April 2005 posts

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Bush and dictators – kill or hold hands

 So Bush kills 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians because their dictator is brutal. Why doesn’t he do something about Kim? And why does he hold hands with the Saudi Arabia dictator?

Let’s face it, he doesn’t care if someone is a dictator. Our government has many times supported dictators. We just need for them to be in our pocket. Otherwise, they have to go. But we have the high moral ground. 

Activist pharmacists

 I can’t believe that the social climate has degenerated so far that pharmacists think they have the right to refuse to fill prescriptions because of their own personal beliefs. Their job is simply to fill prescriptions that doctors have written.

So why don’t we just let therapists who feel drug abuse is morally wrong tell the police if a client says they are using drugs, or better yet, why don’t we let those therapists who don’t like suicidal clients simply let those clients kill themselves?

If a pharmacist doesn’t like dispensing certain medications, then they need to either tough it out, or quite simply, quit! That’s how the world works. You have to do your job, and if you can’t handle your job, then you need to get a different one.

For heaven’s sake, I think it’s incredibly immoral for people to exploit and kill animals. So can I now refuse services to anyone who eats meat? 

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount

 Sound like the religious right…?

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven.

2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after
righteousness: for they shall be filled.

5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the
children of God.

8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

9. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,
and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my
sake. 

Religious right doesn’t talk about Jesus, does it?

 http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-hitt26apr26,0,1240928.story

This is a great commentary by Jack Hitt in the LA Times.

excerpts:

….Instead of taking orders from temple chieftains, Jesus provoked his followers into thinking for themselves. His preferred media outlet? A literary genre called the parable. It’s a style of Q&A wherein the teacher doesn’t give the answer but challenges the listener with a half-finished story that forces him to think through to the answer by himself. The radical right has swapped out this genius preacher for some easy listening. They insist that everything will be fine if we just nail the Ten Commandments above every courthouse.

….Curious. Jesus updated the Ten Commandments in his most famous speech, the Sermon on the Mount. In it, one finds the Eight Beatitudes. Why don’t we ever hear about nailing those somewhere? Here’s why: It’s not simply the law in the Ten Commandments that attracts fundamentalists. Rather, it’s the syntax. The authoritarianism of so many “Thou Shalt Nots.”

The syntax of Jesus’ Eight Beatitudes is not so easy (Blessed are the poor in spirit…. Blessed are the peacemakers). These words invite the kind of hard questions that Jesus loved to tweak his followers with. How are they blessed? And why? It’s just like Jesus to leave us with questions instead of answers.

….Here is a quote from Jesus that you almost never hear: “What do you think?” It’s right there in the Bible. Jesus asks this question all the time.

….But that Jesus is nowhere to be found on our televisions or in our newsweeklies. Ironically, mass-market Christians rarely cite or emphasize the living Jesus, the Jesus who speaks. They like their Christ dead. 

There’s no point to steroids if they’re legal

 It occured to me that these athletes using steroids would never really want them to become legal drugs. Assuming they affect everyone in an equal fashion, if everyone used them, then whatever differences there were between individual athletes would still exist. Everyone would be stronger and faster, but Jane would still be faster than Paula, and Paula would still be faster than Emily, the same hierarchy that existed when they didn’t take steroids.

So steroids aren’t just about cheating in the sense of getting more returns for the work that you’re actually doing, but it’s also about cheating in that the steroid user needs it to be illegal so that they can have a cheap jump over the people who won’t use something illegal. If it were legal and everyone jumped on the wagon, there would be no point to it. 

Monday, April 25, 2005

NYT editorial – The Oblivious Right

 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/25/opinion/25krugman.html?ex=1115092800&en=8b6d6747850cbe04&ei=5070

Another good editorial by NYT columnist Paul Krugman

excerpt:

…Since November’s election, the victors have managed to be on the wrong side of public opinion on one issue after another: the economy, Social Security privatization, Terri Schiavo, Tom DeLay. By large margins, Americans say that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and Mr. Bush is the least popular second-term president on record.

What’s going on? Actually, it’s quite simple: Mr. Bush and his party talk only to their base – corporate interests and the religious right – and are oblivious to everyone else’s concerns.

The administration’s upbeat view of the economy is a case in point. Corporate interests are doing very well. As a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, over the last three years profits grew at an annual rate of 14.5 percent after inflation, the fastest growth since World War II.

The story is very different for the great majority of Americans, who live off their wages, not dividends or capital gains, and aren’t doing well at all. Over the past three years, wage and salary income grew less than in any other postwar recovery – less than a tenth as fast as profits. But wage-earning Americans aren’t part of the base.

….But Americans are feeling a sense of dread: they’re worried about a weak job market, soaring health care costs, rising oil prices and a war that seems to have no end. And they’re starting to notice that nobody in power is even trying to deal with these problems, because the people in charge are too busy catering to a base that has other priorities. 

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Outlaw lobbying

 I’m so fed up with the outrages and excesses of the “lobbying industry”. This group, it seems to me, is nothing more than people trying to manipulate votes by whatever means possible with official approval. And the lobbyists rake in these huge amounts of money. How can anyone even believe anymore that they believe in what they are hawking?

I think we should outlaw lobbying. When there are issues to be decided, groups from each side of the issue can present their case to the House and to the Senate – but to these bodies as a whole, not to individual politicians. There would be no private meetings allowed, private meetings in which “favors” can be exchanged. No expense-paid trips, no gifts, etc. Only group presentations in which facts are the issue, not greasing palms.

After each side presents its case, the two sides can debate with each other. The politicians can ask questions. They can discuss the issues with each other. Then there will be a vote. No one can vote who has not attended both presentations. Perhaps if the politicians aren’t off on expense-paid trips to foreign countries, they’ll now have the time to attend their own meetings, discuss issues instead of being bribed to believe one side, and cast votes that represent our wishes not the lobbyists’ wishes. After all, isn’t this what they were elected to do?

1960: Question Authority
2005: Demand Accountability! 

“Wild west” excuses

 Whenever I hear about people in the west justifying something because of their “wild west” personality, it always seems odd to me. How is the “wild west” unique to the west?

The first European settlers arrived on the east coast over the Atlantic Ocean. They fought Indians, put up settlements, and struggled to make it in a harsh, undeveloped land. Then some of them migrated to the midwest. They, too, fought Indians, put up settlements, and struggled to make it in a harsh, undeveloped land. Then some of them migrated further west to the Pacific Ocean. They then had their turn at fighting Indians, putting up settlements, and struggling to make it in a harsh, undeveloped land.

All parts of this country passed through an initial stage of development that fits the “wild west” persona. All parts then moved past this stage into further stages of development. The west is not the only area to have such a past – they were not even the first. Why do they lay sole, unique claim to it? And why is it that they wish to still claim that personality, even when their development has given them many more progressive personalities?

Just a handy excuse for any behavior that hints of lynchings, mob rule, and justice at the barrel of a gun, I guess. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Female Iraqi blogger – Riverbend

 http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/21782/

Alternet has posted an article about Riverbend, the female Iraqi blogger. Her blog posts have just been made into a book.

Her blog is at:

http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/ 

Alternative lifestyles and the gay umbrella

 Two caveats –
(1) The following post is admittedly talking in terms of generalities and
(2) As long as no one is being victimized, I believe that people are free to be who they want to be, and all deserve equal rights.

Alternet has an article posted right now called “Straightwashing“, by Rebecca Hyman. It discusses a current trend among human rights groups, in the wake of recent Republican gains, to push gays to act more “straight”, in order to help Democrats seem more mainstream. She relates this to the current public discussion about gay marriage (or rather, equal rights for marriage).

Hyman cites how many gays historically fought against the institution of marriage (for anyone) and wanted instead to promote other lifestyles as equally valid. She says, “Sociologists have long demonstrated that the notion of marriage and the family that is currently celebrated by conservatives is inherently white and middle-class, doesn’t represent the majority of family structures in the country, and is a recent invention”.

Hyman writes that by seeking legal recognition of gay marriage, gays are only fighting for the “straightest” appearing/acting of their ranks. If gays are allowed to marry and achieve acceptance, then there is a greater danger that less conforming individuals, such as transsexuals, will be further isolated, will seem even more different than “normal”.

She is basically highlighting the divide in the gay community about whether to fight to be accepted into society (for ex, by getting marriage rights), or whether to fight to change society itself to include a more diverse range of lifestyles.

I don’t think it’s a problem that some gays want to be accepted as “just like your straight neighbor, married with two kids and a white picket fence”. For heaven’s sake, that’s who they are and what they want. To me, this discussion is highlighting instead the problem of how people have been grouped. Perhaps the problem is that all gays have been lumped together because of their sexual preference. The solution may be for those gays who aren’t so mainstream to join forces with heterosexuals who aren’t so mainstream.

Historically, the only gays people “knew” were the “out” ones, the ones who appeared “different”. Many people therefore assumed that gays were all “wierd”; they began to equate “same-gender sexual preference” with “gender identity” because they only noticed the men wearing dresses and women “dressing like men”. They thought that “gay” meant wanting to be the opposite gender. Now even many gays who can “pass” (who “look straight” – ie, dress “appropriately for their gender”) are known to the mainstream world, because these gays verbally acknowledge their sexuality. Now the mainstream world is learning that many gays are more similar to them than they had previously realized.

As “gayness” becomes less stigmatized, it becomes apparent that it is less about “being different” than about a simple difference in sexual object preference. “Being gay” is no longer synonymous with “being different”. I would suggest that it also allows many more people to acknowledge their same gender sexual attractions. Before to do so would mean that they had to see themselves as “different”, when they didn’t feel “different”. Now they can be themselves, a person who finds the same gender attractive, but whose identity isn’t constructed around a sense of “being different”. There ARE people who “feel different”, whose identities are based on this feeling. I think it was a historical mistake to equate this with “gayness”. I think some people who feel “different” are gay, but many are heterosexual. Assuming that “different” is synonymous with “gay” is what is making some people feel that gay marriage is going to hurt others in the “gay group”.

Since the sixties, there have been heterosexuals writing about sexual freedom and fighting for the right to live different lifestyles. Why are we assuming it’s a “gay issue”? It’s an issue for some gays, but not for all gays. It’s also an issue for some non-gays. I think that the groups should be composed by beliefs, not by sexuality.

My belief about this is further strengthened when I think about how first the “group” was gays, then gays and lesbians, then gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, and finally the “group” is gay/lesbian/bisexual/transsexual. At least the first three groups have to do with same-gender attractions. They’re based on sexual preference. But to add transsexuals??? That’s a gender identity issue, not a sexual preference issue.

And further, who says that gays and lesbians are similar? In my experience, lesbians are much, much more like straight women than they are like gay men. Many (not all) gay men just seem to be “men”, without the civilizing influence of women in their lives (I’m thinking here of the often rampant sexual promiscuity). So finally, it seems to me the group cohesion of the “gay group/movement” is nothing more than “outcasts”.

So I don’t think that some gays fighting for the right to be legally married hurts the “gay movement”. It’s just people fighting for equal rights. Those people who want to fight for alternative lifestyles (IMO) shouldn’t be seen as “the gay movement”, they should be seen as the “alternative lifestyle movement”, and they should be composed of gays, straights, bis, transsexuals, and anyone else whose political interest is “alternative lifestyle”. The addition of heterosexuals to the mix should only increase validity of the movement in the general public’s eyes.

What should the “gay movement” be? With a group so diverse, I can’t see it rightfully being anything but a civil rights group, supporting people in however they want to improve their lives. So to say that fighting for “gay marriage” is harmful to other members of “the group” is wrong, I think. Gay marriage is just one of many political issues, and “alternative lifestyle” may be another.

But gay marriage is unique to gays, while “alternative lifestyle” is not. So I think those gays/bis/transsexuals whose big political priority is getting acceptance for different lifestyles shouldn’t consider the “gay movement” to be their primary umbrella. It should just be one aspect of a larger “alternative lifestyle” umbrella which also has heterosexual “alternative lifestyle” activists. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Loud hosts on Air America

 I have listened to NPR faithfully for many years now. For the last couple of weeks I have given Air America a try. I’m about ready to give up on them, except I wouldn’t mind listening to Laura Flanders on the weekends.

After lunch for three hours there is a loud, rude, abrasive man who calls himself “Big Ed”. I don’t think he ever talks normally; he seems to always be yelling. He talks over callers, ends their call when they are in midsentence because he has become bored, and is rude. And yesterday he was actually repeatedly shouting the same phrase (“Who cares? Who cares? Who cares? – probably twenty times) at a caller in order not to give the caller a chance to speak. Does he think people really want to hear him shouting over the radio? Do people find this entertaining? Are they over the age of 12?

I agree that it’s good that now there is an alternative to conservative talk radio. But does providing an alternative mean that we have to stoop to their level??? His behavior is so unprofessional and immature. I find some of his callers interesting and the host himself brings up some good points. But I don’t think I can handle the delivery method any longer. He is SO “AM talk radio”, just with a liberal twist. There’s still hateful talk, there’s still rudeness.

And where’s the positive slant? I was excited there was a liberal radio station, but I was excited because I wanted to feel the positive groundswell, to hear about positive ideas we can use to take our country back. I didn’t plan on finding a radio station with the same mentality as Rush Limbaugh.

After him, from 3-6 is the “female loud person”. Her name is Randi. Sometimes she speaks in a normal voice, but when she gets excited, she’s screaming. I just don’t care for that. Someone being impassioned is one thing; screaming is another. And she refers to some callers as “idiots”. Hosts like these just make me think that their audiences are the same ones that go to Ben Stiller movies, people stuck at a teenage level of humor and intellect.

The sad thing is, both of these hosts impart some really good ideas and information. It’s bad enough having to sit through sooooo many commercials (especially for an NPR person who is not used to ANY), but to have to listen to this “AM radio” behavior is just getting to be too much.

This kind of radio personality is definitely not worth giving up Terry Gross on NPR. 

Moveon.org and same-side attacks

 http://www.alternet.org/story/21787/

Alternet is carrying a story about Moveon.org’s recent ad campaign against democrat Steny Hoyer, who was one of many democrats voting for the bankruptcy bill, siding with credit card companies over consumers. Also, yesterday the male “loud host” on Air America was talking about it, saying that he felt Moveon.org was wrong in targeting a fellow liberal.

Perhaps it wasn’t best to target one Democrat when many voted for it, and perhaps the method they used wasn’t the best. But I don’t agree that we should never speak out about one of “our own”. To me, the regressives are all about “America right or wrong”, and I think that’s a huge problem. If you really love your country, you want to know the good and the bad, so that you can make it better. Saying that Democrats shouldn’t hold their own accountable for their behavior is the same thing, it’s like saying “my party right or wrong”.

The Air America guy’s justification for opposing Moveon.org’s targeting Hoyer was that all that matters is winning. He said that once we win, then we can do what we want. And apparently the Democrats were quoted saying that they needed to get some of the credit card lobby’s money to help them win elections later, so they were going to vote for the Republican bill.

But how exactly does that logic work? How are you going to win back voters by saying “well, our record is “non-Democratic”, but vote for us, and once we win, then we’ll vote Democratic again” ? Sure, winning (in this case) is important, but what does it mean to win if you do it without a set of principles? That’s like how people always root for Team A, even though Team A changes towns, its players change every year, and it has a new manager every year. Democrat will mean nothing more than the name “Team A” with this sort of logic – there will be nothing to the constancy or substance of what the name supposedly represents.

Anything that sounds like “my X right or wrong”, always jumps out at me as wrong. Think about raising kids. Those parents who say “my kid right or wrong”, who defend their kid just to defend against some imaginary threat against the family name, are doing the child a disservice and usually end up with problem children. How are you going to teach the child to recognize and to do the right thing, if you defend them no matter what and don’t hold them accountable?

Same with politics. Our vote is our voice. The politicians are supposed to represent us. How can we expect them to represent us if we don’t tell them our likes and dislikes? And if we don’t tell them or give them feedback, then we are allowing them to take our votes for granted, to assume that we are going to vote for them simply because they have the title “democrat” – then we ARE telling them that they can do whatever they want. “Right” and “wrong” doesn’t matter – all that matters is winning or looking good or not admitting mistakes.

What in the world does it mean if a Democrat wins an election, if they don’t stand for the principles of the Democratic party? Then it’s a win in name only. The point is to make the world a better place, and we do that by supporting people who show by their actions that they have the same philosophy we do, not by supporting them simply because they have the title “Democrat”. Voting the party line or saying “my country/party right or wrong” means we’re not thinking and we’re letting someone else take our voice.

Moveon.org’s ads are not in an election year. They like Hoyer, they just don’t like what he has done recently. I don’t understand why they singled him out, but I do understand why they feel a need to call attention to what he has done and to hold him accountable for it. I think they are just saying, “we voted for you to represent us, and you are not representing our best interests”.

Perhaps they are using democracy to its fullest advantage, by communicating with a representative more often than just with a vote at election time. Or maybe they are saying “you are paying attention to the power that credit card companies have (money) and instead you better start paying attention to our power (our future votes). I think that’s fair. 

Monday, April 11, 2005

Liberalism in academia

 An Alternet article by Russell Jacoby, The Nation, entitled: The New PC: Crybaby Conservatives.

It’s rather lengthy, so I’ve posted excerpts below. The parenthetical remarks are mine.

AlterNet: The New PC: Crybaby Conservatives
http://www.alternet.org/story/21715/

…Even the most rabid critics do not accuse professors of being on the payroll of al Qaeda or other Islamist extremists. Moreover, conservatives command the presidency, Congress, the courts, major news outlets and the majority of corporations; they appear to have the country comfortably in their pocket. What fuels their rage, then? What fuels the persistent charges that professors are misleading the young?

…Today’s accusations against subversive professors differ from those of the past in several respects. In a sign of the times, the test for disloyalty has shifted far toward the center. Once an unreliable professor meant an anarchist or communist; now it includes Democrats.

…the new conservative critics seem driven by an ethos that they have adopted from liberalism: affirmative action and a sense of victimhood, which they officially detest.

…They want America’s faculties to reflect America’s political composition. Of course, they do not address such imbalances in the police force, Pentagon, FBI, CIA and other government outfits where the stakes seem far higher and where, presumably, followers of Michael Moore are in short supply.

…Conservatives claim that studies show an outrageous number of liberals on university faculties and increasing political indoctrination or harassment of conservative students. In fact, only a very few studies have been made, and each is transparently limited or flawed. (article goes into much more detail)

…The notion that faculties should politically mirror the U.S. population derives from an affirmative-action argument about the underrepresentation of African Americans, Latinos or women in certain areas. Conservatives now add political orientation, based on voting behavior, to the mix. but one does not choose their race or gender; they choose their political orientation – might that be an important distinction…?

…I teach at UCLA. The history professors are housed in cramped quarters of a decaying Modernist structure. Our classiest facility is a conference room that could pass as generic space in any downtown motel. The English professors inhabit what appears to be an aging elementary school outfitted with minuscule offices. A hop away is a different world. The UCLA Anderson School of Management boasts its own spanking-new buildings, plush seminar rooms, spacious lecture halls with luxurious seats, an “executive dining room” and–gold in California–reserved parking facilities. Conservatives seem unconcerned about the political orientation of the business professors. Shouldn’t half be Democrats and at least a few be Trotskyists? (I think this is an important observation (the difference in offices) especially since the democrat to republican ratio is probaby very different depending on department)

…In the name of intellectual diversity and students’ rights, many courses could be challenged. A course on Freud would have to include anti-Freudians; a course on religion, atheists; a course on mysticism, the rationalists.

…Conservatives who pursue higher degrees may prefer to slog away as junior partners in law offices rather than as assistant professors in English departments. (I suspect self-selection, too)

…The effort, in the name of rights, to shift decisions about lectures and assignments from professors to students marks a backward step: the emergence of the thought police on skateboards. At its best, education is inherently controversial and tendentious. While this truth can serve as an excuse for gross violations, the remedy for unbalanced speech is not less speech but more. If college students can vote and go to war, they can also protest or drop courses without enlisting the new commissars of intellectual diversity. 

We need smaller schools

 I’ve been reading so much about violence in schools, even in grade schools, about school police using tasers on little kids. You know, I think that if we (read: our political representatives) REALLY cared about our youth (our future), instead of putting police and metal detectors in the schools, they would take a different approach. (In a similar vein, I think that if we really didn’t like war, we would put great energy into learning how to prevent them, rather than putting billions of dollars into learning how to wipe out other peoples more effectively and quickly.)

Put the money into building many, many more schools. Schools should not be housing thousands of students. And school buses shouldn’t be holding 90 children! I really believe the children need smaller, more intimate settings, where there is much less chance of their feeling neglected, or isolated, or anonymous (a factor which leads to the greater adult crime in big cities, I think).

When children have problems, they would have more of a chance to connect with a caring adult early on in the process, rather than with a disciplinarian at a later stage of acting out. It would be easier to help those children who come from disadvantaged homes, because the teachers would have fewer kids to deal with. The children would be more likely to all know one another in a smaller school. And the teachers would have the ability (I would say, the directive) to immediately put a halt to anything that looks like bullying. We don’t allow racial slurs, but we do nothing to stop bullying, which can cause lifelong scars (and school shootings).

Putting an elementary school child in an environment with hundreds of other children, or a high school kids in with thousands of other kids, is like throwing them into the big city. How can we do that to our kids? No wonder they’re engaging in adult and criminal activities at younger and younger ages. They’re kids – they need adequate, smaller group supervision, not huge, threatening environments which require police intervention. I think we’re bringing this all on ourselves, we’re doing it to our kids ourselves. 

Sunday, April 10, 2005

George Lakoff on self-righteousness

 UC Berkeley Linguist George Lakoff from “Moral Politics: How Liberals & Conservatives Think,” Univ. Chicago Press, 2nd Edition, p.59, in a section elaborating on the metaphors that undergird the “Keeping of Moral Books.” He discusses Moral Capital, Justice, Rights & Duties and then…

“Self-Righteousness: A self-righteous person is someone who carefully keeps his own moral ledger books, who makes sure that, according to his own system of moral accounting, he is morally solvent and that, in his accounting system, his credits always outweigh his debits. A thoroughly self-righteous person knows neither shame nor gratitude, since he has no moral debts, again according to his own method of accounting.

“There are three things that make him not righteous but self-righteous. The first is that he recognizes no moral values other than his own as valid. The second is that he keeps his own books…. there is no external auditing. And the third is that he must communicate his moral standing to his interlocutors.

“The self-righteous person’s superfluity of moral credit is the basis of his discourse. He presupposes his own moral values and his own righteousness as a condition of conversation. The effect of this is that anyone talking to a self-righteous person must either agree with his moral values and act equally self-righteous, or face being put in a morally inferior position in the discourse. This is what makes self-righteous people particularly infuriating to talk to.” 

Saturday, April 09, 2005

“Secular” painted as a bad thing

 I believe it is a huge fallacy to believe that someone has to be religious to be a moral authority. A huge one with grave repercussions. To make the point that much of this is a matter of opinion, consider this: a different way to look at it is that a religious person is someone who needs to have someone else tell them what to believe. But at the end of the day, even all the religious authorities are just people. We all have the ability to consider moral issues and come to personal conclusions all by ourselves. So perhaps the reason for “religious authorities” is simply to attempt to have one viewpoint win out over another.

Finally, while some people attempt to paint words such as “secular”, “liberal”, and “progressive” as disgraceful positions, that, too, is a matter of opinion. Many people wear those labels with pride. Someone else’s scorn of that does not make it wrong. It seems to me that many conservatives see things in black/white, they’re right and most of the world is wrong. Non-conservatives fight for democracy, the right for people to have individual differences, to follow their own moral compass, for everyone to coexist. Some of those people may choose to follow “religious authorities” and some of them may not. Some people find moral guidance in non-religious authorities, in the hands-on moral work done by everyday people.

That’s the beauty of a real democracy. A “disgraceful” secular/liberal/progressive government protects your right to be yourself. 

Editorial – The war on women’s lives and the Pope

http://www.alternet.org/rights/21696/

American women of all political parties, need to understand that–as Newsday columnist Marie Cocco puts it–we are seeing a “jeremiad against women who want to control every facet of their destiny. The campaign against sex education, against condoms–and now against a tiny pill that sits in the medicine chests of millions of American homes–is a comprehensive assault on modern life.”

The battle is no longer simply over abortion.

It is over the most basic rights of women to have any control over when–or if–they will bear children.

We may wake up one day and discover that our rights have been nibbled away by laws consistent with the beliefs of Pope John Paul II and others who have opposed women’s reproductive freedom–and their political allies–that have a radical agenda of which few Americans approve. 

Arianna Huffington – culture of life

 http://www.alternet.org/columnists/story/21628/

excerpt:

If the Republicans insist on making the “culture of life” a federal issue, the Democrats should, by all means, let them. But they need to make sure that the national debate doesn’t center on tragic anomalies like the Schiavo case but on the thousands of people whose lives are cut short because they lack access to decent health care or on the prolonged suffering of the millions of children living in poverty.

Instead of allowing themselves to be cowed by the fear of looking like they’re coming down on the immoral side of the moral values debate, Democrats should snap out of it and demand that the president interrupt his next vacation and that Bill Frist hold another midnight session of Congress to address the moral disgrace of 45 million people with no health insurance and 36 million people living in poverty. This is the only way to reclaim the moral high ground. 

Alternet book review by Rubin

 http://www.alternet.org/story/21698/

An interesting discussion of why people vote Republican when it isn’t in their best interests.

excerpt:

In his intriguing book What’s the Matter with Kansas, Thomas Frank argues that culture now trumps economics in the political sphere and offers as explanation yet another, if more sophisticated, version of false consciousness. “People getting their fundamental interests wrong is what American political life is all about,” he writes on the very first page. “This species of derangement is the bedrock of our civic order; it is the foundation on which all else rests.” American politics is, he insists,

a panorama of madness and delusion worthy of Hieronymous Bosch: of sturdy blue-collar patriots reciting the Pledge while they strangle their own life chances; of small farmers proudly voting themselves off the land; of devoted family men carefully seeing to it that their children will never be able to afford college or proper health care; of working-class guys in Midwestern cities cheering as they deliver up a landslide for a candidate whose policies will end their way of life … 

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Now even the disabled can disable someone

 Oh, my god – now even the disabled can disable another sentient creature. You’d think that they of all people would know better. And which is the only state about to do this? Texas.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0405/p01s02-ussc.html?ref=aol

Remote-Control Hunting Draws Fire
By Kris Axtman, The Christian Science Monitor

HOUSTON (April 5) – Sliding his computer mouse around until he locates a moving target, the hunter sets the animal in his sites and pulls the rifle’s trigger with a click of his finger. Down goes a wild boar. Another trophy bagged.

Yet in this case it’s not a video game. It’s a new kind of hunting experience in which people anywhere in the world can sit at home and target real game by controlling a gun in a remote location.

To supporters, it’s a way to allow the disabled, among others, to enjoy the thrill of hunting. But critics see it as a form of video slaughter. 

Conservative proselytizing

 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/05/opinion/05krugman.html?incamp=article_popular_1

Article titled: An Academic Question

Paul Krugman, in a New York Times article today, talks about the current conservative complaining about the “liberal bias” in universities. The link is above; it’s a good article.

It reminds me of a recent article I read in which the author was saying that there is a current conservative push to “get to” people when they are young (much as religion needs to). The article said that this is why they are focusing attention on supposed “gay characters” in children’s cartoons and why they are now mounting an attack against schools – creationism in grade schools and laws to enforce “conservative values” in universities. The author said something about, how do you reach people when they are still impressionable and able to be manipulated? You start when they are young and focus on the parts of the world they move in – TV and school. So while these recent conservative attacks seem so ludicrous to most people, they have an explicit purpose – proselytizing. They have to make sure that only those images supporting the status quo are shown to impressionable minds. 

New York Times editorial on the papacy

 I read an interesting New York Times editorial today about the history of the papacy. Another person standing up and talking about facts and not letting others define the discussion. Thomas Cahill, The Price of Infallibility:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/05/opinion/cahill.html?n=Top%2fOpinion%2fEditorials%20and%20Op%2dEd%2fOp%2dEd%2fContributors 

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Jane Fonda on Air America

 http://www.airamericaradio.com/

Today I heard an interview with Jane Fonda on Air America. I realized how much I like hearing her opinions and how much I wish she were more a part of politics today.

One of the things she said was that Jesus’ real values are feminist values. I really believe that statements like this are very important. Or statements that ask the religious right why does it pick and choose what it wants to follow out of the bible.

Non-conservatives have really let the neo-cons define the issues. It’s way late, but finally people are standing up and laying their own claim to moral ground. Maybe it’s in time for the 2006 election. So many things have to do with how you look at things, and that’s why a truly democratic society is important. We’re currently on a swing towards a theocracy in which one group is imposing its conservative views on everyone. And that’s not democracy. That’s a power grab.

I didn’t think it would happen, but I think I’m finally becoming hopeful. I think a backlash has finally begun! We may once again have a democracy… 

“Culture of Life Top Ten”

 http://www.alternet.org/story/21660/

Posted on alternet, “The culture of life top ten”. I really like this article. This is what non-conservatives need to be emphasizing, that life is more than birth and death. I really have a feeling that conservatives are going to start saying that since they’re the “culture of life”, that non-conservatives embrace a “culture of death”. We can’t fall into that trap. We have to promote our own definitions, and stop letting the neo-cons define the issues.

From the article (see article for information under each category):

In the wake of the Terri Schiavo case, we’ve been hearing a lot about the so-called “culture of life.” Christian conservatives use the term to refer to God’s wish that we preserve all human lives, especially those more vulnerable than our own. In practice, however, it applies to a surprisingly stingy range of concerns: abortion, euthanasia, and stem cell research.

At minimum, a true “culture of life” would support the following ten positions:

1. Withdraw the Troops
2. Stop the Death Penalty
3. Pass Effective Gun Control Laws
4. Fund Social Services
5. Create Universal Health Care for Children
6. Research Alternative Energy
7. Investigate Prisoner Abuses
8. Support AIDS Clinics Abroad
9. Implement a Fair Guestworker Program
10. Join the International Criminal Court

Together, these issues account for the needless deaths of tens of thousands of people a day. A culture that valued their lives is one we could all celebrate.

Michael Blanding is a freelance writer living in Boston. Read more of his work at http://www.michaelblanding.com. 

Sexism in sex

On TV, whenever the male fails to achieve an erection, the couple is sad that tonight they can’t have sex. What planet are they from? The male can still satisfy the female – he doesn’t need an erection for his mouth to work.

For generations, sex was all about the male pleasuring himself by using the female’s body, and it was decided that women couldn’t enjoy sex. In reality, it was all about men defining sex as being that which was good for them and not even acknowledging or knowing that sex is also that which most pleasures a woman. While many women greatly enjoy intercourse, for most of them it isn’t the stimulation that will result in an orgasm.

Imagine if we had a matriarchy where sex was decreed to be men performing oral sex on women. Occasionally the women would want intercourse and the male would have an orgasm, but it was considered foreplay and not a real part of sex. Most often, sex would involve men performing oral sex on women and nothing more. Women would have an orgasm and the men would just be happy to satisfy their partners. That doesn’t seem so fair, doesn’t it?

So why now, when almost everyone realizes that a woman’s pleasure center is not in her vagina, is sex still really considered to be the act which gives the man an orgasm? That’s really what these TV shows are saying.

And when movie producers use symbolism to evoke sexual images, why do they only choose things like a train entering a tunnel? Why don’t they use images like someone licking an ice cream cone? Sure, sometimes you see something like that, but it’s always a woman doing it, evoking an image of oral sex on a man, not vice versa.

Why do men prefer to excite women by using imagery which draws on the sexual acts which bring men themselves the most pleasure, not the imagery of that which is more likely to give women orgasms? 

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Proselytizing and government funding

 Bush wants to make government funding available to religious organizations, which previously hasn’t been an option. I believe the reason that it hasn’t been allowed is because they don’t simply do good works, but they insist on proselytizing.

So what I want to know is – if Jesus and God want them to be good people, to go out and help others in need, why don’t they just do this good work and take the government assistance to do even more good work, and just do it without trying to convert people (who, as people in need, are more vulnerable to this kind of manipulation)?

Why is proselytizing more important to them…..? What does that say about their “good hearts”? 

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