Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Possible Prolonged Absense

See, here's the thing.

The new World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, was released yesterday. And I bought a copy.

And I'm going to play it.

A lot.

Which means I might not be reading, writing, eating, or sleeping for an indeterminate amount of time, probably starting tomorrow since today is my last day of work (from which I post most of my entries).

And not only that, classes start soon. Which means I need to get as much leveling out of the way as I can before then (I'm half way through 75, so it should be no sweat to hit 80 before December 1). Though my last two quarters at RIT will be lighter than usual, I make no promises.

Not that anyone's here reading my stuff anyway. Oh well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

If the Shoe Doesn't Fit...

Since tomorrow is my last day at work, my team went out for lunch to celebrate getting rid of me (har har). The boss told us about a Halloween costume party he went to, and he told us about some of the costumes he saw.

One of them was a man dressed up as a woman. In fact, my boss had initially thought that the man was, in fact, a girl (not a woman, a girl).

At that, one of my co-workers muttered that it was probably the man's profession. Hopefully you can see what's wrong with this assumption, so I'll leave it alone.

Another co-worker told his own story about meeting a woman at some function, and, trying to start up polite conversation, asked her what her profession was. She responded with some embarrassment that she made women's clothes for men. "Excuse me?" he said his response was. "Like what?" Like dresses, braziers, et cetera. The same co-worker that muttered about the professional cross-dressing costumer muttered something else. The one telling the story tacked on, "Well, if it doesn't fit, you should take the hint!"

Now, I used to apply the same logic to things like this (although I've never believed that cross-dressers are inherantly bad or confused).

But, given the "hint," I arrive at a very different conclusion than my co-workers obviously did. They of course, believe that if the shoe doesn't fit, you shouldn't wear it.

Knowing that clothing is a man-made (woman-made is perhaps more accurate) strategy to keep us warm, I believe that if the shoe doesn't fit, then you should ask for a pair in your size. I know that, at one time in our history, it was unacceptable for women to wear men's clothes. When you remember that, it should beg the question, "How do you know the difference between men's and women's clothing?" My answer is that there should be no such thing as gendered clothing. Clothing, whether from the practical or the fashionable standpoint, is not inherantly gendered. A shirt is a shirt. In Utopia, men can wear pants and t-shirts, or skirts and high-heeled shoez (or all four at the same time!) and women can just as easily wear the same thing.

Currently, women can wear some men's clothing, but men most definitely cannot wear women's clothing. A man wearing women's clothing is automatically demonized, as anything woman-like is bad, particularly when a man is subscribing to it. A man wearing women's clothing is a pussy; he isn't a real man; his masculinity should be questioned; he's gay. This is a good example of why misogyny hurts everyone, not just women.

The Obama Administration and Technology

I am so excited to see what Obama does to revolutionize the way technology is used, not only in our government, but in our interactions with it too.

He wants to appoint our very first Chief Technology Officer, who will "improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens." This is so crucial, because we as a nation are becoming increasingly comfortable with our computers and the Internet - and the government should take advantage of that. Web sites like Facebook and MySpace show that connecting with people over the Internet is a worthwhile, highly popular, and groundbreaking endeavor. For example, the nation- and world-wide Proposition 8 protests were organized by Join the Impact, which formed on November 5, 2008. Three days later, almost entirely online, 49 states organized protests in 80 cities. And more than one million people actually showed up. Imagine - just imagine - what this could mean for our government provided similar ways to begin conversations about laws, elections, court decisions, appointments and more, so that our representatives could see it, could hear us as individuals. Obama hasn't even been inaugurated yet, and he's already begun a conversation.

And conversation is only truly possible if net neutrality is maintained and protected. Obama's Technology Agenda promises that "Obama will strengthen privacy protections for the digital age and will harness the power of technology to hold government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy." The Mac Observer says - and I agree - that that is "the strongest and most specific statement of support for [privacy] to have come from Washington in decades, if not ever." And, regarding sensitive material inappropriate for children - say, porn - Obama's agenda says that it will develop ways for parents to protect their children from it, which implies that such material will not be outlawed or suppressed.

However, net neutrality is irrelevant to those without quality Internet access in the first place. Obama wants to bring broadband Internet to every household, like past Presidents did with water, electricity, and telephone service. It's about damn time.

Brian Solis points out that there is no where yet for people to tell Obama why he did not receive their votes. He says that "if Obama [could] reach, listen to, and embrace the 46% who voted against him, he might be able to run a truly democratic term." This idea is truly astounding, and yet why hasn't it been done earlier? This is true bipartisanship. But Solis is right - if Obama truly wants to be their President too, then he needs to open up avenues for dissent.

But there are some problems to overcome. Josh Bernoff brings up the problem of scale: "how do you deal with 10,000 suggestions? How do you learn from them? How do you manage them?" And then he offers some suggestions. My favorite is handing moderation and management over to the electorate, Wikipedia-style.

Some other nuggets:
  • Bush stopped using e-mail the day of his inauguration.
  • Obama will be the first President in history to keep a laptop on the Oval Office desk.
  • Obama's Facebook page had 3 million fans to McCain's 618,000.
  • Comparing to McCain's 330, the Obama campaign published 1,800 YouTube videos, summed up to 110 million views.
Now this is progress.

Monday, November 17, 2008

WoW Sexism: New and Improved

As you might have heard, the new World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, was released a couple of days ago. While questing, I ran into these two charming characters:

Meet Olga the Scalawag Wench and Gerald Green. Olga is a pirate wench that serves booze (hence the wine bottle in her hand) off the coast of the Howling Fjord. Gerald is a farmer whose settlement on the Borean Tundra is under attack (hence the mace). Both character models are new; if we've seen them before, we haven't since Warcraft III, which was released some years ago.

Your interaction with Olga begins when you accept a quest to get some information out of a very drunk pirate, who is dancing on the table of Olga's establishment. When he refuses to talk to you, you go to Olga. She offers to sweet talk the guy into talking to you. So she walks over, flirts a little with him, gives him some free booze, and then you ask him what you need to know. He spills it, and that's it. While brief, I think there are some interesting things to take out of this.

While I could get in to the misogyny of Olga's profession, I think it's self-explanatory. What is important to mention though is that Olga is certainly not the first and only pirate wench in the game; there are plenty of thinner ones. She comes across as confident and sturdy. While I thank Blizzard for including a fat woman as part of their non-playable character set, I wonder if she couldn't have been placed in a better profession. I think being a pirate wench and flirting successfully with the drunk man reinforces some ugly stereotypes about fat women, including but not limited to "fat women are easy" and "you need to be drunk to find fat women attractive."

Gerald gives you many quests that involve the saving of his settlement. He is surrounded by two, thinner characters, a man and woman, both wielding weapons and looking determined. Gerald is impassioned about the saving of their lands. "If Farshire is wiped off the face of Azeroth, then at least let us be remembered as the first ones to defend our land and the last ones to give up," he tells you for one quest. What's great about Gerald is that he challenges the "fat people are lazy" stereotype. Not only is he not running in fear, he is leading the defense against the Scourge invasion. And, as a farmer, you know he couldn't be lazy anyway.

It's too bad that Gerald challenges the ugly stereotypes and Olga enforces them. But at least we have Olga in the first place. In fact, the only commenter on Olga's Wowhead entry says, "OMG! Could it be? A female character that doesn't haver a size zero waist?" Indeed.

And gosh, I do love her bra tan lines.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Penny Arcade Misogyny

Take a look at the Nov. 11 Penny Arcade comic. Cute, huh? It would be a lot funnier if the punch line weren't misogynist.

The goal is to "destroy this man." So who's the one framed, made to look like a slut, and is truly the biggest loser in this situation? The Penny Arcade dudes destroyed the guy's girlfriend, not the guy. Though he may be angry, he has taken no hit to his reputation. Not to mention the way that she is used as a tool to inflict pain on another man.

Had the situation been reversed - say, for example, that Gloria found another woman's bra or underwear under the bed - it wouldn't have been as funny, because men are perfectly able and allowed to cheat on their partners. But the justice would have been sweeter.

Shame on you, Penny Arcade.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Now See Here

I'm getting fed up with being told by the right why I, as a woman, hate Sarah Palin. There's a myriad of reasons - all as shallow and petty as could be - and they all stem from, guess what, sexism.

Basically, the women of the left hate Sarah Palin because she is:
  1. Sexy
  2. Thin
  3. Successful
  4. Confident
  5. A mother
Look. Those five things are all fine and dandy. Some people on the left may actually dislike her for those things, but I have yet to meet one. The thing is, I don't need stupid reasons to hate Sarah Palin. Just like you don't need stupid reasons to hate Joe Biden, or John McCain, or even - say it ain't so - Barack Obama. There are plenty of really good reasons to hate Sarah Palin. If the right would instead just admit that the left doesn't like her for her politics, which is really only one of the many reasons, I might not be posting this right now.

And I'm not even going to get in to the hypocrisy of the right calling me sexist for having good reasons to not like or support Palin.

That said, I really hope I don't have to deal with this woman again in 2012. My head might explode.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Comfort in Atheism

Within just a couple of days of each other, Rodrigo Neely of Edger and Greta Christina wrote two wonderful posts about arriving at atheism that complement each other in such a way that I was inspired to write about the relationship between the two posts. Greta says:
We spend a lot of time putting cracks in the foundation of religion: arguing why it's mistaken, arguing why it's harmful, arguing why the arguments and ideas supporting it are unsupportable.

But we don't spend as much time -- some, but not as much -- letting believers know that, if and when their faith does finally crumble, atheism is a safe place to land.

And we don't spend nearly as much time as we should actually making atheism a safe place to land.

She is very right, as she very often is. She ended with many questions to her readers, one of which is, "When you were making your leap of non-faith, what helped you feel that godlessness would be a safe place to land?" I'd like to try to answer this question as far as my own experience goes, and it has a lot to do with what Rodrigo says in his piece, "Lust for Life."

There is a real source of righteousness to be found in believing that human beings are the most important thing we know. You do not have to have your sense of ethics clouded by unproven commandments from what mankind dreams is above.

You can see that people in all of our messiness can truly be great. Humans can truly experience happiness, and spread that happiness through freedom, love, compassion, and understanding. Humanity is the best hope for humanity.

This is so much more elegant than I could ever be, and I agree with him. You do not need God or the promise of heaven in order to do great things, to love, to spread joy. You only need other people to do those things, as well as your own sense of what's right. And you know what is right not because of God or the Bible or your church leader, but because of your natural instinct. Our species succeeds when we help and love each other - that's how we've evolved.

And so, to use Rodrigo's beautiful rhetoric to answer Greta's question:

The greatest treasure in life is our loved ones, our friends, our family. The second greatest treasure in life is to spread that love as far is it will go.

Our greatest treasure is not God. For all the talk of loving thy neighbor and turning the other cheek, it is awesome (I use the word's literal meaning here) how selfish the religious can be. Many of the religious (not all) are driven to volunteer, donate, and love out of fear for the destination of their souls after death, not for the sake of the recipients of their good will. It saddens me, because it's so unnecessary and so oppressive. It is so Machiavellian: at least the end result is good, even if terrorism is used to get you to do it. But I know that I do not need the promise of eternal damnation to scare me into doing good things. I can stand on my own, take responsibility for myself and my fellow humans, and do good things for the sake of humanity, not for the sake of saving my soul.

And I, like Carl Sagan, find it easier to be awed by the world and the universe knowing that an all-powerful being did not create it. Though I am not very good at doing the legwork of science, it does not mean that I cannot appreciate its findings.

So, when I arrived at the word "atheist" and discovered what it meant, it was not a difficult leap. I was already in awe of the world. And, like Julia Sweeney said, "The world behaves exactly as you would expect it would, if there were no Supreme Being, no Supreme Consciousness, and no supernatural." The world looked no different to me with the assumption that God created it than with the assumption that He did not. I already had experiences equivalent to a theist's spiritual inspiration. If I had to pick the most spiritual experience I have encountered, it was not sitting in a Christmas sermon with my father and stepmother and sister; it is listening to inspired, beautiful, emotional music and allowing my mind to soar with it.

If there is a God, and if he truly is merciful, then would He really care if I believe in Him or not? Isn't the important thing here that I do good things and help my fellows, motivated by love for humanity instead of fear of hell? I would like to think so. And so I do not fear the (tiny) possibility that there might be a God, nor do I fear hell, mostly because I don't think it exists, but also because, even if it does, I don't think a truly merciful and loving God would put me there anyway.

I don't need God. I just need people. And music helps too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Men and Self-image

I ran across an interesting article on the fatosphere today, from Eat a Cheeseburger. Tiffabee talks about an article that suggests that "men suffer from body image issues after reading magazines just like women do." And not just magazines like Maxim. Women's magazines too. Why?
She reported that the main reason men feel self-conscious after reading a magazine filled with images of sexualized women is that they feel they have to live up to the same level of attractiveness in order to be worthy of the women they see in the magazines.
That makes tons of sense. And this is an excellent example of how misogyny - in this case, that which pigeon-holes women into stereotypical, too-perfect images - hurts everyone. Women's rights are everyone's rights. The feminist movement is a necessary and integral part of the humanist movement. That's why men should be just as interested as women in securing gender equality.

And so I'm also discovering that fat rights are a necessary and integral part of women's rights. Fat women are hounded - more than men - to diet, in order to be accepted by society. If a woman is going to be stuffed into the role of homemaker, mother, or wife, she needs to be thin to do it. The quintessential woman is a thin, beautiful mother that beckons to her husband's every call. And that's just not so.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Whenever I look into the mirror, I receive a shock. I am shocked by the way my body looks. The way I feel, the way I move, the way I look at myself from above (no mirror) is strikingly different from the way I look and move in the mirror, or on video. I've never felt like I move slowly or heavily, but I look so awkward when I'm able to watch myself. I don't feel as big as I look in the mirror. And so, every time I look, I'm jolted back to reality.

And so I avoided looking into the mirror, for a long time. Lately, I've been looking more and more often into the mirror, trying to find something to like. At first, I saw very little. For example, I like my eyes. I think I have pretty eyes. I like my nose. It's not too big, not too small. I like my mouth; I like the shape and color of my lips. I like my glasses, but I can't take too much credit for those. Didn't like much beyond those though. Very recently, I'm starting to get used to looking at myself in the mirror. I realized a few days ago that I like my skin tone: I'm not pasty white, but I'm no where near tan. I wouldn't even say I'm in the middle; somewhere between the middle and pasty white.

And so I've gotten to thinking. Why is there such a disconnect between the way I feel and the way I look? Am I really as big as I look? By whose standards am I judging, exactly? Is there a way for me to capitalize on not feeling so big as I look?

I'm going to take a shot at the first question right now. I think this disconnect was formed by our dieting, fat-hating culture. It has somehow created a gap, a gulf, between me and me. Me being the way I feel. Me being the outside, the way other people and myself see me. Somehow, me has remained untouched, but only sort of. I still think I'm fat, and I still have a hard time letting go of the idea of dieting. That part of me has been touched. But other parts haven't. (I'm probably not making any sense at this point. Bare with me. Or me.)

I don't know what my own standards of fat are. What I should say now is that it doesn't matter: there shouldn't be a standard at all. Probably true. But I think it's important to understand whose standards are whose so that I can identify what needs to change and whose standards I should begin to listen to. My own standards are probably best; the most informed, researched, and tested standards are probably even better. But I'm not sure that the latter exists yet.

Fat acceptance means that I need to start putting "fat" and "normal" into the same sentence more often. It's okay to be fat; it's normal. Just like it's okay to be black. Or female. Or short or tall, or blue-eyed or brown-eyed. It's normal, it happens, and its (mostly) outside my control. Short women can put on high-heels to get taller; men can get surgery to become women; anyone can put on a pair of contacts to change their eye color; and a fat person can overcome their weight if they are (1) lucky, (2) patient, and (3) unreasonably determined, perhaps to the point of obsession.

But I don't think weight is something to overcome. When I'm not looking in the mirror, I feel pretty good, for the most part. I should maximize this, so that the feeling spreads. I can do that by eating better, exercising more, educating myself, and learning to love my body. (It's so strange to type that - "learning to love my body." It shouldn't be.) Once I can appreciate my own body can I begin to push back on my culture's hatred of my body. Once I can reconcile the way I feel with the way I look - by learning that my fat body is normal and maybe even attractive - can I approach the rest of the world about it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner

This is a common phrase religion uses to patronize its subjects as well as outsiders. We've all heard it before. I don't want to talk about this phrase and what it means itself though; I want to apply it to the atheist movement (if you want to call it a movement).

Hate the religion, love the religious. The non-theist crowd often forgets that the religious are just as human as agnostics and atheists, passive or active, and that they are not inherently our enemies, nor are they inherently bad or immoral or ignorant. (It's very easy to start using religious language at this point - "the religious are just misguided; they need enlightening" - but I'm going to try not to. ) Active atheists and agnostics need to remember that the religious are not here solely to aggravate us. Tauriq Moosa of Edger stated this himself, in part 2 of his essay, "In Defense of 'Militant' Atheism":
People forget that the point is not just attacking and questioning and debating: but promoting the inherent humanity and the expression and longing therein to reach the numinous and transcendent as human beings.
It's especially important to remember this now that Muslims are so demonized in our culture. It's getting harder to tell whether a speaker is anti-Islam or anti-terrorist; in America, the line is blurring more and more every day. I read through much of a forum thread once, started by a very angry anti-Muslim user. He stated himself that he hated Islam more than other religions. I don't recall that he mentioned what his own religious leaning was. It was very difficult for me to determine if he hated the people behind the religion or just the religion; he seemed to bounce back and forth. He hated the violence that Islam encourages in its followers (a valid point), but he also seemed to attack the believers themselves, both the extremists and the "average" Muslim. Some of what he said was very valid and very informed (he was obviously well-educated in general); other things he said were hate speech. Other users challenged him, called him names, reported him, and his thread was quickly deleted by moderators.

As an agnostic/atheist, it gets very difficult for me to remember that religious people are, well, weaker than a non-believer. (Wait, let me explain!) It's hard to let go of God, there's no doubt about it. Some people need to have the comfort of the invisible friend in the sky, the promise of heaven, the scapegoat when things go wrong (instead of taking personal responsibility), the reason to be bigoted and prejudiced. It's nice to be able to say "God told me to do it" instead of saying you thought it was a good idea. As far as that comfort goes, it's difficult to blame the average believer for believing. It's just plain easier to believe. I went through a period in my life wishing for the same comfort that believers had (reason kept me from ever committing to anything). It's very human to want and need that comfort of something bigger than us. We as non-believers recognize that that comfort comes with high costs though, namely bigotry, orthodoxy, and rejection of evidence.

My aim here is not to discourage the "militant" or active atheists; I'm not trying to tell you to shut up and leave the poor religious folk alone. Quite the contrary. I just want to remind you that the religious are human. Most of the non-believers were religious themselves at one time in their lives; think back to how that felt - why were you a believer? What did you get out of it? Use that information to argue with theists. Empathy is a powerful tool in the atheist's toolbox. If we can relate to the religious, it becomes that much easier to "enlighten" them.

Because really - remember why you're non-religious, remember why it's important to "deconvert" the religious. It's for the greater good! (The greater good.) It's to fight the anti-intellectualism in this country, and in the world. It's to encourage scholarship and critical thinking. It's to discourage a culture of hatred, bigotry, prejudice, xenophobia, and ignorance. It's to encourage humanism and freedom.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

And the winner...

...of Bitch Magazine's Douchebag Decree is!

Fat and PCOS

I ran across this Q&A on The-F-Word (emphasis mine, except for the question itself):

How does one go about practicing Health at Every Size with a chronic condition (e.g. PCOS, a thyroid problem, diabetes, fibromyalgia, etc.) or special-needs diet (gluten-free, low-sugar, etc..)?

Lifestyle changes such as diet adjustments and increased movement are often important to improve chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, PCOS and other conditions. But a focus on weight loss is not important and often damaging.

Research shows that changes in diet and physical activity result in health improvement (lower blood glucose, lower blood lipids, lower blood pressure) with no or little weight loss. Also, the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study published in August 2006 showed that people in the overweight BMI category (BMI 25 – 29.9) had the least risk of premature death. And most epidemiological studies show that weight loss is associated with a greater risk of premature death by up to 260%. This may be due to chronic dieting and weight cycling which is associated with a much greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

Also, if diet changes are necessary for health conditions, it is important to avoid any unnecessary restriction leading to feeling deprived. For instance, instead of giving up high fat desserts, why not shop for yummy high fat desserts containing high quality fats. And contrary to common belief, high fat foods do not lead to weight gain above natural weight if eaten when hungry (and neither do high carbohydrate foods). Usually, people feel most satisfied when eating all three major nutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate) at meals.

Reading this left me feeling...strange. Like a void has been partially filled. I know nearly nothing about PCOS and what its relationship with my weight is. All I know is that weight gain is a common symptom of PCOS (about half of women with PCOS are overweight - but who knows how "overweight" is defined), and that 77% of one's weight is determined by genetics. So how much of my weight is genetic, how much is PCOS, and how much is my life style and environment? I don't know.

When my OBGYN diagnosed me with PCOS, she told me that I should try to lose weight. As I thought more about how to go about doing this, I realized something. If weight gain is a symptom of PCOS, how on earth does losing weight address the root cause? In fact, I'm not the only one that's been told this. So has Branwyn, at A Day in the (Fat) Life:
One doctor, the one who finally diagnosed me with PCOS, still told me to lose weight, and it would cure the PCOS. Ummm, okay. Since obesity is one of the symptoms of PCOS, I want to know how that works.
I've been reading a lot of fat acceptance blogs lately, and so many of their stories are the same as my own, and I've read so many things that feel good to read, that make me feel like all of this PCOS stuff isn't so hopeless. Perhaps I am doomed to be fat the rest of my life. I'm starting to feel like maybe that's not bad. That's okay. I can be okay with that. I can get used to that. Maybe I can even learn to enjoy it. The alternative looks a lot worse to me. I don't want my weight to be a constant struggle for the rest of my life. Learning not to hate myself and my weight because of some things out of my control sounds pretty good, actually.

So here's where I can take control. I can be healthy. Being fat and being healthy are not mutually exclusive. I can do both. Eating healthy (not the same as dieting) and exercise do not have to have a goal of weight loss. They can just have a goal of overall good health. Won't that help my PCOS more than merely reducing an arbitrary number that doesn't accurately measure my overall health in the first place?

When I was a kid...

...another kid called me "fat" during gym class, and I unleashed a torrent of abuse in response. I possibly punched him. I actually don't remember.

No one in gym class called me fat again. In fact, no one at all has called me fat since (except for me).

I knew he was right. But I knew that he didn't have any right to observe my fatness to me outloud, in public, joking or not.

So I yelled at him. I'm glad I did.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nationalism vs. Patriotism in America

A strange phenomenon has been occurring in America, particularly since September 11. "Patriotism" has taken on a new meaning. It's come to mean the polar opposite of terrorist. You can only be one or the other; if you don't call yourself patriotic, you're a terrorist. Despite such an extreme connotation, patriotism itself doesn't require much from a patriot, particularly if you're conservative - even if you commit terrorist acts yourself, like, say, bombing abortion clinics and killing their employees and clients. If you're liberal, saying it isn't good enough. It's come to be a political buzzword, a dogwhistle, a word you tack on to someone when you want to flatter them. Or, conversely, you could call someone unpatriotic in order to cause question in their motives.

As soon as a liberal criticizes something about the (conservative) president, Congress, or the courts, the liberal is labeled as unpatriotic. There is irony, of course, in that dissent is the lifeblood of a successful democracy. That's why the right to free speech is so important. The founding fathers purposefully wrote protection for the minority into the Constitution, because the majority - "conventional wisdom" - isn't always right. Dissent is necessary. There should always be dissent. And to that end, I believe it was Thomas Jefferson that said that education is the heart of democracy that keeps the dissent pumping. Socrates (according to J. Peter Euben, via Wikipedia's article on patriotism) thought that "patriotism does not require one to agree with everything that his country does and would actually promote analytical questioning in a quest to make the country the best it possibly can be." From Socrates' definition, liberals are more patriotic than some conservatives!

In America, the neo-conservative's form of patriotism is actually nationalism. Nationalism is the chauvinistic belief that your country is superior to other countries, which justifies the "exportation" of your country's governing system. Which is what neo-cons are all about nowadays. As an example, the Nazis were nationalists. The British are patriots. Originally, conservatives were isolationist. It would surprise me if the American Republican Party splits up sometime in the near future, as traditional conservatives do not agree with the militant nationalism that neo-conservatives favor.

And so, patriotism has taken on a very negative connotations to me. Patriotism has become a manifestation of religious faith. Blind love for America causes conservatives to question another citizen's (usually a liberal) patriotism merely for questioning their country, or protesting an action, or even merely disagreeing with an action. Questioning someone's religion is approached in just the same way. Encouraging this behavior encourages division and fear. Division and fear encourage violence and heighten the value of security over rights, thereby giving the authority much more authority over the individual. Ben Franklin called it - "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." He was absolutely right. This blind faith allowed the Republican Party to steal the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections - how patriotic is that? This blind faith, coupled with fear, allowed the Patriot Act to pass, quickly and easily. This religious-like fervor scares me, as a liberal. I can't help but imagine how out-of-control it might get, based on how out-of-control it already is.

The Morning After

Now that Obama has secured the presidency with 350 or so electoral votes (so I heard on NPR, anyway), and now that Prop 8 has passed in California - as well as Arizona's Prop 102, Arkansas' Initiative 1, and Florida's Amendment 2 - I feel strange. I feel elated at the idea that we've elected perhaps one of the most progressive men in history - not to mention the first African American. But I feel a sunken repulsiveness that discrimination has been amended into three state's constitutions. I feel sick that Arizona's Prop 102 failed in 2006, yet managed to pass now.

Obama's win isn't the only thing to celebrate though. I'm particularly pleased at Washington passing Initiative 1000, making Washington and Oregon the only two states in the union to have legalized physician-assisted suicide. Colorado overwhelmingly refused to define life as beginning at the moment of conception. California's attempt to require parent notification of abortions and South Dakota's attempt to make all abortions illegal except in the cases of rape, incest, or fear for the woman's health have failed. Michigan has legalized medical marijuana and stem cell research. These are good things.

But the passing of Prop 8 is big. A big disappointment. The campaign was full of hate, fear, lies, illegality, and sleaze. For something like that to win feels like a slap in the face. My sister and her girlfriend are heartbroken, as the passing of Prop 8 sets us back many years. The fight will be longer and harder. The only thing that can protect marriage in those states now is the Supreme Court or legislation passed through Congress. The Supreme Court is stacked with conservatives, and even if Congress did pass legislation, the Court would kill it as soon as it is challenged.

I'm not sure where we will go from here. I want to know what Obama will do. Despite supporting gay rights but not gay marriage, Obama still supported the failure of Prop 8. This contradiction is confusing and worrisome to me. I'm hoping that he's secretly more progressive than he's let on during the election (perhaps as EXTREMELY LIBERAL as McCain was trying to warn us!) so that he will do something quickly about this.

So what can we do? I'm trying to stay positive by focusing on Obama's win and what that means for this country. I'm going to look to the president-elect for some leadership. I'm going to look to the president-elect and hope that he doesn't betray us. I'm going to try to stay positive. But it's going to be tough.

President Obama

Via Shakesville...

Our new President. I've never been more excited. 338 electoral votes, by the latest count.

Initiative 1000 in Washington state looks like it will pass by a large margin.

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire looks like she will be re-elected (although the race is still close, currently at 52-48).

And California's Prop 8 looks like it might pass by about 300,000 votes. It stands at 54-46 right now - but only 22% of precincts are reporting, and San Francisco is not one of them. Prop 8's passage will be a real dampener on the evening. But we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The McCain-Palin Ticket

It's probably painfully obvious by now that I don't like the McCain-Palin ticket. I've been doing a lot of reading about both tickets, what they want to achieve, and what they're saying about themselves and each other. It's a dismal landscape. I wanted to talk about it some.

One of the primary problems I have with McCain is the campaign strategies he's using. It's not about issues. He'd rather slime Obama. And it's getting easier to see why. He (and Palin) avoids answering questions about his policies and stances, instead pointing at Obama, saying he'll be worse. He's telling lies, flip-flopping*, stretching truths (though Obama has done the same), butchered or otherwise taken quotes out of context, getting overly offended, calls his wife a cunt, and then gets offended when Obama supporters wear t-shirts that call Palin the same thing. (No, I do not excuse the misogyny of calling Palin a cunt, no matter who says it.) McCain's campaign isn't about McCain - it's about Obama (and lately even more about Bill Ayers)! Even the media is saying, "WTF?"

I compared both candidate's stances on issues on their websites. Obama's website not only talks about his stances ("Obama believes in...") but how he'll achieve his goals ("Obama will combat this by..."); McCain mostly only states his stances - he doesn't seem to have any idea how he's going to get anything done. Obama speaks to what he'll do when in office; McCain speaks to what Obama will fail to do when in office. The problem with this is that conservative, Republican, and swing voters are uninformed. They don't actually know what they're voting for, they only think they know what they're voting against.

He voted with Bush (not the Republican Party, Bush) 95% of the time. 95% of the time. That's a lot. And yet, he says he's a maverick, he'll bring change to the White House, but changing the status quo means he has to say something negative about Bush - but he hasn't. Instead, he agrees with him 95% of the time. I hate to repeat the Dems' slogan,'s more of the same. Now, if you like what Bush has done for this country and do want more of the same, well, I'm not even going to open that can of worms. You can go ahead on your merry way.

McCain has flip-flopped on the issue of regulation - he's been voting for the deregulation of financial institutions since he started in politics, and now he's suddenly saying that "strong and fair regulation" is necessary. He accepted money for his campaign from Fannie Mae as the company was going down, he packed his campaign staff with lobbyists, he is complicit in the calls for violence and assassination from his rallies, and he picked Sarah Palin as his running mate - but more on her later. He makes hasty, uninformed decisions: Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber are great examples of McCain not doing any vetting before putting people on pedestals.

Obama's voting record shows that he as voted with Dems 90% of the time. Again, that's a lot and that doesn't exactly scream "change." But, while he does say he's going to bring change to the White House, Obama doesn't call himself a maverick. Isn't voting with the Dems good because that means he's not voting with the GOP? Hopefully that means that the Dems will vote with him 90% of the time (as we all know that merely being President isn't by itself enough to get legislation through). This is also hoping we get a Democratic majority in Congress, which not only looks possible, but a filibuster-proof Congress might be possible as well.

Independent analysts say that Obama's health care and tax plans are going to help more people in bigger ways. Numbers show that having a Democractic president is better for the economy anyway. While McCain claims that Obama's tax plan is constantly changing, Obama has reiterated the same, single tax plan from the beginning. McCain will continue to give tax breaks to the rich and their companies, while hoisting more of the tax burden onto the middle and lower economic classes. Obama hopes to reverse the damage Bush has already done.

McCain owns 13 cars and 8 or 13 houses (worth over $8.6 million total; the value of one of the properies is unknown even), depending on if you want to count the 3 houses on the Sedona ranch as separate or not. Normally, I would agree with conservatives - its irrelevant slime that's meant only to distract from the issues and McCain can have as many houses and cars as he'd like (though I don't know what on earth he does with all of them). However, McCain himself doesn't know how many cars he owns, said he only buys American because he's passionate about the American automotive industry when he in fact has at least two foreign-made cars, and most of them are gas-guzzlers. And then he says he knows what the average American is going through. If I'm not mistaken, the average American does not have 13 cars and 8+ houses. The average American knows exactly how many cars he owns. The average American does not lie or forget about the car(s) he owns. Obama, on the other hand, owns one car - a hybrid, no less - and one house. So, my point is that 13 cars and 6 houses would be just fine if he didn't try to come off as an anti-greed everyman. If you point to something in your life as a plus, you had better expect people to inspect it, double-check it, and call you out on it if you're wrong or stretching the truth, particularly if you're being hypocritical at the same time.

Now - let's talk about Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin was unveiled as some sort of a messiah for the Republican Party; she's widely worshipped as a fresh new look on the White House, as well as politics in general. Why? Well, she isn't an old white man. She's also more of the same, except she has boobs. She's "morally repulsive," as Josh likes to say, not to mention unqualified, unprepared, a fundamentalist (dare I say extremist) Christian, and her conservatism is more extreme than even McCain's. After slamming Obama for being unqualified and inexperienced himself, McCain has the audacity to pick Palin, who has only been governor of Alaska for not even two years, and before that, the mayor of a town with a population of 5,000 for I think about 6 years. Before that, she was the Alaska Ethics Commissioner of Oil and Energy or Some Such Thing. Before that? She was in the PTA. She wants to be a television anchor, is a former beauty queen, showed very little interest in federal or international issues while governor, fired people that apparently didn't agree with her (though they hadn't actually done anything) while mayor, and didn't even push to make changes that support her chosen issues. She sold the governership's plane though. That sure is something. Oh. And she's a hockey mom. Her husband is about as active in the Governor's Office as she is. How that qualifies her to be Vice President of the United States is a mystery to me. And she LIES about all of this CONSTANTLY.

So why'd they pick her? The most frightening reason is that she's a a very talented puppet. She's getting briefed and coached by Bush's best. She's green enough to say exactly what they want her to say (although why they'd want her to connect Iraq to 9/11 when Bush won't even go there anymore is beyond me). If she does reach the presidency (and she might), she'll be another Ulysses Grant. They picked her for a reason that this country hasn't seen yet, not even in Palin's predecessor (Geraldine Ferraro, who was on Walter Somebody's ticket about 30 years ago). She looks young, she looks intelligent, she has a vagina, she's sometimes well-spoken, charming, and she's sexually attractive. It's sickening how many men - of all ages, right or left - are swooning over her. It's sickening that that's a bonus to McCain's campaign. Any questions of her qualifications are denounced as sexist. It's humiliating and deeply offensive to me, as a woman. I feel taken advantage of, and people that find her sexually attractive or think she's a feminist should feel that way too. Why didn't they pick Senator Hutchinson of Texas? Or Condoleezza Rice? They didn't for the same reason young and attractive women appear in so many commercials - to sell a product for false reasons. Hutchinson and Rice are not former beauty queens. Even Republican supporters say she wouldn't have been picked if she were a man. She's a tool; a means to an end. THAT'S real sexism. And the biggest kick in the chin - the champions of anti-feminism were only able to feasibly nominate her because of the feminist movement's accomplishments. And if she is elected, she will put the movement back many years. That's why progressive women are so passionately angry about her nomination - we're hurt. We feel betrayed. We feel cheated. And it's causing a lot of feminists to say and do many un-feminist things.

Why isn't she a feminist? Well, first off, she's an extreme pro-lifer; even rape and incest victims cannot get abortions. Now, pro-choice is not the defining quality of a feminist, of course - equality is the defining issue, and she has nothing constructive whatsoever to say about it. When a woman asked her in a town hall meeting about what she would do for the economic freedom for women, she responded with some babble about basketball. Essentially, she said nothing. When mayor, Wasilla was the only city in Alaska that forced rape victims to pay for the materials needed to convict the rapist. And that's not a trivial sum; somewhere around $1,000. The state had to pass legislation to force all municipalities to provide rape kits, just because of Palin. Alaska is the Rape State - more rapes occur there than anywhere else. Alaska has been trying to tackle this. As soon as Palin stepped in as governor, the movement came to a halt. She's the most anti-woman woman I've ever known. The fact that she is a woman and running for VP with 5 kids does not by itself mean she's a feminist. The fact that she's an independent, go-gettem woman that likes to shoot does not mean she is a feminist. That image is the media's charicature of what they think a feminist is, and that's why shallow feminists like her. They don't understand that she is anything but. She has said some feminist things, that's for sure. But she has not acted or voted like a feminist would. And that's exactly what the Republican Party is banking on by nominating her; they're trying to trick us.

I do not agree with her executive style. Posing hypothetical questions about banning books to employees then firing them when they give the wrong answer; using personal, insecure, unarchived e-mail accounts for conducting state business (that's illegal, by the way) when she's a self-declared proponent of open government; fighting corruption and reforming Alaskan government by giving important positions to her close but unqualified friends; redecorating the mayor's office with public funds; attending church services using public funds; firing Walter Monegan for not firing a trooper due to personal vendetta, then lying about it to the press, and then even after being found guilty, she still lied about it (presumably because she didn't actually read the report - she's not much of a reader, you see); Blackberrying when she should be representing; complaining that she doesn't receive special attention from the media when McCain won't let her talk to the media in the first place; it's all just pretty nasty and hypocritical.

But isn't it brilliant? They have men's votes, and they have some women's votes too, because any question or attack is spun as sexist, giving the campaign a defense mechanism from questioning frighteningly similar to religion's. Some women want a woman in the White House so badly that they don't care who she actually is or what she stands for. Republicans have historically been very good at campaigning, merely because of who they are - they're businessmen. They know how to sell products, they know how to market to people. And we're falling for it again, even after getting fooled into reelecting Bush.

And - I hate that I have to add this - I don't care about her voice and how screechy it may or may not be. That's a petty reason to not like her, and it only makes liberals look idiotic to cite this reason. Not to mention that it's sexist. McCain's manner of speaking bothers me, but I don't hear anyone complaining about that, do I? I also care less about her pregnant daughter than others; as Greta Christina pointed out, it could happen to anyone. But the hypocrisy and irony and refusal to learn from experience does not escape me.

And hell, if none of this works out for McCain and Palin, they can just change people's votes, lose ballots, keep using the same, broken, insecure Diebold (haven't they changed their name now, to distance themselves from the 2000 and 2004 elections?) voting machines, create committees and councils and investigations to pretend they care - all tried and true methods to steal an election, while accusing the Democrats of the very same, along with a make-believe thing called "vote fraud." And the American people will just nod their heads and we'll go back to business as usual, more of the same.

When I voted for Obama last week, it was as much of an anti-McCain vote as it was a pro-Obama vote. (Obama is not the perfect Democratic candidate. I would have preferred less misogyny in the primaries, for example.)

So. Happy Election Day. Please vote. But more importantly - think before you vote.

* On flip-flopping: I am all for changes in opinion when you realize you're wrong or there's a better way to tackle a problem. That's maturity, after all. But flip-flopping is a change in opinion when you have an agenda to pursue. When you change your mind for the wrong reason, that's flip-flopping. It's obvious to me that McCain is changing his opinions based on what will get him the most votes. Regarding (de)regulation, if McCain had said, "I realize that I was wrong about the deregulation of Wall Street. It doesn't work the way I thought it would. What is needed is deregulation..." then I would have blinked hard, said "omg," checked to make sure hell hadn't frozen over, but then I would have had a lot more respect for the man. But that's not what happened. Republicans are all about "stay the course," after all.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Healthy vs. Thin

Consider the following:
  1. Joe (the Plumber?) is thin.
  2. Thin people are healthy.
  3. Joe is healthy.
  1. Bob (the Builder?) is fat.
  2. Fat people are unhealthy.
  3. Bob is unhealthy.
That's dictated to us from birth by our American culture. Makes sense, right? No knee-jerk reaction, right?

Well, I don't agree with it. There's evidence of it all around me, and you too. My partner is a great example. He is thin - ungodly thin - but he's not healthy. He's malnourished. Are anorexic people healthy? What about fat people that exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet? (Yes, they do exist.) Fat and healthy are not mutually exclusive. Weight is not the single measure of health.

Part of the "fat acceptance" movement is teaching this fact to others. The other part is learning how to live in a fat body and not hate it or yourself at the same time. After one can learn to love themselves, it becomes easier to take on the rest of the world.

And part of learning to love yourself is learning to let go of dieting. Most people (not all) cannot lose (or gain) significant amounts of weight and keep it off. Each individual body has a range of weight that it's happiest and healthiest in. In fact, if a body goes too far below or above that range, the metabolism slows down or speeds up in order to get back into that range. This causes fat people to get fat again and thin people to get thin again, over the course of several months. In fact:
[F]at people who lost large amounts of weight might look like someone who was never fat, but they were very different. In fact, by every metabolic measurement, they seemed like people who were starving.
(Emphasis mine.) What does this mean? It means that different bodies need different things. And there's nothing wrong with that. But here's where there is something wrong:
The Rockefeller subjects [who, through hardcore dieting, lost significant amounts of weight] also had a psychiatric syndrome, called semi-starvation neurosis, which had been noticed before in people of normal weight who had been starved. [...]

"It is entirely possible that weight reduction, instead of resulting in a normal state for obese patients, results in an abnormal state resembling that of starved nonobese individuals."
It's unhealthy for a naturally fat person to try to keep weight off. What about success stories?
There were a very few who did not get fat again, but they made staying thin their life's work, becoming Weight Watchers lecturers, for example, and, always, counting calories and maintaining themselves in a permanent state of starvation.
People that do keep the weight off have the drive and will power to always be worried about staying thin. I don't want staying thin to be my life's work. There might be some people that want that. I don't. I'd rather learn to appreciate the body I'm in, and I'd rather learn to keep this body healthy, whatever healthy means to it. And I'm pretty sure starvation isn't healthy, no matter what you look like.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

McCain's Scapegoat

McCain is already laying the groundwork for blaming his lost election on a scapegoat. I'll bet you'll never guess who.

“She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," says a McCain adviser.

She's "a whack job," says another senior adviser.

Sarah Palin, a whack job? You don't say! The left - and some of the right - have been saying that from the very beginning. I've read some speculation that she might even be narcissistic.

I think Politico's Roger Simon makes a good point. "Who put this 'whack job' on the ticket?" he asks. "McCain aides now say Palin is 'going rogue' and straying from their script."

Wait. Going rogue? Straying from the script? Not taking advice from anyone? That sounds familiar.

But hey. "What do you expect from a team of mavericks?"

Indeed, Mrs. Palin. What do you expect?

Pet Peeve

I have to take a time out just to complain about a work-related pet peeve I have that was just now irritated.

Please, please, please. For the love of all that's good and sane in this world.

Read the goddamn e-mail before you respond to it. I have no patience when I receive a reply that either asks the very question I answered in the original e-mail, refers me back to the same information I just said didn't help me, or doesn't address my questions at all and instead says something completely off-topic, irrelevant, and unrelated.


It's pretty damn basic: think before you leap, read before you reply, and show your recipient that you give enough of a damn to read their e-mail before responding.



I, like the vast majority of my culture, have fallen for the rule that Fat Women Are Gross. And I, as part of a tiny minority of my culture, am learning that that just isn't true. I'm not sure what I weigh now. I know I'm over 200 pounds, but I'm not sure how much over. I'm 5'5". I describe myself as "chubby" when I'm feeling optimistic, and "fat" when I'm not. Before I move on, I'm willing to bet that you've already made the assumption that I eat a lot more than I should and that I'm sexually starved.

Headline: Woman Eats Brownies, Gets Laid.

Well, here's the thing. To be honest, I don't know if I eat more than I should. Not anymore. I used to think so. But now I'm not so sure how much of that is our society dictating belief without evidence. (However, I do know that I do not eat healthily, and that likely has a lot to do with my weight.)

If I do eat more than I should, it's not because I'm sexually starved; it's not a substitute. Nor does being fat make me grossly unattractive. I get laid a lot. Couple times a week. I love every minute of it, and I have a strong suspicion that my partner does too. (If you just grossed out, then stop and think about what you just did, what prejudices you are host to, and why you think that way.) I don't eat food because food is a substitute for something that's missing in my life - I just like food. I like food like I enjoy listening to music, or coding, or writing, or reading. I just like it.

The other thing that deserves mentioning is the fact that I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). One of the major symptoms of PCOS is weight gain. So it's not just me and my love for food, healthy or unhealthy (and I can tell you that it's never safe to assume that it's that simple with other overweight women too).

The truth is - there are some men and women who are genuinely sexually attracted to the kind of woman that you would not find in a Playboy magazine. Big women. Non-thin, non-slender, non-skinny, non-lithe women. I'm willing to bet that there are a lot more people that find large women attractive than society thinks. When I got to college and stopped wearing clothing that hid my body, I began to see a lot more interest from my fellow students than I'd ever dreamed of in high school. I need two hands to count the number of individuals that showed more-than-just-friends interest in me. I never thought I'd need more than a finger or two for that. In fact, before reaching college, I had become very comfortable with the idea of being single (with lots of cats) for the rest of my life. And all my boyfriend says is, "You're gorgeous. I'm obviously not the only one that thinks so." I still have a hard time with this concept; I'm still learning a lot about how my body isn't ugly like society seems to think it is.

But the amount of people out there that still think fat people are bad far outnumber the people that don't. And that's a huge problem, pun unintended. The truth is that fat isn't always bad. There is no "epidemic." Some people happen to be fat, just as some people happen to be thin, and while environment and the food you eat has a lot to do with it, genetics has about 77% to do with it. That's right: 77%. Not to mention that diets not only don't work, but could do more harm than good.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pat Buchanan Flails Wildly in Terror at "Obamaland"

There's an article up by Pat Buchanan that I found via Shakesville. In short, Buchanan fears for the state of the Union if Obama is elected; he's sure that our country will come to its end. Here's a list (with my annotations) of what would happen in the first 100 days of "Obamaland," as he so eloquently puts it:
-- Swift amnesty for 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens and a drive to make them citizens and register them, as in the Bill Clinton years. This will mean that Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona will soon move out of reach for GOP presidential candidates, as has California.

-- Border security will go on the backburner, and America will have a virtual open border with a Mexico of 110 million.
OH NOES, no GOP in Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona!? Register immigrants so they have access to education, health care, protection, etc.? Why that's such a humanitarian thing to do! (More on immigration later.)

-- Taxes will be raised on the top 5 percent of wage-earners, who now carry 60 percent of the U.S. income tax burden, and tens of millions of checks will be sent out to the 40 percent of wage-earners who pay no federal income tax. Like the man said, redistribute the wealth, spread it around.

-- Social Security taxes will be raised on the most successful among us, and capital gains taxes will be raised from 15 percent to 20 percent. The Bush tax cuts will be repealed, and death taxes reimposed.

Yup, that's about right. See, even after rich people pay taxes, they're still rich. I'm tired of rich people whining about how terrible it is to be rich. If rich people are going to get all of this bailout money to save their companies from their own greedy actions, then I think they should pay for their own damn bailout and leave the poor people (that can't afford to participate in their companies in some cases anyway) out of it.

-- Two or three more liberal activists of the Ruth Bader Ginsberg-John Paul Stevens stripe will be named to the Supreme Court. U.S. district and appellate courts will be stacked with "progressives."
Oh shit, "progressives." They only want equal rights for all, even for you, Pat! :(

-- Special protections for homosexuals will be written into all civil rights laws, and gays and lesbians in the military will be invited to come out of the closet. "Don't ask, don't tell" will be dead.

-- The homosexual marriages that state judges have forced California, Massachusetts and Connecticut to recognize, an Obama Congress or Obama court will require all 50 states to recognize.

If you're against gay marriage, then don't marry a gay. Yes, let's protect minorities from the majority's ignorance and bigotry. And if you say, "state's rights," then that actually translates to "majority's rights," and that means ignorance and bigotry will be enacted into law in red states. Discrimination should always be voted against, particularly when that discrimination stems only from religious thought.

-- A "Freedom of Choice Act" nullifying all state restrictions on abortions will be enacted. America will become the most pro-abortion nation on earth.
If you're against abortion, then don't get one. And by the way - there is no such thing as "pro-abortion"! Do you realize what you suggest when you say that? When Roe v Wade was decided, there was certainly celebration, but no one celebrated by going out and getting an abortion! Abortion is the last ditch option. If you say "pro-abortion" instead of "pro-choice," then all that tells me is that you have no respect for the position a woman is in when she is pregnant and can't take care of or afford the baby, nor do you have any respect for the woman herself.
-- Affirmative action -- hiring and promotions based on race, sex and sexual orientation until specified quotas are reached -- will be rigorously enforced throughout the U.S. government and private sector.
Here's my take on affirmative action: it's a crutch. It should not be necessary. It should not have to be implemented, because we as a nation should be above this already. We should have learned already. Racism, sexism, and homophobia should have nothing to do with your hiring and promoting decisions. But they still do. And that's why affirmative action is still necessary. But make no mistake: liberals and conservatives both hope that it will go away one day, if for very different reasons.
-- Universal health insurance will be enacted, covering legal and illegal immigrants, providing another powerful magnet for the world to come to America, if necessary by breaching her borders.
I guess now is a good time to talk about illegal immigration. In short: it's a fear tactic. Immigrants are not inherently dangerous or spiteful. This country's strength is in its diversity; we should be doing everything we can to encourage newcomers, because it makes us stronger as a nation. People from different backgrounds and cultures bring different perspectives to America's problems and come up with innovative and different ideas to solve these problems - when given the chance. Why shouldn't all citizens get access to health coverage?

The more people that are healthy and the more people with money in their pockets are more able and likely to make purchases from the rich white men's companies. Everyone wins if we support the bottom of the barrel. The average poor person is not poor because he's lazy; this has been proven and demonstrated time and time again. Currently, it's the cost of health care that makes people poor. That's through no fault of their own, so let's fix it. If we do, then those people can continue to participate in the economy, in their communities, and in their country. Isn't that what we all want, conservative or liberal, rich or poor?
-- A federal bailout of states and municipalities to keep state and local governments spending up could come in December or early next year.
I hadn't heard about this. It doesn't sound bad to me either, when you strip out the negative terminology. The federal government is already giving money to states and municipalities for various reasons (i.e. schools, roads, parks). The less money the government spends, then the less we can afford government employees and contractors. And last I knew, conservatives were all about job creation. And no one anywhere is advocating spending money for the sake of spending it.
-- The first trillion-dollar deficit will be run in the first year of an Obama presidency. It will be the first of many.
I think Pat might have forgotten for a few minutes that President Bush is, in fact, a product of his own party. Clinton did a great job with the budget, so far as I know. And he's a product of Obama's party. Now, just because Clinton did a good job and Bush did a terrible job doesn't mean that Obama will do a good job and McCain will do a terrible job. But they both adhere pretty strongly to the same parties that Clinton and Bush do. (McCain's "maverick" shtick = 90% agreement with Bush.) So it's not unreasonable to assume such a thing, particularly when both candidates would say things to lead you to the same conclusion. Maybe if Buchanan gave us some, you know, evidence, I might have an easier time being worried.
Welcome to Obamaland!
Thanks, Pat. I'm sure I'll enjoy my stay.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Word of the Day

o·le·ag·i·nous [oh-lee-aj-uh-nuh s] –adjective
  1. having the nature or qualities of oil.
  2. containing oil.
  3. producing oil.
  4. unctuous; fawning; smarmy.
Usage example:
It had not escaped McCain’s attention that Palin had blasted through the oleaginous Alaska network dominated by Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens, much in the same manner that McCain saw himself doing when he was a young congressman.



Friday, October 24, 2008

Terrorism and Abortion

Watch this video:

Terrorism, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is:
"The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons."
(Emphasis mine.) Sorry, Governor, but I think bombing Planned Parenthood buildings and killing their staff and clients definitely falls under that definition.

I would like to take this one step further than Brian Williams did though. What about standing outside of a Planned Parenthood building and yelling at clients as they get out of their cars, creating enough of a scene that PP has to actually hire people to escort clients to the door?

That's terrorism too. Let's cut the definition down:
The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
Which leaves us with: "The threatened use of force or violence by an organized group against people with the intention of intimidating or coercing, often for ideological reasons." Yup, that's about right. That's what these people are doing. "But they're not threatening to use force or violence," you might say. Sure they are. Think about it. If PP needs to hire escorts, the perception of a threat of violence is there. Yelling at someone that they're going to burn in hell for all eternity - and these unpeaceful protests are most definitely faith-based - is threatened use of violence, even if the people yelling won't be inflicting the violence themselves. Anti-abortion people are out there yelling at people with exactly the intention of intimidating patrons into not getting an abortion.

Protesters get pretty rough though. Why aren't they protesters? Standing outside PP with signs that say "Stop Abortions Now" and if not leaving patrons alone altogether, then peacefully giving them pamphlets, booklets, flyers, what-have-you, or striking up conversations that possibly begin with a phrase like, "Did you know..." The point of a protest is to say that you, the protester, do not agree with something. A legal protest is a peaceful protest. A terrorist protests using fear on those that don't agree or are different in some way. Fear is inherently unpeaceful.

Is using intimidation (such as, say, threat of arrest) to keep people from going to the poll booths on Election Day terrorism? I tend to think so.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

WebDevs Vote Obama

I came to a stunning realization. Open up John McCain's website and Barack Obama's website.

Now. Compare address bars for both candidate's websites. See it?

McCain uses Microsoft's ASP.NET; Obama uses PHP.

If that doesn't secure your vote, I don't know what will.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Word of the Day

pal·i·node [pal-uh-nohd] -noun
  1. a poem in which the poet retracts something said in an earlier poem.
  2. a recantation.
Usage example: It seems to me that Palin's half of the campaign is full of palinodes - first she lies, then she spins to hide it.

Financial Aid and the Middle-Class

A friend of mine made a comment some time ago, when it had come time to fill out the FAFSA for the coming year:
It's so hard to find financial aid when you're a white male; it's all for women and minorities.
The paradox (and ignorance) made me stop and think. Has our college financial aid system gotten so obsessed with helping the oppressed that we forget about the privileged? I don't think so. And when I remembered the sort of family he comes from, it turns out that his comment is really not so one-dimensional.

For the record, he is a white, bisexual male coming from a middle-income, still intact (read: not divorced) family, and he has two colleged-aged brothers, one of which with ADHD. Compare to my situation: I am a white, bisexual female coming from a low-income, divorced family, and I have one college-aged sister, and no one in my family has any major health problems, mental or physical. When I asked my mother how we were going to pay for my college education - and wondered if we could afford for me to go at all - she said, "Don't worry about money, sweetheart. There's plenty of money out there." She was right. There is plenty of money for me as a poor girl with a 3.9 high school GPA and a 3.8 college GPA.

The problem here is not that my friend is a white male complaining from his high throne of privilege about minorities getting all the welfare money. It's not that simple.

There are a lot of flaws in the financial aid system, for everyone. The root cause of nearly all these flaws is simple: there is not enough money. Period. There is only enough money to help out the poor, minorities, and women, and only just. That means that there is very little money to go to the people that need it second most: the middle-class. I have met many, many students - of cultural privilege and average wealth - that struggle with paying bills. These students are getting all the money their parents can afford to give up, if any, and still don't have enough, because their school and their government can't afford to pitch in enough to fill the gap.

But there's more. If these students are not spectacular performers in school, they are probably missing out on merit-based aid too. Not to mention the fact that a large portion of merit-based aid is also need-based. And what if these students come from stingy parents?

"The rich stay rich by being cheap." Some parents simply refuse to invest their money in their children. Here's the major flaw in the system that can't be fixed by more funding: what do you do for kids who come from money, but their parents aren't willing to fork it over? You can't just add a checkbox that says, "Parents refuse to contribute money." I can't think of a safety mechanism for this, and I guess universities and the government hasn't either, because these kids get screwed over regularly. They can't get any need-based financial aid because - judging from their parents' tax returns - they don't need any money. But they don't get any money from their parents either. What can you do for them?

Like I said, I don't think it's a funding problem; I think this is a cultural problem. Our culture tells us that it's okay to be greedy - that's how you get and stay ahead in life. It's the American Dream. But there's a real problem when your greed prevents you from investing in your children's own American Dreams. And it's a real problem when the government refuses to invest in our country's children too.

There are obviously children getting left behind here, and it's not just the poor and the minorities and the oppressed. While these students are generously funded, there is a demographic that is left in the shadows. Just imagine what would happen if the government put that $700 billion into financial aid and public schooling. Our country would have more college graduates to fill skilled jobs that baby-boomers are supposed to be leaving open soon; we would regain the lead in science and technology around the world; we'll draw the world's smartest back into the country. But it looks like the economic meltdown has bought us (no pun intended) a little more time to figure all this out. It seems that the baby-boomers won't be retiring for quite a while yet.

Good Advice

Jack Helmuth at HuffPost put up an article early this morning outlining what you as a liberal can do to help Obama win, categorized by the kind of person you are. For example, here's a bit of what Mr. Helmuth has to say to "angry liberals":
What you can do, Angry Liberal, is to chill out. Don't be sarcastic. Don't be condescending. [...] Basically, don't sink to their level. [...] This is not to say don't fight back - I'm not promoting John Kerryism. I'm saying fight in a dignified manner, and let them continue to drown themselves in their own bile. [...] That means swallowing our anger and being more Christ-like than the so-called religious conservatives and turning the other cheek. Obama actually can heal our country, and we need to follow the example he is trying to set.
Damn, that's good advice. I just wish I could more easily follow it. Some one-liners for some other categories:
Joe Biden - Shut...the...F...up. Get an Obama/David Plouffe approved script and never, ever veer from it.
Sarah Palin - Just keep doing what you're doing, baby! Keep doing what you're doing!
Barack Obama - Don't be cute.
By the way, Sarah Palin's one-liner is all the advice she gets. Obama and Biden both get an additional paragraph.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Socialism and Taxes: A Primer

Obama wants to lower taxes for 95% of taxpayers. He's said it repeatedly, from the beginning of the campaign, but McCain has only recently gotten it. Now, McCain says, why, that's socialist, that's welfare! Except that McCain has been proposing that he'll do just the same thing. So let me get this straight:
  1. Giving tax breaks to the middle class makes one a socialist.
  2. Obama wants to give tax breaks to the middle class.
  3. QED, Obama is a socialist.
Do I have that right, Mr. McCain? If so, then the following also follows, using your very own original premise:
  1. Giving tax breaks to the middle class makes one a socialist.
  2. McCain wants to give tax breaks to "middle class families."
  3. QED, McCain is a socialist.
But McCain's not a socialist, that's silly! I smell a double-standard. So what does all this boil down to? Obama might be a socialist, and McCain is a hypocritical, lying douchebag.

UPDATE: HuffPost wonders the same as I do.

McCain and the "Liberal Feminist Agenda"

The McCain-Palin campaign gets crazier.

Yes, he did just say that choosing Palin was a "cold, political calculation" to counter the "liberal feminist agenda." There are a lot of conservatives voting Democratic because they don't like how far-right McCain and Palin are. Needless to say, I can't blame them at all.

Violet at Reclusive Leftist surmises, I think correctly, that this means that McCain sees two different feminisms, a liberal and a conservative. It's the conservative that McCain supports, the liberal he is against. Okay. I can see him being moronic enough to think that (as does Violet).

Palin calls herself a feminist. Does this mean that she's a conservative or a liberal feminist? Judging from her actions (not what she's said while on the campaign trail), it's pretty clear that she is not a liberal feminist. So what does a conservative feminist believe? McCain's website does not have a section discussing women or their rights, unlike Obama's website. I surmise that a conservative feminist believes she has the right to be a mother; clean the house; do the dishes; make dinner; raise the kids; run for mayor, governor, or Vice President; and give birth to her rapist's baby, but I don't think equal pay is in there. Maybe freedom from domestic violence, excluding the woman's husband (because marriage implies consent).

I don't want someone that believes those things in the White House. In fact, I would not call someone that believes in those things a feminist. That's an anti-feminist. That's a regressive. Feminism is an integral and necessary part of humanism, of progressivism. Those are not central tenets of the Republican platform.

That said, isn't it strange that Palin would call herself a feminist? It's a loaded word, nowadays. You can't just call yourself a feminist and receive an unweighted "ah" in return. Violet seems to take her at her word; I sure don't. I don't really care what she says; I care what she does. She has done more to upend women's rights than she has to support them, and that's true whether or not you take her pro-life stance into account. (Violet calls her a "pro-life feminist" - I can let that go, but even if I did, the rest of her platform and her actions as mayor and governor are still anti-feminist.) McCain went against the anti-feminism of his party to pick her in the first place, in order to appeal to Hillary Clinton's feminists; it follows, then, that she's going to call herself a feminist in public to further that end (and it looks like it's working).

In other news, Palin gives us this gem over the weekend:
[...] I don't support gay marriage. I'm not going to be out there judging individuals, sitting in a seat of judgment telling what they can and can't do, should and should not do [...]
Funny, those two statements are mutually exclusive, to my understanding, and yet they came in one breath.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Final Debate

Now that I've had some time to stew over the final presidential debate, there are few things that keep coming back to me.

Before I begin, I want to say that I don't see the point in declaring a "winner." That's not the point to me, as a voter. My primary interest in watching debates is to hear something new and to clarify the old. I was mostly disappointed in the previous debates, both presidential and vice presidential*. This debate offered some new things to think about though.

I continue to appreciate and value Obama's calm. As I'm sure I've stated in the past, I do not want a president that doesn't think before he leaps, not to mention a president with a hot temper. I also appreciate a solid intellect. I was glad to see more of his intellect (which McCain attacked, making the word "elitist" pop up into the minds of his base) and more of his calm.

I'm already sick of hearing about Joe the Plumber.

I giggled happily when McCain exclaimed surprise when Obama told Joe the Plumber that he would be fined zero dollars.

I yelled obscenities when McCain continuously used the phrase "pro-abortion," as there is no such thing, and I was very pleased when Obama said that himself.

I stopped yelling when McCain used air quotes to describe women's health and claimed it to be exaggerated by the "pro-abortion" movement and that women's health is an "extreme" position to defend. "That's the extreme pro-abortion position: 'health.'" I cannot begin to describe the way I felt. I actually teared up, I was so angry. To tell over half the population of the country you want to represent that their health problems - including death during childbirth - are myths, exaggerations, worth snickering over, and putting in quotes...I cannot begin to describe the rage. How is it that he could have done that, so thoughtlessly, so disdainfully? I was going to just link the video, but I'm going to put it here instead:

And while McCain tells the women of American that their health is unimportant, Obama purses his lips, shakes his head a little, and reaches for a glass of water. This was the moment where I wished Obama were less calm and more passionate. Had I been in Obama's place, I would have launched into a tirade. Actually, if I'm going to be really honest, I would have burst into tears (I really am not cut out to be President, let alone debate about what I would do if I were).

* The point of interest from the vice presidential debate regarded gay marriage. Biden categorically declined support of gay marriage, but declared approval for equality in civil unions. Bollocks. And we all knew what Palin was going to say long before she said it.