09 March 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

This is Lexie. She is Buddy's sister and basically Queen of the Household. We adopted Lexie when she was about 9 months old. The people moving out of a next-door apartment just left her--and she came to our place. So I guess you can say that she actually adopted us. That was around 1991 (I think), and we have had her ever since. She is a sweet cat! Lexie is friendly, well-mannered, and she puts up with Buddy's roughneck and sometimes rude behavior.

She does look a little stoned in the first picture below.

08 March 2007

Pink Stop Signs

In the past few months, I have had several serious conversations about using the word partner or domestic partner instead of wife. I am an advocate of using partner, but it doesn't flow naturally in my conversations--I have been trying, however.

But, if there is anything to make me work harder and harder at using the term, it's the right-wingers--and thanks to Pandagon for first posting this. Yes, read the following comments (the bold emphasis' are mine) from a fundamentalist group in Maine. Now I plan to use domestic partner every chance I get. And I will plead and beg all my friends to also use the term.

-What are "domestic partnerships?": The more accurate phrase is homosexual partnerships. The phrase "domestic partner" is a legal fiction created by homosexuals and non-married people who think they are entitled to the same benefits and recognition from society that marriage receives.

comment: Wow, legal fiction! Here are some of their other ideas!

-While it MAY BE legitimate for government and business to honor an employee's spouse and children with this benefit, it is not right for our institutions to honor sodomy in this way. The practice of unhealthy lifestyles should not qualify anyone for societal benefits.

-Anytime a law like this fails to distinguish between civilization-forming sexual practices and civilization-destroying sexual perversions, then "special rights" are being created.

-It (a domestic partners bill) is designed to create a successful court case in the future for homosexuality. Same-sex marriage is the pot full of gold at the end of their rainbow. This bill will continue to lay the foundation for equality of sexual practices if it becomes law. Moral sex must be equal to immoral sex for the public to accept same-sex marriage. That is what this bill is about: giving immoral sex the same support as moral sex in the law. If this were not the case, then a prohibition of immoral sexual practices would be included in the definition of "domestic partner." It is not. Therefore, this bill is unjust ... and certainly not Christian.

This bill allows elderly sisters to get benefits, therefore it will be a proper law if passed, correct?: A square stop sign painted pink instead of red is still a stop sign. It is not, however, a lawful stop sign simply because the sign features the word "Stop." A lawful stop sign is a red hexagon, by law. If businesses and the state want to honor elderly celibate sisters with 10 weeks of unpaid leave then they should say that this is what they want to do. That isn't what they are saying. They are saying that immoral and unhealthy sexual practices are irrelevant to the definition of "partner" and couple.

The goal here is same-sex marriage. Make no mistake. This is like the state saying that the color and shape of a stop sign are irrelevant to the effectiveness of a stop sign. It is like allowing the road department to put up square pink stop signs as well as normal stop signs. This is redefining and making a wreck out of family and marriage in Maine.

comment: What a fucking great idea--pink stop signs. I love it! I am going to write to my national and state leaders and propose just that!

I thought I elected a representative who would think for himself. Why is the media so powerful? Many politicians often think about the next election. Many are hoping to be elected to higher office. As America has moved away from common sense on matters related to family, marriage and human sexuality -- and as we have decided to create a much more permissive culture -- those among us who wish to be powerful learn quickly that they must accept drinking, drugging, gambling and pansexuality.

comment: I am also for pansexuality--whatever it is. Would someone please let me and my domestic partner know? Can you have moral or immoral pansex next to a pink stop sign? And would that be civilization-forming or civilization-destroying sex? Just wondering.

07 March 2007

Celebrate Women's History Month

Emma Goldman, (1869-1940)
anarchist, feminist

Emma Goldman was a legend in her own lifetime. She was an opponent of established authority, war, and totalitarian government. In short, she was the most famous rebel of her day. A passionate activist and charismatic speaker, Goldman committed her life to radical causes in Europe and the United States. Goldman was one of the most notable and influential women in modern American history, consistently promoted a wide range of controversial movements and principles including freedom of thought and expression, radical education, sexual freedom and birth control, and an eight-hour day. Goldman's advocacy of these causes, which many deemed subversive at the time, helped set the historical context for some of today's most important political and social debates.

Born in a Jewish ghetto in Lithuania, Goldman immigrated to the United States when she was sixteen. She quickly realized that for a Jewish immigrant, America was not the land of opportunity that had been promised. America, for Goldman meant slums and sweatshops where she earned her living as a seamstress. She became attracted to anarchism not only because it promised to replace capitalism with worker cooperatives, but because anarchism espoused atheism, free speech, and freedom from sexual inhibition.

Emma Goldman became a formidable public speaker and a prolific writer. Her whole life was devoted to struggle and she was controversial even within the radical and anarchist movement itself. She was one of the first radicals to address the issue of homosexuality, she was a fighter for women's rights, and she advocated the virtues of free love. These ideas were viewed with suspicion by those who placed their faith in the cure-all solution of economic class warfare and they were denounced by many of her contemporaries as "bourgeois inspired" at best. Goldman believed that birth control would alleviate human misery by reducing the burden of large families on the poor and giving women of all classes sexual freedom. And she was a pioneer lecturer on the subject. Having actually practiced as a midwife and a nurse, and attended a conference in Paris where birth control methods were discussed frankly, Goldman was familiar with modern methods. In 1916 she was arrested for violating a law that forbade giving out information about contraceptives. To many Goldman embodied the "New Woman"—independent, unmarried, and sexually emancipated.

In the early days Goldman also supported the idea of propaganda by deed. In 1892, together with Alexander Berkman she planned the assassination of Henry Clay Frick, who has suppressed strikes in his Homestead Pennsylvania factory with armed guards. They believed that by killing a tyrant, a representative of a cruel system, the consciousness of the people would be aroused. This didn't happen. Berkman only managed to injure Frick and was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Her defense and aid of Berkman made Goldman a marked woman and her lectures were regularly disrupted by the authorities. In 1893 she was arrested for allegedly urging the unemployed to steal bread and was given a year in prison She was also implicated in President William McKinley's assassination.

From 1908 to 1917 Goldman spoke throughout the United States on behalf of the anarchist cause and edited the anarchist journal Mother Earth until 1916. Through her lectures and writing, she helped introduce American audiences to Henrik Ibsen, Bernard Shaw, August Strindberg, and other European playwrights, whom she admired for their advanced social ideas and spirit of rebellion. To mainstream Americans, however, Goldman was known as a demonic "dynamite eating anarchist". She toured the States, agitating and lecturing everywhere she went. She was hounded for much of her life by FBI agents and was imprisoned in 1893, 1901, 1916, 1918, 1919, and 1921 on charges ranging from incitement to riot to advocating the use of birth control to opposition to WWI.

During World War I, Goldman was arrested and sent to prison for having organized an anti-conscription campaign. Afterward, along with other anarchists, she was deported to Russia in 1919. J. Edgar Hoover, who directed her deportation hearing called her one of the most dangerous women in America. Although an early supporter of the Bolshevik Revolution, Goldman became disillusioned with party rule and the suppression of free speech she encountered there. Her book, My Disillusionment with Russia (1923), was one of the first serious critiques of the Soviet system. She left Russia and spent the rest of her life in Europe and Canada. In the 1930s she made three trips to Catalonia during the Spanish civil war and enlisted support in England on behalf of the Spanish Republic.

The plus side to deportation meant that Goldman got a free ticket to Russia where she was able to witness the Russian Revolution at first hand. Goldman had been prepared to bury the hatchet of mans conflict with anarchism in the 1st international and support the Bolsheviks . However, in 1919 as Goldman and Berkman travelled throughout the country they were horrified by the increased bureaucracy, political persecution and forced labour they found. The breaking point came in 1921 when the Kronstadt sailors and soldiers rebelled against the Bolsheviks and sided with the workers on strike. They were attacked and crushed by Trotsky and the Red Army. On leaving Russia in December 1921, Goldman set down her findings on Russia in two works - 'My Disillusionment in Russia' and 'My Further Disillusionment in Russia'. She argued that 'never before in all history has authority , government, the state, proved so inherently static, reactionary, and even counter-revolutionary. In short, the very antithesis of revolution.

Her time in Russia led her to reassess her earlier belief that the end justifies the means. Goldman accepted that violence as a necessary evil in the process of social transformation. These views were unpopular among radicals as most still wanted to believe that the Russian Revolution was a success. When Goldman moved to Britain in 1921 she was virtually alone on the left in condemning the Bolsheviks and her lectures were poorly attended. On hearing that she might be deported in 1925, a Welsh miner offered to marry her in order to give her British Nationality. With a British passport, she was the able to travel to France and Canada. In 1934, she was even allowed to give a lecture tour in the States.

In 1936 Berkman committed suicide, months before the outbreak of the Spanish Revolution. At the age of 67, Goldman went to Spain to join in the struggle. She told a rally of libertarian youth Your Revolution will destroy forever [the notion] that anarchism stands for chaos. She disagreed with the participation of the CNT-FAI in the coalition government of 1937 and the concessions they made to the increasingly powerful communist for the sake of the war effort. However she refused to condemn the anarchists for joining the government and accepting militarisation as she felt the alternative at the time was communist dictatorship.

Goldman died in 1940 and was buried in Chicago not far from the Haymarket Martyrs whose fate had changed the course of her life. Emma Goldman has left behind her a number of important contributions to anarchist thought. In particular she is remembered for incorporating the area of sexual politics into anarchism which had only been hinted at by earlier anarchists. Goldman campaigned and went to prison for the right of women to practice birth control. She argued that a political solution was not enough to get rid of the unequal and repressive relations between the sexes. There had to be massive transformation of values--only that transformation would change society and the lives of women.

Emma Goldman Quotes
-If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal

-The most violent element in society is ignorance.

-It is safe to say that no other superstition is so detrimental to growth, so enervating and paralyzing to the minds and hearts of the people, as the superstition of Morality.

Runaway and Homeless Youth Act

A critical piece of Minnesota legislation will be the topic of the day—and frankly, I have been looking to write more on Minnesota-Twin Cities news and events.

House bill 537 (now in committee) is the “Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.” Actually, a similar statute was adopted last year—but wasn’t funded…..go figure! But this biennium, the bill would be funded for $8 million. And it would be money well-spent. This Act would finance a number of needed programs for homeless and runaway youth:
--street and community outreach
--drop-in centers
--emergency shelters
--supportive and transitional housing programs

I reiterate.....this is extremely important legislation! According to the 2003 "Homeless in Minnesota" survey conducted by the Wilder Research Center, there are over 22,000 runaway and homeless youth in the state. And figures from The Bridge shows that every night, there are more than 500 homeless youth in the state—most of them in the Twin Cities. Yet, there are only about 70 shelter beds in the metro area.

Just who are these young people who find themselves on the street? They are not losers, troublemakers, or misfits. They are kids with problems, and most of the time they simply don’t know what to do or where to turn. A supervisor at one emergency shelter said that they, “see youth and families from all backgrounds and walks of life, dealing with everything from common parent-teen conflicts, to abuse or neglect, to mental health issues or substance abuse.”

And many are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. A Wilder survey of youth served by District 202 found that over half had experienced discrimination or verbal abuse due to their sexual orientation—mostly at school or in another public place. Some even at home. In addition, 25% of all homeless youth report that they have engaged in survival sex to meet their basic needs.

To make this just a little more personal, here are several examples of youth who utilized the services of The Bridge:

--Bill and some of his friends get picked up by the police after curfew and taken down to the curfew center. One by one, each of his friend’s parents arrive to collect them, but his mom isn’t answering the phone. When she finally does, she’s drunk and announces that he can stay just where he is as far as she’s concerned. But he can’t. The curfew center’s not set up for that. The police bring him to The Bridge, where he arrives tired, angry, and afraid.

--Referred to The Bridge by a school counselor when he learns of her plan to commit suicide, Mary won’t let us contact her parents. “Please don’t call,” she says. “I can’t ever face them again.” From a deeply religious family, she’s an athlete, a straight-A student, with college and career all mapped out. But yesterday she discovered she was pregnant. She feels her life is over.

--A young man shows up at the door. He’s about 16, speaks only a few words of English, and looks like he’s been on the street for long time. He has no money, belongings, or identification. Unable to get a job or a place to live, he wants to find a way back to Mexico to return to his family.

--Grades just came out and Robert knows there’s going to be trouble at home. Sure enough, he and his father nearly come to blows. He’s been trying to do better in school, but he just can’t seem to concentrate. Now he’s grounded. “Forget this,” he thinks, as he heads out the door. “You go out that door, don’t even think of coming back!” his father shouts. A few days later, Robert shows up at The Bridge, wondering what to do next.

--A young woman arrives. Born as a boy and christened “Robert,” Margaret has always felt herself to be a girl. Now a teen, her parents have disowned her and she has fled the ridicule of her small town. She doesn’t want to live on the streets, but it seems like the only option.

We can do much better here in Minnesota—we must fully fund this bill. As the Star-Tribune wrote in a February editorial, “surely this bill will pass, for the alternative is ominous. It involves leaving runaway and homeless youth in the cold….” Actually, it will leave them both cold and on the streets and make them perfect candidates for long-term homelessness. Let's rescue them now while we can. Call, write, or email your state representative now!

06 March 2007

Did We Miss An Opportunity?

As most of you have read by now, at this weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference, Ann Coulter called John Edwards a "faggot."

Most of us on the left pay little attention to the harpy Coulter. As Atrios wrote yesterday, she is very predictable, and not worth getting excited over. Atrios did point out one problem, however. While she is clearly an unapologetic homophobe and racist--Coulter continues to secure media appearances!

After her comment, the Edwards camp issued a
standard response about hateful language and diversity. Edwards said all the right things and even took the opportunity to beg for some much-needed campaign money, or Coulter Cash as it is being called. Howard Dean also issued a statement saying there is "no place in political discourse for this kind of hate-filled and bigoted comment."

But I am feeling that we on the left missed an opportunity here. Trouble is, I'm not exactly sure what should have taken place--but I still sensed an underlying hesitation to actually defend/support/endorse gays and lesbians.

Yes, all the correct positions came from official liberal voices--and I know there is a campaign going on. But there was no effort to make this a moment when the left would speak out on homosexuality, on inclusion, on gay marriage, on America becoming a better society. This might have been one of those instances when we could have advanced those issues--educated the public. Coulter handed us something and I think we fumbled it just a bit.

My worry is that the Democratic powers-that-be, and even many of the leftist blogging community, remain afraid of this issue.....or maybe somewhat homophobic themselves. As
one blogger wrote--and I wholeheartedly agree with her--"calling someone a faggot is still considered the worst insult ever." Is that true?

Again, I apologize for not offering some clever solution. But it is about time we on the left treat this as a unambiguous human rights problem. And in order to do that, we need to stop running from the issue.....we need to stop believing that being called gay is an insult.

Ann Coulter helped us out this weekend, but the Democrats/left didn't do enough with it. The blogging community offered comment-after-comment castigating Coulter and calling her everything from a bitch to a skank--and worse. But while we laughed and congratulated ourselves for receiving a gift.....we might have missed a chance to teach some people that being homosexual is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. When will we start advancing those positions?

05 March 2007

It's NOT Education....It's Insanity

Kudos to Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. He recently turned down $600,000 in federal abstinence-education money “because new rules would limit how much recipients could talk about contraception or sexually transmitted diseases this year. “

Bill Smith, vice president for public policy for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S., a group that promotes comprehensive sex education said that: “It seems to me there is some sanity returning to the notion that sexuality education is about public health and not about hyper-moralism and ideology,” he said.

Sanity is the key word here—and it is something that the Bush administration lacks. We know there are few (if any) scientific data to support abstinence-only sex miseducation. But of course many of Bush’s primary supporters don’t think too highly of science anyway, right?

We also know that abstinence-only miseducation must depend on lies and misinformation to even convince those few neanderthals to actually continue their support. A federally funded program in 2004 found that over 80% of abstinence only curricula "contained false, misleading or distorted information."

The ironic thing about Bush and the anti-science crowd is this--it isn't enough that they are trying foist this crap on Americans.....but they are also attempting to export this nonsense abroad. Conservatives have been trying to "force its anti-condom agenda" on the rest of the world.

Yet, evidence/data shows (there's those nasty "scientific" words: evidence and data)--that by age 18, 70% of young people in the United States have had sexual intercourse. James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth--a nonprofit organization devoted to sex education, suggests that "less than 10% of Americans are virgins on their wedding night."

So who are these abstinence-only until marriage programs aimed at? We all know the answer don't we:
--These puritan moralists want us to stop having sex (ain't going to happen).
--They dislike the fact that women are now making their own decision and choices on sexual issues and birth control (deal with it).
--They dream of a return to "real men" days when young males could act like cavemen (or fraternity pledges), drag imaginary virgins to the alter, and then keep them at home cooking and cleaning while they play golf and screw their secretaries (keep dreaming).

If and when I run for office, I have the perfect plan to rid the country of abstinence-only programs. I would propose that ONLY AMERICAN MALES be required to take the abstinence-only miseducation instructions. That's right, females need not enroll, they could be as sexually active as they want.

Can you imagine what our male-dominated Congress and statehouses would say about this? How about all those NASCAR dads out there--they don't really want abstinence for Johnny and Biff.....only for their daughters. The abstinence money would be cut in no time!

That's my plan--sounds like it would work doesn't it?

Celebrate Women's History Month

Several years ago, in order to commemorate Women's History Month, I compiled some short biographies on a number of notable and extraordinary American women. I posted those bios on my class webpage where I teach. While I feel a little guilty republishing materials that I wrote two years ago--I think these brief narratives are still extremely relevant (besides, my students didn't read them anyway). These are all women that I find inspiring--and I hope my own young nieces (and nephew) will read about these remarkable women instead of wasting time on presidents, generals, and other stale defenders of the capitalist status quo.

Alice Paul (1885–1977)

suffragist, feminist leader, founder of the Congressional Union

Alice Paul (pictured above) was an ardent fighter for women’s rights. She organized one of the first major marches in Washington, D.C. in 1917 on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. Paul used more radical means for her crusades, such as staging hunger strikes and picketing the White House, and she was arrested numerous times. After women won suffrage, she turned her attention to other rights. She founded the National Woman’s Party and drafted the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1923. She worked for its passage into the 1970s, although it never became a law.

Alice Paul was born into a Quaker family in Moorestown, New Jersey. Raised in an intellectual and religious environment, she graduated from Swarthmore in 1905 and then attended the New York School of Philanthropy (later Columbia University School of Social Work), the University of Pennsylvania, and a training school for Quakers in Woodbridge, England. While in England she served as a case worker for a London settlement house. It was there were she was enlisted by England's militant suffragists Emmeline and Christobel Pankhurst. Her education as an activist was solidified through a series of arrests, imprisonments, and hunger strikes. She quickly and adeptly learned how to generate publicity for the cause and how to capitalize on that publicity.

On her return to the United States in 1910, she earned a Ph.D. in sociology and then began her rise in the American suffrage movement. In 1914 she co-founded the Congressional Union, an organization dedicated to seeking a federal constitutional amendment for woman suffrage. In 1916, she founded the National Woman's party. She led pickets at the White House and Congress and despite America's entry into World War I she refused to abandon her radical tactics. She and her colleagues were arrested and imprisoned; they engaged in hunger strikes and endured forced feedings at the hands of authorities. Ultimately, President Wilson made a federal suffrage amendment a war measures priority, a stand he had previously refused to take. Paul was a pivotal force in the passage and ratification in 1920 of the Nineteenth Amendment.

In 1923, Paul proposed an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. It took some time, but by 1944 Paul had secured acceptance of an era plank in the platforms of both major political parties. She continued to provide inspiration to new generations of women's rights activists until her death in 1977.

Throughout her life, Alice Paul remained personally conservative and professionally demanding of both herself and her colleagues. She did not relinquish power readily nor could she be easily persuaded to depart from the methods and tactics she had learned from the Pankhursts in England. But her vision for women always transcended her conservatism and rigidity. "I think if we get freedom for women, then they are probably going to do a lot of things that I wish they wouldn't do," she said shortly before her death. "But it seems to me that it isn’t our business to say what they should do with it. It is our business to see that they get it."