Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Friday, April 30, 2004


Clearly the fight against gay marriage is a fight over what and what is not taboo in our society. Conservatives have already lost this one, whether they like it or not. Homosexuality is barely taboo anymore, and mostly it's not. They like to compare it to the incest taboo, but that argument only makes sense if you think that incest means the same thing in every time in every culture, and it doesn't.
For instance, in the Bible it's clear that in ancient times the incest taboo existed for siblings who shared a mother, but not a father. Abraham clearly states that Sarah is his paternal sister, and at the time that wasn't incest because families were still matrilineal instead of patrilineal. Or in recent times in Europe, marriage to a first cousin was not incest like it is in this country. Einstein and Darwin were both married to first cousins.
The incest taboo is extremely flexible AND extremely powerful. The arguments based in some sort of scientific meaning are just so much bullshit. Incest taboos reflect familial culture more than anything else. The closer your relative is to how you live your life, the more likely it is incest to marry him/her. On top of that, the more people you know, the more relatives are considered off-limits to you. More access to more partners has more to do with why cousin marriage is illegal than any genetic argument.
Taboos are created by societies, not by "nature". Our society does not lend itself to a taboo against homosexuality anymore. That's a leftover taboo from highly gendered societies that don't respect individuality. We're free, and it follows that homosexuals should be free, too.
The flaw in comparing homosexuality and incest is immediately apparent to anyone who is even slightly educated in anthropological findings about taboos. But if you don't know why something is taboo or that taboos change, you are suspectible to arguments comparing one not-really-taboo-anymore behavior with something that is strictly taboo because there's no real way to know the difference.
I see that flaw going on this this discussion. Arguing against homosexuality by drawing on unrelated sexual taboos is strictly an accident of bad education. But it's an extremely common lack of knowledge. How to explain that without sounding like an "elitist liberal"?
One more thought on taboos and the "slippery slope" argument. The argument against homosexuality is that if that ceases to be taboo than the barn door is open and all taboos will become acceptable. Evidence for the validity of this tends to come in the form of "First it was the pill...." type arguments. Intelligent people are running around saying that we have to shut down rights for homosexuals not out of hate for them so much as if we don't have some grossly unfair laws enforcing meaningless taboos then society will go to hell in a handbasket. But even though the law has little bearing on what is taboo, even if it did this argument would make no sense. Taboos change and society soliders on. For instance, people eat shellfish and pork without any noticiable downhill slide towards paganism and anarchy.
So, even if you do accept the argument that minority rights should be withheld to cater to hysterical taboos held by the majority if it will keep chaos at bay, there really isn't a reason to think that the taboo against homosexuality, which is really 75% gone already, is going to make a difference.

Most under-rated band.....ever

It is a well-received truth amongst certain friends of mine and myself that the most under-rated band of all time is surely DEVO. Though we agree on this and generally agree on why (the evil monikers "New Wave" and "one-hit wonder", terms we suspect we invented to disable the meaning of the word "punk"), it's hard to really understand why DEVO never got its well-deserved hipster reawakening, where people realized what a treasure we had all along.
There a couple of immediately obvious reasons that DEVO never took off as the epitome of hip that my friends and I know that they are. One reason is the loathing for heavy synthesizers that has grown to be a tenet of the hipster rock fan faith, a loathing that is born out of the noxious and growing fear of femininity that is material for another post. (Though fear of femininity is pretty much my favorite explanation for the resurgence of faux admiration for really, really crappy cock rock and even hair metal like The Darkness.) The other reason is that despite the fact that it's hip and charming to confess to a certain amount of nerdiness, particularly past nerdiness like say, Star Wars fandom, DEVO is openly intellectual and unrepentantly nerdy. Most hipsters will never truly embrace nerdiness; they are just too damn concerned about their image and many of them are actually ashamed of the heights of their nerdiness. (I don't know why I say "them" like I don't know what it's like to be a hipster hiding evidence of painful nerdiness in the past.)
But those two reasons only explain why people who aren't familiar with DEVO won't like DEVO. In fact, if you take a non-DEVO fan who really, really likes music, you have an easy convert to the DEVO cause. My boyfriend came over to the dark side upon getting rather fascinated with DEVO's love of whacked out basslines ("Whip It" is actually a stellar example of this), and became even more intrigued when I pointed out that nerdy math knowledge probably has a lot to do with that. No, a number of people are more than familiar with DEVO's music and even know that they are a punk band in the "classic" sense, and yet they still don't get it. Part of that is that they too have absorbed the fear of the nerdy and the feminine, but another part of it is that DEVO seems to actually be pretty hard to get.
Listen to DEVO much at all and you will become acquainted with the concept of de-volution that they espouse. De-volution is a seeminingly simple concept that humanity has evolved as far as we can and now we are de-volving. This creates a sort of chaos in their music, swinging back and forth from sarcasm to anger to an almost sweetness. It also means that they are good at capturing truths about the links between conformity, fascism, stupidity, happiness, ignorance and fear that are hard to articulate intellectually but definitely exist in our culture on an emotional level.
We don't want to know this, that we are drawn towards conformity and ignorance and that it's leaving us open to embracing totalitarianism and possibly fascism. I know that's a weird transistion but I think it's one of the reasons that alot of people who should know better give the shaft to DEVO. They are very entertaining and completely hilarious and it's easy to get into the fun and then they will hit you over the head with the shameful fact that you, yes even you, are drawn towards conformity and it leaves you open to making immoral choices. In fact, you are doing it even now. They are mostly fun, but occassionally they catch you and make you look at your own self and it's uncomfortable. So alot of people just ignore them.
So, listen to DEVO. They don't let you feel self-righteous, but they are also so fun that if you can get over that they are a blast. They are great musicians. And since de-volution really has been accelerating over time (think about all the people who supported Pat Buchanan's run for real), they can help you understand.'s really a scam

I'm not saying that beauty products don't work at all or that there isn't a variance in quality, but this is ridiculous. I know resisting the advertisers is damn near impossible, when they make you feel like, "Okay, buy the cheaper product or don't bother to have elaborate highlights that you have to have touched up weekly, but you'll never get a job or a boyfriend again and it will be all your own fault," but most beauty products are pretty much a scam. Particularly make-up. The best mascara on the market costs like $6, for instance.
But maybe there's something I don't know. I don't think I've ever lost a date due to my stubborn unwillingness to wear Clinque's products, but I may just be daft.
Not that I'm superior or anything. I have my own vanity. I am obnoxiously proud of the fact that I am "low-maintenance" and that I often take less time getting ready to go out than my boyfriend. But if you're going to be proud about something, being proud about how you "don't need" a ton of makeup and hairspray to look good is cheaper at least.

Via Feministing.

Children or not is the real dividing line

Salon has a pretty good article about the first gated community aimed directly at gays and lesbians. There's a surprising amount of harassment the developers have received over this and that the residents can probably expect, at least for a little while from those who thought Jesus was just kidding when he talked about splinters and logs in eyes or when he talked about stone-throwing. (The Lord would never deprive anyone of the pleasure of self-righteous harassment, you know.)
This article made me chuckle at parts. From what I could tell, their real selling point wasn't the "open-mindedness" of the community so much as the fact that the houses were tailored to childless couples. The real breakthrough for real estate marketing will be when they realize the true divide between couples is the parents vs. childless, not gay vs. straight. As far as I can tell, that's the major selling point of this community, even if they don't realize it. There's a reason that you will often happen upon neighborhoods made up of young singles, young straight couples, gay couples of all ages and empty nesters and it has less to do with politics than it has to do with the desire not to trip over children in the grocery store, be woken up by children playing on a Saturday morning, or listen to parents screaming at their children. That and the draw of grocery stores that stock imported beers, wines and cheeses.
These guys have stumbled onto something like that and they don't even know it. They need to retool their strategy to emphasize the child-free lifestyle. The kitchens designed for actual entertaining instead of making macaroni and cheese with beanie-weenies is a good start. There are tons of straight couples who live like stereotypical gay couples, and my guess is gay couples with kids act like boring old married folks.
The rest of the article is interesting, if only that the freaky fundies are so powerfully offended by this. They truly have a talent for sticking their noses into other people's business. But all the time and energy exerted thinking about homosexuality, particularly for those who have an unending appetite for "disgusting" themselves thinking about homosexual sex, seems utterly wasted. Nothing whatsoever is learned. Case in point, this comment, which is surpassed in ignorance only by the inexplicable assurance of the speaker:

Murray sees Wilton Station as an example of the homosexual lifestyle presented in a deceptively positive light. "Really, there should not be a public sanction of these [gay] communities. People say, look, aren't these [lifestyles] wonderful? The reality is: They aren't if you look at the facts."

As far as I can tell, the freaky fundies really do believe that all gay people are miserable, freaky losers who just run around saying that everything is fine because.....well, it's not a well-thought out myth. But it's one that so precious that it can't be dropped even under an onslaught of evidence against it. Which made me think--this argument against homosexuality, that's it's unnatural and it's impossible to be fulfilled and happy when you are gay is pretty much the exact same argument that people throw at women (and occassionally even at men) who don't have or want to have children.
That self-righteousness is fueled in large part by jealousy is evident. If you doubt this, it would do well to watch anti-gay activists picket; there's usually one guy who will explain how "disgusting" gays are because they (fill in specific sex act described in extremely titillating detail), and he's usually the loudest shouter. But it's not possible that all super-dedicated gay-haters are all just in the closet. Instead, I think it's more that homosexuality has become a convienent shorthand for all the sexual freedoms that seem to be available to everyone but the freaky fundies. And one of those freedoms is the relatively pedestrian freedom to choose not to have children at all.
That's another reason gay marriage and adoption are "undermining" straight marriage. If gays aren't fated to loveless and childless lives anymore, than that many more straight people will realize they aren't fated to have marriages and children they don't want. And the comfort of knowing that you had children because you "had" to is taken away and you are left having to answer to yourself why you made the choice you did.
Apparently it's easier to bust your ass trying to get birth control and homosexuals banned completely than to take a good look at yourself.

VAWA committee concludes: Domestic violence caused by mouthy women

Trish Wilson has a great entry about exactly why the Bush administration has worked so hard at scaling back women's rights. Some commenters I've read on other blogs find this hostility to basic women's rights unbelievable. It sometimes if....they HATE women. While there is definitely a touch of medieval-style fear and loathing of women and their basic biology in some members of BushCo (Ashcroft, I'm looking at you), it's not about hating women. It's about preserving male superiority. Granted, preserving male superiority can look like out and out hatred of women, particularly when you consider the work being done to "help" abused wives stay with their "families". Above all, the goal of domestic violence work is to make sure that women continue to respect men.

“The Violence Against Women Act will do nothing to protect women from crime. It will, though, perpetuate false information, waste money and urge vulnerable women to mistrust all men.”

Well, abused wives do tend to come around to distrusting their husbands, and I guess if they are good women that's their husbands are "all men" to them. That might be the meaning of "submitting graciously". Certainly there is nothing graciously submissive about appealing for help to leave an abusive marriage. In fact, there is an internal logic to saying that staying with a man can stop the abuse if you believe in the wifely duty of submission. Odds are men who beat women do so because their authority is being bucked. Wifely submission can cure all family problems!

Anyway, read the blog entry. It's a good round-up and a good way to understand the inexplicable push against preventing domestic violence.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Someone just did Al Franken a big favor

Center for American Progress is documenting all the lies that conservatives tell. It's a searchable database. Bookmarked!

Via South Knox Bubba.

Evidence that the tide is turning

Hans Blix managed to come to campus without bringing out screaming College Republicans protesting his very existence. This is big news. Eric Schlosser managed to get more protests for daring state that fast food doesn't have a right to undermine labor standards and contaminate our food supply. If a U.N. weapons inspector can come to campus unmolested, it may just mean that *gasp*, people aren't so gung-ho about the war anymore. We can only hope.
There will always be a reality-impaired College Republican on hand to dominate the article with some outlandishly dumb quotes, of course. Today our Republican is Sachiv Mehta. After revealing that the U.N. has no "legitimate power" (legitimatcy is determined by College Republicans nowadays, not world leaders), he hits us with this brillant insight:

"Using the U.N. was a measure that had no use - it's almost like [Blix] is speaking with no credibility, because he has no authority behind what he's saying," Mehta said. "I think the central point is that there was bad intelligence."

From what I can figure, he's saying that while Blix was right and Bush was wrong, Blix was still the one with "bad intelligence". I can only imagine what he says to teachers who mark his answers wrong on tests.

Because we're smarter and that's all you need to know

This post by Billmon about how Iraq is devolving into Vietnam at lightning speed got me to thinking. Particularly this part:

In a sense, it's a triumph for conservatism. In just a year, the Bush administration has managed to repeated almost every mistake the Johnson White House and Pentagon made in Vietnam, thus providing some empirical support for the argument that Big Government is inherently disfunctional.

First of all, that's just funny. But it got me to thinking--why exactly did BushCo think that they could succeed where others have failed? I mean, the list of reasons that Vietnam was a bad idea and we couldn't win are as long as my arm, but the basic reasons are the exact same ones as why Iraq is a bad idea. It's a substitute for fighting the real enemy, in part because the real enemy is too hard to fight. It's injecting ourselves in a situation that's been brewing for a long time. We have no real objectives or game plan to point to. The government lied to the public to get into the situation in the first place. Etc., etc.
So why do they think they can succeed? Well, because it's a tenet of faith in the Republican party that we actually could have won Vietnam if Johnson wasn't such a pussy. We lost because Democrats are pussies and that's all you need to know. We couldn't lose this war because we had Real Men in charge.
That Democrats are pussies and Republicans are real men is a tenet of faith is easy to demonstrate. Any random comment by Ann Coulter will do. It's why it seemed like a good strategy to force the issue of comparing Bush and Kerry's war records. It's the same strategy as bringing Jesus into the conversation. Reason flies out the windom and now you're arguing about faith.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


It was the snotty little comment about cake that clinched it for Marie Antoniette.

I'm just saying.

More email nonsense

1: Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4, what does it say?
"There seems to be an inordinate number of movies about mankind going to war with machines."

2: Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?
My dead staples cup.

3: What is the last thing you watched on TV?
That 70's Show

4: WITHOUT LOOKING, what time is it?

5: Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?

6: With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
A coworker filing stuff.

7: When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
Lunch. Taking a walk and reading. It's cloudy out and weirdly chilly for Texas.

8: Before you came to this questionaire, what did you look at?
Um, someone else's blog. It's a dirty habit, I know.

9: What are you wearing?
Blue jeans and a blue T-shirt. It's casual Wednesday! Also, blue day for some reason. Almost everyone chose a blue shirt to wear today. We're a Smurfy office.

10: Did you dream last night?

11: When did you last laugh?
A few minutes ago at discovering that someone changed his signin name to "boobs".

12: What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Calendar, bulletin board, painting of a cat with a ball of yarn which is cooler than it sounds.

13: What is the last film you saw?
According to Netflix, Buffalo 66.

14: If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?
My house. And then I would buy another house close into town. And then sell the house I have now.

15: Tell me something about you that I don't know.
I call my cat Max Power. It makes him sound like a superhero. But I got it off Homer Simpson, who got it off a blow dryer.

16: If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or
politics, what would you do?
Probably make people stop listening to Creed. Is that too political?

17: Do you like to dance?
Yes, but other people would like me not to.

18: Do you like crossword puzzles?
I go through phases. I'm okay at them.

19a: Imagine your first (or next) child is a girl, what do you call her?
Max Power.

19b: Imagine your first (or next) child is a boy, what do you call him?
Max Power

20: Would you ever consider living abroad?
I tend to consider it at least once a day while reading the news.


Through Salon.

It's more than critical health information. The Bush administration has decided that as well as they can control it, you should not have any information that might drive you to consider the wisdom of feminism. Here's a report detailing what information has been taken off of government websites that might be useful to you, might have some bearing on how you vote. I thought we were against Communists in part because they practiced thought control.

Things That the Bush Administration Doesn't Want You to Know
or, Don't worry, pretty lady, we'll take care of this.

*Condoms will help protect you from disease if you have sex.
*Abortion will not give you breast cancer.
*Abstinence-only programs don't work and in fact can be dangerous.
*You have rights in the workplaces that the government has enshrined in law.
*Women are still making 76 to a man's dollar, and that's been true for a long, long time.
*Emergency contraception is safe for over-the-counter use and the only reason you can't have it is political.
*They generally don't want you to know a damn thing about STD's, as is evidenced by the constant harassment of people doing genuine, non-political research of those diseases.
*If you are in an abusive relationship, there is help for you.
*Women are being discriminated against and outright abused in the military.
*Victims of domestic violence are being systematically discriminated against by insurance companies.
*It is illegal to discriminate against gay government employees. (On top of trying to spread ignorance, they are trying to make it like it was never true that discrimination was illegal. Wishing makes it so, eh?)

And that's just the first term. If they win a second term and don't have to worry about scaring off voters, imagine what could come of it.

Smackdown on Bush

Neal Pollack has a good entry: George Bush Contacts the Family of a Dead Solider.

There goes my plan to post nekkid girlie pictures

The government is going to start cruising the blogs looking for "information". We ordinary Americans see "information" gathering as something the FBI and CIA do to look for terrorists. But this is Ashcroft's America, so "information" is mostly going to be evidence that women are getting abortions and pictures of stuff that gives Ashcroft an erection.
Guess what other nation actively tracks blogs!

At least one nation, China, is actively tracking blogs. It's also reportedly trying to block blogs. Several press reports earlier this year said the government shut two blogging services and banned access to all Web logs by Chinese citizens.

Via August Pollack.

Why popular music sucks so bad

Popular music is subversive. Or it's supposed to be, at least. Not always in a serious way. Usually it's playful, fun, sexual, preposterous, free. Just by being these things it's subversive; it embraces the very things that are frowned on by our puritanical culture. And because of this, shortly after people began to make recordings, music was the dominant medium for the voiceless to find their voices. For a century now, young people and black people have been leading the charge, changing music and creating a permanent state of panic for the dominant culture. And popular music has stubbornly refused to go away. Selling records is big business, so censoring popular music out of existence is not an option. Instead, there seems to be a loose conspiracy of sorts to pretend that popular music, particularly rock music, springs from the soul of the most under-represented, voiceless people in history--white guys.
Rolling Stone magazine is the predominant periodical of the No, It Was Actually a Bunch of White Guys movement. Periodically, they release Best Of issues, not only to sell magazines but also to reinforce the mythology that has become so dear, that popular music is about White Guyness. And now they've done it again.
They've gotten better about throwing a couple of bones in the direction of those of us who know the true diversity of popular music. For instance, there is actually a black artist in the top ten greatest albums of all time! (#6-Marvin Gaye, who should definitely be many spots above the Beatles in a just world.) Noticeably missing is the artist who gave the stupid magazine its name with his song "Rolling Stone"--Muddy Waters. He does show up at #38, probably only because they remembered that they owed him a big one. But there's room for 4 Beatles records and 2 Dylan records! (Granted, it's pretty much impossible to include most recordings before the 1960's, as they didn't really make "albums" then. I'll give them a pass on that. It would be great if they did try 500 greatest recordings, though. "Good Golly Miss Molly" is worth the entire Beatles catalog, in my opinion.)
The first female-headed band or female solo artist doesn't show up until #30, and then of course it's a nice, safe Joni Mitchell. You finally get a female artist who pushes the envelope a little at #44, Patti Smith. The first hip-hop album doesn't show up until #48, Public Enemy. The Allman Brothers rank above Little Richard! It's a nightmare. Girl groups get their due in a Phil Spector box set, and isn't that enough?
It's not just that black musicians, non-Boomer musicians, and female musicians get the shaft. The great diversity of popular music is ignored in favor of elevating the wave of masturbatory cock rock. (In the top 100: 4 Led Zepplin albums, 9 Beatles records, 4 Rolling Stones records.) They seem to figure that Miles Davis and John Coltrane are all you need to represent jazz. Of course, punk rock is my favorite music and I always feel that it gets the shaft. Out of the top 100, there are only 7 punk or punkish albums, and that's stretching to include the Velvet Underground and Nirvana. The Ramones, whose music should be regarded as the equivalent of setting a bomb off in the middle of the guitar solo wank-a-thon that rock music was at the time don't show up until #33. The Rolling Stone has good reason to hate underground, punk and art rock, since all these are giving them the big ol' finger. Too bad. Yes, it's never sold very well, but these are often the only bands doing original work, reinventing rock music and keeping it alive.
I'm sure these criticisms would amaze the people who compiled this list. No doubt they think of themselves hip and with it because they know who Public Enemy is, and what more do you want? It was enshrined in the 1970's that the Beatles are the greatest band of all time, and even though time has shown that in the long run, they are of interest to musical history but don't really have alot of influence, no one sent the memo to the folks at The Rolling Stone.
The problem with lists like this is that by stating that the greatest artists of all time all played the same tired white guy rock, you justify record companies decisions to promote that music above all others and radio stations who play that music instead of anything else, even and especially on stations that comically call themselves "alternative". There is no reason to push the envelope, because fans read these lists and say, "Well music sucks now because the heyday of great music is over." There's a cycle where the record industries put out and promote nothing but identical white guy bands and the magazines, radio stations and therefore record-buying public reinforce them by only buying it and the music just devolves into the crap you hear on the radio now, every band sounding like a variation on Pearl Jam.
This cycle won't be stopped by jerk-off magazines like The Rolling Stone and certainly not by the record industry or radio stations, all predominantly run by middle-aged white men who have way too much ego invested in their belief that men like themselves are the only true rock geniuses of all time. The only way that music is going to get better is if music fans make the effort to diversify their own tastes and throw their support behind artists who step out of the mold. After all, black musicians have managed to keep putting out albums and selling them despite sometimes open hostility from the industry and only because their fan base stayed loyal.
I got the Rolling Stone link through a link to the forum for the band Ween that was sent to me. Some of the comments on there were quite telling. There was complaining, thank goodness, that the Beatles didn't need to utterly dominate the list and that kicking them out would have made more space. (I would post the link, but it's not working for some reason.) But sadly, there were people who were complaining about what musicians did provide some diversity on the list. What really startled me was a poster who complained about Prince reaching #73 for Purple Rain. If Prince was born with the same amount of talent, but as a white boy in England and was a little older, he'd probably be heralded as the Second Coming and would definitely be in the top ten. But he's black and not a little weird and he threatens straight white guys and he's pushed down to #73 and even that relatively low rank is being questioned.
Music is not going to get better unless the audience demands that it gets better. And the audience isn't going to demand it unless they get over knee-jerk hatred of anything weird or different than themselves. If you find yourself getting annoyed at the monotonous crap on the radio, go home and look over your record collection. How much funk do you own? Hip-hop? Real punk rock? Art rock? Jazz? How many of the musicians aren't white? How many women? How much of it is published on independent labels? It's one thing to have a particular kind of music that you like and lean towards that. It's another not to see how your own prejudice is helping contribute to the creative bankruptcy that is dominating the industry.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Not above criticism

I'm sorry, but religion is just not above criticism. I don't know how that idea got out, but naturally the freaky Christians love that idea.
And now, taking a page out of the BushCo manual, some Christians have decided even the slightest criticism must be met with a full-on, out-of-proportion retaliation. Of course, they haven't yet grasped that most Christians who read the book probably wouldn't have even realized it attacked their faith unless it was pointed out to them. Oops.
At least they aren't calling for censorship, which is an improvement over the New York art debacle.

More page 23, 5th sentence

America's Women by Gail Collins.

There were nineteen adult women on board, all but one married, along with seven young girls and a handful of small children.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken.

And as I, a fellow Democrat, began to gain his trust, Glenn opened up to me about just how much he hates America.


Wampum's on it.

More great photos from the march

These are great. The mainstream press tends to favor photos of women shouting, the angrier they look the better. Not that there aren't things to be angry about, but that's not all that feminism is about.

Good for them.

Old ladies and Christians are pro-choice, too, you know.

Whole families showed up.

Looks like fun. I wish I could have gone.

I'm not endorsing this....

....but if I saw these stickers slapped on SUV's I would laugh pretty hard.

Let's hope Sandra didn't wake up with a horse's head this morning

Because Dick Cheney tries to justify hiding his evil plans from the voters today. Honestly, at this point in the administration, most of the cases are pre-decided. They could probably just call Nina Totenberg and ask her how each vote will go and call it a day. Of course, that won't work because Totenberg is a consumate professional and would never go for it. For god's sake, the woman reads Scalia's opinions in a tone that implies they might be anything but paranoid drivel. My hat's off to her.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Pics from the march

Just ones I particularly like from Yahoo!

This guy looks like he's going to cry. Have women ever paid him this much attention?

The coverage tried to show "both sides". But, like I always like to say, We got the numbers!

I'll bet this guy is easy to confuse. Ask him if gay fetuses should be aborted.

Biggest march ever.

Good to see politicians fearlessly marched.

Loving life looks like this, not this.

Largest march ever

That's what I'm hearing. Even the more conservative estimates put the number of people marching for women at over a million. I guess this shows that people are quite aware how women's rights are being threatened by this administration. The media is doing what it can to ignore this. Women's rights have always suffered under-reporting because of the knee-jerk belief that women don't really have anything to say worth listening to. But still, this is pretty hard to ignore. Congrats to everyone who busted their ass to make this happen!
I heard some people expressing surprise that the media, even Fox News, is admitting there were more than a million people out there. That's great! That means it was surely more than that.

Adjectives will be the death of marriage

Through Alas, a Blog.

David Blankenhorn argues that what will kill marriage is using adjectives to distinguish one marriage from another. He firmly believes that marriage is an institution that is so powerful that every couple in it must wedge themselves into the standard form regardless of their personalities or needs, must less their sexes. And who gets to decide what the standard form is? Well, Blankenhorn has a great solution for deciding what the definition--whatever Blankenhorn says it is! Thank god the debate is over! Why didn't we think of this before?
One distinction that doesn't need to be made is healthy or unhealthy marriages.

Take an example: "healthy" marriage. I understand where this comes from. But it troubles me. Are you for marriage? Well, not really. I am for "healthy" marriage. Regular old marriage, you see, might be full of all kinds of problems, like domestic violence, unhappiness, patriarchy, and rigid sex roles. (Do you like to play tennis? Not really. But I do from time to time enjoy "healthy tennis." You know, tennis that's not ... unhealthy.)

Huh. That makes sense. After all, marriage is as universally good for people in the same way that exercise is. And what about those 50% of marriages that end in tears and heartbreak? Well, it's simple. Those aren't "marriage".

Here is my rule: Every time marriage nuts are forced to stick an adjective in front of the word marriage, we lose. Marriage is a big, old, strong word that has gotten along fine for 4,000 years without any adjectives.

I'm sure those who are looking to divorce are relieved. Now that their marriage requires an adjective, such as the dreaded "unhealthy" or even "ending", all they can say is that theirs is not marriage, since adjectives got involved. I'm sure the courts will buy that.
In all seriousness, there is a reason that people differentiate between healthy and unhealthy marriages. I'm sure that Blankenhorn wouldn't have a problem with differentiating between healthy and unhealthy people. (If he does, I can imagine what a pill he is for doctors when he gets sick. Once he receives his diagnose, "What was wrong with just being a person? Why do you have to call me unhealthy?) Marriages, whether he likes it or not, are made up of people. Marriage, I would argue, exists because of people and for people, not the other way around. It's a very Zen thing. Without people, there would be no marriage. With no marriage, there would still be people. It turns out you do need ears to hear trees falling.
There are other distinctions between marriages that Blankenhorn thinks we need to get rid of:

And now, as of about five minutes ago, we have something called "civil marriage," which, we are told, is something quite different from "religious marriage."

Technically, that is a distinction that was created the minute that the church and state became different things. I don't know if Blankenhorn is married, but if he is he must not have handled the paperwork or he might have noticed that outside of his religious ceremony there was this thing called a marriage license that the state made him fill out, or else he wasn't legally married no matter if a priest said so. As people point out on Alas, a Blog , many people have to learn the difference super fast when they try to obtain a divorce and an annulment and find out these are two very different things.
Well, no matter. In our brave new world, we have to get rid of distinctions between marriages, so one of these has to go. My guess is that Blankenhorn wishes to rid the world of this "civil" marriage, especially considering how inconvienent it will be to tell religious officials that they cannot marry people anymore if the "religious" distinction is abandoned. Of course, this means that people who were married just by the courthouse without the tacked-on religious ceremony will have their marriages disolved. Maybe it really would be easier to just get rid of "religious" marriages, since all "religious" marriages have some kind of civil component. Or we could go back to a theocracy where the state runs religion, since that was a situation that worked out so well in the past.
But even after Blankenhorn has rid the world of those troublesome descriptions, there is much work to do. Besides the adjectives that they bring up on Alas, there are more mundane descriptions that people carelessly use every day, not realizing that by distinguishing marriages by the people in them, they are doing irreparable damage to the institution. Even more frightening, some of these adjectives have been in use for centuries. Sometimes millenia! I'm surprised marriage has been able to hang on.
There are faithful marriages and adulterous marriages. Newlyweds have traditionally been differentiated from older couples, sometimes even to the point where older couples have been asked for advice on marriage! First, second, third marriages, all of which are often distinguished by the wedding clothes. Monogamous and polygamous marriages, the latter being indulged in by great Biblical heroes, mind you. Barren and fertile marriages. Sometimes marriages can be one, and then turn into another kind, such as a childless marriage becoming a fertile one. Traditionally, there were distinctions made between love matches, financial unions, arranged marriages and marriages of convenience.
All these differences make it a simple thing to make room for homosexual and heterosexual marriages. Obviously, the problem is diversity, as Blankenhorn points out. Getting rid of diversity is going to be a lot of work. I'm sure Blankenhorn is up to the job, though, even though he has trouble understanding the history and diversity of marriage that has existed until this point. Hell, maybe his inability to grasp that will help him.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Are people's opinions on abortion really changing?

The Washington Post argues that they are, but I think there's more going on here than you might think. This article seems to be evidence that people, especially young people, are uneducated on the subject.

"Kids need their parents to help make that decision," she says of parental notification requirements. It would have angered her "if there had been a law -- but it's for the best."

Note that she does not actually support parental notification laws. She just offers that it would be ideal if girls can have their parents' help if they have to get abortions, but she is against the law. Anyone pro-choice disagree? Anyone think it would be bad if girls can rely on their parents for help? This quote does not show increasing support for limits on abortion at all.

"I have not met one person who is very anti-choice," she says. "I have met people who said they would never think about having an abortion but they always add it's the person's choice."

You hear this alot, and it's an attitude that is used to push for limits on abortion rights. My take on this attitude is that no one imagines herself in the situation, or likes to. But you don't know what you will need until you need it.
When somebody says that they don't think of herself as the kind of person who would get an abortion, but she's pro-choice, it's interesting to prod a little further than leave it at that. Most girls who say this, if your next question is "What would you do if you got pregnant right now?" and you will learn alot more about their thinking. In my experience, there are two standard answers you'll get. Women who really don't want children, at least not now, will generally point out that they can't get pregnant, because they use birth control. Other women I know who are older and feel secure in a relationship will often say, "Well, I do want children and it might just be the time."
Asking someone point-blank if they imagine themselves getting an abortion is as good as asking her if she thinks of herself as a stupid slut in our parlance. We know in our hearts it's a bullshit question, but being women and raised to be dodgy when discussing our opinions, we're likely to answer with a dodge.
If pushed for their real opinions by someone who shows respect for those opinions, you are likely to get more interesting answers from women. They will talk about abortions they've had, their fears of childbirth, their desire for children, their wish that men were more involved. And they will tell you, over and over again, that things are never simple and the law should not get involved.
Here's a good example of how the media is confusing the issue of "what's wrong" with "what should be illegal":

Increasingly, women say men should be notified when their girlfriends or wives get pregnant and consulted about the decision to proceed with the birth or abort -- a concept of inclusion anathema to earlier activists.

Again, there is nowhere in that statement where women say that men have a legal right to be notified so that he can take control of the decision, at least some control. If you point blank asked women if there should be a notification law, you'll see much different answers. But when you ask a fuzzy "should", the question turns into a moral question about your own personal decisions. And as most women would feel comfortable turning to their partners, and in fact would really want that support, they are likely to answer accordingly. But if you ask if a woman who is the victim of domestic violence should be required to "consult" with her abusive husband, the answers would be much different. That men have a role is not something contested by "earlier activists". They were, and are, fighting spousal consent laws. They were fighting laws that said the ultimate decision is the man's, not the woman's.
Buried deep in the story is very good news indeed. Young men are showing equal numbers in support for abortion rights as young women. This is not evidence that the young are becoming more conservative. This is evidence that men are finally coming around to the feminist side, and that's a real news story.

By the way, a million people march for women's rights! Yea!

Abortion and class warfare

August Pollack has a good entry on how liberal policies are more effective at reducing the abortion rate than any ban on abortion ever could be.
The war against reproductive rights is more than an assault on women. It's more even than an assault on the basic right to bodily intergrity. It's a tool in the class war.
The right likes to go on and on about how criticizing government policies that steal from the poor and give to the rich are an unacceptable form of "class warfare". Of course, taking money from those who need it most and giving it to those who need it less is somehow not class warfare, but that's another post. It has become very difficult indeed for people in the major media to point out how certain laws disenfranchise the poor without being accused of socialist tendencies or commiting acts of class warfare. But it does well to remember that abortion bans are a weapon in the war of the wealthy and powerful against the rest of us.
If one of the Bush twins found herself in a precarious position and needed to obtain an abortion before she embarrassed her father the President after he has managed to get the procedure outlawed, what do you think the odds that she won't get the necessary abortion in a timely manner? Yeah, that's what I thought. There's a reason that anti-abortion groups are well-funded, because the rich know that they are only banning the procedure for the poor. If you have enough money, you never get an abortion. You merely had to have treatment for your "miscarriage".
Limiting ordinary women's access to birth control disempowers them as women and as members of their socio-economic class. Overly big families are an effective way to disempower the men as well. And of course, the disempowerment reaches well into the next generation. Simply put, the more people, the less resources for each individual. Scarcity means that people are too busy fighting for scraps to cooperate and put the people on top out of power. People who are busy always trying to figure out how to cover their own bills don't have time to follow politics and vote, much less time to organize and educate other people.
It has been shown repeatedly that the bigger the family, the smaller the economic chances for each child in it. People everywhere are figuring this out and deliberately limiting their family size, much to their government's consternation. Ordinary, working class people are ready to raise a generation of kids who have a better shot at getting a good education and some basic psychological motivation than the generations before them.
What's a rich, powerful class to do to hang onto their power? Well, they have to attack the working class's ability to raise themselves up through their children. If I were to come up with a plan to squash the hopes and dreams of ordinary Americans, my plan would be to a) make it difficult if not impossible for ordinary people to control their family size, b) lower wages and raise unemployment so that they were too worried about keeping their jobs and making it through today rather than think about tomorrow, and c) destroy the ability of the public school system to give their students a worthwhile education so that only those who can afford private school are able to educate their children. Funny how those three goals seem to have gained ground under BushCo. Nah, it has to be coincidence.

Men and abortion rights

On Air America they are interviewing a young man who is marching on D.C. today and it's sort of sad that the first question addressed is, "Why would a man care?" His answer, a good one, is that people need to understand the importance of standing up for the right of others. Certainly, that's a more than sufficient argument for men to stand up for women's rights. If it wasn't for men acting out of a sense of basic justice, for instance, women would have never gotten the right to vote.
But in the case of women's reproductive rights, men have more invested than simple sympathy for women's causes. If a woman has a baby that she doesn't want, odds are pretty good that the father of the baby doesn't want it either. While well-off men have nothing to worry about because they have the cash and connections to obtain abortions for women that they have impregnated, there are alot of average men who will be very sorry they didn't support women's rights if abortion rights get repealed.
I have spent alot of space in this blog arguing that one of the major reasons that the abortion rights is that abortion rights symbolize, to many men, women's rejection of male control and therefore of men themselves. It's nonsense on various levels, but it's an emotional argument and not a logical one. In my experience, the likelihood that a man is pro-choice or pro-life depends more on his fear of losing power and importance in women's lives than any other factor. There's a solid reason that churches that vehmently have opposed women's rights throughout history are the very ones that oppose abortion. It's about women, not about babies. And it explains why so many men who cheerfully support politicians who would ban abortion tolerate it and even promote it in their own lives if it seems like the best decision.
The anti-abortion arguments that are made to appeal to men make it a man vs. woman issue. That's the reasoning behind the long lists of important men in history who could have been aborted, at least in theory. To those of us who are pro-choice, this list is utter bullshit. Yes, in theory these men could have been aborted. In theory, their parents could have fallen asleep early that night and not conceived, either. In theory, their mothers could have been killed in accidents before they were born. It didn't happen. So what?
Well, the list is an emotional argument addressed directly at the fear that women want to take over. This is a list of Important Men who could have been wiped out by foolish women who didn't understand their place in life, as support systems for Important Men. These independent women out there are threatening the world, because how can men be Important if they don't have a network of women willing to give up everything to support them?
In order to get men on our side, we're going to have to work through the emotional propaganda thrown at them to convince them that they are under attack by women who want to wipe them out altogether. One important message that needs to get across is that reproductive rights for women help couples make the best decisions for themselves. It would be helpful if the men in the pro-choice movement addressed other men about male self-interest served by feminism. Right off the top of my head, I can think of two big things that men will lose if women don't have easy access to birth control--sex and money.
I see why feminists, male and female alike, shy away from speaking frankly about how men save money on child and housewife care if women are allowed to minimize their number of births. It seems so shallow. And they really shy away from pointing out that women who don't have to worry about pregnancy are women who are more willing to have lots o' sex. True as it is, there's a fear that it will only increase men's sense of entitlement to access to women's bodies. But I think that fear is a bit overblown. The argument is that if women are free, men get laid more. That's outright encouragement for men to support female independence. It's also would have the effect of undermining anti-feminist arguments that feminists hate men and male sexuality.


There's got to be more to this story. When I was last in England, everyone used terms of address that to Americans might seem a little forward, but to the English seemed perfectly natural. People called you "love" who didn't know you from Adam, it was just a way of saying, "Hey you!" It startled me at first, but I adapted.
I wonder if that's what's going on here, that they don't want to upset different cultural sensibilities instead of the whole sexual harassment nonsense. Note that there's no outright ban on calling somebody "love" or "darling".

"The wording of the document says the use of affectionate names such as 'darling' may also constitute sexual harassment," said a spokesman. "It's not that the word is banned. It's the context."

Yep. My guess is that the code is nowhere near as severe as this story implies. Of course, there is no way to know, considering that the text of the code is printed nowhere in this story. If more of these "severe" sexual harassment codes came out it might do serious damage to the belief that hysterical feminists are trying to ban flirting altogether so that men, who they hate, never get laid again.

What liberal media?

Even a boring old AP story covering The March for Women's Lives has to show proper deference to conservatives, even though there is no way that merely showing the march is taking sides. Scroll down to the bottom of the story so that you can find contact information to help protest the rights of women to bodily autonomy. Personally, I don't think it's balanced enough. There's no contact information to join the proper Taliban, just the Christian Taliban.

You think if there was a story about an anti-abortion rally, there would be contact information for Planned Parenthood at the bottom? No, I didn't think so either.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Religion and ridicule

Tristero has a great retort to the usually astute Kevin Drum's assertion that liberals need to avoid ridiculing Christian right-wingers, who are, after all, using their piety to shield themselves from criticism of their political beliefs and actions. Great points, across the board.
On top of the "what he said" stuff, I have some points I'd like to add.
Kevin likens the religious right to other insider groups who are permitted to mock themselves but cannot be mocked from the outside.

I too find this puzzling. I'm about as nonreligious as you can get, but even I understand the basics of in-group comedy: only blacks get to make fun of blacks, only Jews get to make fun of Jews, and only religious folks get to mock religion. That's both common sense and common courtesy.

Well, it's not polite to mock somebody's deeply held religious beliefs to their face, of course. But I think it's permissible to have humor around religion in situations where it's not right to make racist or sexist jokes. Tristero points out one generally applicable situation--it's fine to mock the hell out of someone, even to his face, who is putting on a false piety to push his political agenda. But there are other situations as well. Many of my friends and I (as well as my sister) have alot of fun making fun of the church and we have a right.
Because being a race or a sex or whatever is something you are, and your religion is something you choose. This cannot be emphasized enough. It's right to respect people's religious differences, just as it's right to respect all differences, particularly those held close to the heart, like religion. I show deference and respect to rabid NASCAR fans but then I make fun of them behind their back. Big deal.
On top of it, religion is not an insider/outsider issue in the same way that race or sex is, because religion is so pervasive that we are insiders to some degree. As an atheist, I'm an outsider by Kevin's standards. But as a baptized Episcopalian, I reserve the right to mock the church I was raised in relentlessly. And since I had to grow up in the part of the country where the Southern Baptists are blending not very well with Mexican Catholics and had to suffer through the Piety Wars that are ongoing there, I reserve the right to make fun of Christians in general. I don't, as a general rule, make fun of other religions, but then again it's not that funny if it's outside your experience.
I remember once in a high school literature class, a teacher was trying to explain the concept of "allusion". For those who don't know, a literary allusion is when a poet or writer alludes to mythology. The teacher said the most common mythological allusions were to Greek mythology and the Bible. When she said this, some students raised hell because the Bible is not "mythology". She tried to explain that "mythology" was a type of literature and the truth of it is not relevant, but they basically whined until she took it back. I reserve the right to mock them for being morons and mock them for having such strident religious beliefs that it turns them into morons.
Outside of overt mockery is the question of, well, questioning. The Christian right is pushing their agenda and then hiding behind their religious beliefs, which is wrong for the reasons Tristero mentions, since they are using religion to push a secular agenda. But they are able to dismiss that argument outright, because all they say is that their religion forbids them to accept secularism. That is, their religious beliefs dictate that they have to convert people to their cause by miseducation, force, whatever it takes. And if you don't let them act out their religious beliefs by letting them force them on others, then you are oppressing their religion. Dig?
Unfortunately, they have forced the issue. Either you turn the government over or you are oppressing their religion. That turning the government over would mean that they oppress everyone else is making an unacceptable secularist argument. They don't believe in equal rights, and forcing it on them is oppression. Really, this is the logic.
Fundamentalists know they are on shaky ground asking that their religion be favored above all others by our government so they have to justify it. The justification is something like this: this is a Judeo-Christian society. There weren't any atheists or Muslims or gays or feminists back when the country was founded so when they created religious freedom they just meant you got to pick which Christian denomination you belong to. And we're open to letting people go to other Christian churches, as long as ours is the official belief put forward by the law.
Why fundamentalism above other religions? Well, because they follow the Bible to the letter.
Tell me that isn't an open invitation to point out the logical inconsistencies in a religious belief that claims superiority because it has no logical inconsistencies. Luckily, there is nothing wrong with attacking somebody's religious beliefs. If there was something wrong with it, there would be no Protestantism, philosophy, or theology. Hell, there wouldn't be Christianity which is basically built on one man's criticisms of Judaism as it existed in his time.
Dingy liberals have mixed up being polite about other people's religious beliefs with criticizing religion. You don't just bust someone's ass at a party or whatever about their religious beliefs. Alot of Christian denomincations don't get this and their members will start trying to convert you, but bad manners in others doesn't mean that you have to have bad manners, so it's best to just sort of weasel out of the situation instead of getting into it.
But you start meddling in politics, saying that your Bible says that the government needs to adhere to your religious beliefs and you have invited others to look at those beliefs and criticize them. Yes, it's good to argue secularlism for its own sake, but I don't have a problem with pointing out that someone is mistaken about their own Bible, where it clearly states that one is to leave unto Caesar what is Caesar's.

Links through Roger Ailes.

Monogamy, holding office and Europeans

I'm reading right now about Eleanor Roosevelt and the Roosevelt's highly unusual but productive relationship. Now there is alot of speculation and rumor swirling around their marriage, but there are a few things that are clear. FDR philandered, Eleanor didn't like it but managed to deal with it, FDR thought well of his wife and took her opinion into consideration on many decisions, Eleanor did alot of the legwork for FDR because his disability made it difficult for him to travel or appear in public, FDR died in the arms of his mistress, and Eleanor was an inconsolable wreck when she got the news. Everything else is conjecture. Still, from what we do know for a fact, one thing can be concluded--the Roosevelts defined their marriage outside the narrow definition of what a traditional marriage is. But it was still a real marriage.
Marriage is obviously under alot of scrutiny right now. Gay activists have made their move towards getting same-sex marriage legalized and conservatives are also using this time to make the move to redefining marriage narrowly while pretending that their definition was always the definition of marriage. And their definition of marriage centers around sex, a definition that way too many liberals are willing to accept. According to cultural conservatives, marriage is a sexual relationship between a man and a woman who have sexual fidelity towards each other and produce children out of their sexual union. Lots of sex for the people who are trying to desex everything else in our culture.
Liberals accept the sexual argument, but they just want to expand the definition of what kind of sexual unions are acceptable under the definition of marriage. It's assumed all around that two people who marry will be in a sexually monogamous relationship, be it straight or gay. But sexual monogamy is not what makes a marriage. And this is a critical point. A marriage is a partnership, largely defined by outside rights and a series of private negotiations between the couple. It does not necessarily include fidelity, though it usually does. It doesn't require sexual reproduction. And nowadays there is no legal obligation to participate in marital "duties".
On top of that, there are countless ways that heterosexuals can create non-marital sexual relationships that are tolerated or even outright recognized by the law. Reliable birth control means that heterosexual sex isn't a guarantee of sexual reproduction. There's no shoving the toothpaste back in the tube. The mechanics of heterosexual sexuality have been divorced from marriage. And this has been going on for a long time, all over the globe. Marriage isn't about dealing with heterosexual sexuality anymore, so there's no reason not to extend it to homosexuals. My guess is that in the future, people will look at our refusal to extend marriage rights to homosexuals in puzzlement, the same way that we find the hysterical desire for virginal brides in the past to be overwrought.
The other thing that occured to me in reading this was how like the reaction to the Clintons was to the reaction of the Roosevelts, except that the anger against the Clintons was more organized. Most people felt like it was none of their business, a few people clutched their pearls and pretended they thought it was inconcievable that a couple might have an unusual marriage and still enter politics, and a few paranoid men who disliked independent women spread rumors that it was an orgy-fest all the time at the White House.
Lesson learned. There will always be paranoid misogynists and pearl-clutchers. It's a waste of time trying to make them grow up and understand what most people understand, that there are as many definitions of marriage as there are marriages. Gay rights activists should probably appeal to people's common sense on this issue. Since no two marriages are exactly alike, why should their marriages be held to a higher standard to be considered "legitimate" than straight people's marriages? I don't want the government coming in and making sure that my marriage adheres to this person or that's definition of what makes it right before the Lord, so why should gay people have to suffer under that scrutiny? They are adults, they want to form a family, the rest is their business and not yours.
If they stick to that message and don't dither from it, I think more people will jump on the gay marriage bandwagon.

Wouldn't burqas be easier?

Talk about inexact wording. What is the definition of "low-riding" pants? "Intimate" clothing? Honestly, requiring young women to cover themselves head to toe and show no skin would be easier.
This rules:

"I'm sick of seeing it," said Shepherd, a first-term legislator. "The community's outraged. And if parents can't do their job, if parents can't regulate what their children wear, then there should be a law."

Agreed! We should all get to make laws against fashions we don't like! Personally, I am against golf pants. And novelty ties. Oh! Wait! I want to make a law against men who have beer bellies who hang them over their belts. Can I do that? Or is it only kosher to make laws against fashion as long as fear and loathing of the female body is the impetus?

Via Pandagon.


Pandagon has a little fun with this blatantly stupid article by Victor Hanson, bravely adding his nonsense to the scramble. Jesse's take on it is good, but brief. Hanson broke his argument down into parts and used all sorts of weaselly arguments, two strategies that are like chocolate to me. So, my turn:

Myth #1: America turned off its allies. His point is that NATO barely has any troops in Afghanistan, and um, there are lots of Coalition troops in Iraq. (For now.) This might almost work if you pretend as hard as you can that the Coalition is anything other than a BushCo figment that exists outside of NATO or UN approval. He refuses to address how the UN or our traditional allies regard this situation. And then he proves himself wrong:

Yes, the U.N. will return to Iraq — but only when the United States defeats the insurrectionists.

Let me get this straight: The UN refuses to support this invasion of Iraq because they refused to support it in the first place and this is proof of allied support. Sure, dude.

Myth #2: Democracy cannot be implemented by force. The major thrust of his argument is that we kicked ass in WWII. He manages to insult our ever-supportive allies by saying that European resistance was an utter failure without question. (One does wonder how well the war would have gone if it was just the U.S. fighting with absolutely no European resistance.) But anyway, apparently I learned about WWII and why we got into all wrong. Apparently we went to Europe to oust a bunch of tyrants that seized power under mysterious cirumstances and teach the backwards Europeans the Meaning of Democracy. That they are Democracies Now proves that it works. Let's pretend that, say, Hitler, wasn't democratically elected and this works great.

Myth #3: Lies got us into this war. Weasel words never get better than this:

Mr. Bush's lectures about WMD, while perhaps privileging such fears over more pressing practical and humanitarian reasons to remove Saddam Hussein....

What most of us would call "lied outright" turns into "privileging such fears". He forgot the word "unfounded", but c'mon, he's not being dishonest!
Next step--Clinton did it. He had to have been the one who lied! We all know that oral copulators are liars! Beginning and end of story!
He forgets that the there was reason to believe during Clinton's administration that there were WMD and that's why we cooperated with the evil UN to force Hussein to allow UN inspectors in to make sure he didn't. Of course, you remember that Clinton only dealt with the Middle East to distract from the Most Important Blow Job of All Time. Of course, why this means that the inspectors didn't do their job is unknown.

Myth #4: Profit-making led to this war. Seriously, the right needs to quit denying this. Why not start saying that there can be no "just" war without profiteering? The base is laid for that belief. It's believed that capitalism=freedom&democracy. Why not just start saying that it's impossible to wage good wars unless there is a profit motivation, just as there is no reason to do anything else if it isn't for profit? The best part about this argument is that it circumvents the argument from the left that if Iraq is a war of liberation, why not all un-liberated countries? You can fall back on the handy blame-the-victim argument: if the people of other countries want liberation, they need to offer something to us for their liberation, like oil. Un-liberated countries just haven't worked hard enough to get our attention, see?

Myth #5: Israel has caused the United States untold headaches in the Arab world by its intransigent policies. His point is that this isn't true because Palestinians are morons. I'm not sure how that means we don't have problems due to our support of Israel.
First, he complains that different Palestinians have different opinions.

Some Arab citizens of Israel, residing in almost entirely Arab border towns and calling themselves Palestinians, were furious about Mr. Sharon's offer to cede them sovereign Israeli soil and thus allow them to join the new Palestinian nation. Others were hysterical that two killers — who promised not merely the "liberation" of the West Bank, but also the utter destruction of Israel — were in fact killed in a war by Israelis.

I like his weasel word to even concede that "Palestinians" even exist: "calling themselves Palestinians". Apparently, it's their fault that they aren't Israelis. Israel treats them like crap because they somehow got it into their head that they don't belong for some reason.
Of course, his view of the whole situation, that Palestinians are causing their own problems, made me realize how simple it would be to fix the entire Middle East: all the Palestinians need to convert to Judaism! Then they would fit right in, no questions asked! It's simple to convert to Judaism, you know. They are famous for their open-door policy. I'm sure Mr. Hanson will convert today to set a good example.
While they're at it, it might be wise to start pretending that the House of Saud are Christian. Make a law against reporting the truth in the U.S. and watch the criticism dry up. Maybe.

The terms of the debate

I couldn't figure exactly what it is about this essay by William Saletan on what feminists need to do to garner sympathy for abortion rights. I mean, I agree with him that the major issues is reminding people that the decision to have an abortion is not made in a vacuum. I agree that radical feminists need to be reminded that they are speaking to middle America and like it or not, they are going to have address the fact that much of middle America sees women as mothers and nothing more. (Get them to appreciate that the state of motherhood should be be empowered and slowly but surely they will understand that mothers are people with their own hopes and dreams is the theory. It's a sloooooow strategy but it's effective. Women didn't get the vote until the suffragists were able to get people to see that women would be voting to improve the condition of children, i.e. they would be voting as mothers not as individuals.)
What's obviously wrong with his argument is that he makes the common mistake of assuming that feminists are guilty of something they are entirely innocent of. He assumes that it was feminists who hyper-focused the debate on the moment of the abortion, that they were the ones who divided women into two groups--mothers and women who got abortions. Or, if they didn't do it, they allowed it. Hardly. Feminists have arguing from the beginning that abortion and contraception need to be legalized because they are already used, that women who obtain abortions are all women, mothers and future mothers, single women and married women, younger and older. They have fought an uphill battle against the conservative stereotype of the woman who gets an abortion--a selfish teenager, usually of color, stupid slutty and mean. In fact, it's unlikely that this stereotype of Hitler as a black teenage mom exists at all.
But all the evidence in the world that women who get abortions will probably one day be good mommies or often are good mommies already (a possibility that this author forgets himself) isn't going to convince the hard-core family values crowd. Now is the time not to be fooled by the code word "family". "Family" doesn't mean actual, living, breathing families. "Family" is code for patriarchy, and if you value patriarchy, you don't get abortions, period. Terminating a pregnancy is a rejection of a woman's fate as baby-bearer and therefore a rejection of the patriarchy, period. Even if a woman already has children or wants to have children is irrelevant. The reality of motherhood, the day-to-day work of it is no matter in "family values". Motherhood is essentially the act of bringing forth what a man has conceived. The actual raising of children is Hallmark card nonsense.
Most Americans are not hard-core patriarchy fans. Women can vote in this country and they do. We do have a certain amount of respect for our history of feminism. That's why there is so much anxiety around abortion. People don't like women rejecting men but they don't like men having total control over women either. Feminists have argued effectively in the past and will continue to do so that by disallowing male control over women does not automatically equal female rejection of men.
I do agree that feminists need to do what they can to show that they embrace motherhood. In fact, they need to constantly point out that they are greater champions of real motherhood than any family values screamer. It's liberals after all who want better daycare, better schools, and better health care, all a great help to actual mothers. Feminists want girl children educated as well as boy children, which appeals to the mother-sense over "family" values. But far better to the feminist cause is to see the reality of this argument, that it is the meat of the history of feminist arguments, instead of see motherhood as something to co-opt from conservatives.
A far better argument than "We like mothers, too!" is to point out how feminists have fought for mothers against conservative resistance from day one. Birth control so that the children you have don't starve because you keep having them. Better health care and legal abortion for women so children don't grow up motherless as often as they used to. Widows' pensions. Day care so that women don't have to decide between watching over their children and feeding them. The vote so that women may vote for that which improves family life as well as just women's lives. Property rights for married women so that whne men die widows can continue to care for their children. No-fault divorce so that children don't have to be dragged through ugly, drawn-out divorce cases where the parents are accusing each other of vile things in public. Feminists spearheaded the campaigns against child abuse and sexual abuse. Anti-domestic violence initiatives in large part so that children don't have to grow up in violent atmospheres. Shall I continue?

Friday, April 23, 2004

Something to think about

The book I'm reading right now is pretty hard to put down. It's called America's Women by Gail Collins and her breezy humor and grasp of human nature makes it fun to read. Anyway, I just finished her discussion of how the temperance movement gave way to the free and easy 1920's and something really struck me.
The temperance movement, for all its surface resemblances to the cultural warriors of today, was profoundly different. For one thing, the cultural warriors of today are anti-progress on all levels and their antipathy towards sexuality is based in a loathing of women more than anything else. The temperance movement of the late 19th century was started by men but the ball really got rolling when the suffragists joined up. The temperance movement suffragists resembled nothing more than the anti-sex feminists like Andrea Dworkin that are the minority of feminists today, not the majority like then.
The female-run temperance movement had two major goals--stop men from drinking and visiting prostitutes. Alot of their reasoning was similar to the reasoning of the cultural warriors today. They were religious killjoys and resentful of people having all the fun they couldn't have. But they also had a very good reason for their goals as well. As women barely had any rights at all, wives had to suffer miserably if they had husbands who were drunken louses. Worse, if their husbands cheated with prostitutes, and many if not most husbands did, it was not only a betrayal it was a huge health risk. Many, many good loyal wives were victims of ugly and incurable venereal diseases. There are not exact numbers, but the situation was bad. From the book:

Dr. Prince Morrow, a New York physician, stunned his audience by estimating "that there is more venereal infection among virtuous wives than among professional prostitutes."... Morrow claimed that 60 percent of American men had contacted syphilis or gonorrhea....

At the time, the temperance movement, like the chastity movement now, framed the discussion in terms of the wickedly unchaste vs. the pure and godly women. In the 1920's, though, things changed. Women began to be able to go on dates unchaperoned and sexual contact between unmarried people became common. The result? The number of men who visited prostitutes plummeted. Birth control information became more widely used. Women were expected to learn something about sex before they grew up and subsequently their health improved.
There are no exact figures outside of the birth rate. Alot of this is conjecture. But just the fact that the birth rate more than halved between 1880 and 1900 and kept plummeting after that shows that women were learning to take control of their health and that loosened sexual mores, not tightened ones, made that possible. I think alot of people realized that at the time and that's one of the reasons that within a couple generations using contraception went from being an unspeakable sin for most people to common practice.
And I think that all this happened so long ago that people have forgotten. The lessons that abstinence just ain't gonna happen and contraception is critical for a woman's health are lost to time. And that what we cannot remember is doomed to repeat itself. Certainly it's been forgotten that in the days before widespread contraception use that abortion was actually quite common, despite its dangers. Health workers of the time reported working with women who had easily twice as many abortions as babies, and that was in the days when women had 5, 6, 7 children. The anti-abortion movement has been very effective in tricking people into believing that abortion is a modern problem, something beyond the pale for our more virtuous ancestors. In fact, the opposite is true. Nothing has done more to lower the abortion rate than empowering women to take charge of their own bodies and therefore lives.

The culture war attacks from another angle

I guess anything that isn't staying home and praying is under attack these days. Like live music. I am always perplexed by the idea that music hurts anybody, but as I'm sure everyone knows, it's a widely held opinion that music is dangerous. And today in Austin, the supposed Live Music Capitol of the World, music got the smackdown again. This shit is ridiculous:

Austin police arrested Ozomatli members and the band's manager on March 18 while enforcing the city noise ordinance.
The band took the stage late and played past 2 a.m., McCracken said.
Police charged one of the musicians with assaulting a police officer. Lawyers are working to get the charges dropped, according to the band.

Actually, what happened was the band played even though the cops were shouting at them and people were dancing and in a desperate attempt to stop these evildoers from their sick, twisted dancing behavior, the cops pepper sprayed everyone and then arrested the band.
And of course, a big nationwide blow to live music is the so-called RAVE act, designed to circumvent your right to peaceably assemble by holding everyone liable if one person in a crowd partakes of an illegal drug. Supposedly written up to make taking drugs even more illegal (whatever), this act in reality has a chilling effect on live music venues. As usual, expect underground music scenes to be the hardest hit. I have a funny feeling Tim McGraw concerts won't be busted up by cops looking for crankheads, common as they are in the country music world.
Music is political, even if not overtly so. The mere existence of an underground music scene makes cultural conservatives quake in their boots. People getting together, full of joy and energy and creativity are dangerous indeed. And that's when the music isn't political at all. Add a band like, say, the routinely censored Dead Kennedys in the mix and the threat grows.
Here's a website with information about the RAVE act and other attacks on music. Check it out. And, if nothing else, please remain conscious of the continous threat that just ordinary music, literature and other creative arts are under.

Earth Day

There's alot of talk on Earth Day about regulations (important!), SUV's (bad!) and recycling (keep it up!). However, I notice that sometimes people forget one of the biggest enviromental problems--how we're powering our homes and offices.
Austin has a Green Choice electricity option, as I'm sure many places do. Renewable resource energy options are often a little more expensive, but it doesn't have to be that way. By signing up for Green Choice, I locked into a constant rate for the next five years. As everyone else's prices skyrocket, mine will stay the same. And the more people who plug into wind farms and dams for their electricity, the cheaper it will get.
It was easy for me to switch over. I just emailed them, basically. Go to your local energy provider's website and see if they have similar programs. It's simple to do and is certainly just as important a decision as recycling and driving efficient vehicles.

Men are shut out of the discussion

Should men have a say when it comes to abortion? Listening to the radio, there were a series of calls about men and abortion. One woman who was an escort to a clinic noted that the protesters at clinics were mostly male, and the male protesters were the ones who were most likely to be loud, insulting and violent. It's obvious to everyone but themselves that they hate women and they hate that women are outside of their control. This push towards complete control confuses the issue of what men's place in the discussion is.
Some people called the show and expressed anxiety about how women can just go and make the decision to have abortions without consulting the men who got them pregnant. That this is even an issue concerns me greatly. Men cannot be given the right to decide what women do with their bodies. Isn't that the whole point of the controversy?
Abortion is about more than not having a baby. It's about not being pregnant, too. Men can have babies in the sense that they can father them, raise them, love them, pay for them, etc. But men can't become pregnant-duh. Until they do, it's just not their decision to make. And of course, that's not going to happen.
Of course, in the context of a relationship, decisions are made together. Couples usually confer on everything, from the color of the couch to the contraception that they are going to use. But there is a vast world of sexual decisions and behaviors that happen outside the realm of happy, monogamous couples. And sometimes those involve terminating a pregnancy. And sometimes bringing the guy into the discussion is a bad idea.
Legal abortion on demand should be an absolute right regardless of what any individual's feelings about what is right for herself might be. Even if it would feel like a betrayal to you if someone in your life got an abortion without telling you, that doesn't mean that it isn't the right decision for another woman living another life.
Laws requiring women to tell father or husband about her abortion highlight exactly what I am saying about this discussion. It has nothing to do with saving babies, but about preserving the patriarchy. Even beyond abortion, the discussion of controlling medical decisions centers only around that which women do to their own wombs. Culture conservatives want laws keeping women from over-the-counter emergency contraception, laws requiring girls to inform their parents if they are on the pill, laws forcing health workers to turn over the names of girls having sex outside of marriage. It's telling that there isn't a push for spousal and parental consent laws for men's choices. No phone calls to parents of teenage boys purchasing condoms, no laws requiring men to inform their wives about vasectomies.

Fear of a Black Planet

That was the c.d. that was sitting in my passenger seat. This was years ago in my single days. I was on a date with a guy a bit, but not much older than me. He picked the disc up and said, "Ugh. How can you listen to this rap music?" That was the first and last date. I know nascent grumpy old fartitude when I see it.
I thought of it while listening to my new addiction, Air America, this morning. The hosts of Morning Sedition were taking phone calls on "hip hop culture". One grumpy old fart after another called in with the same litany of complaints about rap:

*It's not melodic--it's noisy.
*I can't understand what they're saying.
*It's violent.
*It disrespects women.
*It's obscene, sex-obsessed, grossly sexual.
*It promotes drug use.
*The kids who listen to it look and act ridiculous.

The danger of the modern grumpy old fart is that he thinks that his is hip and with it, so the problem must be the music. When you point out, as the hosts on the show pointed out, that this litany of complaints are the same racist, youth-loathing, sex-phobic complaints that have been aimed at every new music that emerges from black culture. Replace the words "rap" and "hip-hop" with "rock and roll", and the talk show could be straight out of the 50's and 60's without any other changes. And it's easy to "prove" that a certain kind of music is all these things if you only look at certain songs, certain lyrics.

*It's not melodic--it's noisy.
*I can't understand what they're saying.
*It's violent.
*It disrespects women.
*It's obscene, sex-obsessed, grossly sexual.
*It promotes drug use.

Ours is a violent, misogynistic culture. It's inevitable that some of the music it produces will reflect that. It does seem that the violent, misogynistic rap music is the most popular, but that's the result of the mentality that dominates the record industry now. Record executives are actively trying reduce the diversity of the music that is released, and putting all their efforts towards promoting the handful of albums they do release. The few records that do get released are going to reflect the racist stereotypes and misogyny of the record executives. Those records are promoted relentlessly and purchased in large numbers by the violent, misogynistic buying audience. Because it sells, record executives are reinforced in their practices. It turns into a huge echo chamber. The monopolization of radio and television stations makes it increasingly difficult for alternative voices to invade and break up the circle jerk.
It's not just hip-hop that is affected. Punk rock, at least the stuff that makes it onto the radio, which used to be a fantastic way for female musicians and subversive viewpoints to have access to the airwaves has been reduced to the same bullshit as everything else on the radio--mean sexism, stupid materialism, the whole frat boy viewpoint.
If you don't like this crap, and I know I don't, you can do something about it. Boycott MTV and corporate labels. Buy from independent labels. Make an effort to seek out diverse music; I promise, it's out there. Go to shows to support smaller bands. But trashing entire genres of music is helping no one.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Rotten on so many levels

This whole thing is depressing. It's depressing that these coffins are filled with those barely out of high school. It's depressing that this has been supressed until now for political reasons. It's depressing that the freedom of the press is being stifled with barely a protest. It's depressing that the administration is so petty that they likely influenced the decision to have the photographer fired for disturbing their control over the press. But for some reason, this is what stuck with me the most:

Pentagon officials yesterday said the government's policy defers to the sensitivities of bereaved families.

This is a horrid example of doublespeak. I have trouble believing that families of dead soliders support a policy of pretending that the deaths didn't happen so that it is easier to whip up support for wars that will result in more dead soliders. This is crawling-on-the-belly low to use the grief of military families as an excuse to protect their own sorry asses.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Thoughts on choice

The March for Women's Lives is coming up this weekend, and thoughts about birth control, abortion and the meaning of "choice" are crowding my head.

*I watched the episode of Sex and the City where Miranda falls pregnant and can't go through with the abortion. For once, it's not the usual cop-out episode about the unwanted pregnancy where the woman (usually very young) becomes pregnant, can't go through with the abortion because it's wrong, and is rewarded with a miscarriage. Miranda has the baby and it's portrayed as a real choice. She doesn't get out of an abortion because it's wrong, but because her reproductive system is all goofy and she thinks it may be her last chance. There was no talk about the "baby" in any real sense; when Carrie's doofus boyfriend says something about Miranda's baby, she reminds him that there won't be a baby.
Miranda doesn't have an abortion, but that doesn't mean the show gets away with pretending that abortion never happens like other shows do. Carrie and Samantha talk freely about having abortions in the past. Samantha doesn't feel guilty; Carrie does but only because she is afraid, as many women are, that she will be judged unfairly. Even the ridiculousness of adoption as a handy alternative was given its due. Miranda is pregnant and doesn't want to be; Charlotte wants to be pregnant but can't be. When Carrie's doofus boyfriend jokingly suggests a swap, she points out that it's not like giving away a sweater.
The show also dealt well with the subject of men and their part in all of this. It's the big bugaboo no one wants to deal with, in no small part because so many men just want to dig their heels in and demand control over things they have no right to control. But still, it takes two to tango and the question was whether men have a right to know if they have impregnated a woman. But knowledge is power and a man who knows that he has gotten a woman pregnant is bound to feel that he has a say is what she chooses next. There's not a right answer, but it's good that somebody feels brave enough to ask the question.

*I liked that episode alot because a friend and I kicked around the ethics of telling the guy who got you pregnant that you were getting an abortion. Neither of us had been in that situation, but both of us felt like that just as it's a woman's choice to get an abortion it's her choice to involve who she will in that decision. Of course, on a realistic level, if you get an abortion behind the back of a long-term boyfriend or husband, there's serious issues that need to be dealt with and we would support completely a male friend who had to split with a woman for that. However, we agreed that if a friend came to us and asked to help with an abortion and she wasn't telling the guy for whatever reason, we would respect her decision completely and support it however we could.
To get a male perspective, I asked my boyfriend. Putting himself in his immediate circumstances, he said he would feel betrayed if it happened to him. I pointed out that yes, it would be a betrayal in his current circumstances, since he had a long-term girlfriend. He said, yes, he would mostly like to help as he could. But if a female friend asked for his help and had reason not to tell the guy who got her pregnant, he would trust her judgement and help how he could, he said.

*I had to sit in traffic behind a Mercedes with a right-to-life sticker beside a flag sticker on it today for a half hour. I was bored and nearly got out to start shit with the driver. Nothing makes me madder than maudlin stickers decrying child-murder, particularly stickers like this one which accused women who have abortions of murdering children to further their own decadent (read: slutty) lifestyles. If abortion is infanticide, then why is miscarriage taken in stride? Why don't women weep and tear out their hair when they have their periods?
I finally passed the car and we rode alongside each other for awhile. The driver was a young guy dressed in Ralph Lauren-type clothes and talking on his cell phone at an animated pace. I was a bit surprised. Most guys my age, particularly those that bother to get a Mercedes, designer clothes, and a cell phone, really like to bother with advertising that they are hardline on wanting to punish women for errant sexual behavior; in fact, they would like women to participate in errant sexual behavior with them.
It made me wonder. Is this guy married? Chaste? Doubtful on both counts. Odds are he is like most guys, cruising and hitting girls up and like alot of young Republicans his politics don't have much relation to his behavior.
Yes, it was alot of guesswork. But I've known far too many guys like him. They still amaze me every time.

*A friend and I discussed the birth control pill. It can be a pain in the ass at times, and it isn't for everyone, but the birth control pill is still one of the greatest things ever, as far as we were concerned. Not only was it one of the most effective forms of birth control ever, it effectively turned the responsibility for birth control over to those who had the strongest interest in effective birth control, i.e. women.
There's alot of rhetoric about how young women don't understand what choice means, that we don't realize what a threat our choices are under. I used to think this was overstated. My friends and I knew the history of contraceptive rights. We vote. We give what we can to Planned Parenthood. Alot of my friends are a few years older than me and came of age during the AIDS crisis. Alot of them watched good friends die from the disease. In a way, we know more than older women do the importance of protection; after all, the feminist fighters of yore were unlikely to have to run forward and clean up when a friend with HIV accidentally cut himself and no one else would find the guts to help him as a friend of mine did.
But same friend and I were talking about men and sex and birth control the other night and I realized that we are making our decisions on a different level than we might have at the height of the AIDS scare and our own dating years. We're in monogamous, disease-free relationships and condoms are a part of the past. We talk about the pill and abortion now, the very two things that are most under attack by cultural conservatives. We do take it for granted that we can keep using the pill as long as we want to and that if the pill fails us, abortion is always available. We are wrong to take it for granted since there are so many people who would have that taken from us.
Make no mistake; it's women's sexuality that is on trial with the anti-abortion movement. They have elaborate reasons that the pill, emergency contraception, and abortion are on their hit list. These contraceptive methods must be employed at the moment of intercourse, and therefore men must be consulted. All other methods require involving a man in the process, and as I said before, knowledge is power. It's no coincidence that the very contraceptive methods the right-to-life movement is targeting happen to be the ones that men don't control. This isn't about babies or families or anything nice like that. It's about making sure that men have the final say in what happens to women's bodies, and that's wrong.

In a free society, everyone, including women, has the right to physical autonomy.