Friday, March 31, 2006

Excuse me, but what the fuck?

Yeah, I thought my nice little pictures post would get me through the day without having to deal with any bullshit. But I just now saw this little item... Before I get to it, let's build a little frame to stick it in. Maybe frame it in terms of... oh, I don't know, perhaps the kid who dies of hunger-related causes every 5 seconds or so, or the people in largely Catholic southern Louisiana who lost everything in the hurricane and are still stuck in a FEMA trailer park in Arkansas, or perhaps in terms of the parishes declaring bankruptcy after paying out damages to all the kids their resident predatory priests molested... got that frame all ready? Good

The pope wears Prada. Regular old popely shoes and vestments won't do for Benedict. Nosirree. Nor, apparently, will off-the-rack Prada. He wears custom-made red Prada loafers under his custom-made
vestments and tops off the ensemble with Gucci shades.

Let's review. While the majority of the faithful have lived in squalor,
popes have lived in opulence, piling up gold, jewels, and priceless artwork in the Vatican while local priests have relentlessly passed the collection plate, sometimes twice per mass, and demanded the extra seasonal donations expected of the parishioners. The rank and file have always sort of shrugged this off, probably because thinking about it too hard creates too much cognitive dissonance (once you get that Jesus <> pope train rolling, it's awful hard to stop it before being dragged clean out of the Roman tradition and into apostasy). Some popes make a play at humility, whether it's John XXIII's pro-vernacular, pro-laity activism, or John Paull II's kissing the ground at every airport, or perhaps the genuine humbleness of JPI and whatever that would have panned out to be, had he lived... but then along comes Ratzinger, who may be the most arrogant pope in living memory, taking the opulence of the Vatican to new heights.

I suppose it's appropriate in this era of the biggest wage gaps ever between the CEO and the broom-pushers. But the pope fucking wears custom Prada. Check out these shoes. They're $638 off the rack, and they're not even red. How much more for the custom fit and, I assume, exemplary customer service that probably goes along with being a rather big name? A thousand bucks, probably? What was it that Jesus H. Christ guy said about selling all your possessions and giving the money to the poor if you want to be his follower?

I wonder if a Franciscan will ever get the big goofy hat. I would love to see that. A pope who wears a burlap habit and knocks around in Birkenstocks and sells every scrap of gold and rubies the Vatican has and uses the money to build housing for the poor and run AIDS-prevention programs that actually involve condoms.

God, my fantasy world is a happy little place.

So, instead, we have a main guy who does the Prada and Gucci thing and gets special robes made--oh, I'm sorry, did I say "robes?" Try
dazzling new vestments (some with shimmering, sequinlike details).
Yeeeeeeaaaaaaah. Dazzling. sequins. Big ol' self-loathing homos are such a drag.

Friday Pix

I'm listening to the censure resolution hearings, throwing up a little bit in my mouth every few minutes. Biggest winner so far, according to the Expert Panel of Me, is Bruce Fein (paraphrased): If the president can do anything he wants by invoking Article 2, then he can open our mail tomorrow in violation of the law so long as he says it's for surveillance. He can break and enter into our homes in violation of the law if he says it's for surveillance. There is no possible check on his powers if Article 2 continues to be construed as a free pass to do whatever the fuck he wants. The degree of sycophancy being exhibited (huffily, I may add) by Orrin Hatch and Arlen Specter is just amazing. Hatch sees no evidence whatsoever that W acted outside the law. Well, I guess that settles that. Next.

The kid had his last soccer practice of the season last night, way out in the boonies on the east side, in the shadows of the Catalinas. I understand why people like to live out there; not every square inch of desert has been built up and paved over yet. From there, the mountains aren't just anonymous silhouettes on the horizon. You can see the depth of the foothills and can make out the rock formations and individual saguaros marching up the slope. I walked out into the desert and took some pictures in the waning light.

Coyotes were starting t
o yip and cottontails were venturing out cautiously. I saw a few thrashers, mockingbirds, and doves, along with a single vermillion flycatcher that wouldn't hold still long enough for a photo, and a western cardinal chirruping from the top of a cactus.

Lots of cholla out here, including teddy bear, buckhorn, and chainfruit. This chainfruit glowed nicely in the backlight from the setting sun.

Even the creosote was lovely.

This is one of the taller saguaros I found, pocked with holes from flickers and woodpeckers. The saguaro grows a protective lining around the internal cavities created by the birds (called a "boot"). Usually not a big deal for the cactus...

...although it was apparently an issue for this particular one. Here's a view through the internal passageways exposed when the outside of the saguaro fell off.

All in all, a lovely way to almost-finish the week.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Random Wednesday

Some thoughts, in no particular order...

Scalia won't recuse himself from cases involving the right of captured enemy combatants to trial. He said:
"War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts," he says on a tape of the talk reviewed by Newsweek. "Give me a break."
Hum. I would point out that it's also never been the case that we've been capturing combatants (or at least taking custody of people turned in to receive a bounty who may not be actual combatants) in the course of an open-ended war declared on a concept, but I suppose that's splitting hairs. How do we maintain the moral high ground, again, when we keep men detained for years without access to counsel or even a declaration of their specific crimes, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time? There are surely some bloodthirsty bastards languishing in Gitmo. I suspect there are plenty more innocent guys who are there only because of shit-ass bad luck.

More from South Dakota, courtesy of Rep. Roger Hunt, main sposor of The Bill (thanks to this dKos diary):
Hunt notes that the bill forbids doctors from prescribing any drug or doing any procedure on a pregnant woman “with the specific intent” of ending a pregnancy. It also protects the right of women to use “ a contraceptive measure, drug or chemical, if it is administered prior to the time when a pregnancy could be determined through conventional medical testing…”

In other words, a woman presenting herself to an emergency room immediately after a rape, Hunt says, would be able to use emergency contraception; the trick is that she has to do within the first few days after the assault, before any test can determine whether she was pregnant in the first place. The lawmakers concluded that it’s OK for a rape victim to have an abortion, so long as she doesn’t know for certain that she’s doing it.

Well, okay, Rog. You just lost your cred for having repulsive but consistent logic. Before, you and your ilk were on rock-solid ground when you said all abortions are murder, regardless of the circumstances of conception, and thus prohibited. But now, we have to consider the extreme anti-choice position that because pregnancy begins at conception (as opposed to the mainstream medical view that pregnancy begins at implantation), emergency contraception preventing implantation thus is equivalent to abortion. You're saying that kind of abortion is okay if the woman doesn't know she's pregnant. So if she's raped and "impregnated," that is, if sperm manages to crash into egg and the woman goes straight away to the ER and has an "abortion," that is, she's administered enough birth-control meds to flush the uterine lining, well, that's okay.

That's where you lose any moral legitimacy you're trying to claim. By your own biologically shoddy definition, you're allowing the abortion of a rape-induced pregnancy so long as the procedure occurs within a timeframe you've so very tightly and arbitrarily defined.

If abortion is okay under those circumstances, it has to be okay under all circumstances of rape.

Maybe Roger thinks he's carved out the unassailable loophole that his conscience was surely nagging him for. All he's done is expose the uncomfortable (for the religious right) reality that people really don't like the idea of a woman being forced to carry and deliver her rapist's child. Maybe he thinks the window-of-ignorance exemption gives him a free pass because of course every woman who's raped by a stranger or coerced by an abusive boyfriend or husband marches straight to the emergency room, announces she's been raped, and is promptly administered the pill. And of course every minor girl who's raped by her father or grandfather or uncle does the same thing. Straightaway. Within a day or two. They all make it to hospitals staffed by doctors who don't put personal religious beliefs ahead of their patients' welfare.

Then they go home to find what the tooth fairy left under their pillows, with a side trip to pick up the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Another little gem from Roger Dodger:

Hunt says, once more citing the findings of the task force, “she may be dealing with a lot of pressure, from family, boyfriend, husband. We have a situation in which the woman may be getting so much pressure she’s not thinking clearly.” The doctor, on the other hand, “should be operating in a calm and collected manner, have identified all the risks to the woman; he’s counseling the woman. We think its appropriate to place a greater burden upon the doctor.”
The doctor is to blame for an abortion because unwillingly pregnant woman do not think clearly. Because she's not thinking clearly, she should not be given the option to elect an abortion. Apparently pregnant women are only considered to be capable of clear, independent thought when they decide to keep the baby. Lovely.

In happier news, the women's NCAA tournament had several barn-burners in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games. We are particularly enamored of Ivory Latta. Mainly because we are short and scrappy ourselves. The men's side of the tournament has been too cool this year, with seedings thrown out the window. A large commuter school with an on-campus population of only 5,000 has tossed the big boys aside with aplomb, although we were sorry to see our Tarheels go down to them. Anyway, go George Mason.

Monday, March 27, 2006


I'm not liking the stories out of Iraq, the accusations and--occasionally--officially confirmed instances of atrocities by American troops. The marines who lose a man to a roadside bomb and retaliate by murdering a family of 15 inside their house. Soldiers who tie the hands of another family and shoot 11 of them dead. It's inevitable, really, given enough combat patrols in a situation with zero security where the bad guys are either long gone by the time the bomb goes off or melt into the crowd immediately after, where there will still be guys defiant enough or just ignorant enough, after all this time, to still drive up to the checkpoint without stopping, to walk into the perimeter without stopping, to brandish an AK in the general direction of a jumpy marine.

The guys over there, "on the ground," to borrow one of W's favorite phrases, are increasingly pissed off with every day. Rules of engagement change. The reason for being there changes. Some are connected enough with the outside world to understand the futilty of their mission. A whole assload still think they're deployed because Saddam sent the jets into the World Trade Center. They don't know where the next IED is going to explode, or when the next guy on a motorcycle is going to lob a grenade in their direction. They're surrounded by carnage and a whole lot of people who hate them. Put a 19-year-old with a red state high school education behind a machine gun in that situation and see how long it takes before he decides opening up on a crowd of people is the best option.

Funny how the outrage has a different flavor, at least for me, when the innocent family dies because a jet targeted their house with a Hellfire missle by mistake instead of dying because a marine fire team wanted revenge for a buddy's death. Both are deplorable, and the inaccurate airstrikes have surely caused more unjustified deaths in the past three years than individual soldiers breaking the rules of war. But it's more direct, more visceral, when the death is dealt up close and personal. We can almost excuse it, or at least pretend we understand it, when a pilot flying at 10,000 feet pushes a button that sends a missle to a target determined by somebody else and it mistakenly slams into the wrong house. When the al Quaeda cell meeting turns out to be a wedding reception instead--oops!--we feel more anger, but still absolve the pilot who can't even see what he's shooting at but follows radioed coordinates.

It's damn hard to absolve the soldiers who stare at their victims as they put a double-tap into their heads. I will never claim to understand combat and the split-second decisions that are made under fire. I don't question much that happens in the kill zone when our guys are the targets and they go on the autopilot provided by all their training so they can get themselves and their squadmates out alive. I even cut a lot of slack to guys like the marine who shot the wounded Iraqi who had been left unattended by another patrol--where there's no security, erring on the side of staying alive is a given. But the new stuff? It's damn hard to support these guys, no matter what led to them taking down the house, walking in, handcuffing the people (including the kids), and shooting them.

The vaunted "commanders on the ground" W lionizes must be aware of what is happening to their units' morale and discipline. Their failure to aggressively investigate and punish war criminals can only lead to more and more instances of abuse and murder. Want to put it in lofty terms? They're compromising the mission by allowing this atmosphere to fester. Three years and we have come up with no solution for the IED problem. The randomness of those fucking things, taking brilliant, conscientous, well-trained veteran soldiers along with cherries straight out of AIT who are twitching to kill theyselves some A-rabs, is maddening. Hell, if I were over there I'd have lost it by now too. We owe our guys more than simply tossing them into this cauldron where the situation and our non-adaptiveness virtually ensure they're eventually going to sink to the level of the monsters we're supposed to be fighting.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Wicked Good Fun

Do we all remember Bill Napoli, the South Dakota state senator whose creepily-detailed fantasy of the Christian virgin rape victim made us all, to borrow an apt bit of language from the author of the above-linked article, want to scrub our eyeballs with bleach after reading it? Good. Now go read this cartoon and do what you will.

I wrote my letter to Cecilia Fire Thunder this morning and tucked a small check inside, basically all I can afford given that this is the mortgage-payment paycheck today. I notice that the "pro-life" people have picked up on this and are encouraging people to send their own letters to the same address, so we need to step it up before the post office in Pine Ridge explodes from the overload.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Ah, the wonder of the internet, or at least of the internet-usin' progressive population: sit tight for 24 hours and some kind soul with more time than you and a functioning PC will find the info you need. Forthwith, if you want to support President Fire Thunder's proposed Planned Parenthood clinic on the Pine Ridge Reservation, send a check to:

Oglala Sioux Tribe
ATTN: President Fire Thunder, P. O. Box 2070
Pine Ridge, SD 57770

OR (and this may be preferred, due to mail volume):

Oglala Sioux Tribe
Martin, SD 57751

Make checks out to OST Planned Parenthood Cecelia Fire Thunder.

And at this point I'll continue the willy-nilly linking. More information about Fire Thunder is available via this excellent diary on dKos.

I am stoked about this. Seeing a woman stand up in the midst of the hopelessness that has been the legacy of US Indian policies, hopelessness compounded by the machinations of the state legislature in Pierre, is beyond inspiring. Ian Frazier's excellent On The Rez, which details the recent history and social climate of Pine Ridge, devotes a considerable amount of space to SuAnne Big Crow, a Pine Ridge girl who was a remarkable human being. Star athlete, good student, concerned with spreading peace and hope among the kids who saw none. She died in a car wreck at a young age; some commented that she was the spirit of White Buffalo Calf Woman returned to give hope to her people. Maybe Cecilia Fire Thunder is picking up that mantle now. Even if the legal details won't allow a rez PP clinic to offer services to non-Lakota, what a wonderful bit of defiance, of grabbing back a bit of the power and self-determination the state legislature has tried to rip away.

Yup, there are plenty of causes out there, plenty of opportunities to do the right thing. God knows there are wrongs needing righted in my own back yard. I do what I can there, in the yard, but this one feels worth venturing farther afield for. Uh, I've sent care packages to the troops too, so I'm not totally parochial in my search for needy causes.

And no, I'm not hoping to do a pony trek through the Black Hills someday on a vision quest in order to be adopted by a Lakota band, got no desire to dangle by the danglies in the sun dance. This simply kicked open the file folder in my brain where I keep everything I've read about the tribe and their uphill slog against history. I don't know much about persecution personally, but my Irish genes have enough of a memory for me to gleefully shout Up the Lakota, and Up Fire Thunder.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Yip Yip Yip

W held a press conference yesterday, in which he exhibited the biggest case of the yips I've seen since the last time I was puttin' for bird with a dollar riding on the hole. The camera frequently could not keep up with his side-to-side bobbing and weaving behind the lectern, he laughed nervously throughout, and at several points appeared to be hyperventilating. Some commentators remarked on his oddly dilated pupils as further evidence that he was hopped up on something, but I only watched the internet feed on my brightness-challenged monitor and couldn't make them out.

Highlights included his lecturing Helen Thomas about how "9/11 changed everything".... again... and claiming he never wanted to go to war ::cough choke:: and two very interesting asides, almost, that he muttered at the end of some convoluted syntax passing as answers to questions: "I'm stalling for time here," and my favorite, "They're telling me what to say." I have never seen him look so discomfited; perhaps more than one handler at a time was screaming through his earpiece.

But the most chilling moment for me was when he was asked about withdrawing our forces from Iraq. He said that's going to be up to future presidents to deal with. Nothing like shitting on the floor and then breezing out of the room, leaving your mess for the next poor fucker who walks in--and I'd wager my left nut, had I a left nut to wager, that he's going to then disparage that next poor fucker for not cleaning up the mess quickly enough, or cleanly enough, or with enough of a lingering fresh scent.

In other news, finally something ::gasp:: positive to report from South Dakota. The new president of the Oglala Sioux tribe is a woman named Cecilia Fire Thunder, who has spent her adult life working to end the abuse of women and children on the Pine Ridge Reservation and to fight alcoholism in the community. She's righteously pissed that a group of white guys in Pierre have decided to take away the last avenue of self-determination available to a woman who's raped--which happens to Lakota women at a rate three times higher than among the white population--and has declared she'll open her own damn Planned Parenthood clinic within the sovereign nation of the Pine Ridge Reservation, where state laws can't touch it. The first couple Google passes haven't turned up reliable contact information for Ms. Fire Thunder's office, so my project in the next couple of days will be figuring out how serious she is about this initiative and how you, my faithful readership of seven, might be able to contribute.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


For whatever reason, as I drove to work this morning I found myself thinking of an old friend, Allen M., who I was pretty tight with through middle school and high school. We lived in vaguely similar circumstances; his dad had died when Allen was six or seven, and my folks split up at about the same time and I moved with my mom a couple hundred miles away to northern Indiana, and so didn't see my dad much. We went to a private school with kids from affluent families, although we ourselves came from modest means at best and relied on generous financial aid. Then we graduated from the same high school and both of our mothers relocated to places away from South Bend--mine to Dallas, his to Indianapolis--ensuring that, while we might come back to visit friends on breaks from school, we wouldn't really be able to come home again.

I saw him a couple of times during college--I went to Northwestern, he went to Purdue--at friends' houses over the summer. He always seemed a little tight, a little uncomfortable, not rooted. College ended, grad school came and went, and I never saw him again. I always scanned the news 'n' notes section of the grammar and high school alumni newsletters but there was never any mention of him, and when the class reunions rolled around he was always on the list of alumni the committee was seeking contact information for. I finally zabasearched him--o wicked, wicked tool--and found that he's living back in South Bend, not too far from the neighborhood where he grew up. I guess he finally made it back. I wonder what he's doing, if he's happy there, now that all the people we hung with in high school are living in Chicago or other places far away. I wonder if he feels like he's home.

When my own mom left South Bend I floundered for a while. I was a freshman in college fielding the usual triumvirate of questions (what's your name, where are you from, what's your major?), quickly tiring of trying to rapid-fire answer I more or less grew up in South Bend but my mom just moved to Dallas and my dad still lives in downstate Illinois and I guess that's where I'm really from now. I went back to the Bend
a few times with another friend from high school who lived in a Northwestern dorm across the street from mine, but it was always very strange trying to square the familiarity of "home" with the knowledge that I didn't actually have a home of my own there any more. So I eventually embraced my roots Downstate, the small central Illinois town where my father, both sets of grandparents, assorted second cousins, and generations of family friends lived, the place where I had spent all my holidays and summer vacations as a kid. After grad school I spent a couple of years trying to get back there, but the jobs never panned out and I wound up in Arizona instead, and most of the family ended up moving away from the small town anyway..

A blizzard is rolling across central Illinois this morning. I can picture the snow and hear the muffled crunch of car tires rolling up the gravel driveway my dad and grandparents shared before Dad moved away and Grandpa died. I wonder if the storm will make it to northern Indiana and snow on Allen before petering out.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Three Years and a Day

Yesterday was the three-year anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. I'm somewhat ashamed to say I didn't think about it much, as I was busy freezing my ass off in the rain and sleet (!) watching my son play in the last soccer tournament of the year. I wore my brother's boonie hat all day, one he had in Baghdad, staff sergeant's stripes sewn on the front, but I didn't think much about the war.

When it started I was in day two of convalescing at home from a severe concussion sustained on the soccer field thanks to the forearm of a 20-year-old Air Force punkass, so I guess there was some circuitousness to it after all. I don't remember much about that week other than watching the war on CNN and obsessively working jigsaw puzzles, both hour after hour without coming up for air. The jigsaw puzzle thing was, I think, my brain's way of re-wiring vital connections. I've always been very visual, with a near-photographic memory, and it seems like the pattern recognition skills have been sharper since The Incident, probably due to 8+ hours of puzzles a day, even as words still completely vanish from my brain mid-sentence. The war coverage came through a haze, the fog in my brain making the spectre of live coverage from imbedded reporters under fire even more surreal. The 82nd Airborne parachuting into Baghdad through night vision goggles. The 1st Cavalry charging through the desert. Explosions. The statue coming down. The Iraqi Information Minister. Was Jessica Lynch in there somewhere, or did that come later?

Three years and hundreds of thousands of ruined lives later and even the diehard conservatives are beginning to question why. But a sizeable chunk of the population still doesn't get it. I live a couple of blocks from a recruiting office, so I drove past the competing anti- and pro-war rallies on Sunday. Each group had people I would like to throttle. Anti-war? Yes, yes I am. But to the anti-war guy holding the sign saying "Support brave Iraqis defending their homes," I would like to say, fuckyouverymuch, but planting roadside bombs ain't ever brave. Standing in your doorway with an AK-47 is brave. Of course, it's also suicidal when done in the faces of jittery, angry paratroopers. But "support" people who plant IEDs that kill American soldiers and Iraqi civilians with impunity, regardless of mission or motivation? Sorry, pal. Can't sign on to that. And on the other side of Speedway, to the guy holding the sign saying "Osama loves leftists": I think you have the wrong war. The invasion of Afghanistan? I'm all over it. But it's doomed to failure because resources were pulled away from the difficult hide-and-seek with Osama to the assured "slam-dunk" of Iraq and its promises of flags and flowers at our feet. Besides, given our penchant for rolling around naked with people we're not married to, as well as for not being Muslim, I doubt Osama has much affection for us either.

I think we took some measure of national pride, in the first couple of years, that we weren't acting like it was Vietnam, instead applauding the returning soldiers and marines when we saw them coming through the airport, giving them parades and welcome home rallies. We need to get out, now, while we can still do those things, before the cumulative deteriorating conditions and morale and conflicting mission statements inevitably breed more atrocities than can be brushed aside as isolated incidents, before the mounting civilian death toll from errant missles and bad intelligence makes us start blaming the triggerman equally with the brass issuing the orders.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Grianghraf An Teaghlaigh

That's Gaelic for "family pictures," sort of. Slainte agus saoghal agat on this St. Patrick's Day.

I have not even scanned the papers for the fresh horror of the day, but instead, being inspired by Homer's pictures of old family dishes, forthwith, some old family material culture of my own.

This is my great great grandmother's teapot. I'm realizing now that I don't know her first name, as my grandma always just called her Grandma Keller. Come to think of it, she doens't really talk about her grandmother much; her grandfather (John Alfred Shad Keller, Esq., J.D. from Ohio State, thankyouverymuch) seems to occupy a much higher pedestal in her personal pantheon. Anyway, this is the unnamed wife's teapot, which had sat on a small sideboard in my grandparents' formal sitting room for as long as I can remember. My uncle and I always carped about who was going to get it, since we both wanted it. When I visited over the summer Grandma wrapped it up in some flannel sheet scraps and put it in my hands. Ha ha!

Here is another object of childhood fascination, a wooden box filled with teeny tiny dominoes, each about the size of a half-stick of Trident gum. I have no idea who it belonged to, but I always liked it.

And this is a gaggle of cast iron toys that belonged to various dead ancestors in their childhoods. They have been on the shelf in the entry hall forever, dutifully taken down and scooted around on the floor at every family gathering before we headed up to attic to play with the actual fun toys our dad and uncles had when they were kids.

The attic closets were treasure troves of fun. That's where the old Carrom board was, and the tattered board games like Uncle Wiggly (dug it!) and Pirate and Traveler (dug it so much I nabbed it to take to college with me!) and some game involving nested rings you rotated to drop marbles from the outermost to innermost rings (don't remember the name, but totally dug it!). What the hell was that one called? This is going to bug me now. There was also a set of ceramic dog figurines that I liked to take out and arrange by breed and size (apparently preparing me for my career of arranging prehistoric spear and arrow points by type and size), and some oversize floor puzzles I put together over and over again as a wee tad.

My favorite games these days are Quiddler, Cranium, Mad Gab, and several different card games. Never learned bridge and don't intend to--why bother with all that ritualistic crap when you can play several hands of euchre in the same amount of time?


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Another Day, Another Step Closer to Theocracy

I'm not even shocked any more. I calmly get out of bed, shower, dress, fix a cup of tea, take a deep breath, and open the paper. If I'm still standing after that, I come into work, grab a cup of high-octane coffee, and open Firefox to see what fresh hell the day brings.

In the Next Logical Step, Missouri seeks to prevent publicly funded health clinics from providing free contraception to low-income women. Let's see what arguments are being trotted out in support of this one:

"If you hand out contraception to single women, we're saying promiscuity is OK as a state, and I am not in support of that," Susan Phillips, R-Kansas City, said in an interview.
Let's see what our expert Panel of Me says to that. Again, this is the tired canard that contraception--or perhaps just the taxpayer-funded version--is only used by promiscuous single women, or somehow causes virtuous virgins to decide they're going to be sluts. Perhaps it has not yet occurred to Rep. Phillips that married women might have a vested interest in obtaining birth control pills. Next.
"State taxpayers should not be required to subsidize activities they believe are immoral or unethical, relating to contraceptives or abortions," said Larry Weber, executive director of the state Catholic Conference.
Hmmm. Is that dependent clause there at the end of his statement the trump card? Should state taxpayers be exempt from supporting all activities they find immoral or unethical--say, executions in the state pen, or the deployment of state National Guard units to Iraq--or is that exemption reserved solely for activities related to reproduction?

Note: In another example of Female Sex in a Vacuum Syndrome, the Daily Star printed a letter this morning from a woman who insists that the pregnant woman has already exercised her freedom of choice; if a woman doesn't want to get pregnant or have a baby, she should choose to not have sex. Period. How refreshing life must be when you remove all those annoying shades of gray and insist on only seeing black and white.

So this is coming from a state that is champing at the bit to follow South Dakota's lead and ban all abortions. Let's see here... no subsidized contraception for low-income women + no abortion for low-income women ==> burgeoning low-income population. Do you think Missouri was happy about the number of people they had on welfare before? They're about to get a lot less happy. Missouri (particularly St. Clair county) has a crap-ass meth problem too. Think the numbers of meth babies might climb a bit, should this legislation be passed? Think anyone in the statehouse has taken a long-range look at this, perhaps planning for what their landscape is going to look like 20 years from now? Hmm? Anyone? Bueller????

Here. If you haven't read ABB yet today, go read this one now. No, right now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Boltgirl Succumbs to the Angst

Good lord, is it even worth dissecting the news on a daily basis, cooking up two or threescore words distilling the latest outrage and a reasonable response thereto? It's pointless. Nothing changes. If you're reading this, you are simply the choir being preached to; I doubt many folks holding views contradictory to mine stick around here for long.

So Russ (saints preserve him) introduces a censure resolution, nothing too out there or off the wall, simply stating that the president knowingly did an end-run around the law with the domestic wiretapping program, and needs to be held accountable for that. He does this in the same week W's approval rating shivers down to the intersection of 35th and Outta Here, which means that not only Dems but Republicans and Greens and Independents and your local prairie dog colony disapprove of the man, so his fellow congressional Democrats... scuttle away from the bright light muttering about not wanting to alienate the fence-sitters before the next election. Not wanting to look partisan, reactionary, and extremist. As if being partisan, reactionary, and extremist has done anything for the Republicans but return them control of all three branches of the government.

Harry Reid, our feckless Minority Leader, said censure was too extreme at this point, because he wants to wait for the investigation of the wiretap program to be completed before determining a course of action. Uh, Senator Reid? ::poke poke:: There is no investigation. The Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to not investigate the program and exactly how badly it shreds the FISA statutes (big thank you going out to "moderate" Republicans Snowe and DeWine on that one; you set my heart all a-flutter!). You are waiting for Godot here. He ain't showing up.

So what's the point? The only guy in the Senate with a conscience leads the charge, only to look over his shoulder to find the rest of the cavalry back in the stables with their feet up, sipping a refreshing beverage, rattling the bunco dice. Hey, fellas? Russ isn't going after windmills here. They're bona fide dragons coming off a vodka-and-habanero-poppers lunch, and since you won't get off your sorry asses we're all going to be toast.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

No, No, It's L Before I, Not I before L...

A colleague tried to send me an e-mail yesterday but it bounced; apparently he tried to send it to the logical address (first initial+last name@my company), but my actual address is (first name@my company). I gave up on including the last name in anything other people need to type themselves a long time ago. It's not a complicated name, just five letters and two syllables, but it's a rather obscure Czech name that's one transposed vowel away from a rather common Spanish name.

Nobody gets it right on the first try unless they're Eastern Europeans in close touch with their roots, or a devotee of a vile Czech plum brandy that no one in the family can stomach, despite being named for the stuff.

After 38+ years, I've grown accustomed to answering to the Spanish version, patiently correcting the pronunciation, spelling it, re-spelling it, re-spelling the Czech version and watching the person write down the Spanish version anyway, gently correcting and re-spelling again. To make matters even more inconvenient, my parents decided to call me by my middle name because it would have sounded funny to have it and my first name switch places.

The first day of class in college was always a treat. The prof would call out (first name)(Spanish version), and I'd raise my hand and respond, "Actually, it's (middle name)(Czech version)." Of course they usually thought I was being a smartass.

It was never really an issue, beyond mild annoyance, until I went to see my doctor last year about getting some allergy meds. She walked into the exam room, plopped down a tray full of instruments designed for a much more invasive bit of poking and prodding than I was expecting, and asked me if I was still taking a near-unpronounceable drug I'd never heard of. She noted my bewildered look, checked her laptop, and confirmed that I did indeed have some weird disorder I wasn't aware of. I asked her to check the spelling of the last name. Turns out she has another patient my age with the same first name and the Spanish version of the last name.

She decided that yes, this might be a problem, and quickly switched all my records to my middle name. I still have to spell the last name a couple times and usually add, "...not (first name)(Spanish version)" and they say ohhhhhh right.

Sometimes I think I should just change it to the Spanish version. I knew several families back in South Bend that decided somewhere along the way that it would just be easier to go through life in America if they chopped the last three or four syllables from their Polish surnames. And so Zakriewicz became Zak, Buckowski became Buck, and Glonicki became Glon. The five Lewandowski brothers who came from Poland after the first War changed to five different surnames: Levan, Leven, Levin, LeeVan, and... Jones. The last guy figured if he was going to change, by God, he was gonna change to an American name. Of course, the families who kept their block-long monikers kinda looked down on the ones who capitulated to the Irish and Germans who had gotten there first and pretended they couldn't figure out that kr means sh and cz means ch. I wouldn't change mine, despite the hassle.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Do you know what I hate? Yeah, well, okay, I do seem to hate an inordinate number of things. But what really sticks in my craw at the moment is financial advisors who condescendingly tell me that I could put plenty of money into my savings account if I'd just lay off the Starbucks every day. That was the first message from the lady who came this morning from the new company taking over our 401(k) managment. Got news for you, sweetheart. I don't go to Starbucks, and I don't manage to scrape together the change to patronize one of my favorite local coffeeshops more than a couple times a month, if that.

She passed around an evaluation form at the end of her presentation. I wrote the comment that she needs to realize that many people in that room today actually do eschew daily luxuries but still live paycheck to paycheck. I sure am glad that my funky, edgy fashion sense virtually requires me to buy all my clothing from thrift stores.

What else do I hate... Ben Stein is up there. His column in the Arizona Republic on Sunday (I had no choice but to read it; I was in the middle of a retiree trailer park in Mesa) tut-tutted at Hollywood's cowardice in continuing to reward PC films like Syriana and Brokeback. This is my favorite bit:

The brave guy in Hollywood will be the one who says that this is a fabulously great country where we treat gays, blacks, and everyone else as equal. The courageous writer in Hollywood will be the one who says the oil companies do their best in a very hostile world to bring us energy cheaply and efficiently and with a minimum of corruption.

Of course, that guy will also be on crack.

I also hate writer's block.

And movies where the dog dies, and Republican sycophants who defend Bush's lawbreaking, and peanut butter that goes rancid before the jar's even half gone.

Did I mention writer's block? I'm sure my editors hate it when I get that too.

It's All So Simple, Really

Let's talk about Tony Snow, shall we? He's a conservative commentator whose column appears once a week in the Tucson morning paper. This little gem about the South Dakota abortion law was printed here on Saturday (the link is to his natural habitat on

Tony seizes on the rape-and-incest exception, noting that the trauma of rape will necessitate a little more lovin' kindness to women forced into gestation and childbirth against their will. He neatly summarizes his contribution to the discussion in this paragraph:

Offer counseling. Provide lavish pre- and post-natal care. Take time to grant them as much support as the state can provide. And prosecute ruthlessly the creeps who violated them. That alone could do as much as anything else to help such mothers get a decent night's sleep.

I'm so glad to hear that the problem can be boiled down to the need for a decent night's sleep, and that simply putting the rapist in jail is all that will be needed to erase the violation and its attendant physical and emotional wounds from the woman's (or girl's) life. Again: this argument is on the same level of "why, if your children are starving, just go to the market and buy them some food!"

I don't wish violence on anyone. I would be very interested, though, to observe Tony Snow after he's been anally raped, to see if the flashbacks and nausea and self-loathing subside the moment the cell doors slam shut behind his rapist. No? They don't? Imagine, on top of that, having an unwanted fetus showing up inside you, growing ever larger, providing unavoidable evidence to everyone you know that you've been raped? Seeing it every morning when you look in the mirror (after you've finished your morning vomit, first from the hormonal changes in your body, and second from the prenatal vitamins you're being compelled to take to ensure the health and vitality of your rapist's child). Having your mobility, physical strength, and general ability to do everyday tasks compromised a little more every day in the last few months of your pregnancy, reminding you of your vulnerability. But hey, baby, we put the creep in jail, so I don't understand why you can't just move on with your life.

In other news, the sky made up for the last 140-odd days of sunshine and very occasional spittle with a 12-hour deluge on Saturday (at least in Phoenix, where I was visiting the grandparents). Going so long without the sound of rain on the roof made it an almost edgy experience as the roar went on hour after hour. I had forgotten the simple pleasure of sitting inside, toasty warm with a mug of hot chocolate, while the cats and dogs do their cold-tailed thing outside. How strange on Sunday to drive back to Tucson and see all the mountains on the eastern horizon covered in white. The Superstitions are much more attractive with a snow shroud, I must say.

Friday, March 10, 2006


My hands are hard. They are cracked and callused, the skin mostly dry, the knuckles scarred from encounters with saw blades, knife blades, rocks, rough wood. I don't mind; my hands aren't for show, not lap dogs to be petted. They are tools, and if they've become hardened it means they don't hurt when I lift weights or move rocks or shovel dirt, if I catch a splinter it doesn't go deep and I can pluck it out without feeling much.

Rough hands are useful. A callused heart? Maybe not so much.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wiggle Room?

I wasn't sure what the South Dakota law now requires of emergency rooms treating rape victims, so I dug around a bit. Apparently it's still okay to get emergency contraception in the first few days following a rape, so long as it's too early for a pregnancy test to be administered. I assume that means standard-issue Plan B is also still an option, provided you can find a sympathetic pharmacist or OB/GYN who will give you a standing prescription to carry in your wallet.

I'm not sure if the "five-to-seven-day window" provision is logically consistent with the rest of that piece of crap law, but I'm not going to think about it too hard. I would still strongly advise anyone who has to travel to or through SD to get a pack of birth control pills from her doc along with instructions on how many to take at once in case of an emergency.

At least the letters in the Rapid City Journal are starting to run about 4:1 against the ban.

In another interesting development, a guy in Michigan is filing suit to get out of paying child support for his ex-girlfriend's daughter, a child he says he never wanted. The argument goes something like this: the woman has three options when she turns up pregnant and 100% of the decision-making power, so why should the male half of the equation be socked with $500 per month when he has no say in the matter?

Hum. My initial reaction to this is to wonder what effect this would have on current abortion rates (assuming no further restrictions or outright bans), should child support become voluntary rather than compulsory. My next thought is to wonder how many men would then actually decide to pay child support instead of claiming, despite what the woman might say, that they never wanted a child and made that perfectly clear before having sex.

The only way to manage the resulting chaos would be requiring signed disclosure and intent forms before any sexual act could take place.

The guy has a point about the lack of male involvement in the decision-making process, which is, of course, exactly the way I as a woman want it to be. The Pennsylvania law requiring married women to inform their husbands before getting an abortion was properly shot down; I can't imagine any court upholding a man's right to dictate that a woman he's not married to either abort or carry to term the embryo he helped create. And since I don't recognize the validity of the "if you didn't want a kid, you should've kept your pants on" argument when it's applied to women, I won't apply it to men. The overriding concern would have to rest on the impossibility of determining intent when judging whether a man should be liable for child support or not.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women's Day

Oh, the delicious irony of International Women's Day falling smack dab in the middle of All This Crap.

All the outrage has been exhausting and borderline debilitating. So I won't rant today, at least not yet. Women. Up with women today. Today, the key women in my family line. Nobody even remotely close to famous, although a couple of them pursued the noble calling of being schoolteachers. In fact, I'm somewhat abashed sitting here, realizing I know very little about any of my female forebears who I didn't actually personally meet. Here are the ones I know:

Mom: Oh, I know her quite well, love her to bits. She's retired now and in the midst of her journey to a more metaphysical plane. She's always had uncanny perceptions, and over the past twenty years or so has increasingly devoted herself to meditation and spiritual matters. She follows a macrobiotic diet and eschews material things, dresses in natural fibers, buys organic. One day she will probably simply evaporate into the ether. I'm not concerned about this; I'll probably have full access to her no matter her physical status.

Mom's mom: She grew up in the Depression, the youngest of five children. Her father was an abusive drunk who killed himself when she was eight. She says that at least he waited to do it until she had left the house to visit an older sister, so she guesses he must have cared about her. Her childhood dream was that a rich man would come to their door and give them the money to buy a big new house full of pretty things. He never showed up, but she did marry my grandfather, a textbook hard-working entrepreneur who eventually secured them a comfortable life in the restaurant business in their small Illinois town. He invested wisely and they have been comfortably retired for a long time. She has her houseful of pretty things, antique tea tiles, cups and saucer collections, Lladro figurines, diamonds on her fingers. She begs me to hire an appraiser when she dies, to find a reputable place to sell her collections, because "your mother will just set them out by the dumpster."

Dad's mom: She grew up quite privileged, the daughter of a highly-placed engineer for Texaco in southern Illinois, in what passed for the oligarchy of the tiny town of Lawrenceville. She was promoted a couple of grades ahead of her classmates, started college at 16, and I believe finished with a Master's in education. She remembers her main competition in the third grade, a boy she could never quite beat in the spelling bees (which pissed her off no end), who went on to be an editor of the Webster's dictionary. She is prodigiously musically talented, coordinating USO shows during the war, and found a career as a high school music teacher. She and my grandfather simply were the music program at the county high school, spearheading cultural development programs for the grade schools and the community college, touching entire generations of kids in the thirty years or so they taught.
You have to understand that this was a couple who had close to 400 kids in their marching band, out of a school of maybe 1200. The town threw a long-weekend party for them in 1988, bringing alumni from nearly every state back to put on concerts, shows, and dances. At 87 she still plays the organ for her church choir.

The ones who came before that I remember sketchily or not at all. I see their pretty, fresh young faces in the pictures my two grandmothers keep on the wall or in boxes, hear snippets of stories, wonder what it was like to get up every morning knowing I had to bake pies and roast chickens to feed the farmhands at noon. I was named for one of them, my mom's mom's mom, the one left widowed by the abusive drunk. She managed to raise the couple of kids left at home and see my grandmother into high school before she died at 48, probably of exhaustion.

So I salute the madwimmin who came before me, both the pistols and the wonder-bread specials, the Dems and Repubs (lord knows we got both), the materialistic and the zen. Hug yer mama today if you have one.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Thru the Looking Glass

The world keeps spinning on and on in this terrifying new course, through the looking glass, everything upside-downer and upside-downer by the day. So many people still don't get it. Mollysavestheday put up this post, soon to be mass-PDFed by people who would offer... necessary services to the women of South Dakota, if necessary.

It's chilling. I can't believe we're talking about this now. I hope it's a slightly overwrought reaction to the abortion ban. I hope a lawsuit will be brought immediately to minimize the damage to the women and girls of that state who, as of now, will be compelled to bring every pregnancy to term, regardless of the circumstances of conception.

There are still so many people... wait, I said that already, didn't I... but I'll fucking say it again and again because I simply cannot wrap my pea-brain around the warped reality they've created for themselves... there are so many people who still don't get it. I have avoided all rightwing blogs on this, but enough of Them are posting comments on the lefty blogs, enough of them are writing letters to the Rapid City newspaper online, to cause me this great consternation. So many people, men and women both, saying that the only "choice" involved was the woman's choice to have sex in the first place. Ignoring, for the moment, the utterly indefensible ignorance of these statements in reference to a law that makes no exception for rape-caused pregnancies, all culpability is placed on the female. The male of the species apparently has no control over his sexual encounters, makes no "choice" of his own,
seemingly reeled in by the tip of his dick by voracious vaginas lurking everywhere.

Damn. Look at me. I've morphed into a flaming demon-possessed feminista. So be it. Continuing...

All of the approbation is placed on the pregnant female, who clearly values her own sexual pleasure above all else. On the selfish, selfish woman who must now be forced to accept responsibility for her actions. Sole responsibility, as if her actions occurred independently of any participation by the sperm donor. One commenter--I believe it was on Molly's post--helpfully pointed out that the only reason ever to engage in sex, of course, is to create a new life. Do people really believe this? Do people exist who honestly believe this crap and rigorously apply it to their own lives? I don't hate men, really, I don't. I hate this mindset that throws up its hands and takes the soft road, the easy way out of an intellectual conundrum, by reducing the entire conversation to the maxim that only the woman gets pregnant, ergo...

In other news, I am sad that I can't go back to South Dakota, like, ever, unless the populace comes out of its haze and votes out every single one of the assholes who supported this law. I'm glad I went to the Black Hills last summer, the only weight on my conscience being my government's extermination and internment of the Lakota and outright theft of their lands. Jesus. Fucking amazing beautiful country tucked away there in the southwest corner of the state. How humbling and awe-inspiring to travel through lands soaked with the blood and heartbreak of tens of thousands of native people who dared to stand in the way of the white man's greed for power.

The county encompassing most of the Pine Ridge reservation is the poorest county in the nation, with upwards of 65% of the population living below the federal poverty limit. Alcoholism claims more than half of the adults; homelessness, unemployment, and the attendant crime rates are through the roof. This is officially a federal problem, to be sure, but it takes place within the geographic boundaries of a state whose governor claims his people value all life and work hard to take care of people who need help. Take a hard look at the amount of hope the state of South Dakota offers to the Lakota languishing on its reservations, and tell me how many scrapings of hope you think are there to be offered to under- or unemployed women who find themselves pregnant and out of options.

Monday, March 06, 2006

And So It Begins? So It Continues...

Great. South Dakota's governor Matt Rounds has signed the execrable bill banning all abortions except to save the woman's life. From the governor's statement:
If we are pro-life, we must recognize the need to take care of women who are faced with a difficult pregnancy. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy, we cannot protect the innocent child, unless we protect and care for the mother. We must help each mother to see the value of the gift that is a child, and nurture the mother for her own sake and for the sake of her child.

Yes. If a woman is raped by a stranger, if a girl is raped by her father, and a pregnancy results, well, hell, our most sacred duty is to get those females to see the blastocyte, the embryo, the fetus, not as an unwanted and unwelcome lifetime souvenir from the most fundamental violation anyone can experience, but as... a gift! Thank you! ThankyouJesus! For this Gift! This gift of a baby I will have to carry to term, deliver, and then raise and nurture for the next eighteen years because some bastard decided to make me the subject of his own personal power play! Yes, because South Dakota is so very concerned about nurturing women and caring for them and their compulsory children. This is sick. This is just completely fucking sick.

Some of the commentary has been unbelievable (if you haven't read Digby's rundown yet, you must, and this from Briopia). So much vitriol directed at hypothetical selfish women who want all the fun of sex but none of the responsibility. The tut-tutting of the righteous who remind women that if they don't want to get pregnant, they should not fuck. They. Should. Not. Fuck.

As if women's sex lives are conducted in a vacuum, perhaps through trips to a vending machine where they pop in a couple of quarters, Sex drops into the slot, and boom, they somehow end up pregnant. When was the last time anyone heard a conservative commentator admonishing men to Not Fuck unless they are prepared to raise the resulting child to adulthood? Hmmm, roughly.... never?

Where on their conveniently disjointed continuum between Virgin (good) and Whore (bad) does the married woman fall? Say, the married woman who already has three or four kids AND a job AND a working husband and cannot afford another child? I don't recall seeing admonishments for married couples to abstain from their Biblically-mandated marital obligations... so if their birth control fails, as can happen, where are they left? Sigh.

What a deliciously black-and-white world that must be to live in. No independent thought required. If you don't want to get pregnant, woman, don't fuck. It's so simple. While you're at it not fucking, if your existing kids are hungry, well, why don't you just go buy them some food? What's that? You don't have enough money to feed them? Well, then, why don't you just demonstrate some industry and go get a job? What? You can't afford child care while you're at work? Well, you should have thought about that before you decided to have sex with your husband. Anyone could have told you he'd leave sooner or later; you should have seen it coming. Stupid bitch. It's all your own fault.

Moribund Monday

God, I'm tired. The latest youth soccer tournament found me refereeing ten games over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday I essentially ran for four straight hours. My aged legs are bitterly complaining this morning. By the numbers:

10 games
2 blown throw-in calls
3 incidents of parent, player, or coach bitching that required a snappy comeback
2 groups of parents (out of 20) that actually just watched the game and supported their kids instead of screaming directions and invective the entire time
1 coach (out of 20) who made a complaining player apologize to the referee, and yelled across the field for a complaining parent to be quiet
5 ibuprofen and 1 naproxen sodium consumed Sunday
1 sip of Gatorade Rain needed to determine that Gatorade Rain is actually vile watered-down Old Spice

I worked at Jacobs Park, where five fields were in play. At one point I wandered from the big fields over to where the 8-year-olds were playing, and it was as if I had just walked across several borders at once into Peru--teeming crowds of very short people, dogs everywhere, trash cans overflowing,
alien smells, bare dirt ground splotched with liquids of dubious origin. I didn't stay long.

In the final analysis, it's clear that virtually all the soccer parents in Tucson are still operating out of the football-basketball model. We grow up watching these games on TV, seeing coaches scream at referees every time a call goes against their teams, hearing the announcers chuckle at the coaches' gamesmanship, noting that there's Coach K again, getting into the ref's ears early, there's Bill Cowher making sure the ref knows he's on top of things today. Basketball coaches stride up and down in the coach's box, constantly shouting instructions, directing play, badgering the players and referees alike. There's the crowd chanting BULLshit, BUUUUUULLshit, at a call against the home team. There's Jim Leyland going toe-to-toe with the umpire, both of them jabbering simultaneous profanities a mile a minute.

It's so deeply ingrained in the American sports psyche, spectator as active participant (Lute Olsen visiting the students waiting in line before the ASU game, asking them to make sure they're loud early, the 12 Man at Texas A&M, the Cameron Fuckin' Crazies), that perhaps it's futile to even hope that people will behave differently when they come watch their 11-year-old kids play a soccer game. It still makes me sad for the kids, though, when Dad stands on the sideline and spends the entire game hollering at his son, his son's teammates, the other team, and the referees in his finest SundaySUNday SUNDAY! roar. When I coached, I enforced a strict sideline conduct policy that pissed off a few of the dads. No one was allowed to yell instructions to the players. No one was allowed to yell anything to the referee, period. Parents could cheer and shout encouragement, but that was it. Why? Because too many times I heard parents scream at their boy to do something exactly opposite of what I had already asked him to do. Too many times I saw kids actually stop in the middle of the game, look at Dad, and say, what? I can't hear you. Too many kids getting stressed, trying to follow the directions from the parents' sideline, instead of just playing the game.

If you watch the top youth coaches in action during a game, you'll likely be very bored. Good coaches do their teaching and directing at practice. I used to tell my players that if I had to scream at them and micromanage every move on the field during the game, then I hadn't done my job during the week at practice. Good coaches sit quietly and watch the game, looking for things that need to be corrected, and making the correction with the player when he comes off the field. Baseball and basketball parents don't get that. They can't handle the silence, watching the kids work things out for themselves, learning on the fly on the field.


Boltgirl's Oscars dish: The only nominated film I've seen so far is Walk the Line, which I very much enjoyed. No, I still haven't seen the gay cowboy movie, although I've been planning on it since before it was released. No desire to see Capote because the guy creeps me out. Is there a book version of Good Night, And Good Luck? I think I'd rather read that than watch it. Crash? Guess I'll rent it sometime. I thought Jon Stewart was very good, even if no one seemed to get his joke that Ben Stiller's jumpsuit confirms that he's Jewish. Salma Hayek's right breast seemed freakishly out of proportion with the left one, as if it perhaps had eaten part of the left one in a late-night feeding frenzy. I like Heath Ledger's Civil War sort of facial hair configuration (channeling Matthew Broderick's Glory look?). I'm growing a bit tired of the gay cowboy joeks, although the film clip montage was brilliant. I'm not a huge rap fan and really dislike the whole pimp-theme bullshit, but the underlying meter of the 36 Mafia thingy sounded like a steam engine to me, and given my penchant for steam locomotives I thought it was cool. For all the wrong reasons. The pleas for people to actually go to see movies in theaters were a little too transparent and pathetic--sure, I'll go to the theater as soon as the major chains adopt and strictly enforce rules about bringing in newborns and toddlers, having nonstop conversations, and answering cell phones. The fake commercials lobbying for various categories were also, thanks to the Daily Show influence, hilarious. Was Johnny Depp there? Didn't see him.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Thanks, Dr. Dobson. No, Really, Thanks.

So Sam Alito sent a nice thank-you letter to James Dobson thanking him and his minions for all their support during the confirmation hearings. I especially like the part where Sammy tells Dobson that he'll remember the trust that's been placed in him as he sits on the court.

Uh-huh. God, I miss the days when we had to look at the Religious Right's communiques with a magnifying glass to tease out the secret code phrases and guess what they might mean. You don't exactly need a Captain Righteous decoder ring to figure this one out. Not when state legislatures are lining up giddily in a game of one-upmanship to see who can get their draconian forced-birth laws challenged first.

I know a woman who had two abortions in her younger days yet still consistently votes Republican, so certain is she that "they" will never really make abortion illegal. She was fortunate--thinly though that word may be applied to the situation--to have experienced her unwanted pregnancies in Illinois, in the time long ago far away before states began seeing just how many flaming hoops they could erect between women and the clinic doors. She was also repeatedly raped by her father and an uncle as a child, although they somehow managed never to impregnate her. Yet she still keeps her personal experience curiously detached from the maelstrom swirling now for the innumerable women who are unlucky enough to live in states like South Dakota and Mississippi. Her adopted daughter, also sexually abused as a toddler (well before my friend adopted her), is now a teenager with behavioral and boundary problems. Her recourse has been a Christian school and Bible-study sessions. The cynic in me figures that since it's inevitable, hopefully the girl will wind up pregnant sooner rather than later, when the birds hatched by all these goddamn GOP voters come home to roost in Arizona and my friend finds herself raising not just her daughter, but her grandchild as well.

She'll say she never thought it could happen here.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Truck Stop Special

A bit of levity did manage to poke its head through all the bishop-induced angst yesterday. Of course, it's archaeological levity, so it may not fly with anyone but Homer. Anyhoo. I study the stone artifacts my company digs up, virtually all of them from prehistoric times. After 11+ years of doing this in Tucson, I'm pretty familiar with the kinds of arrow and spear points people made throughout Arizona over a timespan of about three thousand years, give or take a few centuries. So yesterday, when I was looking at the points from a site up in the Tortolita Mountains north of Tucson, something jumped out at me.

How is the point on the right different from the other three? Hint: the other three are real artifacts. The one on the right is a fake, the kind of "Indian-made!" schlock you find in a basket by the cash register at just about any truck stop in the vicinity of a reservation out here. The notches and serrations you see on the three points to the left were flaked into the stone by an ancient knapper pressing a sharpened antler tine against the edge of the stone hard enough to remove small chip after small chip, a delicate bit of sculpting that's not easy to master. The notches in the point on the right were filed into the stone with a quarter-inch rasp; the scratches from its teeth are visible without a magnifying glass.

I brought this bit of forgery to the project director's attention. She returned to my office an hour later to say she'd told another guy here about it, and it clicked with them that the fake point was probably related to the other weird artifact they'd found at the site, a small sherd of a Mimbres pot. The Mimbres sherd was troublesome because it properly belongs in New Mexico about a thousand years later than the time this site dates to. But it all makes sense now. Apparently one of the local jeep-tour outfits that hauls winter visitors around archaeological sites takes the liberty of "salting" the sites beforehand--sprinkling "artifacts" on the ground so that the visitors will have the thrill of finding an Actual!Indian!Artifact when they get out of the jeep to walk around. We chuckled and then, of course, got pissed.

This is problematic for a few reasons. First, and most importantly from our perspective as archaeologists, it muddies our data and masks what was actually happening at the sites we study. It creates false patterns that we have to take the time to investigate, and could lead to very wrong conclusions. Plant enough Mimbres pottery on a Hohokam site and we'll have to infer some significant, long-distance trade relationships that didn't actually exist, and we'll write prehistory wrong. No, it's not really germane to anything that "matters;" it doesn't slow the search for a cancer cure, it doesn't impact national security. But it's dishonest and prevents us from discovering the truth, or as close to the truth as we can get.

The other aspect of this that galls me is the misleading experience being served up to the hapless tourists. It cheapens the actual archaeological record, somehow, if people leave here with the misconception that artifacts are commonplace, scattered around like cigarette butts in a parking lot, there for the taking. The main draw of the tours in the area of this particular site is a rock art panel. That should be enough of a draw. Traveling through the desert, even if it's in the back of a pink jeep with a canopy, past cholla and saguaros and mesquites, to suddenly come across a rock face with designs pecked into it by ancient hands thousands of years ago, should be enough. To recognize the designs--that's the sun, that's a lizard--is to bridge the chasm of two millenia and completely different cultures. If the two-thousand-year-old artist were to suddenly materialize and walk out from behind a cactus to stand next to the tourist from Minnesota, the tourist from Germany, as they look at the panel, they would not be able to understand his words, nor he theirs. But they could all point to the sun on the rock and then to the sun in the sky and be speaking the same human language.

That should be wonder enough.

Scattering truck stop souvenirs on the ground only cheapens the experience, only blinds the tourists to what is real, takes away the motivation to look deeper, beneath the surface, to discover the common humanity underneath.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Amended to Add...

After thirteen-plus hours of ruminating, I finally identified the sick feeling, the knot in my gut, the lump that's been sitting in my throat all day after reading about the bishops this morning. It's the same feeling I got when my dad went apeshit after I came out to him. I find this curious because, as I pointed out before, this isn't a knock-me-down-with-a-feather sort of deal. The bishops' initial reaction to the proposed amendment some nine months ago was that they needed time to study and consider it; I never expected anything but this. But the inevitability of it didn't mitigate the force of the blow, the sucker punch to the stomach. The sense of being turned away, being turned away from, yet again.

Oh, I've been in dutch with the Holy Church for quite some time, and never bought wholesale into the company line, not even in my high school years when I was most actively involved. I can't discount, however, the enormous role the Church played in my life during that time, when I found solace in the darkened sanctuary of Sacred Heart Basilica on the Notre Dame campus, kneeling among the flickering candles and plastered walls permeated by a century's worth of incense, attending vespers with the nuns and brothers, sitting quietly and contemplatively at the Grotto. Feeling the weight of centuries of tradition not as an oppressive yoke but a comforting mantle that drew me into the same place with my family, my ancestors, my Irish and Czech heritage.

There's a big difference between walking away from home and being unceremoniously cast out.

Run Run Run

Arizona is an increasingly unnerving place to live. In past weeks and the past few days we've had the wacky no-abortion insurance bill, the crazy no-pill-for-teens bill, the insaaaaaaane no-selling-eggs bill... has it reached the point of waking up each morning and wondering what new affronts to civil liberties the dawn will bring? Apparently so. Today's predictable but still enraging entry has the esteemed bishops of Arizona throwing their ecclesiastical weight behind the proposed state no-gay-marriage amendment. Predictably, the bishops smack down marriage equality as an affront to nature and, predictably, in the same breath proclaim their concern for making sure everyone's treated nicely:

The bishops' new statement says the church opposes the legal recognition of same-sex unions "in order to prevent the redefinition and devaluation of the institution of marriage" but adds that "people of whatever orientation must always be treated with compassion and respect and that their civil liberties must be protected."

What, do they really think no one will notice the fundamental disconnect there? Continuing the run of the Predictability Express, they choose to couch their argument in Natural Law--granted, a refreshing change from the usual Leviticus fallback; perhaps the good fathers recognized that arguing from Leviticus automatically requires them to also argue for killing recalcitrant children and forcing rape victims to marry their attackers--you know, the usual "they can't naturally have kids" plea.

In a bit of unintentional irony, the front page of the local section of the paper this morning carried a prominent, color picture of an elderly couple celebrating Mardi Gras at the Cajun bar on Grant Road. The caption noted that the couple, ages 82 and 92, have been married for four years. Apparently the bishops have yet to muster sufficient moral, er, "Natural Law" based outrage to prevent such unions between people whose procreative abilities have long since dried up.

My anger has a distinct tinge of nausea with it this morning, because this time it's personal. There is no surprise here at all; the shocker would have been if the bishops had decided to make a fabled, 1970s-style Liberation Theology stand against the unjust treatment of a specific group of people--indeed, the altering of state constitutions to expressly limit the rights of a single group. I would have fallen face-first into my coffee mug. As it is, I simply feel defeated. Maybe I wouldn't be quite so sick had I not grown up in the Catholic Church, if I did not still consider certain edifices to be my spiritual home, despite having fallen away from the rank-and-file rules of the Magisterium.

Fuck me. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Did I mention that same-sex marriage is already prohibited by statute in Arizona? That the proposed amendment also bars legal recognition of any relationship designed to approximate marriage? That it's simply a mean-spirited move to further push our faces into the muck and rub 'em around a little? It's one big nanny-nanny-boo-boo to remind us of the rights we already don't have.