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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

One small step

My little sister is a student at Stephen F. Austin University. Stephen F. is a large state university with a diverse student body. They have on campus health facilities, but those are hardly comprehensive, so the university invites Planned Parenthood onto campus to sponsor events like free HIV testing. The service Planned Parenthood provides the university students is probably immeasurable in terms of education and health services.
The university is under alot of pressure from their state representative Wayne Christian to ban Planned Parenthood from campus, and it looks like the school is going to buckle under the pressure. Christian feels like another organization could provide better services, but he hasn't offered up any real alternatives as of yet. My guess is that he doesn't intend to. From his own biography:

Christian is extremely active in the community as a member of the First Baptist Church of Center, Lions International, Gideons International, Promise Keepers and the Christian Coalition.

Call it a stretch, but I have a funny feeling that this is just another method of using public institutions to force fundamentalist Christian beliefs on the public. An educational institution has no business participating in a religious effort to keep their students from being educated. A public university especially does not exist to push anyone's religious beliefs.
This is how the culture war is being fought. The religious right knows that they can't push too hard on a national platform. Instead, they install their allies in local and state governments and use them as tools to push their beliefs on everyone else. The health of the students of SFA has been reduced to a political tool to be wielded by people so deluded by their own religious beliefs that they think that they can simply legislate sex out of college life.
Take a moment out of your day to register your opinion on this situation. It's just another brick in the wall, but that brick represents thousands of students put into peril by misinformation about their own health.

Please contact Wayne Christian, representative of District 9 in Texas:

Please contact Stephen F. Austin University and let them know that there is support for the pro-education, pro-sexual health point of view:

To get more information on how to help:

"Cheese-eating surrender monkeys"

I know this shouldn't offend me, but it does.

Can we get over it yet? During the height of the anti-French crap, I had more than one occasion where someone would tell me, in ever-so-knowing tones, that the French are everything from mere cowards to genetic defects. And I would point out my last name and wait for the apology, but people who know so very much about the French never seem to realize my name is French until it is spelled out for them.
I'm not claiming I'm a victim of racism or anything like that, but I think it's sort of telling that in the cluster-fuck to pick on the French, people seem to forget that lots of Americans are at least partially French. For all the talk of the melting pot, there's still a sense that "true" Americans are not only white, but Anglo. As in English. I don't think I'm particularly paranoid at all about this--I've seen people as diverse as Garry Trudeau and Camille Pagilia express this. And certainly the huge Irish population of Boston still has a beef with this attitude.

*By the way, I laughed my ass off when they made the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" joke on The Simpsons. But if you honestly think that they were confirming your negative views of the French instead of just making a very silly joke, I think you might do better with easier-to-understand television programs.

Why is Condi Rice making a big stink about testifying?

I have trouble believing she's really all the concerned about perjuring herself. I'm sure, deep down inside, she has already made her decision about what she will do if she's subpoenaed. So why all the fuss?
Yesterday, I heard on NPR that Condi Rice intends to retire after this term whether Bush wins a second term or not. She's taking a dive. The plan is obviously to get the 9/11 commission mired in legalistic brawling over their power to force her to testify and forstall, perhaps indefinitely, some ugly revelations about the Bush administration's handling of terrorism. It's certainly no accident that her public appearances are increasing in number as Richard Clarke's accusations are sinking in. I'll bet they are hoping that her refusal to testify will distract from the actual testimony being presented.
As an added bonus, they are trying to create the impression that 9/11 caused utter chaos in the administration and that sorting through all the secrets, mis-steps, conflicting statements, etc. is so confusing that the press and the public just give up and move onto other things in plenty of time to rebuild W's image as a Christian solider before the election.
I am impressed by the loyalty that some of the Bushies are showing to the cause. It takes alot of guts to take a dive for somebody. Condi is playing the role of the evil henchmen in movies/video games. She's doomed and yet she goes down fighting, willing to sacrifice everything just to slow the hero down.

I am afraid of what they were thinking....

.....but since censors are usually appointed for their alliance with the most bas-akward thinking, my guess is that they felt like Americans would be offended if a slut uttered the Lord's name.
Thanks, Pandagon.

What I find particularly great about censors is that the qualities that make you a censor (uptight, religious, easy to offend) also tend to make you the sort that doesn't get any kind of subtle humor at all. And since being out of the loop is a side effect of being a censorious type, they miss alot of the really dirty stuff because they don't understand it. I heard Carson on Queer Eye make a joke about glory holes on ABC. My guess is that the censor just doesn't know what a glory hole is.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Right wingers call for another stupid boycott

A half-assed boycott attempt to intimidate Kerry from, well I'm not really sure what.
There's been alot of calls for boycotts from the right lately--Spanish olives, French wines, now Heinz ketchup. (Notice what's not on the list: Saudi oil, without which there would have been no funding for 9/11.) Now it was pretty easy calling for these incredibly ineffective boycotts. Most people have frankly never bought a French wine or a Spanish olive in their lives. Heinz ketchup will be a harder sell. And, as this article points out, the boycott will only hurt the company and not John Kerry. It's a weak attempt to draw attention to his wealth, specifically to make people uncomfortable with the fact that his wife is wealthier than he is.
Anyway, this series of pseudo-boycotts pretty much function soley to keep conservative complaints in the news, but I have to wonder if they honestly think that they are participating in honest-to-god boycotts. It's similiar to when conservatives scramble to call somebody racist to score political points, in that it's apathetic verision of "Neener neener" to liberals. They are fronting and it's an elaborate and badly executed mockery of liberalism. Because, of course that liberals aren't fronting, so there's a sincerity gap there.
Boycotts are delicate things, and unless there is an entire ecosystem that has to be maintained for a boycott to be effective. Most liberal boycotts fail for some reason or another, in fact. For one thing, the product or service being boycotted has to have a real significance to the community, both symbolic and economic. The Montgomery bus boycott is the textbook example--economically, the bus line depended on black riders. Symbolically, the bus was a microcosm of the larger Montgomery area.
Secondly, the boycott has to withhold funds that are being used to directly affect the issue at hand. Again, in the Montgomery bus boycott, the buses needed the money that black riders brought in to enact their oppressive policies. This is also why, as far as I can tell, boycotting Chilean wines was ineffective. It's not like the government was using vineyard money to fund their activities. Thirdly, it's best if the business being boycotted knows exactly why they are being boycotted or it's likelier than not to get chalked up to other factors.
And of course, boycotts work best if they are a matter of having the courage of your convictions. They tend to work best in situations where a real injustice is being funded. They're not really so great at scoring cheap political points.
I didn't mention the relevance of time or numbers in this. While both are certainly important, they are hard to measure in any critical capacity. Short, dramatic boycotts are best but hard to organize. Long-term, slow-moving boycotts are certainly worth undertaking. A really good example is how people have slowly been boycotting factory farm meat and turning towards organic meat. It's taking forever and it's still tiny numbers, but those numbers have done alot to revive the free range ranchers of West Texas. So keep boycotting Coors and Wal-Mart, and keep spreading the word. And definitely keep giving your business to small businesses, as it keeps them alive.
Conservative boycotts don't fit any of my criteria, really. Take the boycott of French wines. The vast majority of Americans could care less about French wine, and French wine-makers don't care about us. French vineyards have no control over their government's policies. Most importantly, there was no courage in the convictions of the supposed boycotters. They were in a position to drink Australian instead of French wines because they were still sitting their asses at home drinking wine. Compare this to the people getting their ass kicked in Montgomery in the 1960's. Or, if you want a contemporary example, the Coors boycott is part of a larger infrastructure of clinics and feminist organizations supporting birth control rights.
This Heinz boycott doesn't fit either. Heinz money doesn't go to the Kerry campaign. The source of funds is really only relevant if there is political payola at the end of it, such as the huge tax cuts that Bush pays back his backers with. There's no courage and no convictions. There's nothing particularly immoral about a politician being married to a wealthy woman.
Mostly, calling for one boycott or another is just another example of a Conservative Temper Tantrum, where they act like they think liberals act but because they don't really understand it, it just comes off as so much whining. Which makes me wonder--if they think that boycotting is just so much liberal whining, then what must they think of the Montgomery bus boycott?

Via August Pollack

Bill O'Reilly, friend of the common man

So long as he is white, of course.

Yeah, uh-uh

"We're not investigating an individual, and we're certainly not investigating Mr. Fanelle because he's homosexual."

This story is great. The kids ask a teacher point-blank if he's gay and married to a man, and he tells them the truth. One parent's interpetation:

I'm very upset and disappointed that this person was bringing his homosexual platform to the classroom.

He was accused of pushing a pro-gay agenda by just being homosexual. Again, this is an issue of inflammatory and utterly meaningless conservative buzzwords. "Pro-gay" means what exactly? Being gay? It seems to mean recruiting kids into homosexuality, but since that doesn't really happen, it's come to mean just being gay. So, one can conclude that "pro-gay" and "homosexual platform" just mean that a person has the audacity to be pro-him/herself.
Really, by that logic, everyone is sporting an agenda. For instance, I am pro-cat-owner, pro-gum-chewer, pro-panty-wearer. Well, that's a little silly but I am all these things in the same matter of fact way this guy is gay. The only people that seem to be pushing an agenda are the ones who are asking that this man lose his job for loving who he does. One way or another, they are definitely pro-asshole.

Via Alas, A Blog.

I wonder how they enforced it

And I thought my boss could be a little bit nosy.

Putting bumpers on a playpen world

Some more parents under the mistaken belief that because they have children, the rest of the world needs to come to a grinding halt to accomodate them. I liken people who think the rest of the world needs to change their tastes to suit 4 year olds to people who think that if they are married, then it's the rest of the world's responsibility to refrain from having sex with their spouses. They are completely backwards in assigning responsibility. If your spouse cheats on you, then it's your spouse who has fallen down on the marriage vows. If your kids are watching stuff that you don't want them to see, it's not my fault for wanting to watch that stuff nor is it the fault of the the creators for making money by providing it to me. If I wanted responsiblity for raising your damn kids, then I would have had kids myself.
I like this quote alot:

Exasperation is widespread, but so is acknowledgment that the problem defies simple remedies such as fines or new filtering technology.

Well, duh. People keep piling on new and improved ways to keep kids from hearing bad words on TV while blatantly ignoring the low-tech, simple option of turning it off if it offends you.
The sad thing about this is that censorship allows politicians an easy way to address people's family frustrations while avoiding the more complex issues that truly do have a negative affect on family, things like insufficient child care and education resources, an economy that is so wretched that it's becoming close to impossible to raise a family with even two incomes, and poor city planning that is causing communities to become even more unfriendly and disconnected. I know that it's hard to work all day and come home and do housework with kids under your feet, and since people don't feel safe kicking their kids outside to play anymore they instead park them in front of the screen to keep them occupied. Well, turning the television to 24 hours a day of Sesame Street isn't going to help anything--you're still overworked and your kids are still under-stimulated and getting fat and stupid. Better parks and schools and extra-curricular activities would be a good first step. Once my family moved to a small town, we barely watched TV at all because we were too busy with hanging out in the park and our extra-curricular activities.
Anyway, I'm not entirely sure what dire things will befall children if they hear an occassional naughty word or reference to a sex act. When I was in junior high school, there were numerous occassions when I flipped on the TV when a friend was over to visit and some gross pornography would pop up on the screen, because my stepdad had forgotten to change the channel. (And yes, I mean real, full-on porn. We had a satellite dish.) Mostly we'd scream, "Gross!" and change the channel. I think maybe once for like 2 minutes we actually watched out of curiousity. I don't think we were scarred for life or anything. I may not be the best example, but my friend who was generally the unfortunate one with me is married and quite normal, I assure you.


I knew they were going to do this, but it still sucks monkey butt. Sniveling, weak-minded politicians. Once you strip away all the blah-blah, Jesus hates gays crap what you have left is this: The court found that the constitution forbade discrimination, so the legislature caved into a bunch of religious fanatics and enshrined discrimination into their constitution. I don't necessarily think that this will lead to a bunch of other bills designed to force the religious beliefs of a fanatical minority on the rest of us, but I still worry. The Christian Right has been trying to dismantle our democracy and replace it with a theocracy for years, and they have won a partial victory in legislating second-class citizenship for people based on their interpetation of the Bible. It's only going to give them energy to use the government to thwack other hated groups with the Bible. Women in particular have much more cause to worry now.

Essay on Christian influence on American politics

This essay is good because it doesn't try to be all-encompassing, but is more an overview from a feminist perspective. Some quotes of interest:

"I would like to outlaw contraception...contraception is disgusting – people using each other for pleasure." -Joseph Scheidler, Pro-Life Action League

"I don't think Christians should use birth control. You consummate your marriage as often as you like – and if you have babies, you have babies." Randall Terry, Operation Rescue

I always find it interesting when little bits of truth about the anti-abortion movement's true anti-woman agenda leak through their thick wall of lies about protecting babies.

The "liberal" media strikes again

AP story via Yahoo about abortion.
It seems to me that one of the primary functions of right wing think tanks is to create imagistic language that colors people's perceptions and then pump those few choice and imagistic phrases out until they become the standard journalistic phrasing. This is a perfect example from this story:

In the outlawed procedure, generally performed in the second trimester and occasionally in the third, a fetus is partially delivered before its skull is punctured.

While there is a concession to those who support this procedure that is generally used to save women's lives by using the word "fetus" instead of "baby", this is pretty much carefull constructed propaganda. I highly doubt that doctors use the phrase "partially deliver". In fact, they call it "extraction". But working the word "delivered" or "delivery" into the phrasing has two functions.
First of all, the word "delivery" has a connotation--it reminds people of babies being delivered. So this word choice very effectively puts the image in people's head of a baby being delivered and then having its head beaten in before it draws its first breath. It's such an arresting image that it overwhelms the critical faculties, thus preventing questions like, "How is something 'partially' delivered anyway?" Using the word "delivery" to describe childbirth is a metaphor anyway, putting us in mind of receiving a delivery in the mail. So, how is a package "partially" delivered? It's not. If my package got all the way to Dallas, but didn't make it here, I wouldn't call it "partially" delivered. I don't intend to take this lightly--any situation where a late-term abortion is necessary is unfortunate. But it is important to point out that an inadequate metaphor is being used instead of the exacting term "extraction" and there is a reason why.
The other reason that "delivery" is used is because it allows the writer to describe the procedure while linguistically removing the pregnant woman from the equation altogether. If the more medically sound term "extraction" was used, the sentences would have to go more like this: "The fetus is extracted from the woman....." In an extraction, the person getting something extracted is the dominant object. In a delivery, the package is all-important. In the "delivery" metaphor, the pregnant woman is the UPS man--necessary, but not really important.

Great headline

My guess is the same mechanism that makes Star Wars work: magic.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Violent incidence

A couple of blogs I read have mentioned this incident where a bunch of right-wingers had words with anti-Bush protesters and got a once over.

In the end, James got his glasses smashed; Aaron took a punch or two, I got a scrape on my face and my knee – we all got roughed up a bit. In the end, it got broken up before anyone got really hurt. So to clear things up – I was not “beat up,” we are all okay and we stood our ground after things calmed down.

Yeah, I've definitely gotten it worse slam-dancing and that's amongst people I'm at least friendly with. Of course, this guy has to extrapolate that because he and his friends yelled some insults at a bunch of union guys that all left-wingers are secretly violent fascists. Honestly, I have trouble believing that out of everyone they could find to yell insults at (he describes it as chanting while union workers yelled at them), that the easiest to find were union workers. Seriously, pansy-ass college liberals are a dime a dozen at these protests. They have the time, the energy and they show up looking to get laid. I have serious trouble believing that the only people they could find were quick-to-anger union workers.
I'm not condoning the ass-kicking, regardless of what small pleasure I would have gotten out of seeing it. (Joke! Joke! Joke!) I have serious trouble believing it went down as he describes it. But I will say this: Of course there are thugs on the left. But luckily they aren't organized. On the right, the thugs are organized, and they have badges and riot gear.
These guys claim they weren't trolling for union workers (you know, those everyday Americans that the Republicans love) to piss off, but I am really struggling to believe this.

The union members let their true colors shine when they started making gay jokes. Yes…the people who are protesting Bush, who opposes gay marriage, were making gay jokes. It didn’t end with gay jokes, they also tossed out the incest, Oedipal incest, and pedophilic jokes. They were classy people.

Wouldn't it be fabulous if Rush Limbaugh started making jokes about how crass blue collar workers are on his show everyday?
This reminds me of the grasping for proof that the anti-war hippies in the 1960's were secretly violent. It was almost as if it could be proved that hippies secretly believed in violence as much as the war-mongerers who got us into the Vietnam War, then it meant that their message could be ignored. Of course, for all the grasping to find violent hippies, it was hard to prove that hippies were hypocrites about violence.

Getting out the vote for single women

A pretty decent article by Katha Pollitt about getting out the single female vote. Her main point is that Dems best kiss single women's collective asses the way that the Reps flatter their sexist male voters. Fair point.
A couple of things:
She seems to start off with the common error that liberals often make, which is that in her laudable respect and understanding for the diversity of human beings, she strays a bit far from remembering that making connections between people is what creates an electorate. But Pollitt is a super-smart writer and she backs up her point by suggesting that it's more than surface differences, and suggests ways to bring them together.
I like this quote she has from an activist: "They don't believe politicians care about what they have to say," WVWV co-director Chris Desser told the Christian Science Monitor.
In interest of space, Pollitt just says, well this may be true without really going into why single women are ignored by politicians. Honestly, I think it's just so much ugly sexism. Women without men are seen as non-entities still. Every legal change that has improved the lives of single women had to be bundled up as good for married women before it was acceptable, birth control rights in particular.
Another problem is that single women are regarded as "pre-married" in the cultural lexicon. Think about it--if I describe a woman as a "single mother", do you picture an unmarried mother or a divorced mother? Probably the former, even though the latter is more common. From a politician's point of view, the single women out there are just going to be switching their allegiance to husbands soon enough, so cultivating their vote is irrelevant. You see this logic in entertainment marketing, where the majority of movies are geared towards men on the theory that women pretty much have to tag along to the movies that their husbands/boyfriends want to see.
Unfortunately, there is statistical evidence to back up this notion. That single women vote differently from married women in substantial numbers is the only reason they got noticed at all. I've seen alot of articles about the single woman vote and all of them make note of this, but nobody spends much time fussing over why.
It must be much more complicated than a bunch of progressive single women get married and are bullied by conservative husbands to changing over to the Republican party. No doubt there is some of that going on, but that's an effect that is going to fade over generations as more girls grow up with feminist convictions. I have plenty of female friends who fit the archetypal, Sex and the City mold, but none of them would buckle under, marry and vote with a Republican. In fact, we wear our liberalism on our sleeves and are causing the opposite effect--it's hard, in my town at least, for a single guy to vote Republican and get a date.
It's more complicated than single vs. married. Married women are probably older on average and therefore more conservative.
Still, it couldn't hurt for the Dems to push women's issues to the forefront. It would get out the single woman vote and more of the married woman vote. After all, married and single women still have more in common than not, anxieties about work, sexism, birth control, whatever.

Yep, liberals are racists, 'cause Ann sez so

Isn't that just like a liberal? The chair-warmer describes Bush as a cowboy and Rumsfeld as his gunslinger -- but the black chick is a dummy.

I'm glad Ms Coulter (I guess I should say Miss Coulter. I'm sure she would prefer it if we could draw attention to her failure to catch a husband.) drew it to our attention that Republicans are the real foot soliders in the war against racism.
There really is nothing that is more necessary to fight for the improvement of the lives of everyday black Americans than to appoint a handful of black people to high positions so that when their judgement is questioned, the questioner can be accused of racism. Other than that, of course, there is no reason to suggest that conservatives are anything less than the pinnacle of enlightenment on the question of race.
(Thanks, Pandagon, for the links.)

Thoughts on education, the Pledge and movies

I just finished watching the movie Real Women Have Curves. It was better than I hoped. There's a scene where the father of the young heroine challenges the mother about the mother's desire to block the girl from going to Columbia on a full scholarship. (Side note: Something similar happened in El Paso a few years ago--a girl got a full scholarship to MIT and her parents forbade her from going because she would be abandoning her family.) The mother says that she wants the girl to work in the dress factory with her, because she herself had worked since 13 and it wasn't fair to have her daughter go on to college and not have to work herself.
It was a real "aha!" moment for me. I realized how this resentment towards younger generations, an unfortunate offshoot of progess, really framed the political debate about educating the young. It definitely helps explain that in the face of towering amounts of evidence that certain old-fashioned methods of education are unproductive or even counter-productive, people insist on them. Most people are familiar with the debates: new, more effective methods of teaching reading by diving in with the reading and writing as opposed to old-fashioned spelling and memorization, teaching math by explaining its mechanics instead of old-fashioned memorization, sex ed over leaving kids ignorant in hopes that they won't experiment, basically any kind of educational model built on teaching kids to think and reason instead of simply accept authority. Inevitably, supporters of older, less effective models of education fall back on, "That's how I was raised and that's how I want my kids raised!" A less offensive way of saying, "It's not fair!"
It seems to be the same factor working with this whole "under god" thing in the Pledge. Something outrageous like 90% of Americans support keeping the words in the Pledge, far more than go to church, and probably even more than actually believe in god, and definitely more than would like the government forcing religious beliefs on them now that they are in their adulthood. To keep the words in the Pledge, and in fact to keep the Pledge at all, is condemning a certain percentage of children to ridicule from classmates and, more often than not, teachers. Why do we want to do that to children? Well, I'm guessing the reasoning is something along the lines of, "When I was in school relentless teasing about being different was the way it was so why should it be any different for kids now?" Again, "It's not fair!"
Now I don't have kids, so I don't know what it's like necessarily, but it seems to me that the only adult, mature thing is to want better for the next generation than we have it. If for no other reason, they are the ones who will be looking after us when we're old and we shouldn't give them cause to hate us.

God created morons, too, apparently

The thugs with badges always seem to be on the wrong side of history. With this gay rights thing, nothing changes about that.

This is my favorite part of the deep, deep rhetoric of the "we don't hate gays so much as dislike them in a very hateful way" crowd:
"God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," the Rev. Wendell Runion told the crowd.

I wonder where the fuck these religious types think gays came from, if God didn't create them? He created everything under the sun, no? Or did another, wicked god create homosexuality? If that's so, then how is it that God is the only god and all-powerful that he can't stop the other God from making Adam and Steve?

"I have news for those who want to marry who are man and man or woman and woman: The Bible says that cannot happen."

All of this rhetoric is really dampening my enthusiasm for ever getting married, as a straight woman. Now that marriage isn't about love and commitment but about proving that you're superior because you're in the straight and godly club, I don't want to be in it. I don't think I'm better than gay people. I don't want to be in a club that won't admit gays or blacks or whatever. I don't believe in God or the Bible and I don't want to walk around with a wedding band implying that married=Christian. I don't know if the Bible-thumpers know it, and if they do, I'm sure they don't like it, but the state actually recognizes as valid marriages between atheists.
If our country really must define marriage by Biblical standards, then inter-racial marriage would be banned, as would inter-faith marriages. But, weirdly, polygamy would actually be legalized again, and women would be legally required to tolerate slave-concubines for their husbands.

Satan vs. the 60's

Well, we decided to go to Beerland last night to see the dance-off between Satan's Cheerleaders and the Boom Chica Boom Girls for the owner's birthday. Burlesque has come back and it's not only not disappearing but expanding. Neither troupe could really be called burlesque dancers, but are more properly offshoots of that sort of thing. Of course, Satan's Cheerleaders were around long before this rise in popularity for burlesque. They started off parodying high school football cheerleaders by doing cheers for Satan at Flametrick Subs shows and sort of took off on their own. This was an opportunity for them to do more than dance behind the Flametrick Subs and they took full advantage, dancing to everything from psychobilly to hip-hop to industrial music. They were adorable and fantastic.
The Boom Chica Boom Girls were just two go-go dancers and all they pretty much danced to were garage-pop from the 1960's, but I think the audience might have liked them a bit better. For one thing, garage-pop is more fun to listen to than industrial music. And since the audience was 90% male, I think it was just a sexual thing--most guys tend to go for the cute, clean-cut go go dancer thing over the slinky evil thing. But what do I know? And it's certainly not like these girls were all so clean-cut, considering that they were more skimpily dressed than the Cheerleaders and just as covered in tattoos.
Both troupes danced their asses off, and then joined together on the last song to pull Randall (the owner) on stage, tie him up, pull his shirt up to his neck and dance like a goober with a pitchfork in his hands. All in all, a fantastic time.
Burlesque and its ilk is way sexier and more fun than any boring strip club could ever be. The crowd is dancing and applauding, the dancers can actually dance and are having fun, and the clothes are silly and fun, instead of contrived semblances of supposed sexual fantasies. And since it's as much about dancing and music and fun as it is about sexual display, it's the sort of thing where men and women, straight and gay, can all hang out and have fun and get a bit turned on if they like. (Though I did hear one guy dressed as a woman complaining about the show, and I wanted to tell her that if she wanted to be a woman she better get used to being upstaged.)

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Weekend recommendations

If you're going out in Austin tonight, there's some fun stuff to do:
Beerland's having a DJ and a go-go dance off tonight. Beerland is like the coolest place downtown, bar none. And cheap, too.

Trophy's down South is having Honky and Grady play tonight. Both are pretty great bands, and I have heard it on the grapevine that there will be an absolute ton of custom hot rods out there tonight.

Book recommendations:
Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know That Liberals Don't This guy's thesis is that conservatives and liberals aren't even speaking the same language, metaphorically speaking. Even if you don't know much about language, etc., it's still a good read, because it puts alot of political dialogue into perspective.
The Blind Assassin. I don't think I've read much by Margaret Atwood I didn't like, but this book is particularly hard to put down.

I'd put album recommendations, but there's so many I'm listening to right now I can't really narrow it down.

Random thought

I wonder if the freaky Jesus people realize that if he came for them tomorrow, they would call the cops to report a hummus-eating potential terrorist? Or do they really, truly believe that he was a blue-eyed angel and no one around him happened to notice it?

If it doesn't attack women's autonomy, what's the point?

Two new bills were passed this week that ostensibly existed to help protect women against sexist hate crimes committed against them, but the only thing that got them passed was wording designed to reduce women's bodily rights. One of course is much more serious than the other. Of course, in the Georgia case, it's almost a little more insulting because they are pretending that they don't know that their bill banning the abhorrent practice of FGM is cleverly worded to go after adult women who choose to pierce their genitals. At least the assholes who passed the Unborn Victims act don't take pains to hide the fact that it's a step towards removing the decision to have an abortion or not from women's hands and giving back over to men's.
Of course what's really saddening about this is that the suffering of women who are mutiliated or attacked for being pregnant would pretty much go unheeded if they couldn't be used as a token to take away rights. It's putting feminists in a horrible position, because we support and have always supported the notion that women have a right to government protection against violence, but we want to be able to have that protection in the same way that men have it, without having to give up the right to autonomy. I fear a situation like in The Handmaid's Tale where certain feminists are tricked into supporting women's total subservience in exchange for relief from rape and other sexual violence.
That line of logic isn't as outlandish as it sounds. Fundamentalist Muslims are often arguing that keeping women locked in the house and veiling them in the street has reduced the incidence of rape. Of course, I don't believe that for a millisecond. Rapes probably just go unreported because if women can't leave the house alone, they certainly don't have the freedom to pursue criminal charges against a rapist who is likelier to be believed anyway due to his male superiority.
The Laci Peterson case has done alot to galvanize support for this bill. It seems like men murdering women whose pregnancy is causing them problems is a surprisingly common problem. Actually, not surprising at all. Sexism is alive and well in this country and there is no doubt in my mind that plenty of assholes get so angry about losing control over the bodies of the women in their lives that they lash out violently. This stupid bill isn't going to do a damn thing to actually reduce the violence against pregnant women. Anything that is going to actually address the problem has to reduce, not increase, male entitlement to control over female bodies.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Oprah treads out the kids having sex scare.....again

Will it ever stop? I think Oprah loves to do "Kids past puberty are experimenting with sex!" scare because everyone, conservative or liberal, feels guilty about both kids and sex. Conflate the two and our brains seep out of our heads and the pile-on of guilt makes us vulnerable to advertising aimed straight at people who wish their families were more like the cute, clean ones in the advertisements. And minor's sexual behavior is such a bogeyman that if you even remotely suggest that we all calm down and actually try to think rationally about what's going on, you are all but labeled a pedophile.
Please keep in mind that I am not a pedophile and I am not advocating that teenagers get pregnant or AIDS or anything like that.
The trendy "kids are having sex" scare is trot out kids who were caught experimenting with oral sex and coax them into saying that they were doing it because they didn't want to have "real" sex and then imply that means that little Jane, YOUR DAUGHTER is sucking off the entire football team RIGHT NOW. So you better lock her up.
Then all these fingers start getting pointed as to why kids might think that oral sex isn't "real" sex, which bewilders their parents who are pretending that they think oral sex is an unspeakable perversion that is only practiced by prostitutes. Bill Clinton is a favorite target of this finger-pointing, as are the tired movies, music, whatever. I never tend to hear that maybe, just maybe, these kids are experimenting with sex because their bodies have gone through this thing called "puberty" that has weighed them down with desires, and that because their sex education is no more than "penis vagina wait until you're married and babies are wonderful" that they don't have any tools to make responsible decisions about their own bodies. Really, I'm surprised there aren't more kids who hear about oral sex through the kid grapevine and decide that this is a nifty way to have sex without getting pregnant.
To hear some people waxing on about abstinence-only education, you'd think you could actually keep kids so ignorant that they wouldn't even go through puberty until their wedding nights. The debate has been whittled down to one team crying for keeping kids utterly ignorant about their own bodies and feelings and the other team offering that they should merely be mostly ignorant, so that there's a snowball's chance their lives won't get ruined just in case they accidentally let their hands slip too far after the senior prom.
I think kids should have comprehensive sex ed in schools, to relieve parents of having to have a conversation so uncomfortable that it's bound to go wrong 99.9% of the time. And by this, I mean comprehensive. I never knew somebody who got pregnant because she knew too much about birth control. Tell them what oral sex and anal sex and K-Y is. Tell them that guys who expect girls to go down without reciprocating are first class assholes. Tell them about every kind of birth control under the sun and give explicit instructions on how to use them. Lots of well-meaning people break condoms because of ignorance. Tell them that the emotional decisions are hard ones, but luckily the physical decisions (condoms, etc.) are a little easier. Respect that their feelings are similar to adults ones, that they fall in love and want thrilling sex and romance, too. Adults get ignored because they say things like, "This won't seem important when you're older."
Ignorance spreads disease just as easily as promiscuity. Everyone I've ever known who got an STD did so because there was a failure to communicate, usually born out of embarrassment which is a direct result of ignorance. I know that there's too much political pressure on schools, and that we won't be seeing effective sex education anytime soon. People are ignorant and embarrassed and sadly they work out their feelings about it by demanding that the next generation suffer from the same ignorance. This is all true, but it doesn't mean I have to kiss anyone's ass and respect their desire to perpetuate ignorance. They're fools and their foolishness is hurting the very young people they want to protect.

Pamphlet on gay marriage

Here's a straightforward pamphlet arguing for the right to marry. (From Alas, A Blog) I'm glad that there's an organized effort to take some of the protests against gay marriage seriously, but some of the questions in the FAQ sheet crack me up.

This is different from interracial marriage. Sexual orientation is a choice.
I love that argument. Who chooses to bring so much bile onto themselves? Most gay people go through a period of trying to be straight. Where else does the term "in the closet" come from?
I realize that people using this argument are asking gay people to choose celibacy, but the sheer bigotry of that is mind-blowing. Gay people don't ask straight people to refrain because it makes them uncomfortable. I don't want to picture ugly people getting it on, but that doesn't cause me to wish them ill will. Asking gay people to not have sex because you don't like it is just another back of the bus sort of discrimination.

Won't this create a free-for-all and make the whole idea of marriage meaningless?
Another favorite of mine. I was under the impression that marriage is meaningful because it's about love and commitment, but apparently it's meaningful because it's a country club that only straight people get to join. Some exclusive club, since more than 90% of people are straight.

Can't same-sex couples go to a lawyer to secure all the rights they need?
No, obviously, but even if it was so, why should gay couples have to put out all this time and expense just to keep straight people secure in their bigotry?

I strongly believe children need a mother and a father.
This is also a bullshit argument designed to make the person making it look pious while ignoring things like reality. When someone starts arguing about protecting children, hold your wallet and back slowly out the door. They never mean actual children. "Children" are a symbol for willful ignorance defined as innocence. When the word "child" comes up in a debate that has sexual aspects, it seems to be a shorthand for, "This sexual practice or language makes me uncomfortable and I wish it would go away".
In reality, laws against gay marriage hurt children, specifically the children of gay people, who exist whether homophobes like it or not. And there is no evidence that being brought up by same-sex couples hurts children, unless it's by being teased which is really caused by homophobia after all.
The other "child" argument is that since a man and woman can biologically produce a child and a gay couple cannot, then marriage is obviously meant to raise biologically produced children. This is an insult to all couples who have adopted, gay or straight, infertile straight couples, and people like me who choose to remain childless. I can tell you right now, if ability and willingness to procreate was the real underpinning of marriage, then I wouldn't be able to go to the courthouse and marry my boyfriend right now if I liked. They won't ask if we wish to have children, though. They'll just take our check and make sure his ID says male and mine says female.

Ugly backlash article in Salon

Here's another article about the big mean feminists who want to hurt all men. As usual with these articles, a handful of weird/extreme cases are presented, a handful of unsupported allegations offered and then it's all tied into an unrelated situation. In this case, the author presents a handful of cases of mentally deranged women who accused someone of rape and uses this to argue that the "sluts can't be raped" defense that Kobe Bryant's lawyer is attempting to use is perfectly legitimate. One quote from the article I particularly like: For some feminists, the dogma that "women never lie" means that there is, for all intents and purposes, no presumption of innocence for the defendant.
Really? Cool. Oh, by the way, who are these feminists and where are they published?
What's interesting to me is that in a lot of writers enthusiasm for this game of "smear the slut" they have to willfully ignore the fact that the defense is playing off racist stereotypes just as much as they are playing off sexist ones. The story is not "girl had sex with a bunch of guys and then decided to smear one of them for rape", but "girl has sex with a bunch of guys and decides to smear the black guy for rape", and using all the anxieties that people have about black/white sexual relations to introduce more muddle and confusion to this entire situation. But strangely, I have yet to see someone defend the need for racist stereotyping for Kobe Bryant's defense.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

You don't get any lower than this

The defense in the Colorado rape trials is trying to argue that since the victim was angry about being raped and had revenge fantasies, that somehow shows that she was setting these football players up to begin with. Are there really that many people out there who believe women are out to get men and are just waiting for an opportunity? Are there enough of them to seat a 12 person jury anymore?
I can only imagine if this logic was used in any other kind of crime. Say, a young man gets beat within an inch of his life by members of a football team for say, playing on another football team. After he recovers, he is overheard saying that he hates those guys and wishes he could ruin their lives. Would the defense be allowed to use that as evidence of her clients' innocence? Since he was hostile after the fact, that proves that he was a hostile sort and must have asked for an ass-kicking so that he could then ruin their lives later, after all.

Molly Ivins hits it on the head, as usual

Molly Ivins opines a lot of what I've been thinking about this entire Richard Clark situation. Particularly, she realizes that all the contradictory statements pouring out of the White House isn't going to hurt them as much as could be hoped. It's just Rove's tactic to keep throwing shit until something sticks, and it's as likely as not to make Clark seem confused and contradictory as the White House.
The moral of all this is that the best way to get media attention is to have the best, most iconic narrative and yours will be the one accepted regardless of actual facts. People have been hauling out fact after fact to demonstrate that Bush is lying and self-serving, but it wouldn't stick without any narrative structure. Clark's story is a classic narrative, complete with a gut-wrenching scene of betrayal where our hero speaks truth to the self-serving politician and is shown the door. Naturally the President's people are going to try to introduce so much clutter that this engaging image is lost.
The next step will be that Bush's people are going to concoct another compelling and easy to understand storyline and introduce it to the media as a distraction from the 9/11 commission. My guess is that since Gary Hart will be getting more and more airtime soon due to his own warnings to the administration that were ignored, and because it's Rove's favorite political ploy, some type of sex-oriented political smearing is in the works.
I also hope that John Kerry stays the hell away from commenting on this Clark thing altogether. If he gets in the fray, they will pull out all stops. You can probably expect to see ugly smears of his wife and children in this election, but those smears will come out sooner if he joins the pile-on that's going now. He needs to take a page out of Bush's book and at least pretend to be above it all.

Punk voter is hitting Times Square

This rules. Maybe while they're there, they can actually wake up some kids into liking better music while they're at it.

Howard Stern pulls out the big guns

Howard's really decided to go after George Bush with guns blazing. To rate a song parody on his show, he must really hate you. His song parodies are usually pretty funny, and this one is no exception.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

College Republicans

Since I work at UT, I get to enjoy the regular antics of the most oppressed group of people on the planet, the College Republicans. I sometimes get the feeling I can never crack open the student newspaper The Daily Texan without reading irate letters about how oppressing it is not to completely dominate all dialogue on campus. The huge controversy this week is that the university had the nerve to invite Eric Schlosser to speak on campus. Specifically, they felt it was wrong to give speaking time to anyone who criticized the all-American institution of fast food. They were going to stage a dramatic walk-out, but realizing that no one would really care I guess, they instead decided to hand out fast food coupons to attendees.
I've read Fast Food Nation and it's hardly the anti-capitalist diatribe that it's painted to be. It's an honest criticism of fast food coupled with consumer-driven suggestions on how to improve the quality of life and eating in this country. It also galls me how disingenous it is to pretend that fast food companies are suffering under an onslaught of oppression because universities allow speakers to criticize them. They want fair time, but fast food companies have much, much, much more airtime and support than any critics. They get commericials, billboards, and a Presidential administration that is willing to lie on their behalf and tell the World Health Organization that fast food is part of a healthy diet.
But what really toasts me is that one of the underpinnings of the supposed philosophy of the Republican Party is that people need to take "responsibility" for their actions. But it's a very narrow and corporate-serving view of what "responsibility" is. The whole fast food debate is a perfect example of the lopsided responsibility burden. For instance, the obese people suing the fast food chains are ridiculed for not being responsible for their health, but not many people are pointing out that fast food chains are making a huge profit ruining Americans' health and not taking a bit of responsibility for it.
It seems to me also that companies in a supposedly free market should be open to the same criticism that anyone else is and that they have a responsibility to deal with it. (Assuming it's true and if it's not then you have a libel case. Which isn't the case here, because his book speaks truth, a point that got lost in the whole "fairness" whine. Anyway, McDonald's will sue if it has a chance in hell of winning.) Instead of taking responsibility for their abuses, they are pulling political power to distract and distort the truth. And sucked into their huge whirlwind of finger-pointing and excuse-making is a bunch of College Republicans handing out free coupons as a distraction.
One would think that if you believed in the free market and individual responsibility, you wouldn't give your labor away for free to help bail out a company who can't take responsibility for itself.

Decently worded essay on anti-gay marriage fallacies

Dale Carpenter wrote a good essay on why the procreation-oriented definition of marriage is bigotry in disguise, an argument that exists only to prop up the ultimately homophobic reasoning against gay marriage.
Apparently, in this book, the author argues that opposing gay marriage actually devalues marriage, because it reduces marriage to a simple heterosexist privilege.
There is no doubt in my mind that the anti-gay marriage proponents are working a homophobic agenda, no matter what they may say. Sure, most of them cough up some language about "preserving traditional marriage" when they are asked, but scratch them at all, and their disgust or hatred or whatever it is with homosexuals comes right to the surface.
Listening to testimony about the anti-gay amendment on NPR today, I was struck by a woman who stated that the attack on marriage started with the Supreme Court strike-down of sodomy laws. In the world of logic, if somehow you accept that gay marriage would devalue the uniqueness of of straight marriage, sodomy laws still wouldn't apply. Sodomy laws lasted well beyond any laws forbidding adultery, which by any measure is a real threat to marriages. I could go on, but the problem with detailing heterosexual behaviors that undermine "traditional" marriage is that it starts to create a sense that there really is a "traditional" marriage that needs defending. There's no such thing as traditional marriage. There's not even a set way of defining the boundaries of a marriage. As it stands, our working definiton is more positive, where marriage is about love and family, and society's investment in happy, stable homes and the anti-gay movement is doing more damage to this definition of marriage by trying to redefine it as a privilege awarded for being heterosexual than anything else.
Feminism did more to tear down "traditional" marriage than homosexual rights ever could. It redefined the institution (and did so very, very slowly over a couple hundred years not just in the past 30 as pop history would suggest) as a partnership between the couple instead of an ownership situation. Now that there isn't a legal difference between husband and wife there is no reason not to have a wife/wife or husband/husband relationship.
And this is what I suspect is the real cause behind the antipathy towards gay marriage. Conservatives talk in euphemism about how gay marriage could poison straight marriages and liberals are confused. Spelled out, though, it makes perfect sense. If gay couples can marry, then it demonstrates that marriage can exist perfectly well without definite male head of households. It's a threat to "traditional" marriages where husbands have authority over wives.
That's why young people are overwhelmingly more easy-going about gay marriage. It's not that we are necessarily more sexually free. It has more to do with the mundane, the relationship stuff. Young men and women brought up on feminism look more for equality in their mates, and therefore do not see any real difference between heterosexuality and homosexuality except for minor biological differences that don't mean much at all in the long run.

SXSW strikes again

Or should I say, The Return of SXSW? At this point, we're far too many sequels in for a cute title. Of course, while my boyfriend and I are whatever enough to get into some private parties, score some free drinks, and even for him to weasel his picture into the newspaper, we still had to pay for our wristbands. All the same, a good time was had by all. We had a houseguest who was here to write it up stay with us the entire time and I hope he got a good balance of local flavor as well as the touring shows that make up the majority of SXSW. Saw some really great shows, and in fact managed to get into shows that some reviews claim were impossible to get into. I guess we've figured out the trick to getting in that out-of-towners don't get somehow. Well, whatever it is, I did manage to squeeze into the TV on the Radio show that turned into a nightmare to get into. It was great, but yeah, it was way overcrowded. We went to the punkvoter show early but left before even David Cross went on so we weren't able to get back in later. But that's okay, because it means that there's probably alot more dedicated young voters than I realized and there's always another show to see at SXSW. We ended up going to see Neal Pollack's show, which killed. I missed the Yuppie Pricks day show at the Elk's Lodge because I had to work, but my boyfriend took some pretty good pictures. Next year I'll actually be eligible to take vacation time, so I'll go ahead and do that. You need your sleep in the day during SXSW to keep going.
By Saturday night, burnout was setting in. A friend from San Antonio came up with his adorable cousin for the night. They didn't stay the whole night, but it's always good to see him. We hit a couple of day shows and then settled into Room 710 for the night, since my friend and his cousin didn't have wristbands and couldn't bounce from club to club. Still, it was good to sit and drink and bullshit and listen to music. Bisquit (from the Big Boys) was supposed to emcee, but I never saw him. Nor did anyone else. That doesn't actually mean he wasn't there, so if he was there and cracking your shit up, more power to you.
So it took a couple days to recover. My boyfriend's back to rehearsing for the night. Maybe next year he and his band will pull it together enough to play and I can get a free wristband. At this point, I'm thinking it's quite possible. In a year, pretty much anything is.

Conflict of Interest

There was talk today that the Supreme Court would avoid dealing with the Pledge of Allegiance case altogether by throwing it out because the father didn't have primary custody of the girl. I'm surprised that there wasn't any protest against that possibility from the right wing quarters; or at least, none I heard of. Yes, it would have resulted in a short term victory for the phrase "under God", but it would also mean that the Supreme Court would have determined that a parent with primary custody also has the right to dictate the whole of a child's moral upbringing. Since most single parents are mothers, this would inadvertantly undermine one of the major underpinnings of paternal authority. And if one thing is more important than forcing the Christian religion on the population, it's reinforcing male authority in individual households.
Alot of people have expressed displeasure that this issue was forced due to a custody battle, but I want to look on the bright side. Because it's a custody battle, it's turned into a metaphorical battle of Daddy vs. Jesus. Instead of being uncomfortable with this, we progressives should do what little we can to hype that metaphor a little. It could be fun watching the religious fundies and the sexists exchange some friendly fire.

After becoming firmly addicted to reading blogs, particularly political blogs, I've decided I need to start my own. It's not like I don't already have too much to do after all.