Monday, July 31, 2006

Skelton says 2/3 of brigade combat teams are unprepared

Despite George W. Bush's declaration today that the U.S. has a strong military that can deal with anything, Rep. Ike Skelton, ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, recently reported.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

First arrests made in Las Vegas for feeding the homeless

Already there is vigorous enforcement of the new law that forbids giving homeless people food in public parks.

The Family Stone--a poorly told, mean-spirited, cautionary tale

I finally saw The Family Stone. July isn't such a great time to see a Christmas movie, but I didn't bother to see it when it was at the theater because it didn't sound like it was very good. Now that I've seen it, I can report that it is absolutely terrible, except for a devilishly good performance by the always under-rated Sarah Jessica Parker, and the expected good performance by the great Diane Keaton.

I am writing about it, however, because it contains a really nasty message. The Stone family is painted to be ultra-liberal. One of the sons is both deaf and gay, and his partner is black. The film goes out of the way to show how very accepted they are. The entire family has learned how to sign, which is as it should be, but having them constantly signing is a way to show how progressive and sensitive they are.

Only they are not. This is one nasty family. If you saw The Aviator, then recall the depiction of Katherine Hepburn's family, and how mean they were to Howard Hughes when Hepburn--knowing they will tear him to shreds--brings him to the family home for lunch. The Family Stone is judgmental, petty, vicious, and nuts. The screenwriters give them a bit of slack by having the mother dying of breast cancer. But whereas in Pieces of April, the mother (played by Patricia Clarkson) who is dying of breast cancer is the acerbic, sometimes intolerable, one, almost the entire family in The Family Stone comes across mean.

I say "almost" because the men in the film are actually not so bad. The father is a bit passive, but he is basically decent. The gay son is nice, the boring and somewhat pretentious fiance of Sarah Jessica Parker's character is okay, and the other son, played by Luke Wilson, represents the warmth and humanity in the family. Even one of the daughers is not too bad. The family's meanness is directed by the mother and the other daughter, and the family goes along with it, making them all perpetrators, and portraying the family, as a system, as intolerant and snobbish.

The Sarah Jessica Parker character is a cartoon, but Parker makes the most of the role. She is, admittedly, not the most socially sensitive person in the world, but she has potential. Since she herself is a misfit, we sense it would not take too much for her to gain some empathy toward the oppressed. But the Family Stone's teaching methods are brutal, so we end up sympathizing with the "insenstive" one.

I believe this is the way many people see liberals and progressives, and indeed, it may be the way we have become, at least sometimes. It is hard for us to understand intolerance and social and ecological ignorance. But are our manners that bad? I doubt it. I know mine are not. And of course, the other message in The Family Stone is that the family would be nicer if the women would just stop being so vicious.

In the end, the Family Stone softens toward the Sarah Jessica Parker character, but only after they have done everything but tar and feather her. And, in a scene reminiscent of Joan Cusack's Stevie Nicks moment in School of Rock, she begins to unwind and show that she is human and not an automaton. The Diane Keaton character dies, and everyone becomes all warm and fuzzy. But I didn't feel that way at all.

Isn't it interesting...

That everyone is up in arms beause Mel Gibson purportedly said something anti-Semitic during his drunken traffic stop, but hardly anyone is discussing the crude sexist remark he is said to have made?

Big surprise...

Bush administration cuts suicide hotline; government set to take over crisis calls

I forgot to mention this last week, but (thanks to MoJo Blog), I learned that the Bush administration has cut the funding for the 800-SUICIDE hotline. That is no surprise, since it is getting increasingly difficult to pay for frills like hotlines when we are spending most of the country's money in Iraq.

But the situation is even worse than it seems: The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration, a division of Health & Human Services, is creating its own crisis center, which means that the U.S. government would have access to the confidential records of the 2,000 people a day who call the hotline. Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend points reminds us that suicide is a leading cause of death among teenagers, and of course, that includes a number of gay teenagers. Pam writes:

You might recall SAMHSA, which came under fire from the fundies back in February of last year. Agency officials were forced by the Bush admin (after the WH received hopping mad calls from Family Research Council's Tony Perkins) to remove all LGBT references from a federally funded suicide prevention conference in California and to kill gay-positive content from the SAMHSA site.

Once again, the word "faith-based" is ringing in my ears.

Read Pam's post to see how you can help.

The entrepreneurial spurut

I had never heard of it until this morning when I heard George W. Bush talk about it in a speech. I believe it must be the state of euphoria that arises when your wealthy and powerful father sets you up in business, then lends you his attorney when you commit insider trading.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The institutionalized sexism of women's tennis

Like all sexism, the sexism in women's tennis is always running in the background, even while the conversation may seem normal, and as well as when the attacks on women are blatant and obvious to most.

Common to all generations is the unstated belief that women may model themselves after male players, but never the other way around. When a young player--or a veteran player who is being featured--is asked who her early role models were, she might say Graf or Seles or Serena Williams, and she might also say Sampras or Agassi. But when a male player is asked the same thing, he will never, ever say Graf, Seles, Evert, or any other woman.

This inequality is encouraged by television announcers, both male and female. They may say of a woman, "Look, her service motion is a bit like McEnroe's. They may also say, "When she comes to the net like that, she reminds me a bit of Evonne Goolagong." But they will never, ever say, "When I see him volley, I think of Navratilova," or "His service motion is abbreviated, like Mauresmo's."

The unspoken belief is: It is good for women to aspire to play like men, but it is forbidden for men to aspire to play like women. The average viewer or listener is not picking up this message; she does not need to. It is part of the message that threads through every part of our culture. And even now, as I write this, there are plenty of people who may read it and say "But men play better." Or "Men may feel 'insecure' being compared with women." Or "You feminists have to pick apart everything." Or "I don't hear the women on the tour complaining." Or "Female athletes have more important things to deal with than that."

I know the litany of excuses used to squelch the kinds of things that I am saying. I have heard them all. I have addressed them all. The bottom line is the same: Women are considered inferior to men.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Quote of the week

"For that little twerp to claim I didn't recognize death and suffering--he can just bite me, for all I care."

Former FEMA director Michael Brown, speaking of Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor, in the upcoming issue of Playboy

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sen. Grassley introduces bill to eliminate USPS protection of live chicks

Postal workers often find dead chicks in the mail. They also find dying chicks, but are forbidden by law to do anything to help them. According to Bird Shippers of America, more chicks arrived at their destination dead than alive in 2005. After animal protection groups spoke out, the U.S. Postal Service finally did something about the problem, setting a four-hour limit on ground transportation and coordinating bird shipments through central offices.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, however, has introduced a bill that would remove the U.S. Postal Service's directional authority and force it to accommodate the wishes of the baby bird and cockfighting interests. One of the requirements would be for airlines to transport birds in any temperature between 0 and 100 degrees.

Please contact your senators and representatives and ask them to vote against this bill and the House bill that will match it. And you can go here to get the address of the U.S. Postal Service. It would be helpful to ask the U.S.P.S. to stop shipping birds altogether.

Shipping birds through the mail is not the only problem. Northwest Airlines caused the death of 9,000 turkey chicks, who were then destroyed in an airline trash compactor.

Everything you need to know about FEMA

Is right here.

Here's hoping you don't have a hurricane hit your community. Unless you are one of those persons who mocked us for needing help. For you, it would be an educational experience.

Friday cat blogging--still life edition

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I lose my memory and miss the biggest show of the season

This is one of 8 night-blooming cereus blossoms whose opening I missed last night because I forgot to go outside. The other 7 were all together in the main garden. The night before, I missed 3 because I forgot to go outside.

Here is what one looks like when it opens. I'm totally sick that I forgot. Here's hoping such a show occurs again this summer.

IHCIA not a Congressional priority

A couple of days ago, New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman stood on the Senate floor and told terrible stories of Native Americans in his state who could not get health care. Native Americans are five to seven times more likely to get diabetes, and they are also more likely than other Americans to get tuberculosis, yet their healthcare choices are very limited.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Why are people surprised that Bill Clinton is supporting Lieberman?

Clinton founded the DLC. He is in the camp that believes that you do anything to get a Democrat into office and a Republican out of office. Although that is not my own worldview, I do understand it. Of course, DLC-type thinking is not really that sophisticated. For example, instead of backing the one candidate who could stare down the news media and speak the truth about George W. Bush, the Democratic establishment propped up (almost literally) the cautious, ambiguous, dreary John Kerry. But those people don't ever learn.

As for Lieberman's rightward leanings, we must remember that Clinton is not really that liberal, and that he sold out women (a charge made repeatedly about Lieberman) and gays in his own administration.

Provincetown bigots upset at being called bigots

From Poverty Barn comes news that some anti-gay heterosexuals living in Provincetown, one of America's gay capitals, signed a petition to outlaw gay marriage in Massachusetts and are paying for it. Their names were posted on the KnowThyNeighbor website, and now they say they are being harrassed by gay Provincetown citizens.

Taunted as "breeders," the petition-signers are complaining that they are also being called bigots. Oh dear. I can't imagine how anyone could call a bigot something as atrocious as..."a bigot." One woman complained that the KnowThyNeighbor list was left on her car windshield. Oh, the horror of it.

In fairness to the Provincetown bigots, one woman said that someone put dog feces in her car, and though she cannot prove a gay person did it, I cannot help but think her suspicions are correct.

But goodness, we are whiny. It could be worse. They could be told they cannot marry, told they should not work in the schools, be fired from their jobs, be told they are dying because God hates them, get beaten up as they walk down the street, or be pistol-whipped and tied to a fence.

Zombie terrorists arrested in Minnesota--another Homeland Security victory

Via The Sideshow comes news that if you happen to be a zombie lurching down the street in the twin cities, for goodness sake, carry an iPod and don't even think about dragging around some homemade stereo equipment you've pieced together in your chronically dark laboratory.

A half dozen zombies learned that the hard way Saturday night. Six men made up as zombies were on their way to a zombie party in Minneapolis. As they staggered down the street, police officers noticed that they had wires protruding from their duffel and backpacks. Minnesota, it is against the law to "simulate weapons of mass destruction." The men were arrested and thrown into jail for behavior that was "suspicious and disturbing."

Today marks four years that The Dees Diversion has been online. When I think about it--and I do think about it--it is extremely discouraging to spend countless hours making a case for such bizarre ideas as treating women as though they were people, just like men; or declaring that fascism is not a good system for our country, or suggesting that the daily torture of millions of farm animals is immoral and should be stopped. Writing about animal rights is especially lonely, since so few liberals care about non-humans enough to fight for their right to live without suffering. In fact, the fight to relieve animal suffering is not a liberal cause; those who are active in it tend to be both conservative and liberal, which is interesting, and which could serve as a link of understanding between opposite camps.

Even blogging about women's tennis can be discouraging, so rampant is sexism within the sports industry and among fans. But it is also fun, and this year, it has been especially gratifying for me now that Amelie Mauresmo, in whom I never lost faith, has won her first two Grand Slam tournaments. Of course, being a fan of Patty Schnyder has been an exercise in patience this year, but what is a fan if not loyal?

On the other hand, now that I no longer live in an urban setting, it is the blogging community that has reminded me daily that I am not alone in banging my head against the wall over everything from stolen elections to illegal invasions to pharmacists who do not dispense pharmaceuticals. I think we keep each other, if not sane, at least away from the edge.

And now, I'm off to have some coffee and blow out my virtual candles.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A few notes on a few books

I do not ususally discuss books in this blog, but I feel like doing so this evening. First I recently re-read (yet again) Gloria Steinem's Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (this was the 2nd edition, in which there are updates), a collection of a number of Steinem's essays. Several of them I had read in their original incarnations, in addition to having read them in the collection.

The wonderful thing about Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions is that the writing is intelligent, thoughtful, fresh, and often brilliant. The terrible thing is that every single subject tackled by Steinem is still a problem in the 21st Century. Whether she is writing about politics, body image, sexist language, the news media, or her mother, Steinem polishes each piece into a gem of feminist understanding and sociological/political meaning, and always with the trademark Steinem humor. Some of the essays are small masterpieces, putting into precise words thoughts and feelings that have sometimes been difficult for many of us to express.

I have decided to re-read The Feminine Mystique some time in the near future, too.

I just finished Sue Monk Kidd's second novel, The Mermaid Chair, and have a few things to say about it. Critics praised it a great deal, though many readers thought it was a disappointment. I stand between those two camps.

When I read Monk Kidd's first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, I was blown away. It is one of the finest novels I have read in the last who knows how many years, and features wonderful characters, superb storytelling, historical significance, and a transcendent quality that really cannot be desribed, but has to be experienced. The story of a troubled, abused girl and her African American friend and mother figure who run away together and wind up in the home of beekeeper sisters is haunting and beautiful. The language is breathtaking, and the symbolism unique.

In The Mermaid Chair, Monk Kidd deals with the restlessness of a middle-aged woman who "should" be happy, but is not. Stifled by her conventional marriage, estranged from her mentally unbalanced mother and haunted by her father's death, she travels to the dreaded South Carolina barrier island of her childhood to confront her mother's bizarre behavior, and while she is there, she falls in love with a monk at the island monastery.

The eroticism in The Mermaid Chair is as alive as the marsh surrounding Jessie and her lover, Brother Thomas. The symbol of the mermaid is used with great skill, the nature writing itself is a great read. So what's not to like? Monk Kidd chooses an unconventional POV: Most of the story is told in the first person, but there are breaks in which it is told in the third person by an omniscient narrator. I had no problem with that, once I got used to it, but I did have a problem with the first person narration.

Jessie's narration is conversational, and that is a device I do not like at all unless the author is writing in a unique dialect, such as that used by Alice Walker in The Color Purple. The fact that the third person POV chapters were written "straight" made the experience even more jolting. And Monk Kidd repeats some of her images so many times I could almost imagine a drinking game being played around them. Though the symbols and images in the novel are very effective, the author tosses us at them in such excess that the writing, at times, seems self-conscious.

I do not agree with those critics who say that The Mermaid Chair has more depth than The Secret Life of Bees; I think it is the other way around. It is hard for everyone when the writer of a brilliant first novel writes the next book. My question is: What in hell was Monk Kidd's editor doing while this was going on? Why didn't she address these issues of POV and superflous image creation? This question is troubling me.

Is The Mermaid Chair worth reading? Yes. It is the fact that it is almost great that is so frustrating.

Worth noting...The Secret Life of Bees is being made into a film, starring Dakota Fanning. No other cast members have been named. The Mermaid Chair has been made into a film by Lifetime Television, and will air in September. The character of Jessie will by played by Kim Basinger.

There's no place like home, especially if it's Kansas

Almost every time I read a piece of news Pam Spaulding has dug up, my mouth, as the song goes, drops open like a country pond. Posting at Pandagon, Pam tells about a 12-year-old Kansas boy who visited the Oz Museum and bought a souvenir, a rainbow-colored flag. "Over the Rainbow" is, of course, from the film, The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland is said to have once remarked to a woman in a nightclub ladies' room, "Lady, I've got rainbows up my ass," a sentiment that is being felt in Meade, Kansas right now, for all the wrong reasons.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

"The softer side of terrorists"

That's what Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston says CNN personality Anderson Cooper's blog is seeking to explain, in what he considers to be typical liberal fashion. Kingston is a busy man these days, what with trying to stall the Voting Rights Act and attack conservative White House network CNN.

Here's something for Kingston to chew on: Where was he when citizens of his not-so-distant neighbor, North Carolina, sheltered, gave money to and defended terrorist Eric Rudolph? I do not recall his speaking out.

Soon we'll need an automated system to keep up with them

Yet another Republican leader has been arrested and charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. Thomas Adams, mayor of Green Oaks and former chairman of the Lake County Republican Central Committee (Illinois) faces two counts of possession and eleven counts of distribution.

(This seems like an appropriate spot to include an update...James West, former mayor of Spokane, who was accused of luring and molesting boys, has died.)

Child pornography, child molestation, rape (including that of a narcoleptic woman), coercion into group sex, drug addiction, compulsive gambling...those Republican moralists are busy people. And though JFK will probably always hold the record for having the most sex and drugs in the White House (and he wasn't even there for long--just think...), the current White House does have the distinction of creating the most equality-linked sex atmosphere: Both a female porn star and a gay male prostitute were top-level guests there on several occasions.

Big Dig safety manager warned contractor that tunnel ceiling would not hold

In 1999, a Big Dig highway tunnel on-site safety manager, John Keaveney, wrote a two-page memo to a senior project manager for Big Dig contractor Modern Continental Construction Co. In the memo, Keaveney said that he could not "comprehend how this structure can withhold the test of time."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Rape victim forced to drive to another county to get morning-after pill

In Pennsylvania, A Good Samaritan Hospital emergency room Mennonite doctor refused to give a rape victim a morning-after pill because of his religious beliefs. She called her gynecologist, who wrote the prescription, but the local pharmacy did not have the drug in stock. The patient had to drive from eastern Lebanon County to Reading to get her prescription filled.

The former medical director of the hospital said that "People drive to Reading to buy jeans."

Probably not just after they've been raped.

The state of Pennsylvania supports the doctor's refusal to provide the pill, by the way.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New Orleans area update

Heavy rains have caused the city's catchbasins to clog. Catchbasin removal equipment has damaged the catchbasins. It never ends.

The community I wrote about several weeks ago has filed a suit against the city for placing a landfill right smack inside it.

Three healthcare officials may be charged with murder. The case against them is led by a man under whose watch there was constant medical neglect at Parish Prison. da po' blog has an excellent post about this issue.

Murders are down since the National Guard arrived, but I wouldn't want to be out on the streets for long.

A Covington woman died last week of West Nile virus.

The mayor and city council of NewOrleans have proposed a 10% pay raise for police officers and a raise in starting pay for firefighters.

Mercury found in New York songbirds

For some time now, we have known about the mercury levels found in American lakes and streams, and, as a consequence, in fish. In 1998, biologist David C. Evers tested common loons, whose diet is made up of fish, and found significant levels of mercury in the birds. Because of the mercury, the loons became lethargic and their reproductive rates dropped.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Book banners lose the first round

Vamos a Cuba will stay on Miami-Dade school bookshelves until the ACLU's case against the Miami-Dade County School District goes to trial.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Suddenly, Foti cares about medical neglect

When Charles Foti was criminal sheriff of Orleans Parish Prison, there were multiple cases of medical neglect of prisoners. Some of them died. That is one reason I did not want him to be elected Attorney General of Louisiana, but he was. Now he is bringing a case of not just medical neglect, but murder, against a doctor and two nurses who treated patients in a hospital during Hurricane Katrina.

Foti maintains that the medical team gave lethal injections of Morphine and Verset to four patients at Memorial Hospital. They deny that they did, but a lot of New Orleanians, including medical personnel, are defending them, even if they did inject the doses. This defense is based on both the characters and reputations of the doctor and nurses, and on the extraordinary and horrific circumstances under which they had to work.

The entire situation is unpleasant, but the irony of Foti's zeal about medical neglect is really burning me up.

100 civilians a day dying in Iraq

The United Nations has released a figure of 100 civilian deaths a day in Iraq. 3,149 civilians were killed in June, and it is expected that the number will rise in July.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Our sexually assaulted and raped soldiers--collateral damage

Recently, AlterNet ran a couple of features about the chronic sexual harrassment, sexual assaults and rapes of U.S. soldiers by U.S. soldiers. Here are what two readers had to say:

War itself makes men very aggressive physically and sexually. I think it is this that is putting female soldiers at risk. Unfortunately, much of this was argued by experienced soldiers prior to the mixing of the sexes in units, but it was dismissed as sexism. I don't think it was sexism: it was an honest account of how the behavior of young men in a war environment, despite the best checks and balances of the military hierarchy, are still difficult to control. Think about it: horny guys with guns, horny guys, who after having a few friends killed and maimed, don't care a toss about the military hierarchy or what feminists think. It is that brutal on the frontlines....

The military tries to bring some creature comforts from back home to the war zone. So you have people getting into their bathing suits (and women into skimpy bikinis) and dipping in inflatable pools. In fact, the chicks are usually out on the grass sunbathing when they aren't working. So the guys have a very clear idea of what they look like -- and keep in mind these are women who are in top physical condition.

Like that? Here's another:

[to]...put a person in an environment where there are no safety valves and the reality is aggression at its most elemental and life-threatening, then it is an exercise in futility to even think that there will not be overt sexual acts, especially if an exposed female body is in close proximity.... To introduce females into combat or intense military situations just seems to be pushing the envelope.

Fortunately, there were several other readers who took these two to task. But the idea that men are going to force women to have sex because they are all aggressive and cannot help themselves is not only horribly misogynistic and demeaning of men, but also conveniently ignorant of the number one fact about rape: It is not a sexual act, but an act of control. Yes, male soldiers may make unwanted advances on female soldiers because of war stress (or because they made unwanted advances on women before they ever joined the military), but raping women is about hostility, not sex.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Women rate themselves as less proficient than men in Internet skills

Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times wrote an article several days ago about a study whose results appeared in the June issue of Social Science Quarterly. In 2001 and 2002, a Northwestern University sociologist, Eszter Hargittai, put 100 people of different ages, education levels and ethnicities through a test of online computer proficiency. She then asked them to rate their skill at navigating the Internet and obtaining information.

There were 51 women and 49 men in the study. Hargittai learned a few things she expected to learn: that younger computer users and more educated computer users rated themselves as more proficient than older users or more educated ones. The surprise result for the sociologist was that--despite having equal skills--the women rated their proficiency level lower than the men rated theirs.

"Not a single woman among all our female study subjects called herself an 'expert' user, while not a single male ranked himself as a complete novice or 'not at all skilled'," Hargittai said. She also says she "sees a replay of the he-versus-she math-and-science contest, in which women concede defeat even before an objective score has been tallied."

Finding new ways to bash women's tennis

If you're looking for them, head over to Tennis X. I recently wrote about Tennis X's snide "we just had to bring up her sexual orientation" comment about Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo. Now we have this gem on the Tennis X website:

"Belgiam, Italy--You're in the final of the Fed Cup, whatever that is."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wolf Blitzer is a total ass--evidence item number 532


Insecurity, narcissism and hostility--everything we want in a leader

Echidne of the Snakes has this photo up of George W. Bush "playfully slapping" Congressman Al Green at the NAACP convention. Several people, on her blog and on other blogs, have commented that Bush's grabbing, slapping and massaging people reflects his sense of ownership and entitlement. I could not agree more with that assessment, and I'll add his habit of giving people unwanted nicknames.

A couple of days ago, I wrote that Bush is a prime example of a developmentally arrested male who is under-socialized and so insecure that he acts like a fool much of the time and makes fun of things he does not understand (which would be most things). Add a sense of entitlement to that and you have a person with whom it is difficult to have an appropriate relationship.

I would now like to add a third element to the motivation behind Bush's boorish behavior: It is hostile. Like the person who says "it was just a joke" when challenged for his not-so-funny remarks, Bush laughs off his grabbing and slapping with a "look at me, I'm just a practical joker kind of guy" attitude. We must not forget that, as a child, Bush placed firecrackers inside frogs, then tossed them like grenades and blew them up. He executed a record number of people when he was governor of Texas. Once, when he was drinking (I know, I know...), he asked for his wife's opinion about something, and when she gave it, he became so enraged that he drove their car right through the closed garage door. He has repeatedly been testy with reporters who have asked him legitimate questions, and he has been unbelievably callous toward the loss of lives of our soldiers in Iraq.

So we are dealing with a developmentally arrested, narcissistic, insecure, hostile man. That, of course, is on top of the lying and cheating that is part and parcel of his personality. Who is proud of America now?

People wishing to save embryos may need to rethink rhythm method

The August issue of Harper's features an excerpt from "The Rhythm Method and Embryonic Death," by Luc Bovens, published in the June issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics. In this paper, Professor Bovens argues that the rhythm method of birth control--the only method approved by the Catholic church--may be responsible for "massive embryonic death."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Homeland security a problem in the U.K as well as the U.S.

A Mirror reporter successfully planted a fake "bomb" on a train carrying a cargo of nuclear waste, it was reported today.

"The gate was open, there were no security guards...I walked up to the train and planted my bomb," the reporter said. The train, which goes from Kent to Cumbria, carries radioactive flasks of spent uranium fuel rods. The Mirror reporter said that the train was left unattended for about ten mintues, and that he was able to approach the wagons in daylight while the driver was on a break. He also said he had observed the train for a couple of months, and that there was continual opportunity to sabotage it.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Please don't feed the homeless

Las Vegas has passed a law that prohibits people from giving food to homeless people in public parks. The law also prohibits people from selling food to the homeless at a nominal fee. Passage of the new law is an attempt to prevent mobile soup kitchens from operating; residents say that when homeless people are fed in a park, the park cannot be used by families (one assumes they mean families with homes).

City officials said they instituted the law in part because of recommendations from some who work with the homeless who say offering food separately from other services, such as counseling and drug treatment, is counterproductive.

Do I hear the word faith-based behind this statement? Because offering food to those who do not have any is somewhat productive in that it keeps them alive. And all the counseling and drug treatment (most of which is pure hogwash) is useless if someone does not have shelter and food.

I am reminded of the time a client came to me after she had spent the day volunteering at the polls. "Did you know," she asked me, "that there were homeless people trying to vote?" I asked her what it was about not having a home that stripped a person of her American citizenship, and she just looked at me as though I had crawled out from under a rock. Did I say that she was volunteering through her church?

Props to J.Jill

For putting a woman who is obviously in her 50s or 60s on the cover of their latest catalogue.

The stupidest political ad I've seen in a while

Is right here. It exists courtesy of James Dobson, which is in itself somewhat ironic. Because when Dobson's dog barked and didn't behave as he was "supposed to," Dobson beat it into submission, then bragged about what he had done.

It is quite clear to anyone with a brain that there are indeed people who are born gay. And no one has yet to come forward to explain why someone would wake up one morning and suddenly decide he wanted to be looked down on by the majority of the population, be discriminated against in almost every area of life, get beaten up by idiots, and be called disparaging names. And just think--those people in Iran who suddenly decide they are gay can also look forward to being executed.

Quote of the day

You have a very big split in the Jewish-American community. You got a lot of Jewish liberals, a lot of Jewish far-left people, who basically feel that, you know, you don't have a right to go after terrorists because it's our fault, the United States' fault. And some say it's Israel's fault because we've been mean to them, therefore they have a right to do whatever they want--behead people on camera, all this terrible stuff. OK? That's a far-left position.
Bill O'Reilly

The advantages of attending an Ivy League school

I'm sure there are many. One of them is that our government gets you the hell out of Lebanon before all the other stranded American students.

Friday cat blogging--casual Friday edition

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It isn't just gays who are being insulted here

Oh, dear--one of my favorite subjects has come up again, this time at Pam's House Blend. Pam has a post about WRKO (Boston)'s radio personality John DePetro, who called Big Dig director Matt Armorello a "fag." This is how DePetro tried to back out of it:

And I don't mean gay fag, I just mean the way when you're a sophomore, juvenile, in grammar school and somebody would say you're like a sissy boy fag. I don’t mean gay fag. I mean like sissy boy. He’s a little sissy boy. Wife wears the pants.

My issue is not that DePetro called Armorello a fag (well, yes, that is one of my issues, but not my reason for posting). It is that, in trying to back out of his statement, his "explanation" was to insult all women, and that no one is going to protest his vile attitude about women. The above statement by DePetro sends that old message that the worst thing a man can be is a "woman," and that it is totally ridiculous to imagine a woman having power within a marriage. You have to insult women in extremely overt and over-the-top ways these days to hear even a peep of protest, and sometimes you don't hear it then, either.

George W. Bush--embarrassment or embodiment?

There is a certain kind of American man who feels socially insecure his entire life. He was never taught (or he didn't pay attention during the lessons) what to wear for different types of occasions, how to greet people, how to engage in conversation, the value of reading, and so many other things that launch children and adolescents into true adulthood. Many such men simply retreat into very small worlds, often refusing to go anywhere, even with their spouses. Unfortunately, many more become boors, thrusting themselves on the rest of us.

You see them everywhere: They joke about matters that are not funny, make fun of the many things they do not understand, initiate unnecessary conversations with busy wait staff and desk clerks, make "jokes" with perfect strangers, call people they do not know by their first names, and engage in seventh grade-level flirting with women and girls. Some of them drink too much, which makes matters even worse.

Women put up with these men because women tend to put up with almost anything. Women make excuses for them, or rush to list their good qualities. They may be embarrassed by their yahoo husbands and fathers and brothers, but they generally keep that to themselves.

George W. Bush is such a man. He has never in his life demonstrated that he can successfully initiate or complete a project, he is not very literate, he lacks intellectual curiosity, he has always counted on his parents in order to get by, he has no concept of appropriate social behavior, he invades the boundaries of others, and has bad table manners.

These are things we have known for some time. What is significant is not that Bush is a boorish dunce, but that he is the alleged leader of the free world, placed in that position by crooked elections, yes, but nevertheless tolerated by constituents and their elected representatives. The news media goes out of its way to excuse his behavior. Conservative religious people care only that he assists them in hating gays and women. Wealthy conservatives like the money he puts in their pockets.

Bush is not the first modern (alleged) president to have personality flaws. John F. Kennedy was a drug addict and had an impressive sexual compulsion. Bill Clinton couldn't keep his mind off of women who were not his wife. Both of them knew how to behave in public, however (though that certainly does not forgive the hurt they caused others or the bad judgment they exercised). If Bush's flaws were confined to his personality, he would still be a supreme embarrassment, but perhaps we could just grit our teeth and bear it. But it is not just that he is an 11-year-old boy in a man's body: He is an incompetent, dishonest, war-mongering tool of rich men who mean to destroy the country as we once knew it--a country far from what it should have been, but better than what it has become.

As the U.S. moves farther and farther away from respecting education, the arts and the concept of social propriety, we can expect cruder and cruder elected officials. People did not care that Reagan was not very bright. He had a pleasing personality, and he engaged enthusiastically in carrying out official campaigns against gays, women, liberals, and people of color, and that is what Americans wanted from him. They want the same thing from Bush, and they get it.

Bush is not an abberation; he is the face of American apathy, racism, sexism, homophobic zeal, greed, and anti-intellectualism. He is the face in the mirror.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Quote of the month

"...perhaps the best message we can give to the Middle East and all the trouble they’re having over there right now."
Georgia Representative Phil Gingrey on supporting "traditional" marriage

Could someone please hand Bill Kristol a newspaper?

This is what he said right before the U.S. invaded Iraq:

We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam’s regime. … History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Flying the flag upside down

Flying the American flag upside down is a symbol of a nation in distress, and since the war in Iraq began, more and more people have adopted this custom. One of those people is Iowan Terri Jones. Her son, Jason, returned from Iraq with full-blown posttraumatic stress disorder. Among other things, he saw an insurgent execute a child. He did not go to the VA for help because he was worried about being perceived as weak. Jason killed himself just over a year ago, and since that time, Jones has flown the flag upside down.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

League of Women Voters may exclude Green Party candidate from debate

It is not a good sign that the League of Women Voters has to "decide" whom to include in its California gubernatorial debate. Green Party candidate Peter Camejo has issued a statement saying that to exclude him from the debate would violate the League's own "non-partisan" code. As a Green, I especially resent the League's indecision.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Reed now blames Indians for the mess he's in

Ralph Reed, realizing that he was getting nowhere fast with his "I don't know what you're talking about" defense against charges that he plotted and successfully carried out a money-laundering scheme, has now changed that defense to "It was the Indians' fault."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Congress tries reducing animal testing again

The 2006 Senate Interior Appropriations Bill contains the following language:

The Committee recognizes the [EPA's] commitment to developing a Computational Toxicology program that reduces the use of animal testing. The Committee encourages EPA to implement specific plans for validating computational toxicology methods to assure compliance with the ICCVAM Authorization Act of 2000, and requests details on these validation activities be included in the Agency's annual Computational Toxicology report.

This is good news. Unfortunately, Congress has never created a five-year priority plan for reducing animal testing. Under the Clinton administration, animal testing was greatly reduced, but as soon as Christine Todd Whitman took over as the director of the alleged EPA, testing increased again dramatically. Please contact your Congresspeople.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

"Clijsters and Belgium overwhelmed an undermanned U.S. team"

That was the headline on ESPN's website. Mind you, this is women's tennis they're talking about: All of the teams are about as "undermanned" as you can get.

Quote to ponder

"Right now the war is a more important issue than choice."
Mervis Reissig, of the Progressive Democrats of America

Chastising Sen. Barbara Boxer for her support of Lieberman because he is pro-choice. Boxer is also supporting Lieberman because of his environmental record.

Stanford neurobiologist says gender discrimination makes a big difference in the sciences

And he should know--he used to be a woman. If this essay doesn't silence the those who think that women are imagining things when they say they are not treated with respect in the field of science, nothing will. The original essay is available online for a fee.

The "bomb threat" in Jackson

After reading the post at Tennessee Guerilla Women, I find it obvious that there was no bomb threat at yesterday's pro-choice rally in Jackson, Mississippi. The Jackson police, who should be out preventing crime, appear to have chosen to commit one. Where I come from, you go to jail for calling in--much less perpetrating--a fake bomb threat.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Texas agriculture workers leave animals to die because of a "paperwork problem"

The Texas Department of Agriculture sounds a lot like the federal government. a large group of pigs were left confined in overloaded TDA transport trailers at the Livestock Export Facility near the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport. They were abandoned without food, water or any relief from the scorching Texas heat. When the trailer was opened days later, nearly 150 pigs were dead. TDA officials say they failed to unload the trailer because they did not have the right paperwork.

Not only are the pigs' destinations horrific, but their transport, like the transport of much livestock, is often deadly, also.

NATO to get a new commander--guess who?

He is Gen. Bantz Craddock. If that name sounds a wee bit familiar, it should. Craddock is the chief of U.S. Southern Command and the person who oversees the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Craddock will replace Gen. James Jones.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Congratulations yet again to Amelie Mauresmo!

She has been awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur.

Friday cat blogging--foster edition

Three of our seven foster kittens. The gray tabby and the orange kitty are brother and sister. There is another, almost identical, orange brother living with them. Next door, in another pen, there are a half-Siamese brother and sister pair and a black and white tabby. They have all been neutered and spayed, and they are learning to be around people.

Here is the gray tabby, the most precocious of the group, with her little black and silver tabby pal. The sooner these leave and are adopted, the better; it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep from getting attached to them. Both of them are playing with toys and like to come out and be held and get petted. The gray tabby has a very loud purr.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

ACLU files suit on behalf of New York corrections officers

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit today against the New York City Department of Correction on behalf of two female officers who claim they faced both discrimination and retaliation when they reported sexual and physical assaults by male officers.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Chick-Fil-A steps up its disgusting promotional campaign

Few promotional campaigns disgust me as much as Chick-Fil-A's "Eat Mor Chikin" campaign, which depicts cartoon cows carrying signs that encourage people to eat chickens instead of beef. Tomorrow is Chick-Fil-A's second annual Cow Appreciation Day. Customers who dress like cows get free combo meals.

Isn't that cute? It's vile enough that Chick-Fil-A makes a joke of the millions of cows that are tortured and then slaughtered for hamburgers, steaks and leather, or imprisoned and stuffed with hormones and antibiotics and turned into milk machines. But the underlying message of the campaign is to get people to support the obscene treatment of factory farm chickens.

Update on Cecelia Fire Thunder

Cecelia Fire Thunder, president of the Ogala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, has been impeached by the tribal council. She was suspended last month for announcing a plan to establish a family planning clinic on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Her announcement came after the council, following South Dakota's lead, voted to ban abortion on the reservation. The clinic would not have offered abortion procedures.

Fire Thunder was suspended and then impeached for engaging in "political" acts without the council's permission. So much for uppity women.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Colorado legislator declares state is helping create terrorists

America is known as a melting pot. If that's the case, then Debbie Stafford, a Colorado state legislator, has decided to stir it. Colorado just passed passed an immigration bill that denies public assitance to anyone who is not in the state legally, but which makes exceptions for children to get food and healthcare. Stafford's response?

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog) I believe it

Irony really is dead. Someone needs to get out more...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Slapping the *#@! out of copyright violators

U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch has ordered the copyright violators known as "film sanitizers" to cease and desist their activities. Those who scrub DVDs and VHS tapes of what they consider objectionable material are in violation of the studios and directors who own the film rights, Matsch ruled on Thursday.

Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Homophobia at an all-time high for a reason

Alfred Kinsey, in his groundbreaking study of American sexuality, found that nearly 46% of the male population had engaged in both heterosexual and homosexual activities in the course of their adult lives. Among females, between 6 and 14% had experienced more than just "incidental" homosexual activity. Factor in homosexual fantasies and self-identification, and the result was that there were not many Kinsey "0"'s on the scale. Even factoring in flaws in the research design, which would make the numbers lower, the overall result is the same: When people tell the truth about their sexual fantasies and activities, the boundaries of sexual orientation are much more blurred than the culture would have us believe.

Because churches and other keepers of public "morals" have beaten us over the head with the idea that anything that is not purely heterosexual is sinful and perverted--and in the case of men, "feminine" (God forbid)--there is understandably a gigantic heap of fear about acknowledging anything above 0 on the Kinsey scale. It isn't surprising, given the religious right's takeover of the government, that this fear has grown even bigger in the last few years. Hence, we have outrageous bigotry toward the GLBT community, as provided in these gems from Pandagon:

The chairman of the Guilford County, North Carolina Republic Party equates homosexuality with pedophilia (as have many before him).

Lifebeat, an organization that says it is dedicated to raising awareness and providing support to the AIDS community, is sponsoring an event that features two performers who sing about killing gay men and lesbians. Be sure you read the entire thing.

A judge in New York explains to us that if gay couples are allowed to marry, heterosexual marriage would become less valuable. One of his most choice arguments was that heterosexual marriage is in so much trouble that couples need the "inducements" of child benefits to try to make marriages work, and if those same inducements are given to the children of gay couples, well...they won't be such prizes anymore, will they? What an idiot.

People are still beating up gays and calling them names in the old-fashioned tradition. But the reach of the abuse has now been extended actively to include courts, politicians and governments. Anyone who saw the last moments of the World Cup knows that homoeroticism is alive and well, and the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name still finds a way to express itself on the sports field, in gay chat rooms, in remote and cheap hotel rooms paid for by right-wing moralists named John Smith, in anonymous 900 phone calls, and--considering the liberal hall pass given to Jeff Gannon--perhaps in fancier places.

They are gay. They are bisexual. They are curious. They have fantasies. And they are scared.

Taking the metro out of Wimbledon

This blog is about women's tennis, among many other things, but I am going to go off-track today to discuss a "controversy" about the great Roger Federer's decision to enter the Wimbledon court wearing a crested, cream-colored blazer. First, let me say that I thought he looked stunning. Second, the blazer was a nod to the whole Wimbledon tradition, which may sicken us in some respects, but is nevertheless an important part of tennis culture.

A lot of people did not like the blazer, and that's fine; it is a matter of taste. Except for those many men, including a number of sportswriters, who went berserk over Federer's "prissiness." And here I thought the metrosexual (has there ever been a more offensive term?) man was "in" in the West. There is nothing prissy about Roger Federer, but perhaps good manners and a lot of poise, both on and off the court, count against him in certain circles.

This criticism of Federer's blazer advances a conviction I have had for some time--that because tennis is largely a mental sport and is not violent, some men who play it feel a bit insecure about the masculine aspect of their athleticism. That notion is absurd, of course. A professional (or a good amateur) tennis player, male or female, must conform to a rigorous training program, and must be a top-rate athlete to excel. (It is ironic, of course, that for decades, female tennis players have had to "prove" their "femininity; somehow, when they enter the court, they run the risk of being too "masculine.")

Consider the nastiness and abuse perpetrated by John McEnroe, and--to a somewhat lesser extent--Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase. Their antics included hrowing chairs, cursing at umpires and saying the most vile things imaginable to their opponents during the changeovers. It is my opinion that McEnroe should have been banned from a number of tournaments, but I was "corrected" a couple of weeks ago by an eighteen-year-old male, who told me I should be ashamed of myself for criticizing McEnroe.

Then there is Marat Safin, who has broken more racquets than most people will ever see, but who tells us that female players are "emotional." And former ATP player Brad Gilbert, now a coach and commentator, who is actually pretty entertaining, but whose language and manner are hyper-masculine. And let's not forget Lleyton Hewitt, whose manly sniping is as well-known as his game. And the latest addition to this group--former tennis great Mats Wilander, who told the press that Federer played with "no balls" when he competed against Rafael Nadal in the 2006 French Open final.

Who knew that a simple blazer would cause so much hyperventilating among so many men? Poor Roger--number one in the world, eight-time Grand Slam winner, attractive, articulate, multi-lingual, sportsmanlike, and well-mannered. But, you know, so prissy.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Commanders' requests for interrogation guidance ignored by Pentagon

Raw Story reports that newly released documents reveal that U.S. military commanders in Afganistan (remember Afghanistan?) sought clarification on interrogation techniques from the Pentagon, but their requests for such clarification were ignored.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

"Peace" is just a four-letter word

Shakespeare's Sister has an item about how even a Christian--someone fan me!--can be a "traitor" if he actually has the nerve to believe in Jesus's teachings. Peace is at an all-time low in popularity in the United States.

Lipton Diet Green Tea

I saw it in the grocery store. If America will buy George W. Bush, I suppose it will buy that.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

I have no idea how I missed this

But better late than never.

Knocking this post out of the park

I am sick to death of all discussions about everything being peppered with sports metaphors. It doesn't matter what someone on television or in the newspaper is talking or writing about: World leaders must "run the course," a new generation must "step up to the plate," "an opposing candidate delivers a "knock-out punch," a new product does well "straight out the gate," a new television program "strikes out" in its first season, a debater "scores a touchdown," with a rhetorical point, an enemy is "sent to the dugout."

What's even worse is that sports metaphors pepper discussions about sports, or at least, about tennis. This past two weeks of Wimbledon tennis is a perfect example. It isn't enough to talk about tennis--the metaphors must refer to other "more important" sports. "She was quick out of the blocks to break her opponent." "He's at the plate, waiting to serve." "He had him on the ropes by the third set."

Sports announcers in the U.S. drive me to distraction anyway, with their inane, sometimes offensive, often ignorant, remarks. But when they feel they have to refer to football, baseball, horse racing, and boxing in order to discuss tennis, I go over the edge.

Some call her champion

Others call her "the non-compromising lesbian."

Some of you may recall a series of Reebok spots called "I am what I am." One of the profiled celebrities was tennis great Amelie Mauresmo. After her Wimbledon win yesterday, her Reebok team gave her a T-shirt that said 2006 Wimbledon Champion/I Am What I Am, which she wore to the press conference.

Anyone who follows tennis knows that the T-shirt was a riff on the famous Reebok spot. Perhaps the folks at Tennis X never saw the spots, or maybe they were just feeling particularly spiteful when they wrote:

Mauresmo climbed into the stands after the win to hug her support team, and the non-compromising lesbian later donned a t-shirt stating: "2006 Wimbledon Champion. I am what I am."

Or perhaps, more realistically, they are like the millions of others who make statements like this and have no idea that they are exposing their bigotry. What on earth does Mauresmo's sexuality have to do with the fact that she just dusted an opponent everyone thought would beat her to win what many consider the most prestigious prize in tennis?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Amelie Mauresmo, 2006 Wimbledon champion!

I have wanted to write that heading for years, and now that I have done it, it feels just as great as I thought it would. In a three-set, "old-fashioned" serve-and-volley high-quality final, Mauresmo overcame a dismal first set to defeat French Open winner Justine Henin-Hardenne, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

I never stopped believing that Mauresmo could win Wimbledon; grass is her best surface. To her credit, she stuck to serve-and-volley as her chief tactic throughout the tournament, and also relied on her beautiful backhand, her slices, and her resolve--yes, the head case of the WTA now has resolve up there with the best of them. In her acceptance speech, she said: "I don't want anyone to talk about my nerves anymore." Don't worry, Amelie--I don't think they will.

Mauresmo defeated Maria Sharapova in a three-set semifinal that saw her lose control of her serve in the second set (after a near-perfect first set, with only one unforced error--a double fault), then charge back in the third to win handily. Henin-Hardenne, however, is a much tougher opponent for Mauresmo. Like Mauresmo, she can kill an opponent at the net, and her instincts and reflexes are often awe-inspiring. In the Wimbledon final, however, the famous Belgian backhand broke down, and, in the end--after winning a less than attractive second set--Mauresmo held on to her serve to dominate. In the final set, her service game was remarkable. She is the first Frenchwoman to win Wimbledon since Suzanne Lenglen won the last of her six chamionships in 1925.

What a treat to see two top-notch players play a real grass court game on centre court. Younger players, take note: Serve-and-volley is not dead; it is beautiful.

This match was especially tense because of the controversy which occurred at the 2006 Australian Open, which Mauresmo won when Henin-Hardenne retired near the beginning of the second set, denying Mauresmo the joy of her first Grand Slam championship point. Both players said they had put the incident behind them, but I cannot help but think that Mauresmo used some anger to her advantage in overcoming Henin-Hardenne today.

I wanted a final between Mauresmo and Henin-Hardenne, and I wanted a Mauresmo victory. It's nice to get everything you want.

Friday, July 07, 2006

2006 Wimbledon championship

Exploding head, part 2

Just the other day, I remarked that if my head hadn't exploded by now, it probably never will. Now I'm not so sure. Thanks to this story I found via Shakespeare's Sister, I may soon be blogging without a head, which would actually put me in the company of all of the right-wing bloggers, and many of the "liberal" ones, too.

Read it, and see if you can keep from having a vision of the "f" word bouncing in front of you repeatedly.

Post-Katrina workers plagued by employer deception, racism, homeslessness, and a toxic environment

Dan Nazohni, a member of the White Mountain Apache Nation, was recruited, along with 79 others on his reservation, to do $14-an-hour labor in post-Katrina New Orleans. The broker who did the recruiting was paid $1,600 by the tribal government for gas and incidentals. He then dropped the workers off in New Orleans and disappeared, never to be seen again. The Apache tribal workers were homeless for days, and wound up in a tent city in City Park, where the rent is $300 a month. Nazohni says he has found barely enough work to scrape by.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Wiccan says she was fired because of her religion

Rebecca Sommers, an employee of the Schaumburg, Illinois office of the insurance company, Crawford & Company Inc., says she received a favorable review and a bonus for her job performance. Then she revealed that she was Wiccan, and things changed.

Sommers said she asked for a day off for a Wiccan holiday and was told to keep her religion "to yourself." A Crawford supervisor called her a devil worshipper in front of other employers. And then she was fired.

Crawford & Company Inc. maintains Sommers was fired because of her poor job performance, but Sommers disagrees, and has filed a lawsuit against her former employer

And speaking of neo-Nazis...

Which I was earlier--a group of them in Germany have performed a ceremonial burning of Anne Frank's diary.

More on low-hanging fruit

When Bill Maher referred to many of the soldiers recruited for Iraq as "low-hanging fruit," even he may not have realized how low, and how rotten, some of it is hanging. According to the New York Times, "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" have infiltrated the U.S. military. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that the number could run into the thousands.

The U.S. Department of Defense has a zero-tolerance policy regarding racist hate groups (apparently there is no such policy for sexist hate groups, since there have been multiple rapes and other sexual assaults on American female soldiers by American male soldiers), but that policy seems to have gone out the window, along with the Geneva Conventions and the concept that soldiers need appropriate equipment.

A Department of Defense investigator reports there is Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad. "Neo-Nazi groups and other extremists are joining the military in large numbers so they can get the best training in the world on weapons, combat tactics and explosives," said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project. "We should consider this a major security threat, because these people are motivated by an ideology that calls for race war and revolution. Any one of them could turn out to be the next Timothy McVeigh."

Not only that, but what guarantee is there that these soldiers are interested in killing only the insurgents? All of the Iraqis have bloodlines and skin colors the neo-Nazis do not like.

Friday cat blogging--Wimbledon edition

Velma watches Amelie Mauresmo as she serves and volleys her way to the final. Allez!

Sometimes she watched one match on television and one on Wimbledon Live at the same time

Update on murder of Iraqi tennis players

Several weeks ago, I reported (based on reports from around the world) that the coach of the Iraqi national tennis team and two of his players (including Iraq's number one player) were murdered because they were wearing western-style tennis shorts.

In his blog today, Peter Bodo reports that he was told by an advisor with the NATO training mission in Iraq that the tennis players were not killed because of their clothing; they were killed because one of the players refused an invitation from insurgents to drive a car bomb and detonate it in what was believed to be an American-populated neighborhood. The refusal was made--at least in part, according to Bodo's source--because the player knew that this particular neighborhood was actually populated almost entirely by Iraqis.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Blogosphere--the wild blue yonder

“Automated Ontologically-Based Link Analysis of International Web Logs for the Timely Discovery of Relevant and Credible Information.”

Like the name? "How About Those Blogs?!" would flow better from the tongue, but for $450,000, you have to have a killer name for your study. “Automated Ontologically-Based Link Analysis of International Web Logs for the Timely Discovery of Relevant and Credible Information" (hereafter to be referred to as AOBLAIWLTDRCI) is a three-year project of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Dr. Brian E. Ulicny says “It can be challenging for information analysts to tell what’s important in blogs unless you analyze patterns."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Jewish family forced out of community

If you think being African American in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, is hard, just imagine being Jewish in Sussex County, Delaware.

But's Christians who are being persecuted in this country, right?

Louisiana sheriff doesn't even try to hide his racism

In this video on Crooks and Liars, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain doesn't make any attempt to hide his contempt for African Americans. He says he has "no intention" of violating anyone's civil rights, yet--in the same breath--he also says:

Now I don’t get into calling people names and all that, but if you’re gonna walk the streets of St. Tammany Parish with dreadlocks and "Chee Wee" hairstyles, then you can expect to be getting a visit from a sheriff’s deputy.

Yo, Jack--that would be violating people's civil rights.

I live in St. Tammany, and my neighbors have been known to shoot guns, let their dogs run wild in my yard, drive down the street at twice the speed limit, and toss litter all over the neighborhood. I haven't seen any big campaign to rid my community of this "trash." Perhaps because their skin is white and their hair is straight. Just a guess.

Good thing Anne Lamott didn't cross the bridge when she was in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago. She'd have wound up in the slammer.

Thanks for nothing, ESPN

The two women's semifinal matches were played today at Wimbledon. ESPN showed the first one, between Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, then switched over to the men's quarterfinal between Rafael Nadal and Jarkko Nieminem. First, it was a quarterfinal, not a semifinal, and second--short of a miracle--it was obvious that Nadal was going to cruise through, which he did, in straight sets.

I couldn't believe it. Then, when that match was over, Brad Gilbert and Chris Fowler sat and chatted about the men's match. After that, they showed highlights of the first women's semifinal, followed by shots of Evert and Navratilova, from the 80s. Then they showed part of the Federer/Ancic quarterfinal again.

Meanwhile, there was high drama going on between Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova, and thank goodness I have Wimbledon Live so I could watch the match on my computer screen. ESPN did go off the air before the women's match was completed, so it would have been frustrating, anyway, but to not show any of it was, was ESPN.

The good news is that Mauresmo won and is into the finals.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happy Birthday, Amelie Mauresmo!

My absolute favorite player on the WTA tour, Amelie Mauresmo, is 27 today. But she cannot dig into her impressive wine collection because she is busy trying to win Wimbledon. Mauresmo won her quarterfinal match against Anastasia Myskina yesterday, and tomorrow, she faces Maria Sharapova in a semifinal. Her record against Sharapova is good, and Mauresmo fans have reason to believe she will move to the final, where she will meet either Justine Henin-Hardenne or Kim Clijsters (another of my favorites).

My favorite scenario is for Mauresmo to meet Henin-Hardenne in the finals and defeat her handily. That would shut a lot of people up for good (maybe) after the Australian Open controversy. A match against Clijsters would be hard for me, since I like both of them so much.

World number one Mauresmo is the only top WTA player who is using an "old-style" serve-and-volley game at Wimbledon, and it is a joy to see. Despite her considerable tennis gifts (which some still insist she does not possess) and extraordinary athleticism, Mauresmo has won only one Grand Slam. It is true that she has been mentally vulnerable throughout her career; she should have won several Slams by now. I want her to win several more. But like Hana Mandlikova and Gabriela Sabatini, Mauresmo offers a grace and excitement that few players offer, and that is part of what makes her my favorite. The other part is her sense of humor and outstanding sportswomanship.

Be polite, be professional, and have a plan to kill everyone you meet

That is the text on a poster hung on the wall of the Government Center in Ramadi, where U.S. Marines live a life of horror, constantly vulnerable to attack by snipers. Outside, it is 120 degrees, so heatstroke is another enemy. The soldiers live in the most primitive conditions imaginable. Bombs are planted everywhere around them.

War is among the most terrible things in the world. Many young servicemen and -women have said that their tour of duty "isn't what I thought it would be." As a pacifist, I am disturbed that anyone--individual or government--is eager to fight a war. But my pacifism aside, the idea of sending Americans, mostly young, to endure this kind of nightmare--if they manage to endure it at all--over a completely fake "enemy," is sickening. Those who support this obscenity should be so lucky as to live in Ramadi with the Marines.

Fighting for "civilization" through breaking down all vestiges of civilization is puzzling to those of us who still appreciate irony.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Federal judge blocks Navy's use of mid-frequency sonar

The lawsuit filed against the U.S. Navy to block the use of mid-frequency sonar during training exercises has met some success. Today, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking a six-month national defense exemption from the Department of Defense that would have permitted use of mid-frequency sonar. Environmental and animal rights groups object to the use of mid-frequency sonar because, it kills and injures whales, dolphins and other marine animals.

The Navy had planned to use mid-frequency sonar during exercises scheduled to begin this Thursday off the coast of Hawaii.

Courts help Tulane shut down Newcomb College

After Katrina, Tulane University's administrators decided that shutting down Newcomb College, an institution they had already significantly weakened, would be an appropriate cost-cutting measure. An attempt was made to save Newcomb, but a judge then ruled that the plaintiffs had not made their case and that they had no standing to bring their suit. So descendents of Josephine Newcomb herself, who believed that truly had standing, asked for an injunction to keep the school from being closed. On Friday, a state judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction.

The closing of Newcomb represents one of the most short-sighted actions taken after the hurricane. It is no surprise, given the school's recent history of diluting the identity of the college. Newcomb was the first women's college established within a university, and the home of Newcomb Pottery. Shutting it down is a slap in the face not only to women, but to the entire New Orleans community.

Some complaints against George

Art from J's Magic Galleries

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

(That was the first George, by the way.)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bill Maher's "low-hanging fruit"

Right here.

And a lot more on this subject here.

Children's magazine looks like an Army recruiting tool to some

The latest issue of Cobblestone, a magazine for children ages 9 to 14, features on its cover a photo of a soldier in Iraq clutching a machine gun. Inside, there are articles on boot camp, careers in the Army, and a detailed description of the Army's "awesome arsenal" of weapons.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Quote of the day

"I've come to the strong conclusion we're not set up for post-Katrina."
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

Deep thinking and sterling rhetoric from the right wing

Referring to Abu al-Zarqawi:

"There are probably not 72 virgins in the hell he's at, and if there are, they probably all look like Helen Thomas."
Iowa Congressman Steve King

"I think the Dixie Chicks are expanding to new country markets. You know, Osama bin Laden lives up in the mountains in the country. I hear he's a big fan of the Dixie Chicks, so they've got the Al Qaeda market cornered."
Radio host Paul McGuire

Referring to U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who served three years in the U.S. Navy during World War II:

[Stevens is] "unfamiliar with the realities of warfare."
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Why we need consciousness-raising again

I haven't read Katha Pollitt's book, but Echidne of the Snakes' deconstruction Ana Marie Cox's fake feminism is definitely worth reading.

The end of an era, or just a brief interruption?

Yesterday, defending champion Venus Williams was sent home from Wimbledon after the third round when she lost to Jelena Jankovic, 6-7, 6-4, 4-6. The thriller, which featured moments of brilliance and moments of anxiety from both players, also featured 54 unforced errors from Williams, including three double-faults in a row toward the end of the match.

The loss marks the first time since 1999 that a Williams sister will not be in the finals at Wimbledon. In the last six years, one of the sisters has won every Wimbledon except the 2004 contest, in which Maria Sharapova defeated Serena. Serena is not playing in the 2006 Wimbledon tournament because of multiple injuries. She expects to be back later in the summer.

Janikovic, for her part, continued to come out of a tremendous slump with her upset of Williams. A top-20 player last year with a "phenom" stamp on her for some time, Jankovic had problems with her shoulders, which caused her to miss a lot of the tour. Then she had a two-month virus, and on top of that, she attended university and became involved with studying and taking exams. Her ranking went from 17 to 40. Until recently, she was losing in the first round at every tournament she entered, and it looked as though she might be on her way out.

It is easy, but not wise, to count the Williams sisters out. Venus was counted out by most people last year, and she won Wimbledon in a stunning final against Lindsay Davenport. (It was the back injury that developed in that match that has kept Davenport out of this season's competition so far.) While it's true that other players have come along and figured out how to beat the Williams sisters, that is a phenomenon to be expected, and doesn't take away from Venus's and Serena's talent, only their dominance.

Venus's forehand has always been prone to collapse on her, and on a bad day, an opponent can take advantage of that. It has to be an opponent with a lot of grit, like Jankovic, who is willing to do what Jankovic did--bounce back from the breaks, make shots from a position on her knees on the court, and continue blocking Venus's powerful serves. Or a player with enough game savvy, like a Davenport or a Henin-Hardenne, to systematically break down Venus's game. But beating Venus Williams, even on a bad day, is never a walk in the park, especially on grass.

Both sisters are often accused of being involved in too many off-court activities. Serena is into acting and the club scene and is a fashion designer (and, sadly, major wearer of fur), and her fur-bearing sister Venus owns an interior design firm. Their father and coach, Richard Williams, has said frequently that he believes it is in bad taste for an athlete to play after age 25 (Lindsay Davenport, Mary Pierce, Jennifer Capriati, Lisa Raymond, and especially Martina Navratilova--consider yourselves insulted), so there is a clear message from the father for the sisters to hang up their racquets.

But will they? Venus is 26; Serena is 24. Between them, they have 59 career titles, 12 Grand Slam singles titles, and 21 Grand Slam doubles titles. They are legends, no matter what they do from now on. Serena is currently in intensive training at one of the world's best academies. The sisters will not hang around for the prize money; they will play to win, or they won't compete.

The end of an era? It's hard to say, but if I had to guess, I'd say "not quite."

Meet Ellen Bosanquet

The crinums in our garden haven't bloomed for years; some of them, in fact, have never bloomed at all. I ignore them now, so I was suprised to learn that this one had developed a bloom spike--something I didn't see until it began blooming. 'Ellen Bosanquet' is a beautiful rosy pink, and--like all crinums--has a lovely fragrance.

Our garden, as I have mentioned before, is very ill. In the last couple of years, we have lost our spider lily, our red salvia, our Formosa lilies, most of our jonquils, and an entire stand of miniature peach daylilies. Our giant plume gingers have not set bracts this year, for the first time. Perhaps saddest of all, none of the amaryllis (except the potted ones on the deck) bloomed this year. We had the state analyze our soil, and we have amended it. Perhaps some things will return to health, but I know we have lost some for good.

On the other hand, our remaining pink crape myrtle (one had to come down because of Katrina) bloomed much more heavily than it ever has before, and a white crape myrtle that has never bloomed is blooming prettily. As for the downed crape myrtle--because of its absence, our 'Mermaid' rose (which used to climb up the tree's trunk) increased its bloom tenfold.