Thursday, June 30, 2005

Shut It Down

For more information on how you can help, contact The Center for Constitutional Rights

Am I Ready?

Rob Brezsny tells me that this is my horoscope for this week:

Taurus (April 20-May 20)
This is the one of the shortest horoscopes I have ever written for you. That's because there is just one simple message, which you should take to heart in a hundred ways. Are you ready? Trust yourself as you have never trusted yourself before. Trust your perceptions, your feelings, and your body. Trust your bratty whims, your weird longings, and your momentary lapses. Trust your urge to merge, your itch to bitch, and your yearning to learn. Trust your ability to know exactly how to trust.

So, as I get my commitment letter from the bank on the house I've just bought, finish up the edits to a manuscript to a novel that will be on an agent's desk by the end of July, prepare to teach a course this fall that I've never taught before, the question is, am I ready? I am.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


I've issued an invitation to all bloggers Declaration of Independence here. If you're interested, check it out.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Sovereign Nation vs. Rogue Nation

I've held off on commenting on the "we know where Bin Laden is" stories that official organ of the Bush administrationTime magazine is touting in its interview with CIA Director Porter Goss. This is the same administration that has had "excellent ideas" where to find just about everything. Problem is, in order to have excellent ideas, they have to be based on reality, and this administration is a little reality-challenged.

The director of the CIA says he has an "excellent idea" where Osama bin Laden is hiding, but that the United States' respect for sovereign nations makes it more difficult to capture the al-Qaida chief.

But this quotation in the lastest news snippet made me spit coffee on my keyboard. We have respect for sovereign nations? Really?

I think this may be one of those semantics problems. A "sovereign nation" is one that allows us to "extraordinary rendition" our human rights issues, takes our money and allows us to place our bases there, or, in general, accepts our current administration's definition of emissions standards, human rights, or science. "Rogue nations" are those who give us the finger. If Bin Laden was hiding in a rogue nation, we'd be invading in a New York minute.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Leaves Me Cold

My daughter will tell you that every time I hear something that even remotely resembles Coldplay, or one of the myriad Coldplay wannabe bands on the radio, I hit the "scan" button. This article gave meaning to my aversion.
Imagine if the biggest rock band in the United States was fronted by someone who looked and sounded just like George W. Bush. Worse, by someone who was from the same social caste as Bush and who thought that everything Bush does is "BRILLIANT." So BRILLIANT, in fact, that said rock star offered Bush his cell number with an invitation for him to call if he ever felt like chatting about world poverty, or world peace, or fancied being taught how to play a mean F-chord on guitar. You would think that was weird, right? Especially if you associate rock with rebellion -- with the guitar-smashing antics of the Who or the anarchic shenanigans of the Sex Pistols -- and not with schoolgirlish sucking up to the biggest Boss Man of all.

You want to listen to real rock? Check out Sleater-Kinney.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sex With Jeff

Jeff has a damn good post on sex education today over at CultureKitchen. You've all heard me blah-blah-blah on this one. I'm deferring to Jeff today.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Are You FUCKING kidding me?

(I apologize in advance for the profanity-laden rant. But this stuff makes me nuts.)
More from the department of making shit up:

In one of those moments when the NYT decided to provide free advertising to the Heritage Foundation, it prominently features the following from one of our favourite right-wing thinktanks:

Studies Rebut Earlier Report on Pledges of Virginity


Challenging earlier findings, two studies from the Heritage Foundation reported yesterday that young people who took virginity pledges had lower rates of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases and engaged in fewer risky sexual behaviors.

The new findings were based on the same national survey used by earlier studies and conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. But the authors of the new study used different methods of statistical analysis from those in an earlier one that was widely publicized, making direct comparisons difficult.

Independent experts called the new findings provocative, but criticized the Heritage team's analysis as flawed and lacking the statistical evidence to back its conclusions. The new findings have not been submitted to a journal for publication, an author said. The independent experts who reviewed the study said the findings were unlikely to be published in their present form.

Okay. Say this with me now. Manipulating the data to make it look like the truth is still considered LYING. (And I still believe that bearing false witness is a big no-no. But what do I know? I'm an unethical atheist.)

Now that certain people have decided that science can be interpreted any damn way you please, and thus, there is TOO scientific proof for Intelligent Design, apparently, you can take a survey and change the data just a little tiny bit and get whole different results. Who'd a thunk?

So, even though the original study was published in a vetted journal, and this one is not going to be published in a journal, doesn't make this one any less legitimate, right?

Those studies that came out of Texas that showed higher rates of pregnancy among the kids who'd taken abstinence-only education courses must have been bullshit, no?

The team needs to do "a lot of work" on its paper, said David Landry, a senior research associate at the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York. He said in an interview that it was "a glaring error" to use the result of a statistical test at a 0.10 level of significance when journals generally use a lower and more rigorous level of 0.05.

.10 or .05, what's the big diff? Sheesh.

I figure there's going to be lots of explaining to do soon. See, if these kids are not having sex, how are they going to explain those pregnancies? Hmmm. That virgin birth story worked once before....

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Remains of the Day

Copyright: Mark D. Beazley, BigToePhotography

These two photographs are taken from Roosevelt Island, on the East River in the middle of NYC. Roosevelt Island was formerly known as Blackwell Island, and it used to house an insane asylum, a smallpox hospital, and a women's prison. Emma Goldman spent time in that prison. These are photographs of what remains of the smallpox hospital. There are more photos over at Mark's site. Please check them out.

BlackwellRoosevelt Island

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Menstruating She Devils

Menstruating She Devils is making its way into the world. Come on over and see what we're up to.

This amazing image is by the incomparable Tild.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Why Feminism is NOT just a woman’s issue

One of the most disheartening things for those of us who consider ourselves feminists is the sense that it has become a ghetto term; the Right was successful in labeling us as man-hating FemiNazis (or, as one recent Dkos poster referred to us: “menstruating she-devils”), when the irony is that feminism is the bedrock of progressive politics. Feminism links the private with the political, interrogates how restrictions on personal behaviour echoes out to national policy, and understands gender not as “sex,” but as power—who has it, who wants it, and how those in power get to portray those who do not.

The discussions of the personal, which could be categorized constitutionally as those things covered under the "right to privacy," principally things such as abortion and gay civil rights, have come up repeatedly as the things that people are willing to throw overboard in order to save the Democratic party. But I would urge no surrender on any of this.

Maybe you think that abortion and gay marriage don't matter. Maybe you think they're things we're distracting ourselves with. But my argument, nay, my plea, would be for us as progressives to consider the personal issues as political issues and realize that if we take away anyone's right to privacy, eventually, we will lose our own.

We need to reclaim the body. If we claim the body, then we are able to say categorically that torture, capital punishment, sexual repression, gender inequality, are not part of the progressive agenda. If we claim the right to privacy, we are able to say that illegal search and seizure, religious indoctrination in schools, public prayer, refusal to sell Plan B, abstinence-only education—all of these things—are not acceptable. If we claim gender as power differential, we are able to see how the sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners is tied into notions of dominance—the same notions of dominance that will be used against all of us.

And it’s gender studies that have allowed us to see these things. Gender as defined by Joan Scott:
Scott’s definition of gender has two parts and several subsets; they are interrelated but analytically distinct. Her definition rests on two propositions:
1. gender is a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes;
2. gender is a primary way of signifying relationships of power.

Riane Eisler had this to say about the personal as political and our reluctance as progressives to discuss it:

Today, it's regressive fundamentalists, not progressives, who are more comfortable talking about the personal as political. They, not progressives, dominate the debate over "private" life and "family values."

Yet family relations directly influence what people consider normal and moral in all relations -- public as well as private. We must challenge the reactionary, increasingly fundamentalist "traditional family values" agenda. We cannot build a healthy democracy on a foundation of authoritarianism and intolerance -- in the home and outside it."

Family relations affect how people think and act. They affect how people vote and govern, and whether the policies they support are just and genuinely democratic or violent and oppressive.

Slogans like "traditional values" often mask a family "morality" suited to undemocratic, rigidly male-dominated, chronically violent cultures. They market a "traditional family" where women are subordinate and economically dependent, where fathers make the rules and severely punish disobedience -- the kind of family that prepares people to defer to "strong" leaders who brook no dissent and use force to impose their will.

How can we expect people raised in authoritarian families -- where men are ranked over women and children learn that any questioning of belief and authority will be punished -- to vote for leaders whose policies promote justice, equality, democracy, mutual respect and nonviolence?

It's not coincidental that for regressive fundamentalists -- whether Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Muslim -- the only moral family is one that models top-down rankings of domination ultimately backed up by fear and force. It's not coincidental that the 9/11 terrorists came from families where women and children are terrorized into submission.

You do not have to be a woman to recognize that gender and feminism are inextricably tied to the progressive agenda. You do not have to be a woman to recognize that when progressive males start shitting on so-called women’s issues, they are missing the point. If you do not understand how power works, how it is rooted in the binary oppositions that we ascribe to the sexes, then you will continue to focus on saving one tree while the entire forest is being razed.

Kos and Pie

I never had a problem with the pie ad. I think the reason  is that I've become so used to living in a society that equates women with their bodies that I literally didn't see it.

I also had the experience of posting on CultureKitchen about issues of choice and having an anti-choice company place banner ads with my diary. Liza Sabater figured out very quickly that the more people who clicked through to the site, the more CultureKitchen made, which would allow her to continue to pay for the space that allowed she and I to post our views on the very issue of abortion, among others. So, sometimes, you wind up making money off people in this world who are doing their damndest to defeat you. I kinda liked that.

But, the response from Kos to the pie ad has caused me to opt out of the DailyKos community. As someone who writes primarily about the connection between the personal and the political, I have no choice but to be a feminist. I care about gender issues, sexuality issues, surveillance issues, sex education issues, marriage issues, etc., etc., etc. And what bothers me more than anything about the tone of the debate is that CERTAIN (not all) heterosexual males don't seem to get that what they deem women's issues or gay issues are one step away from being their issues. Anyone rememeber Neimoller's famous quotation?

I have also been called a whore for writing about sexual issues as explicitly as I do, so I can hardly be considered a sexless harridan. I love certain men. I want to live in a world where no one has to contest their rights as human beings because of gender or sexuality.

I know that some people don't understand why some of us are so fucking angry at Kos right now that we can't see straight.

It's not about the fucking ad. It's about the fact that those of us who think that there will be no politics to fight about if we don't protect the right to privacy have been told repeatedly that our issues don't matter. That we should be patient, get in line, wait our turn.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

I got tagged

And because I'm afraid of bad blogging karma, I'm going to respond.

Your favorite band/artist:
1. Peter Gabriel
2. Tori Amos
3. Patty Griffin
4. Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service

Your hobbies/interests:
1. Writing
2. Reading
3. Pop culture
4. Gardening

Things that scare you:
1. Heights
2. Deep Water
3. Christian Fundamentalists
4. George W. Bush

Your favorite fiction writers:
1. Margaret Atwood
2. Umberto Eco
3. Karen Novak
4. Russell Banks

Your three celebrity crushes:
1. Clive Owen
2. Mariska Hargitay
3. Jonathan Poneman

What you are wearing right now:
1. Teva sandals
2. Backless, sleeveless summer dress
3. nothing
4. nada

What you want in a relationship:
1. Emotional availability
2. Compassion
3. Intelligence
4. Wit

Your everyday essentials:
1. Coffee
2. Blogging
3. Writing
4. My daughters

Your drugs of choice:
1. various prescriptions

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sleeping in the Forest

Sleeping in the Forest by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

"I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately,  to front only the essential facts of life,  and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,  and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Henry David Thoreau

I have just returned from a full week of seclusion. I went to the Catskills, checked into a motel along the banks of a river, and spent seven days in my own company. During that time, I had no access to the Internet, nor to my cell phone. A few friends knew where I was; they called me intermittently on the motel phone. I saw people every day when I went for my meals; I chatted with the people who lived in the small town where I was, and one night, I even drove down to Manhattan for a date, but for the most part, I wrote, I hiked, and I read. Alone.

What I want to talk about is solitude.

May Sarton once said that loneliness was the absence of the other but solitude was the company of the self. I've just experienced that. It's not the first time in my life that I've enjoyed a period of time alone and not been frightened by it, but it's taken me a long time to reach a point where the idea of going off by myself, without a companion, does not fill me with dread.

Loneliness is a terrible sensation. The absence of others opens up before us like the maws of hell; and the desolation of isolation feels like being hugged by the ice-cold arms of death itself. Perhaps the fear of being alone is the fear of death; it's the one journey that we must take alone. There will be no one there to accompany us, and the struggle against that feeling drives many of us to behaviours that are ultimately harmful, even if the things we do seem to be staving off loneliness at the time.

My week away was amazing. Its purpose was to finish my novel, which, I'm happy to report, I did. The novel is done. After some revisions, it will be ready to shop around for possible publication. But I didn't write for publication. I wrote to communicate, to set free the ideas in my head, to give parts of myself voice. Ironically, I did this while being quiet.

While I'm engaging in a solipsistic recitation of a week spent alone, I'm aware of a few things that I think are relevant to my politics. One of them is that my ability to go into the woods for a week is a privilege. The motel was incredibly inexpensive, but still, a week in a motel is not cheap. If I had camped, I would have needed equipment; my point being that a week in the wilderness these days is only for the privileged classes who can afford to get away from it all, or the everyday life of the rural poor who call those areas their home. Economically disadvantaged, I assume that they are able to enjoy the natural beauty that those of us trapped in urban and suburban sprawl long for.

I could tell you about the experience of my hikes into the wilderness every day. Of how I never saw another human being; of the pair of eagles that flew just over my head; of the newborn fawn, still wet from his mother's body; the snakes I nearly stepped on; the mother grouse that feigned not being able to fly in order to lead me away from her nest; of the multitude of wildflowers in the woods. There. I guess I have told you. But really? I hope you get to experience some facet of this yourself.

The other thing that was reiterated to me by my trip is the sense that if only we could make peace with isolation, with solitude, and not feel the panic of loneliness, our politics would benefit. The need for company, for relationships, can lead to issues of domination and control and cruelty and abuse. Yes. Relationships are powerful and can be fulfilling and lovely. But our fear of being alone can drive us to do cruel things to keep some people near. It works its way up the chain of our relationships, so that our politics becomes a macrocosm of crying, grasping need. Of pure want. Of suffering.

I walked in a local graveyard. There were too many children's graves there. Some of them were recent; in a town as small as it was, there seemed to be too many adolescents and children in the ground. There was also something stunning: carved into the side of the cemetery, overlooking the river, was a huge granite memorial with Chinese inscriptions and carvings of Chinese ancestors. The only sensation that I can use to describe this monument and its setting, the absolute peace that I felt when I sat in the middle of it with the sun kissing my face and the breeze off the river keeping me cool, is perfection. Quiet perfection.

There is no point to this diary. It is a simple acknowledgement on my part of the power of this community; of how, having returned from being away, I wanted to make contact again. Of how grateful I am for all of this. Of how much gratitude I have for both community and solitude.

So, I'm grateful to be back. Grateful to be alive. And eventually, I'll read all the news I missed for the week and re-immerse myself in the politics before us. But I'll carry the wilderness with me, just as I carried this community with me into the woods.