The Blog

Happy Labor Day!

I hope many of you are enjoying your Monday off. (Although I know several people in the service industry who have to work today – including moms!) This post is just a quick reminder that, like Memorial Day, this holiday marks something for which people died.

“It all started with a bad recession in the early 1890s that reduced demand for railway cars, prompting Chicago railway magnate George Pullman to lay off workers and reduce wages. Many of his workers went on strike. The sympathetic American Railway Union refused to handle Pullman cars, hampering commerce in many parts of the country. “The boycott tapped the deep and pervasive alienation of labor in general,” historian David Ray Papke wrote in his 1999 book The Pullman Case: The Clash of Labor and Capital in Industrial America … In July, President Grover Cleveland sent federal troops to Chicago to crush the strike. Illinois Gov. John Altgeld (D) resented the president’s decision, as there had not yet been any large-scale rioting. “I protest against this uncalled for reflection upon our people, and again ask the immediate withdrawal of these troops,” Altgeld wrote to the president. Within a day of the troops’ arrival, mobs started tipping railroad cars and setting them on fire. Troops cracked down with bayonets and bullets; the rioting and property destruction worsened. Dozens of people ultimately died in Chicago and elsewhere. The government restored order by the fall, and American Railway Union leader Eugene Debs was eventually convicted of defying a court order and sent to prison.”

Although President Grover Cleveland and his party tried to appease the working man by creating Labor Day less than a week after breaking the strike, the decision by the right-wing President to send in troops to crush Pullman union is the biggest part of the reason the left-wingers won the midterm elections in a landslide and why William McKinley won the next presidential election. (To clarify, in those days the Republicans were the lefties and the Democrats were the righties.)

Thus, as you enjoy your holiday please give a moments thought to the union workers who died because they had the audacity to want to feed their families and because they resented their government betraying them in order to make sure the Robber Barons stayed stratospherically rich.

The Real Little House

I loved reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books as a child. Then when my girls were old enough, I started to read the series to them and discovered that I had to edit the crap out of the lavish racism lest my daughters burst into tears with horror. Which then inspired me to ponder the meaning of the books and their place in American life. How about their place in history? They were first person accounts of the 1870s & 1880s Western expansion of America, right?

Well, no. Not quite.

It turns out the books are a mixture of some real events, some fictionalized versions of real events, and some flat-out fiction. Moreover, they weren’t really “written” by Laura Ingles Wilder. They were bits of her writing reworked and made delightfully readable by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane.

Knowing that so much of it was fictionalized or fiction made me feel differently about the books, which I had accepted as gospel as a kid. It also made me wonder, should I be reading racist fiction to my daughters even with the racism edited out? Was this history? Or was it propping up racism against Native Americans?

Michelle McClellan, a professor in the History Department at the University of Michigan, has the best answer to those questions. She said:

“I think it’s important to keep in mind that the books were written in the 1930s and 1940s, depicting the 1870s and 1880s – that’s two layers of remove from us in time, with many changes of attitudes and vocabulary in between.  Some of the characters express views that are profoundly racist toward American Indians, especially “Ma,” Laura’s mother.  Importantly, though, Laura’s father, “Pa,” disagrees with his wife and offers an alternative view, insisting that Indians should be judged as individuals and that they often have skills and knowledge that whites lack.  The character of Laura asks naïve questions about why they are going to settle where Indians already live, and although her parents do not answer her satisfactorily, the fact that she even asks gives readers an opening to think about western settlement in more nuanced ways.
Of course, the Ingalls as white settlers were engaged in the dispossession of native peoples, and the absence of Indians in many of the books is a profound erasure.  For all these reasons, the books have been banned in some schools.  In light of this, I find the reflections of the late Native American anthropologist Michael Dorris provocative.  He recalled enjoying the books as a child, but debated whether to read them to his daughters.  He concluded that Native American children do not need to be protected from the knowledge that their ancestors suffered; they already know that.  But he insisted that white children should be exposed to the complicated and, at times, ugly motivations of those who settled the West.  So he argued for thoughtful engagement with books like this, including thinking critically about why they have become classics, rather than ignoring or banning them.”

Now, all I have to do is recover from the fact that the 16th century English the word “ingles” meant, according to the information in the book Filthy Shakespeare, the passive male homosexual sex partners. It puts a different slant on the name Laura Ingalls Wilder, doesn’t it?

Merry Old England

This weekend I bought and then voraciously read a book by Pauline Kiernan entitled Filthy Shakespeare. I was a wonderful read for a potty-mouthed Tudor enthusiast like myself, but is not for those whom the Anglo-Saxon derived earthy words for body bits and sex offend.

Let’s just say that while the book dealt with Tudor euphemisms, the author didn’t bother with them.

I learned many new things from Filthy Shakespeare, all of them suitably risqué. For example, the word “merry” didn’t just mean “happy” back in Tudor times any more than the word “gay” just means “happy” today. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and her predecessors the word merry was a double entendre for “in the mood”. Puts a new slant on the Merry Wives of Windsor, no? For myself, I will never say Merry Christmas with the same innocence ever again.

There is also the flagrant (to Shakespeare’s audience at least) raunchiness of the word “indeed”. Even today we will colloquially say that someone “did it” to indicate that the person had sex, and the do/did/does link to sex was much stronger in the Tudor Era. Thus, the world “indeed” – when said in the right place and perhaps aided by tone and facial expression – it is an unsubtle way of talking about intercourse. Knocking and turning were also references to delightfully carnal activities.

I also learned that the word “slippery” was used to indicate that someone was bisexual.  Some of the MANY words that referred to a vagina were, hell, ear, face, waist, mouth, nick, neck, favours, park, nony, and Spain. Among the words that could also mean “penis” were awl, chin, compass, eel, foot, hand, little finger, purse, token, and yard. Some terms. like wit, will, and jet could mean either set of genitalia or the sex act, depending on context.

After reading this book rereading Hamlet was an eye-opener. Not only was he outright obscene to Ophelia, his banter with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern was raunchy comic relief. Take this bit of dialog from scene ii Act 2:

HAMLET

My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern?

Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do you both?

ROSENCRANTZ

As the indifferent children of the earth.

GUILDENSTERN

Happy, in that we are not overhappy.

On Fortune’s cap we are not the very button.

HAMLET

Nor the soles of her shoes?

ROSENCRANTZ

Neither, my lord.

HAMLET

Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favors?

GUILDENSTERN

Faith, her privates we.

HAMLET

In the secret parts of Fortune? Oh, most true. She is a strumpet. What news?

ROSENCRANTZ

None, my lord, but that the world’s grown honest.

See all the talk about waists and favors and buttons and secret parts? All that is naughty as can be. The whole thing is rife with “wink, wink, nudge, nudge”.

Then there is the amazingly tawdry Porter in Macbeth. Apparently Shakespeare wanted to lighten up his dark tragedy with a comic interlude or two. The Porter, drunk as a skunk, hears a knock on the door and delivers a soliloquy that must have had the Tudors splitting their sides:

PORTER

Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were porter of hell-gate, he should have old turning the key.

Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ th’ name of Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty. Come in time, have napkins enough about you, here you’ll sweat for ’t.

Knock, knock! Who’s there, in th’ other devil’s name? Faith, here’s an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God’s sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator.

Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there? Faith, here’s an English tailor come hither for stealing out of a French hose. Come in, tailor. Here you may roast your goose.

Almost every word in that monologue is a play on words meaning genitals and/or sex. Either of the lines “knocking indeed” and “O, come in, equivocator” acting alone would have caused a Puritan to faint.

The Bard was bawdy, indeed.

Almost there …

One of the many, MANY quirks of my personality is that when I am very close to finishing a project I become frantic to complete it. During the last 5% or so of the task I am obsessed with getting it all done. It doesn’t matter if I am painting a room, cross-stitching a sampler, or writing a book – when the end is nigh I yearn for it.

Yes, I’m weird.

I am on the last part of the last chapter of my newest book. Granted, it’s the rough draft but I am nonetheless filled with glee and satisfaction about its near completion. I am, as always, fixated upon it. That’s why I have not made my usual round of appearances on social media. It’s why this blog post is weak-sauce.

I will, with any luck, be kicking it back into normal gear on Monday. I am SO CLOSE to being done with The Jezebel Effect.  I just need a good way to sum it all up in a pithy comment or two. If my blog is crap again on Monday, you’ll know the pith continues to elude me.

Wish me luck while I chase the pith!

Suffer the Little Children

Children from South America, who have legally entered the USA to request asylum (AKA refugees), are being rapidly deported. Regardless of the excuses given, the real reason these kids are being shipped back to hell is because they are brown and speak Spanish.  There is solid evidence that those kids are in grave dangers … and some of them have already been murdered.

“Between five and ten migrant children have been killed since February after the United States deported them back to Honduras, a morgue director told the Los Angeles Times. Lawmakers have yet to come up with best practices to deal with the waves of unaccompanied children apprehended by Border Patrol agents, but some politicians refute claims that children are fleeing violence and are opting instead to fund legislation that would fast-track their deportations. San Pedro Sula (Honduras) morgue director Hector Hernandez told the Los Angeles Times that his morgue has taken in 42 dead children since February. According to an interview with relatives by the LA Times, one teenager was shot dead hours after getting deported.”

A big part of the reason that Central America is such a nightmare of violence right now is because the West (mostly American and European political/economic interests) has meddled with the entire region. It is a  fact that America (under FDR) created and maintained the Somoza dictatorship, which was overthrown by Sandinistas 1979, which made some Americans afraid because of the socialist nature of the Sandinistas, which caused the Regan administration to back the Contras and create the School of the Americas to train terrorists, but Contra terrorist atrocities and drug running and human trafficking made them wildly unpopular in the US and in the countries they operated, so for the Regan administration and its political allies to keep funding the Contra’s they sold illegal arms to Iran and funneled the money to the Contra terrorists (The Iran-Contra Affair),  but the Contras were busy raping nuns and killing children to bring about government change so Nicaragua has returned to the control of the Sandinistas.  Moreover, thanks to our hosting the Contras in the surrounding countries, the whole area is awash in drugs and gangs – the leftovers of the Contras.  

Now, we send kids back to that mess to die. Like we had nothing to do with it. Even if our country (under BOTH Democratic and Republican Presidents so NO ONE is on the moral high ground here) was as innocent as a lamb vis-à-vis the turmoil there, those children are innocent human beings and it is wrong to send them back to a place where they have such a high risk of being murdered.

See this little girl?

refugee child

If the US deports her there are strong odds she will be raped and forced into prostitution by a gang or she get murdered or both. She is a human being. She is no older than my first born daughter, who is in forth grade and loves My Little Ponies and The Lego Movie.

Think about it.

No Justice, No Peace

Protesters in Ferguson (including plenty of white folks who aren’t being shown as much on the news because white people shouting out for racial justice isn’t as titillating as ‘scary’ black people doing it) are protesting because they are angry. They are angry about racial inequality. They are angry because all too often black men/boys are shot down by law enforcement when unarmed. They are angry because white criminals are treated with more respect and courtesy by the press than black victims.  They are angry a video of Michael Brown stealing a cigarillo was released to the press even though it is completely irrelevant to the shooting.

Moreover, they are angry because of the disproportionate police response to black protestors. Compare the police response at Ferguson with the response to the Bundy Ranch Standoff.  A group of white “patriots” at the Bundy Ranch Standoff could aim sniper rifles at federal officers and local law enforcement without having teargas shot at them, so why are unarmed black and white protesters met with SWAT teams, tanks, teargas and rubber bullets?

The Ferguson protesters are angry because they have been given a curfew, as if their constitutional and civil rights end after sundown. The Ferguson protesters are angry because they are being teargassed without warning hours before the official “curfew” even begins. They are angry because the media are being threatened and assaulted by law enforcement in an attempt to keep what’s happening in Ferguson from being widely known.

They are angry because they are supposed to shut up and sit down and stop rocking the boat.

There is a reason why the rallying cry of Ferguson, MO and the support protests is “No Justice, No Peace”.

Culture and Narrative

One black man is shot by a police or security officer every 28 hours in America on average. Too often these men are young and unarmed and had only committed the crime of being “uppity” or something as minor as jaywalking. Black men are shot by authorities when in the same circumstances white guys aren’t.

Why?

Cynthia Lee of George Washington University Law School suggests:

“Borrowing from Charles Lawrence’s theory of unconscious racism, I suggest that racial stereotypes operate at a subconscious level to influence the police officer’s decision to use deadly force. The police officer may not consciously decide to use deadly force because of the suspect’s race, but the suspect’s race nonetheless influences the officer. Racial stereotypes thus may alter the officer’s perception of danger, threat, and resistance to authority. A simple question, Officer, why am I being stopped? may be perceived as behavior challenging the officer’s authority when asked by someone who is Black. Police officers may also see danger more readily when dealing with a person of color. Just as racial and ethnic stereotypes influence private citizens’ decisions to use force in self-defense, such stereotypes can also influence police officers’ decisions to use force.”

In short, the odds are good that the police are not consciously targeting young black men; it’s that they have been told by media messaging all their lives that black men are “dangerous”.

This representation of black men as “thugs” continues even after an unarmed teen has been shot. There is currently trending a hashtag on twitter #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. What picture would the media use to represent you? The one where you were goofing off with friends and look like a “thug”, or your graduation picture? Guess which one the media tends to use?

Here are some examples of the same person to explain how context makes the narrative radically different:

iftheygunnedmedown1

iftheygunnedmedown2

Recently an unarmed black teenager was gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson, MO.  His body was left uncovered, in the street, in view of his parents and grandmother for four hours. Here are two of the pictures that the media could chose from to represent the young man, Michael Brown, who was getting ready to start college in just a few days:

good micheal brown bad_Michael_Brown

Guess which one national media went with?

Meanwhile, protesters for Michael Brown have been called an “angry mob” and protests were labeled “riots”. When some people used the protests  to loot stores, police officers used tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowd of protesters who were not looting. Newspapers reported the protesters where shouting “Kill the Police” when they were actually shouting “No Justice, No Peace”.

Here are some lesser seen photos of the “riots”:

Ferguson riot 1

ferguson riots 2

ferguson riots 3

ferguson riots 4

Ferguson riots 5

In the modern world the media shapes the cultural narrative. If we ever want to see a cessation of the tragic slaughter of unarmed black men by security officers then we need to stop having black men and black people displayed as “scary”. Cops are human, and prey to human frailties like fear. Until the culture shows them that fear is not the necessary axiomatic response  to black men, they will overreact violently when in confrontation with black men.

Feminism is Groovy

There has been an outbreak, not unlike a rash, of women posting pictures of themselves holding signs proclaiming how THEY didn’t need any of that gross feminism. I think it would behoove them to 1) understand what feminism actually IS so that they will never again post ridiculous pictures proclaiming they don’t need feminism because they “want equal rights” and 2) remember a few salient facts from the times prior to feminist movement.

Recently CNN listed some things women couldn’t do in the 60’s, and it should have been an eye-opener for the women who don’t “need” feminism.

1) You couldn’t get a credit card unless your hubby let you have one. I wonder how many women in the anti-feminist league have credit cards in their own names?

2) You couldn’t serve on a jury. Your precious nerves were too delicate. Nowadays, women are trial lawyers. Are the anti-feminists saying we were better off when women were considered too “emotional” to function in the legal system?

3) Get birth control pills. “In 1960, the pill was approved for use as a contraceptive. Even so, the pill was illegal in some states and could be prescribed only to married women for purposes of family planning, and not all pharmacies stocked it. Some of those opposed said oral contraceptives were immoral, promoted prostitution and were tantamount to abortion.” The feminist movement is fighting tooth and nail to keep contraception legal. If you have ever used contraception, thank a feminist.

4) Go to an Ivy League school regardless of how good your grades. “Yale and Princeton didn’t accept female students until 1969. Harvard didn’t admit women until 1977 (when it merged with the all-female Radcliffe College) … Dartmouth and Columbia did not offer admission to women until 1971, 1972 and 1981, respectively.” If a woman has attended ANY of these schools, then she did indeed need feminism and is now an ungrateful twerp.

To expand on this, let me point out some further things ladies couldn’t have before the feminist movement took off.

5) Be assured equal access to ANY higher education, let alone the Ivy League. “On June 23, 1972, the President (Nixon) signed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., into law. Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The principal objective of Title IX is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs”. 

6) A reasonable chance to get into medical school. “At the beginning of the 20th century about 5 percent of the doctors in the United States were women. In 1970, it was still only 7 percent. By 1998, 23 percent of all doctors were women, and today, women make up more than 50 percent of the medical student population. In 1968 only 1.2% of practicing dentists were women. By 2003, 17% of dentists were women, and 35% of dentists in new active private practice were female.” Women didn’t start becoming doctors and dentists because we suddenly got smarter in the 80’s; it was feminists who made this happen.

7) Say “no” to your husband if he says he wants to have sex but you don’t. That’s right. It was legal for a husband to rape his wife. “In the United States, prior to the mid-1970s marital rape was exempted from ordinary rape laws. The exemption is also found in the 1962 Model Penal Code, which stated that “A male who has sexual intercourse with a female not his wife is guilty of rape if: (…)“.”

8) Feminists made sexual harassment illegal. Sure, it still exists, but prior to 1986 it was legal.  You want to have the ability to walk through an office without getting your butt pinched? Then you need to thank feminism.

9) You can now get pregnant and continued to be employed. Before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 you could get fired for getting pregnant, even if you were married or otherwise morally sanctioned to procreate. If you like not being automatically fired for being pregnant, thank feminism.

10) Oh, and lets not forget that feminists are the ones who fought for women to have the basic human right to vote in a democracy. Without the feminist movement, you wouldn’t be able to go to the polls and make your political voice heard, let alone display your thoughts on a public forum like Tumblr.

As for myself, I still need feminism because I want my daughters to be treated equally regardless of their gender and we aren’t quite there yet.

GOP led House Committee has confirmed no wrong-doing in Benghazi

As you all know, bad and/or misleading reporting for sensationalism drives me batcrap crazy. Call me a bluff old traditionalist, but I think newspapers and news reports should be factually accurate. Moreover, I don’t think skewing data or lies by omission to mislead the reader/viewer in order to create more readers/viewers is good either.

Needless to say, the reports and articles about Benghazi have frequently engendered me with a desire to pull my hair out due to inaccuracies. It’s not the politics that gets to me; it’s the lack of facts.

Finally, there is a report than cannot be dismissed as propaganda for/by either Republicans or Democrats.

“The House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, has concluded that there was no deliberate wrongdoing by the Obama administration in the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans … the report “confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given.”

The Democrats cannot have skewed or faked this data, because there was a majority of Republicans on the committee who would have screamed blue murder if the Democrats had pulled any such shenanigans. The Republicans would not have skewed or faked this data, because it does them absolutely no good politically to confirm no wrong-doing in Benghazi.

Now, with any luck, myths and distortions about Benghazi will stop popping up in the news. Perhaps my sanity will even return. It’s doubtful, because there will always be more data to ignore or misreport that will get my goat. Nevertheless, I will be happy if Benghazi at least is no longer among the rabble.

Why evidence doesn’t matter in the “obesity epidemic”

It has long been known, and has been recently proven yet again in yet another mega-study, that “that overweight individuals had a lower risk of premature death than so-called normal weight individuals and there was no relationship between being somewhat obese and the rate of early death. Only among people in the high range of obesity was there a correlation between their weight and a higher risk of premature death.”

If the “normal” weight range for American adults was reconfigured back to the range which correlated to HEALTH, then “79% of the people we currently shame for being overweight or obese would be recategorized as perfectly fine. Ideal, even. Pleased to be plump, let’s say, knowing that a body that is a happy balance of soft and strong is the kind of body that will carry them through a lifetime.” This means the “obesity epidemic” is baloney by any discernable measurement of health.

The health crisis in America is a metabolic health crisis that has nothing to do with the circumference of your hips or your lack of thigh-gap. Diabetes, hypertension, hardening of the arteries, kidney disease – all that jazz – is much more closely linked to the consumption of sugar and processed food and artificial sweetener than weight. Fat/overweight people don’t axiomatically eat more sugary & processed foods than thin people. You can get fat off of “good” foods too. I am living proof.

Health is also effected by a sedentary life-style. A fat/overweight person who exercises even moderately is “healthier” than a thin person who leads a mostly sedentary lifestyle. I have a standing desk and do yoga. I am “metabolically fit” according to all my recent medical bloodwork. I also have a great big butt. My large booty and vast upper arms have meant that some doctors have seemed surprised or even disappointed that I am physically healthy. I don’t go back to those doctors; I go to doctors who are pleased with my health and encourage me to maintain my healthy behaviors.

Sadly, many fat/overweight people have learned to avoid seeking medical care because no matter what their symptoms the standard answer is that they need to lose a little weight. Worse, we can tell when health care professionals are judging us and finding us ‘unworthy’ of help and health, thus leaving people feeling to ashamed to go get health care. It’s not in our heads, either. Studies have found that “over 50% of doctors find fat patients “awkward, ugly, weak-willed and unlikely to comply with treatment” and 28% of nurses said that they were “repulsed” by their obese patients.   Mary Huizinga of Johns Hopkins found that “The higher a patient’s body mass, the less respect doctors express for that patient.  And the less respect a doctor has for a patient the less time they spend with that patient and the less information he or she offers.” 

The bias against fat/overweight patients means fat/overweight people are misdiagnosed and undiagnosed in terrifyingly large percentages. Don’t think this medical bias would apply to you? Think again. A “recent Yale study suggested that weight bias can start when a woman is as little as 13 pounds over her highest healthy weight.” In effect, you can be in the healthiest cohort of Americans and yet your physician may still judge you as too weak-willed and noncompliant to bother with.

Why do doctors have these biases, when their assumptions are counter-factual and repeatedly proven to be so?

The answer is simple: most doctors and nurses and other health care professionals have grown up in the same cultural environment as other Americans and have been bombarded with overt and sublet messaging that fat is repulsive, that it is visual evidence of sloth and gluttony, and that it denotes an “inferior” specimen of humanity. Is it surprising that they should view fat/overweight patients as repulsive, ugly, and weak-willed? Medical professionals, contrary to their portrayals as being ‘above’ culture and susceptible only to hard facts, are human beings with the same enculturated subconscious assumptions as the rest of the USA.

Meanwhile, hysterical stories about the “obesity epidemicproliferate, completely ignoring factual data showing that fat itself isn’t deadly and the rise of heart disease and diabetes is more about American food stables and lifestyle than America’s pants size.  Sadly, this is coloring the perceptions of another generation of future medical students.

*sigh*