Thursday, August 31, 2006

Litmus tests

I post pretty often at Huckleberries Online, a blog connected with a local paper. In case you didn't know, "local" for me is North Idaho, smack-dab in the middle of Jesusland. As such, most of the other commenters are quite conservative, and I like to play the token liberal when things get to be a little too echoey. Today, on the subject of Larry Grant's positioning of himself as a moderate, and the idea of the "moderate Democrat" in general, a commenter had this to say:

I find the left-right argument bemusing. Most folks I consider hard left proclaim that they are in the middle. Yet when you ask them to find someone hard left, they can't seem to pinpoint anyone, or find a single extremist. E.g., most of Hollywood is far left, but when you ask them they claim to be moderates "right in the middle." Whereas on the right, most folks admit to being hard right or "right of Atilla the Hun."

Folks, if there is no one to the left of you, then you are on the far left.

Posted by dang 31 Aug 10:32 AM
dang even provided us with a helpful diagram:As the wacko liberal (I'm not the only one, but we are few and far between) who runs into blogospherians much more liberal than her on a daily - who am I kidding; hourly - basis, I had an objection to this. I gave this response:

...I'm a leftist, but I'm in no way the leftiest lefty that ever lefted a left. If you want some names, I would consider Dennis Kucinich, Jello Biafra, and Ralph Nader as to the left of me. I would put Joe Lieberman, Bill Clinton, John Tester, Harry Reid, and even Larry Grant on the right of me.

Of course, we all have different signifiers for left and right that can be totally off-base - think of christian reconstructionists who are also huge into environmentalism in service to their devotion to all that God has created. So, I am pro-choice, am not a big fan of Wal-Mart, but love shopping at Winco. I am completely unmoved by either side of the (admittedly, dead and buried) gun control debate. I eat meat, and think hunting is a cool hobby. I support nationalized health care but totally don't get farm subsidies. So where does that put me, exactly? The thing that puts me on one side or the other, I believe, is my belief that everyone deserves equality of opportunity, and not just a superficial one but one that can be emperically shown to be the case.

From this information, dang concluded that I was one of the good ones - someone who isn't bound by one party's ideology. I think he's (or she?) wrong, but mostly because he doesn't have a very reality-based idea of what makes a Democrat tick. As a middle-class, college-educated, straight married woman of a liberal bent, I'm pretty much the bread and butter of the Democratic party. Give me a national Democratic platform, and I will align with it pretty faithfully.

So I have to wonder what it was that discombobulated dang's ability to stick me in the category R or D. Maybe it was the combination of pro-hunting pro-choicer? A supporter of nationalized health care who proudly shops in big box stores? I'm not sure, but what I gave dang came back as DOES NOT COMPUTE.

Deciding which party (if either) a person would be happiest as a member in is one thing, but it's even harder to draw the boundaries of what actions put you on the good side of an issue, and what actions put you on the bad side.

A long while back at I Blame the Patriarchy, the infamous patriarchy-blamer Twisty Faster got her blame on in regard to a Mexican ad campaign that featured scantily-clad women telling men that they don't need to follow custom and eat sea turtle eggs to ensure upstanding performance in bed. Andy (aka ACS, aka my husband) got into a lot of interesting concepts in the comment thread, but after he passingly called those who would eat endangered sea turtle eggs for the sake of a frigging boner "monsters," he recieved this response:

In any event, calling turtle-eaters "monsters" is ridiculous. Borderline racist, in fact- and that "borderline" is giving you the benefit of the doubt, because I'm a hell of a nice guy that way.

Most of us do things that are far worse for the world than eating a sea turtle egg. What kind of mileage does your vehicle get, ACS? You know that sea turtles are at huge risk from oil drilling in the gulf of Mexico, right? You have a cell phone? Cell phones are the primary use of an ore called coltan, the market for which drives deforestation - and nasty, horrible genocidal wars - in the Congo basin.

You have any kids? Are you prepared to call people who bring more larval North Americans into an already overpopulated, overconsumed world "monsters"? Because on the scales of Enviro Justice, one fully-loaded double-barreled stroller full of Brio-chewing, Thomas-the-Tank-Engine-watching future GOP voters counts for far more damage than some schlemiel in Quintana Roo worried about his floppy dick. Do you know how many species native to the Pacific Northwest are in big fucking trouble just so that you can turn on your porch light or have potatoes barged to you from Twin Falls?

For all of the ridiculous hyperbole displayed in that thread, I was taken aback to see something so insightful. The cultural importance of an environmental sin can have a huge effect on how forgivable it seems. As someone who's not about to believe that eating sea turtle eggs is at all an important part of a man's love life, I have a perspective that makes doing something so ridiculous seem recklessly unethical. Then again, I throw away huge amounts of plastic every day (pipette tips, microtubes, plastic-wrapped everything so it stays sterile and RNase-free) in service of diagnosing the diseases of animals - thereby contributing to the feasibility of big agriculture, no doubt. Is that okay? I think it is, obviously, but I'm sure that someone living next to a planned manure lagoon or landfill expansion wouldn't be so impressed.

If that doesn't make you reevaluate what sends up an ethical red flag to you, let's look at what's been going on around Pandagon. It's generated a lot of discussion, so I'll do my best to summarize what's going on. It all starts here with a post by a woman called Random Bird discussing her ambivalence about what seems required of her sex life for her to be a feminist. The piece involves very personal and very traumatic events from her past, and goes on to reject what she sees as a feminist mandate to abandon her preferences. Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon picks up on a lot of RB's weird, male-centric and female-disempowering language and goes to town slamming Random Bird in typical fashion. Marcotte repeats many times in the ensuing comment thread that she feels obligated to be just as ruthless to anyone who in any way is buttressing cultural norms that hurt women. RB's defenders are ready to give someone who is obviously the victim of something traumatic (Abuse? Assault? No one seems interested in pinning it down, which I think is for the best.) the benefit of the doubt.

Personally, I found Marcotte's piece - and disinterest in taking responsibility for really raking Random Bird over the coals - to be very off-putting. There are a lot of very questionable things that RB says (the characterization of the vagina as a penis-or-tampon-requiring maw, for example), but Marcotte's takedown had more than a whiff of blame-the-victim to it, and not one iota of respect for Random Bird as a thinking and feeling human being.

And while I'm not really impressed that Marcotte hit "publish," I can understand how this happened. Pandagon - and more specifically Marcotte's - m. o. depends on picking apart loonies and offering them up to an angry audience. I can see the fun in picking the low-hanging fruit at WorldNetDaily, though it does wear thin eventually. I mean, how many funny ways are there of saying that Kathleen Parker is a rape apologist? I've seen less glaring instances of Marcotte's merciless attacks on people before - no links, but I've seen Marcotte treat her understanding of the submissive wife's sex life as one of rape as though it's something the rapee is doing to hurt Marcotte - but never have I seen it directed at someone who is so obviously interested in furthering the goals of feminism.

What I saw here was a case of friendly fire. Marcotte took some of the cues that indicated Random Bird to be a defender of sexbotism, and was ready to treat Random Bird like she would any anti-feminist. That is, cruelly. It's enough to make you think about the tactics you use to expose the nastiness of your opposition, and even more importantly, how you decide who your opposition is to begin with.

I get the impression that I'm arriving at a concept that I would have learned in a 101 class if I'd majored in something more touchy-feely. I didn't, though, so this is all new stuff to me. It's definitely given me a better perspective of just how challenging and delicate making progress can really be.

Lots of interesting reading has been generated by this dustup, so be sure to check out Bitch|Lab's much more informed view of just what has taken place. As a bonus, check it out for B|L's unified theory of what I can only call Twistyism. Also, see Random Bird's explanation of herself, and antiprincess' hard-won insight into what feminism hasn't achieved the ability to do.

Woo top ten!

And people wonder why I didn't change my last name when I got married. Bah!

x for Grant

When I saw that a group called Breast Cancer Survivors for Grant is forming, my first thought was, "Geez, another one?" So far, we've got Educators for Grant, Veterans for Grant, Republicans for Grant, Students for Grant, and Netroots for Grant. It's great to see that people from all walks of life in Idaho are coming out in support of Grant, but take it too far and you risk diluting the sentiment.

(No offense, Julie.)

Anyway, I was wondering what having survived breast cancer has to do with who you're voting for, and my question was answered. From Grassroots for Grant:
Breast Cancer Survivors for Grant is now forming. This is a group of Idaho women and their family and friends who support Larry Grant because he knows it is important to balance religious faith with the weight of scientific evidence, and because he backs research for finding cures for breast cancer and other diseases.

If you agree, and if you share our concern with the Republican candidate's repeated attempts to link breast cancer and abortion, we invite your participation.
Aha! Bill Sali famously brought a fellow legislator to tears, in-session, in service of mandating state-sponsored anti-abortion propaganda in the form of "informing" women that abortion would increase their risk of breast cancer. This is not true, and even more untrue was Sali's insinuation that his breast-cancer-survivor colleague could only be in such a position due to having had an abortion in her past. Of course, I wouldn't think any less of a person who'd had an abortion, but it's certainly not fair to demand intimate details of her medical history.

Good show, Breast Cancer Survivors for Grant.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

There's turnover, and then there's turnout

Surrounding the exciting upsurge in national attention to the ID-01 race candidate Larry Grant, there's been some discussion of how much attention is too much. Idaho may not be as conservative as the infamous red-blue map might make one think, but Grant's uphill battle is about as steep as they come.

At Liberal Idaho, Chris' announcement of Cleland's impending visit and hopes for other big name Democrats like Edwards or Clinton were recieved somewhat coolly:
by maquesta on Wed Aug 30, 2006 at 08:53:09 AM EST
>
I am excited to see him come here... he's had nothing but good things to say about the progress of the country. But with this comment you made...(read: Edwards, Kerry, Clinton, Reid). I agree with the last comment made on your site, We need to be careful about what liberals we wish for, cause their views might scare the people on the fence.
You can see Chris' response here, but I think that there's a bigger issue at play here than how many Idahoans still think Clinton-sex jokes are funny.

One word: turnout. As far as a rousing speech by John Edwards goes, I'm guessing it will have a much larger effect on the apathetic Democratic would-be voters in this state than it would on someone who would even consider voting for Sali. True, there is a significant yuck-factor that is pushing Republicans away from Sali, and a certain frustration that's pushing others toward Grant, but those are hard votes to fight for. And, despite the (current) stranglehold on political power that Republicans have in this state, there are a lot of Democrats here, too. It would be moronic to ignore this low-hanging fruit. Consider this, from a Boise Weekly article back in March:
...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."
The county I live in, Latah, was 256 votes away from voting Kerry in 2004.

What's either the best part or the worst part of this is that I can think of several Democrats I know who didn't drag their sorry asses down to the polls because the they were sure their votes wouldn't count. As a Democrat in this state, it's easy to look past local politics where you're likely to be outnumbered, and salivate at the chance of effecting decision-making on the national scene. Larry Grant makes that national politics connection for the pity-party-voter-apathy Democratic crowd in this state. As Grant gets more attention at this level, people are likely to become more and more energized at the possibility that finally, after all this time, they might be able to swing a district.

As Grant says above, this has a lot of good implications for the Democratic party in this state as a whole. An active voter base can do a lot more than get Grant elected, after all. There's a constitutional amendment barring legal recognition of non-heterosexual unions to be defeated. There's a lonely minority of Democrats in the state legislature who could use some help in getting some business done. We not only have at least 118,000 voters to work with here, but 118,000 Idahoans, their families and their friends, who we don't want to continue disappointing with ineffective governing.

What this all means is that it's time to get to work. There are lots of volunteer and advocacy opportunities appearing as election time comes nearer. Contact the Idaho Democratic Party here to see about volunteering. If you live in Latah County, email the county party at democrats@moscow.com , or come down to Moscow's Drinking Liberally to get connected with local left-leaners. Students can join their campus chapter of the Young Democrats as the new school year begins. And if you don't have the time to spare, perhaps send a dime in the direction of the state party, your county party, or a Democratic candidate such as Larry Grant or gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brady.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Unfortunate headline choice of the day...

From Liberal Idaho today...
Max Cleland to stump for Larry Grant
And while I might have reconsidered publishing that headline, I have to agree that this is great news.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Things are looking up in Jesusland

Guess who's now an official Netroots candidate? And guess who's not feeling excluded at all for not being included in the list of blogs covering the race?

(Maybe someone should be a little more diligent in her blogging.)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Damned if you "I do," Damned if you Don't

The subject of feminists and weddings has come up again recently at Pandagon and the Happy Feminist, specifically the ways in which bridehood is riddled with emotional booby traps.

I can be fairly confident that we avoided the major pitfalls of the whole engagement and wedding process, but there were still a lot of frustrating things that were imposed on me over the course of our engagement. Worst, I think, was the number of comments I got from friends about how I was trapping Andy into a sexless, mirthless union so that I could vampirically harness his reproductive capabilities and suck the life out of him by popping out one baby after another.

Another frustrating attitude was the expectation of my metamorphosis into bridezilla. Me, the kid who would rather sit in the back seat than fight for riding shotgun. Me, the one who wears the same pair of jeans every day until the holes in them become too unsightly and I have to get another pair.

And then there was the talk about divorce, the apparently inevitable infidelity of my partner, and that it really was a lifelong committment.

O RLY?

This, coming from people who have known me for a very long time. This, coming from people who have seen Andy and I together over the entire course of our relationship. I was really shocked - where could it possibly come from? Why would a ring on a finger change me into a manipulative harpy? The weird thing was that I got this you don't know what you're getting yourself into attitude from absolutley everyone. My young, single, cynical friends, and my happily married parents alike. I've never been a dumb person. I've never been a naive optimist. I kept telling people, "You know, I'm doing this on purpose." It's frustrating to see people so deeply programmed with sexist cultural norms that they'll ignore all evidence they've gathered about you over years of friendship in favor of a cliche script they've been subjected to in movies more often than in real life.

It is enough to make you see that no matter your intentions, people are going to interpret your actions with the knowledge they have, which is probably not especially well-schooled with feminist thought. There are those who just won't absorb the information that I kept my own last name, and there are those who are just waiting for the day that I betray my entire personality and do all the things everyone expects married women to do.

Still, I knew that to a certain extent, I should expect this, and I went ahead and got married anyway. As I said before, I did it on purpose. In both the links above, Happy Feminist and Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon discuss the ways in which your square self is going to be jammed into a round hole no matter whether you marry or not.

Why Marcotte takes this to mean that opting out of marriage is the most favorable way of wriggling out of the grip of patriarchal norms, I am not sure. As far as I can tell, it's a wash. And, like Linda Hirshman says in regard to female advancement in the workplace, there's no glass ceiling to hack away at in the laws regarding marriage that are keeping women down. In fact, regarding the true worst-case scenarios of abusive and controlling husbands, there is a definite advantage for a woman who is married to her partner. Short of mandating a 50-50 sharing of housework, there's not a lot that can be done to make marriage more equitable.

The real problem here is our culture. There is nothing inherent in the legal structure of marriage that disadvantages women, and in the cultural context of a couple, there needn't be either. Or, to refer to Hirshman again, "Never Marry A Jerk."

Saying that the culture at large is the problem is usually a cop-out, but fortunately, I think that in the case of modifying marriage, we have a built-in advantage. Marriage, after all, is not simply about two people loving each other. There are lots and lots (and lots) of people who love each other who are not married, and two people who do not love each other do not start to simply because they've signed the right papers. Rather than it being a personal institution, I think of marriage as a public institution. You delare your fidelity and love for your partner not only to that particular person, but you must also have a witness. Your families are legally joined, and your relationship becomes a matter of public record. You wear a wedding band to declare to any viewer that you are married.

Due to this communicative nature of marriage, I think it's an ideal way of making clear to society at large that they can take their prehistoric, misogynistic concept of marriage and shove it. My equitable marriage is on the books, understood to be fact by everyone around me, and there's really nothing that everyone else can do about this. Considering the drastic changes that marriage has undergone in the last 100 years, I think it's impossible to say that it can't be changed to accomodate the needs of women. Indeed, that's the only kind of change that marriage has seen in the last 100 years.

I might also add that remaining unmarried doesn't shelter a woman from a partner's laziness and sexist assumptions, though it does make her relationship and the assets involved a lot more difficult to regulate. It is concievable that I could be accused of making the classic "choice feminism" mistake, and that my opting-in has no effect on the world at large, no matter my enjoyment of it. The difference here is that Hirshman's example - of staying home with the kids instead of trying to wedge your way into the supreme court - has a very obvious power differential. There is power that one is giving up when they stay home. Being married or unmarried, however, are both bad choices - and equally power-neutral - in the eyes of a culture that simply cannot approve of a woman's choices. If women could demand better working conditions from their positions asstay-at-home moms, they could indeed be forging new feminist paths. Married women, however, are most definitely in a position to change the way that marriage works, the way that marriage is seen, and the way that marriage is lived.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Pork is in the eye of the beholder

From a conversation on Huckleberries Online:
Last year the Republican-controlled Congress spent more on pork than the entire operating budget for the state of Alabama. Seven times more.

My non-partisan voting directions: If it says that they're the "incumbent," then vote for the other guy.
Posted by dang | 21 Aug 10:19 AM

dang, are you including the Iraq war in that figure?
Posted by Sara | 21 Aug 10:52 AM

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Idaho politics keep on turning

I've been slacking in the department of Idaho politics, but that doesn't mean nothing has been happening during this interesting election year. Luckily, my fellow Idaho bloggers have been keeping at it, so here's a rundown of some of the more interesting posts of late.

In the ID-01 race (remember to vote for Larry Grant this November!), it's been noted by several that Republican nominee Bill Sali has been "suck[ing] up limited Republican resources," with campaign fundraising visits from Dick Cheney and Dennis Hastert. As many have noted, in a state that has been so reliably red in the past, this could signal trouble for Sali. If nothing else, Republicans are diverting resources to a state they would never have had to in the past few election cycles - if we can't beat 'em, we can at least make winning less pleasant. Another blow for the Sali campaign's credibility with the Republican base comes in the form of the Republicans for Grant website, which has been getting blog and MSM coverage. The Republicans for Grant are none too happy with Sali's record, though not all Republicans inclined to vote for Grant are doing it simply to vote against Bill Sali.

In other news, the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that a petition to erect a monument to the 10 Commandments in a Boise park may be circulated, to much celebration from South Idaho wingnuts. I am proud to say that some Northern Idaho conservatives noticed the obvious about this ruling: it affirmed the process, not the actual goal. You can pass any unconstitutional law you want, but that doesn't mean it won't be struck down. Then again, Idaho seems to have a penchant for expensive, dragged-out, futile court battles to save unconstitutional legislation.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

If you bang these two sticks together, you'll keep the tigers away

Both feministing.com and Broadsheet have reported on a scientist who is developing a disposable device that could be used to easily detect the presence rohypnol or other date rape drugs in drinks. As a general rule, readers have been pretty excited about this development, but my reaction hasn't been as positive. Here's what I wrote in the Broadsheet letters page:
This seems like a misguided effort to me. It may make you feel safer to arm your daughter with pepper spray and rohypnol detectors, but only a tiny minority of rapes involve strangers and/or date rape drugs. These things will do nothing to protect her from the most likely perpetrators, whose weapons include opportunity, plain old alcohol, and a culture that doesn't respect a woman's personal agency.
I echoed my worry that this would create a false sense of complacency at feministing.com, and got several responses that arming yourself with this is better than nothing.

I'm not quite sure that I agree with that, however. There are a lot of obstacles to making this work. First of all, using this in the company of the guy who bought you a drink or at a frat party would probably feel awkward to most people. It's possible that it could be done discreetly if it ends up in the form of something like litmus paper, but I'm guessing that one couldn't test every drink they took every time they went out without people noticing. And for this to be effective, one would have to test every single drink - it's when your vigilance drops that your drink is going to be drugged after all. The places where I don't see this being used - when you invite a guy up for a drink after a date, or are at a small house party with a dozen of your close friends - is where it would be most useful. If you're planning to rape someone, you're going to create a situation in which your victim will not feel free to leave, let alone pull out a testing trip and accuse you of being a pre-rapist.

And, let's not forget the minescule likelihood that a "date rape drug" will be dropped into the drink of a rape victim. A study of 144 rape victims showed less than 5% of victims testing positive for any of the class of "date rape drugs," and this includes women who had voluntarily taken these drugs for either recreational or medicinal reasons. The study did find, however, that the majority of sexual assaults could be considered "drug-facilitated."

I would posit that the situations in which a woman would feel comfortable using a date rape drug detector would be the ones where it would be almost always unneeded, and that the situations in which a date rape drug detector could be most useful, it would not be used. Further, the ways that we can overcome these obstacles to the effective use of the detector - helping women work together to stay safe, empowering women to leave situations where they don't feel safe, and plain old self-defense - would be effective enough to make the detector moot.

On that subject, check out this conversation at Pandagon, about the situations in which self-defense training has helped people fend off attackers. There are a lot of good points about general feelings of safety, confidence, and the expected dynamics between men and women that can contribute to bad situations - or be takend advantage of by someone wishing to defend themself.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Goodbye, literate society

After reading this, I will never let any child of mine touch a text message, instant message, or chatroom. I do not want their views of history to be recorded in such a manner:
ROCKETS NEARBY!! CHOPPER DOWN!! LOL

Well, let's start with the latest, hottest news...

About 3-4 hours ago, AN ISRAELI HELICOPTER WAS SHOT DOWN IN LEBANON!! ROFL!! :D The chopper, called "Sa'ar", was taken down by Hizballa fighters, using a rocket called "Wa'ad", yet the Israelies deny it & say it was an anti-tank missle..you just keep denying, lol. well, both ways, wether it's "Wa'ad", anti-tank, a normal bullet, or a damn rock, I don't care, the important thing is that it worked, LOL:p you deserve it bitches.
Not exactly an opinion I can get behind, and the delivery leaves much to be desired. Yikes.

What do you call the opposite of nutpicking?

While you do get your share of nutbars and trolls on blog comment boards, there usually can be a lot of interesting discussion to be found in between the people who still think it's funny to post "frist!" Check out this very insightful comment from reader kgsavoie at feministing.com, on the subject of the "I had an abortion" t-shirts.
The thing is, I never saw the t-shirt as a defiant in-your-face statement. I saw it as an awareness-raising tool, like the gawd-awful ribbons-in-every-color thing or the Lance Armstrong bracelets, only bolder. I never saw it as proclaiming, "I had an abortion, and it was awesome!" but as a way to combat the shame that is so deeply rooted in isolation, in feeling alone, like you're the only one.
How much would the world change if we did not live out of our fears of being alone & apart. Imagine a world where everyone had t-shirts that read, "I had an abortion", or "I have $35,000 in credit card debt" or "I have depression" or "I think I'm ugly" or "I am afraid of dying alone". Imagine if everyone around you owned their reality and you began to see the world for all its complexity, your neighbors with all their vulnerabilities, your colleagues with their insecurities and foibles and fears. Wouldn't it be more fearless and more compassionate?
How would it change politics if we could see for real what the sanctified "mainstream" really did look like?
These politicians who prey on our fears and insecurities by referring to the "mainstream" and progressive ideals as being "out of step" would be out of their jobs faster than they would know what happened. *sigh* to dream big....
Bravo!

What could be going on here?

Researchers from Germany found that four years into a relationship, less than half of 30-year-old women wanted regular sex.

Conversely, the team found a man's libido remained the same regardless of how long he had been in a relationship.
...
About 90% of women wanted tenderness, regardless of how long they had been in a relationship, but only 25% of men who had been in a relationship for 10 years said they were still seeking tenderness from their partner.
Now, I find these terms to be pretty vague, but if they mean here that these guys stop wanting sex with their partners but instead with a vagina on legs, I don't know why this should be surprising. They go on to give some evolutionary biology claptrap as an explanation, but it seems like the explanation is right there in the data. It kind of turns the whole notion of women trapping men into sexless marriages on its head. I know I'd feel a little short-changed if my marital sex life were reduced to simply doin' it.

Of course, if I were survyed and asked how important "tenderness" was to me in my sex life, I'd crack up and hang up the phone.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Capricosexuality rears its ugly head

Andrew Sullivan nails this hilarious-but-not news item:
Here's the story if you missed it: Iraqi Islamists are threatening shepherds with violence if they don't clothe their goats with diapers to avoid tempting lonely shepherds. Another facet of the "new Middle East." Yes, it's funny. But it's also revealing about the way fundamentalism and sex interact. What most male-run religious fundamentalisms include is a major exception for the hetero-male sex drive. Sex outside of missionary-position reproduction with legal wife/wives is officially verboten; but when frail male flesh gives in, the blame is almost always the object of desire - not the guy actually responsible. Hence: it's the goat's fault. The way they were dressed, they were asking for it.
Bonuse: click the link for a cuteoverload.com-worthy picture of a goat.

Potato pancakes with cheddar, jalapeno and ham

One of the things I love to do on a slow weekend is to actually cook a hot lunch. I wake up and look at a few cookbooks, find something interesting, and make a lunch to be eaten at a table with a tablecloth and maybe even wine. It's a nice way to explore simple tastes.

This morning I eventually settled on potato pancakes, and added in these Southwesty ingredients on a whim. I atually made about twice as much as my husband and I felt like eating, so I reserved the leftover batter to be fried up whenever we get hungry in the next few days.

1 lb russet potatoes, shredded
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup diced ham
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon chili powder
vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

Shred the potatoes and sprinkle with salt. Press potatoes down in a colander to drain off excess moisture. In a large bowl add potaotes, jalapenos, onion and ham. Mix chili powder in with beaten egg and pour over ingredients in bowl. Mix well.

In a medium-low heated pan, add about 2 teaspoons of oil. After oil has warmed to the temperature of the pan, add about 1/4 cup pancake batter to pan. Press the batter flat into a pancake shape with a spatula and allow to cook for about 10 seconds, shake to keep from sticking, and allow to cook for about 3 minutes more. Flip the pancake and cook the other side for about 2-3 minutes. Immediately after removing pancake from pan, season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with salsa or sour cream.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Tidbits

1) Ampersand got ahold of a good graph that demonstrates the severity of income disparity in this country. It's funny, but not in a ha-ha kind of way.

2) When surveyed "Who's your favorite Simpson?" readers of In Touch Weekly chose Jessica at 65% over Lisa (as in the cartoon) at 27% and Ashlee at a distant 8%. The only person who could possibly be more depressed than me over this news is Ashlee Simpson.

Nutpick of the week

Kevin Drum's introduction of the term "nutpicking" to describe the practice of using the nuttier comments on a blog to reflect the readership and writers of the blog as a whole was a great thing. Nutpicking is being abused more and more as reporters who have finally forayed into the internet are as shocked by the nuts as most of us were when we first fell for goatse.

Nonetheless, I find that sometimes a bit of recreational nutpicking is in order. Therefore, I shall display on a weekly basis my favorite nutpick from my travels through the blogosphere. This inaugural nutpick was found on the letters page of Salon's Broadsheet blog, in response to a story about a rohypnol detector being developed for use in bars. You can see my serious thoughts here, but as is often the case on Broadsheet, the discussion broke down into a bunch of oversensitive dudes complaining that it's the feminists who are actually sexist and the perpetrators who are actually the victims of rape.
Feminists have massive blinders on

If anyone here is sexist, it's you for denying that a culture of machismo, misogyny and 'praise the raping jocks, punish the vicitim' exists in America. Just turn on the TV to see what I'm talking about.

A good plurality of attractive young American women FREELY and deliberately seek out and support such boorish behavior among the macho, mysogynistic, jock men by rewarding these men with affection, love and sex...may I add again, quite often at the expense of responsible, good, more balanced men.

The problem lies with women ultimately, because if women CHOSE better they could actually use their power to IMPROVE their world and the world of all their female offspring by denying these men the right to procreate for once.

But NO, the good men, who are NOT macho jerks, are not even participants in this race.

So why are boys WRONGLY taught to be nice to girls in school? Is it a punishment to be deliberately meted out to the boys/men who actually LISTEN to the messages they are taught?

So I try to change. I try very hard to act like these dicks. But try as I might to act like a jerk around women, I am not good enough at it (so far) to be the success with women that the world class macho jerks are. Women still see me as a balanced, kind confidante who they can trust but who does not deserve sex and love and affection. Must be that I am repulsive.

Women seem to never want to accept responsibility for their behavior and their choices- it is too much fun to just lump together and badmouth men instead.

-- brightstar65

PermalinkFriday, August 11, 2006 9:49:37 PM
So if we women were smarter, we'd know that we should sleep with this dude who knows our secret need for humiliation and pain. If you ever wanted to know why I roll my eyes when I hear someone say "nice guys always finish last," you can thanks brightstar65 for making it all too clear where that sentiment is usually coming from. This is just an unusually manipulative, whiny and ineffective tactic that some guys try to use to get laid - belittling a woman in hopes that she'll feel small enough that she needs you. I've seen it in 'action before - a guy's argument for getting in my pants once was basically, "You're a slut, so you pretty much have to sleep with me!" It didn't work then, and as the "nice guy" will attest, it rarely ever works. At least your run-of-the-mill jerk has enough understanding of the fact that women are human beings that he'll pretend to like them.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Okay, I can accept that Sweet Home Alabama is a good, solid pop song. Maybe it's self-delusion, but I can accept a lot of apologies for Lynyrd Skynyrd, mostly because they were all polite enough to die in a plane crash and end any controversy What I can't accept? That when the local slavery-lovin' pastor plays it, he means exactly the same thing that my self-delusion says it means.

Especially because "In Birmingham, they love their governor" is not generally an applause line.

-- ACS

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Don't throw me in that briar patch and "assert your dominon!"

I can see why people are upset with this dude. He's not very cool. See here:
Deep down, women love men who stand up to them, who won't be pushed around. They love men who will look them in the eye and tell them to shut up when their hormonal bickering has become too much.
Here:
I'm always telling my wife, the writer Liz Jones, to shut up. She gets into a prissy huff about it, but I know she respects me for not indulging her neuroticism. Long ago, I realised it is unhealthy for a man to embroil himself in arguments with women.

While men want an argument to make sense and have a rational conclusion, women solely want the argument itself: it's a pressure valve for their emotions, and once they get started there is no stopping them.
And here:
Real men don't pretend or even try to understand women. They simply love them for being the mysterious, capricious creatures that they are. And they don't take them too seriously, either. They know the vicissitudes of the female mind, its constant insecurities and the fluctuations in mood.

Rather than pander to them, they simply watch them drift by like so many clouds on the horizon. They don't get entangled in a woman's feelings and listen to her prattling on and on until she's talked herself out. Such strong and stoic men are exactly what women need to anchor themselves amid the chaos of their emotions.
What I can't really bothered by, though, is this bit:
The female orgasm is the natural mechanism by which men assert dominion over women: a man who appreciates this can negotiate whatever difficulties arise in his relationships with them.
I am more baffled than offended. I'll breathe out any old reply after someone has "asserted their dominion" over me. I say we encourage this meme to spread to all patriarchy-loving assholes everywhere: to really keep women down, get them off. If that were the only weapon in the patriarchy's arsenal, I think we'd all be a lot better off.

Meanwhile, ten minutes later, it's time for me to wash up and get back to kicking asses.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I have to admit

I'm a huge sucker for dumbass memes. If you have the same affliction, please enjoy.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Who would have guessed?

Joe Francis, founder of Girls Gone Wild, is a disgusting misogynist.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Great Idea!

Ezra Klein posted about the widely-accepted tragedy of rape in American prisons, and the comment thread below was quite dismaying. Example 1:
Count me as one of the people who gets a good laugh out of inmates getting raped.

of course the typical liberal response is to do insane shit like giving them work release, more privileges, cable TV, etc so we can make them feel more "human" therefore they wont resort to this savagery.

Hey liberals I got a better idea. Why dont we just pay for prostitutes to come in and service the inmates so they dont feel the urge to rape each other? I'm sure thats a good taxpayer use of money, and the local prostitute market would like it too
Posted by: joe blow | Aug 2, 2006 9:54:28 PM
Example 2:
I doubt that prisoners suddenly become homosexual upon entering prison. It's just obvious: they are locked up with the same gender for years. If we want to reduce prison rapes, there's one easy answer: institutionalize conjugal visits, perhaps as an incentive to work and to continue good behavior. Beyond that, psychiatric or at least psychological counseling is often beneficial to people who would (or did) commit crimes.

Posted by: Adam | Aug 3, 2006 7:35:41 AM
How sensible. Rape women instead of men. Then everyone's happy, right?

Stealing money from waiters and waitresses

I thought it was bad enough when the Republicans tacked their estate tax cut to the proposed raise in the federal minimum wage, but this is truly sickening. I had to read this article twice because I couldn't believe that it did not say the opposite of what it says.
Nevada, California and Washington are among seven states where workers get to keep their tips on top of getting paid their state's full minimum wage. In other states, tip-earning workers get paid less and make up the difference with tips.

A provision in GOP-written minimum wage legislation passed by the House and under consideration this week by the Senate could change the law in those seven states - the others are Montana, Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon. It would deal a pay cut of $3 or more an hour to thousands of waiters, bellhops and hairdressers in those states, according to Democrats and labor groups.
Yes, that's right. The law would make it illegal for states to enforce minimum wage laws that require employers to pay a full wage to their employees. The fact that this legislation is packaged with a minimum wage increase means that while some minimum wage-earning workers will get a much-needed pay increase, anyone (in the seven states who do require a full minimum wage be paid to tipped workers) who works at a restaurant will actually see a pay decrease.

And, in case you're wondering, the wingnuts are all of a sudden shaking their fingers at the heartless Democrats for opposing an increase in the minimum wage. And what reason does Rush give for the Democratic opposition to the estate tax cut (not to mention the waitress wage cut): class envy. We Democrats are jealous of people inheriting too much money.

Me, I remember not too long ago when we were all elitist latte-drinking trust fund babies living in (dare I say it?) Massachusetts. Which is it already?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The paperless office

On the issue of the paperless office being as ubiquitous in this modern age as the jet pack and the flying car, Kevin Drum has this to say:
I used to work in the document imaging industry, and aside from a general cynicism about our industry's future ("the paperless office will take over at about the same time as the paperless bathroom," went the usual joke), the most pervasive irony was the dawning realization that imaging and other digital automation actually increased the amount of paper used in offices. Lots of stuff got scanned and stored, but then it eventually all got printed out. Multiple times. And then copied and distributed. And then mailed.
I see this happen constantly where I work, but I have to wonder if it's a generational thing. My boss will print out absolutely everything that comes across his computer screen, and then clutter up our miniscule working space with copies and copies and copies of every paper he sees. He may be a little less organized than most, but I know that a lot of people who are middle-aged-ish really don't trust something unless they see it on paper.

I don't feel safe if I don't have a document saved somewhere on a computer, preferably something networked that can be accessed from anywhere. I pay all my bills online and hardly ever use cash. My assumption is that if I have a piece of paper, I will lose it. There could be a fire or a strong wind, and there goes my novel or my wedding album. For some reason, I find the idea that my information is stored in some ethereal and infinitely reproducible form to be a lot more comforting. And I'm sure it's not just me. Finding a pen or a piece of paper in my house is a difficult task, and it's the same thing with many of my friends.

I work in a large laboratory that is set up in such a bureaucratic manner that samples are shuffled from one department to another, all with accompanying paperwork that gives information about what tests need to be performed on which samples. This all duplicates information that is stored digitally with information that tracks the sample from place to place, but no one is happy unless you hand them the identification papers with the sample. Were I in charge, I'd direct people to look the damn information up with the ID number, and dispense with these piles of paper once and for all. These papers get lost all the time, and are completely redundant.

So, will the paperless office simply take another generation to arrive?

And, while I'm on the subject, what is up with old people and the comic sans font? Is it just easier to read with old fogey eyes? I see all sorts of serious documents written in comic sans, and it makes me want to cry. It is far too ugly and unserious for business material.

Maybe I'm just sensitive.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Hard Job

"I don't always leave a counseling session feeling like I have totally been helpful to the woman, but I don't often feel like I have totally blown it. Well, with Samantha I did."

I think of hard work and dedication and sometimes all I see in my head is a movie montage of disappointment that romanticizes the pain that comes with trying and failing.

Thanks to bon of abortionclinicdays for trying, for understanding the consequences of failing, and for sharing the experience of trying to fix a very broken world.

Rural economics, cultural vitality, and pie

The Spokesman-Review has an interesting editorial today about the growing popularity of the humble Northest huckleberry. I've noticed its mention in a lot of food media lately - somoene used huckleberries on Iron Chef America the other day, for example - and I only recently picked my very first wild hukleberry from a bush around my campsite. As such, the story caught my interest. The author, Kara Briggs, is concerned about the future of the huckleberry, which has not been successfully cultivated on a large scale.
The wild huckleberry cannot support the pressure from hundreds of small businesses and restaurants in the way that farmed strawberries or blue berries can. The work of area universities toward farmed huckleberries raises a whole different specter of concerns, as farmed salmon raise for the health of wild salmon.

Yet with the advent of large-scale commercial picking, a flurry of recipes gushing about the wild flavor of huckleberries have appeared in publications, such as Southwest Airline's Spirit Magazine. Articles such as the one promoting a mechanized picker for huckleberries that appeared in The Spokesman-Review on July 2 run without mention of the concerns voiced by tribes.
There are several interesting issues at play here. Briggs is absolutley correct that the tiny purple berry cannot sustain its booming popularity, surviving on smaller and smaller tracts of cold, high mountain land. For years now, huckleberries have been a downright industry in northern Idaho, with any tourist attraction, restaurant, or even gas station selling anything that a huckleberry might be jammed into. It's not just jam, but also soap and air fresheners.

In regards to the legalities of tribal treaty rights to huckleberries, my understanding is not very clear. Tribal members have hunting, fishing and other land-use rights in this country that supercede any economical or environmental legalities that might separate a Yakama member from a bucket of huckleberries. Further, the regulations that non-Native berry pickers must follow seem to be heavily advised by the sensibilities of local tribes. For example, the start of the huckleberry picking season is marked with tribal ceremonies across the Northwest.

We do live in a culture that is dedicated to improving upon nature, and the University of Idaho does have a program whose aim is the domestication and easy cultivation of the huckleberry. Briggs mentions a concern for the health of the wild huckleberry, comparing a prospective huckleberry farming industry to the problematic salmon farming industry in the Northwest, which has had its share of problems with pollution and the incubation and spread of disease from farmed salmon to wild populations. This is, again, an area in which I am hardly expert, but I imagine that these concerns could be addressed with proper planning and a sound scientific approach. As noted in the article linked earlier in this paragraph:
The tale is reminiscent of what happened with the blueberry, which was domesticated nearly 100 years ago. At the time, many worried that the plump, exotic wild blueberry would lose its appeal if it could be cultivated. Instead, it turned into a multibillion-dollar industry, based in the United States. Blueberries remain popular and sought-after around the world.
Closely related to these environmental issues are ethical implications of co-opting a feature of the area that has much spiritual significance to the local Native populations. Again from Briggs:
Huckleberries are sacred to Northwest tribes. We hold ceremonies to mark their ripening. For millennia we have tended the berry fields, which, like the salmon, are protected by our treaties. Still over the last century, the fields have been taken over by private property, by state agencies and, particularly, by the U.S. Forest Service, which manages our mountainous national forests.

The remaining huckleberry fields exist because tribes historically cleared trees and burned brush to let the life-giving light reach the berries. But most management of the fields has been abandoned. In forests where 40 years ago there were huckleberry fields, tall trees now shade the fields.

Tribal elders say these fields include those where they remember camping for weeks at a time each summer, as families picked berries. Those camping trips were about far more than the harvest of berries. Stories were told, perhaps, like those about the Inland Northwest tribes' trickster Coyote, whose exceedingly wise sisters were huckleberries.

In that time berries were carefully handled so none were wasted, and the bushes were left intact to bear another year. One reason for such great care was the belief that huckleberries could leave if they weren't treated respectfully.

Now many tribal elders wonder if that's happening.
Also:
Claims on the University of Idaho Web site that commercial use of huckleberries is OK because the berries were a tribal trade item ignores the facts. Tribal women who historically traded in huckleberries undertook the physical care of the berry fields and also spiritual care through first fruit ceremonies.
Here I can only gather that the U of I's claim that Briggs objects to is referring to the ethical OK-ness of white Americans trading in huckleberries (and not, I suspect, taking spiritual care of them). The not-so-capitalist part of me is given pause by this issue, I must confess. While as an atheist I am not especially concerned with the spiritual care of the berries, I do feel a little uncomfortable with the idea of white folk stealing a potentially huge induestry out from under a group of people who has had quite enough stolen out from under them already. And, even if I am not the type to understand any kind of religious significance of anything, I can respect cultural differences enough that someone's making a buck might not be a good enough reason to trample all over deeply-held spiritual beliefs.

Were I a tribal authority in a Northwest group, I would be vying for heavy participation and rights in the cultivated huckleberry industry. Provided that the environmental kinks could be worked out, it could be an excellent resource for the funds that tribes are often so short on.

Of course, I'm actually a white girl who spends most of her time in her house and wouldn't know spirituality if it hit me in the ass. Or a good business plan for that matter. Still, I am going to think a little differently about my mom's huckleberry pie, or ordering a huckleberry ale at Drinking Liberally tonight. For more info in on this issue, also check out this article from last year's Billings Gazette.

(Did you hear that, Moscow? Drinking Liberally is meeting tonight!)
(And thanks, HBO, for the link!)

100 Actions

via Red State Rebels, check out 100actions.com, a project of the Democratic Party. Yesterday marked 100 days until November's election, and 100actions.com will provide one suggested action per day until then that any American can take to help Democrats get elected at all levels of government. My participation in local politics has been slipping, so I'm taking this as my cue to get my ass back in gear w/r/t politics.

Today's action calls for you to register someone to vote. If you're not registered, get thee to a county courthouse. Otherwise, check the link for info about how to get someone registered.

I'm going to try and make 90/100. What are you going to do?

Quick dinner

Cook sliced crimini mushrooms, shallots, garlic, sage and parsley in a small amount of butter, until mushrooms and shallots are tender (about 10 minutes). Spread mushrooms over toasted french bread, and top with grated gouda. Melt the cheese under the broiler, and serve with arugula dressed in a lemon-dijon vinaigrette.

Take that, fast food.

What's wrong with Idaho Democrats?

They're always acting like nazis. For example? They paint their donkeys...just like the Nazis did!

And did you know that Nazis ate food, drank milk, and drove cars? I think I have seen more than a few Idaho Democrats doing just that.

Have they no shame?