Thursday, December 28, 2006

FYI

Girlistic.com, a new online feminist magazine and community, is building a database of feminist clipart and is looking for additions. If you've got something cool, consider contributing.

Otter's Oath

Given recent nontroversy over elected official swearing-in ceremonies, I think that one can only conclude that Idaho Governor-Elect C.L. "Butch" Otter is keeping his swearing-in ceremony under wraps so that he swear his oath on the Quran in peace. With busybodies like Dennis Prager running around, who can blame him?

UPDATE: Thom George one-ups me at Huckleberries Online at suggests that he's actually swearing on The Fountainhead.

Partial credit is for being partially right, not for being consistently wrong

This is exactly why I'm not going to give extra credit to wingnuts for being consistent in their baseless ideologies. So you think it should be equally illegal to allow victims of rape to seek abortion as anyone else? Congratulations - you're completely wrong instead of just partially wrong like the people who only want to allow abortion in instances of rape. Dawn here consistently refuses to understand that her Biblically-inspired interpretation of human sexuality isn't a cure-all for life's woes, even when the interpretation fails for herself. That's not commendable - it's idiotic. When all the empirical evidence says the Bible is wrong, it's time to start questioning the Bible - or at least your interpretation of it - and not the evidence.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Xmas

I'll be leaving town tomorrow and don't know whether I'll be able to blog or not. If not - have a happy Christmas, and I'll be back on Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Friday, December 15, 2006

A few basic assumptions

Since I'm back on the subject of abortion lately, I think it might be useful (for me and anyone who might want to argue with me) to lay out some of my basic assumptions when considering reproductive rights issues.

1. Abstinence is a temporary condition and not birth control, since sex is a fact of human existence. I personally have never been sentimental about chastity or numbers of sex partners or any of the things wingnuts fixate on in regard to sexual purity, but I can understand and respect that people feel differently than I do. I can respect that a persona's values and how they relate to sex are absolutley under their purview and not my own. What's important when it comes to reproductive rights is that the overwhelming evidence is that abstinence cannot function alone as birth control. Philosophically, I am convinced that sexuality is a fundamental part of human nature, and that our morals cannot be formulated without appreciating the deep social and personal value of its expression. I should point out that I think this applies equally to men and women, and am embarassed when poster after poster on feministing.com tells men who are dealing with an unplanned pregnancy that they should have used a condom or not had sex if they didn't want to pay child support.

2. There will never be an end to abortion. Simply put, birth control will never be perfect, personal circumstances cannot all be controlled, and there are many women who feel a personal right to terminate a pregnancy even if it won't be recognized by the state. There can be less abortion or more abortion, safer and more dangerous abortion, but there will always be abortion.

3. Abortion sucks. I don't know who these feminists are who won't "admit" that abortion is unpleasant and best avoided, but I am not one of them, nor have I ever met one. I don't have a moral problem with abortion, but as far as the time money and energy it takes to have one, it's pretty clear that effective birth control is a better option. I also recognize that abortion can indeed be emotionally difficult for pro-choice women who would rather bring the pregnancy to term but cannot for whatever reason.

4. I believe that there is a genuine difference of opinion between pro-lifers and pro-choicers. I don't think you have to be a misogynist, lying, or delusional to be pro-life - though it can help. If Pro-Life Dude A tells me that abortion is murder, I will usually assume that's his genuine belief; I just think he is wrong in that belief. We've all been wrong in our lives - probably once or twice about something very important - but we're not all lying scumbags. There are many pro-life arguments that are based in misogyny, lies, and delusions, and I'm not going to treat them gently or forgive and forget when someone propagates them. That kind of behavior deserves to be apologized for, just like any intellectual dishonesty.

5. Encouragement is not policy. It's fantastic if you and your children are perfect users of birth control who recycle and only eat free-range, grass-fed beef. A public-awareness campaign on the virtues of these behaviors is fine. It is not, however, going to make a difference. Putting your faith in it is going to make you a total drag and eventually completely disappointed. Abstinence is often the best plan for a teenager, but I can think of more than a few teenagers I've known who would likely have become pregnant or made another pregnant had they not been given information about and access to birth control. Taking steps to make abstinence easier, while still respecting the rights and dignity of those who do not choose it - such as encouraging masturbation and giving teenagers access to things like vibrators - is something a community, a family, or a government could plausibly and ethically do to try make a difference in the rate of unwanted teenage pregnancies. This brings me to my next assumption...

6. Policy must be evidence-based. For policy to be ethical, there needs to be empirical investigation into whether or not it is working. For instance, there seem to be many who honestly believe that abstinence-only education is a legitimate and useful tactic for reducing teenage pregnancy and STI rates. Regardless of how idiotic that is, we know for certain now that it actually makes things worse. It needs to be de-funded immediately. My suggestions might be just as disastrous - who knows? They're not complete shots in the dark, but it would be unethical to spend tax dollars on a program without ensuring that the results are good before its continuation.

7. Cultural customs never supercede the importance of human rights, human dignity and safety. I don't care if reducing the need for abortion results in a nation of happy sluts. I don't care if reducing unwanted pregnancy rates involves the voluntary and informed conversion to Evangelical Christianity by millions of Americans. (Though I somehow doubt that particular outcome.) As long as people are made safer and freer by policy I am happy. This includes the freedom to make life choices such as when or if to have children, with whom one has sex, and how sex fits into one's life and relationships. Culture is something that everyone deserves to participate in and create, unhindered by constraints whoever is in power keep in place.

Have at me if you like, but these notions are the foundations of my thinking about reproductive rights. I've purposely left out the issue of whether or not abortion is moral because I think it a topic worthy of arguing about (while the above assumptions I do not), and because some of my assumptions when it comes to how the government deals with reproductive rights make the question moot.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It's not ignorance, it's misogyny

BinkyBoy at 43rd State Blues found this appalling piece of drivel at Adam Graham's eponymous blog, and with all due respect to Binky, I don't think it's ignorance that's at play here. Graham:
Race and abortion are two issues where the left would rather dance around and hurl names rather than address the legitimate issues. What I find sad is that abortion is their best answer to what ails women.
Graham's mostly just recycled the disingenous talking points pushed by the "feminists" for life, but I thought it might be instructive to take a look at what's going on here.

If you're not familiar, Graham is a conservative blogger from Southern Idaho whose biggest interests seem to be equestrian (moral high horse) in nature. One thing we have in common is that we think it's a problem when a woman must make a choice and finds that abortion is her best optinon. No argument there. Where Graham gallops away from reality is with the idea that "the left" isn't interested in helping women beyond helping them obtain abortions.

What are ways in which Graham is working to expand the options of women in bad situations? Does he support access to birth control? Of course not. Is he concerned about the wage gap? Not that my searching can find. What about other workplace issues that hurt women disproportionately, like discrimination and maternity leave? Crickets. Does he offer a single idea to expand options that women can pursue without the permission of men?

I don't have to tell you that things look different at feministing.com.

All Graham can offer is one less option, and increased dependence on men.

Something feministy

This is kind of fun. At work I'm part of a group of people working to designate a safe (as in not full of anthrax and toxic chemicals) and private space for new mothers to pump breastmilk in. I was actually surprised to hear that there isn't one, my workplace being the College of Veterinary Medicine where the student population is about 75% female. I doubt it will be too difficult to execute this Blow to the Patriarchy, but it's neat to participate.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Creepy-ass commercial of the day

I saw this one last night and humorless female that I am, it pissed me (and a few other YouTube commenters) off.



That box-to-the-bimbo's-head moment just screams violence-against-women fantasy. Vonage has made its name through commercials humiliating people so I'm not surprised, but this one crosses a line for me.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Indeed

From Jason Webley's latest MySpace bulletin:
Writing blogs makes me feel stupid too.

Me too, Jason.


Me too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christopher Hitchens' Mismeasure of Woman moment

I keep coming back to it because it's such an amazing book, but let's review the premise of Carol Tavris' book The Mismeasure of Woman. From the introduction:
"In almost every domain of life, men are con sidered the normal human being, and women are the "ab-normal," deficient because they are different from men. Therefore, women constantly worry about measiring up, doing the right thing, being the right way. It is normal for women to worry about being abnormal, because male behavior, male heoes, male psychology, and even make physiology continue to be the standard of normalcy against which women are measured and found wanting."
I was immediately reminded of this idea when I saw (via Feministing.com) Christopher Hitchens' latest in Vanity Fair "Why Women Aren't Funny." While Feministing and its commenters do a good job of showing that yes, there are many women who enjoy traditionally male humor along the lines of fart jokes and raunch, Hitchens' mistake is even larger than that. Ostensibly, the reason for female humorlessness that Hitchens is working with is that women are too pretty to need to be funny. They don't seek out laughter from potential mates because mates are seeking them out for their physical goodies, and only in the dire case of unattractiveness or lesbianism will a woman resort to humor for personal interaction. I'll let Hitchens use his own words:
Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women? Well, for one thing, they had damn well better be. The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh. Making them laugh has been one of the crucial preoccupations of my life. If you can stimulate her to laughter—I am talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely-teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth; the kind that is accompanied by a shocked surprise and a slight (no, make that a loud) peal of delight—well, then, you have at least caused her to loosen up and to change her expression. I shall not elaborate further. Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift.
Most telling is Hitchens' consideration of the few women he deems to be funny:
In any case, my argument doesn't say that there are no decent women comedians. There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three. When Roseanne stands up and tells biker jokes and invites people who don't dig her shtick to suck her dick—know what I am saying? And the Sapphic faction may have its own reasons for wanting what I want—the sweet surrender of female laughter. While Jewish humor, boiling as it is with angst and self-deprecation, is almost masculine by definition.
This isn't a problem with women or women comedians - it's a problem with Christopher Hitchens. He's starting with the assumption that humor is only possible when it comes from a man or in a pinch, someone more manly than most women.

As is generally the case with those who depend so heavily on the men-as-humanity's-yardstick idea, his reasoning for female humor deficiency is entirely circular. Men are the only funny ones, and women are not funny because they are not men.
Precisely because humor is a sign of intelligence (and many women believe, or were taught by their mothers, that they become threatening to men if they appear too bright), it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny. They want them as an audience, not as rivals. And there is a huge, brimming reservoir of male unease, which it would be too easy for women to exploit. (Men can tell jokes about what happened to John Wayne Bobbitt, but they don't want women doing so.) Men have prostate glands, hysterically enough, and these have a tendency to give out, along with their hearts and, it has to be said, their dicks. This is funny only in male company.
Women do not tell funny jokes about impotence because they are not men. Anyone who is not a man cannot tell a funny joke about impotence. Best exemplifying this female blind spot is Hitchens' leaning on Nora Ephron as one of the rare funny females, while also claiming that women don't get the hilariousness of their bodily "decay," even as Ephron's I Feel Bad About my Neck and Other Thoughs on Being a Woman sits at number 6 on the New York Times' hardcover fiction bestseller list, four months after being published. Even clearer indication that Hitchens' humometer is discombobulated is when he actually questions whether Dorothy Parker was ever really funny. (Answer: yes.)

If you were to categorize my sense of humor, it would probably belong with the brassier, cruder, more masculine type that Christopher Hitchens honors with his appreciation. Still, I can appreciate that Erma Bombeck has put housewives in stitches for generations - this is reality. It may come as news to Hitchens, but women, with their apparently unfunny aspects like beauty and reproduction, don't need him to tell them what's funny. His imagination might not be large enough to encompass a world where midnight feedings and sock-mate-eating dryers are funny, but luckily for the women whose world is filled with these things, he doesn't define reality. While they may be slightly hilarious in themselves, the presence of testes is not a precondition for humor.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Before holiday-specific foods disappear

You have to try this. Kona Brewing Co. Pipeline Porter and gingerbread cookies. The coffee-flavored beer is heavy and sweet enough to compliment the molasses and spices in the gingerbread, and the result is decadent and delicious. Further experimentation wherein my grandma's gingerbread was replaced with chocolate Newman-O's has achieved similar but not optimal results. As menstrual curatives go, either totally leaves Midol in the dust.

As people who make wacko overgenralizations of female sexuality go...

I'd much rather sleep with this guy than this woman.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

F-words turns one

A year ago today I started F-words with this post:

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.


436 posts, 32,648 visitors, and countless flamewars later, here I am. I haven't really reflected a lot about what this means, but I do think this is a good excuse for a best-of-F-words list. Some were heavily-trafficked posts and some weren't really noticed. Here are some of my favorites.

Idaho politics:

I was able to throw a little wrench in Idaho politics when it came to the six-way Republican primary for the first congressional district seat.

Ruminations on the huckleberry and what claim real Idaho natives have to its cultivation.

Driving through Idaho can be very, very interesting.

The constitutional amendment passed this year in Idaho banning gay marriage will have a wide path of destruction.

As an Idaho Democrat, you either have to celebrate or drown your sorrows. Either way, you'll be drinking liberally.

Abortion:

My second blog post ever, with an incredibly lame title, talked about the essential differences between men and women that give them essentially different treatment under abortion law.

I blogged for choice about the robustness of the feminist movement's support of choice.

If abortion were physically impossible, we'd still be having the same arguments about female autonomy.

Sex and Sexuality:

How I feel about porn.

Some reflections on when sex-positivity feels more like required hypersexuality. (And, in light of some criticism I got for that post, I speak on an instance where people are implored to prioritize their libido over their mental health.)

Worker safety on porn sets.

Marriage:

Marriage can help protect women from a sexist world. Even polygamist marriage.

Getting married brings out the weirdest things in people.

One feminist's mostly traditional wedding.

Body image and me:

Deciding not to hate yourself is a lot harder than you'd think.

Even harder: deciding that your happiness is important.

Food:

I asked plastic.com to discuss their favorite cheap recipes.

Some of my favorite recipes I've posted: bok choy salad, baby baklava, morel pasta, and gorgonzola-pear butter. See my now defunct food blog Orexia for more, including the cake I dreamed.

Misc.:

Grammar nazis drive me nuts.

I had someone accuse me of making this story up. I find that to be very frightening.

Carnival of the Feminists #24 happened here.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

English Muffins

Sometimes, you're painfully reminded of the sissified industrialized era in which you live. I had this experience when I saw a recipe for english muffins in Laurel's Kitchen and thought to myself "Ohmigod - you can make english muffins?"

After getting over that shock, I resolved to make them. The english muffin, in its toasty chewy bubbly goodness, is the ideal vehichle for transferring melted butter and honey to my mouth. If that's true of storebought english muffins, it must be even moreso for the homemade version.

I don't bake a lot of bread, but take a look at this:



That's an english muffin, isn't it? I'm always amazed when I am able to reproduce the look of something that I've eaten all my life but never attempted to make myself.

To make them, you put together your favorite bread dough (whole wheat, plain old white, sourdough, etc.), and then knead it for about twice as long as you normally would - maybe 20-30 minutes, depending on your pace. Add some extra water, and knead until your dough seems entirely too wet and too heavily-kneaded to ever possibly make good bread. Let it rise normally, deflate, and shape one loaf's-worth of dough into eight flat rounds. Let these proof on a heavily-floured surface until somewhat saggy and looking over-proofed. Transfer the rounds flour side-down to a medium-hot seasoned skillet and let cook until browned on the bottom. Flip to brown the other side, and continue flipping until the muffin is baked all the way through. The sides will not brown, but will be "springy" to the touch, according to Laurel's.

If my instructions are too vague, check out the book linked above, though it might not be much more help either. Laurel's Kitchen is written in a casual, conversational style, and favors teaching cooks to recognize the look and feel of correct methods rather than more objective measures like temperatures and set cooking times. Depending on the reader, this can be really helpful or really annoying.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sometimes I just can't help myself

Inspired by Amanda's HUHO post, I've got a few things to add. (See Lauren for the first HUHO carnival.)

Did you know that...?

...cutting off the head of a monitor lizard and rubbing it on your nipple will induce lactation? That this works most effectively in women, but is sometimes also effective in men?

...a small tuft of baboon hair mixed in a child's food will help alleviate nightmares?

...pork rinds crumbled and sprinkled on a kitchen floor help prevent ants from invading?

...one ounce of snake oil taken thrice daily for two weeks cures impotence?

In all seriousness, reading Amanda's post kind of made me wonder if things could turn from Help Us Help Ourselves to Help Us Hurt Ourselves. Echinacea does not prevent colds, and eating yogurt offers only a slim possibility of helping prevent yeast infections. (Believe me, I am a microbiologist who knows from yeast infections.) Etc. Amanda is not a doctor, so I don't think she deserves too much grief for passing on her favorite superstitions, but already I see HUHO headed down a dangerous path. Home cures aren't always useless, but they're not always safe, either. If this kind of thing is going to be included, perhaps a grain of salt warning should come with it. I go to Pandagon for wingnut smackdowns and cute panda pictures, but I'm not necessarily going to trust its medical advice.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I'd like to know what Bill Sali thinks of this

Mifepristone (aka RU496 or the abortion pill) prevents the formation of tumors of the breast in mice with the breast cancer-predicting BRCA1 mutation.

Lousy men

There, I've said it. It's hard not to when you read this kind of thing in response to an upcoming male birth control pill that prevents ejaculation:
"I don't think a lot of men are going to take this," Dr. Harry Fisch, a urologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia in Washington Heights, says bluntly. "I wouldn't do anything with it. Nice try."

"I just don't think it's going to happen," says an equally skeptical Dr. Lawrence McGuire, associate director of urology at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn.

At first glance, such a male Pill sounds appealing. Men could take it a couple of hours before intercourse, experience a sperm-free orgasm during sex, and then have the effects wear off a few hours later.

The male Pill would also be hormone-free and, in theory, would allow women concerned about their own Pill's side effects to stop taking the female version. Side effects of the male Pill aren't yet known. (Planned Parenthood of New York City declined to comment for this article.)

"Whatever medication this is going to be, it's not going to influence the sperm," notes McGuire, citing the reported lack of hormones. "It's going to influence the ability of the sperm to get into the prostate to be released during ejaculation - and dry ejaculate is not preferable."

"Not a great idea," agrees Fisch. "The ejaculate coming forward is a significant part of a man's sexuality.
Um, getting pregnant is a significant part of a woman's sexuality, but we somehow have been able to get over that effect of the use of birth control. Besides the ignorance of the fact that ejaculation and orgasm aren't the same thing, I'm just amazed at how many of the "problems" with this drug listed in the article are things no one got too upset about when it came to women taking birth control. Drugs aren't magic. Birth control works by changing some of the normal things that happen during sex. Try telling that to these prima donnas, though.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Immature and evil all at the same time

In Katy, Texas:
There's an awful lot of exciting news when you round the corner on Baker Road. One of two big yellow signs announces a new neighbor is coming soon.

K.I.A., that's the Katy Islamic Association, plan to build a mosque here.

"It's not an appropriate place to have a mosque or church," said resident Barbara Simpson.

It isn't going over real well.

"As a house of worship, they shouldn't be disturbing the peace and tranquility of 15 homes," said resident John Wetmore.

Neighbors tell us they're concerned about traffic and drainage and a little fear of the unknown.

Some of the homeowners even offered to buy the land back for more than a million dollars.
Muslims? Not in their backyards, by God. And what mature tactics are they using to harass the newcomers?
But this fight has gone much farther than many between two neighbors. You see in these fights, sometimes neighbors throw mud at one another, in this instance they're wallowing in it.

Craig Baker owns pigs.

He's the guy behind the second big yellow sign on Baker Road. That's the one announcing Friday night pig races.

"What does it matter, I can do whatever I want with my land right," asked landowner Craig Baker.

Sure can.

But aren't pigs on the property line racing on a Friday night a little offensive to a Muslim neighbor?

"The meat of a pig is prohibited in the religion of Islam," said Katy Islamic Association member Youssof Allam. "It's looked upon as a dirty creature."

Yeah there's that and also that Friday night is a Muslim holy day.

"That is definitely a slap in the face," said Allam..

Now before you go thinking Craig Baker is unfair, or full of hate, or somehow racist, hear him out.

Baker has long roots here, his family named the road and when the new neighbors moved in, he tells us, they asked him to move out.

"Basically that I should package up my family and my business and find a place elsewhere," said Baker. "That's ridiculous, they just bought the place one week prior and he's telling me I should think about leaving."
That new owners deny they ever said anything like that, but Baker isn't budging.
Wait a minute, are things more complicated than they seem?
Baker admits the pigs are a message he is not leaving.
Okay then. Predictably, the Freepers are loving this one. Me, I'm once again embarassed to have to call these people my fellow countrymen.

Before the eleventh month is over

Watch this video of Jason Webley's Eleven Saints. (Yes, you have to follow the link - I just spent ten minutes cursing uncontrollably at my computer that wouldn't properly copy the embed code. YARGH!) Webley comes through Moscow every few months and it's a show I make sure never to miss.

UPDATE: Here we go.

I never knew that men suffered the vapors

Okay, so it's from Men's News Daily, so it's going to be nutty. I'm not going to bother with most of the ridiculous assertions in here - I just thought this one was too colorful to pass up. On the decline of marriage in America, Carey Roberts says one contributing factor is:
Second, we need to consider the effects of the 1992 Supreme Court’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that banned fathers from participating in decisions to keep the unborn baby, thus leaving them biologically disenfranchised.
That's definitely a new one: "biologically disenfranchised." It's like straight men don't have a right to make any decisions for their lovers at all! See the rest of the article for whinging about women stealing children from abusive fathers and dooming boys by mandating that girls be allowed to play sports too. I think someone needs a fainting couch...

Alcohol and Pregnancy

Today's NYT has an article about pregnancy and drinking, and the conflicted feelings it brings up in pregnant women. They do a good job of showing that there's really no information about the effects of moderate or light drinking on a developing fetus, but I'm surprised at the hard numbers that they didn't include. There are many who would suggest that ingesting any alcohol during pregnancy is unacceptably risky, but given that even amongst alcoholic mothers only 6% of births show signs of* display full-blown fetal alcohol syndrome, I have a hard time believing that the occasional glass of wine - especially later in pregnancy - is going to do a developing fetus much harm.

*UPDATE: The way I wrote this implied that only 6% of births result in children that have some form of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). There is a whole spectrum of problems in children of women who consumer alcohol while pregnant that while not meeting the definition of fetal alcohol syndrome, are still best avoided. These effects still don't show up in 100% of the children of alcoholic mothers (as I recall it's something like a third, but can't find a good link), but they have been known to show up in children of women who are not alcoholics.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A good one

I really liked this bit belledame wrote today about how puzzling, boring and maddening (all at once) it is for her to see so feminists unthinkingly straightify the terms on which the world works. That is all.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Downside: polygamy. Upside: polygamist divorce.

Places like Pandagon, Feministe, and Dr. Science Knows have been talking about the possibility of decriminalizing polygamy, and after reading all the comment threads, I am not convinced that the reasons for keeping polygamy illegal outweigh the reasons for decriminalization.

First, there are the nonreasons being brought up for the criminalization of polygamy - namely those involving the crimes of one Warren Jeffs. Jeffs is the famous Utah polygamist whose community enforces things like child marriage, incest, statutory rape, and all sorts of other bad things that are either out and out illegal or a good reason to change the law so that they are illegal. (That is, a 14-year-old age of consent for marriage is really indefensible.) I am not making excuses for Jeffs and his ilk here - they're misogynistic backwards yokels, and deserve the legal punishment that's coming to them. What I am saying is that these are not reasons for polygamy to be illegal. Polygamy as practiced in this country often goes along with these abuses, but incest and statutory rape are already illegal, after all.

We see a lot of domestic violence and rape and absusive control in traditional monogamist marriage, but as I am going to argue is the case with polygamist marriage, that's all the more reason for the legal institution of marriage to survive. I've touched on this before, but it bears repeating that marriage introduces regulation and arbitration into the inherent issues of property rights and asset distribution in a two-person relationship. If one partner wishes to leave a ten-year relationship where ten years' accumulated property and monetary assets have been shared, the divorce process can help ensure that they get out with something that approximates their contribution (monetary or no) to the household in the last ten years. Those who are not married and face opposition to their leaving the union have no such legal protections, and could well find themselves leaving with absolutely nothing.

The same is true for a wife of a polygamist who is not legally married to her husband. If she wants to leave, or if he dies, she has no legal claim to the assets that were part of the extralegal union. In other words, if polygamist marriage were legal, so too would polygamist divorce be. Otherwise, we're leaving these women - who are already likely to be in abusive or controlling relationships - to twist in the wind of their spouses and "sister-wives."

The objection to the legal complications that polygamous marriage would create has a lot more merit, but I have a hard time believing that they're insurmountable. See here for some suggestions as to how to tease out the legal complications of polygamist/polyamorous marriage.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hey, back off!

Okay, so I think that severely-low-calorie diets for a longer life sound like a pretty bad bargain too, but Rebecca Traister started off on the wrong foot with me in this article:
There's a good chance that tomorrow your table will be groaning under the weight of soporific game birds and green-bean casserole (with cream of mushroom soup and Funyuns) and sweet potatoes with marshmallow crust. That is, of course, unless it's laden with Quorn. Quorn is the meat-free, soy-free, protein-rich fermented fungus recently featured in a New York magazine article about the growing popularity of calorie-restricted diets, in which practitioners subsist on a daily calorie intake that puts them just outside the grasp of starvation. In the story, writer Julian Dibbell sampled Quorn (which serves as a meat substitute and can be purchased as Chik'n and Turk'y) along with 24 carefully measured grams of arugula and a couple of scallops, as part of a purported "dinner party" thrown by a group of devoted CR dieters. The product's slogan is "Quorn: It just might surprise you."

Actually, I strongly doubt that it would.
I happen to like Quorn, thank you very much. The same part of me that wishes that the FDA would require genetically-modified foods to be labeled because I think they're cool and would buy them preferrentially also thinks that Quorn is totally badass. It's a mycoprotein that's grown in industrial laboratories, low in fat and high in protein, and much more like chicken than anything Morningstar Farms has ever put out. And, on top of all of that, it's got a silly name. I'm not a vegetarian, but when I'm craving something heavily-processed, I'd rather eat a vegetarian corn dog than one made with meat. They taste basically the same and the vegetarian ones aren't nearly as frightening.

False reporting

A few days after this month's election where Idaho overwhelmingly passed a gay marriage and domestic partnership ban, it was reported that a young gay man was attacked in Boise, the attackers motivated by homophobia. It's since been discovered that the attack never took place and that the "victim" filed a false police report. Sounds like justice was done to me, but now the blustering begins about the major setback that's been dealt to the cause of human rights in Idaho due to this dumbass.

The thing is that there is false reporting when it comes to every kind of crime. Another crime where much noise is made about false reporting is rape, though there's no evidence to suggest that rape is falsely reported any more often than any other crime.

What I find to be so disturbing about the noisemaking is that it seems rooted in the idea that victims should feel lucky that the state will prosecute gay bashing or rape, and it comes with the implicit threat that if victims don't watch themselves, they'll stop being so lucky. This even in the face of evidence that victims are overwhelmingly honest. Unless we're going to see editorials like this one (which I found to be disturbing for the first half but maybe striking the right notes by the end - is this a problem with the headline?) about falsely reported robberies, I just don't want to hear it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

You mean we're not hormonally-controlled robots?

A study shows that male chimpanzees preferrentially mate with older females. I just want to know one thing: if John Derbyshire can't blame the chimps, who can he blame?

It's official

I am now a crackpot. The WSU Daily Evergreen recently ran an article about unreported rape on campus, and when a third of the article was devoted to describing date rape drugs, I had to write in and mention that date rape drugs are rarely involved in sexual assault. I wrote:
While I applaud the Daily Evergreen's effort to shed light on the problem of unreported rape on campus, I was disappointed to see yet another article lean so heavily on the spectre of date rape drugs. Only a tiny minority of sexual assaults involve their use, but under the heading "The prevalence of date rape drugs," no such information was provided. This paints a deceptive picture of sexual assault, which is facilitated mostly by a culture that won't respect a woman's absolute right to make decisions about her body. A rapist armed with GHB is dangerous, but one without it is a rapist all the same.
Don't get me wrong: I stand by my statement. You just get a little worried that you've gone of the deep end if you're writing a letter to the editor.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Talking about prostitution


Via Fleshbot (NSFW!), check out the winners (vaguely NSFW) of an Italian design contest for an awareness campaign about prostitution. The text is mostly in Italian, but you'll get the idea. The "QUANTO Project" concept description:
The awareness that women and minors are now-a-days subjected to exploitation and slavery is particularly dramatic if compared to the social progress so far achieved in the human rights field.

Acknowledging such conditions has resulted,in the last fifteen years, in reflections, dibates, political and social interventions,especially as a consequence of the increased phenomenon:"the sex market". Women (often immigrated) are more and more the object of exchanges in the human trafficking, for the purpose of sexual exploitation by criminal organizations.

Unfortunately it is necessary to remember that a world estimate, puts at two million the number of boys and girls involved in this market,managed by criminal organizations;and Italy is one of the landing and dispatching place to other europian regions. The exploitation is not limited to the sex market,but also to the working world, housework included.

Lack of freedom is not intrinsic with prostitution,but is a function of abuse,poverty,bad working conditions,inexperience,and/or desperation. It is therfore indispensable to consider first of all, women and minors as human beings,and as such,individuals with rights (aside from their conditions,legal status,and more or less coerced prostitution activity).

QUANTOproject wants to arouse new reflections to bring forward a topic that tends more and more to hide and become unconspicuous.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Oh please

The Spokesman-Review, the paper that hired someone to pose as a randy 18-year-old in a chat room looking to hook up with a hot mayoral type and subsequently outing former Spokane Mayor Jim West, feels that Frontline decieved them.

Frontline producers explained to us -- and apparently to others in the community -- that their original intent to use Spokane and West as a jumping off point to discuss gay issues in America was derailed at the last minute by PBS honchos who wanted to focus only on the West scandal and recall.

This is, at least, disingenuous. It was clear to us from the outset that their show was focusing exclusively on West. Outside of a conversation at the very beginning of their work, they never sought from us any information or insight on gay issues in Spokane. It always was West.

Gimme a break, S-R.

You know, there is an old Chinese belief that the moon is God's nipple.

I loved Borat, and am astonished at how many ways there seem to be of not getting the joke, so I was glad to see Christopher Hitchens' newest at Slate. It's been a while since I've been able to say this, but Christopher Hitchens has gotten this one right.
But it's that attitude of painfully maintained open-mindedness and multiculturalism that is really being unmasked and satirized by our man from the 'stan. In what other country could such a character talk his way into being invited to sing the national anthem at a rodeo—where the horse urine is not so highly prized, and where horse excrement, and indeed all excrement, is still a term of abuse?
As John Derbyshire said, Borat is an excellent prank on "American niceness." You can see his marks struggle with how to react to his alarming behavior. They have to take a second to make sure they understood what he said through his broken English and his accent. Then they have to decide whether they're going to give his utterly horrifying home culture the benefit of the doubt or whether they'll bother to chew him out. All of this happens while they're on camera, trying to make a good impression of Americans to "Kazakhstan."

What I like most about Cohen, though, is his ability to keep people in the same room with him while he pushes the line of credibility. Check out this video of Borat at an STD clinic:



The thing I love here is how he has to struggle to keep the doctor from just walking out. He has had relations with his sister, but only at the feast of [foriegn-sounding word]. He throws in just enough things that a stranger won't know how to react to or judge - the camera, the friendly and difficult-to-understand foreignness - and mixes in as much of the truly absurd and terrible that he can without getting smacked across the face.

I probably have an unusual affinity for the way this sort of humor is crafted because my husband works at it dilligently and constantly. In casual conversation, a good rule of thumb is that you shouldn't believe the first thing he tells you because it's probably a lie - and if his brother's around, you should probably not believe a word that's said at the table. The joke works best when you have absolutely no reason to be lying. Andy's favorite gotcha of me was when we had been dating only a few months, and were out on a night walk looking at the full moon, and he told me that the Chinese used to believe that the Moon is God's nipple. I didn't think twice about it - just said "Hmm, that's interesting," and he made it a good 60 seconds without cracking up since I'd actutally believed him. The more quietly Andy can insert something completely absurd and untrue into conversation, the more he's amused. It's an interesting and hilarious and maddening pursuit, and I've learned to fish out his "lie face" and he gets a lot of "Goddammit Andy!" The other stealth-comedy performers in this vein I think of are the Yes Men, whose horrifying big business plans don't raise an eyebrow on MSNBC, but won't get past a community college class.

The "social commentary" aspect of the humor of Borat comes out when the things that people should be alarmed at and should find absurd are matched by the marks who take them completely in stride. The frat guys showed no indication that they needed Borat around to display their racism and misogyny, and I'm sure that old cowboy giggles about hanging homersexurals on his own time. The beauty of the Borat joke is that it's funny whether it backfires because your mark is more absurd or disgusting than you could have imagined, or whether the mark can't get over their social training to freak out like they should.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Good idea to file away for next time...

From Neil the Ethical Werewolf:

Another interesting thing that our Deputy Campaign manager, Lisa Sherman, had volunteers do was to hand-write letters to undecided voters. The thinking is that while people might just throw away commercially produced flyers, regarding them as junk mail, a handwritten letter would have a much larger chance of being read and considered. While a form was available for anyone who wanted to copy down a generic message, volunteers were encouraged to personalize and improvise as they pleased. While some volunteers just want to carry whatever message you give them, others want to be able to do their little part to shape the campaign's message, and the letters gave them an opportunity to do so. They took a little while to write, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were a reasonably effective use of that time.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blech

I've caught a really nasty (and antibiotic resistant!) cold and am also dealing with a computer that's going insane, so expect blogging to be light over the next few days. It won't be a surprise to hear that I'm disappointed with Idaho's election results, even if I am proud of Latah County's turnout and strongly left-leaning vote. For now, all I've got the energy to do is watch Office Space over and over. Does that movie ever stop being funny?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Latah County voting

Clear sailing. No long lines, nothing wacky. I worked all day and got to the polls around 5:45, and was out of there in 15 minutes.

Idaho, if you elect Bill Sali, you have no one to blame but yourself.

How do I know?

In 2000, the first year I ever voted, election day was also the first snow of winter in Moscow. I took it to be a bad omen while votes were counted and re-counted, and sure enough, we were stuck with Bush.

Today, it was windy and rainy and sometimes sunny. But, I saw a rainbow.

There's no way the Democrats can lose!

Monday, November 06, 2006

All done!

I just got home from a few hours of GOTV calling, and am happy to say that I am finished with my volunteering for this election cycle. No more canvassing, no more phone calls, no more trolling for volunteers, no more hours spent staffing the HQ - not for a while, anyway. It's been fun connecting with the Democrats in my community and sharing the excitement of the great races we've got this year. I'm looking forward to keeping things cohesive in the "off season" with Drinking Liberally, but I think it's fair to say that I need a little break.

The only thing left to do is sit back and wait for the victory party.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tomatoes and Smoke

Tonight I sat down to one of the best dinners I've ever made. While on vacation, my husband and I picked up some smoked blue cheese and it's been sitting in our refrigerator ever since (What? Like it's going to go bad? It's already gone about as bad as it can go.) while we've been trying to think of how best to treat it. Tonight Andy remembered this dish, and it was an absolutely perfect way to showcase the strong flavors in the cheese.

Penne with Fennel, Tomato and Blue Cheese
(From Vegetarian: The best-ever recipe collection edited by Linda Fraser)

1 fennel bulb
8 ounces penne or other dried pasta shapes (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups passata or tomato sauce
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
4 ounces blue cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper.

1. Cut the fennel bulb in half. Cut away the hard core and root. Slice the fennel thinly, then cut the slices into strips.

2. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 10-12 minutes, until just tender.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the fennel and shallot and cook for 2-3 minutes over high heat, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the passata, sugar and oregano. Cover the pan and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, until the fennel is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Toss with the saucde. Serve with blue cheese crumbled over the top.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Grant and Brady leading in today's polls

Yes, that's what I said. More thoughts later. All I'm thinking now is "Woo!"

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Giant Money Drop Watch

The Club for [a couple of rich guys' bank accounts'] Growth today, working with Red Sea, LLC (headed by Tom DeLay's former communications director), dropped nearly $260,000 on ads opposing Larry Grant.

That's a lot of money to spend in one day to oppose a Democrat in Idaho.

He said, she said

On the heels of my last post, this about accuracy in political ads at Eye on Boise got my attention:
Idaho Superintendent of Schools Marilyn Howard said a radio attack ad accusing her chief deputy, Jana Jones, of spending $500,000 on “frivolous overseas junkets” is “deceitful and unjustified.” Jones is running to succeed Howard as superintendent; the ad was placed by former state Sen. Darrel Deide’s Idahoans for Excellence in Education. No state money was spent on the disputed international teacher education missions that were sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of State, Howard said.

GOP congressional candidate Bill Sali accused Democratic opponent Larry Grant of taking the campaign to a “new low” with an ad citing Sali’s support in a National Taxpayers Union survey for a national sales tax, but not saying he wants to eliminate the IRS as part of the trade-off. “Grant has misrepresented my record and positions in a way that is plainly deceptive,” Sali said.

...and it goes on from there. It's not a problem to show us the claims an counter-claims that the candidates and campaigns are making about each other, but what would also be nice is some information that comes from the public record, or at least not directly from a campaign.

PS - Also, the Eye on Boise post was registered at 11:11 on 11/1. Neat, huh?

Everyone with an opinion is crazy!

tristero at Hullabaloo has a fantastic example of the way lazy news reporters add "balance" to their articles. Sometimes, one side is right and another is wrong. The way everyone is rushing to expose the "extremists" on both sides, it just implies that having feelings one way or the other means that you're a nutter too.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Environmentally-friendly but not worker-friendly

Via brownfemipower, here's a video that highlights some of the labor abuses in the developing Mexican electronics industry.



Notice that some of the workers exposed to toxic materials are working at salvage and recycling centers, preventing environmental problems from those materials seeping out of landfills, but the workers themselves are not protected.

The US government declined to sign an international agreement pledging not to dump discarded electronics on poor countries, so US computer-users currently must take it upon themselves to see that their electronics are disposed of responsibly. Since you're reading this on the internet, and probably a US citizen, this is something you will have to think about when you're looking to upgrade. For info on how to recycle your computer in a way that is friendly both to the environment and the people who live in it, see this CNET article, or consult this list of responsible e-cyclers.

Idaho's impending blue shift

I can't pick any choice paragraphs from this article because it's all amazingly good news. Jerry Brady, Larry Grant and Jana Jones are all statistically tied with their Republican opponents in their races for governor, congress and state school superintendent, respectively. Polling indicates that far more people disapprove of the Republican candidates in these races than disapprove of the Democratic one. Check this out:
Twenty-seven percent of voters say they have an unfavorable opinion of Otter; Brady's negative figure is 14 percent. Luna is viewed unfavorably by 22 percent, while only 6 percent see Jones that way. Twenty-six percent say they have an unfavorable opinion of Risch; LaRocco's figure is 16 percent.

Worst of all is Sali, who famously has been called an "absolute idiot" by Idaho House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, whose words star in Grant TV spots. Sali's unfavorable rating is 33 percent, the same proportion who see him favorably. Grant's ratio is very positive, with 34 percent viewing him favorably and 13 percent unfavorably. With voters hungry for change, those perceptions of the standard-bearers of the party in power are damaging.

It's coming down to those four letters - GOTV. If you live in Latah County and want to volunteer on election day, email me at saraeanderson(at)gmail(dot)com so I can sign you up with the Latah County Democrats. If you live elsewhere, contact your county party and see what you can do. Ask for a few hours off on election day, tell everyone you know to vote, bring at least five people to the polls.

This is possible!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Baby Baklava

It's been a while since I've blogged about food, so here's an oldie but goodie from my food blogging days. I'm going to head over to my parents' for dinner on Sunday and have been charged with making dessert. I anticipate that these will go over just fine.



Aren't they adorable? I was surprised at how well these turned out, and how little effort they really required. I brushed butter on four or five sheets of phyllo and stacked them. I then cut them into squareish shapes and stuffed those into the cups of a muffin tin. Then, I mixed about 1.5 cups each of crushed walnuts, crushed pecans and pine nuts, and some large amount of cinnamon (probably about two and a half tablespoons). This mixture was poured into the phyllo-lined muffin cups, and then I put the pans in a 375 degree oven and baked for about 10 minutes, until the edges of the phyllo dough were browned. During baking, I warmed up to a boil a syrup of 1 cup honey, 2 cups white sugar, 1/2 cup water and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. This was poured into the cups (about 1.5 tablespoons per cup). Cooling was easy when the temperature was hovering around 0 degrees (F) outside.

Kendra, this is for you

A combination of two of your greatest interests: politics and football.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Who wants Sali to win and why?

Check out these numbers from the FEC on the ID-01 funds from the first 18 days in October:
ID-01: Larry Grant (D) - $150k raised, $65k Cash-on-Hand; Bill Sali (R) - $55k raised, $43k CoH
This means that the vast majority of money being spent in the name of Bill Sali was actually raised by PACs and party bigwigs, and relatively little has been given directly to him. When you donate to the RNCC or the Club for Growth, you don't necessarily know where your money is going. I find it interesting that so little of the funds supporting Sali were actually given to him, but to generic groups that support "conservatives." Contrast this with Grant, most of whose funding and support has come from direct donations - about three times the direct donations than Sali has recieved.

Sali's support comes from those who want to keep Republican seats and this failed crop of Republicans in power; Grant's support comes from people who want Larry Grant to go to Congress. Not a minor distinction.

Dollars to help Idaho politics make sense - Give today!

With huge amounts of money being poured in to Bill Sali's campaign from independent groups such as the NRCC and the detestible Club for Growth - over a quarter of a million dollars this month - Grant's campaign can use your money now more than ever. The DCCC has just today upgraded the ID-01 race to "red to blue" status, and will be contributing funds to this race that just might see a Democrat pull ahead. I just dropped $50 at his netroots donation page, and encourage any reader to do what he or she can. As Grassroots for Grant quotes from the Swing State Project:
Today, Friday, is the last best day to donate to your favorite candidates. Here's why: Over the weekend, campaigns will make their final choices about where to spend money - ad buys, mailers, get-out-the-vote efforts, etc. After that point, almost all major spending decisions will be complete. That makes it hard to effectively spend money received during the last week of the campaign. Final-week contributions are appreciated, sure, but cash received by today is a lot more valuable.
On Monday night, I was at the county Democratic headquarters with other volunteers stuffing envelopes for local candidates and listening to talk radio. It was a call-in show about the Bush administration and the Iraq war, and a woman called in sobbing about her nephew's injuries in Iraq. It was horrifying to hear, and really brought tears to my eyes. I took comfort that I was at least sitting in an office, giving my time and energy towards turning one of the nation's reddest states blue, and contributing to changing this country's direction toward sane policies and compassionate governing. A year ago, I would never have imagined I could feel that I was contributing to national politics from Idaho. I've been talking to Idaho Democrats who are also feeling newly empowered, and see people like me who have been giving where they never thought it would make a difference before. This is the year to get out and make your voice heard.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pro-torture Cheney to lend Sali a hand

Vice President Dick Cheney - who recently called the use of waterboarding in interrogating prisoners a "no-brainer" - will soon be back in Idaho to help raise funds for Sali. Cheney has decided to stop being coy about his support for torture, but that won't keep Sali from taking the money of his supporters. I'm appalled, and invite anyone to email Sali to inform him of exactly the kind of company he keeps.

UPDATE: If I'd taken a few minutes to look, I'd have noticed that Cheney is actually set to come by for a "victory rally" and not a fundraiser. Whoops. Still, yech.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

This makes me happy

Sometimes it's great to be wrong

On a recent Huckeberries Online thread about the chances of Grant winning the race, I said this:
I think Sali has done a terrible job of campaigning. Contrast his campaigning style with Otter's. Neither is an incumbent, but both are Republicans in Idaho which probably gives them the same advantage that an incumbent would have in a less one-sided state. Otter has avoided Brady at every turn, and even his campaign ads attack Kempthorne and don't even mention Brady. Otter's hardly lifted a finger while Brady is campaigning his butt off, but I doubt that Brady can win the name recognition battle in the end. Sali, on the other hand, has been yammering about Larry Grant since the very beginning, and look where it's gotten him. The more people know who Larry Grant is, the more they know they don't have to vote for Bill Sali. At the Lewiston debate it was really clear - Grant's closing statement was about his plans "when" he goes to congress, while Sali's statement was about how liberal Larry Grant is. What do I remember after all of that? Larry Grant.
I'm still convinced that Sali spent too much time highlighting Grant's existence, but it looks like I have good reason to reconsider my appraisal of Otter's hands-off campaigning style.
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer joined Jerry Brady, Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, at a press conference a few minutes ago to release Brady’s internal polls – which now show Brady pulling into the lead with a two-point edge over Republican Butch Otter. Brady’s polling, conducted by Goodwin Simon Victoria Research, showed Brady trailing Otter 29 percent to 48 percent in June, closing the gap to 34-45 in early September, and then pulling ahead 42-40 in mid-October. Statistically, that’s a dead heat.
Sounds pretty good to me. See here for more info on the poll, which seems pretty solid.

A family's struggle with addiction

Turn your speakers on and listen to this story I heard on NPR yesterday.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Grassroots

Idaho 2nd CD candidate Jim Hansen's campaign did not accept any donations from PACs. With only donations of $100 or less, he has managed to raise $110,888 in one of the country's reddest districts.

(Via Ridenbaugh Press)

Cultural customs < Religious dictates < Necessity in the physical world

Ann Appelbaum's recent Slate article about the "to veil or not" debate strikes me as completely pathetic. See here:
Given that polite behavior is required of schoolteachers or civil servants in other facets of their jobs, it doesn't seem to me in the least offensive to ask them to show their faces when dealing with children or the public. If Western tourists can wear sarongs in Balinese temples to show respect for the locals, so, too, can religious Islamic women show respect for the children they teach and for the customers they serve by leaving their head scarves on but removing their full-face veils.
She gives an example of traveling in Bali and knowing that it's considered rude to wear shorts or pants into a Balinese temple, so she sucks it up and looks like a dorky tourist in a sarong (I'm tempted to say she's not concerned so much about looking like a tourist but about wearing the silly clothes that silly Balinese people wear when practicing their silly religion - but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt) so as not to be rude and disruptive in a foreign culture.

What Applebaum does not appear to notice is that you can't just turn this situation around when it comes to the culturally-determined propriety of wearing a face-covering veil in a formal situation in a Western country. Namely, her religion does not dictate that she wear shorts into Balinese temples, whereas a Muslim woman's veil, depending on the views of the woman, is pretty cosmically important. Applebaum goes on to give some examples where one cannot expect some of their specific religious practices to be accomodated by their workplace.
Still, freedom to practice religion in the West shouldn't imply freedom to hold jobs that impinge on that practice. An Orthodox Jew should not have an absolute right to work in a restaurant that is open only on Saturdays. A Quaker cannot join the Army and then state that his religion prohibits him from fighting. By the same token, a Muslim woman who wants to cover her face has no absolute right to work in a school or an office where face-to-face conversations are part of the job. It isn't religious discrimination or anti-Muslim bias to tell her that she must be polite to the natives, respect the local customs, try to speak some of the local patois—and uncover her face.
While I do not believe that religious beliefs and religion-related behaviors are beyond questioning, I do appreciate that what I consider to be the superstitions of others are still important to our shared culture, not to mention religious people themselves. Applebaum seems to think that we're constructing a society to be as secular as possible, instead of a society that serves and supports its community members.

Speaking of which, Applebaum seems to be completely unaware that English Muslims are, in fact, actually a part of English culture. There are lots of differences amongst English people, but what - besides reflexive racism and xenophobia - makes this particular one too much to bear? Does a veil make it any harder to communicate with someone than blindness (a condition that is protected against this type of discrimination under law) does? Is it unbearably rude to wear an eye patch in civil society? If the same obstacle to communication can be fairly easily overcome when it comes to disability, there's really no good reason why it can't be as easily overcome when it comes to religious customs.

As an example, accomodating the religious practices of others might be annoying, but it's also annoying when the church across the street from my apartment meets and I can't find any parking. I'm not about to complain to the church, though I would probably engage in some cultural disobedience if there were a downtown Moscow custom that gave men preferrential parking rights. Then again, if the church felt the need to congregate in the emergency room at Gritman hospital, I would object.

Even if we were to consider religious practices to be equally important as entrenched cultural customs, I don't see why it's more important for white Westerners to be comfortable than it is for Muslim (of whatever color) immigrants or indeed Muslim Westerners. Applebaum was sure to wear a sarong in a Balinese temple, but she apparently didn't mind sticking out like a sore thumb outside the temple. Where it is practical, I don't mind accomodating the religious beliefs of others. I'm not religious, and don't expect to be changing your religion. The culture we share, however, is where I and even veiled women get an input. A woman covering her face with a veil does not impede the exercise of my own rights, and doesn't really make working with her practically difficult. I think Anne can get over it.

UPDATE: Beware the discussion at the Slate site. It's ridiculously anti-Muslim and xenophobic.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Salon notices Jesusland

Check out this article about Rexburg, Idaho, home of BYU-Idaho. Given that BYU-Idaho is basically the only thing there, and BYU-Idaho is basically a Mormon Magnet in a pretty LDS-heavy part of the state as it is, I find the "they're so weird and Republican" tone of the article to be sort of ridiculous. It's like writing an expose on the poor treatment of electric utilities in Amish country. Honestly, I feel a little protective of the LDS community in my state and in other places. They're conservative, sure, and I know a few people who have been scarred by growing up in a community that demands a kind of conformity that some people can't attain. Still, it's a surprisingly flexible religion (as religions go - they've changed doctrine about race, and endorse the idea of evolution), and I appreciate the genuineness in their promotion of happy families and happy communities.

Grant-Sali Debate Drinking Game

The fates have smiled upon my social life and preyed on my liver in such a way that this week's meeting of Moscow's Drinking Liberally chapter falls on the same night as a televised debate between one of the most nationally-visible Idaho Democratic candidates in years, Larry "not Bill Sali" Grant, and his Republican opponent Bill "smug garden gnome" Sali. I attended an earlier debate between the two several weeks ago (and did not blog about it as I promised I would), and it was an interesting experience, even if no one brought their big foam fingers. To make up for the complete lack of silliness* at the aforementioned debate, I am introducing some rules for a Grant-Sali Debate Drinking Game. Before I ley them out, please remember that Drinking Liberally is drinking responsibly, so do break the rules as propriety and safety require. Also, neither the national Drinking Liberally group nor its individual chapters may endorse any candidate, and I do not speak for the organization.

Sali-Grant Debate Drinking Game Rules, 2006

I. Take a drink if...
*Sali calls Grant "liberal."
*Grant calls himself "moderate."
*a candidate is wearing cowboy boots or a bolo tie. Take one drink per tie or pair of boots, per candidate. In the unlikely event a candidate is wearing only one cowboy boot, see part III.
*Grant uses the term "career politician."
*Sali invokes the specter of a Pelosi-led House.
*a candidate says "family values" but means "conservative Christian values."
*the term "tax and spend" is used.
*either candidate tells a verifiable falsehood.
*either candidate contradicts himself.
*a joke falls flat with the audience.
*a candidate assures you of his impending win. (e.g. "When I go to Congress...")
*the term "working" is used as a euphamism for "poor."
*the term "American dream" is used.
*a policy is touted as beneficial to "family farmers."
*Sali says at any time "stay the course."
*Grant mentions Brian Schweitzer.
*Grant mentions hunting as a child, or alludes to an affinity for firearms.
*a candidate displays real and objective lunacy (I'm remembering something about trees being 60% crude oil...).

II. Finish your drink if...
*either candidate completely avoids answering a question.
*either candidate admits to not knowing enough to answer a question.

III. As a non-drinking-related bonus, eat your hat if...
*Sali associates himself with Dennis Hastert.
*making out occurs.
*Sali is spotted conversing with a pink yard flamingo.

I think that ought to do the trick. Feel free to suggest any other rules, and I've set my brother in law to work at creating some of his own. The debate will be shown on Idaho Public Television, and may even be uploaded to the web at IPTV's site.

*With the notable exception of Grant's respone to a question about alcohol control that ended with "...If I'm going to decide what to spend my money on - alcohol or meth - I'd choose meth...[laughter] Prevention."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Back

I was on vacation for the last week and didn't touch a computer the whole time. It was really refreshing to take some time away from the news, but I think I've had about enough refreshment (metaphorical as well as the kind that comes in wine glasses) as I can handle for a while. Time to head back in.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Zunafish story

One reason (other than laziness) that blogging has been so sparse around here lately is that I've been reading a lot of books. There's a service I've discovered called Zunafish, which allows people to trade old paperbacks and CDs with each other, and I'm totally hooked. I imagine this same kind of thing could be accomplished with a good used bookstore, but with the small population in my area and therefore the small selection at used bookstores, Zunafish has proven to be pretty useful to me. It costs $1 to arrange each trade, and shipping tends to be a little under $2, so I end up spending a lot less money than I would buying the books new or even used. I also reuse the envelopes in which the books are sent to me, so I cut down on costs and resources that way, too. Neat, huh?

Friday, October 13, 2006

So dirty so soon

Sali (and at least one sticky-fingered Muscovite supporter of his) must be scared. New poll numbers are showing Larry Grant within single digits of Sali, and now more dirty politicking. Apparently, there have been robocalls in Idaho commissioned by the RNCC on Sali's behalf that are worded such that it sounds like it's a Democratic operation. Grant's online campaign coordinator said she's getting plenty of letters like this in response:

Last night while trying to relax with my family, your campaign,
using an autodialing program called my home 4 times within an
hour.

Now, not only did you interrupt my valueable family time,
I'm a red white and blue REPUBLICAN.

So take me off your get-out-the-vote phone campaign because that little "D" behind your name on my ballot tells me all I need to know about your politics!

Respectfully,

These are not the tactics of a confident campaign.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Democrat can't win in Idaho, eh?

Sali 49, Grant 43. Hot damn!

UPDATE: If you're thinking what I'm thinking, and also an Idahoan, please be sure to contact your county's Democratic party and lend a hand in their get out the vote effort. Cynicsm and apathy just aren't going to cut it this year, people.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hmph!

This morning when I left for work, I had three yard signs in my yard: Jackie Groves Twilegar for Controller, Pat Vaughan for Assessor and Larry Grant for Congress. When I came home from work this evening, I only had two - the Grant sign is gone. How rude.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Welcome to the Carnival of the Feminists No. 24

NOTE: I've posted a few corrections, and thanks to commenters for pointing them out.

As what you might call a layfeminist - not academically trained in feminism or women's issues, and not professionally involved with any overtly feminist organizations or goals - I don't have any real area of expertise when it comes to feminism, so I decided to compile this carnival as a sort of feminist free-for-all. Consider this a chance to take the pulse of the feminist blogosphere and connect readers to the things feminists are saying right now about life, about culture, about each other. I'd like to thank everyone who made a submission, anyone who linked to this carnival to get the word out, and especially Natalie Bennett, who has kept me on the ball and given me guidance for putting this all together. I won't pretend that this is anywhere near comprehenseive, so if you wanted to include a link but I missed it or you didn't get it to me on time, go ahead and leave it in the comments. Remember to look for Carnival number 25 at Philobiblon on October 18.

So, without further ado...

Feminism and Pop Culture

tekanji in her post "Female Villans Can't Win" wonders when video game makers will be able to portray a female villan without her sex appeal being her most notable characteristic.

Sarah Louise Parry, AKA Barbie's worst enemy, isn't impressed that the only kind of compliments toward women in tabloids are the backhanded kind.

Louise Feminista gives us a feminist rationale for liking the work of Kylie Minogue. (Me, I just like dance pop.)

Natasha of feminish can't be sure: are the Long Blondes feminist or not?

American feminism and Muslim women

The feminist blogosphere has been abuzz this month on the cultural, racial, religious, and other divides that separate American feminism from Muslim women in America and abroad. If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, this conversation is not over. I don't have answers, but I do have links. Here goes...

Zola Malay begins to answer the question: "A Muslim feminist?"

Natasha, a Jordanian blogger, reacts to the news of an "honor killing" in her country. Check out this post at The Black Iris, and the following comment thread for more reactions.

Brownfemipower has some major problems with the ubiquity of the use of the burqa by white feminists as a symbol of female oppression. Bitch or BitchLab has more, and the Happy Feminist has some reactions to and links regarding the conversation that resulted from bfp's post, and Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon explains herself. Clare at Ink and Incapability adds this, and if you haven't seen enough after reading all the comments and links on those posts, my advice would be to watch Brownfemipower's Women of Color Blog to see where this all leads. (And please, be aware of the WoCB comment policy!)

Muslim Hedonist writes about "Race, Gender and the Mosque."

Five things feminism has done for me

This meme has caught fire, so check out this list of responses, or since there are too many to list here, do like me and let google compile the links.

Feminist vs. Feminist: toward constructive criticism

The bitch girls say: Guns don't kill feminists, people do.

tekanji is sick of the term "choice feminism."

belledame222 fights the sex-pos fight. points out that I've done a bad job of summarizing her piece: she's got a problem with the heteronormativity pervading feminist sexual politics.

Amber Rhea wonders what all these people around her are if they're not "real women."

Marcella Chester ponders the mysteries of ifeminism. (I want to know if they have to pay royalties to Apple.)

Misc.

Echidne pits science against pseudoscience, and has an idea of why pseudoscience sometimes wins out. Also see Theo on the same subject.

Uma of Indian Writing sheds some light on the dark side of women in India's class system.

Rhetorically Speaking wants to know how a popular male chef can criticize women for changing food culture.

Suki questions Austrialian leaders' committment to protecting its citizens from sexual harassment and discrimination.

The F-word blog catches an European court at reinforcing the wage gap.

Naiades finds makeup to be as limiting as anything else in a racist, sexist world.

Philobiblon and Feminish present a little history.

Pamela Slim scores an interview with Gloria Steinem.

petitpoussin praises female sex bloggers.

Action, Encouragement and Community-Building

I'd like to end with a few links that have come to my attention and could use the attention, encouragement, and maybe even monetary or other resources of the feminist blogosphere. Criticism amongst feminists can often feel a little less than constructive, so let's take this opportunity to acknowledge the unique challenges women face wherever they are, the strength it takes to face them, and offer our help to those who might need it.

Rachie of Living for Disco relates her navigation of the emotional minefield left behind by the experience of sexual harassment.

Ali Eteraz has a call to action on behalf of women sentenced to death by stoning in Iran.

After weathering the runaround that is acquiring emergency contraception in this county, Biting Beaver has found herself with an unplanned and unwelcome pregnancy, a $450 bill for RU-486, and a lot of anger. (On a similar subject, see Broadsheet's reportage on the National Abortion Federation's struggle to provide timely abortions to those who need them.)

Anyone wishing to leave their encouragement for Liz formerly of Granny Gets a Vibrator in the wake of her cancer diagnosis can do it at the blog of her daughter son (d'oh), Finnegan's Wake-up Call.

And - since I am the one hosting this - I'd like to direct any donation dollars that have been burning a hole in your pocket to a nonprofit in my area, Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse, which serves victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse in Latah and Whitman counties of Idaho and Washington, respectively.

Last but not least, the US national election is only 31 days away, so be sure to register to vote, see how you can get involved, keep reading and writing to keep the information flowing, and make sure women's voices are heard in the 2006 election!

UPDATE: Also check out the first African Women's Carnival.

Carnival of the Feminists 24 Pending

I'm looking at about 5:00 pm (PST) to have it up.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Carnival of the Feminists 24: getting down to the wire

Please be aware that the Carnival of the Feminists that I'll be hosting here on October 8th is coming very soon, so if there's a post you've been meaning to write or another good one you've seen and not yet submitted, go ahead and do so by emailing me at saraeanderson(at)gmail(dot)com, with Carnival of the Feminists in the subject line. I said before that the submission deadline will be October 6th at midnight, but I've decided to extend it to 10:00 pm on October 7th. Hope to hear from you!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Avoiding repetitive strain injuries on the set of Handjob Honeys 8

I appreciate Amanda Marcotte's characterization of the recent rule institution at Spanish fashion shows of a minimum BMI (Body Mass Index) for models:
...there’s apparently been a lot of hand-wringing over the increasing skinniness of fashion models after some countries have taken it upon themselves to pass entirely sensible worker safety regulations demanding that models have BMIs that are considered not overly underweight. People are worried to death that this is some kind of slap at free speech or what have you, but since the impetus for the laws was a supermodel who starved herself to death, the truth of the matter is this is basically a necessary protection for the workers so that their employers can’t demand they sacrifice their health in order to keep their jobs.
That sounds just about right. These women are working for wages after all, and it is plainly exploitative to demand they choose between their safety and their meal-ticket (which they ironically won't need as much if they do land the job).

I'm reminded of a conversation I got into a few months back on a very similar issue where people tend to view the exploitation of women in the context of free speech and not worker safety: pornography. SugarBank, a porn-centered blog, recently discussed (careful, link very porny and not safe for work) the tension between exploitation and freedom of expression when it comes to violent and extremely degrading pornography. It began with an intraindustry discussion about simulating violence and degradation versus the various (and really, not that convincing) reasons to film it actually happening. Sam says:

Halcyon makes it clear that while most people see porn as pure entertainment, a minority use it to vindicate their ideas, making any judgement against the porn they like a comment on their lifestyle. If we take steps to limit what’s done on video, Halcyon sees her his private life as next inline for censorship. It’s a trap for the industry that pornographers are complicit in building.

Hollywood is allowed to portray anything it can imagine as long as performers are protected. If we need an actor in a movie to drink a bottle of vodka we replace the alcohol with water and ask them to act. Porn’s reluctance to embrace simulation, ironically in an industry where orgasms, pleasure and names are all routinely faked, makes the debate about extreme porn a referendum on people’s personal predilections. We should be able to take risks in our own lives which we don’t tolerate being forced on the people who entertain us.

Commenter Aurelius is also worried about the light extreme porn casts run-of-the-mill porn in:
So, we’ve pretty much agreed that the assaultive, coercive porn is at least potentially harmful to consumers as well as participants, that consumers of this type material are probably troubled although most don’t go on to become predators ala Bundy, Gacy, Dahmer or the BTK killer, that there may be a valid reason or reasons to supress this type material, and that stopping it is probably impossible. What we can’t quite figure out is whether the mainstream can or ought to try to accept standards or to self-impose standards, a point beyond which they will not go.
I responded:
See, I find it more useful to think of this in the context of safety at the workplace, less than an issue of free speech. While it mixes both issues, the porn biz is more of a money-driven industry than a collective of artists trying to get the word out. There aren’t a lot of people starving so that people will truly understand the message of their being pegged on-screen after all. I’ve heard a little about OSHA-like standards being enforced on a sort of volunteer-basis amongst some production companies, but why shouldn’t it be regulated by OSHA itself? If “pornographer” is an occupation, shouldn’t it meet with occupational safety and health standards?
Unfortunately, Aurelius' motivation to regulate degrading and violent porn is to make sure he can still obtain the sort he feels comfortable with (and I do to, by the way), so I found his eventual thinking to be a little too small. I think he's wrong to think that can (or should?) do nothing to regulate the production of such harmful types of pornography, and I think that the labor angle is the way to do it. It is absolutely important to maintain the right to free speech, your right does not extend to where you are speaking through another. If you're paying someone to be hurt on screen, you're making them do the heavy lifting for your speech and introducing an element of economic coercion to boot. After all, you can't force your employees to stand on the "not a step" of a ladder so as to express yourself. If you can get your friends to do it for free, that's another issue, and I have to wonder where you'll get such dumbass friends. But, to each his own. I can only surmise that exploitative and harmful pornography isn't seen in this light due to women's bodies being controlled by men being a social norm, but maybe that's my inner cynical feminist talking. (Being inner, cynical, and feminist doesn't make her wrong, though, does it?)