Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday Random 10

Whew! An easy post!

You know the drill. Take out your iPod and set it to shuffle mode. 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 make you look cool. By now you all know that I have a peculiar mixture of really, truly good music and ...well, dreck. Here's this week's list:

  • Welcome in this Place; Hillsong (Sophie, you'd like this one.)
  • Mamiya: Five Finnish Folk Songs for Cello and Piano; Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble
  • Kathy's Song; Simon & Garfunkle
  • Caught in the Crossfire; John McCutcheon
  • Viola Concerto in G (51: G9) -Allegro: Telemann via Florian Deuter
  • Born to Run; Bang!
  • My Father's Eyes; Eric Clapton
  • Leader of the Band; Dan Fogelberg
  • Ride Like the Wind; Christopher Cross
  • Empowered; David and Steve Gordon

And since I've been so boring lately, here's a bonus playlist. Riffing off someone else's idea (Sorry, I've long since forgotten whose.), I made a playlist called Sorry, Everybody -a musical apology to the world for what this country has become. Here's my list.

  • The Right Decision; World View
  • Make Up Your Mind; Orange park
  • The Great Discontent; Man on Earth
  • Who Would Jesus Bomb?: David Rovics
  • JesusLand; David Ippolito
  • Lies; Priscilla Herdman
  • Dirty Little War; Terry Tufts
  • What made America Famous>; Harry Chapin
  • Come On Home; Indigo Girls
  • Which Side Are You On?; Dick Gaughan
  • A Parcel of Rogues in a Nation; Jean Redpath
  • I AM a Patriot; Jackson Browne
  • Let's Impeach the President; Neil Young
  • Mr. President, Have Pity on the Working Man; Sam Bush
  • Oh Mary, Don't You Weep; Arlo Guthrie
  • With God On Our Side; Neville Brothers
  • Wartime Prayers; Paul Simon

It actually goes on a lot longer. I must have been really steamed when I put this one together!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Going under for the third time?

OK, I'm in over my head. I have too much work to do, too little time to do it, and I need someone to stand up and be willing to take the blame for that. You don't have to be here or change anything about what you do. But when I get busted for all these unfinished projects, I want to be able to say "Oh, that's so-and-so's fault" where so-and-so is not me. Is that so much to ask?

What? No takers? Hard to believe....

Sigh.... I'll try to be in a better, slightly more profound (less un-profound), spot tomorrow. You never know. It could happen.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

An Oil-Free Future?

Well, I doubt it. But I did my bit today, and that's the truth.

Today was the National Day of Action for an Oil-Free Congress. Went right by you, didn't it? I wouldn't call it a catchy title, exactly. The idea is that the Republicans are using the national distress over gas prices as an excuse for more give-aways to the oil companies rather than getting serious about cleaner fuels and alternatives to cars. Since 1990, oil companies have given more than $190 million to members of Congress -75% of that to Republicans. And it's certainly paid off for them in friendly-to-them energy policies.

So there were rallies at gas stations around the country today, witnessing to the possibility of a clean energy future. One of the rallies was around the corner and down the street from my house, so I hopped on the little red bicycle (the love of my life) and went to see what was going on. Not much -but I met some locally-causy people I hadn't met before. And in this town, that's no small feat. It's usually the same three causy people at all the events -and local readers of this blog can name them without much trouble.

And then, I sent e-mail to the manager of the bike store -not the love of my life, but he keeps the love of my life on the road, so he's pretty special to me ;)- with an e-mail link to the Minneapolis bicycle film festival. Now how cool is that? Biking and movies... two of my favorite things. And he wrote back, saying that he was planning a similar, although smaller, event here in town. I'm so psyched.

And THEN, because what would happen if a day went by without Andrea volunteering for some half-baked scheme, I volunteered to help organize a bike-yoga-bike event in town. We'll ride our bikes to some park or field, or, perchance to dream, yoga studio, do some yoga, get back on our bikes, and come home. It sounds pretty much like heaven to me.

So... I did not change the world today. I did not save blighted countries, neighborhoods, or desperate people. I didn't even do any battles with dust bunnies or laundry. But I rode my little red bike, didn't drive my car anywhere, and had a great day.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Well now, here's a thing

Sometimes I am very slow to catch on. The background is this. Next school year is the long-suffering spouse's year for a sabbatical. He made some career sacrifices in order to get our children through school without student loans. Now that's done, and he can get back to teaching and research -and he's counting the hours. He really needs the freedom to hit the ground running with this sabbatical year.

The other part of this family drama would be... you know... ME! Obviously, I could go with him. But, I would have to leave my friends, the parish, my job, and my support system to just hang out for a year. Andrea with nothing to do is not a pretty sight. He would have traded dependent children for a dependent wife -not an attractive trade for him and certainly not an attractive proposition for me to consider. I've done a certain amount of ranting about the essentially sexist nature of sabbaticals. The thinking seems to be that the non-sabbatical partner can uproot herself while the sabbatical-ing partner is free to think great thoughts. (I do see that the genders could be reversed; this affects my rants not in the slightest.)

Last Sunday, I had the brainstorm that this could be a transformative year for me as well. What if I slipped away for a year of service somewhere? Internationally... domestically... it makes no difference to me. For that matter, I could stay in the house and do some work in Chicago, while still taking the year to re-envision my life's mission. OK, "re-envisioning mission" is a little grandiose, I suppose, but it's close to the point.

I mentioned this to the spousal unit, and his comment was "I was wondering why you weren't thinking of this." Ummmm.... say something????? The light was a little slow in dawning, I have to say. But now, there's the possibility of an interesting year all my very own.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Wrestling Coach from Yorkville

.... otherwise known as the Speaker of the House and my representative. (His mother calls him Denny Hastert.) He is in deep this time.

There are a few things you have to know before this story will make sense. Chicago is big. Okay, you probably knew that part. I meant it's geographically big, not just in terms of population. And, it's extending unevenly, but certainly, into the cornfields at its edge. As the population shifts and grows, transportation needs change. Denny Hastert lives a little west of Chicago, representing the corn counties.

That's the local color. The Washington connection is that, in 2005, the House of Representatives approved an extension of the interstate system, the Prairie Parkway, which will link two major highways, giving those of us out here in the fields another path to Chicago. Three months later, Dennis Hastert sold part of a farm, purchased in his wife's name, and an adjoining parcel held in trust between Hastert and some long-time supporters, to developers for a $1.8 million profit. This farm-land is 5.5 miles from the Prairie Parkway path.

Naturally, there was no disclosure of any financial interest in the appropriations for the new interstate. Naturally, he's claiming that he's entitled to this profit and that there was no need to disclose anything. Besides, how could 5 miles from a new interstate make a difference in the value of his land? Uh huh....

Land is increasing in value in Kendall Country. I'm not surprised that he could make a profit like that. I AM surprised that he's angry that the Tribune broke the story. I AM surprised that he clearly thinks - or wants us to think- that this is no big deal.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Friday Random 10

Here it is: the easiest and arguably best post of the week. You know the game. Set your iPod to shuffle mode 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 (however erroneously) will help you to look cool.

Here's my list:
  • Angel of the Morning; Juice Newton (Oh my. We're off to a good start.)
  • Ave Maria; Still Pointe (excellent! SOMEONE has some class in this joint!)
  • Meditation from Thais; Massenet by way of Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (sentimental clap-trap, but this is MY iPod. You expected something else???)
  • Shima Shima; Deva Premal (Andrea trying vainly for some meditative composure. Tomorrow? World peace. Stay tuned.)
  • Riding My Bike; John McCutcheon (....the most wonderful feeling I've ever had/ I'm riding/ I'm falling/ I'm riding my bike!)
  • Sweet Home Alabama; Lynyrd Skynyrd (Well, obviously THAT has to be somewhere on my pod-ling.)
  • Rondeau; Jean-Joseph Mouret (and where is Alastaire Cooke when you need him?)
  • How Bad Do You Want It; Tim McGraw (Well now... I'll have to know you a lot better before I answer THAT question!)
  • The Littlest Snowman/ Captain Kangaroo (OH GOD! Proof that I don't edit these lists!!)
  • Don't Call Me Baby; Madison Avenuie (Indeed! Do not.)

Dear Defense Department, Study War No More

But for the love of all things decent, study SOMETHING!

Picture me, like Charlie Brown sitting at his desk, thunking his head on his desk in frustration. It seems that the Department of Defense believes that homosexuality is a "mental disorder." Here's the story:Common Dreams News Center. And they're qualified to make that claim because.... why, exactly? Yet, claim it they do.

There's a list of disqualifying impairments for admission to the armed forces. Mental impairments include conditions such as mental retardation, personality disorders, and homosexuality. Never mind that it's been more than 30 years since the mental health community removed homosexuality from the DSM, and it's embarrassing enough that it took so long for us to do it.

Two points come to mind immediately. First, they could make the "whoops.... outdated language" claim. Really, it's the only face-saving strategy I can see. Yet, it can't be true. If it were true, they wouldn't have the peculiar "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The military clearly knows that there are gay and lesbian soldiers; as long as they're quiet about it, same-sex orientation is a practical impediment to neither admission nor service. So, why put homosexuality on the list of mental impairments? It's hard to avoid the conclusion that there's something darker at work here.

Secondly, there are social workers, therapists, psychiatrists, and academics on the military's payroll. And even if there weren't, there are libraries in Washington. Go find a copy of the DSM. There's probably one lying around somewhere. Admittedly, it's a flawed and politically dangerous document itself. I'm not arguing its perfection, heaven knows. I am arguing that not consulting it suggests that you think you're experts in a field that isn't yours. Sensible .... I don't know.... botanists consult doctors when they have broken bones. Sensible physicists consult historians (or the published work of one) when they need information or perspectives about ancient Greece. There's nothing threatening about admitting that you don't know every single thing there is to know. Unless, of course, your intentions are more sinister than I would like to believe.

My final point isn't actually a critique of the military's reasoning. Well, not exactly. One is, of course, reminded of the Catholic Church's language of "objective disorder" regarding homosexuality. Just to be clear, I hate that language. Yes, I understand that it's rendered more horrifying in translation and that there are caveats aplenty. (Really, there are only a paltry few caveats. I'm trying to make the argument as easy as possible for the opposing point of view.) Hate still isn't too strong a word to describe my feelings.

Nonetheless, a church doesn't claim to represent the whole society and the whole society doesn't pay for its existence. A church could even properly claim to be counter-cultural, as in going against prevailing cultural norms. (Well, a church could properly claim to be counter-cultural in the more popular understanding of the term, too. But they rarely do.) So, the Catholic Church's claim that homosexuality is a disorder is an internal discussion waiting to be had. The military, which is a function of the broader society, making the same claim is a different enterprise altogether.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Death Be Not Proud

My heart just bleeds for the two U.S. soldiers found dead from torture. It falls out of my chest and bleeds on the floor. I try to comfort myself thus... In this allegedly all-volunteer army, they signed up. On some level, one hopes they knew the risks and that they took comfort in the certainty that their comrades were searching for them. Their families didn't sign up and couldn't possibly have been prepared. And even worse, they have to keep living, knowing what their sons endured. I think I'd go stark raving mad, in their shoes.

There is only one thing that would make this situation worse. And my fear is that it's not just likely but inevitable. If we use this atrocity to continue torturing other people's children, we avenge nothing. If we use this inhumane act to lower ourselves -again- to the level of barbaric torturers, nothing changes for the good. And if, in some tragic twist of logic and compassion, doing exactly those things becomes an expression of patriotism and even piety, then I won't know us at all.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The President's Netflix Queue

Arianna Huffington (not my favorite blogger, by a long shot) had an interesting editorial on Saturday. Apparently Bush's great idea to create the world's largest marine protected area (the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Monument)came from watching a Jean-Michel Cousteau documentary. So, that naturally causes the question to arise, what else should we slip into the president's netflix queue? Ms. Huffington has some ideas, but really.... there are more.

  • The Great Dictator
  • Fahrenheit 911
  • Wag the Dog
  • Artificial Intelligence (Manhattan flooded by the melted polar ice caps...
  • The Truman Show (would he get the parallels to warrantless eavesdropping, I wonder?)
  • Monster's Ball (Okay it's not really the main point of the movie, but maybe he'd have to think about the costs of capital punishment for the people left behind
  • American Beauty (Surely THAT would make him rethink the necessary sanctity of the one man-one woman marriage.)
  • Bowling for Columbine
  • The American President
  • Dave
  • Gandhi
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

But really.... if we want to give him ideas, we have to go with All the President's Men -but we have to make sure he gets all the way to end.

And we really ought to come up with a summer reading list for him, as well. It's time for him to move beyond The Very Hungry Caterpillar, don't you think?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Random 10

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

For the record, I always learn something during this little exercise. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes embarrassing. Mostly it's unimportant trivia (as in, I have more country music on my iPod than I would have thought possible), but it's always interesting -to me, anyway. Try it; see what happens!

Here's my list for the week:
  • You Are the Presence; David Haas
  • All Fired Up; Pat Benatar
  • Walking in Memphis; Marc Cohn
  • Dear Mr. President; Pink and Indigo Girls
  • Baby Be Brave; The Corrs
  • The Trouble with Boys; Little Eva
  • Girl on a Bicycle; Ralph McTell
  • One Girl Revolution; Superchick
  • Child of Mine; Emmylou Harris
  • Good People All; Anonymous 4

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Popcorn and Social Change

We haven't done this in a while and the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival is in New York this month. So, we should give movies that support social change some attention, perhaps. Bear in mind, I have seen precisely one of these movies, so I have no reason to recommend them, exactly. I have had great luck, though, using their movies as my movies, so if that's any encouragement for you... there it is. Here's the link to the schedule: International Film Festival.

I'm particularly interested in:

I've seen Amu, which they're showing next Friday. It's well worth seeing.After the "read more" goes here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Cuckoo's Nest

The military already compromises the integrity of mental health professionals and the principles of ethical encounters with the service delivery system. That's not news. Ask anyone who's ever sought even the least threatening of mental health services and also wanted to join the military. It won't happen. My personal theory is that we should provide -possibly even require- mental health services for all armed services personnel. But that would make too much sense. And, we've just taken yet another turn into the surreal.

Now mental health professionals (and other health professionals as well) can be used as torturers. I'm hardly exaggerating. There's a new Department of Defense directive issued by Assistant Secretary of Health Affairs, William Winkenwerder, Jr, making mental health professionals part of the interrogation teams for detainees in U.S. custody. The new policy explicitly allows mental health information from clinical encounters to be used as part of an interrogation, violating the ethical principle of confidentiality. The new directive also instructs health professionals regarding hunger strikes, requiring force-feeding of prisoners protesting their confinement by denying themselves nutrition. You can find the directive here: DoD directives. Interestingly, they've taken down the revised version. I wonder what that means; the slightly older one is there, however.

And the situation gets even more interesting. Not even a month ago, the American Psychological Association and the World Medical Association (of which the AMA is a member), issued ethical guidelines prohibiting the participation of member professionals in interrogations -period. The idea being that the only way to protect the role of healer is to separate it from inflicting torture. Kind of obvious, really. You can read the APA's statement about participation in torture here: APA. So, what's going to happen? The military will be using professionals who can't be members of the appropriate professional organization? I suppose there are worse things. The professionals will certainly have to choose which authority is the more important one to follow -and it will probably be the one that puts food on the table and clothes their children. And (or?) ethical professionals will leave military service. Leaving... whom???

You can read the Physicians for Human Rights statement denouncing the new policy here: Physicians for Human Rights There's also a petition to Congress to end the participation of mental health professionals in torture. You can read more and sign on, if you like, here: The Ignacio Martin-Baro Fund.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Self-harm as a Publicity Stunt?

That's what we're supposed to believe, apparently. Colleen Graffy, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for public diplomacy (let me repeat that part... diplomacy!) said of the three suicides at Guantanamo, "it was a good PR move." Further, "It does sound that this is part of a strategy in that they don't value their own life and they certainly don't value ours and they use suicide bombings as a tactic to further their Jihadi cause." Elegantly done, Colleen. Now the British press -and I remind you that Britain is our closest ally in this demented war- is calling these and other comments "cold and odious." Diplomacy, indeed.

Yet the truth that the comments were indelicate and ill-advised is not the biggest story here. We need to keep coming back to the other truth that people have been sitting in that prison for four years, with no charges brought against them, no trial dates, and no end in sight. On some very low level you can almost sympathize with Ms. Graffy. Making absurd claims about this situation is the only possibility here; it's the situation itself that is surreal.

Mental health professionals and scholars know a little bit about self-harm in prison. Even making the argument as easy as possible for the administration, Guantanamo comes off as ethically indefensible and sociologically ineffective. It's torture, and it degrades us all, in other words. But I'm equally disappointed in scholars and practitioners who haven't exactly been exercising moral or intellectual leadership here. Let's see what we have.

Let's say the detainees were overtly manipulative of the guards, threatening suicide when they didn't intend to do it just to get attention and cause trouble. Some prisoners do that. However, there's at least one study that rejects the notion that manipulative prisoners and prisoners at risk of suicide are mutually exclusive groups. Try this link, if you're interested: Dear, Thomson, and Hills. Guards must take suicide threats seriously, whether or not they believe them -assuming of course that suicide prevention is the goal. So that argument doesn't work.

Let's try something different. Let's say that these prisoners were so dangerous that extended solitary confinement is the only possibility in order to ensure the safety of the guards. Psychiatric literature since the 19th century documents the link between mental aberrations, including psychosis, and solitary confinement. The longer you hold someone in psychologically dangerous conditions, the more likely that person is to have a psychotic break. Self-harm and harm of others are almost equally likely, so that argument doesn't work either.

The thing I really can't wrap my brain around is that if the administration thought these people were guilty of something, they'd want a trial -and a very public one, at that. So that can't be it. Maybe they do think that the detainees have information that they need. But the advisors must have access to the same information that I do. Well, of course they do; a google-scholar search is good enough. And that search will reveal that information gleaned through torture is notoriously unreliable. If google-scholar is too erudite (???), try the Army Field Manual which states "Army interrogation experts view the use of force as an inferior technique that yields information of questionable quality (Sec. 4A3)."

But here's the thing that googling obscures. The academic debate has been largely off the point as well, I think. There has been a steady parade of academics on the mainstream press and through the White House gates indicating that torture in catastrophic circumstances is morally permissible, if there's reasonable cause to believe that a greater evil might be prevented. We need to challenge the arguments for "principled torture", no matter the legal justification. The narrow framework of that discussion obscures the realities of torture and sets up a false choice between protecting human rights and preventing a terrorist attack. Where are the principled academics????

Now that I think about it, where are the spiritual leaders?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Random 10

You know the game! Take out your iPod and set it to shuffle mode. Then 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 will repair the damage. Here's my list for the week:

  • In My Mother's House; Kate Campbell (I am a prodigal daughter/but in my wandering I have found/there is a wideness in mercy/and there'll always be a place for me/in my mother's house)
  • How Dad Created the World; Trapezoid (for a Father's Day playlist I'm putting together for the long-suffering spouse)
  • What's Love Got to Do with It; Tina Turner
  • Viens, Mallika/Lakme; Delibes
  • Hallelujah; Leonard Cohen (an aural orgasm)
  • Windhorse; Bill Douglas
  • Someone Else's Dream; Faith Hill
  • We Shall Overcome; Pete Seeger (Oh come on... you KNEW I had this one.)
  • Peace Tonight; Indigo Girls
  • Wondrous Love; Anonymous 4

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Now I'm an "Abortion Lady"????

Ann Coulter just irritates the crap out of me. I suppose that's no surprise. I used to think that the pretty girl of reactionary politics was actually intelligent, and it was a shame that she is such a poor steward of that gift, using sound bite and dismissive "reasoning" as she does. Now I just think she's a mean-spirited, attention-seeking narcissist.

I can NOT bring myself to make a link to her latest book, Godless. I think my fingers would fall off. But in it, she argues that abortion is the highest sacrament of liberalism and that "the abortion ladies" want legal abortions so that we can have consequence-free sexual trysts.

Yeah, that's it. My life is just a series of wild sexual flings. (Sarcasm there, in case you missed it.) I think I missed the announcement that they were available! Oh well. And there are, in her little world, no pro-choice men? And it couldn't be that we want women to have real choice and control over what happens to their bodies? It couldn't be that we trust women to make wise and prudent decisions? It couldn't be that we want every child to be wanted? It couldn't be that we don't celebrate abortion, but choice?

The thing is, she knows all that. She must. And she chooses to say something different anyway. And as a self-proclaimed evangelical Christian with Jesus whispering in her ear, she knows the name for that. And the fact that it's a sin against the eighth commandment (or the 9th, depending on how you want to count them).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Repeat After Me, Mr. Bush.....

Religion is not a weapon of the state. Now keep saying it until you get it.

The Supreme Court in Iowa gets it, so there are signs of intelligent life in the heartland. (More later on my theory that we in the "fly-over states" are going to be essential in the next round of elections.) The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a state-funded evangelical prison ministry violates the Constitutional separation of church and state. Well, yeah. You can get the story here: NYT.

There are several interesting bits to this. First, actual people had to care enough to bring the case to trial. The legal system doesn't exist solely in a world of ideas; someone has to take action. In this situation, the case was filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. So, people are paying attention and taking action. Excellent. Secondly, the case sets the stage for a broader consideration of the Bush administration's strong commitment to faith-based services. I've ranted about this before, and it's way overdue in my never-humble opinion.

And here's the thing -the place where I might actually have a contribution to make. It's pretty obvious, I suppose, that I'm a faithful person (with issues around religious expression, but I'm working on it. Really.) who also knows a thing or two about service delivery. I absolutely concede -and celebrate- the fact that faith can inspire people to be good and to do good. But forcing people to follow the forms of religion isn't good religion or good social service practice. It doesn't work on either end. People end up with insipid faith and nondescript recovery skills. And the taxpayers have paid for this. Moreover -and I suppose it's less important, but it's still irritating- the stereotype of faithful people as coercive and intellectually bankrupt is perpetuated. Hmmm... I think I've ranted about that before, too. I'm shutting up now.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Get Your Paws Off My Language

I grant you, this is just a meaningless rant. You'll have to visit someone else's blog if you want something constructive today. Here's the thing. I'm not completely fussy about grammar and usage. I sometimes intentionally split infinitives, start sentences with conjunctions, and use too many commas. I have to remind myself how to spell "embarrass," and I've embarrassed myself on more than one occasion when I didn't stop to think how to spell it. But give me a break.

I went to technorati this morning. The site will tell you what the top ten most popular search tags are. You know what makes the top ten? "Loose weight", that's what. Spelled correctly, it doesn't make the top ten. This disturbs me. Or is "loose weight" something distinct from "tight weight" and I'm just out of the loop on this new phenomenon? Then, I opened my e-mail. There I found a completely meaningless sentence that starts "Thank you for taking the imitative...". Taking the what? I'm sorry you've lost your imitative, but I didn't take it. Eventually I figured out what the writer meant, but really, the reader should only have to do half the work of communication.

And then I went to the grocery store because we're out of coffee (undoubtedly the actual cause of my cantankerous rant). Since I had only one item in my cart, I lined up in the "10 items or less" line. Blast it! Are the anti-grammarians out to get me today?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Requiescat in Pace

A dear friend has died. Mary Uscian was -and will continue to be- a source of light and hope to her friends and to the community. She was a nurse who made sure poor people received health care. With a friend, she started the local sliding-scale medical clinic. She made sure there were health screenings at the shelter for homeless people.

But more than what she did, there was just who she was. She was hilariously funny, quick-witted, deeply spiritual, but also justly critical of (and wounded by) the Catholic Church.

I'm having trouble with tenses as I write. It's hard to remember to write "was" rather than "is". The news is still fresh feeling, and I'm in that phase where it's hard to grasp the finality of her death. We'll really never see her again. That's just wrong.

Please hold her (and she'd want me to say, everyone who works for justice) in your thoughts and prayers today. The world still needed Mary. There's some comfort that she's no longer suffering from her brutal illness. But it's not quite enough, yet.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Mapping Our Rights

A new website tracks reproductive and sexual rights by state. Ipas, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective collaborated to come up with a database evaluating access to abortion and contraception, LGBT issues, and other concerns such as abstinence-only sex education programs. (I am reliably informed that the mathematics behind such an enterprise is interesting and complex. After that, my eyes glazed over.)

It's easy to see how your own state ranks on these issues, but there's more information tucked in the data available here. For example, there seems to be a clear positive correlation between states with abstinence-only sex education and with high teen pregnancy rates. We knew this, of course, but here's some data to support what we expected.

Go here to see the U.S. map: Sexual Rights Map. Click on your state to get more in-depth information. (You are going to have to recognize the shape of your state. Please don't let this turn into a rant about the state of geographical literacy and the quality of education in this country.) Then let me know what you're thinking!

Friday, June 02, 2006

We Know Not What We Do....

I'm heart-sick and disgusted. In keeping with June's focus as anti-torture month, I've just listened to former Army Chaplain James Yee's account of his time at Guantanamo. The quick recap is that he was the U.S. Army Muslim chaplain to the detainees at Guantanamo. He was accused of being a spy, threatened with the death penalty, put into solitary confinement, and tortured. Until the charges were dropped. Whoops. You can read a transcript of an interview he gave on this subject at Democracy Now.

And, not that it really matters, James Yee is a U.S. citizen from a career military family. Torture isn't just happening to "those other guys". Yee has written a book recounting his experiences: For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire. It's well worth a look. For one thing, he understands (as I hope I never have to) that it really is patriotism under fire. This...thing... that Bush calls patriotism or defending the country or keeping us strong, that's not patriotism. Patriotism calls us to something more noble, more courageous in defending our principles, and substantially less craven than torturing people.

Moreover, our version of patriotism reminds us that we are the government. And since no one in the official government has apologized to Mr. Yee for his uncalled-for detention and torture, I will. We all should.

Mr. Yee, I'm very sorry that this happened to you. I'm very sorry that you were tortured by people claiming to act for me. If it's any consolation at all, your experience has moved me to take action to ensure that someone remembers what real patriotism is.

You can blog against torture too. It's not enough, but it's an important start. Join us here: Blog Against Torture.

Biker-Boy Sighting

Using my extensive network of nun-friends and priests-Andrea-has-dated (stop it... mommies weren't always mommies and priests weren't always priests!), I know that biker-boy is alive and well and somewhere in South Dakota. In keeping with his perspective that bike time is retreat time, he's been staying at retreat centers and monastery/convent guest houses.

So, the good people at Benedictine Peace Center have given rest to the weary traveler. It looks beautiful. I know there are political reasons for not spending your disposable income travel-dollars in South Dakota, but this is really tempting. Two points here, though.....

One problem with priests and nuns (from my perspective), is that it never occurs to them to ask "Have you called your wife?". They are generous and gracious in offering hospitality, but the whole thing about other people worrying is just outside their experience. And you just KNOW that biker-boy isn't going to think of it.

And for a geometer, this boy has a peculiar sense of circularity. He "forgot" to turn around, apparently, and head for home. Unfortunately, the calendar keeps marching forward as well, and the date he needs to be back here hasn't changed. So now the plan is to just keep riding until he finds an Amtrak station and to take the train home. Perhaps my joke that the academy protects people who would otherwise be in a different (and arguably less pleasant) kind of institution isn't so far off after all!

But he'll be home soon. God speed, dear one!

Friday Random 10

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

Here are mine for this week:
  • Music for the Royal Fireworks -Prelude; Handel
  • Miss Clare Remembers; Enya
  • New Attitude; Patti LaBelle
  • How Beautiful; Still Pointe (It is a beautiful song.)
  • The Honor of Your Company; Tom Paxton
  • Volcano; Jimmy Buffett
  • Music in my Mother's House; Ronnie Gilbert and Holly Near
  • Symphony No. 9 in E minor -Adagio; Dvorak
  • To Everyone in the World; Cathy Fink
  • Come to Us, O Emmanuel; Gary Daigle and Marty Haugen

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sex Cults????

There's been lots of blogging and ranting about the FDA and its refusal to approve the emergency contraception Plan B. I've also blogged myself about how a different bit of the federal government is being taken over by faith-based policy-makers who only want to fund what they deem to be be righteous. So... here we are again.

Acting FDA Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Janet Woodcock (could I possibly have made that up???) has these fears about Plan B: "we could not anticipate or prevent extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an 'urban legend' status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B." You couldn't anticipate it or you clearly do anticipate it? If you can anticipate it, why can't you prevent (or at least mitigate) it? And sex cults based on teenagers' misinformation about sex? Have you actually met any teenagers? They don't need cults to spread misinformation or to be fixated on sex. What's so horrible about giving them (or... you know.... adult women) the option of not conceiving?

So, okay, she's just blathering. I do a certain amount of that myself. What's really the problem here? Plan B contraception has nothing to do with a fertilized egg. It works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg for a short while, so there is nothing to fertilize. Therefore, the typical pro-life fertilized-egg-as-baby argument has nothing to do with this situation. So that's not it. And if we're not protecting babies, what are we doing?

Really, is there an option other than controlling women? I can't think of one, and I tried. And controlling women through our reproductive potential is hardly news, especially when you link it to the recent news from the CDC that all women between menarche and menopause should treat themselves as pre-pregnant and take prenatal vitamins. As my friend Elisa says (sarcastically), "the health of a potential fetus should be your priority if you're a woman."

Just..... yuck.