Tuesday, January 31, 2006

When it rains it pours

Samuel Alito confirmed.
Coretta Scott King is dead.

Republican "Health" Care

Matt Singer at Left in the West has a great, heavily-linked summary of the Republican-led Medicare Part D disaster. Take a look at it if you plan on sitting through the State of the Union.

Girls like quiet time, a cooperative learning environment and creative disciplines. Boys like getting A's.

If you haven't heard of it by now, there is a suit being filed against a school district on behalf of a 17-year-old boy who says that school curricula are designed to the benefit of boys, and the detriment of girls. There is a good deal of controversy in regards to how well the school system is serving boys versus girls, and given the gender disparity seen in high school and in college, something is obviously going wrong. I think it's hyperbolic to call it a "War against boys," but I'm not trying to sell a book here.

Unfortunately, this suit is riddled with ridiculous gender stereotypes and other complaints that seem to relate more to the preferences to this one kid, and not gender. Some of the greivances include:
Among Anglin's allegations: Girls face fewer restrictions from teachers, like being able to wander the hallways without passes, and girls are rewarded for abiding by the rules, while boys' more rebellious ways are punished.

Grading on homework, which sometimes includes points for decorating a notebook, also favor girls, according to Anglin's complaint, filed last month with the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
and
''The system is designed to the disadvantage of males," Anglin said. ''From the elementary level, they establish a philosophy that if you sit down, follow orders, and listen to what they say, you'll do well and get good grades. Men naturally rebel against this."
Right, because girls love following rules, but boys shouldn't have to follow them. This suit demeans the argument of those advocating for boys in the school system, plain and simple.

The conversation on this topic followed even further down this road, however, with even more absurd accusations against a school system apparently set up to the detriment of boys and the benefit of girls (in a numbered list, no less):
1. Group work, group think, group graded projects. THe most innovative students often dislike competing with loudmouths and fade into the background.

2. Grading notebooks and the like heavily, ie focusing on process instead of results (test).

3. Focus on following rules rather than demonstrating objective knowledge and logical ability.

4. Cutting back on recess, longer class times, etc.

5. Projects that require obedience rather than logic, bureaucratization skills rather than individual thought.

6. efforts to Redesign the standardized tests to favor skills women are better at.

7. the curriculum, by being dumbed down and geared toward the middle ground, has hurt males, as men tend to be more extreme: more of us are at the lower end, but more of us are also at the top end.

8. Taking away the competitive spirit of the classroom. Most men, particularly high achieving men, are geared up to battle and that is what gets one motivated. by eliminating competition and replacing it with namby pamby feel good "everyone is a winner" ethic, men lose interest and motivation. Strong intelligent men are typically disgusted by egalitarianism and lose interest.

9.Boys being subjected to out an out and out anti-male agenda where men are taught to feel guilty in 6th grade that there are fewer women lawyers and doctors in the phone book. As if a 12 year old has anything at all to do with that?

10. Reshaping of history lessons so objective achievement is not the measure of how someone is covered, rather their race or sex most important. (cover some minor female inventor to greater debth than Thomas edison.)

11.Teaching that men throughout history have been the evil sex.

12. Most males realize at a young age that most of their teachers are raving morons, with the lowest sat scores of any profession. Men prefer to learn from people they can look up to, rather than dults who know only how to follow orders form a top heavy educational bureaucracy.
As I said in the thread, this curriculum appears to be designed to the benefit of monkeys or very bright parrots - not women. Last time I checked, girls didn't benefit from moronic teachers. Men are not the only "innovative" ones, and as it turns out, girls are perfectly capable of finishing their math problems. (If I'm not mistaken, partial credit is given to emphasise critical thinking, not girls' grades.) And I'm as sorry to say it as this poster is, but discrimination is a real part of history - shining light on its existence isn't "anti-male" in any way. By my calculations (and I could show my work, but I'm not going to ask you for credit for it), this list is 75% bullshit. Reducing recess time and eliminating competitive elements of classwork do strike me as valid issues that would affect boys more than girls, but where in the hell did the rest of this come from?

I don't have kids, I don't have brothers, and I didn't lead an especially gendered childhood to begin with. I've called myself a feminist since I was in elementary school, and I never really played with dolls, pots and pans, or trucks. My room was decorated with posters of basketball players, cute kitties, and Saturn (and the probes that took pictures of it). In other words, I don't feel highly-qualified to speak on the subject of what helps girls or boys out in school.

On the other hand, I think we're seeing demonstrated one of the pitfalls of this debate: coddling gender stereotypes in the name of educating our kids. Even if you were designing a school system to benefit girls and hurt boys on purpose, it wouldn't require dumbing it down because girls are not dumb! Following rules is something we all have to do, male or female, and no one likes it. Obedience is not an innate female trait (conditioned obedience through threats, however, obviously can be extracted from women).

I think this is an important and interesting topic, especially as the proportion of male students in college and graduate and professional schools continues to decline. But what we want are solutions that will help all kids be successful in a real, competitive, but equitable world. If supposedly unatheletic girls (I don't have to suppose in my case - I was a disaster, in regards to athletics) can endure PE, boys can decorate a notebook or two. Gender-based privlege is not good for anyone, and needs to be eradicated from the education system, period. This means not enforcing old ideas of male privlege (the only actors in history were men, "girly" things like arts have no academic value) in adjusting a curriculum to help more boys stay in school. I have no clue what kinds of changes in schools need to occur, but I am pretty sure that before real progress is made, the terms of the debate need to change.

UPDATE: Ann Hurlburt at Slate adds some substance to my somewhat superficial treatment of this subject.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Katrina Cottage

At a recent International Builder's show, a home concept called the Katrina Cottage was unveiled as a possible solution to the housing problems of so many Katrina victims.
The yellow cottage with a tin roof is exactly the size of the temporary trailers the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides to victims of hurricanes and other disasters, and it costs about the same: less than $35,000.

But where a FEMA trailer looks grim and dispiriting - who wants to live next to one, let alone in one? - this house, known as the Katrina Cottage, is airy, bright and charming.

"I'm designing affordable housing," said Marianne Cusato, 31, the architect who designed the cottage. But developers who toured it, she said, were telling her they want to use the plans for upscale beach cottages or mountain resorts.

"The only reason not to do this is that it's not the current conventional practice," said Cusato, a Notre Dame graduate who has just opened her own practice in New York. "But we can do this. Sometimes it takes a major event to change things, make us recalibrate."
When I heard that the solution proposed for housing those displaced by Katrina was to buy them trailers, my blood continued to boil at the idiocy of our government as it had been doing pretty much constantly during coverage of the disaster. So they're going to spend a bunch of money on producing short-term housing that no one wants to live in? Grrrreat.

This, though, is really awesome, creative thinking. I'm impressed.

UPDATE: If my text isn't very compelling, check out these pictures (by Sandy Sorlien) from the article:

Moscow City Council hearing on Large Retail Ordinance Tonight

The meeting will be at 7:00 in City Hall, and of course the Large Retail everyone has in mind is the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter. The ordinance is supposed to act as a safeguard against some of the more damaging effects of Wal-Martian invasion, but the group NoSuperWalmart thinks it doesn't go far enough. You can read the proposed ordinance yourself, and submit prepared comments to the council (email jplaskon@ci.moscow.id,us) ahead of time. I plan on attending to listen.

Emily "Mickey" Hahn: Pioneering Churl Girl

With all this talk of convincing versus doing, I was reminded today of possibly the most amazing woman in all of history: Emily Hahn. Have you ever heard of her? I hadn't, until I randomly picked up her biography in a bookstore one day. She was an incredibly accomplished and independent woman who didn't wait around to convince people that she could do something before she tried it. She was a pioneering mining engineer, reporter, writer, and she even owned a monkey. How cool is that? In her twenties, she traveled across the country by car (disguised as a man so as not to attract too much attention, being a woman traveling without a man) to become the 1920's equivalent of a Hooters girl. She was friendly with the movers and shakers of the Harlem Rennaisance, and rubbed elbows with just about any interesting 20th century figure you can think of. She spent several years in China as an expatriate, and married a dashing British spy, though alternately lived as a concubine with a Chinese poet. Her first book was entitled Seductio ad Absurdum, "an exploration of how men court women."

How her name had never come up in any US history class I took is beyond me.

Democrats for Idaho

43rd State Blues has posted a stirring Idaho State Journal Op-Ed by Bannock County Democrat Chairman, James D. Ruchti. I'm going to go ahead and repost the whole thing, because I loved it and want everyone to read it.
by James D. Ruchti
Chairman, Bannock County Democrats

Mark Twain once said: “Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she has laid an asteroid.” If you read these pages [in the Idaho State Journal] in recent weeks, you saw the Republican leadership’s outcry over the visit of Senator Harry Reid to Pocatello.

Unfortunately, they refused to debate the substance of his message. Instead, they attacked the messenger. Democrats from the West like Senator Reid worry the Republican leadership. They treat him like the enemy because they fear that if you get to know Senator Reid and other Western Democrats, you will see they embody Idaho values.

Although not from here, Senator Reid was raised like you and me –- to value hard work, to take responsibility and to act independently. Like Senator Reid, Idaho’s most successful leaders had those same attributes. Consider Senator Frank Church, Governor Cecil Andrus and Representative Richard Stallings. Like Senator Reid, they could say things with which you disagreed, but you knew these Western Democrats shared your values. You knew they stood for something and were in your corner fighting for you and your family.

Democrats from the West have the same values today. They believe citizens have to take responsibility for their own futures and for making their communities better. They believe government should provide opportunities and tools for citizens to improve their lives. That is why Western Democrats support making higher education more affordable, raising the minimum wage and providing funding to improve the quality of education.

Western Democrats understand government must be responsive to the will of the people. That is why Democrats in the state legislature are working with moderate Republicans to provide property tax relief. Governor Kempthorne, unfortunately, is passing up the opportunity to lead on this issue. If you want the people to trust you with their vote, you cannot treat their problems as a smorgasbord where you pick and choose the issues with which you are comfortable. You take everything on the table.

Western Democrats also believe government has an obligation to promote equal opportunity for all while granting special privileges to none. Government cannot be effective if the people do not have faith in its integrity and fairness. That is why Senator Malepaeai and Senator Marley stood firm against corruption when Senator Jack Noble of Kuna violated the state senate’s ethics rules last year. He resigned shortly thereafter.

Don’t let the Republican leadership’s cackling alarm you. Western Democrats are not the enemy. They are ready to lead Idaho and the nation into a bright future.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Churl-Watch

The Happy Feminist has been lucky enough to be harangued by one of the common feminist blog trolls: the "I'm just here to help," troll. He's very much a proponent of female rights, of course, but he has a few quibbles with the feminist movement. Luckily, we've got him around to help us out so we can truly reach "our" goals. Feminists need to be more polite and less "churlish," so that people will finally pay attention to us.

Right, not speaking our minds in public worked really well for women. What feminists need to do is just wait, and things will naturally fall into place for us.

When your argument against feminism is that it's not cute enough, I am not especially compelled. After all, if that's the only problem you have, I'll go ahead and quash misogyny, thank you. I didn't see until today when I read HF that this troll has begun an all-out assault on churlishness in the feminist movement. Maybe we'll one day appreciate the irony that what feminism needs is to follow the directions of a man.

UPDATE: My husband pointed out that this post could be construed as saying that I don't listen to critics. I do try, and I think the best aspect of blogging is the dialogue. I just don't think this particular churlishness problem is relevant. Looking at Richard's blog, he finds a lot of normal, well-accepted feminist thought and rhetoric to be offensive. Methinks he's more concerned with the message than the degree of churlitude. And I should note that this particular species of troll "supports women's rights," but does not call him or herself a feminist. Disagree with me all you want, but when you make this obvious a demonstration of your distaste for womens' rights, you'd better stop kidding yourself before you really expect me to engage.

Most Idaho Huckleberries are Sweet...

...but there appear to be rotten ones, as well. A local columnist and blogger, Dave Oliviera of the Idaho Spokesman-Review has stirred up some controversy in his questioning of what constitutes consent (and thus what makes rape rape). Russ Lipton takes up Oliviera's cause, and asks:
Is the offense a suggestion that women entice men into sex and then sometimes accuse them of rape or violence? That is a known sociological and legal phenomenon. I have a daughter; I am extremely sensitive to the possibility of her ever being raped or violently assaulted. I have sons (and friends with sons) who are stunned by the way that young women on campus nearly beg for sex. All? By no means. A surprising number? They say so.
I'd like to say that I'm going to say this for the last time, but I'm sure I'll be repeating it for the rest of my life: consent is needed for every sexual encounter.
During my freshman year of college, I met a guy at a dance who I seemed to hit it off with. We started hanging out, and would spend a lot of time sitting around talking. It turned out he had a budding romantic interest in me, but I was typically clueless, and would sometimes tell him about men I was seeing and some of the gorier details of my love life. When this potential suitor eventually got around to cluing me in on his romantic intentions, I did my best to let him down easy, and figured we would still hang out and be friendly with each other. Unfortunately for both of us, he wasn't ready to give up after the first rejection. He kept in with the lovey-dovey talk, and eventually it turned rather ugly. He would come by my dorm room for a visit, and get on the subject of why I wasn't dating him, and eventually move on to discussion of other men in my life. The juxtaposition made his point obvious: you're a slut, so you might as well sleep with me. It didn't take me long to wise up, and he was the first person I have told outright that I didn't want to speak to them again. Ever.

I had the good fortune of being fished out of the dating pool soon after, but this attitude toward women who are at all open with their sexuality is something other friends have run into during their dating misadventures. I've even had ex-boyfriends try to hit me up for sex when I had moved on another relationship. There seem to be many that figure a broken hymen is shorthand for consent, and it belies a scary view of female autonomy.

Even more frightening is the way it connects so easily to the virgin-fetishizing abstinence-only "education" (that is federally funded). I vomit a little in my mouth every time I hear someone encouraged to "save herself" for marriage. Oneself is more than their virginity, and it cannot be diminished by sex or any other act. Nothing gets used up or taken away by having romantic relationships or sexual relationships. At most, a healthy person can share themself emotionally and physically with another. Expecting anything more sets up a dynamic between people that necessarily facilitates rape, because consent is impossible when you're not empowered to give it.

Further in the blog conversation on the subject of what constitutes rape, Lipton says,
Of course, life goes on and the courts must act. Inevitably, they will (and do) reflect the vast societal confusion that accompanies a breakdown in social consensus.
My response:
Most rape is of the non-violent, date rape sort, and very difficult to prosecute in our legal system. A victim's reduced capacity to consent or a victim's prior sexual history does not mitigate the fact that sex without consent is rape. Perhaps in the bad old days, women weren't allowed control over consent once dinner was bought for them or a ring put on their finger, but I for one am glad to have seen the "breakdown" of that particular social consensus. Let's all do our best to obliterate it, instead of propping it up with slut-shaming and misogyny.


Note: The first iteration of this post wasn't accurate in the who-said-what department, so I've edited it to reflect my understanding of what's gone down. I actually caught wind of the whole conversation by way of a third IS-R columnist in the paper on Sunday, so I am coming in late to party. Thanks to Serephin of 43rd State Blues for the pointer.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Celebrity Political Affiliation Switcheroo

Toby Keith is a Democrat.

Gary Sinise is a Republican.

Scaring away smoking

I didn't realize until today that these creepy-ass anti-smoking ads are Washington ads and not national ones. Adfreak thinks they're "artful yet revolting," which I guess sums it up pretty well. Meanwhile, I tend to flip the channel if they come on. Artistic or no, they gross me out - and I don't smoke anyway.

Gay Rights in the Northwest

Washington's anti-discrimination bill passed the Senate today, 25-23.
Sen. Bob Oke, R- Port Orchard, said his daughter is a lesbian. He said though the issue has been a long-standing point of conflict in his family but he held his position on the issue and voted against the bill.

"That's called tough love," Oke said.

"I believe homosexuality is morally wrong," Oke said. "The Bible is very clear on this."
One step at a time, I suppose.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Congress better chiggity-check itself before it wrecks itself

Or, it had better get on this checks-and-balances thing in regards to Samuel Alito. Party loyalty might seem like a good idea right now, but when the Supreme Court is an arm of the executive branch, some faces might be red.

And so, John Kerry to the rescue, thank God. The man owes us one.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Original Micropipette

The micropipette was invented in 1957 at University of Marburg, Germany by postdoc Heinrich Schnitger. Frustrated by repetitive pipetting of small volumes using glass micropipettes, Schnitger developed a prototype with a spring-loaded piston and a removable plastic tip for containing liquid.
The Scientist tells us about the origin of the micropipette. They even have a picture. Neat, huh?

BOOZE BULLETIN

Unofficial Drinking Liberally group to meet tonight at 8:00 at the Alehouse in Moscow on Sixth street. Come have a beer even if our official Drinking Liberally status is pending.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Best of Blog For Choice Day

I didn't read everything presented on Blog For Choice Day, but what I did see was really amazing. A few of my favorites:

Guy2K at Capitoilette lays out the legal landscape and asks for action.

Crazy cat woman illustrates her feelings on choice.

Jaclyn and PopPolitics takes issue with the terms we're using, and is less concerned with "choice" than "forced pregnancy."

Aspazia, the Mad Melancholic Feminista, talks about her mother's experience with abortion, and how attitudes change as people become aware of the complexity of the problems facing pregnant women.

binky at Bloodless Coup shows that choice is not a codeword for abortion, but that abortion is a valid choice.

Pi at Akimbo reflects on the terror of a forced pregnancy.

Amy at Babies or Not reminds us that bad things happen to good people.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are the ones I happened to see and like. Enjoy, and don't forget to see my contribution if you missed it.

The year in choice

Feministing.com has a run-down of how choice was shaped (by erosion) in America in the last year. Check it out.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Realizing choice for women: beyond abortion

I recently read a sad anecdote at abortion clinc days:
yesterday i spoke to a woman, age 28, who began her story by telling me all the reasons that she could not continue her pregnancy. she had no doubt that abortion was a better choice for the baby since she felt that it would be neglected and possibly even at risk. her older children had learned to avoid dad, an abusive alcoholic, when he was drunk. and the patient, whom i'll call rachel, supported the family as sole wage earner. there would be no income when she had to take maternity leave and her job would not permit her to work once she was showing because of the physical hardships of the job. she felt that she could not risk leaving the baby alone with her husband at any time because he was not responsible and had lately been getting worse.

then she began to sob and told me that if her mom were still alive, it might be different. both times that she was pregnant in the past it was her mom who encouraged her to continue the pregnancy, telling rachel that she could do it, that she, mom, would help her. the day before had been mom's birthday and rachel told me she went to the cemetery to talk to mom, as she often does. she had been telling mom about her situation, how much she missed her, how she wished she did not have to have an abortion. rachel told me, it was all ok because her baby would be with mom. mom knew that the baby was coming to join her in heaven, which made rachel feel at peace. then rachel said, "the hardest thing for me every day is to be without my mom. that's what i'll never get over."

It's a heartbreaking story, and others like it are all too common. Overwhelmingly, women do not want to have abortions. Pro-life partisans accuse women who have abortions of doing so for "convenience" or selfish reasons. What they ignore is the fact that most women who consider abortion are doing so because they do not have any easy or good options available to them. Raising a child in poverty is hard, bearing societal judgement toward young single pregnant women is hard, giving up an infant for adoption is hard, bearing the physical burden of an unwelcome or unhealthy pregnancy is hard, and having an abortion is hard. These are often the only set of options available to a woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant.

When the only options available to a woman are unacceptable, she does not have a choice. She can't weigh one option against the other when they are all equally bad, and her choice may as well be random for all the good it does her.

Being pro-choice is necessarily far more than being pro-abortion. As I have discussed before, if making abortion available were the only goal of the pro-choice movement, the result would hurt women more than it would help:
We as a society should know enough about the moral equality of every human being that even if abortion were impossible, we could make progress on the front of gender equity. Abortion is used as a moral crutch where we make women more like men instead of appreciating the fundamental equality of the genders.
To many women - even many women who have abortions, like the one presented above - abortion is not an acceptable reaction to an unplanned pregnancy. Rachel was put in the position of accepting an unacceptable option. Working for choice is working to allow women to choose abortion or not to abort, no matter her economic circumstances.

There is an organization called Feminists For Life whose slogan is "Women deserve better." While they are not above some of the usual deceptive tactics other pro-life organizations use to try and eliminate abortion, the center of their movement is to eliminate the factors that force women to choose abortion, as they say, "to provide resources and solutions that will support women."

I fully support the pro-choice cause, and believe that abortion is always a legitimate choice when a woman is faced with an unplanned pregnancy. This is where I strongly depart from the Feminists For Life philosophy, but I still have deep admiration for their stated goal. When people need help, they need help. Rubbing someone's nose in their bad circumstances - whether they are culpable in them or not - does not help them make the decisions they need to improve their lot. Stabilizing the circumstances under which people are living is the best way to allow them to make their own good decisions. If Rachel had access to reliable birth control, paid maternity leave, affordable childcare, and was empowered to make her decisions according to what is best for her (instead of what will make her life the least worse), she would not have chosen abortion.

For society to truly allow women autonomy in their choices, we must do two things. We need to be certain that women are empowered to make their own choices on their own terms, and we need to trust the choices women make. When pro-life advocates concentrate solely on abortion, they show that they do not trust women to make their own choices and that they do not care for women beyond their role as a vessel for the conveyance of children. If the pro-life movement is truly concerned about women, it must concentrate on helping women's lives, not shaming them into submission.
More than 80 percent of Planned Parenthood clients come to us for contraceptive services. It's estimated that contraceptive services provided by Planned Parenthood health centers prevent more than 600,000 unintended pregnancies each year.
Planned Parenthood, while it respects a woman's right to choose abortion, exists to give women control over their reproductive health. They aren't all things to all people, but they play an important role in empowering women worldwide to make their own choices. Pro-life organizations, with their anti-contraceptive and anti-sex bedfellows, serve to create numberless unplanned pregnancies, and then they have the audacity to criticize the organizations that give women a choice in the situation that the religious conservative pro-life philosophy created.

Feminists For Life does a good job of shedding light on exactly how much pro-life and pro-choice advocates could have in common if they truly were concentrating on making womens' lives better, but it obfuscates these commonalities with wishful thinking and deception, and does not trust women to make their own choices. The work that Planned Parenthood and their allies do give women the ability to control their lives. Some might say that it's ironic that Planned Parenthood effectively prevents more abortions than pro-life groups ever have, but that's not the correct term. When groups like Feminists For Life betray their own stated principles, it's called hypocrisy. Not only is this hypocrisy damaging to the Feminists For Life mission, it is poisonous to female empowerment.

Pro-choice is holistically pro-woman. Forcing pregnancy or motherhood on a woman is just as restrictive as any other senseless dictate that women have suffered at the hands of a patriarchal society. Women are absolutely capable of making their own choices regarding abortion or any other issue - they just need the resources to make their choices a reality.

This post was part of NARAL Pro-Choice America's Blog For Choice. Bloggers web-wide are rallying for the cause of choice today. Check out the other entries to see the diversity of perspectives on why choice is so important to women.

Super Babymama's Super Babymama

Kactus at Super Babymama is celebrating her birthday today, and wrote a really moving post about her amazing mother.
When women's lib came around she was an enthusiastic believer, as if finally somebody was putting into words what she had been living. She subscribed to Ms from the very first issue, at a time when just the word Ms was an act of radicalism. I think that feminism, for her, was simply logical; not an ideological point-of-view, but the way she lived her life.
Read the whole thing and stop by to wish the author a happy birthday.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Has the AP been hiring Dadaists?

Gay families plan to attend White House egg roll

Ew

In case I was giving the wrong impression, I realize that there are big problems with the way agribusiness is done. So do the people of Madras, Oregon:
Local officials want a state investigation into a feedlot that overflowed at the first of the year, flushing animal waste through a neighborhood and into the new Madras Skate Park.

“It was like someone flushed the toilet,’’ Madras City Administrator Mike Morgan said.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Did you know...?

That using contraception or being sterilized can lead to...

A loss of sexual desire

Questioning your love for your spouse

Physical sickness, such as blood clots, strokes,

heart attacks, blindness and even death.

Mental and emotional instability

Divorce

Irresponsibility in other areas of life

Early abortions caused by the use of the pill,

IUD, Norplant, and Ru 486

Pressure to have sex

Destruction of faith and a rejection of God and the church

Dislike for children

Disrespect of women

Disrespect of men

Guilt and blame

Resentment, bitterness and the feeling of being used

Isolation in one’s relationship with spouse and family

Destruction of family life

Birth defects

Sexual addiction which makes you more

vulnerable to promiscuous behavior

Abusive sexual behavior and selfish sexual behavior

Neither did I. Thanks, Internet. Thanks a lot.

If it looks like you're losing an argument with a feminist, call her a slut. That'll teach her.

Via Echidne, Phila attempts to wrap his head around Maggie Gallagher's nonsense.

I'm a big girl. I can take it.

With greater exposure comes greater scrutiny, and I've drawn some critics from my recent post about attitudes toward female libido. Unfortunately for my ego, they have a not insignificant amount of legitimacy to them.

First of all, sorry about the terminology goof. Sex-positive, pro-sex, whatever.

While I agree that sex-pos feminism isn't an orgasm contest, I do think that there is some evidence that this doesn't always come across. Between the Ann Landers letter, more than a few posts I've read at Clitical.com by women who say they masturbate but it doesn't feel good, and my own inadequacy issues in the past, I think this is not something that the sex-pos crowd should ignore.

A real doosey that I ran into recently was in the January issue of Elle magazine. The article (the title escapes me, but I'll find it) profiled a woman who is on a mission to prove that a combination of a certain diet and exercise will yeild untold amounts of pleasure and countless orgasms. I know that's the good part of the article, but it's not what I found the most interesting. The article was written by a woman who has ongoing issues with orgasms and libido, and it ended with the author saying that even with the reccomended diet and exercises, masturbation still felt like "work." The only reason to masturbate is because you like it. Something is getting lost in the mix here.

I did lay too much blame at the feet of sex-positive feminsm (or it may be more correct to say sex-positive feminists), however. A lot of sex-positive messages have been coopted for economic gain (i.e. Girls Gone Wild has its good points and bad points), and this commodification of female sexual empowerment does a good job of garbling the sex-positive message. It sucks and it's not the fault of sex-positive feminists, but that doesn't make it any less of a problem. The ideas is, after all, to get a message across. If what you're doing to get it across isn't working how it should, maybe something new or different is necessary.

I'm not suggesting that the baby be thrown out with the bathwater here. Far more people have been helped by the sex-positive message than have been hurt. But when these problematic byproducts of the movement present themselves, some red flags should pop up. Bitchlab's response to my original post, while I mostly dug it, came off with a tinge of blame for these women who are feeling inadequate or putting themselves through orgasm bootcamp.
It’s an argument against a sex positive feminism that just doesn’t exist. If it does, I saw no quote from or links to any women who exemplify this point of view (or even the other one,that of the “prude”).
I don't have any quotes handy, but I do have my experience of being a teenager who grew up reading sex-positive literature, and the hypersexual sex-positive feminist is the picture I ended up with. I may have been misinterpreting, but it would be a good idea for bitchlab and others to think about why.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A change of scenery

I really hated the old template and have cobbled something together that I like better. Is it readable? Pretty? Does it look good on your monitor? Be warned that if I don't get any complaints, I'll keep it.

Sexual Assault and Prisons

A new very controversial study purports to show that sexual assault in prison is a much rarer occurrence than is popularly understood. There are a lot of people crying foul, however. The Justice Department, which funded the study, has not even endorsed the study, for a lack of data turned over to them by Mark Fleisher, the anthropologist who conducted the study. From the article:
"To take the position that it's not a problem and prisons are safe places is asinine," said Reggie B. Walton, a federal judge and chairman of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, set up under a 2003 federal law.

He said Fleisher's conclusions are "totally inconsistent" with what he has learned during 30 years in the criminal justice system.

Cindy Struckman-Johnson, professor of psychology at the University of South Dakota and one of nine commission members, said Fleisher's 155-page study is not in scientific form.

She said there is no literature review, no raw data and no in-depth explanation of his subjects or research methods.


There are a few other statements made by Fleischer that seemed like big red flags to me.

In his report, he suggested that what outsiders see as rape is regarded differently by inmates.


and from another article:

He said inmates who cry rape are usually lying and looking for a transfer, money or publicity.

''Inmates say it may happen, but the conditions under which it happens are rare,'' Fleisher said. ''It is unlikely all the stars are going to align properly for this to happen, particularly in prisons today. You're going to get caught.''


This all seems a little too familiar to me. Given the way prison rape is mocked in popular culture, and the piss-poor way in which rape victims are treated even if they are not violent criminals, I have a feeling that this study is at the eve of its debunking. Getting the public at large to actually pay attention to the problem, unfortunately, still seems like it may be a long way away.

My Druthers: Moscow and Wal-Mart, Part III

While Wal-Mart is the only big box with a current ambition to set itself down in Moscow, I have to wonder if Moscow has more choice than Wal-Mart or death. A lot of Wal-Mart supporters accuse detractors of trying to thwart Moscow's growth, of diminishing the choices for residents of the Palouse, and of undermining the free market. I can say that none of these are my goals, though only conditionally.

I have to wonder why Wal-Mart is necessary for Moscow to grow. Obviously, they're the ones who are proposing opening up shop here, but I would rather they not come. I realize that big boxes are not the most perfect of corporate citizens, Wal-Mart strikes me as one of the very worst. If nothing else, Wal-Mart's sheer size and dominance of the market is enough to give me pause. Then, of course, there is the fear of Wal-Mart monopolizing and breaking the Palouse economy as discussed in Part II.

This brings me to the matters of consumer choice and the free market, which are not as simple as free-market fundamentalists would have us believe. Moscow's economy does not allow for infinite choice. Adding Wal-Mart to the Palouse retail profile will not allow unfettered choices for consumers. There are only so many businesses Moscow can support, so Moscow will only have so many retail choices (as long as shoppers stay in the area).

Further than the necessary limitation of choices in the Palouse retail economy, there are limitations on informed consumption. Wal-Mart's bad behavior when it comes to employee treatment, supplier extortion and the de facto encouragement of the use of foreign sweatshop labor are not necessarily apparent to the buyer who is trying on t-shirts. A label may say MADE IN CHINA, but what does that mean? There are plenty of non-sweatshop Chinese clothing factories that are decent places to work. How am I supposed to know what I'm buying, exactly? Ideally, a person would be armed with all the information they want before going shopping, but I think we all know this isn't practically the case. Even on-label assurances or storewide guarantees can be fudged.

Turn-of-the-century Americans were disgusted and surprised to learn the nasty details of the meatpacking industry in Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle. Most of the country did not know what was going on with the production of their food, and there was only so much they could do to inform themselves. This is why we have the FDA and other regulatory commissions; Americans have given their government the responsibility of making sure tainted or cruelly-produced products do not go on the market in the first place. I shouldn't have to say that many (but not all) illegal and unethical business practices that Wal-Mart makes a habit of go unpunished, unnoticed, or reprimanded with a slap on the wrist.

What I would most like to see in Moscow (assuming Pullman's Supercenter is a done deal) is not a Wal-Mart Supercenter, but any other big box store that can compete on the scale that Wal-Mart does. Fred Meyer, Target or any other business would at least create real competition for Wal-Mart in the Palouse economy. Local retailers would still take a big hit from this, but with the Big Boxification of the retail economy, I see this as the most acceptable option for Moscow. How to make this happen? I'm not sure. Is it possible, legal or fair? Also not sure on those fronts.

I am not sure if this is too optimistic, too pessimistic or within the scope of reality. I am not opposed to Moscow's growth and I am not about to quarrel with Wal-Mart's ugliness if it would mean screwing locals out of jobs and healthy retail competition. I like to think I am being more realistic than sentimental on this issue, but economics is something I know very little about, and perhaps I'm undercutting both reality and sentimentality with this.

As the situation with the Palouse and Wal-Mart develops, I plan on continuing this Moscow and Wal-Mart series. If you missed them, check out Parts I and II. For a good discussion about socially-responsible business practices and investing, stop by this Plastic thread.

Carnival of the Feminists 7: Feminism and Pop Culture

Check out the 7th Carnival of the Feminists today hosted by Feministe. The subject is Feminism and Pop Culture, and there are lots and lots of great posts. My previous post, I want to want what she's having is listed under the sex category, which is rather exciting. Check out my post if you haven't read it, and check out the Carnival for lots of great reading. And yes, if you're wondering, there are lots of pieces about Buffy. Knock yourselves out.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Some people are getting it

...and others aren't. I took a politics test on OKcupid. I came out as a socialist, but I thought the questions were kind of bad, as did the Happy Feminist. At the end there was a section where the quiz-taker could write in a law they wished was enforced. Mine is the first, but I had to laugh at the next two on the list. A screenshot:

I also like how it's a little microcosm of blue vs. red states. Is it just me, or do people have a real knack for self-parody?

The I-Word Watch

Specter's not afraid to use it.

Double Whoa

According to another Zogby poll, 52% of Americans support impeachment of President Bush for tapping phones without a warrant. Respondents were asked whether "If President Bush wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge, do you agree or disagree that Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment," and 52% of respondents said yes, 42% said no, a 6% were undecided.

Maryland got the ball rolling

Latah County's State Representative Tom Trail had some interesting news about the Idaho House Speaker Bruce Newcomb (a Republican, natch)
Wal-Mart — With all the discussion taking place in Moscow about the possibility of a giant Wal-Mart getting started, it is advisable to keep your eyes on what might happen at the state level. I talked with Speaker Bruce Newcomb. Speaker Newcomb told me that Wal-Mart has “sucked dry” two communities in his district. Many small businesses have gone out of business, and property taxes produced by businesses have fallen off.

Speaker Newcomb is also concerned about companies like Wal-Mart that pay low wages and limited health benefits. Many states have discovered that Wal-Mart and other large companies encourage their workers to seek state assistance for health benefits, welfare, food stamps, and other similar forms of assistance. This is shifting medical costs to the taxpayer. The Speaker has asked Health and Welfare to conduct a survey of all companies who employ over 10,000 people in the state to assess how prevalent this problem is. He is ready to introduce a Fair Health Care Insurance piece of legislation modeled after that of some 20 some other states. This would require big box companies to contribute at least 8 percent of their pay roll to employee health care. The state of Maryland just passed this type of legislation (overriding a veto on the way).

While I can't really claim to have any idea whether this is the best plan for improving the lot of America's uninsured (many do not), I am very glad to see some kind of action being taken to address the health care crisis in this country.

Now, national Democrats, get on the ball here and start talking this and other solutions up.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Whoa

Up to 53% of Americans support impeachment of President Bush, according to a Zogby poll.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I want to want what she's having

Today's New York Times has an article about the expanding culture of middle- and old-aged female sexuality. I've read several articles like this, and they always bring up mixed emotions for me, probably all amplified by the general fear of aging anyone has. The articles tend to have the same sort of arc: old and oldish women still like having sex and they're talking about liking it, some people think old ladies are too gross or fragile for sex, and some of these people who think this are old ladies.

Whenever female libido is discussed, there tend to emerge two opposing camps: those who believe women do not naturally (I'll get to how troublesome this word is later) like to have a lot of sex, and those who believe that women naturally want to be having sex constantly. I'll call these parties the prudes and the pro-sex feminists, respectively. While I know for a fact that there are women who like sex and women who do not, what I find most troublesome about the arguments is that male sexuality - or at least what is assumed to be true about male sexuality is the given ideal. People don't argue about how much sex women want, they argue about how much more or less sex women want than men do. And, while it would be convenient for men and women to have perfectly equal libidos, I see two problems with this approach.

First of all, people of the same gender do not share all the same characteristics. One woman's libido will differ from another's.

Secondly, I have to question why women have to catch up to (or slow down to, depending on who you talk to) the libidos of men. This is exactly the problem explored in my hands-down favorite feminist book The Mismeasure of Woman: Why women are not the better sex, the inferior sex or the opposite sex. This is yet another example of the "Men are normal, women are deficient," assumption that has proven a huge stumbling block for feminists. When it's put in these terms, it becomes obvious that women don't need to change to be more like men, but that men and women need to be able to accomodate each other in the way that is the most comfortable for both sexes.

Women have been engineering their biology for years so that they will fit more comfortably into a patriarchal society. What I'm talking about here is birth control, and I'm not trying to knock it. In fact, I think birth control is the greatest recreational drug there is. It's been a great tool for throwing off male control of female sexuality and female life in general. Still, men don't have to be certain to take a tiny pill every day to keep their grip on their lives and careers and sexualities. I don't believe that birth control is necessary in any absolute sense for achieving equality between the sexes, but I do think getting to where we are today would have been a much, much, much harder and longer battle than it was with the advent of reliable, female-controlled contraception.

I recently read a very depressing letter in Ann Landers (or whoever it is that's writing that column now) where a post-menopausal woman was asking what she could do to liven her libido and please her husband. Advice was written in that said that it was absolutely a wife's responsibility to recover her libido, should it dip due to menopause, and that medical and psychological solutions x y and z should be sought. One letter, however, suggested the possibility of libido-dampening drugs for her husband.

Initially, the idea seemed crazy to me, but I've come around to it a bit after some time. I read so many magazine articles and advice columns about what women need to do to have more orgasms or want more sex, and I find them very depressing. Even worse are the letters to advice columns where women say that what they're doing to achieve more orgasms feels like work, or that they try to masturbate and still don't like it. The worst part is that the advice is always to see a doctor or a psychiatrist.

My advice? If you don't like it, don't do it. You don't have a desire for more than one orgasm per week? Don't bother. You are the only person who feels your orgasms. They are your own and if you suspect or feel they're not worth it, they're not. I realize that there are many women who have not explored the potential of their sexuality, and could use a little encouragement. On the other hand, to a woman who is not certain of her capability to even have an orgasm, writing about hypersexual, multiple-orgasmic women is not encouraging, it's downright intimidating.

Sex is fantastic, but it is not all there is. I don't doubt for a second that there are women to whom menopause does irrepairable damage to thier libidos. I have no idea of knowing how many women this includes, but that's not the point. There are any number of things that can screw up a person's sex life, even if menopause is not a culprit, and because of this, putting too much stock into the idea of sex as the key to happiness is a dangerous thing. As it says in the NYT article:
"Sex's importance is constructed," said Lenonore Tiefer, a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. "It can be very important or not so important. The trouble for me is when the answer for that is uniform. That's an oppressive message."

For women to take possession of their sexual pleasure is a beautiful thing. But pro-sex feminism relies too much on it being a reliable way to empower women. Even if a woman has an orgasm at the drop of the hat, she still gets paid 75 cents to the dollar that a man makes. Let's not mistake female sexual pleasure - something which is often commodified anyway - for female equality or female happiness. Eventually, it ends up feeling more like and orgasm contest than the pursuit of one's happiness. And most of all, let's not make the mistake of using men as the yardstick by which we measure female behavior. Empowering women to take hold of their sexuality means women taking hold of it on their own terms.

UPDATE: I have a critic or two. And a response.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Big Box Wasteland? Moscow and Wal-Mart, Part II

What is clear to me is that how Moscow deals with the Supercenter problem is going to have a huge impact on its economic future. And then there's the Pullman Supercenter. My bet is that the Supercenter in Pullman is going to happen on schedule, despite the efforts of those who don't want it there.

I have a hard time believing that two Wal-Mart Supercenters could be supported by Moscow, Pullman, and the surrounding towns. I have heard that the addition of these two stores will double the amount of retail square footage in the two towns. That seems like quite a jump, and not one that local stores would be able to weather comfortably.

There is the concern that the close placement of the two stores is an example of one of Wal-Mart's nastiest business practices. Al Norman of Sprawl Busters explains:
People are surprised that Wal-Mart would even want to locate a store at Ashland, with another one 10 miles away. But that's part of the Wal-Mart saturation strategy. They place their stores so close together that they become their own competition. Once everybody else is wiped out, then they're free to thin out their stores. Wal-Mart has 390 empty stores on the market today. This is a company that has changed stores as casually as you and I change shoes.

That sounds a little too familiar for me. On the other hand, even if this brings Wal-Mart a net gain, it's an expensive practice. If I were Wal-Mart, this would not be my first choice for expansion strategies. But, on yet a third hand (I think Wal-Martians have three hands, right?), with Wal-Mart's ubiquity in this country, they have to get creative if they're going to continue to grow - and if not everyone buys everything at Wal-Mart, they have room to grow, right?

What I see as the worst-case scenario is both Wal-Marts coming to Moscow and Pullman, each relying on the larger corporate structure to sustain them while they sell goods at deeper discounts than normal and attract large amounts of business from other stores. Other stores fold, and at the point when Wal-Mart is essential to each town's economy, it comes out that Wal-Mart can't sustain both stores and it has to close one. Which one? After each town tries to outbid the other with tax breaks and other benefits for Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart takes the best deal and leaves the empty shell of its old store unsold so as not to invite in competition.

This would be Bad News.

This isn't all the possible Bad News I can forsee, unfortunately. There is some more big box development on the horizon for the Palouse, and it's not on this side of the state line. If more large retail is going to quickly follow Pullman's Supercenter, and Moscow does not end up with a Supercenter, Pullman stands to pull a crucial amount of retail business away from us and to them.

What would be the best-case scenario? Or even acceptable? Read Part III to find out.

Also, in case you missed it, part I.

"The only thing worse than having a Wal-mart in your town is not having one." Moscow and Wal-Mart, Part I

Moscow is a small University and farming-supported town with a population of about 25,000 - a very large proportion of this population including University of Idaho students. 7 miles away, across the state border is Pullman, Washington. Pullman is also dominated by a university, Washington State University, and has a population somewhat larger than Moscow's, but the two are of a comparable size. Pullman and Moscow serve as the retail centers for the very small surrounding towns (Troy Potlatch, or Deary Idaho, and Albion or Colfax in Washington to name a few). Currently, Moscow's retail business is somewhat better than Pullman's. Moscow has had a Wal-Mart (not a Supercenter) for many years, and it has drawn in business from surrounding areas, including Pullman, for years. There are proposed Wal-Mart Supercenters in both Pullman and Moscow. While I am not clear on what is planned for the current Moscow Wal-Mart, I have heard talk of it being turned into a distribution center.

On Monday night, the Moscow Civic Association held a panel discussion and public forum on the subject of how a Wal-Mart Supercenter might affect Moscow's economy. We were fortunate to have on the meeting's panel a rural development specialist from the University of Idaho named Stephen Cooke who was able to provide some numbers to start the conversation. He gave a run-down of the work (.pdf) of Kenneth E. Stone at Iowa State University, who has been looking at the effect of Wal-Marts establishing themselves in rural communities. The study isn't very long (22 pages with graphs) so I encourage you to check it out for yourself. But, to put it as concisely as Dr. Cooke did at the meeting, "The only thing worse than having a Wal-Mart in your town is not having one." More specifically, the picture painted by Stone's work was one that showed the demise of towns of Moscow's size when they were situated close to other mid-sized towns (say, for instance, Pullman, WA) that did have Wal-Marts situated in them. Depressingly, the long-term picture for retail sales in midsized towns that did have Wal-Marts wasn't fantastic, as Wal-Mart saturation creates competition between Wal-Marts - but I think it's only a little melodramatic to say that watching a Wal-Mart set itself down in a nearby town is fatal to your town's retail sales.

Tune in for part II where I'll discuss what I see as possible outcomes. In the meantime, check out WakeUpWalMart.com for information on how Wal-Mart is affecting the US economy and the US people, and the different ways communities are defending themselves and their citizens against Wal-Mart's predatory business practices.

See parts II and III of what I've written about Moscow and Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Big Question

Plastic has a great discussion about atheists, agnostics, and how they create their moral structures and see the world. I think it's an interesting, pure look into how people connect their emotions and logic without getting a head start on it from a guide like the Bible. It's pure human ingenuity, for good or bad.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Julie's State of the State of the State

Julie at Red State Rebels gives a good run-down of Kempthorne's speech.

While I can't think of anyone better to do it for you than Julie, if you'd like to draw your own conclusions, you can read the text.

Malpractice Mythology

Kate Steadman on why tort reform will not reduce medical costs, but just make it harder to sue for malpractice.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Reminder: Wal-Mart Forum Tomorrow

Who: Moscow Civic Association and YOU
What: Public forum regarding the potential impact of a Super Wal-Mart in Moscow
When: January 9th, 7 pm
Where: 1912 Center, across from Moscow High School on Third Street
Why: Get informed

Check out the anti-Wal-Mart in Moscow blog, too.

If you haven't seen it

Check out the video (via Crooks and Liars) of Howard Dean setting Wolf Blitzer straight on the Abramoff scandal and exactly is was involved. Now if we could only get Democratic legislators to stand up for themselves the way Dean will stand up for them.

Why do we have abortion clinics?

I asked this question at a blog called abortion clinic days, and got a long answer. I'll excerpt a little here, but check out the whole post.

Here's the historical development. Abortion was illegal until it was nationally legalized by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade January 22nd, 1973. It was legal in three states prior to that, New York, California, and Colorado. There were always some doctors who did abortions on the sly, or who did a D&C for their patients (oops, I guess they were pregnant!). But it was risky and in the medical community there was a stigma both about the procedure and who got abortions, but also about breaking the law and risking losing your license or a jail term. There is a wonderful movie called "Dear Dr. Spencer" about a doc in a small town in Pennsylvania who operated an office for abortions openly, under cover, so to speak, but mostly it was really cloak and dagger stuff. Some doctors gave their patients an antibiotic and referred them to an abortionist, who might be a midwife, or an ex Army medic, or a funeral home director. Frequently the Mafia controlled access to abortion services.

When the rest of the country started to provide abortion services, a mix of the same people, with some entrepreneurs, founded clinics based on the same strategy as any other specialty business: VOLUME. At that time there were still many doctors who performed abortions for their own patients, perhaps one or two a week, or even up to 10 a week, but there was that stigma attached to it, and most doctors realize that getting along in the community is very important to survival. But some people hate to go to hospitals because they can so easily lose their confidentiality or run into a hostile nurse or someone else who knows someone they know, for instance. Also, as larger practices started to form, for reasons of on call coverage, economy, and other factors, it was inevitable that one person in the practice would object to abortions. In larger cities it is still possible to find a private doctor who will do an abortion. (Like on ER the other night Dr. Coburn said, "Abby, I will help you whatever you decide.")

There are a lot of good things about the clinic model however, in spite of the isolation from mainstream medicine that many clinic experience. One is that people who work at clinics really get that pregnancy decisions are very complex and are usually good at understanding what their clients need. (Not always true, some clinics seem to adopt the stigma we are trying to change. I don't get why they are still in business...) Unfortunately, this frees people who just do obstetrics or birth control to miss part of the picture. Like every sub specialty, though, you can assemble a staff that really knows what they are doing, medically and emotionally. I remember talking to one doctor who worked in a hospital setting who said that it was nightmarish having to work with different nurses in the hospital who hated what he was doing or who would inadvertently hand him the wrong medicine because they were inexperienced.

I have given you the long answer. The short answer is stigma. Abortion clinics exist because those in the regular practice of medicine cannot withstand the heat or the stigma of providing abortions. In a society so divided about a subject, and with so much heat about the issue, you need people whose job it is to withstand the pressures, the negative attention, and who are not beholden to referral pressures in the medical community. If that same facility can evolve as an understanding place to go with a pregnancy crisis, then that's turning lemons into lemonade.


I find that it's immensely helpful to hear from people who actually serve on the front lines of social services and controversial subjects. It's hard to understand how sticky issues like abortion or poverty can be very complex unless you're confronted with the differing stories and the human emotions attached. My husband has been working in different social services for the past few years, and it's been an eye-opening experience for both of us. Suffice it to say that you owe the next social worker you meet a hug.

Painful Progress

Salome Simon has slept with almost 50,000 men since Canadian-led researchers discovered she's one of those amazing Nairobi prostitutes whose immunity to HIV could be the key to beating AIDS. Two decades later, with no cure in sight, she's still a medical guinea pig but also a grandmother who is tired of plying her trade. Canada, she tells Stephanie Nolen, should help her find a decent job.

Sometimes it feels like helping people and making a notable difference in the world work at cross-purposes. For some bonus material on the futility of trying to help, check out the story of a medical volunteer in Darfur. (Should you need to after reading this, you can donate to Doctors Without Borders here.)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Newark, NJ's Mayoral Race

Why do I care? I saw a documentary about the two rival candidates and I was googling Corey Booker, trying to figure out how to donate that night. Debra Dickerson gives a much better run-down than I could, so do check it out. It's a story of entrenched, corrupt political power versus the idealism of a man who, as far as I can tell, is perfect (and cute!). I'm sure it's more nuanced than that, but that's why you need to do your own damn research while I figure out a way to seduce him.

Out, but how out?

Joan Opyr, a local writer and religious figure, was surprised to see a TV show on gay-themed channel Logo profiling her long-time friend from the tiny town of Kendrick, ID. He was surprised she saw it, too. Read the article.

Too, Too Rich

WASHINGTON - U.S. Representative Tom DeLay (R-Texas) sent the following letter to members of the House Republican Conference, explaining his decision to permanently step down as majority leader:

Dear Colleague,

Today, I have asked Speaker Hastert to convene our conference for the purpose of electing a new majority leader, the position I have been honored to fill these past three years through the trust and confidence of our colleagues.

During my time in Congress, I have always acted in an ethical manner within the rules of our body and the laws of our land. I am fully confident time will bear this out.

However, we live in serious times and the United States House of Representatives must be focused on the job of protecting our nation and meeting the daily challenges facing the American people. History has proven that when House Republicans are united and focused, success follows.

While we wage these important battles, I cannot allow our adversaries to divide and distract our attention. I will continue to stand up for the issues I care so deeply about and work with you all on these priorities. I am constantly thankful for the support of my constituents in recent days as well as over the years they have allowed me to serve them. I will continue to work every day to fulfill their trust, and yours.

Regards,

Tom DeLay

Well, Tom, I'm sorry your care and attention toward money laundering have been distracted so, but I can't say I'm sorry to see you go.

Sorry, this is too funny. "Ethical manner?" Give me a break.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Problem with Raising Wolf Bait in the Woods...

...is that wolves will eat it. Ditto cougars and their prey. Predator reintroduction programs in the West have made ranchers upset, and part of me can't blame them - a place that was safe for sheep 50 years ago isn't as safe anymore when there are wolves running around. On the other hand, I don't know why there's so much hostility toward these predators - the damage they cause is rather light overall.

GreenInk is getting exercised about proposed hunting programs to thin the population of cougars (like the one that anti-wolf people in Idaho would implement if they can get the grey wolf off of the threatened species list). While I agree that ridding the environment of these animals is not a smart ecological idea and morally yucky to boot, I can't understand the attitude that "idiot ranchers" shouldn't be concerned about their cattle. Raising free range cattle is often a hard thing to make a living at, and as a person who likes eating these cows, I'm going to lend them some sympathy. They're doing me and my stomach (but not my arteries) a service after all.

With the new wolf management program in Idaho there are likely to be many more ranchers authorized to kill wolves that they deem to be a "menace," and it's not going to be pretty for the grey wolves. Killing these very expensive and environmentally important creatures seems like a wrongheaded exercise in revenge for these ranchers. In the beef-eating spirit I referenced earlier, I think it would be very reasonable for the state, if it is interested in reintroducing predators to the wild areas of this country, to offer predator insurance to ranchers, and just cover the costs of what these predators are eating. It's a program that I'd be happy to pay taxes for, and I don't know why either environmentalists or ranchers should object. Ranchers sometimes counter with a sort of paternalistic concern for their poor cows, but that's false on its face; you're going to send your cows to slaughter either way, so let a wolf eat it or let me eat it.

PC Richard Scarry

Updated versions of Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever have a few changes for the sae of political-correctness. I think it's a nice touch, though I wonder who was in charge of making the decision. I also wasn't very upset at the editing of the photo of the author of Goodnight Moon to exclude his cigarette, but plenty of people were. Am I just a PC-addled liberal, or are these the kinds of things that ought to be available for historical study, but changed to reflect the world we live in? We didn't grow up with the racist Looney Tunes even if they existed. Why do we need Richard Scarry pushing outdated gender roles?

Otter Tries to Weasel Out of Responsibility

Red State Rebels pointed out yesterday that Butch Otter, the Idaho Congressman who has been pushing for the sale of Idaho's public lands to private interests has flip-flopped and asked that his name be taken off the legislation that would have the Forest Service sell 15% of its land. Julie is right to point out that trying to erase his record of advocacy for the bill isn't enough - he has to fight against it if he is going to convince anyone that he really isn't in the pocket of private interests.

I certainly don't plan on forgetting this during his gubernatorial run, and I don't plan on letting anyone else forget it either. It's one thing to see that a particular legislative crusade a congressperson takes on is not favored by their constituents, and drop the crusade for the sake of the constituents. It's another to do the dirty work for your corporate backers by pushing the legislation to a vote and then try to take your name off the legislation so it can't be used against you in campaign ads. That's slimy and it's not going to work.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Generic Organic


Here's a pleasant sight at the grocery store: organic products in generic packaging. This is exactly the sort of thing that I think needs to happen before organic or other more worker-friendly or environmentally-friendly food production becomes a truly integral part of American consumption. It's affordable (even these organic generic beans werere less expensive than the brand-name conventionally-produced beans), and on the shelf right next to the conventionally-produced food. No henna-printed labels picturing pandas smoking pot, no rhyming pun names, just a can of beans that you see on the shelf, and decide that the ten cents might be worth buying organic.

Miscarriage of knowledge

Andrew Sullivan has been looking at facts and figures to inform his opinions on reproductive rights (call me unfair, but I am not very swayed by the opinion of a gay rich Catholic male regarding my reproductive organs), and has aroused the apparently overactive abortiondar of Ramesh Ponnuru:
But to provide the kind of factual background Sullivan wants I think you'd need the answers to these questions: 1) What proportion of miscarriages are the result of failed fertilizations? 2) Leaving these events out, what's the natural rate of early death? 3) What proportion of induced (deliberate, non-natural) abortions actually kill embryos? 4) Leaving incomplete or defective fertilizations out, what's the ratio of natural to deliberate embryo-killings in the U.S.?

Did he just completely space out on his high school biology classes? According to him, I just miscarried a couple of days ago, as I have been doing monthly since I was about 13. A miscarriage is the interruption of a pregnancy, and a woman is not pregnant until one of her eggs is fertilized and implanted in her womb. Say it with me: menstruation is not miscarriage.

What's most frightening is that people arm themselves with this kind of "information" before they head to the polls. The more I read the news, the more I think I ought to do a public service and teach high school biology before our textbooks are telling our kids about Adam and Eve riding to church on dinosaurs. (Yes, I stole that image from someone, but I can't remember who.)

Hell Yes

That's what I like to see. Labor concerns on the national level have been drowned out by less wonky and more spectacular news, even with rising rates of uninsured Americans and a stagnant minimum wage (Idaho still has its at $5.15/hour). It's a pity it took this kind of tragedy to stir Congress to action, but I'm glad to see Democrats making some noise on this important issue - an issue of vital importance to red-staters.

"I don't get it," says It Girl

The January 2006 Elle magazine features an interview with Scarlett Johanssen, or, as they call her, "The Smart Bomb."
"If I weren't making movies, I'd be an archaeologist, looking for fossils," she said. "I love ancient Egypt."

I thought I was pretty smart, but I never knew that ancient Egypt was populated by dinosaurs.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Moscow City Council to New Saint Andrews: Fuck you...or not

I didn't make it to last night's city council meeting, thinking it would just be a swearing in and punch drinking affair. Little did I know that punches would be thrown while the refreshments were left as the most forgettable part of the evening.

From today's Lewiston Tribune:
What happened was newly elected councilor Aaron Ament waited until the swearing-in ceremonies had ended to unceremoniously make a motion to place a moratorium on conditional-use permit applications for all educational institutions and commercial schools in the downtown business sector.

The motion passed 4-3, but was soon revoked with new Mayor, Nancy Chaney's vote deciding that the moratorium not be passed. It does not sound like it's been completely abandoned, however. The Trib:
In the end, Chaney said she switched her vote because she wasn't comfortable with imposing a moratorium without first giving a 15-day notice for a public hearing on the issue.

The article ends with the information that the new council will be away on a retreat this Sunday and Monday. Oh, to be a fly on that wall.

Colorado Governor Hurts Women to Please Voting Bloc

Via Feministing, Bill Owens, the Colorado governor, vetoed a bill that would have required that hospitals inform rape victims about the existence and availability of emergency contraception. A quote:
Gov. Owens, a Catholic, said he rejected the proposal because it would have forced church-based hospitals to go against their own moral values, and because it might have caused a woman to "innocently violate her personal, moral and religious beliefs about when life begins."

Apparently even armed with information about what emergency contraception is, and where to get it, a woman is still not capable of deciding whether or not she wants to conceive after being raped. What's even more odious about this bill being vetoed is that the hospital is not even required to dispense the medication on the site - despite the time-sensitive efficacy of the drug - but may direct a woman to another pharmacy. Even my often bass-ackwards state requires that emergency contraception be made available to rape victims. I guess I can chalk that up to the coming Democratic flip in my state?

And, while we're on the subject, I should point out that the various methods of EC have not had their mechanisms of prophylaxis elucidated - or, in real people words, we don't know how they work. In fact, we don't even know if they prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg (which is the point at which a woman is considered "pregnant"), and if so, how often this is the case. From the literature I've seen (which is scant), it seems likely that implantation is prevented in a small amount of cases, though it's difficult to separate the factors that can contribute to preventing implantation from what the drug is contributing.

Even if the unknown and likely negligible risk of preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg is something a woman doesn't want to risk, I'm pretty sure she doesn't need Bill Owens' help in deciding whether to take her emergency contraception.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Snip snip

The NYT column about female genital plastic surgery that's making the rounds of the feminist blogosphere is really iinsightful and funny and poigniant, and it makes you think about what a bizarre society we live in. Definitely read it. But I have a question. How in the world are people so insecure that they will fall for this kind of bullshit? I have my body issues, but I’d never consider hacking at my hoo-hah to make it prettier. I’m not mad that the designer vagina concept exists, I’m mad that people are in poor enough shape that they’ll go for it. We don’t need to make this surgery illegal, we need to make people more secure and happy with themselves.

Aside: I sure am having a ranty day, aren't I?

Getting Ready For Elections

Via Andrew Sullivan, the Bush administration drops the Iraqi people like a hot potato.

It's so frustrating how unsurprising this is. I'm going to go over this, just to make sure I have it all straight.

9/11, 2001: World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks
9/12, 2001: International politics become not a way to secure peace and economic comfort through alliances and occasional wars, but a tool to get Republicans elected.

I had a very hard time deciding how I felt about the idea of invading Iraq before it occurred. I was amongst the few that didn't think Saddam had WMDs, though I think I was just lucky on that one instead of prescient. The amount of corruption, the amount of debt, and the amount of carnage that would result from the war were not something I questioned. War sucks, after all. Still, there's no way around the fact that Saddam is an evil man who terrorized his country and had no legitimacy as a leader - Iraq is better off without him. This doesn't mean things in Iraq will necessarily be good enough just because Saddam is out of power, but it is great to know he's been stripped of his power.

I finally came out against the invasion because of the ridiculous, bungled attempts to catch Osama and secure peace in Afghanistan. Toppling the Taliban, catching Osama bin Laden, and beginning a thorough dismantling of Al-Qaeda from the starting point of Afghanistan - these were the obvious first steps in waging a global war on terrorism. To make Iraq the centerpeice of the war on terror was truly reckless. We've spent billions of dollars, killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, killed thousands of American troops, added no "stability" to the Middle East, and made a lot of defense contractors richer. This is not to mention dragging the reputation of the US military through the mud by allowing or even encouraging torture.

I do begin to understand why people would just want to give up and move to Canada (Vancouver is a really gorgeous city). Then I consider the fact that by leaving, there would be one less vote for sanity in this country. Would I leave the world's largest economic and military power in the hands of people who voted for this war to begin with?

No way in Hell.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sometimes, voter apathy is comforting

The internet is mostly a nice thing, but some days, it makes you want to vomit in terror.

New Year's Resolutions

Theme: reducing my hypocrisy quotient (Hq).

1. Stop driving to Rosauers (the grocery store a five-minute walk from my house). When I finally got a car after four years of college without one, the novelty of being able to drive somewhere was so thrilling I wasn't doing it out of pure laziness. Now, I am, and it is a Bad Habit. I'll quit.

2. Rent my movies from Howard Hughes. They're a good business also within walking distance, and I don't even know why I stopped patronizing them. Hastings does not deserve my money, though.

3. Volunteer at the Co-op. I tend to forget that it exists for some reason, so if I'm there a couple of times a week, I'll shop there more often and think more about my food and what goes into making it appear on my table.

4. Exercise, but do not weigh myself. I owe it to myself, and my husband who has to live with me, to get over my body issues. I'm making progress, and I need to keep with it.