Thursday, August 31, 2006

Another frightening story out of Colorado

Eric Hamlin, a middle school geography teacher in Jefferson County, Colorado, received a letter of reprimand his very first week of class. The reason? He displayed the flags of Mexico, China and the United Nations in his classroom as teaching aids, as he has always done throughout his geography-teaching career.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Scrub pants on fire

By now, most readers know that Sen. Bill Frist did not meet the requirements to have his medical license renewed in Tennessee. However, there is now a new twist to the story: Frist not only did not get the 40 ceus he needed for renewal--he informed the Tennessee Health Department that he did. Now Frist says he "may not have done his continuing education, after all."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

A year after Katrina--what it's like in St. Tammany Parish

The roof looks much better than it did a year ago

A single 'Valentine' rose was blooming against our wall when we returned

We hope we don't have to evacuate again

The traffic was really bad for several months, i.e., you had to allow an hour for a fifteen-minute trip. That problem is gone, but there is another kind of traffic problem: Many of the people who moved here after the storm are inconsiderate and careless drivers. I do not have many good things to say about the residents of this parish overall, but they do tend to be considerate drivers. Now we are afraid to drive during peak hours because of the recklessness all around us.

We are also able to get merchandise again; companies are able to make shipments to stores. Some stores and restaurants continue to have limited hours, though, because they do not have enough employees.

The pine beetles, as I mentioned already, are tearing through the parish, eating our trees, and there is no more recycle pickup, plus no more recycling of anything but newspapers.

Many people are still living in trailers in their relatives' yards. Yesterday, a man came here to do some work. His house was destroyed and he is now living in Opelousas, near Lafayette. In addition to suffering from house and job loss because of the terrible wind damage Katrina did here, and the flooding caused by Rita, a significant number of St. Tammany residents also lost their jobs in New Orleans. Some were put over the edge by having ten to twenty people come and live with them for a while. Others saw older or disabled relatives and friends die from the stress and trauma.

Yesterday, I went down to street to get coffee and there was no charge. The coffee shop was giving people free coffee all day. People struggled to find a way to commemorate the horror of August 29. I have not seen Spike Lee's film. I was busy last week when it was shown in two parts, and last night, I figured I would miss it because of the U.S. Open. As it happened, the tournament was rained out, but I couldn't bring myself to watch the film. Having read the special sections of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, I had seen enough terrible images and descriptions for one day. Also, C-Span covered George W. Bush's visit to New Orleans, and that alone provided my ration of horrific images for a week.

After waiting a year, we had our new roof put on last week (which reminds me, I have a poem, "Things To Do While You Wait for the Roofer," in the upcoming anthology, Hurricane Blues: How Katrina and Rita Ravaged a Nation, to be published in September by Southeast Missouri University Press), and our broken brick wall was fixed. We still have more stumps to be ground, and a fence to be repaired.

Introducing the ONE Campaign

The ONE Campaign seeks to encourage Americans, one by one, to fight global AIDS and poverty. Go here to get involved.

Enable your popups

And go to Mother Jones to see the new Lie by Lie timeline.

Quote of the week

"We're a generous country--we gave millions to the tsunami....HIV-AIDS; we spent $15 billion to help people suffer. America is a respected country."
George W. Bush

In Canada

They know how to sell books.

FBI now looking at Kinkade

In the spring of 2005, I reported that painter Thomas Kinkade had been accused of assaulting women, defrauding galleries, and even urinating on Winnie the Pooh. I am pleased to report that the FBI has taken an interest in "devout Christian" Kinkade, who has been sued by at least six of his Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery owners, who were persuaded to open the galleries because of Kinkade's Christian faith (they never learn, it seems).

The former gallery owners say that after investing thousands of dollars, the company's policies--forcing them to open more galleries in saturated markets, pricing the merchandise higher than nearby discount galleries whose prices they were forbidden to match. There are also charges that Kinkade schemed to devalue his public company before taking it private.

The "painter of light" is about to have the light shown in places I'm sure he would rather remain very dark.

Small New Orleans businesses in trouble

Yesterday, when interviewed on the radio about the need for New Orleans' small business owners to get grants and not loans, George W. Bush said "Don't count on grants." After the hurricane hit, there were a number of grants available for small business owners, but apparently, these have dried up, and there will not be much federal grant money forthcoming.

Small business owners, in many cases, experienced significant damage to their locations. Many have had trouble collecting insurance payments, especially for their business interruption claims. And in many cases, there are few customers or clients. Mayor Nagin, in his recent inaugural address, said of local businesspeople: "I hope they stay, but if they don't, I'll send them a postcard." Yesterday, a Times-Picayune columnist provided an address for Nagin to send one his postcards--to a woman with a small business who discovered she could not operate it without customers. Nagin's staff should look into getting a bulk discount on postcards.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Haley Barbour is a loathsome sewer creature

"We're not into being victims," Barbour said after a year of post-Katrina life in Mississippi, implying that those of us who live in Louisiana are.

There are a couple of significant differences between Louisiana and Mississippi:

  • The towns on the Mississippi do not have to rebuild and repair their levees before they can get down to the business of recovering.
  • Our governor did not ever serve as the chair of the National Republican Party

And even if all things were equal, Louisiana's slower progress is certainly not the choice of the people of Louisiana. Most Louisianians have had no choices at all.

There are a lot of people in Mississippi who haven't, either. The casinos in Biloxi/Gulfport are being rebuilt, but there is no one to staff them because there is no rental relief for the working poor. Millions of dollars are flowing to homeowners, but those who rent cannot return to their homes and take low-paying jobs in the casinos and hotels.

Barbour has been nasty from the get-go. He has asked Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco to cooperate on projects that benefit Mississippi, but has refused cooperation on projects that benefit Louisiana.

Suddenly there came a tapping...

A bill that would expand George W. Bush's power to wiretap American telephones is headed for the Senate Judiciary Committee next Thursday, according to The Raw Story. Written by Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, the bill institutes program-wide warrants that do not expire for a year.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Fans should be ashamed of their behavior at last night's U.S. Open feature match

Whenever someone plays a French player at the French Open, I am always disgusted by the behavior of the French fans, who cheer when the opponent hits a service fault or makes an unforced error. Last night, during the Agassi/Pavel match at the U.S. Open, Americans made the French look polite. They not only cheered loudly when Pavel made a service fault or hit an unforced error, but they booed whenever he stepped up to the service line. At times, the booing was so loud, Pavel had to wait before he could serve. At one point, before Pavel's serve could be executed, someone yelled out "Fuck you, Pavel!" The chair umpire did little to stop this display. I did notice that Agassi was more restrained than usual in thanking the crowd for support, but I wish he had told them to stop acting like the ill-mannered pigs they were.

What if Sen. Burns had said "little Guatemalan woman"?

Would there have been such offense taken? No way. Such a statement would have been acceptable to everyone, including those who call themselves "liberals." It is only when a male is treated dismissively that people get upset.

Some thoughts on the one-year anniversary of Katrina

Consider these two scenarios:

1. A group of amoral, compulsively religious, insane Islamic extemists mow down the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon, kill around 3,000 Americans, and do major damage to the national economy and the national spirit.

2. A group of amoral, incompetent, careless, negligent, clueless, dishonest scumbags are responsible for the deaths of hundreds (1,600 in Louisiana alone) of Americans, not to mention leaving thousands homeless, financially devastated, and sick with grief and trauma.

After tragedy number 1, people felt traumatized, stuck American flags on their cars, held prayer vigils, stopped buying French wine, became obsessed with "security," decided it was okay to destroy part of the U.S. Constitution, and encouraged the quashing of dissent.

After tragedy number 2, in which Americans destroyed Americans, people were, for the most part, generous and kind and horrified. Except for those who thought the victims "deserved it," of course. But there has been no national call for structural change. Those of us who were victims of the government wear the T-shirts and display the bumper stickers and will never, I hope, shut up about what happened. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has hardly been criticized, the "plan" to protect New Orleans from future storms is nonexistent, and there is no national movement to hold accountable those whose laziness, negligence and callousness brought about a tragedy which most people still cannot fathom.

If we are horrified by foreigners attacking our nation, we should be beyond horrified by our own citizens undermining the health, safety and welfare of Americans.

It is important to remember that Hurricane Katrina, despite predictions, did not hit New Orleans. What happened to New Orleans was the result of years of negligence by a number of government agencies, most notably the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. New Orleans has not taken a direct hit since 1965, when Betsy suddenly turned around in mid-journey, strenghened to one mph short of a Category 5 storm, and hit Grand Isle, which--as far as hurricanes go--amounts to hitting New Orleans.

A direct hit is due. The breached levees have been repaired, though the pumps are not working. But the entire levee system in New Orleans is a disaster, the coastline protection is continuing to fade away, and--as I write this--the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet is still there. There is little that people can do to protect their houses and businesses from wind damage, but it is outrageous that Gulf Coast communities are not protected from storm surge.

What we "learned" from the Katrina experience is what many of us already knew: The U.S. government does not give a damn about "homeland security," and the insurance industry will go to any length to not pay claims. I do not see either of these realities changing.

Honoring--and dishonoring--Billie Jean King

Last night's hour-long ceremony renaming the USTA National Tennis Center the "USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center," despite being cheesy at times, was very much worth watching. The best part, other than King's wonderful speech, was the very moving tribute given by Jimmy Connors. An argument can be made that the worst part was Diana Ross's singing "God Bless America," and that is a worthy nomination. But for me, the worst part was hearing Chris Evert make a reference to bra-burning. Hey Chris--it never happened. Isn't it time you learned that?

In her speech, King thanked everyone she could think of who had helped her achieve her goals, and she told some great anecdotes. What impressed me the most, though, is that she wasn't just touched and grateful; she was also openly stunned that a major world facility would be named for a woman. Even in the moment of her greatest glory, she was sending a message that things are not right. King said she considered this event in her life as a message of hope to women, people of color, gay people, and disabled people. That she has always transcended identity politics is a sign of her greatness.

But, oh--the reaction from members of a major women's tennis message board. Many women were angry that tennis was delayed in order to conduct the ceremony. Many wanted to bash the Virginia Slims circuit because it was sponsored by a tobacco company (no one else would go near it). And then there were the young women who didn't understand why such a fuss was being made when everyone knows it was --wait for it--Anna Kournikova who brought tennis to so many women and made the tour what it is today.

I'm not making that up, though I wish I were. And nothing against Kournikova--I am one of her defenders. But the knowledge that young women think that there would be a WTA without Billie Jean King is scary. I cannot imagine anyone in this post-Second Wave world having the courage to do what King did. She risked everything--her career, her friendships (many of which she lost, at least for a while), her professional status, her income, her ability to enter tournaments--so that women could earn money playing tennis, just like men.

Several years ago, an interviewer asked Jennifer Capriati how Title IX had affected her life. Capriati's reply: "What's Title XIX?"

The WTA probably doesn't deserve Billie Jean King, but she will be there for female tennis players as long as she can breathe in and out.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Apple gets low grade from Greenpeace

Greenpeace's new guide to green electronics puts Nokia and Dell at the top of the list and Apple near the bottom. Companies received scores on elimination of toxic chemicals and take-back and recycling. On a scale of 1-10, Apple scored 2.7 overall. Only Acer, Motorola and Lenovo scored lower.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

According to lying, cheating Katherine Harris...

"If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin."

But if you elect the Christian Harris, you are electing someone so dishonest, you couldn't trust her to change a quarter.

Doesn't give you much choice, does it?

The product that is Maria Sharapova

Tennis star Maria Sharapova, who has just launched her official website, has also just signed a contract with Prince to promote their racquets, which she uses. It is a "lifetime" deal, scheduled to go beyond her tennis career, and will give her $25 million in the next ten years. Sharapova has endorsement contracts with Motorola, Canon, Honda Japan, and Colgate-Palmolive, and she does a lot of modeling. Her breasts have been marketed in Japan without her say-so.

When asked once by an interviewer whether the WTA was selling sex, Sharapova replied: "I don't care what they're selling." The 19-year-old with one Grand Slam title (2004 Wimbledon) is already a multi-millionaire, and is wildly popular throughout the world. She is not, in my estimation, a pretty young woman (though, as I mentioned once before, it is easy to project anything you want onto her unformed face), but she has a classic European presence and style about her (think Catherine Deneuve) that cannot be taught, and that lends her an air of wit and elegance. She is also quite droll, which makes her very enjoyable as a personality. The television commercials that feature her--whether for Canon or Nike or the U.S. Open Series--are all hilarious, largely because of Sharapova's natural wit.

Writing for Bloomberg News, Danielle Sessa asks "Why Can't Mauresmo As Number 1 Tennis Star Match Sharapova's Riches?" Well, duh. First of all, Mauresmo is gay. Second, she speaks with a French, not an American, accent. Third, she does not have long blonde hair and a lack of prominent facial features. That about does it, despite Sessa's offensive suggestion that Mauresmo lacks personality.

Sessa couldn't be more off-base. In her native France, Mauresmo is like a rock star. With her stylish tennis, good looks, motorcycles, horses, impressive wine collection, delicious sense of humor, and gentle persona, there is everything to like. Mauresmo does fashion spreads in Europe, and is quite a celebrity. But to be a world celebrity, you have to be slim and blonde and heterosexual, or at least not gay. And you have to have people who will market the hell out of you.

My instincts tell me that Mauresmo would not want to be a Sharapova. But that is not the point. The point is that Sharapova is the Chosen One, a product extraordinaire, the post-Kournikova bombshell. Some critics like to point out that she is "Kournikova with talent," but that is unfair, because Kournikova is an extremely gifted tennis player who never won a tournament for reasons that are not relevant to this blog post. However, such commentary only underlines the idea that young, slim, blonde female athletes are commodities, not sports icons. The truth of the matter is that Sharapova is a very good tennis player who is chasing her second Slam and will, in my opinion, get it at some point (it should be noted that world number one Mauresmo has become her on-court nemesis). But really, who cares about the tennis?

A year ago today, we were passing through fields of corn and cotton

One of the many murals in Bunkie

The Bailey Hotel was filled with evacuees when we arrived.

A year ago today, we arrived in Bunkie, in central Louisiana, where we stayed at the old Bailey Hotel. We were there for ten days, and that was the most intensive blogging I have done in my blog career, covering the hurricane chaos for both The Dees Diversion and MoJo Blog. I also watched just about every match of the U.S. Open, which gave me great pleasure and took my mind off the fact that New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast were being destroyed.

It wasn't all bad. Karaoke at The Heretik's Lefty's Lounge got me through some bad times, and bloggers and well-wishers were in constant touch with us via the Web and this blog. Also, the people who work at the Bailey were very nice to all of us, the ice chest stayed full, and Roxie and Velma--once they got adjusted--were their usual entertaining selves.

Throughout the week, I'll be posted photos that were not posted on the blog last year, and reviewing the post-Katrina year.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Davenport injured again--this is getting hard to bear

When I wrote about the hard luck and hard times experienced by Lindsay Davenport for the past few years, I had no idea things were about to take a turn for the worse. On Saturday at the Pilot Pen tournament, Davenport played a high quality, tension-filled semifinal match against Samantha Stosur (who appears to have gotten past her mental toughness problem) and won 7-6, 7-6. During the match, Davenport's shoulder became sore. The next day, she was unable to serve or effectively hit a forehand in her final against Justine Henin-Hardenne. She took an injury break for what turned out to be a shoulder strain, got a heat pack and wrap, but it was too late. The pain had moved all the way to her wrist.

Davenport, in tears, retired at 0-6, 0-1. She was the Pilot Pen defending champion. Much worse, though, is that her participation in the U.S. Open is now in doubt. For most of the summer, I assumed that Davenport would be at Fushing Meadows in name only, since she had not played during the hardcourt season. But at Pilot Pen, she looked so sharp, I again listed her as a contender. Now it looks as though she may have to withdraw.

For WTA fans, this is the worst possible news. I don't even like to think about what it feels like for Davenport.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ignorance takes so many forms

Although the laid-back staff does not embrace militant flesh-free attitudes that could turn away open-minded carnivores, the restaurant does embody some vegetarian stereotypes. Its low-sodium, mostly nondairy and meatless cooking (the one exception is a tuna sandwich), for example, tastes vegetarian. Sometimes bland, sometimes mostly raw, the food tastes as healthy as it is.

This is part of a restaurant review I just happened to run across (of a restaurant I used to eat at many years ago).

"Militant flesh-free attitudes"?!" That would make me laugh out loud if it weren't so ridiculous. First of all, restaurant employees are not permitted to publicly embrace any attitudes. Second, meat-eaters entering a vegetarian (though it is no longer strictly vegetarian, with tuna being served) restaurant--unless they sit at the table and talk loudly about how much they love chicken and steak--are not revealing whether they are vegetarian or just "open-minded," so how could anyone develop an "attitude" about them? (Bear in mind that this restaurant is in a sophisticated urban area.)

But the corker is: "tastes vegetarian." What in hell is that supposed to mean, other than, as the reviewer says "sometimes bland." Or perhaps she means that the vegetables are not made to taste like meat. What a concept.

What an idiot.

In observance of Women's Equality Day

Here is Ellen Goodman's annual Equal Rites Awards.

Happy Women's Equality Day to you, too

"Our Nation remains committed to advancing the equality of women in the world's newest democracies and fighting threats to women around the globe."
George W. Bush

Of all the garbage that spews from the filthy mouth of this amoral philistine, this particular piece bothers me the most. "Fighting threats to women around the globe." Right. Like making sure that hundreds of thousands of African women cannot obtain birth control education and therefore continue to die of AIDS or commit suicide after getting botched abortions. Or abandoning women in Afghanistan so that they are once again subject to the terrors of the Taliban. Or how about the thousands of women in Iraq who have been left widowed, homeless, childless, or dead because of Bush's invasion of their country?

And let's not forget how Bush has advanced the equality of women in his own country. From removing women's program websites to removing women's programs--especially for military women--to funding school programs that teach children that girls are supposed to be submissive, to permitting pharmacists to refuse to fill women's prescriptions...the Bush administration has done a bang-up job of advancing equality.

In all fairness, however, Bush's attitudes toward women reflect those of the nation and the world. When Eve Ensler said that while behaviors toward women may differ from nation to nation, attitudes toward women were the same everywhere, she hit the nail on the head.

Who is raging against the disgusting hypocrisy in Bush's proclamation for today? Where are the leaders? Where are the men and women who will stand in public and say what I have said in this post?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Guess who's sitting at the back of the bus?

Via Tennessee Guerilla Women, I have learned that in Coushatta, Louisiana, a school bus driver named Delores Davis--a white woman, let me add, for clarification--ordered nine African American students to--wait for it--sit at the back of the bus.

By now, you have no doubt concluded that the front seats were reserved for the white kids, and you are correct.

There is nothing more to say.

State Farm accused of cheating Katrina customers

Kerri Rigsby and Cori Rigsby, two independent insurance adjusters who worked exclusively for State Farm for eight years, say they have turned over to the FBI and Mississippi investigators thousands of documents proving that the insurance company systematically cheated victims of Hurricane Katrina. In an interview with ABC News, Rigsby and Rigsby describe what they call "widespread fraud" in State Farm offices in Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Mrs. Federline, just fine--Mr. Spears, oh the horror

I read this morning that people believe that poor Kevin Federline's major source of embarrassment is that he is considered "Mr. Spears."

The sad thing isn't Federline's status; it is the fact that the thousands of people who think this and say this don't appear to have a clue that they are insulting women. The last time I checked, it was 21st Century America, but it is still considered not only okay, but appropriate, for women to be subordinate in status to men and to be happy being "the wife of," but for a man to be considered "the husband of" is a deep insult.

The sexism in this culture is so deeply ingrained it is a like one of those viruses that keeps mutating itself to avoid being wiped out. And it is indeed making me feel sick.

Beginning Monday, the U.S. Open!

Justine Henin-Hardenne has been in every
Grand Slam final so far this year

Svetlana Kuznetsova--can she win another U.S. Open?

The last Grand Slam of the year starts Monday in Flushing Meadows, New York. This year's U.S. Open has some special features: a ceremony observing the USTA National Tennis Center's new name, a farewell to Andre Agassi, and a final farewell to Martina Navratilova. Both Navratilova and Don Budge will be inducted into the Court of Champions.

The U.S. Open Series winners are eligible to win bonus money at the U.S. Open, depending on how well they do. This year's WTA winner is Ana Ivanovic.

Sadly, last year's U.S. Open winner, Kim Clijsters, will not be in New York. Clijsters has injured the wrist that she injured in 2004, an injury which kept her out for most of the season and threatened to take her out of tennis altogether. And last year's finalist, Mary Pierce has been out much of this year with an injury, also. She will play at the Open, but she isn't expected to get very far. Venus Williams, also suffering with a wrist injury, has withdrawn from the tournament.

Players to watch:

Martina Hingis
Hingis's comeback has been so successful, she is already back in the top 10 and is therefore seeded at the Open, which is a big advantage. She played terribly against Ivanovic in the Rogers Cup final, however, and her second serve is still unbelievably bad (her coach says both her serves are much better during practice). Hingis needs to improve her first serve, get a second serve that isn't a joke, and use that amazing backhand down the line all the time, like she used to. If she can make these changes at the U.S. Open, she can have a great run. If not, she will not be a real contender. (I should add that Martina, unfortunately, has not consulted me.)

Nicole Vaidisova
The phenom who has cracked the top 10 stands a good chance of doing well on the world's biggest hard court. She has the power and the precision, but there is still some question as to whether she has the mental toughness to endure the final rounds of a Slam.

Ana Ivanovic
Ivanovic has always had the serve and the court sense to be a top player, but she was very sluggish around the court, and therefore incapable of performing defensively. She hit a slump and looked like as though she might end up just an almot-phenom. But with her new coach, that has changed. Ivanovic is moving pretty well, and she has the forehand from hell.

Shahar Peer
Confident, big-hitting Peer knows how to put a game together and how to keep her head together. She is headed for a breakthrough of some kind, and it could very well occur at the Open.

Jelena Jankovic
Like Ivanovic, Jankovic showed great promise, but then slumped. It didn't help that she had a debilitating virus, or that she has chosen to go to college while she plays professional tennis. This summer, however, Jankovic has shown us some entertaining and inventive tennis, and she now looks to be a contender again, though I think she will probably have to choose between tennis and college. Jankovic also has a great court personality and is a lot of fun to watch.

Anna Chakvetadze
Chakvetadze is another player who looked promising, then slumped, and now is back again with some strong tennis. She has had a really good hardcourt season and could cause some trouble at the Open. However, Chakvetadze has some maturing to do. Until she can get better control of her emotions, she cannot compete that well on a big stage.

Serena Williams
Williams isn't seeded for this Open because she was out for so long with injuries. However, she is playing well, and can eliminate some big players in early rounds.

The contenders:

Justine Henin-Hardenne
The remarkably talented Belgian player won the U.S. Open in 2003, but in her other tries, she has not done that well. All the same, her all-court tennis is always a threat. Henin-Hardenne won the French Open this year, and was a finalist in both the Australian Open and Wimbledon. There is every reason to believe she can win her second 2006 Slam in New York.

Amelie Mauresmo
World number one Mauresmo finally broke through this year and won two Grand Slams. Her confidence level, always her biggest weakness, has taken a big turn, and now she comes onto the court as a champion. Hardcourts have never been her strength, but this is a new Mauresmo, and she is definitely a contender.

Maria Sharapova
Tennis Magazine, Tracy Austin and Jon Wertheim have picked Sharapova to win this year's U.S. Open. Though it is tempting to see Sharapova as just a powerful ball-whacker, there really is more to her game than that. She has precision, and she anticipates extremely well. This summer, she has used her outstanding serve to her full advantage, and she is in a good position to take the whole thing.

Lindsay Davenport
I had no idea I would be placing Davenport, who has been out five months with injuries, on this list. But last night, at the Pilot Pen tournament, she beat Mauresmo, and did it with such precision that I now see her as a possible to win the Open. In her match last night, Davenport was superb at the net, an area which has generally been outside of her comfort level. I would love to see Lindsay get her fourth Grand Slam--finally.

Elena Dementieva
Dementieva has come very close, but has never won a Slam. Her poor serve has been the major factor in keeping her from holding a big trophy. But Dementieva's serve has improved, and her defensive play, like that of Kim Clijsters, is almost untouchable. Dementieva is due a Slam, and she is just wonderful on the hardcourts, so this could be her chance.

Svetlana Kuznetsova
The 2004 U.S. Open winner had a bad 2005, but has come back rather well this year. She likes hardcourts, has a big serve, and can really move around on the court. Kuznetsova can be a head case from time to time, but if she can keep the negativity in check, she has a chance to repeat her Slam win in New York.

Ben & Jerry's--liar of the month

For years, Ben & Jerry's has bragged about its progressive, socially aware approach to business, but like so many liberal individuals and groups, those concerns go out the window when it comes to animal suffering. The company uses eggs from battery cages, and though it has been promising for almost a year to stop, there is no sign that Ben & Jerry's intends to h0nor that promise.

You can contact Ben & Jerry's here, by telephone and email.

Friday cat blogging--sofa takeover edition

Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's bad enough that McDonald's provides kids with the evil products of factory farming and a double helping of saturated fat. To make things even worse, now the fast food chain is pushing Hummers by giving away thousands of miniature Hummers with Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals. The asthma medicine makers and Big Oil are the only winners here.

Billie Jean King to be honored by the USTA

On Monday, opening day of the 2006 U.S. Open, the USTA National Tennis Center--world's largest public tennis facility--will be renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. No one deserves this honor more than King, who founded both the WTA and World Team Tennis, (making her one of the first women to coach men) and without whose courage female tennis players could not have competed as professionals.

King's accomplishments as both an athlete and a feminist are numerous and impressive. I remember her as an amazing tennis player, but I remember being even more impressed that she and her small band of outlaws were willing to give up everything to see to it that women were paid professional fees for their work on the tennis court. It wasn't easy. Most of the women on the tour were too afraid to break away and upset the status quo. None of the men supported King, and those who she thought were her friends turned their backs on her.

King is the second person to have a major American tennis facility named for her. Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows, New York, home of the U.S. Open, honors another American tennis great. When King was told that her name would be alongside Ashe's, she talked about the year they both won Wimbledon, and about how Ashe, too, fought for justice.

What King was too polite to say is that when she and her cohorts formed the WTA, Ashe was not at all interested in fighting for justice. In fact, he was quite angry that some uppity women were trying to move into the men's territory. "Men are playing tennis for a living now," Ashe said. "They don't want to give up money just for girls to play. Why should we have to split our money with them?" According to King, Ashe was the worst of them (until he met his wife), proving once again that the oppressed do not necessarily feel empathy for the oppressed.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that King, who even inspired a hit song, is a "legend among legends." She is.

A year after Katrina, the pumps don't work, but the thieves do

In its own after-deadline time, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers--designers of the biggest urban catastrophe in recent American history--built thirty-four new pumps for New Orleans' major canals. Now, it appears that most of them will have to be re-built (beyond any deadline set, you can bet) because they are vibrating. This new project will delay even longer the start of a major floodgate project that is designed to keep the city from flooding overwhelmingly, as it did after Katrina.

Now that the Corps has been found out for the incompetent, negligent and probably dishonest organization that it is, it is at least bothering to tell the public that something is wrong and that the pumps must be re-built. The Corps' silence many years ago resulted in the near-destruction of the entire city.

One is tempted, however, to guess that the pumps don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles. They took everything else. In March, a New Orleans police officer was arrested after he and a crime partner were caught stealing parts from a car (mysteriously, there "wasn't enough evidence" to charge the policeman). In St. Bernard Parish, thieves stole the copper wire that was stretched between telephone poles. One thief made $50,000 selling the copper to a salvage company. Just recently, someone stole $100,000 worth of heavy equipment from a site where a Katrina memorial is being built. And just a few days ago, two National Guardsmen were arrested for armed robbery in New Orleans. The two men were stopping motorists and taking money out of their wallets. The Guard was sent to New Orleans to assist with the crime problem, and obviously, these two guys took "assist" the wrong way.

70% of Post-Katrina Contracts Awarded Without Full Bidding

Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted by FEMA in the awarding of Katrina recovery contracts, according to a U.S. House of Representatives study released today by House Democrats. Audits show that of $10.6 billion worth of contracts awarded, more than $7.4 billion were given with either no bidding or limited bidding. In addition, nineteen contracts worth $8.75 billion wasted taxpayer money in part through double-billing or non-use of purchased items.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

In women's tennis, sexism rules

This is almost too disgusting to read.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"People here in the U.S. don't understand these things about constitutional rights"

That's what a Jordan-born man says he was told by airport security personnel when they asked him to remove his T-shirt before boarding a flight to California at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. The man, whose name is Raed, says he was told "People are feeling offended because of your T-shirt." Raed was wearing a shirt that said in both Arabic and English, We Will Not Be Silent. He was asked to put on another shirt instead, but all of his other shirts were in his checked baggage.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Gale Harold fan alert!

I never thought I'd be tuning in to watch anything on the Fox Network, but last night, I saw the first episode of Fox's new series, Vanished, because it stars Gale Harold, who I think is compelling beyond words. Not so the show, however. The first installment had a poorly written script (at one point, one character has a totally fake conversation with the other in which he delivers the entire backstory--a writing device that a high school writer knows to avoid), and already one major logical flaw: It turns out that the case is about the FBI agent, which means that, in real life, he would be taken off of it.

Alas, poor Gale also has to wear atrocious FBI clothes in the show. What a comedown from Brian Kinney's wardrobe.

Lindsay Davenport is down, so the WTA kicks her

I can't think of a more frustrating tennis career than the one Lindsay Davenport has had. In the late 90s, when no one in particular had picked her to be winner, she won three Grand Slam tournaments. Later, she had to face a very serious injury with a grueling rehab, and was out for a long time. And for the last few years, everyone agrees she has played better tennis than when she won the Slams.

Still, further Slam victory has eluded her. In 2004, she went on a hardcourt tear and won every tournament in the U.S. Open series except for the one she didn't enter. She seemed a shoo-in to win the U.S. Open. But during her quarterfinal match with Svetlana Kuznetsova, she injured her foot. Davenport was able to play out the match, but not able to win it. Kuznetsova went on to win the U.S. Open.

In January of 2005, Davenport reached the finals of the Australian Open, where there is always blistering heat. She also reached the finals of the doubles competition, playing with her best friend, Corina Morariu, who was making a comeback from cancer. There was no way Davenport was going to pull out of doubles. By the time she got to her final against Serena Wiliams, she was so tired, there were moments when she just stood on the court as the ball whizzed by her. Williams won.

The biggest heartbreak of all came at Wimbledon last year, when Davenport held a match point in her final against Venus Williams (who defeated her in the 2000 Wimbledon final), but could not close. In a lengthy, stunning, still-talked-about final, Williams walked away with the Venus Rosewater dish, and Davenport was once again left with finalist status. She appeared sluggish and out of sorts at the U.S. Open, and lost her quarterfinal to Elena Dementieva.

During her epic struggle against Williams at Wimbledon last year, Davenport hurt her back. The injury became worse over time, and she has missed a great deal of this season, withdrawing from both the French Open and Wimbledon. While she was at home recovering, she passed out and apparently hit her head on something, and sustained both whiplash and a concussion. It has just been one damned thing after another.

Davenport's career is coming to a close. It is hard to believe that--playing at the level she's been playing at for the last few years--she has not won at least one more Slam. I expected her to win two more and retire as a five-time Slam winner (and Olympic gold medal winner, too). Time is running out. She is entered in the U.S. Open, which begins later this month, but no one expects her to do that well because she has been out for so long. She is also scheduled to play at the Australian Open, and many of us think that she will call it quits next year at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California, her home tournament.

Davenport's U.S. Open chances would have been improved this year if she could have played a couple of warm-up hardcourt tournaments in the U.S. Open Series. Enter the WTA: Davenport requested wild card entries into both the Acura Classic in San Diego and the Rogers Cup in Montreal, and was denied them. Technically speaking, the denial was appropriate because Davenport had not fulfilled the commitment requirements needed to be eligible for a wild card.

However, there is some wiggle room in the system which allows the WTA to grant an exemption to the commitment rule if the circumstance calls for it. But Sony Ericsson WTA Tour executive director Larry Scott refused to invoke the exemption for Davenport--even after the USTA intervened--because, he said, the exemption was intended for semi-retired players (indeed, it was created for Monica Seles), and not for a player who began the year as number one in the world.

Again, there is some technical validity to what Scott is saying. And it so happens that I am a stickler for following rules. But the bottom line is that Scott is allowed to use his discretion, and he chose to deny Davenport the wild cards.

Lindsay Davenport believes that Scott did this in order to set an example to other players; the WTA tour has been riddled with sudden withdrawals, the most recent being a mass withdrawal by top players from the Rogers Cup. She also considered filing suit against the WTA, but then changed her mind. Scott made a judgment call, yes, but there is something very wrong when one of the sport's best ambassadors who has always played by the rules and has been an exemplary sportswoman, is treated this way. And considering that Davenport won't be on the tour much longer, there is a particular harshness in denying her a chance to compete in any significant way in what is probably her last U.S. Open.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Quote of the week

"When I first came back and I was playing well, it was 'well, the women's field is not that good,"' she said. "When Martina (Hingis) comes back and does well at the Australian Open, it's 'well, the women just aren't that deep.'

"But Mario Lemieux comes back after a couple of years' absence, and it's 'well, that's amazing.' When Michael Jordan comes back, it's 'he's the best of all time.' There's such a double standard for women athletes."
Martina Navratilova

16% of Katrina victims say their lives are back to normal

A survey of over six hundred adults from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama reveals that only 16% consider their lives as "back to normal" after Katrina hit their communities. A third of those who have returned to their homes say they may move away, and half of those who have not moved back say they are unlikely to do so. 63% are living in the houses in which they lived before the storm; this is 8% higher than a fall of 2005 survey showed. 60% are in the same jobs they were in before the storm, compared with 61% last fall.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Watertown church gets jiggy with Bible verse and fires long-time Sunday School teacher

Mary Lambert taught Sunday School at the First Baptist Church of Watertown, New York for fifty-four years, and was prepared to go on teaching it until she was fired this month by the minister, Rev. Timothy Labouf. Labouf, who is also a member of the Watertown City Council, dismissed Lambert because the church suddenly decided to get really serious about the first epistle to Timothy: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."

Just like that. "I believe that a woman can perform any job and fulfill any responsibility that she desires to," as long as it is outside the church, Labouf "explains." The church's board of directors maintains there were other, more significant, issues behind the Lambert's dismissal, but no one has stepped forward to name any of them, ostensibly to be "polite." But if saying something derogatory about Lambert would insult (and it would not insult, if it were true) her, telling the world that women cannot teach in the church insults millions of women.

Labouf seems bent out of shape that the community is actually discussing his action:

"I want you to know that my desire is to not hurt anyone or to belittle anyone but only to ensure that the scripture is upheld in our church and not compromised. Now having said all of this I am heartbroken that this situation has created pain in the lives of many in our community and I am truly sorry for that."

Labouf has been the pastor of First Baptist for a while, so one has to wonder how the church carried on so long without upholding scripture. On August 6, Labouf told his congregation that Jesus said not using one's God-given abilities was a sign of laziness. Oh, this dogma is so confusing!

Since Labouf obviously wants to put this issue behind him, you may be tempted to email him:

I think this says it all

From The Raw Story: "Jail time is a rare sentence for recruiters who sexually abuse recruits."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Christian attorneys being trained throughout the nation

Last week, a commenter on one of my posts expressed surprise/disgust that "groups with Constitutional law expertise" were assisting West Virginia's Harrison County Board of Education in its fight to keep a painting of Jesus on the wall next to the principal's office at Bridgeport High School in Clarksburg. Such groups have been around for a while, using their legal knowledge to fight the ACLU in church/state separation cases. Of course, this gets a bit confusing from time to time, since the evil ACLU has represented some of the Christian defendants.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Years from now, will someone write about this moment?

Yesterday, Karl Rove spoke at an Associated Republicans of Texas dinner at a hotel in Austin, Texas, where about $250,000 was raised. A group of war protesters, led by Cindy Sheehan, were told by the police to leave, but some of them had rented rooms at the hotel and therefore could not be evicted. One woman managed to slip into the ballroom, where she began to shout about the men and women dying in Iraq. She was escorted out, while Rove quipped "Pat, did you get her check before she left?"

Ha ha. I'm falling out of my chair laughing. Rove then said: "I don't question the patriotism of our critics. Many are hardworking public servants who are doing the best they can. Some of them are people looking for a free meal." That got huge laughs.

Ha ha. This guy is cracking me up. Have you ever heard anything so funny in your life?

No Darwin, No Christopher Columbus

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Security Moms feeling inscure--who cares?

I am so confused. These Security Moms who are allegedly abandoning the Republican Party--what was it that, up until now, made them think their children were safe? Was it George W. Bush's refusal to ban harmful lead levels in schools and playgrounds? Was it Bush's allowing increased air and water pollution throughout the country? Maybe it was his cutting back of healthcare funds for children. Wait--I know--it was his invasion of a country that was not a threat to us, thereby causing millions of people to hate us and a new breed of terrorism to flourish.

The Security Moms' children have not been so at risk for a long, long time as they have been during the Bush administration.

So now that the Democrats are salivating over getting the Security Moms over to their side, they are forgetting that what they are winning is a group of people too ignorant to live. If these women had bothered to find out anything at all about George W. Bush before 2000, they would have known that he would set out to make America unsafe for their children. They failed to notice it again in 2004, when it was chillingly obvious. There is no reason to believe they have suddenly begun to think and pay attention.

FEMA snubs Louisiana Congressman who asks reasonable question

Hurricane Rita all but destroyed Cameron Parish. Beaches, businesses, houses, camps, vehicles, and roads were washed away, leaving miles of debris. Cameron Parish used to be known for its fishing camps, beaches and birding trails. A year after the hurricane, only about 5% of Cameron's residents have returned. Saltwater inundation, levee damage, marsh destruction, and a giant accumulation of debris have wiped out most of the wildlife in the marshes of both Cameron and Vermillion Parishes.

Thousands of animals were killed by Rita. Deer, muskrats, alligators were taken out. Then saltwater rushed into the freshwater marshes, killing all the freshwater fish. Naturally, this affected the bird population, which, before Rita, was varied and thriving.

The storm surge pried loose the top layer of aquatic vegetation--"rolled it up like a giant carpet," creating what a Louisiana biologist calls "an ecological nightmare." Without the vegetation, the marsh simply comes apart, and an entire ecosystem is destroyed.

Between one thing and another, the people of Cameron Parish have major problems on their hands. Debris removal is one of those problems, but FEMA has stopped paying the full cost of debris removal in the parish, which is now required to pay 10% of the fees. This does not sound like much, but with no population, no economy, and major environmental issues, the parish cannot afford the bill. Complicating the matter is the fact that FEMA arbitrarily agreed to continue 100% financing of debris removal from five parishes hit by Katrina.

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. has asked the Department of Homeland Security why Cameron Parish is being treated this way, and the answer, to quote the New Orleans Times-Picayune, was "buzz off." So far, Boustany has not received an adequate explanation. It is understood by everyone that parishes that can carry some of the expense should do so, but Cameron is probably the least able, of all the parishes, to carry any expenses. And, as the Times-Picayune editorial points out, after FEMA's massive over-spending on Katrina-related contracts and services, there should be plenty of money left over to haul debris. FEMA misspent the funds and now Cameron Parish is getting punished.

Perhaps Republican Boustany is getting some type of lesson here, too, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Hunky gay porn star to entertain the troops in Israel

Gay porn star and film director Michael Lucas, who directed Back In the Saddle and Manhattan Heat and is the head of Lucas Entertainment, is on his way to Israel to entertain the troops. Lucas is giving free admission to a live sex show in Tel Aviv. While he is there, Lucas will also make an adult film and a documentary.

This is probably going to cause some exploding heads, a la John Hagee, Jerry Falwell and Gary Bauer. When they told us we had to support Israel, this probably isn't what they had in mind. On the other hand, they may hail it as a sign that the end really is near.

Friday cat blogging--bedtime story

Thursday, August 17, 2006

U.S. only country to ban funding for clean syringe programs

"Give Them Dirty Needles and Let Them Die" is the title of a new piece in AlterNet, inspired by a remark once made by Judge Judy when she went to Australia and was asked her opinion about the distribution of sterile needles to drug injectors to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Factory farming and global warming

I have not seen An Inconvenient Truth, but I was surprised to hear that there is nothing in it about the environmental damage caused by factory farming. Of course, I am opposed to factory farming, first and foremost, because it is corporate-controlled and culturally sanctioned massive and horrendous cruelty. But it is also very harmful to the environment.

Sexism often overlooked when considering what's bad for children

A few days ago, I met a woman who was weighing the pros and cons of enrolling a very young family member in a church school. The way she described the school sounded like it might be a fundamentalist-type outfit, so I asked her as politely as I could if it was. She immediately became defensive and said "maybe to you." I told her that I had not personally defined "fundamentalist"--it either was or it wasn't. She then described what was indeed a fundamentalist church school.

Not wanting to offend her any further, I told her that the only reason I was asking was that some of those schools had been abusive toward children. She said that wasn't the case with this one, but that they had "very strict rules." She also said it was a good school.

I asked her if the "very strict" part involved teaching and maintaining rigid gender roles. She sighed, nodded her head, and said, rather sadly, "I'm afraid so." "Then how," I asked her, "can you consider it a 'good school' for the child?"

She didn't answer.

Why is sexism given so little weight in decisions made by families? And by women? There is all kinds of sexist garbage taught in schools and churches, and not just the fundamentalist ones, but parents, for the most part, do not seem to care. Many of these same parents would be upset if they thought their children were learning racism or anti-Semitism (yes, I know many of them would not be upset at all, but I am talking about parents who at least give lip service to not wanting bigotry taught to their children).

No matter how well girls are doing in the schools--and the whiny boys' movement tells us all the time that the poor boys are not doing well because school is so, you know, girly--they are still under the belief that they are supposed to be generally passive, wait for boys to ask them out, and submit to sexual activities they do not want to participate in.

Some of them have caught on, though, and they complain that they are not allowed to use the Internet or the phone until they have done their household chores, but that their brothers have no such restrictions. They are criticized by their fathers for wearing clothes that--as one father put it--"would have been called 'slutty' when I went to school." And most dangerous of all, many of them are still forced, day in and day out, to see their parents model sexist gender roles at home. Their brothers, of course, witness the same behaviors.

The "blame America first crowd"

I'm sure that members of the right wing would consider me part of what they love to call the "blame America first crowd," though I am not. I do not blame America that insane Islamists who believe that the sight of a woman's face or an afternoon at the cinema means that the West is evil and should be destroyed. I do not blame America that, as I write this, people are signing up to become suicide bombers. I do not blame America for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But I do blame America for many things. I blame America for manipulating the global environment via the miitary-industrial complex. I blame America for invading Iraq and thereby causing massive death and destruction and creating more reasons for people to hate our country and want to attack us. I blame America for ignoring global environmental concerns. I blame America for trashing what was an imperfect, but pretty good, Constitution. And most of all, I blame America for fostering an environment in which thinking is considered a bad thing.

I have never understood the concept of patriotism, but that may be because one of my parents was from another country. I think that the U.S., for all its flaws, is way ahead of most other countries in the areas that matter to me (except, sadly, for animal rights), and I have to remind myself of that from time to time. But even with that distinction, the U.S. does not do very well in those areas--there is just more progress here than in most other places.

Despite my inability to understand tearful flag-waving, I think I am a good citizen. I obey the laws of my community, I vote, and I speak up when I see or hear about oppression and injustice. But that doesn't seem to be important anymore. Now, to be a "good citizen," it is necessary to go along, "support" the troops, respect the "president," invoke Christianity (or, more accurately, the popular perversion of it) at every turn, and assume that no one in the White House (other than Clinton) would ever do anything not in our interest. Most important, it is necessary that we not think, not seek facts, not call on historical precedent, and not call this administration by its name: an evil, corrupt, greedy, war-mongering oligarchy.

I do not blame America first. But I blame America plenty.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The night-blooming cereus put on another show

Today I placed notes to myself ("Get Cereus!") in strategic places because last night, I missed yet another night-blooming cereus event, this time, with four flowers. The notes did the trick; I just saw seven blooms. It rained hard today, and the perfume hit me as soon as I opened the front door, even though the plants are on the other side of the yard.

West Virginia school fights to keep painting of Jesus on the wall

Some kids raise money to buy sports equipment for their school. Some raise money to help Katrina victims. At Bridgeport High School in Clarksburg, West Virginia, the kids raised $6,700 so that a picture of Jesus can remain on the wall. They had some help from the Christian Freedom Fund, which raised over $150,000 to pay for legal fees.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Is there anyone in charge who is in touch with reality?

Today, I heard part of an interview with September 11 Commission co-chairman Thomas Keane. The commission, a clever whitewash that enrages me every time I think about it, met in New York City a year after the attacks, and, Keane said, its members were oh, so surprised "that there was still so much raw emotion."

Where do these people come from? A year is nothing. It goes by in a flash, especially if you have lost a loved one, and especially if that loved one was lost in a terrorist attack or from breathing toxic fumes the government told you would not cause any harm. That a group of individuals in so-called public service cannot grasp the very basic tenets of the grief process is shocking. But then, their leader did not know what the Taliban was during his first non-election. Perhaps I expect too much. Way too much.

All you need to know about George Allen

Is right here. Torturing people, bullying them, hitting them, blowing up frogs with firecrackers, raping narcoleptic women...we like our leaders mean and stupid.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The impact of war on wildlife, pets and the environment

An oil spill in Lebanon is being called a "major catastrophe" by the Lebanese government. The spill was created when Israeli jets hit storage tanks at the Jyiieh power station, and it now covers fifty miles of coast. It is estimated that the amount of oil that has entered the water is almost the amount that entered during the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident. Environment Minister Yacoub al-Sarraf said "We have never seen a spill like this in the history of Lebanon. It is a major catastrophe." The cost of the clean-up is estimated to be between $40 and $50 million.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Summer garden blues

A narrow shade bed at the entry to the back door

Caladiums and ivy highlight the small shade bed nestled between the deck and the wall

A bucket of torenia hangs on an old gate propped up against the deck wall

As I have noted before, our garden is in major trouble. Not only are the main beds not performing, but neither is the bed that faces our front porch. We had the soil tested in the main beds, and have added the required nutrients. We have also added some compost to the front porch bed. But in the meantime, our formosa lilies are gone, our spider lily is gone, our glorious gingers have failed to produce bracts and flowers, and our red salvia is gone (not to mention all of the spring failures).

In the best of times, we do not have much of a summer garden because we do not have enough sun to grow annuals, with few exceptions. We do get some roses and some cannas, plus some daylily rebloom, and we used to get the above-mentioned blooms that have disappeared.

Our two small shade gardens are at their best in the summer, however, because that is when the caladiums are added to the ivy and ferns. This summer, our 'Royal Standard' hosta bloomed for the first time. In a normal climate, hostas clump like mad and create a mass of blooms. Ours has never clumped or even grown, but it did give us a series of beautiful and fragrant flowers this summer. And our biggest hit this summer is the night-blooming cereus, which currently has a dozen buds.

Structurally, the garden still looks very nice because of the gingers, calla lily leaves, cannas, and night-blooming cereus, but it would be nice to have some flowers again. The 'Black Pear' calla is the most gorgeous I have ever seen. It bloomed once, then proceeded to clump like mad, with no flowers.

Nothing is the same since Katrina

Katrina left hundreds of trees either demolished or with weak root systems. Then we had a long period of no rain, and the result is that pine beetles of every variety have had a field day. They have already desroyed ten trees in our yard, and they are making their way across the parish.

We also have no more curbside recycle pickup, and even worse, no more recycling at all of anything but newspapers. Tossing aluminum cans, bottles and jars, and plastic containers is not something that comes natural to us, and I cringe every time I have to do it.

In my parish, retail outlets still struggle to find employees, so some of them are open less often than before the storm.

Of course, there are still many people living in trailers and people who have never even been given a FEMA trailer. They are still waiting.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers continues to consult on levee repair, hold up work, and generally act as though it did not cause the deaths of thousands of people and animals, and the destruction of hundreds of houses and businesses.

Monday, August 14, 2006

FEMA--still the cause of multiple problems

A fleur-de-lis flag flies on Magazine Street in New Orleans

The story in New Orleans is still FEMA.

94% of FEMA trailers tested for formaldyhide have indoor levels in excess of EPA safety standards. Now there are obvious questions: Did FEMA know about this? If not, did it ever occur to FEMA to buy trailers that met HUD standards for houses? Has there been any additional testing?

Six months ago, a group of disabled citizens filed a lawsuit against FEMA because they could not get temporary housing that conformed to their needs. As if that weren't bad enough, now there is a question about the contract process: The process is extremely brief and unusual, and bidders are presented with contradictory specifications.

Then there is the matter of the keys. The locks on up to 118,000 trailers have to be replaced because it has been discovered that the same key can open multiple trailers.

Military recruiter wrongdoing and military criminal violations on the rise

The Government Accountability Office announced today that allegations of wrongdoing by military recruiters increased by 50% in the period from 2004 to 2005, and that criminal violations such as falsifying documents and sexual harrassment more than doubled during the same period. (An educated guess says that sexual assault complaints significantly increased, also.) The Department of Defense has no oversight system, so it is impossible to know the full extent of these violations.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

As for Pam Shriver...

How about that towel and one of Bethanie Mattek's big socks, and stuff them both in her mouth? Shriver's delight in analyzing nonexistent trouble and stirring up nonsense is enough to make me want to break the television. She turned an otherwise entertaining (if you don't count the really bad line calls) match between Jelena Jankovic and Serena Williams into a "controversy" that existed only in her own twisted mind.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Katrina victims get finger-printed and photographed--not everyone is happy

Calling it "a little bit too much Department of Homeland Security," Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, criticized Louisiana's Road Home program for taking fingerprints and photographs of people applying for home loans. Ashdown's organization is known for its harsh criticism of Katrina fraud. Nevertheless, Ashdown said that contractors could accomplish their goals just as easily by asking for multiple forms of identification.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Dear Secretary Chertoff: Duh...

Today I was listening to NPR and I heard an interview with Michael Chertoff, who said that one thing we need to do is figure out why some individuals "radicalize themselves" toward a doctrine of hatred and violence.

Whoa, Mikey...let me think. Wait...give me another moment. Oh, wait! I think I've got it...

First of all, just because someone is reading about bomb-making on the Web and writing "Death to the infidels" in his journal does not mean he has "radicalized himself." People who are part of hate groups are influenced by their culture, their religion, their news media, and their government. Sometimes they get a little extra help from their environmental conditions, too. You don't have to belong to a terrorist organization to be a member of a terrorist movement.

And let us say, just for fun, that Chertoff figures this out. Will he then be giving speeches about how to change the thoughts and behaviors of Eric Rudolph, Terry Nichols, and all the abortion clinic bombers, African American church arsonists, mosque and synagogue vandalizers, and gay-bashers and murderers in the his own country? Somehow, I doubt it.

Friday cat blogging--foster edition

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Is the U.S. really being short-changed by the U.N.?

The United Nations has an annual budget of $1.8 billion, of which the United States pays 22%. U.S. deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Mark P. Lagon, says that UN member states, especially large contributors, want to know if they are getting their money's worth. He also says that those who look to the U.N. for assistance want to know whether the world is getting the best possible value for U.N. contributions.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

On Islamists and women

Nina Burleigh has a post worth reading at The Huffington Post. Burleigh discusses the often-ignored motivation behind so much of Islamist rhetoric--the total disdain of women, and the belief--supported by women--that men cannot help themselves if they are tempted with sexual desire. She tells about a silent encounter she had with a fully-covered Muslim woman on the subway, and, as one would expect, there are already comments up questioning Burleigh's assertion that the "woman problem" is a significant part of Islamic extremism.

Burleigh also talks about an ugly encounter she had with an Arab man in a shop, and how she regrets she didn't respond to his aggression. Many years ago, I was walking down a sidewalk in the French Quarter and chose not to make eye contact with a man who was coming toward me with his eyes boring into me. If you are a woman, you will understand why, on the street, it is sometimes better not to make eye contact. This happened to be a man of color, and when he reached the spot where we would have passed each other, he stopped, got in my face, and whispered in my ear "Scared bitch."

I wanted to shake him and say "I'm not avoiding eye contact with you because you are black; I am avoiding it because you are male and staring a hole through me." But of course, I could not do that.

"Cry me a river, rapist scum"

Pinko Feminist Hellcat, as is often the case, says it for all of us.

"Believe it or not"?!

Some CNN strawhead just said that "believe it or not, there is already some political talk about what Bush has done in the last four years" with regard to the alleged terror plot.

Believe it or not? Why on earth would anyone with an ounce of sense think it is appropriate to talk about the alleged president who has made an almost total mess of domestic security and who--more important--has stoked the fire of terrorism all over the globe? Nothing to see here...move on.

Happy anniversary and drop dead

The failed House Katrina anniversary resolution would have stressed "the importance of the Gulf Coast region to the national economy," confirmed "support for all those affected by these terrible natural disasters one year later," and reaffirmed the government's "commitment to rebuilding the Gulf Coast region and improving the quality of life for all residents."

It didn't stand a chance. Some say there was little interest because the resolution was presented by Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson, the man with the cold, hard cash. Others say the word "commitment" killed the resolution. Majority leader John Boehner guessed it got "bogged down in discussion." A spokesman for the Republican Study Committee says he has never even heard of the resolution.

I'm going with the fear of "commitment" reason. Why would Congress want to improve the quality of life for its citizens when there is money to be made from selling weapons and pharmaceuticals and rebuilding places we bomb to smithereens?

Now even I want Natalie to shut up

I have intended to blog about this for several days and have forgotten. Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines, who is to be commended for overcoming her brief cave-in to forces that threatened her life, her family and her career, is not to be commended for her latest pronouncement. Maines is encouraging people to not even consider voting for a woman for president because "the country isn't ready for a woman president."

If Maines' statement is meant to help derail the candidacy of Sen. Clinton, it also does harm by supporting the spineless Democratic Party's excuse for keeping women off of presidential tickets. Maines should simply say that she is against Clinton's potential candidacy.

If her statement has nothing to do with Sen. Clinton and is just her opinion, it is harmful and weak. Every time we say "the country isn't ready for a woman president," we throw a bone to the patriarchy and its control of every institution in America. It is not our job to wait until the country is "ready," but rather, to present confident female candidates with strong campaigns.

Thou shalt not steal

Call me silly, but I would think that a vocal advocate of the Ten Commandments would have some interest in following them. Not June Griffin. Griffin, who recently lost her bid to be elected to the House of Representatives from Tennessee, has been indicted for theft, vandalism, civil rights intimidation, and harrassment. She is accused of stealing a Mexican flag, according to grocery store owner Gilbert Mejia.

Mejia reports that Griffin said to him, "Get out. If you don't speak English you need to get out." A clerk in Mejia's store does not speak English. Mejia also says that Griffin closed the door so hard he thought she was trying to break it.

Griffin said she took the flag because public officials have refused to act on her requests to restrict flag displays to "only American flags in this county because of all the confusion that has come in with this invasion from Mexico."

The accused woman's causes include the posting and distribution of the Ten Commandments. She traveled the state of Tennessee for five years, trying to persuade county commissioners to display the commandments in public buildings.

Griffin carried a "Remember the Alamo" banner to the Rhea County Jail, where she was released on bond.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Industrial Canal flood walls are now different heights

More flooding to come...

Why Bush is America's ideal leader

Thanks to Clara Jeffery at MoJo Blog for this video, which speaks for itself.

Two HIV-positive individuals gunned down in Iraq

Farid Abbas received a telephone call from someone who accused him of having an "indecent disease" and who told him Abbas would be killed "for the safety of the country." Two days later, Abbas was gunned down in a drive-by shooting by a man who yelled at him: "Death to all people who carry diseases acquired from indecent methods against Islamic beliefs." Abbas had been HIV-positive for nine years.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Two more hangings in liberated Afghanistan

A 70-year-old woman and her 30-year-old son were hanged from a tree Monday by Taliban fighters. The pair was accused of spying for the government. Everything else is Afghanistan is going just fine.

The truth is out

And it is no surprise. Lindsay Lohan's goal in life is to be a pinup.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Christian Zionists continue to have clout with White House

For some time now, Christian fundamentalists have served as Middle East consultants to the National Security Council. Most recently, the White House has met with a group called Christians United for Israel, whose members believe that supporing Israel's expansionist policies represents a "biblical imperative." Led by John Hagee, known for his televangelism, CUFI's members are interested in the U.S.'s adopting a more confrontational posture with Iran and in withdrawing all aid to Palestinians.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Karzai promotes crackdown on vice

In Afghanistan (remember Afghanistan?), people are lining up to apply for jobs within a proposed department that would crack down on vice. Plans are for the department staff to monitor people for "correct" Islamic behavior.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Jodie Foster loses her mind

Jodie Foster, who, last I checked, was a woman, is defending Mel Gibson, saying that he is "honest, loyal [and] kind." Thanks, Jodie. He is also ragingly anti-feminist.

Patrick Swayze says Gibson is a "wonderful human being" who should be "allowed to have a stupid moment." How many moments, Patrick?

Quote of the day

"You know, I hear people say, 'well, civil war this, civil war that.' The Iraqi people decided against civil war when they went to the ballot box."
George W. Bush

Oh, yes...Hollywood is SO liberal

Steven Spielberg
Jeffrey Katzenberg
Haim Saban
Jerry Zucker
Jonathan Sheinberg
Bud Yorkin

These are the Hollywood "liberals" who are supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger, an unindicted sex criminal, for governor of California. Schwarzenegger is said to have sexually assaulted a number of women and at least one minor.

And let us never forget Alec Baldwin, who--though not listed as a supporter--told us what a "great guy" Schwarzenegger was after the accusations were made.

Can you imagine this list existing if Schwarzenegger had pulled a Mel Gibson and ranted about Jews?

I would like a job like that

Now that some of the American tennis tournaments have instant replay and players can challenge umpires' calls, a few of the commentators--especially the eternally unhinged Pam Shriver--are so excited to discover that the umpires actually do a good job. Earlier in the season, they based this enthusiasm on the fact that the umpires were right 70% of the time. Hello--being right 70% of the time is a terrible statistic, not one for which the umpires should get praise.

Last week, there were a number of U.S. Open Series tournaments, and the umpires turned out to be correct only 65% of the time. It would be nice to get a job with lots of travel and decent pay and be heaped with praise because you did the correct thing two-thirds of the time. Most of us are not that lucky.

New study links sexually explicit lyrics and adolescent sex

A new study about music and teenage sex is interesting, not for its obvious results, but for a nuance that will probably be ignored by the so-called news media.

From The Raw Story:

The authors tracked the sexual behaviour and musical tastes of 1,461 US adolescent participants in reference to 16 top artists whose lyrics "depicted sexually insatiable men pursuing women valued only as sex objects."

Among heavy listeners of sexually degrading music - where men are "studs" and women are sex objects - 51 per cent started having sex within two years, versus 29 per cent of those who listened to little or none of that type of music.

But here is the really interesting part:

There was "no correlation found between sexual behaviour and sexualized lyrics that were not degrading in tone." The authors of the study concluded that "degrading lyrics" teach boys to "relentlessly pursue women," and teach girls to "view themselves as sex objects."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Please help put a stop to the auctioning of animals

Here is the text of most of my letter to the Acura Classic. Actually, the Classic does not list an address, either electronic or ground (strange in itself), so I used the address of the resort where it is held each year. (If you would rather call, the phone number is 800-854-5000, but that is the number for the resort, not the tournament.)


Acura Classic

c/o La Costa Resort and Spa

2100 Costa Del Mar Road

Carlsbad, CA 92009

Dear Tournament Director:

I was quite disturbed to hear that a puppy was auctioned at your charity auction this year. Obviously, the event had a happy ending, with Kim Clijsters bidding high and giving the puppy to who appeared to be an deserving person. But a puppy is a living creature, not an "item" to be sold to the highest bidder.

Auctioning off animals is a practice that has significantly decreased in this country because of concerns raised by humane activists, and I hope that the Acura Classic will join other organizations in putting a stop to such auctioning.

Get out the smelling salts--another breast is in full view

"I was shocked to see a giant breast on the cover of your magazine."

"I immediately turned the magazine face down."


"I shredded it. A breast is a breast--it's a sexual thing. He [13-year-old son] didn't need to see that."

"Men are very visual. When they see a woman's breast, they see a breast--regardless of what it's being used for."

"I don't want my son or husband to accidentally see a breast they didn't want to see."

"Gross, I am sick of seeing a baby attached to a boob."

These are some of the things people said about the oh, so shocking idea that a photograph of a woman breast-feeding a baby should be on the cover of a magazine about babies.

There were also several people who supported the idea of including a breast on the cover of BabyTalk, whose cover story is about breast-feeding. And several who said they supported a woman's right to breast-feed, but didn't want to see the photo.

Women sometimes say they want to breast-feed their babies, but know they will have to do it in public, and do not want to deal with the negative attitudes of those around them. They also do not think they should have to take their babies into a restroom in order to feed them.

Last year, a breast-feeding mother was kicked out of a Metairie, Louisiana Starbucks by the manager. "I'm sorry," he told her, "but you can't do this. Personally, I don't have a problem with it, but my customers will." The woman told the manager she was sure it was illegal (in Louisiana, it is illegal) to refuse service to a breast-feeding woman, and his brilliant answer was: "Well, I don't don't know about that, but you can't do it here."

She has since filed a discrimination suit against Starbucks. It turns out that not only is it illegal in Louisiana to kick a breast-feeding woman out of a coffee shop, it is also against Starbucks' official policy.

But I digress. The fact that people are repelled by the sight of a woman's breast is just one more example of misogyny in this culture, and much of it is internalized misogyny. And as for the woman who is convinced that all men are going to get turned on--something I seriously doubt--by the sight of the BabyTalk cover--for the sake of argument, let's say she's right. So what? If passing a drugstore newsstand gives someone a moment of pleasure, whom is it hurting?

A 2004 survey showed that 43% of Americans thought women should have the "right" to breast-feed in public.

A society with a multi-billion dollar pornography industry that repeatedly depicts the breasts of women who are being dehumanized and degraded is the same society that goes berserk if someone spots a woman's breast against a baby's mouth. Obviously, some women do not understand what breasts are for.