Blog Archive

Monday, December 17

Microloans / Microlending / Microcredit / Microfinance

Whatever you call it, there's a problem with it:

All organizations that loan extremely small amounts of money [to the poor] are now calling themselves "microlenders" / "microfinancers" / "microcreditors."

For decades--or perhaps even a century or two--big banks didn't loan any amount of money to extremely poor people. Why? Because even when they charged sky-high, usurious interest and sent harrassing collectors around, they still couldn't manage to get their money back.

Muhammad Yunus (of Grameen Bank) and others said, "Duh!" They added that the way you can get your money back from poor people is to:

  1. charge interest rates lower than the amount of profit a poor person's business is going to start bringing in on account of the loan
  2. take the harrassment out of "pressure" to pay back loans (e.g. make pressure from neighbors be supportive and helpful)

In addition to increasing the revenues of tiny businesses through loans, strategies #1 & #2 worked for getting the money back! Therefore "microloans" became famous as a good thing.

But now, because strategies #1 & #2 aren't actually in the word "microloan," big banks are able to reconsider usury-and-harrassment small loans to extremely poor people.

Though they'd previously considered such loans impossible to get money back on and not even worth trying, the good moral name of Yunus-style tiny loans (or "microloans") is making first-world investors pour money into usury-and-harrassment tiny loans (and insist that this time, the harrassment get the money back. After all, with the public thinking that "microloans" are a good thing, one can get away with more harrassment than was previously possible, right?).

Are you a teacher? Part of your pension fund is probably counting on making 15% from putting money into usurious (90%APY), harrassment-filled "microloans" to Ghanans. Maybe it's time to tell TIAA-CREF that you won't stand for that.

I'm looking into other ways to fight "usury and harrassment" tiny loans while preserving the ability of "affordable rates and lots of help" tiny lenders to keep doing what they're doing.

No free morality ride for lenders!

Thursday, November 29


Holy gamole.

Olmert (Israel's prime minister) just dropped the words "South Africa" to the whole world.

He pretty much said that if Israel didn't either

  1. negotiate a 2-state solution (that is, give up Palestinian territory) or
  2. grant equal voting rights & citizenship benefits to all the Arabs living in the territories they currently hold but don't give Arabs citizenship in,
they'd become like South Africa until #2 happened.

Okay--what he actually said was that a failure to make #1 happen would result in that South Africa-like situation--which I guess means he doesn't believe there's a chance in heck that Israel's government would just do #2 on its own as part of making peace.

But anyway, wow.

He just came out and...said it.

(Now, so far the news is covering it with headlines that don't really reflect the significance of what the guy said. ABC comes closest of the search results in Yahoo News on israel south african (which I typed in, trying to find more than brief excerpts of his quotes). They headlined the story, "Olmert: Failure Will Lead to Israel Apartheid." Okay, I would've preferred a bit about failure to do what--for example, "Olmert: Failure To Reach Two-State Solution Will Lead to Israel Apartheid." But it's certainly better than the headlines that say, "Will Lead To End Of Israel." Sure, all the "end of Israel" headlines clarify in the article bodies that Olmert clarified that by "end of Israel" he meant "South-African-style struggle for a new governmental system," but geez Louise, why can't they just put something like that right in the headline itself?

Anyway, good headlines or bad headlines, Olmert explained his position pretty darned clearly, and I've gotta say, the prime minister of Israel saying, "Look, blah blah blah blah future like South Africa blah blah blah!" seems like a pretty f***ing big deal to come out of what I'd thought was going to be a token peace summit.)

Wednesday, November 21

Eating Local During Dark, Cold, Short Days

My mom is such a sweetheart.

She's heard me talk about local foods so much that she found locally grown pecans for the pecan pie I requested for Thanksgiving! I didn't even know pecans grew within a state of her, so I'm very impressed.

Also, not sure if I'll manage to keep up with this challenge, but it's an interesting one:

Along the lines of that challenge, I did make myself mashed celeriac last night with locally grown garlic and semi-locally-grown herbs (they were bought on-farm while my family vacationed there and then given to me next time I saw my family).

Unfortunately, I left the portion I didn't eat last night at home and was planning to head out of town straight after work, which means my lovely locally grown leftovers are going to waste, and I'm going to have to get something non-locally-grown for the bulk of my lunch/dinner tonight (since I won't be cooking until I get home, and local eating at this time of year usually involves cooking).

Oh, and a local eating tip:
Don't leave your potato masher to dry overnight with celeriac on it. Dried-up celeriac does not wash off as easily the next morning as dried-up potato does!

Tuesday, October 9

Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe

I want to push Congress, and push it hard, to enact a law that would overturn Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe.

They did it for Duro v. Reina within a year. Let's get them to do it for Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe.

Who's with me?

See Section IV. Legislating Criminal Jurisdiction over Non-Indians for the text I think is well-written.

I believe that overturning Oliphant would really help reduce all sorts of nasty, nasty, nasty violent crime by whites who know they can get away with anything because there's currently only one legal system--one that doesn't care about going after them--with the right to go after them.

Let's get this going around the blogs. Let's get bloggers bugging Congresspeople every week!

"State Secrets"

In 1953, the U.S. government's judicial branch refused to let women file a lawsuit against the U.S. government's administrative branch / military. The justification was that such a lawsuit would involve saying things in a courtroom that were still big secrets from other countries.

Well, it turns out that anyone who thought that was a load of bunk back then was right. In 2000, documents were released and it turns out that what the women would've gotten by suing for that information was: knowing that the plane their husbands had died in weren't maintained well enough.

Ike, not you! Not Mr. "Beware the military-industrial complex running amok!" How could you let your administration ask the court to ensure the privacy of information that would keep its military from running amok, not overseen, putting people put into faulty equipment?

Well, now we've got another trial where the U.S. government's judicial branch is refusing to let someone sue the U.S. government's administrative branch. In this case, the person already knows what the administrative branch did wrong and it's a punitive, not one wanting answers.

So the whole world KNOWS, since Chanc. Merkel confirmed it, that the U.S. government's administrative branch actually DID mess up. It's just that the plaintiff isn't going to get to take it to a U.S. court because higher U.S. courts are saying he's not even allowed to.

Why are they saying that?

Well, because in the process of proving his claim in court that the U.S. government's administrative branch messed up (or perhaps in the process of the U.S. defending itself), big secrets we can't tell other countries would be revealed.

:-Þ Bleah.

What'll you bet that in 50 years we'll find out the only "secret" the administrative branch didn't want released was that yes, it did mess up and yes, it did owe the plaintiff money.
(Big whoop! Like keeping that a secret would actually protect our citizenry from harm from other countries.)

Monday, September 17

How To Really Make Queen Rania's Anti-Violence Campaign Effective

Over on Feministing, Jessica Valenti wrote about Queen Rania's project to convince Jordanian women that it isn't okay for their husbands to use physical and verbal violence against them.

Unfortunately, I believe the queen's project is doomed to do very little good.

Unless the queen partners with respected religious scholars, I think her whole effort is at best going to keep Jordanian public opinion where it is (and not-at-best fail to prevent it from sliding even worse).

If Islamic law is interpreted as my studies have told me that most literate/semi-educated Muslims think it should be, the queen's campaign would pretty much just have to be a matter of repeating to the public, over and over again, what their own religion actually says about women's rights not to be violently punished by their spouses.

However, Jordan's queen isn't going to partner with the religious scholars/leaders who would LOVE a louder megaphone to tell women that they have rights not to be violently punished by their spouses.
Why not?
Because they, with their sensible readings of a body of law that's actually pretty sensible, would also, if given a megaphone, suddenly be audible saying, "Totalitarianism from the king isn't right."


So though the queen's heart is in the right place, I think her strategy of trying to convince women that they have rights in a secular way is:

  1. not going to do even 5% of the good that trying to convince them in a religious way would and

  2. going to let even that "5%" bit of good be canceled out by opposing messages about women's rights coming into women's ears from anti-women's-rights clerics/"scholars" (who will actually be audible if the sensible clerics & scholars still don't have that "megaphone" of partnership with the queen.)

However, I do think some letters to NGO heads, heads of state, and religious officials encouraging this collaboration might help.

Yes, I think they might help make it happen even though all the political scientists in the world will sardonically say it'll never happen (because of the totalitarian king).

Ali Eteraz's letter-writing campaigns like that have done a lot of good. Maybe letter-writing campaigns organized elsewhere can, too.

Friday, September 7

Even the internet doesn't seem to have this yet. :-(

I sure would love to see footage or pictures of an ariweta race.

(Footage or pictures of a rarapìpama / carrera de bola wouldn't be bad, either.)

Wednesday, August 15

Crimes in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

What the frick?

Who the heck didn't firmly tell this 19-year-old man that if you argue after sex, you don't stab the person?

Holy heck!


On the other hand, I'm not sure what to say about this case.

I mean, I've been taught by messages in culture all around me that even people who are firmly told not to stab the person who just had sex with someone they've had "committed" sex with stab those people nonetheless.

It's like...somehow this latter story is closer to culturally sanctioned than the former. And I feel kind of weird writing that...yet because I've been so acculturated, I almost can't. Somebody help me sort that out.

And last but not least, there's this story, which is what got me browsing the Strib online in the first place. The state just decided that it could lock away Native Americans who prey [sexually] on...well...anyone, I think, native or not, reservation or not...but in this case, I believe he had preyed on non-Native-Americans off of reservations.
The state says it can lock up Native American sexual offenders in the interest of "public [the off-reservation public, I presume] safety."

Now what I'm wondering is if and how this is going to impact the fight to get Native Americans the power to lock away non-Native-Americans who prey on people on the reservations (either while married/relationshipped into families & living/squatting there or simply by driving onto the land, preying on some women, and leaving).

"Oh, Katie, you're just coming up with parallel hypotheticals to get indignant about." Right?

Nope. It seriously is a problem. Like, a HUGE PROBLEM.

According to the US Department of Justice, in at least 86 per cent of reported cases of rape or sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women, survivors report that the perpetrators are non-Native men. The Departments data on sexual violence against non-Native women, in contrast, shows that for non-Indigenous victims, sexual violence is usually committed within an individuals own race.
(The numbers: 65.1% against whites is by whites & 89.8% against blacks is by blacks. That's a lot compared to, again, 14% against Native Americans by Native Americans.)

And Native Americans haven't had the power to arrest & lock up these white predators since, oh, the late 1800's.

That's not fair. The law needs to be fixed.

Perhaps it's just a matter of Congress deciding to override Oliphant vs. Suquamish Indian Tribe with a law the way they overrode Duro v. Reina (which prevented Native Americans from arresting & locking up members of other tribes who came onto their reservations & committed crimes) with a law.

I'm open to hearing theories about the best revisions to the laws and Supreme Court rulings (especially Oliphant vs. Suquamish Indian Tribe) that have prevented Native Americans from locking up such people. I am not open to the idea that it's okay to leave those laws & rulings intact.

"To a sexual predator, the failure to prosecute sex crimes against American Indian women is an invitation to prey with impunity."
--Dr David Lisak, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, 29 September 2003
Well, duh. Nevertheless, I included that quote to show why I consider this issue so important. As Amnesty's report says, "None of this is inevitable or irreversible."

Saturday, June 23

A review of "Community Builder: The Life & Legacy of J.C. Nichols"

It's become impossible to just sit back and watch white history documentaries, not constantly analyzing them in terms of race, noticing what they're missing, when those documentaries fail to constantly display a self-awareness as being white history.

My family's watching a documentary about J.C. Nichols and his developments in Kansas City. Probably this one. At one point, the movie mentioned that Nichols felt the restrictions in his original deeds, which only lasted 10 years, didn't last long enough. He came up with some way to get around Missouri's resistance to changing them to say, "applicable forever." Of this act, the movie's commentators said something along the lines of, "Nichols was known for being a great gatherer and synthesizer of other peoples' ideas, but in this case he acted as an innovator. He came up with this idea to effect his vision as his vision developed."

I asked my stepmother, "What kinds of restrictions were in the deeds?"

"No blacks," she responded.

"A gazillion things," my dad added. "Houses back a certain distance from the street."

"No Jews," my stepmother tacked on.

I was horrified that the movie hadn't reminded viewers that this innovation of his was mean! How could they just treat his cleverness as a good thing simply because it was clever? Didn't it matter to them what he was being clever for?

I thought, "Okay, well, maybe if most of the restrictions were about the neighborhood's physical structure itself, then this bit could actually fit into the section we're currently in about how wonderful for people the physical layout of Nichols's neighborhoods were."

I pressed my family, "So, for example, in the original deeds, someone could tear down his/her house and build it closer to the street in 10 years?"

"Or build an addition onto the front," Dad added.'

"Okay. I see."

So yeah, I guess that's what was going through the filmmakers' heads, but yeesh. If they're going to be so centered on the physical layout of these neighborhoods, and they know that along with the layout went demographic restrictions, for the love of all things realistic can't they please approach it from the perspective of, "Within Kansas City's white neighborhoods, Nichols cleverly created rules that preserved the community-creating physical layout he'd dreamt of."

I mean, if this were a Ken Burns documentary about Kansas City's black neighborhoods, it'd be acknowledged (even if indirectly) over and over again that the only judgments of "good plan" or "bad plan" one could make were how good or bad of an idea they were in the context of those black neighborhoods alone.
It would be understood that what was indeed a good thing for the black neighborhood could still be anyone's guess whether it was going to remain a good thing for the entire physical city.

Why can't my fellow white people be more freakin' self-aware and do the same thing with their own documentaries? If it's "white areas" we're talking about, then don't talk about it as a history of "Kansas City." Talk about it as a history of "white neighborhoods [from 18__-19__ that later became mixed neighborhoods from 19__-20__] in Kansas City."

It'll make documentarists' hard academic work so much more helpful to city planners!

This is a really important distinction. Historians, please set viewers up, mentally, to be able to think, "Okay, but when the segregation rules faded and people were in cars at varying proportions depending on race, did these physical constraints help or hurt community in those same places? What kinds of physical layout ideas would blacks have had if they hadn't been forced into already-developed territories? Would they have had some even better ideas, based on their experiences, that could have made Kansas City more like the Twin Cities and less like, well, the Kansas City it is today if they'd been able to suggest ideas for undeveloped, open land, too?"**

**(Kansas City is a hideously spread-out area, even in its urban core. Buses don't work because everything's so far apart and lots are so big and streets are so tangled in key areas. Lower-middle-class shopping districts are simply upper-middle-class Nichols developments that have lost their old customers (like the outskirts of Brookside) and that still do poorly rather than stable-income-providing shopping districts like Lake Street (in Minneapolis). What if blacks had been able to say, "Listen, Nichols, some of us have enough money to move into Brookside, but we're not quite as well off at the moment, so we don't anticipate having as many cars quite as fast. Keep making the pedestrian-friendly stores right here in the area, too, so that people with and without cars will be able to keep both types of place thriving."

Or something like that. I have no freakin' clue what they would have said in 1800-19__. I'm not any of them. But I imagine that this stupid, overly spread out, badly laid out city would be a lot better if it'd taken excluded peoples' ideas of "good design" into account a lot earlier in its development.

Tuesday, May 29

"Spring food" followup

Well, here's how today's lunch turned out (and yes, I'm unemployed, if you were wondering how the HECK I'm posting about homecooking lunch!)

Luckily, since I was able to homecook, I got to venture into recipes that are meant to be eaten right away. Could've been a lot more of a challenge if I'd had to prepare food to refrigerate, take to work, and reheat.

Recipe #1:
After a lot of searching, at first trying to use my baby turnips' greens, I settled on this recipe, of course substituting the white parts at the bottom of garlic greens for an actual clove of garlic. Everything else I had in stock (including parsley. Lucky me! This year my parsley in a pot hasn't all died right away).

Triumph: I did NOT burn the butter or set off the fire alarm with smoke! I paid attention for a full 3 minutes!!!

Turns out my turnip bunch only had 6 turnips at the end of it! Definitely not the amount the recipe had been looking for, and I'd already chopped off all my garlic's ends. I didn't want more garlic breath than the meal merited, so I only cutsmooshed** up 2 white garlic green strips and threw them in after the turnips had been in the pan for about 2 minutes.

(By the way, I had to look up "sweating" to see what it was and how to do it right. It was worth it, though. I used my new knowledge to decide how much of the time I wanted to leave the pot's lid on in recipe #2.)

Sadly, turnips at any age (baby or ripe) taste bland. They tasted bland in my "root veggie stew" in February and they tasted bland covered in butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and parsley.

Nevertheless, it's nice to know that I have made an edible dish out of a plant that grows here at this time of year.

Recipe #2:
There was a significant bit of butter/oil left in the pan, so I searched for "garlic" and "asparagus" on Google and, luckily, found a sauteed recipe first. Just what I needed, since sauteeing usually means cooking something in a pan with butter and/or oil.

I mixed and matched the original recipe and the modifications in the comments.
  • I added more oil to the pan, but no more butter. I'm not sure if I got up to the original 3-tablespoon recommendation of oil/butter.
  • I added balsamic vinaigrette to the oil/butter mix.
  • I threw in the garlic greens first on my own advice and let them cook ahead of the asparagus a little.
  • As far as covering the or not, I was going to go with the recommendation not to cover, but the asparagus just looked so dry that I decided to "sweat" it by covering the pan.
  • On my own advice I added pepper and some marjoram while it was cooking (I really wanted powdered sage, since that stuff does frozen veggies wondered, but the only powdered green plant we had was marjoram).
I thought I'd stay well below the recommended 7-10 minutes and hit the 3-4 minute sautee suggested by a commenter, but I think that, in the end, that asparagus was in the pan, either cover off or cover on, for 7-10 minutes.

To prevent overcooking on the small stalks, I ate them. While the rest cooked.

Only one medium-sized stalk came out undercooked. The rest were just right! (I jumped from taste-testing the small ones to taste-testing the fattest one when they all started to look done. How do I know when asparagus looks done? As I said in my post earlier today, I've eaten potentially unhealthy amounts of it lately.)

I like plain old boiled-for-3-minutes-and-plunged-into-ice-water asparagus just as much as I liked this recipe. Probably more.

A lot of the flavor this dish offered was from the butter, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and cheese (lucky me, I'd bought locally made hard cheese at the co-op. I never buy hard cheese!) I can't say all of it was, though, because I just tried practically the same recipe with turnips, and it didn't taste at all the same.

The garlic was better in recipe #2 than recipe #1. It cooked longer and soaked up balsamic vinegar. In fact, I'd say this recipe, while useless for asparagus unless you're looking for something to fill the pan with and looking for a new asparagus trick, is fabulous for the white parts of garlic greens.

I might make it again with the rest of the garlic greens (the green part) if I don't end up using them in that crazy soup I'm thinking about making.

Scrape all the bottom stuff out of the pan and throw it onto the asparagus & garlic. I wouldn't recommend pouring all the remaining olive oil all over your asparagus & garlic (they're oily enough), but definitely scrape up that goop on the bottom. I was almost licking this up (I'm sure the cheese helped, too, of course).

  • Baby turnip greens
  • Garlic green tops
  • Arugula
  • Basil (not much)
I hope to use them all without incorporating any non-local perishables.

Wish me luck.

** cutsmoosh: Recipe #1 called for crushed garlic that was "still together" in 1 clove. Since onion-like things don't "smash" as well as garlic cloves, I ran the stem through a dull, serrated knife that never quite made it down to the cutting board. The result was, I presume, flavorfully as close to "smooshing" this thing as I could get. Looked more scalloped.)

Springtime food

I joined a 2nd co-op today, because I'm thinking about investing in it (5%-5.75% returns on a super-duper environmentally conscious investment aren't bad, even though they're not the 8% I thought the loan offered (it turns out that's only for the high rollers loaning the co-op $50K or more)).

Actually, I stopped by because it was on the way home and because I wanted to try the new local yogurt, since the Cultural Revolution crap they've been forced to carry since other local yogurt makers went out of business tastes disgusting (except vanilla and one of the "red berry" flavors but not the other. Nevertheless, I stand by my statement for all other flavors--TERRIBLE!) Unfortunately, the "new local yogurt" is doubly bad for the environment because the cream goes from Minnesota to Delaware before coming back to MN.

On my way in I'd grabbed asparagus thinking, "I hope this isn't unhealthy to eat on a daily basis like eggs and carrots. It's the only easy-to-make-tasty local food available so far."

The rest of the store seduced me, though, after I read the produce board. Apparently I just had to try the basil, and once I looked at that, I noticed that the arugula had a sign next to it claiming, "Best crop ever!"

Come to think of it, I'm realizing that I really overpaid for garlic greens. $2.49 for a bunch? I can get a bunch for $2, list price, at this time of year at the farmer's market, and if I buy other stuff from the same vendor, I can bargain it down to $1 without either one of us batting an eye.

Nevertheless, I might not have bought garlic greens at the market (never have in 2 years of regular shopping there), so I'll just write off the markup as highly effective advertising (that colorful, handwritten produce chalkboard!) by a decent business.

I also brought home baby blanched-colored turnips that had instructions written next to them ("sautee lightly"..."greens also edible"...those did not come w/ directions).

I'm not so overwhelmed by the idea of using up all these greens because I cheated on my locally-grown-and-processed food quest and bought miso and korean noodles while searching for lychee fruit at the asian grocery store nearby. (I was also supposed to reassure myself by buying tapioca spring roll wraps, but I just realized that I forgot to.)

What the heck do garlic, basil, and turnip greens have to do with keeping me sane with a bunch of random greens I don't know how to cook? Here's my reasoning:
  • Garlic grens look like scallions. Scallions are in miso soup at restaurants. Miso soup often has tofu in it.
  • Miso soup would probably be fine with noodles instead of tofu. Both processed foods made out of plants.
  • Pho has noodles in it. Pho is also a tasty soup at restaurants.
  • Basil is in pho.
  • I like Korean noodles made out of yams/sweet potatoes better than Vietnamese rice or bean noodles.
So no problem to make miso soup with garlic instead of scallions, basil thrown in, and noodles instead of tofu, right? And if I throw some turnip greens in, it'll be just like seaweed, right?

Raspberry & life miracle

Teeny tiny bees are pollinating my black raspberries! (Sweat bees?)

They're in tubs instead of the ground, and there aren't many other flowers (hence many bees) nearby. I'd been trying to pollinate them by hand, but it turns out I just wasn't around at the right time of day to find out that there are bugs working hard on my raspberries.

I think I got religion for a moment out there. I threw my arms back and shouted, "Thank you, Heaven!"

Friday, May 25

Live Earth activism

So...should people interested in sculpting society to send messages that fair treatment for both genders is the only kind of treatment that will be accepted (that is, "feminists") try to get tens of thousands of letters written to boot Akon from the Live Earth tour?

Or should they not bother?

I do wish this would be taken up in the femisphere. The concert is coming soon, and changes to big events take time on the organizers' end! Great as Jessica's book may or may not be, what I really want to hear about is whether or not various actions are good ideas or bad ideas for activists.

I mean, sure, I'll write my letter...but it won't have an impact alone. Do people think it's appropriate to join me or not in trying to get a caught-on-camera (yes, I know, not accused by the law, but still caught on camera) violent sexual assaulter booted from a progressive issue concert's lineup?

Also, is there anyone else in the lineup who's committed a serious crime against another person and has been demonstrably caught in the act? If so, we should hit both artists at the same time. It's only fair.

Tuesday, May 15

Body goals

I was going to list some of my favorite bus stop / airport / office exercises, and while looking for a picture of the kind of tricep dips I was taught I found this photo:

I want to be able to lift like that someday. If I had muscles as strong as she does, I could probably do monkey bars for the first time in my life.

Weightlifting invention

My upper legs have been antsy. No-weight squats took care of my quads but got my hamstrings feeling even antsier. All the body-weight-alone exercises on ExRx for hamstrings & glutes required setups I didn't have in this all-day proofreading meeting (where my coworkers said they didn't mind me exercising).


But hurrah! I am a woman, born to a cursed life of pants without decent pockets. That means I carry a purse.

Ordinarily, I hate it. But it turns out I can bend over the back of a chair, hook that heavy purse (after all, once you're carrying a purse, why not carry as much as possible?) over one ankle, and do reverse hyper-extensions one leg at a time!
(Stand on the supporting foot's tiptoe if you want to reduce stretching in that leg's calf.)

Hamstrings tired and happy now.

P.S. Turns out I might've been able to do w/o the purse if I'd known about one-legged hamstring bridges at the time. I still think I'm cool.

Thursday, May 10

Prison Conditions At Moveon or Somewhere?

I wish we could get something like Moveon or another major grassroots petitioning organization to lobby states that allow sentencing to "pay-to-get-abuse-free-prison-terms" to stop allowing such sentencing.

(Don't make the companies' existence...just make it illegal for the states to sentence prisoners there.)

Dream on, though, I'm sure. I don't many people does it take to convince the major grassroots orgs. to take up an issue when that issue is small on the news radar?

People of all social classes deserve abuse-free prison terms. Though a petition is not the most effective tool (money is!) for getting rid of the abuse in our prison, it is an effective tool for getting rid of increasing class distinction.

Tuesday, May 8

Biting Beaver Writes About Online Harrassment

Biting Beaver came back from hiatus and wrote an extended metaphor to help readers understand what it feels like to be harrassed in a sexualized and a violent way as a blogger.

She's written about this before, though her attempts to communicate the experience have never given me such an "Aha" moment.

In fact, she was writing about it last year, before it became front-page-dead-tree-Washington-Post news and the subject of mainstream feminist and pro-feminist blogswarms.

But here she is, back again, conveniently (for us readers and "stop threatening bloggers!" activists) appearing before the "stop threatening bloggers!" movement has lost momentum. Lucky us to have such a well-written piece contributed to the cause within a convenient timeframe.

She and Kathy Sierra, as far as I can tell, have very different real-world memories and have had very different real-world lives. Reading about BB's background will make you not at all surprised to see that she, as she put it, "believed the [snapping] dog."

Read both posts to see that both she and Kathy Sierra were reasonable when they believed that:

the words from these violent, misogynist men are ... the words of rapists, molesters and abusers. They are men who have not yet been caught for their crimes, but filth and hatred of the type they spewed with their threats of slitting me up one side and down the other, do not come from the hands of people who are otherwise non-violent.

Perhaps that connection can help you convince friends, family, and other unaligned people who use the internet to come down harder than they ever imagined important on people they see harrassing other internet users violently and/or in sexualized manners. Because maybe, just maybe, since online life is still communication, scorning them everywhere they turn will convince more of them than would otherwise have been convinced that what they're doing both online and in real life is wrong.

It's worth a try--don't you think? Especially after reading these links?

Thursday, May 3

Colin Peterson

I can't find a link, but Colin Peterson, the representative from western MN who's in charge of the US House agricultural committee (and thus in charge of the once-every-5-years Farm Bill this year) just called "free trade" "so-called free trade" on the radio this morning!

Last I heard (at a "ONE" anti-poverty activist/lobbyist training session), Peterson couldn't care less about changing economic status quos.

But that was a month ago. Today he was pissed off that trade agreements trump all other laws (like substances allowed to be used in food manufacture--including...get this...banned we're talking environmental effects, too, not just melamine).

Plus, maybe he'll be open to Farm Bill ideas from ONE that he previously couldn't care less about.

Links to come once I find out more and get back from a meeting.

Man oh man. If we roll back trade-over-all-other-laws, maybe Europe will, too...and they'll be able to avoid importing palm oil from new plantations being built on top of rainforests that're being cut down specifically to supply the EU with the cheapest biodiesel in the world.


Wednesday, May 2

The 37th Carnival of Feminists

There are about 10 more submissions in my inbox that I haven't read yet, and I have a Firefox-vs-IE check to do, so come back later tonight for updates. I will also compile a list of links to carnivals of interest to feminists (it's grown!)

Update: I'll take this project on later today. My internet access was out all last night.

The 38th Carnival of Feminists will be at Team Rainbow on May 16.
Happy reading!

Activist efforts & results of activismPeople being good
  • Ellen Nakashima wrote an article full of strong, certain, non-wishy-washy words about women getting sexualized threats online simply for existing, and it seems the Washington Post published it on the front page! Good. (Thanks to Feminist Law Profs for the tip-off.

  • The Daily Kos is starting to direct its liberally-minded attention towards women's issues.
    In the last three weeks, in addition to posts directly related to the Supreme Court's decision, at least 3 feminist user diaries stayed on the "Most Recommended Diaries" list all day (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), at least 2 or 3 well-discussed feminist articles appeared on the front page (1, 2), and several interesting feminist user diaries were featured near the tip-top, most attention-getting spot in "diary rescue" articles on the front page (1, 2).
    Also, Kos himself is taking paternity leave (except for an article or two a week) from the Daily Kos--and in my mind, that's a significant pro-feminist action.

    I recognize that the site still has a long way to go--Kos did write that horrendous "It's not as if those cowards will actually act on their threats" article, and as Pam Spaulding and Tinfoil Hattie pointed out, Pandagon was the only "major lefty blog" to shine a spotlight on Akon's apparent sexual assault of a woman onstage (and I kind of wonder myself if a user diary on that subject would've made it into the "most recommended diaries" list, even during this increasingly feminist time on the Daily Kos).

    Nevertheless, I thought it was worth taking some time to point out positive changes!
People being badGender essentialismEconomicsHighly reported news
  • The Supreme Court & the ban on Dilate & Extract abortions
    • Veronica at The Red Thread described her feelings about saving her life via late-term abortion before, while, and after pregnancy and expressed what she thinks the ruling says the 5 judges think of doctors and of women.

    • KC at Bligbi related a personal story (that even involves a physician denying birth control to a woman too poor to shop around and get it by any means) as a refutation of bans on Dilate & Extract abortions.

    • DBB at Disgusted Beyond Belief wrote about his wife's health-related abortion (fortunately, it was legal for him to choose to abort before "or she'll die!" was 100% certain). He attracted some controversial commenters--one in particular tried to explain why he definitely valued the life of his potential kids more than the life of his wife.

  • Duke
    • Marcella Chester at abyss2hope wrote about many subjects in "Why I'm Not Eating Crow Over the Duke Case". Highlights:

      1. Legal philosophy that, because an assumption != evidence, assuming that alleged rape victims' claims are truthful does not undermine alleged rapists' "innocent until proven guilty" status in a court of law.

      2. "Allowing this 'she was just a 'ho' argument to stand unchallenged is the same as giving rapists a list of who can be raped without fear of prosecution."

      3. Comments on theories that the accusations were a hoax

    • John Palmer at LongHairedWeirdo mused that perhaps actions of several lacrosse players gave Ms. Magnum an overwhelmingly realistic flashback to a previous sexual assault. He speculated:
      She left behind her handbag, with a good chunk of money in it.

      Tell me that she was treated respectfully and in a non-frightening manner, but she bolted without her money, and it just doesn't compute.
      it seems impossible to believe that she wasn't frightened by something.
      People who think she was seeking revenge for something said or done to her, remember this: she didn't go out and make those accusations. The police were called because of her condition (seeming to be drunk), and it was only after the officer hassled her a bit (the report I found said he used a hold that would be painful if she didn't move as he directed) that she broke out of her shell and said she'd been raped.

      This, to me, does not sound like a person trying to get revenge and making up lies. It sounds exactly like a traumatized person coming out of a daze, and reporting what she believed happened.
      A flashback can seem real, as if it's happening right now.
      later that night, she then reported to the police what she remembered, as best as she could.

      Let me say that again and emphasize it: as best as she could.

      It is not a "lie" or a "false accusation" or "revenge" if, having been traumatized once, she was scared, and had a flashback, and couldn't keep the two events separate in her mind. It is the responsibility of the authorities, the police and the prosecutors, to investigate the accusations. Crime victims often misremember the details of what, exactly happened.
      I'm not going to excuse DA Nifong for what he did, but I will suggest that his motives - not his actions, but his motives - were better than most people believe.

  • Other
Porn, "Sex-Positive," "Anti-Porn," and related topicsMiscellaneous

Friday, April 20

Abortion & Congress

Skimming a progressive group blog, I read a post titled: "Why Democrats Need to Stop Relying on the Judiciary: Abortion and the Supreme Court."

I didn't read it, but I presume it suggests taking the fight to the legislature.

I'm against that for the 110th & 111th congresses.

It's hard for me to say it, because abortion decisionmaking was one of the first "this is an area appropriate for a 'small government' policy" beliefs I settled into as a kid/teen.

It's also hard to say it because we're talking about lives here. People will end up wheelchair-bound in nursing homes instead of at home raising their other kids because they were forced to have a C-section late-term abortion (very dangerous) instead of a dialate & extract abortion (not nearly as dangerous).

What's more, it's "those people"--the ones I barely know--the ones outside my class--who won't be able to fly to Timbuktu, Canada and get the procedure done. It's rather unconscionable for me to say, "Let's not focus on those policies for now!" when my judgment might be clouded by ethnocentrism and blindness to other social groups.

Nevertheless, I see two scenarios, both addressing the issue of lives:

  1. We spend a whole lot of legislative floor & committee time talking about sex legislation & get just rules passed.

    However, the rest of the time goes to "business as usual," which is all sorts of deals for huge businesses and unenvironmental / unjust trade.

    10 years later, everything is the same as it was in the 80's and early 90's, and people, not having really seen drastic results from a new world, hold their same views and bring the sex legislation debates right back where they are now.

  2. We spend a whole lot of legislative floor & committee time talking about
    • getting rid of (or at least capping at low levels!) agribusiness subsidies,
    • passing laws that say Monsanto can't sue & destroy small organic farmers for accidentally growing genetically modified corn that they didn't want in the first place (it blew into their fields),
    • introducing major green taxes and social cost internalization incentives (maybe we'll finally get electric cars back from the big companies! Or, at the very least, we'll stop having year-round peaches everywhere in the country),
    • reducing the military budget, increasing police, nature maintenance staff & supplies, education, quality-instead-of-shitty psychiatric care, etc. budgets tenfold (or least double!),
    • rolling back super-wealthy-person tax cuts,
    • taking David Smith's advice on affordable housing policy at a federal level,
    • increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit program,
    • and even considering new tax schemes (I haven't made up my mind on "Fair Taxes" yet)
    and get many or all of these just reforms passed.

    However, the rest of the time goes to "business as usual," which is all sorts of deals for huge businesses and unenvironmental / unjust trade.

    This time, though, the legislation we passed directly limits and goes against "business as usual" and cripples its ability to happen in the future. Plus, we'll be doing something unprecedented, so there won't be nearly as much prejudice against it among the common person, and it the changes will actually have a chance to do something. Imagine Pres. Johnson's "Great Society" reforms without the riots over them not really doing much1 (because this time, the reforms make more sense). This national legislative focus has a much better chance to turn people into progressives and make them demand a different kind of "usual" for "business as usual" than a sex-based national legislative focus.

    Heck, once that happens, they might even demand progressive sex legislation.

    But I'm utterly convinced that progressive sex legislation isn't going to change people's worlds enough to make them demand progressive economic legislation.

1 I don't quite agree with that explanation of the riots, but I've heard it said a lot, so it seemed quoteable.

Wednesday, April 18

Carnival of Feminists

The 36th Carnival of Feminists is online at Fetch Me My Axe, the blog of a thoughtful, intelligent woman whose posts I always enjoy reading: Belledame222!

The 37th Carnival of Feminists will be here on May 2!

There is no theme yet, but check back for an announcement.

Please use the blog carnival submission form. However, if you're loathe to use it, I will also accept submissions at kitkatscritique _ at _ g m a i l _dot_ com

I look forward to meeting and reading you at blogs I know and blogs I don't.

Thursday, April 12

Tweaking The "Coolest" Of Cultural Influences To Be Less Hurtful

This morning I had the opportunity to talk to a man who--bless his heart--repeatedly pushed the idea that powerful executives behind the hiring of misogynist rappers (whom misogynist non-rappers use as an excuse for putting their misogyny into identical words) are the people we need to focus on, rather than on those misogynist rappers (because that hasn't done all that much good).1

My new hero, Eric Deggans (the man on the radio show I called into) named names at the top of corporations, which I'll list here as soon as a copy of the broadcast goes online. I haven't heard Bill Cosby or Jesse Jackson name corporate names like that.

So, well, if they won't, and if the mass media won't (because, thanks to consolidation, they get their paychecks from the same bosses), let's get a grassroots effort to boot out the hurtful-mouthed musicians in favor of more airplay & album production for non-hurtful-mouthed musicians.

Readers of blogs and traditional media succeeded at it when it came to giving the Imus show the boot (though they may have failed when it came to giving Bernard McGuirk's career the boot)--do feminists and feminist allies have the will to get such an effort going against the advertisers for corporations that hire hurtful-mouthed musicians of popular genres?

(By the way, one advantage to media consolidation is that we can focus on many musical genres and many insulted non-dominant social groups at once--note that I've shifted from "misogynist rappers"2 to "hurtful-mouthed [popular] musicians"3

Oh, and if this does get momentum in the feminist community, and thus the "hurtful" thing most frequently being targeted in the letter-writing & boycotting campaign is misogyny, we do need to make sure that when we target it in non-white music, we let non-white people decide what is hurtful & what isn't.

For example, It wouldn't be fair to get black rappers who say hurtful things about white women kicked off the air because we don't want that kind of hurtful stuff said about women (a non-dominant group) in our culture's most popular/influential music. After all, they might've been saying it because white women are white (a dominant group), and who are white people to decide whether or not the insult was justified?

In the case of fighting misogyny by black rappers, it'd be important to make sure that black women feel hurt by that rapper before taking any action against his bosses and his bosses' advertisers.

I'll wait patiently to see if I can get this into a carnival--hopefully then discussion of the idea will find some momentum. Feel free to comment whenever you find this.5

1 After all, advertisers don't pay the musicians directly--they pay the corporations, and then the corporations decide who get contracts & who don't. So Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson...nice try, but not doing as much as you could.

2 Because that's what Don Imus started with, and therefore the musical genre and the insulted non-dominant social group everyone's talking about

3 That is, insulting their own races & other races, etc. as well as women

4 After all, some rappers who get a lot of airplay & albums have been criticized for hurting a lot more groups than women.

And I don't want to imply to music executives that there's something innate about rap & hip hop that cause it to include hurtful stuff. Heaven forbid they use that as an excuse to ditch all non-white music--particularly the harshly critical stuff that nevertheless isn't hurtful to non-dominant social groups!

I do, however, think that "popular" is an important criterion for genres to target because high perceived "coolness" allows such music to influence the slang of and provide "excused" vocabulary for non-[genre]-performing parts of the population.

5 Whoops! Looks like Pam Spaulding beat me to the call, and I'm guilty of some "Somebody oughtta-ing" when, as Hugo Schwyzer puts it, "plenty of things are already being done."

Still, there's a lot of momentum among people of many classes & races right now--people ready to write more letters after feeling a "win" with MSNBC's advertisers--can we somehow tie what people are already doing to widespread letter-writing & boycotting strategies?

Monday, April 9

Liberal Dood

Psssst--U.S. femisphere--the founder of Daily Kos is taking paternity leave for his newborn & toddler.

I know he gets a lot of flack for running a site that underrepresents issues that, if not ignored anymore, could improve life a lot for women in this country, but I thought it's worth complimenting him for setting an example to other men with this act.

Thursday, April 5

Abstinence-Only Education Funding For People Who're Already Abstinent Till Marriage?!

This is terrible!

The biggest chunk of our third-world AIDS prevention money (about 1/3, it seems) goes to abstinence education programs.

Okay, kinda sorta debatably a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to domestic AIDS prevention money.

But in the third world, at least as far as one gender is concerned, 80% of the new AIDS cases already are practicing abstinence till marriage and remaining monogamous within that marriage!

For many women, marriage is a risk factor for AIDS because of their husbands' dangerous behavior. Worldwide, 80 percent of women newly infected with HIV are practicing monogamy within a marriage or a long-term relationship. This shatters the myth that marriage is a natural refuge from AIDS. And it shows that, more than two decades into the epidemic, our fight against AIDS has failed to address the unique circumstances of women—especially women in the developing world.

So here's how the biggest chunk of our AIDS prevention funding is being spent:
"Lady, would you like to not get AIDS?"

"Yes, please!"

"Okay. Don't have sex till you're married, and when you're married, have sex only with your husband."

"But I already do that. And 16 out of my 20 friends who got AIDS last year were doing that, too."

"Impossible. Anyway, do you want to avoid getting AIDS or not?"


"Then don't have sex till you're married, and when you're married, have sex only with your husband."

"But what about my high chances of that not working? What else can I do?"

"Nothing. Or, well, I'm not allowed to tell you about anything else."

"Are you kidding?"


I think it's very important to write all our Congressmen, perhaps including this little dialogue I just made up just to make sure they can't miss our point and think we're advocating a change because of ideology rather than logic, and ask them to change the allocation of international AIDS funds back to something more condom-oriented and drastically less abstinence-and-monogamy-oriented.

Wednesday, April 4

I'm pretty guilty of some harm where the game is closer to zero-sum


Amanda Marcotte's post about the "laziness gets overlooked and you get praised for the few non-lazy things you do" short-term benefits of being a sexist (as a reminder that Mr. Shakes of Shakesville should have said that applying feminist ideas benefits men in the long-term after making some pretty "bleh!" short-term sacrifices) reminds me of myself.

When minor grumbling over the male incontributions [to wedding set-up] threatened, we women were reminded that we "didn’t want" men to help decorate, the implied fucking-it-up-to-get-out-of-work barely implied at all.

That quote about messing things up to gain a reputation that gets you out of doing them reminds me of all the work I've put the poor hard workers in my family through.

I have got to get better about this. I have got to stop being so lazy around people who will ignore my laziness and just praise me for other things.

Surely there's something better on the other side if I do, right? Something like this?

I tried to imagine what it must feel like to be a man in these circumstances and to have women fawning over you for the simple task of not being a giant asshole, and I imagine it’s extremely gratifying. I find it’s hard to really imagine what it’s like to have that much ego-pumping, and on a regular basis, too. Which isn’t to say that all men have it—the feminist men in my life don’t and a lot of men I know besides get embarrassed at being fawned over. But they give up the fawning in order to behave with more justice in their lives. Also, in a very pragmatic way, they work more. Grooms I know here at home that have big weddings don’t have the pleasure of doing absolutely nothing but showing up and expecting to be congratulated for it. They have to work on it, and that takes time and effort, and is another price they pay.


[there're] enormous benefits ... My boyfriend knows, for instance, that he’s never going to show up one day and find that I’ve left suddenly, unable to take being treated like a servant anymore. ... a real opportunity for genuine intimacy with a [person] that’s only available to [pairs] where both people are equal.

The last post shares my small reform successes with the rest of the world, hoping they'll be motivational. This post shares my small reform failures with the rest of the world. :-(

Click here for the geeky afterthought.

I think there is an outside privilege system that supports my lazy will, even though it doesn't cause it:

I think there's a certain upper-middle and upper-class and suburban-affluent tendency to ignore kids' laziness as long as they're doing other praiseworthy things like making good grades or keeping a great behavior record in school.

Recent headlines from the blog "Black and Missing but Not Forgotten:"