Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Farewell, Molly

Molly Ivins is gone. She died today of breast cancer at her home in Texas.

In addition to all of the other wonderful things she did, Ivins begged the news media to "check the record!" when George W. Bush was first running for president. They never did.

Factory farm updates

Last week, I reported that Smithfield Foods, Inc. had decided to get rid of their pig gestation crates. Now, Marcho Farms has agreed to get rid of its veal crates. Of course, there's nothing to get too happy about--the calves will still be taken away from their mothers and slaughtered. But change is obviously in the air.

Some bad news, however: California's Second Appellate District Division Three Court has ruled in favor of Corcpork, Inc., which means that Farm Sanctuary still cannot bring suit against the company. In the meantime, the Attorney General of California remains silent. Farm Sanctuary is appealing the case to the California Supreme Court.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

And you thought there was no way Bush could grab more power

The front page story in tomorrow's New York Times will be an announcement and examination of George W. Bush's signing of a directive that gives him even greater control over much greater control over "the rules that the federal government develops to regulate public health, safety."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Shakespeare may not have had a sister, but Coleridge had a daughter

120 unknown poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's daughter, Sara, have been discovered at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. Dr. Peter Swaab, the British academic who found the poems, describes Sara Coleridge as "an important minor poet." "She's an exceptionally gifted writer and deserves a much wider readership," Swaab said. "She needs to be nudged up the list of people we consider to be important in Romantic and Victorian culture."

It is not at all surprising that a Victorian woman would not make her poetry public, especially the deeply personal poetry Sara Coleridge wrote, which include love poems and poems about her breast cancer.

The collection has been published by Carcanet Press.

Rape victim denied morning after pill because of prison supervisor's religion

The first horrible thing that happened to a young Tampa, Florida woman was that she was raped as she tried to return to her car after a parade. The next assault on her was that she was arrested after she left the hospital because she had allegedly not paid restitution from a juvenile crime. Her attorney says the outstanding warrant, which the woman knew nothing about, is a paperwork error. At any rate, it is against police rules in Tampa to take a rape victim to jail if she is suspected of a misdemeanor.

That should be enough for one day, but then, when the victim tried to get the morning after pill prescribed for her at the hospital, the prison's medical supervisor refused to give it to her because, she said, it was against her religion to do so.

How many times can one woman be raped in the same day?

WTA to destroy women's doubles

In August of 2005, I wrote about the ATP's decision to ruin men's doubles. Now the WTA has decided to do something similar to women's doubles. Beginning next month at the Pattaya Open, there will be no qualifying rounds for doubles, the third set will be replaced by the super-tiebreaker (instead of a deciding set, there is a 10-point tiebreak game), and--worst of all--the ad point will be eliminated.

The purpose of this nonsense is to get more people to watch doubles since it will now be quick and dumb. The logic here escapes me: Tennis fans who play tennis generally play a lot of doubles and enjoy it, tennis fans who do not play tennis want to see real tennis, and everyone else is not going to watch doubles, anyway, because it is not marketed by the sports media, and because they are at a tournament to see big names only.

Veteran WTA doubles specialist and multiple Grand Slam winner Rennae Stubbs had this to say several years ago:

Why must the tennis hierarchy keep toying around with the idea that the doubles game needs to be fixed? What needs to be fixed is the way the players are marketed! And the way tournament directors schedule! Why would anyone watch a mixed doubles match featuring the best doubles players in the world when no one has ever seen them play on TV? Think about it. If more people got to watch doubles on TV, then more people would know us and then there would be no need to 'get us off the court in under two hours.' Tennis needs to market better -- period.

All of the changes hurt tennis, but the one that will kill it is the elimination of the ad point. Without the ad point, it isn't tennis at all. I don't know what it is, but it sure isn't tennis.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Illegal imprisonment not just for "suspected terrorists"--New Orleans man held for 7 months after Katrina

In the autumn of 2005, after flawed levees broke and the streets of New Orleans were flooded beyond recognition, Louisiana prison officials, left without courthouses, police stations and jails, constructed cages in the back lot of the Greyhound station in order to house criminals. Topped with razor wire and guarded by imported Angola State Prison guards, the makeshift prison quickly became known as New Angola South and Camp Greyhound.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Quote of the day

I'm definitely in better shape than I get credit for. Just because I have large bosoms and I have a big ass. I swear my waist is 29-30 inches. I swear I have the smallest waist. And just because I have those two "assets" it looks like I'm not fit. I was just in the locker room staring at my body and I'm like, "Am I not fit? Am I really not fit? Or is it just because I have all these extra assets that I look not fit." I think if I were not to eat for two years I still wouldn't be a size 2. No matter how slim I am, I always have this [points] and that [points]. We're living in a Mary-Kate Olsen world. I'm just not built that way. I'm bootylicious and that's how it's always going to be.
Serena Williams

Final thoughts on the Australian Open

I enjoyed this year's Open, except for ESPN and its so-called "live" coverage. But ESPN can ruin any tennis event, so I should be used to it by now. The ESPN commentators were not as bad as usual; even Pam Shriver managed to stick to her job and not meddle in tournament affairs, stir up nonexistent controversies, or make offensive remarks about the players.

Australian Open Radio was great. The color commentary was entertaining, and the play-by-play was superb. Australian commentators, however, mispronounce players' names as much as American commentators do (one commentator even misprounced the word "pronunciation"). The tournament's official website, though not as chock-full of goodies as other Slam sites, was easy to navigate, and provided plenty of match reports and great photos.

Unfortunately, the women's final was a bit of a drag, over in an hour, with a total beating of new world number 1 Maria Sharapova by Serena Williams. On the other hand, the drama of Williams' comeback made up somewhat for the lack of drama in the match itself.

And a thank-you goes to the Australian Open for finally having a woman, the esteemed Sandra de Jenken, umpire the men's final.


  • Defending champion (and my favorite player) Amelie Mauresmo getting knocked out in the round of 16
  • Martina Hingis not getting past Kim Clijsters--again
  • Clijsters blowing her semifinal against Sharapova
  • Patty Schnyder losing in the round of 16
  • Jelena Jankovic's poor performance, even though I was expecting it and I predicted it


  • Shahar Peer has to top this list--Peer came within two points of knocking out Serena Williams, gave Williams her most challenging match, and showed once again that she is one tough customer
  • The dramatic resurgence of Williams as a top tour player
  • Camille Pin's moment of glory in the first round, even though she choked it away
  • And--though this blog covers the WTA only--one of the greatest delights of this open was the rise of Fernando Gonzales as a major force on the men's tour. It goes without saying that the incredible Roger Federer is always a delight.

Spitzer gets crossed off my hero list

New York governor Eliot Spitzer, whom I admired for years when he was the courageous Attorney General of New York, has fallen from grace in a big way. With Spitzer's blessing the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets has asked a state judge to dismiss a lawsuit, filed in November, that claims ducks raised for foie gras production are so overfed as to be diseased and unfit for market.

Of course, the ducks are not only diseased, they are the victims of horrific torture. If consumers are so heartless that they are willing to let ducks undergo such cruel treatment, the consequences to their health are of no concern to me. But trying to ban an attempt to stop terrible institutionalized animal abuse concerns me a lot.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Thanks to Mike Luckovich

For this.

Serena Williams proves them all wrong and wins third Australian Open title

She played only four tournaments last year, and she was defeated by the number 56 player in the world at a warm-up tournament in Hobart, but that didn't stop Serena Williams from fighting her way to the Australian Open final and winning in a manner so stunning, it made viewers' heads spin. New world number 1 Maria Sharapova--whose serve continued to be dismal, as it was throughout the tournament--didn't have a chance. Williams, who committed only eleven unforced errors in two sets, hit clean winners over and over, and ate Sharapova's second serves like Vegemite on a cracker.

Early in the match, Sharapova aimed a ball straight at Williams--a tactical move that paid off, only the ball hit Williams, who uttered "You'll pay for that," and pay for it she did. The only time there has been a more decisive smackdown at the Australian Open women's final was in 1994, when Steffi Graf defeated Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-0, 6-2.

The score of the Williams-Sharapova match actually might have been 6-1, 6-1. When Williams was up 5-1 in the second set and Sharapova served at 40-30, she hit a ball that turned out to be outside the line, though it was called in by the linesperson. The chair umpire did not overrule, and Williams did not bother to challenge the call, though she had challenges left. Had Williams challenged, or had the chair umpire caught the error, the score would have gone to deuce, and Williams might have broken to take the match at 6-1, 6-1.

Coming into the tournament, Williams was ranked number 81 in the world. Those numbers turned around to 18 when she made it to the final, and her win makes her number 14 in the world. She is the lowest-ranked woman ever to win the title, and only the second unseeded player to win in the Open era.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The indoor winter garden

H. 'Lilac Wonder'--my all-time favorite amaryllis

More good news about factory farming

Smithfield Foods Inc., the nation's largest pork producer, announced yesterday that it is phasing out the use of gestation crates at all of its farms.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Rating tennis heroes

Tennis writer Charlotte James picks her Top 10 Tennis Heroes for an Australian Open audio slide show, and I wish she had reversed her number 1 and number 2 picks. James's number 2 pick is Billie Jean King, and her number 1 pick is Arthur Ashe. Both of these players did a great deal for tennis, and for many other causes, including the women's movement, African American civil rights, and the battle to educate the public about AIDS and help find a cure.

There are a couple of significant differences, however. Arthur Ashe was secure in his position in the ATP, but King, when she demanded that professional women players be given the same money, facilities and publicity as men, was threatened with expulsion from pro tennis. When she helped start the Virginia Slims Tennis Tour and founded the WTA, which launched women's tennis as we know it today, King risked everything to create a solid venue for women's tennis.

The other difference? When King broke away and demanded equality for women, her male tennis colleagues--many of whom she considered friends--not only refused to help her, but were solidly against tennis equality for women. One of the loudest opposing voices was that of Arthur Ashe. Ashe changed as he matured--many give his wife credit for his shift in attitude about women--but nonetheless, when the stakes were high, King was abandoned by the men, including Ashe.

Friday cat blogging--Australian Open edition

Velma cheered for all her favorites

Then only one was left...and even Aussie Kim bowed out in the semifinals

Meanwhile, a young fan enjoys his first Grand Slam

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Shi'a Iraqi soldiers beat Sunnis as American soldiers cheer them on

Footage of the beating of Sunnis by Shi'a Iraqi soldiers is available here. Obtained by a British public television station, the footage shows the Sunnis being beaten with fists, kicked, and beaten with the butts of weapons. While the beatings are taking place, American soldiers taunt the Sunnis and cheer on the Shi'a soldiers, then help load the victims into the back of a truck.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

No sexism in OUR schools...move along

From After Atalanta comes this latest disgusting update on the cheerleading issue.

New Orleanians attacked and insulted--again

They threw beer cans at them.

They poured beer on their heads.

They punched them.

They yelled "Too bad you didn't drown!"

They wore buttons and held signs that said What Katrina Started, the Bears Will Finish.

That's what Chicago Bears fans did to Saints fans who traveled to Chicago to see their team play the Bears. This disgusting display of hatred for New Orleanians isn't the first. When displaced New Orleanians living in New York attended the Saints-Giants game last September, they were greeted with shouts of "New Orleanians are stupid!" "You deserved what you got!" and "Hope you know how to swim!" There were also a number of obscenities hurled at the homeless Katrina fans.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency, botched the construction of the levee system so badly that the levees failed to work and New Orleans was flooded during Hurricane Katrina. Then another branch of the federal government, the so-called Department of Homeland Security, sat idly by while people died and lost their homes. And a third branch of the federal government, the White House, went out of its way to trash Louisiana's governor and make the situation even worse. The result? New Orleanians are blamed, humiliated, insulted, and physically attacked.

Compassionate conservatism has really worked out well. The barbarism of both Bears fans and Giants fans says much more about this country than any whitewash composed by either the Bush administration or its political opponents.

Quick--someone do the Heimlich maneuver

The women's quarterfinals and semifinals at the Australian Open were largely unsatisfying because of an epidemic of choking among top players. Though it can be argued that Shahar Peer lost her quarterfinal to Serena Williams because of last-minute fear, her overall performance was strong and steady--typical of the young Peer. But the other rounds left a lot to be desired.

Martina Hingis faced an especially errror-prone Kim Clijsters. To be fair, though, at least half of the errors that went down on paper as "unforced" were indeed forced--by the guile of Martina Hingis, who is still the best point constructor in the business. Hingis drew Clijsters around the court, trapped her in corners, and changed the pace on her at key moments. She took the first set, too, but Clijsters stepped it up to take the second. Hingis began the third set with a break, but later, seemed to fade, not physically--fitness no longer appears to be an issue in Hingis's comeback--but rather, mentally. She said later that it concerns her that she is no longer free-swinging and fearless.

The other problem is that Hingis's newly improved serve, which she desperately needed, gave out on her by the quarterfinals. Had she served the way she did in the other rounds, the outcome may have been different. I'd say that her service game was a big part of her loss, but the other part was definitely a choke toward the end.

The Sharapova/Chakvetadze quarterfinal was another exercise in frustration. Using Hingis-like tactics (she is sometimes called Little Hingis) to throw Sharapova off balance, Anna Chakvetadze put on an impressive show of clever tennis in the first set, but was clearly nervous. She lost the set in a tiebreak, and her performance in the second set was very good, but both sets shared one characteristic: Chakvetadze would go to great lengths to set up a winning point--often with impressive strategy--then, when the moment came to hit the winner, she would blow it. Many of these were easy shots, too. In the end, Sharapova took it, 7-6, 7-5, because a tactically superior Chakvetadze choked.

But Chakvetadze's choke was small-time compared with the one that followed. Surprise semifinalist Serena Williams (the same Serena Pat Cash said would "never return to the top again") played the hard-hitting, very talented young Nicole Vaidisova, and if ever the term "deer in the headlights" applied to a tennis match, it was here. The match was entertaining, largely because Williams pulled out every shot she ever had, and I give Williams all credit. But she had some help from the temperamental Vaidisova, who, after she lost the first set tiebreak (in which Williams double-faulted on both her serves at one point, giving her opponent a huge opening), promptly returned to her chair and broke her racquet. This is typical behavior for Vaidisova, and if it had helped her purge her anger, it would have been okay.

But it didn't. Vaidisova returned to the court for the second set a different person. She looked mopey and slumpy, and before she knew it, she was down 1-5. This was when the match became interesting because suddenly, Vaidisova's body language changed, and you just knew she was about to surge. She did, winning the next three games. She also saved five match points, but Williams prevailed on the sixth.

There were a couple of truly terrible line calls in this match, and the umpire just sat there like a brick. Under the new challenge system, some umpires neglect their duties and leave the whole responsibilty to the players. When Vaidiosova got a bad line call, she didn't challenge it, for reasons we will never know. And when Williams got one toward the end of the match, she couldn't challenge it because she had used up her challenges under this new--and terribly flawed--system.

The hallmark of the match, however, was that Vaidisova could not handle the pressure of a Grand Slam semifinal, and it probably didn't help that Serena Williams was on the other side of the net. As Mary Carillo said, "I'm number 81 in the world--just try to beat me!"

The other semifinal was between Maria Sharapova and Clijsters, and we will probably never know what Clijsters was thinking while she was on the court. Known for sudden meltdowns, the extraordinarily athletic Belgian, playing in her final Australian Open, hung around the baseline while her opponent--who used to be afraid to go to the net--repeatedly rushed the net and hit winner after winner there. The maturity of Sharapova's game was on complete display in this match, just as it was throughout the U.S. Open. The pattern never changed: Clijsters stayed back, Sharapova moved forward and won points. Sharapova won the match, 6-4, 6-2, despite playing a terrible service game and double-faulting eight times.

Sharapova's service game has been off throughout the tournament, and if she cannot get it back, it could spell trouble for her in the final, despite the fact that she is expected to win. Serena Williams may not be in top form, but she has knocked out some pretty talented players (albeit with their help) to get to the final.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Absolute stupid-ass quote of the week

"There's a beautiful sight--the Speaker of the House with the Vice President--different parties, different genders, different apparel--what a study in contrast!"
Chris Matthews

This time, there is every reason to believe Michael Brown

Like an imprisoned drug dealer on a witness stand, Michael Brown is not exactly in a position to give credible testimony. But his latest so-called bombshell--that the White House decided to take federal control of Louisiana during the Katrina crisis in order to control and embarrass a Democratic governor--hits the target.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Monday, January 22, 2007

White House purges courts of independent prosecutors

In his January 19 New York Times column (here, if you have access), Paul Krugman does a good job of crystalizing the recent goings-on at the White House in its purge of independent prosecutors. One by one, federal prosecutors are being relieved of their jobs in what Attorney General Alberto Gonzales describes as "a personnel matter." More like a personal matter: The kinds of prosecutors that are being heaved out (like San Diego's Carol Lam, who successfuly prosecuted Duke Cunningham) are the kind of attorneys who seek to bring justice for the people, and that appears to be making the Bush administration very uncomfortable.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

How some powerful women insult the rest of us

This essay, by Dana Goldstein, is the best expression of my own frustration with female politicians that I have seen in a while. In "The Mommy Mantra," Goldstein explains why powerful women like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nancy Pelosi need to shut up about their motherhood credentials. The last paragraph is powerful, and could apply to any number of issues. Pandering out of fear is wrong, and those who do not have the courage to stop doing it are not really leaders; they are the enemies of the oppressed groups they represent.

It all started with Rodham Clinton when she was attacked because of the remark she made about baking cookies while her husband was in the White House. She had an opportunity then to deliver a mild apology and give a wink and a nudge, but instead, she turned the moment into years of trying to prove how domestic she is.

I don't care that Pelosi is a grandmother. I don't care that Patti Murray was a soccer mom (can we imprison the person who created that phrase?). Anyone who does care is not going to vote for these women, anyway. The appropriate response to questions about a woman's skills in mothering, cooking, sewing, and helping out at school is: "I'm here, just like my opponents, to talk about election issues. If you really want to talk about recipes, I want to see theirs first."

Thanks to arse poetica for this feature from The American Prospect, which came via feministing.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mauresmo and Jankovic melt down; seeds fall like Australian rain

Fans of Amelie Mauresmo, and I count myself as one of the biggest, have come to expect bad days from her. In her round of 16 match agains Lucie Safarova, defending champion Mauresmo could not find her service game, and also forgot to use her recently-polished agression, giving the young Czech the win of her career.

Safarova had a very good 2005, and then sustained injuries in 2006 that kept her out of many tournaments. When she returned, her confidence was low, but playing in the Hopman Cup this year reignited her spark and made her ready for the Australian Open. I saw Safarova play in the 2006 Family Circle Cup, and was impressed with her cracking serve. It probably won't be enough to get her past countrywoman Nicole Vaidisova in the quarterfinals, however. Vaidisova made short work of Russia's Elena Dementieva, whose game has been on the skids lately.

For a week, the ESPN commentators talked about "the upcoming Hingis-Safina quarterfinal match" as though it were a done deal. This really surprised me since Safina's round of 16 opponent, Li Na, has done nothing but improve over the past several months. Li has raised her game to a level that I thought would likely get her past Dinara Safina, and it did. Now she faces Martina Hingis; they have never played each other (both took very long retirements from the tour), and the match should be a good one. Hingis's serve at this Australian Open is better than it has ever been in her career, and the contest is wide open. At this point in the tournament, Hingis simply has to keep the good serving up or she will be in trouble.

Li, by the way, had a 75% first serve percentage against Safina, and she scored with 72% of those serves.

Had Jelena Jankovic not played two weeks of grueling, non-stop tennis (she won Auckland, then made it to the finals at Sydney), I would have predicted a comfortable win for her over Serena Williams. But given what Jankovic's body and mind had gone through, with only one day of rest, I thought she would be gone by either the third round or the round of 16. She played miserably against Williams--so miserably, it didn't even look like Jankovic across the net. Williams, for her part, was a lot of fun to watch and did some incredible shot-making. However, her next opponent, Shahar Peer, is a lot fresher than Jankovic was, and will probably give the out-of-form Williams some trouble. Peer easily defeated the number 3 seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova in the round of 16.

Jankovic, in my opinion, is so loaded with talent that she is destined to win a Slam. But she also suffers from poor judgment. Her emotional meltdown over a line call at Wimbledon kept her out of the final, even though she was only five points from defeating Justine Henin-Hardenne. Given the heft of her talent and the likelihood that she would go far in both tournaments, it was not a good idea for Jankovic to play both Aukland and Sydney.

Maria Sharapova faces former top-10 player Vera Zvonareva, who ran over phenom and super-forehand Ana Ivanovic. This will be Sharapova's first real test (not counting the heat illness in the first round). People sometimes forget what a terrific player Zvonarareva is; her tumble from the rankings was due to her emotional difficulties on court. This should be a very good match, and has the potential to be a thriller.

Patty Schnyder meets phenom Anna Chakvetadze next. Schnyder has the skills to dismantle the game of almost anyone on the tour, but she doesn't seem to have the mental toughness to do it on a consistent basis. She is one of my very favorite players, and it isn't easy, being a Patty Schnyder fan. She took Alicia Molik out in the third round, and she can take Chakvetadze out. Will she? Chakvetadze is one tough phenom. She had problems for a while because of her court emotions, but she appears to have matured enough that her feeling are no longer an issue.

Kim Clijsters faces former world number 4 Daniela Hantuchova, and unless Clijsters has one of her meltdowns, she should easily move on to the quarterfinals.

Seeds 2, 3, 5, and 7 are already gone from the tournament (as well as ninth seed, Safina and phenom hope Jankovic), and the round of 16 isn't even over yet. Long rain delays and heat delays and the terrible Australian heat can probably be factored into some of this topsy-turvy turn of events. Some fans began with two most-likelys--Sharapova and Clijsters, and some of us also though Mauresmo stood a good chance to defend. Sharapova and Clijsters are still around, and suddenly, the walking wounded Serena Williams is looking good, too, though I still think that--when faced with a player who isn't about to drop from exhaustion--Williams will exit.

A year of helping animals and getting results

See the PETA slide show.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Never a dull moment at the Australian Open

Drunkenness--imagine your surprise--has been added to the list of unsavory activities at the Australian Open, and several people had to be removed from the stands yesterday (today, if you're in Australia).

The heat is causing the same controversies it always causes, with many people asking that the heat rule be changed again. Once it hits 90 degrees, players are not allowed to play on uncovered courts. But if you are on one of the show courts and it goes to 90 degrees or above during play, the retractable roof cannot be placed over the court. This is an absolutely ridiculous rule, opposed only by the freak-"manly" types like Lleyton Hewitt.

Though it is true that being fit helps one withstand heat, the kind of heat players get at the Australian Open can knock down the fittest of players. Maria Sharapova almost lost her first round because of it, and no one can accuse Sharapova of being unfit.

But heat isn't the only problem this year: Rain has caused very significant delays, also. One wonders--between the heat and the rain--if there is any way to even finish the Australian Open.

Not all of the heat is coming from the weather. Former top-10 player Vera Zvonareva, in what was apparently a stunning display of both offensive and defensive tennis, ran over phenom Ana Ivanovic, 6-1, 6-2 to get to the round of 16. Now Zvonareva faces Sharapova, and anything could happen. Zvonareva is loaded with talent (check out the stinging double-handed backhand), but has had difficulty in the past with her emotions on the court.

The other big upset on the women's side was that of fifth seed Nadia Petrova, who fell to a suddenly resurgent Serena Williams in the third round.

Alona Bondarenko played well against Kim Clijsters, despite going down 3-6, 3-6. I am probably the only person who actually liked her tennis dress, but where on Earth does Pam Shriver, of all people, come off handing out fashion criticism?

And finally, former tennis star and sometimes-announcer Jim Courier became "interested" in a woman sitting next to Bev Cartright (Lleyton Hewitt's wife) whom he could not identify, and when told she was Emma Gurney, the wife of Justin Cohen (Hewitt's manager), said "That doesn't bother me." Cohen wasn't too happy about that last remark, and I leave you, dear reader, to discern why Courier would be so over-the-top.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Word study for ESPN

"Live" does not mean showing an hours-old match while actual tennis is being played.

Neithe does "live" mean showing the beginning of a match when we have just followed half of it online on our electronic scoreboards.

"Live" means "live." "Contemporaneous." "While it's happening."

Stop lying in your promotions.

Lawsuite against Corcpork, Inc.'s animal cruelty revived

Corcpork, Inc., a California company, confines breeding pigs in 2-foot cages for most of their lives. They cannot turn around, lie down, or stand on anything but slatted boards. They are constantly inseminated, and their lives are total torture and misery. Corcpork, not surprisingly, is in blatant violation of California's animal cruelty laws. However, a suit filed against Corcpork in 2004 by Farm Sanctuary was dismissed in 2005 because of California's Proposition 64, which substantially limits third-party lawsuits.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Gonzales argues against the certainty of the right of habeas corpus

Very strict constructionism, in the form of creating backwards syllogisms and thereby violating the spirit of the Constitution, has been a hallmark of the Bush administration conservatives. The latest is this gem from U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: "There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there’s a prohibition against taking it away."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Katie Couric speaks the ugly truth

In MoJo Blog.

Australian Open not exactly a safe event

The Australian Open has been in progress for five days, and there has already been a lot of criminal activity. There has been quite a bit of publicity about the 150 Serbian- and Croatian-Australians who were evicted for fighting, but the goings-on at the Open have actually been worse that what we've seen in the news. A 5-year-old boy was sexually assaulted in a restroom, and a man was arrested for trying to take photographs up women's dresses.

Can you imagine what a soccer match would be like?

An essay about my father

Right here.

Friday cat blogging---wish fulfillment edition

Since he arrived here, Ziggy Stardust has wanted to be Roxie's friend. He follows her around, bats her tail, and tries to engage her in play, but she either ignores him or he gets dismissed with a swat and a hiss. Imagine our suprise when we saw this scene on the bed Wednesday night.

"How did this happen?" Roxie wonders, during a waking moment. Things might have remained calm, but about that time, Tarzan came charging into the room, jumped onto the bed and rubbed noses with Roxie. One big scream and swat sent both kittens running.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

McEnroe and Shriver together--it isn't fair

I would be hard pressed to say who is more annoying--Patrick McEnroe or Pam Shriver. Listening to McEnroe refer to the world number one men's player as "Fedder" sets my teeth on edge, but not as much as those dreaded moments when he yells "Droppa!" and makes me want to put something heavy through my television screen. (Note to the columnist--I forget which one--who loves to hear McEnroe say "Dropper!": It would be creepy enough if he said "dropper," but the reality is worse.)

This evening, McEnroe hit a new low. When Serena Williams had to lunge almost into the net pole to get a drop shot (hence, "droppa!"), McEnroe said she was in "no woman's land." Fine. But then he had to show off and explain to Pam Shriver that he didn't say "no man's land." Why do men want recognition for having a moment of non-sexism?

And anyway, there isn't much point in showing off to Pam Shriver, who is as sexist as any other commentator.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Couple sues state of California over name change discrimination

Courtesy of Amp is a story about a married couple who has sued the state of California for sex discrimination because of the hoops the man was told he had to jump through in order to legally take his wife's name. The California legislature is now considering changing the law because of this case.

I have never understood why married people feel they have to have the same name (don't try to sell me the children argument--I don't buy it), but all credit to Mike Buday, whose feminist credentials are okay with me. Unlike the woman at the DMV, who told Buday, "Men just don't do that type of thing."

It isn't just Americans

I'm listening to Australian Open Radio, and the announcer just butchered the names of Jelena Jankovic, Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Daniela Hantuchova. He got Svetlana Kuznetsova's name right, though, making him probably the only commentator to do so. I am continually perplexed that people who are paid very good money to speak cannot pronounce the most important words they are paid to say. Not to mention the fact that they are supposed to be "experts" on tennis. I just wish the players would be more assertive about the pronunciation of their names, but perhaps they are afraid to correct the announcers.

Sanchez-Vicario elected to Hall of Fame

Spanish star Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario has been elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, it was announced today. Sanchez-Vicario was the first Spanish woman to win the U.S. Open (1994), she won the French Open three times, and she also holds ten Grand Slam doubles titles--six women's and four mixed. The indefatigable Sanchez-Vicario also holds twenty-nine WTA career singles titles and sixty-seven doubles titles. She was on the tour for sixteen years, guiding Spain to all five of its Fed Cup victories, and--with two bronze and two silver medals--is the most decorated Olympian in Spanish history.

The Barcelona Bumblebee was probably the counter-puncher of all time on the women's tour, keeping her opponents on the court until all hours in lengthy rallies, in which she covered an amazing amount of ground. She was also the nemesis of the two greatest players of her generation--Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. Anyone who loves women's tennis misses Sanchez-Vicario's matches.

In recent years, Sanchez-Vicario, who speaks five languages fluently, has continued to play an active role in tennis. It was she who first noticed Russian star Svetlana Kuznetsova, who trained at Spain's famed Sanchez-Casal Academy (co-founded by Sanchez-Vicario's brother, a former doubles champion). Sanchez-Vicario put Kuznetsova in touch with Martina Navratilova and they became doubles partners. Kuznetsova credits much of her rise in the sport to the mentoring she received from both Navratilova and Sanchez-Vicario.

McCain doesn't want to burden the wealthy with cost of war

Bush's new Iraq jobs program is going to cost a billion dollars. As Marty Kaplan points out in The Huffington Post, Congress could "repeal one zillionth of one percent of the cut in capital gains tax that Bush gave the wealthiest Americans. That would raise a billion in a heartbeat."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Another plea to stop insulting women and girls

A few years ago, I was at a restaurant with some friends, and a very young man called someone a "douchebag." I shook my head, and he, thinking I objected to his calling someone such a "bad" word, said to me, "no, really, this guy really deserves to be called that." "No," I told him, and when he went to argue with me, I said "because when you call him that, you're saying there's something wrong with my vagina, and I resent that."

This appeared to confuse him, a woman at the table laughed in an "I'm with you but I won't say so out loud" kind of way, and that was the end of the conversation. This morning, I noticed that someone on a major so-called liberal message board has asked its members to stop calling people douchebags for the same reason. Most of the response was relatively positive, though a few people made the standard put-down remark about the "language police."

What's interesting is that those same "liberals" would have a fit if someone on the board said "nigger" or "kike."

"Sports executives are not doing this for the ministry..."

The Colorado Rockies have changed their low-key "Christian Family Day" to "Faith Day,' and it is now an all-out promotion. "Sports executives are not doing this for the ministry," according to Brent High, president of Third Coast Sports, a Nashville, Tenn., company hired to host some of the Christian events. "They are doing it strictly for the business opportunity, to increase attendance and associated revenue."

The Rockies' Christian Family Day included giving church groups discounted tickets, presenting a pre-game show of Christian music, and providing Christian "testimonies" from players and coaches.

Though the event is now called "Faith Day," there is speculation that it will continue to be about Christians. High says that his company, Third Coast Sports, is effective in "driving fans to the stadium." "Christians," he says, "are a "powerful organized demographic" that can be courted without fear of alienating the fan base. High is oppposed to including other faiths in "faith days" because, he says:

People are tied to their beliefs, and the second we start celebrating the Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist faiths together, this idea will dry up and blow away. People are all for political correctness and for being unified. But there are still divisions, huge differences in beliefs, and to bring them together is not going to work. It's the same reason why all these people don't meet together on Sunday mornings.

Religious promotions have long been popular in the minor leagues, but have now crept into major league baseball. Baseball-loving Christians apparently do not mind being exploited for marketing purposes.

Parents--here's a clue

Learn the following phrases:


"Our family does not behave like that."


"Not in this lifetime."


"That is against our rules."


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Australian Open so far: Sharapova almost exits, Hingis puts on a clinic

We're still in the first round, and there's already enough drama to fill a Brit newspaper. Number one seed Maria Sharapova, stuck by heat illness and an accompanying painful abdominal stitch, almost got taken out in her first round by French journeywoman Camille Pin, who rose to the occasion when she saw blood. After taking a heat break (longer than what is allowed, in fact) and getting treatment, Sharapova was the lucky recipient of a great big choke by Pin. But if Pin hadn't caved, Sharapova would be on a plane headed for Florida. And this after Sharapova led 5-0 in the third set.

Martina Hingis played perfect tennis against Natalie Dechy, a Frenchwoman who isn't Camille Pin, by a long shot. A former world number 11, Dechy's counter-punching, kill-the-giant style of tennis had no effect on a revved-up Hingis, who served better than she has served perhaps in her entire career, and did everything else in classic Hingis style. If Hingis can keep this service game up, she's a contender.

In other news, Serbian and Croatian Australians got into it with each other and 150 of them had to be ejected from the stadium. Several matches were postponed because the extreme heat rule, such as it is, went into effect, so only two courts (with retractable roofs) could be used. Some day, when someone dies, the heat rule will be made sensible.

WHAT legacy?

Yesterday I saw a column headline which asked what Bush can do to preserve his legacy. When I see something like this, and I'm seeing it a lot lately, I want to break something. There is nothing that can be done about the hatred and distrust that Bush has created worldwide against the United States, nothing that can be done about the decrease in national security he has brought about, nothing that can be done about the injured, sick and dead American soldiers and civilians, or the injured, dead and orphaned Iraqis.

And yet, if there were to be some magic solution, some "honorable" way to get out of Iraq, and if things in Iraq were to suddenly go smoothly, many Americans would find a way to overlook the injured, the sick, the orphaned, and the dead. And they would find a way to not notice how unsafe Bush has made us.

And then there is the matter of Everything Else. The ruined environment, the damaged educational system, the multiple lies, the fake science, the tearing down of the wall of separation between church and state, the granting of huge tax breaks to the wealthy, the systematic removal of civil liberties, the medical restrictions placed on women and girls, the placement of thousands of African women and children at risk of death, the poisoning of children--what the hell kind of legacy is that?

Please don't tell me that history will judge him harshly. So far, history has judged Ronald Reagan very, very nicely. Ronald Reagan is a god, and I don't see that changing. And who was Ronald Reagan? He was a mentally dull man who stirred racial hatred, meddled needlessly in the affairs of other nations and caused great loss and destruction, suppressed women's rights, systematically removed our civil liberties, and stood silently by while Americans died of AIDS. Ronald Reagan was evil, but Americans worship him.

So don't expect Bush's "legacy" to go sour.

A question for Sen. Obama

Senator, don't you think that bi-racial people should just have civil unions and not "marriage"? I mean, I have nothing against them, but my religion keeps me from supporting this idea that they should be married.

To protect and to humiliate

A police officer in Florida did something really kind, so his fellow officers are making fun of him.

Quote of the week

"More than any other president that I can think of, you have really, truly shattered the myth of white supremacy."
Rep. Charles Rangel, to a Bush impersonator at a comedy show

Ohio Wal-Mart Refuses Couple's Request For Over-the-Counter Pregnancy Prevention Pill

For the past few years, American pharmacists, clearly in violation of their own code of ethics, have been refusing to fill prescriptions for reproductive health items. The result has led to inconvenience, and--in some cases--pregnancy.

Now, a pharmacist and store manager at a Wal-Mart in Columbus, Ohio have taken the battle a step farther, refusing to sell an over-the-counter product.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

The indoor winter garden

H. 'Rilona' stands tall against the fireplace

H. 'Rilona'

Monday, January 15, 2007

Rape and sexual assault, okay--nudity, not okay

From August, 2002 through October, 2004, 118 cases of sexual assault in the U.S. military were reported. One can correctly assume that the actual number of assaults was much higher, and there is no evidence that such assaults are doing anything but increasing. In 2003, dozens of women at the U.S. Air Force Academy were ignored or punished when they reported rape and sexual assault to Academy officials.

Only in rare cases do the perpetrators of these crimes in our military receive any punishment. Raping and sexually assaulting female members of the armed forces appears to be fine and dandy, judging from the consequences--as in "almost none"--faced by the military's sex criminals.

It is beyond hypocritical, then, that Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart, who posed for Playboy, has been relieved of her duties, pending an "investigation." A Lackland AFB spokesman, Oscar Balladares, said that "This staff sergeant's alleged action does not meet the high standards we expect of our airmen, nor does it comply with the Air Force's core values of integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do. It is not representative of the many thousands of outstanding airmen who serve in the U.S. Air Force today."

For starters, Manhart is not an "airman"--she is a woman. That Balladares cannot even bring himself to identify Manhart's gender says much more than the I-hate-political-correctness crowd would admit. Balladares's sexist statement is also amusing, in a very dark way. What high standards?

Elizabeth Gettelman, writing for MoJo Blog, suggests that Manhart consider enlisting in the U.S. Army, where enlistees with felony records sign on by the thousands.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Lawsuit questions VA's "voluntary" spiritual assessment

A federal judge has ruled that the Madison, Wisconin Department of Veterans' Affairs does not violate the separation of church and state by its use of religion in treatment. Last week, U.S District Judge John Shabaz dismissed a suit brought by the Madison chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, saying that the use of religion is helpful in the healing process and does not violate the Constitution when it is voluntary.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

About that crime problem in New Orleans...

Jarvis deBerry's Times-Picayune column on Friday contains this bomb:

Last summer, a judge in Criminal District Court told me that in all his years on the bench, he'd only presided over one case where the investigating police officers had dusted the crime scene for fingerprints and presented such evidence in court. At first the judge said he'd never presided over a case with such evidence, but then he corrected himself. There'd been one. I guess it stood out.

Read the entire column, but make sure you're sitting down and prepared for the worst.

"It feels funny when we do it"--oh, please

Ann Bartow has a post about cheerleading at Feminist Law Professors that both intrigues and upsets me. Bartow reports that more than half of the thirty cheerleading girls at Whitney Point High School in upstate New York dropped out of the squad when they learned they would have to cheer for the girls' basketball team as well as the boys' team, as part of compliance with new Title IX regulations.

..."Hands Up You Guys" becomes "Hands Up You Girls"--to comply with a new ruling from federal education officials interpreting Title IX, the law intended to guarantee gender equality in student sports.

"It feels funny when we do it," said Amanda Cummings, 15, the cheerleading co-captain, who forgot the name of a female basketball player mid-cheer last month.

Why, oh why, should it feel so "funny"? That girls cannot appreciate the fact that other girls are competing for the school does not suprise me in the least--it just deepens my sadness over the state of things. What does surprise me is that the cheerleaders were told to say "you girls," when even even some feminists do not bother with such insignificant details as referring to females as females.

The upshot of the new ruling is that cheerleaders who would have gone to the boys' team's "away" games now stay home if there is a girls' "home" game. This has people angry and they are booing. I am boo-hooing. Has it ever occurred to anyone to just increase the size of the cheerleading squad so that some can stay home and some can go away? I am sure there are all kind of arguments to be made about how the school cannot afford to have more cheerleaders, but I would probably not buy these arguments because I have seen, over and over again, how easy it is for sports teams to get what they want.

Bartow makes the point that the some of the girls on the basketball team are not interested in having cheerleaders at their games, probably because they find the presence of cheerleaders pointless. I personally cannot bear the sight of cheerleaders, and think that she may be onto something. However, cheerleaders are here to stay, and it makes sense--within that context--that the girls' teams receive as much of their support as the boys' teams.

When I was in high school, all of the cheerleaders were girls, but there were also three students who were not called "cheerleaders," but who dressed in the racist costumes of the school's team name and were clearly the big wheels. They, of course, were boys. And boys who are especially good at doing inane things like leading cheers can now do so in college, and the especially inane can go on to seize the presidency of the United States.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Hope you like that swagger--you paid enough for it

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin needs to go, and so do all of the idiots who voted for him. As I pointed out in May, older voters tended to vote for Nagin because the think the name "Landrieu" is like "Kennedy." If you have ever taken a look at Sen. Mary Landrieu's voting record, that is kind of amusing; she is a pretty conservative Democrat. On the other hand, all those votes she has cast in support of the civil rights of women, people of color and the LGBT community probably makes her sufficiently evil to Republicans. The youngest voters, as I also noted, voted for Nagin because they like his swagger.

I certainly hope they're enjoying that swagger--what's left of it--now, because Nagin shows no sign of providing meaningful leadership in a city that wasn't doing too well before Katrina, and is currently in a state of crisis. He has been going around the country talking about the New Orleans Katrina tragedy as the "worst natural disaster in U.S. history," which is exactly what he should not be saying: The hurricane was a natural disaster, but what happened in New Orleans was a disaster created by the incompetent and criminally negligent Corps of Engineers. Those of us who live in Louisiana have had so much trouble getting people to grasp that fact, and now Nagin has trashed all of our efforts.

And speaking of trash, after the city survived the near-disaster of Nagin's "I was for it before I was against it" issue with the landfill that was scheduled for the middle of a Vietnamese American neighborhood, there have been more garbage problems (other than the obvious one of garbage not being picked up). The mayor contracted with a company to have state-of-the-art 96-gallon garbage receptacles placed all over the city, but for those who live in the French Quarter and parts of Uptown, the receptacles inhibit residents' movement and create fire hazards. Some residents say they cannot even fit the cans through their gates.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the governor's office stated that the reason many New Orleans residents and businesses have not received grants is that the mayor's staff does not undertand how to fill out the paperwork. Of course, this statement may have just been another metaphorical The shot fired in the ongoing cold war between Governor Blanco (whose name the mayor cannot pronounce) and Nagin, but I am kind of inclined to think it is a fact.

Now the city is in full-blown chaos. Following several murders, including the killing of a respected musician and respected filmmaker, residents finally said "enough" and marched, by the thousands, on City Hall yesterday, where the mayor sat, slack-jawed and, for once, silent. Many want both Nagin and Police Chief William Riley, who thinks things aren't going that badly, to step down.

Nagin is a Republican who magically "became" a Democrat the day before he filed to run for his first term. He has governed, when he has bothered to govern at all, like a Republican, and even endorsed an extreme right-wing candidate for governor. But now even his Republican buddies are sick of him, and he has earned their contempt.

Friday cat blogging--sister snuggle edition

The cold weather has Velma and Roxie in their cat bed again

Sometimes they get distracted, but they always go back to sleep

Thursday, January 11, 2007

American news media continues its decline

Last spring, I wrote about MSNBC hosts Ron Reagan and Monica Crowley's on-air statement about the "triviality" of issues like Supreme Court nominations, and--even worse--MSNBC senior producer Tom Maciulis's written revelation that news about lobbying scandals, the Bolton nomination and court appointments were things he "didn't give a flying fig about." Though it was obvious to me that no one in charge at the network cared too much about news, it was nevertheless shocking to hear both the anchors and the producer come right out and say so.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Sexism--at least it's cross-cultural

This morning, I heard a man call Ellen DeGeners "bro'."

Spocko case raises important copyright issues

As a writer whose copyright has been violated, I stand firmly in the camp that seeks stiff punishment for copyright violators. You will note that there are no photos on this blog that I have not taken myself, and no full works that are not here without permission of the author. I also think that refusing to violate copyrights has cost me, in terms of blog content, but so be it.

I have mixed feelings about KSFO, however, in its insistence that blogger Spocko violated the station's copyright by publishing clips of their talk shows on his blog without getting permission to do so. To be sure, Spocko's campaign was a worthy one; in fact, I consider him a kind of hero, and I applaud MasterCard, Bank of America and Visa for removing their ads from KSFO after Spocko revealed the chronic hate content of KSFO's talk shows.

Does Spocko have any legal wiggle room, in regard to both the copyright violation charge and his IPS's shutdown of his blog? I believe he may. The standard of Fair Use is very tricky, and writers must be very careful not to bend Fair Use to suit their own needs. If I quote small parts of what someone else has written, I am not violating the author's copyright, according to Fair Use. If the audio clips Spocko used did not represent lengthy portions of talk shows, but only a few sentences, it seems that he, too, would have been safe, insofar as Fair Use is concerned. But I do not know how long the clips were, and it is entirely possible that he did violate KSFO's copyright. Media Matters for America describes the clips as "brief," which leads me to believe that Spocko has a case.

I would like to think that Spocko's case will make bloggers and other writers think twice before they violate--intentionally or otherwise--someone's copyright. There appears to be almost no understanding at all of copyright issues. I have been repeatedly insulted by people who violated my copyright once I have informed them of it; to a great number of people, especially on the Worldwide Web, Fair Use means "I'll steal any damned thing I please, and if you complain, there is something wrong with you."

"...I don't know much about any of those Internet blogs"

omg! I didn't, like, know people would, like, write about what I said on the air. Cuz if I'd known, I wouldn't have said that thing--that thing I didn't really say, okay? ;-)

Tower of London gets first female beefeater

Even Brits are sometimes dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mitch McConnell--another Republican with memory problems

In 1993, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was one of seventy-six senators who voted for an amendment to restrict funding for U.S. military personnel in Somalia. The amendment restricted funds through March 31, 1994, with the caveat that funding could be resumed only if Congress provided specific authorization to do so. McConnell not only voted for the amendment, but spoke in favor of it on the Senate floor.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Dear Gretchen Carlson...

You are a moron. Furthermore, you are what you accuse Sen. Kennedy of being--a "hostile enemy right here on the homefront." You are an enemy of the Constitution, an enemy of your fellow citizens, an enemy of rational discourse, an enemy of journalism, an enemy of world peace, an enemy of the democratic process, and an enemy of national security.

But don't worry. If things should get too crazy at Fox and you need another job, I'm sure you'd fit in quite well at CNN. They love to have morons at the anchor desk, too.

Thanks, Wikipedia

For several years, I have written a quarterly column for Moondance, a well-designed ezine which offers fiction, poetry, essays, creative nonfiction, and various resources for women. Moondance has been around for a decade, but the editors at Wikipedia apparently didn't think it was important enough for inclusion. Have you seen some of the items in Wikipedia? Sometimes I think I could get an entry in there describing all the socks I wore last month, but Moondance didn't make the grade.

Fortunately, there has been a change of heart, thanks to the Moondance staff's persistence. So enjoy the entry, and give Moondance a read, too.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

It's only January, but we may already have a 2007 Irony Award winner

A Philadelphia retailer has settled a $375,000 federal lawsuit brought by former employee LaShonda Burns. Burns was fired from her assistant manager position in a Florida store in 2004 after she complained of employment discrimination against pregnant job applicants. The company, said Burns, would not hire applicants who revealed that they were pregnant, or who were visibly pregnant. Burns herself was pregnant at the time she was dismissed. Burns filed suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

More good poetry news

I just learned that another of my poems has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The first nomination was from the ezine, flashquake, and the new one is from Tiger's Eye.

The indoor winter garden

H. 'Red Lion' brightens a corner filled with plants

Monday, January 08, 2007

I won a photo contest

I forgot to mention this, but I placed first in the Louisiana Council of Teachers of English's photo contest. The Louisiana English Journal asked for "before" and "after" Katrina photos, so I submitted these pictures of the ants rushing to save their eggs after we moved a large plant container in preparation for the hurricane. It was remarkable how quickly the ants hauled the large eggs away.

The Austrlian Open is just a week away

Australian doubles star Sam Stosur is sure to be a major crowd favorite at the 2007 Australian Open

The Australian Open begins a week from today, with qualifying matches set for next weekend. The Rebound Ace court, as bouncy as it can be, has special appeal for some players, and some do not do that well with it. The players' biggest enemy in Australia, however, is always the heat. Though there is a heat rule, it is inadequate, players must frequently be given liquids, and it is not unusual for them to develop heat illness. Anastasia Myskina almost succombed to it last year, and heat exhaustion played a very obvious role in Lindsay Davenport's loss in the 2005 final. Both Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder have had to withdraw from heat illness in the past.

Players to watch:

Martina Hingis

Last year, Hingis had a low ranking and got stuck with meeting current world number one Justine Henin-Hardenne in the first round of the Sydney warmup tournament. She was eliminated. This year, her ranking was much higher, but she had to face the very talented Jelena Jankovic in the first round. The match was very tight and--judging from the scoreboard--a real thriller. Jankovic prevailed, putting Hingis out in the first round again. She did a lot better at the tournment the week before in Gold Coast, where she was the finalist, losing in three sets to Dinara Safina.

Last year, despite having just returned from a 3 1/2-year hiatus, Hingis managed to get to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, a feat which was admired by almost everyone connected with the tennis world. More is expected of her now, however. During the Year-End Championsips, she impressed me with her much-improved first and second serves, and I noticed she was winning a lot of points off of her second serve during her first round at Sydney. If Hingis continues to play the way she did at the Year-End Championships (where she defeated Nadia Petrova and did very well against defending champion Amelie Mauresmo), she can get to the quarterfinals again. I think she will have to be more aggressive, though, to get beyond the quarters. I would love to see her advance as far as possible, and if her serve continues to improve, we may see a continued steady rise for her in the rankings. Some say the game has passed her by, but my jury is still out.

Samantha Stosur

Sam Stosur is the world's number one doubles player (a title she shares with partner Lisa Raymond), but she is also getting better and better in singles. An Australian, Stosur is the local favorite now that Alicia Molik is still in her comeback stage after a lengthy illness, and she would be a big favorite, anyway. Stosur has one of the best serves--both first and second--on the tour, and she is capable of very good results. She seems to perform better under pressure, however, and, like Hingis, needs to do a better job of taking charge of the match. Last year she made it to the round of 16, where Hingis stopped her.

Jelena Jankovic

Her tour competitors call her the JJ Express because she does everything so quickly, and more than one competitor has asked the umpire to tell Jankovic to slow down before she serves the ball. Jankovic made an impressive showing a few years ago, then slumped in 2005 when she was losing interest in tennis and busy going to college. She considered leaving the tour, and had a disastrous opening season last year. Something inside her clicked, however, and she turned it all around--and how. Jankovic (who is somehow still attending college) made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Open, where some mental fragility kept her from taking out Henin-Hardenne; one assumes she learned something from that. She won the warmup tournament in Auckland last week, and could give any player on the tour trouble.

Ana Ivanovic

Ivanovic, last Janikovic, made an impressive debut, then slumped. Her problem was her sluggish, awkward movement on the court, but that has improved quite a bit, and Ivanovic's stinging forehand--reminiscent of Graf's--is a powerful weapon. I don't think she is as clever a player as Jankovic, but she, too, can cause trouble.

Nicole Vaidisova

Playing with power and an improved strategy, Vaidisova has lived up to her phenom status and could break through in a bigger way any time. She made it to the semifinals of the French Open (the last Slam where I expected her to do well), and could go far in Melbourne.

Patty Schnyder

Yes, Patty' s game is up and down. She can go from brilliant to slumpy in one tournament--sometimes in one match--and it's exhausting being her fan. Her one Grand Slam semifinal appearance was at the Australian Open--she really likes the Rebound Ace surface. Schnyder has also had an impressive season opening, defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Hong Kong exhibition match (where most of the top players were), and losing very respectfully to Kim Clijsters in three sets. If Schnyder is on, her game is a joy to watch, and both her first and second serves are quite under-rated.

Shahar Peer

Peer has a low profile, but her game gets better every tournament, and her mental toughness is impressive.

Anna Chakvetadze
The Russian teenager has had quite a bit of trouble with her emotions on the court, but she appears to be maturing, and she has one hell of a game. Anything can happen.

Serena Williams

The former world number one and two-time Australian Open winner says she is ready to climb back to the top of the rankings, and it always foolish to dismiss a Williams sister, no matter what is going on in her life. Plagued with injury for so long, Williams has been training hard, and the tournament in Melbourne will give us all a good look at how she is doing.

Nadia Petrova

Last year was supposed to be Petrova's big year. The Russian who used to be considered the one most likely to break through took a long time to finally make a splash on the tour, mostly because of mental fragility. When she finally made the splash, it was on the clay courts last year, and she was considered possibly the only woman who could give Henin-Hardenne a run for the French Open title. Then a terrible thing happend: Petrova was injured during a French Open practice session, and consequently lost in the first round. Nothing went too well for her after that, but she appears to be fresh again, and is definitely Slam material. Unfortunately, Petrova is suffering from a thigh strain at the moment, but we all hope she will be okay for Melbourne.

Other players worth watching are Dinara Safina, Na Li, Marion Bartoli (though she seems to be in a bit of a slump), and the always-dangerous Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Top players to watch:

With Lindsay Davenport out of tennis and Justine Henin-Hardenne out of the Australian Open, there are now three top contenders for the title:

Amelie Mauresmo

Mauresmo, the defending champion, had a great year last year, winning both in Australia and at Wimbledon, and defeating Henin-Hardenne both times. She failed to defend her Year-End Championships title, however, losing to Henin-Hardenne in the final. Henin-Hardenne was considered the favorite going into the Australian Open, but now she is not a factor, and Mauresmo has to be considered a top contender. Not many titles are defended in the WTA anymore, but if Mauresmo's bad shoulder doesn't act up, her chances are good.

Kim Clijsters

This is Clijsters' last season to play tennis, which gives her a psychological edge, something she has lacked in the past. She was in Grand Slam final after Grand Slam final for years, losing all of them (most of them to Henin-Hardenne) until she finally won the 2005 U.S. Open. Clijsters is an amazing athlete and a wonderful tennis player. She would probably love to go out with more than one Slam, no matter how much she talks about looking forward to retiring and starting a family. Right now, she is the tour's great under-achiever (not unlike Davenport, but at least she has 3 Slams and an Olympic gold medal), and a win in Australia would be very nice for her. Last year, after defeating Hingis in the quarterfinals, she had to withdraw because of injury.

Maria Sharapova
Sharapova's 2006 U.S. Open win was clean and stylish. She dismissed Henin-Hardenne in straight sets in the final, and--considering her remarkable performance throughout the tournament--probably surprised no one. Having another Slam to her credit has probably taken a lot of pressure off of Sharapova, whose rise to fame after her 2004 Wimbledon win was rapid and dramatic. Her athleticism has improved, as has her court variety. She cannot move around like a Mauresmo or a Clijsters--maybe she never will--but she has a power and focus that can get her out of a lot of tricky situations.

Happy Birthday, David Bowie!

Still the greatest--many happy returns.

"Our daughters are our only economic asset"

In the past, Afganistan exerienced a serious drought every couple of decades, but now there have two in a row, and 25 million villagers have been affected. Arranged marriages are against both civil and Islamic law in Afghanistan, but that has not stopped a number of families from selling their daughters in marriage in order to survive. The girls range in age from 8 to about 15, and some of the husbands are also very young.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

The L Word season 4 premieres--Ladies, start your washing machines!

Last week, I wondered whether the season 4 opening episode of The L Word would be as confusing and ridiculous as the season 3 opener was. It wasn't. There was no great, unexplained passage of time, no extreme change of personality, no blatant contradiction between character and behavior.

I did have trouble hearing some of the lines, though, and since my hearing is good, I have to wonder what was going on. I suspect some of the lines were mumbled, especially by Shane, who spent the entire episode loaded and wandering around looking like she was five minutes from death. This is the second time The L Word has given us an episode in which Shane consumes massive amounts of mind-altering substances and wanders the streets. Shane's ex, Cherie (played wonderfully by Rosanna Arquette) is now more or less her keeper, since Shane is presumably heartbroken over her split from Carmen and no longer in love with Cherie.

Meanwhile, we found Helena so delirious over being cut off from the family's millions that she had to stop and think whether she could actually survive very long if she sold her $300,000 car. Jenny told Max it was over; she has taken up with the woman she met at Shane's and Carmen's non-wedding. Max joined a trannie support group, Alice went on the hunt for a woman whose chart (as in "The Chart") constellation was bigger than Shane's, and Kit's decision to have an abortion turned very ugly when the clinic staff ambushed her with anti-choice speeches and literature.

All of these goings-on paled, however, next to the Bette/Tina storyline. It didn't take Tina long to track down Bette, who had run off with their baby because Tina's very new boyfriend decided he might want to marry Tina and adopt Angelica. As I wrote last week, any man (or woman) who would suggest such a thing is 1. extremely immature, and 2. narcissistic and heartless. Any woman with an ounce of sense and a desire for her child's best interests would have shown him the door immediately. But not Tina.

The soapy aspect of The L Word is the show's main aspect, and the stolen baby routine is a new low. Bette, of course, hired the same horrific attorney who represented Tina in the couple's first split, and she talked them into working it out rather than subject themselves to the vast publicity that would follow. Oh, publicite!

It wasn't a bad opener, as these things go. But the writers and producers have given us a strong message: The L Word is all soap now. If one episode delivers kidnapping, extreme substance abuse and abortion, we know what we are dealing with.

On the bright side, Marina returned, if only for one episode (maybe two?), and--compared with the craziness all around her--she actually appeared stable. I missed Marina. A show like The L Word needs at least one overly intense freak show who isn't Tina.

Next week, Bette starts a new job and encounters a character played by Cybil Shepherd, so at least there will be a storyline that doesn't involve drugs and kidnapping. Or at least, I hope so.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The election may be over

But this animation, which I forgot to post earlier, is still relevant, and quite effective.

By the way, the great Project for the OLD American Century, which created this animation, is badly in need of funds. You can donate here.

Quote of the week

"What we really expect out of the Democrats is for them to treat us as they would like to have been treated."
Rep. John Boehner, new House Minority Leader

Yet another version of "Men can't help themselves"

A forum discussion of the Peter Bodo speculation on the marriage of Justine Henin-Hardenne and the sexist underpinnings of that speculation led to about what I expected--a few women saying yes, of course, we have to all worry about Pierre-Yves Hardenne's "pride" because he is a man, but no one would give a damn if the situation were reversed. But also, as I expected, it led to a lot more people saying that is is "understandable" that Hardenne would find the situation intolerable because he is a man and men cannot stand having their wives earn more money or be more important.

A few posters allowed that such a condition may not be "right," but it is reality--men just can't help feeling the way they do because of--wait for it--society's expectations. In other words, according to these posters, men as a class do not have either the courage or the creativity to self-actualize, but must be dragged through life as victims of gender role discrimination. Boo. Hoo.

There was even some feeling of contempt for Hardenne--and even for his wife's coach--that they sit in the stand and wait for their hard-working "meal ticket" to come through. First of all, Henin-Hardenne is making all of that money largely because of her coach, who--for the terminally ignorant--does have a job: He is a tennis coach. I couldn't resist bringing up the fact that no one complained that Pete Sampras's wife was sitting in the stands waiting for her meal ticket to come home with a truck of money, and that no one would complain if any wife of modest means sat in the stands and watched her husband work hard. Because men are supposed to be meal tickets, and women are supposed to be dependent on them.

Sure enough, several posters came forward and said that it is "acceptable" for women to look at men as meal tickets--society doesn't think badly of them for it, but it is unacceptable for men to perceive women as such.

First of all, our society does not accept women as recipients of male meal tickets--it assigns the role to them as a way of perpetuating the patriarchal structure of the culture. And even when women accept the role of subordinate and dependent, that same society calls them whores and gold-diggers. It is only when a woman has a child that she may possibly be spared this suspicion, because then she becomes the "madonna" half of the madonna-whore syndrome.

Of course, I could not say any of this. I would have had just as much success posting the front page of the New York Times in Swahili. Because the concept of sexism is lost on an amazing number of reasonably intelligent people in this, the 18th Century.

Language, including names, is as important to feminism as it is to anything

As those who have read this blog for years know, I am continually irritated by listening to the Senate and House roll calls and being constantly reminded that the married female Senators and Congresswomen have chosen--I'm sure, for the sake of their C-Span profiles--to be called "Mrs. Senator" rather than "Ms. Senator." Even Barbara Boxer is called "Mrs. Boxer" when asked for a vote. The unmarried women are referred to as "Ms." which does absolutely nothing to make marital status irrelevant--it only changes the honorific of the unmarried from "Miss" to "Ms.", subverts the entire point of the "Ms." honorific, and slaps feminism in the face. The only married woman in the Senate who is referred to as "Ms." is Mary Landrieu, who--quick, get the smelling salts!--does not use her husband's name.

This may seem like an insignificant thing to many people, but I was one of the women who fought hard to eliminate marital status from a woman's honorific, and while there is nothing we can do about non-feminist women who still choose to announce their marital status to the world (many of them incorrectly, I might add: "Mrs. Mary Smith" has always been incorrect; only "Mrs. John Smith" is correct, repulsive though it might be), we have a right to be upset over so-called feminist women who believe they have to literally broadcast their marital status in order to please constituents. Sorry, but as far as I am concerned, no true feminist would sell out like that.

Then there is the matter of the disappearing name. Hillary Rodham became Hillary Rodham Clinton, which meant she would, of course, become Hillary Clinton. Teresa Heinz became Teresa Heinz Kerry (granted, Heinz was a husband's name, too, but it was the name she was using). Elizabeth Anania became Elizabeth Edwards after her son died and she retired from her legal practice. It is said, in fact, that Edwards used her "maiden name" (don't even get me started again on how offensive that term is) "professionally," which means that when she was not at work, she was Mrs. John Edwards, anyway.

Can anyone imagine Bill Clinton deciding to call himself "Bill Rodham" in order to further his wife's career? Or John Kerry calling himself "John Heinz" or "John Thierstein Simões-Ferreira" because his wife had political ambitions?

Be a patriot--send your mail to the White House

Don't wait for George W. Bush to seek your mail, say some activists--go ahead and send it directly to him. Junk mail, letters and bulletins you've already read, send it all. Here is the address:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

And, as one savvy activist pointed out, be sure to put 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as the return address, also.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The double standard is making me crazy--leave Britney alone!

If I had a dollar for every time a male rock or pop star got drunk and passed out, I wouldn't be here typing this: I'd be enjoying my brownstone in the Village or my flat in Paris. Popular musician gets drunk or otherwise loaded and passes out--business as usual.

But not Britney Spears. Oh, no. When Britney hits the bottle, we have to hear about it over and over and over again on every "news" channel on television. Interviews with experts. Speculation. Career analyses. Nightly reports by Keith Olbermann.

The GoGos had to endure something similar. Members of the group liked to indulge in a variety of pleasures, and--since they were not men--their behavior was often talked about more than their music. Only recently, I saw a short profile of the GoGos on the Web, and the last line was, "They were known for their hard-partying lifestyle as much as their music," or something like that.

If Britney Spears has a problem with alcohol--and it appears she does--that is not good, especially considering the fact that she has a child. But a large number of the great rock drunks of my day had children, too, and no one seemed to care. Many have children now, and still, no one seems to care.

The rule for women rockers and pop stars is: Be our collective slut, honey, but don't do anything unladylike like get drunk and pass out on New Year's Eve.

Desperate times call for desperate measures

Talk about surge.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Wherein I deal with one of my pet peeves

In a letter to the editor. The item was given a new title and was also placed on the corrections page, but "disinterest" is not the "better" word, which implies there is a choice.

So what about Pete Sampras's wife?

A large image of Justine Henin-Hardenne is displayed outside the Family Circle Cup stadium near Charleston, South Carolina. Henin-Hardenne won the tournament in 2005 as part of an impressive comeback from serious illness and injury.

World number one tennis player Justine Henin-Hardenne, always a magnet for controversy, has withdrawn from all of the Australian tournaments, including the Australian Open, where she was seeded number one. The only explanation she has given is that the withdrawals are for "personal, family reasons."

Speculation abounds. On the main women's tennis board, people think there is an impending divorce between Henin-Hardenne and her husband, Pierre-Yves Hardenne. There has long been speculation about Hardenne's sexual orientation, so people are having a field day. Over at, however, columnist Peter Bodo has taken a different path of speculation. He also thinks that the problem is with the tennis star's marriage. Bodo, however--who duly noted that Hardenne was not in attendance at the French Open, which his wife won--suggests that Hardenne simply couldn't deal with being a sports superstar's add-on husband, and wanted a life. Complicating the matter is the fact that Henin-Hardenne's long-time coach, Carlos Rodriguez, is also a very, very important person in her life, serving as a mentor, friend and father figure.

There were many comments to Bodo's post, but what was disturbing was that only one commenter mentioned the obvious: What if the tables were turned, and Hardenne were the tennis star? Would anyone be speculating that his wife was leaving because she didn't want to be an add-on?

It's a question worth asking at a time when wives are still expected to be add-ons. Pete Sampras married in 2000, when he was still competing, and he and his wife bragged about how she had given up her career to support his. No one said "How can she stand being an add-on?"

Other male tennis stars have married while they were still competing. Andre Agassi married Steffi Graf, but since she is considered one of the greatest players, male or female, of all time, there was really no issue; Graf had already retired. Lleyton Hewitt married Australian actor Bec Cartright, but she has not returned to acting since she had the couple's first child.

In 1979, English tennis player John Lloyd married tennis star Chris Evert, and, as his own ranking plummeted, he was constantly referred to as Evert's add-on, and sports writers discussed how much his pride must hurt. It is hard to imagine that anyone would have cared if the situation had been the other way around, and Evert's career had waned while Lloyd's expanded.

In 2003, women's star Lindsay Davenport married former All-American Jon Leach, brother of player Rick Leach. Leach was not talked about as an add-on, but that is probably because Davenport has never been a "star" in the way other famous athletes are. In fact, an argument could be made that Davenport is the least celebrity-like of any famous athlete of our time. The ever-offensive Pam Shriver, however, did worry about the possibility that someone might call Jon Leach "Mr. Davenport."