Monday, November 30, 2009

Quote of the Day

I like how the comics are in the Business Section.
- My sister.

I, too, like how the comics are in our Business Section.

Monday Reading List

Insurance Company Revokes Depressed Woman's Benefits Over Facebook Photos:
When it comes to disability, able-bodied people tend to have an idea of what disability “looks like.” This results in proclamations about who is really disabled and who is really faking it (presumably, for all of the awesome government benefits that are inadequate to live on, and the fun social stigma). And for the person being proclaimed a faker, that frequently means not only the hurt of having their identity and lived experience dismissed, but also the denial of accommodations that they need.
Great, now Demi Moore's Torso Is Missing:
In all of the chatter surrounding the Demi Moore W cover controversy, many people have insisted that her vanished hip is part of a perfectly natural pose. They were correct. The photo shows the natural standing pose... of a runway model in her mid-twenties. It appears that Moore's head, legs, and arms were superimposed on the hips and torso of model Anja Rubik.

Why Anti-Feminism is Illogical, Unnecessary, Evil, and Incredibly Unsexy (quote taken from second page):
The point of feminism is not to alienate men, but for women to focus on our own concerns and needs, to establish our own values. These may or may not coincide with the already established values of our dominant culture, just as our concerns and needs may or may not fold neatly into a relationship. The point is to work on making decisions based on choices that are really choices instead of following a script--in other words, it means learning to laugh at what we find funny instead of just following along with the laugh track and to make trouble when trouble is necessary.
And, because I absolutely adore Hillary Clinton,
Her Brilliant Career:
She is a rock star. Students camped out in line for hours to get tickets to the event, which sold out in minutes. When she first appeared onstage the audience leaped to their feet, and the applause was deafening. "They weren't cheering Bob Gates," said a fellow in uniform sitting next to me. And despite the gravity of the occasion, a young woman bellowed at the top of her lungs, "I love you, Hilllllary!!!!," as if she were at a Lady Gaga concert. Seeming to acknowledge her superstar status, Clinton made a crack at the very end of the proceedings, saying that Gates had served most of his 43 years in public service "in secret" (referring to his CIA days). "And I have no secrets." The crowd roared with laughter.
On princesses, Ruthie-style (who is, actually, pretty much an accurate representation of one of my little sisters):

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Random Ten

1) The Other Night Blues - B.B. King

2) Big Shot - Billy Joel

3) Mustang Sally - The Commitments

4) Five O'Clock World - The Vogues

5) Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey! - The Beatles

6) Don't Ever Love Me - Harry Belafonte

7) Blue - Joni Mitchell

8) Same Girl - Jack Johnson

9) Black & Gold - Sam Sparro

10) 1989 - Mindless Self Indulgence

Male Bands: 7
Bands with Women: 2
Women Bands: 1

Women: 6
Men: 20

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Watching

[Originally Posted Last Year]

Every Thanksgiving, I watch the Macy's Day Parade, but there are a whole bunch of other turkey day specials that go hand in hand with this yearly event as well! So, here's a list of what I'll be watching and some of what I already watched yesterday (because I'm impatient).

1) A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. I love how Peppermint Patty invites herself over the Charlie Brown's on Thanksgiving Day, and then brings along Marcie and Franklin. I love Charlie Brown's and Linus' exchange, when Charlie Brown says, "I can't cook a Thanksgiving dinner! All I can make is cold cereal and maybe toast", and Linus responds with, "That's right. I've seen you make toast". I always wonder how even that blockhead Charlie Brown could screw up toast. I also enjoy Linus trying to make a historical connection to the current fight between Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown and getting shot down by Patty saying, "No, it's not like that at all". But mostly, I love Snoopy helping to make the popcorn and the toast and serving it with jellybeans and pretzel sticks when he had an actual turkey cooking in his doghouse. Aside from the disturbing part of feeding the turkey to Woodstock, the fact that the dog could make a turkey and chose not to share it with the rest of the neighborhood is just hilarious to me. Of course, Linus and Charlie Brown never asked if he could - or was - making a turkey either.

2) Sports Night's Thespis. The episode is brilliant. From the frozen turkey on the light grid to this exchange:
Dana: My whole family's coming to New York. 18 people.
Natalie: And this is your first time making the dinner by yourself.
Dana: Yes.
Natalie: It's a rite of passage into adulthood.
Dana: Yes.
Kim: It's a time for giving thanks. A time to share in the warm embrace of family.
Dana: Right.
Natalie: You don't want to take any crap from your mother.
Dana: I really don't.
Aaron Sorkin has a tendency to pontificate during pretty much every moment, but Thespis is pitch perfect between the true spirit of being thankful and whacky hijinks that routinely plague any ghostly visitation. Isaac dealing with his daughter's placenta previa, Casey and Danny's anniversary fight, and Dana's turkey woes all highlight different interpersonal relationships, and all revolve around the idea of pointing out what is important by Thespis mocking what is not.

3) WKRP in Cincinnati's Turkey's Away: A Thanksgiving turkey drop goes very, incredibly wrong for the radio station gang, leading to outright hilarity.

I highly recommend watching the whole thing; Les makes it, especially with lines like, "The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement!"

4) Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Pangs. A made family celebrating a day with pie and fighting vengeful spirits. The gang's all together, and it's great. They also get into the nitty gritty of the holiday, by both aptly describing what it is:
Anya: I love a ritual sacrifice.
Buffy: It's not really a one of those.
Anya: To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It's a ritual sacrifice. With pie.
And its problematic nature:
Professor Gerhardt (in the background): And that's why it's appropriate that the ground-breaking for the UC Sunnydale Cultural Partnership Center is taking place so soon before Thanksgiving. Because that's what the melting pot is about - contributions from all cultures, making our culture stronger.
Willow: What a load of horse hooey.
Buffy: We have a counterpoint?
Willow: Yeah. Thanksgiving isn't about the blending of two cultures. It's about one culture wiping out another. And then they make animated specials about the part where, with the maize and the big, big belt buckles. They don't show you the next scene, where all the bison die and Squanto takes a musketball in the stomach.
The episode isn't a shining beacon of cultural sensitivity, but it does present arguments from the different factions and also incorporates my own personal philosophy of "What happened in the past is something we should work to correct and acknowledge and the original 'everyone was happy when the pilgrims came to stay' meme is a sham, but it is a sham with yams and good family moments that should be taken and celebrated for their own right". Plus, it's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and no holiday of mine is complete without the corresponding episode.

5) Chuck, Chuck vs. The Nemesis. A newbie but a goodie. I'm holding on to Chuck tight, since Ned left me, and I love this episode for both the Buy More Thanksgiving preparations and the combined Bartowski and Morgan Thanksgiving. The whole thing, between preparations for Black Friday, Chuck dealing with his ex-best friend, and the actual dinner is incredibly funny.

6) Chuck, Chuck vs. The Gravitron. An even newer newbie but a goodie. Just Morgan's face when Ellie throws out the dry-run turkey is worth watching the episode for (though between this and Sports Night, I really have to start wondering how many people actually make dry-run turkeys before the big day). Captain Awesome continues his awesome streak, and Big Mike's defense of Buy More from robbers is incredible.

7) The West Wing, Shibboleth. Between CJ having to pick a turkey to be pardoned, and President Bartlet's incredulity that a high school student would not know that it was not in his power to actually pardon a turkey, the episode is a home run.

8) The West Wing, Indians in the Lobby. Aside from the plot the episode title is taken from, President Bartlet discovering there is a Butterball hotline is wonderful. As is his pretending to be a regular citizen while calling it to discover whether or not it is safe to cook his oyster stuffing inside his turkey or if he should make it separately.

Editing to Add:

9) Friends, The One Where Ross Got High. I usually don't like Friends very much. But I love this episode from start to finish. I love Monica and Ross' mom's response to all of the friends' outbursts, from Rachel putting beef in the trifle to Phoebe being in love with Jacque Cousteau to Joey wanting to go to Ross having done drugs and every other secret the siblings launch at each other in under a minute.

Have a happy and fulfilling Thanksgiving. And watch some television.

Also, new to this post, enjoy some Natalie Dee comics!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How Pretty Woman Does Not Hate Women

Okay, so did this list of seven chick flicks that actually hate on women. I've seen only four out of the seven movies on the list (I'll let you ponder over what the other three are, as one will soon become readily apparent), and I tell ya - I have to agree with their analysis. Except when it comes to Pretty Woman. Because their reason for it being a woman-hating film is this:
By tying 100 percent of a woman's self-worth to her clothes.
To which I ask, has the author actually ever seen Pretty Woman? Because it seems like that would be a 'no'. Especially when it continues on by saying:
During a 45 minute makeover scene Vivian walks into a Rodeo Drive boutique all pouty-mouthed and gangly--a big-lipped, shamefaced fallen woman who knows she doesn't belong in the same room as regular folk. Give her some expensive clothes, some flattery and overt groveling from the service caste, and she walks out of there like the honest-to-God Queen of Sheba. Her posture is straightened, her gait is elegant...
45 minutes?! The movie is only 119 minutes long! If there were truly a 45 minute make over scene, there would only be 74 more minutes left of the film for Richard Gere and Julia Roberts to fall in love! The whole opera scene would have to be cut! As would the polo scene!

Here's the other thing: yes, Vivian receives a make over. Yes, she walks out of there happy and secure in her new wardrobe. You know what she does with her new wardrobe? Walks right into the shop that had originally turned her into "a big-lipped, shamefaced fallen woman" (which, no), reminds them of who she was and how they refused to wait on her the previous day, and then tells them, "You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Huge." In other words, the clothes do not make the woman, and the woman who's money was not good enough for them one day is going to remember her treatment and act accordingly. The salespeople of that store got pretty well shafted (and shamed) for their treatment of Vivian.

So. We learn Vivian had self-worth before, retains self-worth during, and then employs that self-worth while in her new outfit to defend the person she was in her old outfit. It's just that she's human, and can be hurt by people's callous responses to her based on her outward appearance. Hey! That sounds like a pretty decent message about not judging a book by its character.

Seriously, Cracked. Fail.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On Lipstick, Sexism, and the False Equivalency in "Double Standards"

Runners Up, Beck and Orly Tates Limbaugh. Gretchen Carlson has just complained, "If you're a conservative woman, you get more attacks than if you have a liberal's point of view". Well, Beckerhead and Limbaugh have evened that out in a hurry. Each speaking of Senator Mary Landrieu, and each called her a whore.
Beck - "We're with a high class prostitute, that's what we're with".
Limbaugh - "That may be, folks, may be the most expensive prostitute in the history of prostitution. And she's bragging about it. Mary Landrieu."
Well, he's an expert.
So the next time I say something about Michelle Malkin being a bag of mashed up meat with lipstick on it and I'm called sexist by conservatives because I used the word "lipstick", even though every week on the football show I use the exact same phrase about men, only I don't say "lipstick", and "lipstick" was the one word punchline to a joke by Sister Sarah Palin, just remember, Beck and Limbaugh call a sitting US woman Senator a, quote, "prostitute", and not a single conservative woman has as much as disagreed with them. Ms. Carlson, where's your umbrage now, ya fraud?
I'd love to spend this time, here in this space, unpacking Glenn Beck's statement about Senator Landrieu. But instead, I'm compelled to use it to unpack Keith Olbermann's, because if I don't, when I want my umbrage I may be called a fraud (quelle horreur!).

Lesson the First: This isn't grammar school. Little Johnny punching Mark and getting away with it doesn't negate the fact that you pushed Rob down.

Or, your sexist statement stands alone.

So, for instance, if you compare a woman to a mashed up bag of meat with lipstick, that is still a problematic statement even if some other assholes call a different woman a prostitute. Both statements are bad. Okay? There is no, "Well, he said something worse and no one from that side called him out on it, so I'm totes in the clear!!!" Dude, you're so not in the clear. What you are is a bit of a dunderhead if you are figuring your sexism by the standards of the other side. Do they have political reasons to call you a sexist, and to not call out the sexist actions of the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world? YES! Does that automatically make them wrong? NO! And to absolve yourself of any wrongs based on the fact that Gretchen Carlson of Fox-freakin'-News (and who, incidentally, has "legs" pop up as a popular Google search when you start typing in her name, which kind of sums up a lot) hasn't called some other anchor on her own network out on his sexist bullshit doesn't make your sexist bullshit any less bullshitty or sexist! It just doesn't. And to justify your own sexist remark because the other side is hypocritical is ridiculous.

Lesson the Second: When friends agree with antagonists, the antagonists may have a point. I understand why someone might not want to take the Right's cries of "Sexist" seriously. These are the people who complained that Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin was sexist, and who had problems with Newsweek not photoshopping a Palin cover. Frankly, the Right calling "sexist" is about as believable as that boy who kept crying "wolf".

Gretchen Carlson wasn't the only one saying the sack of meat comment was sexist; Megan Carpentier called it misogynistic. On the Air America blog. You know, that beacon of conservatism. Alternet got in on the action, which is, as you know, one of the havens for those on the Right. Shakesville also got down to business. Which is practically the National Review! Oh, and me. I'm a regular Barry Goldwater.

So, yes, when the Right cries 'sexist', we all have the right to be skeptical. But when the people who are generally pretty good on feminism and calling out sexism expressed by all sides are saying that a comment made was not only sexist but also misogynistic, then the appropriate response is to actually think about it. To mull it over. To ponder. And to maybe use the next time a conservative or Republican or Fox News Anchor says something sexist as an opportunity to own up to your own fuck up and to challenge those on the Right to call out all sexism when they see/hear it and not just when it happens to the conservatives. Challenge them to not be hypocrites.

Lesson the Third: There is no double standard here. Other places, maybe. But not here.

This one may be hard to wrap the mind around, I know. It kind of seems to fly in the face of "fair is fair". And, frankly, it probably deserves its very own post. But here we go.

Men and women face some different obstacles in society. Not totally different obstacles, obviously. But there is a false equivalency going down if you think you can just automatically say the same thing about a woman you have about a man, if you gender it up with a bit of lipstick.

Note, here, that comparing a football player, a man who has been tackled and in some cases pummeled in the pursuit of his sport, to a mashed up bag of meat could very well be a valid, if grossly insensitive, statement of fact. However, the difference between a football player who has been out on the field of play and a woman who writes and talks for a living (two things that very rarely lead to constant physical interactions) is not a little one. And that's not even taking into consideration Megan Carpentier's point about the rate of domestic violence against women in this country.

So, I'd rather be unpacking Glenn Beck's statement about Mary Landrieu, about how he called her a prostitute, how he called this prostitute "what" instead of "who", about how bad that is. How that is bad because prostitutes, as one of the more marginalized groups, are often stripped of their humanity. I'd rather be talking about how Mary Landrieu securing aid for a state ravaged by a storm whose destructive force was at least partially the fault of the Army Corp of Engineers and whose people were left pretty much high and dry by the federal government being called a prostitute is (a) deliberately fostering ignorance about how the Senate (and politics in general) works, and (b) obstinately refusing to recognize that she wouldn't have needed that kind of aid if we'd taken care of her state in the first place. I'd rather talk about how when men broker deals for plane parts to be made in most of the 50 states, it is good politics (until it isn't), but when a Democrat - not even a liberal - works to make the system work for her constituents she's just a whore for the money.

But no. Because liberals I'm aware of keep saying self-righteously assholish things. Liberals I like. Liberals I generally agree with. And then I have to spend my ride into work fuming. And then when I get home, I have to write these long-winded posts in order to not be seen as a liberal equivalent of Gretchen Carlson.

Monday, November 23, 2009

No Diploma For You!

First, let me say that I am a big unfan of nonacademic requirements in the pursuit of gaining an academic diploma. That's one of the reasons I chose the college I did - it didn't have any phys ed requirements. No foreign language requirements (I'm not morally opposed to those, just academically insufficient), and private bathrooms for the dorms were also key factors.

So you can imagine how I feel about Lincoln University making a physical education class (HPR 103 Fitness Walking/Conditioning) a graduation requirement. But not for all students. No, just the students with a BMI over 30. Actually, you don't have to imagine how I feel at all; I think it bites. I think it bites hard.

One of the reasons it bites so hard, aside from my obstinate streak that makes me keen on doing the opposite of what is required of me, is that the BMI is, actually, mostly bunk. It is as inaccurate a way of testing someone's true body fat ratio as any method devised. Why? Well, as this handy BMI calculator I found on the interwebs demonstrates, BMI is nothing but an approximation of body fat based on a person's height and weight. So
If you’re going by your body mass index, or BMI, a measure that factors in your weight and height, you are considered overweight if that score is 25 to 29, and obese if it’s 30 or higher. But a surprising new study finds that some people with a BMI pushing 28 actually have little body fat — and some folks with a BMI as low as 24 have too much.
And why might that be? Well,
Because the BMI is dependent only upon weight and height, it makes simplistic assumptions about distribution of muscle and bone mass, and thus may overestimate adiposity on those with more lean body mass (e.g. athletes) while underestimating adiposity on those with less lean body mass (e.g. the elderly).
So, just based on those things alone, the idea that a facility of higher learning would use this particular test to decree sections of the student body too fat to graduate is somewhat horrifying, considering exactly how unscientific the body mass index actually is.

But beyond that, the university is playing into the same old trope that thin is automatically healthy, and people who are obese based on the BMI are automatically not. Which is, well, wrong. It is impossible to tell, simply by looking (or by analyzing a simplistic statistical measurement), who is exercising regularly and eating the requisite fresh fruits and vegetables and who scarfs down fast food and whose only exercise is from the car to the house. That isn't to say there is no correlation. It is just that you can't tell. And that's a problem if your stated mission is,
"As health educators we're concerned with the whole student, not just the academic part, but all the components that make up health and wellness."
Instead of demonstrating that, what this policy is doing is emphasizing the external differences of some of the student body, and punishing them by adding an extra requirement to their goal of graduation that is wholly separate from teaching the student body as a whole all the components that make up health and wellness. What you're doing is assuming that those other, skinnier, students already know and practice health and wellness. And hey, maybe a lot of them do and are. But I'll bet you some of them are naturally skinny.

Now, if the class was for all students to take, I'd still be a little pissy. Because I would not want to take Fitness Walking/Conditioning. Because (a) it sounds really boring, and (b) I didn't go to college to become a healthier me. I went to college to absorb some academic knowledge. If I felt like being a healthier me, I could take one of the many phys ed type classes offered, I could walk around my campus, and/or I could go to the gym - and I did all of those things.

But to make only certain students subject to this sort of requirement is pretty atrocious. And seems more in line with certain cultural aesthetic standards than any real and true concern for students' health. Because if there was an overwhelming concern for the students' health and wellness, then every student should be pressed to take such a course.

Monday Reading List

Hugo's “Penetrate” v. “Engulf” and the multiple meanings of the “f” word: a note on feminist language:
In every women’s studies class I’ve taught here at PCC, and in many guest lectures about feminism I’ve given elsewhere, I use the “penetrate” versus “engulf” image to illustrate a basic point about the way in which our language constructs and maintains male aggression and female passivity. Even those who haven’t had heterosexual intercourse can, with only a small degree of imagination required, see how “envelop” might be just as accurate as “enter”.
Sady Doyle's The Edward Cullen Underpants Conundrum:
I mean, consider: Edward Cullen has no characteristics, as a person, other than wanting to “protect” Bella and being beautiful and gorgeous and perfect all the time. (And also an insufferable asshole, but that seems more like a mistake than a purposeful effort to give him a personality.) He has no goals in life other than being with Bella. He is over a hundred years old, and he’s never had sex with another person. He’s never wanted to have sex with another person. There is not and will never be a person or a thing or an event that is more important to him than (eventually) having sex with Bella. He is an object designed for the gratification of female desire. He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything, and he’s so beautiful you creamed yourself. And that’s it. And we’re used to dudes writing ladies this way, we’re even used to dudes writing ladies this way and passing it off as “literature,” but the idea of a female author writing a male character in this way, for the pleasure of other ladies, is profoundly disconcerting. Even to me! Because it’s backwards.
Filthy Grandeur's Presentations of violence and gender in the Twilight Novels:
Though all of the Cullens are stunningly attractive, there's a clear gendered difference in their appearances. The men are large, and strong, while the women are small and graceful. Though the women are also impeccably strong, they do not look it.
EAMD is an Angry White Girl:
First of all, I actually have no idea what, if any, of my university's admissions criteria involve race in any way. True, then I should not be arguing about them, but on the other hand, that is precisely the point--not a single goddamn one of those columns actually states how exactly race plays a role in admissions. My guess is because the writers and speculators on this campus don't actually have the slightest idea if or how race impacts admissions. They just use the assumption that it gives minority students a concrete advantage to spew unfounded bullshit about how "qualified white students" are being denied admission to make room for all the darkies who definitely wouldn't get in otherwise.

Meloukhia's Transgender Day of Remembrance:
Some people think that days of remembrance are a waste of time. Or they say that people should be thinking about this “all the time.”

Well, I do.

Every. Single. Day.

I think about it. I think about the people I haven’t known and never will know, now, because they are dead.

And I’d like you to do the same.

Because the thing about a day of remembrance is that it allows us to take a moment, together, as a collective, to acknowledge something.

From See Emily Blog, there's Books Critiquing America Series: Rethinking Thin:
Not too long ago, I thought that anyone who was overweight chose to be overweight, and that if they really wanted to be thin, they could. Many people still think this about the overweight and obese- why can’t they just eat less and exercise more? What’s keeping them from getting control of their lives? Well, according to Kolata’s book, this is a question that has been puzzling scientists for decades. And, spoiler alert, it’s rarely the obese person who is to blame for their weight.

And, because my first car handled exactly this way on ice (and snow, and sometimes rain...) a Zits comic:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yes, Christmas Observations WILL Survive

I've written about my insane local paper before, and I'll probably do it again before long. This time, it is Lee Garbar's Christmas Observances Will Survive. My favorite part of the opinion piece is:
At one time, television celebrated the Charles Dickens novel "A Christmas Carol" by broadcasting four different versions of the story, the most significant of which was with English actor Alastair Sim playing the part of Scrooge. Last year TV, apparently fearful of overdoing the movie because it deals with Christmas, ran just one of them.
Yes, that must be what is subduing ABC Family in their 25 Days of Christmas programming, the fear of overdoing movies that deal with Christmas. They were going to go with 50 Days of Christmas, but then were fearful going overboard with the festivities and crossing over into an all out extravaganza. Or, it is much more likely that they decided to choose from the wide array of other Christmas films (good and bad) that have been made since.

(Side note: I find it odd that Mr. Garbar is concerned with the lack of diversity in his Christmas Carol tales viewing opportunities, since A Christmas Carol is, by my measure, not exactly brimming with religiosity. Scrooge isn't changed by a visit from saints or angels, but by four ghosts.)

One of most religious of Christmas specials I know of, A Charlie Brown Christmas, generally plays on one of the major television networks during the Christmas season. The only one that is possibly more religious is The Little Drummer Boy, and I seem to remember that horrible bit of stop action animation being on ABC Family as recently as three years ago.

But Garbar goes further:
Mike Johnson, chief attorney for the ADF, remarked, "It's a sad day in America when you have to retain a lawyer to wish someone a merry Christmas."

Lee Garbar, meet Michelle Goldberg, who says:
Despite Johnson's lamentations, one can in fact offer Christmas greetings without legal counsel. Christmas trees are permitted in public schools. (They're considered secular symbols.) Nativity scenes are allowed on public property, although if the government erects one, it has to be part of a larger display that also includes other, secular signs of the holiday season, or displays referring to other religions. (The operative Supreme Court precedent is 1984's Lynch v. Donnelly, where the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a city-sponsored Christmas display including a crèche, reindeer, a Christmas tree, candy-striped poles and a banner that read "Seasons Greetings" was permissible. "The display is sponsored by the city to celebrate the Holiday and to depict the origins of that Holiday," the majority wrote. "These are legitimate secular purposes.") Students are allowed to distribute religious holiday cards and literature in school. If the administration tries to stop them, the ACLU will step in to defend the students' free-speech rights, as they did in 2003 when teenagers in Massachusetts were suspended for passing out candy canes with Christian messages.
Here's the thing: I, personally, love Christmas. I love Christmas music and Christmas television specials. I love Christmas light displays and Christmas plays. I love seeing Santas collecting money for charity on the sidewalk. I love presents, and giving them. I love the feeling of Christmas, of good cheer and good will toward men. But, as an atheist, I can also tell you that there is no war on Christmas. Forget all of the things Goldberg cites. Walk into any mall, any store, from now until December 26th, and you will hear Christmas carols, most of which contain some kind of religious sentiment. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"; "O! Holy Night"; "Little Town of Bethlehem"; "O Come All Ye Faithful"; "Christ Is Born"; "What Child Is This"; etc, etc, etc. They are beautiful songs. They hold a sometimes beautiful sentiment. They are also vibrant reminders that those of us on the outside of these faithful proclamations are still living in a Christian nation, that the Christian celebrations are still national celebrations, and that we are all inculcated with those messages of Christ the Savior is Born! whenever we step outside our house this time of year. And for those of us who do not believe Christ is, actually, the Savior, it is also a reminder that our own ideas about this time of year are less important.

Grabar also writes:
Still, the campaign against Christmas has resulted in diminished observance of the holiday. For example, schools have all but eliminated various practices of the past in observing Christmas and emphasizing the day as recognition of the Savior's birth.
Sure, because "the Savior" isn't, actually, my Savior. He isn't the Savior of a great swath of my friends, and to be taught in the secular public school system that he is would be a bit of muddling of the separation of Church and State thing. There are other people who exist in this country. They deserve to be able to go to school and not be inundated with Christian references, and to not be taught - even during a certain time of year - that the Christian way is the Right Way, with the implicit implication that all other ways are wrong. Lee Grabar can believe that; the teacher can believe that; but to use the public school system, the system paid for with everyone's money and not just Christian funds, is crossing the line. And more than warring against Christianity, it is warring for the recognition of the rest of us.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Josh & Chuck (Well, Mostly Josh) Issue Stephen Colbert A Challenge

That's pretty much it, actually:

In case anyone doesn't know, Stuff You Should Know is one of my favorite podcasts. I also contribute to Josh and Chuck's Kiva team, because I don't know how to say no to organizations who want my money. Actually, I do. It's called "I made a 12 month list, 12 organizations get a month, and if you harass me about giving you more money during that 12 month period after I've explained the system, you're sitting out for at least a year while another equally worthy organization takes your spot". Josh and Chuck have a month, and they don't harass me for more money. Because they're unaware I exist. Which works out well for them as well as me, since that means whenever I get fed up with an organization (ACLU, I'm looking at you!), I tell them they've lost their month to the Stuff You Should Know Kiva team.

All of this is to say: Josh and Chuck bring the hilarity. And cue cards. And so I'm hoping many, many people help them reach $100,000 in loans. Also, I'm amazed at the 750,000 downloads a week stat, though not surprised by Chuck bringing it.

So, if you feel like joining in the weekly hilarity, the Stuff You Should Know podcast is on iTunes, and also here. Their blog is here. And their Kiva team is here. They're one of the brightest spots to my week.

Saturday Sesame Street

Featuring one of my favorite people, Madeline Kahn:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I REALLY Need To Stop Reading Advice Columns

Remember that time earlier this month when I said I was going to stop reading advice columns? Yeah. Totally didn't stick. So, here's reason number two as to why I should stop reading advice columns - or maybe just this particular advice column:
Dear Annie: After 20 years of marriage, my wife and I separated, with the plan that I would undergo therapy to discover why I had become disconnected from her over the past few years.

We agreed that after eight months or so, we would attend joint counseling sessions to see what had changed.
After six months, I discovered she had had sex with a man and then later with a woman. She stated, "We're separated, so I feel free to date and do not regret it." I consider this adultery. What do you think? — Husband of a Sudden Bisexual

Dear Husband: A married person who has sex outside the marriage has committed adultery. However, a legal separation, as opposed to an informal parting, often gives spouses tacit permission to date others. We assume this was not the case here. But you have a bigger problem. If your wife is bisexual, your marriage may not be reconcilable. If she isn't already in counseling, you should make it a condition of your continued efforts to save the relationship. Provided, of course, you still want to.
Okay, no. Well, some yes. Obviously, this is a couple that needs some counseling and some help at the whole communication thing, since there shouldn't be a Ross and Rachel "we were on a break" situation here. Things like "Can I sleep with other people during this time apart?" should have been dealt with at the start of this whole trial separation thing, and truth be told, the wife probably should have erred on the side of caution with that one unless she was willing to throw her desire to see/sleep with other people out onto the table.

But the "no" part comes in with the bolded type. "If your wife is bisexual, your marriage may not be reconcilable?" What? Are the Annies really and truly suggesting that bisexuals can't be participants in monogamous relationships? Are the Annies truly suggesting that simply because this woman happens to find both men and women attractive, that alone could be something that makes their relationship not work?

Now, it sounds like this particular relationship may be irreconcilable anyway, what with the lack of communication, the feelings of disconnection, and the (legitimate) feelings of betrayal Husband has. The relationship could be irreconcilable anyway, because Wife has discovered she likes sex with women and men not her husband and she likes the feeling of freedom she is experiencing. All of that is possible.

But. Being bisexual is not an irreconcilable issue in a relationship. Much like being straight and being attracted to people who aren't your spouse (or significant other) is also not an irreconcilable issue. As long as you are attracted to your spouse (or significant other), as long as you are committed to your spouse (or significant other), as long as your relationship and your spouse (or significant other) takes precedence, then there is no problem.

The issue with framing bisexuality itself as being a potential irreconcilable difference is that laced in that idea is the expectation that the bisexual must have sexual relationships with both sexes. Not true. Being a bisexual means, quite simply, being attracted to both sexes. And attraction does not equal application. As I've said before,
Bisexuals can engage in fidelity, just like every other person [who] sublimates their attractions once they are in a committed, monogamous relationship does.
Sublimating desires is part of what being in a monogamous, committed relationship entails. It entails that there is a distinct probability you will be attracted to other people, but only acting on the attraction you hold for your chosen partner. It doesn't matter if you're attracted to guys, girls, or both. Because chances are, in the course of your relationship, you're going to feel an attraction to someone not your chosen partner. In short, bad Annies, perpetuating the stereotype of the bisexual! Although they may have meant well, their analysis is based on the idea that bisexuals are, by their very nature, promiscuous. And that is summarily false. Bisexuals are no more promiscuous than homosexuals or heterosexuals. And that's because bisexuals are still, at the end of the day, people. And people tend to occupy a wide range of personalities and behaviors, among them fidelity. That really doesn't have a set sexuality it attaches itself to.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Reading List

Not The Man I Know by Cara:
This is the danger of making statements about what “the man I know” would and wouldn’t do. It places our own experiences with a person above those of a person with whom they have been violent. And it erases the fact that violence against women exists, that it is being committed right now as I write this, and that it’s being committed by men who we’ve gone to school with, been to dinner parties with, played on the playground with, by men who have been non-violent towards us, who have helped us, who have been nice to us.
Belonging Review: Dollhouse 2.04 from Maia:
Belonging wasn’t the fantasy of killing a rapist, there was a body and it traumatised Priya even more. The fight was messy, Priya had a normal person’s strength and was lucky. Although I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who shouted at the screen “Topher couldn’t you have helped by providing her with Kung Fu skills. But it wouldn’t have worked if he had. And after there was blood, a body, and very few options. There were still fantasy elements – Boyd arrived on cue with body disposal skills, but it was the reality, not the fantasy that we were left with. The scene, or story, didn’t end with her stabbing him.
How I Found Out I Was Politically Correct, a post only slightly marred by the misnaming Joss Whedon as Josh Whedon:
The next time someone complains about “political correctness”, listen close. Chances are they’re either talking about someone not knowing their place, or someone having the gall to tell the listener to act like a decent human being. “What‘s this chick robot doing in my show about walking dude robots? TOKENISM! Chew with my mouth closed? POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE WILD!” These folks are under the impression that they’re “edgy”. After all, what is more rare and groundbreaking than straight white dudes ragging on things? Sometimes I can go an entire day without hearing that! Assuming I don’t watch television or listen to radio or go on the internet, and also spend the entire day in the woods.
Only Those With Power Can Participate In Racism:
...if you're black, say, and engage in prejudiced opinions and behavior against white people, you are not participating in a power structure that systematically oppresses white people, because no such power structure exists. You are engaging in a singular act of prejudice that does not, in the end, change, effect, or even play into the balance of power.
Amanda's Looking at Releasing Dirty Pictures As A Form Of Sexual Assault:
Understanding that this kind of thing is a form of sexual assault also helps us understand how it’s victim-blaming to suggest that the girls deserve all this because they were foolish enough to take these pictures. Whether or not it’s wise to do this doesn’t diminish one bit the fact that it’s wrong to use these kinds of pictures to hurt and control young women. Indeed, the only reason that taking these kinds of pictures is reckless is because there’s so many wannabe sexual assailants out there, and they know that they won’t be held responsible if they perform their assaults by leaking these pictures. Just as rape creates a general loss of freedom for women, who have to control their associations and movements out of fear that it will happen, this form of sexual assault also creates a loss of freedom. In all cases, men should consider how this loss of freedom is wrong not just because it hurts women, but also because it hurts them. When women know that some assholes are out there, waiting to punish and humiliate you if you express yourself a little bit, you don’t express yourself. And the men who might be the beneficiaries of your enthusiastic, consensual self-expression don’t get that. In this case, every use of dirty pictures to punish and humiliate women results in more women deciding that they will never, ever take and send such pictures.

From Garfield Minus Garfield:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What Evil Men Do Can Be Laid At The Feet of Women

You see, Miss DaFonte, when a man can't have the woman that he loves, he gets a bit crazy. - Agent Booth, Bones episode 5.07, Dwarf in the Dirt
Wow. Let's look at that statement again.
You see, Miss DaFonte, when a man can't have the woman that he loves, he gets a bit crazy.
Again, I say "wow". And it is a bad "wow".

The teeniest bit of backstory. Booth, the federal agent who puts forth such words of wisdom about the nature of man and woman, has had a bit of a problem doing things lately. Plumbing problems, being able to tell if a suspect is lying, shooting his gun... The list goes on and on. Booth has also been doing ordinary tasks differently than he used to. Holding his phone to the opposite ear, starting with his left foot when walking up and down stairs instead of his right... Again, the list goes on and on. The reason we're given? His love for the good Dr. Brennan, the eponymous Bones.
You see, Miss DaFonte, when a man can't have the woman that he loves, he gets a bit crazy.
The Miss DaFonte in question continuously slept with one brother for the whole of her relationship with the other brother.
You see, Miss DaFonte, when a man can't have the woman that he loves, he gets a bit crazy.
And so it goes, when one brother kills the other, Nicole DaFonte is to blame:
DEREK DAFANTE: Come on, Nicky. You know why. You know exactly why.
And Booth is proven correct. He is going a bit crazy because he can't have Bones. Bryce DaFonte (the murdered brother) goes a bit crazy and tries to steal a shit ton of gold coins because he can't have Nicole. And Derek DaFonte, well, he goes a bit crazy and kills Bryce because he can't have Nicole either.
...when a man can't have the woman that he loves, he gets a bit crazy.
And so it goes. On Bones, as per almost every where else, a man can't have the woman he loves, and that gives him the justification for going a bit crazy. The man isn't the problem. Derek can point to Nicole as his reason to murder; Booth can blame Bones for his failure at firearms. And the world keeps turning with this sort of righteous statement thrown out there as fact. As gospel. Never mind that the woman the man can't have is a person in her own right, that she has the right to not be had, that she has the right to not have the man's actions after that fact be recognized as directly relational to the not having of her.
...when a man can't have the woman that he loves, he gets a bit crazy.
This is the sentiment used to justify crimes against women. It is the sentiment of people who believe men are entitled to women, and when they are denied what is rightfully theirs, they can get a bit crazy. This is the rationalization behind stalking, behind verbal assaults on the street, behind domestic violence. This is the rationalization that places the onus on the woman. This is the rationalization that makes women responsible for men's actions. This is the philosophy that places men and men's wants above women and women's wants. This is the philosophy that recognizes men have wants and needs that must be fulfilled, lest he get a bit crazy, and yet seemingly ignores that women may also have wants and needs that must be fulfilled - or if not ignores, then does not grant those wants and needs the same validity. After all, as a woman, not getting the man she wants won't lead her to getting a bit crazy.

Defining An Action of Evil

Four days ago, my friend linked an article, with the comment, "David Brooks at his best". It was David Brooks' column The Rush to Therapy, part of which said,
A shroud of political correctness settled over the conversation. Hasan was portrayed as a victim of society, a poor soul who was pushed over the edge by prejudice and unhappiness.

There was a national rush to therapy. Hasan was a loner who had trouble finding a wife and socializing with his neighbors.

This response was understandable. It’s important to tamp down vengeful hatreds in moments of passion. But it was also patronizing. Public commentators assumed the air of kindergarten teachers who had to protect their children from thinking certain impermissible and intolerant thoughts. If public commentary wasn’t carefully policed, the assumption seemed to be, then the great mass of unwashed yahoos in Middle America would go off on a racist rampage.

Worse, it absolved Hasan — before the real evidence was in — of his responsibility. He didn’t have the choice to be lonely or unhappy. But he did have a choice over what story to build out of those circumstances. And evidence is now mounting to suggest he chose the extremist War on Islam narrative that so often leads to murderous results.

The conversation in the first few days after the massacre was well intentioned, but it suggested a willful flight from reality. It ignored the fact that the war narrative of the struggle against Islam is the central feature of American foreign policy. It ignored the fact that this narrative can be embraced by a self-radicalizing individual in the U.S. as much as by groups in Tehran, Gaza or Kandahar.

It denied, before the evidence was in, the possibility of evil. It sought to reduce a heinous act to social maladjustment. It wasn’t the reaction of a morally or politically serious nation.
And I was unsettled and mulling over the specific, but unarticulated, contrary notion that David Brooks was, actually, very wrong. Luckily for me, I've got Jonathan Turley on the same page. While on The Rachel Maddow Show on November 12, Turley said this:
There are plenty of people who act out of rage. If you take away a few of the aspects of this case, you would have a typical disgruntled worker shooting. We have, with these shootings all over the country, where people are disturbed, disgruntled, and isolated, and they come in and they shoot people in their work place. Now, some of them are perfectly unhinged and they will latch onto religious views or political views, but what they're really acting out of is mental illness.
That doesn't deny any action of evil. What it does do is say, "Your war narrative may not be the most salient point. It is just the most convenient one, and the one that will let you sleep most soundly tonight." What it does say is, "Evil does not lurk only in the hearts of men we see as not like ourselves. It can be in any one of us, and so none of us are truly safe." What it does say is, "Religious convictions may not be the ignition of this deadly passion. It may just be the vehicle this particular person chose to take".

What bothers me about David Brooks' article is that assertion the politically and morally immature nation is the nation that stops before stomping in like gangbusters and making assertions and assumptions without gathering all of the facts. For my money, it is the nation that has matured in both its political and moral arenas that disallows the presumption of one metanarrative over the perhaps more on point micronarratives.

What also bothers me about Brooks' piece is how these discussions of how the metanarratives impact how violence is dispersed are only prevalent when the provocateur is someone other than a white, Christian man. When the perpetrator is a white, Christian man, the assumption is that this case is an isolated incident that has no greater baring on society. That this person is a sport, that his actions have nothing to do with our own metanarratives. We can still see those acts of violence as actions of evil just fine. And by seeing them as actions of evil, we manage to separate them from our person.

As the Historiann notes,
it’s only the occasional story in the print media or on the radio that will note how very much like other American mass-murderers Hasan truly is: a native-born American man, aged 13-60, who has difficult relationships with peers and co-workers, and especially with women. (Not coincidentally, a lot of these killers are strongly invested in traditional gender hierarchies and see themselves as at odds with modern American women, who think they can make their own decisions about whom they’ll date or spend time with.)
I'm all for examining how systemic beliefs parlay into actions, violent or otherwise. I'm all for examining how those systemic beliefs and images and messages influence how we as a people react to actions, violent or otherwise. I'm a big believer in systemic influences, both positive and negative. And yet, we can't lose sight of the individual either, and how the individual's own maladies (or lack thereof) influence how much that message takes hold, and how it is expelled upon the world.

The thing David Brooks seems to be missing is that the idea we should hold off on saying, "Islamic extremist!" in this case isn't simply (or even) to stop the swells of people in Middle America from going on murderous rampages of their own. It is an effort to better ourselves, to look beyond our minute fairy tale beliefs in good and evil and how that good and evil is displayed, and search for deeper and more concrete answers. It is an effort to elevate ourselves, both as individuals and as a society, beyond the prejudices that say "if someone has a funny name and dark skin and reads out of a different book than mine, that book must be the source of the problem". It is in an effort to become a more politically and morally mature nation, a nation that does not see every act of violence perpetrated by someone in the category of Other as stemming from reasons wholly separate from acts of violence perpetrated by someone not in that category. That we can work to reasonably suss out where the act of violence stems from, understand what could have been possible catalysts, recognize those catalysts, and still understand the actions as being evil and the actor of creating evil. Because an action borne out of social maladjustment can exist within the possibility of evil just as much as an action borne out of religious extremism can. To deny that, to deny the want to assess alternate possibilities under the cry of it being a denial of evil is, I think, in itself an act of an immature nation.

Saturday Sesame Street

Savion Glover is incredible:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Random Ten

1) Wispering Bells - The Del Vikings

2) Straighten Up And Fly Right - Natalie Cole
3) For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield

4) Hello - Oasis

5) The Happy Ending - Phantom Planet
6) Man in Black - Johnny Cash

7) Wake Up - Alanis Morissette

8) Brand New Day - Van Morrison
9) The Fall of the World's Own Optimist - Aimee Mann

10) Cars Trucks Buses - Phish

Male Bands: 7

Bands with Women: -

Women Bands: 3

Women: 3

Men: 26

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ode to Dollhouse

Written yesterday, revised today:
And, so it goes. Dollhouse has been given the boot. I can't really blame Fox for canceling Dollhouse (unlike when they cancelled Firefly), but I do wish it had lasted. And not simply because I discovered a major crush on Fran Kranz.

I'm not surprised because Dollhouse had some consistency issues; I'm saddened because the good episodes were up there with some of the more ingenious inventions of Whedon's other work.

When Pushing Daisies was cancelled, I quoted Whedon:
"Two roads diverge in a wood, and I took the road less traveled by and they CANCELLED MY FRIKKIN' SHOW. I totally shoulda took the road that had all those people on it. Damn."
I don't think Dollhouse was cancelled because it was on the road less travelled by. At least, I don't think that is the only reason. Sure, part of the reason is that it couldn't be practically explained in a soundbite. There was no "cheerleader kills vampires" or "nine people stare out into space and see nine different things". But part of it was that the show took a few stumbles early on (and then again later on), and sometimes the philosophical offerings of an episode were far more interesting than the episode itself. And I speak as someone who only truly "flames on the sides of my face" hated Instinct. Part of that was probably due to it having to forge a new path in the television wilderness. It couldn't simply recreate the system that works so well for the 19 bazillion Law and Order and CSI type shows on television. And creating something new involves working out how to make it work. And working that out means failure.

I think Dollhouse was cancelled because... well, it was a weird show that was about people you wouldn't want to eat lunch with let alone spend your friday nights with, and about the philosophical ponderings of what makes a person their specific person and the value each person holds. It was a show that asked us to look at how we see people, how we see ourselves, and whether or not it was ooky to rent the body but create another person to be housed within that body.

And the show suffered from a lack of cohesion; I started this by saying it wasn't the less travelled road that killed Dollhouse, but I'm reversing that here. Because pretty much every traditional weakness is determined by the very premise. It couldn't have the necessary cohesion because it didn't have a set of fixed characters who evolved slowly. It had a set of fixed characters who evolved slowly, a couple of characters who existed in drugged out child-like states and so had difficulty evolving at all (and whose very evolution was a radical and revolutionary act), and the new and temporary characters those drugged children embodied from week to week. All of that is the show; it isn't a problem of the show. And because it was the show, it was often used to the show's benefit. But because that was the show, someone popping in on an episode like Briar Rose would be completely thrown if their next episode was Belle Chose.

That isn't to say the show didn't have some real weaknesses separate from the premise. I have previously complained about structural theme of the show versus the nature of the stand alone episodes. There was also the "why?" question in relation to action. Like, "Why did Ballard rent out Echo to sleep with and marry that guy in the season 2 premiere?" or "Why didn't Adelle think to restrain the potential serial killer/leave a guard with Uncle?" or "Why don't they just shut this damn House down if every week there is a Major Issue?"

Some other questions emerged as well, like, "What is the refund policy for a Doll that stabs you in the midst of a non-stabbing engagement?"

And yet, I really, really, really liked Dollhouse. Some of it stemmed from those moments when everything hit on all cylinders, when Topher and Saunders discussed the conundrum of being a built person housed within someone else's body - and knowing it. Or the whole Nice Guy thing that went down in Belonging. Some of it stemmed from the pantsless scene in Echoes. Some of it stemmed from the fact that I really, really, really missed Whedon. Like, really. I know, I know. He's written some comic books. I've read them. I love hearing his voice in my head when I read them (not his actual, somewhat lispy voice, but his writerly "here are my words" voice). But I missed that visceral feeling that my show was on, that it was Whedony, that I would see the actors I liked doing the type of stuff I also am made to like by virtue of its Whedonosity.

I liked Dollhouse because although the balance in form had never truly been reached, the balance between the larger thematic message - the so-called "plot", if you will - and the evolution of the people - the "characters" - was spot on. I'm a character-driven gal. I hate it when the world moves the characters along; I much rather the characters to move the parts of the world, and each other. Dollhouse was character driven; the characters changed each other. And yet, the show never let you forget that these characters existed because their world was f'd up, because there were forces beyond their control that influenced and, for some, created them. That the forces contained within those gates would eventually come crashing down to earth and destroy almost everyone else.

After Fox burns off the rest of the episodes in December, I'll miss this show. I'll miss what it could have been, yes. I'll miss the crazy idea I had that Rossum was really just standing in for Blue Sun and that I'd finally see the world corporations ruled as Whedon seemed to be setting up in the early days of Firefly. But I'll also miss what it is. I'll miss the not-quite moral characters, and the slow, tentative grasps toward some sort of family unit. I'll miss Adelle, and Boyd. I'll miss Victor and Sierra. I'll miss Dr. Saunders. I'll miss Topher.

And I'll hope that at some point, Whedon will return to television. On CHUD, Devin Faraci is challenging Whedon to change the world - and I hope he will. I've already proven that I'll follow Joss Whedon from project to project, be it computer, television, film, or radio. But, and this stems from my years of watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Whedon on my television screen feels like home. And I like that feeling. So he can create all the internet and on demand media he wants. I'll be there to gobble it up; but I look forward to another show in the future that starts down the path less travelled. Hopefully, some day, there will be others traveling that road too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You's A Dick

Not you. Well, maybe you. It kind of depends on who you are.

But definitely these people in the first act of This American Life's most recent episode Bait & Switch.

I'm, to put it mildly, not exactly happy with the idea of bait cars. I understand the impetus to make those criminally minded think twice about taking a car that looks like the perfect target. At the same time, I don't see how this isn't entrapment. And, possibly owing to my own admitted ambivalence toward the police and their authority, I see this as a potential conflict of interest.

In the article, there's one quote that stands out to me as particularly problematic.
"Let me ask you something: If you see a car with the keys in it, would you take it?" Tate said. "There are hundreds of people walking by these cars, and they make the choice to keep walking. The bottom line is this: If you see a car that doesn't belong to you, don't take it."
And sure, that is the bottom line. But that bottom line gets blurred when the person leaving the car open and inviting to be stolen is the person who is responsible for catching those who steal cars. The car would not have been there if the cops didn't think they could lure someone into taking said car.

And so, here we have a crime (or, in the case of Mark Ledford and Asia Ward, not even that) facilitated by the officers in question.

The same sort of morally grey case building has been highlighted before by This American Life, notably in Arms Trader 2009. That case had all the hallmarks of this one, had the same moral questions of setting someone up, of giving them all of the opportunities to commit a crime they otherwise may have never had the inclination to commit, and then arresting them and trying them for that crime. Another case highlighted in Act II by the This American Life episode Turncoat discussed Brandon Darby, a radical activist-turned-FBI informant who pushed two fellow (and fledgling) activists into more extreme actions than they otherwise would have participated in.

The moral implications of a nation whose policy it was to facilitate fake terrorist actions in order to smoke out people who would or could potentially turn to terrorism disturbed me. I would really rather not have a government goading people who perhaps do have some inklings or some potential to do some pretty bad shit, who have the potential to become arms dealers or crazed lefties throwing homemade bombs at Republican National Conventions, but who would very probably never get to that point on their own.

And in that comment by Sgt. Oliver Tate, it becomes clear as to why. No one should steal a car, or try to smuggle weapons to enemies of America or make plans to bomb places; but there is no moral high ground in creating the perfect storm effect, to push all of the buttons, on those people you suspect may have the want to steal a car or smuggle weapons or make bombs but who - without your help - would have none of the know-how or drive to do so.

What makes the case involving Mark Ledford and Asia Ward all the more abhorrent is what it demonstrates about the people who do plant the necessary buttons, who create those perfect crime-doing scenarios. It is that they don't care about the motivations. Mark Ledford called the car in to the police. He confirmed with a neighbor that she, too, called the car's presence in. And after he got no indication anything was going to be done, he decided to do something about the car himself. Smart? No. Criminal? Not in the least. And instead of admitting that they fucked up, instead of looking over their records and seeing what they could have done differently, instead of looking at the whole "bait" car itself and wondering if leaving a car unattended in a neighborhood may do more to unsettle the neighbors than it would ever accomplish in catching the criminally-minded-but-lazy, the police decided to leave out several salient details and set about bringing a case against Ledford and Ward. Instead of working to make the streets safer, the cops then were just being dicks.

And that's the problem with this "greater good" strategy. It gives too much power to those in authority. It trusts that those in authority are somehow more moral than the average person on the street. It trusts that in the event the authority is proven wrong, the authority will humbly admit to its mistake and take the necessary steps to correct it. And it does not allow for the formation of a crime independent of the entity responsible for stopping said crime. It makes the organization a facilitator in the crime it gets rewarded for preventing. And that? Is pretty heady. It is also possibly among the worst solutions to the problem.

The Dems Are Getting On My Very Last Nerve

Why? Well...

From Sharon Lerner and The Nation:
None of the bills emerging from the House and Senate require insurers to cover all the elements of a standard gynecological "well visit," leaving essential care such as pelvic exams, domestic violence screening, counseling about sexually transmitted diseases, and, perhaps most startlingly, the provision of birth control off the list of basic benefits all insurers must cover. Nor are these services protected from "cost sharing," which means that, depending on what's in the bill that emerges from the Senate, and, later, the contents of a final bill, women could wind up having to pay for some of these services out of their own pockets. So far, mammograms and Pap tests are covered in every version of the legislation...
...The fault for the initial omission can be laid at the feet of Democrats, who shied away from the issue, not wanting to invite controversy, according to women's health advocates who tried unsuccessfully to get women's preventive health care included in the basic benefits package. Some of the concern had to do with cost. Adding any required service to the basic benefits package would mean the Congressional Budget Office would give the bill a higher score, or price tag, leaving it more vulnerable to attack by budget hawks. But another part of the problem clearly stems from the fact that women's bodies have become political lightening rods, even when abortion is not the issue.
Consider what happened when the subject of women's preventive healthcare services came up in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) in July, after the minimum benefits package had already been determined. Because some essential care for women wasn't included in the list, HELP committee member Senator Barbara Mikulski proposed an amendment that would require the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to stipulate that basic women's health services would be covered. The language said nothing about abortion, referring only to "preventive care and screenings."
Yet the voting on the amendment went exactly along pro- and anti-choice lines...

From Ezra Klein:
as Rep. Jim Cooper points out in the interview below, the biggest federal subsidy for private insurance coverage is untouched by Stupak's amendment. It's the $250 billion the government spends each year making employer-sponsored health-care insurance tax-free.

That money, however, subsidizes the insurance of 157 million Americans, many of them quite affluent. Imagine if Stupak had attempted to expand his amendment to their coverage.

From Salon's Frances Kissling:
We started down this road in 1976 when the Hyde Amendment passed and when, in 1980, the Supreme Court upheld the principle that the federal government had the right to enact policies that favored childbirth over abortion by restricting funding for abortion. Most Democrats saw that giving antiabortion taxpayers greater moral standing than women who choose abortion was a political power play. After all, taxpayers don't get any other say in how their taxes are used. Pacifists' dollars support war; anti-bailout Americans saw their taxes go to banks just this year. Except on the issue of abortion, if you want to be a tax resister, the only thing to do is not pay your taxes and go to jail.
And Chris Hayes:

I vote for the Democratic candidate in elections typically because there are two or three parties, and the Dems are generally the ones who profess to be the best on the issues that I care about. And some of those issues selfishly (though not wrongly) are ones I care about because they directly relate to my status as a woman. But part of that means I expect the party I vote for to not use women and their needs as a bargaining chip with those people I didn't vote for. Part of that means I expect the party I donate to, the party I defend, the party I vote for, the party I am a part of to put some friggin' fight into keeping what will directly help women. As Chris Hayes says, "It is very hard to say 'Trust us' right now, after this has happened."

I understand that the healthcare bill, as it stands now, does a lot of good. Ann at Feministing has a nice list going (which I only noticed because Emily covered it). But as it stands, I want a party who will vociferously go to battle instead of what I've got, which is a party that will compromise on the rights I hold dear and then tell me to trust them, that it will all be okay in the end - and then hold Roe over my head like an ax ready to chop when they want my vote or my money when they've already done plenty on their own to gut it.

November seems like it's going to be another Planned Parenthood donation month.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Very Happy 40th Birthday to Sesame Street

Forty years ago today, Sesame Street went live.

Around 16 years later, I was around to be their demographic.

By virtue of not knowing any other channels existed (I spent my weekend early mornings enthralled by the bass fishing I watched on tv), I was a PBS kid from the start.

And my absolute favorite program was Sesame Street. Well, that and the bass fishing.

I don't know how much Sesame Street affected me, because there was no click moment; there was no moment in my life when there wasn't Sesame Street. I'm not sure how much I really learned. I could never recite the alphabet backwards. The two-headed monster sketches did absolutely nothing for my pronunciation abilities. I never mastered double dutch. Letters and numbers I picked up along the way, but I'm pretty sure I would have learned to count at some point or another.

What Sesame Street did give me, though, was a path to another world; in the early years, Sesame Street was actually gritty. It still seemed gritty through the '80s. It seemed real, like there were real people and real monsters and real giant birds living side by side on this street with a roving frog reporter. And because it seemed real, the things the show discussed and the way the show discussed them were real. It gave me characters I adored, from Big Bird to Grover, to Oscar to Telly Monster. It gave me Luis and Maria. It gave me Linda and Barkley. It gave me Bob.

I've read numerous books about Sesame Street. I've learned about the effort that went into making the show, the reasons for the different characters, the growing pains, and everything else. But what stands out is how Sesame Street was a show that understood kids, didn't talk down to kids, and then gave a little something for the grown-ups as well.

And so, as my own little gimmick suggests, I'm inordinately fond of Sesame Street. I'm glad it has made it to year 40, and I hope it has another couple of decades left.

Also, check out the Sunday Sweets: Sesame Street. Those cakes are the awesome.