Friday, June 30, 2006

$10 or $20

Today is the day to contribute to the Grant campaign for the first congressional district seat in the House of Representatives. June 30th marks the end of the second fundraising quarter and any money Grant has in the bank now will pay off in the long run. Rent a movie instead of going out, and give $10 to help send an Idaho Democrat to Congress.

Irresponsible Women's Forum

Charlotte Allen of the "Independent Women's Forum" (what an adorable name for an anti-feminist organization!) is up in arms at the recent recommendation that girls be vaccinated against some of the cancer-causing strains of HPV. From her post:

Now, here’s the latest from an immunization panel affiliated with the National Centers for Disease Control: force every single little girl, female teenager, and young woman in the country to be vaccinated against cervical cancer--actually against sexually transmitted disease that can cause cancer.

Here’s the New York Times report:

"The vote all but commits the federal government to spend as much as $2 billion alone on a program to buy the vaccine for the nation’s poorest girls from 11 to 18.

"The vaccine, Gardasil, protects against cancer and genital warts by preventing infection from four strains of the human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted disease, according to federal health officials. The virus is also a cause of other cancers in women."

If you think 11 sounds young for sex, how about age 9--the recommended age in some cases?


"Another challenge is Gardasil’s price. At $360 for the three-shot regimen, it is among the most expensive vaccines ever. Because cervical cancer is mostly a disease of poverty, those in most need of the vaccine will be the least able to afford it. State vaccination programs, already under financial strain, may refuse to provide it."

I hope they do refuse. How about telling young teen-agers instead that sexual promiscuity is not only a bad idea but actually dangerous to their health?

I know this isn't the first time someone from the IWF has said something dumb and manipulative, but I lose my ability to ignore it from time to time. First of all, I would like someone from Focus on the Family, the Independent Women's Forum or assorted other groups that have opposed to the widespread use of this vaccine to please point out a single instance in which anyone promoting this vaccine has said - or even hinted - that 9- and 11-year-olds ought to be having sex. The point of vaccinating young girls is that they have (hopefully) not had an opportunity to contract HPV, and can therefore build an immunity to the virus before they come into contact with it. Also, I think that the CDC has already covered the dangers of "sexual promiscuity." Let's also not forget that the most chaste of us can be raped or cheated on, and exposed to HPV in that matter. A small number of sexual partners reduces the risk of contracting STDs - it doesn't eliminate it.

I don't doubt for a second that Ms. Allen knows all of this, but she is still willing to misrepresent the CDC and put women's (and men's) lives on the line just for the sake of demonstrating her opposition to premarital sex. It's not amusing, and until the IWF and their ilk are prepared to present any evidence that the HPV vaccine will not help women, they are causing men and women to contract cancer. It's that simple.

(Thanks to Feministing for the link.)

UPDATE: zuzu is also not amused.

Victoria's Secret is...women are the commodity

Don't be fooled. Victoria's Secret does not exist to sell lingerie to women. Victoria's Secret exists to sell women to men. Take this incident for example.

Rebecca Cook of Burlington said she tried to use a dressing room at the store, but when one wasn’t available, she prepared to breast-feed in the store. An employee said no, pointing her toward the mall’s restrooms.

Cook said the store manager told her the employee probably thought the “sight of her breasts might offend a customer.”

In a similar case, Jessie Chandler of Massachusetts entered a Victoria’s Secret store on June 22 to shop. Chandler asked if she could use the dressing room to nurse the baby and was directed to a bathroom outside the store instead

In other words, if you think Victoria's Secret is at all concerned with making women happy, you're sadly mistaken. Breasts may be pushed up, lifted, and/or separated for the viewing pleasure of men. Any other display of the female body is too offensive to the VS clientele. If you must follow your non-sexy biological imperative, please lock yourself inside a small space meant for the excretion and disposal of human waste. And don't come out until you're sexy again.

PS - Victora's Secret does not have any corporation-wide policy against breastfeeding, so this is a localized event. Why doesn't it surprise me, though?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Those confusing anti-abortion activists

First they support Nazis. Then they don't like them. Make up your minds already.

Links links links

Here's some noteworthy stuff, even if I can't think of anything interesting to add.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices reccomends the vaccine against HPV for girls ages 11 and 12, and pending data on the vaccine's safety for boys, will likely reccomend it for them as well.

Let's not let science get in the way of shaming fat people!

Blogger EL notices something fishy about the blow job wars conversation.

Josh at States of the Union has a great post about poverty in Idaho and has an interesting tidbit to pass along about Butch Otter (see article here).

Anyone who liveblogs giving birth is a badass in my book (link via Happy Feminist).

A newish blog for feminist men is looking very interesting so far. Keep up the good work, guys.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Quit pouting and put out

I'm a little late to the party on this, but Susie Bright recently wrote an essay on a percieved universal decline in male libido and where it might be coming from. It's a premise that makes me start to roll my eyes to begin with - where's the actual data that shows this disturbing trend? - but her conclusion absolutely drove me nuts.
My chief indictment at present, the one we can prove, is Pharmaceutical Abuse. Many of America's favorite medicines depress the libido, and ironically, the most notorious ones are used to treat depression. Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and all the rest have made a lot of people feel "happy" at the expense of feeling horny.

Desire, along with sadness, anger, and other deep feelings, don't feel so pressing anymore with the new mood levelers. Men and women who got rid of their depression have told me that they miss their sex drive, but they find their new contentment to be enough compensation.

What saddens me is that a person would have to choose between their sexual passion and their will to live— we used to think of those emotions as being part of the same joie de vivre.

And what infuriates me is that young people are being treated with this crap as if their libidos were expendable.

As someone who has been through the zoloft libido drop, I get very annoyed when I see this sort of thing. It saddens Bright that a person has to choose between their libido and their will to live? It's also sad that people get cancer and have to choose between chemo and dying. What's the point here? Why is it so hard to believe that people are happy with their lives when they say they are? Why is it so hard to believe that there are women and men who would trade 10% of their libido to treat their mental illness?

What I see converging here are two things that drive me nuts: the dismissal of mental illness and the sex-positive tendency to demand perpetual sexiness. Here Bright is distraught at the idea that a young man might prefer a hamburger to a roll in the hay, and doesn't for a second consider that people suffering from depression have to make a hard decision. The way I looked at it when I started taking antidepressants was that I could either not take the pills and deal with a medium-to-severe amount of suckiness in my life all the time or take them and deal with somewhat less fantastic sex in the amount of time I normally devoted to it. (And honestly, depression is not the sexiest thing in the world, either.)

I was raked over the coals when I suggested that sex-positivity can wander into the territory of a mandatory lust contest, but Bright is making exactly that detour here. Along the way, she's decided to belittle the seriousness of depression.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


I hate the new Slate redesign. It's all 90-degree angless and dignified, spare sans-serif fonts. It's the kind of design you'd expect from the New York Times, if the New York Times wasn't obsessed with its front page looking like the actual newspaper. It's no-nonsense in a way that contrarian, snarky Slate manifestly isn't.

And, actually, looking at it right now, the biggest problem isn't the parts they designed: it's the parts they didn't. All of the advertisements look absolutely jarring. If you're going to make a radical design statement, make sure that you have absolute control over absolutely everything, because -- if you have to make holes in your avant-garde web design to accomodate standard-width sidebars -- it's going to look truly awful. Which it does.

-- ACS


Slate is hosting a discussion between Barbara Ehrenrich and Jason Furman on the issue of Wal-Mart and its effects on the working class. Furman is "a visiting scholar at New York University's Wagner Graduate School of Public Administration," and Ehrenrich pretended to be poor for several months and wrote a book about it. As Ehrenrich notes in the discussion, this isn't exactly a fair fight. As of Tuesday afternoon, Furman seems moments away from proposing the abolishment of the minimum wage. I don't know how long they plan to drag this out, but it's looking pretty ugly already.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

So do you support our troops or not?

I finally figured out what bothers me so much about the "support our troops" magnets people slap on their cars. They're a command to the reader, not a wish of goodwill toward the actual troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, or whathaveyou. It doesn't even necessarily indicate that the driver of the magnet-bearing car supports any troops. "[You there!] Support our troops [you selfish liberal scum! Why not ride your recumbent bicycle back to your geodesic dome and cry your eyes out into your herbal tea because you hate America so much?]." If they said "God bless our troops" or "Yay American troops!" or even "America, FUCK YEAH!" I'd be happier. But as it is, the implication is that you, the reader, are deficient in your troop support. And as a taxpaying, voting, political-process-participating American, I take issue with that. There are a lot of bumper stickers that are commands to readers - "Save the whales," "Don't want an abortion? Don't have one!" - but they're intended for an opposing audience. "Support our troops" just seems like another framing gotcha, and it's unnecessary polarizing.

Saturday Food Blogging: cucumber gimlet

Happy birthday to me! With all of the planning that went into last week's 50th birthday party for my mom, I didn't really get around to deciding what to do for my birthday today. So far, I plan on hiking up Kamiak Butte, eating thai food for dinner and going out drinking at my favorite bar. Tomorrow we'll head up Hell's Canyon to find a beach for swimming, a picnic, and cocktails. Given the chance, I'll stretch my birthday out to be as many days as my friends and family will allow.

I am a huuuge fan of gin, and my favorite way to partake of it is the gimlet, which is simply gin and lime juice. I've been itching to try a recipe from July's issue of Bon Apetit for a cucumber gimlet, and I think that tomorrow's picnic will be the perfect occasion. I'll report back with my impression, but here's the recipe.
2 large cucumbers
1/2 cup gin
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup ice cubes
4 lime slices

Slice four 1/4-inch-thick slices from 1 cucumber. Peel and coarsely chop remaining cucumbers; transfer to processor and puree until smooth. Pour through fine strainer set over large bowl, pressing on solids in strainer. Discard solids in strainer.

Mix 1 cup cucumber juice, gin lime juice and sugar in pitcher; stir until sugar dissolves. Add ice; mix well. Immediately strain mixture into 4 small martini glasses. Garnish with lime and cucumber slices and serve.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Give Glenn a break

It's a sensitive subject to be sure, but I have to say that I'm coming down on Glenn Reynolds' side on this new and misinformed iteration of the porn and rape debate. From new Justice Department numbers:

One measure is the Justice Department's National Crime Victimization Survey, which asks thousands of respondents 12 and older about crimes that have happened to them. This survey, which is meant to capture offenses that weren't reported to police, is the one that depicted the 85 percent decline in the per-capita rape rate since 1979.

So, right off the bat, let's dispense with the (not completely ridiculous) reporting rate vs. crime rate objection. The NCVS does not rely on the reporting rate, and the survey even includes questions about situations to which many may not attach the word "rape" but would be considered rape by law. An example would be asking whether you'd been coerced into sex, or whether you'd been involved in a sexual encounter that you don't remember.

Reynolds, in response, says:

So while I won't go so far as to argue that porn actually prevents rape, it seems clear that the claims of some people — including a commission headed by former Attorney General Ed Meese back in the 1980s — that pornography promotes rape are, at best, overstated. I suspect, though, that anti-pornography crusaders are unlikely to heed this lesson.

And, judging by the comments I've seen at Feministe, Reynolds is somewhat correct in his prediction of feminist response. Granted, it seems that many Feministe commenters haven't RTFA (something of which I am often guilty, myself), but I have to say that what I'm reading surprises me. Also, please note that he expressly says he is not arguing that porn prevents rape. This is a sensitive subject over which a lot of women are hurt, but let's at least stick to the things people are actually saying here.

I have argued before against a strong causative relationship between pornography consumption and rape before, so I do alreay have feelings on the subject. I am more inclined to agree with this assessment given in the WaPo article, however.
One school of thought holds that rape has declined for the same reasons that other violent offenses have: a reduction in the lawlessness associated with crack cocaine, a shrinking population of young people and an increased number of criminals in jail.

Rapists "tend to commit other crimes," said Richard Felson, a professor at Pennsylvania State University. "The way we say it in criminology is that offenders tend to be versatile." By this logic, locking up robbers, killers and drug dealers reduces the pool of potential rapists out on the street.
Like Jill, at Feministe, I can't believe that it's not "feminist efforts to de-stigmatize rape; not survivor-outreach programs; not rape crisis centers; not information campaigns which emphasized to men that rape is not ok; not the general empowerment of women; not a shift in social ideas about women being the property of men" having any effect on this trend. Later in the WaPo article, police officers are itnerviewed saying that the rape rate has probably not decreased, but given that they are only exposed to the reported rapes, I would have to give Jill's list some credit for increasing the reporting rate as the actual sexual assault rate declines. I would also like to add that these data put a lot of holes in Wendy Shalit's idiotic contention that the increased knowledge of and decreased shame about sex resulting from the sexual revolution have led to a rise in sexual violence.

Reynolds is certainly not my favorite commenter, but even a broken clock is right twice a day, right?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rhetorical Qusetion 2

There's a legal principle that the state interest in preventing violence is more important than any theoretical right to consent to violence. It's suspended in the case of pornography.

Why is that?

-- ACS

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Illustrate with examples for full credit

Andrew Sullivan thinks that Russell Shaw is facing some hard truths with a post about the drawbacks of demanding an immediate absolute conversion as opposed to incrementalism and a bit of politeness for good measure. Shaw:

But the louder you shout, and the larger the brickbats you wield toward everyone who is not exactly with your program 100.00%, well, that has never worked in terms of changing politics to make things right.

Why? It is because for buckets of reasons too complex to posit in one article, true believers in progressive causes have - for good or evil- never have been able to carve a major percentage beachhead in our political culture.

The best trajectory for change is to convince those who may not agree with you on everything, but agree with you on some things to side with you on those things you both agree on. That's how alliances are made, and sometimes, how minds are changed.

That's all fine and good but not very useful unless we're talking specifics. What are you going to put your foot down about and what are you going to let slide for now? How does your relative privilege inform this decision? Are you willing to concede gay marriage for a Democratic takeover of congress because it will do the cause more good in the long run, or because you're not gay and it's not going to hurt you directly?

For example, I was among those who thought that Hugo Schwyzer's incremental approach to converting the wary proto-profeminist was really the best way to go. Telling "Pete" (who later turned up in Hugo's comments to discuss with Hugo's critics what exactly was going through his head then and how he feels now) that he was treating women as sub-human isn't exactly a falsehood, but on the other hand I don't know how well he would have received that kind of criticism. So, Shaw, I think I'm with you on that one.

On the other hand, there's Markos Moulitsas' (aka Kos) analysis of the disastrous alliance between NARAL Pro-Choice America and Lincoln Chafee, the "pro-choice" Republican. My understanding of the conflict is that Kos says that NARAL and their supporters were unwise to support Chafee since his nominal pro-choice position didn't play out well when it came to abortion-related issues that weren't directly about abortion - the nomination of Sam Alito, to name one. Crashing the Gates, Kos' and fellow blogger Jerome Armstrong's book about what's wrong with the Democratic party and how to fix it, has a lot of negative things to say about NARAL and other so-called single-issue groups in situations like these, where not every issue that Democrats traditionally care about is going to get the attention it deserves. The ensuing criticism of Kos and others who insisted that NARAL cared too much about the choice issue seemed rather absurd to me. Of course NARAL cares about the issue of choice - that's its main cause. And, given a historic support of reproductive rights by Democrats, it would make sense that Democrats would get behind NARAL and vice versa. Let's not forget that Chafee's Democratic opponent was also pro-choice, though. NARAL was taking a gamble by promoting bipartisan support of choice in its support of Chafee, and it lost. NARAL should have known better, but most definitely should not have ignored the choice issue here. If NARAL isn't going to be using the issue of choice as a test for candidates it supports, it might as well disband. And if Democrats aren't going to take a candidate's position on choice into strong consideration, that ought to be made clear in the Democrats' platform. There are those who might advocate Democrats downplaying or abandoning choice so that they can make gains in the here and now, but I daresay that this is not an issue-dodge that I'd like to see Democrats make. It might make the Democratic Party seem more inviting to pro-lifers, but that's not the kind of compromise I am willing to make.

Considering all this, I have to wonder what spurred Shaw's little rant. Its generic terms end up making it pretty meaningless, so I suspect that he had some issue or conflict in mind when he wrote it. I just wonder why he didn't name it so that a real conversation could be had.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Brief Taxonomy of Christian Reconstructionism

I've had a number of people referring to Doug Wilson as "not a Reconstructionist," not least among them his own daughter-in-law, Heather. This needs to be taken into consideration. So, I'm going to take some time clearing up the terminology I'm using and why. To a certain extent, this will be a history of a movement you don't care about, but should. Bear with me.

First came Cornelius Van Til, an otherwise obscure Dutch theologian. Though he rejected the political claims of the Reconstructionsits, he formed the basis of Reconstructionist apologetics, which are, esesntially: "We must assume that the Christian God exists, becaus the existence o the Christian God is a precondition of reason." We'll call this "presuppositionalism."

Then came Rousas Rushdoony, an Armenian immigrant who thought democracy was heresy, homosexuality was a capital crime, and the Holocaust was a lie. Though not particularly effective in implementing his ideas, he did influence people, like Marvin Olasky, who did have an influence -- some time later -- on American policy. You may remember "compassionate conservatism." That was Marivn.

"Christian Reconstructionist" is an inside term, used to describe a living movement as well as a theology. Fortunately, it's not a large living movement, and any discussion of it needs to keep in mind that its founder, Rousas Rushdoony, was a crank and compulsive schizmatic. For most of his life, "Christian Reconstructionism" was largely synonymous with his think tank, the Chalcedon Foundation. Andrew Sandlin, Gary North, and Greg Bahnsen all, at various times, worked for the Chalcedon foundation, and all, at various times, had fallings-out with Rousas Rushdoony.

All of this is going on within the context of the most hardcore of the hardcore Calvinists in America -- the parts of the Presbyterian church that broke off from the national church during the Civil War. Many "Orthodox" Presbyterians still feel the old wounds of the Civil War, and endorse the medieval structure of landowners/tenants/slaves. Though the League of the South didn't initially arise out of this milieu, the racists over at Badlands and Steve Wilkins most certainly did. Later, the LotS would be co-opted by racists and theoconfederates, but that's a different story.

How does this have to do with Christ Church? Peter Leithart, faculty at New Saint Andrews College, wrote the Weekly Standard's glowing obituary of Rousas Rushdoony. Doug Jones, of Credenda/Agenda, wrote an equally glowing obituary of Greg Bahnsen. Andrew Sandlin is currently in a dispute with Doug Wilson over Auburn theology. Marvin Olasky gets in slap-fights with Doug on the blog of his newsmagazine, World. Wilkins appears with Wilson at conferences where Wilson decides on the participants.

Christ Church's attorney endorses making the most shocking parts of Old Testament Law the law of the United States. Doug supports restricting the franchise to male heads of household. Doug defends slavery as a necessity. I have made it quite clear why I find all of these things unacceptable. Insofar as he differs with other Reconstructionists, he differs from them on pedobaptism and "Federal Vision" theoogy. These are doctrinal trivialities.

I'm at no risk from the policies that Reconstructionists recommend, unless they suddenly become advocates of enforcing Biblical restrictions against conversion and blasphemy as strictly as they intend to enforce those against homosexuality. I have cordial relations with many of them. I don't necessarily believe that all are evil: many of them, I think, are engaged in a game of moral "chicken" -- a competition to see who can be the most faithful to the most inhumane ideals -- and would flee from them rather than see them actually implemented.

But it's not myself that I'm worried about, and it's not the personal conduct of the Kirkers. There are people that have been explictly threatened. And though I have received enough trite reassurances that Christ Church has retreated from the politics of power to the politics of the Trinity, I am not reassured by the fact that their policies would only be implemented if they held a majority: there is a reason that our system protects minorities, and this is it.

Until they take genocide and disenfranchisement off the table as options, it's my responsibility not to speak to them, but about them; to see them, insofar as I can, excluded from the spectrum of reasonable debate. It is ridiculous, in the 21st century, that I would have to say this, but banishment is not an equitable compromise between stoning and not stoning, and democracies should not be run by individuals whose goal is the abolition of democracy.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Helpful hint

Sarcasm doesn't impress Randy Stapilus.

Entered Without Comment

Note: This is the response I recieved from Heather after posting something several pages down. It's more than interesting enough to warrant being posted in its entirety.


Let me preface this note by telling you . . . this is a rant. I have a smile on my face as I write, but a rant nonetheless. I have never in my five years of attending Christ Church heard or seen such chauvinistic, patronizing, and derogatory statements about me, let alone from someone I've met briefly one time (at the V2020 potluck if you recall). Actually, I've never been so insulted (for my choices as a woman) in my life, though Bill London's off list emails to me take a close second. You demonstrate such thorough ignorance combined with a provincial impulse to judge someone that you know only by their gender and their religion that it's hard for me to know where to start. Rant, rant, etc.
When I hear people like H., who's married to the son of our local theoconfederate pastor, is happy in her marriage despite having no recourse outside it, no way to leave him if he becomes abusive, and no way to support herself if he chooses to leave, I believe her.
Do you realize how insulting that all is? No recourse if abused? Implying that abuse in my marriage (with which you are not acquainted) is a real possibility? I feel stupid even answering this but...

1) I have the church elders, who would (as I've seen them do in the past, and as they are currently doing in the present) intervene on a wife's behalf even though the abuse is non-physical. Abuse of any sort ( physical, emotional, verbal, spiritual ) is not something ignored in the church despite what you seem to be asserting outright and what you may have read written by other ill informed Idahoan sorts like yourself.

2) I have family. My father-in-law would resign from the pastorate if he had a son who was abusive to his wife. I have a fully functional family on
both sides and would never be left with out recourse.

3)There are the police. Yes, I live in the same town that you do, and we have a police department. I know how to dial 911. Your wife and I share that protection. No way to support myself? Sheesh... I'll address this below.
It would be difficult for Nate -- I have no reason to believe is personally worse than anyone else -- to be cruel to her on purpose.
On purpose? Nice qualification. The things you are implying about my husband and the nature of our relationship both in the paragraph above and paragraph below are nothing short of ridiculous. You are not only flat out lying about two people you evidently know nothing about (read -- zippo), you are insulting my intelligence as a woman. You're not writing this about an abstract theoretical Christian woman. You are writing this about me. While I can't account for all the stupidity to be found in the confines of Christendom (and there's a lot), I can give account for my life, the lives of my friends and family, and what is taught at my church. Within our church there is little thing called accountability. But, I'm already tired of trying to start my explanations at square one . . .
But insofar as he is not domineering, he is not domineering at his discretion, and can start or stop at his discretion. The rules that apply in the outside world stop at the door of his house: he is the king of his castle. All the decisions of the household, all the final say, belongs to him. He may choose to stay or he may choose to leave as he pleases. He's the source of financial stability in the household. If he is abusive and she chooses to leave, she has the Hobson's choice of leaving her children behind in a financially stable houshold or taking her children with her to face the job market with a nonexistent or spotty resume.
Let's go here, shall we? Since you insist. In the first paragraph you asserted that I would have"no way to support [my]self if he chooses to leave," and then again talk about a "nonexistent or spotty resume." Ignoring the bizarre falsehood about the nature of my marriage, do you know me? Do you know anything about me, outside of my gender and affection for the Apostle Paul? I don't remember you asking me about my personal history the one time we met, and yet you're willing to say these things publicly about me. Do you realize how hard it is for me to take you seriously on anything you say at this point? I graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in History and an emphasis in Latin American Studies. I've taught English as a Second Language in both the US and Chile. Twice, I've worked for the Oneill Corporation in Western Europe (Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal and England.) Se habla Espanol. Spent time traveling in Indonesia (studied the Indonesian language as well), Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Fiji, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Mexico, Costa Rica, Israel (I have family in Haifa), Ireland, and all over the USA. I was a sponsored surfer and as a result, I've modeled products in advertising that was used in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. I've worked as a freelance writer for national and international magazines (not the Co-op newsletter), worked as a software tester and technical writer and I currently do web work on the side. Nate's been encouraging me to start writing again (though it will be tougher for him to convince me now that I've read you -- my resume is just too spotty ). I could continue but I hope you see my point. Ah, you may say, but what about the rest of those poor folks who have grown up in Wilson's world? Let's say a little about women in the family I married into. All daughters and wife are college educated. My mother-in-law taught English lit and other various subjects from the time her kids were in school until the present. She still teaches occasionally. She wrote an English grammar and is always plunking away at other writing related projects. My husband's older sister, besides mothering five wonderful kids, has a design company and has had various art commissions since I've been here. His younger sister has a floral and housewares shop downtown and two small children. That Wilson. Always trying to keep his women folk down. Would you like the breakdown of my friend's degrees and work experience? Do you need to hear about studies in Australia? France? Central America? Do you want to hear about a female certified paramedic, an M.D., a young woman working with African orphans? Do you know what percentage of women at Christ Church work outside the home? Do you actually know anything about Christ church women that you haven't read off some insecure "man's" blog?

I'm tempted to start in on the whole stay at home mom thing as well but I'll steer clear for now.
Insofar as he is a good husband, it isn't because of, but, rather, in spite of the unfair and anti-egalitarian privileges he has been given. It's where he rejects the fact that he can act with absolute impunity, rather than where he accepts it."
Let's bring the rant in for a landing. Theme: you know not of what you speak, and, to paraphrase Solomon, even a dope will be thought wise if he keeps his mouth shut. I remember my father-in-law once referring to you as nice but ill-informed. I've seen the ill-informed part, but where is the nice? I met your wife briefly, and she was pleasant.. But I'm concerned. What recourse would you have if she left you? Would you be able to support yourself?

Two things to close. One -- just to satisfy curiosity, have you ever worked outside of Idaho (excluding WA, of course)? I'm wondering because you're seeming so -- ahem, cough, cough -- damn provincial. Two, one of the things I respect about my husband (and one of the reasons why I know he's not a chauvinist) is because he is able to take correction from women and cheerfully admit when he is wrong. You embarrassed yourself on your blog on this front (though you've given a number of my girlfriends a good laugh), let's see you do the same.


Heather Wilson

PS: If you'd ever interacted as I have with reconstructionist or real neoconfederates (as I have in my youth) you'd know neither is an apt description of my father-in-law or church. It's like calling someone a communists 'casue he thinks Marx had anything of value to say or cited him once in a term paper.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Saturday Food Bloggging: gorgonzola-pear butter

It's easy. Mash together some butter, pears and gorgonzola until you get something that's nicely-spreadable at room temperature. We put it on apple juice and sage-marinated pork chops but it's also to die for on butter crackers. Try serving it with some hard apple cider.

Two peas in a pod

This story about a three-year-old who wanted and had the News Hour with Jim Lehrer as the theme for his birthday party reminds me of the realizations I've been having as I grow up of what a weird, boring kid I was.

First of all, I think you could call me a "dam enthusiast." My grandparents live in The Dalles, OR, with a view of the Dalles Dam on the Columbia river. When I would stay there, I remember spending long moments at night looking at all the lights sparkling on it, really awed by its beauty. I also spent many childhood birthdays there and always asked to go on the tour of the dam for my birthday. There was a train that would take you to a park just below the dam that had a pond with ducks and fish, and we'd have a picnic lunch there. Then we'd catch the next train to ride past the water rushing through the spillway. there was almost always a rainbow in the splashing water. Then we'd go inside the dam to see the turbines and hear about the power being generated by their noisy spinning. I realize that it's kind of weird, but I really cherish these memories. And even to this day, I am generally impressed whenever I see a big dam on a big river, even knowing their salmonicidal effects. The reservoir behind the Dalles Dam actually covers up the gorgeous Celilo Falls where the local indians used to stand over the rushing falls on rickety platforms to fish for salmon. The photos and documentaries about this always struck me as poignant, but it never occurred to me that they might not have built the dam.

Another weird-dorky thing I did in elementary school was become obsessed with NPR's Talk of the Nation. Our local NPR station would rebroadcast it from 10:00 until midnight, and I'd lie awake in bed listening to the show. I've always been a kind of nervous insomniac, so I was really glad to have that company at night when most kids would be sleeping. In sixth grade, not only did I have a crush on Ray Suarez, but I also wrote a poem about the music (which has since changed).

Okay, so I was kind of a loner.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Rhetorical Question, pt. 2

In the comments section, Bubblehead says:
Regarding the Gitmo prisoners, I've said before that we should call them prisoners of war, give them Geneva Convention protections, and hold them until we sign a peace treaty with the Taliban and Al Qaeda (since Sara got on me last time for suggesting we hold them until they surrender). Do you think we should have started releasing the German POWs we held in 1943?
Good idea.

Except that al-Qaida is a franchise, a meta-organization, and not a top-down hierarchy. Though I would suspect that bin Laden could issue a formal declaration of surrender, he doesn't have sufficient authority to order a diffuse organization with representatives in dozens of different countries to lay down their arms and be subject to criminal sanctions. The document you're asking for doesn't do what it might do when received from a nation-state.

On the other hand, Afghanistan is its own state, which has its own government and its own leaders. They have requested that Afghan nationals be repatriated, to be tried in Afghan courts. They've requested that 47 prisoners -- roughly half of the Afghan prisoners currently being incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay -- be immediately released. We don't have any reason not to do so. Not even the Afghan government, the government to which the prisoners would be the most threat to if th;ey were released inside Afghanistan, believes they'd be a risk.

The moderate position on this issue isn't "don't torture them, but hold them forever without trial," it's "repatriate, shut the facility, and hold accountable the people responsible for the idiotic policy that created it in the first place."

-- ACS

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Rhetorical Question

How is it that the debate on security has shifted so far toward authoriarianism that I have to explain the reasons why it's a bad idea to lock someone up forever without a trial to another American?

-- ACS

Personal empowerment: use it or lose it

Lawyers, Guns and Money (and others) has been hot on the topic of female empowerment and the mommy wars, all surrounding the work of Linda Hirshman. For those of you who missed this conversation the first time it came around, Hirshman's basic argument is that the rhetoric of choice (small-c, not abortion-related) has stymied the feminist movement's progress in the realm of female empowerment. When feminism is about the ability to choose, with every choice being equally valid and valuable to women everywhere, it becomes difficult to compare the relative benefits and drawbacks of these choices. Even harder is talking about whether the choices offered are all just different kinds of enslavement to men. Check out all of the links above and read the comments, because it's a very interesting discussion.

Where I wanted to weigh in is against the words of a blogger called Mrs. Coulter, who wants us to think in broader terms than money-grubbing capitalism and patriarchal power structures. Please read the above links if you need more background, but I am going to take a few snippets from the conversation at the latest LGM thread between LizardBreath and Mrs. Coulter.
LizardBreath, you are blaming the wrong people for the problem. The iniquities and injustices that WOHM are faced with are not caused by women who "opt-out", but rather by a system that forces an all-or-nothing decision with regards to career vs. family, on both men and women.
By accepting Hirshman's arguments, you are buying into the system, one that devalues childcare and "traditionally feminine" occupations as unworthy, one that devalues the family (except as a political prop), one that views the worker as the property of his/her employer. I forget who said it now, but in the original Hirshman discussions, one of her critics commented "When did feminism become the hand-maiden of capitalism?"
Frankly, I think it would be better to advocate for better and longer parental leaves, better and less expensive daycare options, and greater workplace flexibility than to decry SAHMs as gender traitors, but that probably doesn't sell as many books. One of these days, I'll be back in the workforce and I fully intend to use whatever managerial power I may have to enable working parents to balance their lives as they see fit.

The problem I have have with Coulter's line of argument is that she's pulling this back to the passive issue of blame. After decades and waves of the feminist movement and women still, in general, living their lives by the dictates of the men who surround them, I think it's pretty clear who to blame. (My short answer would be just about everyone, though some people are more invested in the patriarchy than others.) There are some things that oppressed groups can request from their oppressors - more respect, more compensation for hard work, more freedom - and there are things that oppressed groups can take. When you move more things from the "ask" category to the "take" category, you're going to be making a lot more progress a lot more quickly. This is the direction in which I see Hirschman's argument going, so I think it does have a lot of promise.

The problem with stay-at-home moms in regards to empowering women is that a stay-at-home mom does not have much de facto power. Her time is limited by her obligations to her children, and her mobility and decision-making powers are limited by her lack of any kind of economic self-sufficiency. This isn't exactly her fault. No matter how much a woman desires to be a SAHM, I don't imagine that those women who end up in the households where they do more than their share of the housework consciously planned that kind of inequity into their futures. The key issue here is that SAHMs don't have the power in the here and now that would allow them to advance the cause of women's empowerment. This is not to say that being a SAHM is anti-feminist at all. What I do mean to express that finger-wagging, theorizing and repeated requests do not a movement make.

Things have to change for things to change. When women are opting out of the workforce, they're opting out of the power that it gives them. The relative meaning of power here is important, but not in the way that most of us would like to think about it. We don't always need to think of power in traditional, patriarchal terms, but we do to a certain extent need to do so when we're forcing the patriarchy to yield its power. This is about creating changes in society that don't make abusing and ignoring and disempowering women so easy. This is about making changes in society that make abusing and ignoring and disempowering women impossible. Hirschman at least has some constructive suggestions here that involve women guarding their self-sufficiency and self-worth. Maybe she's thinking a little too much inside the capitalistic, consumeristic, male-dominated box, but that's the box we live in now after all. I am certain that there are more creative solutions than what Hirschman has laid out, but I am also certain that they need to give women permanent possession of their power. Solutions involving more flexible work hours and better support for single parents or abused spouses can be very effective, but they are all dependent on the cooperation of people who may or may not be interested in helping the little gal out.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Positive Hypocrisy

When I was in high school, the debate team I was a part of virtually doubled as the Gay/Straight Alliance. I think every GLBT student old enough to be part of the team was part of the team. For this reason, my mom was exposed to a lot of gay students, and, as far as she would tell me, she personally like and approved of all of them. But this didn't move the needle, as it were, when it came to her personal views on gay people in general: they were pedophiles, crazy, untrustworthy, sexually promiscuous, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

She had invented a rule to which everyone she actually knew was the exception. And while I can't give her a pass on the consequences of her belief in terms of the policies and the politicians she supports, I never once heard a complaint* from any of my friends. To an extent, I trust that.

People betray their worst natures as often as they betray their best. Even people who hold ideas which I find abhorrent can falter when faced, personally, with the decision to harm another human being. We can all dehumanize another person -- totally shed our empathy toward them -- but it takes a special kind of sociopath to feel nothing at another person's suffering, or even their discomfort.

Where I work, we don't do a lot of active self-defense work; we don't have an on-staff martial arts expert. Often, martial artists will tell you to gouge eyes, break bones, kick balls, et cetera. But when it comes down to an actual violent sexual assault, most women don't do what they've been taught. Why? Some report being too frightened. But most sexual assaults are committed by people the victim knows. Would you be able to gouge out your husband's eyes? Would you be able to break your father's arm?

For most people who are not themselves abusive, the answer is clearly no. We can intentionally hurt the ones we love, and all of us do, but there are limits -- even when the ones we love are hurting us.

I received this message today, from a female member of the Reconstructionist church I mentioned in The Things We Take For Granted:

Perhaps not all information out there in V2020 land and the blog world concerning our church, our pastor, and our husbands is true. Perhaps we, women whom Keely views as "reasonable, intelligent and sincere in their faith", have a better grasp on our own situations and lives than those who don't know us. We aren't merely "willing to endure" our husbands and our theology but rather enjoy (love) them both. Why would "intelligent" women love living with domineering patriarchal peacocks? Maybe we're not actually intelligent. Maybe we don't really love them. Or, the option you haven't been willing to consider, maybe they aren't domineering at all. Longshot, I know. But it is possible.

When I hear people like Heather, who's married to the son of our local theoconfederate pastor, is happy in her marriage despite having no recourse outside it, no way to leave him if he becomes abusive, and no way to support herself if he chooses to leave, I believe her. It would be difficult for Nate -- I have no reason to believe is personally worse than anyone else -- to be cruel to her on purpose.

But insofar as he is not domineering, he is not domineering at his discretion, and can start or stop at his discretion. The rules that apply in the outside world stop at the door of his house: he is the king of his castle. All the decisions of the household, all the final say, belongs to him. He may choose to stay or he may choose to leave as he pleases. He's the source of financial stability in the household. If he is abusive and she chooses to leave, she has the Hobson's choice of leaving her children behind in a financially stable houshold or taking her children with her to face the job market with a nonexistent or spotty resume.

Insofar as he is a good husband, it isn't because of, but, rather, in spite of the unfair and anti-egalitarian privileges he has been given. It's where he rejects the fact that he can act with absolute impunity, rather than where he accepts it.

-- ACS

EDIT 5/17/06: The person whom I referenced above has sent me a rebuttal, which I'll publish with her permission, but I'd like to address specifically something she said:

"On purpose? Nice qualification. The things you are implying about my husband and the nature of our relationship both in the paragraph above and paragraph below are nothing short of ridiculous. You are not only flat out lying about two people you evidently know nothing about (read -- zippo), you are insulting my intelligence as a woman. You're not writing this about an abstract theoretical Christian woman. You are writing this about me. "

She's right. I was thinking of "abstract theoretical person who is not served by the system," but I was not writing about this person: I was writing about H. I. I owe her an apology.

An observation

I am so amazed at how many times I see people say, in all seriousness, that gay marriage is a bad idea because "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" Huh? How is that any kind of argument? Do we have to base our domestic policy on something because it rhymes?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Idaho's state legislature is controlled by Republicans.
The 58th Idaho Senate contains 28 Republicans and 7 Democrats, with the 58th Idaho House of Representatives contains 57 Republicans and 13 Democrats.
This is a problem for me, as a Democrat, since my guys really have very little way of getting their legislation even through to a vote, let alone passing a law. I would also say that this is a problem for every Idahoan because the Republican-controlled legislature really hasn't made much progress on issues such as property tax reform. But who is to blame? Let's take a look at one of today's Huckleberries Online discussions.
Alice Rankin: Don't you know DFO, that Democrats run as Republicans in Southern Idaho, and it's even beginning in Republican Kootenai County. That's because they can't get elected in their own party, so they run in the Republican primary mostly against conservatives. That's why we can't get property tax relief or most social issues through the legislature. The majority of the R's are RINO's. Especially in the Senate.
Un-be-lievable. This might be somewhat realistic if any of the progressive legislation proposed this last session were approved of, or even if some of the more retrograde bits were denied a chance to become law, but that's just not the case.

Rankin, your people just aren't doing a good job. The Republicans have shown themselves to be completely incapable of reducing government spending or hammering outa sensible tax policy. It's time to try something different, because this Republican thing is not working out.

The Things We Take For Granted: Part 1

North Idaho has always been a haven for, to be charitable, "minority religions". In the twenties, we had Psychiana. Across the border, in Eastern Washington, we have Living Faith Fellowship. An hour and a half north of us is the Church of Jesus Christ, Christian, the "house religion" of the Aryan Nations. Then there are the things that are less explicable.

Unfortunately, that isn't all in the past, and it isn't all that far away. We have our own little "minority religion" here in Moscow, and we've managed to make the national news more than once. All of you from the Moscow area, and likely some of you from the greater blogging community, might remember the controversy in 2004 around a South Carolina school's use of Doug Wilson's apologia for slavery, Southern Slavery: As It Was, in history classes. A couple of prominent liberal bloggers blogged on the subject, but the tenor of the articles was generally of the form, "oh, crazy rednecks."

The perspective was a little different here in North Idaho. Earlier that same year, in February of 2004, Doug Wilson held an annual history conference, drawing on the historical expertise of luminaries like Southern Slavery co-author Steve Wilkins and theonomist George Grant. The spin put to the history conference was that it was about slavery. This was incorrect. Whatever other failings he may have, and I'll get to those in a minute, Doug Wilson isn't stupid, and he knows how to run a media campaign. The word "slavery" was verboten at the Revolution and Modernity conference, though, as Steve Wilkins' son Remy pointed out, it had been a significant point of contention at previous conferences.

Despite what the media said, we were wrong and Wilson was right with regard to the "topic" of the conference. I have the tapes (okay, .mp3s), and, other than a few defensive asides, slavery wasn't mentioned once. But because the conference occurred at the same time as Moscow's progressives finding out about the slavery book, the two were smudged together in a lot of our minds, and it provided a convenient date to stage a protest.

So, why all this commentary about something that happened two years ago?

There's a problem with Wilson's political theology that can't be distilled down to something you can chant at a rally. When the conference was over, the lights were turned off and everyone went home, Revolution and Modernity was pretty dull stuff. We'd chanted a lot of things, but they were only taking on what Doug was actually saying obliquely. At the end of the day, the majority conference was pedestrian: a criticism of Marx, a latter-day defense of Burke, a take-down of Robespierre.

What interested me, though, weren't the simple subjects, but the obscure ones: Groen van Prinsterer and R.L. Dabney. Prinsterer was an obscure Dutch thinker who, as a restorationist, was one of the last full-throated defenders of monarchism and the divine right of kings against liberal, secular democracy. R.L. Dabney was an anti-revolutionary defender of the South, a virulent racist, and the former pastor to Stonewall Jackson. I'll also point out that he was a conservative Presbyterian (in 1800s terms), and Doug himself is a conservative Presbyterian (in 1700s terms).

When first reading Southern Slavery, I thought that racism had to be its primary impulse; that it had to come from deep-seated and overt hatred. And Wilson does have his defenders among that sort. They call themselves Kinists, and they hang out on blogs like Badlands and Little Geneva, and you can look them up if you're interested. But it's not racism that drove Wilson and Dabney together, or Wilson and Prinsterer. It's a shared belief that there is no moral weight to power differences, that a man's accountability should only be to God and a woman's should be to her husband, and that liberal democracy is a heresy. Dabney believed, as did Prinsterer, that inequality was the foundation of Western society*. As Dabney wrote in The Negro and the Common School, "
If our civilization is to continue, there must be, at the bottom of the social fabric, a class who must work and not read."

In many ways, Wilson is a pre-racist: overt racism is a way to cover up your own guilt at oppressing another human being. The majority of people have a consistent but unarticulated belief that slavery does not simply invite abuse, it constitutes abuse. It's an intuition so deep in our culture that it's a surprise to hear it articulated -- and, when the local newspapers were hosting debates about whether slavery was "all bad", it's something that no one mentioned.

Slavery is a microcosm of the defect in Wilson's ethics. The ideal of every relationship he describes is one between owner and chattel. The owner has no accountability; the chattel has no recourse, no right of appeal to a higher authority. The rules he applies are caste-based, not race-based: whites may be enslaved as easily as blacks. Fathers may marry their children to whomever they please. Victims of rape must marry their rapists. Wives must submit absolutely to their husbands. And everyone must submit to the elders, who submit only to God. As one of Wilson's parishoners writes:

"If you ask me (sorry, I know nobody asked me), it sounds like someone has trouble distinguishing between presbyterianism (where the congregation chooses their elders and then submits to them) and modern American baptistic congregationalism (where the leaders have to keep on answering to the electorate)."

In that context, slavery isn't a "peculiar institution" or gross moral aberration, or even a problem. It's simply an outgrowth of the way the rest of the world ought to work. And that's something even more terrifying than racism.

Next, I'll tell you why -- if you live in the area, or even if you don't -- you ought to be worried.

-- ACS

* To a certain extent, especially when Dabney wrote that line, it was. But that was the problem, and not the solution.

If only we enforced gender roles more strictly...

...then the world would have no problems at all! David Brooks is at it again (or so I gather from and other places, since I didn't actually see the column). This time he's sure that boys are dropping out of school because they're being made to read sissy girl books. The quote given at is pretty rich, but my experience bears out the idea that most books for young adults are aimed at girls. Check out the children's section of your bookstore. It's not so noticable in the books aimed at elementary-aged children, but the aisle of books for young adults is overwhelmingly pink. And honestly, I'm not sure how good it is for boys or girls to be reading numberless 9th-grade versions of The Devil Wears Prada. This isn't exactly the phenomenon Brooks is speaking of - he's more concerned about the books that are chosen for kids to read in class, which are of a higher caliber and apparently include yucky things like feelings and girls.

Stupid gender stereotypes aside, I do think that Brooks is onto something whether or not he has any idea how to express it. So do lots of others, which is why Jon Scieszka put together Guys Write for Guys Read, a book aimed specifically at boys who aren't at home in the library. Personally, I feel that when it comes to this kind of thing, parents and teachers have to walk a fine line between avoiding reinforcing harmful patriarchal norms and fostering enthusiasm for learning, which can be easier if you're depending on misguided gender norms. These are both important goals that if you're not careful can work at cross-purposes. Your children don't grow up in a vacuum, after all, and you can't wish away the ways in which their preferences are shaped by gender norms. You can keep open discussions about social issues with your children, though, and I'm sure it's a lot easier to keep that discussion productive if you have a kid who likes learning and reading.

Blue staters' blue balls

Okay, so my title's a little obscene, but I'm sure the news that Rove will not be charged in the Plame leak is leaving a lot of lefties unsatisfied. Cheer up, guys - the news that a high-level government official did not leak the identity of a CIA operative is goood, even if you won't get to see the politician who most looks like a thumb go to jail.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

You have to start somewhere

I think that this kid is getting a harder time of this than he deserves. Hugo Schwyzer wrote a post about how he deals with students who are ambivalent toward embracing feminism, giving an example of an email exchange he had with a student. The kid explains his fears about not being accepted and not finding anyone who will go out with him, and I think Hugo does a pretty good job of explaining why the kid is more aprehensive than he needs to be, and why he should be more aprehensive about embracing patriarchy than not getting laid.

As the links above show, not everyone agreed. Many took issue with his fears about feminism affecting his dating life, though putting it in overly-simplistic terms that reduce this kid to a sex-crazed moron. From Pandagon:
Let me put it this way–you’re not committed to women’s equality if you still think that women are obliged to reward you with a pussy avalanche for lowering yourself to treating them like human beings. And if you walk around with a chip on you shoulder, angry that women don’t immediately take off their pants because you kindly point out that you’re sure that their boyfriends are dickheads, because you know women like jerks, it’s going to show.
I'm not saying that what Ms. Marcotte's said isn't true, but I do think it's a mischaracterization of the guy's position. Yes, a lot of people date simply to get laid, and yes, I'm sure he's aprehensive about his prospects for just that. Still, the idea that no girls will like him because he is taking a stance he's already uncomfortable with - I can see why that would not be very attractive. Of course, it's not true that feminist dudes can't get chicks, but the way that the dating system is all gummed up with patriarchal excreta, you are going to have to be more creative when it comes to getting a date as a feminist. And while not every feminist falls into this dishonest trap, let's not forget that there are those who are happy to demand a patriarchy-approved look from their man.
"there are feminist men out there. unfortunately for me, i have yet to find one i am physically attracted to. any of them that i have met have been scrawny, way-to-artsy (to look at) men who dont turn me on in the least. i need to find a feminist football player looking type and let me tell you, THAT is hard to come by.
Posted by: katie | May 22, 2006 02:30 PM"
I think the thing that's not being appreciated here is that we all struggle with our loyalties to patriarchal power structures. It comes up over and over that none of us is the "perfect feminist" and that we all are at some time or another seduced by the perceived advantages to the patriarchal system around us. It can just seem easier to get ahead by getting plastic surgery, smashing your feet into stilettoes and turning off your brain so that Mr. Frat Dude will look your way. You're only getting a booby prize here, but it's not nothing.

There's something wrong when you're demanding the booby prize and refusing to be the booby like katie above, or when you're avoiding feminism because it might dampen your prospects of getting laid. This is not to say that it's easy to make these things right. In the comments on Hugo's post, Q Grrl had this to say.
Ahhh. So when he's ready to determine that women are no longer less than human, or merely second class citizens, *then* he'll support us.

You know, when women approach an all male group and challenge them on their misogyny, we're called man-haters, ball busters, dykes, and harpies. Don't kid yourself that a man challenging other men is brave or exceptionally impressive. It's not even virtuous. More precisely, it's a base-level human reaction to injustice -- and no man should be given kudos for simply rising to the least common denominator.

This guys whining about lack or sex or lack of female companionship -- but he's willing to put up with misogyny if it means his needs are getting met. Why would you find that even remotely acceptable?

Further, just because a man feels he cannot compete with other men vis-a-vis dominance, it doesn't make him a feminist. Or pro-woman. It just means he's fully bought the idea of masculinity equaling dominance. He's just as bad as the bully who calls another man a "pussy" -- only he's assuming he *is* a "pussy" and therefore has some sort of "in" with women. Then he gets upset when he realizes he never bothered to ask women what they want or need -- and blames it on women for sending mixed messages.

Posted by: Q Grrl | June 06, 2006 at 08:45 AM
My reply:
Q Grrl, you're confusing the right thing to do with the easy thing to do. Male privilege is not infinite, renouncing it is tricky, and entails a lot of unknown risk as well as known risk. You're losing out on a lot of things that most people will tell you are your birthright, and no matter how wrong they are, the patriarchy sure is persistent. Add in the hypocrisy of feminists rejecting feminist men due to their own swallowing of patriarchal mythology, and things are challenging for a male feminist. I should say that we don't really need to compare the challenges of being a male and female feminist - it might be harder for women in a million different ways but that doesn't mean it's a walk in the park for a dude. And, as for your first sentence, I think that sounds like the right arc for moving from a life wrapped in patriarchal norms into one that follows and understands feminist principles. Unless you're willing to wait for non- and anti-feminists to up and die one day, that's what you're going to have to settle for.

Posted by: Sara | June 06, 2006 at 09:13 AM

An addition

I'm introducing a second blogger here at F-words, and this individual is none other than my husband, Andreas Schou. He may have had an advantage in getting this prime position, but he's not the first person who's slept his way to the low middle. Professionally, he's the legal advocate at a local sexual assault and domestic violence support service, and he previously was the case manager at a transitional housing facility. So, after quite a while walking the walk, he's going to get up on the F-words soapbox and talk the talk. He's also pretty in-touch with Moscow's colorful politics, so expect more of those issues to pop up.

Self-made dam

From Mark Schmitt:
To an amazing degree, Western and sunbelt conservatism is built on the risible delusion that the federal government never did a damn thing for them and they made it on their own, a delusion that they nurture in their air-conditioned, hot-tub-equipped country clubs in a land that could barely support human existence if it were not for the federal government. Frankly, I think this has something to do also with the current congressional scandal. Duke Cunningham, Mitchell Wade, Brent Wilkes, Dusty Foggo, Duncan Hunter, Bill Lowery and several of the other characters at the center of the current political scandal are all products of the corrupt oligarchy of San Diego. There’s is a city built entirely on defense spending, and yet they still believe that they are hardy entrepreneurs making it on their own without help from anybody. And somehow I think this delusion helps them believe that stealing from government as just another form of private enterprise.
It's an interesting piece centered around a pretty dumb quote from Idaho's new governor Jim Risch, and the collapse of an Idaho dam 30 years ago. A good reality check for those who would tell you they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.

Liberty vs. lawlessness

I missed this when I was out of town, but Ezra Klein at the American Prospect recently took issue with Markos Moulitsas' (of DailyKos fame) description of his political philosophy as "libertarian democrat." Kos points to Brian Schweitzer and John Tester (politicians alongside whom Larry Grant would fit well) as examples of democrats with a libertarian streak who take a deeper approach to maximizing liberty than simply minimizing laws. I lean in and out of this category myself, so I was interested to see Klein's criticism. Klein says:
Indeed, "Libertarian Democrat" strikes me as confusing framing -- Kos is describing nothing so much as a socially laissez-faire populist with a patina of New Democrat market affection. A synthesis of current tendencies, rather than a new approach.
Klein seems to be unwittingly demonstrating my point here - when asked for a description of their political philosophy, is a person more likely to respond "socially laissez-faire populist with a patina of New Democrat market affectation," or simply "libertarian democrat?" Sure, you could replace some of the terms in Klein's description with more complimentary ones, but I think it would be fair to go for a two-word description instead of an eleven-word one, especially if they mean roughly the same thing. Klein goes on:
As it is, "libertarianism" already has a meaning -- it's a philosophy of individualism, and that's not the direction progressivism tends to point towards.
Klein is right to mention that there's a huge sticking point in that most people - especially those who would today call themselves libertarians - don't think of affirmative action or universal health care as compatible with libertarian ideals. This, however, is more a problem with the shallowness of strict libertarianism than it is with the coherence of liberal libertarianism.

First, I think it's entirely wrong to say that progressivism conflicts with individualism. Self-reliance and the freedom to choose the way one lives their life are essentially American values that liberals will sometimes opt toward communal solutions to further. That is, universal health care would go a long way toward allowing people to marry whomever they wish and work wherever they wish and pursue whatever other happiness they desire. It conflicts with the strictly libertarian notion that these lifestyle choices can be made without the aid of universal health care, but that's a pipe dream anyway. A rational free market cannot emerge out of a system where people are attempting the impossible task of rationally deciding whether to buy food or medicine.

A libertarian democrat has a bigger picture of what makes for freedom than a strict libertarian does. A libertarian democrat can see that freedom is not at hand for people exploited by their employers and wives exploited by their husbands and blacks exploited by whites. A libertarian democrat doesn't want his or her government to waste its time with regulating issues of morality and behavior that don't impinge on the freedoms of others. A libertarian democrat can see that sometimes the interference of government and beauraucracy will bring liberty to each individual, instead of letting liberty be stolen by the few from the many in an unregulated, clasically libertarian system. A libertarian democrat pursues real liberty and not just lawlessness.

Whether anyone will swallow this idea of real liberty as the central pursuit of the libertarian democrat only time will tell. (Side note: a good Democratic Party slogan would be "Real liberty for all Americans.") Then again, people still seem to think that Republicans are the party of small government, personal responsibility, and individual freedoms, so stranger things have happened. Klein is right when he says that Kos and any of these Western Democrats isn't pushing anything new here, but I don't think that it's a new idea that we need, exactly. The policies pursued by Democrats generally have the support of the American people, even if the Democrats don't. This is a problem of framing, of description, and of sales. Democrats need to differentiate themselves from Republicans in such a way that they show their unique embrace of American values. With elections less than five months away, it's time to take hold of something, and the changes in Montana in other areas of American politics show that this approach can work. It's time to harness it and develop it into something bigger - June is no time to be sitting on our hands.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Saturday Food Blogging: Pesto and Cranberry Tortellini Salad

This is a perennial favorite at the Moscow Food Co-op deli, and super-easy to make. I especially love the look of it - the purplish cranberries in the green pesto and cream-colored pasta is an extremely elegant combination. If you ever need a simple dish to wow a group of girly-girls (think wedding shower or garden party) this is it.

8 oz cheese-filled tortellini
1/2 cup basil pesto
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup walnuts*
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Toast walnuts on a baking sheet in oven at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes. Allow walnuts to cool before chopping coarsely. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve chilled.

*I had pine nuts on hand and the finished product was just as tasty.

If you liked this recipe and ever happen to be in the area, you can stop by the Moscow Food Co-op and pick up a copy of their cookbook, which has recipes for many of the favorite salads, soups and snacks served at the deli. Not only is it a great addition to your cookbook collection, but it's a lot cheaper to reproduce the dishes at home.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Temporary interruption of services

I'm going out of town until the end of the week and am not sure how much quality time I'll be able to spend with the internet. In the meantime, I'll see if I can swing a guest blogger. Otherwise, I'll return on Friday. Ta ta!

Monday, June 05, 2006

"Hello, my name is Larry Grant and I am not a nutjob. Please vote for me in November."

Jay Stevens at the American Prospect has picked up the news about Larry Grant's opponent in the ID-01 congressional race, and has lukewarm feelings about the chances of a Democratic pickup.
In the end it will take a minor miracle for Larry Grant to win this race. A skillful, well funded campaign capitalizing on Sali's weaknesses combined with a low voter turnout -- where Democrats are more likely to vote -- might just propel Grant to Washington. Barring the confluence of luck and skill, however, it's likely the Republicans will send a state joke to the federal government.
Stevens seems to think that it will be difficult for Grant to fit a clear message of Sali's incompetence into his campaign, but I don't see why. In fact, given Sali's flair for the dramatic, I don't doubt that Sali will be able to help send that message home himself.

Another observation that Stevens makes is also worth highlighting.
Still, it's a victory for Democrats to make the Idaho 1st Congressional District a fight. The GOP, under attack across the country in races it desperately needs to win to hold at least one body of Congress, now finds itself needing to divert resources and funds to an area of the country that it had previously assumed safely Republican.
This is all very well and good at a federal level, but it has some important implications at the Idaho level as well. The Idaho GOP has not fretted too much over courting voters in this state for quite some time, so it stands to reason that their strategizing would begin at the level of fielding the most advantageous candidates to make all of their governmental dreams come true. This year's Republican primary, with its 6 candidates clawing at each other and an ultimate win for the weirdest guy of them all is testament to the fact that the Idaho GOP has not got the party discipline thing down, let alone other vital things that Democrats also lag on, like infrastructure that helps voters get to the polls. (Note that even in this competitive primary, turnout was at a historic low.) The Idaho Democrats have a lot of catching up to do, but it's easier when the GOP gets this lazy.

In the meantime, Grant is thinking outside the box - as is required for any Democrat who wishes to get elected in Idaho. He is actively courting the support of the netroots with a look to Democrats who fancy the 50-state strategy, and Idaho expatriates who know that ID-01 is the little district that can. With his moderate social views and conservative fiscal views, he has a lot to offer Idaho voters and the national Democratic party. Now is the time for Democrats to make their push in Idaho.

Take some responsibility, will you?

Someone is a little miffed that women think that pro-choice doesn't mean "pro-Darleen's choice." A Washington Post article written by a woman "Dana L." who fudged her birth control, wasn't able to access Plan B, and ended up aborting the subsequent unwanted pregnancy has ruffled some so-called pro-choice feathers
God help me, I'm pro-choice, but THIS stupid bitch... confirms every snarky stereotype the pro-life side of aisle tosses around. Get out the cheese and crackers, friends, here's a case of whine...
Darleen goes on to disparage every decision this woman makes in her attempt to prevent her pregnancy, all peppered with lovely misogynistic insults about the article-writer's vanity and laziness.
What's that, about 30 minutes out of one's day? Now, don't tell me that Dana wouldn't have spent most of Friday evening and Saturday to track down the perfect pair of shoes for a Sunday cocktail party. But why should she bother to put any more effort in getting a prescription to prevent a possible pregnancy than she used in making sure she practiced "safe sex?" Using the same exquisite decision-making powers, our heroine engages in a little fantasy
Nice. She might as well accuse the author of sitting on the couch eating bon bons and watching soap operas in her housedress while she secretly enjoyed the savaging she deserved from the sperm swimming inside her. Darleen also does not hesitate to insert some moronic anti-contraception talking points into her screed against choice, insisting that, for instance, Plan B ought not be available over the counter because dirty old men will use it to take advantage of teenagers. (Because they'd never thought to use a condom.)

The best part is the tongue-lashing that Dana L. recieves for an admitted misstep in her birth control habits.
No shit, Sherlock? I mean, you actually have unprotected sex and you got pregnant? Wow. What.are.the.odds? But hey, sister, don't let that make you wake up and take responsibility. There is always someone else to blame.
Silly, stupid, irresponsible Dana L. plays with statistics and loses. If she had really been thinking, she'd have avoided marrying alltogether. It is more likely than not that a woman who marries a man will end up pregnant. Why play dice with your future? Maybe it would have been better for Dana L. to never have dated at all, or entered puberty. 100% of pregnant women went through puberty after all. Maybe Dana L. should have stayed in her perfect, pure fetal form her entire life, just so she might not make a mistake later on in her life.

Life isn't perfect, and neither are human beings. Dana L. screwed up, but that's no excuse for a bunch of loony fundamentalists to hijack the scientific discourse in the medical regulating bodies in this country and deny her the chance to avoid a pregnancy she didn't want to carry to term. There is no scientific reason to keep Plan B behind the counter and the spiritual reasoning is on pretty shaky ground as it is. Darleen would have us believe that anyone whose birth control regime is not perfect deserves to be pregnant regardless of whether they would like to be. That's as sensible as saying in the 1700s that anyone who gets a nasty cut deserves to die of sepsis. Given any other administration, Dana L. would not have had an abortion. Women deserve access to safe and effective contraception, no matter how they arrived at the pharmacist's counter, and no matter what they plan on doing once they leave. Dana made her choices, but they were unnecessarily and unkindly restricted by paranoiacs and judgemental weirdos like Darleen when they step into the voting booth. If your objective and inerring tragedy meter isn't getting high enough signal for you to be satisfied that Dana L. deserved the right to make her own decisions about her body, please remember that your finger-wagging has made this abortion no less real, while over-the-couner Plan B would have done a lot toward avoiding it.

Gross-out news story of the day

Oh fun!
What was promoted as a "fun" survey has landed Commercial Radio in a formal investigation after a program for teenagers invited listeners to vote online on which Hong Kong female celebrity they would most like to sexually assault.
In a recorded message published on the Internet, Leung Chi-kin, also known as "Sammy," the host of the program, apologized and said it was a misunderstanding. He said he never intended to offend women.
I mean, really, how is an object going to get offended? Also disturbing is the way they thought they could tone it down to defuse tensions.
The poll has since been renamed "the most sexiest actress" and will stop receiving votes Friday.
"Most sexiest," "most rapeable" - same difference, right?

The next 6 months will be crucial

Just one last push, and then they'll be out of the woods.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Just South of Riggins, North of McCall, right in the middle of WTF?

I took these pictures on my drive back from Boise. I can't really think of anything to add, but they pretty much speak for themselves.

Here are a few closeups.

I especially liked these signs that indicated the good works of Yahweh's 666 Warning Assembly. Message: don't litter or you'll go to Hell.

And yes, they do have a website.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Saturday Food Blogging: bell pepper and tuna rolls

I give up. I am usually exhausted by Friday and not at all up to dealing with a self-imposed deadline. From now on, it's Saturday Food Blogging.

My mother's 50th birthday is coming up soon, and I'm helping my father plan for her the big party that she deserves. I volunteered to take on planning and preparing most of the food, and so far have decided that we'll have jambalaya for dinner and bananas foster for dessert. Other than that, we can do a few appetizers and a bunch of wine, and I think we'll be set.

Today I made a test run of these tuna rolls, which turned out delicious. I'm taking them to a barbecue later, so I'll be able to see if people outside my household like them. The recipe comes from The Silver Spoon, which is an incredible Italian cookbook. It's got thousands of recipes, most of which have five or six ingredients and a paragraph of instruction. Simple, creative and delicious.

Bell Pepper and Tuna Rolls
1 red bell pepper*
1 yellow bell pepper*
1 green bell peper*
12 ounces canned tuna in oil, drained and flaked
1 scallion, chopped
3 tablespoons mushrooms in oil, drained
2 teaspoons capers, drained
6 canned anchovy fillets in oil, drained rinsed and chopped
1 parsley sprig, chopped
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a roasting pan with foil. Prick the bell peppers with a fork, place in the pan and roast for 1 hour. Remove from the oven, wrap in foil and let cool. Peel the bell peppers, cut into fourths, remove the seeds and membranes and pat dry with paper towels.* Combine the tuna, scallion, mushrooms, capers, anchovies and parsley in a bowl and stir in the vinegar. Spread the mixture on the pieces of bell pepper and roll up tightly and chill in the refrigerator. To serve, place different colored rolls side by side on a serving dish and drizzle with olive oil.

* I cheated and used bell peppers from a jar.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

ID-01: The Road Ahead

This is going to be an interesting year in Idaho politics. Bill Sali's victory in last week's first congressional district Republican primary eliminated a lot of unknowns when looking at the road to November, but still opened up its own can of worms that this early bird intends to get ahold of.*

First of all, thanks to Bill "That idiot is just an absolute idiot. He doesn’t have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body. And you can put that in the paper." Sali, this race has finally been getting a little bit of national coverage. I've said before that this isn't your run-of-the-mill, cannon fodder in flyover country race, but apparently my f-words don't (presently) garner the attention that a true wingnut can.

While I am sure that the Sali's participation in this race is going to be pretty interesting, there's more to it than just sitting back and watching his campaign trip over Sali's embarassing and extremist record. The contender on the Democratic side, Larry Grant, knows that getting elected with a D after your name is always a challenge in Idaho. This is a red, red state, and even with Grant's moderate politics, there is a lot of liberal-is-an-insult baggage that he's going to have to deal with if he's going to appeal to moderate Idaho Republican voters. To put it simply, people just aren't used to the idea of voting for a Democrat in Idaho.

This is not to say that Grant has nothing to offer the liberal and moderate Democrats in this state. The most obvious thing he brings to the table is not being Bill Sali, and even if the spectre of US House Representative Bill Sali is enough to scare a lot of people to the polls, "anybody but" is hardly enough to campaign on. A quick look at where he stands on issues shows that he calls himself a Democrat for a reason. This becomes interesting considering that the reasons no one would hesitate to call him a Democrat aren't exactly deal-breakers for conservative voters. Indeed, the current Republican regime in power at both the state and federal levels have sold huge swaths of their constituencies short, most notably the independent-minded, Western small-l libertarians who are the backbone of Western conservatism. The government has both grown bigger and more inept under Republican rule, and each of Grant's constituencies could handle one of those problems, but not both. What Grant offers voters is the promise of both competence and fiscal responsibility.

I've been fortunate enough to sit down with Grant twice in the past few months, and he has been willing to talk about what taxpayers need to start and need to stop paying for, and how to make sure that these dollars are well-spent. Being the liberal that I am, I would probably be unhappy with a Congress entirely full of Larry Grants. Other congressmembers who serve more liberal constituencies have the opportunity to envision broad social programs with a less tight-fisted view of how to govern, and I think that kind of thinking has an important place in governing. On the other hand, the Bush administration has dug itself and all of us into a huge hole that it's going to take a lot of hard decision-making to get out of. Grant, with his equal loyalties to his progressive voters and his libertarians, has the right kind of pressure to make these hard decisions in such a way that the national debt is reduced without letting the things we depend on our government for fall apart. (Do I even need to say that this is not something we can depend on Sali for?)

We need a principled moderate, not an arbitrary compromise. Other notable Democratic candidates - think Hillary Clinton - have personal politics that run to the left of their political decisions, and the result can be less than inspiring. It's true that a representative can't ethically put their own politics above those of their constituents, and I don't want to demean sacrifices that can go along with leadership. When a principled moderate like Grant has to make a decision that he knows will not please everyone, we can at least be sure that it's a decision that he believes in. That kind of personal investment in decision-making adds a kind of accountability that an impending election cycle can't. And given the difficult road ahead, I wouldn't want those governing to think they had decisions that they can throw away to their less important constituents.

*For some reason, I think mixed metaphors are funny.

Anti-gay marriage or pro-domestic violence?

If you haven't seen it yet, take a look at the case of this Ohio domestic violence charge that was overturned so as to remain consistent with Ohio's recent anti-gay marriage amendment to its Constitution. Ohio's "Defense of Marriage" amendment forbids any state recognition of a relationship between partners who are not married, and thus excepts nonmarried abusers from being charged under domestic violence laws.

This news is horrifying enough when it's in Ohio, but the same thing could occur here in Idaho, if our own anti-gay marriage amendment is ratified by voters in November. Remember that this amendment does not simply define marriage as between a man and a woman - something already enumerated in Idaho laws - but says "a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized." Even worse is the fact that this is not the only possible untoward consequence of this extreme and mean-spirited enshrining of discrimination in the constitution. It is inevitable if this amendment is voted into law that established legal relationships between gay and unmarried partners will be voided and throw a huge wrench into already-complicated matters of family law, such as child custody and divorce.

What is most revolting is that jokers like Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance - an organization that has lobbied strongly for this amendment say that "The mission of the IVA is to make Idaho the friendliest place in the world to raise a family. To that end, we promote and defend mainstream values in Idaho's public life, and seek to add value to Idaho's public life every day." Maybe the IVA believes that leaving domestic violence unprosecuted and wreaking havoc on loving families are tenets of "mainstream values," but I have a lot more faith than that in Idahoans. The "unintended" consequences of these "defense of marriage" amendments are only now rearing their ugly heads, and we can all rest assured that more will appear as time goes on.

Idaho has the chance to avoid these problems by defeating this amendment in November, and unless we want to participate in this dangerous social experiment, I hope that we do.