed poem. Linda got so much enjoyment out of the hat and the poem that Sue Ellen gave the same gift to another friend, then another, then another.

One day it occurred to these friends that they were becoming a sort of "Red Hat Society" and that perhaps they should go out to tea... in full regalia. They decided they would find purple dresses which didn't go with their red hats to complete the poem's image.

Aside from wondering why a red hat wouldn't go with a purple dress, I am always perplexed by a group of people who think it is a good idea to appear in public in identical dress. But that is a matter of personal taste, to be sure. It is the contrivance of the movement that bothers me--the let's-have-a-lot-fun-in-a-public-way-and-show-'em factor.

Being female and over 50 does give women some common ground: loss of estrogen and progeterone and all that goes with it, a wealth of life experience, and dismissal by a culture that worships youth. I can buy that. And if over-50 women want to join a support group. I'm all for it. But wearing red hats, purple dresses, and getting organized around a mediocre poem makes me cringe. It is, as the British say, too much of a muchness.

And now the damned Red Hat thing is a cottage industry. There are Red Hat bookmarks, T-shirts, magnets, greeting cards, tea, dog bandanas, luggage, jewelry, a magazine, and--of course--hats. In any department store, there is an entire display of red hats with purple bands.

There are also some really sickening chapter names: Feisty Femmes, Cranberry Tarts, Boston Babes, Dynamic Divas...oh, make it stop. They have even taken this folly to Canada and the Philippines (Marvelous Mauves).

If you are a woman and over 50, I like to think you are too busy working, reading, writing, dancing, cooking, flirting, running a business, and listening to Missy Elliott to feel a need to wear a silly costume and advertise to the world that you are a crone and mean business.

Natalie said it best...

The latest pronouncement from Toby Keith is that CNN is no longer his trusted news source because it is so liberal!

Yes, Toby, you democracy-hating imbecile, we all have to watch out for that leftist network, CNN: The network that conspired to trash Howard Dean--the only real threat to Bush--and make a laughingstock out of him; the network who happily ran the SwiftBoat ads they knew to be outrageous lies; the network that rarely lets the words "Valerie Plame" leave its lips; the network that can't stop talking about election fraud in Ukraine but barely acknowleges what went on in Ohio and Florida; the network that likes to declare there are a couple of thousand war protestors when the actual count is a hundred thousand.

FUTK. And the Swift Boat you rode in on.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Our Christmas gift to the world

The Bush administration recently made cuts in the U.S.'s global food aid programs that help people overcome poverty. Bush promised to reduce spending, and now, several charitable organizations have gotten the word that we won't be keeping all of our food aid commitments.

The cuts, which may be as high as $100 million, have eliminated programs that help people with farming, education, and health, and the administration says that direct money for food can be counted on only in famine emergencies.

Naturally, with the deficit growing as it is, programs must be cut. But there is something not right about the richest nation in the world using billions of its dollars to blow up a country and then saying "Oops...we haven't much money left to help the world's poor." Of course, there's also something wrong with the richest nation in the world not feeding its own poor.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Wal-Mart, our lord and savior

When I was an older adolescent, I worked for Head Start during the summers. One summer, I was working with rural children, and the mother of one of my students died suddenly. This was a poor family with many children. My mother, who had little money of her own, bought several bags of groceries, and we drove to the family's house and gave them to the father. He was glad to have company, and we had a nice long visit with him.

Later that week, the Head Start faculty took up a collection to buy flowers for the family, as if they needed flowers. I told my mother I saw no need to contribute, and she agreed, but she warned me not to reveal that we had given the family groceries. I have very few good stories about my mother, so I like to tell this one. It was a tremendous lesson for me--to do the right thing and then risk being talked about for not doing "the right thing." I was the only one who didn't contribute.

This holiday season, Target has come under fire for strictly enforcing its "no solicitation" rule at its stores: The Salvation Army has been banned. That is fine with me, since I refuse to let gay-hating bigots handle my money. But it has incensed some of the Christian crowd. Target, to its credit, has stuck with its policy.

Naturally, stepping in to take advantage of the Christian Right's pique, is Wal-Mart, which has promised to provide matching funds to the Salvation Army. Better they should provide a safe working environment, stop union-busting, pay women equal wages, quit bullying their vendors, and honor their disability policies, but who cares about those things when you can work yourself up into a righteous Baby Jesus-inspired lather?

Meanwhile, Target has quietly provided the salaries for two Minneapolis Police Department cold case detectives for 2005. The cold case file is always the first to go when funds get tight, and Minneapolis is no exception. I'm not keen on a corporation doing what the government should be doing, but at least the detectives will be there next year, and since corporations escape paying a lot of taxes, I suppose it all works out.

Target will be remembered as the Scrooge of the big stores, while Wal-Mart will be seen as the "Christian" corporation.

The old Christmas songs are the best

So here is one from four years ago:

God rest you smug white gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Little W
Prevailed election day
To save you all from coastal scum
Who’d take your guns away
O tidings of cheer to good ole boys
Good ole boys
O tidings of cheer to good ole boys

From George his president father
A blessing early came
And unto certain precincts
Brought tidings of the same
How that in Florida was born
The son of Bush by name
O tidings of cheer to good ole boys
Make a loud noise
O tidings of cheer to good ole boys

“Fear not, men,” said the brother
Let nothing you affright
This day we made a President
To aid the Christian right
And screw all those who trust in him
Because they’re not too bright”
O tidings of cheer to good ole boys
All of us goys
O tidings of cheer to good ole boys

Now to the Court sing praises
All you within our reach
By purging rolls and closing polls
And shutting down Palm Beach
We stole the votes in Florida from
Blacks and Jews, so teach
Of tidings of cheer to good ole boys
Screw David Boies
O tidings of cheer to good ole boys

And one from Christmas of 2002:

We three kings right-oriented are
Bearing bombs we traverse afar
Field and fountain, cave and mountain
Following W's star

O, star of blunder, star of blight
Star with oil booty bright
Wayward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to the farthest right

Made a king through Florida's pain
Cash we bring to crown him again
BFEE forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

O, star of blunder, start of blight
Star with oil booty bright
Wayward leading, still proceeding
Guide us toward our absolute might

General Frank's sense is offered as right
Incensed are those who've seen the light
Prayer and praising, rich white men raising
Glasses to Bush each night

O, star of blunder, star of blight
Star with oil booty bright
Wayward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to the bombing site

Murder is ours, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the White House tomb

O, star of blunder, star of blight
Star with oil booty bright
Wayward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to international plight

Glorious now behold his lies
Scores of Americans sacrificed
Enron sings "Hallelujah"
"Hallelujah" Halliburton replies

O, star of blunder, star of blight
Star of oil booty bright
Wayward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to the farthest right

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Supporting Bush is immoral--reason number 13

He did everything possible to keep the September 11 Commission from compiling and presenting a report.

Though the 9/11 (even the commission uses that tacky nickname) Commission went out of its way to protect those who were largely to blame for the 2001 tragedy, Bush tried to block the entire Commission project. First, he did everything he could to keep the commission from being created. When he could not stop the inevitable, he stonewalled the commission for months by refusing to hand over crucial documents. It turns out he had nothing to worry about--the Commission covered up for his administration--but Bush's behavior was outrageous.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Remember free speech?

Paula Albaugh of Leesburg, Virginia, is the latest person to have uninvited government visitors--in this case, members of the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office. Albaugh's 11-year-old son, Yiahai Asido, was accused by deputies of making anti-American and violent statements in school.

This dangerous American, school officials said, when assigned to write a letter to U.S. Marines, told his teacher "I wish all Americans were dead and that American soldiers should die." Yiahai denies that wished death upon anyone, and that his actual statement was that the Marines "might as well die, as much as I care." Sounds like an 11-year-old to me, but when you have an Israeli father and a funny name, know the drill.

The investigators questioned Albaugh for two hours, even mentioning a German friend who had stayed with the family, and wondered whether that friend sympathized with the Taliban.

I wonder how many families the deputies visited whose children said they hated African Americans or gays.

Meanwhile, in Denver, there will be a recall election for an Estes Park Trustee who refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance at Town Board meetings. Councilman David Habecker objects to the "under God" phrase in the pledge, and now it is very likely that he will be kicked off of the council.

Remember what happened to Congressman Jim McDermott when he refused to say the Pledge last year? Instead of being respected for not wanting to say a loyalty pledge, or for not wanting to merge church and state in a loyalty pledge, McDermott was chewed out by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Unfortunately, McDermott aplogized instead of showing Pelosi his ass and telling her pledge that.

This is America now. If they haven't knocked on your door yet, don't fool yourself--they will.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A meditation on racism in Hollywood

Told through the stories of Anna May Wong and Josephine Baker, by the superbly gifted Margaret Cho, appears in Cho's blog today.

The whole idea of not using Asians to play Asian roles or Mexicans to play Mexican roles may seem outrageous to us, but that was the way it worked in the Hollywood of the 30's and 40's.

It would be nice to say that the racism and ethnicism faced by Wong, Baker, Anthony Quinn, and other actors is a thing of the past, but it isn't. That reality was poignantly brought home by Salma Hayek, in her recent appearance on Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio. Hayek spoke frankly about her problems getting roles, and revealed that for a while, one of her problems was her appearance--Hollywood didn't think of Mexican women as being beautiful.

Monday, December 13, 2004

And they all got fat Christmas bonuses, too

Ninth graders at Cary Christian School in Cary, North Carolina are learning all about slavery. The booklet they are studying, Southern Slavery, As It Was, reveals that pre-war slaves lived "a life of plenty, of simple pleasures." The booklet, which provides a "biblical justification of slavery," is helping the kids feel better about their Southern heritage, I'm sure.

According to the school's principal, the booklet helps students see both the Northern and Southern sides of the slavery issue. If such a course of study helped explain the many complexities of the War Between the States--a war that was fought about slavery and also about economics; that would be a breath of fresh air. But the study of complex material is hardly what is going on.

The co-author of the booklet is none other than Steve Wilkins, a director of the League of the South, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He and Doug Wilson, another man of God, are known for putting together the theology of the neo-Confederate movement, which is clearly delusional.

Here is my favorite quotation from Southern Slavery, As It Was: "There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world."

Makes you want to be kidnapped from your country, traded, beaten, put in shackles, raped, and worked to death, doesn't it?

Friday, December 10, 2004

A real hell of a guy

I always take every available opportunity to lash out at attempts to paint U.N. Ambassador John Danforth as a saint. This is because there doesn't seem to be anyone else in America who is interested in the job. Today's opportunity comes in a column by Cal Thomas about the U.S. and the U.N. Thomas says of Danforth: "This kind and decent man saw firsthand the finality of trying to persuade the U.N. to stop the genocide in Sudan."

This "kind and decent" man is the former U.S. Senator who fabricated obscene stories about Professor Anita Hill so that Clarence Thomas would be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. Danforth had a little gang of thugs who spread lies about Hill and wrecked her life. What makes it all really special is that Danforth is also an Episcopal priest, and during the Thomas hearings, he would sometimes take a break from trashing Hill, and run down to a nearby church and celebrate the Eucharist.

To my knowledge, he was never penalized in any way by the church. The Clinton administration thought he was just peachy, and made him the investigator of the Waco debacle, to the objections of absolutely no one in either house of Congress. He was rewarded again by W. Bush, who named him U.N. Ambassador, again to no objections.

Danforth got away with his behavior because--let's face it--all he did was persecute a black woman, and an uppity one, at that--one who had a Ph.D. and who dared to confront a black man. And he was working for a Bush, which always means you can get away with anything.

Giuliani may be gone, but his attitude remains

Real estate developer Richard Cohen has certainly taken up where Giuliani left off. This week, he evicted Pale Male and Lola, one of New York's most beloved couples, from their home of 11 years, atop the apartment building at 927 Fifth Avenue. So far, the only reasons I have heard are that the pair of red-tailed hawks sometimes dropped food from the top of the co-op, and that they jammed twigs between the bricks.

Watching Pale Male and his nesting activities has been a serious activity for hundreds of New Yorkers, and the hawk is the subject of a documentary film. There is a protest in progress which includes one of the building's residents, animal rights activist Mary Tyler Moore. Pale Male and Lola--at first obviously dismayed to find their nest gone--have been spotted building a new one at the same location, but there is also talk that they are considering building at the Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue.

Aside from the obvious stupidity of removing one of the city's most beloved creatures from his home, the co-op board's action was mean-spirited. A nearby resident put it best: "These people should all drop dead except Mary Tyler Moore."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

He may be witty, he may be intelligent...

But in the end, Brian Williams is just another rich white male who doesn't get it and doesn't care. When asked by Hemisphere magazine to comment on the scarcity of women and non-whites in top jobs in news organizations, new NBC anchor replied: "We have bigger problems. There are no black members of the U.S. Senate. We should keep some perspective on this."

That is exactly the kind of thing that the "new" racist/sexist white man always says. "Women in this country don't know how good they have it." "Look how much money black entertainers and athletes make." And so on. The presumption that we will have black Senators (I guess Senator-elect Obama doesn't count) without first having black business and professional leaders is as big a piece of idiocy as you'll hear. Besides, most women and minority people don't want to be Senators. They want to rise in their chosen professions of teaching, banking stock brokerage, construction, pharmacy, and--yes-- radio and television.

There are no bigger problems for women and non-whites than being dismissed by people like Brian Williams.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Let Ted Tinling rest in peace

Last week, the WTA ran a poll asking site visitors to choose the Best Win of 2004 from a list of five. All five were worthy wins, and I had to really think about it before I made my selection. This week, I was dismayed to see a new poll, Who Was the Year's Best Dressed?

Yes, it's interesting to see what Serena is going to wear next, and yes, it's nice that not all of the women wear plain tennis whites. But does this have anything to do with tennis? No, but it has a lot to do with sexism. If we were busy watching what the men wore (I'm looking at you, Andre--it's not too late), or if the news and sports media didn't focus on the bodies and clothes of women players to the point of nausea, then I would say go for it, have a little fun. But the sad truth is that tall, leggy blonde females who play tennis draw more attention to the sport than anything. This isn't to take anything away from those players, by the way; it is just an observation of the way things are.

There was a time, during the Virginia Slims tour--sometimes called the Golden Age of Women's Tennis--that the players did nothing to encourage the media's obsession with legs, navels, and booty, and forced them to analyze tennis. That time is over, and it saddens me that the WTA has bought into the preoccupation with women's bodies and clothes.

It may sadden you, too, but don't email the WTA: Your email will be returned as undeliverable.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Abuse and torture is part of American life

Last week, three adolescent girls in Louisiana poured gasoline on a dog and set it on fire, not once but twice. Needless to say, people are sickened and outraged that anyone could commit such a horrific and cruel act.

Their outrage is justified, but here is another way to look at it: Most of the people discussing the atrocity are probably doing so over a meal of grocery store scrambled eggs, baked chicken, or hamburger.

The things that are done to chickens, hogs, and cows in America's factory farms are as obscene as what those girls did to the dog: Chickens are packed into crates so tight that they can't move, and their beaks are cut off. Cows and hogs are similarly crowded onto exposed trucks, regardless of the weather, and this crowding often causes injuries. There have been numerous instances of live hogs' legs being pulled off, and injured hogs and cows left to die in a heap. During slaughter, still-conscious animals sometimes get their throats slit, and are dropped into a vat of boiling water. Veal calves are crowded into crates and force-fed, as are geese who will become foie gras. Recently, one of the nation's largest chicken processing plant's employees admitted to splattering live chickens against the wall "to relieve stress."

Not only are Americans eating millions of factory farm animals, but also using products that were tested on animals in ways that cause a great deal of suffering. Again and again, the discovery is made that labs are not bothering to use more humane methods of testing, and even those that do keep the animals confined and alone for their entire lives. (At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil, for example, investigators found routine abuse of animals in 2002. The school promised to practice strict humane methods, but when a follow-up investigation was done this year, the animals were being abused as much as ever.)

It is not popular to point out that as a nation, we are constantly commiting acts of torture on defenseless creatures, just as once, it wasn't popular to point out that we were treating non-whites as sub-human, or children as property. In the 19th Century, scientists went out of their way to "prove" that animals could not feel physical pain so that people would not object to their being butchered and experimented on without anesthesia. Today, we know that animals feel physical pain just as we do, but this knowledge seems to have done us no good in terms of stimulating our compassion and sense of decency.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Supporting Bush is immoral--reason number 12

He lied about supporting first responders.

A few months after the attacks of September 11, he told first responders his administration would give them whatever they needed, and proposed $3.5 billion more to the cause. But instead of adding that money, he cut $1 billion from the first responder budget. A few months later, he rejected $150 million worth of first responder grants.

On Septmber 14, 2001, Bush told retired firefighter Bob Beckwith "I can hear you." What he didn't tell him was "But I don't give a damn."

Just don't use a hammer

I stopped idealizing so-called blue states when one of them elected as its governor an unconvicted sex criminal. And now we have a ruling from an appellate court in Connecticut that parents may whip their children with belts and leave bruises on them. When I checked the Hartford Courant poll a while ago, 56% of readers agreed with the ruling.

I do not understand hitting anyone for any reason ever. Hitting children--even if it does not leave a bruise--teaches them that hitting is the way to resolve conflict, and that hitting is a useful tactic in displaying power. Whipping with belts and leaving bruises, however, is child abuse, no matter how you slice it. If you whacked an adult with a belt or hit him hard enough to leave a bruise, you would be arrested for assault and battery and you would go to jail. But in Connecticut (and in all of the other states that are lax about enforcing child abuse laws), you are now considered a competent parent.

I have worked for years with both children who have been physically punished, and with adults who were physically punished as children. Every once in a while, I still run into one (always a man) who says "I deserved it." But that response is very rare these days. People now feel they make speak more openly, and when they do, they are deeply hurt and angered by having been whipped, punched, and humiliated by their parents. The ones who do not deal with their own anger and shame are generally the ones who, in turn, whip and punch their own children.

That a panel of judges in Connecticut would rule that what amounts to child abuse is acceptable is the placing of an official stamp on what is already a general practice in this country. Whacking children is so common, we even see people do it in public. Violence toward children, animals, and women escalates daily, as does violence among men. And given our current climate of "bring it on," we can expect to see even more glorification of violence.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Chris Matthews is an idiot

Well, this is hardly a revelation, I know, but I happened to have the television on this evening, when he seemed to be at his worst. The subject of a Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy came up, and Matthews' comment was "Well, that would motivate all the men in the country to vote against her." All the men? The liberal to moderately liberal men I know (here in my "red" state) are huge fans of Senator Clinton and would gladly vote for her. I'm inclined to think Matthews' statement was a projection of his own sentiments.

To be fair, I have to ask: Was he just making a statement about sexism in the United States? No, of course he wasn't.

Later in the broadcast, Matthews talked about Tom Brokaw's retirement and wondered what the real story was, since "no one retires at the top of his game." Yes, you Bush-lusting freak--a lot of people do. It's called mental health. Perhaps Brokaw has some of it.

He also made some comments about John Kerry; he was guessing that Kerry wouldn't get all "hang-dog" like Al Gore, and grow a beard. What is this thing in equating men's facial hair with unacceptable behaviors and values? Aren't we past the 60's yet? It's really interesting that these people who worship uber-masculinity get uncomfortable when they see beards and mustaches. Clean-shaven equals mental health. Chris Matthews is clean-shaven and even wears preppie shirts and ties, but he is still an idiot.