Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Till Death Do Us Part

The so-called Marriage Protection Amendment is up for consideration -again- during the week of June 5th. This document would begin the process of amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman. It seems to be true that there's no chance of its passing. It looks like there are only 52 sure votes for it.

Just for the record though, it only got 48 votes in the Senate the last time it was considered. To point out the obvious, while it still has too few votes to pass, the trajectory is up and 52 is a majority of the Senate. So, I'm relieved but far from complacent. The increase in votes comes from first-term Republican Senators who replaced Democrats in the last election: Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and David Vitter (R-La.).

My dismay increased when I heard that the Knights of Columbus (a sociologically peculiar Catholic men's group) is sponsoring a nation-wide postcard campaign in support of the amendment. The President of the US Council of Catholic Bishops, Bishop William Skylstad, supports the Knights in their efforts with the letter summarized here: USCCB Office of Media Relations. Without a doubt he put them up to it, so of course he supports them. But we'll let that pass.

Fretting and stewing about what a Catholic can do to indicate dissent, I offer you this article by Patricia Beattie Jung: Call to Wed.(.pdf) And there's this FAQ, which might give Catholics some ammunition if the coffee-hour conversation gets testy: FAQ. In the mean-time, I'll probably mail the postcard either to the Bishop or back to the Knights, with a little letter. It won't accomplish anything, but at least they'll know that they're not dealing with consensus.

Lest We Forget

Once a month, I track down the numbers that partially document the human cost of the war in Iraq. As of yesterday, according to U.S. Fatalities, 2469 members of the U.S. military have died. The total number of civilians killed, according to Iraq Body Count is between 38,059 and 42,434.

So, the score stands thus:
Osama bin Laden: responsible for the deaths of 2738 U.S. citizens
George W. Bush: responsible for the deaths of 2,469 U.S. citizens

To everyone who has lost a loved one in this pointless exercise in hubris, I offer my heartfelt condolences and my ongoing prayers.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The ABCs of Terrorism

I mean ABC's kind of literally. The British newspaper The Independent reported yesterday that at least 17 and possibly as many as 60 of the detainees at Guantanamo were definitely minors when they were captured. Some were as young as 14. Some of these child-soldiers have been held in solitary confinement, repeatedly interrogated, and apparently tortured. Only three have been held in a special facility designed for children and only one is thought to have been an actual combatant. The supporting casework was done by Reprieve, a UK charity working against the death penalty and other human rights violations. It's corroborated by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

This situation is so despicable on so many levels I hardly know where to start. Not to put too fine a point on it, we've been holding children for years, without access to legal assistance or trial, with adult prisoners, and in disgraceful conditions. How is this not terror? You know, though, what the White House is going to say. Children can be terrorists. I concede that point, by the way. Children can be dangerous. But next, the official briefing will claim that the children gave up their rights to be treated as soldiers when they didn't wear uniforms and act like soldiers -which of course in most of the world is not something children can legitimately do. Nonetheless, we don't have to abide by the Geneva Conventions. Sounds familiar. Say that's all true, just for the sake of argument -even though we also have well-documented case law supporting the notion that children are not capable of ceding their rights. I'd still argue that we ought to hold ourselves to a higher standard than the standard to which terrorists hold themselves.

Okay, so international law isn't good enough for us. We also have internal laws against holding child prisoners in the same facility as adult prisoners -even if, by the way, the child was tried as an adult. Oh, but I forget. We don't have to follow our own laws either. I knew that. Sorry. I just forgot.

To use British slang, because it seems appropriate under the circumstances (and it doesn't mean what it sounds like it means. THAT'S American slang!) -this is quite a cock-up. A quick run-through of the British press and a few British blogs suggests that it won't take much for the United States to lose essentially its only ally in this war. Having been repeatedly promised that there were no children at Guantanamo -or if there were, they were being carefully treated, it now seems that they were lied to. The British leadership seems surprised by this. Relax. You'll get used to it.

So, we're doing something morally and ethically disgraceful. We're breaking still more international and domestic laws. We're losing still more international support for this war. And, I can't imagine that this news will do anything helpful to President Bush's approval ratings or the domestic support for his wars. Will it galvanize the American public to take action? What action can we take when our own laws and procedures can so capriciously be ignored? And what will we find out next?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Boy and His Bike

This is a picture from last year, when the long-suffering spouse rode his bike home (to Illinois) from New Jersey. He's off on this year's monster ride now, still headed west and hoping to make it to South Dakota. And back. I have sort of a vested interest in him making it back, too, so if you could hold that thought....

Why would a person do such an absurd thing? Well, I don't actually know, since I've never done it. But I am a long-distance cyclist of a more normal variety. I can knock out 80-100 miles on a weekend day and live to tell the tale. First, and it's the reason I get on my bike every day in the season, it's just fun -unless there's a kick-ass headwind, which does happen. But mostly I just smile the whole time on my bike. It's like flying.

Secondly, we're approaching our middle years, if not quite our dotage. Our children would prefer it if we didn't become frail burdens to them. Well, they've never said that, but I'm sure it's true. What I absolutely know is that we don't want to be burdens. I want to grow old gracefully -a long time from now. And it turns out there are still fitness gains that can be made, even at my advanced age. And we get to have fun while we do it. Oh wait, I said that part already.

Third, there's the ethical component of being a cyclist. Every dollar you spend, every action you take, is a vote for the kind of world you want to have. Dave is way more ethical than I am on this point. He wants the world to be safe for cyclists. He wants cities to be organized in such a way that biking is the easy choice. He wants the environment to be improved. He didn't learn to drive at all until he was 30, and I can't think of the last time he actually did it. He gets in the car and I drive perhaps once a week. Really. He's in a car at most once a week. It's a rare day when I don't use the car for something.

And finally, bike time is quiet time. Certainly it is the way he does it, but even the way I do it. We all need quiet, solitude, and meditative activity. For him it's biking.

But I do wish he were home.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I'm so embarrassed!

I have both read and now seen the movie of The Da Vinci Code. Oh my.

The movie was worse than the book -and I have an amazing (and possibly appalling) tolerance for bad movies. Are there really people who think this thing is true? But as my mind started to wander (about 4 minutes into the movie), I realized that I had both a grave fear and a vague hope -either of which might give the book too much power to shape people's thinking about the church. But here they are, as idle ruminations for a Saturday morning.

First, the bad news. The writing in the book is so over-wrought that it was funny -and this from the Queen of Adjective Overuse. There was the annoying and manipulative technique of ending each chapter with a cliff-hanger so that you couldn't not go on. There were so many factual errors scattered throughout the book that it became a past-time to find them and mark them down. When church councils were, what they decided, where historical traditions in the church started... that kind of thing. It's like when someone sets a novel in your home town and then gets the streets wrong. It doesn't annoy most people, because they don't know, but it takes you completely out of the story for a second. I don't know much about church history compared to even an undergraduate in the field, probably. But arguably, I know more than your average Joe on the street. And clearly, I know more than Dan Brown. For heaven's sake, pick up an encyclopedia. They do still make them, you know.

And the movie can't even do justice to the book. So much of the book takes place in thought and research. How do you convey that in a movie? And the albino isn't albino in the movie. Very annoying. And then there's the issue of Tom Hanks's hair. Egad, that was a mistake. Actually Tom Hanks was a mistake here. I finally settled on Bruce Dern as a better choice. And I thought I could watch Paul Bettany do anything. Apparently not. So we ended up with a dry, ugly mess.

But let's move on to the vague hope. The book and movie make the slightly loopy claim that Mary Magdalene was actually the Holy Grail. She is the unsung heroine of Christianity. Knights searching for the holy grail were using code when they referred to Christ's chalice. The symbolism is, well, obvious. They were looking for a different sort of chalice, as it were -the lost feminine iconography in the church and in spirituality.

It's heavy-handed and goofy, I grant you. But the college-aged person in the seat next to me asked his friend, "Do you think the church really subjugates women?". YA THINK???? My friend and I just stared at each other and tried to restrain our laughter. But how would a non-Catholic know that? How would a very young, obedient-but-not-reflective Catholic know that? Oh heck, I don't think my mother knows that. Exposing some of that injustice to the light of day wouldn't be a bad thing. Exposing it through a work of fiction can't be the only way we do that -and of course it's not. Yet using art to expose injustice is legitimate and potentially useful.

I SAID it was a long shot! And so is my fear, I hope. The other piece of this story is that the crusade to reveal the secret the church has been harboring for millennia is led by an Opus Dei bishop and an albino monk. Because Opus Dei is SO likely to lead any campaign that would hurt the institutional church and further truth. Tell me another one. My fear is that the movie and book are unintentionally recruiting materials for Opus Dei. Scary thought, that.

So, in the end, I agree with both The New York Times, which argued that any movie about the holy grail should be done by Monty Python, and Maurice Reidy from America magazine who referred to Dan Brown as "Elaine Pagels for the Robert Ludlum set". Stay home. You'll be happier.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I'm Here, I'm Here - Friday Random 10

I haven't forgotten about this blog. I let myself get distracted, trying to write a post about imprisonment rates and characteristics in this country, and it seems to be turning into a tome. Then I didn't have anything ELSE to talk about. So... silence seemed appropriate. But the Friday Random 10 I can wrap my brain around.

You know the drill. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first 10 songs that appear. And no fair leaving out the ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones that you hope will make you look cool. I am reliably informed that on the latter point, for me, there is no hope. So you might as well know the truth. Here's this week's list:

  • Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra in E-Flat, K. 364: Presto; Mozart
  • Lord of the Rings 1 -"The Fellowship of the Rings"; John Williams (I think)
  • Concerto in G Major for 2 Violas, Strings, and Basso Continuo -Largo; Telemann
  • We Are the Champions; Queen
  • You Don't Own Me; Lesley Gore (Ahem... We sing this to each other around here. It's a long story.)
  • Air from Water Music; Handel
  • Evacuee; Enya
  • Love Will Come to You; Indigo Girls
  • Sweet Southern Comfort; Buddy Jewell
  • Crescent City; Lucinda Williams


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Outsourcing Human Rights Abuses

Tomorrow from 1-2 EASTERN Time, Amnesty International hosts an on-line panel discussion entitled "Ask Amnesty: Military Outsourcing in the "War on Terror" Fuelling Human Rights Abuses." You can submit questions today by following this link: Ask Now.

Be there or be square!

Bike to Work

Get on your wheels. It's Bike to Work Week, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists. Truth be told, I think the official week was last week, but here in town we're doing it now. Besides, with gas prices being what they are, it doesn't hurt to ride your bike any old day.

If you need to get back in shape for riding, you might try joining in the Monday evening group rides. They meet at North Central Cyclery at 5:30 and we're generally only out for a couple of hours. These rides might get longer as the daylight extends, but I promise you won't be the slowest rider. The way that I know this is that I'm the slowest rider. Guaranteed! There's also a Wednesday evening ride, but it's fast. They will drop you if you can't keep up, so you won't be seeing me at those rides. And then there's the Saturday morning ride that meets at 8:00 am at Chesapeake bagel. That's my day to ride with the boy, so I don't go to that one either. But I hear it's fun.

And if you need still more motivation -besides the relief to your wallet and the offer of good company- there's the recent study that suggests that cyclists who make frequency a priority over volume maintain a higher level of fitness than their long-haul counterparts. So, the comparatively short ride to work and back home will help stave off middle-aged spread.

What are you waiting for???

Monday, May 22, 2006

Torture Awareness Month

Now isn't it just pathetic that we have to have one of those? And worse yet, that a country I know and love and live in is implicated so shamefully? Yet, here we are.

Amnesty International is coordinating a month-long focus on torture this June. You can find suggestions for activities here: Torture Awareness Month.

One of the least disturbing -but on my mind today- things about extraordinary renditions (HELLO??? Double-speak, anyone?) and torture as somehow essential for national security is the underpinning logic. And I use the word logic extremely loosely.

If I understand it, the argument is that these people who are tortured might have (or do have, for the sake of argument) information that would protect us from another terrorist attack. For one thing, if someone were holding your head under water until you convulsed, wouldn't you say anything that would get it to stop? It seems to me that, ethics aside, the quality of the information we get this way would be questionable at the very least.

Secondly, we're creating understandable rage against us even among moderates in the international community. Maybe al Qaeda will always hate us, for distorted reasons I'll never grasp. But if we're not much better, aren't we driving moderates to the right and thus making ourselves less safe?

And who pays for this absurd policy first? Aside from its actual intended victims, it seems to me that on at least three levels it's young volunteer soldiers. First, if we can torture then so can everyone else, which makes them vulnerable. Secondly, there's no way that I believe that the torture done at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are isolated incidents of rogue soldiers without the knowledge of commanding officers. I have no support for this -just a vague notion of chain of command and how it works. I'm just sure that the commanding officers know about the torture and condone -or possibly even require- it, and leave young soldiers to take the fall for it. And thirdly, even if the soldiers don't go to jail for it, they come home and have to deal with the knowledge of what they were entrapped into doing and who they have become.

Shame on us.

So, come let us reason together about things we could do in June to shine the spotlight on torture this coming month.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the game. Take out your iPod and set it to shuffle mode. Tell us the first 10 songs that appear. And no fair leaving out ones that make you look like a dork or ading in ones that make you look cool.

My discovery is that you'll only THINK you look cool -and that's just sad. I played my iPod through the radio at my son's graduation party, and his comment was "You have weird stuff on your iPod." True 'nuff, big guy. Here's my weird stuff for this week.

  • Angel; Massive Attack
  • How Many Mistakes; James Gordon
  • Big House; Audio Adrenaline
  • Concerto No. 1 in E-Major (spring); Vilvaldi
  • Air from Suite No. 3 in D Major, BMV 1068; Bach
  • I Am the Bread of Life; John Michael Talbot
  • All I Have to Do is Dream; Leo Kotke
  • Go Cubs Go; Steve Goodman
  • Save a Secret for the Moon; The Magnetic Fields
  • Michael, Row the Boat ashore; Pete Seeger

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

No Millionaire Left Behind

Congress (read, the Republican Party - the party of fiscal restraint, to hear them tell it) just orchestrated the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich. $70 BILLION worth of cuts. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that the average family will get a $20 tax cut. Millionaires will get $42,000.

But we're supposed to believe that that's okay because when you cut taxes, tax revenues go up. Yeah, that happens in my budget too. When our income is reduced, we have more money. It's uncanny. So, we're going to have tax cuts "for all Americans" AND we're going to have more money -which turns out to be fortunate because as it is, we're spending $350 billion more per year than we have.

The Washington Post (hardly a bastion of wild-eyed liberals) editorializes thus: "Budgetary dishonesty, distributional unfairness, fiscal irresponsibilityƂ—by now the words are so familiar, it can be hard to appreciate how damaging this fiscal course will be".
It won't be long before someone notices that the math isn't working out quite like the President had suggested and we'll start talking about more cuts to the budget. Undoubtedly, we'll have to forego silly little niceties like student loans and Medicaid funding and special education. Oh wait, we've already cut those. What's left? They're not going to consider the fairly obvious answer of reducing the funding for the war in Iraq or defense more generally, so really -what IS left? Wild guess here... the poor are going to bear the brunt of this.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Pro-Life, at what cost?

I got a telemarketing phone call last night from the campaign headquarters of Steve King, who is apparently a Representative from the Iowa 5th. Why would I, who live in Illinois, be making a donation to an Iowa candidate, I wondered aloud? Because I'm Catholic, was the reply. And now "we" have the opportunity to roll-back the liberal agenda and end abortion on demand.

Wow. So, in their world, all Catholics vote alike, and we share the agenda of ending abortion on demand. I certainly don't hide the fact that I'm Catholic, but how is it known by someone in Iowa? Is the diocese selling our names?

Naturally, being an obnoxious human being, I asked who was running against Mr. King. There's a primary for the Democratic candidate between Bob Chambers and Joyce Schulte. I picked one at random, and told the young caller that I would now certainly be sending Mr. Chambers a check. From a scan of their websites, I decided that I had accidentally chosen the correct candidate. Joyce Schulte seems fine, too, but she also seems focused primarily on one issue. It's education, which I care about, but it's not enough.

Take notice. There was no subtlety in the stated goal of repealing Roe v. Wade. Clearly this young person cares passionately about this cause, and there was relief and excitement in his voice as he described the possibilities that lay before us. Just imagine, he invited me, what the world would be like without abortion. Alas for him, he had called the wrong house.

Moreover, the more I looked into this (for all of 45 minutes last night, so I'm not an expert) the scarier it got. Rep. King is one of those professional embarrassments to his community. He recently claimed that illegal aliens are responsible for the deaths of 25 Americans every day. He voted against aid to the Katrina victims. He called the pro-immigrant rallies "anti-gringo" events. But he wants to protect fetuses, and that should be enough for me. And so, one last link because I can't resist: Catholics for a Free Choice.

Mental Illness a Political Construct

I've said it before -probably here- and I'll almost certainly say it again. Mental illness is a political statement, at least in part. Since we can define neither mental health nor normal with any precision, it stands to reason that we don't know in any measurable way what unhealthy or abnormal is.

How abnormal is too abnormal? Is your beningly loopy Aunt Matilda crazy or does she just not care what other people think? Who gets to decide? What are the consequences of that decision? Can people be forced into treatment? There are actual legal answers to those questions. And there are ethical answers to those questions. And the two aren't necessarily the same.

For example, feminists, menopausal women, women with postpartum depression and even the occasional woman guilty of no more than being uppity have all been court-ordered into treatment at one time or another. And it's happened again.

Carol Fisher was affixing anti-Bush posters to telephone poles in Cleveland. Local police officers ordered her to stop and to remove the ones she'd already attached, which she did. She was asked for ID, which she didn't have with her. The police officers then put her (possibly quite violently, depending on which side of the story you believe) face down on the sidewalk, and put their feet on her back until she couldn't breathe. She was then handcuffed and shackled and taken to the police station.

Her "crime" apparently was continuing to call out to passersby, describing her posters, as she was being handcuffed. One of the officers, Fisher says, threatened to kill her, and told she was certainly going to the psych ward.

Which turned out to be true. She was convicted of two counts of "felonious assault of police officers" even though the witnesses for the prosecution admitted they had seen no assault. Rather, their only claim was that she "had issues with authority". She is currently in the psych ward of the Cleveland jail, and on suicide watch. Her side of the story is here: World Can't Wait.

Treatment and incarceration can go together -and sometimes they should. But surely that ought to be an extreme position, since it involves curtailing civil liberties rather noticeably. Can anyone explain to me how this situation qualifies as extreme?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Sense of the Congress on Climate Change

The first-ever House vote on global climate change may take place later this week. Your call or email message is urgently needed to help preserve or possibly even advance an important victory in the effort to control U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

On May 10, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the fiscal year 2007 Department of Interior appropriations bill stating the “sense of Congress that there should be enacted a comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory, market-based limits and incentives on emissions of greenhouse gases that slow, stop, and reverse the growth of such emissions. . . ” The amendment was introduced by Rep. Dicks (WA) during committee debate.

The bill is expected to move to the House floor for debate Wednesday, May 17. Opponents will certainly try to remove this language from the bill, setting up the first-ever House floor debate and vote over imposing mandatory limits on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Please contact your representative by Wednesday, May 17. Urge him or her to speak out to keep this important language in the bill.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Proud Mommy Blogging

Nicholas and I didn't actually make it to Dave's graduation. Nicholas was busy being born, which required my attention as well.

So, this picture mimics the original.

My baby boy graduated today!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the drill. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first ten songs that appear. And no fair leaving out ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones that you think make you look cool.

Here are mine for the week:
  • Have You Ever Seen the Rain?; Bonnie Tyler (added during last summer's drought)
  • Where have all the Cowboys Gone; Paula Cole
  • Fly Me to the moon; Frank Sinatra
  • Thanksgiving Day; John McCutcheon
  • Toys Not Ties; Nightnoise
  • Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007 -Courante; Bach
  • Let the Band Play Dixie; Anne Hills
  • You Rise and Meet the Day; Dar Williams
  • Air from Water Music; Handel
  • Perfect World; Indigo Girls

And I tried to make a graduation playlist, but it came out completely maudlin. I'll have to try again. Suggestions will be welcome.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

World Fair Trade Day

It's not today; it's this Saturday. But this Saturday, I'm going to be knee-deep in graduations and grandmas. Hold me. So, this post is your official heads-up. It may be the last one you ever get; I could decide that sitting in a corner sucking my thumb for the rest of the weekend is the highest and best use of my time.

OK, probably not.

Fair Trade is a trading partnership based on transparency and respect. The idea is to secure and improve trading and working conditions for marginalized producers. It turns out to be a lot more complicated than that in implementation, though. Not all organizations that trade fairly are official "fair trade organizations". Not all organizations that claim to trade fairly actually do. And I'm deeply suspicious of governmental and NGO programs that seem to equate human potential with economic progress.

But, and this is a very big but, let's start at the beginning. People have to eat and wear clothes and shelter themselves. Marginalized people, frequently but not always in the southern hemisphere, typically have a cash crop or some sort of cash-generating enterprise in order to secure the commodities they can't produce themselves. They ought to get a fair return on their labor, and frequently -usually- that isn't the case. So whether or not economic development is the be all and end all of social policy, it helps to secure some measure of equity for people in need. Much more information can be found here: World Fair Trade Day official site.

And to buy fair trade products, you don't need to buy clothes made of organically grown straw -or whatever. (But what's wrong with my wardrobe, anyway???) You could start with fair trade coffee. In principle, you can get the Cafe Estima beans at Starbucks, but I have a terrible time actually finding them there. In town, you will have better luck going to Duck Soup Coop and getting Equal Exchange coffee. It's hardly more expensive than non-fair-trade coffee, and if you remember to re-use your bag, they give you a 15 cent discount. Once you've got fair trade coffee ingrained as a habit, you can move on to fair trade beer. And, as always, I'm open to other suggestions.

Can one fairly trade grandmas? I suppose not.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive

In the quick and easy way to make a difference department, this Saturday is the National Association of Letter Carrier's annual food drive. If your post office is participating, you can leave bags of non-perishable food by your mailbox and the letter carriers will take it away and deliver it to local food pantries. Last year, they delivered 700,000 pounds of food to food banks and by extension to hungry people in our communities.

Food banks and food drives won't stamp out hunger. Hunger is a systemic problem and can't be fixed by those of us with food doing feel-good service projects once a year. But that doesn't make these projects unimportant. We can, in fact, provide food to hungry people, so that -on a particular day, for a particular meal- they don't have to be hungry. We can confront the excess that lives in our cupboards and do something to change it. (I have SIX unopened jars of peanut butter. Clearly no one eats this around here, but I keep buying it. What's that about?) We can involve children in service, so that it becomes a seamless and unremarkable part of their lives. And most importantly, perhaps, we can acknowledge that for no good reason, there are hungry people in this country and in this world and we can do our little part to say, "No more, not today!"

Go pack your bag!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

How Quirky Are You?

Your Quirk Factor: 53%

You're a pretty quirky person, but you're just normal enough to hide it.
Congratulations - you've fooled other people into thinking you're just like them!

So, who among us thought I was normal? Raise your hand.

Yeah, that's what I figured.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sex-Ed Saga Continues

So, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has scheduled a panel discussion re: abstinence-until-marriage sex education programs. The panel was to be a standard academic discussion. Panelists submitted proposals, which were peer-reviewed and met the intellectual standards in the various fields.

But no... that process had too much integrity, apparently. Rep. Mark Souder was disturbed by bias he perceived in the original panel, which had fairly overwhelmingly concluded that (brace yourself) abstinence-only education doesn't work. He concluded, with a flair for the peculiar conclusion, that there was "an obvious anti-abstinence objective" on the part of the panel. I might have called it a bias toward facts that might be proven, but that's just me I guess.

The panel is scheduled to meet tomorrow. Last week (last WEEK!) two panelists were removed (one was a student, for whom this could have been a career-creating meeting) and two others were added. The title/focus of the panel was changed, and two new presenters were added to the roster: Dr. Patricia Sulak, an ob-gyn and director of Worth the Wait (is it just me, or is that an hilarious name for an abstinence-only education group?) and Dr. Eric Walsh, who as far as I can tell is just a doctor in California. Peer-review of their presentation materials was not included in the deal, but that's probably because they haven't written anything. (I'm not kidding. NOTHING.) The other presenters have to pay their own way to get to the conference, but not these two. Their travel expenses are being paid by HHS.

The title of the program is now Public Health Strategies of Abstinence Programs for Youth. The original title was Are Abstinence-Only Until Marriage Programs a Threat to Public Health?

Last year a similar thing happened in mental health. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration required a suicide prevention conference to remove the words "gay, lesbian, and bisexual" from its program and further required that a session on faith-based suicide prevention be added. The rationale then and now was that federal tax dollars should not be used to fund programs that disagree with administration policies. Well, a few of those tax dollars are mine, and what I want them to go toward would be programs that can be demonstrated to be effective -whether or not those programs are the darlings of the current (any current) administration. But freedom of inquiry and investigation are too much to ask these days, apparently.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Progressive Faith Carnival

What lovely and inspiring posts!

I had wanted to focus on faith (any faith at all) and its intersection with social justice, and I was rewarded with more suggestions than I can reflect on in one week -which is a good problem to have.

The Velveteen Rabbi wants us to re-consider Leviticus and its problematic language re: same-sex unions. It's a compassionate and thoughtful precis, called Re-interpreting What Hurts.

Another effort at re-considering Leviticus and same-sex relationship can be found at Radical Torah. I was particularly taken by the question found there, "Does Torah anticipate -even intend- its own transformation?" We could wrestle around with that question very productively for quite a while. Thank you!

Okay, I'm detecting a theme. Was this an assignment or something? There's another Torah exploration on this same subject at Mah Rabu. The conclusion here ought to be obvious, but actually takes fairly careful scholarship. Some homosexual unions are sacred and others aren't. Sort of like heterosexual unions that way.

On social justice more generally, Time's Fool considers the similarities between tzedakah in the Hebrew tradition and agape in the Christian tradition. It's a short and sweet post that has some lovely food for thought.

Blue Jersey has a post on immigration, push polling, and Zogby's recently released poll on American attitudes towards immigrants. You can find it here: Zogby Slanders America. He has another post on covering the uninsured here: Covering the Uninsured. It has some interesting statistics, solid commentary, and a refreshing tidge of sarcasm right where it belongs.

Check out FaithAbility for updates on the intersection of religion, religiosity, and disability. I can't really point to a particular bit of expository prose here, but then, that doesn't seem to be this blog's mission. I was more than a tidge disturbed by the article pointing out that a Catholic bishop had denied an autistic child communion. Sigh.

We take a turn toward the literary with poetry arguing that we all need to acknowledge Holocaust Remembrance Day, even if we're not Jewish. You'll find it here: Knocking from Inside.

And hey, it's my turn so here's a post of mine: There Were No Needy Among Them. It's an on-the-fly commentary on social justice, social work, and the community in Acts. It's not great, but it is, well, recent. Is that enough of a recommendation?

And a friend of a friend, Steve Haliczer, has an interesting new blog that puts the policies of the Catholic Church in historical perspective. There an interesting post on women in ministry that you can find here: The Struggle for Women's Ministry. I'm not sure that the point here is to be progressive about Catholicism so much as it is to be historically rigorous. But the end result might be the same.

And two slightly later additions, but definitely worthy of mention. The first isn't a blog, but an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle of May 4. I saw it via Common Dreams News Center. The title says it all: Where Have All the Leaders Gone? The blogger at A Place At the Table has less patience with institutional religion than I do -and that's saying something- but (and?) offers compelling critiques, particular where religiosity meets up with sexual orientation.

Whew! Next week's carnival will be hosted by Knocking from Inside. More information about the carnival itself can be found here: Progressive Faith Carnival.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord -and one another.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the drill. Set your iPod to shuffle and tell us the first 10 songs that appear. And no fair leaving out ones that make you look like a dork or adding in ones you think will make you look cool.

Here are mine for this week:

  • Dream Baby; Ray Orbison
  • Old Father Hudson -Sailing Down Dirty Streams; Casey Neill
  • My Name is Lisa Kalvelage; Ani DiFranco
  • Concerto in G Major for 2 Violas, Strings, and Basso continuo, III, Largo; Telemann
  • Suite No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009 -Allemande; Bach
  • Largo from Xerxes; Handel
  • This Land is Your Land; Woody Guthrie
  • Deirdre of the Sorrows; Mychael Danna
  • Old Devil Moon; Holly Near
  • Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans; Louis Armstrong

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Suiting Up for the Mommy Wars

I'm exhausted by the mommy wars, to tell you the truth. If you stay home with your children, why aren't you working and using your valuable education? If you go to work, why aren't you home with your children who need you? As though society didn't put women into enough no-win situations, we have to do it to ourselves and each other.

But it's getting even more interesting lately, with all this talk of family values in our conservative-again political climate. As you might have suspected, it's mostly talk rather than, say, action. The wage gap between mothers and non-mothers in actually wider than the gap between men and women. (Of course, this could have been because the wage gap between men and women had narrowed to zero. That's not it.) The pay gap between mothers and non-mothers actually expanded from 10% in 1980 to 17.5% in 1991. Non-mothers make 90 cents to a man's dollar; married mothers make 70 cents to a man's dollar. Single mothers earn about 60 cents to a man's dollar. Mothers are 44% less likely to be offered a job, given the same resume and experience. In many states a woman can explicitly be denied a job just because she's a mother.

Can you imagine what would happen to the poverty rates if we just paid mothers and non-mothers the same -never mind having women's salaries equal men's? Back-of-the-envelope math suggests that it could go down by about half. Actual numbers are forthcoming. I need to have more available brain cells to do the calculations.

It seems clear to me that we have to do something to make parenting children easier and less isolating. Wage parity alone won't do it, I'm afraid. It's necessary but insufficient, to borrow math-man's phrase. In spite of what some conservatives want us to believe, it really does take a village. It takes day care and schools and after-school care and wage parity and flex time and parental leave and health insurance for everyone and.... more than that, I'm sure. In some sense, Moms Rising is just another in a long line of mothers' groups that have existed since time immemorial. This group, however, is mostly on-line and has more or less the political agenda I've outlined above. If these issues matter to you -and I'd argue that they do whether or not you ever intend to have children- go check them out.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Light One Candle

Well now, this was a day and a half. But it's almost over. My colorful relatives used to remind me of all kinds of things. Thanks to them, I have a motto for every occasion.

"Darling, I don't know how you'd end up in such a pickle, but if you MUST choose between wearing panties and wearing mascara, choose mascara." (as yet unused advice, just to be clear)

"You don't have to marry a man who knows the difference between a pickle fork and a shrimp fork. Just be sure he can afford to buy you both." (How can I possibly begin to unravel that???)

And on a more mundane level, "Stop complaining and see what you can do to make things better." Followed quickly by "Men don't marry women who complain all the time" -which seems to be false, at least in this case. Nonetheless, the first part is well-taken. So, in that spirit, here are some things we can do today -right this minute- to make the world a slightly better place.

  • Take the recycling out. I'm not kidding. It's trash day (well, tomorrow is) and I need to get the recycling to the curb. I hate that chore. But it matters. Don't think of it as trash to be hauled by someone who hasn't done an upper body weights workout in days and days. Marvel at how much stuff ISN'T going to the landfill.
  • Do some yoga. Or meditate. Today the ability isn't given to me to create peace in Iraq or Afghanistan or Iran. I can't even create order in my closet. But I can create some calm in my heart, and that's peace that wasn't in the world five minutes ago.
  • Connect with like-minded people. There really is strength in numbers and group energy can carry you along when your energy flags.
  • Expand your sense of wonder and possibility. You are beautifully made. You are fabulously talented. You are meant to change the world.

And take out the trash, would you?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sex Education in Illinois Schools

A few days ago I was reflecting on abstinence-only sex education programs and wondering what was happening in the Illinois schools and my local school district. I haven't found out a whole lot since, but what I know is disheartening.

My anecdotal evidence is that in high school health class, my children were taught about pregnancy, how it happened, and how to prevent it. As I was helping them to study for the tests, I don't remember inaccurate information and I know that abstinence was not taught as the only option. Of course, my kids have been out of high school for 6 and 4 years respectively and I'm pretty sure they took that class as sophomores. So all kinds of things could have happened since then.

And, as I say about 10 times a day, the plural of anecdote is not data. What's happening more generally is really the question. Currently, Illinois schools are not required to include sex education in the curriculum and, thus, no state funding is available to help the districts purchase materials or to train teachers in sex ed. Another obvious consequence is that there are no state guidelines as to what is taught in sex education classes. 93% of Illinois schools do offer it, though, but only an average of 12 hours per year is spent on the subject. (How much would be adequate? I really don't know. I doubt they spend 12 hours on the fall of the Roman Empire.)

Only 40% of the teachers of sex education teach about contraception, abortion, or sexual orientation. I'd love to see how that question was worded in the inventory, though. That's too many variables in one question.) 33% of the teachers teach abstinence only. 15% report not teaching the basics of pregnancy, conception, and childbirth. What, pray tell, are they teaching? These statistics are reported by or derived from statistics reported by NORC.

There was a proposal in the 94th General Assembly to fund and regulate sex education. It looked pretty conservative to me, requiring that abstinence be taught as one of the options, but the actual conservatives were up in arms about it and it failed to pass in the Senate, the chamber of origin. So... still nothing.

And all of this begs the question of whether or not it's a good idea to turn schools into instruments of social service delivery. I'm of two minds on this. We do have a captive audience. Pardon the tragic metaphor there, but the students really mostly are there and must be there. So service delivery is expedited. The whole person sitting in the classroom is more than his or her brain, just sitting there waiting to be fed. Each student comes with special needs, gifts and circumstances. On the one extreme, every single student could have an IEP and structure an educational program that maximizes his or her potential. Well, theoretically that could happen, anyway. Or.... a more classical approach is that the schools are there to teach academic subjects. We know that students get to college with fairly alarming math skills and writing skills and limited exposure to other languages, just to name a few issues. I'm not really a "back to basics" sort of girl, but I do have a great fondness for classical education. But I also know that only half of an age cohort intends to go to college, so preparing people in different ways makes sense. And the circle in my mind starts anew....

Monday, May 01, 2006

Progressive Faith Carnival

I'll be hosting the Progressive Faith Carnival this week. Because, with a kid graduating from college and family about to descend, why would I be task-oriented and do sensible things like dusting? So, here's the thing. I'd like to focus on faith of all varieties and its intersection with social justice. If you have a post about that on your blog and want me to consider it, send me e-mail or post about it in the comments. (To send me e-mail, click on "my complete profile" and there's an e-mail link.) If you have writing about that topic buried somewhere in your computer, this is your sign from the universe to post it, so it can be shared with like-minded people. I'll also be poking around the internet and looking for appropriate articles. But don't worry, I'll definitely ask permission before I post a link to your work here.

And because I haven't entirely taken leave of my senses, please get me your submissions by Friday, May 5. I'll read them all day Saturday and post the links on Sunday, May 7.

Mike, Kellie, Sophie... I'm talking to you ;)