Saturday, December 31, 2005

It's a little late for that

CNN tallies the number and type of brand name-drops in 2005's rap hits:

It was unclear how many of the product mentions were paid placements -- advertising industry analysts quoted in AdAge said that revealing such a deal would likely undermine both the rapper and the brand's credibility.

Friday, December 30, 2005

"Band of Siblings" doesn't have the same ring, but...

I was looking around the Swing State Project and came across this post about an up-and-coming political organization that aims to help elect Democrat veterans who run for Congress in 2006. It's a cool idea, and a great way to emphasize that the military isn't an arm of the Republican party.

But aren't there females in the military? Aren't there female Democrat war veterans running for congress in 2006? Yeah, I thought so. What's depressing is that either no one considered the possibility of a female war veteran candidate, or they thought this wouldn't bother anyone. It bothers me. Ms. Duckworth is a war veteran and a woman, and she's faced with an unfair situation here. She either has to not participate or pretend to be one of the boys. Serving in the military has not made her any more male. It has demonstrated that she has some characteristics traditionally assigned to men - heroism, discipline, and physical strength. She's also demonstrated that assuming that these characteristics are the sole domain of men is preposterous. Calling this organization Band of Brothers obliterates that message, and insults the courage and hard work it took her to demonstrate it.

While I'm on the subject, I should point out that Broadsheet recently shed (a little bit) of light on Duckworth's views on choice. A quote:

"I think that most people in our district think it's not the place of government to make that wrenching personal decision between a woman and her doctor. We need to increase the amount of information about adoption out there."

While it doesn't sound like she's very comfortable with the idea of abortion, she certainly doesn't sound like she's about to make the decision for anyone else. I'm not going to demand that lawmakers are cuckoo for abortion, as long as they allow it to remain legal, so I find this to be a satisfactory response.

Storm's a-brewin'

After watching the rather anemic fight against the new big Wal Mart in Pullman rage for months, I was surprised to hear that another supercenter location in Moscow is being proposed. Surprised and dismayed. I am not very familiar with what it takes to stop a proposed Wal-Mart, but I plan on becoming so. On January 9th, at 7 pm in the 1912 Center, the Moscow Civic Association is hosting a public forum with the topic How will Wal-Mart Affect Moscow's Economy? I plan on attending, and encourage any Muscovites who read this to also try and make it. Check out nosuperwalmart.com for more info on the issue and the community response that is forming.

I'm going to keep my thoughts to myself at this point, but expect more soon.

Govtrack.us

Is stalking your favorite US Congressmen and women taking up too much of your free time? Govtrack.us will monitor the voting records of any US legislators you choose. Track legislation by subject (abortion, health care, etc), or a particular bill. Data can be aggregated by RSS or checked on the web. Bonus: creepy all-seeing eye logo.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

What He Said

Great, comprehensive post guest-blogged on Andrew Sullivan's page today refuting the piss-poor arguments put up against gay marriage.

What if Rural Mattered?

This question (from the Blog for Rural America) brings up a lot of different thoughts that I have had, though I have hardly unified them into a personal theory of what rural America needs. This is an issue I am very close to, though, and I'm more interested in the reality than being absolutely right in this post, so please leave your objections or questions in the comments below.

I grew up in a rural area, and still live here, though I don't think it's where I'll stay. I am not exactly an outdoorsy person and think a city would have a lot more to offer me recreationwise, etc. What I'm getting at is that I don't romanticize rural America, and I don't think there's any sort of nebulous good that comes from people living out here. Rural doesn't matter to me per se, and I don't know why ruralness in itself should be a big concern of the US government. I do know that there are lots of people who prefer rural living, and that a lot of natural resource-based industries (farming, logging, mining) require that people live in rural areas. There will always be rural Americans, and it goes without saying that all American citizens deserve equal access to opportunities.

I am close to a social worker who was recently deeply involved in the issue of rural homelessness, and it's given me an appreciation for the unique problem of rural poverty. A lot of people are stuck in dying communities that can't economically support their populations, and their physical distance from economic empowerment is a very big obstacle. It's a sad state of affairs and not being properly addressed by urban policy-makers (or me, for that matter - watch for a more detailed and informative post by him later).

There are a lot of things about rural living for its own sake that are very costly, however. If you drive 60 miles on your road and don't see anyone, that's a lot of infrastructure going to accomodate one driver per hour. I know a lot of people who are well-educated and very employable who choose to live a 60 minute's drive from their place of employment (and in a rural area, that's probably a 45-50 mile drive). They pay for it in gas mileage and commute time, but taxpayers also are funding the roads they drive on and the education their children get. It strikes me as an enormous waste of resources for the sake of what is essentially a luxury - the privilege of living comfortably in a rural area. People can spend their money how they choose, but the government does not need to devote extra resources to the relatively well-off simply because they want to have a nice view.

I'm also not completely enthralled with the idea of the family farmer having enormous amounts of resources dumped in their direction so they may live their romantic farming lifestyles. I'm not coming down in favor of big agribusiness here, because I know that it saps the resources of government as well, and to the rich, as well as all the environmental problems it brings up, etc. What I am saying is that if being a small family farmer is economically unfeasible, I am not sure why the government needs to prop the idea up. If the small family farm produces commodities people are willing to pay for (or commodities the government is willing to create policy to encourage people to pay for), then I'm all for it. What I am not interested in is propping up a romanticized lifestyle that is an economic drain and keeps people isolated. Medium-sized food production operations have the potential to offer both environmentally and socially responsible goods while maximizing profit. It sounds great to me, even if it means fewer red barns in the countryside. It makes me want to scream when people bring up agritourism and organic farming as the answers to rural America's problems. These are boutique industries that are supported by the wealthy who can afford to patronize them, and can never support the amount of rural people who are looking for a source of economic power.

There is a certain segment of rural Americans who are demanding too much of the rest of the country. Taxpayers have no responsibility to subsidize your MaryJane Butters lifestyle. On the other hand, there are many more rural Americans who are not getting what the rest of the country has promised them. I should say again that I don't pretend to be able to authoritatively separate fact from fantasy on this issue, and I can't provide the crunchy economic and policy details that show what's what in rural economies. If we're going to be serious about fixing the real and heartbreaking problem of rural poverty, we have to separate the mythology from the reality.

Rural isn't what matters, it's rural Americans.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Keeping abreast of the threat of intergalactic terrorism

Washington monthly had a quote today:

Responding, Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the department is prioritizing resources and programs based on "today's greatest threats."

"Rather than looking backward at yesterday's threats, we are building upon what we have already accomplished to meet evolving threats," said Knocke.

This quote made me think of a famous political speech.

My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball, but
tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward, upward not forward,
and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.
-- Kodos gives a speech, "Treehouse of Horror VII"


I can't be the only one who's suspicious.

Early Friday Food Blogging: Chicken Thighs with Roasted Sweet Vegetables



This is another recipe I saw in passing on Food Network months ago, but never got around to trying. Once we got around to tackling it, we made quite a few changes, and the results were fantastic. I'm always amazed at the profoundly deep tastes that result from roasting just about anything, and this is the best example I've made yet.

12 oz spicy italian sausage, either loose or if in casings, chopped into pieces
4 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1-2 fennel bulbs, quartered
1 small red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
5-6 shallots, peeled
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 450F. Heat an ovenproof vessel on the stovetop at medium-high heat, and add sausage to pan. Cook for a few seconds, allowing oil to seep out into the pan. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to the pan with the sausage. Brown meats on all sides and remove from pan to a dish. Dispose of drippings except about 2 tablespoons which should be left in the pan and the pan replaced on the hot burner. Add pepper, red pepper and fennel to oil and cook for 30-60 seconds. Pour in white wine and deglaze the brown bits stuck to the bottom. Burned chunks may be removed and thrown away. Allow about half of the volume of the wine and oil to evaporate off and then add remaining ingredients. Coat with hot oil and wine and cook on high heat for 1-2 minutes. Replace the chicken and sausage in the pan with the vegetables and put the pan in the hot oven. Allow to cook for 20-30 minutes until edges of vegetables are browning and chicken is cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to stand about 5 minutes before serving.

PS - Doug, the enameled cast iron pot was perfect for this and I love it. Thanks so much!
PPS - If you, like Alton Brown, are just here for the food, check out Orexia.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Abstinence ONLY

Something Awful is doing a good job of thinking outside the box when it comes to winning the culture wars:

Christian abstinence only educators really need to wake up and turn back to the science they have spent so much time condemning. The scripture may have a lot of insight about not churning the butter with a fellow teen, but with science they could make people infinitely more abstinent. They could neutralize their will to procreate, flatline their sex drives with chemicals or even develop some sort of time-based asexual reproduction. I wonder if asexual echinoderms fear God's wrath every time they reproduce through fission.


They're not kidding when they call it the "awful link of the day."

Friday, December 23, 2005

What the Hell?

From USA Today:

The Senate, with only Sen. John Warner, R-Va., present, approved the Feb. 3 expiration date four hours after the House, with a nearly empty chamber, bowed to Rep. James Sensenbrenner's refusal to agree to a six-month extension.

Congress can pass legislation with only a few lawmakers present as long as no member of the House or Senate objects. The Senate session lasted four minutes.


One Senator is able to pass a controversial piece of legislation on his own after everyone's gone home for Christmas. Is that weird or what?

The Plate is Political

Red State Rebels gives an update this morning on the status of Albertson's in Idaho. Apparently it's going to stay put, which is great to hear.

Later in the post, Julie goes on toe disparage Winco, and I am going to have to take issue with this, because I am a big fan of Winco. For anyone who might not have one in their area, Winco is a cost-cutting supermarket that doesn't go the extra mile to make your shopping experience cozy, but it really makes up for it in price and selection. In Moscow, it really is the best place to get most of your groceries. I'm pretty selective about food, and other than the Co-op, it has the best produce in town, a huge bulk food selection, and the best prices and selection on just about everything else. I do generally buy my meat at Rosauers, which is one of very few local grocery stores to actually have a butcher's counter instead of pre-packaged meats.

Another great thing about Winco is that it is very employee-friendly, with benefits and stock options for employees (even some part-time employees). In a country that is getting less and less worker-friendly every day (my own sister works almost full-time at McDonald's in that limbo where your primary employer refuses to give you benefits), Winco is a great business to support.

There's also the irksome political habits of Albertson's, which recently pulled an issue of Seventeen magazine off its shelves because it contained an educational illustration of a vulva.

Winco may not concentrate much on the tasteful display of their wares, or accept credit cards, but I'm happy to overlook these inconveniences in favor of supporting a worker-friendly company.

(I'm cross-posting this at Orexia, my food blog, since it ties the two blogs together so neatly.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Mayan Apocalypse Now!

I think Mel Gibson's new movie looks totally sweet. I'm sure there's some atrocious aspect of it that will offend my liberal sensibilities, but I'm also sure that I will be able to ignore it.

Oops

I installed haloscan to manage my comments and trackback, and it turns out it can't read any of the old comments. That's why old conversations have disappeared, but I still look forward to new ones, even on old posts.

I am not Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton is one man. He's not the President anymore. He does not represent the half(ish) of the voters in this country that vote Democrat. In general, I am not aware of the things he says or does, and even when I am, I don't necessarily agree with them. So seriously, conservatives, can you give it a rest?

FYI, I found this link on Fark, and even they were able to debunk it on the first post. That's a pretty good indication that the defense of the NSA wiretaps needs some improvement if Bush is going to make it through this one. That is, if people happen to care whether the President follows the laws, and I'm not convinced they all do.

This just in: Shakespeare's Sister is just as annoyed with this phenomenon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Abortion Crutch

I got into a little tussle on Feministe yesterday in regard to where the right to abortion comes from and what it's good for. I wrote up a comment that I thought merited a post here on f-words, so if you feel some context is missing, check out the thread, or leave me a comment if I said something that seems insane, evil or confusing.

The major cultural problem I’m talking around - of which abortion is just a facet - is the recognition (or not) of female autonomy and its larger part in achieving gender equity. Disallowing women to choose abortion is a symptom of a paternalistic culture rather than a cause.

Some pro-choice advocates will argue their position not from the freedom of choice perspective, but from a freedom from pregnancy perspective. What I hear is that pregnancy and childbearing is a hassle/tragedy for women, and that women need access to abortion to circumvent this hassle/tragedy and really have power in society. Maybe I mishear, but that sounds like it’s heavily relying not on the way in which people think of women, but in the physical ability to erase problematic aspects of femaleness, to achieve equality. It’s not the fact that women aren’t always pregnant that makes it wrong to discriminate based on gender. We as a society should know enough about the moral equality of every human being that even if abortion were impossible, we could make progress on the front of gender equity. Abortion is used as a moral crutch where we make women more like men instead of appreciating the fundamental equality of the genders. Women being the ones who manufacture babies may have contributed heavily, in more ignorant times, to inequality but I like to think we’re not so ignorant now. For instance, we know goddamn well that women do not need to be the assumed primary caregivers, but the idea persists. It needs to be disattached from the fact that women are the child-bearers, because one does not imply the other. Relying on abortion/birth control to level the playing field keeps the ideas linked.

Idealism aside, I realize that I can't sit down and talk everyone into gender equity, and that's why reproductive rights are so important in the present; in a backward society, being a child-bearer is a disadvantage, and often a major one. (For the record I personally derive a huge benefit from birth control, so there's also that reason for my championing of it. But I'm speaking here in terms of its function in the acheivement of equality.) Women deserve the ability to fight for themselves and their happiness with whatever is available, and that's why I am so staunchly pro-choice and vocal about reproductive rights. But in the end, it's convincing the world that women can and should have the power to exercise those rights that's important, less than the specific things you do with them.

Progressive Idaho

It somehow escaped my notice until I sat down this morning to read yesterday's newspaper that Idaho's own Larry Craig was one of the four Senate Republicans to stand up against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.

I have a bad habit of using my residency in Idaho as an excuse for political inaction. It's the most conservative state in the Union, which makes voting feel like an exercise in futility. I don't know what makes it hard for me to remember that we have two congresspeople (for all their warts) who have stridently opposed the Patriot Act, my own little Moscow was host to a major civil rights battle around Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, and that even city politics are quite colorful.

Self-Defeating Democrats

Via Atrios, I read this how-to document by Peter Daou describing the correct way to go about letting the wiretap scandal go down the drain just like Valerie Plame, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, abstinence education, faith-based funding, tax cuts for the rich, an unnecessary, poorly-planned, prohibitively expensive war ...okay, I'll try to stay on subject here.

Shouldn't liberals quit throwing their hands up in the air and declaring progress impossible? Isn't that a little counter-productive?

Not that I know what else we should do. I do know that liberals need to stop licking our wounds about the GOP having Karl Rove on their side, mastering the framing issues, and kowtowing Democrat politicians. A plague of wussiness seems like a much too simple explanation for Democrat woes. What is really going on here?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Speaking of "Breathtaking Inanity"

From CNN's front page ~11:20

A Pennsylvania school district cannot mention the concept of intelligent design in its biology classes, a federal judge has ruled.


But the ruling actually throws out the policy requiring the teaching of ID in science classrooms in favor of one that forbids the teaching of ID as science. The CNN blurb makes it sound like ID is being censored instead of discredited.

Breaking the Rules

Josh Marshall has a good post today in response to today's William Kristol and Gary Schmitt column in the Washington Post. Kristol and Schmitt bring up the possibility that the President may find him or herself in a situation where he or she is morally obligated to break a law for the good of the country. They then argue that inherent in the President's powers is the ability to set the law aside in such a situation, and do what the country needs.

Where Marshall deviates from Kristol and Schmitt is on the issue of whether the President is given this power, and what the consequences ought to be. Whether or not you're the President of the United States, if a you see that you must break the rules to make the morally correct decision, you ought to do it. You might be breaking the rules in error, and making the wrong decision - the rules are there because they generally govern what is moral behavior, after all - but that is something for society to judge, not the individual. That is, as Marshall says when recounting an argument made by Thomas Jefferson:

If you see the logic of Jefferson's argument it is not that the president is above the law or that he can set aside laws, it is that the president may have a moral authority or obligation to break the law in the interests of the Republic itself -- subject to submitting himself for punishment for breaking its laws, even in its own defense. Jefferson's argument was very much one of executive self-sacrifice rather than prerogative.


When you break the rules, you risk the possibility of doing so in error, or of the rule-makers not understanding that a particular benefit outweighs the drawbacks of breaking the rule itself. This applies equally to the President as it does any other US citizen, and to argue otherwise is to ask that the President be held completely unaccountable.

I should point out that this argument applies to the NSA wiretap business as much as it applies to arguments about torture and ticking time bombs (as I discussed previously). In the unlikely event that a person knows that torturing a detainee will bring vitally important information to our country, they may decide to do it, but they should always be held accountable for breaking the law. If it is ultimately found that torture or wiretaps brought enough benefit to Americans to outweigh the detrimental effects of breaking the laws, we have presidential pardons for that.

I shouldn't have to point out that the laws we have exist to preserve the safety of this country. Much more often than not, breaking the law is a danger to our society. Unless the circumstances of these wiretaps are extremely dire, I think it much more likely that Bush has endangered our contry by breaking the law than he has preserved our safety. This is why we impeach Presidents who break the law.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Tammy Duckworth for Congress!

Speaking of hot ladies, Tammy Duckworth has caught my eye today, and I can't stop ogling her determination and credentials. From yesterday's press release:


Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates today announced her candidacy to represent Illinois’ Sixth District in the U.S. Congress, saying she wants to continue fighting for her country by providing new leadership and greater accountability in confronting tough choices facing the nation.

...

Duckworth, a member of the Illinois Army National Guard who lost both her legs
when the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting was shot down near Baghdad in
November 2004, began considering a run for public office while recovering from her
injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in suburban Maryland.

...

Notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. made the wrong decision in invading Iraq,
Duckworth said we cannot just pull up stakes at this point and leave the country
vulnerable to terrorists and even greater chaos. She favors a three-pronged strategy for withdrawal that differs sharply with the Bush administration’s vague, open-ended
policy:
• Better and more aggressive preparation of Iraqi security forces
• Making it clear to the Iraqi people that we will withdraw and have no interest in
being an occupation force
• Establishing clear benchmarks for achieving certain security goals tied to
reductions in U.S. forces.



Yow! A female solider returned from combat with ideas, zeal, and courage. Her candidacy is in its infancy, but I am very excited to see its progress.

If I may gush with premature excitement, can anyone say first female president?

Your Body Image is Your Responsibility

Kate Taylor has a great article in Slate today on the subject of anorexia and its causes. A recent Newsweek feature has detailed the genetic factors that contribute to anorexia, and caused a bit of a stir, because it is so emphatic about the genetic factors that cause anorexia. I haven't read the article myself, but from what I've heard, it's a heavily nature-based argument, meant to subvert the nurture one that says that anorexia is caused by images of thin women proliferated and glorified in the media.

Haven't we been over this before? A genetic factor in the development of disease does not mean behavior and culture do not contribute to it.

Of course there is a genetic influence on who becomes anorexic. Starving oneself is really difficult as well as unhealthy. Given the very real glorification of thinness in America, you'd think that anorexics would be a dime a dozen if it were a simple matter of low-self esteem and poor body image. Anorexia requires obsessive and highly-controlled behavior unseen in most people. I can't be the only one who hardly raised an eyebrow when I heard that anorexia arises in people whose families have a history of obsessive and compulsive behavior.

Taylor says,

Interestingly, the most incisive interpretations of anorexia often fail to stick in the public consciousness. Two doctors who treated anorexics in Toronto in the 1930s left behind a remarkably astute description of the type: "Most of them are intelligent, some to a marked degree; all are highly sensitive," they wrote. "Usually they are impulsive, willful, introspective, and emotionally unstable." Then, refuting the cliché that anorexics are ruled by insecurity, the doctors suggested instead that they're driven by positive desires: "They have a strong desire for prominence and dominance."


Take this into consideration, and it's not surprising that obsessive behavior is chanelled into an arena which is going to bring success: looks. If thin is pretty, and pretty is successful, a success-obsessed, prominence-desiring obsessive compulsive is going to be thin.

Taylor then addresses another aspect of the common wisdom about anorexia:


From my own experience (I first had the disease when I was 10) and those of other people I've talked to, this last observation is one of the most important—and least acknowledged. It's easier to see anorexics as victims, whether of social forces or biology, than to imagine that they derive pleasant sensations from their behavior. But they do. The disease often makes them feel special and unique. Until we discard the victim model and admit that anorexia, though destructive, often fulfills a deep personal need, we can't begin to investigate what makes a person vulnerable to it. Evidence that anorexia now affects an unexpectedly wide range of people provides an impetus for a new, more complex theory of the illness. But any such theory must acknowledge the willful aspect of anorexia, instead of trying to turn the disease into something as random and involuntary as a cold.


My reaction to this is more complex, because I think it's a little heartless to say that anorexics aren't victims. They may be somewhat culpable in their sickness - I think we all know they're not automatons obeying every dictate of their genes and the media - but this doesn't make them less sick or less a victim of unfortunate circumstances. Inheriting compulsive tendencies and living in a country that glorifies thinness is an unfortunate lot to have. But, just as inheriting genes that predispose a person to heart disease and living in a fast food world make life tough, it doesn't mean you are any less capable of getting on a treadmill.

What doesn't help matters at all are the two ways in which we talk about anorexics. There's the hateful skinny-bitch-who-starves-herself-to-make-me-jealous comment and the pitious poor-victim-of-media comment, and you'll often hear both come from the same people at different times. Which is it? Hate or pity?

The hateful side has to stem almost entirely from jealousy. She's starving herself to make me jealous, and it's working. If you find yourself thinking this, please stop. Anorexia is not a pathology of which to be jealous, and allowing yourself to be dragged down by envy of it only helps tighten the stranglehold that unrealistic body images have on the throat of American female body image.

The pity side seems better-placed, but let's not forget that anorexia isn't the product of a patriarchal conspiracy theory (I'm looking at you, Naomi Wolf), and it's not like the weather: it has to be made to happen.

The crappy thing about mental illness is that even when it makes it harder for you to make good decisions, you still have to do it. Stagnating in victimhood is tempting, but it's not responsible and not acceptable. Wallowing in self-pity over your big tummy is bad for you, and it's bad for everyone else. I think we should know by now that neither the market nor the media is going to help us out here - we have to fix our body image problems ourselves, and against adversity. Ads with somewhat real-sized women in them are actually selling "skin-firming" cream. Girls, Inc. is selling you boosted self-esteem to get you to buy overpriced dolls.

We know better, so let's not hide behind our victimhood to create more victims.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

I don't have anything to add

I just think this post by David Sirota is fantastic. And depressing.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Just Great

Guest blogger at Washington Monthly Hilzoy gets to the bottom of how the torture bill deal was passed. It's too bad that what's at the bottom of it all is so low. If evidence obtained through torture is going to be admitted into tribunals (not even courts!), this is a huge step backward. It will only encourage torture, and let useless "evidence" into the tribunals to boot. Imagine being convicted (or put to death) by a secret tribunal on the basis of a statement extracted from you by torture.

I'm incredulous that this administration has taken upon itself to construct its own reality, but has decided to make the world a worse place, rather than a better one.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Fleshbot Faux Pas

I realize that Fleshbot isn't the most female-friendly site there is, but I find the fact that it celebrates female prison porno flicks on the same day that this post appears on Broadsheet a little yucky.

Odd Coincidence

It occurred to me as it did Andrew Sullivan that the torture bill deal might have something to do with McCain's political future. My cynical suspicion is that McCain promised to pardon any top administration officials that would be in trouble under this new law, in exchange for their allowing it to pass and backing him in the next election. It's a really revolting idea, but those are the type I tend to have when I'm thinking about this administration and its politicking. Somewhat less revolting, but still unsettling, is the idea that I'm thinking like Andrew Sullivan.

Cautious Optimism

If this is what it looks like, it is really fantastic news. Maybe I'm too skeptical for my own good, but I find it suspicious that there is no mention of what the "deal" actually was - who gave what up. They don't come right out and say that the bill is to go through entirely intact with no modifications. In any case, I'm glad to see this administration is at all concerned with dignity.

UPDATE: D'oh. The article says that CIA interrogators can say they were just following orders and get off the hook. Weak sauce.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

If only women had viewing windows built into their abdomens

Since about the age of fourteen, if I ever complain to someone older than me that I am tired or nauseous, or happen to darken the doorway of a health clinic with a sore throat or cough, I have been accused of being pregnant. I can't count the number of times that I've been tested for pregnancy, but I know it's many more times than I've thought I was actually pregnant. "Accused" is the word I use because I feel like I have to defend myself, maybe offer evidence to show that I am not pregnant, or let someone in on exactly how my sex life is going lately. I don't know why anyone feels entitled to speculate about my fecundity, and I don't think I should have to tell someone that I just finished my period, so unless my biology is significantly different than that of other human females, I am not pregnant. I can't help but think that this is another symptom of a society that feels that the reproductive status of any female is communal information, and is to be communally influenced.

If I'm going to have a baby, you'll be able to figure it out soon enough. Please leave the rest to me.

Friday, December 09, 2005

What is wrong with this man?

No amount of sarcasm could ever justify this.

De-contextualizing the hijab

Feministe has a great post today in its late addition to blogging against racism. Lauren tells the story of a Muslim student who goes to school without her hijab for a day, to the surprise of her fellow students. The curiosity and positive reaction were heartening, but Lauren then goes on to make some misplaced statements about this particular occurrence and the meaning of wearing a hijab.

I swiveled around in my chair and my jaw hit the floor. Muizza stood in the doorway, in the middle of asking a question about the day’s assignment, and we charged her. Her hair hung all the way down her back, a deep cocoa brown with blond highlights and a swoop of bangs, the kind of hair girls her age would kill for.

It never occurred to me how sensual hair can be, and in my sudden mania I fired a line of questions at her: “Your parents! What did they say? Has anyone said anything to you yet? What have your other teachers said? How do you feel? Are you scared?”

She felt weird, she said. Exposed and yet empowered. No one in the school recognized her. Her mother thought it was a cool idea, but her father was a little upset. I could see why. Muizza is in general a pretty girl, but her hair was so glamorous and luxurious she surpassed beautiful and hit the mark on rock star and don’t you forget it. Her demeanor had something else to it, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I was so astounded at her courage that I couldn’t think straight.

...

She answered the other students’ questions patiently. Most of all, she emphasized one thing: Yes, she would don the hijab on Monday. Underlining this statement was that demeanor I couldn’t place before. I could look just like you, she seemed to say, but I don’t want to.

...

Although I am aware that many feminists question hijab and women’s choice to don the Muslim head scarf, and that I myself have been skeptical of the choice to adhere to religious law associated with the Taliban, consider that in America being “hijabed” may be a radical act, an assertion of identity, willful acceptance of life on the margins in a time of a seeming holy war. Consider wearing the hijab as a feminist act, a performative act of aggression against the hypersexualization of young women in America.



I'm having a hard time putting these sentences together to get a coherent picture. The student's hair is undeniably sensual, but she's being unfairly hypersexualized? The correct way to oppose being objectified and ogled is to hide your body instead of demanding accountability on the part of the oglers? This is rubbing my feminist sensibilities the wrong way. I think an important point that is being skipped over is that the student was free to choose whether or not she wore her hijab to school. It was opposed by her father, but she still was able to go to school uncovered and not really fear repercussions.

The reason I can't get behind the wearing of the hijab is not because I find the idea of a woman covering herself innately offensive. Modesty as deference to a higher power is a common thing, and seems pretty harmless to me. What I do object to is the line we've all heard about how the hijab is worn as protection against lusty, violent men. That cultural aspect of the hijab makes it not just a symbol, but a tool for the oppression of women.

In a US school, that particular meaning behind the hijab is not well-understood or accepted. No one that was mentioned asked "Muizza" if she was afraid of being sexually assaulted without her hijab. Without that particular current of fear in American culture, the hijab becomes almost solely an expression of faith.

The lesson here, when looking from the feminist angle, is not that the hijab is a feminist statement. Rather, we see that the solid feminist forces in this country have stripped the hijab of its misogynist meaning.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I'm a bad, bad liberal

Maybe I'm really thick, but I don't get what all the fuss is about in San Francisco over its police department's homemade videos.

The five videos shown at Wednesday's press conference with Fong and Mayor Gavin Newsom depict officers, some in uniform, responding to a variety of mock calls. One video shows a homeless black woman railing against white people after apparently being hit by a patrol car, followed by an officer grumbling about having to deal with her. "They get us involved with their business,'' the officer said.

Another video depicts an officer ogling a woman he has stopped for a traffic violation. One shows two officers doing Tai Chi to vaguely Asian music. The two later head into a massage parlor and radio dispatchers try unsuccessfully to reach them -- the suggestion being the two are having sex with masseuses.

One video, with the theme to the old TV show "Charlie's Angels" as the soundtrack, shows various officers saying, "Oh, captain," and flicking their tongues suggestively. The captain involved, Bruce, flicks his tongue in apparent response -- although the officer who produced the videos said Bruce had not known what the shot was to be used for.

One of those depicted in that sequence is the same homeless woman who was earlier shown yelling about white people. Another is a police officer dressed as a transgender person.

In another video, a female officer is shown putting on lipstick in the middle of a mock drug raid.


I'm not offended. The bit about the lipstick-applying police officer is rude, but doesn't seem like something to be fired over. If you take a tai chi class at your gym, you're likely to be doing it to "vaguely Asian music." People do have sex with "masseuses." These jokes are not particularly funny and not particularly off-color. Even the "grumbling" about dealing with the angry homeless person seems within the bounds of acceptable behavior to me - it's hard to deal with angry people.

Unless a major part of the picture is missing here, I can't figure out why this is such a big deal. My best theory is that SF's mayor is trying to look tough on the police department (which apparently has presided over skyrocketing homicide rates) so he can come across as actually trying to make the police department work. Dumb jokes are not the reason for a rising rate of homicide - an incompetent police department is. This all strikes me as a red herring to keep the PC folk quiet. And, as a PC sorta person, that is what I find offensive.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Justification in Hindsight

A poll (.pdf) taken in November shows that most Americans think that torture is justified in at least some rare instances. I was especially amazed to see that 86% of South Koreans are down with torture if the correct situation arises.

I think I would have a hard time answering the question given in this survey, however.

"How do you feel about the use of torture against suspected terrorists to obtain information about terrorism activities? Can that...often be justified? ...sometimes be justified? ...rarely be justified? ...never be justified? ...not sure"


When a person goes ahead and tortures a detainee, it is never a morally correct decision. The practical issues feed directly into the moral ones here, because the cruelty of torture is not worth the risk of it being fruitless. If I could be assured that my subject of interrogation would tell me how to defuse the ticking nuclear bomb planted in a daycare for the children of nice-smelling nobel prizewinners if I were to commit some horrible act on him or her, I see no problem going ahead and doing it. The point of interrogation, however, is that the interrogator does not know what the detainee knows. There really is no way to know what is going to be accomplished by practicing waterboarding on a detainee. I am not at all comfortable with the idea of torturing another human being just in case I find out something important. It may happen that good, useful information that saves many lives will be obtained through torture. In that case, retroactively, I think that torture could be considered "justified." Its potential utility, however, does not make it acceptable, and the fact that it is more likely to be useless than not, makes it evil.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

New Concepts in Contraception

I read feministing.com every day, and have been surprised to see that the general reaction to new ideas in contraception is not a good one. The spray condom is too weird, sperm-zapping sounds too scary, IUDs are scary, having a sticker on your bum isn't very cool, etc.

I realize that contraception you're comfortable with is difficult for many to find (check out The Well-Timed Period for lots of interesting reproductive health info), but I'm surprised at the almost universal negative reactions to new options and ideas in birth control. I guess I'm a bit of a technophile, and I think all of these are pretty cool-sounding. I've used a low-hormone pill for years, and it's treated me very nicely, so I haven't had many misadventures in contraception. For backup, I've been eyeing the sponge (it sounds so soft and comfy), but haven't braved it as of yet.

So, I wonder what will satisfy people when it comes to contraception. What trade-offs do you currently think are acceptable? What's a disadvantage that's a deal-breaker? Am I just being dazzled by new ideas and ignoring big problems?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I have to see this

Brilliant.

RU486 and Prophylactic Antibiotics

Ever since the occurrence of a few deaths in conjunction with taking RU486 (putatively attributed to Clostridium sordelii though there is not an established causal relationship between the two), I've wondered aloud on many comment boards why a course of prophylactic antibiotics isn't prescribed along with RU486 as a precaution. After all, the black box warning applied to the drug implies to me that if there's a way to prevent the infection, it ought to be pursued.

I finally did some googling today, and found in several places that the risk of infection is assessed by most doctors as low enough that antibiotics would not at all be a necessary companion the Mifepristone. The patients in which C. sordelii speticemia was confirmed did show symptoms of the infection after all, so a doctor and patient that looked out for diarrhea, vomiting and weakness in a patient that had taken the drug would probably be taking all necessary precautions to ensure a safe termination of the pregnancy. Check out the link above for more info (and theories on the relationship between RU486 and the organism in these deaths).

Now you know.

This is supposed to quiet a sensationalistic media?

Brad Plumer points to an article by Michael Fumento about the media overblowing the risk at which a possible human-to-human-transmissible avian flu would put the world. The point he makes over and over again is that we really don't know what the risk is, and it's quite a good point. Further on, however, he aims to portray the Spanish Flu as a lot more benign than most people think. I was a little disquieted by this, none the less:

True, no retelling of those horrible days is without anecdotes of apparently healthy young people simply dropping dead, such as the man who boarded the trolley car feeling fine only to leave in the company of the grim reaper. But even these probably didn't die from a direct attack of the virus, writes Barry. Rather, "victims' lungs were being ripped apart . . . from the attack of the immune system on the virus."

Fantastic! It's not the virus killing people, but their immune systems. No problem!

I may be mistaken, but don't you end up dead either way? Lots of very nasty viruses (including ebola) are nasty because of the same overzealousness on the part of a patient's immune system. I may be crazy, but I don't find the comparison between avian flu and the disease which makes blood pour out of your every orifice until you expire very comforting.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Nothing to Say

Life isn't fair, but it sure as hell doesn't have to be this way.

Right to "Choose"

I never thought I'd start reading Salon again, but Broadsheet has sucked me back in. (FYI, I will sometimes post comments there under my first name.) Salon seems to attract a lot of jerks to their letters page, and Broadsheet is no different. The conversation in response to Dalton Conley's atrocious NYT editorial (latest installment in Broadsheet found here) has been no exception. The numerous comments about women sabotaging birth control and trying to get into their lovers' pockets by having a baby (seems like a pretty poor plan to me, but) aside, I think that the comments about the unfairness of a woman being able to absolutely decide whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term (and when she elects to carry it to term, indebt the father of the child for child support) are not completely unsympathetic. Anyone advocating that a man should be able to absolve himself of obligation to an unintended child, however, is missing a few important points.

As has been pointed out by a few very smart posters in the Broadsheet comments, child support is not owed to the mother, but to the child. Another misconception (no pun intended) is that the right to an abortion is derived from a woman's control over a fetus; the right to an abortion is derived from a woman's control over her body and her pregnancy. Were she not physically stuck to the fetus, her power in this situation would not exist.

I am not about to say that a man paying child support for a child he did not intend or want to father doesn't have anything to complain about. It's expensive, and for someone living on minimum wage, potentially crippling.

But, as my parents would remind me when I was put out about something I could not control, you have to remember what Mick [Jagger] says: you can't always get what you want.

No one can have heterosexual sex and be absolutely confident that a pregnancy will not result. Birth control works well enough for many, and many others could stand to use it more consistently and correctly. Obviously any individual who does not use birth control (no relying on the other partner accepted here) can't claim that they exercise all precautions against an unwanted pregnancy.

The thing is, even when one does use all precautions against unwanted pregnancy, the possibility still exists. In any situation at all, there is the possibility for things to go awry, even tragically. I think everyone would agree that's the downside of the whole living thing.

So I wonder why any man feels entitled to 100% certainty that a child will not result from copulation. I think that most women are better aware that there is the outside chance that having sex, no matter the precautions that are taken, is potentially life-altering, maybe even life-ruining. You accidentally become pregnant, and you can elect to have an abortion or elect to bring the child to term. Neither abortion nor pregnancy is without major physical risk to a woman. It sucks, and is one of the unfair things biolgy has dealt women. Still, women have to accept these risks if they're going to live normal lives, and in general, they do.

If men are going to accept that a woman has the right to decide whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term by virtue of it being her body, they are also going to have to accept the essential unfairness of the fact that they may be responsible for underwriting the existence of a child they did not want to create. Insofar as sex is a part of human life, this is a risk that men run just as they run the risk of being hit by a bus or accidentally running over a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

It's not fair, but I think it's as fair as it possibly can be, given the way biology works, and that we have to accept that life can really really suck.

Smart Woman's Burden

After many years of voraciously reading the news, it has become apparent to me that the world doesn't work the way I want it to. I'm not really sure why every human being does not agree with me exactly on every issue, but this still appears to be the case. It could be that I am wrong about some things, or that other people come to independent conclusions. These are not very convenient explanations, though, so I am choosing to believe it is because I have not made myself clear enough. Obviously, if there is any hope for the world, I am obligated to share my opinions and thoughts in a public forum.

As John Edwards would say, hope is on the way.

Isn't that comforting?