April 29, 2005

Blogging the blogger

Slate writer and self-proclaimed "self-hating democrat" Mickey Kaus paid UCSB a visit on Monday, giving an introduction to blogging in my global journalism class. Kaus was introduced as a pioneer in the field, and the #1 blogger (which I'm not even sure you could quantify, but just going by hits I'd say it's Kos, not Kaus, by a landslide--roughly 400,000/day!).

I was pretty skeptical about what he had to say...I wanted to know what his deal was, you couldn't be too sure just from reading KausFiles on Slate (though I found he generally seems to come down on the right, rather than the left side of the fence). Someone at DailyKos addressed him as "uber-hack." I couldn't really say if this was the case, so I waited to see if he might suggest it himself.

He commented that the "media concentration issue is dead," (I beg to differ, media is still contracting), and that in spite of the largest blogs being liberal, conservative blogs in the ratings tail (that receive no traffic, mind you) dominate the blogosphere. A study from MyDD shows they do not, though if they did, it'd be through unreasoned attacks and insults (in spite of what Kaus said about lefty blogs being more extreme). Kaus reasoned that there must be more conservative blogs because embattled conservatives feel there's a need to counteract the liberal media bias propogated by CNN and the NYT (@#%$*&!!!). Funny, there seems to be some collusion between the MSM and blogs, (on CNN, that bastion of liberal power, no less!) but not surprisingly, neither the MSM outlets, nor the blogs they feature, are liberal.

Oh, and Kaus also made a quip about terrorist blogs and the Dean internet movement. After saying them in almost the same breath, he noted that he should be careful not to draw any parallels between the two...har. He actually quoted Rush Limbaugh during the talk, so perhaps that's the source of his material.

My guess is he was probably right in saying that there isn't really a place for "wishy washy centrists" like himself in the blogosphere (though truth be told Kaus is probably only a bit more fair and balanced than Fox). From the Centrist Coalition blog--"what really bugs me is, they're ignoring the center again. Say something about us. Bash us! We exist."

April 28, 2005

You have no choice.

From the NYTimes:

"The House passed a bill on Wednesday making it a federal crime for any adult to transport an under-age girl across state lines to have an abortion without the consent of her parents."

Representatve Nita Lowey of NY on the decision:

"'Under this legislation, those who feel they cannot turn to their parents when facing an unintended pregnancy will be forced to fend for themselves without any help from a responsible adult. Some will seek unsafe abortions close to home. Others will travel to unfamiliar places seeking abortions by themselves.'"

This, combined with a parental notification initiative penned for the California special election ballot places girls living in abusive households in an ever more precarious position. Sure, it'd be nice if everyone had a communicative, loving relationship with their parents, and could involve them in such a difficult decision. But there must be provisions for those who can't, and this cannot be made a judge's decision...if a girl feels shamed, what makes people think she would be comfortable discussing her situation in court? Why don't we protect the lives and well-being of the women and girls we have before we consider the potential life she might be forced to bring into the world?

April 26, 2005

Shiney happy people

UCSB's Storke Plaza had a special visitor yesterday--a chubby, pleasant old man with a white handlebar mustache...no, not Santa. Not John Bolton, either. It was none other than Santa Barbara's very own card carrying--er, 6ft tall sign carrying homophobic Christian zealot! Yay!!! All the kiddies gathered around born again street preacher Paul Johnson as he spouted off about sodomy, androgyny and how us "women all look like men." Apparently we'll all be spending eternity in hell for attending UCSB instead of a REAL institution like Bob Jones University. Too bad the old man only dug himself deeper the more he smited us with his righteous sign (propped up in a gun holster, imagine that)--his presence alone galvanized activists and inadvertently furthered the Queer Student Union's cause, by bolstering Queer Pride week activities.

These street preachers have a rich tradition, always raining their hellfire and damnation anywhere there is heathen tolerance and pagan pride. Take my favorite Market St. staple--Mr. "No Sloppy Seconds." Reverend Owens Diaz brandishes signs that say "No unlawful sex" and chants such catchy slogans as "Sex only between a virgin woman and a virgin man. No leftovers. Sex outside of marriage makes the woman a whore and the man a whoremonger." Reverend, what exactly are leftovers? What, no doggy bag? Reminds me of one of Margaret Cho's jokes...but I won't get into it, my parents read this thing.

Anyone interested in putting down the signs and engaging in a civil dialogue about what Jesus really WOULD do?? Bill Maher via Kos:

"I don't believe in the Christianity that says one thing and then goes and kills innocent people and tries to rob women of their fundamental human right to control their reproductive lives, or deny people of the same sex their right to be married and have relationships and is judgmental and narrow-minded, and angry and vengeful. That is not the Jesus Christ that I believe in."
--Jane Fonda

"There are some people out there who are Christians...who believe that homosexuality is a sin. You know what? I'm a Christian. I do believe that it's a sin. You know what else? I believe divorce is a sin. Guess what? I've been divorced. Guess what? Jesus talks about divorce a lot more than he talks about homosexuality. I don't know why people obsess over it so much, but they do. Wait a second, I do know why they obsess over it. Because they get votes bashing gays."
--Joe Scarborough (wha-wha-what?!)

Some have signs, others have blogs. To each his own...as long as you're not imposing your beliefs on anyone by waving around obnoxious signs. Wait...

"Sinners!!! Blaaaaaaaaaarg"
(...well yea, this is UCSB forcryingoutloud.)

picture from the Nexus

Senate nuclear nonproliferation

Textbook definitions from The Daily Show's America (with just a hint of sarcasm in the first one):

1. A judicial activist sees the Constitution as a living document that can be adapted and re-interpreted to protect the needs of a changing society, such as "marriage between sodomites" and "impulse abortions."

2. A strict constructionist interprets the Constitution according to the language and original intent of the text at the time of its writing, in much the same way as a fundamentalist views the Bible. Fortunately for strict constructionists, they have been endowed by God with the superhuman gift of being able to read the minds of people who died 200 years ago. Naturally, they use this power only for good.

Just the kind of judges we would want--those who subvert reason for religious convictions and blind faith in the immutability of a document. You're right, no need for the filibuster. But wait...what's this? The majority of Americans want to protect the Senate's ability to block the nomination of unfit judges like Whitey "what civil rights?" McRacist (::cough:: Pickering ::cough::) and the Honorable Oliver Wendell Homophobe (no relation to the justice who ruled that shouting fire in a theater isn't protected under the first ammendment...you can learn that one from America too). According to the WaPo ABC News poll:

"By a 2 to 1 ratio, the public rejected easing Senate rules in a way that would make it harder for Democratic senators to prevent final action on Bush's nominees. Even many Republicans were reluctant to abandon current Senate confirmation procedures: Nearly half opposed any rule changes, joining eight in 10 Democrats and seven in 10 political independents, the poll found."

So why are Democrats acquiescing?

"Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said that under such a deal, Democrats would allow a vote on some of President Bush's seven controversial nominees to the federal bench, while others would be withdrawn by the White House. "

C'mon, Bush has still got his recess appointments! No need to give in here, right? But as Kos points out, Reid is actually painting Dems as flexible and concilliatory with his proposal, making Frist and the Republicans look like the stubborn stalwarts they are for not agreeing to compromise. We may yet win this one.

April 23, 2005

Oy gevalt!

I'm feeling a little verklempt on this matzah-less Passover...some matzah rap is definitely in order.

April 22, 2005

Et tu, Dean?

As the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rises to nearly $300 billion, and a report says there are more terrorists today than ever before, Howard Dean comes out in support of keeping troops in Iraq.

From Democracy Now!

"The chair of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean has come out in support of President Bush"s current Iraq policy. In a speech earlier this week in Minnesota, Dean said, 'The president has created an enormous security problem for the United States where none existed before. But I hope the president is incredibly successful with his policy now that he's there.' Dean said a US pullout could endanger the United States in three ways: By leaving a Shiite theocracy worse than that in Iran; by creating an independent Kurdistan in the north, with destabilizing effects on neighboring Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iran and Syria, and by making the so-called Sunni Triangle a magnet for what Dean called Islamic terrorists similar to the former Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Dean was portrayed as an antiwar candidate in the media during the 2004 presidential race."

Alright, so he's not for the war, but he's not calling for a timetable for withdrawal.

Dean's fears of a Shiite theocracy are shared by Noam Chomsky:

"The first thing they'll do is reestablish relations with Iran...The next thing that might happen is that a Shiite-controlled, more or less democratic Iraq might stir up feelings in the Shiite areas of Saudi Arabia, which happen to be right nearby and which happen to be where all the oil is. So you might find what in Washington must be the ultimate nightmare-a Shiite region which controls most of the world's oil and is independent."

So what's the solution? Before the elections in January, Ted Kennedy weighed the options:

"President Bush has left us with few good choices. There are costs to staying, and costs to leaving. There may well be violence as we disengage militarily from Iraq and Iraq disengages politically from us, but there will be much more violence if we continue our present dangerous and destabilizing course. It will not be easy to extricate ourselves from Iraq, but we must begin."

UPDATE: Dennis Kucinich writes an open letter to Dean for The Nation:

"We can draw no clearer distinction with the President than over this war. He cannot right a wrong (unjustified war) by perpetuating a military occupation. Military victory there is not possible. General Tommy Franks concedes that. The war will end when we say it's over. The Democratic leadership should be pressing for quick withdrawal of all troops from Iraq."

April 20, 2005

"Who ever heard of a good piece of elephant?"

I've been recovering the last couple days from my weekend adventure to the California State Democratic Party's Convention in LA. Dems are recovering from November's defeat, but they're still struggling to come up with a coherent vision and message for the party. There was a lot of pontificating and preaching to the choir (fitting for all this Pope talk) and really little evidence of solid, effective strategies for winning elections. They've gotta learn to be bold and have some conviction.

Dean spoke at a dinner on Saturday--in keeping with George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant, he talked about how people vote their values, with their hearts rather than their heads, and that Democrats need a positive agenda--but this is not to say they need to change their core values and go further right. Dean said Democrat ideals are moral values--this is true, progressives value peace, taking care of their families and their neighbors, protecting the earth, caring for the sick and the disempowered...I just wince whenever I hear "moral values," not because I'm a godless heathen as conservatives would charge, but because it's such a loaded abstract term, and it's disappointing that we're still on that kick from the election when everyone decided to make a bad poll the authority on what's important to voters.

Dean did say something that caught my attention, a strong message that effectively sums up the difference between liberals and conservatives on domestic policy: it's a "question of whether we are responsible for one another as a community or not," whether policies are inclusive and honest, or divisive and deceptive. The message is sac up, Democrats. The party of fiscal irresponbility and lies needs to be called on the carpet for its deeds.

And speaking of lies, House Majority leader Tom DeLay also had a busy weekend, as keynote speaker at a convention of another kind...The National Rifle Association's annual get together. Everyone's probably already heard this, but his quote is worth repeating:

"When a man is in trouble or in a good fight, you want to have your friends around, preferably armed. So I feel really good."

Excellent. Nukes in the Senate, and gun toting crazies in the House. Yeehaw!

April 13, 2005

Cuban militant seeks asylum in U.S.

Former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile who's spent the last 4 decades trying to violently overthrow Fidel Castro, is seeking to enter the U.S. Posada went to prison for his involvement in the downing of a commercial airplane which left 74 dead, and in the bombings of Cuban tourist destinations, attacks which were aimed to destabilize the Cuban economy and spark revolution.

After his last arrest around the time of the 2000 presidential elections, a man with links to Posada told investigative journalist (and UCSB professor) Ann Louise Bardach that Posada and others were relying on the election of George W. Bush so they'd be released from jail. They knew Bush would help them because Papa Bush had been so kind to them and the other Contras when he was head of the CIA in the late 70s. Don't think Posada would be feeling so welcome had Bush not won, with the help of his fellow exiles in Florida.

Ann Louise Bardach is the foremost expert reporter on Cuba, and having had exclusive interviews with Castro and Posada, she's got the scoop on this story. Should be interesting to see whether the administration will bow to the radical Cuban exile population that helped get Bush elected, and grant amnesty to a criminal. Between Elian Gonzalez, the 2000 elections, Terri Schiavo, and now this, Florida has a rich history of scandals...and the Bush dynasty has always been at the helm.

Bardach charts this history in Cuba Confidential, which I've been reading for the global journalism course she teaches...it's an interesting read, with complete background on U.S./Cuban diplomacy (or lack thereof). One thing stuck with me--NSA official James Bamford's disclosure of the Operation Northwoods, a diabolical plot aimed at legitimating a full U.S. invasion of Cuba following the Bay of Pigs disaster:

"The plan called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit, planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Fidel Castro, thus giving [Cold Warriors] the excuse to launch their war."

I defy even the most batshit insane conspiracy theorist to come up with that one. Can you put anything past these hawks?

UPDATE: Ann Louise Bardach on NPR

UPDATE 2: Bardach's Washington Post article on Posada, which Castro read on TV (not her intention)...now she's got a number of administration hawks like Otto Reich, White House envoy for the Western Hemisphere, who want her head. Here's what Bardach had to say on Reich's controversial nomination last year:

"Virtually every country in Central and South America and Mexico has complained officially or unofficially" about Reich, Bardach said. "The guy is very, very far right, and Latin America has had a very decided shift. All of Latin America is lurching to the left, and who do you have handling Latin America for the administration? Otto Reich. You've got to say to yourself: What is this administration thinking of except a few votes in Dade and Broward counties?"

April 12, 2005

"I never saw any help wanted signs for a sarcastic feminist political essayist"

Barbara Ehrenreich, workers' rights activist and author of Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting By in America spoke at UCSB last night. She devoted the majority of her talk to discussing her experience as a worker struggling to make it on "low low" wages exacerbated by the "Wal-Martization" of the U.S. economy. Ehrenreich denied that poverty is simply a natural phenomenon--it is the result of conscious policies. She condemned not only reckless domestic policies like welfare reform (which she called a "practice run" for republicans whose larger agenda aims to dismantle social security) but also the Bush administration's disastrous foreign policy, the debacle into which so much social spending has been misspent "If George W. Bush took an interest in poverty," she said, "what would he do, bomb it?!"

Ehrenreich also said sweatshop conditions don't exist solely in places where MNCs export labor around the globe. She said it's closer to home than some think, citing lawsuits over forced overtime without pay, and allegations brought against stores that locked workers in after hours. Ehrenreich channeling her anger over injustice and the plight of the poor into her own brand of sardonic humor, leveling blows at the establishment which forces low wage workers to resort to desperate measures. She called for the "end of the involuntary philanthropy of so many of America's people."

Her talk could not have come at a more appropriate time--just Monday the release of an LA Times article revealed that wages are being outstripped by inflation, and that while companies are making more money, earnings aren't being passed along to workers. Wealth is increasingly polarized, concentrated in the hands of CEOs. Ehrenreich said she'd heard a number of arguments on how poor women earning next to nothing could get by--one brilliant idea suggested women "marry up." Ehrenreich expressed her rightful disgust with this idea by recommending that to rectify the crisis she devoted so much time to studying, every CEO marry a woman earning a non-livable wage. She quickly took it back though, realizing that it'd be tough to find a CEO who was worth marrying...scandals at WorldCom, Enron, Tyco, and others have taken quite a few of these guys out of the running for most elligible bachelor.

April 11, 2005

Conflict of interest? Never!

Last week's merger between ChevronTexaco and Unocal has raised some suspicion among advocacy groups. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has cried foul, denouncing a cozy relationship between the Schwarzenegger Administration and ChevronTexaco. The energy company was a big campaign contributor and has allegiances in California's capital, with a former lobbyist appointed as Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff. Amid ever increasing evidence of republican misconduct and scandal surrounding House Majority Leader Tom Delay, The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has called for an investigation into an all expense paid trip to Australia for high ranking state officials’, hosted by oil executives last year in an effort to sell the Administration on Liquefied Natural Gas, or LNG, as a new source of electricity for the state. With ChevronTexaco’s purchase of Unocal, a big supplier of Liquefied Natural Gas from pipelines in Asia, the company has much to gain by promoting LNG, as it seems poised to corner the international market. This would provide the company with the leverage and potential to follow in the footsteps of Enron, monopolizing California’s energy and driving up prices by limiting supply...

Thought police

Russell Jacoby of The Nation shows how the idea of liberal domination at institutions of higher learning is predicated on flawed studies that don't stand up to academic rigor. Not surprising--like many ideas generated by the right, we're expected to accept this notion on faith alone. And while irrationality is completely incongruous with the goals of higher learning, somehow it's acceptable in all three branches government??
By misappropriating progressive values like equal opportunity, Horowitz and his minions are lowering the bar, softening standards of what is considered "scholarly" in order to make way for dogmatic ideologues like themselves on campuses. If a teacher who votes democratic counts as a Trotskyist, anyone "to the left of Attila the Hun" could be implicated in a McCarthyite purging of rational thinkers.

April 08, 2005

Border control

Travelers passing to and from Canada and Mexico could soon be required to present a passport, rather than just a driver's license, when crossing the U.S. border. The newly proposed federal regulation is the latest government effort to deter would be terrorists from entering the U.S. by tightening border controls. However a new study of out of the University of California, San Diego, shows that stricter security measures have unexpectedly changed the immigration patterns of undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Research by The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UCSD shows tighter border control has made it far more dangerous and costly for immigrants to cross in the U.S. As a result, those who successfully reach the U.S. or are smuggled in, are staying longer, at an average of 70 weeks, and more women and children are entering the country than before, as workers opt to emigrate with their families. Wayne Cornelius, director of the study, interviewed 600 potential migrants, 90 % of which agreed that border crossing was dangerous, but only 20% said border controls would deter them from making the trip. Border security difficulties have recently been compounded by the Minutemen, a vigilante group whose call to arms prompted a number of white supremecist organizations to travel south to intervene at the border. Immigration rights groups have expressed concern that the groups presence at the border has exacerbated an already unstable situation and fueled racist sentiment.

"Dont' hang your rosaries on my ovaries"

As democratic Senators challenge right-wing ideology and potentially restricted access to the morning after pill, refusing to confirm Bush's unfit FDA nominee, NARAL asks women's rights proponents to urge pharmacists to not withhold contraception from women. Sign a letter to prevent third parties from interfering with a woman's right.

"Sucks to your assmar!"

No more cat allergies?

"A new chemical compound, part cat and part human, may provide an end to misery-making cat allergies, U.S. researchers reported this week in the journal Nature Medicine."

Wow, maybe someday I'll actually be able to breathe without wheezing like an 80 year old when I'm within a mile of a cat. That is, unless evangelicals jump in and say doctors are playing God, creating a feline-human abomination or something along those lines.

Hannity's humble beginnings

I think I'm the only one at KCSB who didn't know that the Fox News demagogue got his start at none other than UCSB's campus radio station.

"My first gig was with my own talk radio show at the University of Santa Barbara. But it didn't last long. I was too conservative, the higher-ups said, and they didn't like the comments one guest made on the show ... The left-wing management had zero-tolerance for conservative points of view. And I was promptly fired. Once my voice was silenced, my destiny was set – do or die, I'd make my career in radio. "

Hannity the martyr...only it's just another one of his characteristically warped versions of reality:

"After airing for less than a year, Hannity's weekly show was canceled in 1989, when KCSB management charged him with 'discriminating against gays and lesbians' after airing two shows featuring the book 'The AIDS Coverup: The Real and Alarming Facts about AIDS.' Written by homophobic Christian-right activist Gene Antonio, the book crankily argued that AIDS could be spread by casual contact, including coughs, sneezes and mosquito bites. Antonio charged that the government, medical establishment and media covered up these truths in the service of 'the homosexual movement.'

"When Antonio appeared by phone on one of the shows, Hannity and his guest repeatedly slurred gay men. At one point, according to the UCSB campus newspaper The Daily Nexus, Hannity declared: 'Anyone listening to this show that believes homosexuality is a normal lifestyle has been brainwashed. It's very dangerous if we start accepting lower and lower forms of behavior as the normal.' According to the campus paper, Antonio responded by calling gay men 'a subculture of people engaged in deviant, twisted acts.'

"When a fellow KCSB broadcaster called the show to challenge the host and his guest, Hannity pointed out that the caller, a lesbian, had a child through artificial insemination, and Antonio dubbed the child a 'turkey-baster baby.' When the caller took issue with that 'disgusting' remark, Hannity followed up with 'I feel sorry for your child.'"

Not so blameless. But of course now he's mainstream, the "reigning king of talk radio."

According to hannity.com, after KCSB (which is conveniently excluded from his bio) he found work in Huntsville, Alabama--my (very) former hometown. Funny, I've been unwittingly tracing the footsteps of such a respectable individual. Perhaps one day, with a little luck and some chutzpah, I too will be a blowhard and a liar.

"Open libraries or closed minds"

A NYTimes Op-Ed highlights the fight (spearheaded by CodePink) to keep the last library in Salinas open, urging Laura Bush to join the campaign to prioritize funding for literacy and education.

"As globalization takes hold, American workers have more competition than ever before from well-educated, hard-working people in places like India and China. For the United States to maintain its standing and its standard of living, it needs to make a greater commitment to books, literacy training, materials on English as a second language, and all of the other services libraries provide."

Thomas Friedman also stresses the dire need for prioritizing education, out of America's own competitive self interest as a declining superpower in an increasingly cutthroat global labor market. He gets that education is important, but he paints a simplistic, excessively rosy "it's a small world after all"-esque picture of the globalized planet (which he's apparently just woken up to), where the playing field is level between first and third worlds, and everyone in India is content, with their wireless internet enabled laptops. Nevermind the one billion that are impoverished and the sharp stratification between the rich and the penniless.

April 05, 2005

Holding reporters accountable

FAIR takes aim at the NYTimes for its biased Cold War era-esque reporting on Nicaragua, while the Bush administration campaigns to prevent a leftist from taking power.

"The article, by Ginger Thompson, characterized the U.S. attempt to overthrow the Sandinista government as part of 'the global struggle against Communism'-- though Nicaragua under the Sandinistas had a mixed economy, multiple opposition parties and a very active opposition press, features that were not found in actual Communist countries. She refers to Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista president of Nicaragua, as a 'revolutionary strongman,' even though he was elected to the presidency in 1984 with 67 percent of the vote, in balloting that international observers found to be 'free, fair and hotly contested' (Extra!, 10-11/87).

"Referring to the Sandinista-led government of the 1980s and the U.S.-sponsored Contra rebels as opposing 'armies,' Thompson wrote, 'The armies fought each other to a standstill, until both sides agreed to elections in 1990, which Mr. Ortega lost.' This summary leaves out the election that Ortega won in 1984, and wrongly suggests that the 1990 elections were held because of Contra pressure, when the Nicaraguan constitution at that time required elections to be held every six years. (That sentence also implies that the Contras directed their fight against the Nicaraguan army, although in fact they chiefly targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure--see Nicaragua: The Price of Intervention, Peter Kornbluh, pp. 39-50.) "

Hmm...wonder how elections in Iraq will be reported on down the line? Coverage is bound to become more and more distorted as it becomes more distant, and Norman Soloman demonstrates how it's obismal as it is now. History repeats itself, and the picture always gets rosier and more favorable for the U.S.:

"The London-based Guardian published a devastating essay bya university lecturer who left Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s rule. Sami Ramadani wrote: 'On Sept. 4, 1967, the New York Times published an upbeatstory on presidential elections held by the South Vietnamese puppet regimeat the height of the Vietnam War. Under the heading "U.S. encouraged byVietnam vote: Officials cite 83 percent turnout despite Vietcong terror," the paper reported that the Americans had been "surprised and heartened" by the size of the turnout "despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign todisrupt the voting." A successful election, it went on, "has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson’s policy of encouraging thegrowth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam." The echoes of this weekend’s propaganda about Iraq’s elections are so close as to be uncanny.'"

It would seem we haven't been paying attention to our history lessons.

So much for Cornucopian logic

The economist's argument that an oil shortage will be mended simply by the laws of supply and demand doesn't hold water (or oil...nyuk nyuk)--the idea that as oil prices go up, people will stop buying and start seeking alternative energy sources runs contrary to reality:

"Won't the problem take care of itself? As prices rise, people will voluntarily cut consumption, right? Well, in a 2003 article, energy economist Andrew McKillop showed that at least during the 1990s, the opposite happened. Each time oil prices rose, world demand rose within six-12 months. And over on the far side of Hubbert's peak, it will be physical reality, not economics, that governs consumption. With supply shrinking year by year, every barrel that comes out of the ground will likely be burned lickety-split." Stan Cox on Alternet

Grassroots promise

Via today's Progress Report--the Senegalese movement to end female genital mutilation is taking hold in countries around Africa. Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Mali have all followed suit, imitating Senegal's holistic approach to abolishing excision through human rights and health education and awareness. Groups like UNICEF have taken note of this success and endorsed the model.

Truly inspiring...a shining example of women's agency in the Third World, and change through empowerment at the local level.

The film Moolaadé is a powerful homage to those that began the movement. Also, one of my favorite professors at UCSB has been working on a documentary on women's organizations in the Third World called Passion for Change, and it features the women of Senegal. The trailer on its own was so moving it brought the lecture hall to tears. These are the kinds of films that should be brought to people's attention.

April 02, 2005

"Tell them babies come from the stork."

Blogs and over 100 organizations have are all over this one: Republicans are proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that they've got the "cover your ears and yell 'lalalalala' whenever sex is mentioned" market cornered with their latest magnum opus: 4parents.gov. The website takes an ignorant approach to sexual orientation, recommending counselling for kids who come out and passes off right wing talking points as facts, downplaying the effectiveness of condoms.

For the Department of Health and Human Services, "family planning" consists of timing a woman's menstrual cycle to determine when she's most fertile, and not having sex during that time. Failsafe, if you're looking to get knocked up. They don't provide information on how to properly implement such methods, and they say "natural family planning" has the same failure rate as emergency contraception, when these rates actually vary a great deal. Go to Planned Parenthood to get the facts straight.

On the negative impact of teen pregnancy (which mystically seems to happen even when teens promise not to have sex...immaculate conception, not lack of contraception...that's gotta be it):

"Did you know that teens who become parents:
-Are more likely to end up poor or on welfare;
-Have fewer job opportunities;
-Have fewer educational opportunities; and
-Are less likely to marry."

Funny, these are all side effects of Bush administration policy already.

Kids will be totally screwed (literally and figuratively, since they're more likely to get an STD if they sign abstinence petitions, and more likely to engage in kinkier activities--read Bill Maher's hi-larious take on how kids are "thinking outside the box") if this is all they've got to go on from teachers and from parents. This sad, malconceived website makes the Department of Homeland Security's oh-so-useless scare tactic, ready.gov, look like an invaluable tome (it tells people which way to shit themselves in case of a nuclear blast...check out the graphic, reminiscent of the calm airplane passengers plunging to their death on seat-back pocket cards that Tyler Durden ridicules in Fight Club).

Teens don't need scare tactics and closed mindedness in sex ed. They need communication, acceptance, and condoms. Help them get what they need.

Homicidal maniacs at the helm

"When I or people like me are running the country, you'd better flee because we will find you, we will try you and we'll execute you. I mean every word of it. I will make it part of my mission to see to it that you are tried and executed." [Addressing doctors who perform abortions, in a speech to the U.S. Taxpayers Alliance, from The Hotline, May 9, 2000]
--Randall Terry, "pro-life" spokesperson for Terri Schiavo's parents

This nut used the same language as Paul Hill, a man that decided to take it one step further and personally execute a doctor. It's beyond me how you can rationalize that when a doctor terminates a pregnancy, it's murder, but when someone kills a doctor, he's doing God's work:

"He did kill somebody, but it was justifiable homicide," says the Rev. Donald Spitz, director of Pro-Life Virginia and Hill's spiritual adviser. "Those babies needed to be protected."

A Christian fundamentalist has the propensity to be every bit as violent as an Islamic extremist, but militant Christian groups naturally receive little attention from the complicit crucifix brandishing establishment. Terrorism is made out to be an exclusively Arab pastime--makes it easier to dehumanize an entire region, ripe for the imperialist taking. I suppose we haven't heard much from organized Christian groups lately because they've had friends in high places over the last 4 years. But plenty of regular crazies (including Tom DeLay, who warned that judges "will answer for" their refusal to reopen the Schiavo case) have spouted off with the usual death threats to judges and to anyone who sought to end Terri Schiavo's suffering)

And then Bush comes out with this gem: "The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak." But his budget axed the social programs that assist the weak--the poor, the elderly, high risk youth...and what does he do for the billions of impoverished people in Third World countries who are in dire need of assistance? He sends a Wolf to guard the henhouse.

The religious right's penchant for hypocrisy is astounding.

I've said my peace on Schiavo now that she's at rest. Don't feel like perpetuating the story, it just encourages them.