Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Concerned Women for America -- Honest!

Okay, there are some targets one should not pick on – as its says in the Torah, you don’t go tripping a blind guy, or making fun of total morons – but these women from the CWA are stepping up to the plate, and even if they are too ignorant to live, that makes’em fair game in my book.

In this essay, and I use the word loosely, Rachel Mafaffey and Eva Arl attempt to explain to us why mothers really ought to stay home with their children. (http://www.cwfa.org/articledisplay.asp?id=6606&department=BLI&categoryid=commentary)

Let me note, for the record, that while I don’t see any pressing need for mothers to spend all their time at home with their children, or home-school them, or sew all their clothing, and make all their own bread, and preserve all their own fruit, meanwhile running a successful business out of the garage, if women want to do that sort of thing, it is perfectly cool with me. Because (here’s the deal, Ms. Mafaffey and Ms. Arl) that’s what feminism is actually about: women get to do whatever it is they want to do with their own lives.

Can I repeat that one time?

Feminism means that a woman’s life is her life. It means her body is her body. She gets to decide what to do with both of those things. If she decides she wants to spend her life raising a passel of kids, that’s her decision. If she decides she wants to be a professor of anatomy, that’s cool too. If she wants to be a stripper, a law professor, a snowboarder, a rock star, a veterinary assistant, whatever. It’s up to her. <-- This is the actual feminist position.

Ms. Mafaffey and Ms. Arl, however, in their essay, state the traditional anti-Feminist strawman position:

“Feminists tell us that we don't need a man to be successful and that traditional marriage is the ultimate oppressor of women. Groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW) claim women need a career to be fulfilled. To them, it is demeaning for women to care for their babies, and therefore we should reject the roles of wife and mother for work outside the home.”

Okay. What feminists said that? Can you cite them? It may be true that feminists mainly agree that women don’t need “a man to be successful” – but come now, Ms. Mafaffey and Ms. Arl. Are you going to argue that women do need men to be successful? That without a man in her life a woman cannot be counted as succeeding?

And, depending on how you’re defining “traditional marriage,” the second part of your claim may or may not be something a feminist at some point may have said.

But everything after that is just balderdash made up about feminists by groups such as the CWA.

And that paragraph is just the one of the many problems with this essay.

Take, for example, their dubious assumption that women are working outside the home in order to “be fulfilled.”

Take that claim and tell it to the woman that fill my classrooms – the ones working 36 hours a week at Wal-Mart and Goody’s and Wendy’s. Ask them just how fulfilled they are, when they get home to their passel of children every night, and how happy they are about their “choice” to work outside the home.

No, Ms. Mafaffey and Ms. Arl, despite what you have learned from Dr. Laura and from your minister and whoever else it was, most women aren't working to "be fulfilled" or because they are evil, selfish critters, or because the feminists have brainwashed them into thinking it will make them happy, or because they hate babies or whatever. Most women work for the same reason most men work, you idiots: because they need the money.

Here's an idea: Why don't the two of you get a job one time, earn yourselves few bucks, and buy yourselves a clue?

Just a suggestion, mind you.

Yer all Big Liberals Over There!

Not that many of us aren't liberal, here at the university -- but we aren't, in fact, all liberals; and those of us who are liberal aren't liberal because we're sheep, you know. We're liberal because we've read widely and deeply and have thought about things, have evaluate ideas and have decided to be liberals.

Others of us -- like the guy in the office next to mine, for instance, who runs the campus rifle club, and some of the folks over in economics and a few in History -- have read widely and deeply and have thought about things, have evaluate ideas and have decided to be conservative, or libertarian, or socialist, or whatever.

But the folks at American Enterprise Institute aren't, of course, much interested in what's actually happening on campuses in America. They're interested in what they can sell. And George Will, among others, is perfectly happy to help them sell it, citing their study in his column in the Washington Post recently, (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15606-2004Nov26.html) as well as agreeing with Lakoff, the guy who thinks we just need more professors on campus who favor two-parent families (because, you know, most of us liberals hate two-parent families) and think non-Western literature is crap.

But here's a rebuttal of their flawed study that does an excellent job of showing exactly why George Will is an idiot for buying this soap job:
( http://www.prospect.org/print-friendly/print/V13/23/plissner-m.html)

Well, he's not an idiot. I shouldn't say that. He's a patsy. He wants to believe that the Evil Liberals are Taking Over the Universities.

So he's happy to read a study that confirms his Worldview.

Now why he wants to believe that, I don't know.

Maybe because it makes him feel better about his memories of all the professors he was not smarter than in school? Maybe because he feels inferior about his relative lack of graduate degrees?

Who knows. Whatever it is, it doesn't excuse this sort of sloppy thinking.

Hey, You Voted for Him

Remember how proud he was of all that Pell Grant money he had given out, so that all those lucky duckies who had lost their jobs to outsourcing, or you know, whatever, could go back to community colleges and retrain to be, well, surgical techs (and make six bucks an hour)?

Now that King George II is in, and doesn't have to worry about getting your smelly little vote, you can wave bye-bye to that money:


Color me really shocked.

More Fun from Georgia

So a high school principal in Georgia -- yep, the same Georgia where they're putting stickers on the textbooks advising their high school students that evolution (or evil-ution, as they like to pronounce it here in Arkansas) is "just a theory" -- got on the intercom and read his students what he thought was a very clever poem (what I guess he thought was a poem) which no doubt his minister or his brother in law the deacon or some other buddy emailed him. Then he was all surprised when a number of parents objected. Here's the link to the news story (http://www.grandforks.com/mld/grandforks/news/state/10299352.htm)

This school-prayer crowd puzzles me. First off, their own guy was against public prayer. Says so right there in their own text -- Matthew 6:6: "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Not: "Get you to a a public school, and gather ye round a flagpole, and pray ye in public for the edification of the unbelievers, verily, with much outcry ye shall do it!"

Second, and more importantly, there are no rules against praying in public schools. Little Wyatt can pray all he wants in school (though he can't obstruct the hallways while he's doing it). Sallie Mae can read her little New Testament to her heart's content (so long as she's not doing it during biology class). What can't happen is the Principal of the school, being a paid agent of the state, cannot lead the school in prayer, or organize a Bible session that has as its aim leading people to Christ: because if he did that, then he would be, as an agent of the state, endorsing a particular religion: saying that that religion was the true and correct one.

Christians obviously would not want him doing that if he were, say, a Wiccan, or a Muslim, or a Jew -- teaching their children to pray to, say, Allah, now, would they?

Why can they not see that those of us who don't worship Mr. Jesus would not want our children being forced to pray to their God?

Well, because they don't see us as real, actual people, of course. I do know that. It just really makes me nuts at times.

Anyway, here's the text of the poem our obtuse principal in Georgia read, which the urban legend site Snopes(
ttp://www.snopes.com/language/document/newpray.htm )can give you the history of:


Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.

If Scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.

Our hair can be purple,
orange or green,
That's no offense;
it's a freedom scene.

The law is specific,
the law is precise.
Prayers spoken aloud
are a serious vice.

For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate,
God's name is prohibited by the state.

We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They've outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.

We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the 'unwed daddy,' our Senior King.
It's "inappropriate" to teach right from wrong,
We're taught that such "judgments" do not belong.

We can get our condoms and birth controls,
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.

It's scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school's a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot; My soul please take!

(Among other things
, it's offensive because it's such a REALLY bad poem!)

Monday, November 29, 2004

Flea over at One Good Thing (http://buggydoo.blogspot.com) has some thoughts on Mr. Falwell's little joke about the National Order of Witches( http://mediamatters.org/items/200411230011).

She's also designed some teeshirts to go with his joke. Cool teeshirts, much cooler than his joke, and she's donating 10% of the profits to NOW (the actual NOW), so I think we all ought to go buy some, especially those of us who know wiccans:


And even those who don't and who just really don't like Falwell and his ilk.

They'll make great Winterfair, Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Solstice gifts.

Go and buy!

Just a Theory

Here's a link for those of you in Cobb County, Georgia, and certain counties in Kansas and Wisconsin and Utah and other fine places in these United States where local school boards have decided that kiddies ought to be made aware that evolution is, after all, just a theory. (It's Cobb County, as I recall, that is compelling schools to put stickers on their science books saying that evolution is just a theory. Other places are doing other charming things. )

Anyway, here's the link, for those of you who would like to fight back:


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

More Fine News

And more fine news: Christian Pharmacists who won’t give women birth control pills because, you know, Jesus wants them to have babies. And states that have made such behavior legal.


And of course this is no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to the Right-to-Lifers.
From the article:

“We have always understood that the battles about abortion were just the tip of a larger ideological iceberg, and that it's really birth control that they're after also," says Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood (news - web sites) Federation of America.

"The explosion in the number of legislative initiatives and the number of individuals who are just saying, 'We're not going to fill that prescription for you because we don't believe in it' is astonishing," she said.”

True Knowledge

So I take the kid to Aikido last night.

As I mentioned previously, it's been a rough week. In fact, it's been a rough month. We've not been making it to Aikido much. But we made it last night. The kid's dojo has three sensei, and the senior one was teaching last night, the one I like best; and most importantly of all, the idiot woman who spends the whole time talking on the cell to her idiot relatives was not there, so I could get some serious reading done during class time -- but I didn't.

Because it was nice to just sit in the balcony over the dojo and watch the five to seven year olds in the giant dojo in their tiny ghis doing their Aikido stances and rolls and throws while the giant sensei treated them so seriously and the rain pounded down outside and just be there then for while and not have to be anywhere else.

Then the sensei said something I liked*: he said, "When you have the black belt, only then are you really ready to learn."

All the kids in this class, of course, just have white belts. (The very first belt in Aikido.) Don't know if they knew what he meant.

But I did. It's exactly what Socrates meant when he went around Athens telling people he didn't know a goddamn thing, and what Jesus meant when he said you had to be like a child if you wanted to get to heaven and what the Chinese meant when they said when you reach the foot of the mountain more mountains appear and what I mean when I tell my students that having a Ph.D. only means you know how much there is to find out.

Or -- as my best professor in graduate school taught me, one cold November day sort of like this one -- the best attitude for anyone, when confronted with the knowledge that he or she does not understand something, is that of the Zen student: "I approach you seeking knowledge."

It's an attitude more of us out here in America need to adopt, I'm thinking.

*Actually he said several cool things, another one being that sensei, which I had always thought meant teacher, actually means one who goes before. It was an enlightening evening, altogether.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Well, this http://www.andrewsullivan.com/ clears a lot of things up: Apparently Andrew Sullivan has sleep apnea.

"This is what early morning is like? The sleep study was fascinating. They basically stick electrodes all over your head and body, connect them to a little forest of wires, put you in a strange room, fix a remote camera directly on you and then tell you ... to go to sleep. Thank God for Ambien. And then half-way through the night, the nurse comes in and puts this big mask over your nose and mouth. The mask blows a steady stream of air into your nasal passages and throat, and they can regulate the pressure remotely, depending on how your readings are. It really wasn't that uncomfortable. And I have no idea what my readings were or what my diagnosis is. The nurse isn't allowed to say. But he did hint that if I didn't have sleep apnea, he wouldn't be putting a mask on me at 1 am."

For those of you who aren't familiar with sleep apnea, it's a condition where the victim stops breathing at night, sometimes for hundreds of times a night, depriving the brain of both oxygen and deep sleep. It can cause deep grogginess during the day, along with impaired thinking and judgment.

So there you go.

Maybe we should get other Republican males in for sleep studies right quick?

The World According to Us

One of my students brought me this:


Be Fruitful and Multiply, You Sinner!

As Pandagon (http://www.pandagon.net/ ) points out, the “moral outrage” of this article is just comical. (http://www.gender-news.com/other.php?id=23)

Of people who don’t want to have children, this writer claims: “That worldview is sick, but more and more common,” and “Christians must recognize that this rebellion against parenthood represents nothing less than an absolute revolt against God's design,” and “[w]illful barrenness and chosen childlessness must be named as moral rebellion.”

I could get angry at the Far Right Christians for their hatred of gays and feminists. But now they’re going after people who chose not to have kids? That’s their new target? People who don’t want pre-schoolers? People who would rather have a pair of pugs than six or seven babies? This is a sin now?

Well, yes. Apparently in Far Right land it is.

I’m laughing now. Let’s hope in a year or two we all still will be. Let’s hope, in other word, this isn’t the harbinger of what’s to come.

Because we are getting quite a lot of “birth control is abortion noise” out there on the fringe. Add that to this “people who don’t want kids are sinners” noise and we start to end up in a scary place.

No shock here

Bush thinks women should have more options when it comes to reproductive choice – that’s what he said in the second debate. So why is his team taking them away?

From today’s NYTimes:

“Tucked into the $388 billion budget measure just approved by the House and Senate is a sweeping provision that has nothing to do with the task Congress had at hand - providing money for the government. In essence, it tells health care companies, hospitals and insurance companies they are free to ignore Roe v. Wade and state and local laws and regulations currently on the books to make certain that women's access to reproductive health services includes access to abortion.”

I’m being disingenuous here, of course. I know he doesn’t think women should have more options. And I know exactly what his team is up to. Fewer choices for women, not more.

Moving the clock on women’s rights back.

And, as Mouse Words (http://mousewords.blogspot.com/2004/11/under-guise-of-protecting-family-we.html#comments) and Infinite Stitch (http://stitch.blogs.com/the_infinite_stitch/2004/11/gop_we_want_mor.html#comments), among others, have pointed out, trying to cram every family in America into the same Fundamentalist mold –

And why?

Because the Christian Right (or, more specifically, I suspect, certain Christian Right White Males) are terrified of the Other – of anyone who is not precisely, exactly like them.

Unfortunately, as reading their websites makes clear, this includes their own wives, daughters, and minor children.

It’s the same terror that caused the Victorians to build the workhouses, the same phobia that makes certain Right Wing politicians babble about orphanages and welfare mothers having crack babies, it’s never pretty, and it’s totally irrational, and it really shouldn’t be shaping our public policy.

Monday, November 22, 2004


I've been having a really bad week.

Not the worst week ever, mind you. Plenty of people are having worse ones. So I shouldn't whine. And I won't. But it's why I haven't been posting.

Here's a joke -- the only thing that made me laugh all week -- sent to me by my Republican brother. Thanks, brother!

So this guy is driving through D.C. and it's a really bad traffid jam. He's at a dead stop for like an hour, hour and a half. Finally a traffic cop comes by, and the guy rolls down his window.

"What's up, officer?"

"Oh," the cop says, "the President's outside the White House, threatening to douse himself with gasoline, set himself on fire. He's all depressed 'cause no one will believe him about why the tax cuts aren't working and why the war in Iraq is costing so much and why the deficit is so big...so we're taking up a collection."

"Oh, yeah?" says the driver. "How much you got so far?"

"About four gallons," says the cop. "But lots of people are still siphoning."

Monday, November 15, 2004

God talks to George

Or tries to anyway...


Which also explains a lot of things....

The Great Society

Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite blogs, Bitch, Ph.D.

It’s what I’ve always wanted to say, in detail, to all those folk who like to say, so sweetly, “The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats believe in taking handouts from society and Republicans believe in standing on your own two feet.”

Professor B. takes them on in detail, explaining why they’re wrong, in detail (which they are, of course – not about that being the difference: wrong about anyone in this country, or any country, standing on his own two feet), and goes on to explain why it’s a good thing that we have a functioning society (d’oh, I know, but you would be surprised how many people need that explained to them).

This is just a bit of the post; go read the whole thing.

[A mother] needs laws about rat poison so that if the bakery has had rats in the dumpster and has put poison out in the alley (which, you know, safe enough, because no one eats things they find in an alley) and someone walks through the alley and tracks some rat poison onto the sidewalk and the kid drops her cookie and then picks it back up and takes a bite while the mom is putting the cake in the car, the cookie will taste nasty and the kid will spit it back out. So, I think we do all depend on other people, and we are part of the larger society, even if we're pretty independent. And I, for one, don't like the idea of kids dying of massive internal bleeding, and I'm willing to have maybe one quarter of one cent of my annual tax dollar go to whatever regulation gets put in place to make rat poison taste bad. ( http://bitchphd.blogspot.com/)

Why Christians Can't Read

One thing that has constantly puzzled me about Far-Right Republican Christians is how they can call themselves Christians and then live as they live, and act as they act.

That is, given that they are meant to be followers of Christ, an interesting fellow who is famous for saying such things as “Sell all you have, give it to the poor, and follow me,” and “If someone steals your coat, give him your shirt too,” and “You cannot serve both God and wealth,” and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” and “Judge not lest ye also be judge," where do they get off driving Hummers, and get all snotty about welfare, and supporting the death penality, and bombing the hell out of Iraq?

Well, Steve Almond has an essay that attempts to explain what he thinks might be up, and he’s pretty convincing:

It’s (a) the salad bar approach to the Bible that these Church Christians are so famous for – by which I mean, they haven’t actually read their own text (as usual, which is how one of them, as quoted on The Poor Man (http://www.thepoorman.net/archives/003489.html) a few days ago, could think that the Bible says “to thine own self be true,” as well as how my students, every semester, fall for my little joke, “As it says in the Bible, “God helps him who helps himself.”)

And it’s (b) misreading, because Christians –Fundamentalist Christians, at least -- can’t read. And why can’t they read? Because they can’t think. And why can’t they think? Because their culture actively discourages independent, critical thought.

First off, from infancy, they are taught to obey authority instantly and unquestioningly*;

Second, a main tenet of their religion is the surrender of their free will to someone else’s – God’s, in the ideal sense, but often, in the real sense, to that of some preacher or commanding officer;

And finally, their main institution, the fundamentalist church, is actively opposed to critical thinking, and makes no bones about it. The reasons behind this are transparent: their text and tenets will not stand up to critical, empirical challenge, and they know it.

In any case, read this article by Steve Almond. It’s interesting and enlightening:


It also, if Almond is right, explains a great deal that is apparently contradictory about the Religious Right.

Doesn’t do us any good, mind you. We’re still stuck with them. But you know me and my fierce belief in the enlightenment doctrine: the first step in fixing something is figuring out how it works.

* As in this example from the charming site, “The Loving Art of Spanking,” about why you should beat your child into submission for thinking for herself: “If my six year old daughter is told to bring all the dishes off the table into the kitchen and she brings all but the water glasses, that is not obedience, however promptly it was carried out. She may figure someone else should help her. She may decide it would be handy to leave the glasses so they are available for the next meal. She may think a lot of things to justify herself, but 90% obedience is disobedience” (http://www.patriarch.com/spanking.html).

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sorry Everybody

In case you haven't seen it already:


Freeing Iraq

This is from the site Picasso Dreams: from an interview with a soldier from Iraq.

Former Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey: “As far as I’m concerned, the real war did not begin until they saw us murdering innocent civilians,” he said. “I mean, they were witnessing their loved ones being murdered by US Marines. It’s kind of hard to tell someone that they are being liberated when they just saw their child shot or lost their husband or grandmother.”

And it’s exactly what I’m talking about.

And all the folk who voted for Bush because he’s a stand-up guy who has liberated those Iraqi citizens need to go take a look at some of the photographs of those dead Iraqi kids and those dead Iraqi brothers and mothers and husbands and tell me just how liberated they think those people feel right now. (Photographs available at http://fallujapictures.blogspot.com/)

Or grateful they think their families feel right now either.

Here's something I'm buying

To celebrate the new era we have moved into:


Solutions to World Problems

Whales are dying of cancer, the Bush administration is changing the rules so that the EPA can “be free to approve pesticides without consulting wildlife agencies to determine if the chemical might harm plants and animals protected by the Endangered Species Act”
( http://www.acsonline.org/issues/conservationRpts/Conservation0409.html)
Global warming is killing the krill in the ocean (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23913-2004Nov3.html), which I don’t have to tell you folks who aren’t of the Jesus-Can-Mend-The-World-He-Doesn't-Need-Our-Help camp is extremely bad news, and this guy?

This guy thinks the whole problem is we just don’t have enough conservative professors in the universities.


Cause, you know, if we just had more professors who believes in two parent families teaching in the women studies programs – or more people opposed to affirmative action teaching in the sociology programs – or more people who thought non-European literature was crap teaching in the literature programs – why, we’d have no problems at all!

And why don’t we have more conservatives on campus?

Rank discrimination!

Liberal hiring committees won’t hire conservatives! That’s why!

It’s got nothing to do with them being refusing to learn the texts in their field! It’s got nothing to do with them being jerks! It’s got nothing to do with them being (for example, to speak for a particular conservative on this particular campus) offensively sexist.

Heavens no. Must be discriminatory hiring practices on the part of liberals.

Maybe we should start an affirmative action program or something.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Braking for Grief

I took my kid to the dentist yesterday.

And she was an excellent dentist, let me say that up front. I was could not have been more impressed with this dentist. The kid went in terrified and came out eager to go back next Thursday and get her next filling. The kid never had a moment’s anxiety and suffered very little pain – this despite getting her first root canal, at age six.

(Did I mention Fort Smith has no fluoride in its water? Because that would be, you know, government interference in our lives or a huge tax burden or something – hell, I don’t know. We’ve been brushing and flossing and feeding her fluoridated water from Wal-Mart, but apparently it’s not enough.)

Anyway: what I started to say. She’s an excellent dentist, but she is, like all dentists in Fort Smith, a fundamentalist Christian.

Why every single dentist in Fort Smith is a fundamentalist Christian I cannot tell you. Maybe it’s just demographics. But they are. They pipe Christian music into their waiting room, they have little Jesus wallpaper designs, the dental technicians have conversations about how they’ll choose their new homes by prayer: “We’ll live where the Lord leads us,” one said to the other was she was working on the kid’s jaw yesterday.

What got me, though, what got to me, was how celebratory they were about Falluja.

They were acting like it was some football game.

They were giggly and cheerful and all hi-fiving each other, and I’m trying to gain some perspective and say, okay, all right, maybe they’re just thinking this means our guys get to come home sooner – but I just can’t get my head to the place where you could call yourself a follower of Christ and still think it would be okay to say Yay, yippee, we’re killing a whole bunch of people, we’re burning people alive, we’re slaughtering folks, hee hee, it’s great.

And then there’s Mr. Falwell, who says we should call on Jesus himself to bless it:


(Via Infinite Stitch, who is doing her usual brilliant work: http://stitch.blogs.com/the_infinite_stitch/)

I’ve decided I want to get myself a bumper sticker made: WARNING: I BRAKE FOR GRIEF.

Because I’m going to need it, living in this country over the next four years.

Monday, November 08, 2004

This Just In

W is for Women My Ass

According to an email I just got, George Junior is appointing Dr. David Hager to:

“Head up the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA)
Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee.
The committee has not met for more than two years,
during which time its charter lapsed.
As a result, the Bush Administration is tasked with
filling all eleven positions with new members. "

The email goes on to say:

"This position does not require Congressional approval. The FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs
Advisory Committee makes crucial decisions on matters relating to drugs used in
the practice of obstetrics, gynecology and related specialties, including hormone therapy,
contraception, treatment for infertility, and medical alternatives to surgical procedures
for sterilization and pregnancy termination."

You’ll remember Dr. Hager as the author of the thrilling book As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now.

He’s the pro-life OB/GYN who is famous for refusing to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women, and for suggesting to women suffering from PMS that they should pray their symptoms away. He also believes the birth control pill is abortion: which, technically, it is, since it keeps the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

This is a key point, btw, folks. Because if you think the religious right is going to stop at overturning Roe V Wade, you need to take a look at this guy. He believes the Pill causes abortions.

You know what else, under this definition, causes abortions? Do you know what else, in other words, if this guy and his ilk, had his way, would be illegal?

IUDs. Depo shots. Any kind of birth control that relies on hormones. Any kind of birth control that relies on keeping a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb.

What sort of birth control does that leave? Condoms. Which fail something like 80% of the time. Abstinence. Which fails something like 50% of the time. And sterilization. Which works, but is, very often, a one-way road.

This is the sort of guy George Junior is putting in charge of women’s health. Women’s choices. This is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been expecting.

If you’re as worried about it as I am, let him know: e-mail to president@whitehouse.gov

Not that he’ll listen, mind you.

Faith-Based Folks

I spent Saturday doing community service at the Montessori school, raking leaves and picking up trash*, in lovely November weather, sunny and cold, and I’m feeling better now.

Here’s what I had been thinking: that it was hopeless. Junior had been elected by Faith-based voters. Being that they were Faith-based, we were doomed. Faith-based electors do not learn from experience – they can’t. They are not like empirical-thinkers.

You and I – that is, if you are, like I am, dedicated to the enlightenment doctrine and the empirical world – you and I believe that we should base our decisions on this world here, on what happens here.

That is, we should watch what happens in this world here, base our conclusions on what is happening here, and change our behavior accordingly.

To take a specific example: sex education. Right now two kinds of sex education are being taught in most public education systems: abstinence-only and abstinence-based.

Abstinence-only (the kind the Fundamentalists insist is the only kind we should use) teaches only about abstinence. The only thing it has to say about contraception – at all – is that it doesn’t work. (That’s right. It doesn’t work, ever: that’s what these classes tell kids. That’s all the teachers in these classes are allowed to tell kids.) This is the sort of sex-education that gets taught in Texas and most other Southern states – except in Arkansas, let me hastily add, where we teach no sex education at all, nor any driver’s ed either, which is why we have such a high death rate among our teens. I get ten or fifteen essays a semester about How My Best Friend Died On the Highway, and of course half my students have babies.

Abstinence-based sex-education, on the other hand, stresses that abstinence is the best way to go about it, and gives the student all the reasons why having sex before marriage is a really bad idea, but then goes on to teach the student about the various forms of contraception, how to obtain them, how to use them, and what they will and won’t do.

Guess which form of sex-education works best at prevent the spread of STDs and results in a lower rate of abortion and teen pregnancy?

Better than that, guess which method results in children have their first sexual encounter at a later age?

But faith-based folk aren’t interested in looking at the data that show that abstinence-based sex education works better than abstinence-only. They also aren’t interested in the evidence that shows that the abortion rates have gone up during George Junior’s presidency.

They are only interested in the knowledge, which they already have, that sex before marriage is wrong, that contraception is wrong, and that the only way to teach sex education, therefore, is to tell people that.

How do they know these two things? Through revealed knowledge.

These folk know what they know because Jesus Told Them So.

It’s on their bumper stickers – go check.

“God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

Except, of course, none of them actually have a clue what God said – none of them have actually read the Bible. That’s why they think the Bible think abortion is wrong, when there isn’t a word in the Bible about abortion. (Just for fun, here's for citations on that: http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_bibl.htm) That’s also why they think Jesus is for capital punishment and killing Iraqis – all those verses in the Sermon on the Mount about slaughtering your enemies and killing those who had done wrong to you.

No, they don’t have a clue what’s actually in their text. (Which, by the way, actually does require them to pay attention empirical evidence. Check out Matthew 7.20: by their fruits you shall know them. Jesus actually did require them to be empirical thinkers. But of course that's way too hard.)

So what they are substituting for God’s revealed knowledge is Some Guy’s revealed knowledge – Some Guy – usually their preacher, or, in this case, George Junior himself, assures them that he has the Word from God, and –

They believe it. That settles it.

No further data needed.

Who cares if abstinence actually does have a failure rate – if, that is, kids turn out, surprise, surprise, to be not very good at not having sex?

Who cares if giving tax cuts to the rich turns out not to stimulate the economy?

Who cares if global warming actually does turn out to be happening?

Who cares if dumping mercury into the ecosystem actually does turn out to have a really bad effect on our children?

Who cares if two or three companies owning all the media systems in the United States has a really bad effect on free speech in this country?

Who cares if the Patriot Act smashes our civil liberties?

Who cares if destroying a woman’s access to education, family planning, and economic independence virtually guarantees her children will suffer a higher rate of poverty?

George said it would be fine. They believe it. That settles it.

In which case nothing that happens over the next four years – or the next forty – is going to make any difference.

In which case my beautiful little daughter, who is so brilliant it would make your eyes sting, who knew the words mythological and excessive and persuasive when she was three years old (and the word fuck, too, okay, I admit it), who’s a little Aikido warrior and wants to be either a paleontologist or mama or an English professor or a snowball maker, is heading straight for an American Taliban.

This is all what I had been thinking on Friday.

But on Saturday I cheered up a little.

Because the Revealed-Knowledge thinkers aren’t all of the 51% of American voters who elected this faith-based president. (And I do think he is a revealed-knowledge, faith-based operator, and I do think that is exactly what’s wrong with him, and anyone who has voted for him thinking he’s anything else needs a bitch-slap, in my humble opinion.) I think, probably, I was speculating, hopefully, well, probably, no more than 15 to 20% of his base is made up of that sort of thinker.

Anyway, that’s what I was wistfully hoping, on Saturday, raking leaves.

It made me feel better then.

*Speaking of which, what is up with littering these days? When I was a kid, it was one of the seven deadly sins. These days people thinking nothing of it. I saw a student on campus last week toss an empty soda can on the ground five feet from a trash can. And when another student called her on it, she sneered and said, “That’s why I pay for groundskeepers.” I also see kids at the local parks throwing their candy wrappers on the ground: their parents don’t say a word to them. I blame Republicans. Specifically, the Ann Coulter type of Republican, who believe that God gave them the Earth not to take care of, but to rape. Coulter’s exact quote: "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'"---Hannity & Colmes, 6/20/01.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Dealing with the Disaster

So you know the classic stages of dealing with disaster – denial, bargaining, anger, despair, acceptance?

I was in denial briefly. Went around telling everyone Wednesday morning that it wasn’t over yet, even though I knew it was.

Skipped bargaining entirely. Skipped anger entirely.

Can’t seem to get out of despair.

The thing is, it’s not Kerry that lost on Tuesday. It’s the Enlightenment Doctrine. The Wingers didn’t vote against the Left. They voted against Empiricism. They voted against science. They voted against humanism.

They want Theism. They want revealed knowledge. They want Jesus Land. (See this link for the only thing that has made me truly laugh in the past two days http://kenlayne.com/2004/11/jesusland.html .)

And Bush has no plans for uniting this country. He’s making that clear already. Flush with vindication, he’s charging ahead. What’s left for us on the left? You know, the people who think that the truth is something you find through reason and actual education, that the best cure for bad speech is more speech, and that fixing things is better than bombing the hell out of them?

I don’t know. Keep talking. The best cure for bad speech is more speech. Keep teaching. The truth will set us free. If he is wrong – and he is wrong – don’t we have to trust that everyone will see that eventually?

I suppose we just have to hope that there will be enough of our country left when Bushco is done with it for it to matter. Maybe there will be. It doesn’t look good at the moment.

I’m still in despair, mind you, so don’t mind me.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Noah's Flood

Here’s some more of what we have to look forward to under the Bush Theocracy.

The National Parks Service is being compelled, by the Bush Administration, to sell a book called The Grand Canyon: A Different View, by Tom Vail, which explains “how the park’s central feature developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale.” It’s a bit of creationist propaganda, which claims that “the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces.”

The NPS does not want to sell this book, has objected (http://www.peer.org/press/524.html) to being forced to do so, and points out, rightly, that selling this sort of anti-intellectual claptrap runs contrary to its mission – its mission being to increase the scientific knowledge of its visitors.

Bushco’s response? Tough noogie.

Because this document does not run contrary to Bushco’s mission. Which is not a mission to Mars, or to advance knowledge, or to educate children, or to make life better in America, or any other soft soap Bushco has been peddling these past few years.

Theocracy. That’s what Bushco is after.

And you can't have theocracy without an ignorant populace, now can you?

Trying for Silver Linings

Trying to look for bright sides, here in Arkansas, and not having much luck.

Like: Bush can only have four more years.

Like: At least now we don’t have to watch the Wingers go after Kerry like rabid weasels for the next eight years.

Like: At least the train wreck that’s coming will be all their fault.

None of this cheers me up.

My fellow liberal professor, who is pregnant and therefore cannot self-medicate, went home last night to watch the West Wing and pretend that the world was sane; I went home and drank a great deal of beer and watched The Day After Tomorrow. Began laughing savagely at the moment when the Winger VP looked into the camera and said, “I was wrong.”

Like that would ever happen.

Because you know when the train wreck comes – and I hope I am wrong about this, I hope that somehow we avoid the wreck the Wingers are doing everything they can to bring about – but you know when it does come, not a single damn one of them will step up to the plate and admit that they made a mistake, that they brought it on, that they caused it to happen.

No. Hell no. It’ll be like this deficit, like these lost jobs, like 9-11, like the quagmire of Iraq.
It’ll all be someone else’s fault. It’ll be because the silly liberals are all traitors. It'll be because gays are sleeping together, because feminists are working outside the home, because schools are teaching evolution. It’ll be God’s will.

It’ll be any damn thing except that George Bush and the people George Bush put in power and the people half of this nation voted for, for “moral” reasons, did not do their jobs right.

Because, you know, they can’t be wrong. Can they?

Not when God is telling them what to do.

Could someone mail me some Xanax please? Like, you know, a boatload full?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Raining in Fort Smith

It's cold and rainy here.

On NPR this morning, the caster said, in a very chipper voice, that people exiting the polls said they were voting for Bush for "moral" reasons.

No doubt that's true, so long as you're defining "moral" as "xenophobia," "homophobia," "war-mongering," and extreme hatred of those who don't act like you. Here in Arkansas, for instance, we voted for the amendment against gay marriage by a margain of something like 70% -- because, you know, letting gay people marry is so immoral.

It's a democracy, though. It's what we signed up for. In a democracy, you get exactly the kind of government, exactly the kind of society, you deserve. No better, no worse.

No wonder I'm having chest pains this morning.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Those of you living with small people have to go check out this blog:


Monday, November 01, 2004

Halloween Blues

My kid and I went out trick-or-treating last night, with the other liberal professor and her tree-hugging child. My kid was a ballerina-cat (her idea -- I was for the ballerina-vampire that had been her first idea, just because it would have been, you know, funny -- people would have said, "Oh, how sweet, a ballerina!" and then she could have LUNGED at them with her fangs) and our little fellow tree-hugger was a cute skunk.

Anyway, we had some fellow tricksters, but not many. The fundies might be winning, here in the rusty buckle of the belt. Or it might have been the rain. My kid did tell me about the kids in her class at school who weren't going trick-or-treating. "Kate's mama says it's not okay with God," the kid informed me.

Which really annoys me. Halloween, as it existed previous to the fundies getting their nasty paws on it, had nothing to do with religion. It was just a nice little holiday, a night when kids got to wear costumes, eat candy, stay up late, run the streets. There was no God involved. There was no demon worship either. No animal sacrifice. Yes, some ghosts. Yes, some witch costumes. Even a demon costume or two. None of that was real. No one but a total idiot would even think it was real.

Here's a newspaper article (http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/nation/ny-ushall314025609oct31,0,6896352.story?coll=ny-nationalnews-headlines ) with more details -- note that the article claims Wiccans are also opposed to Halloween, because of how witches are currently represented, but that this is, according to my sources, not the case. According to my sources, no Wiccan has ever, in fact, objected to schools celebrating Halloween -- it's only Christians objecting. (Any Wiccans out there with alternate information? Let me know!)

Anyway, the fundies are messing up the one perfectly good non-religious holiday in our whole pantheon of holidays, and, frankly, it's pissing me off. They've already co-opted all the other holidays. Would it have killed them to leave this one alone?

Sex In The Actual World

Mouse Words talks about sex over here ( http://mousewords.blogspot.com/2004/11/apology-and-many-many-thoughts.html#comments ) and does an excellent job -- sex ed and modern sexual relationships and other important things. Go have a look.