Friday, March 31, 2006

Nasdaq-100 women's final

Udachi, Kuzzy!

Franken's confidence in Powell very misplaced

I always feel vaguely uncomfortable when I listen to Al Franken. I guess it could be because I just don't care for his personality, but today, there was something else that made me uncomfortable. He was talking about Bush's lying to the American people about the aluminum tubes. Franken said he had trusted Colin Powell when he said the aluminum tubes could be used for nothing but building a nuclear weapon, and he felt betrayed. Of course, Powell told Bush just the opposite--that the tubes were no big deal, which makes him a world-class liar.

But why would anyone trust Colin Powell in the first place? Colin Powell accepted a very important job in the administration of a person with a history of dishonesty, ignorance, and callous disregard for people. That means Colin Powell set his standards very low. Then there is the matter of Powell's bigotry, which should have been a hint about his character. Or how about his participation in the minimizing of the My Lai massacre and other atrocities of the Vietnam war? Powell, like George H. W. Bush (who was later elected president of the United States, while the person who challenged his lies about the dike bombing was turned into public enemy number one by the Nixon administration), worked hard to make the American people believe that the war crimes being committed did not exist.

How come Al Franken doesn't know about Colin Powell?

Friday cat blogging--Come to my window

Bush told repeatedly that aluminum tubes were not for building a nuclear weapon

In October of 2002, a National Security Estimate summary called a President's Summary, was written specifically for George W. Bush. In that document, Bush was told that despite the buzz that Iraq's procurement of aluminum tubes was "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Brave Golovin retires; the brat goes to the finals

Tatiana Golovin at the 2005 Family Circle Cup in Charleston, where she knocked out defending champion Venus Williams and got as far as the semi-finals, before falling to eventual winner Justine Henin-Hardenne

Every once in a while, there is a tennis match so thrilling, you don't want it to end. It happened in Miami tonight, at the Nasdaq-100, though if anyone had told me, toward the end of the second set, that this was going to be a thriller, I would have fallen over laughing. Maria Sharapova was up 6-3, 5-1 against Tatiana Golovin. I was thinking about what I was going to do next, since it seemed obvious I wouldn't be watching tennis. Golovin then won two games, and broke Sharapova, while saving four match points, when she tried to serve for the match at 5-3. It wound up 6-6, and Golovin won the tiebreak. It was one of those rare but amazing tennis moments when it really isn't over 'til it's over, and in this case, it wasn't 'ova.

When Golovin went to serve at 4-5, Sharapova asked for an emergency bathroom break. No one asks for an emergency bathroom break, and the umpire denied her request. Sharapova appealed to the tournament's higher power, and was given the break. When she returned to the court, the crowd booed her. When it was announced that Golovin had won the first set, Sharapova immediately challenged the last call, but the scoreline was confirmed.

Sharapova seemed unsure of herself in the final set, but went about breaking Golovin, and then getting some of her fire back. When Sharapova served at 4-3 with a 0-30 score and it looked like Golovin was about to even things up, Golovin lunged for a ball and twisted her ankle all the way over. She called for the trainer, got ice and a wrap, and cried tears of pain. Meanwhile, Sharapova stood at her end of the court, shadow-swinging, and not once going to check on her opponent, whose tears were flowing and whose face was contorted in pain.

To everyone's shock, Golovin re-entered the match, but after hitting only one stroke, the tears of pain came again, and she retired, sending Sharapova to the finals.

The Nasdaq-100 is the biggest Tier I tournament in the WTA tour. A win over Sharapova in Miami would have been the biggest win in the career of Golovin, who has held match points against major players since the beginning of the year. The wonder child of the tour in 2004 (she jumped the most ranking points in the shortest time in history), Golovin's 2005 season wasn't that good because of two chronically injured ankles. Now she has done it again, and I doubt she will be in Charleston in early April, when I hoped to see her play again.

No one knows who would have won tonight if Golovin hadn't been injured, though the crowd was totally behind her. One way or the other, though, her ascent from 3-6, 1-5 will be talked about for weeks to come. She played some of the best tennis I've seen lately. Tonight's story had a sad ending, but no one will forget Golovin's spirit and her fantastic forehand. Nor will people forget the behavior of her opponent.

New charges of sexual and physical abuse by nuns and priests

I learned from Pam's House Blend that the Catholic Church receieved 783 new claims of sex abuse last year. These claims, like past ones, are generally about priests and children or adolescents.

In New Orleans, however, there are now multiple claims that both nuns and priests, as well as other staff members, at a group home beat and sexually abused residents over a long period of time. The nuns allegedly practiced voyeurism, "inspecting" girls as they emerged from the showers; it is unknown what other forms the sexual abuse took. Naturally, there are people rushing to say that these nuns are practically saints and that, though they delivered "appropriate discipline" (this is the code term for whacking kids around and whipping them, for those somehow not in the know), they were loving and caring.

There is not a lot of reason to believe that a proper investigation will take place. Most people cannot imagine nuns participating in any form of sexual abuse. And then there is the matter of Orleans Parish Archbishop Alfred Hughes, who covered up Cardinal Law's abominations, but was named New Orleans' archbishop, anyway. He does not exactly have a good track record in this area.

A couple of years ago, I was at a conference and met a woman who was writing a book I have been waiting for a long time--a book about all of the abuse committed by priests, nuns, and brothers that we do not hear about. Sexual abuse by nuns would certainly be in that category, but the very large and largely ignored category is physical abuse by nuns, priests, and brothers. For years, these members of the church have whipped, slapped, and pushed around children and adolescents, probably with the blessings of many parents.

When I taught at Tulane, one of my students confided in me that when he had attended a prestigious Catholic academy in Mississippi, he and others had been whipped with instruments that sounded like they were borrowed from GoGo Yubari. This was a fine student whom I had no reason to doubt. I reported it to the media in Mississippi but never heard anything else about it.

Between the Catholic church's massive cover-up system and our culture's condemnation of those who come forward to accuse their childhood abusers, there are probably thousands of adults were were beaten and whipped by priests and brothers, or beaten, whipped, and sexually abused by nuns. In my own practice, I have heard multiple reports of extreme psychological abuse by nuns. Many victims do not think they are victims because they believe that whipping and beating are "appropriate" forms of "discipline." All of these factors come together to protect the sadistic abusers who work in churches, group homes, schools, and orphanages.

Why are parents reinforcing harmful gender roles?

If you are one of the millions of mothers and fathers whose adolescent daughter believes she is supposed to wait for a boy to ask her out and that the boy is always supposed to pay, why are you continuing to let this go on? Likewise, if you are the parent of a boy who believes it is "wrong" for girls to ask boys out, and that boys should always pay for dates.

And if you are a young (or even not so young) woman or man who believes these things, can you say "feminism"? "Rigid gender roles"? For girls and women to still think they are supposed to wait for boys and men to initiate dates is perfectly ridiculous and socially harmful, yet it is very common. And if you still believe that dating is a form of socially acceptable prostitution, you really need to do some deep thinking. While it is true that men still make more money than women (big surprise), most women can nevertheless afford to either pay for inexpensive dates or split the bill of an inexpensive date.

In discussing her book, Self-Made Man, on television this morning, Norah Vincent said that when she passed as a man, the things men said when there were no women in the room were shockingly dehumanizing toward women. She also said that most of these things were said out of a great sense of insecurity because, in this culture, men are still the ones who have to risk rejection over and over.

Obviously, men have a long way to go in building self-esteem if they have to insult and degrade women in order to feel better about themselves. But it is crazy that they are still expected to be the ones to do the asking. It is hard on men, yes, but it imprisons women, once again reminding us of our second-class status in society.

What bothers me most, though, is that parents are raising their sons and daughters to believe that roles which give power to men and take power away from women are acceptable. Someone please remind me what century we are in.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A garden visitor

I had very poor light, so this was the best I could do without scaring the visitor away

What can you do with $71 million?

You can buy 1,183 storm-proof cottages for Katrina and Rita evacuees who lost their houses.

You can buy enough medicine to treat 540,000 AIDS patients for a year.

You can feed 12,157 poor children in Nairobi for a year.

You can give ten years of care to 284,000 rescued animals at Best Friends Sanctuary.

Or you can just let Halliburton steal it from you.

Duke lacrosse team case gets uglier every moment

The alleged rape and terrorizing of two African American women by three members of the Duke University lacrosse team is one of those stories that, the more you peel away, the uglier the view gets. The best resource for learning everything you wish you had never learned is the blog, Justice 4 Two Sisters. Another good source is Alas (a blog).

The alleged incident is like a mini-movie of everything that is wrong in America. The victims were female; the perpetrators male. The victims were black; the perpetrators white. The victims were exotic dancers (read "sluts"); the perpetrators were holy athletes.

But these generalizations only begin to tell the ugly story. The team members have formed a tight circle of silence, and it turns out that 15 of them have police records. The coach, as Justice 4 Two Sisters points out, is nowhere to be seen or heard, and the national media is ignoring the story.

From Black Feminism:

I’ll put the race issue aside. This is also the result of universities allowing a negative athlete culture. More than a few studies have shown that athletes and frat boys are more likely to rape than other men, in part because all-male environments encourage aggressive and violent displays of manhood. I suspect that campuses that force athletes to live with everyone else (shout outs to AU) have less of a problem with Athletes Gone Wild.

Moving beyond identity politics

The National Organization for Women is coming to New Orleans to join in the Saturday march to demand restoration of fair voting for Katrina victims. Though it is true that the voting issue affects many women, it is fundamentally a problem of the African American community. NOW sees itself as a civil rights organization as well as a feminist organization, which is a breath of fresh air in this world of rigid identity politics.

It seems to me, however, that it has always been the women's movement that has worked on behalf of the oppressed groups of which many of its members belong--the civil rights movement, the disability rights movement, the gay rights movement. But I usually don't see that kind of activism from other groups. Until people understand that if there is one oppressed group, we are all oppressed, nothing will change. And of course, I extend that to include members outside of my species.

Attention male bloggers...

Bob Burnett asks "Why Don't Men Write About Abortion?" and he has some answers.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Predatory behavior pays off for Foxx

At the ESPY Awards a couple of years ago, Jamie Foxx behaved in a disgustingly lewd way toward Serena Williams when she came onstage. He literally had her trapped while he proceeded to paw her all over and say sexual things to her while he sang an original song, "I Wanna Be Your Tennis Ball." The routine has generally been described as described as "funny" or "hilarious." I failed to get the humor. Though no fan of Serena's, I wanted her to slap him. She was visibly uncomfortable, but neither she nor anyone else stopped Foxx.

I learned today that Williams has been hanging out in Miami with Foxx. Why am I surprised? Sexual abuse and humiliation are all the rage now. And the perpetually injured Williams sisters, who are dressed obscenely in furs at all the right clubs, have become more a part of the celebrity scene than the tennis scene.

I used to really enjoy the Williams sisters, especially their independence and their refusal to say what they were "supposed" to say to the press. I liked Venus's composure and Serena's wit. I confess to having grown tired of their always appearing together in Grand Slam finals, but that wasn't their fault; they were just too good. Now, Serena is out of shape, both sisters are too injured to play much, and the fur-wearing has put me over the edge.

All the same, I was sorry to hear that Foxx's inappropriate behavior was rewarded.

Rove or Hadley?

Rove and Hadley? It's all good.

Newly released documents show U.S. role in bloody Argentine coup

If you have never seen the 1985 Argentine film, La Historia Oficial, you have missed not only a very fine film, but a riveting, unforgettable performance by Norma Aleandro, winner of the 1985 Cannes Best Actress award. The Official Story is about a history teacher whose well-placed husband is able to negotiate their adoption of a beautiful little girl. It turns out that the girl is the kidnapped daughter of one of the many "disappeared," some of whom were pregnant women whose babies were given to the families of government officials. Aleandro's character's slow realization of what has been going on in her country--and right under her nose--is almost too painful to watch.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

And They Cook, Too

That's the title of the new blogger fundraiser cookbook to benefit Doctors Without Borders. I am very pleased to have three of my Moondance columns included in this lovely book, which was compiled and edited by Ginger Mayerson (The Hackenblog) and Kathy Flake (What Do I Know?), and which includes recipes and essays by a number of bloggers.

I encourage everyone to buy copies of this spiral-bound, easy-to-use book, for there is surely no better cause than Doctors Without Borders.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Judge rules that school was within its rights to terminate teacher's contract

In early 2003, Deb Mayer, a teacher at Clear Creek Elementary School in Bloomington, Indiana, led a class discussion based on an issue of Time for Kids, which included an article about planned peace marches against the upcoming war in Iraq. Discussing Time for Kids articles was part of the school's regular curriculum. A student asked Mayer if she would ever particpate in a peace march, and she replied: "When I drive past the courthouse square and the demonstrators are picketing, I honk my horn for peace because their signs say, 'Honk for peace.'" She said she thought "it was important for people to seek out peaceful solutions to problems before going to war and that we train kids to be mediators on the playground so that they can seek out peaceful solutions to their own problems."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Sad stories of cats and bunnies

Several months ago, the city of Grand Saline, Texas passed a law banning the feeding of feral cats. On March 13, a woman who dared to feed them was arrested and charged with two violations of the new law. Instead of enacting a trap-neuter-release program like other communities have, Grand Saline has put together a trap-hold-kill program. The feral cats that do not starve will be trapped, held briefly, and dealt with the Texas way.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, the wonderful animal rescuers at Best Friends have rescued 1,000 rabbits from a back yard, where they were living in very poor conditions and multiplying like mad. As of now, there are still 50 babies being born each day. Best Friends could use some help from you.

Insurance company designates apartment building as terrorist target

Most people have never heard of the Lucerne--not the Upper West Side hotel, but the Upper East Side apartment building on 79th at First. United Action for Animals maintains its office there, but will soon not have its workers' compensation coverage renewed because the building has been designated a target for terrorists.

What has gotten into the FBI? you may be asking, but the FBI had nothing to do with this. The designation was made by Utica National Insurance, who used a computer model to determine that the Lucerne is a likely terrorist target. Utica's action is legal, but, as UAA's Gary Kaskel says, "The scary part about this is if other insurance companies follow their lead, it makes Manhattan uninsurable."

As a matter of fact, sir, I DO question your morality

I try not to think about Pat Boone, in the same way that one tries not to think about rotting corpses, earthquake devastation, and the inside of Lynne Cheney's brain. But every once in a while, his ugly name pops up and I am forced to consider his existence. Today is one of those days. Boone, writing in WorldNetDaily, says it is perfectly okay for him to question your patriotism if you engage in "...wild-eyed, irresponsible assaults on the character and intelligence and personal motives of our commander-in-chief while we're in a war and trying to hold our allies at our side...."

The statement is so ludicrous--questioning one's right to criticize an ignorant, lying, democracy-bashing war criminal--one need not respond to it. But as long as Boone is opening his filthy mouth again, forcing me to think about him, then I will remind my readers that Boone, in addition to stealing black music and torturing it to death, was an extremely rigid parent whose family members, not surprisingly, had a variety of psychological problems. Years ago, I read the autobiography of one of his daughters, who--still too much in denial to totally realize what she was describing--wrote that her father used to take off her underwear, put her on his lap, and spank her--when she was 17 years old. That is a reportable crime and just one more reflection on what really goes on in the homes of the compulsively religious.

You may recall that a couple of years ago (has it been that long?), Boone called CBS "the enemy within" for releasing information about Abu Ghraib.

Weren''t "Tutti Frutti" and the "metal" album bad enough? Talk about torture.

Cynthia Tucker never lets me down

In her Saturday column, "War Hawks Show Callous Disregard for Working-Class Troops," Tucker takes apart the disingenuous arguments of the right wing about who is fighting in Iraq. But it is the last part of the column that is the best:

Their callousness about other people's children aside, it's not just Cheney and Bush whom I hold responsible for the deaths of more than 2,300 hundred Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. It's also men like Sen. John Kerry and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vietnam veterans who had seen young men die in combat. They knew better than to take the nation to war on the wings of a lie.
That they did was not only unjust; it was immoral.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

On Sasha Cohen

I have two words for Sasha Cohen: Amelie Mauresmo. The 26-year-old Frenchwomen, possessed of one of the most beautiful tennis games in the WTA, was saddled for years with the labels of "choker" and "head case," but at the end of 2005, she turned things around by winning the WTA Year-End Championships. She followed that up by winning the 2006 Australian Open, and has won two tournaments since then. So far, she is one of the few top seeds who hasn't fallen in Miami at the Nasdaq-100, the tour's largest Tier 1 tournament, and she is currently ranked number 1 in the world.

It was heartbreaking to watch Cohen not be able to pull off a gold-medal skate at the Olympics, and perhaps even more heartbreaking to see her not pull one off at the recent Figure Skating World Championships. Cohen is 21; her skating career does not have to be over. In terms of artistry, she is the best female figure skater I have ever seen. Peggy Fleming, who served as a commentator for the World Championships, said that Cohen was one of the best skaters she had ever seen in her life, but perhaps, Fleming said, Cohen is simply not a competitor.

Perhaps. Olympic gold medal-wise, she has company. Neither Irina Slutskaya nor Michelle Kwan won Olympic gold, though both broke records in the other titles they won, and Slutskaya did so under rather amazing circumstances. Cohen won the U.S. Nationals in 2006, but that is the first gold she has won. If she retires without winning a world championship, it will be a bizarre footnote in figure skating history forever.

Cohen obviously has something big going on mentally that causes her to do poorly at big moments. When she brought the house down with her Olympic short program, I felt myself gearing up for what might happen in the free skate, and sure enough--Cohen made a major mistake.

During the free skate practice at Worlds, Cohen's coach had her use some of her time doing visualization exercises. That is not a bad idea, but what Cohen needs is a really talented hypnotherapist. Mauresmo needed it, too, but she managed to pull herself out of her slump some other way. Cohen may not be that lucky.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

What's wrong with The L Word?

I have seen more than one blog discussion about The L Word, and the most recent one I saw centered on complaints that the show's main characters are all well-off, glam lesbians--that not-so-well-off, more butch lesbians are not represented. Other discussions I have seen center more on the fact that the writers have changed the characters' personalities and that the plots do not make sense.

The Showtime soap opera, which will end its third season tomorrow night, is heavy on icing and short on cake. If you haven't seen it, here's a tiny capsule: A group of hip Los Angeles lesbians and their friends deal with interesting problems and experience a lot of drama doing it.

About representation: First, the characters are not exactly all well-off. One lived more or less on the street until she got her act together, and is now a chic hairdresser. One waits tables while she writes. The others are a social activist, an arts administrator, a nightclub owner, a deejay, a computer specialist, a wealthy arts patron, a chef, and a journalist. There was a professional tennis player, but she died a couple of episodes ago. Not all of the women are white. One is black, one is biracial, and one is Hispanic.

Among the major characters, one is heterosexual, one is bisexual, and one thought she was bisexual but now appears to be identifying as lesbian, but not really, for she has become involved with a woman-to-man transsexual who was introduced to the show this season. Oh, and there's one who thought she was straight, then had an 8 1/2-year relationship with a woman, and is now seeing men again.

I like these ambiguities because I think they represent real life more accurately than many people like to think. The shades of sexual preference displayed on The L Word comprise one of the show's greatest strengths, in my opinion. Another strength is the show's wonderful soundtrack (unfortunately, that compliment does not extend to the theme song, though, in the first season, the show made good use of the old standby "Love Was Made For You And Me"), and another is its clever use of guest stars, which have included Rosanna Arquette, Sandra Bernhard, Ossie Davis, Anne Archer, Helen Shaver, and the great Dana Delany.

The show can also be very funny. A prime example occurred this season when an episode's introductory piece showed a young version of Bette, portrayed on the show by Jennifer Beals, wearing Beals' signature gray off-the-shoulder sweatshirt from Flashdance. Unfortunately, however, this kind of attention to detail does not extend to the show's content, which is often sloppy. Right now, for instance, there is a sub-plot about a sexual harrassment suit that, in real life, could not possibly be filed because the parties involved do not qualify for consideration under the sexual harrassment laws.

The show is loaded with sex, most of it gratuitous. There are few, if any, stable characters, but that is to be expected in a soap opera. The problem with The L Word, however, is that between season two and season three, the writers made such radical changes in some of the characters, they were almost unrecognizable. Alice, who had been pretty sensible, was turned into a raving, jealous lover close to emotional collapse. Tina, who many of us never liked because she was boring, suddenly became spiteful, and Bette-and-Tina the couple, previously very intelligent, were rendered ignorant and ridiculous. Helena, the morally challenged spoiled brat, suddenly became a nice person. To make things even worse, there was a lapse of six months, apparently during which the characters took heavy drugs that made them mentally unfit.

Adding to the downward spiral, the focus was taken off of Jenny, played by the edgy and talented Mia Kirshner, who was left with little to do but react to Max, the transsexual. Some people think that the character of Max is a "tack on" role, added to the show to make it more politically correct.

As in all soap operas and much of life, the people on The L Word fall in love at the drop of a skirt, and then wonder why their relationships do not work out. There is also a rather nasty attitude toward men running through the series. Kit, played by the wonderful Pam Grier, was involved with a contemporary snake oil salesman who cheated on his wife. Jenny's fiance, Tim, at first portrayed as accepting and sensitive, turned out to be not-so-nice, even when we factor in the pain Jenny put him through. Alan Cummin, of all people, was also added to the cast this season, and he plays a reprehensible, self-absorbed gay man. Bette's and Kit's father, played by Ossie Davis, was homophobic and judgmental. There was even a man who wanted to be a lesbian.

Now Tina has a new male friend (the rumor was that he was to be played by Billy Campbell, but that, sadly, did not turn out to be true), about whom we know nothing except that he wants to have children with a woman he just met. And Kit also has a new lover, a much younger man who creeps me out, but that is just a matter of personal taste, not a pronouncement about his character.

Is The L Word unrealistic? You bet. Is it fun to watch? Sometimes. Now that the writers have killed one of the most popular characters, though, they will have to work hard to fill the void. Dana was someone you could count on to be funny, naive, and admirable. I miss her already, and her absence will change the flavor of the show.

The L Word works best when it is funny, artistic, or both. One of the most memorable episodes involved a visit by Bette, the arts administrator, to rich arts patron Peggy Peabody (a hilarious riff on Peggy Guggenheim) in her hotel room. ("I was a lesbian once," Peabody says, "in 1974." "Just one year?" Bette asks. "It was all I needed.") Peabody shows Bette a painting that causes her to faint. Another memorable episode was the recent one in which Dana died, and the camera went rhythmically back and forth between Dana's taking her last breaths and her friends making love, shopping, traveling, and doing all of the things that we do while someone is dying.

The show has been given a fourth season by Showtime, and the producers and writers have an opportunity to turn it into something more cohesive than it is now. The L Word has never seemed to know what it was, and it seemed to be trying to be everything--a drama, a political statement, an artistic project, a piece of good-looking camp. I personally lean toward good-looking camp with a twist of art, but at the very least, the characters need to be given reasonably consistent personalities, some of the sex needs to be cut, and the storylines need to be reined in. The characters themselves are interesting and were developing just fine, thank you, until this third season frenzy came along. Alas, there is no returning to the way things were--Dana and Marina are gone, and Bette and Tina are breaking up--but it is still possible to sharpen the focus of the major storylines, make the characters' motivations believable again, and give Jenny something to do.

So much for diversity

A telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households show that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, and even gay people in "sharing their vision of American society."

According to the study, done by the University of Minnesota's department of sociology, atheists make up 3% of American society, a number I suspect is lower than the real number. Also, the study did not take into account the vast number of agnostic (a term that is chronically misused, by the way) persons in the U.S.

Take my car...please

This isn't easy to explain, but I'll do my best:

There are thousands of post-Katrina junked vehicles in New Orleans. FEMA has made it clear that if the city does not get rid of them by June 30, it will reimburse cleanup expenses at the rate of 90% instead of 100%. The city looked at a number of bids for removing the cars and trucks, which ranged from $350 per vehicle to $1,000 per vehicle. One company even informally offered to pay New Orleans $100 per vehicle in exchange for crushing the cars and getting to keep the scrap metal.

Which company got the contract? If you guessed the one that wants $1,000 per vehicle, you know your New Orleans government culture.

When the news got out about the contract, people had a fit, of course. The Times-Picayune is opining that perhaps the selected contractor was a favored one, and the city figured that FEMA, having wasted millions of dollars on post-Katrina stupidity so far, might as well waste more money. This is a viable theory, and one I like. In fact, no other theory makes any sense.

Now that he has been confronted, Mayor Nagin, who was silent at first, says that the city could not negotiate with the company that wanted to pay New Orleans because FEMA's rules forbid the city from making money from the cleanup operation. Fair enough. But he still has some explaining to do about the city's choice of CH2M Hill, a company whose expertise, by the way, is in conducting water and wastewater projects.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Women candidates--aren't they just the cutest things?

If the Democrats have their way, the 2006 Congressional elections will be the revenge of the mommy party.

That's the lead in Robin Toner's New York Times story, "Women Wage Key Campaigns for Democrats." The article is about all of the Democratic women who are running major campaigns in about a dozen House races. The idea, of course, is that every time voters are disgusted, they are likely to turn to female candidates for change.

That, of course, is not altogether true, since the American people, even at their most disgusted, have not turned to a woman candidate for president. That is, after all, a big job. Nor am I sure that people still believe that women will be honest and not make the same back room deals that men have made for years.

But all that aside, the mommy party? The news media cannot write about women without saying something cute and offensive. Women are important candidates...hurry, let's say something dismissive of them.

If you want to write to Toner, please be my guest.

Friday cat blogging--denim edition

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Boys don't do that

Today, I was standing in line somewhere, and a mother and her two children were ahead of me. The mother was busy negotiating with the clerk, and the little boy, who looked about 8, had a little stuffed poodle he was tossing into the air while he yelled. His older sister, who looked to be 11 or 12 and obviousy fancied herself quite the sophisticate, rolled her eyes and said "Stop it, James." James kept tossing and yelling and looking at me to see if he could get a rise out of me. Then he grew tired of the game and held the poodle close to him, cuddling and rocking it.

"Stop it, James!" his sister said sharply. "Boys don't do that."

On female beauty

Sometimes--often--Margaret Cho nails it better than anyone else.

North Dakotans "whinier" than most, it turns out

For some time now, there has been an offensive email circulating about how the people of North Dakota, unlike the whiners and brats on the Gulf Coast, took care of themselves expertly after a giant blizzard, with no help from FEMA or any branch of the federal government. The email was ciruclated as part of a campaign to discredit Gulf Coast residents as inept crybabies who could do nothing but beg, complain, and loot when faced with a natural disaster.

Well, it turns out that--using the email's own criteria--the real crybabies are North Dakotans. In an editorial in today's Times-Picayune, Mark Folse explains:

In reality, North Dakota didn't hesitate to belly up to the federal trough for aid after their ice storm, as they've done every single year for the last decade. North Dakota is tied with Louisiana, Texas and Ohio for ninth place among states with the most major federal disaster declarations.

In fact, North Dakota has the longest streak of consecutive major disaster declarations of any state in the Union, receiving $711 million in federal disaster assistance in the last decade.

Please pass this information along the next time you hear about how the stoic citizens of North Dakota built the storm-proof cabins in which they were born.

Uncle Bucky makes out like a...Bush

George W. Bush's Uncle Bucky (William H.T. Bush), brother of George H.W. Bush, has collected about $1.9 million in cash, plus $800,000 in stocks, from the recent sale of Engineered Support Systems, Inc. ESSI, of which Bush was a director, was sold to DRS Technologies for $1.7 billion at the end of January, after the company experienced record growth from expanded military contracts, most related to activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Making Mississippi safe

If you live on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, there is a good chance that you no longer have a house, that your job is gone, and that you are having difficulty getting any kind of services or assistance. If you live in Mississippi and are poor, you had better not get sick because the governor and the legislature have cut so deeply into Medicaid benefits and the poor must now choose between eating and getting medicine.

But here is some good news for Mississippians: the law that forbids the sale of sex toys has been upheld. You may be homeless, starving, and too sick to live, but at least you don't have to worry that your neighbor is buying batteries for her vibrator. And don't feel bad for her--she can always pass the time gambling, or--if the frustration becomes overpowering--she can just shoot someone.

Hail Dixie Chicks!

I was pretty upset with Natalie Maines when she apologized for her on-target remarks about Bush, but she and the Chicks have more than made up for it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sudden increase in tracking down Vietnam deserters appears tied to Iraq war

Patriot Daily has a good analysis of the current trend of the U.S. military to track down Vietnam war deserters in what the authors call "an effort to set an example to deter the growing number of Iraq War military resisters who are fleeing to Canada." Since the war in Iraq began, at least 8,000 soldiers have deserted, a number which represents a decrease in desertions since September 11, 2001. The U.S. military denies that it has stepped up its campaign to find deserters, but there is some evidence to the contrary.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Cool technology helps students cheat more efficiently

Several months ago, I reported that 84% of seniors at a Catholic high school in New Orleans reported cheating and more than 50% described scenarios in which they believed cheating was justified.

Now, college students are using their cell phones to take photographs of their tests, then text messaging the answers to friends who have yet to take these tests.

Cheating has always gone on in schools, but I wonder if it has always gone on to the extent that it does now. Maybe. The penalties for cheating generally do not fit the crime, i.e., students are allowed to stay in the class or in the school. Cheating on tests is apparently in that same murky moral territory as sexually assaulting women, stealing to support your drug habit, and beating up people who make you angry--enough of your peers are willing to "let it go."

I have written before about the number of people who ask me to commit insurance fraud every year. When I explain to them that it is dishonest, they shrug. When I tell them it is a crime, they laugh. When I tell them I do not commit criminal acts and do not wish to lose my license, they shut up.

The line keeps getting moved. Just as the television idiot Soledad O'Brien was oh, so shocked to hear that sexual assault is a crime in the U.S.; just as the people of California did not appear the least bit reluctant to elect as their governor someone who had been accused of multiple sexual assaults, including one on a minor; just as the American people and their representatives do not seem to find anything strange about two stolen elections and an illegal war--cheating in school is just part of the way we do things.

The irony, of course, is that the right wing is screaming about morality all the time, while they support the most immoral government imaginable. The messages are no longer mixed; they have been obliterated into a fine dust that is choking the hell out of anyone who is still sane.

Liberal and feeling really depressed?

Here's a solution.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Celebrating new life the sweet way

From Harper's April Index:

125,000 pigs will die so that Americans can eat 800,000,000 Marshmallow Peeps this Easter.

Richard Clarke is a liar, Paul O'Neill is a liar

Or so it seems George W. Bush is very heavily implying.

That lizard's mighty cute, but does he earn six figures?

Yesterday, the Consumer Federation of America charged that Geico Corp. uses customers' educational backgrounds and career information as criteria in setting auto insurance rates. According to the CFA, Geico has utilized rating methods and underwriting guidelines in 44 states that are directly tied to education and occupation.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Bush cuts cancer detection program for low-income women

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention operate a program in which low-income women receive breast and cervical cancer detection services. The women who utilize this program do not have health insurance, but do not qualify for Medicaid. Unfortunately, the program is not big enough to reach all of the women it should reach, and a priority should be to expand it.

But there is certainly another way to look at the problem, and that is the Bush way. By cutting $1.4 million from the program in his budget, he has seen to it that 4,000 fewer women will be able to get screenings.

Aside from the fact that this budget cut is just another little stab in the Bush war against women and low-income citizens, it is also counter-productive in that it significantly raises overall healthcare costs.

Monday, March 20, 2006

McCain hires player in DeLay money laundering scheme

In 2002, Terry Nelson was the deputy chief of staff for the Republican National Committee. That same year, Sen. Tom DeLay and two of his colleagues allegedly tried to dance around a Texas law which makes it illegal for corporations to fund candidates. According to the indictment against DeLay, John Colyandro, and Jim Ellis, illegal money was laundered through the Republican National Committee via the Republican National State Elections Committee.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

3 years in Iraq--piece of cake

The Heretik is serving a tantalizing cake to observe the third year of the event in Iraq that is not a war. He points out that in Bush's speech about the three years of something or other leading up to what is definitely not a civil war in Iraq, he never once mentioned the word "war."

We have been here before. The thing in Vietnam was the Vietnam "conflict." Because no matter how many soldiers die, or how many soldiers are wounded, or how many soldiers contract lifetime diseases, or how many families grieve, or how many prisoners are tortured, or how many innocent civilians are left homeless or bombed into smithereens, it isn't really a war unless someone who isn't really president says it is.

In defense of Congress

In his Sunday column, Leonard Pitts Jr. reminds us that Congress did nothing while blacks in America were being lynched, Congress did nothing while Japanese-Americans were sent to detention camps in World War II, and Congress did nothing when Senator Joseph McCarthy ruined the lives of dozens of innocent Americans and their families.

Put in perspective, doing nothing about an illegal war or illegal White House eavesdropping is merely business as usual for the United States Congress. And why shouldn't it be? Congress is not an organism that sprung from the ground of Washington, but an organization that represents the American people. And the American people do not care about much of anything. The average American does not know who is in power, where the states are located, what is in the Constitution, or who is an Arab.

The average American is not concerned with the fact that he and his children are eating poisoned food and drinking poisoned water, that his daughter is not likely to earn the same amount of money as a man doing a comparable job, or that American soldiers are sexually assaulting American soldiers. The average American does not care that the toys she buys for her children were quite possibly made by people tortured for their religious beliefs, or that by ordering scrambled eggs or a hamburger, she is participating in unrelenting animal cruelty.

If Americans do not care, why should their representatives care? I say Congress is doing exactly what it was elected to do--very little of anything.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sexual assault of a minor--okay, homosexuality--not okay

Such is the thinking of Donald Lee Fox of Danville, Pennsylvania, who spoke against holding a day of silence for students to observe tolerance of gays. Homosexuality, he said, bible in hand, was an "abomination."

Deviance is apparently in the eye of the beholder, for it turns out that Fox was charged last year with not informing the state of Pennsylvania that he had changed his residence. You see, in 1995, he pleaded guilty to a charge of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.

More on factory farming

Though the post is already referenced here, I invite you to visit the original at MoJo Blog again for a more in-depth discussion of factory farming in the U.S. and in Europe. Europeans, unlike Americans, have mobilized to fight some of the factory farming practices that have crept into their countries. Those of us who speak against it in America generally have to explain what we are talking about, and/or be prepared to be dismissed or even insulted.

Not only do most Americans seem either unaware of the realities of factory farming or accepting of them, they do not even respond to the reality that extreme animal cruelty is not the only problem: Factory farming poisons consumers.

It's getting harder to live in Missouri

Not only is it tough to be a low-income woman there, it's no bed of roses being a teacher.

An essential post-Katrina read

James Gill's column in today's Times-Picayune.

Another media myth examined

It turns out that Louisiana is better covered by flood insurance than any other state.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Big surprise at Pacific Life Open

Let's say you have a terrible serve because of some shoulder problems you once had and some psychological problems you now have. Let's say you're down 2-6, 2-5 against the woman who is arguably the best female tennis player in the world. What do you do?

If you're Elena Dementieva, you upset Justine Henin-Hardenne! In one of the freakiest semi-finals I've seen in a while, that's exactly what happened. Henin-Hardenne served for the match at 5-2 and couldn't close. She served for the match again at 5-4 and couldn't close. Dementieva brought it to 5-all and broke Henin-Hardenne to win the set. The third set was typical Dementieva--it takes her two sets to get loose, and by then, she's very dangerous.

Dementieva had to serve for the match twice. She was unable to close at 5-4, but did it at 6-5. Half of the games were breaks. Dementieva couldn't hold her serve because, well, Dementieva can't hold her serve. Henin-Hardenne couldn't hold hers because she got tight, as she sometimes does in long matches, and Dementieva was gunning for her.

Commentator Mary Joe Fernandez is correct when she says that with Dementieva, the entire tennis paradigm is backwards: She knows she is going to lose her serve, so for her, the winning points come in breaking her opponents.

I believe that one day, Dementieva is going to overcome this service bugaboo and win a Grand Slam. She may even win one without overcoming it; she has twice been a Grand Slam finalist.

In the other semi-final, Martina Hingis--whose serve is badly in need of help--was overcome by Maria Sharapova, who brought her very best game to the court. However, it took Sharapova something like 2 hours and 40 minutes to beat Hingis in straight sets, and the score--6-3, 6-3--does not reflect what went on. Hingis is the same genius she always was, and she is even hitting the ball harder, but if she doesn't get some help with that serve, tournament wins may elude her. I hope she gets a service coach (Nick Bollettieri, could you give her a call, please?) because I would love to see Hingis win some tournaments and at least one more Grand Slam. Her game still outclasses everyone else's.

More post-Katrina updates

A 28-foot trailer costs $75,000 a year and shakes and rattles when the wind blows. A hurricane-proof pre-fab cottage costs $60,000 a year and can be converted into a full-size house. It goes without saying which one FEMA is paying for people to live in--those lucky enough to get one, that is.

Presumably because of a stupid Web rumor, the Attorney General of Louisiana is now opening an inquiry into the Katrina spending of the Humane Society of the United States.

In better news, a group of students from Madison College in Clinton, New York have cleaned up the White Kitchen Preserve in St. Tammany Parish, and now the bald eagles and their nests are again in full view.

Another student, this one from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, found $30,000 in the wall of a house she was gutting in Arabi, Louisiana. The money was given to the owner of the house, who believes it must have belonged to her father.

40 undocumented immigrants, in New Orleans to do post-hurricane work, were arrested Friday by federal agents. At least a dozen had violent criminal backgrounds, according to federal agents.

And finally, clergy from more than a hundred cities are calling on Congress to stop their bickering about the post-Katrina budget and get some money to evacuated citizens who are trying to return to New Orleans.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Arizona citizens mobilize to defeat factory farm control

Arizona is a major factory-farming state. At some hog-breeding farms, gestation crates are used. These two-foot wide crates keep the hogs confined to a tiny space their entire lives, much the same as hen battery cages and veal crates.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

We are not men, we are not men, we are not men, we are not...

I fully expected the Prime Minister of Ireland to call our Congresspeople "Congressmen." And, sadly, I have become accustomed to men of both parties calling Sen. Collins "Madame Chairman." But even I was thrown for a loop, while checking facts for my piece on Bella Abzug, to see that the women's history section of, calls her a "congressman."

Metaphor-challenged Dunleavy speaks

If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow Neo-Nazis into their parade? If African Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?
New York St. Patrick's Day Chairman John Dunleavy

It doesn't take much to deconstruct this quotation. Neo-Nazis hate Jews and wish them harm. The Klan hates African Americans and wishes them harm. According to Dunleavy's logic, gay Irish citizens hate the Irish and wish them harm.

And I thought they just wanted to march in the parade because they were Irish.

Women's History Month--Honoring Bella Abzug

High on the list of women who made the Second Wave of American feminism catch fire is former New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug. Abzug, who was the first Jewish congresswoman ever elected, was known for her wit, her wide-brimmed hats, and her relentless drive. A civil rights attorney in the 1940's, Abzug went on to become a writer and a stateswoman.

A socialist Zionist by the age of eleven, Abzug began giving speeches at New York subway stations. At age thirteen, she broke the rules and said Kaddish for her father in a synagogue. The young Bella studied the violin, taught Hebrew, and led a rebellious intellectual and social life. As an attorney, Abzug worked for blacks in the South, union members, and Hollywood personalities caught up in Senator Joseph McCarthy's Communist witch hunt.

Abzug was a co-founder of Women Strike for Peace, The National Women's Political Caucus, and the Women's Environmental and Development Organization. She was elected to four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was narrowly defeated (less than 1%) by Daniel Patrick Moynihan in her bid to be elected to the U.S. Senate. She wrote the first law banning discrimination against women in obtaining credit, credit cards, loans, and mortgages, and introduced bills on comprehensive child care, Social Security for homemakers, family planning, and abortion rights. In 1975, Abzug introduced an amendment to the Civil Rights Act to include gay and lesbian rights.

In 1976, President Jimmy Carter appointed Abzug chair of the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year. He later appointed her co-chair of the National Advisory Commission for Women, but when the commission pointed out that his administration had cut the budget for women's programs and that his anti-inflation program hurt women and children, Carter--in a fit of pique--removed Abzug from her position.

Abzug began wearing big hats as a young woman when she realized that no matter how important her role was, she went unnoticed when she entered a meeting or gathering. "I began wearing hats as a young lawyer," she said, " because it helped me to establish my professional identity. Before that, whenever I was at a meeting, someone would ask me to get coffee."

Abzug died in 1998 at the age of 77. Throughout her entire life, she fought for women, minorities, workers, and the poor. She was a colorful speaker, but of all the quotable things she said, perhaps none stands out so much today as this:

I am not being facetious when I say that the real enemies in this country are the Pentagon and its pals in big business.

Newcomb College--still a chance to survive

The death of Newcomb College drew a little closer yesterday, when the Tulane University Board of Administrators voted, as expected, to merge Newcombe with Tulane's undergraduate school. The plan is to re-name the undergraduate school the Newcomb-Tulane College.

Meanwhile, 16 plaintiffs were turned down by a U.S. District Court judge when they requested a temporary restraining order against the board. However, the judge did tell Tulane not to do "anything that couldn't be undone in short order." On March 30, a hearing will be held to decide whether Tulane is violating the terms of Louise Newcomb's contract with the university.

Though I am not an attorney, it seems to me that the plaintiffs have a very strong case against the university. Louise Newcomb endowed a college for women, not half of a hyphenated name. At any rate, to kill Newcomb dishonors Louise and Sophie Newcomb, it dishonors a 120-year tradition that was also a first, and it deals a blow to women.

Censuring the president...or the would-be president?

Stone Court blogger Fred thinks that Feingold's censure campagin is not what it seems to be, and he connects the dots here.

Friday cat blogging--I'll follow the sun

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Post-Katrina update

The federal government spent $3 million on 4,000 beds that were never used, according to the Government Accountability Office.

While that money went down the hole, FEMA refused to authorize blue roofs for people whose roofs were made of slate, tin, or any other solid material. Fortunately, another agency stepped in to patch the holes in those roofs.

The sheriff of St. Bernard Parish submitted a request to FEMA for as many as 60 security guards over the next three years to patrol several tent cities and trailer sites. FEMA "turned down" his request, saying they never received it.

About 50% of the traffic lights in New Orleans are still not working.

And the Louisiana Insurance Rating Commission has approved a 49% rate increase for the Farm Bureau Insurance Companies. This increase effects 70,063 policy-holders in the state. Another 61,151 customers with a more limited dwelling package policy will experience an increase of 48%.

The death of Newcomb College

For the second time in as many decades, powerful forces have attacked H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, the first women's college ever established as part of a university. In 1987, despite loud and prolonged protests, the Tulane University eliminated Newcomb's separate faculty. I was enrolled at a Tulane graduate program at the time, and was also teaching and interning at Tulane, so I felt very much a part of the grief-stricken women's community.

There was nothing anyone could do, but Newcomb College continued, though in a different form. Now the attempts to kill Newcomb have succeeded: As of July 1, the college will be shut down as part of Tulane president Scott Cowan's plan to restructure the university following $150 million worth of property losses and $153 million worth of income losses from Hurricane Katrina. The Tulane Board of Administrators unanimously approved Cowan's plan.

Women all over the country have protested, but to no avail. It is very sad to see a women's college with such a rich history shut down. Many people are familiar with Newcomb Pottery, a vital part of the Arts and Crafts Movement of the 19th Century. Lovely Rogers Memorial Chapel is located on the Newcomb Campus near a beautiful garden where I used to enjoy sitting. The feel of the entire Newcomb Campus is one of serenity and beauty.

Newcomb is not the only program to get the controversial ax. Tulane is also eliminating all but two of its engineering degrees.

Air America offers job to Linda Laroca

If she wants it, Linda Laroca has a new job. Purportedly fired from her job because she had an Air America bumper sticker on her car, Laroca has been offered a job in the sales department of the San Diego affiliate of Air America.

Missouri House bans contraception for poor women

The Missouri House voted yesterday to ban contraceptive funding for low-income women, and to prohibit state-funded programs from referring those women to other programs. The sponsor of the proposal, Rep. Susan Phillips, declared contraceptive services an "inappropriate use of tax dollars."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Plaza Hotel items go on auction

First it was the Rainbow Room, which has, thank goodness, been re-opened to the public. Then it was the Russian Tea Room. And now, you can bid on a doorknob from the Plaza Hotel, if you can stand to.

The Plaza, where this little girl (based on this little girl) lived, was closed last summer so that it could be converted into a combination hotel/retail/condominium site. If this keeps it in business, then I suppose I must be thankful, but it is nevertheless very sad to know that people are buying bellmen's uniforms, bar stools, and who knows what else from the Christie's auction.

Robert Smith had a good feature today on NPR about the auction house's re-enactment of Truman Capote's Black and White Ball.

I have never stayed at the Plaza, but have enjoyed strolling through and around it on several occasions, and have also enjoyed tea and cocktails there. I have no idea why all of these wonderful its and pieces must be auctioned, and prefer not to dwell very long on the possible reasons.

Newt Gingrich's comment reflects America's hypocrisy about animal cruelty

In an interview with Best Friends Magazine, Newt Gringrich says:

I don't think any animal should be tortured or any animal should be abused. But it doesn't offend me if I'm eating chicken nuggets, and I realize that puts me at odds with some of the more aggressive animal rights people.

No, Newt, it doesn't put you at odds with "more aggressive" activists; it puts you at odds with rational human beings. Unless you are eating chicken nuggets made from the meat of free-range chickens--and I very, very seriously doubt that you are--you are participating in some of the very worst cruelty and torture factory farming has to offer.

Gingrich, unfortunately, is typical of most Americans who say they "care" about the treatment of animals. Most Americans buy and eat factory farm meat and factory farm eggs, and do not bother to learn whether their cosmetics or other products may have been tested on animals. Many others who say they "care" about animals do not get their pets spayed and neutered or let them run free in the streets.

This is a strange kind of caring.

Martina Hingis puts Davenport out of Pacific Life Open

Today's Sony Ericsson WTA Tour headline reads "Hingis Downs Davenport in the Desert," and who would have thought it? I am a very big fan of Lindsay Davenport, and also of Martina Hingis, so I had no clear favorite. I didn't have to: Hingis's second serves are still weak enough that I thought Davenport would make very quick work of them. There is no one on the tour who eats second serves faster and better than Lindsay Davenport, and Indian Wells is kind of "her" tournament, despite her loss in last year's final to Kim Clijsters.

I didn't get to see the match, but apparently, Hingis outfoxed even the tour's best returner of serve. Now she will face Dinara Safina in the quarterfinals, and it is entirely likely she will wind up in the finals again, as she did in Tokyo.

Since re-entering the tour, Hingis has recorded victories over both Maria Sharapova (who got back at her in the Tokyo final) and Davenport. Her first serve has improved, her topspin has improved, and her fitness has improved. Her biggest problems have been her second serve and her endurance. If she continues to improve, we will see a better Hingis than we saw in her "heydey," and she will get to the top 10 and maybe then some.

Republicans call for teacher pay raise, then rage against it

Journalist John Maginnis takes Louisiana Republicans to task today in the Times-Picayune (unfortnately, the editorial is not available online). Last year, the state's Republican Party was screaming for a pay raise for teachers, so Governor Blanco offered one that was tied to a tax on tobacco. So they screamed about how dare she tax tobacco, and that was the end of it, since she did not think the budget could handle the pay raise at the time.

Now, faced with a surprise budget surplus, the governor is calling on the legislature to use it for a pay raise for teachers and for higher education support. She is doing a public plea via radio spots, and the state's Republicans are having a fit again. How dare she try to raise teachers' pay through the budget!

Maginnis's guess is that the Louisiana Republican Party is upset that its members did not think of this idea first. Blanco is obviously taking the message to the people in order to shame the legislature into passing the measure. The raise that Blanco has it mind has been badly needed in Louisiana for a long time, since the state lags behind other Southern economies in paying teachers.

Naturally, there is post-Katrina talk about being very careful where Louisiana invests extra money, but there are a number of reaons people will not come to Louisiana to live, and one of them is the generally poor education system. Giving teachers a pay raise is a good step to take, now more than ever.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Unrelenting expressions of misogyny

Maia's post on Alas, a Blog, says more about the state of sexism and misogyny than anything I've read lately, and says it succinctly. Not only is it almost always women (I know there are men who speak up for women, and I know who you are, and I treasure you, but I am generalizing, and you know you are in the wee minority) who are speaking up for women, but only a few women, at that.

I, too, honor freedom of speech, but how sad and frightening that the freedom taken is the freedom to humiliate, objectify, and threaten women and girls. And just as sad, those who could take that same freedom of speech to object to the abuse and sexism remain silent. Men and women.

Voices from the Storm

The latest flashquake virtual broadsheet, Voices from the Storm, is online. Scroll about a third of the way down for my poems.

How do you like democracy so far?

Today, the American Civil Liberties Union released new evidence that the FBI is conducting investigations of political organizations based solely on their anti-war views. The documents released today prove that an FBI invesigation of the Thomas Merton Center was conducted for no other reason than the center's opposition to the war in Iraq. Other evidence shows clearly that anti-war groups have been investigated by the federal government, but the Thomas Merton information is the first to prove that an organization has been investigated for the sole reason that it opposes the war.

New national security guidelines reflect significant semantic changes

At the end of last year, National Security Advisor Stehpen Hadley did some word tinkering with the "Adjunctive Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information." The result is that the government now has broader, vaguer power to deny information to those seeking it. The overall change puts emphasis on loyalty to the U.S. government, and allows those holding information to look at various "suspect" factors rather than singling out a specific violation as grounds for denying classified information. It also places particular burdens on gay citizens that did not exist before.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Here's how it works

If you set it up that gays can be excluded from employment, you are "moral." If you set it up that employment is fair to everyone, you are "pushing a sexual agenda."

If people on the left don't figure out they are losing the language war, they are even more doomed than they seem to be already.

More here.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Contraceptive issue becomes hot in Connecticut

20% of hospitals in Connecticut do not routinely offer contraceptives to all rape victims, but there is now a pending proposal that would make it illegal to not offer them. Rape counseling activists argue that not only should all hospitals provide contraception to rape victims, but that making women who are already traumatized go to another hospital or pharmacy to get them is contributing to their trauma.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

A few words about TV programming

Isaac Hayes, who made a lot of money in many episodes that made fun of religion on South Park, has suddenly decided that the show goes too far in making fun of religion. His protest appears to coincide with South Park's send-up of Scientology. Is that really a religion? Anyway, he is leaving the cast.

Has anyone else noticed that one of the big messages coming out of Desperate Housewives is that men are really, really stupid? Especially the men who become involved with Susan, who lies, cheats, meddles, and generally wreaks havoc wherever she goes. Men do anything she wants, no matter how much she mistreats them. I still like the show, and it doesn't matter what the stories are because everything about Desperate Housewives is so outrageous.

Then there is The L Word, which is having a very bad season 3. I almost stopped watching it, the third season has been so bad, but there are some signs of redemption. Unfortunately, there is now a storyline--the "sexual harrassment" suit--that has nothing to do with reality or with the law. But the producers of that show, for all their cleverness, often pay little attention to fact and detail. I suppose they assume their viewers do not know any better, but this one does, and I suspect a lot more do.

Those of you who watch The L Word are probably feeling pretty sad about the death of Dana. I am. And though I usually cannot stand to hear a group of actors sitting around talking about their show, the commentary by the show's actors on how sad and/or angry they felt over Dana's death was fascinating. Today, I discovered this incredible interview with Daniela Sea, who I now think is one of the most interesting people I've heard about in ages.

And finally...I have written before that it troubles me that in Medium, Allison Dubois is always referred to as "Mrs. Dubois" and not "Ms. Dubois." But what is really strange is that Allison's husband on the show is Joe Dubois, and her brother is Michael Dubois. Hello? Either a Dubois married a Dubois, or there are some really careless people working on this show. The real Allison Dubois, by the way, does have a husband named Joe. I don't know if she uses her family name or his name, but I'm willing to bet that both of their family names are not "Dubois."

A little medical wisdom from Dr. Richard Dobbins

Dobbins also questioned the need for emergency contraception in rape cases, saying that most women either are not fertile during assault or do not become pregnant because the trauma prompts a hormonal response that prevents ovulation.

More here, if you can take it.

10% off for Jesus

I read today on a message board that a Quiznos in New Jersey is offering a 10% discount to anyone who comes in on Sunday and brings her church bulletin to the restaurant. That means, of course, that Christians--and maybe Unitarians--get a discount. Though totally disgusting, I doubted this was illegal until someone called my attention to this. A discount is a benefit, no matter how you slice it, as it were. So perhaps this is illegal, after all.

Of course, I am still baffled that church people are rushing to Quiznos instead of fighting against the cruelty of factory farming.

Attention: conservative callers, ranters, and others who prefer ignorance...

Here is a fact which you cannot be bothered to check: Bill Clinton did try to attack Osama bin Laden. Several times. Some of those times, he was stopped by--wait for it--the Pentagon. Other times, he realized so many Afghan citizens would be killed that he called off the attack.

Now that the usual arguments that Bush is God have failed, conservatives are going for the "well, okay, he's not handling the 'War on Terror' well, but...but...but none of this would have happened if Clinton had done his job" tactic. At no time do they consult recent history to discover that Clinton was more interested than the Pentagon in attacking bin Laden. Or that his funny little quirk about killing innocent people kept him from launching some planned attacks.

I, for one, am glad Clinton was stopped by the Pentagon, and glad that--on some occasions--he stopped himself. Killing bin Laden accomplishes nothing other than creating a new martyr. But for the sake of reality, could you people invest in just a slight bit of fact-checking before you pollute the airwaves and newsprint with total lies?

Required reading

From Paul Krugman's March 10 column, "Epiphany on the Right," in The New York Times:

...we should guard against a conventional wisdom that seems to be taking hold in some quarters, which says there's something praiseworthy about having initially been taken in by Bush's deceptions, even though the administration's mendacity was obvious from the beginning.

According to this view, if you're a former Bush supporter who now says...that "the administration lies...," you're a brave truth-teller, but if you've been saying that since the early days of the Bush administration, you were unpleasantly shrill.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Why I probably will not care who is on the 2008 ticket

I am not a Democrat. I left the Democratic Party when it became clear to me that the party was committed to causes about which I care deeply--feminism, gay rights, the environment, etc.--only as far as lip service would take it. This is not true of all Democrats, of course, but it is true of the party as a whole. The "me first" leap to vote for the invasion of Iraq, the trashing of Howard Dean, the excising of the ERA from the party platform, and the refusal to investigate the 2004 election have only confirmed my opinion that the Democratic Party is the confused branch of the Republican Party.

Now everyone is abuzz about the 2008 presidential election. We are hearing the words "shrill" and "strident" a lot because a woman is being considered for the ticket. No Democrats, not even the pro-Clinton ones, do anything to stop the sexist bashing of Senator Clinton, just as they have never done anything to stop the sexist bashing of any female party members.

It is very sad for me to hear so much excitement about a Gore/Warner ticket, or a Kerry/Feingold ticket or an Edwards/Clark ticket, or any combination of two white males you can think of. (Not that Feingold stands much chance--consider his last name.) I made up my mind some time ago that I would never again vote for a ticket of two white males, and I will not.

Consider this: That a Kerry/Warner or a Clark/Bayh ticket is elected. Yes, any of those men would do a better job than George W. Bush, but there are high school dropouts who would do a better job than Bush, so that is hardly an issue. Yes, any of those men would nominate judges whose mission in life is relatively free from misogyny, corporate ass-kissing, and a hatred of the poor.

But the Democratic Party's message would still be the same: We are afraid, and we--the white males--can do the best job of representing women and minorities. Message has to count for something. It says who we are as a nation.

Some day, if we ever get around to electing women and minorities to high office, I will be glad to go back and cast votes for capable, courageous white males--men like Feingold and Dennis Kucinich and Henry Waxman. If capable white males put women and minorities on their tickets, I will vote for them now, but the party has to be prepared to fight--not roll over and die-- when those candidates get Ferraro'd. There has to be commitment, something the Democratic Party simply does not have.

Art teacher suspended for teaching art

Why are Americans obsessed with sex? The lastest victim is a high school art teacher in Middletown, New York, who was suspended from his job for recommending that some of his advanced students consider taking figure drawing classes that included nude models.

The charge? Making "comments that students could construe as being of a sexual or personal nature...or using [his] position as a teacher to put students into any situation reasonably likely to make them feel uncomfortable because of the injection of sexuality into...the substance of [his] comments."

Only an obsessed-with-sex pervert would consider such a recommendation as one of a sexual nature or would feel that sexuality had been "injected" into the substance of the comments. And while I'm at it, so what if it was?

The students in this class viewed a number of nude drawings and paintings when they were in 9th grade art, so it isn't as though they are all shocked and enraged over the sight of a breast or a penis. It is the adults who are all aquiver over it. Indeed, it was one father who had a fit over the thought of his daughter seeing naked people, which is interesting, since attendance at the figure drawing classes was to be strictly voluntary.

There will now be hearings to determine whether to fire the teacher.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Butthole quote of the day

"Anybody who says the president of the United States is lying about weapons of mass destruction is lying."
John McCain

More than half of Americans reject evolution

A Gallup poll released today shows that more than half of Americans reject evolution and believe that "God created man exactly as the Bible describes it." 25% of the people surveyed with post-graduate degrees reject evolution. Obviously, this is the result of brainwashing by liberal professors.

What do Bono and Bob Geldof have in common?

They have both been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and they both suck up to Bush big-time. It sickens me that two people who have gone out of their way to create goodwill for a war criminal and democracy-hater have the honor of being nominated. Talk about cheapening the prize.

John Profumo has died

Ask any American what the major event of 1963 was, and she will say the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And so it was, but for a teenage girl growing up in a part-British household, the John Profumo scandal was certainly a close second. Profumo, Prime Minister Harold Mcmillan's Secretary of State for War, became involved with a call girl, Christine Keeler. Mcmillan was married to British film star Valerie Hobson, so their high profiles would have created scandal, no matter what, once word got out.

But the story was much greater than just that of a highly-ranked politician's cheating on his famous wife. Keeler was also involved in a relationship with a naval attache, Yevgeny Ivanov, who was a Russian spy. The scandal was huge, and Profumo, after lying about his relationship with Keeler (imagine that), resigned. But because of the compromised relationship, Mcmillan lost in the general election the next year.

As a young girl, I was fascinated with the newspapers we received from London. The scandal was front page news all the time, and though I was interested in the spy part of the story, I was, as you can imagine, a lot more interested in the call girl part. No one explained any of it to me, so I was left to conjure up all kinds of sordid images on my own.

Ironically, during this same period, the President of the United States was having one of a gazillion affairs with a woman who was also having an affair with a famous mobster, and who served as a go-between for both men, but that relationship was kept quiet until 1975.

John Profumo's story did not end with his resignation from the Mcmillan cabinet. He felt such profound remorse for what he had done that he dedicated the rest of his life to Toynbee Hall, a charitable settlement in London. He washed dishes and played with the children, raised money, and eventually became chairman and then president of Toynbee.

Before the scandal, most in-the-know British politicians and media personalities assumed that Profumo would one day become Foreign Secretary or Chancellor, but he wound up a dedicated humanitarian. In 1975, Profumo was made a Commander of the British Empire. He remained married to Valerie Hobson until her death in 1998.

Profumo died Thursday at the age of 91. His legacy will be that of a man who made a mistake and then went on to become a symbol of awareness and compassion.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Quote of the week

"If he invaded the wrong country, how do we know he'll wiretap the right people?"
Gloria Steinem

Louisiana post-Katrina update

I anticipate that someone will sue Governor Kathleen Blanco and the legislature because of the shockingly unfair decision to pay 100% of pre-Katrina house values only to people who remain in New Orleans. The others--who have no place to live and no jobs, or who choose not to live in a city where the government cannot guarantee their safety--will be punished by receiving only 60% of the value of their houses.

In the meantime, who wouldn't want to live in a city where the garbage isn't being picked up?

Carnival may be over, but there is still plenty of entertainment, brought to us by the completely insane Kimberly Williamson Butler, Orleans Parish Criminal Court Clerk and all-around lunatic. Williamson Butler, who used to be Mayor Nagin's CAO but was fired, then became Clerk of Court and managed to screw up an election by not getting voting machines to the polling places, has just gotten released from jail and is running for mayor, and compares herself to Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, and, it yourself.

The state has an unexpected budget surplus, which Governor Blanco wants to use to give teachers pay raises, but that is never a popular use for money in the Louisiana legislature.

We now know for sure that the Army Corps of Engineers had plenty of data for correctly designing levees and floodwalls in New Orleans, but chose to ignore it.

And the coveted Alliance for Good Government New Orleans mayoral candidate endorsement goes to Ron Forman.

U.S. found guilty of violating human rights of Native Americans

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has urged the United States to "freeze," "desist" and "stop" actions or threatened actions against the Western Shoshone Peoples of the Western Shoshone Nation. This action challenges the United States' government's claim of ownership of almost 90% of Western Shoshone lands.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Friday cat blogging--yoga edition

Thursday, March 09, 2006

San Diego woman says she was fired for having an Air America bumper sticker

Linda Laroca has filed suit against her former manager, Beverly Fath, and her former company, Advantage Sales and Marketing, Inc. because, she says, she was fired because of a bumper sticker. According to Laroca, Fath saw her 1360 Air America Talk Radio bumper sticker and called it "that Al Franken left-wing radical radio station." Laroca says Fath then told her: "The country is on a high state of alert. For all I know, you could be al-Quaida," and then fired her.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

U.S. Coast Guard cook discharged for being gay

Zachariah Gonzales. blackmailed by a taxi driver in Panama City, understood that anything he said would not be held against him. It was. He has been discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard because of the inane "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

This and that

For the first time in my memory, the Louisiana strawberry crop is bad this year. We have been looking forward to it for months, but the large red beauties lack flavor--a first. I have a refrigerator full of them, and they are no good for desserts or salads, so I am stuck using them for cocktails.

Over at Shakespeare's Sister, there is a question: "Who is on your dream Democratic ticket for the 2008 Presidential race?" Several people chose non-politicians, many chose a ticket not made up of two white males, and many put a bigoted-against-gays person on their dream ticket. Interesting.

Julian Brookes at MoJo Blog posts that Rick Santorum, who said in January that he would end his regular meetings with lobbyists, has continued to meet with many of them on a regular basis.

I saw North Country last night. It leaves a lot to be desired as a film, unfortunately, but at least the details of what those women in the mines went through are left intact. It was hard to watch. The horrific abuse enacted against the women in Minnesota was taking place in the mid-1980's, only 20 years ago. So many men hate--really hate--women.

While I'm talking about film, I should also add that the people who are complaining about a conspiracy with regard to Brokeback Mountain's failure to garner a "Best Picture" Oscar (which is usually an artisically worthless award, anyway) need to chill out. It was a good film, but not a great film. A great film, in my opinion, was Capote.

If you still haven't visited Holla Back New York City, what are you waiting for?

And if you still haven't joined the Green Party, what are you waiting for?

The Raw Story reports that Bush-lusting Chris Matthews has gotten large fees for speaking to conservative groups. Big surprise.

And now, dear reader, I must leave. I have drunk all of my strawberry daiquiri and must refill my glass.