Monday, January 31, 2005

Big Surprise

Texas Teens Increased Sex After Abstinence Program. Snip: "Abstinence-only sex education programs, a major plank in President Bush's education plan, have had no impact on teenagers' behavior in his home state of Texas, according to a new study. "

So many stories, so little time….

I’ll leave the Iraqi election blogging to others who are following it much more closely. Clicked has a nice roundup of sources, and Back to Iraq has a good hour-by-hour first hand account of election day.

In other news you might miss what with all the Iraqi election coverage…

Inspector General finds CPA failed to account for $9 Billion given to Iraqi ministries during transition.

a US judge has ruled that the Gitmo prisoners have constitutional rights and can challenge their internment.

the U.N. has determined that whatever evil, vile war crimes are going on in Darfur, it’s not genocide (or at least, Sudan is not guilty of state-sponsored genocide). That's gotta be *so* reassuring to the hundreds of thousands of rape, murder & torture victims.

Teenagers indifferent to First Amendment Freedoms, study shows. Snip: “The original amendment to the Constitution is the cornerstone of the way of life in the United States, promising citizens the freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly. Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes “too far” in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.”

Guess it's a good thing Faux News & co. feel the same way...

Friday, January 28, 2005

Infantize much?

Am I the only one who finds this more than a little disturbing? Haute Couture designers incorporate baby clothes into new line. The naughty plaid schoolgirl look is bad enough... now they're sexualizing baby clothes? Or am I being totally paranoid?

Friday Fun

Courtesy of Hail Dubyas: Some Census Bureau humor: Bevis Lake renamed Butthead

Shit in One Hand.....

Massive cow manure mound burns for third month
Byproducts from the massive operation resulted in a dung pile measuring 100 feet long, 30 feet high and 50 feet wide that began burning about two months ago and continues to smolder despite Herculean attempts to douse it.

Most big feedlots spread the manure over farm fields or compost it to spread later or sell commercially to gardeners. Farmers in several states are experimenting with using the methane gas from livestock manure to produce electricity. The manure is heated and produces methane gas as it breaks down. The gas is collected and used to power a generator, which sends electricity onto a power grid.
And those are just some of the possible solutions. Idiot - thar's Gold in That Thar Manure Pile: Thermal Depolymerization or rather, oil.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Think twice before running for the border

American tourists being kidnapped along Mexican border.

“Derbez told the Televisa network that the U.S. position seems "in large measure, exaggerated, and outside the scope of reality, because the Mexican government has taken concrete actions" to curb crime along the border.” So I guess this means we can all rest easy in the knowledge that Mexican authorities have been able to stop the now decade-old wave of sexual assault and murders of young women in Juarez and Chihuaha, too?? And are well on the way to solving the 370+ cases? Better guess again.

Four women have already been killed in Juarez this year. Forgive me for not having a hell of a lot of faith in the word of Mexican authorities when it comes to relative safety in the border towns.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

New Twist on Workplace Discrimination

Quit Smoking or Quit Your Job, U.S. Company Says.

Snip: The owner of a Michigan company who forced his employees to either quit smoking or quit their jobs said on Wednesday he also wants to tell fat workers to lose weight or else. The workers refused to take a mandatory urine test demanded of Weyco's 200 employees by founder and sole owner Howard Weyers, a demand that he said was perfectly legal. "If you don't want to take the test, you can leave," Weyers told Reuters. "I'm not controlling their lives; they have a choice whether they want to work here." Next on the firing line: overweight workers. "We have to work on eating habits and getting people to exercise. But if you're obese, you're (legally) protected," Weyers said.

Job placement specialist John Challenger said Weyco's moves could set a precedent for larger companies -- if it survives potential legal challenges. "Certainly it raises an interesting boundary issue: rising health care costs and society's aversion to smoking versus privacy and freedom rights of an individual," Challenger said. So far no legal challenges have been made to Weyco's policies.

For the record, I'm a non-smoker who grew up with a heavy smoking mother and I do harbor some resentment at being forced to suck down someone else's 2nd hand smoke. I do advocate making restaurants and bars either entirely non-smoking or entirely smoking. Or creating little mini-fume hoods for smokers to wear so their smoke only bothers them. But I don't know how I feel about this interesting development. Companies that encourage their employees to live more healthy lifestyles, and reward them for doing so.... OK that could be good. But firing others who don't want to buy in? That bugs me. It will be interesting to see what legal challenges come of this.

The whole thing really reeks of Henry Ford's old tactics. Henry was an industrial dictator - a known anti-Semite and union buster who had a taste for controlling the lives of his employees. Known later for the revolutionary idea that his own employees should be able to afford the very product he produced, he instituted the $5 wage for the 8 hr. workday. This has been lauded for decades as a noble sentiment, until you look more deeply into his employment practices and realize that he held his workers in very low esteem, and went to great lengths to control how his employees spent those seemingly generous wags. In fact, he created a special "Sociological Dept." that was charged with spying, counseling and correcting the personal and financial habits of his employees. It was not unusual for known smokers or drinkers to be fired on the spot.

Snip: "Each investigator, equipped with a car, a driver, and an interpreter was assigned a district in Detroit... each worker was expected to furnish information on his marital status, the number and ages of his dependents, and his nationality, religion, and (if alien) prospects of citizenship.... Did he own his home? If so, how large was the mortgage? If he rented a domicile, what did he pay? Was he in debt, and to whom? How much money had he save, and where did he keep it? ... His social outlook and mode of living also came under scrutiny. His health? His doctor? His recreations? The investigator meanwhile looked about sharply, if unobtrusively, so that he could report on "habits," "home conditions," and "neighborhood." Before he left a given family, he knew whether its diet was adequate; whether it took in boarders - an evil practice which he was to discourage; and whether money was being sent abroad.

"Ford employees were classified into four groups: those fully qualified; those excluded under the basic rules upon age, length of service, and so on; those disqualified by bad personal habits; and those debarred by unsatisfactory home conditions allied with improper habits. Though a moderate resort to liquor was not forbidden, "excessive use" came under the ban. So did gambling. So did "any malicious practice derogatory to good physical manhood or moral character." A household dirty, frowzy, and comfortless; an unwholesome diet; a destruction of family privacy by boarders; an excessive expenditure on foreign relatives - these were among the reasons for condemnation."

Lazy Day MSNBC news roundup

At least 9 killed as California trains derail. Snip: "it appears a vehicle was deliberately placed on the railroad tracks before the derailment." I'm surprised nobody's crying terrorist attack given that little bit of news. Though in more likelihood, it's just a terrorist of the homegrown, disgruntled variety. Update #1: Apparently the guy responsible was more of the "deranged, suicidal" variety. If you couldn't live with yourself before - how would you do so after causing this?
Update #2: Apparently, the good state of California is going to do everything they can to make sure he doesn't (well, at least until they can legally do it for him, hence the suicide watch): Man accused in train crash faces murder charges, possible death penalty. There are just so, so many things wrong with this story from every side. Here's a lovely quote from his sister-in-law (he was separated from his wife): "He was having problems with drugs and all that and was violent," Amaya told the AP. "A few other times he went around as if he wanted to kill himself. I said, 'If you're going to kill yourself, go kill yourself far away.'

That's some constructive advice there, isn't it? If they can get around the obvious insanity defense (which I doubt)... then they'd have to prove he intended for other people to die, which I doubt. But if he is found guilty and they decide to punish him instead of helping him... then I'm thinking that sister-in-law sure as hell should be found guilty of aiding and abetting, too. The family knew he was violent, KNEW he was a "danger to himself, and to OTHERS" and didn't do a damned thing about it. Didn't notify authorities, didn't try to get him some psychiatric help. Nada. Yes the consequences of his actions were horrendous, but in this case - I'd say society bears just as much responsibility as he does.

Astronauts install robot arm, find ‘goo’. Have you people learned nothing from the Alien movies???!! DON'T TOUCH THE GOO!

An Apology: To the Girl in the Parking Garage. Perfect reminder of the societal affects of violence against women. Besides the obvious... women living in a constant state of terror, men assumed guilty until proven innocent (via Clicked).

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Volcano Update

In case anyone is still interested – there was a new, recent eruption on Mt. St. Helens a little over a week ago . Unfortunately, the mountain was socked in by weather so nobody could see it. Just the after-affects and seismicity readings. The new dome continues to grow -- but at a slower rate than it had been. Scientists are saying the new dome is now about as tall as the U.S. Bancorp Tower in downtown Portland. In pure volume, it's as big as 134 Rose Garden Arena's.

This story ahs a great graphic that outlines the new growth. At this rate, the old crater might very well fill up again within my lifetime. Now that's amazing! I’ve put up a link to the volcanocam in the “landings” section of the blog if anyone is interested in seeing what she’s up to now.

Monday, January 24, 2005

River Horses

New study suggests whales & dolphins may be related to Hippos.

I've always had a special fondness for hippos. Or "River Horse" as the Greeks* called them. Ever since my mother explained to me why I'd never be as slender or athletic as my cousins. "Honey," she said.... "some people are built like gazelles. Long legs, no curves, no boobs. They're born to run and love to run. We, on the other hand are built more like hippos. It's hard to get into jogging when your boobs smack you in the face at every step." (don't tell me about athletic bra's. Even if they come big enough they just create a more unified mass to bounce around). And lest you think Mom was insulting me, let me make it clear that Hippos are about the cutest thing you've ever seen in their native element. The moral of the story... everybody's beautiful when they find their place in life.

*If you think this is an unlikely pairing you should remember that Poseidon was both the Greek god of the rivers & oceans and the creator of the horse, whose shape he often took in myth.

With friends like these...

Just goes to show assholes come in all sizes, shapes & colors, even blue : Democrats charged in Election Day tire-slashing in Wisconsin. Where's that moral highroad again? I knew it was around here somewhere...

Saturday, January 22, 2005

At least it's not all in our heads

Survey Finds Church-Going Americans Less Tolerant.
Snip: CHICAGO (Reuters) - Church-going Americans have grown increasingly intolerant in the past four years of politicians making compromises on such hot issues as abortion and gay rights, according to a survey released on Saturday.

At the same time, those polled said they were growing bolder about pushing their beliefs on others -- even at the risk of offending someone. In the survey, 32 percent of those who attended church once a week said they were willing to compromise on abortion issues -- a 19-point drop in four years. Among the same group the question of compromising beliefs on gay rights was acceptable to only 39 percent, down 18 points from 2000.
The poll also found that 37 percent overall felt that deeply religious people should be areful not to offend anyone when they "spread the word of God," a decline from 46 percent four years earlier.
The number of those who felt that committed faithful should spread the word "whenever they can" rose to 41 percent, up 6 points. On another issue, the survey found little change in opinion on whether the U.S. political system can handle greater interaction between religion and politics. Asked if there was a threat if religious leaders and groups got a lot more involved in politics, 63 percent in 2000 and 61 percent in 2004 said the system could "easily handle" it. But the remainder continue to believe the system would be threatened.

It's another 'well, duh' moment, and the phrase "we told you so" definitely springs to mind. But it's one of those things you really, really wish you weren't right about.

Friday, January 21, 2005

And So It Begins...

Ohio anti-gay amendment used in defense against Domestic Violence Charges:

"Some attorneys are attempting to use Ohio's new gay marriage amendment to defend unmarried clients against domestic violence charges. The constitutional amendment took effect on December first. It denies legal status to unmarried couples. In at least two cases last week, the Cuyahoga County public defender's office has asked a judge to dismiss domestic-violence charges against unmarried defendants. The attorneys in the two cases argue that the charges violate the amendment by affording marriage-like legal status to unmarried victims who live with the people accused of attacking them.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence have worried about the effect of the amendment since it passed in November. They fear defense attorneys around the state will copy the tactic used in Cuyahoga County."

On Freud and trench warfare

In the tired old “where are all the female political bloggers” debate, liberal male writers often discount blogs that focus on parenting and icky female issues (like tampons! And pregnancy!) as so much fluff. Most see politics as a kind of ephemeral, philosophical football game where they can sit back and watch issues like same sex marriage, abortion and the ever growing threat of the religious right get fought out on the bigscreen in neat, clean graphical detail that resembles a general’s war room during WWI. They provide the play-by-play: “Anti-and pro-choice forces clashed again today in the trenches of the 9th District Federal Court. Neither side gained any ground and the standoff continues. Meanwhile, Christian Crusaders have forced Progressive forces into a temporary retreat in many Red States over the issue of Prayer in Schools. In the end, the picture they paint resembles clinical big red and blue arrows sweeping across the country like a high school civics book that outlines the key battles of the Civil War.

What they fail to see is – this war (like all wars) is actually fought over the bodies of real-life women, and families. We’re the ones in the trenches whose personal lives are being directly impacted by all the political punditry. And you can read those stories, and gain a much clearer insight into actual events on the ground of the battlefield by reading what, at first glance appear to be totally non-political blogs. They provide the Kodakolor imagery that makes the impersonal charts and diagrams real.

Take for example the current drama going on over at Finslippy which is normally pigeonholed as one of the “cute, funny parenting” blogs. I’m not really clear on which, if any posts she ended up taking down or editing, but the gist is – over the last week or so she’s posted some absolutely hysterical accounts of her little boy’s discovery of his ‘manly bits’, and voyage of language development that, as all little kids’ do… has taken more than a few unwitting detours through the gutter. Any other sane, normal parent (or any teenager whose parents humiliated them with naked baby bath pictures) can relate to these stories and will find them matters of vast amusement.

Not so the deviant-obsessed wingnuts, who see a picture of a child molester or worse – a homosexual (gasp!) in the making. They’ve apparently launched a hate-mail campaign against Finslippy wherein they turn everything that’s sweet, and natural, and innocent about her stories into everything perverted, and evil, and criminal. I wish I’d taken more Psyche classes, but I’m reasonably sure this is a classic Freudian exhibition of projection – where someone who is threatened by or afraid of their own impulses attribute these impulses to others, instead. You can tell by their obsession with the type of behavior at hand, which is perfectly illustrated in Mike Signorile's recent interview with an Alabama sheriff who is particularly fascinated with homosexuality.... and goes so far as to ask Mike to describe, in graphic detail what sex acts them thar homosexuals engage in.... (via Atrios & the General) They need help is what they need. Serious fucking help.

This is just one battle among thousands that go on every day between the forces of Wingnuttia and the rest of us, down here in the trenches. It’s just one step from posting hateful comments on a blog to reporting her to CSD, all because *they* are projecting their own repressed fantasies onto the rest of us. I guess this is what Shrub had in mind when he talked about the right's "Creation of Our Own Reality".

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Prego Update

Like good little first time parents we’ve been attending a weekly childbirth preparation class. It’s been pretty informative (for me, anyway… Curt thinks he’ll just know naturally how best to soothe/massage me during labor). I turned into a blubbering mess last week when they showed the first birth story videos. Not because of the whole “miracle of birth” or “oh my God she’s in excruciating pain” aspects, as you would think. It was the absolute total exposure of pure emotional vulnerability that scared the shit out of me. When I was a starving college student and juggling 3 different part time jobs and a full class load, I’d often catch little mini naps on the couches in the study alcoves at Portland State in my downtime. When you’re bone-assed tired it’s easy to get over the ick factor of stretching out full length on a couch that’s stained with over 30 years of accumulated student drool and spilt coffee. But the thing I could never quite get over was perfect strangers walking by or sitting across from me being able to watch my sleeping (and probably snoring and drooling) face. So I’d render myself invisible either by facing the back of the couch or cover my head with my raincoat.

So you can understand why the concept of having perfect strangers bear witness to my extreme pain and exhaustion terrifies me. I know they’re medical professionals who see this every day, but it’s still quite alarming. So I’ve decided a couple of things. There will be no video allowed once I reach a get past the initial “ok, that smarts” phase of labor or before all evidence of delivery has been cleaned up and my naked nether regions have been comfortably tucked away from the sight of visitors afterwards. Only Curt and my mother will be allowed in the room during delivery. I’m still not quite sure how I’m going to break it to Pop, for all I know he’s eagerly awaiting watching every second of his first grandchild come slithering out. But maybe not. Curt is strongly suggesting I actually, you know – talk to him about it before the blessed event occurs to prevent another tearfest*. Silly man. That would be too emotionally healthy!

’m feeling pretty good. I always suspected I was genetically predisposed to be Fertile Myrtle and so far, I’ve been proven right.

When not entirely overcome by raging hormones and resultant emotional trauma** that keep me awake all night, I’m getting lots of sleep. I gave up my night-owl tendencies many months ago and have a pretty strict 10:00 pm bedtime. I’m usually asleep by 11, wake up about 3 – lie awake for about an hour and sleep pretty well, off and on until 7. Regular visits to the chiropractor and massage tech are doing wonders for my back pain. At my last blood test my iron came back a little low so the Doc. put me on heavier iron supplements. Regular chewing of Rolaids is keeping the indigestion down to a tolerable level. I managed to avoid the bug I felt coming on over New Year’s, though I think Curt caught may have caught that bullet for me instead. Overall it’s been a pretty boring pregnancy. I can’t believe I’m approaching 34 weeks (8 ½ months to the uninitiated). I do have to walk and get up much, much slower and more carefully than usual. But I still have no trouble seeing my feet. In fact, I almost hate to mention it (except it’s had me worried quite a bit)….. I’ve only gained 2 lbs. Apparently, there’s a little benefit to getting pregnant when you’re already 60 lbs overweight (at least in my case). You’re not expected to gain as much weight as everyone else since you've already got a good fat store built up to take care of the critter.

In fact, it’s a good bet that when the River Fry makes his encore I’ll be a good 15 or so lbs lighter than when I conceived. He’s been like a little liposuction machine turned loose for 9 months. First there was the nausea, which killed my appetite (and reversed the direction of the calories if you get my drift). After that I just never really gained back my pre-prego appetite. With him squishing my intestines and stomach so much, I feel full much sooner than I ever did before and eat less at each sitting. If I eat more than that I get the killer indigestion. And the weird thing? No cravings. In fact, the thought of stuff I used to crave (like sweets) turns my stomach. I was really worried for awhile, but my doc tells me he’s been growing at a perfectly normal weight, and appears perfectly healthy. My body will make sure he gets first dibs to all nutrition and calories I intake.

I tell Curt, now we have to have more kids! Just think – 2 more and I’ll be down to my goal weight!! Woohoo!***

On other personal news – we dropped off our 2nd car to a mechanic friend 6 weeks ago who was going to do a simple clutch replacement for us. 4 clutches, one transmission cable, one blown fuel pump, bad vibration of undetermined source, 3 mistaken diagnosis by assorted dealerships and/or shops and two motor mount repairs later – we may get it back this week.

Curt’s hands are doing much better following his 2nd surgery. He was all ready to hit the job hunt fast & hard again when he developed some intestinal problems. His doctor thinks it’s gallstones. If so, she also thinks they *might* be able to remove them without surgery. Might.

One good thing, though. It’s beginning to look like the new guy my boss hired at the first of the year to do some of the projects I thought I had been hired to do last year isn’t intended to replace me after all, as I had feared. Sometimes I can be paranoid but when someone is hired 2 months before you’re going on maternity leave and given your same job title, to take over some of the things mentioned at your initial hiring interview as part of your long term job description, you’d be worried too. Especially when your partner is unemployed and raking up the medical bills right and left.

*I don’t know if I ever posted about this. My dear father is a sentimental pile of mush. I am not. This causes some issues in our relationship. When we told him there was no place in the Zen Buddhist wedding ceremony we were having for the traditional “who gives this woman” speil (and even if there were – I’d have been damned sure to have it taken out) he burst into tears. He’d been agonizing for weeks over how to phrase his reply in order to be inclusive of my mom, step mom and step dad.

**It is not generally considered a good idea to make the “it’s either your cats or me” ultimatum to your 8 month prego wife. Or, as turned out to be the case….. leave her thinking that’s what you’re saying for 2 days. Especially a wife who has lived with cats her entire life and you promised when you moved in together… and again when you decided to get married… that she would not be deprived of said feline companionship despite your allergies. She would especially not be deprived of the companionship of her arthritic, half-toothed calico who has been her loyal companion for 10 years. Stayed by her side through at least 8 moves, a half a dozen boyfriends and 4 different jobs. No matter if the magical pheromone diffuser runs dry and she begins marking the sofa right in front of you.

However, after a 4 day sob-fest and a half a night sleeping in exile with said Calico on a camping mattress on the cement floor of the basement, we did manage to work things out without the attorney involvement and nasty child custody battle I was envisioning in my worst moments. Cats have run of the utility room and basement, and visiting rights on eves and weekends to the main house. Cleo the Calico seems content with the change of routine, especially once I brought in her favorite electric radiator heater. And the new arrangement will help the cats adjust to their demotion in the household hierarchy before the baby comes, when it otherwise may have been much more traumatic.

***I’m afraid by mentioning this I might somehow start a new diet craze – “Get Knocked Up to Slim Down!” Everybody’s body handles pregnancy differently – I just appear to have struck the genetic goldmine in this regard. Gramma says she lost weight with each one of her 4 pregnancies, too. OTOH, it’s about fucking time I caught a break with the weight thing. After so many years of watching more genetically blessed girlfriends pack down 7 course dinners and a steady diet of MickeyD’s and never gain so much as a pound while I’d gain 5 if I just thought of chocolate cake, it’s my turn for a little genetic luck, Maude-dammit!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Lazy Day News Roundup

What’s with all the recent acknowledgements of error coming from the administration, lately? Rice admits bad Iraqi decisions and Bush Regrets Language That Hurt U.S. Diplomacy ?? They sure as hell couldn’t admit anything of the sort during the election year, but as soon as Rice and other confirmations are on the line they expect the American public, and Congress – to forgive and forget? Hell, who am I kidding – they probably will.

Wow, I just saw this: Harvard President suggests women do not have the same natural tendencies in math and sciences as men. Snip: "The latest controversy over Summers' remarks began on Friday when he offered some explanations for the small number of women at top levels of science and engineering, including one that suggested that there was a biological explanation to why men earned the top scores in math and science exams " (apparently pointing to boys' outscoring of girls in math & science in the last few years of high school). To give the guy some credit - he also suggested "reluctance or inability of women to work 80-hour weeks, and discrimination" might be partly to blame. Summers, of course maintained that he neither said -- nor does he believe -- that women lack the ability to succeed at the highest levels of math and science, and that he "hoped to stimulate research on the many interrelated factors that bear on women's careers in science."

But according to critics of the feminist movement - there's no longer a need for activism. Yeah... whatever. There's no need to look at *non-biological* reasons girls may not excel as much in math & science in high school (like perhaps... they're socialized to believe boys won't date smart girls?) and there's no need to look at *why* so many women are unable to put in 80 hour workweeks (disproportional family responsibilities, etc.) And am I just too sensitive or does "reluctance to put in 80 hour workweeks" sound suspiciously like "they're too lazy?"

Oh, and I bet we won't hear a peep of "Tort Reform" from the Freepers or Bush regarding this little jury award: Policemen Awarded $2.4 Mln for being unfairly disciplined in California Beating Case". Snip: "Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn was astonished by the verdict. "How do you give a man who was suspended for only 10 days more than $800,000? Morse was fired, but $1.6 million?" . Someone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong - but cities and other municipalities carry employment liability insurance for just such occasions. I'd be very interested to see how much Inglewood taxpayers end up forking out in the next 5 years due to increased insurance premiums as a result.

One bright spot in the world lately (in case you haven’t been following) : Probe to Saturn moon Titan resounding success. I’ve been getting a kick out of the language being used in the coverage: “ the surface of Titan is bright orange with a tangerine sky” and they think the area it landed in has the consistency of “crème broulee”. When did Willy Wonka go to work for the ESA??? I begin to hear strains of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and “On the Good Ship Lollipop” every time I read a new press release.

Monday, January 17, 2005

On Deck - Iran?

Interesting: Seymour Hersh* claims to have evidence the administration has been planning for a possible attacks in Iran. White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett said the story was "riddled with inaccuracies." and he doesn't believe that some of the conclusions Hersh is drawing are based on fact.

ummm, ok.... That's supposed to reassure us? Facts schmacts! They sure as hell didn't let a little thing like facts get in the way of the invasion of Iraq, now did they?

*Am I the only one who cracks up everytime I read this guy's name? Reminds me of that old game where you call up a bar and aske the bartender to page "Seymour Butts"..... only this guy's name sounds too much like "See More Hearsts".... then it isn't quite as funny anymore.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Friday Fun

Kind of like a $25,000 Pyramid but with images! I haven't had a chance to try this yet (doesn't look very work-friendly) but it seems to be a worthy cause. Help come up with labels for the billions of images floating around the WWW!

Ripe for the pickings....

Missionary group’s not so hidden agenda in helping Tsunami orphans. The Virginia-based missionary group WorldHelp has dropped its plans to place 300 Muslim "tsunami orphans" in a Christian children's home after the Indonesian government said it would not allow it.

“Once we became aware that the government had refused to let these children be placed in a Christian home, we immediately stopped all fundraising efforts for the remaining 250 Indonesian orphaned children and appeals were removed from our website. Before WorldHelp changed its Web site, it contained an appeal for funds that described the Aceh people as "strict Sunni Muslims" who "have been very instrumental in spreading Islam throughout Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia." Normally, it said, "Banda Aceh is closed to foreigners and closed to the gospel. But, because of this catastrophe, our partners there are earning the right to be heard and providing entrance for the gospel." The fundraising appeal went on to say that WorldHelp was working with Christian partners in Indonesia who want to "plant Christian principles as early as possible" in the 300 Muslim children.”

cuz, you know…. There’s no point helping heathens who won’t let us convert them.

On a somewhat related note, I do want to take the opportunity to give props to the U.S. Navy for their amazing efforts to help the tsunami survivors (all criticism that Shrub could have mobilized them earlier aside). When you see an article like this: Threat of Disease Fades; you do have to acknowledge the incredible impact they, and the navies of other countries are having. Just about every story I read regarding ongoing humanitarian efforts credits U.S. helicopters for getting aid workers, food, water and supplies into the most isolated, devestated areas; and for airlifting the injured and sick out. Hell, now even the SeaBees are being mobilized.

THIS is what a military should be used for, if anything. This I can get behind & be proud of.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

No WMD's? You're kidding me!

Aside from the obvious & easy “we told you so”, I have two issues with today’s announcement that the CIA’s WMD hunters are calling it quits.

1) “In interviews, officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.”

2) “The ISG has interviewed every person it could find connected to programs that ended more than 10 years ago, and every suspected site within Iraq has been fully searched, or stripped bare by insurgents and thieves, according to several people involved in the weapons hunt”

So even if we were to give Shrub & Co. the benefit of the doubt and concede that there might have been WMD’s to begin with, the failure of their own investigation proves that if they had existed, they still managed to lose them after the fact due to their own ineptitude.

Specifically a) by naively underestimating the insurgency, then b) not getting enough boots on the ground quick enough to stop it (both militarily and reconstruction personnel) ; then empowering the insurgency itself by c) stubbornly insisting on guarding oil assets instead of suspected WMD sites and caches of more conventional weapons…

If there's one thing Shrub’s administration is good at is creating self-fulfilling cycles of failure. Just to be clear - I blame Rummy & his band of idiots at the Pentagon. Not the military in Iraq. What's fascinating is that here it is in black and white - we screwed up, big time... and nobody in the mainstream media is going to waste a single second of airtime drawing this obvious conclusion.

Monday, January 10, 2005

He got letters.... lots of letters!

Ah, the power of blogs, the internet & used tampons. Faced with an overwhelming wave of disgust & outrage by women from both sides of the political spectrum over his incredibly insensitive proposed legislation, Virginia state delegate Cosgrove has promised to rewrite the bill to make it clear that miscarriage will not be criminalized. He claims the intent of the bill was to give police something more to charge those evil ignorant pregnant women who abandon their stillborn babies in trash dumpsters with than illegal disposal of a corpse. Apparently, the medical examiner can’t tell if a baby is delivered alive or dead after 12 hours, hence the stipulation of having to report the birth within that timeframe in the bill.

I get the urge to try to stop the abandonment of babies, both live and dead. Nobody advocates that kind of behavior. The problem with this kind of legislation, however (like most Republican legislation) – is that they focus on punishing the bad action instead of trying to prevent it in the first place. They naively think making something illegal will make it stop.

****Update to the Update: Due to the overwhelming response he received, Cosgrove has withdrawn the bill entirely citing "confusing language". According to the original article Cosgrove is complaining that he's "never been blogged before!" and was personally responding to all 500 of the nasty emails he got. Everyone alltogether now... let's take a nanosecond of silence then cooperatively play the worldwideweb's smallest violin in sympathy.
There. The article goes on to quote a journalism pundit who voices the usual criticism that 'blogs aren't really journalism' and spread disinformation (OK - that's just too funny - is his head so far up his ass he really thinks supposedly "legitimate" sources like Faux News don't spread disinformation ?) and he is concerned that the blogospher's ability to mobilize political action instantly can lead to bullying and intimidation. Another journalism prof claims “The bloggers pointed out, to me, some legitimate concerns,” South said. “They created a healthy discussion. If there’s a down side, it was that Del. Cosgrove didn’t have a chance to get involved in the debate until it was too late.”

I beg to difer. He didn't get a chance to get involved in the debate? Excuse me??? Del. Cosgrove FRAMED the debate in the first place when he introduced such a pathetically written piece of legislation to begin with. Any consequences of his ineptitude are entirely of his own design. The difference is - usually asshat state legislators get away with drafting shitty bills every day and the public never becomes aware of it until it's too late. The mainstream media sure as hell doesn't cover it. It's just not sexy enough. The reason blogs have become such a powerful political force is that they're out there providing *some* information - even if it hasn't been completely vetted - to a news-starved public. And what's more critical, they have the ability to filter exactly the kind of news to those individuals who actually care about a particular subject - and are likely to take action as a result.

Maude forbid there's finally a force out there that is holding our legislative representatives responsible for their action/ inaction in real time. I can see where they may feel betrayed... usually they only have to atone for their previous sins around re-election time, and any criticisms of specific bills, etc. that they sponsored/ supported is drowned out by the PR machine.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Criminalizing miscarriage

"Mr. Fireman... were you told that women partnered to men in your chosen profession have higher rates of miscarriage? And that children of firemen are at higher risk of birth defect? And you went ahead and had sex with a known fertile woman anyway? Well then sir, everytime you walk into a burning building you are guilty of child endangerment, aren't you! I'm sorry, there's nothing else to do but require every firefighter to take a vow of celibacy (or homosexuality). If you're caught having sex with a woman you'll be charged with a misdemeanor."

Once again, reproductive fascism is not as outlandish as you may think. Virginia Republican trying to force women to report every miscarriage to law enforcement. But as long as we're only looking to prosecute women, this is somehow accepted. If the logic of this law is taken to its natural conclusion, however - even men, corporations and your own government could be held criminally liable. I really hate how you often must show how proposed reproductive legislation could be used against *men* to make people think twice about it. For some reason it's perfectly OK to trample on the human rights of a mother when a fetus is involved, but not OK to target those of the father.

Obviously, the sponsor of this bill, Rep. Cosgrove has little or no knowledge of basic female biology. The logistics of enforcing this bill would be a nightmare. First, because about 20% of every pregnancy ends in miscarriage in the first trimester. Many times, women don’t even know they’re pregnant or having a miscarriage – they just think they’re having a particularly heavy period. So what, are we supposed to dutifully report every tampon used?*

Second, how this bill does not, in effect criminalize miscarriages I have no clue. Apparently most states require health care providers to report fetal deaths after a certain age (such as 20 weeks) to state vital statistic bureaus. But existing law in Virginia already goes one step further. Health care providers must report all “products of conception” regardless of gestational age. Honestly, as long as you’re having heterosexual intercourse there’s always a tiny chance of conceiving (even with contraception, even using condoms), and then having your body slough off the “product of that conception” during your regular menstrual cycle. Which means that every period is a potential miscarriage; subject to reporting.

This bill wouldn’t be quite so horrific if it just expanded the current law to require all women to anonymously report suspected miscarriages to the same channels healthcare providers do. But it doesn’t – it brings the cops into the picture. Why does law enforcement need to get involved unless the assumption will be that women are doing something criminal that caused the miscarriage? How does that not presume guilt?

Third – the slope is getting entirely too slippery right now. Since a woman would have to know she was pregnant to even suspect she was having a miscarriage, I really do not see how it would be much of a stretch to require all women in the state of Virginia to report every pregnancy, or suspected pregnancy as well. And for that matter, yes – require them to take monthly pregnancy tests .

You may say, well – abortion is still legal (for the time being) so how could a woman be found criminally liable in the miscarriage of her fetus? Very easily. State legislatures are finding ways to push the Roe v. Wade envelope every day. More and more states are criminalizing the mother’s actions or lack thereof that affect her fetus. For recent examples check out this article. If a woman who has reported a miscarriage is a known drug user, or admits to having consumed alcohol, or for that matter took prescription medication that has known bad fetal side-effects, she could be prosecuted for negligence.

*It’s been suggested in quite a few places that the women of Virginia protest this bill by sending Rep. Cosgrove their used tampons, maxipads, pantiliners, etc. Just to prove their willingness to fully cooperate with the intent of the law. I, for one think this is a fabulous idea! Apparently it IS legal to send bodily fluids in the mail if you mark them appropriately as a bio-hazard. I would take it one step further, however and also send him any used piss-on-a-sticks. I’ve still got a couple in the cupboard I may soil and send to him… a small gift from me and the RiverFry.

The more I think about this, the more I believe they’re just not taking this law far enough. Why not require every couple to report every act of heterosexual intercourse? Just to be on the safe side, you know… then they could require the piss-on-a-stick and prosecute any woman who tests positive and doesn’t immediately seek prenatal care. And they could have mandatory maternal drug/ alcohol testing. Ooh! Even better idea – since a large chunk of miscarriages are caused by abnormal sperm due to genetic or drug/cigarette/alcohol abuse by the father, we could prosecute them! That might assuage those pesky feminists if we target the fathers, too. While we’re at it…. Let’s ban tightie-whitie briefs and tight pants that heat up male testicles and damage sperm! Hell, why not go back to prohibition days and outlaw alcohol and tobacco use altogether in the fight for fetal rights?? Studies are showing that even if these toxic substances don’t result in miscarriage, they do contribute to babies born with mental retardation, learning disabilities & behavior problems (such as A.D.D.)

Oh and here’s an environmental angle… from the above link, apparently women who live near agricultural areas where certain pesticides are used face a 40 to 120 % increase in risk of miscarriage due to birth defects; and exposure to agricultural pesticides has been shown to lower sperm count and damage sperm - men experiencing infertility were found to be employed in agricultural/pesticide related jobs 10 times more often than a study group of men not experiencing infertility (lower sperm counts have been proven to raise the rate of miscarriage).

Why, there’s a goldmine of potential criminals according to that link. Everyone from micro-electronic workers to paint manufacturers. In fact, the father’s exposure to paints has been shown to increase childhood leukemias. Firemen also appear to produce an unusually high level of abnormal sperm. Dentists and dental assistants have over twice the normal number of problems with pregnancy. Let’s target those professions, too! Maybe *now* we could prosecute smoking partners of women for exposing their unborn children to 2nd hand smoke! And finally, FINALLY prosecute them for domestic abuse (since pregnant women are more likely to be targetted).

Notes from the Backyard

Sometime back in late Nov. early Dec. I spied a little hummingbird in our yard soliciting the last vestiges of blooms from our fuchsia bush and mentioned to Curt that we should think about getting a hummingbird feeder. Later that week he bought me two lovely feeders that hang welcoming from a pretty wrought iron post right in front of our dining nook window as an early Christmas present. For weeks we were convinced the contraption would end up as somewhat expensive lawn art as no little hummer deigned to pay it a visit. Then on Christmas Day we received the most wonderful present – just as we were sitting in the nook with my Mom & Stepdad preparing dinner and bemoaning the fact that we were getting stood up by the hummer brigade, a little Anna’s Hummingbird showed up ! We are now the 8:10 a.m. stop on his daily feeding schedule, it appears because he shows up every morning just as we’re finishing breakfast.

We have another birdfeeder in the backyard that’s proving just as entertaining. Every day it gets mobbed by a mixed flock of chickadees and junco’s and then a pair of Stellar’s Jays move in. Our cat we call the “Great White Hunter”, Ozz was sorely tempted by one of the Jays recently – as he was stalking the one in the feeder its mate started to dive-bomb him. Needless to say Ozz has wisely decided it's not too smart to fuck with the jays.

Lately, Curt’s been seeing a pair of Northern Flickers hanging around who are finally giving the Jays a run for their money. I’ve never seen a Jay run from anything but apparently the Flickers do the trick.

In the flora department, I’ve been amazed at the resiliency of the Flowering Maple (a.k.a. “Chinese Bell Flower” ) I planted in the semi-contained bed in front of our front porch a year or two ago. It’s been budding and blooming non-stop since summer and is up to almost 6 feet. I think this cold snap that started last week might have finally reigned it in a bit, but I’m curious to see how it hangs through the winter. It’s wonderful to get such vibrant, fiery orange/blood red color so long after everything else has died back. Too bad the hummers haven't discovered it yet - I think they'd like it. Maybe next spring I'll plant another one in the backyard just for them.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Guilty pleasures

I'm totally hooked on the new ABC show, "Lost". It's like Survivor* but you know, scripted..... like all TV programming *used* to be? Back in the day before "Whose Your Daddy?" and "Fear Factor". It's one of those shows that has really fascinating characters and an actual, what do they call 'em? Plot? But, a really *good*, creative plot - not at all annoying like that other scripted action show, "24"** which is really a glorified daytime soap with guns and nuclear devices.

Anyhoo - there's a new episode on tonight @ 8:00 PST and in the interest of bumping up ratings so another of my fave shows doesn't get cancelled***; I highly encourage you to tune in. MSNBC has kindly provided a summary of events to date so you won't be *totally* lost in the dark (pun intended). I will be happy to provide any backstory.

*or as it's called in our humble abode, "fucking Survivor" because it sucks you in even though you hate all reality show programming.

**similarly labeled "fucking 24" in our household because, come on - how much trauma can one character go through in 24 hours? They lost me the first season when the daughter's friend got abducted, then raped, then tortured, then abandoned for dead, then was amazingly rescued only to be rendered really, totally, all-the-way dead in the hospital by the man who had been posing as her father. Then for good measure they killed the hero's estranged wife, too. Quickest way to piss me off is to kill off a character you've made me care about. I was permanently scarred psychologically in high school when Days of Our Lives killed off Patch (Kayla's squeeze). You know, there's enough shitty tragedies in the real world without making up more of them for pure emotional manipulation.

***We've still not quite recovered from the betrayal of Firefly getting cancelled. I think it was replaced by fucking Temptation Island.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

If you teach a man to fish

I'm all for animal rights but PETA sometimes really annoys the crap out of me. Jimmy Carter Urged to Quit Fishing. I understand that many feel the use of hooks is overly painful for fish - but you know, I don't see how netting fish and letting them suffocate to death is much more humane. How else are you supposed to kill the little buggers? Unless they're seriously advocating everyone on the planet become strict Vegans? What do we do when it comes out then that plants feel pain? What about the bacteria we kill when we eat yogurt? Where do you draw the line?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Happy New Year!!

Wow. 2005. That’s just freaky-deaky!. I feel old… very, very old. Remember when the mass partying promised by Prince in 1999 seemed like it was so far, far away? Now it seems so far in the past. We had a wonderful holiday down at Mom’s in Florence. Nothing like a weekend at Mom’s to feel pampered.

Lots of deep thoughts lately but no time to really delve into any of them right now. So for the time being I will leave you with a few bits that caught my eye. Some "feel good" (well, subjectively speaking) news stories:

Elephants save tourists.
Baby named Tsunami.
Quick thinking Schoolgirl saves hundreds

And only one “feel bad”: Hoaxers, thieves prey on tsunami grief.