Friday, April 27, 2007

Random Office Gripe #1

To me, leaving the copier lid open is like leaving the toilet seat up.

Parking Lot Bomb

Why don't we call this what it is? Terrorism.

Worse Than Iraq

The BBC reports that the situation in Somalia is dire. Amid a cease fire, families are fleeing.

Ms Bunker said displacements in Somali had topped those in Iraq, Darfur and Sri Lanka.

"If you look at the situation from February until now, in that one timeframe, more people have been displaced inside Somalia than any place else in the world," she told the BBC.

It doesn't make me feel good that the refugee situation is considered worse than Iraq.

Arms Control

A press release came across my desk today about the NRA electing Delaware native John Sigler as their new president. When I did a Google news search, this story about the NRA and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence popped up. Apparently they agree that mental health records should be standard in a background check (after the Virginia Tech shooting, it's hard to argue with that point).

What's always disturbing to me is that members of the NRA have almost entirely too much faith in the average citizen with a gun. Their executive vice president (apparently they have two VPs) Wayne LaPierre said, "If you look at these cases, these bad guys have only been stopped by a good guy with a gun, or by turning the gun on themselves."

Who is this superhero with a gun? Forgive me, but this sounds like comic book idealism, but studies show that a gun in the home actually increases the level of violence. As I've said before, I'm not an absolutist on arms control, but I do recognize that guns are weapons -- dangerous weapons that are likely to be used as such.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Polluters Pay for ... Nothing

The hard-working and under appreciated Center for Public Integrity released an analysis of toxic waste sites around the country. Unsurprisingly, cleaning up toxic waste sites has fallen by the wayside under the Bush administration. They're cleaning up fewer sites, and worse, the amount of money they're collecting from polluters is dropping significantly:
In cases where the EPA has cleaned up sites and charged companies thought to be responsible for the pollution, the amount of money recovered by the agency peaked in the fiscal years 1998 and 1999, at about $320 million each year. By fiscal 2004, collected cost recoveries had dropped well below $100 million. In the last two fiscal years, 2005 and 2006, the EPA collected about $60 million each year.
The benefit to fines that are issued by departments like the EPA, is it collects revenue for the government from those who do damage to the public. Theoretically, the toxic cleanup should nearly pay for itself through fines to polluters. I knew a reporter in Minnesota who was investigating the same thing under Pawlenty's administration.

It's not shocking that Republican administrations are less gung-ho about going after polluters, especially because many of them are big dollar doners, but if it continues to go underreported, it will allow the administrations to get away with a lax attitude. Bring on the hearings!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Payday Is Not Equal to Equal Pay Day

Check out my coverage of the Paycheck Fairness Act hearing from yesterday.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Why I'm a Feminist ...

So I realize this comes super late for Blog for Choice Day, but the reason I'm a feminist goes back to when I was something like a freshman in high school and read Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique. Although the feminist movement was miles away from it, this text allowed me to open my eyes to the possibility of feminism. I'd heard all to many people refer with nostalgia to the "good old days" of the 1950s. Friedan confirmed my suspicion that the "good old days" were a myth -- a form of conservative folklore -- where no one suffered and everyone was prosperous.

I've blogged before about how choice used to be perceived as civil disobedience. Choice seems like a simple concept--we should have the ability to choose when to procreate because now science allows us to do so. Of course, there are many that have a view that fetal life is a "gift from God," but by imposing this belief on others, they are restricting many women to a life of powerlessness. A child born out of resentment is surely worse than no child at all.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Federal Superiority Clause

A NYT article that shows a federal law actually exists to prevent people like Seung-Hui Cho from buying guns. A Virginia law is less stringent, but apparently the gun shop owner didn't know to check for court-certified mental illness based on the federal law. Theoretically, gun shop owners should have done their constitutional duty and went by the federal law.

In a state like Virginia, home to the NRA's gun museum (careful, if you're prone to seizures I would think twice about clicking on this link), the proud gun ownership attitude in this case has lead to lax laws. I can imagine the grumbles from gun enthusiasts now: "Grr. One person does something wrong and the rest of us have to suffer."

I understand. I'm from a rural area that has a lot of gun pride. But one point the NRA says (but has trouble backing up) that is valid is they want to promote responsible gun ownership. That includes background checks for mental illness and history of violent crime, showing new gun owners how to safely use a gun to prevent accidents, and encouraging gun owners to keep their guns in a locked cabinet so young children can't get to them.

Until the second amendment gets repealed (unlikely) anti-gun activists need to walk a fine line of strict regulation and enforcement. The good thing about the Virginia Tech tragedy is that it may put gun shop owners in their place about taking responsibility to thoroughly check buyers.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Orphan Fetish

So I noticed something when I was gazing into the Boarders near the bus stop and gazing at the Jr. Fiction shelves: Nearly all of the major heroes or heroines for young pre-teens are orphans. Think about it: Matilda, Harry Potter, the Boxcar Children, Lemony Snickett's threesome of siblings, the rebellious Lord of the Flies children, even dating back to Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer -- the Narnia kids were not literally orphans, but wherever their nefariously religious plot may have led them, it began by their absent parents dropping them off at the old professor's house.

My theory is that these stories lead a narrative of the rebellious child striking out on his or her own, making way in the world without supervision of an adult. I have no idea what the psychological ramifcations of this might be, but I suspect that it's a way for children to act out a sort of fantasy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

'So Very Sorry'

Something didn't sit right with me when I read this story today in the WaPo. Cho Seung Hui, the perpetrator of the Virgina Tech shooting, merely shares an ethnicity with these people. So why is Yung Yang, a South Korean-native secretary from Annandale, apologizing for the actions of this deranged young man? Sure, when there's a national tragedy everyone feels the need to have their heart go out to them, but apologizing on behalf of an entire ethnicity?

Cho entered the states when he was a young boy, and though I'm sure his ethnicity played into the ostracizing he felt, the reality is that mental health isn't taken seriously until someone gets hurt from it.

Many of the people sitting on death row are victims of post-traumatic stress disorder and victims of abuse, both of which can cause severe mental disturbance. Cho himself doesn't have a full psychological profile, partially because his instructor's cries for counseling for him went unheard.

The answer is that there is no easy answer. A number of factors play into what turns a citizen into a criminal. The largest factor of is psychological disturbance -- something that is very difficult to spot, but once it's spotted, we should pay attention.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

We don't need no education

Via Comment is Free: Schools should rethink the way they teach sex education.


Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Surprise! Wait, they're only in the early stages of development. *phew* We can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Seriously, Iran's desire to develop nuclear technology is not a completely insane one. For some reason, having these capabilities makes you a Big Player in the world and it's no surprise that Iran is tired of our meddling in the Middle East. If they develop weapons, they suddenly have a much bigger bargaining chip. Here's where the hard power foreign policy backfires -- big time. When you look earnest about negotiating peacefully with military as a backup, you can get what you want a whole lot more effectively than going out and invading countries while, well, failing at it.

Friday, April 6, 2007


I just finished reading How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time by Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer. I read it cover-to-cover, and although I'm a couple years too young for Sassy, it makes me long for magazines for women that are smarter than Real Simple and Cosmo -- they should compete on the level of Harper's and The New Yorker. But as Dana pointed out, women are on average less informed than men. Linda Hirshman even went so far as to accuse cushy suburbanites of relying on their husbands for political information. What went wrong here?

I seem to remember readership stats at my alma matter (the U of M) said that something like 65 percent of readers were female. Will we be the generation that flips the switch?

I think of myself in my own group of friends. I am much less informed than my male friends and co-workers (and some of my female friends and co-worker), whose full-time job it is to follow the news. But, I'm probably more informed than your average citizen.

What, then makes the difference? Do women just "prefer" fluffy talk shows and celebrity gossip? I derive much greater enjoyment out of the Jim Lehrer News Hour than E!, but I am just one woman. I notice, when outside the beltway, a lot of women avoid talking to each other about politics in a way that men don't. This is, of course, a sweeping generalization, but the definition of "girl talk" does not include foreign policy.

I've wandered away from the point here, but Sassy definitely wasn't afraid of tough topics and used terms like "feminism" in a way that most teen magazines talk about boys. So the moral of the story is: the book was fabulous, women need to be better informed, and I need to stay on topic, apparently.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Tree Huggers

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the environment on two cases this Monday, Massachusetts v. EPA (05-1120) and Environmental Defense Fund v. Duke Energy Corp (05-848). I'm no judicial expert, but it appears that there's a bit of pushback on the administration on various aspect of seizing power. Of course, I would never claim that the court is doing a stellar job (when will Scalia die or retire?) but it's cases like this that make me not want to abandon all hope.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


Cambridge, MA -- The film Speak Out: I Had An Abortion, a film sponsored by Women Who Make Movies is a unique look at women who are willing to speak on film about the abortions they've had. Women who first fought for abortions and had them before they were legal seem more willing to talk about them. There's a sense of solidarity among older women. Before the pill, it was actually quite common. One woman describes fearing having to tell her mother that she'd had an abortion (that was actually her second) and her mother simply looks at her and says, "I had two" and moved on with the day. To them, it was a form of civil disobedience.

Now that everyone is on the pill, abortions seem much more rare, and less public. The right-wing movement has been very successful in creating a shadow of shame. But this reminds us that to some women, a pregnancy can feel trapping, and an abortion can be liberating.

One woman who lived in Texas in the '60s said that many women went over the border to have abortions, but "a lot of them didn't come back."
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...