Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sex and drugs and rock and roll on the side

Yesterday, General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the key is "to encourage our young come forward to help defend this nation...and to encourage the families of those young folks to let them follow their instincts."

Suddenly the Pentagon wants parents to step aside and let the kids follow their instincts.

The June garden

Canna 'Alberik'

Turk's Cap

Summit, New Jersey protects nation from terrorism by kicking homeless man out of train station

Richard Kreimer, a homeless man, has filed a suit against the city of Summit, New Jersey, for tossing him out of a train station and claiming its right to do so under the Patriot Act. But wait, there's more--Summit officials say that because of the powers given to them by the Patriot Act, the lawsuit should be barred.

Kreimer is seeking $5 million in damages against New Jersey Transit, the city of Summit, nine police officers, and several other people.

Some good news, thanks to the ACLU

There has been some progress in the Southeastern Louisiana University student teacher case. The ACLU asked for and received a restraining order that prevents the university from taking disciplinary action against student teacher Cynthia Thompson. In exchange, Thompson has turned her notebook over to a federal judge.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Anti-choice Republicans vote to expose fetuses to toxins

According to the thirty-seven Republicans who voted against banning the so-called EPA from using studies that expose people to pesticides--all "pro-lifers"--it is just fine and dandy to expose fetuses to pesticides. So a woman cannot decide if she wants to terminate a pregnancy, but Monsanto can maim or kill the fetus.

I am having a hard time understanding this "culture of life."

Shave their empty heads, wake them at dawn, kick their butts, and send them to the desert

Max Blumenthal, writing for The Nation, spoke to several of those in attendance at the College Republican National Convention in Virginia. Here is my favorite excerpt:

In interviews, more than a dozen conventiongoers explained why it is important that they stay on campus while other, less fortunate people their age wage a bloody war in Iraq. They strongly support the war, they told me, but they also want to enjoy college life and pursue interesting careers. Being a College Republican allows them to do both.

One interviewer said "I'm a fighter, but with words."

Oh, boo


I still spend idle time wondering how on earth it could have been legal for the Secretary of State of Florida to also be the campaign manager for a presidential candidate. Of all the things that happened in 2000, I think that one boggled my mind the most.

My fellow Americans

Are making me feel sick and ashamed. There are hardly enough words to describe what a hypocritical, dangerous, deceptive, democracy-bashing man he was.

Anyone who thinks there is "hope" right now need only look at this latest piece of shame to understand what kind of government people either want, or are too lazy and uninvolved to fight against.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Wimbledon--the second week

Sounding a bit like me, Pam Shriver asked everyone today to please stop saying "Wimbleton" and pronounce it correctly. In the next sentence, she mispronounced Elena Dementieva's name. Thank you, Pam.

NBC has triggered the anger of tennis fans beyond my capacity to describe. For the past couple of days, there has been a one-hour gap between ESPN2's morning sign-off and the time that NBC picks up coverage of the tournament. That is a disaster in itself, since some very big matches have begun (and some almost finished) in that hour. But then, when NBC coverage began its coverage, it showed reruns instead of the live matches. This is so irrational I cannot even guess what it is about, other than giving NBC yet another chance to show us Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick.

Venus Williams is too cool for the school, but she has pissed off the folks at Tennis X.

The Venus/Mary Pierce quarterfinal tiebreak was excruciating. What's going to be worse for me is when Lindsay Davenport and Amelie Mauresmo, two of my very favorite players--possibly the top two-- compete in Thursday's semifinal match. I can't bear for either of them to lose, which makes me a bit of a fragile sports fan. But it isn't just that they are two of my favorites; there is more conflict than even that: I want Lindsay to win another grand slam before she retires, and I want Amelie to win her first grand slam and get the monkey off her back.

In between watching matches this week, I read the new book, The Rivals, by Johnette Howard. The sub-title is Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova: Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship, and that covers it all. It's a wonderful book, full of WTA history and great stories of a time when the players on the tour had a strong bond because of the way they were changing the sport for women. Mostly, though, it is a tribute to two of the most talented women to ever pick up a racquet, their close and colorful professional and personal relationship, and their individual evolutions. There never was such a rivalry before, and there never will be again.

Quote of the week

"It is true that many Americans find the Commandments in accord with their personal beliefs, but we do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment."

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Thou shalt not give a damn about the First Amendment

In justifying his decision in the Texas Ten Commandments monument case, Justice Steven Breyer wrote that the monument in front of the Texas capitol "suggests little or nothing of the sacred." His reasoning was that since the monument was not standing on its own, but was one among several non-religious monuments, the context was neutralized. I understand that reasoning, but I disagree with it, and here's why:

By having one Judeo-Christian monument stand in a collection of non-religious monuments, the message is still clear that Judeo-Christian religions are being promoted. If the monuments included something that represented non-Judeo-Christian religions practiced in America, I would be more inclined to agree with the spirit of Breyer's decision. I probably still wouldn't be comfortable, but I would at least not feel the discomfort I now feel over the court's decision.

Already in place is a nationwide campaign to install Ten Commandments monuments in one hundred cities across the nation. The Christians who support this movement are not interested in "cultural" representation; they are interested in a "Yay, Jesus!" domination of the intellectural and cultural landscape of the country. Interestingly, they are not joined by Jewish citizens, to whom the Ten Commandments actually belong.

Perhaps now would be a good time to examine those Ten Commandments:

1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

I have to wonder how many of America's Christians could give me a decent recounting of the flight from Egypt and the subsequent tradition of making Passover bread and celebrating Passover.

2. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Many Christians have used the second commandment to bludgeon Roman Catholics, who use statues and crucifixes in worship. Those same Christians, however, think nothing of sticking oversized Wal-Mart creches in their front yards in November.

3. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

What is the misuse of the Lord's name? Most religions agree that curses including God's name are violations of the third commandment. But what about Jesus bumper stickers and T-shirts? Are they violations of the commandment, or are they just tacky beyond belief (pun intended)? Is a Hail Mary pass a violation of the third commandment?

4. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work--you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

Are Christians accepting Sunday (Saturday is the actual sabbath, as established by Jewish tradition) shifts at the grocery store check-out line? Are they standing in the grocery store checkout line, doing their weekly shopping? Running their power mowers? Cleaning the house? Going to the office to catch up on paperwork? It makes no differnce to me, but it violates the fourth commandment.

5. Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

This is my least favorite commandment, since so many hundreds of thousands of mothers and fathers do not deserve to be honored. On the other hand, the fifth commandment was radical for its time because it called for equal respect for both parents. This is probably one of the commandments most observed by Christians, yet the observance is often fake, and occurs at the cost of the observer's mental health.

6. You shall not murder.

Ah, the Christian Culture of Life. You shall not let fetuses or brain-dead women die, no matter what. But you should support a government that sends your children off to be killed in a sham war; that kills thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens; that ensures the painful deaths of hundreds of thousands of African women and children; that encourages citizens to murder judges and gay citizens. And you can chat about how to save those fetuses over a tasty factory farm lunch, thereby supporting the torture and painful deaths of billions of helpless creatures.

7. You shall not commit adultery.

We already know that born-again Christians have a 4% higher divorce rate than those who do not share a Christian belief. Are any of those divorces due to adultery? What do you think?

8. You shall not steal.

That would include from the government, which means that tax-cheating really is a no-no, as is copyright theft, which is now a national pasttime. It also means taking items from your workplace, raiding your families' possessions to support your drug or gambling habit, evading your financial obligations, and conspiring to commit insurance fraud. And co-opting someone else's religious tradition and pretending it's yours. Oh, and stealing Kerry signs from people's yards. And taking away people's right to cast a ballot in an election. And conspiring to rob thousands of Americans of their pensions when you are a trustee of the Methodist Church.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

What? No lying? That would put America's number one born-again Christian in an embarrassing position. Except it doesn't seem to matter.

10. You shall not covet your neighor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

You're not only not supposed to get it on with your neighbor's wife (or son or daughter, or whoever); you're not even supposed to want to. It isn't supposed to bother you that your sister has a Lexus and a four-bedroom house and you're working two jobs. Or that your neighbor went to Europe and you went to the lake for the weekend. Perhaps my perspective is off, but I haven't noticed Christians abstaining from envy.

The Christians who are celebrating over the Texas capitol court decision are no more interested in the Ten Commandments than they are in the Constitution.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I do not like them, Sam-I-am

Former Senator Sam Nunn, co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, is warning the nation that we are not prepared for a nuclear terrorist attack. Here's some news: We are not prepared for any kind of terrorist attack, especially when you consider how hard we have worked to invite terrorists to attack us. But Nunn has a lot of room to talk: It was he and fellow bigot, Colin Powell, who absolutely insisted how demoralizing it would be to have gays in the military. (Powell, who has a limited sense of irony, used the exact arguments against gays that had been used against blacks.) Consequently, the few (I know, what were we doing with a mere handful of Arabic-reading people?) people who could read Arabic were discovered to be gay and got the boot, making it more difficult for us to intercept terrorists' communications.

Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, makes it clear that the FBI has been totally useless in combating terrorism. When you add to that the turf wars that have ensued and throw in a ban on the only members of the military who could interpret priority communications, you realize how little anyone in charge cares about preventing terrorist attacks. Nunn, for his part, should be looking at the big picture, not at his fantasies about what happens in Army showers.

Quote of the day

From an interview with Venus Williams after her defeat of Jill Craybas in the Wimbledon round of 16:

Do you see Sharapova as the favorite to win it if it's not you?

I think that's for you to decide.

You know more about it than me.

I seriously doubt it. The way you guys write, you would think you all have played professional tennis before.

That's why we're asking you.

Let's try to move on.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

What happened to Serena?

In what most people thought was a shocking upset, Jill Craybas, the 85th ranked player in the world, defeated Serena Williams in straight sets yesterday at Wimbledon. It is easy to jump to conclusions about what happened; here are the facts as we know them:

  • Serena almost didn't make the trip to England because of a hairline fracture in her ankle and a subsequent lack of grass court preparation.
  • Her father said she became ill on Friday night. He also said he didn't think she should have entered the tournament, what with the fracture and her lack of play (she had to withdraw from the French Open).
  • Serena has not appeared to be in very good shape lately, and has been making more unforced errors than usual. During the match, she was struggling to get her breath.
  • She and her sister Venus have been shooting a reality TV show, and Serena has been involved in fashion designing.
  • Jill Craybas, one of the few players on the tour to come out of the college champtionships, has spent the last several months getting more fit and working on the mental part of her game. Deciding to bring her game up a level at age 30 is unusual, but that's what she did.

In other words, there was an accident waiting to happen. Craybas, in a stunning example of mental toughness, won a second set tiebreak against Williams and saved herself the agony of going to a third set, when she might have choked or Serena might have pulled one of the hundred rabbits she has been known to yank from her magic hat when she is down in a match. It was a wonderful win for Craybas, and a bitter loss for Williams, who was tearful throughout her post-match press conference.

Enter the public. A trip around the message boards reveals many theories circulating about why Serena lost, and most of them are not very nice. Some idiot on the BBC actually intimated the match was fixed so that Serena wouldn't have to play Venus in the round of 16. A related theory is that it was decided that Venus had a better chance against getting to the final and beating Maria Sharapova.

First of all, it is horrifying to suggest that the Williams sisters are dishonest when they have never done a thing to indicate they are anything but straight down the line in every aspect of their lives. Also, if Serena didn't want to play Venus or thought she shouldn't play Venus, she could have just not shown up at all. Surely she wasn't desperate to get the points she earned for making it to the third round.

A second theory is that Serena is on steroids and her body is finally deteriorating from use. That is also deeply insulting, and doesn't take into account the fact that every time Serena turns around, someone hands her a cup to pee in.

Theory number three is that Serena wasn't sick and her fracture wasn't that bad, but her father figured she would lose so he bought her some insurance by saying she was ill and in a lot of pain (Serena said nothing of pain in her pre-match interviews). People tend not to like Richard Williams--he can be a bit of an ass--but he has never given any indication of being dishonest. In fact, his problems arise from his unedited honesty.

A more reasonable theory is that Serena is out of shape from a combination of injuries (which, of course, can also be caused by being out of shape) and dividing her attention among too many projects. She is going to have to decide what to do about her tennis career. Many have suggested she get a coach other than her parents, and now might be a good time to listen to that suggestion.

The Williams sisters tend to attract either extremely loyal fans or people who love to trash them. They are very talented, outspoken, and sometimes appear to have inflated views of their own abilities. It should be noted that there is nothing a Williams sister has ever said that, if said by a man, would be considered anything but "cool." They do not conduct their lives in a "feminine" manner, but do and say what they please when they please, and much of it is highly entertaining. It is often assumed that Williams-hating has to do with racism, and I'm sure some it does, but I think it has just as much--if not more--to do with sexism.

The fact of the matter is, Venus and Serena are excellent role models for girls (not that it is their job to be so), and they have done a lot for women in sports, and especially for African American women and girls in sports. Tennis is like any other part of American culture; people like to kick you when you're down, and both sisters have been down lately. But their "down" is still better than most other players' best performances.

I will concede that I, too, get tired of the sisters--especially Serena--not giving credit to their opponents. Of her loss to Craybas, Serena said: "She didn't have to do anything exceptionally well today. She just pretty much had to show up." That is a typical Williams sister press conference comment. After her defeat at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, Venus said of Tatiana Golovin: "I don't think she came out there and beat me. I just kept making error after error...I just think I'm having a mental letdown from all the tennis I've been playing in the last four weeks, and I just felt pretty dead." Well, I was there, and Golovin quite clearly beat her.

So the Williams sisters aren't perfect. But they surely don't deserve the kind of verbal thrashing that they get every time one of them loses. Their games are off, yes, and that is upsetting to their fans. But they are still people, and--as far as I can tell--exceptional people.

In memory of James Whale and democracy

Tampa plunges to homophobic depths

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms, another conservative obsessed with matters sexual, has seen to it that her county, which includes Tampa, Florida, no longer supports gay pride events. A gay pride display at Tampa's West Gate Regional Library upset some library patrons. The exhibit, set up by a University of South Florida graduate student, was about gay authors, and it also included some pamphlets with information about counseling resources for adolescents who are confused about their sexuality. Storms was able to convince the commission to pass an ordinance prohibiting the county from promoting any gay pride event.

She says she was "troubled" by the pamphlet because --wait for it--"they referred children to youth groups outside Hillsborough County to explore their sexuality," and doing so could lead them to engage "in high-risk behavior."

Here's a high-risk behavior for you, Ronda--suicide. Gay adolescents are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than other teens. Why? Because of people like you, Ronda. When the family, the church, and the community tell children and adolescents that a fundamental part of them is sick, evil, or both, and then denies them the services they need to learn how to cope, it is an invitation to both active and passive suicidal behavior.

Shame on Hillsborough County. Deliberate ignorance is a sin, not something to flaunt in public.

Allied air forces commander confirms secret bombing raids

Lieutenant-General Michael Mosely, commander of the allied air forces during the Iraq war, has now said out loud what was arleady known via a leaked memo--that during the nine months preceding the official "beginning" of the Iraq war, allied aircraft flew 21, 736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 targets in Iraq.

According to Mosely, these raids took place under cover of patrols of the southern no-fly zone.

Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, the Downing Street minutes, and now a confirmation of the existence of the secret air strikes. These all reveal plainly that the plan to invade Iraq was on the front burner in 2001 (probably 2000) and was a done deal the next year. Can you say "war criminal"? The news media cannot.

Republicans lucky in Kentucky

Because they get the government jobs.

Only now, Governor Fletcher's administration has been busted.

The June garden

A tub of ornamental grass

Young shoots of black bamboo

Maria Sharapova's breasts marketed without Maria

Maria Sharapova said "I don't care what they're selling" when asked by a reporter if the WTA was selling sex to promote the women's tour. I hope she meant it, because now some Japanese entrepreneurs have decided to sell "Sharanpowan" breast pillows in three colors, and yes, the tennis "top" can be removed, revealing bare "breasts." The marketing even includes a man's hand handling the breast.

I do not know the legal implications of this marketing campaign. Changing the tennis star's name is obviously an attempt to avoid copyright violation, but it appears to this legal laywoman's eye that since everyone in the world knows it is meant to represent Sharapova, there ought to be some sort of legal recourse. Also at stake is the knock-off of the Nike logo.

Or maybe having her breasts strewn around pizza box-laden apartments is okay with Sharapova; I have no idea.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Radical lesbian feminists who sleep their way to the top

There are two traditional tactics used to discredit threatening female politicians: "She slept her way to the top," or "She is a lesbian." Both are about sex. Both are insulting, but for different reasons: One presumes that the woman had to "use" men to get power and that she is a "slut" (the double standard is very much alive and well); the other presumes there is something wrong with being homosexual.

Several years ago, there was a woman rising to political power in my state, and I heard both rumors about her. This was highly amusing since it implied that there were a number of very powerful lesbians in control of power in the state.

The "she slept her way to the top" argument has been used against Hillary Rodham Clinton for years, or--put another way--she was Yoko Ono'd from the get-go. The argument didn't have strong legs because she was married to the person from whom she supposedly drew power, which made the whole thing fairly wholesome, and therefore not very useful. Now, those threatened by Sen. Clinton have posited the lesbian argument, and have given it a kick by repeatedly saying "lesbian feminist." This phrase has long been used by the right wing to get across the message that: Feminists are lesbians, and are therefore even worse than they would be if they were just feminists. Equating feminism with lesbianism accomplishes two things: It labels feminists as homosexual, and--through faulty reasoning--as "man-haters."

The people who shout "lesbian!" at every powerful, somewhat liberal woman are the same people who also claim that the percentage of homosexuals in the population is much lower than those promoting the "homosexual agenda" would have us believe. Using their reasoning, the few lesbians who really do exist have a significant tendency to seek and gain political power. Obviously, they do it with mirrors.

The June garden

Chrysanthemums and the miniature rose 'Little Mermaid' bloom around the mailbox

Chrysanthemums bloom around the mailbox. They will bloom even more prolifically in the fall

What does it mean that you "do a lot" for Africa when you are killing thousands?

Both Bob Geldof and Bono, organizers of the upcoming Live 8 concert, have been busily telling the news media how much Bush has done for Africa--"more than any American president," Geldof says. Geldof is using an "empirical" approach to draw his conclusions, he says. Nonsense. He is crunching numbers, not looking at reality.

The reality is ugly. Hundreds of thousands of women and children can now get AIDS more easily because of the Bush administration's Africa policy, and thousands of African women will continue to commit suicide because of botched abortions. The White House plan was to make pharmaceutical companies rich and enforce an extreme right-wing brand of Christianity on a nation of desperate women and their children.

The news media has ignored the Bush administration's organized effort to wipe out women and children in Africa. Geldof and Bono are sickening.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Wimbledon--the tournament so far

It's been Wimbledon as usual, with long lines, strawberries, white tennis clothes, and, of course, a rain delay. There is increasing dissatisfaction with Maria Sharapova's so-called grunting, which is really more like screaming, yet no significant complaining about the men's grunting. Imagine that.

Emotional wreck Marat Safin, who thinks women are too emotional, whacked his racquet and got a warning that the next time he did it, he would be penalized. He did it again, and there was no penalty. Instead, he was defeated in the third round, which is all right with me.

Anastasia Myskina
and Jelena Jankovic played the most choke-riddled match in recent history, with Myskina finally prevailing, 6-0, 5-7, 10-8. Maria Sharapova implied that she let Sesil Karatancheva win a game so she wouldn't be double-bageled, and Karatancheva was justifiably angry to hear this. Svetlana Kuznetsova said Sania Mirza played her best best against her worst, and Mirza was not happy to hear that: "Did she say it was my best against her worst? Well thats her opinion and she's entitled to it, but I must say that she seems to be playing her worst a bit too often then. She must have forgotten that she lost to me in Dubai."

And so it goes. The commentators continue to mispronounce the players' names, the commercials featuring Sharapova, Andre Agassi, and Steffi Graf have been shown so many times that fans fantasize about slamming racquets through their television screens, and the really good matches don't get shown on television because Sharapova and Serena aren't in them.

There's depression and there's depression

A study done by Bristol and Oxford University doctors has found that "postnatal depression" affects a significant number of fathers, and that this condition can have long-term effects on their children's development.

Yes, many men do suffer some depression following the birth of a child. They often feel they have been shut out of their wives' affection and that they are no longer important because their wives are preoccupied with the newborns. This is a problem that is difficult to come to terms with, even for fathers who are very active in baby care. Also, the stress of having a new baby can cause a certain amount of depression.

According to the study, paternal depression significantly affects the development and behavior of children and adolescents.

Here is a quotation from researcher Lorraine Sherr that baffled me:

Antenatal care tends to be very woman-focused, but if fathers play a role in parenthood then they should be properly prepared too.

There is also very little recourse to services for fathers who are feeling depressed.

It is true that pre-natal care tends to be woman-focused, and I agree that there should be much more of it for fathers. However, post-partum depression, per se, is a hormonal disorder, and no amount of pre-natal care can prevent it. It is a case of estrogen run amuck, and its consequences can be very serious.

As for there being little recourse for services for fathers who are depressed, I have no idea what she is talking about, unless she means that no one can get psychotherapy in the U.K. In the U.S., any depressed father can walk into a mental health clinic or practice and get all of the help that he wants. I have seen many anxious and depressed new fathers in my own practice.

Exactly who is "soft on terrorism"?

I saw this list today, posted anonymously and later augmented, also by someone anonymous, and it is like the one I have in my head but have never bothered to write down. It is, however, the best argument against the current Republican "Democrats are soft on terror" rhetoric that I have seen, and its creators do want it circulated, so I am putting it here, with a syntax and punctuation clean-up:

It was a Democratic administration that captured and convicted the terrorists who attacked the WTC in 1993.

It was a Democrat who instituted the nation's first anti-terrorism policy, and who appointed the nation's first national coordinator of anti-terrorist efforts.

It was a Democrat who stopped the Al-Qaeda millennium hijacking and bombing plots.

A Democrat who stopped the planned attack to kill the Pope.

A Democrat who stopped the planned attack to blow up 12 U.S. jetliners simultaneously.

A Democrat who stopped the planned attack to blow up Boston airport.

A Democrat who stopped the planned attack to blow up the George Washington Bridge.

A Democrat who tried to kill Osama bin Laden and disrupt Al-Qaeda through preemptive strikes. These efforts were denounced by the G.O.P.

A Democrat who named the Hart-Rudman commission to report on the nature of terrorist threats and major steps to be taken to combat terrorism.

A Democrat who sent legislation to Congress to tighten airport security. The legislation was defeated by the Republicans because of opposition from the airlines.

A Democrat who sent legislation to Congress to allow for better tracking of terrorist funding. It was defeated by Republicans in the Senate because of opposition from banking interests.

But it was a Republican president who flaunted a 30-day vacation at his ranch in the month prior to September 11--a vacation coordinated by Karl Rove to convey a public image of the President as "relaxed, and taking things easy."

It was a Republican administration that drove not one but two anti-terrorism czars to resign in frustration, due to conflicts with the White House.

And it was a Republican National Security Advisor who, prior to September 11, crafted a national security presentation that included mention of the Star Wars missile defense program, Cuba's Fidel Castro, and unaccounted nuclear materials from the former Soviet Union--but no mention at all of Islamic terrorism.

It was a Republican who was put in charge of coordinating all anti terrorists activities, but who held not a single meeting until September 11, 2001.

The June garden--night-blooming cereus

A bud in its early stage

Here it is right before it opens

And then the bloom, which has a ghostly appearance and a lovely fragrance

Here are the first two blooms of the season

What do Americans really want?

What Do I Know? has a thought-provoking post today about Matt Miller, author of The Two Percent Solution, who spoke last night at the Royal Institute in London. But it is also a post about Americans' attitudes toward social progress, and about the real motives of our elected representatives. And it is worth reading.

Friday cat blogging--Wimbledon edition

Roxie checks out the fan seating for the ESPN broadcast

These matches are long--I could use a snack about now

Just call me Velmakova

Thursday, June 23, 2005

We can put the rape discussion to rest

Because now we know what causes rape--bar specials.

The Marine who was convicted of raping and sodomizing another Marine in Okinawa says the ten to fifteen beers he drank at 50-cent beer night caused him to forget that he wandered into one woman's room and assaulted her for half an hour, then went to a sleeping woman's room and raped and sodomized her.

Men in drag ban gay parade

From Pam's House Blend comes news that Jerusalem has banned this year's Gay Pride parade. This group of men helped put the kabosh on it back in March, and in April, Bill Maher showed their photograph, and said:

Okay, first of all, now, they got--because they’re planning a gay pride parade in Jerusalem. So all the religious leaders got together--I love this --first of all, this looks like a gay pride parade right here. I mean, this is just one penis-popsicle short of a gay pride parade. Look, there’s everything but the construction worker.

Lesbian Big Boob Bangaroo

That's the name of one of Mary Carey's movies, but she has now made it known that she would like to do a little real-life bangaroo with these women. And what with their dad inviting the porn star to dinner, another meeting could easily be arranged. Perhaps Lynne Cheney would then be inspired to write her next novel, and then Fred Phelps could hold a God Hates Dykes protest on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Where, oh where, are the Old Testament doomsayers when you need them?

A unusually large crack, 30 feet deep, has opened in the earth in Texas.

Would someone please define "the public good"?

Once again, I have to thank the horrible three, Rhenquist, Scalia, and Thomas, as well as O'Connor, for their dissent. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the government can sometimes seize private homes and businesses on behalf of developers.

The majority opinion was based on the standard that the government can now seize private property in order to build highways and bridges, and that in some cases, private development projects may "also serve a public good."

In a stinging dissent, O'Connor wrote:

The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.

Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private property, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.

As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.

The June garden

A pot of rosemary grows on the porch

Amaryllis on the deck--they have finished blooming but have not yet gone into dormancy

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I just took the latest Zogby poll

And it seems pretty obvious that Maria Shriver is considering hosting a radio show for women. That is the repulsive idea of the day, for sure.

Dorothy, Robert, Edna, Alexander, and the gang

Like we don't already have enough throws and afghans around the house, I had to get this one, a stunning rendering of the Algonquin Round Table group. Handmade by Buffalo Creek Weavers, it is really beautiful. A few years ago, when I was in New York, I looked up several of Dorothy Parker's former residences and haunts, guided by the wealth of information at Dororthy Parker's New York. I get the Dorothy Parker Society newsletter, and wish I could attend the functions.

Roxie relaxes next to Dorothy Parker. She is more interested in the relaxation factor than the literary factor, and both she and her sister are always thrilled to have a new blanket.

Lewis Carroll on Guantanamo

"...there's the King's Messenger. He's in prison now, being punished, and the trial doesn't even begin till next Wednesday, and of course the crime comes last of all."

"Suppose he never commits the crime?" said Alice.

"That would be all the better, wouldn't it?" the Queen said...

Alice felt there was no denying that. "Of course it would be all the better," she said: "but it wouldn't be all the better his being punished."

"You're wrong there, at any rate," said the Queen. "Were you ever punished?"

"Only for faults," said Alice.

"And you were all the better for it, I know!" the Queen said triumphantly.

"Yes, but then I had done the things I was punished for," said Alice: "That makes all the difference."

"But if you hadn't done them," the Queen said, "that would have been better still; better, and better, and better!"

Important health news from Planned Parenthood

Alas, A Blog references two Planned Parenthood studies that deal with the unique health problems of lesbian and bisexual women. This is important, and somewhat surprising information, and needs to be read by all women who are in sexual relationships with women.

Oh dem golden slippers

Nike has given Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer, the 2004 Wimbledon champions, ten pairs each of these shoes, which are encrusted with 24-karat gold on the sides, and are valued between $600 and $900 a pair, depending on whom you ask. Tennis analyst Mary Carillo calls the gesture "obscene." Sharapova appears happy with the shoes, and I haven't heard Federer make a comment.

While many of us may agree with Carillo's assessment of the shoes--she pointed out that one pair was worth about all Sharapova and her father had to their name when they came to America--gold-encrusted shoes are just a symbol of the excessive incomes our culture provides to athletes, entertainers and some artists (the musical and film stars with talent). It isn't fair, just as it isn't fair to say that artists who happen to be involved in the more popular art forms are not really artists because they make a lot of money.

I would rather Federer and Sharapova had the money than Kenneth Lay and John Rigas.

Layton, Utah orders man to take sign down

Last winter, a Layton, Utah city official told Mike Norton that the sign in his front yard, which honors and tracks dead American soldiers, was legal. But now, that official says he referenced the wrong code and has discovered that the sign violates zoning laws and must go.

The illuminated sign displays tiny photos of soldiers who have died in the Iraq war. Norton's house has been vandalized and he has received harrassing phone calls.

My guess is that the sign does violate zoning laws and that there really was a mistake made the first time. My question is: Would the law have been applied if the sign said Jesus Saves?

And I don't care much for Moore's yellow headline.

The Ohio election report

Is now available.

The June garden

Back door garden

Close-up view of back door garden

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tennis announcers show little respect by mispronouncing names

Every time we have a Grand Slam tournament--or any tennis tournament, for that matter--I become upset all over again that the highly-paid commentators who are supposed to be experts cannot pronounce the players' names. They show little respect for players, and even insult them over the name issue.

Though she has been a U.S. citizen for many years and is one of the great sports icons of all time, hardly any American commentators bother to pronounce Martina Navratilova's name correctly. And Maria Sharapova changed the pronunciation of her name because she didn't want to hear it mispronounced throughout her career. Neither name is difficult to pronounce; commentators are just plain lazy and obstinate when it comes to name accuracy.

I cringed today when Tim Ryan totally mangled Spanish player Nuria Llagostera Vives' name, calling her "Noria Lagastor Veevs." A while later, he pronounced Alina Jidkova's name with a soft "g" and the accent on the second syllable. To make matters worse, he pronounced "Wimbledon" as "Wimbleden" (which I suppose is better than the "Wimbleton" we sometimes hear). The commentators routinely misprounce the names of players like Svetlana Kuznetsova and Sesil Karatantcheva. And I rarely hear Elena Dementieva's name pronounced correctly. Even if you don't have a knowledge of how certain nations pronounce certain letters and phrases, it isn't that difficult to look at the WTA pronunciation guide...unless you are too lazy and arrogant to do so.

One is tempted to say that this is a problem Americans have with pronouncing foreign names, only John McEnroe (who routinely destroys Justine Henin-Hardenne's name)--after all these years--still cannot pronounce Jennifer Capriati's name. Go figure.

The selling of Maria Sharapova--part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about the literal dangers that young, presumably attractive WTA players now face because their looks have been sold to market the tour. I cut these players some slack because they are so very young and perhaps don't understand the folly of what they are doing, especially in today's post-Second Wave environment in which sexist behaviors that used to be condemned are now celebrated. But the tour itself should be ashamed, as should the parents and managers of the women in question.

We saw the whole tennis=sex phenomenon explode when Anna Kournikova came on the scene. Kournikova's career was cut short (although she has not retired from the tour) by a series of injuries, but she has continued to make millions of dollars for her looks. As for Sharapova (whom I do not understand why people find physically attractive, but then, it is the unformed face on which people can project the most), her manager, Max Eisenbud, has been quoted as saying "Within a few years the name 'Maria Sharapova' will be a brand as universally recognized as Calvin Klein, BMW and Rolex."

And there you have it. You may be wondering where Sharapova's parents are in all this. Her father appears to have all the makings of a Jim Pierce, a Damir Dokic, or a Peter Graf--the troika of tennis father hell--and I don't even like to think about his possible motives. Her mother appears to be absent from the tennis scene. In short, there may not be anyone around who can protect her from what is happening to her.

Though she certainly didn't mean to be amusing, Sharapova was pitifully funny when she said in a recent interview that she was 100% tennis player when she was on the court and 100% businesswoman off the court. Bear in mind that she just turned eighteen. She is quite poised and has learned what it is like to suffer--her early years were far from carefree. She was taken from her mother when she was very young and sent to train vigorously in America, where she said the social climate was hardly conducive to her feeling accepted.

She is also an extremely talented tennis player, though she has not yet learned to play on the clay courts, and prior to the start of this season's Wimbledon tournament, most forecasters did not expect her to defend her 2004 title (that may change now that Justine Henin-Hardenne has been eliminated). Sharapova, who also won the WTA 2004 end-of-year championship and who has won a total of ten singles titles and three doubles titles, is hardly a flash in the pan. But even if she keeps her eye on the ball and doesn't succomb to the dangers of celebrity, she is still the biggest cog in the WTA sex marketing machine.

Maria herself put it best. Speaking of Kournikova, she said in an interview: "People seem to forget that Anna isn't in the picture anymore. It's Maria-time now."

Quote of the day

Speaking at a fund-raiser in Boston yesterday on Republicans' desire for a smaller government:

"...their government is just big enough to fit inside Terri Schiavo's bed in the nursing home...."
Howard Dean

The best first-day-of-summer celebration possible

Is mine all mine. I had my first Creole tomato sandwich of the season today. It is hard to explain the Creole tomato to someone who has never eaten one, but suffice it to say that the second day of Wimbledon and the first Creole tomato sandwich totally makes my day, despite the terrible thing that happened in the first round of the tournament.

Daniilidou's win wasn't a total surprise to me; I said yesterday I thought it might happen. Despite most of the tennis press and most tennis forecasters saying Henin-Hardenne would win the tournament, I knew she would have trouble against the recently-returned-from-injury Daniilidou, provided Daniilidou didn't cave in to fear. Only yesterday, world number one Lindsay Davenport told an interviewer she wasn't too sure about Henin-Hardenne's chances to win Wimbledon.

Yesterday, one of my favorite players, clay court expert Patty Schnyder, was knocked out in the first round, too. But at least I still have Lindsay, Amelie, Kim, and tomato sandwiches.

The June garden

Grandpa Ott morning glories

Monday, June 20, 2005

Skin, stalking, and Maria Sharapova

There have always been women tennis players whom many people found physically attractive: Chris Evert, Gabriela Sabatini, and Amanda Coetzer would all be considered easy on the eyes by many people. But none of these players had to deal with stalkers and near-stalkers, or at least not in the volume that some players must deal with them today.

Maria Sharapova, Gisela Dulko, and Daniela Hantuchova all have to contend with male fans who have no concept of decent boundaries. As I write this, Maria Sharapova's stalker has been banned from the Wimbledon tournament by Wimbledon officials.

What has changed is that the WTA players who are considered attractive are marketed like mad for their looks. Whether it is Hantuchova's posing for Italian Vogue, Tatiana Golovin's posing underwater, or one of Maria Sharapova's many modeling shoots, sex is being sold.

The Canon commercial featuring Sharapova is so clever and so well-done, I could almost like it, except for the fact that Maria behaves extremely seductively in it, and the ad would have been just as clever and artful had she not done so. Pulling a camera from her tight tennis shorts and doing a Marilyn Monroe turn with her shoulders gets the point across, and how.

Most of the girls and women on the WTA tour are very young, and the professional pressure they have is enough to give them considerable stress. Those who are considered attractive get more endorsements and more photographic opportunities, and they also become more vulnerable. Only a few decades ago, the women's movement would have put an abrupt end to some of the ads that we see today, but now sex sells as well as it ever did. In fact, when an interviewer asked Sharapova if the WTA was selling sex to market its tour, her answer was: "I don't care what they're selling."

Mouse-blogging Wimbledon

On this first day of the Wimbledon tournament, I bring you two things that could not be more British--tennis and mice. The harvest mouse is England's smallest mammal, and it is also one of its most endangered species. Harvest mice generally weave spherical nests out of reeds and grasses, but the lucky harvest mice at the Aquarium of the Lakes in Cumbria can do a lot more nesting because the aquarium staff has provided them with ready-made nests.

Tennis balls used at Wimbledon are provided for the mice, who are breeding happily in their new nests.

This would probably be a good way to use the balls that Tim Henman discovered were being taken out of their cans a week before the matches, causing poor bounce.

The June garden

Purselane blooms in a bucket

And the buckets hang from an old gate that leans against the deck wall

Quote of the day

Regarding the new interpretations of federal regulations that would require websites that feature sexually explicit photographs or videos to keep records confirming that the performers are of legal age:

"People are pretty freaked out," said porn webmaster Jim McAnally, who estimates that more than half of hard-core websites, including some of his, will have to dump significant numbers of photos and videos. "This will affect people from top to bottom."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

But what about the Dixie Chicks?

Visiting the right wing

Though I rarely read what Free Republic people say, occasionally, it is instructive to take a gander. These are my current favorites:

Regarding the Senate's proposal to apologize for not passing an anti-lynching law:

What is happening here is is that the Senate is about to apologize for not expanding Federal power over the individual states including taking over police powers even bigger and sooner.

On Barack Obama:

A total of 72 percent of Illinois adult residents gave Obama the thumbs up.

But, would they want their daughters to marry one?

And my favorite:

But Dick Durbin alone is responsible for his words. And should the blood of Americans abroad be shed because of his grandstanding fatuity, he must be held accountable.

I guess confidental is no longer confidental either.

Sadly, it isn't. I was especially disappointed in the last confidental breakfast I was served in a hotel.

On fathers

Jesse Taylor has a painful and beautiful post about Father's Day at Pandagon. It is so good, in fact, that I am mentioning it without commentary; just go read it.

From where I sit, it appears that fathers are much more involved with their children today than they were a few decades ago. However, I still don't see corporate threats made against them if they take time off to take their children to the doctor or attend a teacher conference. Are they not doing these things, or is it just women who do so at the risk of destroying productivity?

I see a lot of adolescents in my psychotherapy practice, and while some do come in with their fathers or with both parents--a promising sign-- most still come with their mothers. After divorce, there are still a lot of fathers who move away and see their children only a couple of times a year, and there are still thousands of deadbeat parents, most of whom are fathers.

It is a pity that the Fathers' Rights movement has perverted a very real problem into a campaign against women. I say a very real problem because I sometimes have to help fathers take extraordinary measures to get to see their children the way the court has said they can. There is a reluctance within the judicial system to force mothers to abide by custody agreements. I am not talking about cases in which the father is dangerous or is a bad influence, but cases in which the mother uses the custody situation to punish the father, thus also punishing the children. However, some of the solutions offered by the Fathers' Rights movement are unrealistic and suspiciously motivated.

Even though you can turn out just fine without one, fathers are important. Good ones, anyway, just as good mothers are important. A good father is a teacher, a protector, and a nurturer. Heterosexual girls with good fathers develop high standards in their choice of a mate, and boys with good fathers learn how to be good men.

Censoring stories about the realities of war is nothing new

MacArthur did it too.

The June garden--another visitor

A box turtle relaxes in the mulch

Then hustles off into the grass


Today is Juneteenth. In my very small city, there are two Juneteenth public picnics being held, and in larger communities, the event is being commemorated with prayer breakfasts, festivals, concerts, picnics, and art shows.

In light of the Senate's recent apology for failing to pass an anti-lynching law, there is at least a little bit of public discussion about the abominations of slavery and all that followed in this country and others. As a rule, non-African Americans don't talk much about slavery except to say that it was "terrible" and "in the past." In Requiem for a Nun, Faulker said: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

Slavery, in one form or another, is alive and well throughout the world, as are genocide and torture and imprisonment of the oppressed. And that's just the human creatures.

Here are some poems for Juneteenth

Conservatives in the magic circle

Yesterday I attended a couple of professional workshops, and I met a very nice, bright woman who lives in Florida. We chatted together throughout the day, and she desribed to me the extreme right-wing mindset of her community. She also told me about a group of pagan Republicans in Florida, a concept I found quite entertaining. But guess what? They're not just in Florida. And why are they calling themselves the "minority within the minority"?

Unfortunately, the website is under construction so there is nothing much to read. How does one worship the Goddess if one belongs to a group that not only denigrates women, but also pushes right-wing Christianity at every turn? How does one practice paganism if one belongs to a group that is on a mission to destroy the environment? When you think about it, though, I suppose this is no stranger than Catholic feminism, another movement that has always mystified me.

Young people--even the hip ones--avoid great musical event

Last night we went to a performance by Karen Akers, and--just as when we saw her a year and a half ago--there were no young people in the club. This was a sophisticated club in a city that is very sophisticated about music, so why isn't anyone young taking advange of seeing and hearing Akers, who is arguably one of the two greatest cabaret singers (the other being the sublime Ute Lemper) in the world? It mystifies me.

Fresh from a two-week gig at the Oak Room of the Algonquin, Akers performed her latest show, "When a Lady Loves" (which she said she really wanted to name "Love Songs--Get Over it"), featuring songs by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Stephen Sondheim, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, and other classic American composers. She vamped with "You've Got Possibilities," clowned with "I'm the Laziest Gal in Town" and "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love," and sang the best version of "They Can't Take That Away From Me" that I've ever heard, and I've heard many. Her final encore was the same one she sang for her previous show, "Theatre Songs"--"Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien," made famous, of course, by Edith Piaf. It was worth the price of the ticket just to hear that one song.

It saddens me not only that so many music-lovers do not take advantage of hearing someone as wonderful as Akers, but also that the time is approaching when we hear someone of reasonable intelligence say "Who is Gershwin?" I had an experience a few years ago that really brought this possibility home: A music-loving woman in her early thirties asked me who I thought was the greatest female singer of all time, and I replied, without hesitating, "Judy Garland." She looked blank, and then said, "She sang? I thought she was actress."

And I thought I was past being shocked by anything

News from Pandagon today is that a school nurse in San Marcos, Texas coerced a 15-year-old student to take a pregnancy test. The nurse told the student that a student at another school said he had impregnated her.

The school says its action was compliant with a part of the Texas Family Code that states that "a child may consent to medical treatment by a licensed physician if the child 'is unmarried and pregnant and consents to hospital, medical or surgical treatment, other than abortion, related to the pregnancy.'"

Obviously, this is a very twisted reading of the law, and also does not take into account the fact that a nurse is not a licensed physican. The student and her father have filed a federal lawsuit against the nurse and the school district. The "consent" which the student gave is on par with the "confession" some arrested people give to the police. The girl was afraid to refuse to take the test.

But aside from the fact that no reasonable reading of the law would permit a minor to "consent" to a pregnancy test administered by a person not even recognized by that law, what business is it of the school's whether one of its students is pregnant? Are they afraid all the girls will want to become pregnant? Or that the other students might start having sex? Shouldn't they be rejoicing that the girl isn't homosexual?

You can't please these people.

If the context were any closer, they'd trip over it

In the public discussion of the Downing Street Minutes, reasonable (as in, not neo-Con-supporting) people interviewed on television say that the information in the minutes must be looked at within a context, and not just on its own. I agree, because I believe that all information has to be examined within a context and not on its own.

What is frustrating the hell out of me is that these same people are waiting for the context to appear, despite the fact that it is right under their noses. All the talk is about who said what after September 11, but we have information from two respected Republican White House staffers that Bush and his neo-Con cronies talked excessively about invading Iraq as soon as they moved into the White House. This would have been over a year and a half before September 11, 2001. Why aren't any of the more enlightened (I use that term loosely) news show guests mentioning that, and why isn't even one commentator mentioning it? O'Neill and Clarke no longer exist in the eyes and ears of the news media, and that includes even the more liberal columnists and analysts.

Good new/bad news

The good news is that the paper did publish my letter, and in the Sunday edition. The bad news is that they cut some of it in order to fit in onto the page. Still better than nothing.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Margaret Carlson is now officially insane

On this evening's "Capital Gang," she spoke of Sen. Clinton's possible run for the White House and called former President Clinton a liability for her because "people will think if she can't keep the dog in the house, how can she keep the terrorists at bay?"

Friday, June 17, 2005

The June garden

A salamander pays us a visit

Patients die, but political corpse-feeding doesn't

Today, Florida governor Jeb Bush asked a prosecutor to investigate why Terry Shiavo collapsed fifteen years ago, in a probe related to how long it took her husband Michael to call 911.

In related news, I have asked anyone I can find to investgate why democracy collapsed five years ago, in a probe related to how long it took Governor Bush to steal the Florida presidential vote for his brother.

But it looked like a liver from the sofa

Thanks to Tennessee Guerilla Women for mentioning the obvious about Dr. Frist.

P is for poltroon

It sure doesn't stand for Pelosi.

Survey shows an increase in mental health treatment

Americans are more likely to seek mental health treatment today than there were ten years ago, according to a study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health. That is good news, and is due, I suspect, to the advent of managed care, not to any reduction of stigma about mental health treatment. Managed care plans often require consumers to pay copays as small as $10 or $15 per treatment session, as opposed to the indemnity plans' copays, which could run anywhere from $20 to $50. Clinicians make less money with managed care plans, but more consumers can afford to get treatment.

Southern Baptists in doldrums

The Southern Baptist Convention is said to be "in the doldrums" (which I believe is somewhere between Sodom and Dallas), and "faces a challenge to determine whether it is on the right path." So says president Rev. Bobby Welch of Daytona Beach, Florida. There is apparently disagreement over whether Southern Baptists should pull their children out of public schools, and there is concern that the baptism rate has not increased during the last several years.

Let me help you out, Bobby: No, the Southern Baptist Convention is definitely not on the right path. Declaring women inferior to men is ignorant, as is declaring gay people immoral. God is not a "He," and--if you really mean that part about opposing war, where the hell have you been for the last few years? Here's another tip, Bobby--spending millions of dollars on the poor and homeless would be more Christ-like that putting it into hundreds of multi-million dollar very ugly buildings.

Louisiana bends over again, gets another good kick in the ass

In the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I, there is a song with the lyric "Give us a kick if you please; your Majesty, give us a kick if you would, your Majesty...oh, that was good, your Majesty!" Louisianians are singing that song this week, now that they've gotten the latest kick from the White House.

A year ago, the House of Representatives, under pressure from Bush, cut the desperately needed $37 million Louisiana coastal restoration budget by $20 million. Yesterday, Bush announced he is opposed to giving coastal states up to $500 million a year in royalties from oil and gas drilling off of their coasts. The plan was for that money to be used for coastal restoration. Bear in mind that inland states currently collect 50% of royalties from oil, gas, and coal mined on federal lands within their borders.

Louisiana, which used to be identified with the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, has become increasingly Republican and voted overwhelmingly for Bush in both 2000 and 2004. However, at this rate, all of its problems will eventually be eliminated when it falls into the Gulf of Mexico.

Friday cat blogging--guest edition

My friend Alison's beautiful cat, Comet

And my friend Bob's lovely Cali

Thursday, June 16, 2005

You can still get the job done

Because you don't have to flush them.

Couldn't they at least mention them?

We are now listening to a hearing, discussions of a hearing, analyses of a hearing, conversations about a hearing, etc. But why isn't anyone talking about Paul O'Neill and Richard Clarke? Why is everyone acting as though the Downing Street Minutes are the great a-ha! for understanding the Iraq War motivation?

I understood the motivation and I don't have any geo-political expertise. O'Neill and Clarke both presented concrete proof of the intention to invade Iraq as soon as the decorators were through with the Lincoln bedroom. The press either ignored them or gave them very brief interviews. But now that we have the Downing Street Minutes, it would be powerful to put them up against the transcripts of conversations recorded by the two former Republican White House staff members.

So why the hell isn't anyone doing that? It's what you call the whole picture, and it isn't being displayed.

Just guess

Who got the $30 million contract to build a new dentention facility and security fence at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay? You guessed correctly.

Have you seen me? has a new ad.

My bad day

I am surrounded by the ignorant, but I usually don't have them right in my face, or at least, acting out right in my face. Today was different. In the local newspaper, a woman had written a letter in which she decried cockfighting. However, she hastened to add that--though she thought killing birds for sport was wrong--it was okay to slaughter them for food because that is why God gave them to us.

I do not share her belief about other animals being here for us to slaughter, eat, and wear. But there was a more relevant issue at stake: The cockfighting supporter she was addressing had written that he didn't understand why people get so upset about cockfighting when hundreds of thousands of chickens are slaughtered every day for food. I agree with him, which just goes to show you that everything is relative.

As abhorent as cockfighting is, what happens to factory farm chickens is much, much worse. The U.S. Congress has exempted chickens from the Humane Slaughter Act, so the treatment of chickens is even worse than the treatment of other factory farm animals (which is horrific enough). I wrote a letter to the editor explaining the the woman who was against cockfighting, if she was buying factory farm chickens (which I'm sure she is), is participating in more cruelty than even the cockfight fans. I didn't hear from the newspaper, which means my letter was not selected.

That was bad enough. But this afternoon, I took a break to have a cup of coffee at my local bookstore cafe, and was subjected to a mother and daughter--the girl looked to be about 16 and was wearing a W 04 T-shirt--sitting at a table reading aloud to each other from Ann Coulter's book, How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). I wanted to walk over there and say to the mother, "How could you fill a child with such hate?" But of course I didn't because I am not rude and inapppriate like the people who worship Coulter.

I did walk by their table, though. If one of them had said "hello," I was prepared to answer "Whoa--better finish that book before you try talking to me."

21st Century news flash

Rape is a crime against women, and not a crime for which women are to blame. We were screaming this at the top of our lungs in the 70's, and here we are, in a new century, screaming it again. Hello, we're still here, and what part of "against her will" don't you understand?

A man who was convicted of raping a woman (and for that matter, physically abusing a number of men) went to prison but didn't miss a beat in his reign as a sports icon. A man who repeatedly sexually assaulted women, one of whom allegedly was an adolescent, was elected governor of California. Rape and sexual assault run rampant in the U.S. military, both in the field and at military academies, and women who report it are punished. A man who has been accused by his former wife of forcing her to participate in group sex is the nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

If I were given to riffing on the catchphrases of moronic hypocrites, I'd say that what we have here is a culture of rape.

If a man walks down the street alone counting the bills in his money clip and stops to talk to a stranger who then robs him, there is not a discussion the next day at every coffee shop in America about what an idiot the man was. There is certainly not a consensus that the robbery was his fault. Because it wasn't. But if the same scene involves a woman walking by herself and getting raped or sexually assaulted, well, what was she doing out alone? Didn't she know not to talk to strangers? I heard she'd been drinking. Not only that, she was wearing a cropped shirt.

No one said about the guy in Deliverance "What the hell was he doing alone in that swamp?"

Becoming hyper-cautious doesn't work, either. Once, I was walking alone in a big city. A man came toward me on the sidewalk, and my instincts told me to avoid eye contact. When we passed, he moved over to where I was, got in my face, and said "Scared bitch!" to me.

I thought that now that I was older, I was forever finished hearing the verbal assaults of men who still haven't gotten the message that it is crude to yell sexual things to women. No way. Several months ago, I went to a nearby city and was walking around in the university area when a group of young men yelled and whooped at me from the balcony of a fraternity house.

It is true that some young women do use very poor judgment in choosing to go off with men whom they do not know. However, "young" and "poor judgment" go hand in hand. I shudder to think of some of the stupid things I did when I was a very young woman.

It is also important to note that many of these young women were victims of childhood sexual abuse, often by family members. Their boundaries have been violated in such a way that they no longer have a clear idea of what their boundaries are, and they are prone to make poor decisions regarding them. Also, many of them believe, at least unconsciously, that they are not particularly good for anything but attracting men. And they are almost always unconsciously seductive. In short, they need help, not more sexual assault and rape.

The American culture absolutely supports the sexual assault and rape of women and girls. I no longer have any doubt about that. The rapists have the public on their side (though the public is probably willing to capitulate if the victim is white and the perpetrator is of color), and women and girls who report rape--and thousands of them don't--are shamed just as much today as they were thirty years ago.

The June garden

Gladiolus 'Atom' unfurls

Indigo blooms are almost hidden under the leaves

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Katie Holmes "digs" Scientology

A recent story on Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes has the media asking Cruise if he has plans to propose to her, and he implies that he does. Nowhere is there evidence that anyone asked Holmes whether she has plans to propose to Cruise. That's not even a consideration in this culture, but then, it's only the 21st Century, so I need to lighten up.

There is a rumor that Cruise has hired a Scientology "keeper" to follow Holmes around, and it doesn't take much for me to believe it. God knows, the poor woman might take a Tylenol or decide to get a Pap test.

Holmes, a Roman Catholic, is making a big old frying pan-fire leap, going from a religion that abuses women and children to one that is constantly under criticism. "She digs it," Cruise says of his religion, which is highly controversial. Scientologists appear to be a very litigious group, and they have been accused of everything from mind control to negligent homicide. They are also known for being anti-gay (founder L. Ron Hubbard's son, who was said to be "confused" about his sexuality, killed himself in 1976).

Let us assume for a moment that Scientology is a harmless, even beneficial, religion. We are still left with the reality that Katie Holmes is converting to it, rather than the other way around, or rather than both she and Cruise retaining their own religious beliefs. Is this phenomenon a result of the church's chronic proselytizing, or of Cruise's? One is tempted to say it is sexist, but I should note that Cruise's first wife, Mimi Rogers, was married to a Scientology counselor before she met Cruise, and is credited with converting Cruise.

Nicole Kidman is no longer a Scientologist, and it was generally believed that she never really embraced the religion, despite Cruise's efforts to get her to do so. It probably didn't help that Scientology is opposed to psychiatry, and Kidman's father is a psychiatrist. Kidman, by the way, is also Catholic. Penelope Cruz, a Catholic, also explored Scientology during her relationship with Cruise.

Cruise, Kirstie Alley, Anne Archer, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Lisa Marie Presley, and Greta van Susteren are all Scientologists. can van Susteren be a Scientologist and get all that face work done? Surely it was done by a doctor, and surely she took some pain medication. This is a complicated religion indeed.

When did people forget how to learn?

Every few years, I decide take on a new interest: organic gardening, computer proficiency, etc., and each time I do, I seek to know as much about the subject as possible. I read books, question people who are already proficient, take classes. Then, when I learn how to do something reasonably well, people say things to me like "Oh, you know so much about it" or "I don't know enough to do that" or "well, I can't do that--I don't know how."

But, I tell them, I didn't know how, either. I learned how. They then tend to change the subject.

It doesn't take much effort at all to learn how to do some things well, and not learning can result in terrible consequences. What has happened to our culture that the simple process of finding out what something means or how to do something correctly is avoided by so many people? Not having Internet access is no excuse; I did pretty well when I relied on the local library or bookstore.

Is it a time problem? Is everyone so busy that s/he can no longer afford to learn something new?

Is it laziness?

Or is the entire skill of learning something we have forgotten?

Deciding the fate of women and the FDA

Be sure to check out Alas, A Blog today for a complete run-down on Lester Crawford and the joke that has become the FDA.

I'm going to cut Cheney some slack

Regarding this. After all, he may have forgotten that in Vermont, they don't rig the elections.

Doing the math in Iraq

The BBC's "One Day in Iraq" statistics are not pretty. The all-encompassing figures of June 7 include the folowing:

67 people injured in 4 car bombings

13 hours of electricity in Baghdad; 4 hours of electricity in Basra

25% of Iraqis completely dependent on government food hand-outs

50% of Iraqis with no access to safe drinking water

1,800,000 barrels of oil produced

The June garden--visitors

A chameleon visits the polyantha rose, 'The Fairy'

And proves to be quite agile

A toad sits on a bag of mulch

So where is the FBI?

Rev. Fred "God hates fags" Phelps is taking a break from protesting at the funerals of gay people and has begun a program of protesting at the funerals of U.S. soldiers. In case you're slow to catch on to Phelps' special logic, here's how it goes: U.S. soldiers, before they were in Iraq fighting, were here with us living the immoral American lifestyle that God hates. So it is fitting to protest their lives when they die.

If a Muslim person in the U.S. were to protest an American soldier's funeral on the grounds that Allah hates the American lifestyle (which is what Islamist fundamentalist believe), the FBI would be all over that person, and he or she would be arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist. As far as I know, no FBI agent has chatted with Phelps.

The other thing that troubles me is that a lot of the people who will be sickened by the obscenity of Phelps' protesting at a soldier's funeral probably weren't that disturbed over his protests at the funerals of gay citizens. Just a guess on my part.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Bigotry at its comic best

I visited The American Street today and was mesmerized by the profile of Randy Cunningham. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or put my fist through my monitor.

And they all lived happily ever after with opposable thumbs

Connie Morris of St. Francis, Kansas--the state that makes Alabama look progressive--is not content just to be known as the woman who called Ranjit Arab a terrorist because he wanted to interview her. Because of Morris's foul mouth, Arab wound up being reported to the FBI. She went after Garden City mayor Tim Cruz, too, calling him an illegal immigrant.

Now Morris is disputing evolution by calling it "an age-old fairy tale."

Morris herself is the most compelling argument against evolution I've heard in a while.

Worth reading

arse poetica shows us that Brits are as insane as Americans.

What Do I Know educates us about the AMICC.

The Poor Man asks us: Why do the parents of soldiers killed in Iraq hate freedom?

Pam's House Blend has some interesting statistics about syphilis rates.

Margaret Cho is blogging again, thank goodness, and has a touching post on belly dancing.

Amanda at Pandagon has some thoughts on the Supreme Court and the death penalty.

Thoughts on Flag Day

I have always enjoyed looking at the American flag, not because of any particular patriotism, but because I am an American, and I think the flag is attractive. Though hardly a flag-waver (I have never really understood the concept of emotional patriotism, but perhaps that is because I have always seen our nation for what it is--good and bad--rather than the idealized version of it that was crammed down my throat by fake history books and community spokespeople), I used to enjoy seeing the flag flown in public places, or seeing various Americana.

But now the American flag has taken on a different meaning, as people stick two of them on both sides of their SUV's, or fly them on their mailboxes. Now, when I see the American flag, I often get that sick feeling I get when I see the Confederate flag, for the flag has taken on a new meaning since 2001. Now, when I see the American flag displayed on private property, I think of George W. Bush and John Ashcroft; of vitriolic hatred of women, gays, and minorities; and of the fading of my civil liberties.

When I see a Muslim physician or attorney display an American flag in a Yellow Pages ad, I cringe, because I know he feels compelled to scream "I am an American!" in order to retain his clientele.

On Flag Day, we remember that only thirty years ago, a man in Massachusetts was arrested and sentenced to six months in jail because he wore an American flag patch on the seat of his jeans. Yesterday's "desecration" pales compared with today's exploitation.

On Flag Day we acknowledge that even the authentically liberal Dennis Kucinich, for reasons I will never understand, voted for the flag desecration amendment.

On Flag Day, we realize that hundreds of thousands of Americans have no idea that the words "under God" are not part of the real Pledge of Allegiance, but were added during the "red scare," when Communists were the Evil Ones. For my part, I am creeped out by the reciting of any loyalty oath, no matter what phrase you omit.

I do have an enamel flag pin with a peace sign where the stars are supposed to be. Today is a good day for me to wear it.