Sunday, September 28, 2008

The tautology of sympathy for Sarah Palin

I've been following the late upsurge of liberal sympathy for Sarah Palin, which hasn't moved me much at all: of course she's a human being - it's a little embarassing to watch liberals congratulating themselves for noticing. She pisses me off too, but I've avoided the temptation to write her off as a Rovian automaton so far.

I really loved Ta-Nehesi Coates' assessment of people who don't understand or believe in identity politics fumbling them this season:
The Palin pick was the most crassest, most bigoted decision that I've seen in national electoral politics, in my--admittedly short--lifetime. There can be no doubt that they picked Palin strictly as a stick to drum up the victimhood narrative--small town, hunters, big families and most importantly, women. Had Barack Obama picked Hillary Clinton, there simply is no way they would have picked Sarah Palin. To the McCain camp, Palin isn't important as a politician, or even as a person. Her moose-hunting, her sprawling fam, her hockey momdom, her impending grandmother status are a symbol of some vague, possibly endangered American thing, one last chance to yell from the rafters "We wuz robbed."
What McCain has done to Sarah Palin is what Rush Limbaugh thinks actually keeps Affirmative Action and the National Organization for Women in business. It doesn't make any sense, but conservatives think identity politics are just a nonsensical racket, so they can be aped to divert its spoils towards conservatives. Republicans are going to have to remain very committed to bigotry to not learn the lesson in what identity politics actually are that this debacle offers them.

When Palin was first picked, I thought to myself that if I were her, I wouldn't have accepted the invitation, because I would fail my own ambitions, but also my ideological allies througout the country. And not just them - a bad President can make life miserable for everyone, not just his supporters. God knows George Bush has shown us this.

Ambition is a good quality in the capable. Ambition is reckless in the incompetent.

It would be pretty cool to walk into an operating room and perform a lifesaving maneuver on a dying patient instead of watching the actual surgeon sneeze into his patient's chest cavity. But I know I would only hurt someone if I tried, so it would be monstrous of me to try.

In the Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama does a good job of telling how running for office constitutes a public service. I admire the personal sacrifices he has made so that his political career could be possible. If he didn't think that America needed the changes he's going to make, he'd have continued getting comfortably rich as a lawyer.

I sympathize with Sarah Palin's desire for power and respect, but I don't admire it. She is the archetype of the kind of politician John McCain is trying to cast himself as different than. With running mates like these, John McCain will never lose an election to win a war.

I hate seeing Palin validate the impostor syndrome, but I can't look at the election of a possible president as an exercise in shoring up self-esteem Sometimes it feels like you can't do anything right because you can't. This year I had the weird experience ofing a long episode of depression lead up to the revelation that things were really wrong with me. It was my demons' fantasy, and probably made my therapist feel kind of stupid. I'm disappointed I got sick, but not disappointed in myself for it. Judith Warner writes:

You don’t have to be perennially pretty in pink — and ditsy and cutesy and kinda maybe stupid — to have an inner Elle Woods. Many women do. I think of Elle every time I dress up my insecurities in a nice suit. So many of us today — balancing work and family, treading water financially — feel as if we’re in over our heads, getting by on appearances while quaking inside in anticipation of utter failure. Chick lit — think of Bridget Jones, always fumbling, never quite who she should be — and in particular the newer subgenre of mom lit are filled with this kind of sentiment.

You don’t have to be female to suffer from Impostor Syndrome either — I learned the phrase only recently from a male friend, who puts a darned good face forward. But I think that women today — and perhaps in particular those who once thought they could not only do it all but do it perfectly, with virtuosity — are unique in the extent to which they bond over their sense of imposture

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A solution to the great going-out-for-breakfast dilemma

"So do I want something pancakey or something bacony?" Slashfood knows, and dares us to try the bacon cinnamon roll.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Can we please retire the term "precondition?"

Seems pretty redundant to me.

The capitulation of the lusty liberal

I saw a screening of The Education of Shelby Knox today at the UI Women's Center, and it made me think about the temptation to trade on one's privilege in activism. I've had lots of time on my hands since I got sick, so I've been trying to figure out if there's any kind of local sex ed program I could volunteer with, especially now that Idaho has rejected federal funding for abstinence-only education. Having never had an unwanted pregnancy or STD, I figure I can offer good first-hand experience to kids who are trying to figure out how to begin their sexual lives. I am not the cautionary whale. I also have benefited from economic and social privileges that surely have made coming out of my early sexual life mostly unscathed a bit easier. I had fairly comprehensive sex ed in my public school, and come from an economically and emotionally stable family. I married in my very early twenties, so I didn't have a lot of time to get into trouble. Middle-class white people in the Northwest US, who, it's true, are the only people I've slept with, are relatively hard to catch HIV from. So there is the temptation to say out of one side of my mouth that here I'm a perfectly good, unsullied white married woman, and out of the other that hey, stuff happens, but not to me!

It's not by happenstance that I've avoided becoming pregnant or catching any sexually-transmitted bugs. Birth control and condoms work most of the time. Over a lifetime, abstinence fails.

I basically am living the end result that abstinence-only education seeks, but if I were a lesbian, I wouldn't ever get to be the object lesson in the way a person can be comfortingly conservative and lustfully liberal.

In the film, Shelby makes clear that she does not plan on having sex before marrying, and distances herself from teens who do decide to have sex, and aren't conservative Christians. She can make political hay out of her identity, and in doing so, undermines her case for the uselessness of the abstinent-until-married ideal. Pledging abstinence did not help the youth of Lubbock, TX, so we don't have any reason to believe it's going to help Shelby outside of the political realm. It certainly won't hurt her, but neither will knowing how a condom works.

But Shelby is looking for results in the form of fewer teen pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases amongst her classmates, not guilt-free sex for teens. As far as I can tell, she thinks - or thought - guilt and fear are fair game for sexually active teens, but teen pregnancy and STIs just aren't necessary. To the parents and school officials in Lubbock, premarital sex itself was the problem ensnaring their children, and any means, like teen pregnancy or STIs, to keep them from engaging in it were going to justify the sexually pure ends.

If I'd reserved sex for marriage, I don't think I'd have ever gotten into a serious relationship with Andy. Abstinence pushers would call my premarital sex unnecessarily risky. Me, I'd rather have gonorrhea for a couple of weeks, or decide what to do with an unexpected pregnancy than have missed out on my marriage. Not only do I value my relationship with my husband, but I also value my premarital sexual experiences. I know it's cold comfort to be smart when you've been unlucky and had a great loss. In nonreproductive areas of my life, I've learned the intimate emotional details of when the smart decision turns out to be the wrong decision. You don't care that it was unlikely that you would get pregnant while you were on the pill and taking antibiotics, you care that you did get pregnant. I don't deny or downplay the downside of risk, but I revile and live to tell the tale of the intellectual dishonesty in abstinence-only attitudes about birth control and protection from disease.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

This is a job for Jessica Hagy

Via Feministing I learn my alma mater is up to no good again:

Mr. Ledford, women ARE human beings, and when we are denied the rights that men are afforded, humans are denied human rights.

So what does that have to do with abortion? Men can't be pregnant, so they have no rights regarding abortion.

When we talk about women’s rights, we should consider whether they are good things or whether they are the best things, because many people treat them as the best things. Of course, I will say it is better to have women’s rights than not to have women’s rights, but the only way to put women’s rights first is if we are willing to say — which I am not — that women are better and more important than humanity as a whole.
Funny enough, you seem to be treating women's rights as "the best things," and seperable from human rights. Do I need to draw you a Venn diagram here? I see that you're trying to include the right for a fetus to develop to full term in a woman's body amongst the basic human rights, but I am getting stuck on what you are actually saying.

Yes, I will assert that women's rights are more important than fetal rights. Like it or not, women in America are endowed with the right to abort pregnancies under most conditions. It doesn't seem very "arbitrary" for you or anyone to declare the right of a fetus' development in my uterus inviolable in a society where women are shamed and punished for expressing their sexuality. It has an intentional and chilling effect on the behavior of women, which it would be very difficult not to notice.

Note that multiple commenters at the Argonaut have declared that women don't have any right to sex if they ever want to have abortions.

Not all of humanity is currently residing in a woman's uterus, so the rights of the nearly 7 billion people on the planet and the rights of the proto-people in women's uteruses are going to play out differently even if we "arbitrar[ily]" decide that women get to control who's taking residence in their body.

Thanks for simplifying things by fabricating a competition for human rights between women and the rest of humanity, and deciding that the essential conflict between a woman's right to bodily autonomy and a fetus' desire to set up shop in my body is a done deal, with my right being nonexistent and my protestations moot.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What if your candidate died?

I was in the middle of a doctor's appointment today when the McCain weirdness came out, and when I heard that he had released a pre-recorded statement announcing he was too cool to campaign today, I immediately had to suspect he was hooked up to a dialysis machine in the mountains of Tora Bora.

You're getting kind of cynical when you think to suspect a presidential campaign of covering up the death or disability of their candidate.

The situation does look pretty fishy, though...

Please, CNN, having different views than your political opponents is politics, not hypocrisy

CNN has a cute/sad attempt at a gotcha on Obama and Biden having voted to support the final transportation bill that would have allowed the "Bridge to Nowhere" to go through. Sarah Palin is taking heat because she's lying about her political record with the bridge and earmarks in general, not because the transportation bill was unsupportable.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Confession time

I was just cooking dinner and shaking my head at Margaret Cho's weak defense of her sexist denouncement of Sarah Palin, using some pretty not-progressive terms in my head. Believe me, I'd get kicked out of feminism if the Feminism Arbiter were in the car with me this summer when the elusive PUMA was interviewed on the radio.

Chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce with greens and couscous

I meant to write a post about/take a picture of this meal on Friday night, but stuff got in the way and I figure that three-day-old leftovers don't photograph as well as food you just made.

I've dabbled enthusiastically in vegetarianism, but am downright opposed to veganism. Even so, this nearly-vegan dish meets my criteria of 1) tasty 2) filling 3) healthy and 4) quick. I picked it up from a conversation about go-to staples on the Home Cooking boards of Chowhounds, and it's usually at the back of my mind when I'm trying to figure out a simple and satisfying dinner.

The ingredients:

2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can chick peas
1/2 cup shredded spinach (or other dark, leafy green)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
pinch cayenne (I used one birds-eye chili, which I ground with dried chiles and cumin seeds for the spice mixture)
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup plain yogurt

Couscous, to serve.

Warm the oil in a medium-sized saucepan and add the diced onion and minced garlic. Allow to brown and soften, and add the tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer and allow to reduce for at least 10 minutes. Add the spices and oregano and tomato paste, and blend the sauce with an immersion blender, mixing in salt and pepper to taste. While the sauce is still warm, add the chickpeas and spinach and simmer until the sauce has reached a thickness you like and the spinach has a satisfying soft-but-not-slimy texture. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Once you're ready to stop cooking the sauce, stir in the yogurt.

Prepare the couscous, and serve the chickpeas and tomatoes over the pasta once it's ready to be eaten.

I'd recommend going a little crazy with the garlic - lots is really tasty in this. I've also thought that it could use a sweetening agent to tone down the acid - maybe just some plain old brown sugar.

Friday, September 19, 2008

My brain is weird

Tonight I had a grand mal seizure, but I feel good now. In all likelihood, it won't happen again, especially since I've started taking anticonvulsants again. I sat down to check internet stuff, and the next thing I knew, there were paramedics in my living room, asking me to lay down on a gurney, and explaining that I'd had a seizure. Of course, I don't remember anything, and didn't believe the guy.

This sure makes me mad; I was positive I was basically fixed up.

Effective satire returns to the media - thanks Bob!

Republican absurdity has reached such extremes that we are living with something of a crisis in political humor. Luckily, we've got us some Unbearable Bob, and the supremely-easily-ridiculed Sarah Palin. Unlike him, my blogging isn't very funny, a deficit surely influenced by having turned 18 in 2000, and developed a working political consciousness during self-parodic times. Bill Maher might say, "You can't make this shit up!" which is correct in my case, but not Bob's.

When the New Yorker attempted to parody email-propagated smears of Barack Obama by illustrating them on its cover, it was widely denounced as unfunny, due to the real foothold the wholly fictional smears had taken in the public consciousness. Things played out a little differently when Bob took it upon himself to fabricate views espoused by Sarah Palin.

I think the key difference between Bob's alternate-universe Sarah Palin and Fwd: Fwd: Re: Re: MUST READ ABOUT BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA!!is that Bob didn't demonize or directly insult. He dealt only with the words of a fictional Sarah Palin that would either charm or repel, and it required synthesis, like any actual joke. "Palin's" quotes were equally ridiculous as the actually-used arguments that support her policy positions, but they were not the same ones, and can't be used in their stead. He put extremely stupid words in her mouth, but did not just call her bad and unpatriotic and stupid. The Obamas' depiction on the New Yorker showed a couple that actively undermined White American interests. The Obama emails were either sincere or non sequiturs. If I had entitled this post, Barack Obama hates America, I would only be saying something untrue, and not satirizing anything. People falling for a foolish lie is funny, but the humor is in the falling, not the lie.

Bob's Palin is the image-conscious Christian Evangelical's worst nightmare. The New Yorker's straw-Obamas were Joe and Josephine White Middle American's worst nightmares embodied, ready to step off of the page and into the White House. There's really no way to exaggerate or equivocate that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Women deserve better than shotgun marriages and teen pregnancy

I'm not a fan of the organization "Feminists" For Life, though I've long admired their slogan that says  women deserve better than abortion.  Melinda Henneberger reminded me of this when she noted on Slate's XX Factor that Bristol Palin's Facebook account lists her as Bristol Palin-Johnston, and theorized that the wedding has already gone down, alongside wishing the young couple luck in beating the poor odds of a sucessful marriage.  Henneberger says that if Bristol were "frog-marched into church on our account," she's sorry, because "like all women, she deserves better."  

Abortion sucks, but I would find it far  preferrable to rushing into a likely doomed marriage with a baby before I was ready for it.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Blog issues

I'm having lots of formatting issues, so I've been republishing entries in so-far failed attempts to fix them. And while I'm at it, tidying up sentences I don't like upon further reflection, If something interesting disappears and comes back looking different, that's what's up.

Obama as a feminist ally

Via Daily Kos, Politico posted this ad, in which Obama criticizes McCain's stance on equal pay, and clearly states that the wage gap is a problem for American women and therefore American families. I have to admit that I was one of the feminists who feared explicitly feminist issues falling by the wayside after Clinton lost the nomination, but Obama appears to have stepped up to the progressive obligation to pull feminist issues out of the women's issues ghetto. It's just an ad, and I know those are easier to produce than equal pay, but I'm still excited to see his campaign talking about the wage gap as serious problem, without asking for the infamous cookie and head-pat from feminists.



Before I get too excited, I should note Obama has had a significant wage gap problem in his senatorial career. Add that with nice ad like this and you get plain old hypocrisy. To McCain's credit, this is not a problem he has. Given the opportunity to guarantee equal pay for equal work for all Americans, McCain declined to vote, spoke explicitly against the act, and Obama took time out of campaigning to support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act 0f 2007, in the face of a Republican filibuster, which stymied the passage of the act for the moment.

I think we can thank Hillary Clinton for making feminism cool enough again that the McCain campaign will claim it as one of its values and use a watered-down, tokenism-based form of it to prop up their joke of a vice-presidential pick. Just like no one wants to explicitly say they're afraid of putting a black man in the white house, the fact that the Republican ticket is proudly trying to claim to be the real feminists shows that progressive values are American values. It's a testament to the ridiculousness of our political dialog that Hillary couldn't object to the sexist smears against her, but if you're not a feminist, you need to say you are. Only dogwhistles allowed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lipservice is not a social service

Sarah Palin has claimed to support rape victims, and I don't doubt that she personally sympathizes with all victims of crime. But I also know she lies a lot. She also presided over a change in policy in the Wasilla, AK police department that charged victims for the analysis of rape kits. No one's sympathy is going to make paying $300-1200 for the investigation of their own rape any less of a burden. I don't care how a politician feels, I care what they do.

Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella said in an e-mail that the governor "does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test."

"Gov. Palin's position could not be more clear," she said. "To suggest otherwise is a deliberate misrepresentation of her commitment to supporting victims and bringing violent criminals to justice.


Luckily for victims in the 90's, the police chief Palin later fired, Irl Stambaugh, yearly requested discretionary funds for the department and used some of them to pay for rape exams, so there were no victims who were stuck with the bill during Stambaugh's tenure. The USA Today article says:

It is not known how many rape victims in Wasilla were required to pay for some or all of the medical exams, but a legislative staffer who worked on the bill for Croft said it happened. "It was more than a couple of cases, and it was standard practice in Wasilla," Peggy Wilcox said, who now works for the Alaska Public Employees Association. "If you were raped in Wasilla, this was going to happen to you."


Stambaugh's Palin-appointed replacement, Charlie Fannon, justified cutting public funding for the investigations with a weak attempt to shift the burden onto not-yet-convicted rapists:

Fannon told the Frontiersman that the tests would cost the department up to $14,000 per year. He said he would rather force rapists to pay for the tests, not taxpayers.

I'd sure like rapists to pay for rape investigations too, but that requires conducting an investigation and convicting the perpetrator. There's also the fact that The Republican/fiscal conservative operating principle that a government sins by comission, not omission, gets good-intentioned people into trouble this way quite a lot. Palin raised funds as mayor through raising taxes, and didn't have a budget shortfall that put rape forensics on the chopping block.

I am inclined to believe what people say about what they feel. It is also quite clear that people support policies that undermine their stated beliefs.

When the McCain campaign adds together a trumped-up number of spending cuts Palin made as governor or mayor, and calls them all "wasteful spending," they can construct out of thin air a narrative about her hard road as a reformer and ally of the taxpayer. Victims are taxpayers, and before they were shoved into the middle of this budget indesrcretion, had shared the bill with the other citizens of their town.McCain's heroic campaign narrative about resisting earmarks and porkbarrel spending sound real nice in general, but when it comes down to the specifics of what happens when the money isn't there, it gets ugly.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Face it: your minions will threaten and harass people whose personal information you release


A conservative Alaskan talk radio host, Eddie Burke is claiming to be taken aback at the behavior of his listeners, who have harassed and threatened the organizers of a large anti-Sarah Palin rally in Anchorage, Alaska after being given their contact information, and being goaded with this description:  
"They're a bunch of socialist maggots, that's what I'm going to call them -- socialist maggots, that's what they are, a bunch of socialist baby-killing maggots," said Burke 
Oh, and here are their phone numbers - go ahead and let them know what you think of their little rally. Burke has admitted since:
"Yesterday, I was probably a little over the top,"
Burke and anyone with any kind of observational power can't claim to have never noticed the threats and harassment that follow releasing the personal information of an ideological opponent to an audience that's treated to a denouncement of said opponent.

Obama says he doesn't think McCain doesn't care about how disastrous his policies would be, but that McCain just doesn't get it.  When we see this behavior committed by right-wing media personalities over and over, it's clear that they neither do not understand what the result always is, nor are they uninterested in whether their opponents are harassed and threatened.  Harassment and intimidation are clearly intentional results.  

The defense is always: Hey, it was in the press release.  But what local newsroom is going to receive your press release and fill your voicemail with shouts of "Babykiller!"?  Private citizens shouldn't need/don't have a secretary to field threatening and harassing phone calls when they decide to make their opinions public.    

From the article: 
Burke says he released the information across the airwaves because organizers had included their contact numbers in the press release.

Mr. Burke, the fact that contact information is listed with a press release is not an explanation for this behavior. Using the word "because" here is the hallmark of playing dumb about your real motivations. He had access to these numbers, yes, but no excuse for releasing the hounds. I know how you did it, but I don't think you've at all explained why.

All I can say is that Burke probably knew that his listeners' threats and harassment would be a little over the top.          

Friday, September 05, 2008

6 months ago today...

...I was in a coma after having a craniotomy. A few weeks later, Andy asked me if I remembered when they couldn't wake me up. Well, no, I don't. My memory from the week in the hospital is pretty fuzzy, unsurprisingly. I'd forgotten it was my 6-month anniversary for my surgery until my mom called me to congratulate me on it yesterday.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On Sarah Palin for Vice President

To get a little, shallow thing out of the way first - I am inclined to like anyone who shares my name. (There are a bunch of Saras, and even Sara E Andersons out there, let me tell you.)

As for the good, I'm of course excited to see a woman nominated to the office of Vice President. What I'd like to see follow is a national conversation about affordable child care

Regarding the bad, I'm really displeased to see such an extremely anti-choice woman pushing her agenda on the national stage. I'm also irked that she's made so much of herself by doing something she thinks should be required of any woman. Post-Roe, if you carry a fetus carrying Down Syndrome to term: ho hum.

Without Roe v Wade, carrying her last pregnancy to term would be a non-story. Her political side ought to be thanking its lucky stars for Roe.

I can be counted among those who believe she's utterly unqualified to become POTUS, should the situation arise. If I were her, I'd have declined the nomination.

Two-word verdict: not impressed.

As for her daughter being "in a family way," all I can think is "Poor dear - good thing she doesn't need to rely on the state for financial support. "