Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I Totally Agree

Bitch Ph.D. says that the Supreme Court Hates Women. She's so right. But then, we maybe should've seen this coming when the Senate confirmed five white dudes to decide how we should live our lives.


This is totally random, but the topic of discussion came up last night centered on this image:

One could argue that it portrays women as purely sex objects. They are faceless, and therefore only suited to be blank canvases for the work of men. Thoughts?

Mexican Radio Silence

The WaPo's foreign desk today had a great story about how bad it's gotten for reporters in Mexico:
More than 30 journalists have been killed in the past six years in Mexico, including a television reporter in Acapulco and a print journalist in the northern state of Sonora in the month before López and Paredes disappeared. Countless others have been kidnapped in a campaign of intimidation largely attributed to the drug cartels.

As more reporters die, journalism itself is suffering. A newspaper in Sonora said last week that it was temporarily shutting down because of attacks and threats by criminal gangs. Top editors at the two largest newspapers here in Monterrey, Milenio and El Norte, said in interviews that they no longer ask crime reporters to dig deeply on their stories.

"I don't know how to do investigations without getting people killed," Roberta Gomez, Milenio's executive editor, said during an interview at a Monterrey seafood restaurant where gunmen opened fire during the lunch rush not long ago.

Crime reporters have begun requesting anonymity on stories, and rarely delve deeper than police reports. The suppression of the fourth estate through violence is bad for Mexican democracy, and gives too much power to both the government and the drug cartels.

UPDATE: Whoops. Forgot to link to the article.

What Is the World Bank?

All this talk about Wolfowitz got me to thinking about the World Bank and how we classify it. The definitions Google came up with ranged from amusing to overly-rosy. Its short history makes it similar to the UN, created in the wake of WWII and aimed at both European reconstruction and prevention of future disasters. But what category it falls into is somewhat more complicated. It's not in possession of any one government, even though "by tradition" an American is appointed as its leader by our president. I've certainly seen enough documentaries explaining why the World Bank is evil -- making exorbitant loans to corrupt governments and then squeezing repayment out of already-poor countries. What's scary is that there's no oversight on the World Bank except that which it supplies itself. Perhaps that's why it's easier to take out Wolfowitz with a personal scandal.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Black Rebel Motorcycle Veterans

It seems that Hell's Angels can be a powerful lobbying force -- if they're also veterans, that is. This year a record number of former soldier motorcyclists came to DC, possibly because there are more veterans this year than there have been in a long time.


Slate has an amusing slideshow story on this ubiquitous font of the 21st century.

No More Dion

I'm reluctant to write about a race that I haven't really been following, but Jeff Dion's dropout from running for the 51st district of Virginia's state legislature caught my eye. It even made the WaPo and NPR. Apparently, right-wing blogger attacks on Dion, primarily centered on his sexual orientation caused him to write a good-bye letter on his website that attributed his dropout to a "toxic atmosphere." From what I can tell, Dion was a target for being a leader in prosecuting hate crimes in his role on the Criminal Justice Services Board and because of his profile. (I didn't bother to try looking up his profile, but it seems likely he's since altered it or taken it down at this stage.) Apparently local Democrats then began to question his chances of winning and asked him to step down.

The fact that bloggers could affect such change on the local level is astonishing to me. It's true that netroots take a lot of credit for getting people involved at the grassroots level, but it's so hard to understand why s Furthermore, because Democrats (at least now) view themselves as so favored to win in the next election, it seems they're shying away from fighting difficult races like what Dion's race would have been had he stayed in.

Ultimately I'm unsure of whether Dion was a "good candidate" or not, but I certainly support having someone to speak for those that are the victims of hate crimes. We need more people that are willing to make this their primary issue.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sargent Mom

Women's eNews reported today that moms in the military are getting heat from their kids for their extended tours in Iraq. It cites a study conducted by the Joint Economic Committee. It seems women make up 1 in 7 of the U.S. forces in Iraq, and close to 40 percent of active duty soldiers are mothers.

The report and the article are great ways to squeeze at people's hearts about the consequences of extended leave, but I am going to make one argument. It is often portrayed that the absent mother is the most egregious thing a woman can do. The same stigma is not attached to the absent father. Why should father on an extended tour be any less bad that a mother on an extended tour?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hospital Technology

It's no secret that American health care could use a little upgrade. The mountains of paperwork were addressed in Sen. Rodham Clinton's health care proposal (PDF) for phase 1 today. But this story from the BBC shows that WiFi could be used to track patients in instances of emergency. While I'm sure the civil libertarians will cry foul, this kind of technology would improve hospital care, alerting nurses when patients need help and aren't conscious to press the button. It would eliminate unnecessary checks and make hospitals generally more efficient. The problem is, it could take near forever for such thing to be implemented in ordinary hospitals.


I don't understand. Not only is it somewhat crazy that Brookings and AEI are partnering to write a book, but it's analysis of Bush's second term, which isn't even halfway over yet. Odd.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Post Style

I had to laugh to myself when I saw this item in today's WaPo:

The Style section of The Washington Post has won first place for general excellence in the Missouri Lifestyle Journalism competition for the second consecutive year. The competition, which began in 1960, is regarded as one of the oldest and best-known feature writing contests in American newspaper journalism. ... many of even the biggest and best newspapers are cutting back or eliminating feature sections. At such a time, they said, "the Post continues to dazzle."

"Dazzle"? Really?

'Making the Journey'

Today Ireland will elect new officials, but one issue that has largely been avoided is abortion. As reported by Women's eNews, Ireland has the most restrictive abortion laws in western Europe. However, many still manage to "make the journey" to other countries to undergo such a procedure. While some opponents want to restrict women from even traveling to have an abortion, it seems as if the practice will continue.

This reminds us that Europe, while extremely progressive as a whole on most issues, is not a Utopian paradise. There are still human rights battles to be fought, and such restrictions in Ireland are a clue to what might happen in the United States if the right succeeds in outlawing abortion. Those that could afford to "make the journey" would obtain abortions abroad, but others would be forced into a life they may not want or be prepared for. At least in Ireland getting to another country doesn't require as much of a travel investment as someone from a rural area in the United States would be forced to make.

More Awards

I'm fresh back from New York, where TAPPED was awarded the Sydney Hillman award for best blog.

I also discovered last week that Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, where I worked last summer helping them develop their new site, won the City and Regional Magazine Award for general excellence online.

Monday, May 21, 2007


It's always weird reading stories about people you know, but this one about my friend Spencer was pretty funny.

Soldiers with PTSD

Today on The American Prospect Online, I have a piece regarding the struggle soldiers go through with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

A recent Army study found that more than one-third of veterans returning Iraq veterans have sought help for PTSD-related symptoms. Beth Hudnall Stamm, director of telehealth and principal investigator of the Institute of Rural Health at Idaho State University, estimates that 6 to 8 percent of veterans suffer from life time PTSD, of which 4 percent are chronic cases. She estimates that anywhere from 6 to 20 percent of this generation of veterans will suffer from some form of PTSD, but other studies suggest that number might be as high as nearly 40 percent.

Clinical and forensic psychologist Saul Rosenberg, who testified at the hearing, envisions a system where solders would be given psychiatric evaluations upon entering the military, to get a baseline, then tested once again upon return from combat operations to flag those who might be at risk for developing PTSD. Psychologists and regular doctors could follow up with these soldiers. Such testing could allow mental health professionals to "identify those at greatest risk;" Rosenberg estimates the initial screenings would cost the government about $60 per returning soldier.

Since so many veterans come to their primary care physicians or go to their local Veterans Administration (VA) hospital with symptoms related to PTSD, Rosenberg said he would like to see the renowned VA computer diagnosis system, VistA, used during regular doctor visits to assist with diagnosis. This would help primary care doctors become educated about PTSD, which many experts view as a normal reaction to abnormal levels of violence or abuse.

Read the whole thing here. (Note: The site requires free registration.)

I'd Like to Thank ...

The other blog I write for, TAPPED, won the Hillman award.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Life is Greener ...

This Sunday's cover story in the NYT Magazine just confirms what I've been thinking passively for some time now: I should just give up on living in crappy apartments in the United States and just move to Europe.

Radical Secularism

At Liberty University's graduation ceremony this weekend, Newt Gingrich, probably in his endeavor to capture the hearts and minds of the Christian right, decried a "radical secularism" that has a vice grip on America today. This got me to thinking about Turkey, which has been more tense lately between those that desire a Muslim state and those that are defiantly secular. My guess is that Gingrich would be opposed to a religious state if that religion happened to be Muslim.

U.S. News and Promotional Report

It seems colleges are fighting back against the bestselling rankings published by U.S. News and World Report every year. The WaPo reports, "'But why should we help U.S. News sell magazines?' asked Robert J. Massa, vice president for enrollment and college relations at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania." Because they help you sell colleges.

In an age of information, this kind of comprehensive ranking is at a premium. Colleges and universities may not like them, but it's the best tool prospective students have if they want to know how to invest several tens (and sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars. Now, if only there was comprehensive information about other big-ticket investments like the housing market ...

Iraq Foretold

If the January 2003 report issued by the National Intelligence Council foretold that Iraq would be an unstable situation that would be unmanagable, then I guess nothing was going to stop this war.

The Asterisk Candidate

Chris Dodd got an 1,100-word profile in the WaPo today. Dodd started out as the anti-war candidate -- even getting a little attention for talks with Unity '08. (Although why we would want to abandon our fairly broken two-party system for a one-party system, I cannot fathom.) But now, all of the candidates are firmly against the war (even the much-criticized Hillary) and Dodd is still just another asterisk in the polls. He remains a hugely popular senator in his home state of Connecticut, so at least he has job security.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Know Your Islamic Fundamentalists, Pt. 2

Upon re-reading my original post, I realized what I was getting at was not that Ahmed Chalabi didn't "look like" a terrorist. What I was getting at was that I'm sure the administration was drawn in by the fact that he runs in Washington circles and dresses in business suits (the same has been said of Mahmoud Abbas, who, unlike Arafat, simply looks more Western by dressing te part and some had optimistic projections for archiving a Palestinian state). Furthermore, it is a reminder to all of us that someone who is sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalists and/or sectarian violence isn't a stereotype -- they are real people, and not so easy to pick out of a crowd. This is why the Global War on Terror (which is going out of style, no?) is something best fought with detective work.

Lie In, Die In

The WaPo reported a protest staged Sunday by 32 women representing the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings. One of the leaders of the protest, Abigail Spangler, "decided to organize a women's 'lie-in/die-in' that would last only a few minutes, 'representing the amount of time it took for the shooter to buy his gun in the United States.'" This is the second protest. The first was staged on April 22 in front of the Alexandria City Hall.

They have a point, though, since they want to make getting a gun license at least as hard as it is to get a driver's license. The last time I checked they were both considered deadly weapons in court.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Prepare to Gag

This article in the WaPo today was, um, mild to say the least. And this statement made me want to gag, "And it's hard for me to see beyond the wonders of my husband."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Know Your Islamic Fundamentalists

I was fact checking a forthcoming article by Bob Dreyfuss and came across the name Ahmed Chalabi. When I Googled him, I came across a BBC profile from 2002. What struck me most was how Western he looked. The profile pretty much paints him as a crook who was aligned to potentially succeed Saddam Hussein following the collapse of his government. Truly, our government desired a "mini America" in the wake of the invasion, but that plan was set to fail from the starting gate, both due to the selection of extremely corrupt officials to run the government and the extreme cultural divide between our two countries.

Commence With a Lack of Rights

DCist reports that the University of the District of Columbia has slotted Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson to speak at the commencement ceremony. Jackson has long been opposed to DC voter rights, which makes him something of an odd choice for UDC's graduation ceremony.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Ban on Medicaid Dollars for Abortion

Women's eNews' Allison Stevens has a great piece on TAP that reminds us of the fact that abortions in this country are increasingly a privilege for the middle class and wealthy. Pro-life groups have done a great job of marginalizing choice, and now women are now economically forced to make very tough decisions.

A New Idea Is Not Neccesarily a Good Idea

Matt Yglesias linked to an old Jon Chait article called "The Case Against New Ideas," written in the wake of the 2004 election. It indicates that Democrats don't necessarily need to spend time coming up with new proposals -- they already have tons of them -- they simply need power. He says, "[Lack of media coverage on Democrats' ideas] isn't because reporters harbor a bias against liberals. It's because they harbor a bias against ideas that stand no chance of being enacted." This was especially true in 2004, and now it's changing a bit.

The simple fact of the matter is that getting things passed is hard, especially with a divided government and the power of nearly any given lobby. Even when a party gets an idea through the House and Senate, it's usually altered -- sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

Communications Control

There are two things that are happening in communications regulation lately:
  • Pandora has been fighting a campaign to save Internet radio. A recent ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board has determined that Internet radio (apparently in an extreme departure from regular radio) cannot play copyrighted music on the Internet, even if it's for the purposes of streaming. This causes popular sites like Pandora to go under, if they must pay for each song that a user accesses. For more on why copyright is overrated, read Wendy Kaminer's column in TAP and the (somewhat) recent New Yorker article on the Google Books project.
  • The Post Office is planning to put a higher rate on publications under a certain circulation, essentially in an effort to "tax the poor." This is one that affects many of the magazines I actually read. I'm sure it made sense to the Postal board at the time -- give high-volume senders a discount -- but this is the same reason why Wal-Mart shuts out small stores.
It seems as if the young listeners to Pandora effectively delayed a decision on this copyright situation, but it's questionable whether the aging readers of small publications like TAP, The Nation, and a number of others will be able to affect such change.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Investigative Superheroes

In anticipation of Spider-Man 3 this weekend, I've been watching a lot of superheroes movies to psych myself up: Batman Begins, Spider-Man 2, Superman Returns, and Toby Maguire on The Daily Show. It struck me, though, what's with this weird phenomenon of superheroes masquerading as journalists?

In all seriousness, it could be construed as a commentary on the profession of journalism. Journalists are typically least critical of those closest to them. It's their job to investigate people, but when those people are also cozy with them, they don't want to disrupt personal relationships. It's a paradox journalists must always face. In order to get "the story" they have to get close to people, but it's this closeness that can also cause them to miss really important stories.


This account of the Obama MySpace scandal is intriguing. They seem to have made a bad move by muscling out an Obama fan -- someone who was just doing it because he loved the candidate. They should have worked harder to bring him on board full-time with the campaign.

The unanswered question raised at the end of the article, "Why couldn't the Obama people find the money to work out an amicable arrangement with Anthony? What are they spending the $26 million they raised last quarter on?" is a good one.

The first comment is somewhat creepy: "It's really sad to witness what a so-called 'volunteer' for the Obama campaign is willing to do to blackmail the campaign. Honestly, no serious Barack Obama supporter would behave like this."

It's always been my issue that people who like Obama really like Obama. They almost obsessively and unquestioningly follow him. Who is a "serious Barack Obama supporter" anyway? How do they pick them out from the un-serious ones?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Pink + Green

A friend of mine was asked to speak at the "Pink and Green Coalition" conference here in Washington the other week. At the time, she said something about reproductive freedom is important for controlling population, which has an impact on the environment. While that is true, the difference and alliance of the feminist movement and the environmental movement is a complex one.

As Anne Statham said in 2000 (note: I could only access the abstract), feminists tend to have a more reactionary view of the world, while environmentalists take a "holistic life view." So the idea of joining these two movements isn't exactly a brand-new one. I was thinking about it on my own, and I came up with a few things that feminists that are pro-environmental can think about:
  • One thing brought to my attention was the simple cost of having a period. Seems silly, right? But the amount of waste generated by this monthly experience is something to think about. Tampons, sanitary napkins, and panty liners all generate a significant amount of waste over the period of a lifetime. Products like the Keeper and the Mooncup are designed to reduce waste. I myself haven't tried these products, but I have to admit, it's food for thought.
  • If periods indeed generate so much waste, why not simply reduce the number of them? With hormonal birth control, you can simply have a period once every three months instead of once a month, thus cutting the use of feminine products by two-thirds.
  • Given that, I'm not sure if hormonal birth-control treatments are manufactured in an environmentally friendly way. Where does the waste go?
  • Besides all that icky period stuff, there's something for third-wave enviro-feminists to think about in particular. Makeup that's manufactured in an environmentally and animal un-friendly should be avoided. Not to mention that the volume of packaging makeup sometimes comes in is a bit ridiculous.
Those are just a few things I started thinking about that, as a feminist, I never really considered before. I don't know if this means I'm going to run out and buy a Mooncup, but I'll definitely bethinking about those kinds of things more going forward.

May Day

Happy May Day!
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