4.30.2005

teen endangerment act

Two letters in the New York Times opposed to CIANA:
To the Editor:

Re "House Tightens Parental Rule for Abortions" (front page, April 28):

Given that the parents of the pregnant girl had no say in her becoming pregnant, why should they determine whether she chooses to terminate the pregnancy?

This is just another example of zealots who, in pursuit of their own agenda, press to put Big Brother in our bedrooms, doctors' offices, drugstores, libraries and schools, while proclaiming they want smaller government and less government interference in our lives.

Beatrice Williams-Rude
New York, April 28, 2005



To the Editor:

The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act does nothing to discourage young women from having abortions. All it does, in fact, is make abortions more dangerous.

Those who see abortion as a moral issue should address the problem at its root instead of placing the safety of women in jeopardy. Politicians often fail to honor complexity when they "solve problems." Simple solutions to complex problems, however, erupt.

How about focusing upon improving sex education for young women and men? How about teaching them about safe sex earlier?

Those of us who oppose this bill are not "pro-abortion." We are pro-safety, pro-education and pro-dialogue in the face of complexity.

David Tolley
New Haven, April 28, 2005
I'll add this question to Mr Tolley's: how about facing reality? Teenage girls do get pregnant. Many of them won't want to or be able to become mothers yet, and can't confide in their parents. Let's not make criminals out of the other caring adults in their lives.

Maybe she'll tell her parents one day, when it's all over. Maybe she never will. Let's give her all the options we would want for ourselves.

Also, please read more about the implications of this law in your own state.

lunacy

"Why can't I make my own decision?"

That was the blunt question to a judge from a pregnant 13-year-old girl ensnared in a Palm Beach County court fight over whether she can have an abortion.

"I don't know," Circuit Judge Ronald Alvarez replied, according to a recording of the closed hearing obtained Friday.

"You don't know?" replied the girl, who is a ward of the state. "Aren't you the judge?"
A thirteen year old girl is making her case before a Florida judge, in an effort to expel a blob of cells from her own uterus.

This country is completely insane.

The girl, however, is tough and smart, and she makes a good case for herself. Read the story here.

Among the many injustices embedded in this story is how the laws restricting abortions disproportionately affect low-income women. A 24-hour waiting period is not a big deal - unless you don't have a car or child care, and you had to beg a ride to the clinic in the first place, and now you have no one to watch your children and no way to make that second trip. The 24-hour wait becomes 2 weeks as you make these arrangements. But now the procedure costs twice as much. And may no longer be legal in your state.

If this teenage girl came from a middle-class home, would this be happening to her?

4.29.2005

tune in

Yes, I know, I'm not supposed to be here this morning! I'm on my way to the library right now. This is just a quick post to alert you to watch TV tonight and Sunday. If you blog, please ask others to do the same. From the ACLU:
Two leading TV shows this weekend that will feature interviews with ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. On both programs, Anthony will discuss the ongoing abuse of detainees and prisoners in U.S. military custody, and the erosion of America's moral leadership in the wake of continuing disclosures of abuse.

Tune in this weekend:

Friday, April 29: PBS "NOW" at 8:30 pm ET and again Sunday at 11:00 pm ET (check local listings)

Sunday, May 1: CBS "60 Minutes" at 7:00 pm ET (check local listings)


The ACLU has played a pivotal role in bringing the abuse and torture carried out by the United States government to light. These two appearances allow Anthony to address specific allegations of torture and the lack of accountability at the highest levels, even a year after the photographs from Abu Ghraib became public.

In Friday's "NOW" segment, Anthony will be among a number of experts discussing detentions at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and in Afghanistan. On Sunday, May 1, Anthony will appear in a "60 Minutes" segment detailing the use of sexually suggestive tactics to humiliate and coerce Muslim men held at Guantanamo Bay. Anthony will speak out powerfully against the use of these tactics and explain their connections to the wider practice of torture and abuse developed and condoned by our government.
Read more about the ACLU's fight against torture and abuse here.

Have a great day and I'll look forward to catching up on comments tonight!

4.28.2005

closer to our dreams

Two fun stories from ALPF, who continues to make my life easier.

In the first, we see the link between the possible NDP-Liberal deal and gay marriage. One thing that's often lost in the American discussion of Canadian gay marriage is that gay marriage is already legal in seven of ten Canadian provinces, and there's legislation pending in an eighth. The federal bill would extend it nationwide. That's significant, and it should happen, but from what I gather - and not just from Rob - it will happen. The conservative posture against the bill is just that: posturing.

Remember when budding democracies wanted to emulate the United States? These days it seems they have a different role model. ALPF's second story is about the withering of communism's legacy in Russia, and what is envisioned as a replacement.
It will take Russia at least another decade to emerge from its totalitarian past, and when it does, Ambassador Georgiy Mamedov hopes it looks a lot like Canada.

"It will take us another 10 years or 15 years, what it took you 139 years to get where you are today," Mr. Mamedov told The Globe and Mail editorial board yesterday.

The envoy said Russia's only way forward is to build a free and democratic country, "the initial beginnings of a civilized society" that looks like Canada.

"I think that Canada is the closest we have that some people dreamt our country may become. . . . We don't want to become like the United States.
Mr. Mamedov claimed Mr. Putin wasn't waxing nostalgic for the Soviet regime when Putin said, "There are many bad things that you can say about the Soviet Union -- purges, lack of democracy . . . ideological crusades of the power of the state . . . but we had free education, free child care, free medicare -- and now the whole social safety net [has] collapsed."

Shit, here in the US, we have purges, lack of democracy and ideological crusades of state power, plus our whole social safety net has been destroyed! Yeah baby, we've got it all!

I imagine the anonymous commenter who is stalking this blog has just blown a gasket, as I dared to compare the US with the old USSR. Don't worry. I know it was worse there. Here, everyone eats meat and has TVs.

new posting schedule

I've started researching the new book. In an effort to get to the library earlier in the morning - since I run out of steam in the afternoon - I'm going to try blogging in the evening. We'll see if I can multi-task enough to listen to a baseball game, sip a glass of red wine and compose coherent blog posts at the same time. If I can't, it's back to mornings!

Today I spent many hours at a good library in midtown Manhattan, as I will most weekdays for the foreseeable future. I haven't had occasion to do library research in many years; most of research is done by interviewing. So this will be very different, and so far it's fun, if a little more time-pressed than I'm comfortable with.

On a break, I went to beautiful Bryant Park, outside the main branch of the NYPL (the building with the lions), very near the branch I was using. Tulips and magnolias were in bloom, there were lots of people out, it was sunny and cool, it felt great. I thought, this is what I love about living in a city: public life.

On the way home I got a little reminder of what I'm sick of about urban life, as extortionists known as subway musicians held us captive with conga drums while the train went express from 59th to 125th Street.

bravo

I forgot to congratulate the Spanish people on their excellent move. Spain is poised to become the third European country to legalize gay marriage, and the first to do in defiance of its traditional Catholic roots. It's thrilling to see freedom growing before our eyes.

ciana

I preface this post with a reminder: this blog is not a forum to discuss the morality of abortion.

Here's some info about the latest assault on our personal freedom and bodily integrity. It was fully expected, but that doesn't mean we aren't mourning. And fighting.

House Committee Approves Measure Barring Transport Of Minors Across State Lines To Avoid Abortion Parental Notice.

From the Kaiser Family Foundation Daily Reproductive Health Report:

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved 20-13 a measure (HR 748) that would bar the transportation of minors across state lines for the purpose of evading state abortion parental notification or consent laws. The bill, known as the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA), would authorize fines or up to one year in prison for people who violate the measure.

The measure includes an exception if an abortion is necessary to save the life of a pregnant minor and would allow minors to gain judicial bypass from a judge in their home state to avoid parental notification (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 3/21).

Under the bill, doctors who perform abortions on minors from other states also could be subject to penalties. The measure states that abortion providers in states without parental consent laws would be required to attempt to notify in person or by certified mail a parent or legal guardian of any minor abortion patient who is a resident of another state. Parents who are not notified of their minor child's abortion would be able to sue for civil damages. The full House is expected to approve the measure as soon as next week, CQ Today reports. A Senate version of the measure (SB 403), sponsored by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), has not yet been heard in committee, according to CQ Today (CQ Today, 4/13).

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) in January said that passing legislation to avoid circumvention of state parental consent or notification laws is one of the top 10 legislative priorities for Republicans in Congress this session (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 3/21).

Proposed Amendments Before approving the measure, the committee rejected three Democrat-offered amendments to the legislation, CQ Today reports.

The panel rejected 12-19 an amendment offered by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) that would have exempted a minor's grandparents or adult siblings from being criminally liable for transporting a minor across state lines for an abortion.

In addition, the committee rejected 12-18 an amendment offered by Rep. Robert Scott (D-Va.) that would have exempted bus or taxicab drivers or others in the business of professional transportation from being prosecuted under the measure.

The committee rejected by voice vote an amendment sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) that would have made an exception for minors whose pregnancies are the result of sex with a parent, guardian or other household family member (CQ Today, 4/13).

[Ed note: In other words, if the teenager is being sexually abused, she still needs her abuser's permission and no other adult can help her. Thousands of pregnancies result from incest and sexual abuse every year.]

From Planned Parenthood Federation:

Take Action! Helping a Loved One Shouldn't Be a Crime
The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA) would outlaw an older sister, grandmother, or close family friend taking a woman under age 18 across state lines to access abortion services. It would also mandate notification of a parent even in states that have chosen not to enact such a requirement. Urge your representative to vote against CIANA: here.
Of all the restrictions on reproductive freedom, it's the attacks on teenagers that anger me the most. (Which is really saying something.)

It's easy to pick on minors - they can't vote. And it's easy to appeal irrationally to parents' desire to control their children's lives, just at the time when they are losing that control to adulthood.

"If my daughter was pregnant and getting an abortion, I'd want to know!" Then foster a home environment in which she would come to you, rather than hide in fear of punishment and shame.

"My daughter would never get pregnant, so why should I care about that!" Then you are living in a dream world. Don't make us live in yours, too.

"I would never have an abortion and neither will my daughter!" Never is a big word. Millions of women who say that have already had abortions, or will in the future. And your daughter's body doesn't belong to you. It belongs to her.

When, in the not-distant future, the US is divided into totally red states (abortion illegal under all circumstances), totally blue states (abortion legal and accessible - New York, Massachusetts, California, maybe one or two others) and mostly shades of light blue (abortion legal but with myriad obstacles), people like Rick Santorum will attempt to criminalize adult women who cross state lines to have an abortion. It will be blatantly unconstitutional and probably won't pass.

Well, not at first, anyway.

****

New readers, if this post makes you angry - in either direction, you might want to read these posts (republished without link info here).

Without the ability to control our reproductive lives, women can never be full and equal citizens. Therefore, the right to contraception and abortion is the sine qua non of women's freedom.

Women are humans. Women's freedom is human freedom.

4.27.2005

the needy friend

In this article from Macleans, Canada resembles that overly needy kid in the school cafeteria, trying to get the cool kids to like her. Or the boyfriend you're trying to shake, whining about giving him one more chance.
Canadians feel like Americans take them for granted and don't know the country well enough, Ambassador Frank McKenna said Tuesday in a strong pro-trade pitch geared to sharpening Canada's image south of the border. . . .

"We want Americans to know us better. Because we look like you, sometimes we think you take us for granted. . . . We feel that we sometimes get lost in the crowd . . . We want you to know that we are your northern neighbour and that we have a lot to be proud of in our own right."

In listing a host of famous Canadians from all walks of life, McKenna said he wants to change U.S. perceptions that Canada merely produces great hockey players.
Oy vey. I wish Canada could just say "fuck it" and not care what the US thinks or does. Canadian wmtc readers have taught me why that can't be; of course the answer is economic, what else?

Still, I can't help but wish the boyfriend wannabee would find the dignity to walk away.

literary manhattan

Randy Cohen, who writes a column called "The Ethicist" for The New York Times Magazine, has an amazing idea.
I propose to create, with the help of the Book Review's readers, a literary map of Manhattan -- not of its authors' haunts but those of their characters, a map of the literary stars' homes.

I began thinking about this map years ago while reading Don DeLillo's "Great Jones Street." Bucky Wunderlick gazes out the window of his "small crowded room" at the firehouse across the street. I realized: there's only one firehouse on that street and few buildings that contain tiny apartments rather than commercial lofts. I know where Bucky Wunderlick lives. Or would live if he existed. He's got to be at No. 35. Knowing this made walking around the neighborhood like walking through the novel. But I walked without a map. Shouldn't there be a map of imaginary New Yorkers?

It would be a lush literary landscape -- the house on Washington Square where Catherine Sloper waited and yearned, the coffee shops where the characters of Ralph Ellison and Isaac Bashevis Singer quarreled and kibbitzed, the offices where John Cheever's people spent their days, the clubs where Jay McInerney's creatures wasted their nights, the East 70's and Upper West Side avenues where the Glass family bickered (Salinger gives several addresses), downtown where Ishmael wandered the docks.
The fleshed-out idea, more examples, information about how to participate, and a sample map, are all here.

This is perfect melding of two of my great passions - books and New York City. Guess I'll have to quit my job and give up my writing assignments to work on this project...

4.26.2005

micassa

I should be working, but I saw this in the Toronto Star, and I thought of something...

It's an article about a family with a disabled child who was forced to relinquish custody of their 14-year-old son because they couldn't afford to care for him. The boy, who has a brain injury and is autistic, is now in a juvenile group home.
Ontario's new ombudsman is investigating complaints from parents who say they must give up custody of their severely disabled children to get them the care they need.

"If that is the case, it is simply unacceptable," André Marin told a news conference yesterday, promising results from a team of seven lawyers and investigators within weeks.

"This urgent and pressing issue demands our immediate attention."

Marin said parents have complained they are forced to give up their children under the "false pretense or artifice that the child is in need of protection or has been abandoned by the parents."

He urged any parents in this situation to contact his office, which has already heard from the parents of six children.

"As ombudsman of Ontario, I intend to be a voice for children and their families who've been treated unreasonably, unjustly or oppressively by the provincial government."
By contrast, many people with disabilities in the United States have no such recourse.

One of the long-running fights in the disabled activist community is the passage of the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act, known as MiCASSA.

Right now, Medicaid pays for nursing home care, but not long-term personal attendants. People with disabilities who could live in their own homes, go to school and work, if they had a personal attendant - but who can't afford one - are often forced to live in nursing homes. This includes children and teenagers.

Personal attendant care would be less expensive for the state. More importantly, it would give people with disabilities control over their care and their lives.
Families are in crisis. When support services are needed there are no real choices in the community. Whether a child is born with a disability, an adult has a traumatic injury or a person becomes disabled through the aging process, they overwhelmingly want their attendant services provided in their own homes, not nursing homes or other large institutions. People with disabilities and their families will no longer tolerate being forced into selecting institutions. It's time for Real Choice. . . .

MiCASSA, the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act, is that alternative! Instead of making a new entitlement, MiCASSA makes the existing entitlement more flexible.

MiCASSA establishes a national program of community-based attendant services and supports for people with disabilities, regardless of age or disability. This bill would allow the dollars to follow the person, and allow eligible individuals, or their representatives, to choose where they would receive services and supports. Any individual who is entitled to nursing home or other institutional services will now have the choice where and how these services are provided. The two million Americans currently residing in nursing homes and other institutions would finally have a choice.
My favorite MiCASSA activist is Kyle Glozier, a young man I interviewed as a "roll model" for the KOW book. When Kyle was 14 years old, he testified before Congress and debated anti-disability-rights activist Clint Eastwood. From there, he was chosen to address the 2000 Democratic National Convention in L.A. In front of 35,000 people, with another 1.5 million watching on TV, Kyle brought down the house.

Kyle, who has cerebral palsy, uses a Liberator communication device, which converts typed words into spoken speech. He's in college now, planning to go to law school, and is a full-time activist. He says, "There's no distinction between my regular life and my life as an activist. I'm in this 24/7."

Kyle is one of the coolest young people I've ever met. He is truly a future leader of his movement.

Photos of Kyle addressing Congress and the DNC here and here, and tons of information about MiCASSA on this website.

drink!

When you're too busy to blog, who ya gonna call? ALPF! Here's a funny piece I never would have seen, from a twice-yearly review of Canadian journalism published by students in their final year of J-school at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Is The Comedy Network not doing it for you? Do you like the laughs but wish it had more politics, more current events, more outrageous personalities? Are you okay with lots of yelling, loud music, and flashy graphics? Then I have great news for you; Canada's getting another comedy station: FOX News.
Fox News's special love for Canada has not escaped their notice:
Rose thinks Canadians will tune in out of curiosity and, except for a small, far-right minority, will only keep watching because of the station's entertainment value. He says he can't see FOX News having any kind of impact on Canada's political slant. Adds the Globe's John Doyle: "It's always a mistake to underestimate the shrewdness of Canadian viewers."

Doyle, who frequently travels to the United States and has watched a lot of FOX News programming, recommends that Canadians check out FOX's most popular show, The O'Reilly Factor, hosted by Bill O'Reilly. "Most Canadians will find his views pretty damn funny." He thinks viewers will especially enjoy O'Reilly's hatred for Canada. "He seems to be obsessed with it," Doyle says. In fact, O'Reilly hates Canada -- with its liberal drug laws and gay marriage -- so much that he has threatened to call for America to boycott its northern neighbour.
Don't miss the Bill O'Reilly Drinking Game!

Allan and I have been known to play drinking games while we watch the Red Sox. We substitute take sips (or maybe gulps) of wine for shots. (Hey, we're old, and we watch baseball every night.) Pre-game, we decide on three of the many over-used expressions from the NESN play-by-play guy to drink on. Can't do this too often, I'd always be asleep by the 7th inning. "Outstanding!"

4.25.2005

new friend link

wmtc welcomes David Cho, a blogger from Orange County, California, who has an incredibly cute dog. He's what I call a Bustery Dog. (The dog, that is, not David.)

David Cho describes himself as a Christian conservative, so I am greatly heartened by his opposition to the war in Iraq. It has always seemed to me that standing up for peace is the Christian thing to do, despite what Fearless Leader would have us believe.

Here is something David wrote after the 2004 election, called "Moral Selectivity". It's very good.

brave marines

This is how "we support our troops".

A growing number of veterans are breaking the code of silence to speak out about the appalling conditions under which they are asked to serve. Operation Truth is the place to read more.

war sucks

I didn't post anything about Marla Ruzicka, the American humanitarian-aid worker who was killed in Iraq ten days ago. There was a great outpouring from the progressive media and the blogosphere about it, and I didn't feel I had anything to add.

Beyond that, I felt a little squeamish about everyone mourning one American when so many people have been killed. Most of the pieces I saw about Ruzicka's death were also concerned about that, and took great pains to relate her death to the whole disgusting situation over there. Also, Ruzicka chose to go to Iraq to help alleviate other people's suffering; in that sense she truly was heroic, and her life should be celebrated. But still, it made me uncomfortable.

This morning I see our pal Bob Herbert attended Ruzicka's funeral. He uses it as an occasion to write about the horrors of war - and the silence that keeps those horrors off the American radar screen
The vast amount of suffering and death endured by civilians as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has, for the most part, been carefully kept out of the consciousness of the average American. I can't think of anything the Bush administration would like to talk about less. You can't put a positive spin on dead children.

As for the press, it has better things to cover than the suffering of civilians in war. The aversion to this topic is at the opposite extreme from the ecstatic journalistic embrace of the death of one pope and the election of another, and the media's manic obsession with the comings and goings of Martha, Jacko, et al.

. . .

So the public doesn't even hear about the American bombs that fall mistakenly on the homes of innocent civilians, wiping out entire families. We hear very little about the frequent instances of jittery soldiers opening fire indiscriminately, killing and wounding men, women and children who were never a threat in the first place. We don't hear much about the many children who, for one reason or another, are shot, burned or blown to eternity by our forces in the name of peace and freedom.
Ruzicka was working to to establish a U.S. government office to accurately document the civilian casualties of American wars. Shortly before her death, she wrote about why this is important; if you haven't seen the piece, it's here, among other places.

Ruzicka founded CIVIC Worldwide: The Campaign for Innocent Victims of Combat. Of course, I think everyone killed or hurt in this war is an innocent victim (assuming Bush and Rumsfeld don't get blown up.) But Ruzicka's work is important. The idea is to get this information publicly reported, provide compensation for victims and their families, and study the data in an effort to minimize civilian casualties in future "operations". (There's a euphemism for ya.) Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont is pursuing it on the government level.

Herbert continues:
War is always about sorrow and the deepest suffering. Nitwits try to dress it up in the finery of half-baked rationalizations, but the reality is always wanton bloodshed, rotting flesh and the lifelong trauma of those who are physically or psychically maimed.
Read the whole column here.

4.24.2005

walkers in the city

Here's something I would love to do.

I was reading this neat story about a man who has walked every block of downtown Manhattan (that is, below 14th Street). There are some cool pics; I especially like the one of the whirligigs in an East Village community garden.

I was going to post about this, and when I searched for the link (I was reading it in hard copy), I found this letter:
To the Editor:

I enjoyed reading about Robert Jay Kaufman, who walked every Manhattan street below 14th Street ("His Long Walk Home," April 17). Mr. Kaufman has a delightful perspective on the city, and I'm looking forward to reading his book. But his walking accomplishment is not unique - many people have actually walked every one of Manhattan's 500 miles of streets.

For instance, Cmdr. Thomas Keane completed a four-year Manhattan walk in the early 1950's; his story made The Times on Dec. 15, 1954. I myself walked every Manhattan street in two and a half years, and I finished on the 50th anniversary of Commander Keane's final day of walking. Then there is Joseph D. Terwilliger, who last year walked the entire island in a staggering 10 weeks.

By the way, I have also heard from people who have walked, or are walking, every street in Minneapolis, San Francisco and Christchurch, New Zealand, and every road in Catron County, N.M.

Images of my walk can be seen on my Web site: newyorkcitywalk.com.

Caleb Smith
Upper East Side
The guy's site is really good - full of photos. He's originally from New Mexico, but clearly a New Yorker at heart. He says about the end of his odyssey:
I chose to finish at Thirty Third Street because it runs along the south side of the Empire State Building. From almost anywhere on the island, if you look up at the observation deck, you see little pops of light from the flash bulbs of tourists taking pictures. Those twinkling lights kind of became a beacon for me over the years as I was walking. After several toasts in a nearby KoreaTown bar, I took the elevator to the top, and sent my own camera flashes down to Manhattan. . . . I'm head over heels for this city, now more than ever. I'm still walking the streets, exploring, seeing what I missed the first time around.
Really nice.

This is the kind of thing that, when I was younger, I would decide Allan and I should do. We'd set out to walk from our neighborhood at the northern end of Manhattan to the southern tip, get about as far 85th Street (about 100 blocks), stop someplace for lunch, have a few drinks, and that would be that.

Or after I bought a architecture walking tour book, I'd declare that we were going to do a tour of a different neighborhood each weekend. That might last three or four weeks. We'd have a great time, but I guess I'm not obsessive enough to dedicate so much of my time to a single pursuit. But I'm glad other people have done it, and extra glad they put it on the web!

what i'm reading

I read a short novel called Wildcat Falling, said to be the first published work by an Aboriginal Australian. It was published in 1965, but was released in the US only in 1992. The book was OK, a first-person narrative of a poor, intelligent, mixed-race young man, a "bodgie" - the Australian equivalent of a British "teddy boy" - leaving prison to little opportunity on the outside.

The more interesting story is the author, born Colin Johnson, known as Mudrooroo, who I gather became a controversial semi-celebrity figure in Australia. He lived a nomadic life, living all over the world, from the London jazz scene, to a few years in India, where he became a Buddhist monk, to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury with readings at the famed (and still wonderful!) City Lights Bookstore. He still writes and teaches about Aboriginal culture.

Apparently some people challenged Mudrooroo's claims of being part aboriginal, and his refusal to respond or get involved in any way inflamed his critics.

To really understand the story, I'd probably need Australian newspapers on microfilm, but I found a few things about it online. This essay was confusing without the proper background, but I did like this bit:
What the critics of Mudrooroo seem not to appreciate is that to acquire an Aboriginal identity (regardless of how) in 1965 was not exactly something that people were queuing up to do. To be regarded by the dominant society of Australia 1965 as being a "boong", "coon" or "Abo" was a passport to discrimination, prejudice and poverty, and many light-skinned Aboriginal people opted to assume a non-Aboriginal identity (Indian, afghan, Maori, etc) to escape the extreme difficulty of life as an Aboriginal person. To have been bestowed with an Aboriginal identity and then embrace and live that identity among Aboriginal people when times were tough is, for me, sufficient for Mudrooroo to be regarded as a member of the Aboriginal community. It aught to be remembered that many of those who (often opportunistically) opted to pretend that they weren't Aboriginal in return for acceptance in the white community were reviled...
This parallels with African-Americans who "passed" as white in pre- civil rights days - and the reverse. Most African-Americans are of mixed backgrounds, but to live as a Black person in America is to be Black. In other words, race is a social concept, not a quality of "blood". Mudrooroo's genetic heritage is unknown, but does it matter?

I'll probably read at least another short novel by Mudrooroo, to get a clearer picture of his perspective.

Right now I'm finishing July's People, by Nadine Gordimer, the South African writer and Nobel Prize Laureate. Gordimer sets up scenarios in which characters grapple with the poisonous fruits of racism. She's incredibly adept at teasing out and expressing all the complexities and nuances of personal relationships.

This book takes place during a violent revolution; the racist regime has collapsed. A white Afrikaner family - liberals who oppose the system - have obstinately stayed in their home long past the point of safety. They are left with no way to flee - and will surely be killed in their home if they stay. Their trusted house servant, July, has managed to smuggle them to safety, and so saves the life of the family of five. The action of the book begins immediately after their harrowing escape.

July takes the family to his own village. Not only is the formerly privileged white family now living in a mud hut amid squalor and deprivation, but all the past customs and relationships have been twisted and turned upside-down. The "July's people" of the title are both the dirt-poor black Africans of the huts, and this white African family for whom he used to work, and now both protects and masters.

It's very complex and surprising. Gordimer's novels make you understand the implications of racist domination in a deeply personal way - what it did to people's psyches, how the poison travels through society forever.

4.23.2005

code help needed

My blog footer - the Margaret Mead quote - has migrated into the sidebar. No matter what I do, it won't return to its proper place in footerville.

I don't know if this is a Blogger glitch, or my own ineptitude. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated. If your blog has a footer, perhaps you can send me the code.

ct vs ms

Connecticut takes a step forward. Microsoft retreats.

eat. live. enjoy.

There's a lot of bad news today, none of it surprising, all of it better left to other bloggers. It's expected, it's business as usual, it's we move to canada.

Closer to home, this week the results of a study conducted jointly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study, called "Excess Deaths Associated With Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity," strikes a blow to the notion that an "obesity epidemic" is shortening the lives of tens of millions of Americans.

The study found that a very small (8%) percentage of Americans are clinically obese to the point of threatening their health and lives. Even more interestingly, it shows that being underweight is as much a danger to health as obesity, and that a few extra pounds in otherwise healthy adults seems to increase longevity. From the New York Times story:
People who are overweight but not obese have a lower risk of death than those of normal weight, federal researchers are reporting today.

The researchers - statisticians and epidemiologists from the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - also found that increased risk of death from obesity was seen for the most part in the extremely obese, a group constituting only 8 percent of Americans.

And being very thin, even though the thinness was longstanding and unlikely to stem from disease, caused a slight increase in the risk of death, the researchers said.

The new study, considered by many independent scientists to be the most rigorous yet on the effects of weight, controlled for factors like smoking, age, race and alcohol consumption in a sophisticated analysis derived from a well-known method that has been used to predict cancer risk.
And from the Times' editorial on the study:
The most striking finding was that people defined as overweight but not obese had a lower risk of death than people of normal weight. Indeed, their excess pounds may have prevented some 86,000 deaths annually. That estimate has exploded like a bombshell amid the health officials struggling to control the undeniable upsurge of obesity here and abroad. It leaves the C.D.C., in particular, with a lot of explaining to do.

Last year researchers from that health agency concluded that obesity and overweight were killing some 400,000 people a year in this country (later revised downward to 365,000). These figures were cited extensively in promoting a campaign to control obesity. Now the new study has put the toll at a small fraction of that. . . . The whole notion of what constitutes normal weight and overweight may have to be rethought.
When I started writing about eating disorders, first for Seventeen magazine, then for a book and an educational video for teenagers, my eyes were opened to the multi-billion-dollar scam that is the Diet Industry. It's all around us. It's big business. It keeps us unhappy. It even keeps us fat. (Which is good for profits.)

One doesn't need to have battled life-threatening anorexia or bulimia to be trapped on the diet treadmill. I've never had what could be medically diagnosed as an eating disorder. But when I interviewed girls who had recovered from very serious EDs, I recognized their behaviors as an exaggeration of things most women (and increasing numbers of men) in our society do all the time.

Eating disorders are very complex; there's much more involved than merely wanting to be thin. But I started to view the whole body image and diet obsession on a continuum. And I woke up to my own little corner of that prison, a life-changing revelation.

Like most women I know, I've struggled with my weight all my life. When I was in my late 30s, I began to realize that most of the time I was doing so, I was already at a perfectly healthy, normal weight. But I don't look like a Barbie doll. Therefore...

These days it's common for the weight- and size-obsessed to substitute euphemisms like "an unhealthy weight" for "fat", and claim their fixation on [insert current obsession here: fat, carbs, whatever] is about health, not weight. For the most part, it's a crock.

Of course we should be concerned with what we eat. We're living creatures! Food is fuel, and as is the case with everything: garbage in, garbage out. Of course we should get physical exercise. Of course we should eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid overloading our bodies with saturated fat, processed sugar and artificial ingredients. That's just good, healthy, common sense.

But that extra five or ten pounds around your middle or on your hips? How much of your life do you want to dedicate to losing it? And what will you achieve if you do? Will you be happier? Will you find love, success, contentment? You may look better in the mirror, and you'll garner some compliments around the office. After that, how much of your life will you dedicate to staying that way? And how will you feel when you inevitably gain the weight back?

I can't begin to describe how wonderful - how liberating - it was to step off the Diet Treadmill. Now when I run into women talking about diets, I resemble nothing as much as a recovered alcoholic or chain smoker: I recognize it as an old addiction, necessary to avoid.

There was once a very popular feminist essay about women's obsession with losing ten pounds. The author closed with the observation that the quickest way to lose the weight would be to just cut off our heads. She figured we might as well, for all we were using our brains on this one.

Much has been written about this, and I know this little post doesn't bring anything new to the discussion. But I think this recent study is important. If there's a chronic dieter out there reading this blog, perhaps she'll consider it.

Information about eating disorders here, here, here (Canadian resources) and here, as well as numerous other places online. An important feminist perspective here.

4.22.2005

super cool kids

Some kind of vibes are flowing through cyberspace across the national borders: ALPF and I are beginning to think alike.

Taking a break from national and personal anxiety, ALPF and wmtc bring you nine-year-old activist Hannah Taylor. Hannah's compassion for the homeless people that she saw on the streets of her native Winnipeg led her to start saving her own money to donate.
Hannah turned that experience first into a home and classroom project, teaching her three siblings and her schoolmates about the most underprivileged people in their community.

Then she started collecting spare coins in old baby-food jars, gaily painted red and black like good-luck ladybugs.

Those jars, to "make change" for the homeless, were the start of the Ladybug Foundation, which raises money for charities that help homeless people.
Hannah also does public speaking - for example, in front of 16,000 people at the opening of Winnipeg's MTS Centre - to urge Canadians to find a better way to care for its homeless population. The Ladybug Foundation, a non-profit organization, has raised more than $500,000 using a variety of creative campaigns - all of which Hannah has initiated. She also volunteers at homeless shelters and missions.

Yesterday Hannah became the youngest person ever to address The Empire Club, a "captains of industry" organization formed in 1903. Hannah adds her name to a list of past speakers that includes every Canadian Prime Minister, six US Presidents, Winston Churchill and Indira Ghandi. News stories here and here, including a photo of Hannah standing on a box to be seen above the podium.

Watch for her name in the future. We'll be hearing from Hannah Taylor for a long time.

****

Hannah Taylor reminded me of another young activist I know. Rasha Kawar, a fourth-grader from Texas, is trying to get US airlines to provide a wheelchair-accessible restroom on designated flights. That is, she's trying to get them to obey the law.

After a frustrating and humiliating experience on a flight to Israel, Rasha asked her mother, "What are we going to do about this?"
When she got home, Rasha wrote a letter to President Bush asking him the same question. She said, "Can I please meet with you on the weekend? Or maybe if you are free one day you can come here, because we really have to talk."

Rasha received a letter from the president saying he is "proud to be her friend" and photographs of his wife and dogs. Her mom said Rasha should be happy to receive a reply -- after all, Mr. Bush is a busy man. Rasha wasn't buying it. "I didn't write to him to be his friend. I have a hundred good friends. I wanted him to solve this problem, and he didn't."
Um, I'm quoting myself: here's my story about Rasha, written for other wheelchair-using kids.

Rasha's quest may seem frivolous to you, or presumptive, or needlessly interfering with business. Imagine if you took long-distance flights several times a year - or ever, for that matter - and you couldn't use a rest room on the plane. At one time, curb cuts, chair lifts and wheelchair-accessible public restrooms were considered frivolous, wasteful and unnecessary. Now they are part of everyday life; because of them, millions of people can function more fully in the world - go to school and work, and contribute to society. This is really no different.

You can read Rasha's statement and, if you want, sign her petition. I'll email her this post to see how the project has advanced.

More cool kids here.

4.21.2005

high anxiety

A personal post today.

I got the assignment.

And I'm freaking out.

It's typical feast-or-famine freelance stuff, but in this case the semi-famine was on purpose - and I was enjoying it. Thanks to my well-paid, low-work day-job on the weekends, I'm able to enjoy down periods without financial stress.

With this BLC* looming, I've been very comfortable without a lot of writing work. Seeing friends, enjoying the city, watching movies or baseball, and of course blogging, has been enough. Add in my work for Kids On Wheels and what I'm still doing with the Haven Coalition, and it was quite enough. Note that this is a five-day week: Saturday and Sundays are spent in a corporate law firm, 12 hours each day.

Then a giant project falls in my lap. It's interesting work, something I enjoy and am good at. It pays literally ten times more than the other books I've written and four times more than I've ever been paid for a single assignment. I don't write strictly for money - Kids On Wheels, for example, doesn't pay well, but they pay fairly according to their ability, and I am passionate about the work. But being really well compensated for doing what you love - what could be better?

Plus this work has the potential to be ongoing: if it works out, it could save me from full-time word-processing after we move. This is very, very big.

The downside: I'm about to be swamped, and working under extreme deadline pressure is not one of my strengths. I'm the oddball who leaves lots of extra time for everything. I never pulled an all-nighter in college; papers were always done well before they were due. I write assignments early, building in time to let the piece sit untouched for a day or two, which I find essential to good editing.

I know it's unusual - I live with someone who can't think about starting until the deadline looms - but it's how I am.

I've struggled with overload anxiety all my life. When I feel too busy or too pressured, I tend towards panic, and I can't think straight. My mother claims I was like this in the 4th grade, coming home with a book report and math homework on the same day, in frantic tears, bemoaning how I'd never get it all done.

Over the years I've learned how to control and harness this. I recognize some semi-panic as part of my writing process. I can separate myself from it, look at it from the outside: oh yes, this is the part when I get nervous and doubt my ability to get it all done...

Nevertheless. This is a lot of work, without much time, the first time I've worked with this company, and with the premiere issue of the KOW magazine - which means a lot to me - happening at the same time. And I still have a month or two left on my obligations to Haven, which I can't just ditch.

And so, I've been up since 4:00 a.m., wide-eyed, stomach churning. Klonopin, as well as the delegation of several household duties to a certain other blogger around here, will be key to avoiding a complete meltdown.

****

How I made this writing connection is a cool side note.

Last summer, I spent a lot of time running a phone bank for ACT. (Remember John Kerry...?) I trained volunteers phoners, then did supervising and trouble shooting once they were on the phones.

One of the many volunteers I met said she was very impressed with my work - which kind of amazed me, because what was I really doing? - and asked me what I did in the rest of my life. When I said I was a writer, she pressed further, and when I mentioned writing for young people, her face lit up. "Oh really? My husband is the editorial director of Weekly Reader..." She gave me her card and his, and urged me to get in touch.

After the election - and after my mourning period - I did. I interviewed with her husband, who instantly offered me work, and who has since been passing my resume and samples along to various people in the business.

This is a great example of something my life is rich with. I truly believe that no experience is ever wasted. Connections are formed in ways you cannot foresee.

Also, that volunteer did a very special thing. Most people don't give a second thought to the people around them. She took the initiative and made a real difference in someone else's life. Her example reminds me to (continue to) strive to do the same.

****

Blogging is good. I feel much better.




* big life change

4.19.2005

not canadian enough?

I didn't blog about Michael Ignatieff's recent speech, because I seldom (never?) agree with anything he says, and I don't know enough about the current Canadian political situation to put his remarks in perspective.

ALPF sent - and I even saw this one on my own! - some interesting commentary on the speech from Star columnist Richard Gwyn. In a piece called "Too Many Canadians Aren't Canadian Enough," Gwyn writes:
Being Canadian, he [Ignatieff] writes, is "a constant act of justification and self-invention." To be tired of all of this "is to be tired of Canadian life".

He's wholly right. My own formulation, which I've expressed earlier in this space, is that to be Canadian is to be someone who is forever becoming a Canadian.

But I think Ignatieff misreads the nature of the looming crisis. It isn't because Quebecers are too Québécois, it's because Canadians aren't Canadian enough.

Quebec isn't a real threat, I would argue, because Quebecers have already separated within Canada and so have no need to formally separate.

They've figured out, this is to say, how to be wholly Quebecers while using Canadianism (our passport, our international image, etc.) as a useful, if secondary, asset.

The rest of us are getting to be like Quebecers. Canadianism is becoming a convenience rather than a source of identity.

For me personally, the realization of just how far we have moved from a sense of national solidarity happened when Newfoundlanders lowered the Maple Leaf flag. That the provincial government did this was one thing. That Memorial University, an independent institution, did it also, was quite another.

I cannot think of any other country where citizens would lower their national flag as a bargaining ploy.

Our sense of national solidarity seems to be slipping away.
This is interesting to me, since I eschew nationalism, and my own national identity is not a source of pride to me.

Is national identity necessary? Can we be proud of the society we live in (and strive to better it) without rallying behind a flag? Or is patriotism necessary in order to build a society?

In the US, where there is rampant nationalism - the love-it-or-leave-it crowd - there is also rampant selfishness, a total unwillingness to put the social good before the individual. Patriotism feeds militarism and the absence of self-criticism. But in Canada, national identity means something very different. But what? And does provincial identity threaten that?

Your comments are welcome. Though I can't respond quickly, or at all, I'm always monitoring.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays just tied the game. Gotta go!

another cool canadian move

Thanks to ALPF, I didn't miss this story:
Canada is the first country in the world to approve a cannabis spray that relieves pain in people with multiple sclerosis, Health Canada said Tuesday. . . .

Sativex, which is administered through a spray in the mouth, relieves pain in patients that suffer from MS, the government agency said. It's expected to hit the shelves by late spring.

"Effective pain control and management are extremely important in a disease like MS," said Dr. Allan Gordon, neurologist and director of the Wasser Pain Management Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, in a statement. "The approval of Sativex in Canada reflects the urgent need for additional treatment options in the field of neuropathic pain in MS."
As someone concerned with the issues of people with disabilities, I welcome this news. Can any of us imagine what it's like to live with constant and untreatable pain? And should any of us deny relief to others who suffer, based on some antiquated notions about "good vs bad" drugs?

Good work, Canada.

tomorrow's posts tonight

I have to be out very early tomorrow morning, so I'll blog tonight while watching Bronson Arroyo vs. Roy Halladay. So far one mammoth home run from Manny Ramirez, and some mean defense from the Blue Jays...

I'm waiting to hear about a writing assignment that, if it happens, will drastically change my outlook for the next month or two. It would be very interesting, challenging - and highly lucrative. The three rarely go together for me. But I'll really have my hands full meeting all my deadlines. No more NYC-to-do excursions for a while, and I'll have to resist replying to all your great comments during the day.

Your comments to this post were fantastic. I really appreciated everyone's input and perspectives. Galileo, who I believe is both gay and a practicing Christian, had this to say:
When I first read about the move to allow pharmacists to not carry certain items according to their conscience, I thought, "Gee. That's a good idea. No one should be forced to do something they don't think is right."

But then I thought about it some more. Where does it end? Can an emergency room doc withold treatment from a gang member because he disapproves of gang activity? Can he refuse to treat an injury caused by the patient's own stupidity? What if he wants to withold surgery from someone because they are gay, or a different religion, or a different color? Just because they think it's wrong.

Back to the pharmacist. What if he wants to withold AZT from someone with HIV because he assumes that AIDS is a gay disease and thinks it's wrong? What if he doesn't want to fill a prescription for pain killers because he would choose to tough it out and you should too?

Initially, I was even able to answer these questions with, "So what? You can always go to another pharmacist for your drugs." But if everyone in a conservative town is witholding the same prescriptions, it essentially becomes impossible to get.

I really appreciated this line from your post:
But if you can't do your job properly because your conscience is bothering you, you need to find another profession.

When you sign up to be a pharmacist, you know what you're getting into. It's not like you accidentally got the job; it takes a lot of time and effort. So to all the pharmacists out there, know what you're getting yourself into, then live up to your responsibility and quit complaining about it. Otherwise, find something else that's more compatible with your lifestyle.
I admit the line Galileo quoted was meant sarcastically. I don't buy the conscience excuse; I think it's good old-fashioned, puritanical, patriarchal disapproval. But his comment made me consider the possibility more seriously.

When John Ashcroft said that legal abortion conflicted with his religious beliefs, I felt he had to decline the position of Attorney General, since his job would be to uphold the laws of the land, and abortion is still legal. When personal conscience conflicts with the law or the requirements of your job (or both), you can only choose one. If this conscience thing is real, and not just an excuse, well then, Galileo's comment says it all.

cody day

Six years ago today, we adopted Cody, also known as Brown.

Cody, the dog with the world's saddest eyes, is the ultimate bottom dog. She isn't overly affectionate, and the affection she gives is quiet and restrained. She is slow, lazy, devious, and mischievous in her own quiet way. She is also a survivor: Cody is the only dog I've ever heard of who was an overweight stray.

In typical bottom-dog fashion, Cody hates anything being done to her - bath, vet, nails clipped - and screams bloody murder before anything even starts. (By contrast, Buster the Alpha Dog will calmly submit to any and all procedures if he is so instructed. And if his mommy is with him.)

Cody likes to be alone. In fact, she's the only dog we've ever had who doesn't sleep in our bedroom. This is a subject of great note in our home. Dogs normally want to be around their human family at all times, but Cody likes her privacy. Indeed, I suspect she's not a dog at all, but a cat wearing a clever disguise.

For her birthday, Cody gets to go to the vet and be stuck with needles.

cody_sad_eyes
i am not worthy

more theocracy

In post-revolutionary Iran, "morality police" rode the streets on motorbikes searching for - and attacking - women who were "immoral", i.e., wearing lipstick, allowing a strand of hair to fall out of their chadors, walking on a sidewalk unaccompanied by a male relative. In Christian America, pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions for products they don't believe women should use.

If you're not following this story, it's about Emergency Contraception, also called the Morning-After Pill, marketed under the name Plan B. (I blogged about access to EC in Canada here.) Pharmacists in various states have been refusing to fill prescriptions for these drugs, citing concerns of conscience. I know the thought of people - make that women - having sex without birth control, or of birth control failure, is a dire problem for other people's consciences. But if you can't do your job properly because your conscience is bothering you, you need to find another profession.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich recently ordered pharmacies in his state to fill all prescriptions, no matter what their employees' personal views. That's encouraging. Illinois State Senator Frank Watson, whose family owns a pharmacy that doesn't stock EC, says this is "an infringement on a business decision and also on the pharmacist's right of conscience." Ah, the old "business decision". Government out of our lives. But wait, doesn't that mean... Hm, this gets confusing!

Read about this from a pro-freedom, pro-individual, pro-responsibility point of view on the Bush v Choice blog from NARAL: here and here.

Facts about the Morning-After Pill here. This is not abortion. This is contraception. And this is not about fetuses or the "unborn" or the pre-born or anything they call the blobs of cells they purport to love so much. This is about people who oppose women's freedom. This is a direct attack on women's ability to control their own lives.

It's also why EC needs to be available over the counter.

And it's also a great example of why I can't wait to get the hell out of here.

what's softer than a softball?

David Corn, the Washington editor of The Nation, asks that question in a piece that might win a prize for Most Obvious Title: "Newspaper Editors Serve Bush Lame Questions" (which I saw at Common Dreams):
I often watch presidential press conferences and find myself shouting at the television: "Don't ask that!...That's a dumb question!...Follow up, follow up!...Come on, don't let him off the hook!"

I realize it's not always easy to press a president in these controlled and staged settings, and most members of the White House press corps are encumbered, rightly or wrongly, by a certain sense of decorum. If a president says something wrong, misleading, false, evasive or stupid, they do not feel empowered to reply, "Excuse me, Mr. President, but that simply is not so. Can you please give us a straight and direct answer?" For those Americans who look to the Fourth Estate to hold--or try to hold--the politicians accountable, White House reporters tend to disappoint. But these journalists are outright ferocious when compared to newspaper editors--judging from Bush's Q&A session Thursday at the annual convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. [Emphasis mine.]
Corn goes on to deconstruct that press conference. Since I never watch W on TV - except via Jon Stewart - this was horrifyingly educational. Read it here. Corn is also the author of The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception.

4.18.2005

26.2 miles

Today is Patriots Day in New England, the day of the Boston Marathon.

I love the Boston Marathon because it was the first city marathon to include an official wheelchair division - thanks to the persistence of activists, especially the pioneering road racer and chair designer Bobby Hall. I've also written a lot about Jean Driscoll, who won the women's wheelchair division an amazing eight times in her signature yellow racing chair.

By contrast, an official wheelchair division in the New York City Marathon came much more recently, and only after a long, ugly battle. I'm very proud to have contributed to that fight. I covered the situation for years, which is how I came to know Hall. My notes from an interview with Allan Steinfeld, then the president of the New York Road Runners Club, were to be used in evidence in the last big lawsuit, but NYRCC finally settled out of court. My long wrap-up of the fight is here, from an excellent but now-defunct online sports magazine called SportsJones.

Two Canadian women are entered in the 2005 wheelchair division, Diane Roy and the well-known Chantal Petitclerc. There are some Canadian men running the wheelchair division, too. I'd like to see 24-year-old Christina Ripp, one of my favorite wheelchair basketball players, wear the laurels this year.

redundancy of the day du jour

George Steinbrenner is an idiot.

the test of our progress

In today's New York Times, Bob Herbert remembers my favorite US president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I know about his flaws and his missteps, though I point to different issues than some. I don't think having relationships outside of one's marriage is a problem for a presidency, especially if it's not even a problem within the marriage!

Amazingly for an American president, FDR was married - happily - to a feminist, a bisexual, a radical thinker. I see this as a measure of a man well ahead of his time. Eleanor was Franklin's intellectual partner, and an enormous influence on his thinking. (A case can be made for Eleanor being nearly solely responsible for FDR's progressive ideas.)

In those days a president's personal life was out-of-bounds for the press. The White House press corps knew about Lucy Mercer, FDR's girlfriend, and many may have known about Eleanor's relationship with Malvina ("Tommy") Thompson. But those were considered things the public didn't need to know. Imagine that.

Anyway, back to the important stuff. Of Franklin Roosevelt, Herbert reminds us:
His goal was "to make a country in which no one is left out." That kind of thinking has long since been consigned to the political dumpster . . . To get a sense of just how radical Roosevelt was (compared with the politics of today), consider the State of the Union address he delivered from the White House on Jan. 11, 1944. . . .

Roosevelt referred to his proposals in that speech as "a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race or creed."

Among these rights, he said, are:

"The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

"The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

"The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

"The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

"The right of every family to a decent home.

"The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

"The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.

"The right to a good education."
Herbert says, "I mentioned this a few days ago to an acquaintance who is 30 years old. She said, "Wow, I can't believe a president would say that.""

"The test of our progress," said Roosevelt, "is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

Over the next thirty years, the country would make substantial progress towards many of these goals, though others (like the right to health care) remained elusive. Now, sixty years after FDR's death, we've come a long way. Backwards.

4.17.2005

ca meets oh meets b&c

Here's an excellent story about some California nurses battling with their state's steroidal governor.

I found this on Welcome to Gilead, where TJ says "Emma Goldman would be proud". You know it. Read about the nurses' issues, their amusing tactics, and their effect on Arnold here.

Turns out this has a direct connection to wmtc. In the L. A. Times story, I noticed this bit: "In the face-off with Schwarzenegger, the association has staged about 40 attention-grabbing demonstrations up and down the state and as far away as Ohio, where sign-waving nurses tailed him to a bodybuilding exhibition. . . . "

A body-building exhibition in Ohio?? Our dogwalker was there! She took the weekend off to drive to Cincinnati with her boyfriend. It was called something like the Arnold Classic. She met Ms Universe. If only I had known about the protesting nurses, I would have asked for a picture...!

maybe coffee was coffee

Someone just emailed this to me.

+++++++

George: (While preparing bicarb) She invites me up at twelve o clock at night, for coffee. And I don't go up. "No thank you, I don't want coffee, it keeps me up. Too late for me to drink coffee." I said this to her. People this stupid shouldn't be allowed to live. I can't imagine what she must think of me.

Jerry: She thinks you're a guy that doesn't like coffee.

George: She invited me up. Coffee's not coffee, coffee is sex.

Elaine: Maybe coffee was coffee.

George: Coffee's coffee in the morning, it's not coffee at twelve o clock at night.

Elaine: Well some people drink coffee that late.

George: Yeah, people who work at NORAD, who're on twenty-four hour missile watch. Everything was going along so great: she was laughing, I was funny. I kept saying to myself "Keep it up, don't blow it, you're doing great."

Elaine: It's all in your head. All she knows is she had a good time. I think you should call her.

George: I can't call her now, it's too soon. I'm planning a Wednesday call.

Elaine: Oh, why? I love it when guys call me the next day.

George: Of course you do, but you're imagining a guy you like, not a guy who goes (in stupid voice) "Oh no, I don't drink coffee late at night." If I call her now, she's gonna think I'm too needy. Women don't wanna see need. They want a take-charge guy - a colonel, a kaiser, a tsar.

Elaine: All she'll think is that you like her.

George: Yes, she wants me to like her, if she likes me, but she doesn't like me!

Elaine: I don't know what your parents did to you.

+++++++

This is not as off-topic as you may think. No, really! Everything New York City- related is blogworthy to me, and you can't get more New York than the older episodes of "Seinfeld". Like many Woody Allen films, I've often wondered how Seinfeld played to the rest of the country or the world - there are so many inside jokes and NewYorkisms. But Seinfeld follows in the footsteps of (and borrows consciously from, I think) that ultimate New York City sitcom, Jackie Gleason's "The Honeymooners".

What I often notice about the old Seinfelds - and that is completely absent from the later episodes, when the show had achieved status as a National Icon - is the appearance of a genuine, easy friendship among the four characters. When one of them says something ridiculous, the others will look at each other and laugh and shrug good-naturedly.

For a great example, check out the scene in the coffee shop that begins the famed bet ("master of your domain") - the way they all look at each other as George tells them he was caught with the Glamour magazine. The Elaine (with big wild hair) who says, above, "I don't know what your parents did to you" is chuckling and smiling, laughing along with George - in contrast to the nasty shark Elaine (with straightened hair) she was later to become.

I have a theory about Elaine's hair as a barometer of the quality of any given Seinfeld episode, but I'll stop now. I have analyzed this quite a bit. Lest you think I read Saul Bellow and watch baseball to the exclusion of all else.

a perfect example

Why am I moving to Canada? Have you heard about "Justice Sunday"? This nauseating bit of theocracy is brought to us by some of our favorite political hacks, bigots and former criminals: Bill Frist, James Dobson, Chuck Colson, etc. No links, if you don't know them, you'll have to look them up yourself.

There's a good story about it in The American Prospect:
The Family Research Council says anticlerical judges pose a greater danger than al-Qaeda. . . .

The fight over the Senate confirmation of President George W. Bush’s most conservative judicial nominees is about to take an ugly turn, as the administration’s supporters in the religious right prepare an organized campaign to accuse Democrats of being biased against Christians.

For several years now, in the right’s rhetoric against Democrats who have threatened to filibuster judicial nominees, there has been an undercurrent that hinted at an anti-Christian bias. But at a conference on the judiciary last week, sponsored by the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration (JCCCR), the movement began to take a more menacing form.
Story here; right-wing propaganda about JS here.

No one seems to notice that the expression "Justice Sunday" was swiped from progressive Christian groups who actually work for justice. The Unitarian Universalists, for example, sponsor an annual Justice Sunday; the focus this year was on "threats to the human right to water". The Quakers also promote a similar idea. Some churches hold an annual "Racial Justice Sunday" to focus on that unfinished bit of democracy.

So as these right-wing religious fanatics take over the US government, they appropriate the vocabulary of left-wing social activism. The same activism they say these liberal judges promote.

if you can't make it here...

...then apply for a job with the W administration!

Tim Harper, a Toronto Star columnist, has a good wrap-up of how incompetent losers are rewarded by the Bush White House, as long as they fall into lock-step and kiss enough butt.
One will always live in infamy for gravely misjudging the cost of the Iraq war and the reception accorded U.S. troops, publicly underestimating the American death toll and blaming scared journalists for not reporting the war's good news.

The second sat behind Colin Powell in the U.N. Security Council, nodding solemnly and sagely as Washington provided a dossier of inaccurate, fanciful intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

The third was described last week as a "serial abuser" — a bully who berates and intimidates subordinates and a U.S. unilateralist who once declared that no one would notice if the top 10 floors of the United Nations secretariat disappeared.

In the private sector, Paul Wolfowitz, John Negroponte and John Bolton may have been shown the door for their transgressions.

In George W. Bush's world, they all received promotions, joining others who have been honoured, lauded and handed plums after dishing up faulty pre-war intelligence or mismanaging the Iraqi occupation.

Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary who said Americans would be greeted in Iraq as liberators, takes over as president of the World Bank on June 1.

Negroponte, Bush's envoy to the U.N. in the run-up to the war, is headed to easy confirmation as the country's first national intelligence director.

Undersecretary of State Bolton — a caustic purveyor of American muscularity who has emerged as the most controversial of all the president's men (and women) — looks as if he will be confirmed in days as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

They join a long line.

Condoleezza Rice, who sounded some of the most apocalyptic pronouncements on Saddam Hussein's imminent threat to Americans, is the secretary of state.

Alberto Gonzales, complicit in a memo that was interpreted as a green light for prison torture, is now the attorney-general.
I'm tempted to copy the whole thing here, but I'll restrain myself for now. The column is here.

****

After ALPF sent me this good analysis of the current Canadian political crisis, an interesting discussion developed (or is still developing) between RobfromAlberta and G. I'm finding it very educational. Contrary to what my friends over at Big Soccer think, I'm not worried about this supposed emerging conservatism in Canada. One, it strikes me as not all that conservative. Two, it's not like Paul Martin's Liberals are my political ideal. Three, I'm not convinced the Conservatives are really taking over, or if they do, how strong a power they would be. I definitely don't like Stephen Harper, and I've read that he talks more centrist than he really is. But I'm not pretending to know much about this - I'm just watching and reading. Comments welcome.

****

I hope you're still out there. Either Statcounter isn't working properly, or my readership has had a sudden and precipitous drop-off.

4.16.2005

and i almost missed it

What with all the "what I'm reading" posts, and pleas for the Salinas, California library, and wmtc's own resident librarian, you'd think I would have pointed out National Library Week. I thought it was April 18-24 - and had a post all ready to go. But no, that was 2004. In fact, the 2005 National Library Week just passed. Duh.

Libraries are so great. Think about it. You walk in, show your little card, and walk out with books or music or movies. Read, listen, watch, bring them back, get some more. What a concept!

Now that we can get so much information online in our own homes, it's easy to forget the mountains of reference materials and archives - all the history and knowledge - all the potential power - those buildings house. To read more about how cool libraries and librarians are, visit G.

The ALA is a leader in the fight against the undemocratic and unpatriotic so-called Patriot Act, fighting to keep the FBI out of our libraries.

The organization also opposes censorship in all its many guises, and supports the free flow of information and ideas, regardless of who those ideas might offend. Their site has some cool links to lists of banned and challenged books. They sponsor an annual Banned Book Week, when people are encouraged to read a banned book.

In parts of the US these days, teachers are afraid to use textbooks that mention evolution. Publishers routinely reject books for young people - no matter how good or how useful they might be - that so much as mention sex, pregnancy or abortion. We must fight against censorship, be it state-sponsored or the insidious de facto censorship of the marketplace.

blog of note

Dr Marco, who blogs here when he has time and sometimes comments on wmtc, is part of a great group blog called Porquois Pas?. The authors describe the site thusly: "A group of people striving for justice & peace for humankind, and respect for this planet & all its species."

Is this what's known as a mob blog? I have trouble seeing a mob as anything but the kind of inbreds who were stared down by Atticus Finch, so I'll stay with group blog for now. Anyway, go check it out.


****

Wmtc notes the passing of Andrea Dworkin at the much-too-young age of 58. Dworkin was a radical feminist, an author, an original thinker, and a tireless voice for the forgotten and the oppressed. Her work helped end the silence around violence against women.

Dworkin's writing was usually controversial; she was often caricatured and ridiculed in the mainstream. She didn't write for readers to nod their heads and turn the page. She wrote to provoke us to think differently. I didn't agree with everything she wrote, and that didn't change my admiration and respect for her. She made me think. She made me question.

To read more about Dworkin and her work, visit the Stop Family Violence website. By coincidence, there's a long quote from a speech Dworkin gave at the University of Toronto.

4.15.2005

the moma report

MOMA was spectacular. Special treats (for me) included Van Gogh's The Starry Night, Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Matisse's The Dance, Picasso's Three Musicians, and this monumental Jackson Pollack.

There was much more, of course; I could post images of dozens of Picassos and Matisses that I loved, along with twenty other artists. The building is dazzling, including the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, full of works by Henry Moore, Picasso, Alexander Calder, David Smith and other modern sculptors. I am very partial to sculpture gardens of all types, and this was no exception.

We also had a fabulous meal there. The restaurants and cafes are all run by Danny Meyer, one of New York City's great restaurateurs, whose signature Union Square Cafe happens to be our favorite restaurant. Meyer is famous for serving amazing, creative food in an elegant - but always friendly and unpretentious - atmosphere. His work makes even a cup of tea and a light snack at MOMA an experience. We ended the day with a late lunch (and a good deal of imbibing) at The Bar Room, the less formal area of the restaurant called The Modern. If you feel like parting with a large amount of cash to complete your MOMA experience, I highly recommend it.

Not much Canada-related news to report. I'm following the political situation, but I don't feel qualified to comment on it. I know, why should that stop me, it doesn't seem to stop anyone else...

****

I also remembered that I had visited MOMA more recently than I thought, though still many years ago. They held a Chuck Close retrospective in 1998, which I attended in order to write about Close. (Most of the article is here.)

I hung out with the artist in his studio, and even saw a painting in progress, which was so cool. What you won't see in the story is the huge gaffe I made in the print version. Close, off the record, dissed Christopher Reeve - but I misunderstood where his "this is not for publication" caveat began and ended.

Close was hugely pissed off at the magazine, but considerate enough to let me off the hook at the same time. I felt really bad, not to mention I'll never be able to speak with him again. Such are the vagaries of journalism. Sometimes the missteps are truly unintentional.

4.14.2005

the goodbye continues

Not much time to blog today, as the goodbye continues.

We're spending the day at the reopened MOMA. I'm as excited to see the new building as I am to see some of the art I love best - classic Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Brancusi, Rodin, etc. MOMA highlights here, sculpture and painting highlights here.

I still object to the $20 entrance fee - the highest for any Museum in the country. In MOMA's defense, they've secured corporate funding for free Friday nights, there are good discounts for seniors and students, and the cost of membership, which wasn't raised, is now a really good deal. Still, $20 is certainly prohibitive for many people, and must prevent people from experiencing art they wouldn't normally see. But despite this, I haven't been to MOMA in many years, and I absolutely must go before I leave the city. Making a full day of it turns the $20 ticket into a bargain.

Last time I went to MOMA, I saw Woody Allen and Mia Farrow taking in an exhibit together. That's how long ago it was, and that was a true New York Celebrity Sighting.

****

Our interview with the Japanese journalist was fun! He asked good questions and seemed very sympathetic to our position. He told us that the Japanese people strongly oppose the war in Iraq, and that the Japanese Prime Minister is referred to as an Asian Poodle for kissing Bush's ass. I had never heard that expression. Nice!

Unfortunately the story will run only in Japanese, but I'll show you a copy anyway. Maybe there's a wmtc reader who can translate it for us.

secrecy and wishful thinking

From Seymour Hersh's Chain Of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib:

"The requirement that U.S. Special Forces unit operate in secrecy, a former senior coalition advisor in Baghdad told me, provided an additional incentive for increasing their presence in Iraq. The Special Forces in-country numbers are not generally included in troop totals. Bush and Rumsfeld were insisting that more American troops were not needed, but that position was challenged by many senior military officers in private conversations. "You need more people," the former advisor, a retired admiral, told me. "But you can't add them, because Rummy's taken a position. So you invent a force that won't be counted.

. . . .

"Secrecy and wishful thinking, a Pentagon official told me in the spring of 2004, were defining characteristics of Rumsfeld's Pentagon. "They always want to delay the release of bad news -- in the hope that something good will break," he said. The habit of procrastination in the face of bad news led to disconnects between Rumsfeld and the Army staff officers who were assigned to planning for troop requirements in Iraq. In mid-2003, the Pentagon official told me, when it became clear the Army would have to call up more reserve units to deal with the insurgency, "we had call-up orders that languished for thirty or forty days in the office of the secretary of defense." Rumsfeld's staff always seemed to be waiting for something to turn up - for the problem to take care of itself, without any additional troops. The official explained, "They were hoping that they wouldn't have to make a decision." The delay meant that soldiers in some units about to be deployed had only a few days to prepare wills and deal with other family and financial issues.

"The same deliberate indifference to bad news was evident that year, the Pentagon official said, when the Army conducted a series of elaborate war games. Planners would present best-case, moderate-case and worst-case scenarios, in an effort to assess where the Iraq war was headed and to estimate troop needs. In every case, the number of troops actually required exceeded the worst-case analysis. Nevertheless, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and civilian officials in the Pentagon continued to insist that future planning be based on the most optimistic scenario.

"The optimistic estimate was that at this point in time" - mid-2004 - "the U.S. Army would need only a handful of combat brigades in Iraq," the Pentagon official said. "There are nearly twenty now, with the international coalition drying up. They were wildly off the mark." The official added, "From the beginning, the Army community was saying that the projections and estimates were unrealistic." Now, he said, "we're struggling to maintain a hundred and thirty-five thousand troops, while allowing soldiers enough time back home." "

4.13.2005

peaceably to assemble, part 2

Yesterday, I mentioned some proof that the NYPD spent a good portion of the Republican National Convention trampling on First Amendment rights. Longtime reader Peter, a Canadian, noted:
And what this story doesn't talk about is what happened to the police officer who registered the complaint against the individual. I don't know about in the states, but in Canada making a false statement in a criminal court is a very serious crime. Especially when done by an officer of the peace.
It's a serious crime here, too - or should be. If I recall correctly, "bearing false witness" is included in a certain dectet of "thou shalt not"s, which I mention only to emphasize that, historically, this has always been considered a big no-no.

In today's Times, reader reaction:
To the Editor:

Re "Videos Challenge Hundreds of Convention Arrests" (front page, April 12):

You report about shocking misconduct in connection with some of the 1,806 arrests made during the Republican National Convention last summer involving the alteration of police tapes.

Charges against hundreds of those arrested were dismissed when unaltered videotapes came to light, but the matter cannot be allowed to rest there.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg should appoint a task force to investigate the misconduct and to prepare a public report recommending reform of police procedures and calling those responsible for the abuses to account.

A police spokesman says officers should not be criticized if their recollection of events does not comport with a videotape.

If a person does not have an accurate recollection of events, he has no business testifying under oath in court in a criminal proceeding that may result in a citizen's loss of liberty.

Marilyn M. Jerry
Princeton, N.J., April 12, 2005

***

To the Editor:

What is truly disturbing about the prosecutions after last summer's Republican National Convention and the alteration of police tapes is that the matter is no longer about allegations of misconduct but about retribution against people who turned out to express opinions opposed to those of the Republicans.

This is the political nightmare we fear the most.

Joseph Keiffer
New York, April 12, 2005

***

To the Editor:

Police officers who offer false testimony about arrests, technicians who alter videos, and prosecutors who offer untrue evidence in court should be prosecuted.

But their misconduct pales in comparison with the systemic misconduct of the New York City government during the Republican convention last year.

The suppression of dissent has become commonplace, and it is an outrage. We need to ensure that freedom is more than a slogan.

Jacob Remes
Durham, N.C., April 12, 2005

***

To the Editor:

While we should be thankful that the technology exists for the common citizen now to more easily protect himself from the repressive tactics of the state (which we so readily allow to abrogate our rights under the guise of homeland security), what legal action can we expect Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to take against the police, who were so quick to deny the right of assembly?

Will we soon begin mass arrests of anyone with a video camera at any public gathering?

Or should we expect technology to allow the police to disable video cameras at their whim, again under the guise of homeland security?

Tony Alfrey
Woodside, Calif., April 12, 2005

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To the Editor:

Dropping the charges against many of the protesters is but the first step in the more thorough moral reckoning that awaits us.

Your article underscores the yawning chasm between what we as a country are telling ourselves about our role as an ambassador of democracy and the chilling reality of America's role in the world: invading sovereign countries, deporting Muslims to be tortured abroad, and domestically, penning dissenting citizens.

(Rev.) Tom Martinez
Brooklyn, April 12, 2005

***

To the Editor:

For those of us who have for decades demonstrated peacefully in New York City for progressive causes, revelations of police hyperbole are nothing new.

For future demonstrations, I encourage The New York Times and other media to pick up a video camera and rely less on "he said, she said" reportage.

Daniel Katz
New York, April 12, 2005
This is a lot of letters on one topic, which means the Times received a flood of mail - and all from the same point of view. We need to push for an investigation, and a thorough rethinking of policy towards peaceful protesters. Singling out one or two officers for punishment - however deserved - won't change anything. Clearly such widespread abuse speaks to directives coming from much higher up.