Friday, March 31, 2006

You miss things

...when you get most of your news from text or radio. I had no idea that Cyntia McKinney was (and still is, I suppose) black. I also was until a few months ago under the impression that Barbara Boxer was black. Little did I know. Anyway, TPM Muckraker picked up an interesting tidbit regarding the people who should know a little bit about her appearance - Capitol Hill Police.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A good time to help Democrat prospects in Congress...

...is right now. The current fiscal quarter is ending March 31 at midnight, and it's an important fundraising benchmark by which future donors will decide how best to invest their donations. Please make sure you have swallowed any food or drink you may have in your mouth because I would like to suggest a donation to the Grant campaign for the 1st congressional seat in Idaho, even if you are not an Idahoan.

Before you scoff at Democratic prospects in this red state, consider a few things:

  1. Idaho has had a huge increase in population in the last few years, mostly to the urban (as urban as Idaho gets) area in and around Boise. Urban voters tend to go blue.
  2. Idaho's overall population is still quite small - put up a few billboards in Boise and you'll get half of the state and 3/4 of the district driving by them every day. A little money reaches a large percentage of the voters in the district.
  3. Approval of the Bush Administration has recently slipped 16% in the state - a new development, and a promising one for Democrats like me who smell blood in the water.
  4. Straight from Larry Grant, as reported in the excellent article anyone interested in Idaho politics absolutely must read from the Boise Weekly:

    ...To the best estimate, he says, the Idaho's First Congressional District has about 230,000 voters. It would take, he speculates, about 115,000 of those votes to win. In 2004, John Kerry got about 96,000 votes from the district. Go down to the legislative-level races, he said, and 118,000 people cast votes for Democrats.

    "Add some independents and disaffected Republicans," Grant says as he digs through his apple pie, "and it not only shows that a Democrat can win Congress but also in the State Legislature."

  5. The guy bought me a beer and sat down to talk about what I wanted out of a Congressman. That's some good politics.
  6. The seat Grant is competing for is open this term, so there is no incumbent to compete against.
Feeling more cheerful now? I know I am. If you're looking to get some bang for your buck, and help Democrats gain a seat in the House, I can't think of a much better way to do it. I'll even make it easy on you so you don't even have to scroll up to find that link again - click here to donate to the Grant campaign for Congress.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Birth control is really a plot to harm women!

Feministing.com has another paranoid conversation going about new ideas in birth control. (I've spoken before about how hard those folk are to satisfy when it comes to contraceptives, back in the first days of F-words when absolutely no one was reading it.)

If there are two things I do not believe are tools of the patriarchy, they are birth control (yes, even hormonal birth control) and tampons.

A commenter on the feministing thread calls herself one of "the small minority who does not have problems with pills" and I am calling bullshit on that one. It is the most popular form of bith control in this country, and while many women do experience side-effects, I think it's pretty silly to say that the vast majority of women have problems with birth control pills.

As for tampons, I know they are not a type of birth control, but they tend to come up in these conversations about the essentially misogynistic medical establishment. And I just want to say right now that I love tampons. They are simple to use, easy to dispose of (I have heard of Instead, Diva Cups, etc, but I have a hard enough time washing my dishes - I'd rather just throw my menstruation-related products away, thanks) and I find them to be perfectly comfortable. And, judging by the way they sell, I think a lot of other women do, too.

I don't know what it is that makes perfectly reasonable feminists go nutty when it comes to these two issues. I have had friends solemnly tell me that they don't use tampons because they are filled with fiberglass so as to make you bleed more and buy more tampons.

Capitalism does not exploit women at the expense of making a buck. That is, if there were easier ways to make hormonal birth control work, it would be made because it would sell. Ditto "feminine hygiene products," which I think can be observed in the recent diversification of the market (hello, Instead!). It's not like conservatives have ever been able to stop other money-making enterprises that infringe on their ideal picture of how the world works, like pornography, prostitution, horror movies, so I don't know how they would be able to suppress the magically perfect birth control pill that scientists are refusing to find. I know that a culture with deep-rooted misogynistic tendencies will seep into medicine, but I seriously do not think that these are examples of seepage. After all, people put the pill and the women's movement hand in hand all the time. If you feel like raging against the machine, please bother weight loss surgery, diet pills, and cosmetic surgery, because I think many of us would agree that the birth control pill is the greatest recreational drug of all time.

What have you done for me lately?

Shea Anderson of the Boise Weekly has put together a good summary of what the Idaho Legislature has done for the average Idahoan during this session. An excerpt:
So, off go the Six-Packs to their charming but spendy Boise home to drown their sorrows, and possibly put off their tax filings, because the pain of property taxes is so dear. They wonder if all the media hype about property taxes might make the Legislature take action in this final week. But they know the likelihood of that is about the same as that of Joe's ability to hold his breath for an entire Senate committee hearing. The matter of taxes has tied up the Senate so severely, that they are now considering an interim commission to study the matter they are now studying. This makes Joe's head hurt.

To bed with the Six-Packs, then, because Joehas to get up early and continue earning $5.15 per hour at his lame job that, he laments, will nevercover his property taxes or his once-monthly sojourn to The Flicks.

While he flips burgers, Joe will think wistfully of a brief scuffle on the House floor last week that lifted his pedestrian spirits, if only briefly. Jaquet and the rest of the Democrats, inflicted a little procedural whoop-ass on the House, something Joe rarely sees. Jaquet's parliamentary snit forced House leaders to take a look, however fleeting, at a Democratic bill that would have raised Idaho's low minimum wage to $6.15 an hour, which, Joe thinks, could have helped him keep the Ada County property tax assessors at bay.
Hmm. There's got to be a better way, hasn't there?

Policy vs. mythology

Ampersand recently made a nice, neat chart that shows the practical effect of extreme anti-abortion legislation, which in short is to punish women for having sex for their own pleasure. He sums it up:
Almost none of their policies make sense if they really see no difference between the death of a fetus and the death of a four-year-old. However, nearly all their policies make sense if they're seeking to make sure that women who have sex are punished. After years of seeing this pattern repeated again and again, it's difficult to take them at their word.
I hear this argument often, and while I think it is an important one, I also think that this information is often used in such a way that it hurts the pro-choice position.

When someone tells me they believe something, I am inclined to take their word for it. A pro-lifer probably does care - albeit abstractly - about the lives of unborn children, even if the policy they promote doesn't have the effect they wish it to. Just like it doesn't really register when someone tells me that I'm a baby-killer hungry for fetal flesh, I'm sure pro-lifers ignore it when they're told that they don't care about babies. They are hyperbolic accusations that are so extreme and so different from the perception of the accused that they simply cannot register.

It's hard to see your hypocrisy, in other words.

I know that I have misunderstood the real ramifications and motivations of seemingly reasonable positions to hold on the abortion issue, and I am as pro-choice as they come. For instance, the basic hypocrisy in the rape or incest exception in an abortion ban is that if we really attributed the same moral weight to a fetus as we do to a child, then we would not allow the circumstances of its conception dictate whether or not it has a right to live. The practical effect of the rape/incest exception is to punish women for having sex on purpose (they can get raped all the want!), and disregard the "sanctity" of the developing child but I didn't catch that fact until it was explained to me a couple of years ago.

There is a lot of mythology that sneaks its way into policy with no practical considerations whatsoever. Even though abstinence-only sex "education" functions to increase teen pregnancy and STD transmission, we still get it sold to us on the baseless insistence that it will prevent these ills. There is widespread drug testing in the workplace, and while it has not ever shown itself to increase productivity or help business in any way. These policies - just like banning abortion - are sold to us with language that pays homage to the way people wish the world would work, but end up maintaining the status quo because they can't escape the way the world actually works.

You can't help babies by banning abortion, but you can satisfy the unspoken desire to punish loose women by using language that implies that banning abortion (and therefore punishing sexually active women) will help babies. People, including me, want to help babies. I don't doubt for a second that good ol' Brandi Swindell wants to help babies. I do think she does not realize that her activities end up hurting women and children everywhere, regardless of what she wants to believe.

Back to Ampersand's chart, I think that it's a great tool to show the practical effect of abortion bans. Unfortunately, the presence of these facts does not mean that pro-life legislators and activists are paying attention to them. There is nothing stopping people from believing things that reality contradicts. Otherwise, it'd pretty hard to explain things like, say, religion (or if you're religious, religions other than your own). It's not that the authors of the South Dakota abortion ban are lying about caring about babies, they're just stupid enough to think that their legislation will help them. Severing the false connection between pro-life ideals and pro-life action - with tools like Amerpsand's chart - is what needs to be done, and making up cartoonish versions of what pro-lifers think is not going to help us do that.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Fond Memories


To tide you over until I get a real post up, here's a photo of me with Larry Grant, Idaho's 1st Congressional District Democratic candidate, at Drinking Liberally a few weeks ago. I've got more Liberal Drinking to do tonight, but by late tonight or tomorrow, regular blogging shall resume.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Still Alive

I had guests this weekend and have been inordinately busy lately, but I have several posts floating around in my head that I'll tap out as soon as I get time to. Don't give up on me yet!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Abortion access in South Dakota

I'm just going to copy and paste this, beacause I can't think of anything cute or clever to add.
"When Governor Mike Rounds signed HB 1215 into law it effectively banned all abortions in the state with the exception that it did allow saving the mother’s life. There were, however, no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. His actions, and the comments of State Senators like Bill Napoli of Rapid City, SD, set of a maelstrom of protests within the state.

Napoli suggested that if it was a case of “simple rape,” there should be no thoughts of ending a pregnancy. Letters by the hundreds appeared in local newspapers, mostly written by women, challenging Napoli’s description of rape as “simple.” He has yet to explain satisfactorily what he meant by “simple rape.”

The President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, was incensed. A former nurse and healthcare giver she was very angry that a state body made up mostly of white males, would make such a stupid law against women.

“To me, it is now a question of sovereignty,” she said to me last week. “I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction.”

Strong words from a very strong lady. I hope Ms. Fire Thunder challenges Gov. Rounds and the state legislators on this law that is an affront to all independent women."
So there.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bruce Reed's one-liners

From today's Has Been, Bruce Reed succinctly states exactly what I should have at the end of my last post.:
Barnes does reveal one new idea on House Republicans' agenda: "legislation to bar all federal courts except the Supreme Court from ruling on the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance." Conservatives don't like judges legislating from the bench, so Republicans will do the opposite: benching from the legislature. Now that they have a reliable majority on the Supreme Court, Republicans want to send the rest of the judiciary home.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Your priorities are showing

Shirley Ringo, Latah County's own representative, has sponsored legislation in the Idaho house to raise Idaho's minimum wage from $5.15/hour (the federal minimum wage, donchaknow) to $6.15/hour. When originally introduced, it was jettisoned by House leadership who called it too "political." Idaho Democrats are back at it, and with the threat of boredom, they forced the Idaho legislature into giving the idea an "up or down vote" (ahem). So what was it that got this wage hike into trouble earlier in the legislative session? Eye on Boise lays out the scene:
Democrats were none too pleased last month when Newcomb was asked about the minimum wage bill at his annual talk to the Idaho Press Club, and he dismissed it as just a political issue. Idaho’s minimum wage, $5.15 an hour, falls far below that of Washington and many other states. “Basically you look at things like that and you look at the sponsors and you can kind of tell it’s for political reasons and not for real reasons,” Newcomb said then.
So what passes muster for the Idaho legislature? Apparently, their definition of what is too political does not exclude the blatantly unconstitutional. Loaded thoughts, amongst many, is rightfully alarmed at proposed legislation that would dictate that
...the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an entity of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer or agent of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official or personal capacity), concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.
And guess who has spoken out in favor of this legislation? Why, everyone's favorite opponent of gynecological care, Brandi Swindell. A quote:
"I think its important that our Constitution protects the freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion."
So it's important that you can force your religion on others...but not that people are paid more for the hard work they do. Someone's priorities are showing.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Hello? Supply and demand?

People are making noises about a possible labor shortage in agriculture for the upcoming growing season, with better patrolling of US borders keeping more illegal immigrants out. From an Eastern Washington news article:
This year's unprecedented recruiting effort comes at a time of urgency among farmers and farm workers alike as border tensions and concerns about national security threaten to paralyze Congress on far-reaching immigration reform.

"There are about a half-dozen farms that are very scared. We need lots of people. It really is different this year," said Mike Gempler, executive director of the Yakima-based Washington Growers League, which represents agricultural employers in labor matters.
Am I missing something here, or wouldn't this be an easy problem to solve? If you can't get enough workers to pick your strawberries at dirt wages, you have to pay better wages. This will make the cost of production go up, and therefore the cost to the consumer, but so what? Isn't that how business works? If people aren't willing to spend more on strawberries or oranges then they don't have to buy it and people can get out of the strawberry and orange businesses. Seems pretty simple to me.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Budget sadism

hilzoy at Obsidian Wings highlights more budget sadism on the part of the Bush administration, this time in regards to a public women's health program:
Every so often, you run into a program that combines doing good for people who need it with thrift and economy; and it's always a mystery to me why policy makers don't pounce on those programs and fully fund them. Normally, one reason for not fully funding a program is cost; but in the case of spending that actually saves money over the long term, that really shouldn't be an issue. At one point in the 90s, prenatal care was like this: providing prenatal care for pregnant women who couldn't afford it would have saved money not just over the long term, but in the same fiscal year, by preventing babies from being born prematurely or with costly health problems, problems that the government has to pay for enough of the time to produce the cost savings. So we could have saved money by sparing children serious health problems, some of which would mar their lives. But for some reason we didn't. What that reason might possibly have been, I have absolutely no idea: to me, it is a mystery that passeth all understanding.

Well, it's happening again.
The program under the axe this time is one that provides pap smears and other early-detection gynecological screens to the working poor - women who have jobs, and make enough money not to recieve Meidcaid, but do not have health insurance. From the NYT article hilzoy cites:
"It won't save money," he said. "You don't save money by not diagnosing cancer early. You end up spending more money because anyone who develops cancer will get into the health care system and they will be treated. And the cost at that point will be a lot more. The logic here is very simple: the later you diagnose cancer of the breast or cervix, the more expensive it is to the country."

This is just one program in a range of cancer services that rely on support from the federal government. As if immune to the extent of human suffering involved, President Bush has proposed a barrage of cuts for these programs.

"What's really amazing," said Mr. Smith, "is that the president cut every cancer program. He cut the colorectal cancer program. He cut research at the National Cancer Institute. He cut literally every one of our cancer-specific programs. It's incomprehensible."

A bipartisan movement is under way in the Senate to block the president's proposed cuts. How that ultimately will fare is unclear.

What is clear is that cancer is a disease that horrifies most Americans, and with good reason. One out of every two men will contract the disease in his lifetime, and one out of every three women.

This is an area in which we need to be doing more, not less."
Contact your Senators and tell them that these budget cuts cannot pass.

Just add water

There are a few people theorizing as to what could be contributing to the food-related-stupidity observed in this Washington Post article. I'm going to add my voice to the mix, because I think there's more to it than people being stupider now or shallower or less refined. Advertisers of prepared/prepackaged/fast foods have a stake in convincing people that cooking is hard and they can't do it. I am mystified by a lot of products I see that are no easier to use than making the dish from scratch would be. Instead of using a cake mix, where you have to mix together some eggs, some oil and some cake mix, you could make a cake from scratch by measuring out the flour/sugar/baking powder/salt, taking perhaps two extra minutes doing it. You can buy boxed pasta with "flavor packets" for olive oil and garlic - or you could boil your own pasta, mince up some garlic (or buy pre-minced), warm it up a little, and combine. There is even frozen pre-buttered toast that you have to toast in your toaster oven to serve! These things require only slightly less if not the same amount of work than making them from their component ingredients would, but people will gladly pay the mark-up for the "convenience," the cute packaging and what eventually comes to be the familiar and comforting flavor of partially-hydrogenated soybean oil.

The worst part is that it took me a few years of intent cooking to realize this - it's easy to buy the idea that Pasta Roni is easier to use than spaghetti and olive oil. I don't cook everything from scratch, and I like cheetos and McDonald's cheeseburgers. I am not a paragon of food purity and integrity. I do try and think about what exactly it is that I'm buying when I pick something off of the grocery store shelf instead of out of a bulk bin, however, and I think it's made a huge improvement to my cooking.

Cross-posted on my food blog, Orexia.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Progress in Labor

News on the labor front:
SYDNEY, Australia - Australian strippers have won the right to take time off after taking their clothes off.

The country's Industrial Relations Commission on Friday approved new workplace rules for members of the strippers' union, the Striptease Artists Australia.

"We've got rights to have public holiday pay now, which we've never had in our career before," said a union spokeswoman called Mystical Melody. "We've got rosters and set hours. We can't work more than 10 hours a shift."
Good for them.

Go Joe!

Joe Conason lays out the obvious: Bush isn't spending like a liberal, he's spending like a moron. (You'll have to sit through an ad if you want to read the whole thing.)

I <3 Bloglines

I spend a lot lot lot of time reading news and news-related items on the internet. On any given day, I read at least 80% of the blogs on my blogroll, plus news sites like Slate, CNN, or the NYT. Whenever I tell people this, and also that I don't use any sort of news aggregator, they think I'm insane. But I swear, I've tried. I tried RSS with a program I downloaded onto my computer, but it wasn't very useful when I'd want to sneak a peek of the news during a bit of downtime at work. I tried Google's RSS reader and found it to be too graphics-intensive and therefore slow to navigate.

But I am the happiest girl in the world now that Bloglines has come into my life. It will aggregate the RSS/XML/atom/whatever stuff for you, is web-based but well put-together, and has a neat blog function that allows you to snip interesting bits out of what you read and stick it on a bloglines blog. When I have the time and attention to give to it, I plan on getting an F-Words supplementary blogline going where I can dump all the links and snippets I think are noteworthy but don't have any of my own commentary to add to. If you haven't been impressed with RSS so far, give Bloglines a whirl.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Roe Effect vs. the Ho Effect

It seems as if campaigning season gets longer and longer every election, but with the way people are talking about liberals being out-bred by conservatives, it appears that political strategy is being planned through the next generation, not just the same election.

And while I sit here frittering away my childbearing years, I observe that Missouri is doing its best to counteract the dreaded "Roe effect."
The House voted 96-59 to delete the funding for contraception and infertility
treatments after Rep. Susan Phillips told lawmakers that anti-abortion groups
such as Missouri Right to Life were opposed to the spending.

...
Others, including some lawmakers who described themselves as "pro-life," said it was illogical for anti-abortion lawmakers to deny money for contraception to low-income people who use public health clinics.
"It's going to have the opposite effect of what the intention is, which will be more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions," said Rep. Kate Meiners, D-Kansas City.
The other alternative is for low-income women to give birth to more children, which is only likely to drive up the state's costs to provide services to them, said Democratic Rep. Melba Curls, also of Kansas City.
While many others have refuted the illogic, disinformation and stupidity being presented by the Missouri state legislature, I do think it's also important to point out that those who voted against funding contraception for low-income women are quite literally breeding more votes against themselves. In a state that previously has been endorsing "promiscuous lifestyles," we have these women running around sleeping with men, not an ounce of self-control in their bodies (how did they become poor, after all?), so they're bound to be producing a kid or three in the process. I like to call it the "ho effect."

Charming Idaho News

I've been busy for the past few days, and am missing on all sorts of juicy news in Idaho politics. Luckily, the liberal Idaho blogosphere has been all over it.

  • Brandi Swindell, Barbie Against Abortion, has had a rough time selling anti-abortion legislation at the Idaho Capitol these days, and even got Speaker Newcomb a little hot and bothered.
  • Governor Dirk Kempthorne has been tapped for the US Secretary of Interior. His record on the environment is not too pretty, so I can see why he was picked.
  • Sheila Sorenson, a 1st district congressional candidate (R) has been pissing off her base by fraternizing with baby killers, flip-floppers, America-haters, and the like.
  • Idaho Senator Mike Crapo is recieving twice as many donations from the U.S. Virgin Islands as he is from Idahoans. (Link via loaded thoughts.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Discourse and change in a pre-Godwinized world

Nick Kiddle has a post about an anti-rape advertisement campaign aimed at men, and commenters express their frustration at making such tiny progress. Raznor says:
My first thought is “babysteps is how you need to go.” Then I think “I’m feeling all happy and optimistic because men are being told rape is wrong.” And how fucked up is everything that that’s a big deal?
I think it’s important to appreciate that if rape is such a common occurrence, and if it is not very often prosecuted and it is often ignored by people, it’s because people believe fucked-up things. A lot of our daily acquaintences probably do believe fucked-up things about power and sex and gender, and something this prevalent isn’t just going to disappear no matter how wrong it is. It’s hard to get people to understand that they’re on the wrong side of a moral issue. What makes matters even more complicated is that everyone pays lip-service to the fact that rape is bad and rapists are monsters, but are so concerned about strawrapists that they don’t consider that behavior that they may engage in is rape. Just like there are women who say they “believe men and women are equal, but I’m not a feminist,” there are guys who will get a woman so plastered that she passes out and rape her, but tell themselves that they didn’t jump out of the bushes with a knife, so they’re not a rapist. The caricature of what they are looms so large in their imagination that they won’t bother to identify with it. And God knows I’m going to have a hard time believing it if someone accuses me of being a murderer or a torturer or whatever. It’s like rape is an issue that’s pre-Godwinized, and getting around that is a real puzzle.

Cecil Andrus endorses Larry Grant; I do too

I'd been waiting to get some of the pictures before posting about the time I got to spend with Larry Grant, but the occasion today of Idaho's former governor Cecil Andrus endorsing Grant's candidacy for congress brings me to say: me too.

I met Mr. Grant last Wednesday at a meet-and-greet pizza party hosted by the Latah County Democrats. He gave a speech, shook some hands, and the 30-odd people there made for a nice, intimate crowd. It didn't exactly take twisting his arm to get him to come to Moscow's Drinking Liberally meeting that conveniently was set to happen just after the pizza party.

Over a pitcher of hefeweizen, myself and a good 10 of my peers got to sit down and talk to Mr. Grant about what politics concern us, both nationally and locally. I was very impressed that he was willing to engage with us - he didn't just parrot talking points to us or pretend to listen to our concerns. It was a real conversation with occasional but civil disagreements over what we think need to happen and what we think can happen. Besides being intellectually stimulating, it was also a lot of fun.

I don't mean to give the impression that I was simply star-struck, having a beer with a real live politician. Mr. Grant has some solid ideas about how an opposition party ought to work in Congress, where spending needs to be reigned in and where it can't, and how to tap into the liberal conscience of Idaho. Check out Grassroots for Grant for more info, and vote Grant in 2006.

Conservatives too compassionate?

This USA today article raised my eyebrows (as did Andrew Sullivan's completely unquestioning reaction to it).
A sweeping expansion of social programs since 2000 has sparked a record increase in the number of Americans receiving federal government benefits such as college aid, food stamps and health care.

A USA TODAY analysis of 25 major government programs found that enrollment increased an average of 17% in the programs from 2000 to 2005. The nation's population grew 5% during that time. (Related: Federal entitlements have changed)

It was the largest five-year expansion of the federal safety net since the Great Society created programs such as Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s.

Spending on these social programs was $1.3 trillion in 2005, up an inflation-adjusted 22% since 2000 and accounting for more than half of federal spending. Enrollment growth was responsible for three-fourths of the spending increase, according to USA TODAY's analysis of federal enrollment and spending data. Higher benefits accounted for the rest.
Wha? So it's not that more people are finding themselves in need of government assistance in an economy that is especially cruel to those of lower income, but that Bush is spoonfeeding the lazy poor people? Greg Anrig Jr. sets things straight.
There’s been no “sweeping expansion” of any social program since Bush took office, except for the Medicare drug bill (which didn’t take effect until after the paper’s 2000-5 time frame). Medicaid enrollments have mainly gone up because more people have fallen below the eligibility thresholds while losing health insurance at work--most states have cut back their eligibility requirements rather than make them more generous. Food stamp enrollments have mainly gone up because, again, more people have fallen below the eligibility thresholds --though some administrative changes have helped modestly.

Turns out "the curse" was a typo

Maybe they really meant "the cure."

How compassionate conservatism works

Bruce Reed sums up the fix that Republicans have gotten themselves into for the 2008 election. This is not to say that they're going to lose - Democrats are pretty good at getting themselves into even bigger pickles than their opponents - but he does make a good argument.
Once again, Republicans seem to have doubled back on their contradictions. In the 1980s and again in the 1990s, party strategists discovered a serious design flaw in conservatism: the country wouldn't let Republicans cut government spending anywhere near as much as Republicans wanted to cut taxes. Compassionate conservatism was concocted to correct that glitch by just cutting taxes and letting government spending soar. The new design flaw: voters don't like that, either.

Monday, March 13, 2006

So VERY HAPPY

The Happy Feminist has an ironic retort to the recent study that says that feminist women, on average, are not as happy as non-feminist women.
To frame the effectiveness of feminism in terms of whether it makes women happy is just one more way of patronizing women. It smacks of, "Oh, but the slaves are so well-fed and content on the plantation" or "you'll be so much if it happier simply accepting the status quo rather than challenging it." For example, I might very well be happier than I am now if I were a well cared for corgi, or a five-year old child, or someone who has had a lobotomy. But that doesn't mean that becoming a corgi or reverting to childhood or having a lobotomy are acceptable outcomes. I wouldn't wanna be happy if it meant giving up freedom and equality and respect.

Feminism is about freedom and equality of opportunity for women as a class. Happiness, in turn, is up to the individual and there are no guarantees. To require feminism to serve up happiness on a platter for women is to ask of it something that is not asked of any other political or cultural movement or philosophy. And I think it's disingenuous.

This reminds me all too much of the controversy around the odious booklet written by local pastor Doug Wilson called Southern Slavery, As it Was. The booklet contends that the cruelty of American slavery was overblown, and that slaves in the American South were actually quite happy. The "evidence" used in the book is complete hogwash, but the premise is even worse. Happiness and human rights are different things - they are not mutually exclusive and unfortunately, having one does not mean having the other. I might be happier if I didn't get angry at misogny or despair at the moral compass of this administration, but more important than being happy is being a good person with equal moral standing to all other good people in the world.

27% + 19% + 32% = a whole lot

Jane Hamsher at firedoglake gets on the collective Democratic case about their silence in the face of the draconian South Dakota abortion ban:
You really have to wake up early in the morning to be that stupid. Nobody's saying you should run ads in Alabama, but Christ on the cross why aren't they using it to consolidate their blue state base? Lincoln Chafee should be wearing his Alito vote around his fucking neck, as should Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, and Emanuel should be making the South Dakota law de rigeur attire for Congressional Republicans in solidly pro-choice districts. The rapist rights bill should become emblematic for everything the GOP stands for, especially in progressive states where the Republicans are quite rightly afraid of being associated with the forced birth extremists.
Check out the numbers. More than two-thirds of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in at least some cases. What are these cases? I'd say it's a safe bet that the few cases those 27% who think abortion should be "illegal in most cases" would be ones where rape or incest is involved - and the South Dakota abortion ban doesn't allow abortion in those instances. As a matter of fact, that exception had to be taken out of the legislation before it could be passed. These people would compel your daughter to carry to term a pregnancy that was the result of rape. That's not a stance that will win voters. It's time to move in for the kill, Dems.

Spending $143 million, collecting 25 years'-worth data...for the fun of it?

The Scientist reports that the data and samples collected over a 25-year, $143-million dollar study that followed 1,043 veterans are in jeapordy.
When the Air Force Health Study closes this fall, some scientists fear an invaluable trove of scientific information could be lost. The money runs out on September 30, and there is currently no cash set aside to preserve the 87,000 biological specimens and reams of data collected since the study opened in 1982.
...
Some argue that the study may shed light on more questions than it originally set out to answer. "The study has been able to follow thousands of men as they grow older," said Michael Stoto, chairman of the Ranch Hand Advisory Committee, which offers scientific advice on the study and reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. "There probably are many kinds of analyses that people can do that go far beyond the original questions that were behind the reason for doing the study," added Stoto, also an adjunct professor of biostatistics at Harvard School of Public Health.
...
The value of the study has long been controversial. "The study is deeply flawed to say the least," said Jeanne Mager Stellman, a professor of public health at Columbia University. For instance, dioxin exposures likely don't represent what soldiers on the ground experienced, she said. The study also includes methodological flaws, including the addition of new people to both control and study groups during the course of the project, she noted. Still, any efforts to make sense of the massive quantities of data collected would be worthwhile, if only because it means $143 million won't be wasted, Stellman noted.
Someone's spending priorities are way out of whack.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Idaho Values Alliance knows where you live

Huckleberries Online picked up an interesting tidbit in a controversial upcoming school bond vote in North Idaho
Additional Info: The recent e-mail warns that 'the sanctioning of a Gay-Straight Alliance club at Lake City High School could create serious legal liability for the district.' The close of the communication warns that 'patrons should be asking Cd'A school district officials if they have thought through the legal risk issues before asking them to vote for a $39 million bond on Tuesday.'
If you haven't heard of them, the Idaho Values Alliance is a Boise-based anti-gay group that is famous for pushing the upcoming anti-gay marriage amendment. That they're hysterical enough about homosexuals living and breathing in their state to get involved in politics in a different time zone is bizarre, but this is not just advocacy - it's a threat. Who, exactly, would be harassing a school that has a GSA group? The Idaho Values Alliance, perhaps?

Cross-posted at 43rd State Blues

Friday, March 10, 2006

What's a scientist like?

Ask a bunch of seventh graders, and you'll get super-cute responses.

(Via Green Gabbro)

Grrrrrr


This makes me so mad. That's a headline from CNN's online news coverage. Were any Democrats indicted? Hell no. Do I want to smack Ken Mehlman? Fuck yes. I really, really, really hate that dude. Have you ever seen him speak? He's such a slimy little smirking twerp. Never fails to make my blood boil.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sexual Identity Apartheid

Some Boiseans have gotten creative in the struggle for gay rights
Coffee-sippers and Downtown walkers took notice quickly: As of Monday this week, Boise had a smattering of new signage. But the new labels that have popped up around the city are a lot more pointed and politically-charged than any others.

The neatly-printed signs, in fact, look familiar to anyone with a sense of civil-rights history: in clear print on white backing, they read: "heterosexuals only," and they've been slapped onto park benches and chairs, and also, notably, in several spots in the Idaho State Capitol.
Good for them.

Don't blame me, the teevee ate my brain

This statement caught my eye at Hugo Schwyzer's blog:
I don't believe that one can simultaneously fight against sexism in one's public life while commoditizing women's bodies in one's private fantasies. None of us compartmentalize as well as we imagine; no man can, I believe, seamlessly transition from masturbating in front of his computer to images of "exploited teens" to seeing his female co-workers, students, bosses, friends, and lovers as full and complete human beings with needs and desires of their own.
I'm sorry? You can't watch porn and then think of the women around you as people? Hugo's a very nice guy, but that sounds more like a problem with Hugo than it does with pornography. If people can tell the difference between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and real life, they should be able to tell the difference between pornography and real life. If they can't tell the difference between Buffy and real life, it's probably a good idea to keep Playboy away from them too. This just strikes me as an instance of blaming bad behavior - the dehumanizing of women - on something external. Can't we be big boys and reconcile sexual attraction with interpersonal relationships?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Happy International Women's Day

On the occasion, check out Feministing.com's links, and also the newly-posted 10th Carnival of the Feminists.

Also, something cool: the non-profit domestic violence and sexual assault crisis services center my husband works at takes International Women's Day off as a company-wide holiday. Is that cool or what?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It's all heartwarming and crap

I read the Daily Evergreen, Washington State University's student paper every day while drinking coffee at work. It's not the best reading material. Well, basically it sucks. Between the relationship "advice" columns that I'm pretty sure are designed to finally convince women and men to take arms up against each other, the horoscopes that constantly give me two-star days, and frequent typos and incoherent editorials, I don't blame people when they snip out the crossword and recycle the rest.

Luckily, they have the services of Bruno Baltodano, who never fails to write engaging, endearing, and interesting pieces. Today's was a musing on the image of manhood he wants to project to his daughter. I read the whole thing, and never once spit out my coffee in disbelief. Thanks, Bruno, for an uncommonly spit-take-free coffee break.

What we've been missing while South Dakotans have been giving us the runaround

The Patriot Act was reauthorized by Congress.

The President's legal team claimed that the torture prohibition doesn't apply to Guantanmo. Or the CIA.

Tom DeLay won the Republican primary in the race to see who would be nominated to contend for his House seat.

The Supreme Court upheld laws that require schools that recieve any federal funding to allow military recruiters on campus.

The defendant in the Illinois rape case was acquitted.

Jill Caroll, kidnapped reporter, is still with her captors.

Drinking Liberally Wednesday Night: Special Guest Larry Grant

That's right, Larry Grant, Democratic candidate for the open 1st district congressional seat will be sitting down for a pint with liberal drinkers from Latah County at the Coeur d'Alene Brewery Alehouse at 8:00. Also, drop me a line (saraeanderson(at)gmail(dot)com) if you're interested in coming to the pizza party beforehand with Grant, hosted by the Latah County Democrats.

For more info on Grant, check out grantforcongress.com, Grassroots for Grant and Students for Grant.

And really, don't you want to elect a candidate that you could sit down and enjoy a beer with at the bar?

Emergency contraception news

There is now more evidence that Plan B does not prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus. This makes perfect sense, being that this is how birth control generally works as well, and Plan B is just a bigger dose of normal oral contraceptives. I won't be satisfied that it never prevents implantation until there is more rigorous testing, but that may never even be possible. Either way, it's pretty clear that in the majority of cases, EC prevents ovulation rather than implantation. And I should point out that the effective use of emergency contraception prevents abortion 100% of the time.

By the way, if you haven't happened upon it, the place to go for the best picture of current research on any life science issue is Pubmed, which keeps a searchable index of scientific papers, lots of abstracts, and even some full-text articles. If you've got more questions, take them up with the papers there.

Link via Feministe.

A request

A recent commenter asked if abortion is an f-word, and I have to say that for how much I write about it, it might as well be. I am sick to death of talking, writing, and thinking about abortion. I'd like to stop, but every day I read a new ghastly headline about choice in America. I'm going to take this oppportunity to ask the people of this country to stop attacking a woman's right to choose. It's frightening, insulting, and making my blog very boring.

Will Saletan and Bill Napoli: more in common than they'd like to admit

The more I think about South Dakotan politician Bill Napoli's contribution to the abortion "debate," the angrier I get. How can someone presume to decide for half of the population what would be traumatic enough for them to be given the option of aborting a pregnancy? Napoli describes a terrible, terrible situation in frightening detail, and I'd support this fictional woman ("girl") if abortion were the option she chose. What Napoli is saying, in effect, is that you can get raped all you want, but if you have sex on purpose, you'd better watch out.

It reminds me of Will Salentan's insistence that what the pro-choice movement needs is to make women feel more ashamed for having an abortion, that a woman has to suffer to be allowed to make her own choice instead of the one many would make for her.

Saletan's latest piece on abortion in Slate shows just how detached he is from the reality of this debate - after debating for several days with Katha Politt about what the pro-choice movement needs for a friendlier reception, he still doesn't have any clue how much more the reproductive freedom side has done for preventing abortions. You mean we should encourage people to use birth control? Good idea. Hadn't thought of that before.

The arguments from these two men are, at base, equally insulting. Napoli makes a more grotesque spectacle of what he thinks of women deciding on their own that they can't continue a pregnancy, but Saletan has the same basic problem: not trusting women to take abortion seriously. Neither has taken the small amount of time it would take to notice that feminists do not treat abortion lightly. Either that, or they simply refuse to believe it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

More on the Nampa Planned Parenthood Clinic

Liberal Idaho points us to more about the Nampa family planning clinic protesters.
“What people are really nervous about is the location, right by Nampa High School,” Brandi Swindell of Generation Life said. “That wasn’t accidental. That’s strategic.”
I couldn't help myself, and wrote a letter to the Idaho Press Tribune's editor.
Dear Editor,

The protestors at Nampa's Planned Parenthood are hurting their own stated cause. Brandi Swindell says that the placement of the clinic near a high school is "strategic," and she may be right. Planned Parenthood's commitment to making contraceptives available has prevented far more unplanned pregnancies - and therefore abortions - than protesters waving gory signs at scared women ever will. Sounds like a good strategy to me.

Sara Anderson
Moscow, ID

Running your car into things for justice part two

This is only two - not yet a trend, but...
Link via Idaho Times
NAMPA, Idaho (AP) -- A woman drove her car into an anti-abortion rally outside of a Planned Parenthood, protesting what she called "vulgar" photos of an aborted fetus.

The incident happened at a local doctor's office where a Planned Parenthood clinic had recently been established. The clinic, which operates out of the office one day a month, does not perform abortions but does offer free birth control and emergency contraception.
So the clinic functions to prevent unwanted pregnancies (and therefore abortions) and there are people waving signs about baby killing outside. And then someone drives their car into the sign-wavers because they don't like the signs. Seriously people, this is pathetic.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Newsflash: there is a world outside of the internet

Tonight I met Jerry Brady, a democrat campaigning for the Idaho governorship. It was an interesting gathering, full of people whose names I knew but faces I did not before. County elected officials, people who work in government, concerned citizens, and me. I guess I could say I represented the "netroots." I've been an armchair politican for long enough that I figure it's about time I find out how this stuff works and what exactly I can do to make my community a better place. I still feel like there's a lot I need to learn, but it's time I learn to walk the walk, instead of just mooching karma off of my saintly husband.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

What's the difference between a bad abortion and a good abortion?

Echidne catches a South Dakotan politician telling women what kind of hardship they must endure to earn the right to an abortion.
There are good women and then there are bad women. As Digby points out, bad women have abortions because they can't afford another child on top of the ones they already have trouble feeding. Good women have abortions because they were untouched religious virgins determined to save their hymen for their husbands and then they were viciously and extensively raped and got pregnant. It doesn't matter if they have lots of money to pay for childcare. Good women never wanted to have sex, good women are never atheists, and good women are never past their teenage years when they get raped. And anyone who has ever had consensual sex before is strong enough to carry the fruits of a violent rape to fruition. And sodomization must be a part of real rape, according to our Bill.

You want this zygote? Go ahead and take it.

Tennessee is proposing legislation that would compel a woman seeking an abortion to notify the man by whom she became pregnant. I don't even know how this law could make sense. The guy has some claim to the little developing thing (and if she's going to have an abortion without telling him, it's probably very undeveloped) but he doesn't have the power to compel her to stay pregnant. The only fair solution to this conflict would be to collect the contents scraped out of the unfortunate gal's uterus and send it to the sperm donor. He wants it to become a whole, living, breathing baby? That's his responsibility. He doesn't have the physical capacity to do that? That's his bad luck - kind of like her bad luck for happening to get pregnant in the state of Tennessee.

(Link via Feministing)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Good idea!

Want to fight injustice in the world? Try running over some people in your car. That'll help.

Guilty until proven innocent

Hugo Schwyzer posts about being a youth minister in a climate of suspicion, more specifically a climate where people are concerned that you are molesting their kids. His response? He doesn't really blame them, since it is a well-known phenomenon, so he does his best to make it clear that he's doing his job responsibly and well.
Sometimes, one of the youth group kids will ask to meet with me privately to talk. I traditionally meet with 'em on Wednesday afternoons before youth group. No matter whether I'm meeting with a boy or a girl, I let someone on the church staff know. "Hey, so-and-so is coming by to talk to me. We'll be out front on the bench" (or in the glass-doored junior high room, or wherever). I check in with another adult right before and right after I meet with the teen, and I always meet somewhere we can both talk without being overheard yet still be seen by others. Everyone is kept safe, I'm staying accountable, and my kids are able to meet with me intimately and privately. Yes, setting this up involves some conscious thought -- but it's not that big a deal once you get used to it.
He contrasts this with the approach of another man in a similar position, who simply avoids dealing with any young women or girls in his work, which Schwyzer thinks is the wrong way to deal with the bad reputation that youth leaders have earned for themselves. I haven't sorted out my thoughts on all of this - what do you do when you're part of a group in which a notable number of members do something very bad? What is your responsibilty to communicate to others and what is their responsibility to understand you? I don't know, but they're good questions to think about, in a world where we want to quash unfair prejudice but still remain safe.

While you're at it, check out Schwyzer's musings on standing up for feminist principles in all-male environments.

Using my misery as a crutch

I never expected I would say this, but I really enjoyed this piece by the Biting Beaver about playing a part in your own oppression. Take away the specifics she uses - I'm not one to believe that porn is inherently oppressive or misogynist - but the general point resonated with me, because it helped flesh out something I've been meaning to say for a long time now.

Like so many other women, I have Body Issues. No matter what my physical state is, I've generally had a notion in the back of my head that I am fatter and uglier than most everyone I know, and that I need to Do Something About It. I grew up in a food-phobic household, and now realize that I easily internalized the notion that being fat is wrong, that eating food is weak, and that I am responsible for preventing being fat and eating too much.

The funny thing is that I've identified as a feminist as far back as I can remember, and paid lip-service to the Barbie-is-bad-love-your-inner-Goddess talking points whenever the subject came up. It led to this weird double-life, where I would sit in the dark and do sit-ups in my room at night, not wanting people to know I was exercising, but to see the results and finally become whatever it was I wanted to be. I should say that even now, I couldn't tell you specifically what I would have been happy with.

This double life came out of three different forces in my thinking. First of all, there was the notion that to be a good person and be valued, I needed to be thin. Second, there was my feminist objection to such a superficial and arbitrary way of judging someone. Counteracting this was the third notion; I hid my exercising habits because I didn't want anyone to think I was screwing up enough to need to lose weight.

Beyond the usual griping about being fat - something that never really occurred to me as dysfunctional behavior - I kept my unhappiness with my body a secret. The feminist thinking and the misogynist thinking worked together against me, and I kept up with the somewhat sick behavior toward my body.

Just a few days ago, I caught myself in a very old, dysfunctional habit that I never noticed over the past 23 years. I was riding the bus home from work, and felt my stomach growl, and realized that it made me proud. It made me proud to know that I had skipped or burned enough calories that my body was begging me to eat something. That is not healthy.

After years of my husband telling me my attitudes about food and my body were fucked up, and his refusing to go along with my self-criticism (thank you, Andy), I finally sought professional help. I was in a generally terrible period of my life at the time, and I was just miserable enough to listen to someone telling me that I am perfectly all right the way I am. I'd gained some weight and was telling my therapist about my various plans to get rid of it, and she said, "So what if you don't try to lose any weight?" I didn't have any response. It was an idea I'd never considered. My immediate answer was some excuse, but eventually, as I became more committed to being a happy person, the idea got under my skin.

What if I don't lose weight?

The final straw was when I found a message board on iVillage (the board is now defunct) about weight and having a positive image. Every post there was about dieting. There I was, slumming it at an iVillage message board in an attempt to find some space friendly to someone interested in the idea of actually liking her body, and even that was full of hostility. I wrote a little manifesto, asking what really would happen if we didn't lose weight, and posted it, feeling rather angry. Amazingly, I got several responses that were adamant that losing weight is necessary for a happy life, and that my influence was dangerous on that board. Having to defend my position - this time with my own body and sanity at stake - really helped me define what was wrong with my previous attitude, and what I needed to do for myself. Embarassingly enough, iVillage changed my life.

What I finally realized was that I had been complicit in my own pathology. I knew better than to cry about having to buy a bigger pant size, or to skip meals in hopes of losing weight. At any point in my life, I could have listed the reasons that valuing myself by my weight was moronic, but I refused to believe them. I was so thoroughly seduced by the idea that prettiness and thinness are goodness that I would betray my own stated principles - not to mention logic itself - to hold on to my self-hating habits.

Even worse, I was using my own unhappiness as an excuse. If push came to shove, I would rely on the fact that I was too depressed or too insecure to actually change. I knew I didn't have to be so unhappy about myself, but I elected to be, in hopes that it would eventually pay off by making me thin. I was one of those women who wishes to be anorexic.

I'm doing my best not to tolerate this kind of behavior in myself anymore. When you live in a culture that is so superficial, it's hard to go against the grain, and even harder to go against it when you've let the culture instruct your own opinions about yourself. I let it warp me, and used my own misery as a crutch so that I could continue to hobble along toward something that by definition I would never reach.

I know I'm a smart person who can really think things through, but I can say: it happened to me. I went along with abusing myself, and unfortunately, I know I'm not the only one. What I don't want to be is the only one who is willing to really give up the obviously unhealthy attitudes about looks and weight. This is a challenge to every woman out there who has body issues to get over them. You know better.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Blog Block

I've started several rambling posts this week, and have just not been able to hammer them out into readability yet. In the meantime, there have been a lot of interesting things I've read by more capable bloggers.

Kevin Drum looks at a report by the Guttmacher Institute about access to contraceptives in the US, broken down by state. The good news? Idaho is somewhere in the middle, not toward the bottom like I would have guessed. The bad news? All the states could stand to improve.

Scott Lemieux voices a balanced view on the case of the woman who was threatened with being held in contempt of court for not watching a videotape of the rape being prosecuted. Careful, it's about as revolting as a story gets.

Wendy Shalit does a good job of poking holes in her modesty-is-empowering thesis on her own (though I plan on putting up a thorough evisceration soon enough) with this "cute" product, link brought to you by Feministe.

Blogroll update

I added a few new listings to my blogroll to the right, and labeled the new ones with asterisks. I don't necessarily endorse the viewpoints promoted to the sites I link to, but I do read them. Check them out, because I know you don't spend enough time on the internet.

Idaho and pregnancy in the news

Between the NYT story today about the prevalent practice of keeping prisoners in shackles during childbirth (see the specifics in Idaho), and the likely legislation in Idaho that would imprison pregnant women who ingest illegal drugs (any illegal drugs, including marijuana or a sleeping pill not prescribed to her), I'm getting a scary picture of how pregnant women are treated in Idaho. The combination of these two policies is surely enough to scare women away from prenatal care, let alone treatment for addiction. Will someone remind lawmakers that there is a whole person attached to that fetus, please?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Drinking Liberally Tonight

FYI, Moscow Drinking Liberally is meeting tonight at the Coeur d'Alene Brewery Alehouse from 8-10 for beer and Bush-bashing. Check out the Moscow DL Forum or myspace group for more info.