7.31.2005

belated congratulations, canada

Getting caught up over at Rob's place, I realized I never congratulated Canada on The World's Stupidest Government Award. As you can imagine, competition was tight, what with the U.S. and North Korea in the running.

Fear not, America Firsters, your guy didn't go home empty handed. W won Stupidest Statement of the Year with one of my personal favorite Bushisms: "They never stop thinking of ways of harming America, and neither do we."

In a surprise, sexist upset, Ann Coulter won Stupidest Man of the Year. Yes, I still call out sexism, even when it's against anti-feminist, wingnuttified women who I hate. It's like being against the death penalty for Donald Rumsfeld. Oh yeah, just call me Mahatma.

liberation

Don't you hate when people say "more later," then disappear? I've had a busy day, actually working for my salary today.

Have you heard that the new Iraqi constitution, as presently drafted, compromises the rights of women? It would actually take away some rights Iraqi women had under Saddam's secular dictatorship.

David Cho was surprised I hadn't blogged about this, with good reason. I find thinking about women's rights on an international level so depressing. It makes me feel sad, and helpless. Also very grateful. There but for some random chance go I. Geography is destiny.

From the Feminist Majority Foundation:
Iraqi Women May Lose Rights Under New Constitution

In response to provisions in the draft Iraq constitution limiting women's rights, approximately 200 women protested in Baghdad last week to demand full equality between women and men. Activists have also met with constitutional committee members to lobby for women’s rights. Iraq’s new draft constitution draft would allow Islam to play an important part in the making of civil law. While Shiite Muslim leaders are promoting a larger role for Islam, women’s rights groups express concerns about provisions that would take away rights they already enjoy including marriage, inheritance, and divorce rights for women. Activist Hanaa Edwar said, "We are a pluralistic society and this constitution will determine our future. It is crucial for us. We cannot allow it to move us backwards and make a mockery of conventions that Iraq has signed on human rights," reports BBC News.

The draft currently being considered by the constitution-writing committee states that, "The state provides all rights for women to make them equal to men according to Islamic sharia laws and to help women to make a balance between their family and societal duties," according to the Los Angeles Times (emphasis added). It is this very language that would take away rights already enjoyed by Iraqi women. The Los Angeles Times reports that US officials have criticized the provisions on women's rights, but have not commented on the references to Islam. US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told the Times, ". . . A society cannot achieve all its potential if it does things that prevent . . . half of its population to make the fullest contribution that it can."

Initially, the draft proposal also included phasing out the guarantee included in the interim constitution that women make up one-fourth of the seats in Parliament. However, secular members of the constitution committee won on this issue and the provision has been reinstated, reported the LA Times.

August 15 marks the deadline for the completion of Iraq's new constitution.
Much closer to home, the MLB trade deadline passed uneventfully, and I am glad.

wmtc in less than 30 days

The counter is under 30 days! We are getting really excited. Time is very tight, my schedule is packed, the days are flying by in a whoosh. Butterflies are flitting in and out of my stomach.

More later.

7.30.2005

click at your own risk

Look at this.

Don't be scared, it takes two clicks to get to the really scary stuff.

tourist trap

Perhaps you haven't all heard about this. On July 26, a supervisor with the Gray Line bus company reported that five "suspicious men" had just boarded one of the company's double-decker tour buses.

Here's why the men were suspicious: they had purchased their tickets in advance, they carried backpacks, and they were wearing something else that caused bulges to appear around their waists. Oh, did I mention they appeared to be South Asian? The men were British citizens, and Sikhs.

The Gray Line ticket-taker called his supervisor. The supervisor called the police. The police cordoned off the area. That is, Times Square.

The five men were ordered off the bus, handcuffed, and forced to kneel on Broadway while bomb-sniffing dogs searched the bus. The bulges were fanny packs. The men were questioned and released.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologized to the tourists, defended the police, and criticized the Gray Line employees for overreacting. This in a city with posters and public-address announcements everyfuckingwhere repeating, "If you see something, say something." What was he expecting?

Post-apology reports from the New York Times, BBC News, The Telegraph (India) and The Hindustan Times. An interesting contrast.

Please spare me the most obvious comeback: at least they weren't shot. No harm done.

Thanks to Kyle for reminding me to blog about this.

what i'm reading

I recently started reading Silver Rights by Constance Curry. It's the (nonfiction) story of a family of African-American sharecroppers who pioneered desegregation in 1965, in the rural Mississippi Delta.

Most of us are somewhat familiar with the stories of the brave black Americans who desegregated Ole Miss and the high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. They had enormous courage. They also had a supportive community, the protection of federal troops and national media coverage. The people of the deep rural south had none of this.

Mississippi had used a clever bit of fiction to skirt the desegregation order mandated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964: the "Freedom of Choice" law. All a Mississippi family had to do was sign a paper, and their children could attend any school they wanted. Naturally, it was a hoax. In a climate of lynchings, house burnings, midnight shootings and no end of physical and psychic harassment - that is, in a climate of terrorism - few African-American families could allow their children to attend "white" schools.

What were their options? In 1965 - 1965!! - public schools open to black children in the Mississippi Delta were one-room cabins. Children of all ages were taught at the same time. There was no running water; the restroom was an outhouse. There were little or no supplies. The teacher often had little more than a fourth-grade education herself. And - get this - school shut down during the cotton picking and planting seasons. Black children were supposed to be in the fields.

This falls against the backdrop of the sharecropping system, a modern feudal indenture. The sharecropping system was designed to keep labor tied to the land, constantly in debt, essentially working without pay. Slavery being illegal, families were technically free to leave - about as free as their children were to attend white schools.

Mae Bertha and Matthew Carter didn't want to be pioneers. But they wanted their children to have a shot at being something more than human cotton-picking machines. They wanted them to have an education.

On September 3, 1965, the seven Carter children who were old enough for school became the only African-Americans to attend the all-white public schools in Sunflower County, Mississippi.

Constance Curry was a civil-rights worker with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization. Her job was to investigate reports of intimidation and reprisals against black families like the Carters that were attempting to exercise their rights.

Based on the evidence she collected, the AFSC and the NAACP were able to bring suit against the state of Mississippi. After a four-year court battle, they won. A U.S. District court threw out "freedom of choice" and order Mississippi to desegregate its public schools. The attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund was Marian Wright Edelman.

The Carter family's courage and determination is endlessly inspiring to me. This is true moral courage.

Mae Bertha Carter went one step further. Along with the encouragement and support she gave her brave children, she constantly counseled them against hate. Wright Edelman says in her introduction: "They only things she wouldn't let them say were that they hated all whites or that they wished they'd never been born. Ruth, the eldest daughter to desegregate the schools, said to Connie [the author], 'Mama was right about hate, because you don't feel good about yourself when you hate someone else.' Imagine all they were faced with, and imagine the strength it took not to hate."

the urge to know

In many cases the urge to know surpasses what can be known; questions without answers. Many people, finding this impossible to accept, seek solace in mythic expressions. So attuned is the human mind to look for and find answers that sometimes it extracts meaning where none exists: the face of an old man, a witch, or the image of a monster, seen in an inkspot; psychic portent attributed to mere coincidence; the cry of "why me?" when natural disaster strikes, as if the agent of disaster chooses its victim; the perception of supernatural anger expressed in the violence of an earthquake. Human consciousness demands explanations about the world and is resourceful at creating explanations where none naturally exist.
From Origins Reconsidered, by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin

A nice review/tribute here, my previous post here, the Leakey Foundation here.

7.29.2005

dreams of empire die hard

Bob Herbert says, It's the oil, stupid.
It is now generally understood that the U.S.-led war in Iraq has become a debacle. Nevertheless, Iraqis are supposed to have their constitution ratified and a permanent government elected by the end of the year. It's a logical escape hatch for George W. Bush. He could declare victory, as a senator once suggested to Lyndon Johnson in the early years of Vietnam, and bring the troops home as quickly as possible.

His mantra would be: There's a government in place. We won. We're out of there.

But don't count on it. The Bush administration has no plans to bring the troops home from this misguided war, which has taken a fearful toll in lives and injuries while at the same time weakening the military, damaging the international reputation of the United States, serving as a world-class recruiting tool for terrorist groups and blowing a hole the size of Baghdad in Washington's budget.

. . .

What has so often gotten lost in all the talk about terror and weapons of mass destruction is the fact that for so many of the most influential members of the Bush administration, the obsessive desire to invade Iraq preceded the Sept. 11 attacks. It preceded the Bush administration. The neoconservatives were beating the war drums on Iraq as far back as the late 1990's.

Iraq was supposed to be a first step. . . .

The point here is that the invasion of Iraq was part of a much larger, long-term policy that had to do with the U.S. imposing its will, militarily when necessary, throughout the Middle East and beyond. The war has gone badly, and the viciousness of the Iraq insurgency has put the torch to the idea of further pre-emptive adventures by the Bush administration.

But dreams of empire die hard. American G.I.'s are dug into Iraq, and the bases have been built for a long stay. The war may be going badly, but the primary consideration is that there is still a tremendous amount of oil at stake, the second-largest reserves on the planet. And neocon fantasies aside, the global competition for the planet's finite oil reserves intensifies by the hour.

Lyndon Johnson ignored the unsolicited advice of Senator George Aiken of Vermont - to declare victory in Vietnam in 1966. The war continued for nearly a decade. Many high-level government figures believe that U.S. troops will be in Iraq for a minimum of 5 more years, and perhaps 10.

That should be understood by the people who think that the formation of a permanent Iraqi government will lead to the withdrawal of American troops. There is no real withdrawal plan. The fighting and the dying will continue indefinitely.
Read the column.

mais oui

Paul Krugman asks, "Senator Rick Santorum, are you reading this?"
Americans tend to believe that we do everything better than anyone else. That belief makes it hard for us to learn from others. For example, I've found that many people refuse to believe that Europe has anything to teach us about health care policy. After all, they say, how can Europeans be good at health care when their economies are such failures?

Now, there's no reason a country can't have both an excellent health care system and a troubled economy (or vice versa). But are European economies really doing that badly?

The answer is no.
Read "French Family Values".

****

Local columnist Clyde Haberman notes that when New York State Governor George Pataki announced he would not seek re-election, he managed to utter four words before invoking September 11th. That was probably a first for Pataki; he usually doesn't waste that much time.

7.28.2005

see this movie

We saw Murderball yesterday, the movie I mentioned here. It was terrific. I think most of you will find it moving, entertaining and eye-opening. Plus one of the story lines is a US-Canada rivalry, with surprising results.

what are they hiding?

From Black Box Voting:
Jim March, a member of the Black Box Voting board of directors, was arrested Tuesday evening for trying to observe the Diebold central tabulator (vote tallying machine) as the votes were being counted in San Diego's mayoral election (July 26).

According to Jim Hamilton, an elections integrity advocate from San Diego, he and March visited the office of the registrar of elections earlier in the day. During this visit, March made two requests, which were refused by Mikel Haas, the San Diego
Registrar of elections.

1) March asked that the central tabulator, the computer that tallies up the votes from all the precincts, be positioned so that citizens could observe it. According to Hamilton, this would have required simply moving a table a few feet.

2) March also asked for a copy of the ".gbf" files -- the vote tally files collected during the course of tabulation – to be provided for examination after the election.

During the tallying of the election, the Diebold computer was positioned too far away for citizens to read the screen. Citizens could not watch error messages, or even perceive significant anomalies or malfunctions.

Unable to see the screen, March went into the office where the tabulator was housed. Two deputies followed him and escorted him out.

According to Hamilton: "He was not belligerent, not at all. After he went inside the tabulator room he came [was escorted] out and he said clearly 'I’m not resisting.' They handcuffed him, took him out of the building. They put him in a squad car.
They’re going to take him to the police station, book him and take him to jail," said Hamilton. "He’s getting charged with a felony, 'interfering with an election official.'"

March's actions are the culmination of two years of increasing frustration with the refusal of election officials to respond to security deficiencies in the voting machines. The software that tallies the votes in San Diego is made by Diebold Election Systems, a company that has already paid the state of California $2.8 million for making false claims, due to a lawsuit filed by March and Black Box Voting founder Bev Harris.

On July 4, a report was released by European computer security expert Harri Hursti, revealing that the Diebold voting system contains profound architectural flaws. "It is open for business," says Hursti, who demonstrated the flaws on Leon County, Florida Diebold machines. He penetrated the voting system in less than five minutes, manipulating vote reports in a way that was undetectable.

Despite the critical security alert issued by Hursti, San Diego County sent 713 voting machines home with poll workers, increasing the risk that the "memory cards" housed in the machines could be hacked, and removing the argument that "inside access" was carefully safeguarded.

The arrest of Jim March underlines a fundamental problem facing Americans today as, increasingly, they lose the ability to monitor, verify, or watch any part of the counting process.

The San Diego registrar of elections knew of the security flaws in the voting system. Diebold has never denied the vulnerability identified in Hursti's report, found at http://www.blackboxvoting.org/BBVreport.pdf.

Despite knowledge of the increased risks, Haas made the decision to create additional vulnerability by sending the machines home with hundreds of poll workers.

While San Diego officials will no doubt point to a small seal on the compartment housing the memory card (the component exploited in Hursti’s study), Black Box Voting has interviewed a former San Diego poll worker, who reported that all that is necessary to dislodge and then reaffix the seal is a small pair of pliers.

IN A NUTSHELL:

- The machines have been demonstrated to be vulnerable to undetected tampering
- The San Diego registrar of voters chose not to take appropriate precautions
- The main tally machine was placed in a location that was impossible for citizens to observe
- Many voting integrity advocates have come to believe that voting machine reform now rivals the urgency of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

Jim March acted on those beliefs.
Of course San Diego is a tiny piece of an intricate puzzle. In the newest Harper's, Mark Cripsin Miller writes about the 2004 election: "None Dare Call It Fraud". I haven't read it yet, so more to follow.

a post-roe united states

Should we give up on Roe v Wade? Many people think so. As Katha Pollitt writes in her most recent column, "A chorus of pundits--among them David Brooks in the New York Times and the Washington Post's Benjamin Wittes writing in The Atlantic--argue that Roe's unforeseen consequences exact too high a price: on democracy, on public discourse, even, paradoxically, on abortion rights."

Pollitt examines if this would be a good idea for the people who it will effect: American women. Please read her excellent essay here.

the real party of reframing

TWOT is over. (Thanks Kyle, I might have missed it.)

"We" are now fighting a global struggle against the enemies of freedom.

Where's George Orwell when you need him?

If you wonder why I always invoke the spirit of Mr Orwell, please read (a) 1984 and (b) "Politics and the English Language". If it's been more than 10 years since you read 1984, it's time to read it again. I promise.

Political language . . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

George Orwell, from "Politics and the English Language," 1946.

7.27.2005

buncha stuff

Random notes today.

ALPF found two more Americans making the move. By coincidence, I registered at 43things.com a few months ago, just so I could encourage yet another American thinking about Canada.

A commenter has an alternative view on Costco.

After reading the lyrics to "The Toronto Song", Wrye had this to say, reprinted here because I enjoyed it so much.
Ah, marriage... Y'know, Canada does turn up in nineteenth century novels and early feminist/suffragette works as the place of last resort to flee to when escaping marriage and/or the patriarchy (normally invoked, as near as I can tell, in the same tones as Siberia would be, if it had been the British hands).

DISCLAIMER: Wrye makes no claim, explicit or otherwise, that Canada is currently patriarchy free. Do not consume patriarchy if pregnant, able to become pregnant, or if prone to high blood pressure, ulcers, or underemployment.

Emigration to Canada is a major step and should not be attempted without first consulting a physician or other medical professional. Discontinue emigration to Canada immediately if frostbite develops.
The first part fits right in with something I've said elsewhere, as well as comments by LonePrimate and others, about Canada as a place of refuge. The rest is just funny.

Kyle was reading early wmtc posts, and asked:
So when exactly did you make the decision to move to Canada? (I looked through the archives, and found your reasons why Canada, and why now, but not when you made up your mind)

When you started saving up money a couple of years ago, had you already decided where you were going to go?
The answer is buried in there somewhere, but since I never expected anyone to read it, I guess I didn't make it very clear.

We started talking about moving to Canada in July 2003. In response to some Moron Administration travesty - possibly involving John Ashcroft - I repeated the old American lefty cliche, "That's it, it's time to move to Canada". And Allan said, "Could we? I mean, seriously, if we wanted to, could we do that?" He said he'd been thinking about it for a while. I had been seriously considering leaving New York anyway, so it didn't seem like a far-fetched idea. At work that weekend, I started looking at CIC info.

Now, simultaneous to this, we had recently gotten out of debt. We had a sizeable chunk of writing income due in, and for once, it wasn't being used to pay off a past vacation. I'm not talking a fortune here - about $6,000. For people who've always had credit card debt, and who've never had a dime in savings, this was very significant.

We had been planning on using that money for a special trip we wanted to make. I suddenly thought, maybe we should hold off. Maybe we're about to make a big change, and that money will be the foundation.

I started to gather information every weekend at work. (I told you this was a great job - tons of down-time for net surfing.) On Sunday night, over wine and the ESPN baseball game, I'd report back on what I learned. The more we talked about it, the more we liked the idea. By September, we pretty much knew. By November, we were starting to plan.

****

And last, has the heat wave in Ontario lifted yet? We are in the midst of one here, temperatures in the high 90s, heat index 105-110. Tonight it's supposed to rain and cool down to mid-80s. Selfishly, I would like the Toronto heat wave to lift before Marnie's birthday. Which happens to be the day we're moving. Please see what you can do.

just say no

...to violations of your rights. I saw some subway-search cops for the first time yesterday. I also saw a woman stride purposefully towards them with her bag open. Sheeple. I wasn't carrying a backpack, just a small bag. I just avoided eye contact and walked through the turnstiles.

A commenter named Matt has some better ideas. Matt stopped by to tell us about the Flex Your Rights Foundation, which has created The Citizen's Guide to Refusing New York Subway Searches. You can also download it as a flyer in .pdf form.

From the intro:
In response to the recent London terror attacks, New York police officers are now conducting random searches of bags and packages brought into the subway.

While Flex Your Rights takes no position on the usefulness of these searches for preventing future attacks, we have serious concerns that this unprecedented territorial expansion of police search powers is doing grave damage to people's understanding of their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In addition, as innocent citizens become increasingly accustomed to being searched by the police, politicians and police agencies are empowered to further expand the number of places where all are considered guilty until proven innocent.

Fortunately, this trend is neither inevitable nor irreversible. In fact, the high-profile public nature of these random subway searches provides freedom-loving citizens with easy and low-risk opportunities to "flex" their Fourth Amendment rights by refusing to be searched.

If you're carrying a bag or package into the subway, here's what you need to know and do in order to safely and intelligently "flex" your rights:
Then they list strategies, do's and especially don't's (DON'T RUN!), to help you with your lonely bit of civil disobedience.

I'll be on the subway more than usual this month. I'll let you know how it goes.

7.26.2005

i did it

As of August 28, I am officially unemployed!

girlcott costco

Costco is the anti-Wal-Mart.

In a New York Times business story (now unavailable), captured and commented on by The B.S. Corner, we read that Jim Sinegal, the chief executive of Costco Wholesale (fifth-largest retailer in the US) has a radical notion. He does the right thing.

Sinegal pays his employees a decent living wage, he doesn't force them to pay their own health-care costs, and he doesn't fight them if they choose to unionize.
He rejects Wall Street's assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street's profit demands.

At Costco, one of Mr. Sinegal's cardinal rules is that no branded item can be marked up by more than 14 percent, and no private-label item by more than 15 percent. In contrast, supermarkets generally mark up merchandise by 25 percent, and department stores by 50 percent or more.

Mr. Sinegal, whose father was a coal miner and steelworker, gave a simple explanation. "On Wall Street, they're in the business of making money between now and next Thursday," he said. "I don't say that with any bitterness, but we can't take that view. We want to build a company that will still be here 50 and 60 years from now." [Full Times story here, thanks to LonePrimate.]
To say this is a stark contrast to business practices at Wal-Mart is the definition of understatement. The folks at BuyBlue rate Costco a whopping 99%. (Wal-Mart rates 22%.) Definitely: Girlcott!

If you're not familiar with the expression, a girlcott is the opposite of a boycott. The idea is to reward ethical business practices with your spending dollars. Some people dislike the faint sexist overtones (girls = shopping), but I like the positive action, and the playful name. I first heard the expression a million years ago, when the anti-nuke movement was urging people to buy New Zealand lamb, because of the country's anti-nuclear policies.

And do you know where the word boycott comes from? In the late 1800s, Captain Charles Boycott was an English landlord notorious for raising rents and evicting his tenants. His workers, organized by Charles Parnell and the Irish Land League, organized a campaign against him. Local people were encouraged to ostracize Boycott and his family. People stuck together and it worked. The Boycotts soon found themselves without servants, farmers, even mail delivery. Their crops failed, their household crumbled, and they were driven back to England.

As Casey Stengel said, You can look it up.

So: shop Costco. (And I thank Crabletta with reminding me, by example, to Buy Blue.)

In other, related news, Paul Krugman discovers what we already knew: Canada is good for business.

canadian wingnut

Who says wingnuts don't grow on maple trees? I must thank AndyM at funcentral. Without Andy, I never would have found Richard Evans, Canadian Wacko. I thought this was a parody. But no, the guy is just a parody of himself. Richard baby, I'm a'comin' to ruin your country!!! Mwaaaahahahaha... Poking fun of Evans is only one of many reasons to visit funcentral.

Hey, check out my nifty new countdown clock. Redsock found it and was quite keen (Britishism there) on my using it. It was originally a countdown to the MLB trade deadline, which we eagerly await. Although not nearly as much as we await wmtc.

I never did get to give notice yesterday, my supervisor must be on vacation. (What a job, eh? I never see my supervisor, and I speak to her about three times a year.) I'll keep trying.

I feel so free and happy, despite having a zillion things to do. One month of seeing friends, enjoying New York City, making lists, doing errands, packing up. "I love it when a plan comes together." I must be getting really silly, I'm quoting the A-Team now.

Do not, I repeat, do not, do a Google image search for Mr. T. It is very frightening. Don't say I didn't warn you.

7.25.2005

fourth amendment? what's that?

The decision last week to have police officers inspect the belongings of thousands of subway riders has opened a thicket of legal and constitutional issues, involving criminal procedure, transit security and concerns about potential misuse of the new tactic.

Yesterday, Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the organization had begun work on a federal lawsuit, which could be filed this week. Such a challenge will most likely claim that the policy violates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against "unreasonable searches and seizures."

And at a news conference in Brooklyn, Capt. Eric Adams, the president of a group of black police officers, said its members were worried that riders of Middle Eastern, African or Asian descent would be disproportionately targeted in the searches, despite official assurances to the contrary.
The Fourth Amendment has always been one of the more elastic clauses in the United States Constitution. It's violated constantly, under a variety of excuses, both legitimate and fabricated.

If I thought random searches of backpacks would keep us safer, I might support the idea. But it's a joke. Since you can't be detained for refusing to be searched, anyone with bomb-laden backpack can just turn around and go to a different subway stop. And since they're searching backpacks, wouldn't the would-be terrorist simply use a different method? I'm surprised they're not asking us to take off our shoes.

I haven't been stopped yet, since I don't ride the subway every day. But damned if a New York City cop is searching any bag of mine. I don't think so.

New York Times story here. And here's the story when the new policy was announced.

big step forward

I take another big step today: I'm giving notice on my day-job.

I know I speak for Allan, too, when I say these are tough jobs to leave. Not that we love our work so much, but we have the perfect day jobs. We don't expect to see the likes of them in Toronto, at least not for a while.

After making the decision, in the mid-1980s, to pursue writing more seriously, I've held an array of different jobs. I've been a nanny, a proofreader, a teacher, an assistant to a crazy artist, a data-entry operator, a political organizer, and probably a few things I don't even remember - and usually more than one at a time.

Once I gave up nanny-ing (which I did in exchange for rent), I needed something much higher paying. There's a whole culture in New York of writers, actors, musicians and students who "temp," and I heard the money was good.

I didn't even have a computer in those days - very few people did. I had one friend who was cutting edge! I would go to her place while she was at work and teach myself WordPerfect. (I know there are a few wmtc readers old enough to remember DOS-based WordPerfect.) Then I lied about my experience to the temp agencies, and went out and got some real experience. Soon I taught Allan what I learned, which rescued him from his deli-counter job.

Word-processing turned out to be the perfect writer's job. It's skilled enough so that it's not mind-numbingly boring, yet uses no creative energy. And word-processing in a corporate law firm pays better than anything else I've done. (Which is a sad commentary in itself.)

That was 15 years ago. We kept our skills top-notch and I made sure we never got too comfortable. I was always jockeying for a better spot - something that paid more for less hours.

Now we are at the top of the heap. We each work only 24 hours a week (in two days), but are paid the equivalent of a good full-time job. My job is virtually stress-free, and I am often paid very decent money to read the Sunday Times and catch up on all of your blogs. I work alone, which I love - no one bothers me, and I am my own supervisor. Allan's job is slightly more demanding, but hey, it's over in two days. He also gets health benefits (which also cover me).

And now, goodbye. No more jobs.

We have every reason to believe we'll find good work in Toronto. On our first visit to the city, we met with the two biggest legal staffing agencies, and they were practically salivating over our resumes. They assured us that we'll work. But we won't earn nearly what we're earning now - which means we'll have to work more hours.

We've been dreading this.

We will eventually work our way into better spots, with less hours. But not right away. And - she says whiningly - we love our lives the way they are now! Boo.

This is one huge down-side. But so be it. Staying put in order to keep a day-job is ass-backwards. The job is supposed to make your life possible, not the other way around.

I call my supervisor in one hour! Then I send an email to my friends at the firm who don't know anything about this. I'll be expecting a slight upsurge in page-views, along with a lot of questions...

7.24.2005

the future of fear

Our friend B.W. Ventril has some interesting thoughts on where we might be headed. He lived in the UK during the IRA bombings, so his perspective is different than that of Americans or Canadians.

I'm not big on predicting the future - somehow it always turns out differently than we think. (Unless we're George Orwell.) But history is our only guide, and this is an interesting recent historical perspective.

Check out his post.

shout-out

Maybe this is something you all can help me with.

I am trying to get an essay published, and am looking for places to sell it. I am looking for:
- as wide a readership as possible,
- either print or web or both,
- if print or the website of a print magazine, then a paying market (i.e. they pay me).

The essay is:
- personal, with a political overtone, and
- pegged to the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

So as not to be cryptic, it's an essay comparing my recovery from rape to New York City's recovery from the trauma of 9/11, and our fear of terrorism to the fear of the "every day terrorism" of sexual assault.

Don't freak out, it was a long time ago. I speak publicly about my recovery and have written about it for national media. I also write about sexual assault and related issues for teens. It's just never come up here. So there it is.

Here's what I've done so far. The essay is currently being read for the "Lives" column of The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek's "My Turn" (where I was published for the first time!) and Ms. The New York Times Op-Ed has already passed. I've also spoken to Salon, but what they want doesn't work for me. After that, I draw a blank. I've searched for sites, but haven't found a good fit.

If I can't find any takers, I'll post it here. But frankly, the essay is too good, and I've worked too hard on it, to not try to sell it somewhere else.

All ideas welcome. Don't be shy.

remember abu ghraib?

I can't even comment on it yet. I have no words. I just feel sick.

I knew about this from reading Seymour Hersh, but I guess I left it behind for a while. Thanks to Redsock for reminding me. No sarcasm intended there, we can't let this fade from our consciousness.

If Donald Rumsfeld calls an act sadistic....? I can't even finish that sentence.

mapping the blogosphere

Here's an idea that I wish someone else would implement.

I would like to see a map of the blogosphere. Who links to whom.

It could take the form of a Venn Diagram, or a road map, with different color lines for two-way and one-way communication, or some other form that I can't visualize. It couldn't take in the entire blogosphere - I suppose that would be impossible, as it's fluid - but it could represent a good-sized chunk.

I was thinking how when I visit a blog, that blogger and I share some readers, and not others. And how a few clicks will land you in an entirely different blog country. When I visit Crabletta, I see G, Rob and Sleepybomb, who read wmtc, but I also see arse poetica, who probably doesn't. I visit Zydeco Fish, who also visits G, but maybe doesn't visit Crabbi. A new reader, Niobium, found wmtc through (I think) Barbara from California (who I found randomly), and is now turning up at Library Bitch, among other places. Barbara has a completely different readership - Niobium is the only link there. And so on, and so on.

And this, of course, is just one tiny corner of blogdom, the corner I see. Someone like Redsock adds an entire universe to the diagram, because he forms an intersection between leftist politics (and 9/11 inquiry) and baseball. He has two distinct readerships, with a small subset of overlap. A few of his baseball readers have found wmtc, and in turn, have found some of you. And so on and so on and so on.

I think a diagram of the blogosphere would be fascinating to see. I wish someone with the proper knowledge and resources would take it on. Perhaps someone is already working on it. If they are, I hope they find us!

P.S. If you want to try it on a small scale, you can create a Venn Diagram here.

7.23.2005

one smart dog

The Amazing Wonderdog asks, Now are we all Egyptians?

My only quibble is that this isn't about the blogosphere (which, after all, is only made up of people - good, bad and stupid). Many of us were decrying the "today we are all Londoners" shit. But still. TAW is correct.

the price of our fear

The man shot dead in Stockwell tube station yesterday was not connected to the attempted bombings of London on July 21, police said tonight. Police said the shooting was a "tragedy" and they expressed "regret".
I bet his wife and kids regret it even more. Tragedy? I call it a crime.

Guardian story here. Thanks to B.W. Ventril of It's Time.

tim hortons north

A recent comment from G, and a link to his post about this craziness, reminded me of something I meant to tell you guys.

Driving to Boston the other day, we stopped for some caffeine, and noticed a Tim Hortons off the highway. It was the first time we saw one in the US! Naturally we chose Tim's over the other fast-food choices. Along with the iced coffee (for me) and hot tea (for Allan), we gave in to temptation and got a couple of donuts. But they were not real Tim Hortons donuts!

The Tim Hortons donuts we had in Canada were heavy and cakey. The Tim Hortons donut we found in Connecticut was of the Dunkin' Donuts variety - not as airy and overly sweet as a Krispy Kreme, but not the heavy, cakey kind either. I suppose Tim Hortons (owned by Wendy's) doesn't want to introduce Americans to a new breed of Canadian donuts.

We were disappointed!

the toronto song

As sung by Groucho Marx, actual composer unknown.
Mr. and Mrs. Klein,
They lived a life so fine,
Until the relatives came.
Uncle und tante Wolf,
Brought over the little Wolfs,
Like wolves they lived up to their name.
One week went by,
Klein started to cry,
It looks like the Wolfs mean to stay.
So he tells his wife one night,
That while they were sleeping tight,
Let's leave them, and we'll run away.

Say, it's better to run to Toronto,
Than to live in a place you don't want to.
With twenty wolves in front of me,
My house looks like a menagerie.

Imagine the cheek from the tante,
To bring all the Wolfs from Toronto,
And, oy, how they can eat,
At least a pound of meat.

Say, they take what they want, when they want to.
Just think what the bills will amount to.
Every day they are growing more and more.
They eat one meal a day, that's right,
They start in the morning and finish at night.
It's going to be a cold cold winter,
And I can't keep the Wolfs from the door.

mirror, mirror on the wall...

The MORONs are at it again. That is, the Main Organization Revealing Obvious Numbskulls are handing out the annual World Stupidity Awards. Who will be declared Dumbest Of Them All? With W in the running, there is some mighty tough competition.
The United States will face tough competition from Canada on Friday but this time it has nothing to do with hockey or softwood lumber.

The two countries are going head-to-head for top honours at the World Stupidity Awards, where doofuses get their due.

"This is a year where Canada could do very well and, as a Canadian, I'm very excited," enthused Albert Nerenberg, of the Main Organization Revealing Obvious Numbskulls, which organizes the event at the Just for Laughs comedy festival.

"The Canadian government has been nominated in the dumbest government of the year category and this is one year where we feel we've got a chance."

Canada will be vying against the United States, Iran, North Korea and the United Nations for that particular Oscar of idiocy crown.

But Prime Minister Paul Martin has already been outshone by President George W. Bush, who is nominated in three categories - stupidest man of the year, stupidest statement of the year, and stupidity award for reckless endangerment of the planet. Martin didn't get nominated for anything.

Bush dominated last year's awards, taking the stupidest man prize and the award for reckless endangerment of the planet. Nerenberg admitted the organizers do limit the number of categories featuring the controversial Texan.

"He would essentially be nominated in every category had we not interfered," Nerenberg said. "We want to give other people a chance. We just feel some of the other great stupidity in the world would go unrecognized if Mr. Bush was allowed to run rampant. But he is doing very well."
The show's host is no stranger to W's stupidity - he's practically made a career out of it: Lewis Black. Black says of W: "He's always a big one and it just gets worse every day with him. . . . His stupidity is almost on a Hall of Fame level." Almost? Black must have been feeling generous.

John Kerry was also nominated for a MORON award. "He should be," says Black. "What are the chances of finding someone who could actually lose to Bush? I mean, you almost had to search. The Democratic party should have been nominated too."

More info and the full awards categories here. Thanks to ALPF! Welcome back, and I hope you had a great vacation.

7.22.2005

i'm done

I just turned in the final chapter of the ancient civs book. All I can say is...

I'm done, I'm done, I'm done done done done done, done done done done-done-doooone... (Sung to the tune of the "Dallas" theme song.)

This weekend I'll start catching up on the outside word, so expect comments on your blogs, or at least a uptick in page views.

Whooofuckinghooo! I'm off to pour myself a glass of wine.

payback

Well, isn't this convenient.
U.S. Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts provided legal advice to Gov. Jeb Bush in the weeks following the November 2000 election as part of the effort to make sure the governor's brother won the disputed presidential vote.

Roberts, at the time a private attorney in Washington, D.C., came to Tallahassee to advise the state's Republican administration as it was trying to prevent a Democratic end-run that the GOP feared might give the election to Al Gore, sources told The Herald.

The maneuver, which the Democrats never attempted, might have kept the state from sending its list of official "electors" -- the Electoral College members who actually cast the votes that count -- to Congress and the National Archives.

If the names were not forwarded to Washington in a timely fashion, Republicans feared, Gore might be declared the winner because Florida's 25 electoral votes wouldn't be counted -- and the Democrat had garnered more electoral votes than George W. Bush in the rest of the country.

Roberts, himself a noted constitutional lawyer, and an unnamed law professor spent between 30 and 40 minutes talking to Bush in the governor's conference room, sources told The Herald.

Roberts' perceived partisanship during the recount has been enough for some Democrats to suggest that his nomination should be rejected by the U.S. Senate.

. . .

U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, a Boca Raton Democrat, seized on Roberts' participation in the 2000 recount and suggested it should be grounds for rejecting his nomination. Wexler suggested the nomination "threw salt on the wounds of the thousands of Floridians whose voting rights were disenfranchised during the 2000 election.

"Judge Roberts worked to ensure that George Bush would become president -- regardless of what the courts might decide," Wexler said, relying on news accounts that suggested Roberts gave the governor advice on how the state Legislature could name Bush the winner. "And now he is being rewarded for that partisan service by being appointed to the nation's highest court."
Story from Miami Herald (registration required), or Common Dreams.

thank you for wasting our time

I wonder how long this will last.
The police last night began random searches of backpacks and packages brought into the New York City subways as officials expressed alarm about the latest bomb incidents in the London transit system.

The searches, which will also include commuter rail lines, are not a response to a specific threat against the city, said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who authorized the searches shortly before he announced them at a morning news conference.

The police have previously inspected bags at major events like parades and demonstrations, and the authorities in Boston conducted random baggage searches on commuter rail lines during the Democratic National Convention last year, but officials here could not recall a precedent for a broad, systematic search of packages in the New York City subways, which provide 4.7 million rides each weekday.

At some of the busiest of the city's 468 stations, riders will be asked to open their bags for a visual check before they go through the turnstiles. Those who refuse will not be permitted to bring the package into the subway but will be able to leave the station without further questioning, officials said.

. . .

William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, an industry group, said comprehensive coverage of any major urban transit system would be next to impossible. "If you were going to try to check a very high percentage at every station or on every train, it would be incredibly labor-intensive," he said.

Still, he said, the searches could deter would-be attackers and improve the public's confidence. "The public wants to feel safe, as well as be safe," he said. "So this has a benefit of perception."
New Yorkers don't tolerate being inconvenienced very well. Or I should say, we don't tolerate being more inconvenienced than we already are. According to this story, reaction was fairly supportive. But that's before anyone missed a train because a cop was pawing through their bag.

The reaction story quotes the great Gene Russianoff, who serves as the subway riders' voice:
Gene Russianoff, a lawyer at the New York Public Interest Research Group, said searches would invade people's privacy. "We'll see what riders think," he said. "I think you have the same odds of protecting people through random searches as you do of winning the Lotto."
Then the Times makes a rider who opposes the searches sound stupid by quoting her word for word:
Annie Simon, 24, a costume designer from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, called the random searches "completely stupid."

"It's a good way to catch people for other things," she said as she rode the uptown A train in Manhattan. "It's a complete obstruction of, like, freedom."
Perhaps Annie Simon doesn't want her freedom, like, compromised, and she knows that random searches of backpacks won't make her any, like, safer.

It will be interesting to see how long this lasts - and who gets stopped. If this happened in London, how long will it be until it happens here?

one day we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny

I'm late this morning, because we spent a good portion of last night at the emergency vet with Buster.

He's OK. (And thank you for your concern.) It wasn't exactly an emergency, but he needed to see a doctor, and our vet is on vacation. Apparently so is everyone else's vet, because the place was packed. This brings us further complications, because Buster can't be around other dogs (except his Cody). So we waited outside: I stay on dog-alert, while Allan runs Buster back and forth across the street as all the dogs in the neighborhood go out for their walks. Eventually an exam room opened up, so we could wait in there. This too brings complications: Buster spends the whole time shrieking and crying. Ah yes, a very pleasant four-hour wait.

As for Buster, he's having the same intestinal trouble we've been battling off and on for two months. Through it all, he seems perfectly happy, not distressed in any way or in pain. But he's losing weight, and his coat, normally shiny and lustrous, is dry and brittle. I am worried about my B.

When our regular vet comes back from vacation, we're going to step this up a notch: sonogram, radiograph, possibly an endoscopy. I was hoping to avoid another labor-intensive veterinary process. I kind of don't need one more thing to do, y'know? But the easy stuff clearly isn't working.

More than any of our dogs, I worry about Buster. He's been high-maintenance since the day we found him. He almost didn't make it then, and something inside me still half-expects to lose him.

I can't explain the love I have for this animal. His love for me is so intense. Of course, that's how dogs love, it's what they do. But a dog who was alone, frightened, on the edge of death, whose life begins again - their love is beyond human comprehension. Buster's devotion to us, and his neediness, makes me love him even more.

7.21.2005

a grand day out

Thanks for all your good wishes, you guys. We had a lovely day.

Fenway Park has always been my favorite ballpark. It's really one of my favorite places, period. And although I watch or listen to a baseball game almost every day, because I no longer enjoy going to Yankee Stadium, I haven't actually attended a baseball game all season. I miss it! When I walk up those steps and see that brilliantly green grass, and that crazy green wall, I feel pure joy.

The weather was beautiful - hot, but not humid, and breezy - we had excellent seats behind the Red Sox dugout, and the Sox breezed to a win. To cap it off, Allan surprised me with this:

fenway 07.20.05 005

Cool, huh? (In case you can't read it, it says "The Red Sox wish a Happy 20th Anniversary to Allan Wood and Laura Kaminker".)

It's funny, I never thought that celebrating the day we met was unusual, but judging from yesterday's comments, I guess it is. As I've mentioned in other contexts, we don't celebrate any of the standard holidays. No Christmas, no Chanukah or Passover, and we barely acknowledge national holidays like Memorial Day and 4th of July - except by getting extra hours at work. We're completely areligious, so we haven't substituted any Pagan rituals, as I know some people do. Instead, we have the four Major Holidays of the Kaminker-Wood household: two birthdays, the anniversary of the day we met, and the anniversary of our domestic partnership. Something tells me we're about to add a fifth. You can guess what it is.

Now, with two days left until my final deadline, I will forego posting about the larger world, and selfishly concentrate on my own. Take care, all - see you soon.

7.20.2005

the best day

"It was twenty years ago today..."

July 20, 1985, somewhere on West 22nd Street, a bored young New Yorker in a mini-skirt met a skinny, long-haired guy from Vermont.

We're celebrating the 20th anniversary of that great day by driving up to Boston for a baseball game. Here's to the next 20 years.

Hope you all have a wonderful day - see you tomorrow!

7.19.2005

party of jellyfish

Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, writes two-minute commentaries for the magazine's daily radio show (which I think you can listen to here.)

His copy is always punchy, short and worth reading. Today it's called "Hillary on the Right": how the darling of the Democrats, and the most hated woman in America, wants to expand the empire, because she is a "strong proponent of a forceful American military presence abroad".

"Reframing" the abortion debate, increases in military spending - the Dems have got it all. They have finally figured out how to imitate the Republicans, but still be themselves: adopt all their policies, but not get elected anyway.

sounds

Cindy Sheehan wants to hear the sound of a nation waking up.

Sheehan is the mother of Spc Casey Austin Sheehan, killed in action in Iraq on April 4, 2004. She is the founder of Gold Star Families for Peace. Today in Common Dreams, Sheehan writes:
The saddest thing about the obscene sounds of violence is that they never should have been heard in the first place. From Maine to California, and from Baghdad to Falluja, these dirges were unnecessary. In my travels, and from hundreds of emails, phone calls, and cards and letters, I am discovering that people who formerly supported the invasion of Iraq are withdrawing their support. I even believe that many of our fellow citizens who still support the ignominy of Iraq are doing so because they are clinging to the deceptions so desperately, because they want the deceptions to so be the truth. It will be painful to come to terms with supporting the lies of this administration. It will be painful to know that wholesale killing of innocent people occurred because you and so many others believed the betrayals, but acknowledging the mistake is the first step to correcting it. And believe me, acknowledging the mistake is not as painful as hearing those devastating sounds.
Read "The Sounds Of Hope" here.

7.18.2005

tick tick tick

This is it. My final deadline for the children's book I'm writing is Friday. I'm out of town on Wednesday, so that leaves four days.

I'm in good shape, but only if I bear down. So you'll understand if I'm mostly absent from comments this week.

border skirmish

We don't want your beef, but will you take our disgusting, polluted water?

Long-time wmtc readers may remember my friend Alan With One L, also known as The Handheld Evangelist, the man who turned me on to the joys of iPAQ. (Isn't she beautiful? I am still in love.)

Alan has alerted me to yet another US-Canada border war.
Canadians often get angry when the United States throws up barriers to their exports, such as cattle or softwood. But now Canada is desperate to block an unwanted American product. Officials are meeting their counterparts in Washington, DC, to try to stop the state of North Dakota from draining the polluted waters of Devil's Lake into their own Lake Winnipeg. Undeterred, the authorities of North Dakota plan to let the waters flow when a channel is completed later this month.

Devil's Lake lies about 160km (100 miles) south of the Canadian border. It has no natural outlet, shedding water solely through evaporation. But a recent series of wet years have swollen the lake to record levels, submerging 28,000 hectares (69,000 acres) of farmland and 300 homes. In 2003, the United States Army Corps of Engineers published a feasibility study for a $186m project (of which North Dakota would have paid $70m) to drain the lake into the Sheyenne river. This feeds into the Red river, which flows north across the border to Lake Winnipeg, in the province of Manitoba.

Manitoba immediately objected. With no outlet, Devil's Lake has accumulated high concentrations of sulphates, arsenic, phosphorus and other pollutants. Canadians also worry that the outflow could bring invasive species, parasites and disease to Lake Winnipeg's C$25m ($20m) fishery industry.
Story from The Economist here.

By the way, the US ban on Canadian beef was just overturned. Which is not to say that beef for dirty water constitutes fair trade.

you've been holding out on me

"New York run by the Swiss."

So said actor Peter Ustinov, describing the city of Toronto. Why didn't anyone ever tell me this? New wmtc reader James finally alerted me to this quote.

To a New Yorker, this is a bizarre description. Nothing could be less New York than the stereotype of clean, efficient Switzerland. Which is not to say New York couldn't be improved by an injection of Swissness.

Googling the phrase, I found this New York Magazine note, which ran after the 2004 election. It's a semi-sarcastic look at which Canadian city disgusted Americans might move to. Let me know what you think of the caricatures.

Here's something seldom seen at wmtc: a little celebrity trash. From Zydeco Fish, I bring you Tom Cruise Is Nuts. I haven't the slightest idea what's going on with the whole Tom Cruise thing. I have read exactly one item relating to it, and that was Brooke Shield's New York Times Op-Ed. Anyone who speaks publicly about mental and emotional illness wins points in my book. But this Is Nuts website is really amusing. Don't miss the reader letters, that's the best part.

Plus, these are the same folks who brought us such internet classics as Exterminate Tom Delay, We Love Arnold, Where In The World Is Jesus, and the newest gem, Karl Rove Is Toast.

Enjoy!

7.17.2005

$6.50

That's what this post will cost US readers. Canadians might pay a little more, but you won't be disappointed.

You must all run out right now and buy a copy of Harper's. The article is called "Mighty White of You - Racial Preferences Color America's Oldest Skulls and Bones," by Jack Hitt. It's about anthropology theories, the ridiculous (and constantly changing) social construct of race, how we perceive ourselves and our prehistoric ancestors, and above all, the persistence of racism - subtle but unmistakable - in every facet of our culture. It is fascinating and very entertaining. It's the kind of article that makes me grateful Sir Redsock still subscribes to Harper's.

Go. Buy. Read.

P.S. I just googled the "mighty white of you jack hitt" and found several other bloggers urging their readers to do the same - along with some highly offended junior anthropologists and white-power dudes. I promise you the story is worth $6.50, but if you'd rather send me postage, I'll send you a photocopy.

the survivors

Thanks to G, I read "A War of Disabilities" by Ronald Glasser, in the most recent issue of Harper's. (And thanks to Redsock, who had the magazine in one of his many piles of paper.)

I wanted to post large chunks of this great article, but it's only available in print. Imagine that. I did find this excellent post about it by corrente.

I take exception to the idea (in the above post) that being kept alive with serious disabilities is a "questionable blessing". It's better to be alive, period. But people with disabilities need medical care and other support services. Why do we doubt the US government will be providing these to the huge crop of people whose disabilities they caused?

For an idea of the article, visit corrente, it's an excellent blog. For more, please visit your favorite bookstore to pick up a copy of Harper's. There's a really cool story by Jack Hitt about how some amateur anthropologists want to imagine our prehistoric ancestors as white. Kennewick Man is in fact Jean Luc Picard.

7.16.2005

the couch? really?

Someone has a blog about The Daily Show's new set. What's more, Blogger has chosen it as a Blog of Note.

supremes to women: you're on your own

On June 27, the Supreme Court once again turned back the clock on social progress. For some, this reversal will be fatal.

In the not-distant past, when the police were called to a home because of domestic violence, it was up to them whether or not they made an arrest. Traditionally, they did nothing.

Because domestic violence was perceived as a private, family matter, rather than the criminal behavior that it is, many women and children were killed by raging husbands, boyfriends and stepfathers. (Occasionally the genders are reversed, or both victim and abuser are the same gender. I'm using the most common scenario.)

The cause-and-effect link between police discretion and escalating violence or murder has been well documented.

Anti-domestic-violence activists have worked very hard, on the state and county level, to pass mandatory arrest laws. Mandatory arrest means that when the police are called to a domestic violence scene, someone is going to spend the night in jail. In some states, the law requires a pre-existing restraining order or an order of protection. Therefore, women have been urged to take that step against their assailants.

But restraining orders without mandatory arrest laws are worth less than the paper they're printed on. If calling the police results in "You play nice now, y'hear?" or "Hey, if he needs to teach his wife a lesson, that's his business," why would women ever call the police?

Mandatory arrest works on another level, too. By correctly classifying domestic violence as assault, it causes people to think about domestic violence in a different way. It's part of a profound shift in social attitudes that's occurred in the last 25 years.

The movement towards mandatory arrest has been a long road, traveled by thousands of activists across the country. It has educated people, it has changed attitudes, and it has saved lives.

Lest I be accused of being unfair to the police, please know that I'm not talking about all police officers, by any means. Attitudes towards domestic violence have changed tremendously (thanks to activists), and that includes police attitudes, too. Through special training, and through their own compassion and sense of justice, police officers all over the US have helped save the lives of women and children who were being brutalized. In fact, the police are often at the forefront of changes in a community. It's certainly true in New York City.

However, attitudinal changes happen slowly, and unevenly, and in some places, not at all. Police are human, they live in society, and their attitudes will reflect that. It stands to reason that some cops will cling to outdated assumptions about domestic violence. Mandatory arrest laws guard against that.

Now the Supreme Court has seen fit to turn back the clock. The story is no longer available online, so I'm copying the whole thing here.

Please read it. It's terrible, and important. Emphasis mine.

Justices rule police do not have a constitutional duty to protect someone

By Linda Greenhouse
New York Times

WASHINGTON, June 27 - The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm, even a woman who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent husband making an arrest mandatory for a violation.

The decision, with an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia and dissents from Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, overturned a ruling by a federal appeals court in Colorado. The appeals court had permitted a lawsuit to proceed against a Colorado town, Castle Rock, for the failure of the police to respond to a woman's pleas for help after her estranged husband violated a protective order by kidnapping their three young daughters, whom he eventually killed.

For hours on the night of June 22, 1999, Jessica Gonzales tried to get the Castle Rock police to find and arrest her estranged husband, Simon Gonzales, who was under a court order to stay 100 yards away from the house. He had taken the children, ages 7, 9 and 10, as they played outside, and he later called his wife to tell her that he had the girls at an amusement park in Denver.

Ms. Gonzales conveyed the information to the police, but they failed to act before Mr. Gonzales arrived at the police station hours later, firing a gun, with the bodies of the girls in the back of his truck. The police killed him at the scene.


The theory of the lawsuit Ms. Gonzales filed in federal district court in Denver was that Colorado law had given her an enforceable right to protection by instructing the police, on the court order, that "you shall arrest" or issue a warrant for the arrest of a violator. She argued that the order gave her a "property interest" within the meaning of the 14th Amendment's due process guarantee, which prohibits the deprivation of property without due process.

The district court and a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit dismissed the suit, but the full appeals court reinstated it and the town appealed. The Supreme Court's precedents made the appellate ruling a challenging one for Ms. Gonzales and her lawyers to sustain.

A 1989 decision, DeShaney v. Winnebago County, held that the failure by county social service workers to protect a young boy from a beating by his father did not breach any substantive constitutional duty. By framing her case as one of process rather than substance, Ms. Gonzales and her lawyers hoped to find a way around that precedent.

But the majority on Monday saw little difference between the earlier case and this one, Castle Rock v. Gonzales, No. 04-278. Ms. Gonzales did not have a "property interest" in enforcing the restraining order, Justice Scalia said, adding that "such a right would not, of course, resemble any traditional conception of property."

Although the protective order did mandate an arrest, or an arrest warrant, in so many words, Justice Scalia said, "a well-established tradition of police discretion has long coexisted with apparently mandatory arrest statutes."

But Justices Stevens and Ginsburg, in their dissenting opinion, said "it is clear that the elimination of police discretion was integral to Colorado and its fellow states' solution to the problem of underenforcement in domestic violence cases." Colorado was one of two dozen states that, in response to increased attention to the problem of domestic violence during the 1990's, made arrest mandatory for violating protective orders.

"The court fails to come to terms with the wave of domestic violence statutes that provides the crucial context for understanding Colorado's law," the dissenting justices said.


Organizations concerned with domestic violence had watched the case closely and expressed disappointment at the outcome. Fernando LaGuarda, counsel for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, said in a statement that Congress and the states should now act to give greater protection.

In another ruling on Monday, the court rebuked the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, for having reopened a death penalty appeal, on the basis of newly discovered evidence, after the ruling had become final.

The 5-to-4 decision, Bell v. Thompson, No. 04-514, came in response to an appeal by the State of Tennessee after the Sixth Circuit removed a convicted murderer, Gregory Thompson, from the state's death row.

After his conviction and the failure of his appeals in state court, Mr. Thompson, with new lawyers, had gone to federal district court seeking a writ of habeas corpus on the ground that his initial lawyers had been constitutionally inadequate. The new lawyers obtained a consultation with a psychologist, who diagnosed Mr. Thompson as schizophrenic.

But the psychologist's report was not included in the file of the habeas corpus petition in district court, which denied the petition. It was not until the Sixth Circuit and then the Supreme Court had also denied his petition, making the case final, that the Sixth Circuit reopened the case, finding that the report was crucial evidence that should have been considered.

In overturning that ruling in an opinion by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the majority said the appeals court had abused its discretion in an "extraordinary departure from standard appellate procedures." Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O'Connor joined the opinion.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said the majority had relied on rules to the exclusion of justice. Judges need a "degree of discretion, thereby providing oil for the rule-based gears," he said. Justices Stevens, Ginsburg and David H. Souter joined the dissent.
If "well-established tradition" can trump law, what do we have?

fashionable fascists

A while back, I posted about a gay teen who had been abducted and detained by some fascists calling themselves Christians.

The New York Times has got a hold of the story - and they're running it in tomorrow's Style section. What is up with that? Do they think more gay people will see it in Style? Is Style a code-word for gay? Which means they think only gay people care about this? (Or only stylish people?)

Perhaps when Roe v. Wade is overturned, I'll read about it in the Home section. You know, where we ladies clip our recipes.

If I've jumped the gun - maybe this story has a fashion angle I'm not aware of - do let me know. Meanwhile, I'll let the Times know how I feel.

New York Times story here.

harry potter, eh

ALPF in absentia sent me this cool story. If you're planning on buying the new Harry Potter book, be sure to pick up a Canadian edition: it's printed on recycled paper, produced from non-old-growth forests.
What would Harry Potter do if Hogwarts forest were being destroyed? He'd act to save it, of course, and that's what his American fans are being urged to do by buying "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" — not in the United States but in Canada, where J.K. Rowling's latest book is printed entirely on recycled paper.

A coalition of conservation groups and Rowling herself have likened the mythical Hogwarts forest to old-growth trees used by paper suppliers around the world.

The author and the activists also have praised Raincoast Books, the publisher of Harry Potter books in Canada, for using paper that's recycled and certified as being free of pulp from ancient trees, generally defined as trees that are at least 150 years old.

Raincoast's printing of the book will save 28,000 trees — more than what would fill New York City's Central Park, activists say.

This is the second time around for Raincoast, which was the first publisher to use only recycled paper when the previous Harry Potter title came out in 2003. This time it's joined by a handful of other publishers around the world, but not the largest of them all: U.S.-based Scholastic.
Figures.

Americans can find the Canadian Harry Potter here and here.

7.15.2005

muhammad ali et al

Here's a man after my own heart. Dave Zirin has written a book called What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States. If you think it's an odd subject, you're not alone.
Then in 1996, a basketball player named Mahmoud Abdul Rauf refused to stand for the National Anthem. Rauf believed the flag to be "a symbol of oppression and tyranny," and was willing to suffer the consequences. His courage was stunning, but even more shocking was the howling cries for his head. When Rauf was suspended, some news reports resembled lynch mobs. But others likened him to Muhammad Ali, whose title was stripped for being a draft resistor during the Viet Nam war. This was a history I barely knew. As Rauf began to buckle under the tremendous pressure of right wing bombast, it became clear that our side needed a history of the resistance in US pro sports. To aid this effort, I started writing a column called Edge of Sports, and just completed my first book "What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States."

When some friends back home heard what I was writing, a Friar's Club Roast seemed to spontaneously generate. These guys seemed to magically morph into a gaggle of Henny Youngmans in baggy jeans. "Pro Sports and radical politics?" one budding Borscht Belter smirked. "That will make a helluva pamphlet!" Or "What's your next book, Dick Cheney's Diet Tips? John Ashcroft's Favorite Black History Moments?"

Everyone had a jibe. But my buddies are like Shaquille O'Neal's free throws: simply way off. The history of how social struggles have exploded onto the playing field is vibrant, thrilling and very real.
This stuff is worthy of my man Howard Zinn, and not only because their names sound alike. Zinn seeks to teach us the hidden history of people's movements that have challenged the system. Hidden, because those who usually write our history have a stake in preserving that system. Anyone who illuminates the acts of subversion, however obscure, that are always rising up, is doing good work.

Zirin wrote an essay about the book for Common Dreams. The book is here.

krugman sez

John Gibson of Fox News says that Karl Rove should be given a medal. I agree: Mr. Rove should receive a medal from the American Political Science Association for his pioneering discoveries about modern American politics. The medal can, if necessary, be delivered to his prison cell.

What Mr. Rove understood, long before the rest of us, is that we're not living in the America of the past, where even partisans sometimes changed their views when faced with the facts. Instead, we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. In particular, there are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern.

. . .

I don't know whether Mr. Rove can be convicted of a crime, but there's no question that he damaged national security for partisan advantage. If a Democrat had done that, Republicans would call it treason.

But what we're getting, instead, is yet another impressive demonstration that these days, truth is political. One after another, prominent Republicans and conservative pundits have declared their allegiance to the party line. They haven't just gone along with the diversionary tactics, like the irrelevant questions about whether Mr. Rove used Valerie Wilson's name in identifying her (Robert Novak later identified her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame), or the false, easily refuted claim that Mr. Wilson lied about who sent him to Niger. They're now a chorus, praising Mr. Rove as a patriotic whistle-blower.

Ultimately, this isn't just about Mr. Rove. It's also about Mr. Bush, who has always known that his trusted political adviser - a disciple of the late Lee Atwater, whose smear tactics helped President Bush's father win the 1988 election - is a thug, and obviously made no attempt to find out if he was the leaker.

Most of all, it's about what has happened to America. How did our political system get to this point?
Read it here.

7.14.2005

the welcoming committee

An American requests I hurry out.

An anonymous Albertan would rather I stay.

If only I could introduce them to each other.

shame of united states

From this morning's New York Times:
Iraqi civilians and police officers died at a rate of more than 800 a month between August and May, according to figures released in June by the Interior Ministry. . . .

While the figures were not broken down month by month, it has been clear since the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari took over after the Jan. 30 election that the insurgency is taking an increasing toll, killing Iraqi civilians and security workers at a faster rate.

In June the interior minister, Bayan Jabr, told reporters that insurgents had killed about 12,000 Iraqis since the start of the American occupation - a figure officials have emphasized is approximate - an average monthly toll of about 500.

The issue of civilian deaths in Iraqi has been a delicate one, with some contending that the Bush administration and the Pentagon have deliberately avoided body counts to deprive their critics of a potent argument against the war. Estimates have ranged from the 12,000 offered by Mr. Jabr to as many as 100,000 in a widely reported study last year. The new figures are likely to add to that debate. [Story here.]
"A delicate issue?" Strange choice of words.

Back in the land of the free, the state of Missouri executed an innocent man. This happened ten years ago. Bob Herbert writes:
If Larry Griffin were being tried today for the murder of Quintin Moss, he would almost certainly be acquitted. The evidence is overwhelming that he did not kill Mr. Moss.

But Mr. Griffin is not being tried today. He has already been executed for the murder.

While significant, this development is not that much of a surprise to those who understand that human beings are fallible and that much of the criminal justice system in the United States is a crapshoot. Whether it is this case or some other, it is inevitable that we will learn of someone who has been executed for a crime that he or she did not commit.

Judges and juries are no less prone to mistakes than politicians, reporters, doctors, engineers or center fielders. Which is why the death penalty should be abolished. [Column here.]
These two items are closely related. They both illustrate the US's low regard for human life. Only some lives are cherished and protected, and even then, only when it's convenient. One would think the young American servicepeople would be valued more highly, and only sent to war when it was absolutely necessary. But then, one would be wrong.

Americans or "allies" killed by unknown terrorists? An abomination. Iraqis killed by either Iraqi or American terrorists? A delicate issue. And of course, people are most valuable before they are born.

joy of canada

Hockey's back! Almost.

From ALPF: it's cheaper to get sick in Canada.
The hospital cost of a coronary artery bypass procedure is nearly twice as high in the U.S. as it is in Canada. Yet despite the increased cost, there is no difference in outcome...
From Rob: Rosie O'Donnell says Canada rocks. The story is actually about gay tourism. Take that, USA: equality is good for business.

So if you're a gay hockey player with heart disease, you would definitely prefer Canada.

7.13.2005

think outside the frame

Or, why "reframing" to appear more moral (by someone else's standards) will only only back us further into a corner.

Or, reason #62 of Why I Hate The Democrats.

I'm referring to the drive to "reframe" the debate on abortion. George Lakoff's ideas on how to present abortion in terms supposedly more palatable to the mythical center, though well meaning, are regressive and dangerous. If we fight on the other side's turf, with their language and their weapons, we can only lose.

As many of you know, I stand unapologetically on the militant end of the pro-choice spectrum. (Yes, I hate babies! Abort them all!) Abortions are a necessary medical procedure. In all societies, but especially in one without access to affordable, reliable contraception, many women will need an abortion at some point in their lifetimes.

I say "need" and not "choose". Yes, it is technically a choice, in the same sense that taking antiobiotics for strept throat is a choice, or using insulin is a choice when you have diabetes. Splitting hairs, everything is a choice. One could choose to refuse all modern medication, as some religions dictate. That's a choice, but most people don't exercise it. Unintended pregnancies, like strept throat, are a fact of life. Most women choose abortion in the sense that people choose antibiotics.

Women need abortion, just like they need reliable birth control, affordable prenatal care and child care. Not every woman will need all of these. I don't have children, so I don't need child care. Women who don't have sex don't need birth control. But these are all part of women's general reproductive needs.

Many women who need and choose abortion, by the way, are Christian conservatives who campaign for restrictive abortion laws and picket clinics. But that's another story.

The Democrats could stand up for American women. They could say, the government has no place making these intimate decisions for its citizens. Period. They could say, anyone who chooses not to have an abortion, that is their choice, but women must be free to choose abortion. Period. They could say, without access to safe, legal abortions, women die, and that is unacceptable.

The Democrats could stand up. They could walk proudly. Instead, the party of "reframing" runs alongside the conservative Christian agenda, panting and dehydrated, frantically trying to catch up. In sports, this is called running the other guy's race. It's what losers do.

Katha Pollitt addresses this in her recent column in The Nation.
In the wake of the 2004 election, Democrats have embarked on an orgy of what the linguist George Lakoff calls "reframing"--repositioning their policies linguistically to give them mass moral appeal. Prime candidate for a values makeover? Abortion, of course. It's as if the party, with its longstanding, if lukewarm, support for reproductive rights, were a family photo with Uncle Lou the molester right in the middle. Maybe if we cropped it to put him way off to the side? Or Photoshopped a big shadow onto his face? Or just decided to pretend he was nice Uncle Max?

In "The Foreign Language of Choice," posted on AlterNet, Lakoff writes that he doesn't like "choice"--too consumerist. In fact, he doesn't even like "abortion"--too negative. He wants to "reparse" abortion in four ways. Dems should talk about it as an aspect of personal freedom from government interference, and as the regrettable outcome of right-wing opposition to sex ed and contraception. They should reclaim "life" by talking about the fact that "the United States has the highest rate of infant mortality in the industrialized world," thanks to poverty and lack of healthcare, which are the fault of conservatives, "who have been killing babies--real babies...[who] have been born and who people want and love" and damaging their health through anti-environmental policies that put toxins in mother's milk. Finally, they should talk about the thousands of women each year who become pregnant from rape: "Should the federal government force a woman to bear the child of her rapist?"

George Lakoff is really smart and eager to help, so why does this way of talking about "medical operations to end a pregnancy" make me want to reparse myself to a desert island?

. . .

Perhaps I'm naive, but I keep thinking that reframing misses the point, which is to speak clearly from a moral center--precisely not to mince words and change the subject and turn the tables. I keep thinking that people are so disgusted by politics that the field is open for progressives who use plain language and stick to their guns and convey that they are real people, at home in their skin, and not a collection of blow-dried focus-grouped holograms.

. . .

Still, reframing proceeds apace. Hillary Clinton talks about abortion as sorrow, while calling on Republicans to join her in passing the Prevention First Act promoting contraception and, with Patty Murray, going after acting FDA head Lester Crawford for failing to make emergency contraception available over the counter. Howard Dean says he wants the "pro-life" vote, and before you know it anti-choice Democrats get the nod to run for the Senate...

. . .

There's a word that doesn't show up much in the new abortion frames: women. [Emphasis mine.] Maybe it doesn't poll well. "Reframing" abortion is actually a kind of deframing, a way of taking it out of its real-life context, which is the experience of women, their bodies, their healthcare, their struggles, the caring work our society expects them to do for free. Lynn Paltrow, the brilliant lawyer who runs National Advocates for Pregnant Women, thinks the way to win grassroots support for abortion rights is to connect it to the whole range of reproductive and maternal rights: the right to have a home birth, to refuse a Caesarean section, to know that a miscarriage or stillbirth--or simply taking a drink--will not land you in jail. The same ideology of fetal protection that anti-choicers wield against abortion is used against women with wanted pregnancies.
Please read the full column here.

And please remember, as always, this blog is not a forum for debate on abortion. If you want to discuss the immorality of abortion, please do so elsewhere. Thank you.

7.12.2005

two steps forward

The hydro account (that's what you guys call it, right?) is now in our name. The house is actually ours as of August 1, so that's taken care of.

And Rogers is coming the day after we arrive. Since our home phone and internet connections both run off cable, it's important to do right away. Plus it's September - pennant race season.

Things are moving along!

off base

You may have heard that baseball and softball have been dropped from the Olympics, beginning with the 2012 Games. I was surprised by this, and disappointed, although more so about softball. The Olympics is a great stage for women's sports, and softball is a great women's game.

This morning I noticed an op-ed by former Commissioner of Major League Baseball Fay Vincent, and thought I might post it. Then I read this line...
We Americans have long endured being punished for our wealth and our might and this may be yet another example.
...and thought better of it. Any examples of this punishment, Mr. Vincent? Did someone snub you when you spoke overly loud English in Paris? Did you read a nasty letter to the editor in the Guardian? What a terrible punishment that must have been. My my, how the rich and powerful suffer.

Vincent asks Fearless Leader to intervene with the International Olympic Committee on baseball's behalf. I don't suppose he sees the irony in that. Don't get what you want? Pressure them! After all, we're the U-S-A! (But oh, the punishments we endure...)

Meanwhile, MLB plans to launch the World Baseball Classic, a round-robin tournament, in 2006. This sounds better than the Olympics, because it's all baseball! I don't love competitions between countries, and the inevitable flag-waving that follows. But it's great fun to see different styles of play, players you've never heard of, and to see international crowds get into the sport. And anyway, baseball = good, so more baseball = better.

All Star Game tonight. ¡Viva la Liga Americana!

is canada next?

Canada, are you building weapons of mass destruction? Are you harboring terrorists, perhaps? Are you sure?
U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow visited Alberta's oilsands on Friday, highlighting the growing importance of the region as a supplier of energy to America.

Snow toured an oilsands plant and the booming city of Fort McMurray with Finance Minister Ralph Goodale before leaving for Calgary, where he met with Goodale and oil executives.

Canada is the leading foreign energy supplier to the U.S., with oil, gas and electricity sales worth more than $50 billion a year, Goodale said recently.
Story here, thanks to ALPF.

7.11.2005

home run derby!

Every year I think I don't care about the All Star Game, then it comes around, and I'm psyched for the American League to win.

Home Run Derby, the day before the All Star Game, is just a good time. The new twist this year is the players representing the countries of their birth, a celebration of the international flavor of Major League Baseball.

I'll root for the Dominican Republic (first) and Canada, in that order.