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.