Thursday, March 31, 2005

Yeah, but what happened to the Dufresnes?!

Damn it, Mitch Hedberg is dead. He died yesterday of heart failure. Though he apparently disliked comparisons of his comedy to that of Steven Wright, they were inevitable. At any rate, Hedberg's out-of-focus view of the world made him a comic delight. You can see video clips of him at the Comedy Central Site. Hedberg, who appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman" 10 timtes, was 37.

Age discrimination in the news

On the heels of the Supreme Court decision that people over 40 can sue for alleged age discrimination using a less burdonsome standard of proof comes a new federal court decision. In this decision, Federal District Court Judge Anita B. Brody struck down a Bush administration rule that would have permitted employers to reduce or eliminate health benefits for employees when they become 65 and are eligible for Medicare.

If you question the 2004 election...

And you're not "over it"--here is the new report you need to read.

And make it creamier, too

If you're going to get Bill Kristol squarely in the face, you have to make the pie higher.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Maybe Ashcroft could lend them his draping material

White River Truck Repair and Yard Art, which conducts business in Edinburgh, Indiana, has been cited by Bartholomew County officials for obscenity. Their crime? They have concrete knock-offs of "Venus de Milo" and Michelangelo's "David" on display. These and other statues must be removed because they are considered obscene under Indiana law. Minors passing by might see them. Oh, my god. The poor minors. After everything has been going so morally well for them. Millions of people are dying in Africa because of the White House AIDS policy, thousands have died in Iraq, people want to kill judges in order to save a brain-dead woman's life, the burgers and chicken they had for lunch represent massive torture of millions of animals, the biggest thief in America, Kenneth Lay, is enjoying his freedom, and the Bush administration is conspiring to spread as many toxins in the air and water as possible.

How could anyone ruin all that morality with copies of revered art? It's hard to be a kid in Indiana.

Dear Nicholas Kristof...

I have news for you. The White House's African AIDS policy is not "well-meaning," it was never well-meaning, it never will be, and I can't believe you don't know that. Or do you just not have the guts to say it?

The White House's "Just so 'no'" policy for Africa is a cruel exploitation of millions of men, women, and children in order to thrill the kill-a-judge-for-Terri crowd who are bound and determined that this will be a fundamentalist Christian nation, no matter what. At the same time, it dispenses with a whole lot of dark-skinned people, so the White House knows there will be few tears cried over it.

Well-meaning, my ass.

Go Venus!

Yesterday, Venus Williams, attacking like the warrior she used to be, finally broke her losing streak with her sister Serena, defeating her in straight sets (6-1, 7-6) in the quarterfinals of the Nasdaq-100. Serena, who was trying for her 4th straight Nasdaq-100 championship, will not be facing her newest rival, Maria Sharapova, but there will still be a Williams-Sharapova semifinal.

Venus came very close to playing Elena Likhovtseva in the quarters. Likhovtseva met Serena in the round of 16, and outplayed her in 3 sets, using her doubles skills, a slow pace, and steady, accurate shots to confound the defending champion. But then, at the last minute, Serena did that thing she does--pulled incredible shots out of nowhere and waited for her opponent to choke, which she did, in the next to last game.

Venus ran over Serena in the first set, but then Serena found her game, and what ensued was undoubtedly the best set ever played by the sisters, whose Grand Slam finals tended to be boring events. Venus had not defeated Serena since the 2001 U.S. Open finals. After that, Serena reversed their pecking order and made herself one of the all-time greats of women's tennis.

Constantly faced with questions about whether she would ever move to the very top again, Venus has always said that she would. Yesterday's match may have been some kind of turning point. There are so many great players on the women's tour right now that anything goes.

Women with nothing to say get heard

This is turning out to be a good week for DED Space, which, along with media girl, was featured on CNN (and in Slate, for that matter). Women (so I've heard) don't have too much to say and don't blog about anything interesting, but somehow we get read. The video is here. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Woman sues North Carolina over cohabitation law

Debora Hobbs is challenging North Carolina's law against cohabitation. Hobbs was told by her supervisor to either resign her job as a sheriff's department dispatcher or marry her live-in partner. She resigned, and on Monday, the ACLU filed a suit on her behalf that challenges North Carolina's rarely enforced law that prohibits unrelated persons of different genders from living together.

Aside from the obvious fact that this law is ridiculous and offensive, and aside from the fact that it is obviously selectively enforced, it raises other questions. Does it have to be two persons living together, or can it be an entire mixed gender household, as we often see in university communities? What if it is an established fact that one of the persons is gay and the other is straight? What if a very old person is being cared for by a young, live-in aide?

Hobbs' supervisor made it clear that he tries to hire only people who are not living together outside of marriage, so it is a wonder there hasn't already been a lawsuit filed. Even if you reason that people who work for law enforcement should not be breaking laws, it doesn't make any sense because Hobbs was not a law enforcement officer. On the other hand, the sheriff also made it clear that he sees the situation as a "moral" issue as well as a legal one.

Patsy Mink's gift keeps giving

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that Title IX shields whistleblowers who accuse academic instutions of gender discrimination. The case in question involves an Alabama girls' basketball coach who who lost his job after he repeatedly asked the school to provide his team the same kind of gym the boys' team had.

A splendid post at Utopian Hell

The title is "Politics and Video Games," but it is about so much more. Whether you are a man or a woman, please go read it.

And the show goes on...

There has been a death threat on Michael Schaivo's sister-in-law in Philadelphia.

A list of Schiavo donors will soon be sold to a direct-mail marketing firm.

There will be an autopsy of Schiavo, ordered by Michael Schiavo.

And the Rev. Jesse Jackson is on his way to meet with the Schindlers. But of course--I knew someone was missing.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Dear ignorant jurors in Colorado...

Perhaps you should study ancient texts and their meaning before you use them to condemn someone to death.

Today, the Colorado Supreme Court threw out the death penalty meted out to Robert Harlan, who was found guilty of kidnapping, raping, and murdering a cocktail waitress in 1994. The sentence was discarded because during deliberations, some of the jurors studied the Bible in order to help them determine Harlan's sentence. Specifically, they studied and quoted these verses

Exodus 21:23-25: But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Leviticus 24:19-21: If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him. Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good, but the one who kills a man shall be put to death.

The problem here is twofold: First, the jurists violated proper procedure in gathering evidence to help them deliberate. Second, they (just like the Pharisees and thousands of other Christians) misinterpreted the Bible verses in question. The purpose of the ancient Hebrew texts was to restrain retaliation, not encourage it. But let's not ever let fake fundamentalism interfere with scholarship.

I guess we knew this was coming

The Michigan state House has passed a bill that allows healthcare workers to refuse to treat patients on moral, ethical, or religious grounds. In other words, doctors could not be held liable for refusing to treat gay patients.

Will the homophobic doctors have to get some kind of special gaydar equipment installed to make sure they don't miss anyone? What about the bisexuals? That could certainly get tricky. Men in Michigan will have to be sure, when they enter the doctor's office, that they don't say anyhing about the decor or get a football score wrong.

The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate.

Nothing against Maria Sharapova...

But ESPN and ESPN2 are driving me crazy with their all-Maria-all-the-time programming. The Nasdaq-100 Open round of 16 is in progress, and anyone who has even the slightest interest in women's tennis had to have wanted badly to see the Ivanovic-Kuzentsova match. Unfortunately, Ivanovic is not (yet) a big name, and Kuznetsova, though she won the U.S. Open, is not a slinky blonde with long legs. So I have to keep up with the very tight 3-set Ivanovic-Kuznetsova thriller through an electronic scoreboard, while Sharapova runs over Asagoe in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2 (Asagoe played better than the score indicates) on my television set.

I like Maria Sharapova and really enjoy watching her play. She is a real boon to women's tennis. But it is no fun to watch a Maria or a Serena whack away an opponent in two sets. Granted, yesterday's contest with Serena and Shahar Peer turned out to be surprisingly exciting, but that was just a lucky accident. Does ESPN really believe that by showing Maria and Serena all the time they will get more viewers than if they show really exciting matches that tennis fans want to see? Maybe they do. Maybe they are correct. But as a tennis fan, I am totally frustrated.

File under "You couldn't make this stuff up"

From a New Orleans news report:

Federal agents on Sunday arrested a Slidell man for allegedly using the Internet to solicit sex from a minor, according to U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. If convicted, John Pedelahore, 37, faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A few more words about The L Word

When I wrote about The L Word recently, I commented on how unlikeable I find most of the characters, but conceded that emotionally unhealthy characters are what make a soap opera tick. Having covered the women, I now want to add that the show also goes out of its way to display men in the worst light possible, but again, that is soap style. The men on The L Word are wimpy (the toads who work for Bette), menacing (Tim), totally nuts ("Lisa," the man who wants to be a lesbian), or conmen (Shane's friend from her former life; Kit's new man, Benjamin Bradshaw; and Shane's and Jenny's totally creepy roommate who spies on the women in order to make a film, and who is so dishonest that he has even conned himself into believing it is a "documentary").

Another interesting thing about these supposedly worldly and hip lesbians is that--other than Kit, who is Bette's half-sister--they have no straight friends. How hip is that? Even Alice, the bisexual character, and Jenny the not-yet-labeled character, are never seen with straight friends. Which brings up another interesting subject: When does Alice work? I'd like to be a journalist, too, if all I did was hang out with my friends and go to parties. And as for Dana, if the producers are going to give her more tennis scenes, she's going to have to do something about that insipid swing.

In the show's defense, Camryn Manheim may be the best guest star yet.

One of the things I like best about The L Word is that it comes on right after Desperate Housewives , another over-the-top soap that manages to be both campy and on-target at the same time. By simply changing the channel, you get two hours of lurid, entertaining mockery of "enviable" lifestyles. The difference is that Desperate Housewives knows what it is, while The L Word can't seem to decide whether it wants to be melodramatic, silly, or just plain provocative.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

A satisfying display of mystical art

I am continually arriving from some strange place and everything I see is new and strange.

Today we visited the Ogden Museum of Southern Art to see "Walter Inglis Anderson: Everything I See is New and Strange," the Smithsonian's Anderson exhibition which drew over 300,000 visitors. For its New Orleans showing, the exhibit has been expanded to include some of Anderson's New Orleans watercolors.

Anderson, a native of New Orleans, lived most of his life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and is known for his watercolors, oils, drawings, sculptures, murals, linoleum block prints, children's books, furniture, and pottery. Much of his work reflects his interest in mythology and history, but it is for his startling nature studies that he is best known. Anderson spent much of his time on the Mississippi barrier islands, particularly Horn Island, and painted and drew frogs, turtles, flowers, trees, and birds. He was especially fond of pelicans, and wrote intimately of them.

Walter Anderson believed that only when nature and art become a single entity do we attain of sense of wholeness toward both nature and art. His art, like that of all mystics, is often playful, and is a beautiful synthesis of modern European schools of thought and more primitive, unconscience processes. Later this year, PBS will air a documentary on Anderson, "Walter Anderson: Realizations of an Artist."

A duck relaxes in Audubon Park Posted by Hello

On Terri Shiavo, medical malpractice, and bulimia

In the ongoing discussion about Terri Schiavo, one of the forgotten topics is the disorder that started the whole thing: Schiavo had bulimia, and the doctors' failure to diagnose it is what led to the potassium balance, which led to the heart attack. The elected representatives who are screaming about the "injustice" of the courts are the same elected representatives who have fought day and night to prevent families like the Schiavos from having legal recourse against physicians who screw up. This is a matter that the news media has chosen to ignore, choosing instead to show endless close-ups of Schiavo in her disabled state. The Republicans in Congress believe that making a circus show of your family is far superior to providing some sort of compensation for medical malpractice.

That a physician should miss the diagnosis of what was obviously an advanced case of bulimia is alarming. Simple medical tests and interviews with family members point to the diagnosis, and a dental exam confirms it. It is a sad irony that a woman who had bulimia is spending her final days as the subject of an international feed her/starve her argument. Though there has been no public discussion of this irony, it has doubtless gotten the attention of mental health professionals everywhere.

Bulimia nervosa is a very serious disorder which causes the body's chemistry to go awry, as in the case of Schiavo. Though men suffer from it, it is primarily a disorder of girls and women. In my own psychotherapy practice, the majority of my clients with bulimia would not be considered overweight, but they perceived that they were fat. There is no doubt in my mind that the bombardment of images of rail-thin women via television, film, and magazines is a major contributor to women's distorted views of their own bodies.

But bulimia is about more than a distorted view of one's body. All of the bulimic females I have treated had significant issues with their mothers: There is a primal connection between food and mother for all of us. Many bulimic women also come from families in which food intake was constantly discussed and one or both parents nagged about possible over-eating. And all of the bulimic girls and women I have treated had very high anxiety. An eating binge--like a spending binge or any other kind of binge--temporarily relieves anxiety by permitting the eater to "space out." But after the binge, the person feels great shame, and therefore is led to perform another binge ritual in order to escape the shameful feelings.

In my experience, women with bulimia can get rid of their disorder by learning better ways to cope with their anxiety, by resolving possible conflicted feelings about their mothers, and by learning to like themselves enough that they no longer want to abuse their bodies. Though we have had many public discussions about both bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, perhaps it is time to have another one. It would certainly be more productive than the freak show that is taking place now.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

And the winner is...

The L.A. Times. But why now?

Women's History Month--Remembering Patsy Mink

Patsy Takemoto Mink became an attorney because--despite her high grades--she could not get admitted into medical school. A victim of World War II hatred of the Japanese, Mink experienced racism from an early age, but went on to become the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in Hawaii. In 1964, she became the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress. As a Congresswoman, the highly regarded Mink worked on behalf of women, children, immigrants, the environment, and the ideals of civil rights. She introduced the nation's first comprehensive Early Childhood Education Act.

However, above all things, it is for Title IX that Patsy Mink will be remembered. Because of her vision and tenacity, academic and athletic equity finally came to American schools.

Mink died in 2002. It is often said that the great Mia Hamm is the face of women's sports, and a fine face it is, but the template of women's sports and women's educational achivements as we know them now is the face of Patsy Mink. All Americans are in debt to her. And if you are a girl who plays sports or the parent of a girl who plays sports, you have Congresswoman Mink to thank.

Friday, March 25, 2005

It gets creepier every day

Thanks to The Modulator for bringing this big scary thing to my attention: In North Carolina, some government entities, including the University of North Carolina (my shamed alma mater that tortured animals in their labs, got called on it, then tortured them again when the inspectors left), are pursuing authority to sue citizens who make public records requests. The state supreme court will take up the issue soon, and in the meatime, I doubt you will hear about it on all-Bush television.

First the legislators, then the judge, now the police

Radio talk show host Hal Turner is calling for the murder of police officers in Pinellas Park, Florida. Suddenly the police, generally defended by the right wing no matter what they do, are fit to be gunned down for doing their job.

I'm not much on social control...

But perhaps it's time to drop some Stelazine into the water system.

Friday cat blogging

Like most of us in the blogosphere, Velma sometimes puts her foot in her mouth. Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The hypocrisy is mind-boggling

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, says that Terri Schiavo has been condemned to "an atrocious death."

First, we should be clear that when you have no functioning brain, you do not feel any pain from having food and water withheld. That is a simple scientific fact that is being routinely ignored by the Vatican, the ersatz president of the United States, Congress, the vile Randall Terry, Mel Gibson, Patricia Heaton, and the thousands of right-wing religious idiots who are protesting the "execution."

But there is another issue with regard to the Vatican. What about the condemnation of millions of third world women who have been told by Rome that any form of birth control is a sin? What about the all of the condemned women and children resulting from high church officials telling Catholics that condoms do not prevent transmission of the AIDS virus? What about the stunning silence of the Church on the horrific practices of factory farming?

How dare the Vatican call Schiavo's death atrocious. How dare they call the courts executioners. Line up the dead bodies of women and children who have contracted HIV, or who have died of poverty, and see where the trail leads.

Some things really do speak for themselves

Over at Utopian Hell, where I like to hang out, is one of the most offensive comments I've seen in a while. "Stop whining about it" is the kind of hostile "advice" dished out by someone who can't be bothered to know the truth or see what is right in front of him.

"In contemporary American society," the poster says, " success really is accessible to anyone who is willing to pay the price--years of strife and dedication."

Sorry. Doesn't work that way. White males still have a big head start. And even if oppressed people do achieve what most Americans call "success," it is often a double-edged sword. Ask any black executive who is in his weekend jeans and T-shirt and is still followed around in the department store in case he, you know, steals something. Ask any female executive who has to make sure she never makes a mistake because then everyone will say, "see, we told you a woman couldn't do the job."

And then there is the matter of this non-existent discrimination against women. Consider this:

There has been a dramatic increase in sexual assault against women in this country and throughout the world. Women in the U.S. military are raped and sexually assaulted on a constant basis, and nothing is ever done about it. Female prisoners are routinely sexually assaulted by prison guards.

The church (whose God is still "He" by the way) and the government insist on telling women what to do with their own bodies. Leading religions will not ordain women. There is a whopping gender gap among top executives in all major industries and in the Fortune 500. Sexual harrassment of women on the job and in schools is increasing. Women are still barred from membership in social groups that create and advance business success. Poor single mothers are told to go to work but there is no child care for them. Gynecologists in American know almost nothing about reproductive health and give women sub-par and sometimes dangerous treatment. A new study just came out this week, again saying that--even after all the publicity-- doctors still fail to recognize potential heart problems or heart attacks in women. Women died in automobile accidents because the car companies never thought to test air bags with female dummies.

Famous men are discussed because of what they do; famous women are discussed based on what they wear and how their hair looks. When a woman is verbally attacked for what she has done, the attack is about her appearance. 30- and 40-year-old women are called "girls." People still say "woman lawyer" and "woman doctor" (just like "black lawyer" and "black doctor"). Women are called "guys" and "chairmen" (even in the U.S. Senate and on C-Span) or "woman policemen." Study after study shows that men who can take command are considered leaders, and women who can take command are considered "bitches" and "emasculators."

Listen to contemporary music and learn that women are "bitches" and "whores." When Sarah Jones sang a protest song about it, her record was banned from the radio by the FCC. The news media completely ignored the incident. Madonna did a video in which there was some mock-violence, and the video was banned. Videos by men that are filled with violence are allowed to go on the air.

Liberals like to talk about how "unsafe" it is to consider nominating a woman for president.

Young girls and women are constantly hustled to be thin, have their breasts enhanced, and have their faces re-done. We still have beauty pageants. Men are still expected to propose marriage. Women who take constant care of children, do laundry, cook, iron, clean, and manage the household are rewarded by their husbands' saying "My wife doesn't work." Women who work outside the home still often get strapped with most of the work in the home But let us not omit the poster's wisdom: "It seems that an effort to combine family life and work (something women tend to do more so than men) is more of a culprit--time is a limited resource, and taking it away from work to family will logically result in reduced career success." Duh!

I could go on and on.

Utopian hell indeed. Somebody bring me some water.

A TV commercial that offends me

There is a commercial that runs on my local television stations that has troubled me since the first time I saw it. It is an ad for a well-known car dealership in a nearby state, only this ad is for the dealership's motorized wheelchair sales. (I know that sounds odd, but this is a really successful and ambitious dealership.) The dealership's folksy/campy commercials usually make me smile in spite of myself, but this one does not.

A man tells the story of trying to buy a motorized wheelchair and the company did not return his call. By the time someone did return it, he had already gotten a chair from the car dealership. Then he says, while scooting jauntingly in his new chair, "What little manhood I have left, I want to keep. _____'s has the coolest chair in town."

By equating manhood with physical wholeness, the commercial buys into the stereotype of what a "real man" is. Can you imagine the spot with a woman saying "What little womanhood I have left, I want to keep"? Of course you can't, because womanhood (much less the word "woman") is not a concept in the consciousness of American culture. This is not to say that a woman isn't judged by her physical appearance because she certainly is. But she is not judged by her physical wholeness the way that a man is.

It is a sad thing to lose physical functioning, but it is even worse to be told you have also lost your "manhood."

A new Frist revelation

This, via The Heretik, via DC's Inside Scoop, from The New Republic, is one of the most interesting tidbits of information I've seen concerning Dr. Cat-Killer and the Schiavo case.

Oh, and I bet you'll get so sick of hearing about it on TV network news...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Woman with no brain better ratings draw than man with no face

Anyone remember Michael Jackson? Until recently, his trial, complete with pajama bottoms and sleepy eyes, was about all you could see on cable news networks. But damn it, coverage of Terri Schiavo has gone and surpassed the Jackson trial. That is, until the next freak show comes along or a blonde girl goes missing.

Meanwhile, Congress decided to drill in Alaska, social security is in jeopardy, people are dying in Iraq, free speech is going down the drain, PNAC is taking over the world, and Kenneth Lay is enjoying his freedom.

There must be something in the water.

Well, they did it

The idiots in Estes Park recalled town trustee David Habecker.

Better than C-Span

The Poor Man is cracking me up today.

On Brian Nichols and stereotyping

For several days, I have intended to call attention to this post at Silver Rights about humanizing Brian Nichols. Though the examples given of the dehumanizing of Nichols come from identified right-wing sources (Project 21), this sort of thing goes on frequently when the subject of news is not a white male. Whether it is an assertion that Nichols' goal in life was to kill white people or 24/7 reporting of Martha Stewart's courtroom clothing, there is often an underlying agenda. I think that agenda is usually not conscious. This is just a very racist, sexist society, and we automatically think in ugly stereotypes. Only constant whacks on the head to the media will make it stop, but the whacking must be ongoing because the news media is a major part of the problem.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Physician, heal thyself

John Nelson, the president of the American Medical Association, in defending New York Medical College's decision not to recognize an LGBT group, said that the school, a private institution, had a right to set and enforce its own policies. Nelson went on to say that the decision was no different from Brigham Young Univesity's banning Coca-Cola from its campus, or suspending four athletes accused of raping a 17-year-old girl.

So, according to Dr. Nelson, a school has a right to ban students based on who they are, just as it could ban a soft drink (which, in fact, I don't think it does) containing caffiene, or...students who have perhaps commited sex crimes. It always comes down to that, doesn't it? Gay marriage causes bestiality, gay students are the same as rapists, etc.

Nelson has since apologized for the remark, though he still doesn't understand why LGBT students should be permitted to break the schools' rules. They were forced to let blacks and women into important institutions, but the John Nelsons of the world--bigots loud and clear--can still do their best to keep gays out.

Granholm jumps on faith-based bandwagon

Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan sometimes makes me uncomfortable. First there was the matter of her breaking her campaign promise to veto any dove-hunting bill that came across her desk. Once elected, she signed into law a bill that changed the status of the mourning dove from songbird to game bird in order to establish a hunting season for it.

Now, as The Wall of Separation reports, Granholm has announced that the state's government will open a faith-based initiatives office to provide money for religious groups who provide social services. Such an action may violate Michigan's constitution, as The Wall of Separation points out:

The state constitution's Article I, sec. 4, states: "No money shall be appropriated or drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious sect or society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the state be appropriated for any such purpose."

But constitutional matters aside, the establishment of faith-based services risks the wink-nudge tolerance of discrimination in hiring, as well as the exploitation of vulnerable people. It isn't a good idea.

Cal Thomas, Congress, and the whole sickening thing

I'm sure glad I visited Pandagon and saw a comment from Justin at Approximately Perfect. That led me to this hilariously frightening editorial by Cal Thomas in Jewish World Review. Terri Schiavo (who cannot think or talk) is now a "symbol" on par with Rosa Parks. Oh god, I hope Parks crawls all over Thomas the way she got up in OutKast's face.

How quickly we forget that the original Schiavo case was one of medical malpractice because doctors failed to diagnose the bulimia that caused Schiavo's potassium balance that led to her heart attack. When the doctors screwed up Terri Schiavo's life, you didn't hear Republicans screaming for justice. No, they were busy trying to put caps on medical malpractice cases.

And speaking of treating bulimia nervosa, Congress has yet to pass the new mental health parity law that was supposed to be put in place after the extension of the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act (which wasn't too hot to begin with) expired. Your Congresspeople are too busy to see that you get treatment for mental disorders. But if you have a heart attack because of one and lapse into a coma, they will prop you up with an American flag.

Florida Baptist church closes door on Schiavo judge

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer left his church last week after the pastor wrote him a letter suggesting it would be easier for everyone if he left. Judge Greer apparently had some other issues with the church, and his decision regarding Terri Schiavo was the last straw. The pastor sent a copy of the letter to the Clearwater courthouse, supposedly to make sure everyone knew that Greer was being given the heave-ho.

Defending the community against the autistic

This speaks for itself.

Monday, March 21, 2005

A handy list of who can live and die

Here, for your convenience, is a breakdown of whose death the conservative movement thinks is fine and dandy, and whose must be stopped at all costs:

We watch while they die:
  • Hundreds of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, there to satisfy the demands of PNAC
  • Thousands of Iraqi citizens who missed being liberated because they were blown to bits
  • Millions of AIDS-infected African women and children, because of Bush's refusal to properly fund AIDS programs and family planning clinics
  • Thousands of unborn African fetuses, aborted because of Bush's refusal to fund family planning
  • Millions of cats, dogs, rabbits, and mice who are involved in unnecessary and cruel laboratory experiments that have been significantly increased again by the Bush administration
  • Millions of cows, chickens, pigs, and sheep who are tortured and carelessly--often painfully--slaughtered by factory farms

We don't care if they die, too:
  • American citizens, including children, exposed to high levels of toxic substances
  • American citizens who cannot get adequate health care or medication
  • 13-year-olds who commit murder
  • Americans likely to die from terrorist attacks now that Bush has increased the strength of the terrorist movement

Keep "alive" under any circumstances:
  • All unborn American fetuses
  • Terri Schiavo

Onward Christian soldiers...preferably over a cliff

Central Church of God has informed the Loaves & Fishes program in Charlotte, North Carolina, that it will no longer participate in the local program that feeds the poor. The reason? Get ready--Roman Catholics participate. And, according to minister of evangelism Shannon Burton, the people of Central Church of God cannot mingle with "any other denomination promoting a works-based salvation."

The church has also cut ties with other ministries, like the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Their sin was to allow Muslim students to serve meals to the poor.

So, take that, poor people of Charlotte. Behold, I was hungry, and you spat at Catholics and Muslims.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

One woman bloggers speaks

I've been doing my best not to get involved in the "women bloggers have nothing interesting to say" bruhaha because the presumption is so ridiculous it doesn't really deserve to be addressed. But just for the hell of it, I did a quick scan of topics I've covered since I began blogging in 2002:
terrorism, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, free speech, global food aid, AIDS, the Vatican, Howard Dean, factory farming, air and water pollution, sexism in language, violence in America, voter fraud, Jesse Jackson's bigotry, Olympic (men's) tennis, laboratory testing of animals, Juneteenth, Martha Stewart, Ricky Williams, sexism in tennis, Wal-Mart, the Sept. 11 Commission, child abuse, sexual assault in the military, international family planning, No Child Left Behind, and the ongoing lies, hypocrisy, bullying, and Constitution-bashing of the Bush administration. There were other topics, of course, but I caught these right away.

I'm not sure what I need to talk about that will catch the interest of male bloggers, but since I don't give a damn about whose interest I catch, I'll never find out. Because animal liberation is one of my most sacred topics, I already sit on the edge of the Blogosphere. Most liberals, as a rule, want tolerance and kindness to be shown toward everyone, only they don't want to know that chickens were stomped on and thrown up against walls, that hogs' legs were pulled off, and that calves stuffed into tiny pens were force-fed so that they could enjoy their entrees. Likewise, many liberal men couldn't care less about the cultural presumption that women are inferior to men in all ways.

So about the female bloggers controversy: Why did any woman think the 21st Century would be any different from all the others?

They wouldn't touch the poor and sick with a 10-foot poll

MSNBC has an online poll about religion in America. As of this writing, 52% of the respondents identify as some form of Democrat. 4% identify as "other," so I'm going to assume that half of them are liberal and make the total 54% non-Republican and non-strict independent. Bearing this in mind, consider that 30% believe that human life came about as a result of the biblical account of creation. 12% do not know or are not sure how human life came about. That means that--among respondents, 54% of whom are Democrats or similar, 42% reject evolution as the reason we are here.

That particular statistic is so dramatic, it will probably be talked about a lot. Here is another statistic, however, that I found just as disturbing: When asked "Do you believe churches and other religious groups and organizations should or should not be raising awareness and involved in poverty?" 63% said yes. Hunger? 65%. Homelessness? 62%. AIDS? 43%.

Let's put aside for the moment the idea that 100% of people don't believe that churches should be involved in fighting poverty, hunger, and homelessness. The fact that there is a serious drop in the numbers believing the church should be doing something about AIDS is a sad and shocking commentary on American life in the 21st Century. It also doesn't take a degree in sociology to figure out why the numbers changed. We don't like the poor and homeless very much (I will never forget a church volunteer who worked at the polls on election day and told me that homeless people had the nerve to show up and try to vote), but we really don't like people with AIDS. So many of them are drug users, or gay, or poor.

There has been a terrible problem in black churches with regard to the AIDS issue, though thanks to Cynthia Tucker and Alton Pollard III, that situation may be changing. But judging from the responses to the MSNBC poll (and bear in mind that this poll attracts more progressive respondents than some other online polls), Americans don't see much of a need for churches to be involved in helping the sick.

Smells like holy spirit

Today we discuss Deborah Anderson, idiot principal of Sunnyside Elementary School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. One of Anderson's teachers, Kristie Griffiths, preached creationism and told her students to proselytize for Jesus. Her special gem was "God's word tells us about a kind of odor only Christians have." This was obviously a reference to a New Testament metaphor (Kristie, if you're reading this--look up "metaphor" in your dictionary) that a knowledge of Christ is like a perfume and that those who know Christ have the "scent" of Christ.
The parents of a fifth-grader sued the Cumberland County school system in federal court over Griffiths' teachings. School system officials have acknowledged the incident and have made assurances that such an incident will not occur again. Their excuse? That Anderson was a visiting teacher from Australia and didn't know the rules about religion in Ameican schools. This raises all kinds of questions: Is it legal to push religion to fifth graders in Australia? Was Griffiths informed of the church/state regulations and decided to ignore them? Or did no one bother to mention to her that it is illegal to peddle religion in the classroom?

But I said this was going to be about Deborah Anderson, and so it is. When the parents went to Anderson to complain about what had happened in their child's classroom, her response was: "What's the problem? Don't you and your family go to church?"

You may contact Principal Anderson here.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Slutskaya, almost too tired to stand up, wins world championship

The remarkable Irina Slutskaya has won her second gold medal at the women's world figure skating championships in Moscow. Slutskaya, who won the gold in 2002, after being edged out repeatedly by Michelle Kwan, found her world crashing around her in 2003, when she was diagnosed with vasculitis, which included an inflammation of her heart lining. Her legs were swollen and she felt too sick to do much of anything, let alone skate. Slutskaya was hospitalized five times for the condition, and was succcessfully treated for it. She had already skipped the 2003 world championships, however, because her mother was ill with kidney disease.

Slutskaya missed most of the 2004 season, and placed ninth in the world championsbips. And the vasculitis cure proved to be almost as devastating as the disease; the medicine that Slutskaya takes causes extreme fatigue. When she began training again, she sustained a knee injury. It is nothing short of an athletic miracle that she even entered world competition this year, and she was visibly suffering from fatigue in between her performances. But she emerged with top points in the qualifying skate, the short program, and the free skate. Slutskaya also won every other competition she entered this year, including the European championship.

Beautifully graceful but inconsistent American Sasha Cohen won the silver medal, duplicating her 2004 performance at the world competition. The bronze went to Italian skater Carolina Kostner. Sadly, Kwan--who has not been competing much lately--placed fourth. This was the first time she has not won a medal since 1996. 2004 world champion Shizuka Arakawa placed ninth.

Slutskaya, whose win occurred in her home country, said "I hope I will serve as a good role model to people who feel bad and have no faith in themselves.''

She will indeed.

Women's History Month--Honoring Sally Ride

When Sally Ride was a little girl, she played tennis so well that she received a tennis scholarship. She was ranked in the national juniors circuit, and dropped out of Swarthmore to pursue a career as a tennis pro. A few months later, however, she decided she wasn't good enough to be successful in tennis, so she gave up her pursuit and enrolled at Stanford. Ride had her Ph.D. in physics by the time she was 27.

Wanting to do post-doctoral work in astrophysics, Ride was one of 8,000 people who applied to the space program to become an astronaut. She and 34 others were chosen. Ride served as communications officer during the second and third flights of the space shuttle Columbia. In 1983, she became the first American woman to go into space when she was named to the Challenger STS-7 crew. She was also a crew member of the Challenger STS 41-G crew, and was preparing for her third mission when the Challenger exploded in 1986.

Ride was appointed to the presidential commission that investigated the accident, and became assistant to the NASA administrator for long-range planning. Ride retired from NASA in 1987 to become a science fellow at Center for National Security and Arms Control at Stanford. In 1989, she was named director of the California Space Institute and became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. In the late 90's, she was president of, and she founded and ran earthKAM.

Ride also founded Imaginary Lines to provide support for girls interested in science, math, and technology. One of the projects of Imaginary Lines is the Sally Ride Club for girls in upper elementary and middle school. Ride has also written a number of children's books.

One of the most endearing memories of Ride's first trip into space is that of shuttle launch onlookers holding signs that said Ride Sally Ride.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Hail Lindsay Davenport!

And pass the cream cheese to Maria Sharapova, who got double-bageled (6-0, 6-0) this afternoon by Davenport in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California. The pair was scheduled to play the night match, but when Andre Agassi withdrew from his match with Lleyton Hewitt, the women's game was moved up. Maybe this change of events through Sharapova off her game. Maybe it helped Davenport. No one can know.

During the first set, Sharapova was not especially error-prone; she simply couldn't get control of the ball because of Davenport's powerful serves and groundstrokes, and her careful point construction. In the second set, her frustration was palpable, and her play reflected it. Lindsay can be a head case, but when her confidence is up, she can beat anyone on the tour. Currently the number one player in the world, she will face Kim Clijsters tomorrow in the final. This is an interesting match-up because Clijsters has been out for months with a serious wrist injury. She is playing very well, but won her semifinal match against Elena Dementieva easily because Dementieva sustained an injury during the match.

For a top player to play a match and not win a game is rare, but it does occur from time to time. Even the great Monica Seles had to eat the double bagel from Martina Hingis at the 2000 Ericsson Open. Sharapova's history with Davenport, however, is one worth mentioning. The first time they played each other was in the 2004 Wimbledon semifinal. Davenport completely dominated the first set, and the beginning of the second set. Then there was a rain break, and after that, everything changed, with Sharapova winning the match. Sharapova went on to win the tournament. Anyone who saw that and who was watching today had to feel a little anxious about the possibility of a repeat disaster for Davenport, but she stayed the course and then some.

Friday cat blogging

Here is a lovely tortie cat we rescued last week. Posted by Hello

This is the other kitty we rescued. Thanks to our vets and the local animal rescue organization, both are up for adoption. Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 17, 2005

"Fat Actress" innovative comedy? Fat chance

The premise behind Showtime's new comedy, "Fat Actress," is wonderful: A 50-something Hollywood star, already destined for the trash heap because of her age, is doomed to certain obscurity because of her weight. Why not make a show about Hollywood's obsession with thin women, especially if you have a very funny woman who can star in it?

Why not? Because "Fat Actress" isn't funny. It has funny moments, for sure, most of which involve Alley's go-for-broke physical comedy. But the script is so over the top that the jokes wear, shall we say, quite thin.

Not everyone agrees with me. The New York Times calls the show "shocking and very funny." It received the biggest audience of any Showtime premiere in years. But there was also a dramatic drop in audience numbers for the second segment. I tried to give the show a second chance but couldn't even get through the second episode. As much as I want to see Alley give Hollywood what it deserves for its treatment of women, I can sit through only so many booty jokes and "fat women want sex" gags.

Alley, who never had the starvation look, was always given grief by producers about her weight, in both "Cheers" and "Veronica's Closet." There is a long history of this kind of cruelty in Hollywood, the most famous case being a very young Judy Garland, who was not permitted to eat and was given amphetamines by MGM. Margaret Cho wound up in the hospital with collapsed kidneys when she lost 30 pounds in two weeks for "All-American Girl" (the producers also hired a coach to teach Cho how to be "more Asian").

"Fat Actress" airs on Sunday night. John Travolta made an appearance in the first episode, and Kelly Preston plays a sicko diet guru and "trainer" in the show. If Tom Cruise shows up, we can declare the whole thing a Scientology experiment gone wrong.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

This is the Army, Mr. Saville

Poor Army 1st Lt. Jack Saville. He has to cough up $12,000 ($2,000 a month for 6 months) and spend 45 days in a military prison, all because he particpated in the sadistic assault of three Iraqi civilians, and probably the murder of one of them. Earlier this week, Saville pleaded guilty to assault and related crimes for forcing two curfew violaters into the river at gunpoint. One is said to have drowned. Saville was also charged with failure to stop another forced walk to death in a different incident.

Saville, you will recall, laughed about the incidents, which were ordered by Staff Sgt. Tracy Perkins. Perkins was acquitted of manslaughter, but was convicted of assault and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to six months in prison. Saville was originally charged with manslaughter, conspiracy, and lying to investigators. All of those charges were dropped. Apparently, he was never even charged with attempted murder.

Saville could have gotten 9 1/2 years in prison and a discharge from the Army. If you think his sentence is a tad on the light side, remember this: This is the U.S. military, which does no wrong. And this is a war. And the victims were--how can I put this delicately?--oh, yes--they were not white.

Saville says he has been forgiven by God. No word was available on his status with the victims' families.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Dowd sums it all up

In her column, "Dish it out, ladies," Maureen Dowd succinctly explains why it is difficult for a woman to write an op-ed column:

While a man writing a column taking on the powerful may be seen as authoratative, a woman doing the same thing may be seen as castrating. If a man writes a scathing piece about men in power, it's seen as his job; a woman can be cast as an emasculating man-hater. I'm often asked how I can be so "mean"--a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn't get.

Dowd also gives us a sickening reminder of the time Chris Matthews remarked--after Dowd had written a critical piece on Bill Clinton--that Clinton must have felt as though he had "another wife hectoring him."

In the column, Dowd also shames the major newspapers for having almost no female columnists, and she acknowledges that women are less apt than men to eagerly express their opinions.

Though some women may be unaware of this type of blatant discrimination against women, I think most women know all too well about it, but have decided to just live with it. I talk to a lot of women from all different levels of society and of all political persuasions, and they are generally quite cognizant of the misogyny all around them, but they have a sense of resignation about it.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Hughes a perfect choice to promote American values

Bush's Maxi Me, Karen Hughes, has accepted a State Department job which will require her to promote American values and the American image abroad. Hughes, Karl Rove's partner in slime, is probably the most appropriate person to do this, considering what American values have become in the last few years. A person of impressive amorality, she almost single-handedly brought down Ann Richards through a campaign of lies, innuendo, and dirt when Richards campaigned for a second term as governor of Texas.

Hughes is generally acknowledged as the person responsible for the "W Is for Women" idea, which is so filled with hypocrisy it would be funny were it not for the fact that thousands of Republican women bought it. She also played a key role in suggesting that the media "investigate" John Kerry's military service.

Hughes says that her primary identity is that of "a child of God." If that is so, I would hate to see a child of Satan.

Strawberries grow in rows on the ground. Hildegarde of Bingen feared toads and snakes would crawl on them. Posted by Hello

Strawberry fields for...3 months

I am fortunate enough to live 20 minutes away from some of the richest strawberry fields in the country. The berries, which are harvested mid-January through mid-April, are huge and sweet, and we all get our fill of strawberry shortcake, strawberry muffins, strawberry pie, strawberry salad, strawberries Romanov, and just plain strawberries served with anything.

Like most fruits, the strawberry has an interesting history. Hildegarde of Bingen, composer, poet, and uppity 12th Century woman, declared strawberries unfit to eat because they grew along the ground and toads and snakes likely crawled over them. Because of Hildegarde's influence, Europeans shied away from strawberries for years. In 13th Century France, strawberries became a popular medicinal herb for digestive problems. For some time now, strawberries have been the unofficial snack at the Wimbledon tournament, presumably because they happen to be in season in June.

The strawberry is also a symbol of Venus, the goddess of love, which is appropriate for its place in modern history as part of a tribute to John Lennon--Strawberry Fields, the beautiful 2.5-acre park donated to New York by Yoko Ono.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Women's History Month--Remembering Bette Davis

When we think of former independent women in film, we tend to think of Katherine Hepburn, but it was Bette Davis who risked her career to be free of the studio establishment. Though Davis's personal life was somewhat ugly, her professional life was exciting and interesting. When her career with Universal was not renewed, she went to Warner's and was very successful, but could not get good roles, so in 1936, she left for England so that she could make better films. Warner's sued her for breach of contract, but upon her return, she received a new contract and much better opportunities.

Eventually, Davis freed herself altogether from the studio system, though she did not always use good judgment in the roles she selected for herself. She is remembered, however, for her superb acting talent, and for the breadth of roles she played. Elaine Stritch said of her: "Bette Davis taught Hollywood to follow an actress instead of the actress following the camera, and she's probably the best movie actress there's ever been."

By 1942, Davis was the highest paid woman in the United States. Years later, she was awarded the Civilian Distinguished Service Medal for organizing the famous Hollywood Canteen during World War II. She was the first woman to receive the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award, and the first woman to be president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Because of Bette Davis, women learned they could make demands on the brutal Hollywood system and still survive. And because of Davis, we can enjoy the company of Leslie Crosby, Judith Traherne, Charlotte Vale, and Margo Channing forever.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Only Lleyton Hewitt could manage this

According to the Press-Enterprise, former world number one tennis player Lleyton Hewitt was asked whether he thought Australian Open officials had dealt properly with American player Andy Roddick when he exceeded his ten minutes for a bathroom break. "Ten minutes?" Hewitt answered. "That's the women. It's not for the men; not for the real game, mate."

Hewitt, who has been toning his body and honing his asshole skills, managed to put down Roddick and women's tennis all in one phrase. After all, what is more insulting than implying that a man is a "girl"?

It should be noted that Hewitt was recently dumped by former women's number one Kim Clijsters. He doesn't appear to be handling it too well. Six weeks after he met soap star Bec Cartwright, he proposed to her. It wasn't just any old marriage proposal, either. Hewitt did it immediately after he lost the Australian Open final. Hewitt began seeing Cartwright in October after his engagement to Clijsters ended.

Another quiet Friday night bombshell

Friday evening, when no one was paying attention, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said that yes, Enron was acting illegally at the time it entered into contracts with western utilities and cities. This is what former California governor Gray Davis was practically screaming, but no one was listening. Instead, he was taken out of office by an unindicted sex criminal who just happen to have been at least one meeting with Kenneth Lay in California. Oh, the coincidence!

When Enron declared bankruptcy, it sued several cities and utilities for the money owed on the fake contracts. The defendants fought back, and it didn't take much digging (remember the famous tapes about taking Grandma's money?) to find the evidence.

And just one more reminder--Kenneth Lay is not in prison.

How your Angelz get down like that

Last month, you will recall, a National Guardswoman in Iraq was demoted for mud wrestling in front of a crowd of male soldiers. Clad only in their underwear, the wrestling women went at it to the delight of their peers. A few of those peers were singled out for counseling (I don't even want to go there), but Deanna Allen of North Carolina was demoted to private first class.

This month, the Army sent The Purrfect Angelz to Iraq to entertain the troops. The Angelz wear skimpy halter tops, hot pants, and military headgear, and do singing, provocative dancing, and "acrobatics." Imagine that. U.S. Air Force Captain Sharon Kibiloski, a public affairs officer, has spoken out about the show:

The show only appeals to men, and in my mind has the potential to increase sexual advances toward female soldiers afterward. To me, if the military really cared about sexual harassment, they would not sponsor such a show.

No one seems to know who booked the show, though it is likely that it was booked through the Army's MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) Unit, whose email address is actually the address of Halliburton, which built the stage and provided meals. Pro Sports MVP, an entertainment supplier, is also listed on the promotional flier.

What a load of mixed messages. Punish one soldier for mud wrestling, but let the others go. Punish no male soldiers for attending the mud wrestling event. Then bring on the barely dressed dancing girls to entertain all of the soldiers. Despite their constant speech-making to the contrary , no one in the military's circle of authority gets it. Soldier-on-soldier sexual assault and harrassment is on the rise, and the military's solution is to bring in the Purrfect Angelz to increase troop morale. Nowhere is contempt for women more obvious than in the U.S. military.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Friday cat blogging

Could we get some coffee over here? Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Agent Orange Lawsuit dismissed

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by 4 million Vietnamese people who claim that U.S. chemical companies committed war crimes by making Agent Orange for use during the Vietnam War.

The judge disagreed that chemicals such as Agent Orange could be considered poisons, and pointed out that the plaintiffs could not prove that Agent Orange caused their illnesses and disabilities.

10,000 U.S. veterans receive benefits for their Agent Orange disabilities. They had to go through hell to get those benefits, but just because the government finally relented on behalf of our veterans doesn't mean that Vietnames people with exactly the same symptoms can say that Agent Orange had anything to do with their disabilities. Of course not.

The case will be appealed, but cases involving Monsanto generally just go away.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

This is what an "animal lover" looks like

I went to get my hair cut last week, and there was a new person washing hair. She was a motormouth with a long-lasting battery, too, which means I didn't have to say anything. She said she was moving out of her big house and into a condo, but the condo rules permitted only two pets, and she had four--two dogs and two cats. She said her husband hated all of them, so he was no help, but she wanted to find homes for two of her "beloved" pets.

Then she told me what a dedicated animal lover she was, by way of telling me she had had her indoor (meaning the other cat was left to weather the elements, contract diseases, wreak havoc on other people's cars, gardens, and homes, get hit by cars, beaten up by dogs, abused by antisocial people, and wounded in fights) cat declawed. It's a good thing I couldn't get a word in, or I would have had a word she wouldn't have liked.

As if that weren't enough, she then told me about a neighbor who deserted her puppy for a week, leaving it with no shelter (in the winter), no food, and no water. She took the puppy in, and then apologized to the neighbor for doing so. When I could finally edge a word in, I asked what happened when the police came, and she said "Oh, I didn't call the police."

I was so thankful I have short hair.

International Women's Day observed by top White House hypocrites

Today is International Women's Day. The first American Women's Day, organized by the Socialist Party, was held in the early 1900's; some sources say 1908, others say 1909. The first International Women's Day was observed in Germany, Austria, Denmark, and a few other European nations, and the day received U.N. recognition in 1975, the Year of the Woman. The history of International Women's Day is a colorful one.

Today, first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice spoke on behalf of the observance. Rice did not even mention women's rights, but spoke only of women as part of a community helping to create democracy around the world. Bush, in her speech, did talk about women's rights: “We all have an obligation to speak for women who are denied their rights to learn, to vote or to live in freedom."

I agree that we all have an obligation to speak on their behalf. Perhaps someone should speak to Bush's husband, in fact, because he has done everything possible to deny hundreds and thousands of women and girls their right to reproductive health care and protection from death by AIDS. The women in rural Afghanistan and parts of Iraq would also like some protection from rape and sexual assault, and from the oppression of Islamic fundamentalism.

A few words about The L Word

The L Word, as glitzy soap operas go, is great television, even though I dislike all of the characters but two--Kit and Alice. (I could almost like Dana, were she not so stupid.) But that's what soap operas are all about, and two characters probably totals two more than I liked in Dallas or Falcon Crest.

It is interesting to me, though, that the two characters I like are straight (Kit, though she has been teetering into a strange, gender-bender world lately) and bisexual (Alice). As for Kit, how could you not like a good-hearted, recovering alcoholic dreamy singer played by Pam Grier, for god's sake? And I like Alice because she faces life with a somewhat level head, is kind to others, and seems to have a healthy self-image.

The other main characters--Bette, Tina, Shane, Dana, the second season-departed barracuda, Marina, and barracuda-in-training Jenny (also bisexual) are a mess. Bette is cold and distant, Tina is submissive and boring. The only stable couple on the show, they have now broken up. Shane is, as Jenny tells her, like "guys I dated in high school"--always ready for the chase, and terrified of the catch. Dana is a professional tennis player, which should appeal to me, but she is naive beyond my capacity to empathize.

The question that troubles me is: Have we reached a point in our culture that we can have a lesbian soap opera--meaning, a show about a group of dysfunctional people--without that appearing to be part of the gays-can't-have-healthy-relationships stereotype?

The answer is: I don't know. Part of me thinks that it is refreshing. Glam up some lesbians and let them be their neurotic selves for our entertainment pleasure. But there is also a bit of nagging doubt about whether we really are ready for The L Word. An argument can be made that people who hate gays aren't watching the show, but what about the thousands of homophobic people who don't hate gays, but, you know, isn't it a shame and all that?

And asking this question leads me to the inevitable question: If gay citizens were allowed to be married and were given their relationships given the same respect as heterosexuals' marriages, would they then have more successful relationships?

I don't know, but my guess is a great big Yes. Not that that says much, given the divorce rate in America.

It will be interesting to see how the characters evolve. Season 2 has just begun, but there are already signs that Jenny is developing a conscience and some insight. I may end up liking her, and since I write fiction, I do empathize with her writing woes.

The use of guest stars on The L Word is to be commended. Rosanna Arquette was on for a while last season, deliciously portraying an L.A. socialite who falls for Shane but goes back to her husband because of his money. The great Ossie Davis played Bette's and Kit's disapproving father. Arianna Huffington guest-starred in another episode, also involving Shane, in which she got to utter the line, "I heard someone say dykes are the new fags." Gloria Steinem, my personal idol, is due to do a guest role next month. And the first two shows of the new season have featured Sandra Bernhard (who was bound to have a guest slot some time or other) as a hard-ass professor of creative writing.

I'm sorry the producers changed the theme song so soon. The old standard, "Love Was Made For You and Me" was perfect for the show's title, and it lent a nice softness to the production.

Monday, March 07, 2005

In defense of Anna Kournikova

It is popular to put down Anna Kournikova, who is perceived as a no-talent, brainless blonde who traded on her good looks to become a kind of athletic Paris Hilton. Even the famously tactful Chris Evert once remarked, "She looks very pretty--there, I said something nice about her." The latest putdown comes from Mike Brewster in TennisLife magazine, in an article called: "The Queens of Bling--How to Succeed in Tennis Without Really Trying." In this article, Brewster makes the astonishing statement that Kournikova "earned an estimated average annual off-court income of $9 million while winning exactly zero WTA events during her eight years on tour."

What is startling about that statement is that Kournikova has 18 doubles titles, two of them Grand Slams. She was the number one doubles player in the world at one time, and she was consistently ranked in the top 10 singles players while she was active on the WTA tour. We may not like Kournikova's exploitation of her looks in pursuit of money, but that is a separate issue. It doesn't take away the fact that she is a very gifted tennis player.

A tennis prodigy, Kournikova came to the United States to train when she was nine. In 1997, she became the second woman (Evert was the first) in the Open era to reach the semifinal in her Wimbledon debut. However, her career was plagued with injuries, particularly injuries to her back.

Kournikova's mother is said to be on a par with some of the most distasteful tennis fathers in recent history, and one of my crackpot theories is that Kournikova unconsciously became injury-prone in order to get out of doing something she never wanted to do in the first place. At any rate, the injuries have repeatedly sidelined her, and now she is busy being rich and famous.

Brewster's disdain for Kournikova is obviously made possible by his disdain for doubles competition, a sentiment that is surprising in a sports writer, but perhaps, in this case, it just makes it more convenient to further spread misconceptions about Kournikova as an athlete.

American soldiers attacked by American soldiers

According to the Defense Department, from August 2002 through October 2004, 118 cases of sexual assault on military personnel were reported in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. The Miles Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps victims of military domestic violence and sexual assault, reports that it was contacted by 258 military assault victims in the combat theater during that time, and that number rose to 307 through mid-February. We have no way of knowing how many women did not make reports, but my guess is that the number is high.

Female soldiers who served in Iraq say that the rules against fraternization are completely ignored, and platoon leaders hand out condoms to soldiers.

The Sacramento Bee has a report about a woman who dared to press charges against her commanding officer, who then threatened to beat her up, and to beat up another woman who had joined the complaint.

General John Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, talking to reporters about the 142 reported sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy between 1993 and 2002, had this choice bit of wisdom to offer:

The contemporary culture is more promiscuous in recent years ... and people who come to the academy reflect the contemporary culture ... so it's not a climate at the Air Force Academy or a climate in the Air Force, there's a climate in the nation. You watch halftime shows at the Super Bowl or "Girls Gone Wild" or whatever the heck is on MTV, you can see what today's youth brings to whatever they do.

So, in the military, it is inappropriate to dress like the rest of the culture, or to spend your time like the rest of the culture, or to have autonomy like the rest of the culture, but it's just dandy to go ahead and emulate MTV and make female soldiers your victims. I think I get it now.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

"God hates A-mer-i-ca, dum dum de dum..."

That's one of the little ditties that Shirley Phelps-Roper (yes, she's his daughter) sings when she takes the God Hates Fags tour on the road. Phelps-Roper, as you can see, is grateful for the September 11 attack on our country, and she gives three reasons why:

"Because you are supposed to thank God for everything because all things flow from and depend upon the Lord, your God. The second is because he didn't kill all of us on September 11. The third reason is because it is a righteous thing. If you believe the Bible and you serve the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your soul and all your might, you know without even a question, if you have bothered to search the Scriptures, that it is a righteous thing when the Lord, God, executes judgment in that fashion upon a rebellious people. It is a comforting thing."

So there you have it. According to her father, the Rev. Fred Phelps, it was homosexuals who caused the demise of the Columbia shuttle, giving the term "gay power" a whole new meaning.

Everybody link to O'Reilly now!

I am a soldier in the war on copyright theft. I have had my copyrights stolen numerous times by people who either showed no remorse or showed a lot of ignorance when I confronted them. However, even an angry copyright victim like I knows that linking on the Web is both fair and legal. However, Bill O'Reilly doesn't know. Or at least he pretends not to know.

So get to linking, folks. I linked to him just last week.

As for equating weakness with females...that's another matter, isn't it?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Women's History Month: Honoring Billie Jean King

My first act as Minister of Second Wave Outrage and Pro Tennis Hoodoo is to honor the great Billie Jean King, a tennis genius who changed women's sports forever. King won Wimbledon 6 times, the U.S. Open 4 times, the Australian Open twice, and the French Open once. And that was just in singles. She also won 16 grand slam women's doubles titles, and 11 mixed doubles grand slams. She was ranked number one in the world 5 times, and holds a 52-4 win record as a U.S. Fed Cup member. She was twice captain of the Fed Cup team.

In 1973, King founded the Women's Tennis Association, which launched the Virginia Slims Tour. In 1974, she founded both the Women's Sports Foundation and Professional World Team Tennis. She was also the first female Comissioner in professional sports (Team Tennis), and the first woman to coach a professional mixed gender sports team, the Philadelphia Freedoms. King has been inducted into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame, the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and the National Women's Hall of Fame. In 1990, Life Magazine named her "one of the 100 most important Americans of the 20th Century."

King will always be remembered for her brilliant all-court play, but she commands just as much respect for what she did for women's sports. By breaking out and creating the WTA, King led the movement to recognize women's tennis as a separate entity and to provide equal prize money for women tennis players. Without Billie Jean King's resolve and courage, women would have continued to be treated as afterthoughts in the world of professional tennis.

Friday, March 04, 2005

So much for insight

It was disappointing, but not surprising, to hear both Whoopi Goldberg and Bill Maher come out in favor of whipping children on tonight's Real Time. Maher spent most of the rest of the show condemning different types of violence.

Military women in West Virginia getting touchy

After the Lyndie England affair, I guess the women of West Virginia want to be extra-careful about their image. After some female veterans objected to the new statue honoring women veterans, the project has been scrapped. The problem? The woman depicted in the statue was muscular and not "feminine enough."

"It's a beautiful piece of art. It's just not what West Virginia veterans think of when they think of women in the military," said the Air Force veteran who chaired the Veteran Affairs committee.

I get more dangerous as time goes by

In 2001, I learned from Jerry Falwell that I caused 19 terrorists to fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Naturally, I was flattered that he would acknowledge me. Now I learn from Bill O'Reilly that I am a terrorist. I am a member of the ACLU, and according to O'Reilly, we are terrorists because the ACLU has sued Donald Rumsfield for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody.

I have now become so evil that the only thing left for me is to become part of the Bush White House. Stay tuned.

Child porn and other diversions

Wayne Madsen has a piece worth your time in Online Journal. Madsen traces a history of unsavory sex scandals that were covered up in Republican administrations.

Friday cat blogging

Roxie and Velma like to share a bed Posted by Hello

Sometimes they fall out Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 03, 2005

In the news

According to Angus Reid Consultants, 76% of citizens in Britain agree with this statement:

It may be necessary sometimes to take action against people who have not yet committed any offence, but about whom the intelligence services have evidence that they are planning an act of terrorism.

The Iraq Health Ministry is saying that the U.S. military used nerve gas and mustard gas in Fallujah.

Sacramento County Judge Judy Holzer Hersher gave Arnold Schwarzenegger a bit of a kick in the butt today when she tentatively ruled that he illegally blocked a law increasing the number of nurses in California hospitals.

And finally...

I say we tell those liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock stocking-wearing, hippie, tie-dyed liberals to go make their movies and their music and whine somewhere else.

These poetic words were uttered by U.S. Representative Jim Gibbons, a Nevada Republican., during Friday night's Lincoln Day Dinner in Elko. Except Gibbons isn't as clever as you may think: He plagiarized this part of his speech from an equally inane, Constitution-bashing speech given by Alabama State Auditor Beth Chapman. I would love to use this idiocy against Republicans, but plagiarizing is, unfortunately, not limited to the moral-high-ground group.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

More homophobic scumbags take action

Thanks to Alas A Blog and Julien's List for bringing my attention to this utterly disgusting story from the Syracuse area: A Utica, New York lesbian couple has been banned from a health club because--you guessed it--they are lesbians. Throwing people out of your health club because they are gay is outrageous enough, but in this case, the outrage goes farther.

One of the women, Louise Bizzari, is the victim of medical malpractice and has osteoarthritis caused by treatment for a non-existent cancer. She has spent a decade in a bedridden state, and has been advised by her doctors that if she does not swim on a regular basis, she will lose her leg. Bizzari chose the Sitrin Center, a health club, because it offered handicap accessible parking. First the center refused to accept her partner's domestic partner coverage insurance, then refused to accept cash, saying there was no program suitable for her (all she needed was a pool). Bizarri and her partner were eventually taken out of the club by the police.

First, Bizarri was the victim of incompetent physicians and potent drugs. Then she discovered she couldn't park a car at other health centers. And now this. The ACLU has filed suit against the Sitrin Center under the state's anti-discrimination law.

Anti-gay attack in Chapel Hill

I used to live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, back when UNC was called "the Berkeley of the South." Imagine my sadness to learn of this incident, which occurred this week on Franklin Street, the main drag of the small university city. I don't know if the victim was gay, or the goons simply thought he was gay, but one or another, it is bad news. A year ago, three men were arrested for attacking a UNC senior, Gagandeep Bindra, and calling him "Osama bin Laden."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Memories from 1977

I just watched "Sisters of '77," the documentary about the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977. I wasn't a delegate, but I did attend, and I had forgotten a lot about what went on. There were so many leaders present: Bella Abzug (conference chair and chair of the Commission on Women), Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, Eleanor Smeal, Maxine Waters, Ann Richards, Coretta Scott King. To open the event, a torch was carried from Seneca Falls to Houston, and one of the torch-bearers was Wilma Rudolph.

I do remember the endless caucuses and the depth of conflict over the 26 resolutions, all but one of which passed. Minority women and lesbian women were there in great numbers to make sure their voices were heard and their needs were met, and there was also a contingency of anti-choice women in attendance. The ERA resolution was introduced by Ann Richards at the request of Bella Abzug, and--in a reversal of her former stand, Betty Friedan spoke on behalf of the lesbian rights resolution (Friedan had been afraid that including lesbians would hurt the image of the movement).

Another thing I remember well is the presence of protesters, led by Phyllis Schlafly, who wanted the world to know that those of us attending the conference did not represent the women of America. Only we did. And we still do.

One of the greatest disappointments after the conference was the sudden disappearance of President Carter as an active ally when we needed to ratify the ERA. The media had painted a picture of Carter as weak, and his advisors told him that the first thing he needed to do was dump the women's movement. He not only turned his back on the ERA, but in a big show designed for the press, he also fired Abzug as chair of the commission. It didn't help him. He still lost to Reagan in 1980. I like to think that he is ashamed of this part of his political life.

Toward the end of the documentary, Betty Friedan sums up her life: "3 children, 9 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren, 6 books, and a revolution."

If you're looking for "sexism," it's at the bottom of the list

I saw an argument (well, it was more like an group attack on one woman) on the Web about this. The people who responded to the poster's plea for non-sexist criticsm got defensive because, after all, Ann Coulter and her ilk deserve any kind of attack that's dished out to them. This is the kind of argument you expect from the oh, so enlightened people who post on "liberal" boards. But that was only one of the responses. The other, much more powerful, response was the old "we have so many important things to deal with, and you're bringing up language?" argument. Accompanied by the "we have so many important things to deal with and you're bringing up sexism?" response.

Once, I posted on a supposedly liberal board how insulting it was for a grown woman to be called a girl. The men attacked me, and the women said they understood, but they had "bigger fish to fry." I've said it a thousand times, so why not say it again? There is nothing more important than language. Language is how we express our deepest beliefs to the world. It is the currency of most thoughts and feelings. Language tells you what I really think and believe. It is the outward visible sign of everything that is inward.

Cynthia Tucker on Black History Month

According to Cynthia Tucker, a textbook distributor doesn't understand why a parent complained about a statement from a third grade history text that Africans were "brought to America to help work on plantations." The suburban Atlanta school board saw no problem with it, either. What is amazing is that the entire black population of the area didn't protest, but Tucker covers that also in her disturbing editorial.