Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why oh why, Indiana?

Dear Bitches,
(a short note to the amazing women of Bitch PhD)

At risk of painting my state in a bad light, here are two horribly disappointing developments in the news today:

First, the state senate passed a resolution to amend the state constitution to define marriage, blah blah blah ... of course, if you're a hardcore true-blue (-red?) conservative, you're not content with just cutting off legal marriage, you have to make sure that "...unmarried couples cannot receive the same benefits as married couples. And if a gay couple marries in another state, their union is not recognized by the state of Indiana." You know - really really make sure everyone knows how seriously Indiana takes its status as a "cultural wasteland", to quote a friend. <Sigh.> Here's a question - can 'unmarried couples' receive greater benefits than straight - oops, I mean, married - couples?

Second, the state senate (busy bees, these m0therf^ckers) passed a bill expressly recognizing pharmacists' right to refuse to dispense any prescription medication that "could possibly induce abortion or assist suicide, including birth control pills." According to the article, quoting Planned Parenthood spokesperson Steve Carr, 98% of American women use birth control at some point in their lives. Hmm.

Combine the blind, empty rage induced by these two articles with a completely unnecessary and overdone caffeine high (sorry, K, for the confused voice message..), and you have one day spent doing little actual work and lots of pacing, cursing, writing, and phoning (ie, Brandt Hershman, author of the bill - no email but there are phone numbers, (317) 232-9400, (800) 382-9467).

Just fyi.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I was having a conversation with e yesterday, about an NYT article on female genital mutilation which came up again when I was reading this post from Bitch PhD in response to it.

The good doctor made the good point that the article wrongly implies or assumes that FGM is a muslim practice. It's not. E made the point that it's hypocritical to decry that particular culture's practice when women have been so wrongly treated throughout time in our own. This, I think, is both a good and bad point (bood? gad?).

First, although 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone' is always a worthy talking point, it's also rather limited - because no human is without sin. So, taken as is, it kind of shuts down the discussion. Second, I think it is logically fallacious to attack our own cultural history as a reason not to fight against what many see as a human rights/women's rights violation - it's not a logical strike against the argument against FGM, it's a strike against our culture. Finally, I think it would be wrongly self-limiting to attack the wrongs against women in our culture but expressly not those of another.

That said, it was a gad point so let's cover the other side of things.

First, yes, it is hypocritical.

Second, who are we, sticking our noses in other people's business? I'm reminded of discussions on Mill, about the limits of freedom. This is sticky. In India, there used to be a practice called Sati (or suttee) where widows threw themselves on their husbands' funeral pyre. In theory, it was voluntary, though in practice a great deal of social pressure (absolute ostracization for those who refused) as well as even drugs or actual force was involved in enforcing the practice. Now, in theory or not, this was a cultural practice. It was outlawed, fought against, and ENDED by the British. It would be damned hard to sustain an argument against ending the practice, and I don't like the grounds that that rests on (more on that in a moment)(also - wouldn't the same argument sort of hold in our own culture?). Why can we pick and choose the cultural practices that are ok? What about halal butchering? What about wooden discs in lips, or sexual rites of passage involving young boys and older men?

Third, what if they're right? There exists the possibility that the practices based on a religion are RIGHT. I mean, for example, if someone's religion tells them that women are only pure if a piece of their clitoris has been nicked off, and their religion is right, how dare we...

But how do you argue against that? It's not logical, it simply is.

Gear change.

Personally, I go about with a hope for some sort of ultimate objectivity, a la deity perhaps, because it seems that without such a thing there is no hope of ultimate understanding, or connection, among mankind. The sheer variety of humanity seems to me to be an argument both for and against this. Sadly, I have the feeling that the argument in favor of cultural practice rests on subjectivity, apartness, and lack of ability to understand. Simply put, if Sati is ok, but I find it abhorrent - aside from disingenuous rationalizations, I have to say "I don't like it but I don't understand, either".

But who (no one) wants to be wrong? If you've got a God, or gods, then generally you assume (have faith) that they're right, so you're right, and ...

I'm going to go take a cold shower.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"American Foreign Policy and You" (Lee Hamilton, March 2006)

I just found some random notes from 2 years ago, from a talk given by Lee Hamilton. In unabridged, unedited form:

"American Foreign Policy and You"
* notes - a lot of white/balk heads in the audience
- more and more, must see problems in the context of the world we live in
- regime-change; interesting selection of regimes to change, ignore, deal with
- dependent on a very unstable region of the world

Choices (?) Made
- no energy independence
- ignore climate change (Kyoto)
- abandon Afghanistan in 1990s
- not to worry about debt, import/export balance

---- "don't ever let a politician tell you there are no alternatives in American foreign policy"

Darfur - rape, killings, genocide
Congo - 4m dead

spend now, children can pay.
JFK - there cannot be an American solution for everything.

"What kind of a world do you/I/we choose for our children??"

"Must convey [to those 1.3b Muslims] we want the same things for you as we want for ourselves"
'I want for you what I want for myself' ---- a decent life [for you, me - and our children]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Facebook Stalkin'

Government and Political Parties.

Traditionally, conservatives are seen as distrustful of the government, as wanting less government, more personal autonomy. Yes? And liberals, well, the opposite.

In Indiana, similar to many other states, a law has been passed requiring a photo idea to vote. It has been controversial and is about to receive a ruling from the US Supreme Court.

Reflexively, liberals have lined up in opposition and conservatives in support of this law, and others like it. Why? The parties are shifting? It's the same thing with surveillance, no? Shouldn't it be the Republicans who are fighting tooth and nail (ahem, not to suggest that the Democrats are doing that) to keep (big) government from becoming big brother?

Or maybe it has nothing to do with principles, and it is political. IF a political party is to benefit from the VOTER ID Act, it is the Republicans, because those who are most likely to not vote are often Democrats. So, you have Democrats fighting tooth and nail all the way to the Supreme Court over it. On the other hand, increased surveillance is part and parcel of the patriotic and Republican defense of our country - national security national security national security - which was a source of political strength for the Republicans and prompted a scattered knee-jerk reaction from Democrats. Perhaps?