Thursday, November 30, 2006

Judge orders FEMA to resume post-hurricane payments

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the Bush administration violated the Constitution by denying aid to thousands of Gulf Coast residents who were displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Judge Leon ordered FEMA, whom he described as creating a "Kafkaesque" process, to resume payments immediately. The judge pointed out that the agency cut off rental aid without appropriate explanation, and obstructed applicants' due process rights to correct errors or appeal government mistakes.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

And we wonder why no one does anything about adult crime

This morning, I was in a medical waiting room and more or less forced to watch "The Montel Willams Show." He had little girl and her mother on. The little girl has sensory autonomic neuropathy, which prevents her from feeling pain, and she scratched her eye seriously when she was a baby. She has worse problems now: The children at school "test" her disorder by kicking, punching, scratching, and slapping her. For good measure, they pushed her down a flight of stairs. Her mother taught her to say "ouch" but of course, the other kids knew the "ouch" wasn't real.

The school has obviously done nothing at all to help this child. Her perpetrators continue to go to school with her. Just as obviously, the perpetrators' parents have done nothing. I have frequently written about the failure of schools, law enforcement officials and parents to stop abuse and assault at schools. I deal with this almost every week in my practice.

Children can be very mean to one another--we all know that. But endangering the life of a child is beyond mean; it is sadistic. These are the children our culture is producing.

As I watched the show, I wondered why the girl's parents hadn't taken more action. There was a woman in the waiting room with me, and she was visibly shocked by the material on the screen. She looked at me and shook her head. "It happens all the time," I told her. "No one does anything--not the schools, not the police (in our city, the police recently told a mother who was assaulted by an ex-boyfriend that they didn't intervene in cases of "puppy love"--the mother did not pursue a complaint against the officer), not even the parents."

"If it were my kid, I said, "someone would be in big trouble (actually, I said something stronger, but I'm cleaning it up a bit). "Well," the other woman said, "maybe after it happened several times." "No," I told her. "Once would be enough."

A study word for Ms. Cloutet : consequences

Danny Guillory is the principal of Covington High School in Covington, Louisiana. He has just returned from a two-month vacation, compliments of the School Board, because he was convicted of DWI. Guillory was caught driving 83 mph. on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (the speed limit is 65 mph.), and he refused to take a field sobriety test. He was given a $500 fine, two years of probation, and an order to do forty-eight hours of community service.

It could have been worse. This was Guillory's second DWI conviction. He received his first one when he was a teacher in the Mandeville, Louisiana schools. However, that occurred more than ten years ago, so his recent conviction was treated as a first offense.

Feelings about Guillory's return have been mixed. Some people think he should not have been allowed to return to his position as head of a high school. Others thought he should be "forgiven."

As far as I know, there has been no organized parent movement to prevent Guillory's return, but that doesn't surprise me. In Mandeville, for example, it is not uncommon for parents to throw keg parties for their kids because "we'd rather they drink at home." A Covington High parent, Lisa Cloutet, says that she is "elated" over Guillory's return.

"I know he's in that role as a mentor or leader," says Cloutet, "but my opinion is if kids are going to drink, they're going to drink no matter if Danny Guillory drinks or not. I just don't see it as a big problem."

As though the problem is that Danny Guillory "drinks." When Guillory went on his drunken joyride on the Causeway, he could have easily killed me, or--for that matter--Cloutet's children. He could have left us brain-injured. At the very least, he could have wrecked our cars and broken our bones.

Whether Guillory is alcoholic or an alcohol abuser is not relevant when it comes to his drunk driving. Perhaps his apology to the school will be backed up by recovery or a behavior change, and perhaps it won't. That isn't the issue. The issue is that 16- and 17-year-olds believe they cannot die, they have very poor impulse control, they do what their peers do, and many of them doubtless think it is way cool that their principal drank a half-case of beer or a half-quart of vodka or whatever he drank, drove the Causeway at an outrageous speed, and survived to return to their school. Two months off, $500, volunteer at a nursing home, and coast clear.

Guillory is obviously well-regarded, and one hopes he will do well in the future. But again, that is not the issue. The issue is that parents like Lisa Cloutet do not see what happened as a "big issue." Yes, her kids probably are going to drink; kids do. All the more reason that they learn, first-hand, that there are consequences for the inappropriate use of a drug.

I'm also quite certain that if there had been a revelation that the Covington High principal was gay, or that he was an athiest, or a member of the Green Party, he would be looking for a job in another state. But a drunken spree on a highway in Louisiana is no big deal.

Obviously, I think it would have been better if Guillory had not been allowed to return. But my strong feelings are not really about whether he stays or goes. They are about the failure of parents to understand that when children, their parents, and their role models can get away with cheating, abusing and endangering, the children learn a huge lesson, and it isn't a pretty one.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The indoor holiday garden

H. 'Amaretta'

Columnist says gay marriage is linked to out-of-wedlock births

You have to stretch your neck and spin your head around to even try to grasp Brendan Miniter's reasoning in his Wall Street Journal column of yesterday. Miniter writes that there is a connection between gay marriage and the rise in out-of-wedlock births in the U.S.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Five children (one an infant) killed in Ramadi

A clash between Iraqi insurgents and U.S. Marines has resulted in the deaths of five girls, the oldest of whom was ten and the youngest of whom was six months. Insurgents standing on the roof of a house fired at the Marines, who responded with tank fire.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Shopping while Iraq burns

Bob Herbert writes that "Americans are shopping while Iraq burns." Of course, Americans are shopping while Africa disintegrates, too. Herbert's point, though, is that while the war in Iraq may be an American possession, Americans appeared unconcerned about it as they rushed to the Thursday midnight openings of many shopping malls.

Iraq is not America's only ugly responsibility--there is also New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where trash is in the street, dead bodies are found each morning, the remains of buildings lay on the ground, and residents cook meals in toaster ovens in trailers where they can hardly turn around.

But hey--things at Wal-Mart are hopping. A few days ago, I was in a grocery store line where a woman kept looking at her watch. "I have to get to Wal-Mart before I go home," she said, with panic in her voice. "Don't you hate how crowded it gets there?" she asked me. I told her I had boycotted Wal-Mart for many years, and she looked at me as if I had said a spaceship had landed on my garage.

"You know," I said, "paying women way less than they pay men for doing the same job. Locking their employees in at night so that they can't escape a fire. Refusing to pay disability claims. Making their employees do mandatory unpaid overtime."

Her eyes got large, and she said "That's terrible."

"There are other places to shop," I said, and she smiled, looked at her watch, and said if she hurried, she could make it to Wal-Mart before she had to be home.

Because America--all she wants to do is dance. And shop.

When you see the lawyers coming

For those who enjoy irony

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaking at the annual Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment award dinner last night, said that "'a different set of rules' should be considered to reduce the ability of terrorists to use the Internet and abuse free speech to get out their message."

My question is: What in hell was Gingrich doing there as a speaker?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Brownback may block Bush's nominee for U.S. District Court Judgeship

Judge Janet T. Neff, a member of the Michigan Court of Appeals, is George W. Bush's nominee for a spot on the U.S. District Court. Neff has a long-time neighbor who is a lesbian, and in 2002, she attended her friend's commitment ceremony in Massachusetts. According to Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Neff's attendance gave the appearance that she "betrayed her legal views on gay marriage."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

The First Lady has a message for the children

Right here.

Charismatic senators do not necessarily make good presidents

For example, take John F. Kennedy, a man who supported some worthy causes (excluding feminism) but did not put an abundance of energy into turning them into policy. That may have been because, as a drug addict and victim of a severe sexual compulsion, he did not have the time or energy to do so. Also, his choice of company was highly questionable. In short, in a second term, he may have found his way or he may have altogether crashed. We will never know because of the tragedy of his death.

Now, along comes charismatic (or so I'm told; I have yet to see the charisma) Barack Obama, who is very intelligent and articulate, but who has little experience at a high level of government. Yet he is purportedly "talking" with consultants about a run for the presidency, and he ranks high (along with the dreadful John McCain and the equally dreadful Rudy Giuliani) in a poll that measures the popularity of American leaders.

Hello. This is not the homecoming court selection; it is the election of the alleged leader of the free world. If you feel "good" about McCain (especially if you are a Democrat), you probably should recall that he is a nasty, far-right-wing panderer of the first degree. If you feel "warm" about Giuliani, you should recall that of the two dozen or so civil liberties cases filed against him in New York, he lost all of them. And if you feel "nice" about Obama, please remember that he has next to no federal government experience. (If you are a member or friend of the LGBT community, you should know that he does not support gay marriage for "religious" reasons.)

This month's Harper's has a good overview of Obama--"Barack Obama Inc."

More poetry

I forgot all about this: I have two sestinas and a piece of free verse in the current issue of MOBIUS, and one of the sestinas is featured on the journal's website.

MOBIUS, which has a new editor and has just changed from a semi-annual to annual publication, is an especially lively poetry journal, which I enjoy reading. Rita Dove and Marge Piercy have poems in the current issue.

I discover I am a Satan worshipper

According to some residents of the nuthouse otherwise known as Colorado, this is a symbol of Satan. According to others, it is an anti-Iraq war symbol.

At any rate, the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs has warned wreath-hanger Lisa Jensen that she will be fined $25 for every day she keeps the wreath on her house. Jensen, who is probably not a Satan-worshipper, says she did not have Iraq on her mind when she hung the wreath, just peace in general.

The subdivision does not allow signs and flags that are "devisive." The association president, Bob Kearns, ordered his committee to tell Jensen she had to remove the wreath, but since committee members came to the startling conclusion that what Jensen was hanging was a holiday symbol, they refused. Kearns subsequently fined all of the committee members.

Jensen refused to take the wreath down.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The indoor holiday garden

H. 'Lemon Lime'

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Amen, sister

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi said today that nations with nuclear capability should spend money not on bombs, but on stopping the exploitation of women.

I'll drink to that, and I'll stretch the budget to add children and non-humans.

Intentionally or otherwise, Chevrolet has a message for gay shoppers

In the new Chevy truck commercial, Chevy describes its "philosophy" by showing an image of a Boy Scout. Knot-tying, fire-building, citizenship training, and bigotry.

How Michael Richards should have handled the heckler

Instead of calling him a nigger, he should have just called him gay. Why didn't I think of that?

I have new poetry online

In L'Intrigue.

Also, Hurricane Blues: How Katrina and Rita Ravaged a Nation is now on sale. I am pleased to have one of my poems, "Things To Do While You Wait for the Roofer," in this anthology.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Confused by religion

I just saw part of a documentary film on the passage of the Massachusetts gay marriage law. A woman in a full-length mink coat informed a crowd that God says a man can marry only a woman, and vice versa.

So apparently, God does not want a committed couple to have legal rights for themselves and their children, but God is fine and dandy with a couple of dozen minks being anally electrocuted so this woman can have a coat.

Plenty of troops to fight against the War on Christmas

Signing up to fight the "War on Christmas" may be more popular these days than signing up to fight that other war. Between Bill O'Reilly's ranting and John Gibson's writing, publicity about the non-existent war on Christmas hit a peak last holiday season.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Friday cat blogging--ready for the holidays

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Why would a president (or a fake president) "pardon" a turkey?

The turkey has done nothing wrong. It is an innocent victim. But it has to be pardoned for the crime of...what?...being a turkey? Some of America's "cute" traditions make me kind of sick.

Thank you

I can't stop laughing...

Tears ran down my face when I saw this video. Thanks to Caroline Dobuzinskis at MoJo Blog.

Happy National Day of Mourning!

Oh, wait...that's supposed to be Thanksgiving, but not everyone is thankful.

There are some teachers who are actually teaching the historically correct version of Thanksgiving, to the horror of true Amuricans. Maybe some day, they will also teach what happens to the turkeys. Or even better, factory farming will be a thing of the past.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Next time there's a hurricane

I must remember not to go to Greenleaf, Idaho. Ordinance 208, passed last week by the Greenleaf City Council, requests that citizens keep guns in their homes, just in case people fleeing a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina should wind up there. "We could get refugees," said councilman Steven Jett, who dreamed up this piece of civic responsibility.

God forbid. Some of us might seek hotel rooms to rent, food and liquor to buy, and a place to pick up some bath foam and Ibuprofin.

Apparently, Jett's ordinance got through pretty easily, and "drew only mild criticism from the pastor of the town's Quaker meeting house." The law originally required citizens to keep guns in their houses, but the language was toned down to make allowances for people with religious or other moral objections to gun ownership.

The mayor of Greenleaf, which is just outside Boise, owns over two dozen rifles.

Quote of the week

"My son is an honest man."
George H.W. Bush

BU College Republicans create scholarship for white students...sort of

The Boston University College Republicans have decided to put their money where their mouth is in order to combat the "worst form of bigotry confronting America today." To that end, the organization has created a scholarship for white students only, the Caucasian Achievement and Recognition Scholarship. In order, I suppose, to not look too "politically incorrect," recipients are required to be at least 25% white, recalling the days of 19th Century New Orleans.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Farewell, Robert Altman

Robert Altman died last night at the age of eighty-one. The wonderful Altman broke ground with the multi-plotted "Nashville," paving the way for other directors to introduce multiple related plot lines in their films. Best known for "Nashville," "MASH and "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," Altman's career spanned several decades. My own favorite Altman film is "The Player," which pays tribute to who knows how many famous films (you have to be very, very quick to catch them all), and has some very funny, clever stuff in it.

Add sexual abuse to the list of Houston police violations of protesters

Amanda at Pandagon has an update on the police-perpetrated abuse of the protesting janitors in Houston. Now there is evidence that some of the female protesters were also sexually abused. I know everyone is surprised.

The best "Whatever happened to...?" to come along in a while

Tennis fans may wonder whatever happened to Andrea Jaeger, the temperamental American tennis star with the big forehand and the mighty topspin who was once number two in the world, and who was a finalist at both Wimbledon and the French Open.

Jaeger's tennis career, unfortunately, was cut short by a severe shoulder injury, and people lost track of her. In 1989, two years after her forced retirement (she actually stopped playing in 1985), Jaeger co-founded Little Star Foundation, which provides help to children who are ill, neglected, poor, and abused. And as of September, the former tennis great became Sister Andrea, an Anglican Dominican nun. Sister Andrea's main activity now is helping children with cancer.

Monday, November 20, 2006

FBI conspired to frame innocent men in murder convictions 40 years ago

Thousands of recently released FBI documents from the U.S. Justice Department show that the FBI, in an attempt to cultivate mobsters Vincent "Jimmy the Bear" Flemmi and Joseph "The Animal" Barboza, allowed them to frame four innocent men for murder forty years ago.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Dennis Kucinich

As always, kicks ass.

Union Pacific Railroad has a message for women---Breed, honey, breed

Elizabeth Gettelman, writing in MoJo Blog, talks about the possible ramifications of the suit brought against Union Pacific Railroad for not covering contraceptives in its health plans. The suit, filed by two female employees and Planned Parenthood, alleges that Union Pacific, in failing to provide the coverage, is in violation of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers with fifteen or more employees from discrimination based on gender or pregnancy.

But get this: Union Pacific's defense is that the company is not obligated to provide contraceptive coverage because fertility is normal and therefore, birth control is not a medical necessity. In other words, it is the job of the women who work for Union Pacific to breed, breed, breed. I would be interested to know how they treat their female employees once they learn they are pregnant and will be taking maternity leaves.

A U.S. District Court has already ruled in favor of the women, and the case is now being heard by the 8th District Court of Appeals. If the appeals court also rules in favor of the plaintiffs, all companies could be mandated to cover contraceptives.

"Getting offended doesn't help our cause, it just makes you weak"

I saw that phrase on a so-called liberal message board today. The poster was angry that others had questioned her use of a word they thought demeaned women, and she said they were being overly "politically correct." I am not going to address the word or the argument, just the statement that being offended makes you "weak."

That is a perfect example of what I was writing about here-- the reluctance people have to complain and confront when they are abused, or least perceive that they are abused. It is perfectly fine, thank you very much, for liberals and pseudo-liberals to argue among themselves, no matter who happens to be peeking. It is okay for parents to argue in front of their children. And it is the opposite of weak to confront someone who has offended you.

Where did we get these crazy ideas?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

What part of "definitely" don't they understand?

For some time now, Belgian's tennis great, Kim Clijsters--who is famous for the Clijsters splits--has made it very clear that she will retire at the end of 2007. But every time there is a tournament, the commentators talk about how Clijsters is "considering" retirement, "talking about" retirement, or "giving some thought" to retirement. That is simply untrue. Clijsters has made it clear from the get-go that this was a firm decision and she would not change her mind.

Now she has received an invititation to be on the next Belgian Olympic team, and this time, she has stepped outside her mellow and cordial persona to discuss it. She actually sounded a bit irritated when she said, for the hundredth time, that she is retiring at the end of next season.

It is wishful thinking. None of us wants Kim to retire. She is a great athlete, an exceptional tennis player, and we just plain like her.

If Clijsters doesn't win a Grand Slam next year, she will retire as a one-Slam winner, a distinction which does not in any way reflect how great a player she is. Just as Gabriela Sabatini ran into the wall known as Steffi Graf over and over, and wound up a one-Slam winner, Clijsters has run into the wall of her countrywoman, Justine Henin-Hardenne, over and over. In 2001, Jennifer Capriati defeated her in the finals of the French Open, but in the 2003 French Open, the 2003 U.S. Open and the 2004 Australian Open, she lost the finals to Henin-Hardenne. Finally, in 2005, she defeated Mary Pierce to win the U.S. Open. Clijsters has also won the WTA Tour Year-End Championships twice, in 2002 and 2003, and won doubles in both the 2003 French Open and Wimbledon (Sabatini, for the record, also has one Grand Slam women's doubles trophy--Wimbledon, 1988--and she won the Olympic silver medal in 1988).

Clijsters, who has sustained very serious injuries in her tennis career, says she does not wish to have a permanently disabled body, so she is getting out while the damage is mild to moderate. "I hurt all the time," she said recently, of her struggle on the tour. She will be remembered, I think, for her stunning athleticism. I wish she would play for several more years, but I understand. Her performance at the recent Year-End Championships was thrilling and top-form, and here's hoping she wins another Slam before she leaves the tour.

Oregon has banned canned hunting

Coward Cheney will not be able to hunt there.

Why is it?

That the people who scream the loudest about law and order are the same ones who litter the streets, let their dogs run wild through the neighborhood, drive 10 miles over the speed limit, and ask me to commit insurance fraud for them?

There is a thoughtful comment under my MoJo post about the Houston mounted police having run over protesters with their horses. The commenter discusses the collapse of America's social fabric and cites such common moral lapses as insurance fraud, athletes who cheat to win, and students who cheat. He goes on to say that most of us "look the other way" when faced with ethical or legal lapses.

I think that is true. I have written before that parents do not loudly insist that schools and law enforcement protect their children from bullies (including teachers) because their children "asked me not to do it," or because "well, I know I should, but I'm just dropping the matter." And I have written that girls and young women tend to not pursue justice when they are sexually assaulted (this lapse can end in your perpetrator becoming goveror of your state), though, given the attitude of some law enforcement agencies, who can blame them? Boys and men who are physically and verbally abused by sports personnel do not pursue justice because it is "feminine" to do so. Many people have described both child and animal abuse to me, and when I have asked, "Did you call the authorities?" they said "I should have, but I didn't," or "I didn't know I could," or just "No."

Cheating is now the norm among students; surveys done of cheating in both homework and on tests produce shocking results, and the consequences do not seem to be serious enough to change behaviors. The sexual harrassment and assault of women and girls is rampant in this country, as is the harrassment and abuse of gay citizens and people of color. Copyright theft is a common pratice. The dumping of toxic waste in residential areas continues to take place. As I write this, residents of the Gulf Coast are dealing with the continual looting of their residences, and with insurance companies who refuse to honor their contracts.

The recent scandals in Congress regarding Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley, and others supposedly indicate that voters want a change. But the "moral lapses" that preceded these--blatantly stealing elections, creating multiple lies in order to invade a country, re-writing official scientific reports, fabricating outrageous stories about political opponents--these were never really "scandals" at all. Voters did not come forward and demand restitution. As I see it, the reaction to the Abramoff and Foley scandals is just a brief looking up in the middle of a very long national nap.

Be an angel

Untold numbers of neglected dogs are left outside in the winter with no shelter. They are chained while it sleets and snows, or they are just wandering in yards, looking for some warmth. Many get frostbite, and some die.

You can give the gift of shelter to a dog this winter by donating to PETA's "Angel for Animals" program.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

This is a story worth hearing

How mammals came to be called mammals is linked to a campaign to oppress women. Listen here.

Commemorating N.O.W.'s 40th birthday

NPR's "All Things Considered" did a story today on the 40th anniversary of the founding the National Organization for Women. I didn't get to hear all of it, but the part I did hear was about how Third Wave feminists are suffering from exactly the same social evils as we did all those decades ago, yet they are not interested in joining an organization that actively fights to change the status quo.

Also interesting was listening to a women's studies professor at George Washington University address her class of women: "Now, guys..."

I see a really bad motor vehicle accident

Yesterday evening, I was driving to the local feed and seed store when I saw a horrible thing. I was on the main highway when a truck at the intersection just ahead of me ran a stop sign and plowed right into the car in front of me, instantly knocking it into the ditch on the other side of the street. Fortunately, there were no close oncoming cars in the other lane. I parked my car on the shoulder of the road and went to check on the car in the ditch. A young woman, who kept saying "Thank goodness my babies weren't in the car" sat in the driver's seat, her airbag having already deployed and deflated. On the other side of the road, the driver of the truck lay face down on the shoulder, his feet sticking out into the highway. He apparently was thrown from the truck when the accident occurred.

The woman appeared to have a minor (so far) injury from the airbag, and an ambulance took the man away. When the police came, they didn't even ask for my statement; I had to offer it. One of them--a very young country-boy type, called the victim "sweetheart," which she told me upset her, but what could she do, given the state she was in, except make a face? I gave her my cell phone and stuck around with her until her husband came to get her. The car, which wasn't hers, was smashed up pretty badly, and there were police, fire trucks, ambulances, rescue trucks, and a tow truck milling about everywhere.

This is, believe it or not, a Katrina story. My community is not exactly one I recommend, given the plan to build a nine-food statue of Ronald Reagan and the overwhelming vote for Bobby Jindal for governor. But, with all its flaws, it has always been a pretty safe place to drive, and the drivers here have always been courteous. People didn't cut in in traffic, and they were quick to let another person in.

That was before Katrina. It turns out that many of our post-Katrina residents do not have a clue about how to drive safely or with courtesy. A lot of people have told me that they are afraid to drive around town now. The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway has become unsafe, speeding is common, and we have had some horrible accidents. The I-12 going from here to Baton Rouge is described as a driving nightmare, with people going at racetrack speeds and no state police to stop them.

I was next in line. Another moment here or there, and the red truck would have plowed into me. Having been run off the Interstate by a Waste Management truck a few years ago (the story is too long to tell, but it is a doozy), I am rather sensitive about this sort of thing. Katrina really has changed everyhing about our life here.

Houston mounted police run over protesters

Last night, nearly one thousand striking janitors met at the corner of Travis and Capitol in Houston in preparation for a protest march to Houston Police Department Headquarters on Travis Street. The four-week-old strike resulted in fourteen arrests on Wednesday, when striking janitors and union organizers chained themselve to the Chevron building in Houston. The janitors are striking in the hope of getting health benefits and a raise in wage to $8.50 an hour. The average current wage is $5.30 an hour. They also report numerous civil rights abuses and failure of management to bargain in good faith. The five main companies involved are Hines, Transwestern, Crescent, Brookfield Properties, and Chevron.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

The fat is in the fire, free expression is in the grave

"The Fat Is In the Fire," an artistic statement about obesity in America, was taken down by Customs House Museum director Ned Crouch less than a day after it was installed. Artist William Gentry exhibited three deep-fried American flags and over forty smaller flags in the Clarksville, Tennessee museum. The three large flags were imprinted with phrases such as "Poor people are obese because they eat poorly."

"It's about what the community values," Crouch said. "I'm representing 99 percent of our membership--educators, doctors, lawyers, military families." Blah, blah, blah. It's about an interesting art installation that was removed by someone caught up in the current fascist mindset.

Crouch said the timing of the piece could cause "incendiary reactions." I thought that was part of what art was all about.As of right now, 62% of online voters at CNN say that deep-fried flags cannot be art.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ruth Brown is gone

Ruth Brown has died, at age 78, of complications following a heart attack and a stroke. When I was a child, Brown and the great LaVern Baker were two of my favorite singers. "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" still plays in my head sometimes. Brown's career was a long one. She did film and Broadway work, winning a Tony for her role in Black and Blue (she was replaced by Baker when she left the cast), and played clubs until she became too ill to work.

Known as "Miss Rhythm," Brown was a major spokeswoman for the many musicians of her generation who were manipulated out of their rightful earnings by record companies and managers that did not pay them their royalties. Brown recorded songs for the film, Honeydripper, and was on her way to Alabama to act in the film when she became ill. She was a musical treasure.

Bush appoints anti-birth control activist to oversee reproductive clinic funding

Eric Keroack, M.D., who opposes all forms of birth control, was appointed by George W. Bush yesterday to be chief of family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services. His appointment is a kind of follow-up to the appointment of Dr. David Hager as a member of the FDA Advisory Committee. Hager (whose ex-wife says he sodomized her repeatedly without her consent), opposed Plan B and advised women suffering from PMS to pray and read the Bible.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Riddle me this

What kind of crazy-ass, self-loathing woman would pay to have sex with Mike Tyson?

So what's in the water in Minnesota?

That was some election. Pam Spaulding tells us that Mark Olson, who was just elected to his eighth term in the Minnesota legislature, spent two nights in jail for assaulting his wife. Olson pushed her to the ground three times. When he got out of the Big House, he clutched a Bible and asked forgiveness for what he had done. Pam also points out that Olson is listed in the Young Republicans' Hall of Fame. But of course. (They get started early now, kicking protesters and beating them up.)

But wait--there's more from the Land o' Lakes. Over in the state senate, Satveer Chaudhary was re-elected, and his opponent, Rae Hart Anderson, wrote a concession email to him, urging Chaudhary, a Hindu, to convert to Christianity. Here's an excerpt, but note that the email is very long:

The race of your life is more important than this one--and it is my sincere wish that you'll get to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He died for the sins of the world, yours and mine--and especially for those who accept His forgiveness. His kingdom will come and His will be done--on earth as it is in heaven. There's more....I love belonging to the family of God. Jesus is the way, the truth and offers His life to you and each human being. Pay attention...this is very important, Satveer. Have you noticed Jesus for some moment in time, yet???

And they say the heat makes people crazy.

When the lyrics are so great, you almost cry

Woke up, it was a chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew
There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too
And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses
Oh, wont you stay
Well put on the day
And well talk in present tenses

Today, I heard Susan Cowsill sing "Chelsea Morning" on the radio, and it is one kick-ass cover. Were more perfectly sublime lyrics ever written? Maybe, if you consider the beginning of "Midnight Sun," which one of my friends calls "the perfect song":

Your lips were like a red and ruby chalice
Warmer than the summer night
The clouds were like an alabaster palace
Rising to a snowy height
Each star its own Aurora Borealis
Suddenly you held me tight
I could see the midnight sun
Joni Mitchell and Johnny Mercer--both amazing lyricists. But they have a lot of company. I could use up pages listing great lyricists, some of whom also wrote (or write) music.

Welcome to 1976

Even Bob Herbert is telling us how "normal" Nancy Pelosi is--she's a grandmother of six! Whether he is being ironic is hard to tell, but I think he isn't. It feels like the 70s. "Really, she likes men." "Really, she's not a lesbian." "Really, she plans to marry and have children." "Really, she loves being a wife and mother."

The object, of course, is to "prove" that a woman with six grandchildren can't possibly be that liberal, because "nice" women with "family values" can't be leftists. The other object is to drum into us that the 1950s nuclear family is "normal" in America, when, in fact, it is not.

Pelosi herself sometimes buys into the "I am not the evil she-monster" myth. Consider her rush to call Hugo Chavez an "everyday thug" because he referred to Bush as the devil. Whatever one may think of Chavez, he nailed that one, and Pelosi knows it. At least, I hope she does. Did she have an obligation, as House Minority Leader, to chastize Chavez? I don't think so. But even if I am wrong, she could have just called him "tacky" rather than launch an obvious defense of Bush.

I have my doubts about Pelosi, but there are also a lot of things I like about her, and she has proven to be tougher than I thought any Democrat in her position would be. And yes, I am delighted to have a woman in charge. But there is no need to do cartwheels to prove that she is "normal." What passes for normal in this country is nothing to aspire to.

Friday cat blogging--Casual Friday edition

Dear Democratic Party

Thank you for Hoyer and Reid. All the Senate leadership needed was a K Street king and someone who is both sexist and homophobic.

On the other hand, wouldn't that really describe most members of Congress who might be considered for the top spots? Or for that matter, most members of Congress...period.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lying for Jesus

A New Jersey high school history teacher, Daniel Paszkiewicz, who is also a Baptist minister (I know--he doesn't sound very Baptist) was accused by a 16-year-old student of preaching in the classroom. The student, Matthew LaClair, said that Paszkiewicz told the class:

He (God) did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sin on his own body, suffered your pains for you and he's saying, "Please accept me, believe me."

If you reject that, you belong in hell. The outcome is your prerogative. But the way I see it, God himself sent his only son to die for David Paszkiewicz on that cross...And if you reject that, then it really is to hell with you.

Paszkiewicz also said that evolution and the Big Bang theory were "unscientific."

LaClair wanted to complain about his teacher, but thought no one would believe him. But he went ahead, and Paszkiewicz denied that he had ever mixed religion with teaching. According to LaClair, the adults in the room appeared to believe him. Unfortunately for Paszkiewicz, though, LaClair had made cds of his teacher's rantings, which he then produced from his backpack.

The school superintendent said that "corrective action" would be taken.

Toward the end of the week, everyone needs a good laugh

A center whose focus is freedom is planned for Israel, and will be named for George W. Bush, in gratitude "for his support for the country and its security." Daniel Ayalan, outgoing Israeli ambassador to the U.S., has gotten the go-ahead from Bush to proceed. Ayalan says he does not anticipate any problem in raising funds to build the Bush Center.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

When the "grown-ups" are in charge

This is the flag of South Vietnam. It has not been used since South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnam in 1975 (stay the course!). Obviously, displaying the old flag is not very much appreciated by the Vietnamese government. But that's exactly what the White House website did when George W. Bush left for Vietnam to "burnish his foreign policy credentials." Nice start.

Things like this make my head spin

There are 3,400 children awaiting adoption in Florida. It is illegal there for gay people to adopt children, but 400 of these children are in foster homes in which the parents are gay. What a syllogism we have. If gay people are unfit parents, then why are they allowed to provide foster care for children? The implication is that the good Floridians don't give a damn about children at all.

On the other hand, if Floridians believe that gays fostering children is a good thing, then why are these parents not allowed to adopt?

This matter is currently being considered by a court.

Offensive (and stupid) quote of the month

He's a Republican, I'm a Democrat, we work together on issues that are important to the state of Nevada. And I wish other people had the same nonaggression pact we have. It's not a Brokeback Mountain situation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, speaking of Sen. John Ensign

Just think...

If it had been a gay couple, I guess we'd all be wearing burqas by now.

On the other hand, if you could prosecute people for being tacky, I'd definitely go after these two.

"The Democrats do not support the troops"

Sometimes, watching C-Span's "Washington Journal" can be a real pain. I just learned that 75% of the media is liberal (and apparently, all on wildly extended vacations) and that "The Democrats do not support the troops."

The very term "support the troops" disturbs me. "Support the troops" is like "quality time" or "trouble communicating." These phrases do not mean a damned thing, but people love to say them. Apparently, much of the right wing's idea of supporting the troops is to stick ribbons and bumper stickers on their cars, call in to talk shows to show how they "suppport" U.S. troops, and avoid military service.

If you support our troops, then how can you let them be sent to die in a meaningless, useless war?

If you support our troops, how much time are you spending nagging Congress about the troops' lack of body armor and appropriate vehicles?

If you support our troops, why aren't you calling in to talk shows to discuss your outrage that the Bush administration has consistently cut benefits for soldiers and their families?

If you support our troops, what have you been doing for the last several decades, about the hellholes that pass as military hospitals?

If you support our troops, why aren't we hearing about your anger over veteran homelessness?

If you support our troops, how much time have you spent trying to expose the lie that they do not return with war-related diseases that disable and kill them?

If you support our troops and you are relatively young and healthy, then why the hell aren't you in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bumper stickers that irritate me

A bumper sticker on my car

I see a lot of bumper stickers that irritate me: My Child Is An Honor Student At _____, I Stand With President Bush, etc. There is a real estate company next door a place I like to go for coffee, and one of the agents has the I Stand... sticker on her SUV. She also has a Boycott France sticker, and I wonder, what French thing could she possibly be boycotting? I always try to park next to her so she can get a good view of my Mother Jones bumper sticker (it probably means nothing to her), my anti-factory farming bumper sticker, the one shown above, and whatever else I happen to have on my car, such as The Patriot Act--There's Nothing Less American, or Support Democracy--Impeach Bush.

The one that irritates me the most, though, is on a car frequently parked near another coffee shop I frequent. This sticker says I Love My Wife. What the hell does this mean? That the rest of us doubt whether he loves his wife? That he thinks it is somehow a big deal that he love his wife? That the rest of the world should know that he really, really does love his wife? My first suspicion is that this man is having an affair, but perhaps he is just an idiot.

And what of the wife? If she has half a brain, she must by dying of humiliation. And if, by chance, she thinks it's cute, well...they deserve each other.

If you like to discuss bumper stickers, check out Ken's weekly feature at Coffee Spoons.

Report links homelessness to federal spending priorities

According to a report released by the Western Regional Advocacy Project, "massive homelessness" has been created in the U.S. over the last twenty-five years because of cutbacks in federal affordable-housing programs. In the last decade, HUD has spent no money at all directly on construction of new public housing. Instead, the government has focused on the Hope VI grant program, which transforms distressed public housing into mixed-income communities.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Venus Williams to be UNESCO/WTA global Promoter of Gender Equality

5-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams plays on the green clay of Charleston, South Carolina

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has teamed with the Sony Ericcson WTA Tour to form a global partnership to promote gender equality and women's leadership. Selected as the official Promoter of Gender Equality is Venus Williams, and there could not be a better choice. Williams has been outspoken and very articulate in her call for gender equality in women's tennis and in all sports.

Venus Williams is a hero to a lot of girls and young women. Hearing about gender equality from her may actually cause them to think about the subject.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Women barely represented in top legal positions

Feminist Law Professors points out that “Women still account for only 17 percent of law firm partners, 20 percent of federal judges and 14 percent of Fortune 500 general counsels. And, at the current rate, the number of women partners won’t reach parity with the number of male partners until 2088.”

That is a quotation from the Harvard Law School Alumni Bulletin, which also reminds us that:

...there is something about the culture of firms that has made it difficult for women to succeed with the same numbers and the same quality of experience. What I keep hearing is that women are just not thought of to the same degree, promoted to the same degree, given the pitches, given the same opportunities men are. You have to make it yourself.

Every female attorney I have ever known confirms that. I remember one very talented attorney telling me that, in her firm, men were dressed down behind closed doors, but women were screamed at in the hallways. Until there are more top-ranking women attorneys in firms, there will not be proper mentoring of the junior female attorneys. And until women stop doing other people's work and start saying "You are not permitted to scream at me," things aren't going to change in law or any other profession.

No Middle East experts in Iraq Study Group

Crooks and Liars points out the obvious--that not one member of the Iraq Study Group is a Middle East expert. James Baker (remember Florida 2000?), Lawrence Eagleburger, Alan Simpson, Charles Robb, William Perry, and Sandra Day O'Connor have a lot of expertise among them, but none of it has anything to do with the Middle East.
(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Giuliani compares Bush with Churchill

That's kind of funny, unless you consider the deep contempt for women that they share. At least Churchill was open about his. Giuliani doesn't mention that, however.

I'm very pleased about the memorial for Martin Luther King Jr.

But when will there ever be a memorial for Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Susan B. Anthony?

This morning, I had a discussion with another blogger about the popular belief that racism is a worse, and therefore more important, problem than sexism. What nonsense. They are both horrible problems that caused poverty, despair and death for centuries.

Why, I once asked on a message board, is it the worst crime imaginable to call an adult black male a boy, but no big deal to call an adult female of any color a girl? I was then attacked for being stupid, possibly racist and "politically correct."

The sad part, of course, is that many women are not offended by being called girls (I'm not talking about "a night out with the girls" kind of thing--I assume everyone knows that--I'm talking about seriously referring to grown women as children). We have been told for so long that getting older is social and sexual death. that many of us believe it. But a girl is a child, and if the "girl" in your office is over eighteen, you are referring to her as a child, yet you would never talk about the 30-year-old "boy" in your office.

An acquaintance of mine, a man, always calls women "girls." Once, I said to him, "Listen, the woman you're talking about is just that--a woman, not a child. Why are you calling her a girl?" "I always do that," he said, "as a compliment." "Why is it a compliment to call an adult a child?" I asked him. Of course, he gave me the little speech about women not wanting anyone to know their ages. I told him that was an absurd, 1950s idea, but that if there were still women like that, it was because all women are told all the time that once we are not young, we are worthless. He still calls women girls.

But I digress. I think that Martin Luther King Jr. was a great American, and he deserves to be remembered as such. I just hope that, one day, the women who worked tirelessly to liberate other women will get the same kind of recognition. Stanton, Anthony, Alice Paul, Gloria Steinem, and many others risked everything for women's equality. They deserve more than a tossed-away silver dollar.

Montreal photo update

There was a software error and some photos were omitted from the album. This error has now been corrected.

Our Montreal photos are now online

A collection of some of our Montreal photos is now in an album and available for viewing. You may see them here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I never thought I would defend Candy Crowley

But I felt bad for her Friday night when Bill Maher scolded her for daring to call another panelist on his sexism. No surprise, though. Maher also talked about how proud he was to have cast a vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger. I rarely watch Real Time anymore because I can no longer tolerate Maher's attitudes toward women. Sad, because I adore him for his work in animal liberation. Of course, his attitudes are no different from those of most liberal men, but I'm weary of them.

If you hadn't already kissed free speech goodbye, you better do it now

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act passed the House today by voice vote. Now, Bush signs it, and that's it, folks.

The original act, passed during the Clinton administration (thanks, Bill), was bad enough. But the new act exacts harsher penalties on those who protest research laboratories, and also makes it easy to prosecute on behalf of anyone connected in any way with an animal enterprise--a wife, a sister, a vendor, an attorney, a public relations firm, etc.

North Carolina Baptists expected to vote to expel gay-friendly churches

You would think, what with Ted Haggard's issues and many similar issues among the fundamentalist clergy, that the more conservative churches would back off on their oppression of people they do not like, but not so in North Carolina. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is expected to pass a measure tomorrow that would expel any church that "endorses" homosexuality.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

What does it matter?

The governor-elect of Nevada is accused of sexually assaulting a woman. So what? The twice-elected governor of California is accused of sexually assaulting numerous women and at least one minor, but it makes no difference. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is accused of forcing his ex-wife to have group sex (that's rape, where I come from), but no one even bothered to investigate the allegation. A former member of the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee was accused of repeatedly raping his narcoleptic ex-wife.

You can assault women and girls all you want, and...No. One. Cares. And especially the "Values Voters" do not care. At all. But they care only slightly less than the "liberals."

Today is National Call-In Day

Please call your Congressional representatives today to urge them to vote against the passage of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which has already passed the Senate.

And call your Senators to urge them to support the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

It is likely that votes will be taken on both of these measures this evening.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The WTA Year-End Championships--a quick review

This year's WTA Year-End Championships, held in Madrid for the first time, were--with a couple of disappointments on my part--splendid.

First, the good things: Defending champion Amelie Mauresmo, though she failed to keep her title, did go all the way to the finals, and produced some of her finest tennis ever in getting there. Her round robin match against Justine Henin-Hardenne was very high quality and a pleasure to watch. Her semifinal match against Kim Clijsters was arguably her best match of the season (her coach thought so). The third set of that match was so amazing--the shots so breathtaking--that it will most likely be talked about for a long time. Both players were in top form, both let go with stunning (and markedly different) backhands, and there were several long, heart-stopping rallies. I'm not sure which was the best match of 2006--that one, or the Wimbledon final, but I think it is worth noting that Mauresmo played in both of them.

It has been a long haul for Mauresmo, a player of extreme talent who lacked mental toughness. I have been her fan for many years, and I never lost faith in her. Her turnaround at the end of 2005 and her outstanding 2006 season made this the Year of Mauresmo (though it should be noted that Justine Henin-Hardenne was in every Grand Slam final as well as the YEC final, won two of them, and ended the year as number one in the world).

And though she failed to make it to the semifinals, Martina Hingis played the best tennis of her comeback at the YEC. Her serve, a problem all year, was suddenly right on target, and her endurance has improved some. Hingis is still Hingis, and her YEC performance has me excited about her 2007 season.

Kim Clijsters was also playing in form again, and it was thrilling to watch her. Of the four semifinalists, three of them--Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne and Mauresmo--were just coming back from significant injuries.

The not-so-good: Versus showed all of the matches live until it came time for the semifinals and finals; those were shown on tape delay. Nothing takes the fun out of watching an important match (other than having someone tell you the score) more than knowing it was finished hours before. On the other hand, thanks to Versus for letting Americans see any tennis at all.

Maria Sharapova
fell apart during her semifinal match against Justine Henin-Hardenne. I have seen Sharapova have really bad days before, but nothing like this. It wasn't just that she couldn't find her rhythm--she seemed totally defeated in her body language the entire time she was on the court. You could practically see the veins popping in her father's neck. After Maria's "I Feel Pretty" U.S. Open commercial aired, Yuri Sharapov was wearing a shirt that said "I Feel Pretty...Calm." That, of course, was pretty funny. I don't think you'll see him wearing it again. I wish he would go away.

Of course, there was the usual mispronunciation of the players' names, which irritates me to no end. It is insulting, it shows great laziness on the part of the commentators, and it infuriates me that they make a whole lot of money for talking and yet they can't say the right words.

Tracy Austin dished up some sexism. It wouldn't be a tennis tournament without some. And then there is the matter of the models/ballboys themselves.

And speaking of commentators...though they were quick to talk about the French and Belgian flags picked up by the TV cameras during the final, they were as silent as monks each time we saw the rainbow flag two women were waving for Amelie Mauresmo. Not a peep from Austin or from Tim Ryan, both of whom usually cannot stop babbling.

And for me, of course, a not-so-good thing was Mauresmo's loss in the final, but she still had a great tournament. Allez, Amelie!

Some odds and ends: The WTA player blog for the YEC was written by Rennae Stubbs and was more fun to read than all of the other player blogs of the entire season. Because she is a doubles-only player, she was free to talk about the singles competitors. And Rennae is...well, Rennae.

Maria Sharapova (whose online diary, filled with Sharapova's natural wit, is sometimes a real hoot to read) took a break from the tournament and went to a Starbuck's to get some coffee. While she was in there, some punks came in and lifted her cell phone. File that under "stupid crooks." Sharapova, though she can't move on the court like a Clijsters or a Henin-Hardenne or a Mauresmo, doesn't exactly do the hokey-pokey, either. The 6-foot, 2 1/2-inch player took off after the crooks and got her cell phone back. I don't know whether she turned them over to the police, but I hope she did.

Note to Maria--don't try that in the U.S.

Henin-Hardenne wins WTA Year-End Championships

To my disappointment, defending champion and world number one Amelie Mauresmo was defeated today by Justine Henin-Hardenne in the WTA Year-End Championships in Madrid. I can't say I was surprised. Mauresmo had played several three-set matches, and her Saturday semifinal against Kim Clijsters was a three-set epic with very long, demanding rallies. To her credit, Mauresmo performed well in the final, but her tank, though not empty, was definitely no longer full. All the same, it was great to see those two beautiful dueling backhands in a big match again.

Henin-Hardenne, who had to be seeking revenge after losing to Mauresmo several times this year, including once in the Madrid round robin, was in top form, and when Henin-Hardenne is in top form, it is extremely difficult to beat her. She defeated Mauresmo 6-4, 6-3.

When the new rankings come out tomorrow, Henin-Hardenne will be number one in the world, a spot she had attained before she even reached the YEC final.

Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur, my favorite doubles team, defended their 2005 YEC title by defeating Cara Black and Rennae Stubbs.

Who was dressing as Carol anymore, anyway?

Broadway star Carol Channing, whose gay male following was once as impressive as that of Liza's, says she's grateful for the fan support, but she is no longer returning the favor. It seems that Carol has discovered the Bible and dropped her support of gay rights.

Interviewer: "Do you think that the things gay people are fighting for are important?"

Channing: "I don’t think about it. If they can’t take care of their own problems, why should I bother. It’s not my problem."

Race, gender and the presidency

Today, I was visiting a popular "liberal" message board, and there was a huge swell of support for a proposed Gore/Clark ticket in 2008. Despite any other misgivings I might have about these two men, I said long ago that I would never again vote for a ticket of two white males, and I will not. In another thread on this same board, someone suggested that the Democratic Party should not put forth a ticket of two white males, and that person was soundly attacked for being "racist," despite the fact that s/he was perfectly willing to accept a ticket of two females of the same race.

The Democratic Party's insistence on all-white, all-male presidential tickets is one of the many reasons I am no longer one of its members. The one time the party did have a woman on the ticket, party officials and power-brokers sat back and did nothing when she was attacked for her husband's history.

The argument that the party must put forth whoever is most likely to win has two flaws: 1. What good does it do to "win" when you are winning with values that are undemocratic? And 2. The party machine determines who is a winning candidate, and can spin and polish whomever it likes. It likes to spin and polish white males.

Now there is a window for the nomination of Sen. Clinton, and one for Sen. Obama, at least in the future. Clinton is far from my favorite senator, and far from my least favorite. She is about a hundred times better as a candidate than John Kerry. Would I vote for anyone on the basis of gender? No, I would not. But I would certainly vote for a reasonably acceptable candidate on the basis of gender because gender is important. Would I vote for anyone on the basis of race? No, I would not. For example, I would not vote for Obama in 2008 because he is a totally inexperienced publicity product. And I would not vote for him any other time because I cannot condone his intolerance of equal rights for gay citizens.

Haggard's colleagues knew he was gay

If you thought it a bit strange that no one (other than Mike Jones) knew that Ted Haggard was gay, your instincts, of course, were correct. We have no way of knowing how many people knew, but we can now confirm that Rev. Louis Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, knew. He knew, and he was upset that Haggard called homosexuality "genetic." "I said, no it isn’t," Sheldon claims. "But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that."

Sheldon says that several members of the evangelican movement knew Haggard was gay, "but we weren't sure just how to deal with it."

Haggard was president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

The Traditional Values Ministry, by the way, in its program, "Those Struggling With Same-Sex Attractions and Other Gender Identity Disorders," features a, ahem, "Cross Ministry."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

You don't always die from tobacco

Isn't it the best PSA you've ever seen?

How did robo calls affect the election?

According to TPM, voters in more than two dozens districts throughout the country were barraged with sometimes-harrassing robo calls in the weeks prior to the election. In at least seven of those districts, Democrats lost by margins of only a couple of thousand votes.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Just for the record...

Mike Jones acknowledges that Ted Haggard is a bottom, but won't go so far as to call him a power bottom.

Jones says that no one from any LGBT organization has thanked him for what he did, but several members of the New Life Church have thanked him. He has also received threats.

Friday cat blogging--"Happy to be home" edition

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hingis loses, but what a thriller!

Hingis v. Mauresmo. To some degree, I didn't want to watch. The questions were obvious: Is Mauresmo's shoulder still bothering her? Is she completely rusty after such a long time out? Is she going to be in form or play terribly like she did against Petrova? Can Hingis, who already has stamina issues, possibly rebound after playing three-setters two nights in a row that ended after 1:30 a.m.?

It wasn't fair, as sports often isn't. Hingis, having gone through those two late nights at the Year-End Championships, should have gotten a day off, but she had a terrible luck of the draw and had to play again today. The first set was fun to watch--two of the most graceful, intelligent players on the tour competing. Hingis played a bit smarter and won, 6-3. Then the inevitable fatigue closed in. By the middle of the second set, she could hardly move or hold up her racquet. Commentator Tracy Austin suggested that Hingis take the end-of-season break to become more fit. I agree, but I also think that any player on the tour--even the super-fit ones like Mauresmo or Sam Stosur--would have wilted if they'd been forced to play Hingis's YEC schedule. The second set went to Mauresmo, 6-1.

The third set looked to be a drag, with Hingis barely hanging on physically, and Mauresmo in top form, displaying the world's most beautiful backhand over and over. Serving at 2-4, Hingis somehow got a spurt of energy and looked like she was going to hold, and I wondered if she would then break Mauresmo. But Mauresmo broke her instead. It look to be about over, and then there was one of those extraordinary tennis moments: Serving for the match at 5-2, Mauresmo's nerves got the best of her. Hingis saved four match points, then broke her. Then Hingis, showing a mental toughness that defied her physical condition, held solidly. When Mauresmo served for the match again at 5-4, Hingis brought it to deuce. The crowd went wild. There was a long, very tricky, rally in which Hingis had some terrific gets and placed them all quite cleverly. Then she had her first really easy shot and missed it. Nerves. Mauresmo got the ad point and won the match.

What started out as an interesting match became a lame one, and then--out of nowhere--became a thriller. Only it wasn't really nowhere--it was the re-emergence of the toughness that makes Hingis who she is. I hated to see her lose, but I was also relieved to see Mauresmo win. She is my favorite player, and also the defending champion.

I now think that Hingis is going to really show us something next season. Her first season back has been very impressive. She won two tournaments, was a finalist in two others (one of which she had in the bag and choked away), and wound up not only in the top 10 but in the elite YEC top 8. The serve is better than it was, and even the fitness is, though improvements can be made in both.

Who will win the YEC? Sharapova is looking great, but so is Justine Henin-Hardenne, and today, Mauresmo showed her champion's form, too.

We're not afraid

The latest news from Wal-Mart is that its employees will be wishing you a Merry Christmas. "We're not afraid to use the term 'Merry Christmas'," Wal-Mart executives have announced, as they abandon their use of "Happy Holidays" as the seasonal greeting.

I'm down with that, but I think they should be willing to add some other gutsy slogans to their repertoire. Like, "We're not afraid to discriminate against female employees," or "We're not afraid to endanger the lives of our employees." "We're not afraid to screw our employees out of their disability benefits." Or how about "We're not afraid to pretend we give a damn about your community and the people in it."

I'm sure there are more.

New facts appear in Tillman shooting affair

The latest inquiry into the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman is scheduled to end in December. However, the Associated Press has studied thousands of pages of documents, conducted a number of interviews, and has uncovered some rather interesting facts:

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Thanks, Tracy...we wouldn't want to offend

At the year-end Master's tournament for the ATP, professional female models serve as "ballgirls" instead of regular ballgirls and -boys. This year, the WTA's first year-end championships are being held in Madrid, and in a tasteless nod to equality, male models are serving as "ballboys." Only Tracy Austin, who is one of the YEC commentators, reminded us all that perhaps we need to call them "ballmen."

Thanks, Tracy. We would never, ever want to call a man a boy. The female models, of course, are ballgirls, no matter who is talking about them, Austin included.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

YEC: Tonight, Martina Hingis played like...Martina Hingis

Martina Hingis, having lost a grueling 3-setter last night to Justine Henin-Hardenne in the WTA Year-End Championships, had to return to the court again late tonight to play her second round-robin match, against formidable opponent Nadia Petrova. Petrova, with her combination of power and cleverness and the gift of better scheduling, was probably expected to win. She didn't. What happened instead is that, notwithstanding a glitch or two, Hingis put on a tennis clinic and produced a score of 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

If anyone had forgotten what made Hingis Hingis, it was all on display tonight--the amazing touch on the lines, the angles, the over-the-shoulder lob, and the glorious cat-and-mouse play that ends with the opponent's head spinning. But here's the thing: Hingis also won with her serve. She reeled off aces and immediate service winners like she was at a shooting booth at the fair. This, the Hingis whose first serve has been mediocre and second serve a total disaster throughout her comeback season.

I have written
on several occasions that unless Hingis does something about her serve, she will not win another Slam, but will have to be content with just hanging out in the top 10. But tonight's performance made me wonder whether she has had a good serve all along (her coach says she has) and becomes a victim of nerves when she is in a match and not in practice (her coach says she does, which is also what is said of Elena Dementieva and her wretched serve).

It is interesting to note that coach (and mother) Melanie Molitor was not in the stands, but Hingis's romantic partner, Radek Stepanek (who couldn't qualify for the men's masters because of his injury), was. Makes you wonder.

The tennis ranking system is complicated. Hingis's win tonight takes Amelie Mauresmo (my favorite player) out of the running for world number one, a position she now holds. There was a three-way race for the number one ranking, but now it is a two-way race between Henin-Hardenne and Maria Sharapova.

And tomorrow, Mauresmo plays Hingis. Whoever loses will likely be eliminated from the Championships, since each has already lost a match. Mauresmo is the defending champion and I hate to see her not make at least the semi-finals (she is just returning from a shoulder injury). But I also hate to see Hingis eliminated. It's never any fun when two of my favorites play each other.

Pot. Kettle. Etc.

Does Ed Schultz, the "meat-eating, gun-toting (they forgot Bible-reading, NASCAR-loving) liberal" really need to be calling Dennis Hastert "fat boy"?

Dobson changes his mind

Apparently terrified of being in regular physical proximity of a man who likes men, James Dobson has changed his mind about being one of Ted Haggart's counselors. Dobson cited lack of time as the reason for his reversal.

Proposition 204 passes in Arizona

A majority, 62%, of voters in Arizona voted yesterday to pass Proposition 204. The passage of Proposition 204 makes Arizona the first state in the U.S. to ban the use of veal crates, and the second (after Florida) to ban the use of breeding pig gestation crates.

Both practices are banned in Europe.

At least one person doesn't think Ford's speech was so great

The networks and the blogosphere are abuzz about how wonderful Harold Ford's concession speech was. Did I miss something? First, I am always offended when people repeatedly insert their religious beliefs into a speech because I think that is something so personal, and the belief is cheapened by making it a vital part of selling other ideas, especially in politics.

More important, I didn't like Ford's telling people not to be angry about what was done to him. I am no fan of Ford's and I never will be, but the campaign tactics used against him were disgusting, and people should be very, very angry about them, and they should express that anger.

Chris Matthews' sexism is breathtaking

Had Matthews gone on and on about African Americans last night the way he did about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and House Speaker-to be Nancy Pelosi, he would not have a job this morning. Instead, he is free to come back tonight and hurl some more insults around.

Matthews pondered how difficult Pelosi would find it to be an authority figure, since she is a woman. Some men's teeth will be on edge, he said, at the sound of a woman's voice rallying the troops and giving commands. "How can she do that without screaming or sounding grating (substitute "shrill" or "strident"--the two favorites--here)?"

As if women are not capable of making decisive comments without screaming or being "shrill." As if Pelosi has not had the House minority leadership position for a long time now.

Matthews then went on to one of his favorite subjects, Sen. Clinton, whom he obviously despises. What, he wondered, is she going to do about her husband? She makes an acceptance speech, and there he is, just standing behind her, smiling and applauding.

I'm not making these things up. Matthews contempt for women is pretty thinly veiled at this point, but he is never called on it. and are the network's email addresses; I, for one, plan to call him on it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Laura Ingraham tells listeners to jam voter protection hotline

It was only a matter of time before radio host and talking head Laura Ingraham crossed the line from ridiculous to dangerous, and today was her big day. Ingraham encouraged her radio listeners to jam a free voter protection hotline after playing an audio tape of DNC Chairman Howard Dean informing Democrats to use the hotline.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Talk about "with friends like these..."

Ted Haggard, up to his red eyes in drugs, prostitution and gay sex, is about to get some help. James Dobson, the gay-hating, dog- and child-beating founder of Focus on the Family, is going to help Haggard in his recovery. The counseling process is called "restoration" and could take years to complete, according to Focus on the Family.

So Haggard, who is at least bisexual and perhaps gay, will now get a concentrated course on self-hatred, rather than just the usual community disapproval.

Block the vote

This, from MoJo Blog, is too good to pass up.

The check's in the mail

In Louisiana, 77,281 people have applied for Road Home grants. As of today, eighteen people have received money. Some applied as early as July.

Monday, November 06, 2006

If you try hard enough, there's always a way to blame women

Via Shakespeare's Sister, who says it was only a matter of time before someone blamed Ted Haggard's wife for his compulsion to visit a male prostitute: It was all her fault. She "let herself go." Makes sense to me. Because everyone knows that the way to keep a gay man from soliciting sex from men with drugs is to provide him with a compliant, attractive woman.

Clinics want to know how Bill O'Reilly got confidential patient records

Two clinics in Topeka, Kansas have asked the Kansas Supreme Court to investigate Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline and Fox Broadcasting's Bill O'Reilly over O'Reilly's claim that he possessed information from the records of patients who underwent abortion procedures.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

A warning against optimism

I have written before about the similarities between Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Both capitalized on the citizenry's fear of "the other," whether that other be African Americans, Hispanic immigrants, feminists, gays, liberals, or dark-skinned people in other countries. Since I am a radical feminist, I simply think of this strategy as "protect the patriarchy at all costs," but the Reagan/Bush crowd packages it as a "return to American values." To make matters even worse, this same crowd preaches that they are spreading democracy when, in fact, they are systematically destroying it.

I am willing to concede that the Bush administration is worse than the Reagan administration, and that Reagan's "charm" was greater than Bush's. But Reagan was undeniably racist, an enemy of women's rights, an enemy of free speech, an enemy of the gay community, and an international bully who had no qualms about causing the deaths of thousands. No one said it better than Greg Palast, in his Reagan obituary column.

It has been almost twenty years since Reagan was in office, and he is still considered a great American hero. One national poll resulted in Reagan's being named The Greatest American. A major airport is named after him, as are countless other things; my own community is erecting a giant statue of him and naming a highway after him. Reagan appealed to people who were racist, sexist, suspicious of education, afraid of free speech, jingoistic, and contemptuous of gay people. The Greatest American.

What is my point? Do not expect people to see Bush for what he is. Yes, people are fed up with the war in Iraq, but not with the fact that the U.S. has been responsible for killing who knows how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens. And they are not fed up with the fact that Bush has poisoned them and their children with industrial toxins. Nor are they fed up with the fact that he has destroyed the economy, instructed schools to teach that girls should be submissive, brought about the suffering and death of countless African women and children (his very first act as alleged president), broken the wall that separates church and state, refused to permit Americans their guaranteed freedom of speech, supported the torture and rape of detainees, removed the basic rights of the accused, replaced science with right-wing Christian jabberwocky, and determined that he does not have to obey any national laws.

It hasn't helped that the news media has refused to discuss Bush's (actually, Cheney's, of course) enthusiastic destruction of our country, which was way far from being what it should be, but is now broken beyond recognition. And it hasn't helped that the "liberals" have, with a few blessed exceptions, gone along with the program.

This is reality: America, with all its racism, sexism, homophobic hate, environmental destruction, and toxic corporatism, was still doing a better version of democracy than most other nations. America has never exactly been a paradise for people of color, women, gays, the poor, and the disabled, but at least there were people working to bring justice to the oppressed. Now there are people working to take away whatever justice there was. And not a lot of people seem to care or even notice.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Our last day in Montreal

We spent our last morning in Montreal at the Musee d'art contemporaine de Montreal, the only major contemporary art museum in Canada. We saw several pieces in the permanent collection, as well as exhibitions of German painter Neo Rauch and Canadian conceptual artist Rodney Graham. A couple of the Graham pieces were fascinating, and included the artist's insertion of himself into famous moments in art history. My favorite, however, was a kind of "Monty Python meets Samuel Beckett" film called Loudhailer, in which Graham plays a RCMP standing on a stalled seaplane, yelling for help through a megaphone.

Loudhailer utilizes a pair of unsynchonized 35mm films with accompanying unsynchronized audio cds. You can barely understand what Graham is saying, but you know that he is in distress. He delivers a lengthy speech about possible damage done to the craft and about the need for rescue, and he yells, over and over, "Get me a dinghy!" "I need a dinghy!" The voice is distorted, the plane is distorted, and the relationship between Graham and the plane is distorted. And of course, rescue never materializes--there is just Graham's continuous monotone babble.

Another Graham piece of interest was his full-size silver "jewelry" rendition of Elvis Presley's back door.

When we came out of the museum, we were greeted by marchers protesting Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper's ties to big oil.

It is hard to find a good cup of tea in this heavily French city.

It is easy, however, to find a homeless person. They are everywhere.

When we were in British Columbia eleven years ago, Quebec was having one of its periodic snits with the rest of the country, and considering succession from the Canadian government. These flare-ups occur every once in a while, and one of the results of this sensitivity is that it is against the law to post public signs in any language but French in Montreal. The city really is bilingual, however, and easy to negotiate.

I wish we could have gone to Quebec City, but there was no time.

McCain campaigns against gay anything in Arizona

Just in case you know one of those "liberals" who wishes she could vote for the mean-spirited, Bush-hugging, shameless right-wing viper, John McCain, you may want to pass this news along: McCain is set to star in two television spots to promote Proposition 107, which would ensure that same-sex marriages and civil unions are never legal in Arizona. Prop 107 would also prohibit any local government from providing benefits to unmarried partners.

You can watch the spots here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

An almost perfect restaurant

Tonight, we went to the English-speaking section of downtown where there are dozens of pubs and restaurants, most of them in beautiful old brownstones. The buildings were beautiful, but the establishments looked extremely trendy. We wound up at an Italian restaurant--Enzo's--that offered practically everything we could have wanted. The room was cozy, and the jazz vocals were just right. A beautiful staircase would have been the focal point, but the show was stolen by a stunning red chandelier of what appeared to be blown glass, set inside a softly-lit blue dome.

We were served by both a quietly graceful waiter and a gentleman whom we took to be the owner. Service was low-key and polite, just like it is supposed to be. The drinks were well-made and beautifully served, and the food was outstanding. Even the coffee was first-rate. The only flaw came at the end, when the waiter handed the bill to--you guessed it--my husband. Get old-world service; pay for it with old-world prejudice. As an American, I don't see the bill handed to the man that often, so it was a disappointment. But that was Enzo's only flaw.

I have been watching Skate Canada on TV. I saw half of the women's short program last night, and I've seen some of the pairs skating and the men's short program tonight. I am especially interested in tomorrow night's women's free skate program. It's nice to be in Canada and watching this competition, even if it's just on television.

It is bitterly cold outside, but there are hundreds of people on the street--most of them young--going to bars and dance clubs and restaurants, or just strolling and chatting. There are several universities here, so there are droves of very young people everywhere. Montreal is very cosmopolitan, totally bilingual, and visually exciting.

Pants. On. Fire.

Sometimes you really do want to roll on the floor and laugh your ass off--if you're not sitting with your mouth hanging open. That would be my reaction when I read in MoJo Blog that Laura Bush called Richard Pombo "an enthusiastic steward of our country's natural resources."

Pombo, of course, has worked for years to destroy the Endangered Species Act, mostly by telling outrageous lies that were allowed by the news media and his own party to circulate throughout the nation.

Escalating violence against women--because they are women

Via feministing, I found another great Bob Herbert column on the systematic "punishment" of women and girls whose crime is that they are women and girls. In "Punished for Being Female," Herbert says:

Not only are we not doing enough to counter this wholesale destruction of the lives of so many women and girls, we’re not even paying close attention. There are women’s movements in even the smallest countries fighting against the violence and other forms of abuse. But they are underfunded and get very little support from those in a position to help. (Even in Afghanistan under the Taliban there were women who ran underground schools, and girls who risked their lives to go to them.)

We visit the Biodome

We spent much of today at Montreal's Biodome, which includes habitats representing various ecosystems from the rain forest to the Arctic. We saw a large variety of plants and animals, including everyone's favorite, the penguins. We were impressed by a giant anaconda and by the startling beauty of the hyacinth macaw, world's largest parrot.

Throughout our stay in Montreal, we have hung out at night in the Latin Quarter, where we have eaten Italian (the city's largest ethnic group), Indian and Thai. We walked out of one Indian restaurant because we were being totally ignored while the other customers were getting service. All we could guess is that it was a "regulars only" kind of establishment, or the management did not like Americans. That was our only bad experience, however. Tonight we are going to go downtown to the English-speaking section that is filled with pubs and restaurants and try something new. Old Montreal, where we had almost no luck seeing the lights we were supposed to see, has few restaurants.