Friday, December 28, 2007

In a nutshell

Via Jezebel, Diablo Cody expressed very nicely how a woman is damned if she does, and damned if she doesn't.
"...This is a real paradox for me: My entire life I've been told I wasn't pretty enough. My entire life I was told by people that I was ugly, that I was too tall, that I was flat-chested, that I was this, that I was that. When I was a stripper I was never quite pretty enough. I was never one of the beautiful girls. I was never one of the top earners. Suddenly I achieve something in my life that is purely intellectual and purely creative, and I'm being told that it's because I'm pretty. To me that is the weirdest, most ironic thing ever. Like all of a sudden I'm attractive when it suits people's purposes. But in the past when I needed to be attractive I was ugly. So let's pick. Which is it?" -- Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody [Minneapolis City Pages]
Don't we all know: it's neither. It's that a woman can't be successful on her own merits, so she's got to be cheating somehow.

Cross-posted at Cogitamus.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gone Fishin'

I've not been an attentive blogger lately, and I don't plan on being so until January 9.

In the meantime, happy new year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In play!

I live in Idaho, so if I gave up hope on Idaho Democrats, I'd be all dressed up during election season with nowhere to go.  I'm biased.  I don't think I can chalk the same bias up to the DCCC, though.  From the Ridenbaugh Press:

The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which at the
moment is well-enough funded to go after Republicans incumbents more
than it has to play defense (it has $30.6 million to $2.3 million for
its Republican counterpart), today released its list of 40 Republican-held target seats. Two of them are Northwestern: Washington’s 8th, held by Dave Reichert, and Idaho’s 1st, held by Bill Sali.

As I've mentioned before, ID-01's looking at a three-way Democratic primary this year.  My opinions on that contest later. 

Microloans, Macro-interest


Image from Predatory Lending Association

I thought Business Week's article "The Ugly Side of Microlending" had a familiar ring to it:

The transactions are so minuscule they hardly seem worth the bother.
The average loan amounts to $257. But for Banco Azteca, a swiftly
growing bank affiliated with Latin America's largest household
retailer, the small sums represent a torrent of revenue that has caught
even its founders by surprise. For three decades, micro-lending was
seen as a tool of nonprofit economic development. Now poor people are
turning into one of the world's least likely sources of untapped
profit, primarily because they will pay interest rates most Americans
would consider outrageous, if not usurious.

The interest rates quoted in the article - 50%-120% - are quite outrageous to this American, but they're definitely not unheard of. What I'm speaking about, of course, is the ubiquitous payday loan, which can charge interest rates of 500% per year. (Check out the satirical Predatory Lending Association for more alarming statistics, not to mention disturbingly spot-on parody.)

These shady business practices are nothing new, but they sure sound a lot nicer when spoken of alongside Nobe Peace Prize-winning programs that extend small loans to businesspeople in the developing world who don't have the collateral for traditional bank loans. It's an association that most may not make with the payday loan model, though they are essentially the same thing. So it's not surprising to learn that Mexican non-profit microlending institutions have transitioned into the for-profit world, and quite comfortably.

Banco Compartamos portrays itself as the gentler lender to Mexico's poor. Compartamos means "let's share," reflecting the philosophy of its founder, José Ignacio Avalos Hernández. The scion of a cosmetics business family, Avalos, 48, is a devout Catholic who in 1990 converted a nonprofit donating food and clothing to the deprived into one that made loans guaranteed by borrowers' neighbors.


In 2000, Compartamos sought greater scale by becoming a for-profit, which led to the founding of the bank in 2006. Today it has a portfolio of $316 million lent to 765,000 clients, dwarfing nonprofit micro-finance organizations in Latin America. Fueled by annual interest rates that can exceed 100%, it is one of Mexico's most financially successful banks, providing investors with an average annual return on equity of 53% over the past seven years.

And so a shady business trades on its former saintly image, and the working poor are again saddled with higher costs for the same financial services that middle-class and upper-class consumers use.

For more information on these and other predatory lending practices, see the Center for Responsible Lending. If you haven't finished your holiday giving, consider donating to (or donating in the name of a gift-recipient) Kiva, a non-profit organization that collects small donations ($25, $50, $75) through the internet and directs them to microlending institutions throughout the devloping world.

Cross-posted on Cogitamus.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Poisoned coattails

Ezra Klein's LA Times op-ed about the extent to which Hillary Clinton actually polarizes voters was interesting in itself, but especially interesting in the context of Idaho Democrats' anti-Clinton pro-Obama push as of late. Many Idaho Democrats (amongst other Westerners) are concerned about the down-ticket effect that Clinton might have on other candidates in the state. It's no surprise that Clinton isn't a popular figure in Idaho, but Klein argues that Clinton's high negatives aren't any worse than the stats that both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush rode into office - twice each. Klein:

Before his successful 2004 reelection campaign, George W. Bush was
viewed favorably by 52% of the populace and unfavorably by 47%. That
means he was even more unpopular than Hillary Clinton is today -- yet
he won. Worse yet, at the end of his 1992 election campaign, Bill
Clinton was rated unfavorably by 49% of voters (thanks, in part, to
Gennifer Flowers and allegations of draft dodging), and during his 1996
reelection campaign, 44% of voters said they had an unfavorable
impression of him. Yet not only did he win both elections, he's one of
the most popular political figures in the country.

This is all well and good when we're speaking about a national race for one office, but voters in Idaho have long understood their irrelevance to the Presidential race anyway.

No one is expecting Idaho's electoral votes to go toward anyone but the Republican nominee for President, but there is cautious optimism for other Democratic candidates in Idaho this year. The state party's gotten quite ambitious with its ground game, we look forward to a vigorous three-way primary for the 1st CD nomination, and there are rumblings about Larry LaRocco's campaign gaining ground in competition for Larry Craig's* presumptively open Senate seat.

Looking at election results from the past several elections, I don't notice much of a down-ticket effect, either in presidential election years or election years where there is no presidential race. The clearest trend, until 2006's election, is Idaho's increasingly locked-in status as a Republican state. Bill Clinton - if not the most liberal, definitely the largest-looming boogeyman in a Republican's dreams between he, Kerry and Gore - got a larger plurality (33.6% vs. Dole's 52.2%) of Idaho's votes than either Kerry (30.3% vs. Bush's 68.4%) or Gore (27.6% vs. Bush's 67.2%) did in their elections. Down-ticket races basically followed suit, with Democrats as shut out in 2004 as they were in 2000.

2006 was the year I actually started volunteering in and following Idaho politics very closely, so it's hard for me to very accurately gage things like momentum. But comparing congressional and gubernatorial numbers between 2006 and 2002, I'm confident that I can't chalk entirely up to my imagination a change in momentum. Democrats showed improvement in their vote numbers in both CDs, as well as the governor's race.

I'm positive that Hillary-phobia is endemic in Idaho, but I'm not so sure that a race so predictable in Idaho as the one for US President is going to have much effect on Idaho's other elections. I'm also a little lonesome in this opinion, so I'm not willing to make any bets. Looking at past election numbers, though, I'd rather see Idaho Democrats attempt to capitalize on dissatisfied Republican voters and a stable, strong state party than try to dodge a Hillary bullet.

*It is apparently hard to make it in Idaho politics if you are not named Larry.

Cross-posted at Cogitamus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

100,147 and counting

Sometime today, I reached 100,000 viewers to F-words.

Pretty cool, huh?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Some thanks

Jay Stevens of Left in the West brings some tragic and infurating news:

Last Wednesday, two Missoula men - one, a senior at Hellgate High - stomped to death [a] homeless Navy veteran, Forrest Clayton Salcido, near the California Street footbridge. The attack was unprovoked and random.

When this was reported on the Missoula, MT blog 4&20 Blackbirds, the director of Missoula's Poverello Center, a place that provides "food, shelter, help and hope" to the homeless population of Missoula, left a very moving comment that I thought deserved to be propagated.

A (fairly long) excerpt from the whole post at 4&20 Blackbirds:

At the Poverello Center, Western Montana’s largest emergency homeless shelter and soup kitchen, we serve hundreds and hundreds of homeless vets each year. There are many vets sleeping in our overcrowded bunks each and every night, 365 nights a year. They are men and women from all branches of services and representing many different wars. Elderly and middle aged men are most common. Many folks suffer from mental illness and physical disabilities. Some have only recently lost their jobs or their families. Some have been injured on the job, and they don’t have medical coverage. Their car has broken down. Some are much more down and out. They all have amazing life stories. Their problems are often complex.

At the Pov we are seeing an alarming trend in the number of younger homeless veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, turning to the Poverello Center’s VA sponsored Homeless Vets Program for necessary services, mainstream resources, treatment and job assistance.

I am writing because this trend does not bode well for our future.

According to the Veterans Affairs Department, 1500 homeless veterans are from the current wars.


As Executive Director of the Pov, I am asked to educate Missoulians about poverty and homelessness often. I am honored to do it. The faces of homelessness are diverse. I speak before civics groups, classrooms; you name it. But I have observed that many people seem to want to hear about homeless kids, homeless women, and other marginalized demographics. We serve the many diverse faces of homelessness at our downtown facility. There is no doubt that they each need unique and expanded resources. But when I start talking about the number of homeless vets in Missoula, I feel a visceral lack of interest or understanding of their complex barriers to housing and employment (For example, the reaction some in our community recently had to what was viewed as a sudden increase in the number of our chronically homeless citizens panhandling downtown; letters to the editor referencing “the unwashed”.) It frustrates me.

These honorable men and women come home from horrific conditions, often without a job, often with strained family relationships, not to mention unspeakable injuries of the body and the mind. Some of these guys will tell you that they were not prepared at all to go back to a “civilian” life. Their money runs out. They stay in cheap motels. And they go to the Pov.

Any American should be ashamed when reminded of this information. I would like to note that the statistics given are somewhat misleading, as Idaho blogger Bubblehead notes:

The report says that the suicide rate for veterans in 2005 was 18.7 per 100,000, and claims the rate for Americans as a whole is 8.9. That's over twice the frequency! They don't mention, however, that men actually succeed in suicide at a rate about 4 times that of women, so the actual rate for men as a whole is closer to 18 -- not really much of a statistical difference if we assume the vast majority of veterans are men. (In the same way, the over-representation of veterans among the homeless is lessened if we compare homelessness numbers by gender, since men are over three times more likely to be homeless.)

I can't say that I agree that with Bubblehead that the skewed numbers make veterans "look bad." While they exaggerate, they aren't a complete fabrication. Anyway, I don't think homelessness or susceptibility to severe symptoms of mental illness reflect poorly on an individual. In fact, I would say these numbers make the non-veteran population (that includes me) look bad, for uprooting if not taking the lives of fellow American citizens, and shrugging when we walk by them sick, hungry, and lying on the street. That is, when we're not murdering them outright.

Donations can be made to the Poverello center here.

Cross-posted at Cogitamus.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A call to self-service

As a lifelong atheist who's somehow managed to get through her life without murdering, raping and torturing, I of course was miffed by Mitt Romney's speech about his faith. Instead of using the opportunity to denounce bigotry and invoke the nobility of a Constitution that treats all Americans equally, he encouraged the faulty reasoning that bigotry thrives on, and directed it at an easy target.

Religion describes what a person believes, not what they are. This isn't a surprising thing to hear an atheist assert, but you would think that a member of a religion that puts such a strong emphasis on evangelism would be likely to agree. This occurred to me after the visit I received from two LDS missionaries yesterday. It was a polite interaction, only mildly awkward given the subject matter, and not very memorable. But it brought Romney to mind, and his attempt to use my unpopular view of the Universe to wedge himself into the White House. If he won't acknowledge any kind of value in including nonbelievers in American life, he can't have had a great time on the mission he spent in France in the 60's. Why would he waste his time trying to convert people who have already proven their worthlessness?

When you believe in the inherent dignity of every human being, secularism is a pretty simple concept. It bestows rights on every individual and leaves them to decide how best to exercise them. Ideally there are no exceptions, there is no test. If you believe your rights are not bestowed by the State but by God himself, it gets more complicated. A person's rights are defined by God, enforced by people who can only have so much knowledge about a person's religiosity, and can't really be considered "rights" to begin with when they're dependent on how you exercise them.

Romney said that "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom," but this doesn't make a bit of sense when you use any kind of normal definition of freedom. Disallowing people to not choose a faith doesn't sound very free to me. And what's more, it doesn't respect the concept of freely choosing a religion, something that Christian evangelism relies on.

Either Romney's years of service as a missionary were an empty exercise that confirmed his belief that nonbelievers are the "them" to his "us," or he's willing to invalidate a major tenet of his faith for a chance to be come President. Whichever it is, his support of bigotry has strengthened the underpinnings of anti-Mormon bigotry, and I'd be disappointed to see someone who was operating under either notion in the White House.

Cross-posted at Cogitamus

Food notes

It's been a while since I've written anything about food, but I've had lots of ideas since. Here are just a few ideas and dishes that I've been eating and thinking about.

I am addicted to sharp cheddar and granny smith grilled cheese sandwiches. Sometimes I add thin-sliced ham or stone ground mustard (and I think bacon would work even better than the ham), but sliced apple, whole wheat bread and extra-sharp Tillamook cheddar are really enough to make me happy.


At Thanksgiving, I passed my responsibility of making a sweet potato dish on to my husband and instead concentrated on an appetizer. Above is some blue cheese shortbread that I brushed with a little egg wash before baking so that I could get crushed hazelnuts to stick to half of them (I think I may be mildly allergic to hazelnuts). A lot of people were thrown by their look and thought they would be sweet and not savory. The recipe I used suggested serving them with a chutney and cream cheese roulade, which I thought sounded like a total flavor-trainwreck, but the cookies/crackers turned out with a deep but sort of generically-cheesy flavor. I'd also made some Jezebel sauce to serve with crackers and cream cheese (I used Cooking Light's recipe from a few years back, which is made mostly of rehydrated dried apricots and pineapple jelly, with dijon mustard, jalapeno jelly and horseradish added), and it turned out to be delicious with the shortbread.

If you're curious, Andy ended up whipping the sweet potatoes with sriracha, scallions and butter, and they were excellent.


If you haven't noticed, my sidebar is mostly filled with links to recipes and Chowhound threads that interest me.


I've been on quite a muffin-baking streak lately, which started with whole wheat chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. It was my first experience using whole wheat pastry flour, which I now totally adore. It gives muffins a great texture, though I've noticed goods baked with it going stale faster than goods with good ol' AP. It still has a nice light color, which is nice for things like blueberry muffins, and if I have to eat a few more muffins a little more quickly, I can't complain too much. I've also been using my grandma's banana bread recipe, which makes great not-too-heavy and not-too-sweet muffins. I'm not a fan of muffins that were they frosted would be indistinguishable from cupcakes.


That's it for me - what interesting stuff have you been making?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

My first missionaries

After living in this apartment for over five years, I finally received my first visit from a pair of LDS missionaries. I was surprised to see that they were both women - one pregnant, in fact - but didn't have a chance to talk, because I was feeling bad about my place being so messy. It was a kind of amusing interaction, wherein I did confess that I was a feminist atheist, and they gave me a pamphlet about the proper roles of women and men in family (even before I used the f-word). I was tempted to pick their brains, especially in case they felt like talking about Mitt Romney, but the state of my apartment prevented it.

Winning friends and influencing people

Hear ye, hear ye: I've been invited to join Ezra Klein's orphaned guest bloggers (Klein's blog has been absorbed by The American Prospect as of Monday) at a new blog called Cogitamus. And I've accepted! Things are just getting settled at Cogitamus, but I will be posting there regularly from now on.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Alien race beauty products

When I see something called "eye concealer" advertised, my first thought is that it's designed for some kind of alien race who might want to cover their eyespots, so as not to intimidate or frighten their acquaintances. Imagine turning around to find embedded in your date's back two giant glowering eyes - it's not a recipe for romance.

Feministing's inevitable progression toward world domination

I think that Feministing's plans to become a Daily Kos-style community blog are right on. Feministing more than any other feminist blog tends to work as a central aggregator for all things feminist, but there's only so much that a handful of people can do. Letting users help direct content might go a ways toward resolving conflicts about inclusiveness and would be a great way for new bloggers to get a running start at attracting readers.

Katrina Lauderdale, RIP

I've been thinking a lot about this story lately, about a two parents who watched their three-month-old child born with a cleft palate starve to death when they were unable to feed her, afraid to seek medical attention without health insurance.

Their daughter, Katrina Lauderdale, was born in Burns, Ore., on Oct. 24, 2006, with a cleft palate, a facial deformity requiring special feeding procedures. While in Oregon, she was seen weekly by doctors who instructed the couple how to feed their baby and provided them with special bottle and nipple systems, according to a police affidavit.

But after they moved to Spokane last November when Charles Lauderdale took a new job, the doctor visits stopped. Charles Lauderdale lost his job and his wife went to work, leaving the baby in her husband’s care when she was working.

Two Oregon doctors concerned about the baby’s failure to gain weight had advised the parents they needed to keep Katrina under continuing medical supervision in Spokane, but the couple later told police investigators they had no health insurance, the court affidavit says. No Spokane doctors saw Katrina.
It makes me so sad, and so angry. From the description, it sounds like the couple did act gravely and criminally irresponsible, even in their bad situation. But I still feel for them. I'd like to think that there are public assistance programs they could have turned to, or that if I were in the same situation, I'd have brought the child to the emergency room, hospital debt be damned. I can also imagine some of the fears of the parents'; that if they brought the child to the hospital, she would have been taken away by state services, and if not now, when they hospital bills came due and they lost their home. Or maybe they hoped to wait it out, until the father found a new job or the mother finished her probationary period at work and began to receive health benefits.

But even if these two were simply stupid and cruel, their child was the last person who deserved to pay the price for it. If the parents didn't have to think about what a doctor's visit would do to their financial security, things would surely have turned out differently. Universal healthcare is fallible like any other system, but at least it doesn't punish families like Katrina's for seeking help. If a child's parents are already stupid and cruel, financial roadblocks between her and the medical care she needs aren't going to help.

And we see this so clearly in Katrina's case, where she thrived with public assistance, and starved to death without it. There are a patchwork of nurse home visitation programs in Washington, programs that have been shown to work, but Katrina was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Even (especially?) the clever and kind among us realize that the Lauderdales had only bad and worse to choose from. Add some ignorance, a great amount of fear, and probably some wishful thinking, and it becomes clearer how these things happen. These are the stakes, and consciously doing nothing to change things has a real an impact on peoples' lives as any changes do. We can punish this couple as hard as we want, but as long as the same system puts the same pressures on all of us, we'll see the scenario play out over and over.


Feel like the Democratic front-runners aren't giving you enough substantial talk about foreign policy and immigration? Talk of the Nation is hosting the Democratic presidential front-runners in a debate on those subjects. Check it out.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

You're a bad girl - you need a spanx-ing

Via Jezebel, I loved this article about foundation garments from the Guardian, and I just wanted to add my two cents.

When I first saw that girdle-maker Spanx offers a tummy-tucking, butt lifting, thigh smooshing product called "power panties," I rolled my eyes so hard that I might have achieved the coveted 360-degree eyeroll. No one would accuse me of thinking my body beyond criticism, and I can dig makeup and bras, or hobble around in stilettos with the best of them. That doesn't dissuade me from being totally creeped out by body-smooshing underpants being sold as empowering. I find tight clothing painful and humiliating (it makes me feel like every pinch and tug is the fault of my heft, and not the fact that I should have tossed these pants months ago), and while my tummy and thighs aren't anything I'm especially proud of, I'm just not going to do it.

I do have reasons more high-minded than "oof," even if I do think that comfort is pretty important. It depresses me how unrealistically women are portrayed in the media, how the heavily-photoshopped and made up and theatrically-lit woman has become the standard by which people walking down the street feel they are being judged. And hell, I've submitted to the idea that my body is too bumpy and fat and dimpled and hairy (yet, decorum-destroyingly-sexy, if laws against public nudity are any indication) to be exposed in broad daylight, and I wear my tank tops under v-necked tops and skirts usually at the knee. I'm not ready to concede that the way my body looks even when clothed isn't "shaped" and "smoothed" enough. Screw that. I have a shape, and I don't want to train myself to be more uncomfortable with it than I already am. It's the same reason that I don't wear makeup every day - I'll take a break for a few days if I find myself thinking that I look terrible without it. I don't want to think that I naturally look terrible!

And if you're a Spanx fan, I do understand. Beauty is a very damned if you do, damned if you don't issue for women. Whether you reject or embrace a certain beauty practice, you're going to be spending a significant amount of energy on it, energy that could probably be better spent on other pursuits. I finally had to face the fact that my body issues made me much more miserable than being fat ever could, and it's been a huge weight off of my shoulders. Usually. Self-acceptance is a lot more durable reaction to a society that demands something your body just can't deliver, but it also comes with the loss of the acceptance of others - and it's tough to achieve and tough to maintain.

Sometimes, it's just easier to shave off the leg hair, admire your smooth calves in all their unnatural glory, and get back to kicking asses.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Forget marriage - let's try schmarriage

Jill at Feministe linked approvingly to Stephanie Coontz' recent NYT editorial proposing the "privatization" of marriage, but I'm stuck at bafflement. Things all make sense as Coontz decries the state's limiting the right to marry to only certain classes, as she says that actual marital status doesn't very well reflect a couple's living situation, and when she points out that unmarried couples could use the same protections that married couples enjoy.

But I'm not clear on what good "privatizing" marriage would do. In fact, as far as I can tell, Coontz is making an argument for the wider use of common law marriage, so that people who don't have the ability or even people who don't have the inclination to actually marry their partners can see the legal benefits that married couples do.

And as far as I know, many of these benefits cannot be privately contracted. The state is not going to extend benefits of the Family Medical Leave Act to a person's unrecognized-by-the-state partner. You cannot agree with another party to compel the state to do something it doesn't want to do.

So either privatized marriage would have no relationship with the state - this cutting out all the benefits that married couples enjoy and domestic partners do not - or it would be the same thing as marriage, but extended to unions beyond that of a man and a woman. Like, you know, gay marriage.

And I guess we could call extended marriage rights something else - let's say "schmarriage," - if people really want to, but I hardly see the point. Maybe I'm underestimating the confusion that arises from the fact that being married in the church is not the same thing as being married in the state (I could draw you a Venn diagram if you like).

But even so, I'm not sure why heterosexual feminists who shy away from marriage would be much more interested in schmarriage than marriage, given that it would be for them the exact same thing. Me, I'd be interested in the symbolic bucking of the patriarchal marital tradition, but I'm not sure what benefits would be had further than that.

What's the big deal?

It all started way back in October, when a Huckleberries Online interview of Bill Sali got d2 of 43rd State Blues a little bothered - d2 thought interviewer DFO let Sali off easy, and DFO huffily de-linked 43sb for impugning his journalistic ethics. Honestly, I thought both sides overreacted, since I neither believe it's a breach of journalistic ethics to move on after a politician dodges a question, nor do I believe that 43sb is shrill enough to warrant communications being cut off, given that these are blogs we're talking about..

Bubblehead of The Stupid Shall Be Punished was of a similar opinion, and wrote a post about the conflict - and political diplomacy in general. Sez Bubblehead of an exchange with Sali's publicist:

Mr. Hoffman had E-mailed me to find out why a lifelong Republican like myself isn't supporting his boss, and why I now consider myself a Democrat when it comes to state politics. We courteously exchanged views for about an hour, and while neither of us changed the other's mind, it was a good chance for both of us to better understand where the other camp is coming from. (As an added bonus, I was able to put in a pitch for Mr. Hoffman's boss to support increased submarine funding.) Wayne pointed out that he recently interacted with Mr. Sali's opponent for both the 2006 and 2008 elections, Larry Grant, and because both behaved with civility and decorum, it was a positive experience. As a result of this personal interaction, I'm sure I'll be more likely to get an answer when I look for a quote from Mr. Sali on whatever "gotcha" (or real) questions I come up with as the campaign heats up.

Bubblehead is right that name-calling isn't very productive, but I think important to look closer at what's taking place here. To Sali's people, Bubblehead is a reasonable Grant voter, and he also conveniently fits well in the image of the voter Sali would like to woo - conservative but independent-minded, financially and socially secure in a state where people look and act a lot like him. And because Bubblehead is not queer, is not working two jobs to make ends meet, is not a religious or ethnic minority (...) - he's not as likely to bring up issues that directly affect those people. If he happens to, he's not going to put Sali or his reprsentative in a position to tell him that he's going to have to choose between buying food and insulin for his children, or that he won't be able to visit his dying partner in the hospital. And anyone facing that kind of problem is bound to sound a little shrill next to the politician calling for civility and reason in political dialog.

I don't bring these things up to criticize Bubblehead in the slightest - being part of a majority is pretty common I hear - but to point out the privilege he enjoys when interacting with the people who happen to be in power. He's got some emotional bones to pick with Sali, too, but for the most part, Sali won't be standing between Bubblehead and what Bubblehead wants in life.

So when Mountain Goat exposes Steven Thayn's son's domestic violence offenses, and is accused of unreasonably mixing up the political with the personal, it's a good idea to step back and think about what's being presented as reasonable,. Adam Graham unknowingly makes this point clear when the example he gives of people taking politics a little too personally is the frigging American Civil War.

I hate to bear the bad news, but when politics determine choices of life and death, choices involving love and family and health, they're personal.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Missing Girl Probably Raped"

With the "Fox News Porn" video going around, I've got a wonderful excuse to post one of my favorite Onion videos. Not safe for Nancy Grace fans with no sense of humor (but I'm being redundant.)

Missing Girl Probably Raped

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I am Jack's anxious masculinity

Apparently the first two rules of Fight Club have changed, because it seems Tyler Durden is writing editorials for the Daily Evergreen.
Both the authorities and the students in Pullman need to learn a few lessons about fighting. First, it’s going to happen, and second, that it should happen as safely as possible. No weapons, no ganging up. If you have a problem with someone, confront them “man to man,” settle your differences and let nature take its course.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bad-faith attempts at minimizing racism in America

On Andrew Sullivan:

A reader writes:

The next person that tells me that the American people will not elect a black person to the Presidency will be asked to name five specific people - family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, co-workers, you name it - who will not vote for Obama because he is black. I will then volunteer to contact those people to give them an opportunity to defend themselves against this tired, old, self-aggrandizing libel.

I seem to have more faith in the American people than some Democrats.

You also have a self-serving belief that racism is an issue of the past, still defend your promotion of The Bell Curve, and conveniently happen to be of an economic class, gender, and race that is shared by the overwhelming majority of "haves" in this country.

I don't know that it's true that Americans won't elect a black man President. I like to think it's not. I do know that 11% of Americans freely say they would not vote for a woman - any woman - to be President, and that 5% say they would not vote for any black person. I know that Department of Homeland Security officials think that blackface is hilarious. I know that most of America's leaders are white.

And I think there's a big difference between having faith in the American people and acknowledging the inequities in our country, especially the ones from which I benefit. A person cannot look at the white-dominated country we live in and in good faith believe that Americans are past the whole racism thing. Most especially, a person who is never on the receiving end of racial discrimination can't trust their own experience to convey to them the picture of race relations in America.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Domestic deja vu

Idaho lawmakers have convened a task force to envision a world where women and children are beholden to the men of their households, where divorce is costly and difficult to obtain, and gender roles are enforced with a vengeance.

That's why, as chairman of the Idaho House of Representatives' Family Task Force, he [Rep. Steven Thayn R-Emmett] and others are considering controversial solutions such as repealing no-fault divorce laws and finding ways to encourage mothers to stay home with their children.

Visionary, I know. Who could have ever thought of such a thing?

I was shocked back in February when Idaho lawmakers shot down statewide regulation of child care centers with the intent to scare parents (who am I kidding - they wanted to scare women) into forgoing careers and staying home with their children. It was an embarrassing episode for the state, and it earned Republican busybodies little love from working parents and their supporters. And yet, they're at it again, not even attempting to disguise their retrograde attitudes about women and families.

Several advocates urged the task force to adopt legislation to strengthen day-care regulations and make early childhood education part of public schools, two hot-button issues on which the House and Senate have clashed.

However, the task force report does not recommend tightening regulations for day-cares with fewer than 13 children. It does not mention early childhood education.

Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, a proponent of early childhood education and
stronger day-care regulations, has been at odds with Thayn. Schroeder said stronger day-care regulations, including mandatory background checks for providers, are about keeping children safe from pedophiles and that research shows early childhood education helps children.

"Basically, we have in my opinion, and I stress in my opinion, a group of people who are living in the past," he said.

"Basically, they are people who think women ought to stay home and take care of the kids."

Thayn does not shy from this view, calling pre-kindergarten education a "free
babysitting service" and suggesting that early childhood education, day-care and Head Start may hurt families by keeping mothers away from home.

Please note that there is zero discussion of men as primary caregivers, not even an acknowledgement of their growing presence in Idaho families. What's astounding is when after threatening working families with physical harm of their children, Rep. Thayn comes out with statements like these:

"It seems to be (proponents of such programs) just assume that mothers
have to work, and they're not really asking the question, ‘What can we
do to help them stay home?' " he said.

Excuse me Mr. Thayn, but it's pretty clear that you're not asking that question either. You're asking what we can do to entrap women into the role of unpaid primary caregiver. And kudos, because making divorce harder to obtain and childcare impossible to trust are excellent ways of doing just that.

If Idaho lawmakers are actually serious about making stay-at-home parenting a comfortable reality for more Idaho families, they'll start to think more critically about the problems that families face than Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries,

"Divorce is just terrible," Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, said. "It's one of Satan's best tools to kill America."

and start to consider what statements like the below really mean.

Controversially, the group is using the typical family of 1950 as its benchmark, though Thayn says it's simply a baseline and not a suggestion that families were perfect in 1950.

"I don't think the family structure was really ideal at that time, either," he said. "I don't think the family ever in the history of the world has reached its potential."

This is because the tactics we've tried, the tactics you are advocating, have not worked. Tactics like disallowing women economic independence, creating barriers out of bad marriages, and leaving caretakers vulnerable to the whims of their partner have made many people downright miserable. If in thousands of years of practice at a compulsively patriarchal, heterosexist family structure haven't arrived at anything resembling a reliably functional family, it's really time to try something new.

It's time to create social and economic support networks to empower stay-at-home caretakers - moms, dads and all others who hold their families together alike. It's time to start thinking of divorce not as a disease, but a symptom. It's time to listen to families of all kinds, and to make policy decisions according to the needs and desires of actual Idahoans, not an impossible and to many undesirable picture of a nuclear family.

We can't make progress by repeating our mistakes over and over. We have to think bigger, for the sake of Idaho's families.

Cross-posted at Red State Rebels.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


When people expressed outrage over the idea of racial profiling, it didn't occur to me that the US government would go right on past it to simply racist profiling.
Like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.

The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.
Can I just add my voice to the chorus of people who think this is incredibly stupid? Basing your hunt for terrorists on a two-tiered stereotype (weird food like falafel is for weird people like Iranians, and Iranians are terrorists) seems like a pretty poor idea to me.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The downside to wingnut welfare

In the NYT today, we learn that authors of such best-selling, uh, favorites as Unfit for Command: Swiftboat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry and Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America’s National Security are suing their publishers for practically giving away the books so as to drive up sales figures (and inflate the sense of national interest in the books). From the article:
“They’ve structured their business essentially as a scam and are defrauding their writers,” Mr. Miniter said in an interview, “causing a tremendous rift inside the conservative community.”
So the next time you're tempted to lose faith in humanity when you see a stand of Ann Coulter books in the bestseller display, remember that the author is likely getting screwed. These books are simply a very expensive version of the whisper campaign, and it's really a loser for everyone. At least telling 16 of your closest friends that John McCain fathered an illegitemate mixed-race child isn't killing trees.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A call to male politicians:

Stop playing the gender card!

I know what post *I'm* going to be nominating the next time the Koufax awards come around...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Technically it's not evil - just monstrous

At a Huckleberries Online thread about whether or not waterboarding is torture (consensus: yes), commenter brentandrews made a good point:
Yes, torture, definitely. If there is even a debate, it's probably torture. You don't hear people debating whether or not picking up trash on the side of the road is torture.
I mean, really, do we want America to be the country that pretty much doesn't torture? The country that's just barely on the acceptable side of human rights? I'd like my country to stay well within the purview of acceptable behavior, myself.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

That's refreshing

When was the last time you read anything about Halloween costumes that didn't involve the requisite chiding of those who choose the more revealing ones? For me, it was today in WSU's Daily Evergreen. The word "sexy" or "slutty" isn't even used.

Monday, October 29, 2007

How to know things

I don't find myself saying this very often, but I really enjoyed David Brooks' editorial about the way digitizing information has changed the way people learn and collect knowledge over time. As Brooks says:
Until that moment, I had thought that the magic of the information age was that it allowed us to know more, but then I realized the magic of the information age is that it allows us to know less. It provides us with external cognitive servants — silicon memory systems, collaborative online filters, consumer preference algorithms and networked knowledge. We can burden these servants and liberate ourselves.
This really reflects my feelings pretty well, but Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon isn't ready to buy it. She responded in a post about Brooks' editorial:
Except that you already were part of the large external mind. The digitalization of it doesn’t change the fundamental nature of outsourcing the memory. Everything Brooks mentions, from iTunes to Tivo setting your schedule to cell phones replacing Rolodexes to GPS devices has an ink and paper counterpart, or at least an analog one when it comes to recorded music. Though sheet music predates recorded music and is, yes, another externalized memory device.
I have to say that I'm surprised that anyone very heavily involved with the Internet could make this argument. I wonder if my famously bad ability to retain facts predisposes me to identifying with Brooks' feelings, but I can say that the ability to quickly access information has had a profound effect on the way I think about information and what kind of hold I need to keep on it. Brooks uses the example of phone numbers, which many have observed that people do not store in their heads anymore, but on cell phones. At this moment, I can think of three phone numbers - mine, my husband's, and my parents' land line. I remember knowing others as little as two or three years ago, but I was happy to cede that knowledge to my cell phone.

I have a naturally weak grip on the facts that I learn, and it's only by connecting them with other, more vital pieces of information that I can remember anything at all. Any class I've taken where simple memorization was important was a class I did not do well in. I'm not sure if it's inability or disinclination, but my abilities with rote memory are very unimpressive. I've had to adapt by creating systems for remembering things, rather than keeping The Things I Know in a list in my head.

For example, I work with a sort of archaic computer program that stores information about diagnostic cases in my lab. It requires the use of myriad codes for differing functions, all written by different people with different motivations. It's not systematic in the least, and drives me nuts. My boss, when coming up with a new code for, say, a new test that needs to be ordered, likes to insert little jokes into his codes, and says it helps him remember it more easily. To me, it just means that I have to remember a code and a joke, neither of which is connected to anything else, and that's twice as much work as any random code.

Brooks isn't talking about the existence of written information. Amanda's right that it's old hat. What's new is the ability to rely on information being more easily accessible through Google or speed dial than through your own memory. It's like an open-book test in school, which only a fool mistakes for a cakewalk. Yes, the information is all in front of you, but if you don't have a familiarity with how the book is structured, and at least a few central formulas, you're boned. Your jittery, test-anxiety-ridden brain is at least then free to function at a higher level of complexity than simple recall.

Tangentially: check out my favorite of Lev Yilmaz' Tales of mere existence.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

You knew it was coming

Dave Barry is dressing up as Larry Craig this Halloween. He's the first one I've spotted, and I haven't even gone to any parties yet.

If you follow the link, you'll find (I asked for permission to use the photo and am awaiting a response) that it's Barry in a suit, with a toilet seat around his neck labeled "Larry Craig." I say any costume that has to be labeled needs more work. In fact, I was recently trying to decide how best to execute a Larry Craig costume, and couldn't come up with anything that didn't involve some kind of wearable bathroom stall.

It might just be an unworkable idea, I'm afraid. Anyone seen a better one, or got any better ideas?

Me, I'm sticking with something non-political, and dressing up as a peacock.

UPDATE: Yikes - this sure is a scary Larry Craig "costume."

UPDATE II: I suppose I should have done more research before hitting "post." has several hints for making your Larry Craig costume work.

Here are several options that can be added to your basic suit, glasses and senator’s pin. This system will allow dozens of Larry Craigs to coexist at one party without losing their individuality.

•Sport a large sign that reads “NOT GAY”
•Carry a roll of toilet paper and keep a square taped to your shoe
•Construct a bathroom stall around you, held up by suspenders (much like a kissing booth)
•Carry a boarding pass, Minneapolis to Washington
•Attach a knife handle to your back, identified by the letters “GOP”
•Wear tap shoes
•Cling to a giant Senate seal (you can occasionally mention that you’re about to let go, but then don’t)
•Show up with a friend wearing a police badge around his neck.

Cross-posted at Red State Rebels.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Moscow Drinking Liberally featured in UI Argonaut

A reporter from the UI Argonaut joined us at Drinking Liberally and the article came out today. Check it out - and notice that my husband Andy was given my last name, since the reporter learned my last name first.
“Its not a strictly blue democrat thing, we just share some of the same liberal ideas,” Anderson said. One of the big topics on Thursday was Children’s Health care. The group all voiced opinions on this topic, and then moved on to another drink. The conversation switched to debate over “Battle Star Galactica,” a popular Sci-Fi TV show. However, another topic brought up in conversation was who will be the next President of the United States will be. Asking whom the next president of the United States would be struck up several interesting conversations. One member said they favored Hillary Clinton, while others pitched in. “Who we need to worry about is Giuliani,” Andy Anderson said. However, Sara Anderson isn’t worried.

“The next president will definitely be a democrat, all the republican candidates suck,” Anderson said.
Don't I sound articulate?

Cross-posted at Red State Rebels.

Friday, October 19, 2007

We <3 Katamari

For a little while, I thought that cleaning house with a Katamari would be cool, but then I realized I'd just be left with a big ball of dust and hair and pennies.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

WSU's toxic environment for women

Things have been bad for women in Pullman, Washington and on the Washington State University campus lately. Within the last month, two high-profile stranger rapes have been reported, and now, women in Pullman are being advised by police to "walk with at least one friend and carry a cell phone to call police if needed to help prevent and report harassment and assaults," due to a string of physical and verbal harassment incidents against women. It's a chilling thing to read on the day scheduled for a Take Back the Night rally as part of the national Week Without Violence. And it's frustrating, knowing that one of the recent sexual assault victims was attacked by a man who had offered to walk her home. It's frustrating knowing that this isn't the first time WSU and Pullman have seen a flareup of violence against and intimidation of women when people are supposed to be working to prevent it - while I was an undergrad there was a TBTN rally that was heckled during its walk through WSU's Greek Row.

I was never a student at WSU, though I currently work there, and anyone who's been to the area knows the close relationship that Moscow, Pullman, and the two universities maintain. I do know that I generally avoided Pullman's "nightlife" (such as it is) while I was in school, and have heard it remarked on more than one occasion that a meat-market date-rape streak is prevalent in Pullman's drinking and partying culture. I've heard the kinds of stories women tell each other when they don't feel they can go to the police - inappropriate and uninvited touching, harassing catcalls, even sexual assault - and I'm sick of it.

I don't want Pullman to be the place that it appears to be, and I am glad that WSU has lately taken small steps towards addressing and acknowledging the problem. But emergency beacons and a nighttime transit service for women do not a woman-friendly environment make. The harassment and violence are happening outside the official and legal realm, between students and residents walking down the street, so excuse me for not feeling comforted by the availability of self-defense classes. The problem is cultural, it's not a joke, and I'm tired of keeping these opinions to myself. I've used terms as strong as "toxic" in my mind to describe the way women are treated socially in Pullman for years, and always batted it away as being too harsh. And then I read about a sexual assault. And then I read about harassment of people protesting violence against women. I mentioned the harassment happening during the "week without violence" to a coworker today, and she replied that it was "ironic." But it's not ironic - it's typical, it's directly harmful to every woman who deserves the freedom to walk someplace alone, and I just can't keep quiet anymore.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Idaho Democratic Party Fall Central Committee Liveblogging

I'm going to be liveblogging the IDP Central Committee meeting through the day at Red State Rebels. Stop in if you'd like to see Idaho Democrats in their natural habitat.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Idaho house delgation split over SCHIP: guess who's holding up health care for Idaho's children?

After Bush's shameful veto of the bipartisan-supported SCHIP expansion, all eyes are on the House of Representatives and the push to find the 15-ish Republican votes that would override the veto. Mike Simpson, one of Idaho's two representatives and a medical professional himself, voted for the SCHIP bill, saying:

"As a fiscal conservative, former dentist, and a person who believes we must invest in our children’s health and education, my vote in favor of the CHIP bill was a difficult decision.

"The bill ends coverage of childless adults and returns the program back to its original intent – a health insurance program to cover our country’s most vulnerable children. The bill also provides much needed dental coverage for these children in hopes that tragic losses, such as the young boy in Maryland who died from an abscessed tooth, can be avoided. Among other issues, the legislation prohibits new waivers to cover parents in the CHIP program.

"In order for a child to grow, prosper, and contribute to society, they must have access to quality healthcare. By improving healthcare and children’s access to it, we are investing in our nation’s most valuable and precious resource, our children."

Bill Sali, Idaho's first district representative, has demonstrated much more interest in spreading misinformation about this much-needed bill for Idaho's uninsured children than finding solutions for Idaho's uninsured. Sali's propaganda made its way into my inbox this morning, including this gem:

"This bill would raise taxes in order to provide a form of welfare for middle income people and illegal aliens. In short, this bill is going to hurt the people it is supposed to help, and help the people it shouldn't," said Sali. "This bill is very harmful. It takes money from hardworking Americans while opening the door to provide health insurance to undocumented foreign nationals, including gang members, drug cartel operatives and terrorists. Further, it taxes Idahoans to provide health insurance to people already covered by private insurance or those who can afford to get it."


The SCHIP bill, which was originally intended to focus on low-income children, expands the program to include people who are well above the federal poverty level - providing coverage to families who earn in excess of $80,000 a year. By allowing people with high incomes to join the program, it encourages people to give up their private insurance in favor of government-provided health coverage, and requires Idahoans to subsidize healthcare for people on the east coast earning more than $80,000.

Simply put, the Republican talking points Sali is leaning on are dead wrong. SCHIP coverage can only be provided to American citizens who provide social security numbers as is written in the law, and while it is possible for some states to increase the maximum income eligibility level (tied to the poverty level), these are states whose living costs far outstrip Idaho's. These states also provide far more tax dollars to the federal coffers than Idaho does (simply by virtue of Idaho's small population and relatively small incomes), and therefore will foot a proportionally larger chunk of the national bill than Idaho will.

I suppose it is possible that there are "gang members, drug cartel operatives and terrorists" amongst the ranks of uninsured American children, but if that's the case, there are more direct ways of dealing with such law enforcement problems than denying teeth cleanings and antibiotics to thousands of low-income American children. Sali has aligned himself with George W. Bush's veto and against the uninsured children and the majority of voters in this country.

If you're as unimpressed as I am, feel free to contact Sali and let him know.

Cross-posted at Red State Rebels.

Easy one.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A friendly reminder

I've totally seen this happen before. where a professional acquaintance of mine stuck a USB memory stick into a computer, walked away for a second, and all of a sudden I was watching a porn video. I was able to close it before he reappeared and noticed his mistake, but people - PLEASE - do not store your porn in the same place as your work documents.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Kate Harding has put together a flickr stream of photographs of people with their BMI category (underweight, normal, overweight, obese, morbidly obese) listed, and it's a total breath of fresh air. One of the things that's always bothered me about the portrayal of fat people in the media is that for the most part, there just isn't one. Bumps are photoshopped away, thin people wear fat suits, plus-sized models wear constrictive undergarments, and people in Hollywood seem to only come in two sizes (XXL and XS). Actually seeing people of a variety of sizes - and realizing how much they represent the people you see around yourself every day - is annoyingly rare.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Upside-down cardamom pear cake

I thought of pears, for a long time, as the worst part of fruit cocktail, except perhaps the maraschino cherry. As far as I was concerned, they were tasteless, gritty, misshapen apples, and not worth my time. Eating underripe pears only confirmed my beliefs, and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I finally bit into a somewhat post-ripe, juicy, soft red pear and fell in love.

I also have to say - I think pears are sexy. A pear just on the wrong side of ripeness and incredibly fragrant and juicy can't not remind you of soft, curvy female flesh.

This recipe comes from the 2006 November Cooking Light, and embodies everything I love about fall cooking. You can find the Cooking Light recipe here, but epicurious has a richer version that I'm sure is to die for. I followed the CL recipe to the letter for the pictured cake (which I enjoyed tonight with my husband), though I'd recommend doubling the amount of cardamom caramel, since what I made didn't quite cover the area I'd have liked it to. What came out was a not-too-sweet cake (think coffee cake) with a spicy-fruity aroma whose intensity surprised me when I flipped over and removed the cake pan. Vanilla ice cream would be a nice with this cake served warm, but I'm sure that allowing it to soak up a few tablespoons of cream would be just as delicious, if you're not in the mood for something quite as sweet.

Why do you think I stuck with the username "yellownumber5" for so long?

Amen, xkcd.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Blogroll shuffling

FYI, I've added a sidebar and updated my blogroll a little bit. It's always a work in progress, but I've added a few links to the regional and feminist links, so check 'em out.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Joe Francis hasn't published my email I wrote him on his website. I wonder why.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Is anyone else as amused by this as I am?

Kudos, bloggers of color

Dave Niewert wrote an apologetic post of belated coverage of the Jena 6 story, and I thought this sentiment was worth highligting:
None of the top-tier liberal bloggers paid the Jena situation much attention in the weeks leading up to the march, and those of us on the left dedicated to civil-rights and race issues -- like myself -- tended to let it slide. The bloggers who made this happen were all "bloggers of color" whose own burgeoning network turned out to be truly potent.

Fortunately, their energies made the difference in Jena, and now the whole world is watching and paying attention. That includes those of us who should have been doing so in the first place.
You know, he's right. I'm just as guilty of staying in my whiteosphere comfort zone as any of the top-tier bloggers who've been criticized, and I can't think of a more appropriate reminder of it than the impressive display of passion and action that can be very much be attributed to the organizing of bloggers of color. I'm sorry that I had to be made to pay attention, sorry to the students in Jena and everyone else who's felt their frustration.

Why - why is there such injustice in the world?

Forget* the Jena 6. If there's someone who's been the victim of a miscarriage of justice, it's Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild infamy. He's taken it upon himself to create a website explaining how he's been done wrong, and even wants to hear from you, his fans. I know I was inspired to write him after hearing his tale of woe. Any f-words readers who are similarly inspired are encouraged to do the same.

* In light of the fact that a bunch of people apparently have forgotten, I should maybe make it clear I'm being sarcastic, and would rather we not forget the Jena 6 even as we engage in a little schadenfreude over the situation of ol' Joe.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Would we have to call her a "Justicette?"

Idaho today became one of two states in the Union to have a Supreme Court with zero women on the bench. It's a dubious distinction that's displeased more than a few Idahoans. From the Idaho Statesman:

Peg Dougherty, the vice president of the Idaho Women Lawyers organization, said Otter's decision to appoint a man to Trout's seat "puts the state at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting smart women lawyers to the state."

"Idaho Women Lawyers is extremely disappointed that the governor did not take advantage of this opportunity to show leadership and place a woman on the Idaho Supreme Court," she said.

Our esteemed governor, not to mention the new justice himself, don't see what the big fuss is about, however.

Otter said he didn't fill the seat with an eye for gender. Instead, he looked for balance on the court and considered the applicants' ratings by the Idaho Judicial Commission, which vetted all hopefuls first, and comments from attorneys around the state.

"I didn't see this as a gender seat. What I looked for was the best candidate," Otter said.

And from the nominee himself:

Horton, however, said he didn't think gender would be an issue in the high court's rulings.

"My flip answer is that as a male, I wouldn't know," Horton joked.

Me, I don't find his answer all that funny, because it's a fantastic demonstration of the kind of sexism that's being displayed by both men here; the male is the standard, while the female is something different, something extra, that isn't required of a body that's supposed to exhibit a balance of understanding that make for a more robust interpretation of law. Otter doesn't "see this as a gender seat," because when he hears "gender" he thinks "not-male person." But clearly, Horton is working a gender identity (male), one that comes with the privilege that allows he and his superiors to pretend to completely ignore it.

How do we know that it's pretending to be gender-blind that's led to an all-male bench, and not true gender blindness? Because the chances of a court's members coming out to be 100% male in an age where a large proportion of successful attorneys are female are very slim. Looking at the numbers, it becomes clear that something is biasing the appointments towards men.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich...but don't make it too good.

In honor of Jessica's upcoming book about the greatest hits of sexist double-standards, I wanted to bring up this doozy of an article comparing female and male chefs that I found on Slashfood. The short story: don't pay attention to the fussy ladies and eat real man food.

Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith have come under fire for writing cookery instructions that are too difficult to follow.

Female celebrity chefs, it seems, are harder to understand in print than their male counterparts, peppering their books with complex language.

It found that 5.2million adults in the UK would be unable to follow Nigella's cooking methods as she uses longer sentences and tends to write in a "chatty" style, mixing in personal observations with her instructions.

Delia Smith's culinary teaching was also criticised for having too many stages and using measurements confusing for anyone with poor numeracy skills.

She also sprinkles too many adjectives into her recipes
This pronouncement from a survey of the cookbooks from five different chefs - three male and two female. The dynamics around power and gender in the kitchen are widely-understood enough to be featured in a Disney movie, and work out to be one of the stupider double-standards I've seen. Cooking is a woman's job, and a woman's place is in the kitchen, nurturing and feeding her family - but if you want to actually be paid to practice your craft, and encouraged in expressing yourself creatively with food, you'd damn well better be a man. But if you're a real man, you don't want fancy schmancy food you get in a fancy schmancy restaurant - you want cholesterol-laden, factory-produced bean lard mulch.

I haven't read any of these books (I've flipped through Lawson's books in stores, but that's as far as I've gotten), but given the by-the-book stereotyping this article engages in, I don't know that the reviewer would have to either. The women are "chatty" and embellish too much, while the men are direct and more efficient in their communication. Of course, they could have said that Lawson's more casual style is easier to approach for non-chefs or people bored by plain recipes, but since being "chatty" is associated with female, it has to be a drawback. It makes me think of how Rachael Ray on her 30 Minute Meals show always refers self-deprecatingly to herself as a "Chatty Cathy," and excuses herself for talking so much - even though she's the only one on-camera for a half hour. Are we expected to watch her cook in silence for a half hour? Given Ray's phenomenal media success, she's not doing herself any harm in talking through hours of television every day. But by playing up the feminine stereotypes expected of her, she can get people to watch her without feeling threatened, and then get flack for it, just like Lawson.

As it turns out, some of my favorite cookbooks are more casually written, and though it's sometimes the lack of specifics that makes people's recipes go bad, I've found that people shy away from cooking for lots of reasons - not just that they would rather learn to cook from a Real Man.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

8:20 AM, first sexist news story spotted

A screencap from this morning:

ARGH! I love how something that empowers a woman to take care of herself is pitched as only being useful to attract men. Because that's the motivation behind whatever women do, right?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Saw Superbad

Hooray for anti-date-rape messages in popular culture!

Sunday, September 02, 2007


It just so happened that most of the people I'm related to came to Portland, OR this weekend, so I ended up coming as well. No interesting thoughts, but here's a picture from last evening.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lamest sex scandal ever.

I just can't get too excited about Larry Craig being arrested for trying to get laid. I also can't exactly get behind the accusations of hypocrisy - sure, he's voted against gay rights, but he's also basically lived (and his career has died) by those unfair and bigoted rules so far. He's married to a woman, and he's going to lose his job because he's gay after all. He was in a position of enough power that he could make a double life work for decades, which isn't a luxury most of us can afford, and it reflects very poorly on his character that he didn't seem to notice or care. This is exactly what often goes very wrong when those who can buy their way into being exceptions make the rules, and I can only hope that Craig's crash and burn will make it clearer.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

We can handle the truth redux

When I posted "We can handle the truth," last week, I was aware that it would be difficult to articulate what I meant without seeming like a total jerk. And as it turns out, I wasn't completely successful in my attempt to not sound like a jerk.

I've had a while to think about the various responses, though, and a little bit of of news that has proven to be a good example with which to demonstrate what I'm trying to get at.

In response to my post wherein I downplayed the importance of the "finding" that women prefer pink, Amanda Marcotte says today:
I think the logic goes something like this: Armchair evolutionary psychologists are always trying to argue that women were born to wear aprons and abhor shoes and book-learning. Which we all know is silly. But if they can establish in people’s minds the idea that women are born preferring pink, then it’s easy to start convincing people that other, less arbitrary and more oppressive markers of femininity are also innate.
What she's saying here is that if "they" can convince people of one essentially biological thing about women, then they can convince them of anything. I like to think that people are a little smarter than that, and I think we have some good proof that they are. People are pretty well-convinced that women can be pregnant and men cannot, but they don't seem to be all that convinced that a woman can't be President but a man can.

There was a time in America when people believed otherwise, though, but not all of our understanding of women has changed since then. Women have not dispensed with pregnancy or convinced anyone they have. Women have, through hard work and defiance and legal breakthroughs, forced many people to understand their ability to do things other than bear and raise children.

We have plenty of empirical evidence that women can be full and productive participants in society. The empirical evidence is the easy part, though. The pink study did show a preference amongst women for a different range of colors than the ones men preferred. I don't have much reason to question what was found. The thing about it being encoded into our genes? Not exactly supported by the study. The even-further-removed idea that if human ancestors employed a sexual division of labor we ought to? Not even a matter of science.

We can pick the nits of these studies all we want, but we're going to be doing it into eternity if we can't convince people that the presence of ovaries or testicles in their bodies do not determine what course their lives should lead. To a yet-to-be-determined extent the orgns do affect how we live our lives, but there's a difference between "do," and "should."

In a lot of ways, it's hard to convince people that feminism makes sense in a world where men and women are actually different from each other. We don't have the whole picture of the generalized biological differences between men and women. Even if we did have that, we wouldn't be able to use those generalities to make assumptions about individuals. And, if we went ahead and made those assumptions, they still wouldn't be able to begin to address the moral value of any human being.

We could have ended up in a Universe that couldn't support equal treatment of men and women. The human species could have ended up with the males having vastly superior mental capacities to females'. Or we could have ended up like the anglerfish, the male's biomass being almost entirely made up of testicles, with little capacity beyond sperm production. I'm glad to say we didn't. Even with the huge amount of attention and money and time spent on discerning the Big Differences between XY and XX, the best they're coming up with is that girls tend to like pinkish purple.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pink is for girls, so it must be bad?

I've never been bothered by the pink-is-for-girls, blue-is-for-boys thing. It's utterly arbitrary. The way it's used to enforce gender roles is irksome, but a world where the colors had the same gendered associations but people weren't expected to necessarily lead such gendered lives - that would be fine by me. If that association were somehow tied to biology? Fine, whatever. So when I see a Feministing post disparaging a study that purports* to show an innate preference for pink in women, my first thought is, "Who cares?"


It all fits!

Via Gawker, a Tennessee state representative puts all the pieces of liberal hypocrisy together, spurred by the case of Michael Vick:
But does anyone besides me see the hypocrisy of some on the left who go nuts about Michael Vick and the whole dog fighting thing and yet are the same people who don't care about the loss of human life caused by illegal aliens or are the same people who fight for the right to kill unborn babies?
My friend Lee Frank made a comment to me after the radio show "Lets talk Frank" I was on this afternoon. He said.....

"If Terry Schiavo was a dolphin or a dog (or a wale)she would still be alive today"

I found it hard to disagree.I started to think.
How many dogs have been killed in dog fights versus how many babies have been killed in abortion clinics or by illegal immigrants. I bet dog deaths pale by comparison. But what do we see on TV every day on about every news channel?

Dog fighting is cruel and inhumane. But if Vick could have figured out a way to pit two unborn babies against each other in a fight to the death, maybe we'd outlaw killing children as quickly as we rushed to enhance penalties for crimes involving our pets.
If there were ever a cause that could unite the fragmented liberal interest groups, it's fetus deathmatches. Though I'm not really sure where the baby-killing immigrants fit in. Stay tuned to Rep. Stacy Campfield's blog for clarification.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Correcting an Oversight

Did you know that South Idaho political activist Jim Hansen has a blog? You probably did, because I'm apparently the last person to know. It wasn't until sitting down with him at a special session of Drinking Liberally on Thursday that I was finally introduced to the fact. It was kind of embarrassing to admit I didn't know, but I guess finding out late is better than not finding out at all.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Judy Blume Updated

I don't have much to add, I just thought it was cool that Judy Blume's books Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, and Forever have been updated to do away with outdated information and reflect current sexual health precautions. From Reproductive Health Reality Check:

While making the text accessible to adolescents, the update wasn’t without controversy; some ardent fans decried the changes as tampering with a classic. Blume justified the change as a minimal loss with great benefit of better communicating with today’s readers.

“No one uses belts any more,” Blume told The Providence Phoenix in 1998 “Half the mothers haven't used them. [Contemporary readers] have to go to their grandmothers.”

Forever is another Blume novel touched with up-to-date health information—and its stakes are older than simple clarity.

Aimed for an older audience than Margaret, Forever was written as Blume’s response to her daughter’s simple request: she wanted to see a story about teenagers who had sex without being punished by grisly abortions, miscarriages, or deaths.

“I wanted to present another kind of story—one in which two seniors in high school fall in love, decide together to have sex, and act responsibly,” Blume writes on her website.

Forever’s Katherine and Michael seriously talk about their decision before they have sex, and after a visit to a health clinic, Katherine receives a birth control prescription.

It’s that scene that Blume refers to in a one-page preface added to recent editions of the book.

She writes:

“The seventies were a time when sexual responsibility meant preventing unwanted pregnancy. Today, sexual responsibility also means preventing sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. In this book Katherine visits a clinic and is given a prescription for The Pill. Today, she would be told it is essential to use a condom along with any other method of birth control. If you’re going to become sexually active, then you have to take responsibility for your own actions. So get the facts first.”

Cross-posted on Feministe

Congressman Sali: I oughta get me backhoe. Can't dig very fast with this shovel.

UPDATE: Sali has apologized to Keith Ellison, a House representative who is Muslim. I'm wondering whether he plans on extending that to his constituents of different faiths who don't fancy being told their participation in government is not welcome.

Bill Sali decided to clarify his position on the fundamental right for people of all faiths to full citizenship in America in a newspaper editorial today, and unfortunately for him, he succeeded.

Religious freedom,
Christian faith important to future

By U.S. Rep. Bill Sali
Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

I want to thank the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board for its kind words in Sunday’s editorial. I am reminded of the fact that the Press-Tribune was skeptical (to say the least) about me last year, and to have it refer to me as a “thoughtful, effective statesman” now is quite a turnaround. Thank you for that expression of confidence.

Please allow me to persuade you to return to your original position.
But the Press-Tribune editorial board has reservations about me advocating that Christian principles form the foundation of our great republic, and they made those reservations known Sunday. So let me be clear: I support the freedom of every person to worship according to the dictates of his or her conscience.

What he appears not to support is their equal standing in society.
The U.S. Constitution requires there “shall be no religious test” for holding public office. Last January I took my oath to uphold the Constitution, and that oath is sacred to me. I meant it then, and I mean it now. Christians and non-Christians are equally worthy to hold elected office. That’s entirely up to voters.
But only the Christian kind.

Yet the debate over my comments boils down to this: Should the future of our country rest upon the Judeo-Christian convictions of our Founding Fathers or the religious diversity advocated by the Left? I choose the Founding Fathers.

Except there is the small problem that the Founding Fathers explicitly intended to separate the business of their government from the religious membership of its citizems. Back to that voter thing, though - I guess we could always amend the Constitution.

Our nation was founded on principles that the founders took largely from Scripture. Those principles provide the basis for our form of government and are the source of the rights we enjoy as Americans.
Um, no. We can actually thank the heathen Greeks for introducing us to the concept of Democracy, which is not exactly a Biblically-ordained system of governance.

The Founding Fathers did not envision the U.S. as a theocracy. But they did envision our nation as one founded on principles derived from the Bible. As an aged John Adams wrote in a letter to his old friend Thomas Jefferson, “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were ... the general principles of Christianity.”
The thing is, we achieved independence through that great Christian principle, war. (I kid!) Seriously, there is kind of a difference between reminiscing about how a war was won and sitting down and figuring out the nuts and bolts of a new system of government. And if the FF did not envision the U.S. a theocracy, maybe he oughtn't put words in their mouth to make it appear like they did.

The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self evident; that all men are created equal and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Those rights come from our creator — God — and are unalienable: They are essential to every human being. The Founding Fathers then set about — with great success — to make it government’s job to protect and respect those individual rights.
Sali, though, appears to be getting sick of a few of those rights. I mean, really, do we need ALL of them?

Our Judeo-Christian heritage is now being eroded by people who believe all claims about truth should be treated as equal. At first blush this philosophy violates the motto from our great seal, E Pluribus Unum, which translates “out of many, one.” That motto drives us to pledge we are “one nation under God.”
I think the expression Sali is searching for here is "My way or the highway."

If some on the Left have their way, our motto would seem to be E Pluribus Pluribus, or “out of many, many.” The only way to maintain “cultural diversity” and “ethnic difference” is to diminish and ultimately disregard the Judeo-Christian heritage that has long been the safeguard of our personal and national liberty.
Sali does have this partially right. The only way to maintain cultural diversity and ethnic difference is to diminish and disregard the Judeo-Christian heritage that has safeguarded the personal and national liberty of white Christian folk through genocide, imperialism and discrimination. It's an ill-advised and most would say un-Christian tradition, but it's history all the same. Most of us would like to keep it that way. Ensuring our civil liberties is an excellent way of moving society forward from such black marks on a cultural record, but Sali is apparently stuck in the past.

For example, to protect the language of every ethnic group, multiculturalists would find it hard to support English as the official language of the U.S. The Judeo-Christian heritage would protect the right of every man to know and speak as many languages as he desires, but the banner of E Pluribus Unum could restrict our official language to one, the product of our country’s origin and for 400 years the common language of the American people: English.
As many have already pointed out, "the banner of E Pluribus Unum" would have to restrict our official language to Latin, if there's only going to be one. And I hardly see how restricting the use of languages other than English (and Latin, I guess) will do more to "protect" a language than to refrain from restricting people's communication to begin with.
The Judeo-Christian principles on which our republic was founded can be embraced, defended and practiced by people of any faith. Anyone doing so will find an ally in me. But when principles outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition begin to be promoted within Congress, we should all recognize that the government given to us by the Founding Fathers will be at risk. That should give every American serious pause.
I guess it's nice of Sali to offer to ally with people who are exactly like him, but other than that, this paragraph is complete nonsense. The US government is itself designed to operate "outside the princples of the Judeo-Christian tradition," so that it can deal with things like, say, the free market, or Archimedes' principle, or any number of things that are irreligious in nature.

I'm not sure whether Sali thinks that the Capitol is powered by God running on a huge hamster wheel buried deep beneath Washington or what, but he's got some serious cause-and-effect issues going on here. Which I suppose explains why he gets so many other things backwards. Like whether the best thing you could do when you find yourself in a hole is to keep digging.

EDIT: I dashed this post off in a hurry, but I'd like to add that what Sali is talking about is not protecting his personal values from encroachment by others'. What he can't live without is his values butting their way into the lives of everyone else. He can't sit around and watch a Hindu prayer - he has to watch his prayer being pushed on the Hindu guy. He's working to protect Christian Supremacy, not Christian worship, and most definitely not American values.