Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memo to ESPN

People who do not care about tennis are not watching the French Open. Curious non-tennis fans who want to see Roger Federer will more likely tune in at a later date in the tournament. In the meantime, for those of us who do love tennis, there are some very interesting matches going on all over the stadium, but we can't watch them because we are stuck watching Roger play 6-1 sets against someone who is lucky to just be standing there.

I like Fed as much as the next person; I am a fan. But please, show us some tennis!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Petrova crashes out of French Open with injury

Hot, hot clay competitor Nadia Petrova had to withdraw from the Italian Open because of a pectoral strain. That was a wise thing to do. She got some rest, then headed over to Roland Garros to practice for the French Open. While she was practicing, she developed a groin strain. Today, that strain constricted her movement, and she lost in the first round to Akiko Morigami, who saw Petrova wasn't moving well and ramped up her own game to a very high level, hitting winning groundstrokes and drop shots. She won, 6-2, 6-2.

This is an extremely disappointing event for tennis fans. Petrova won three clay tournaments this year, in Amelia Island, Charleston, and Berlin, and was a top contender to win the French Open. Now that she is out, some of the drama of this year's French Open is gone. Some fans, however, are saying that Petrova brought this problem on herself because she plays in too many tournaments. They could be right. Both she and Patty Schnyder play in more tournaments than most other players. Schnyder seems to have been blessed with a body that rarely sustains injury, but Petrova may have finally pushed it too far.

Speaking of Patty Schnyder, one of my top favorites, she has a fan in Mats Wilander. He also likes David Nalbandian, another of my favorites.

And over at ESPN, Whit Sheppard says some hostile things about Martina Hingis. Hingis did some stupid, inappropriate things when she was younger. Many of us have forgiven a more mature Hingis those transgressions. Sheppard, however, is in a snit because she isn't kissing the sports media's ass. Give me a break.

And this is as good a time as any to say: Allez Amelie! Go Martina! Go Patty! Go Roger! Go David!

Bush knew nothing of Haditha deaths until Time asked questions

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow says that George W. Bush heard reports that U.S. Marines had killed two dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians "When a Time reporter first made the call." In March, Time reported the investigation of a dozen marines for possible war crimes in a November incident in which unarmed citizens, including women and children, were shot. The killings occurred after a bomb hit a military convoy and killed a Marine.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

A bit of good news for the animals

Welch's has stopped all animal experiments. The University of Wisconsin, the University of Illinois, and Tufts University were all the scene of painful testing on a variety of animals. I should add that it took a threat of consumer boycott before Welch's did the right thing.

Still not doing the right thing are Ocean Spray, POM, and Tahitian Noni.

Sunny Delight, Old Orchard SunSweet, Tampico, Cascadian Farms, Newman's Own, Bolthouse Farms, Jamba Juice, and Campbell's V8 Juices do not test on animals.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day--just another Bush obscenity

On Memorial Day, 2003, I wrote:

Looting, vandalism, impure water, disease, political upheaval, the stripping away of women's rights--they are all right there, for everyone to see. When you blow a country up, it's a good idea to have a plan for preventing out-and-out anarchistic chaos.

That was three years ago, and not only is the situation in Iraq still chaotic, it is also chaotic in southern Afghanistan.

The Bush administration's treatment of veterans and active soldiers, however, is the most sickening aspect of today's Memorial Day observance:

2002--The White House announced its intention to cut imminent danger pay from $225 to $150 a month, and family separation allowance money from $250 to $100 a month.

2003--The Department of Veterans Affairs cut off access to its health care system to some veterans after the Whit House turned down the department's request for a bigger budget.

2003--Bush administration cut in military housing and medical facility funding for active duty military.

2003--Soldiers were told they may have to buy their own body protection and armored plates.

2004--Congress voted to pay $12,000 as a one-time payment to the families of soldiers killed in action, ignoring Bush's request that the families be paid $6,000.

2005--Bush proposed a budget that doubled the co-payment for most veterans' prescription drugs. The proposal also created an annual fee of $250 for some veterans to access government health care.

2005--Because of budget cuts, it was announced that services would be limited in veterans' hospitals and clinics.

All of these facts are disturbing and expose the deep hypocrisy of the Bush administration. Yet none of these is as horrible as the simple fact that Bush has sent thousands of American soldiers to Iraq to be injured or killed when there was absolutely no reason for him to do so.

Fort Lauderdale mayor criticizes lazy people

"I'm supposed to subsidize some schlock sitting on the sofa and drinking a beer, who won't work more than 40 hours a week?"
Fort Lauderdale mayor Jim Naugle

Oh, the problems we face because of all the lazy people who won't work more than forty hours a week. And their excuses! Raise their children, spend some time with their spouses and friends, protect their physical and mental health. Can you believe it?

Naugle is opposed to a proposed affordable housing law, which he says is a communist project. But no matter where you stand on the concept of affordable housing laws, attacking people who have opted to have a life rather than work a sixty-hour work week is perverse. A major problem in this country is the employer who belittles employees who do not work more than forty hours a week. The employees who work ten- and twelve-hour days keep healthcare providers busy. They tend to have insomnia, headaches, high cholesterol, hypertension, anxiety disorders, depression, and problems with substance abuse.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Kansas couple gives fundamentalist meaning to multi-tasking

They beat their kids with a Bible.

Why Hastert may be up to his neck in it

Think Progress breaks it down for you.

A post-Katrina poem

I love this poem.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

French Open begins Sunday

Julia Vakulenko of Ukraine upset top qualifying seed Romina Oprandi and will compete in the French Open

The French Open is beginning a day early this year, I suppose as a hedge against rain days. First up is Maria Sharapova, who re-injured her ankle and asked the tournament officials to re-schedule her match so she could give her foot a rest. The tournament officials refused, and she may withdraw. If she does, Mashona Washington will get an easy walkover to the second round.

Kim Clijsters, a contender for the title, is also injured, though she says the injury is slight. Mary Pierce, last year's finalist, has already withdrawn because of injury, as has Lindsay Davenport.

Romina Oprandi
, the talented Italian up-and-comer who stole the show at the Italian Open and made it all the way to the quarterfinals where she was lost a very close match, was seeded number one among those trying to qualify for the French Open, but she was upset in her final qualifying round by Ukraine's Julia Vakulenko. I think Oprandi may still get in, however, as a lucky loser. Vakulenko's career was stalled by problems with depression, but she appears to be back in form.

A must-read in Harper's

When Lewis H. Lapham resigned as editor of Harper's and said he would be writing the "Notebook" column just six times a year, I was disappointed. However, the June issue has a "Notebook" written by Harper's literary editor, Ben Metcalf, and it is so wonderful, I have already read it twice. "On Simple Human Decency" is funny, outrageous, relevant, and terribly clever. Don't miss it.

Friday, May 26, 2006

French Open Memories--20 Years of Finals

This wonderful feature on the 2006 French Open website actually gives you 21 years of finals. Unlike other Grand Slam videos, these are not quick moments, but in-depth looks at the last games of French Open finals.

Court of Appeals upholds unconstitutionality of Patriot Act's National Security Letter provision

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday on two challenges to the National Security Letter provision of the USA Patriot Act filed by the American Civil Liberties Uniion. Two different lower courts found the provision to be unconstitutional, and the ACLU argued that recent amendments to the law have made it even less democratic.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Pataki's office gives money to foie gras producers

The foie gras news may be good from Chicago, but in New York, the governor's attitude is more French. Governor George Pataki's Economic Development Agency has awarded a $420,000 grant to Hudson Valley Foie Gras so that it can expand its business.

All factory farm practices are cruel and barbaric, and the making of foie gras is especially sickening. Ducks are confined to dirty cages and constantly force-fed gruel until their livers are enlarged by up to ten times their original size. A metal pipe is forced down the ducks' throats, often resulting in bruising, lacerations, pneumonia, and and impacted esophagi. The ducks become so obese they can hardly move, which results in their developing infectious sores. About the time death is near, the ducks are slaughtered.

A Zogby poll revealed that 78% of New Yorkers want foie gras production banned.

Iraqi national tennis coach and team members murdered for wearing shorts

The coach of the Iraqi national tennis team and two of his players were murdered Thursday because they were wearing western-style tennis shorts. Hussein Ahmed Rashid and his team members were shot in the head. Fundamentalists have been distributing leaflets in the area, warning people not to wear shorts.

Indian tennis player Sania Mirza, a WTA rising star, had a fatwa issued against her in September of last year because of her tennis skirts and T-shirts.

Friday cat blogging--TGIF edition

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Halliburton to score again

The millions and millions poured into George W. Bush's presidential campaigns were investments made on a sure thing. And as if the riches of the war in Iraq are not enough, now we learn that one of the companies expected to clean up (pun intended) from increased U.S. border control is Halliburton. Another, not surprisingly, is Bechtel. Billions of dollars worth of infrastructure, constuction, and contract management goodies are expected to go to the two giant companies.

Halliburton, you will recall, lost $9 billion in Iraq, but no one seemed to mind. In fact, the Department of Defense stopped monitoring spending in Iraq in 2004.

Vegan women not prone to having twins

Women who consume animal products, especially dairy, are five times more likely than vegan women to give birth to twins.

Baghdad described as lacking fundamental services and utilities

Three years after the United States invaded Iraq, Baghdad is still lacking basic services for its citizens. Water treatment plants that were to have been repaired after the war meet 60% of the city's needs, and the sewerage pipes are clogged with garbage. During the past six months, more than 300 garbage collectors have been killed, and people are tossing their garbage into the streets.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

September 11 takes on new meaning

It seems fitting that September 11, the terrible day in our history that has been hijacked by fake patriots, will be the day that Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling are sentenced for their multiple crimes against Americans. Lay and Skilling perfectly represent the values of this White House--deceptive and greedy to the core.

Now is also a good time to remember that Gray Davis was right.

And it is a good time to remember the kept-under-wraps story that Arnold Schwarzenegger met with Lay and his associates in a hotel room in California.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Boy in dress banned from his prom

This is Kevin Logan. Kevin, 18, is a student at West Side High School in Gary, Indiana, and all year long, he has worn makeup, women's accessories, and women's jeans to school. So imagine his surprise when he arrived at his prom and was told he could not stay because of the gown he was wearing. Logan received a refund for his prom ticket, but is considering contacting the ACLU about his being barred from his own prom.

A Gary school system official says that Logan was not allowed to attend his prom because of a rule prohibiting males from wearing dresses.

ACLU adviser at school removed from her teaching post

Officials at Munford High School in Munford, Tennessee have refused to give chemistry teacher Dr. Patricia Kilzer a reason for not renewing her contract, but you don't have to be a genius to figure it out for yourself. Kilzer was the faculty advisor for Munford High's new ACLU chapter, and the school was recently in the news when the ACLU informed the administration that it could not go forward with the prayers it had planned for the graduation ceremonies. Instead, the students "spontaneously" recited the Lord's Prayer when instructed to take a moment for reflection.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Just around the corner--the French Open!

Defending French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne practices

The French Open, my favorite Grand Slam, begins May 28, and I can't wait. The women's field is wide open this year, with bookmakers giving the first nod to defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, followed by Kim Clijsters, Nadia Petrova, and Amelie Mauresmo.

Henin-Hardenne does stand a good chance of defending her title. She is one of the best clay players the WTA has seen since the mighty Chris Evert went on a 125-match clay court tear many years ago. But Henin-Hardenne has vulnerabilities. Her serve has been pretty shaky since her comeback from illness. And at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, Patty Schnyder brilliantly broke Henin-Hardenne's game down (for the first time), by not avoiding the deadly Henin-Hardenne backhand. Instead, Schnyder served extremely well (she is one of the best servers on the tour) and took control of the rallies, hitting relentlessly to Henin-Hardenne's backhand and patiently forcing the error.

Clijsters could certainly win the French Open; she is a fine clay court player. But Clijsters can be streaky, so who knows? Mauresmo has plenty of beautiful clay court game, but she has always been way too intimidated by French expectations to do that well at Roland Garros. However, since she won the 2005 WTA Tour Championships and then went on to win the 2006 Australian Open, Mauresmo has picked up some badly needed confidence and should be a serious contender at the French Open.

Petrova is red-hot and it is easy to imagine her winning at Roland Garros. Long considered to be the most talented of the Russians, she was such a head case she couldn't even win a tournament for years. All that has changed, and how. Petrova has been burning up the clay courts, winning back-to-back at Amelia Island and Charleston, and also winning the German Open.

The bookmakers place Martina Hingis at number five. Though she doesn't say so, everyone knows how badly Hingis wants to win the French Open and get her career slam. It is the Grand Slam she was always the most likely to win, and the one she never did win. She just won the Italian Open, which is a really nice way to slide into Roland Garros. Her chances are good; her game is still one of the best.

Others to be considered are Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva, Patty Schnyder, and Mary Pierce, last year's finalist. Kuznetsova is pretty good on clay, but I don't see her going all the way. Dementieva is great on all surfaces but has such problems with her serve, it's a wonder she gets as far as she does. Bad serve or not (Hingis's serve isn't too hot, either), I still see Dementieva winning a Slam at some point--she has been a finalist twice--and this year's French Open isn't out of the question.

Schnyder's game is made for clay. It's beautiful and often brilliant, but Schnyder struggles terribly with confidence. When she's on a roll, she can beat anyone on the tour on any surface except, perhaps, grass. But when her belief in herself gets shaky, she can't deliver. She has been in so many Tier I finals and semi-finals, but she has trouble completing the big task. I'd love to see Patty win the French Open, but given her mental fragility, it just isn't likely to happen.

Mary Pierce has been out for weeks with an injury, so even if she makes it to Paris, she won't be in any shape to be a serious competitor. Maria Sharapova has yet to master the clay surface, and anyway, she isn't sure she will be at the French Open, also because of an injury. Lindsay Davenport, who has never even hoped to win the French Open, has already withdrawn because of her back. That leaves Venus Williams, who is always dangerous, but I don't see her getting into the finals.

A conversation that made no sense

I went to see my dentist recently, and I had a tech who was different from the one I usually have. We talked about this and that, and the subject of vegertarianism came up. She said she had a vegan friend and he makes the healthiest food of anyone she knew. We talked for a while about different diets and about organic food. Later, the subject of Boulder, Colorado came up. She said she had been there once, and she felt a lot of people were offended by her because she was wearing a leather jacket.

"You know the kind of people I'm talking about," she said. "Those animal rights people who are such extremists."

I told her I was against the wearing of leather, and if that made me "one of those people," so be it. That really threw her, and she started backing out of the statement, saying "well, I was very young at the time."

I asked her why it would be not extremist to spare animals and/or prevent cruelty to animals by not eating them, but extremist to spare animals and/or prevent cruelty to animals by not wearing their skins. Her reasoning made no sense at all, and sure enough--she had no answer for me.

Zogby poll shows interest in new Septmber 11 investigation

A recent Zogby poll found that over 70 million Americans distrust the official explanation of the September 11 attacks. 42% believe there has been some kind of coverup; 45% believe that Congress on an international tribunal should investigate the attacks again.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

I am sick to death of Al Gore and John Kerry

They had their chances to do something besides just stand there, and they just stood there. It is a little late for them to become rhetorical heroes.

Everyone can breathe easy now

George W. Bush says we are doing a pretty good job of "stopping the suiciders."

What it means to be a "Christian" nation

As of right now, 51% of people taking an MSNBC poll say they would support separating a U.S.-born child from her illigal immigrant parents.

Who voted against the PETS Act?

When the House of Representatives passed the PETS Act, there were 349 in favor of it and 60 members who did not vote. Here are the 24 Congresswomen and -men who voted against the bill--I think we should all know who they are:

Garrett (NJ)
King (IA)
Miller (FL)

Monday, May 22, 2006

PETS Act passes House

The Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives today. The PETS Act would require that pets and service animals be considered in any emergency preparedness plans. It passed 349-24 and is now headed to the U.S. Senate.

About 600,000 animals either died or were left without shelter after Hurricane Katrina.

What is outrageous is that only now is the government considering the rescue of animals.

Prisoners, absolved of charges, still at Guantanamo

Since the opening of the Grantanamo prison, 38 of the 759 prisoners have been deemed "no longer enemy combatants." Right now there are four men at Guantanamo who have been cleared of all charges, but who have no idea when they will be released.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Another mission accomplished

The U.S.-led coalition had what is being described as a "successful operation" in southern Afghanistan last night, killing anywhere from 20 to 80 (not too clear, is it?) members of the Taliban. Oh, and in bombing the village, the coalition killed 16 civilians and wounded 15 more, some of them children.

Just when you think flying has reached an all-time low...

Today I had lunch with a friend who had just returned from Washington, DC. She had the misfortune of being on the same plane as Chris Matthews, and said that he was busy telling everyone who would listen that the nation does not want New Orleans to be re-built.

He gave it a rest now and then, however, and did a very careful visual inspection of every woman who passed by.

Katrina timeline

I meant to post this several days ago: The New Orleans Times-Picayune has an excellent hurricane timeline on its website.

Katrina death toll in Louisiana continues to rise

The human death toll of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana is now 1,577, but that does not include those people who died in other states because of heart attacks and other stress-related problems.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

She's back!...Hingis wins the Italian Open!

Today in Rome, unseeded Martina Hingis defeated 16th seed Dinara Safina, 6-2, 7-5 to win the 2006 Italian Open. Since she made her comeback from 3 1/2 years of retirement, this is the first tournament Hingis has won, and it is a Tier 1 tournament, making her win even more special.

Safina provided a lot of the drama leading up to today's final. During the week, she swatted the world's top players--Kim Clijsters, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova--like flies, and put herself into the unlikely spot of being a Tier 1 finalist. Considering what she went through to get to the final, I feel bad for her; a Tier 1 win would be a major step in Safina's career. But I've been waiting for Hingis to win a big one, and I join thousands of fans in being very excited that she was the winner today.

So great is the excitement that Hingis's victory has crashed the official Sony Ericsson WTA Tour site. And that is how it should be.

Hingis served for the match at 5-4, but could not close. Those who saw the match said she was visibly nervous trying to close, and indeed, she did not do so until her fourth match point.

In her Rome semifinal, Hingis defeated Venus Williams, 0-6, 6-3, 6-3. This was a re-match of the Hingis's last Italian Open win, in 1998. She said her terrible start did not keep her from thinking she could win the match. "At least I was still fresh," she said, "that's the upside of losing a set 6-0." She went on to say that she felt like she was putting pressure on Williams, and that "she wasn't killing me."

That is a champion's mentality. Now, if Hingis can find a way to get a champion's serve...

Nothing, not even the post-Katrina election, can overcome ignorance

Last night I listened to an analyst explain how Ray Nagin was able to get enough of the white vote to win the New Orleans mayoral election. The majority of white people ages 30 to 55 voted for Mitch Landrieu. However, a substantial number of white voters over 55 voted for Nagin because when they hear the name "Landrieu," they think "liberal," "like Ted Kennedy.

If these people had ever bothered to pay even the slightest bit of attention to Sen. Mary Landrieu's voting record, they would see one of the most conservative Congresspeople on the Democratic side. If it weren't so pitiful, I'd fall down laughing.

It gets even worse when you factor in the under-30 white voters. They had a tendency to vote for Nagin because "they like his swagger" and "think he's hip."

I am all for people voting for a candidate based on his qualifications and not his skin color. But to vote for him because you are totally ignorant of his opponent's sister's voting record or because you like the way he walks--well, what can I say?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Nagin ushers in second term

Mayor Ray Nagin won re-election in New Orleans tonight, and at the beginning of this acceptance speech, he said "I'm not going to get in any trouble tonight," a reference to his propensity to say things that upset people. He then proceeded to thank George W. Bush for "keeping his promises." Then he mispronounced the name of the governor of Louisiana. And he ended by comparing his opponent's supporters to people who frequent prostitutes: "You went over to the red light district, but I forgive you."

When a reporter asked him if he was worried about the onset of hurricane season, he said he was not because he felt New Orleans was going to be spared.

Welcome to the second term.

Talk about "everyone's a critic"

I am embarrassed to say that I am not nearly as well read as I wish I were, which is to say, I am not very well-read. I was when I was a child and an adolescent. Then, I read voraciously, with few distractions. Unfortunately, I have forgotten most of what I read then, except for some impressions. I suppose that is true of everyone.

Because I am shamefully under-read (I won't embarrass myself by giving details), I could not begin to say what the world's greatest novels are, but I can say with certainty that Virginia Woolf's novels are among the greatest--if not the greatest--novels I have ever read. This afternoon, while searching for something on the Web, I stumbled onto something so shocking, I thought I'd share it. Some reviewers, two perhaps, who call themselves the Brothers Judd, read books and grade them A through F. The reader of To the Lighthouse gave it an F.

Okay, I read a bunch of criticism to figure out why this book is on the list, never mind why it's so high on the list. As one would expect, the critics are awash in psychoblither. But there's one thing I didn't see, and it's the obvious one, Virginia Woolf was consumed by penis envy. What the hell else could the title of the freakin' book mean?

It goes downhill from there.

I think I'm going to put up a website to review international aeronautics projects, of which I am totally and pathetically ignorant.

Watch this space

A wren has built her nest inside this fern container that hangs on the wall in our back porch garden. We are going to just let the fern die so that we won't disturb anything by watering.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Florida sued over voter registration law

A law passed in Florida last year that fines nonpartisan voter registration activities under certain circumstances, is being challenged in U.S. District Court by the League of Women Voters and several other nonpartisan organizations. The law has forced the League and similar groups to discontinue all voter registration drives, while permitting partisan groups to hold such drives.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

The wretched Giuliani becomes even slimier

From Pandagon comes the not-surprising news that former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who lost every one of the twenty-something civil liberties cases filed against him during his term in office, is raising money for fellow slimeball Ralph Reed. Not only is Reed a dangerous right-wing nutcase, but he is also part of the great Abramoff web of greed and scandal.

THIS is the problem with America

Nowhere have I seen such a crystalline example of what is wrong with this country as I saw yesterday in a post at delagar. Delagar, a university professor, describes her experience teaching Shaw's Major Barbara, and it is heartbreaking and maddening to read. Most of the students did not even bother to read the play. Many of them told her they were not interested in Shaw because he was a communist. Shaw was not a communist; he was a socialist, a distinction that is apparently lost on these university students. And even if he were a communist (though I imagine being a socialist is considered just as evil in this crowd), what could that possibly have to do with reading an assigned play?

Delagar gave the students back the essays she had assigned and told them to do revisions. She may as well have told them to take off their clothes and set fire to them, from the reaction she got. Most of them refused to revise their papers, and the few who did the revisions continued to attack the playwrite based on what they (incorrectly) perceived were his politics.

At this point, as you can see in the original post, the professor explained to the students that Shaw favored things like a minimum wage and social security, and they attacked that, too, because it sounded like--you guessed it--communism.

I cut my teeth on Shaw when I was a girl, delighting in his famous plays, like Major Barbara and Pygmalian, but also thoroughly enjoying his lesser known one-acts plays. Shaw, in addition to being a great wit and an astute observer of the socio-political scene, was also a vegetarian and a feminist. I imagine those things are communist, too, to the students in that classroom, though I doubt if any of them could present even a reasonable definition of communism.

Consider that these students do not know the difference between communism and socialism. Consider that they obviously have no idea what communism is. Consider that most of them did not read the assigned play, and that most of them refused to revise their essays, even though revision was an assignment. What in hell are they doing in a university? Talk about a waste of taxpayers' money, not to mention a waste of space and oxygen. How did they even get into a university?

These students represent the deep flaw in America. Not only do they refuse to do assigned work, but they have a revulsion to learning. A revulsion to learning is what is evil, not communism. Taking a twisted pride in one's ignorance is evil, not socialism. There is no doubt in my mind that the parents of these students have taught them to rail against the welfare system as a handout to people who are too lazy to work. If these students had a clue what the word "irony" means, they would be able to appreciate the irony that it is they who are lazy and refusing to work, and those of us who pay taxes are giving them a handout so they can resist any force that might remove their ignorance.

It's a very good idea to have a GPS

When traveling in Baltimore.

Friday cat blogging--I'll follow the sun, part 2

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lone Baghdad mortuary unable to handle all of the civilian corpses

Baghdad has only one mortuary, and the staff there was able to release bodies in about five hours, prior to the war. Now, there is not only a dramatic increase in the number of dead bodies being brought to the morgue, the nature of their wounds is such that exams can take many hours or even days to complete. Dr. Fa'aq Ameen, director of the health ministry's Forensic Medicine Institute, also cites lack of storage space and a shortage of doctors as problems at the Baghdad mortuary.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Memo to Ed Schultz

Susan Sarandon is not just a "Hollywood actress." She is a known and respected liberal activist, and if she wants to endorse a candidate, she has every right to. The fact that Fox News will have a field day with the story is irrelevant; none of its listeners is going to vote for either Clinton or Tasini for senator. Grow a spine.

Every day, I find it harder to listen to so-called progressive radio.

A new lawsuit is filed over the closing of Newcomb College

You will recall that the lawsuit filed in federal court over the impending closing of Newcomb College was dismissed by the judge for two reasons: that the people bringing the suit had no standing to bring it, and that Josephine Newcomb's wishes were subject to many interpretations (meaning that an actual women's college does not have to exist).

Now a suit has been filed in state court in Louisiana, and at least one of the federal judge's objections has been taken care of: The suit was filed by Josephine Newcomb's heirs. Both plaintiffs are descendents of Newcomb's sister.

Many of us are hoping that this suit will have a different outcome. Newcomb is scheduled to be shut down forever at the end of June.

Pit bull owners try to use chickens for bait

Phyllis, Eileen, Diane, and Agnes are four lucky chickens that were rescued in New York City by a Farm Sanctuary staff member. The chickens were in a box tied up with string, and were about to be released as "bait" to train pit bulls to fight. When the Farm Sanctuary employee confronted the men with the dogs, they became verbally abusive and tried to break her phone when she attempted to call the police. In the end, they left, and the woman was able to gather the chickens. Phyllis, Eileen, Diane, and Agnes are now at Farm Sanctuary's New York shelter, where they are eating, drinking, receiving treatment for parasites, and thriving.

Where your eggs come from

Wegmans Egg Farm in Rochester, New York claims that "We are proud of our egg farm." That statement is both sickening and astounding, considering that Wegmans, like all factor farm egg producers in this country, uses battery cages for its hens. The conditions in which the hens live (I use the term very loosely) are obscene and horrific.

Adam Durand, the Compassionate Consumers advocate who blew the whistle on Wegmans, is now on his way to serve a six-month jail sentence for trespassing. The sentence came as a request from Wegmans; the county prosecutor asked for community service. The judge called Durand "arrogant" and "self-righteous" during the sentencing, as if extreme animal cruelty could be seen from another point of view.

You can help in two ways. You can write to the District Attorney and the presiding County Court Judge (the addresses are here.) And you can stop eating factory farm eggs. Factory farm eggs, like factory farm meat, are put on your plate by people who are not at all concerned with how much the animals suffer--and they suffer a whole lot, every moment of their lives.

But do not be misled by so-called "free range" chicken eggs you see in the grocery store. Many of them provide battery cages that are only slightly larger than the ones at Wegmans, and the U.S. government allows them to lie and say they have free range chickens. If you do not have a place where you can buy yard eggs, then call or email the farm that produces the "free range" chicken eggs and ask if the hens are caged. If the answer is "yes," then you will have to go to Plan B, which is to buy an egg substitute.

Mary Cheney outdoes herself

A visit to Pam's House Blend always revs up my blood pressure. I feel compelled to share this gem Pam dug up on why Mary Cheney did not comment on same sex marriage during the 2004 presidential campaign:

I never really was trying to be this mysterious figure. During both campaigns, I was rather busy trying to get my job done. There was a flood of phone calls that Heather and I got from reporters. My reaction was, I have other things to worry about.

Honey, buy yourself an organizer.

Formerly silent Judith Miller now telling interesting tale

In an interview with AlterNet, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who spent 85 days in jail for refusing to divulge her source in the Plame case, tells an interesting--and ignored--story about September 11, 2001.

Miller, who worked for years on terrorism-related stories, was working on a special project in 2000 and 2001--describing and analyzing al Qaida. When the USS Cole was attacked, Miller believed that al Qaida was responsible. There was some concern that there might be an attack on the U.S. on July 4, 2001, and Miller describes two government agencies at odds about the potential attacker: The intelligence experts did not think that al Qaida posed much of a threat, but the counter-terrorism experts believed otherwise. Miller says that the White House tended to label the counter-terrrorism crowd as "extremist."

That July 4th weekend, Miller says she spoke with a source who told her about an intercept that had been picked up. The people having the conversation--two members of al Qaida--were disappointed because the U.S. had not chosen to retaliate more seriously against the attack on the USS Cole. One then said "Don't worry; we're planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond."

Those who remember hearing about this incident a few years ago recall that Miller's story never ran in the Times. She presented the idea to her editor, they both agreed that more details were needed, and Miller was never able to get those details. She was not only very busy with other projects, but she ran into a wall every time she tried to pin down details.

The AlterNet interview focuses on what would have happened if the Times had run the story without the details that were missing. But a more important consideration is the lingering question of why the government did not or could not pursue the details of the conversation between the al Qaida members. The conflict and confusion among various government agencies--laid out clearly in Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies--made it impossible for the nation to be prepared for a major terrorist attack. I haven't noticed any decrease in that conflict and confusion.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

New Orleans bumper sticker literature

For some time, a popular New Orleans bumper sticker has said New Orleans, Proud To Call Home. Eventually, someone riffed on that and distributed what became my very favorite bumper sticker: New Orleans, Proud To Crawl Home. Now someone has riffed on that and produced New Orleans, Proud To Swim Home.

But I wasn't ready for what I saw yesterday: a beautiful gray south-to-northshore commuter bus with a bumper sticker that said New Orleans, What A City. Oy.

I just wanted a cup of tea, damn it

When my friend Kathy was in Louisiana recently, she could not get a decent cup of tea. When she asked for hot water, she received a styrofoam cup of boiling water. In my part of Louisiana, as Kathy knows, there is an authentic English tea room, run by Brits. However, my office is nowhere near the lovely tea room. There is another tea room in the next town, but it is inconveniently located, and besides, the management had a right-wing speaker at one of its salons, so I do not go there anymore.

So today, I tried to go to a Starbucks near my office, but it was closed because of some type of sidewalk construction. So I went to a local coffee place that serves good food and coffee, and asked what type of black tea they had. "We don't have any black tea," the young woman at the counter said. "But you must," I told her. "Do we have any black tea?" she asked someone else, who shook her head "no."

"The teas are over there," the counter clerk said, so I "over there" and immediately found black tea. Mind you, there was only one variety, what with all of the flavored teas and all of the tisanes, which are mistakenly called teas. I brought it to her, and she looked at it as though I might have brought her a dead mouse. She then gave me--you know what's coming--a cup with hot water in it.

You do not put a tea bag in a cup of hot water; you pour hot water over a bag or over loose tea. Why, oh why, in a country that is obsessed with gourmet coffee, can't people be trained to provide even the most rudimentary service in presenting tea?

Getting this type of service made me think of my other huge peeve--having grocery store checkers ask me "What's this?" after every other product is delivered on the belt. We used to have two Albertson's stores in our community, and no one there ever asked me what the products were. But now I am once again stuck with untrained help whose cooking and shopping experience is apparently very limited. I have to pay close attention and be on the ready to say "leeks," "Japanese eggplant," "Romaine lettuce," "kale."

I just wanted a cup of tea, damn it.

Study concludes that women in Congress have disproportionately less power than men

Knowlegis, a company founded to manage legislator/lobbyist relationships, has announced that, according to its study of 2005 records and news media mentions, women in both the House and the Senate have disproportionately less power than their male couterparts. The power rankings took into account position, committee membership, number of laws advanced, and PAC funds wielded.

Only three women, all Democrats, were ranked within the top fifty members of the House of Representatives: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (#7), Rosa DeLauro (#25), and Deborah Pryce (#32). The highest-ranking Republican woman in the House was Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (#53).

In the Senate, women's rankings were even lower. Sen. Dianne Feinstein did not make the top ten, and Sen. Hillary Clinton was #41.

Congressional aides are reported to be upset over the report. One of them said that "their criteria seem to be slanted toward if you're a lobbyist looking for someone who can get special favors, rather than somebody who's gonna fight for ordinary people. "

Unmarried couple denied occupancy permit in Missouri suburb

If you live in Black Jack, Missouri, you have children, and you are not married to your live-in partner, the city is going to evict you from your house or apartment.

An unmarried couple was recently denied an occupancy permit after moving into their house because they have three children and are not married. The Black Jack planning and zoning commission, realizing that the suburb's current ordinace denies housing to people who are living together and are not related by blood, adoption, or marriage, moved to change the law. However, the city council, in a vote of 5-3, rejected the change.

Of course, this is really about "what will we tell the children if the gay people move next door?" More and more states and municipalities are attempting to ban non-marital/non-blood living arrangements to try to keep gay families out of houses and apartments. Such proposals, however, do more than deprive gay citizens of their civil rights: They also make it impossible for friends to share housing and for people with roommate arrangements to share housing.

Super Columbine Massacre RPG upsetting to Columbine families

Imagine that. The video game, which was introduced online last year, has become rather popular. It is "ultimately up to you," players are told, how many people Harris and Klebold kill. The game includes crime scene images of the two killers and images of students running and crying, but there are no photographs of the victims.

The creator of the website, who prefers to be anonymous, says that he created the game to induce a "real dialogue on the subject of school shootings." He also says he was a bullied kid, echoing the pop psychology explanation for the Columbine killings (the killings took place, as at least one sane commentator wrote, not because Harris and Klebold were bullied, but because they were dangerous psychopaths).

The son of one of the Columbine victims said of the game: "It disgusts me. You trivialize the actions of two murderers and the lives of the innocent."

I visited the Super Columbine Massacre RPG discussion forum, in which there is a great deal of protest that the game exists, and there are also a few comments defending it. I imagine that most of the defenders are too busy playing the game to bother with the forum. There is at least one very disturbing post in which Harris and Klebold are praised; I did not stick around long enough to see if there were any others like that.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The CDC's solution to women's reproductive health problems--welcome to the 19th Century

Ann Friedman has a post at MoJo Blog about a report in the Washington Post's report of the CDC's request that all women treat themselves as "pre-pregnant," i.e., that women take folic acid (why, if they are not deficient?), refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight, and keep chronic health conditions under control. Friedman is justifiably troubled by the report, not only because of its all-women-as-incubators implications, but because nowhere does the report mention birth control.

Friedman mentions that though "the first recommendation is that 'each woman, man and couple should be encouraged to have a reproductive life plan,' it never calls on the government to encourage contraceptive use."

She goes on to say:

The report’s authors do acknowledge that many women lack access to adequate reproductive health care, but they tell women to “manage risk factors" rather than admonish government officials who have cut funding for these programs.

Why am I not surprised? Women's reproductive health care has always been a low priority in this country, and now--with the religious right running the show in the federal government--the very idea of encouraging the use of birth control is offensive. Because we cannot successfully control women if women are allowed to control their own lives and bodies.

Don't talk about the war!

Most people, if asked for their favorite episode of Fawlty Towers will say "The Germans." "Don't talk about the war!" Basil Fawlty warns the staff, and then proceeds to talk about nothing but to the Germans in the hotel dining room.

The hilarious episode did not come out of thin air. There has been some coldness between England and Germany for some time. I have a relative, for example, around whom you cannot say the word "Germany." John Cleese, recognizing the long life of this schism, has written a song for the World Cup called--you guessed it--"Don't Talk About the War."

Enjoy. And just in case you feel like doing the Silly Walk--have at it.

The joys of being a minority female

Carol Fisher case suggests pattern of law enforcement/judicial irregularities

Here is some additional information on the Carol Fisher case, supplied by the Cleveland Indy Media Center. Apparently, the usual time between arrest and indictment in Fisher's county is two months, but the time for her was eight days. Also, Ohio law requires that service of an indictment must be made at least 24 hours prior to arraignment; Fisher's notice was served to her attorney the morning of her arraignment (the attorney decided to waive right to protest). Though these facts in themselves are not particularly newsworthy, the existence of such irregularities--one of them illegal--only serve to strengthen the argument that Fisher was treated unfairly because of her political beliefs and her unwillingness to be quiet about them.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

My favorite story of the month so far

The BBC's interview of a taxi driver instead of a technology expert. It made me think of an even better story, several years ago, when someone--I think from Esquire--made up a "movie star" who didn't exist, and the other media outlets began fighting over getting interviews with her.

And we thought the U.S. was marketing-mad

2006 Olympic gold medal figure skater Shizuka Arakawa of Japan, without a doubt, executes the best Ina Bauer of any contemporary skater, and has made it her signature move. Arakawa may indeed execute the best Ina Bauer of all time. The move, when done correctly, is one of the most graceful and breathtaking of all figure skating moves, and was named for its creator, Ina Bauer of Germany.

Now Japan's Asahi Breweries wants to name a beverage--either a beer or saki--"Ina Bauer." Asahi has applied for a patent on the name, though there is no word as to whether it has actually asked Ina Bauer has she feels about putting her name on a bottle.

Meanwhile, Arakawa skated professionally for the first time on yesterday, at the Skizuka Arakawa Friends on Ice show in Yokohama. Those in attendance were privileged to see Arakawa's Olympic program, which she skated to music from Puccini's Turandot.

Every day, in every way, I am thankful I do not live in Ohio

First it was voter intimidation, breaking Ohio state law, and machine-tampering in order to get the Ohio votes for Bush in 2004. Then it was the "take off that T-shirt or stop singing" affair. Then it was the Carol Fisher business.

Now, the people of Ohio have outdone themselves in arresting and jailing a 14-year-old girl who failed to appear at her accused sexual abuser's trial because she did not want to face him. She is in jail indefinitely and is not allowed to see an attorney. Meanwhile, the accused perpetrator is out on bond.

The law seems to mean practically nothing to officials in Ohio.

Sneaking Jesus past the guards

Last Friday, when no one was looking, the House of Representatives passed a defense authorization bill that includes a section that allows chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus at public military ceremonies. This, of course, is in direct contradiction to the new Navy and Air Force guidelines on religion. The prayer provision was added by Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Several groups, including the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family have been lobbying the White House for Bush to issue an executive order permitting Christian prayer. When he did not do so, House Republicans stepped in.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The meme of 5

I think (I say I think because it said "Diane," and I think that was a reference to me) I've been tagged by Dharma for the meme of 5, so here goes:

5 Nicknames You Had/Have:
1. Dees (practically my only name when I was in college)
2. Jackson (my father called me that when I was a child)
3. Cookie
4. Toots
5. Pigface

5 Sweet Treats You like to Eat
1. doughnuts
2. jellybeans (not the gourmet kind)
3. chess pie
4. icebox cookies
5. vanilla creme drops

5 Things People Would Be Surprised You Have
1. a set of maracas
2. a Jewish mother (had)
3. a decent singing voice
4. fear of crowds
5. expertise in public relations (my former profession)

5 Fabulous Celebrations
1. the 10th anniversary of my former business
2. the birthday when we got iced in and we all had to stay in the old hotel where we had dinner
3. my wedding
4. the Halloween that my friends and I rented a limousine and trick or treated for champagne and other expensive treats at people's houses
5. my 10th wedding anniversary, in Paris

5 Things You'd Like to Have
1. a leisurely trip through continental Europe
2. a trip to Brazil and Argentina
3. a dog
4. more confidence about my writing
5. my 35-year-old body

5 Cool Presents You've Received
1. some beautiful antique rings
2. a fairy tale written just for me
3. a crane sculpture for my garden
4. a pair of willow chairs
5. a painting I admired and could not afford

5 Things You've Collected
1. antique cannas
2. glass vases (one of my cats breaks them)
3. little cloisonne animals
4. coins (when I was a child)
5. fountain pens

5 Books You've Read in the Past 5 Years
1. The Secret Life of Bees
2. Queer Street
3. The Hours
4. Positively 4th Steet
5. Running With Scissors

5 Slang Terms You Use Regularly
1. Holy Moly!
2. too cool for school
3. duh!
4. Oh, please...
5. better than a sharp stick in the eye

(Fulfilling this tag was definitely better than a sharp stick in the eye.)

Air America's sexist language is a regular feature

Today, we were treated to a talk about "the guys in the National Guard." Yo, Franken--there are women in the Guard, too. In fact, in the aftermath of Katrina, when we were surrounded by members of the National Guard, about a third of them were women.

But this is the kind of thing I have come to expect from Air America.

ABC says the government is tracking reporters' phone calls

ABC News reports that a senior federal law enforcement official has told ABC that the government is tracking phone numbers called by news reporters in an effort to root out confidential sources. The network says that the government is also tracking the phone calls of reporters for The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The ABC report claims that the CIA was upset by the network's reporting on secret prisons in Romania and Poland, and by reports that revealed the use of predator missiles inside Pakistan. According to the official who cautioned ABC, reporters' telephones are not being tapped, per se, but calling patterns are being tracked by the government.

There have been severa responses to ABC's report in its blog, and I think this one best reflects my own feelings:

Maybe if you'd done your job from the beginning, we wouldn't be living in a fascist state run by a madman right now. But was more important that Al Gore was stiff and John Kerry had no charisma. You wanted to drink beer with this guy? Fine. Drink your beer with him. But don't start crying now about your rights being violated.

Well said. As someone who used to work in a media-related field, I can say that I have never considered news reporters and anchors to be the brightest people to come down the pike, but I do remember a time when they believed it was their job to inform the public of everything that was going on. When the media reports what the government tells it to and suppresses what the government tells it to suppress, well...can you say "fascism"?

Former weapons inspector confirms in new book that report on suspected "biolab" trailers was suppressed

A senior member of the CIA-led Iraq inspection team says that a year after the White House's "bioweapons trailers" claim was discredited, the administration continued to suppress the findings. Former U.N. arms inspector Rod Barton claims a CIA officer told him it was "politically not possible" to refute the White House claims.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Impeach Bush? Why is anyone even asking the question?

In the March issue of Harper's is a feature by outgoing editor Lewis H. Lapham called "The Case for Impeachment: Why We Can No Longer Afford George W. Bush." The Center for Constiutional Rights recently published a book, Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush. Veterans for Peace have constructed an official Case for Impreachment, and John Dean, former counsel to the President of the United States, wrote an essay called "The Case for Impeachment" for AlterNet as long ago as 2003. There is a lot of buzz about the possibility of impeaching George W. Bush, and all this talk about making a case for impeachment is making me feel crazy in the way you feel when you realize most of the world is living in a parallel universe.

The only thing that should logically be going on at this point is the making of a case not to impeach Bush. The dissenters, the minority voices, should be the members of the extreme right, Bibles and flags in hand, standing up and screaming at the rest of the nation that we are hopeless sinners to even be thinking of impeaching Bush.

Actually, that scenario is weak, also, for impeachment should have taken place long ago. And in a sane country, even that scenario is weak, for at least one of the crooked elections would have been investigated, and Bush would not be in the White House. Of course, in an even saner country, Bush would never have been a candidate in the first place. As Molly Ivins continually begged the news media during the 2000 election—Check the record, but they never did.

It is probably reasonable to suggest that a president—or in this case, an ersatz president—who chronically lies about everything and whose employees distort official findings in every area of government, would not be impeached, but would certainly not be put in office a second time. Doctoring scientific reports and providing false information for dissemination in the schools is evil, but you have to do something a lot worse than that to be impeached (unless, of course, you are Bill Clinton, but that piece of insanity doesn't seem to count). Telling various groups, including veterans, that you support them and then systematically cutting their funding is dishonest and reprehensible, but probably not an impeachable offense.

But what about making up your mind, as you are unpacking to move into the White House, that you are going to invade a country that has done nothing aggressive toward your own country? And what about using a major tragedy in your nation to get people stirred into a frenzy over your determination to invade that nation? What about telling your citizens a series of lies about the country you intend to invade, knowing that a frightened and generally ignorant populace will buy? What about making sure that the corporate-controlled so-called news media will help you spread the lies, and also help you discredit anyone who sees through them?

When thousands of American soldiers are injured or killed, and when tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens are blown to bits over a series of whopping lies, isn't that a war crime, not to mention an impeachable offense? When an act of violent aggression stirs up hatred and fuels anti-American terrorism, doesn't that make the impeachable offense even worse?

The attempt to impeach Bill Clinton turns out to be yet another piece of good luck for this White House. There is little doubt in my mind that one of the reasons impeachment procedures have not been put forward is that it would look patently ridiculous to the rest of the world if Congress tried to impeach two presidents in a row. The other reason, of course—the big one—is that Republicans control Congress and are not willing to get rid of one of their own, no matter how dishonest, ignorant, and dangerous he is. Republicans were willing to get rid of Richard Nixon, whose crimes pale in comparison with those of Bush, but that was a different batch of Republicans. These Republicans have a two-pronged base—ultra-wealthy corporate interests and deeply reactionary religious zealots. Until the latter realize they are the victims of the former, the Repbublican Party will hold on to immense amounts of power.

Only today, I walked into a grocery store while wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt, and a man walking out pointed at it and yelled "Fire the liar!" A year ago, no one in my conservative community would have entertained such an idea, let alone express it in public. To anyone who pays attention, it was obvious from the get-go that Bush was both incompetent and dishonest. It has taken much of the rest of America five and a half years to get even a small clue about the treachery of this White House. In a country that worships Ronald Reagan, I keep my expectations about justice very low. Bush has already committed just about every presidential crime possible, and he is still in office.

Should Bush be impeached? Of course. Should we be having a national discussion about the merits of impeachment? No, because such a discussion requires that people present reasons for Bush to stay in the White House, and there are none. Such a conversation is crazy-making, and a clear symptom of the very dysfunctional organization America has become.

Women, muscles, and power

As readers of this blog know, I recently attended the Family Circle Cup in Charleston. And anyone who follows tennis knows that fitness is very important in women's tennis (most people give Navratilova credit for introducing fitness to the women's game, but it was actually Margaret Court who did so). Players have to be very fit in order to compete now that wooden raquets have disappeared, and so-called power tennis is played by some of the top players.

At the Family Circle Cup, there was one player in particular--a very popular name in tennis--who was quite muscular, and the women around me kept snidely saying "Oh, look at her. She looks so masculine." The truth is, no one would ever mistake this player for a man, and she looked beautiful. Ironically, there is a non-muscular player on the tour whose body is built exactly like a man's, but no one ever says she looks masculine.

What I deduced from this is that having the body shape of a man is somehow not threatening, but having muscles is. Having muscles equals having power. Having power is not "feminine." I remember when Madonna worked out and made her body muscular, a lot of people did not like it. Personally, I thought Madonna looked great before and after, but it was interesting to hear how much controversy was caused by her new, muscular body.

Many years ago, I met a famous woman bodybuilder. She told me that she wanted to meet men and go out on dates, but no man would get near her--her body was too threatening.

Women empower themselves in different ways, and one of those ways is by becoming physically strong, just as some men empower themselves by becoming physically strong. Women's bodies are so different from men's bodies that the fear of "looking like a man" is groundless. Yet when a woman has muscles, she is still described as looking like a man. That is because muscularity is considered something belonging to men, just as executive positions, physically demanding careers, and government leadership roles are considered to rightfully belong to men.

Criticizing women for having muscles is just one more way we practice sexism in our culture, and one more way we focus on all the things that are "wrong" with women's bodies.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day--not what it used to be

As the CodePink women observe Mother's Day with a 24-hour vigil in Washington, they are restoring Mother's Day to its original purpose. Mother's Day for Peace was established by anti-war activist Julia Ward Howe, who is best known for writing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation, a call for peace and disarmament, led to a Mother's Day Peace Festival in Boston on June 2, 1873. Anna Jarvis, whose mother had tried to establish Mother's Friendship Days to heal emotional wounds caused by a divided nation in the War Between the States, was successful in getting Mother's Day established as a national holiday in 1914. One assumes that President Woodrow Wilson, who fought viciously against American suffragists, was only too happy to be part of a day that honored mothers, and thereby re-established women's traditional roles.

Now, Mother's Day is a boon for American florists, greeting card companies, and phone companies. Just as Christmas brings about grief for many people, so does Mother's Day. The in-your-face observance is hard on people whose mothers have died, women who have had miscarriages or whose children have died, and women who desire children, but--for various reasons--cannot have any. If only the observance were still a Mother's Day for Peace, it would be an inclusive day that questioned society's romance with war and killing.

Today, I think about the thousands of flag-waving, yellow ribbon-displaying, Republican soccer moms who actively support the killing and maiming of American soldiers and Iraqi citizens, and who hold in disdain those who work for peace. If competent people had been in charge of the war in Iraq and if it were not going so badly, hundreds of thousands more mothers would be supporting the bloodbath, just as they did not too many months ago.

Mother's Day has certainly changed.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

What has happened to Ping-o-Matic?

Does anyone know? It's been down for over a week. I managed to get to the Ping-o-Matic blog and leave a comment, but since it hasn't been updated this month, I'm not optimistic. I am using Pingoat right now but am not at all pleased with it and want Ping-o-Matic back.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Shizuka "Cool Beauty" Arakawa retires from competitive skating

2006 Olympic gold medal winner Shizuka Arakawa, also known as Cool Beauty, announced her retirement from competitive skating on Sunday. Arakawa had planned to retire in 2004, but when she won the World Figure Skating Championships, it motivated her to keep going. In 2005, she suffered from a foot injury and low motivation, and after placing ninth in Worlds, she felt she could not retire yet. She did an overhaul of everything--her routines, choreography, costumes, and coach--and the payoff was Olympic gold.

Known for her spins and jumps, Arakawa combines great elegance with strong athletic and technical ability. She plans to perform in ice shows in Japan and the United States.

You may watch Arakawa's beautiful gold medal skate here (click on number 3, then click the video for "free skate").

One by one, my idols make me ashamed

First it was Susan Sarandon, who shocked me beyond words by becoming the spokeswoman for a Revlon wrinkle-eraser. She was the last person many of us thought would sell out for a chance to promote an "age-defying" product.

Now it's Diane Keaton, who has become a spokeswoman for L'Oreal, one of the companies that ended its moratorium on animal testing and then became very evasive about the fact it had done so. Keaton's long-professed love of animals doesn't mean much now.

Uppity Cleveland woman carted to psych hospital by police and ordered to a psych unit by judge

For as long as we have had some kind of mental health system, women who "behave incorrectly" have been ordered to undergo its treatments. At one time or another, feminists, suffragists, menopausal women, and women who question authority in any way have been sent to institutions so that they could recieve "help." The latest woman to get such help is Carol Fisher of Cleveland. Fisher is on the staff of Revolution Books, and on January 28, while she was putting Bush Step Down posters on telephone polls in Cleveland Heights, she was ordered by a police officer to take them down or face a fine. When she complied, she was asked for her ID, which she did not have on her. He then grabbed her by the arm, pushed her against a store window, and knocked her face down onto the sidewalk. He was joined by another officer, and they both pressed their feet against her back until she could not breathe. Her chin was pressed down into the concrete; Fisher has osteoradionecrosis in her jaw from radiation treatments for cancer.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Message to WASPS: Breed, breed, breed!

Fox News personality John Gibson has entreated the whitest members of our nation to "make more babies" because, if they do not, "Twenty-five years and the majority of the population is Hispanic."

Yesterday on Fox News, resident bigot Gibson cited an article that says that nearly half of all the children under the age of five in the U.S. are minorities. "Procreation, not recreation," Gibson said, reminding us yet again that sex is unacceptable unless you are breeding. And married. And white, for god's sake.

Friday cat blogging--big baby edition

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Injured Army recruits say they were abused and neglected

The Raw Story reports that an Army program for recruits injured in basic training has been described by recruits as generating both abuse and medical neglect. At Fort Sill, for example, recruits said that "injuries were often treated with derision, ignored or improperly treated."

Injuries often became worse while wounded recruits waited to see medical specialists, and two soldiers died, one or both because of accidental overdose of medications.

Pro sports and the religious right--a symbiotic relationship

Salon has an interesting feature on the relationship between pro football and the religious right. More and more pro athletes thank God for their victories these days, and Salon writer Tom Krattenmaker says that is because the players are "coached" by members of the evangelical wing of the Christian right. Krattenmaker claims that these religious coaches are embedded inside each of the teams in the Big Three--baseball, football, and basketball. That, he says, is why so many players make speeches with religious content and make "seemingly nonstop religious gestures on and off the field."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Bob Marley--25 years gone

Bob Marley died 25 years ago today. Five years before his death, I was in Jamaica and saw his house up on the hill. At that time, there were army tanks on the streets and reggae was not permitted on the airways. To hear it, you went to a "disco," which was a patio bar, where you could buy rum and Red Stripe and listen to a deejay play 45's. One one side of the record was the song, and on the other was the "version," or the instrumental part by itself. I also visited a recording studio in Kingston to see where the records were produced.

NPR has a lot of good Bob Marley material on its website, and there is more at the official Bob Marley site.

Another tie between the U.S. and England

It appears we have something big in common: Our intelligence agencies are incompetent.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Latest story about Duke lacrosse team case appears to be a total fabrication

Once upon a time, we had a news media who, though very frequently inaccurate, at least checked sources. Now we have any old thing that comes in front of a desk declared "fact." Alas (a blog) now reports on the complete inaccuracy of the "news" that the plaintiff in the Duke locrosse team case said at one point that twenty men raped her. I urge you to read it--you are going to need to know the facts the next time the plaintiff is trashed by "people who know."

Congress set to form sunset commission to review federal programs

From time to time, we hear about plans to get rid certain federal agencies, such as OSHA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Last month, however, these conversations became more than just ideas floated about; House majority leader John Boehner made a deal with the Republican Study Committee in which the RSC would vote for Bush's budget resolution, and the House would form a sunset commission to review federal agencies. The purpose of the review is to overhaul, consolidate, or eliminate a number of federal agencies. The commission will consist of eight members, to be appointed by George W. Bush or his allies in Congress. They will review federal programs every ten years.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Mary Cheney upset with Kerry--so am I

Over at AMERICAblog, there is a well-written piece by by someone named John about internalized homophobia and how it applies to Mary Cheney. I agree with everything the writer says--Cheney's defense of Bush is especially sickening-- but here is where I differ with those involved in the discussion about the piece: I agree with Mary Cheney that Kerry's mention of her sexual orientation during the presidential debate was offensive. I cringed when he did it because I thought it was cheap and tasteless. I still do.

(And by the way, Cheney didn't say "go fuck yourself." He said "fuck yourself." A small thing, perhaps, but consider all of the T-shirts, mugs, and other items that now display an inaccuracy.)

Phony humane logo no longer on egg cartons

95% of the eggs sold in the United States come from hens living (and I use the term very loosely) in battery cages. This is a form of cruelty--like so many factory farm practices-- that has been sanctioned for decades. Recently, however, one very tiny step was made on behalf of the hens: egg cartons may no longer be labeled "Animal Care Certified." The logo was being used by companies that touted themselves as "humane," but in reality, were simply giving hens slightly larger battery cages.

Consumers are now to look for a "United Egg Producers Certified." When shopping for eggs, it is important to buy either cartons with this new logo, or to buy fresh yard eggs. The label "organic" is not an indication that battery cages were not used.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

McCain's planned speeches at universities met with protest

Senator John McCain of Arizona is about to show up at a couple of places one wouldn't think to find him: He is the speaker at Columbia College's Class Day on May 16, and he is scheduled to give the commencement address at the New School on May 19. McCain was invited to the New School by New School president Bob Kerrey, who is standing by his decision, despite a lot of protest.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Now he says he didn't say it

Alphonso Jackson has concocted a hell of a story to refute his other hell of a story.

What do they mean, START a third party?

I am hearing more and more people say "We may have to start a third political party."

Hello! We already have one, and it is not run by corporations.

So why isn't Bush living in public housing? Oh wait...he is

"Look, people are poor because they are lazy."
George W. Bush

Read all about it at delagar.

CBS, NBC and Fox all doctored Rumsfeld incident with McGovern

When retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld some very important questions in Atlanta last week, he was labeled a "heckler" and there were attempts to remove him from the hall. During McGovern's exchange with Rumsfeld, the defense secretary stammered on several occasions.

NBC, CBS and Fox News all edited out the stammers, but more important--they edited out key passages of McGovern's questions and arguments. Media Matters has an analysis of what was taken out of the exchange.

HUD secretary says no contracts if you do not like Bush

HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson made it clear, in a speech he gave in Dallas a week and a half ago, that HUD contracts will not go to contractors who do not like George W. Bush.

Yes, it sometimes do

"Sometimes my own messages send signals that I don’t mean to send, but stirs up anxieties in the Muslim world."
George W. Bush

Governor Blanco does a very good thing

Last week, Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco had what was probably her best moment as governor: She vetoed a proposed offshore natural gas port. The liquified gas terminal, a project of Freeport McMoRan Energy LLC, would have been harmful to Gulf fisheries. The governor told officials of Freeport McMoRan that she would be willing to look at a proposal for a closed loop system port.

Blanco said that though many industry officials had assured her the open rack vaporizer port would not harm the environment, their assurances were not backed by any scientific evidence.

Yesterday, Freeport McMoRan announced it would present a proposal for a closed loop system gas port. The company cautioned, however, that such a system was very expensive, and that it would reduce the amount of natural gas available to the public.

Though the closed loop system satisfies Governor Blanco's environmental concerns, she has made it clear that she may veto it, too, if Louisiana is not part of a revenue-sharing plan. However, such revenues would not be part of the federal revenue-sharing plan that Blanco is seeking. She has threatened to obstruct any future oil and gas projects until the federal government agrees to pay Louisiana its share of the revenues.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Not for the weak

This woman, profiled in Pandagon, is so insane, you almost cannot read about her. The problem is that she has a lot of company.

Alarm One plaintiff wins $1.7 million in damages

I'm a bit late with this, but Pinko Feminist Hellcat has an excellent summary of the Alarm One case, in which the plaintiff was recently awarded $1.7 million dollars in damages. This is the case, you will recall, in which the plaintiff was spanked and otherwise humiliated as part of the company's "comaraderie-building" exercises.

This company-sponsored sadism is the worst thing of its kind I've heard about since the goings-on several years ago at the New Orleans Saints training camp, when rookies were hit hard with bags of coins to "initiate" them. Unfortunately, no one pressed charges, though injuries were reported.

When I read about things like this, I always think about the film, Dazed and Confused, in which it is a town tradition to physically abuse incoming high school freshmen. Though I am opposed to violence of all kinds, the only person in the film who made any sense to me was the mother who came out with a shotgun and made it clear that her son was not to be beaten. In my profession, I constantly hear about bullying and assault, and am always amazed that neither the schools nor the parents appear very interested in doing anything about them.

There is a sadistic streak running through a lot of people in this culture, so the goings-on at Alarm One did not surprise me. Apparently, no one there saw the irony in humiliating and hitting people while promoting products to keep people safe.

Former illegal immigrant fires restaurant manager for giving staff the day off to march for immigration rights

Vance Wolfe used to be the manager of Seattle's Cafe Septieme. However, Wolfe made the mistake of permitting his staff to take the day off Monday so they could participate in the city's immigration rights march. For doing that, Wolfe was fired by Cafe Septieme owner, Victor Santiago. Santiago had made it clear to Wolfe that he was not to let any staff members skip work to march, so Wolfe probably knew there was a good chance he would lose his job.

What makes this story interesting is that Santiago was once an illegal immigrant.

It appears that Wolfe has a chance to get his job back, but he doesn't want it. He has been offered several other positions.

What is wrong in Ohio?

Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who is embroiled up to his ears in the obviously crooked presidential election of 2004, is refusing to relinquish his role of "investigator" of that election's flaws. A spokesman for Blackwell called the Democratic Party's request that Blackwell step down "silly."

Why aren't the people of Ohio, regardless of political affiliation, demanding that Blackwell step aside?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Iraqi citizen deaths mounting

According to the Los Angeles Times, more Iraqis were killed in the first three months of 2006 than at any time since the fall of Saddam Husein's regime. At least 3,800 have died, and many of them were killed execution-style; they were shot, strangled, electrocuted, stabbed, garroted, and hanged. Many, of course, died in bombings. The killings now appear to be more systematic, and there are obvious signs of tortune on the bodies. The majority of those killed have been Sunnis; Shiite death squads have been targeting Sunni citizens.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

I get to see my blogger friend again!

Kathy of What Do I Know? is back in the U.S., and Friday night, we met her in Baton Rouge and had dinner with her. We first met Kathy in December, when we were pleased to give her a tour of our city and have tea with her. Our dinner Friday night was just as pleasant; there seemed no end of things to talk about, from blogging to shopping in the U.K. to our pets' antics to our sorrow over the way people treat cows to our shared enthusiasm for Quentin Tarantino.

This is my third meeting with a blogger, and I hope to have more.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Sexism on the march

My goal is to be accused of being strident.
Susan Faludi

...there is a shrillness in Hillary that comes out on TV whenever she gets excited about something. Every time her voice goes up, she gets very shrill, very un-Clinton-like, if you're talking about Bill Clinton.
Joe Scarborough

Now it's World War III

Bush's new name for the non-existent War on Terror.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Pets to evacuate New Orleans in next hurricane

New Orleans is putting together a plan to evacuate pets during a hurricane. Unfortunately, chickens, horses, and other livestock, plus stray animals, will be left to die, but this is better than shooting pets or leaving them to drown and starve, which is what happened during Katrina.

Talk show hosts suggests people shoot illegal immigrants

Tennessee Guerilla Women have a disturbing story up about radio talk show host Phil Valentine, who is suggesting that people shoot undocumented immigrants. Valentine led a town meeting of about a thousand cheering people in Franklin. One man reminded the crowd that the people who performed the September 11 attacks "were illegal immigrants."

Your tax dollars

Friday cat blogging--beautiful feet edition

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I love you, you love me--stop the bus!

Frank Melton, the controversial mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, is suffering from what appears to be a great amount of job stress. Last Friday, he suddenly asked his police escort to pull over four Callaway High School buses because "It's been such a stressful two weeks. I wanted to shake their hands. I wanted to touch them. That's all it was. ... I went through the buses and shook their hand and hugged them and told then how proud I was of them."