Monday, January 22

National Sanctity of Human Life Day

You know why I think things like the Prevention First Act are so important? Because things like that act display the beautiful, best humanity of truly "pro-life" people, whether or not they believe that abortion is among acceptable answers to the life-damaging problems that unwanted pregnancies bring.

I salute all of you, this day after yesterday.

Yesterday was both the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, cause for celebration among those who believe that abortion is among acceptable answers and "National Sanctity of Human Life Day," allegedly a day of celebration among those who believe that it isn't.

However, as "Plutonium Page" pointed out, the day, if taken at its title's face value, should not have a darned thing to do with whether or not abortion is an acceptable answer to life-damaging problems caused by unwanted pregnancies. If the title lived up to its words, the day should be dedicated to decreasing suffering in the most effective ways possible (that is, usually as close to the beginning of the problem as possible).

Plutonium Page posted the following gut-wrenching photo commentary illustrating that point:

(Click here to expand this post and read)

Today is a very special day for Mister Bush. He has declared January 21, 2007 "National Sanctity of Human Life Day". Check it out, right there on the White House website, a nice, pretty little message.

I filled in the blanks.

America was founded on the principle that we are all endowed by our Creator with the right to life and that every individual has dignity and worth.

(AP photo)

National Sanctity of Human Life Day helps foster a culture of life and reinforces our commitment to building a compassionate society that respects the value of every human being.

(AP photo)

Among the most basic duties of Government is to defend the unalienable right to life, and my Administration is committed to protecting our society's most vulnerable members.

(AP photo)

National Sanctity of Human Life Day serves as a reminder that we must value human life in all forms, not just those considered healthy, wanted, or convenient.

Click here for more photos. (WARNING: graphic content).

I call upon all Americans to recognize this day with appropriate ceremonies and to underscore our commitment to respecting and protecting the life and dignity of every human being.

(AP photo)

Oh, and Mister Bush? I'll leave you with the words of John Prine:

But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.
They're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war.
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.

I, like Plutonium Page, want to take the focus off of whether or not abortion is an acceptable answer to pregnancy-related suffering in life. I want every day to focus on the more effective ways of reducing suffering in human life--ways like

Sunday, January 21

Why I don't want Sen. Hillary Clinton to be president

Here is a quote that describes the types of reservations I have about Sen. Clinton.

Yes, yes, I found it on Daily Kos...I swear I only started reading it because this primary race has me curious to see what the biggest leftytalk site is saying about the candidates, not because I usually agree with the people on there...

Anyway, this particular text did resonate with me:

"too many people think that underneath, she is a would-be aristocrat who would sell out America to the forces of free trade globalization in the same way that her husband did, only with a sterner look. Besides her money, her sex and Bill, Hillary's best asset is probably that she comes across as the most legitimate 'keep-the-oil-flowing' candidate, the one best able to play the Davos game. There is still a powerful lurking fear even among the Left, namely that the oil will indeed stop, so we really need to trust the old guard no matter what. This secret fear is probably what is propping up the Right from total collapse right now."

I have no idea who or what Davos is, and for me not all bad things in the state of worldwide economics have to do with oil per se, but I hope this quote communicates the gist of why, if Clinton is the democratic nominee, I would quite possibly vote third-party.

I've spent the last 3 years learning about nuances of the status quo / "old guard" of economic and social policy, and I've seen so many great ideas proposed by economists and other theorists just...flounder...when they reach people like Sen. Clinton who don't seem to give them the attention they have the power to give them.

I'm tired of that.

Now that I have a better idea of what new paradigms I do like the idea of (such as legislation that moves us closer to getting externalities factored into sellers' costs instead of social costs), I won't settle for someone who is as much of the old guard as Sen. Clinton is.

Thursday, January 18

Race vs. Skin Tone (do you really know what someone looks like if you can only identify race?)

I happened to see an old article from a Twin Cities-area campus newspaper and found it interesting.

Apparently, though no one is complaining about specific descriptors of HOW peach or HOW brown a person's skin color is in crime reports, two students represented complaints about not-actually-physically-descriptive terms like "black" or "African American" being on the little security alert flyers that the college puts up around campus.

West, by the way, spent his major and earned a Rhodes scholarship studying what psychologists and other scholars have figured out about the way people perceive race. Just a little tidbit from other issues of that paper.

Until I read the article, I hadn't thought much about the idea that there were both nonoffensive and offensive ways to report skin color in crime reports, and that there are pretty good English words for showing that they're differentiated based on helpfulness (or unhelpfulness).

Check out how the two students put it at the end of this quote:

[Security chief] Gorman said it is difficult to decide whether to use race when it is the only descriptor that a victim remembers, because he wants to provide as much information in security alerts as possible. He said that victims tend to give very vague descriptions when recounting an incident.

“We’re going to use skin tone colors and other descriptors that could be helpful but sometimes [race is] all people remember,” Gorman said.

West and Littell argue that if a person only remembers the race of the person and cannot remember any other physical characteristics that gave them the impression that they belong to a certain race, then they do not actually know what the person looks like.

Tuesday, January 16

Male circumcision helps them avoid getting HIV

Or so says an article I found while trying to get the text of the Prevention First Act.


The idea of encouraging lots and lots of people to alter their bodies to avoid one problem when we don't fully know what problems it might increase their chances of squicks me out.

Then again, that's common medical practice. In fact, it's common "naughty bits" medical practice. Women have been advised to do it for years.

Lots and lots of female people have been encouraged to alter their bodies to avoid pregnancy when we didn't fully know what problems it might increase their chances of...and even now that we know, it's still common medical practice to keep encouraging them to do it anyway.

Lots of feminists claim that the traditional reluctance to encourage lots and lots of men to do things with their genitals, hormones, etc. to avoid problems (such as unwanted pregnancy of a partner) is outrageous sexism.

So should we just be glad that at least some human beings are getting treated right by "common medical practice" and keep fighting to get "common medical practice" to stop being so nasty and deadly with the advice it gives to women?

Or is there some inherent value to encouraging these kinds of risky behaviors, as supporters of hormonal birth control have argued for years, that we should be glad that male human beings are finally getting to be the subject of?

Prevention First Act (S.21)

Yippee! Congresspeople want to put through a law increasing funding for birth control and other things that good studies show actually reduce abortions.

Is your senator a sponsor? Ask her/him to be one! If you're behind this even partly for religious reasons, I suggest mentioning that in your letter.

(Click here to see my letters)

Dear Sen. Klobuchar:

Firstly, congratulations on your win! I campaigned and voted for you--in fact, I knew who you were since you first started sending e-mails to the Kerry volunteer mailing list, and I've looked forward to your tenure, believing that you would make a fantastic senator for the Minnesotan people--extremely responsive to constituent concerns.

I am writing to ask you to sponsor the Prevention First Act. Thomas.Loc.Gov does not have the full text of the bill online yet, so unfortunately, I have not been able to see what I think of it, but the outline on Planned Parenthood and the Daily Kos have made me feel that even if it isn't a perfect leap forward, it does not seem to contain any passages that are steps backwards in the fight to help underprivileged
women suffer less, the fight to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies each year, and the fight to improve the quality of life for every citizen of this great country regardless of material privilege (these, by the way, are fights that MY Christian faith leads me to believe are moral and good).

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing the great steps you can help our
country take these next six years!

Dear Sen. Coleman:

Please cosponsor the Prevention First Act (S.21?)

You have won a lot of support from me by sending an individual reply to every one of my concerns, Sen. Coleman. When I voted in 2002, I hadn't thought we had ideologically opposed opinions on social issues, but because of you and your staff's attention, I have come to find how much we have in common! (Every time I think of writing you, I delight in finding out that we, as Twin Cities area residents who have experienced what an unusually beautiful place this is, with safe biking and park views within a mile or two of everybody, no matter how poor, valued the environmental protection and health benefits of biking equally. I wrote to ask you to vote for a bike commuter bill, and you had already beaten me to the punch by cosponsoring it!) I have come to feel that you are a good senator for the Minnesotan people--extremely responsive to constituent concerns.

I am writing to ask you to sponsor the Prevention First Act. Thomas.Loc.Gov does not have the full text of the bill online yet, so unfortunately, I have not been able to see what I think of it, but the outline I saw on Planned Parenthood and the Daily Kos have made me feel that even if I will eventually read it and find it isn't a perfect leap forward, it does not seem to contain any passages that are steps backwards in the fight to help underprivileged women suffer less, the fight to reduce the number of abortions each year, and the fight to improve the quality of life for every citizen of this great country regardless of material privilege (these, by the way, are fights that MY Christian faith leads me to believe are moral and good).

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing the great steps you can help our country take these next two (or more?) years!

Dear Sen. Dodd:

Please cosponsor the Prevention First Act (S.21?)

I am not a Connecticut resident (though I did donate to the Connecticut senate race last year!) but you are no mere senator, thanks to your membership on the HELP committee, so I hope you will have the time to read my request.

I am writing to ask you to sponsor the Prevention First Act. Thomas.Loc.Gov does not have the full text of the bill online yet, so unfortunately, I have not been able to see what I think of it, but the outline I saw on sites supporting it have made me feel that even if I will eventually read it and find it isn't a perfect leap forward, it does not seem to contain any passages that are steps backwards in the fight to help underprivileged women suffer less, the fight to reduce the number of abortions each year, and the fight to improve the quality of life for every citizen of this great country regardless of material privilege (these, by the way, are fights that MY Christian faith leads me to believe are moral and good).

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing the great steps you can help our country take these next four (or more?) years.

Dear Sen. Enzi:

Please cosponsor the Prevention First Act (S.21?)

I am not a Wyoming resident, but you are no mere senator, thanks to your membership on the HELP committee. You represent a constituency larger than state borders, so I hope you will have the time to read my request.

I am writing to ask you to sponsor the Prevention First Act. Thomas.Loc.Gov does not have the full text of the bill online yet, so unfortunately, I have not been able to see what I think of it, but the outline I saw on sites supporting it have made me feel that even if I will eventually read it and find it isn't a perfect leap forward, it does not seem to contain any passages that are steps backwards in the fight to help underprivileged women suffer less, the fight to reduce the number of abortions each year, and the fight to improve the quality of life for every citizen of this great country regardless of material privilege (these, by the way, are fights that MY Christian faith leads me to believe are moral and good).

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing the great steps you can help our country take these next two (or more?) years.

Monday, January 15

Happy MLK, Jr. Day!

Minnesota Public Radio rebroadcast a fascinating race-related interview in honor of Dr. King today.

    Dr. John McWhorter discussed his opinions on how to answer the question, "What can we do to help poor black people not be so poor?" which he tried to put into a book.

    He mentioned two ways that people generally respond to the question, said both weren't going to change a darned thing, and wanted to advocate a third:

  1. Poor people who happen to be black have no reasonable reason to not want to work and need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps--that is--they need to just start wanting to work.

  2. Poor black people are poor because the factory jobs all moved out to the suburbs (and now to China). What employers remain in the areas where they live won't hire them or won't give them the same amount of flexibility & trust that they'd give to white employees. We have to fix A) these employers' attitudes and/or B) the overall economic structure of the United States before we'll ever be able to help poor black people stop being so poor.
    (Dr. McWhorter feels like this idea came about largely because for the first time in history, during the Civil Rights Movement, black people did get external circumstances making life better.
    He feels, however, that this triumph of convincing external agents to help black people have fewer obstacles to success made people forget how to A) live one's daily life and B) work to help more poor black people succeed under the assumption that external circumstances aren't going to get any better.

  3. A disproportionate number of poor black people indeed don't want to work, but their reasons for feeling that way aren't unreasonable. Whatever the reasons were that older generations of young black people stopped wanting to work (Greatest Generation social policy, jobs moving away from the city, discrimination by employers, etc.), young black people today don't think about their predecessors' motivators & demotivators consciously. They just grow up observing it and imitating it, like all humans do. Dr. McWhorter's example of this was a child born to Chinese parents in Brooklyn. That kid's going to grow up speaking English because he/she observed it and that's what humans do.

    Dr. McWhorter, therefore, posits that while it's not anybody's fault for being too "lazy" to work, it is possible to retrain people and make them feel differently than their early conditioning caused them to feel.
I wish I had a copy of his book to skim, because I'm putting together his "third view" based solely on what he said in refutation of views 1 & 2 and on one single example he gave of work that people who hold the third view should passionately support ("youth opportunity organizations," if I remember correctly.)

Considering the guy only came up with one example and spent most of his time explaining why he didn't think views 1 or 2 were going to do any good, I don't have much hope that he elaborates View 3 much better in his book. Oh, you silly academics who deconstruct other ideas and forget to clearly construct your own.

I'll find his book later and add to this list based on his words if he does flesh out View 3 examples better, but for now, I'd like to ask you in the blogosphere:
  • What people, organizations, etc. (besides youth opportunity organizations) do you think address problems facing blacks from a "View 3" point of view?

  • If you agree with Dr. McWhorter that this is the way of approaching problems that's gonna get them solved better than any other, what are your favorite (most effective, best run, etc.) groups, individuals, & projects from the list that could be generated by my last question?
    (I'm always looking for time & money donation ideas.)

  • I'm a very privileged and inexperienced young white person from the suburbs. If you agree that organizations, groups, and projects working from this view of problems facing people of color are the most likely to make change, how should I interact with them?
    • Do I, with my background, have any characteristics worth imitating that poor people of color would have a hard time finding examples of in other people?
    • Or should I keep my irrelevant self out of the Boys & Girls Club and just donate my relevant money & goodwill-towards-the-orgranization-when-speaking-with-others-like-me (which are things my background arguably does give me)?
      I mean, it's not like I'm an entrepreneur or a doctor who can mentor an aspiring entrepreneur or doctor. I'm just a specialtyless office assistant myself.

      (Anyway, enough about me and my "What should I do?" questions. I'm primarily interested in generating discussion on Dr. McWhorter's ideas.)

Another lovely race-related item I found today is this quote:

A White Guy Honors MLK.

Good Will Hinton grew up in suburban Atlanta. Court-mandated busing, whatever else you may say about it, checkerboarded his friendships and integrated his heart, to the point that when he got to the University of Alabama at Auburn,

it just felt strange hanging out with mostly white people. So I ended up joining the gospel choir and becoming the only white member there. I'm not sure if that was part of MLK's dream for Alabama but I'd like to think that it was.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everyone.

Why Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, but not Iran, Syria?

I posted variations on this text at a few sites, and I've gotten some great responses, but so far the best has come from Haroon Moghul (dangit, why'd he delete his old blog's archives? Now how am I going to share his incredible Dubai article with people?).

The original text:

I don't get it. This morning on NPR, I heard Condoleeza Rice say something to the effect that we wouldn't be talking to Iran & Syria, asking them to stop funding Iraqi insurgents and seeing what they want in return for that.

Interestingly enough, we're not announcing that we're going to ask Saudi Arabia, etc. them what they want to get them to stop funding insurgent groups--we're going to ask them what they want to get them to do...well...just what I'm not sure...something to stop Iran & Syria from funding Iraqi insurgent groups.

But, hey, if that makes sense, and Iran's side & Saudi Arabia's side are doing the same thing, why not talk to Iran and ask them to stop Saudi Arabia from funding Iraqi insurgent groups? :-)

The point is...why are we on the Saudi-etcetera side only?

Iran has oil, too, so that can't be it. They're both states with a lot of "morality laws" and "morality police" to enforce them. They're both oppressive dictatorships who keep people who want more relevant Islamic principles as well as more liberal principles to rank higher in politics down & unheard. (The "morality laws" are the way the states pretend to be including Islamic principles in politics. They lock up the people who say, "But those aren't the aspects we considered important!" up & throw away the key.)

They just ain't so different. So what's the deal? Why are we treating them as if they were two totally different types of political system with two totally different types of interaction with religion?

What is our advantage in trying to get one side to put the other side's efforts down instead of trying to get both sides to scale their own efforts down?

I'm not asking this as, "Bush sucks!" kind of criticism.

I'm asking this to wonks who might be more perceptive or intuitive than I am.

I want to know of our proposed approach: what's in it for us, according to the approach's proponents?

Only once I know that would I consider starting to critique or criticize the policy.

Haroon replied, in a comment called, "A Few Good Reasons Why:"

When Iran overthrew its Shah in 1979, Americans learned that no native population can be so pliant as to be used, abused and manipulated solely for good as we perceive it to be. This shock, to the system, birthed our role in mutating the monster that was becoming Saddam. This realization has frightened Americans as it has all imperialists in the past: A native population, with a representative government and an ideology of resistance, cannot be crushed. The days of old-style wipe-out-the-native-resistance is gone; weaponry, media and resources are too diffuse for that brief moment in European genocide ahem expansion and Renaissance to come again.

But who then can America's ally be? Israel, of course, can never reject America -- not without ceasing to be the Israel it has, for decades, been; so long as Israelis believe they are like a colony in an alien world, they will never reject American support. (Or, if they do, it will be because they will find a bigger, better sugar daddy - just as Weizmann went from the Ottomans to the British and then the Israelis went to the Americans.) Saudi Arabia is a useful ally in this regard to, for several reasons

Firstly, it is not and never has been a real country; its population is unlikely to revolt against American interference because it has no national idea around which to rally -- and movements that have no national idea, and national base, nearly always (if not every single time) fail and fail miserably. We live in a world of nations. This is why Saudi "resistance" either goes the road of severely parochial tribalism (the reality of Saudi society, the means by which Saudis practice divide) or a malignant, internationalized Wahhabism, a la Osama Bin Laden... the means by which the Saudi royals practice conquer...

Secondly, Saudi Arabia's royal family knows that when the going gets tough, they'll go out Saddam style, albeit properly enough, with a lot more embarrassed knees-knocking. (Saddam, a brutal tyrant? Yes. A coward? No.) Saudi Arabia has no legitimate government -- it is the result of breeding aided and abetted by rentier stipends. When the going gets tough, nobody's going to care about the Saudis. Nobody. Even their support, the Wahhabi establishment, probably does du'a after every salat for a suitably sickening mass decapitation.

Not to mention oil. Oil, oil, oil.

Saudi isn't Iraq, or Egypt, or Iran, or Turkey. It isn't a country. It's a fiction that continues to be imagined by way of oil revenue, and a convenient one for US interests. Israel is too small, too controversial and, increasingly, too militarily weak to hold together the Middle East the way America wants it to be held together. America needs a new ally. But who can America rely on? Has to be a big country, of course, with money and resources. (Qatar is not Krazy Glue, in other words, and Dubai never will be.) But America learned in 1979 it can't trust a secular despot ruling over a proud, nationalistic, generally strongly-Shi'i people. We learned in 2003 that we can't even trust a well-secularized population, namely Turkey, because as a democracy, the Turks will look out for number one.

Saudi Arabia's number one is its ruling family. Saudi Arabia is America's hostage. A rich one, too. Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, they can never be as humiliated, as pathetic, as hypocritical, as militarily lame -- for all the Wahhabi bravado, their record is pretty pathetic -- as Saudi Arabia is and has been for several decades now.

Don't make friends with someone who can give you a bloody nose. This has nothing to do with human rights, with ideology, with some kind of attachment. It's power politics, plain and simple, and the Saudi royals keep digging themselves in deeper and deeper (into American pockets and defense networks.) They're useful precisely because, in the absence of their oil money, they would be useless. They know this, and know that nobody else can use them in quite the same way.

Boy, is that man good at analyzing current events through the lens of how colonialism affects decision-making today without being the annoying kind of "Colonialism is the only factor in everything!" academic that's easy to shoot down. :-)

But what a depressing outlook. Is nothing suggested in this book a realistic proposal?

Or are the suggestions about asking non-allied countries single short-/medium-term requests (modeled off of contributing diplomats' perceived "success stories" from the past) only realistic and possible for the United States when all the other states involved in a situation are of relatively equal "nationness?"

Click here for more answers I've received to my first question and my replies to those answers.
I'd love to see how you feel they compare to Haroon's response--better?
Saying the same thing?

Can you come up with anything that could be done to prove them all wrong and get us to make requests of all sides in this situation?

[insert this text later]

Koufax Awards

Lots of people have written about the Koufax awards, but Sage's post acknowledging that she nominated people was the straw that broke the camel's back. I, too, will go public and suck up to my blogrolled favorites draw attention to my nominations.

  1. Batch 1
  2. Batch 2
  3. Batch 3
Speaking of Sage, I sure do love her blog. All my favorite friends in real life speak & write English language usage rants just like this:

In other news: I was reading an article on Britney Spears in the grocery store line today, and she was described as having "functional highlights" in her hair. I'm no English major or nothin', but isn't that an oxymoron of sorts? How do they function? Do they cook her breakfast or whisper sweet nothings to her or advise her on fashion choices each week?


Thursday, January 11

Iraq deescalation

If you're too lazy to write a letter to your congresspeople, but you wish they'd use funding or whatever other tools they come up with to block the "surge" of troops, you could always sign this. Looks like the people behind it have connections & money to get an ad into a paper that circulates with congresspeople pretty quickly. Or something.

Update: Just saw this. Yuck.

"You probably saw this at the beginning of the week, but just in case you didn't:

Commanders seek more forces in Afghanistan
Taliban prepare offensive against US, NATO troops

[...] President Bush is expected to announce this week the dispatch of thousands of additional troops to Iraq as a stopgap measure. Such an order, Pentagon officials say, would strain the Army and Marine Corps as they man both wars.
A US Army battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks to deploy to Iraq.
Army Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata and other US commanders say that will happen as the Taliban is expected to unleash a campaign to cut the vital road between Kabul and Kandahar.

"Mind you, this is from this week, in 2007, not from 2003 or 2004. Right now, troops are being drawn from the actual 'war on terror' in Afghanistan to instead go fight in Iraq. Again."

I hadn't been up on the news enough to know that there was some particular big battle we pulled out from in 2003 or 2004. Yuck. Stay there, defend the road, people. Yeesh.

Tuesday, January 9

More laws I love

Sweet! We've got some really neat ideas floating around the house.

  • Instead of waiting for the bill numbers to get up into the thousands, someone has put the failed-to-be-passed-before "Powder-Crack Cocaine Penalty Equalization Act" into the system early--it's #79 this year.

    Only thing I can't tell is if it applies to possession. The language looks like it has to do with smuggling, but the history of the bill makes me think it's a street-possession kind of bill.

    Okay, so it's not a great law (hey, who knows...making the sentences harsher for the rich white teens' drug might make them even less likely to be convicted and increase racial disparity in the prisons, but I have this feeling that our legal systems are a little too transparent and our society come a little too far on transparent issues for that to be the likely outcome), but in this particular case, I'm for making a small improvement and then, when people see that it's not enough, saying, "Well, let's make another improvement!" rather than doing nothing until the perfect improvement is proposed & funneled through the political system.

  • This one looks kind of cool: a GI benefits bill "to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide that members of the Armed Forces and Selected Reserve may transfer certain educational assistance benefits to dependents, and for other purposes." H.R.#81

  • Two Native American tribes (the Lumbee tribe--I'm resisting the urge to link this to one of my favorite songs, "Lumby," because it's completely unrelated, even though it's great--and the Rappahannock tribe) are getting official recognition as Native American tribes. NC's done it for years with respect to the Lumbee tribe, and now the USA might, too. H.R.#65 & H.R.#106.

  • A bill "to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to expand and extend the incentives for alternative fuel vehicles and refueling property and to repeal the oil and gas production incentives added by the Energy Policy Act of 2005." Sounds like a good start. H.R.#86.

  • A bill outlining a particular right for states that doesn't seem too harmful (i.e. it doesn't allow them to trample all over a particular group of people's human rights): "A State may limit or place restrictions on, or otherwise regulate, out-of-State municipal solid waste received or disposed of annually at each landfill or incinerator in the State, except [for the first 2 years after this bill is passed where local agreements are already in place]." H.R.#70.

  • A bill "to amend the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 to require the disclosure of the original source of funds made payable to a lobbyist who is subcontracted to engage in lobbying activities on behalf of a third person or entity, and the disclosure of the identity of that third person or entity." H.R.#90

  • *snicker* If H.R.#101 had been a college rule, Tom, my sophomore buddy down the hall, would have had to step down from his Student Government Election Coordinator post in shame. The advice he gave me for running for student government wasn't immorally advantageous to me--but he did give me a leg up by saying, "Oh, geez, Katie, just knock on the door and walk into the boys' bathroom if you want to put signs there" when I lamented that I didn't have any male friends but him around at the time, and I knew he shouldn't be posting flyers. Was that him managing my campaign? Hey...maybe I wouldn't have won without those toilet stall signs!

  • "Funds provided by grant under this section may be used--(1) to establish statewide articulation agreements in math, science, engineering, and technology among public 2-year institutions and public 4-year institutions to provide a seamless transition for the transfer of students from the public 2-year institutions to the public 4-year institutions by having both such types of institutions provide and use a common core curricula that reflects the workforce needs of private industry..." H.R.#102.

Surgery is very dangerous. Pills are less dangerous. Save the only pill alternative to surgery for this particular health problem.

While browsing proposed House legislation because I wanted to see if there was an inflation-indexed version of the minimum wage bill instead of the "clean" yet unindexed House Resolution 2, I noticed that there was something called the "RU-486 Suspension and Review Act of 2007."

I'm still reading the bill and reading up on it, and so far it looks like some congresspeople think the drug is dangerous (potentially deadly) and should be pulled off the market until it can be studied better.
They claim that it was hurried to approval and that it really needed to be studied longer in the first place, and better late than never for pulling it off the market and studying it.

It looks like there were also a "RU-486 Suspension and Review Act of 2003" ("Last Action: Nov 14, 2003: Referred to the Subcommittee on Health ... This bill never became law.") and a "RU-486 Suspension and Review Act of 2005" ("Last Action: Mar 3, 2005: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pension ... This bill never became law").

I thought many of my readers would want to know. Though I haven't had an abortion myself, I do remember reading "BB"'s detailed accounts of an abortion on RU-486 after she was denied emergency contraception after a condom broke (partly because many of the medical staff in her rural area thought that emergency contraception was the same thing as RU-486!) She covered the physical feelings of it as well as all of her emotions and the time she spent going over pros and cons and making her decision.

(If you're curious to hear more details, she had to go the condoms-only route because the way her hormones are make it so she can't be healthy on hormonal contraception, and the way her vagina is shaped makes it so she can't use barrier methods inside herself. What's more, she had to go the abortion route once contraception failed because she'd been told by multiple doctors that another pregnancy would probably kill her, and she had 3 kids to raise.)

Thinking of people like BB, I want to say,

"Listen, yes, some people have died because they took RU-486, but other people have avoided dying because they took RU-486.

"How is it different from any other medicine in that respect?

"If you let legislators pull it off the market while it's being studied, people in the latter camp will die while it's away.

"I have a hunch that there are more of them than there are women who'd die because of taking the drug."

If you agree with me, please write your Congressperson and encourage her/him to table House Resolution 63. And/Or please pass on the above reasoning on your own blogs.

( Additional keywords for search engines: mifepristone misoprostol )

Thursday, January 4

Hooray, Canada!



I got really excited, because I thought it was Tanzania whose textile mills had all closed by 2004 on account of dead white men's clothes (stuff that doesn't sell at Goodwill, etc. in North America) undercutting the cost of making clothes locally, but it turns out it was Zambia.

2005: "Textile mills in Tanzania that had previously been mothballed were brought back into action and now employ thousands."

They're exporting them, too, which means that Zambia's probably still got no employment for textile workers and no up-and-coming textile factories making mosquito nets, but overall, still a great story. It's not like Tanzania wasn't hit at all by the "dead white men's clothes" markets. They lost a lot of textile mills, too, as implied by the statement "brought back into action." I don't quite understand how the economic policies worked, but work they did, so God bless whoever in Canada, Africa, etc. thought this up.

(Mosquito nets, are one of the most promising methods we have of reducing population growth in Africa.
1) People pop out kids to replace the ones they think will die, only people aren't very good at those predictions and always overestimate their dead kids, so the population grows. Population growth specialists seem to have determined that knowing your kids will live is the most effective incentive to take contraceptive action.
2) When parents die before kids know how to run a farm, carve shoes, or whatever it was they were going to learn as a skill for making a living, the kids end up dispersed, hopeless, living on the margins, and exposed to fewer reasons to take contraceptive action. Population growth specialists seem to have determined that keeping parents alive & healthy long enough to apprentice kids well also dramatically reduces population growth.

Oh, and by the way, does anyone know if the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is as into funding attacking-the-viruses-themselves research & development as this guy says it is? They were so highly praised by Jeffrey Sachs, the economist who is all for biomed miracles if they work but wants people to focus fastest and hardest on technology & methods that keep things simple, that I can't imagine they'd get that kind of praise from him if they weren't contributing to things like mosquito net distribution.

I can't decide if this article is a complete misunderstanding of what "donating to medical/technological solutions" often means in practice (is this one of those guys who also thinks no doctors anymore recommend diet & exercise? He's wrong!) or if I'm just ignorant of Bill & Melinda Gates dangerously taking "medical" and "technological" to mean only "fancy creams & injections" and not taking it to mean "nets and roads."


“That mosque is why I’m here today Ali Eteraz,” said The Jafi. “Because I am convinced they are all practicing [dissimulation], today at 2 pm someone I know will be calling the Feds on the mosque. That den of dissimulation has existed in our midst long enough.”

Ali Eteraz grew silent and then spoke up. “But sir, today is Friday and that is the time for Friday prayer. Even I will be in the mosque at that time. Won’t I also get arrested and charged?”

“Such things are necessary, Ali Eteraz,” the great Jafi headed out the door. “I always told you that you needed to do more to make them more like you. You needed to do it faster. I gave you three whole months and yet none of them appear any different to me, none of them come by to kiss my feet. It must mean that they are dissimulators and potential terrorists!”

“But what if there is a shoot-out sir? What if an accidental bullet goes off? My reputation will be tarnished at the least! What about my career? My family? Who will pay for my bail?”

“I don’t have time for this Ali Eteraz,” said The Great Jafi who had no time for such petty concerns.

“Sir please!”

“Sorry Ali, but you and the mythical moderates didn’t do what you were supposed to do. Now we must protect the homeland.”

“Sir I thought you said I was an integral part of the future of the world.”

The Great Jafi was almost out of the door. “Yes, I said that but only in one potential scenario. In the other scenario, the one taking place today, you are collateral damage. Goodbye Eteraz, you failed me. When all of your humanity is taken away blame your people. It was their inherent prowess in lying that made me do this. When you are in jail, blame Islam.”

The Great Jafi reminds me of O'Brien in 1984. I wanted to throw the book at walls and scream, "No! You.Don't.Make.Sense! Stop it!"

This story (of which I quoted the end) is fucking hilarious when you get absorbed and feel it like fiction; irritating enough to make you want to scream and cry if you think about the possibility of people really interacting like that.

Wednesday, January 3

Cross-post from an writer

I oughtta post this here for now, but I'll probably hide it behind a "read more" or delete it altogether in a while. I think it'd be more useful being cited on the big blogs, since that's where feminist theory gets read about and talked about. I'll e-mail it to them later today or tomorrow, I hope.

I'd like to share this with all the women over on the Sparkle*Matrix who remember extremely oppressing experiences and let you know that it made me think of you. You've gone through far more oppression than I have on account of the "gender" social category you're perceived as belonging to, and you might have gone through far more oppression than I have on account of other social categories you're perceived as belonging to than I have. Nevertheless, when I read your blogs and comments, I notice the "agent" in you, too. And I hope that when you read this article, you'll be reminded of the fact that you've been agents all your lives, even sometimes during the same situations in which you were being oppressed--or within hours before or after them. I hope this gives you hope that, through activist efforts, your lives' balances will shift towards experiences of less and less oppression and more and more agency. I have that hope, and I hope this article makes you look forward to it, too.

I'd like to pass on the same message to taught_to_despise at The Tree Remembers. This post you wrote is the kind of speech that every good person in the world who thinks he/she hasn't had intimate dealings with abuse but suddenly finds himself/herself thrown into the position of counselor/comforter/tattletale for a son's or daughter's best friend needs to have running around in the back of his or her head. This is the kind of speech that every good person in the world who isn't sure how to look for dangerous implications in what another person says (for example, let's say your stepmother were an innocent dupe--not saying that she is, but this is just an example--she would be the kind of person I'm thinking of, the kind of person hearing only your father's side of the story) should have haunting him/her. Hearing both sides of the story juxtaposed is one of the most effective ways we can catch bad people even when we only hear their sides of the story. So bless you, taught_to_despise, and don't you ever forget what action you're taking to make the world a better place. Don't you ever forget that what sometimes just feels like "whining to vent about oppression" to you might really be agency happening right in the midst of oppression. You are a person who's making an impression on me and on people like G. Willow Wilson as a complex individual who could use a bit of oppression taken out of her present and future life but who, nevertheless, has been, is, and will always be throwing part of the oppression off your own shoulders through actions you yourself decide to take.

The Post-Post-Feminist's Eteraz

By G. Willow Wilson

I want to begin with a story.

In the months leading up to the Egyptian presidential elections in 2005, I spent some time reporting on state media coverage of the increasingly frequent demonstrations and clashes between rival parties that accompanied the campaign season. Local state-controlled television channels were providing only cursory and contradictory information about these events, such that it was often impossible to know for certain what the aim and constituency of a demonstration was unless you had been standing in the thick of it yourself. This is exactly what I did on several occasions.

One incident, a protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that attracted hundreds of black-clad riot police, was difficult to pin down even then. State media outlets were claiming that it was organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, and refused to cover the event on the grounds that the Ikhwan were an illegal party. The protest itself was so chaotic that it was difficult to make heads or tails of its ideological thrust.

I left and took the metro home, overheated and frustrated. In the women’s car, I ran into my cousin-in-law. We were surprised to see one another downtown at that time of day; we both lived on the southern outskirts of the city, I worked from home, and she was still a university student. She asked me what had brought me to Tahrir on such a hot afternoon. I hesitated before answering. She knew what I did for a living, but I had always thought it best to be discreet about the details of my work around our family. The prevalent opinion in the social strata we both inhabited was that a woman did not, strictly speaking, have the right to put herself in potential social, political or physical danger.

“Covering the protest,” I said finally, deciding the truth was simplest, “What about you?”

She looked me right in the eye. “Participating in the protest,” she said. And that is how I discovered my soft-spoken muhajeba cousin-in-law was an Al Ghad party member.

I am reminded of this incident whenever I read about the Plight of Muslim Women. I am rarely comfortable with the way in which the very serious issues facing modern Muslim women are rhetorically addressed, both within and without the community. Reformists have yet to paint a picture of the Plighted Muslima that describes my cousin, acknowledges her complexity, her agency, the breadth and depth she brings to the word ‘femininity’.

I will not argue the Stockholm Syndrome-esque position of some traditionalist Muslim women, and say she is in no way oppressed: she will have a curfew all her life, there are ideas that she will not be permitted to impart to her children, and her husband will have an absolute social right to veto clothing or friends or habits of hers that he finds unacceptable. There is no way to soften or rationalize this reality, nor should it be softened or rationalized.

What I will argue, however, is that ‘oppressed’ is not a sufficient description of the person she is, or of the life she is building for herself. Whether she had to lie to attend the protest, or reasoned or coaxed her way into permission, or simply held her chin up and left the house, she was an actor in her destiny that day. She is proof that a clever woman, a capable, kind, brave woman, is never ‘simply’ a victim, no matter how dire the circumstance in which she lives. My cousin isn’t alone, either. I have yet to meet an ordinary woman. I am beginning to think there are no ordinary women; only extraordinary women in excruciatingly ordinary circumstances.

Today, it is finally acceptable to suggest that the bra-burning era of western feminism—which, along with economic experiments like socialism and communism, made a significant impact on the Nasserite Middle East during the Sixties and Seventies—inappropriately and ironically devalued femininity. The idea that women may have different needs than men, but possess an equal right to have those needs met, proved too complex for public consumption, and a wretched but expedient proposition took its place: women are exactly the same as men, and are thus entitled to the same things.

I vividly remember how this proposition manifested itself: when I was an adolescent in public school in the US, having your period was not considered a sufficient excuse to sit out of gym class. This would be admitting that girls were ‘weaker’ than boys. Encumbered with medicine balls and batons, girls would double over in pain, weeping, and be ignored; however, as soon as one had a sports injury, she could sit out for days on end, the lauded product of the new girls’ sports programs. It should come as no surprise to the belligerent architects of this experiment that the young women of my generation are ready for any amount of patriarchy if it means they can menstruate in peace. They have run screaming back into the institutions their mothers abandoned, and having suffered month after month in feminist gym class myself, I hardly blame them.

Yet the backlash against western feminism has been as unnatural, as insufficient, and as short-sighted as the movement it rebels against.

In the West and among Muslim women (and yes, among western Muslim women) it has become fashionable to objectify oneself, without even waiting for a man to demand it. We have willingly hinged our identities on pieces of clothing: the micro-skirt and the jilbab, the stiletto and the hijab, and we pantingly scream ‘we are not ourselves without these!’ as soon as someone raises an eyebrow. As if this should be a source of pride. As if it is a good thing to be so much a shrine to oneself that a change of clothes would destroy one’s identity. (Full disclosure: I wear a headscarf [with western clothing], but I take it off when I’m in small-town America and I think it will scare people. I love my scarf, but I can’t honestly say I feel less Muslim without it. Nor do I think I should.)

Women themselves have participated in the return of the ideal of the oversexed housewife, the black-shrouded virgin, the psychological emptiness that is womanhood when woman’s sole purpose is to serve man. In the rush to re-assert the public primacy of the male gaze, whether through a western standard of total feminine obedience or an Islamic one, women have put man before God, or, if you prefer, before truth. We are all, post-feminist Muslim and Christian and eastern and western and secular and faithful, guilty of a little blasphemy.

We struggle, always, with an image: what is woman? What should she look like? Say? How should she act? We struggle with an image because we have decided we are not equipped to struggle with something as dynamic as a personality. I am not, my cousin is not, the women I admire are not, symbols to be analyzed incoherently. Yet this is what the dialogue surrounding the Plight of the Muslim Woman has done: reduced us to our obstacles, our clothing and our genitalia. I am still waiting to meet the reformist who can look my cousin in the eye and say ‘You are no type, you fit into no bell-curve, and you move between oppression and independence with a dynamism no theory of mine can explain or resolve.’ To acknowledge, in other words, that her identity is not a static set of symbols (Muslim, woman, Egyptian) but an interplay of experiences, powered by something that exists in spite of gender or religion: that she is a person. Before she is anything else, she is a person.

This is something the women’s movement, particularly as it pertains to Muslim women, must address: when one speaks of women one speaks of several billion individual histories. Let us create no more mass narratives and no more simplistic fixes: women are not men with wombs, nor are they wombs without minds, and we should no longer act surprised when treating them as such, en masse, fails to adequately address their problems. Perhaps it is time for the women’s movement to enter the greater conversations: to write not ‘women’s literature’, but literature; to address not ‘women’s issues’, but issues of universal human importance. Dealing with women in isolation has only taken us so far. Today, I believe it is much more vital to address in their entirety the systems that produce both underprivileged women and men who are petty tyrants: poverty, lack of education, political and religious repression. I am of the opinion that the Grameen Bank does more for women than the Vagina Monologues. (I saw the latter when it debuted in Cairo and found it absurdly and laughably out-of-context. Let’s get these women running water, basic healthcare and literacy classes before we tell them that they will only achieve personhood when they can go on display before an audience of men and scream at full volume about their labia.)

Men cannot go forward without women, women cannot go forward without men; to treat the ills of one without treating the ills of the other is to ignore the disease in favor of its symptoms. If we truly want to pull down the obstacles faced by women—Muslim and otherwise—we must tackle the obstacles faced by humankind. Anything less will only be another temporary solution; a memetic, theory-driven bandaid made of stiletto heels, headscarves and manifestos for a wound made of war, disease and ignorance. We as women must come into our powers as individuals and work for something better.

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