17 March 2007

Who You Gonna Call?

Here’s something that might finally put you over the edge. Presidential hopeful John McCain reported at a recent fundraising event that "When I have a question about something that's going on in the world, I call Dr. Henry Kissinger and he is able to connect the dots for me."

Let’s just hope McCain’s poll numbers continues to plummet. All we need is that fucking war-criminal Kissinger back in charge of foreign policy. McCain went on to say that Kissinger is “one of the only people I've ever known who can connect the entire scenario for you in a way that you understand the completeness of the challenge."

McCain said that he also consults with Brent Scowcroft, George Schultz, Lawrence Eagleberger, Robert Kagan, and Bill Kristol. (That list was only “slightly to somewhat fucked-up” until we got to Kristol.)

Now seriously, what does it mean when a 2008 presidential candidate admits that Henry Kissinger is his primary foreign policy advisor? I think it means we (the people, the country) need to worry.

Why? Let’s start a list detailing the major liabilities of Dr. Kissinger:

1. He is probably wanted in several countries for war crimes--something that often hinders one’s travel plans.

2. He helped keep the Vietnam War going on for 4-5 years for no logical reason. The morality of that has always escaped me.

3. East Timor….again, very serious ethical and moral questions.

4. Kissinger spends most of his time stammering and babbling to Charlie Rose—who seems to be the only other person, besides McCain, who will listen to him. .

5. He knows more about the Congress of Vienna than he knows about the 2008 world. And this my friends, is a serious problem. Let me clarify.

Doesn’t the choice of Kissinger really show that the 72 year-old McCain is past his time? I think it does. Maybe McCain ought to be talking to some foreign policy experts who better understand Islam, globalization, markets, international gender issues, and human rights (something Kissinger has had problems with).

Henry Kissinger is 83 years old. Even if one is willing to grant him some credit for his diplomacy during the Nixon administration (China, Middle East), I truly don’t believe he has a lucid grasp of the contemporary world.

The United States needs a modern, enlightened foreign policy. Instead, Kissinger’s manta would probably be, “What Would Metternich Do?”

George Bush talks to God, McCain talks to Kissinger……you figure that one out!

16 March 2007

It's Really a Simple Question Folks

As many of you have probably already read, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace (shown at left), denounced gays this week as "immoral." He compared gay acts to adultery and said the army should rid itself of these terrible individuals. In order to drive gays from the armed services, he seeks to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell policy,"

Pace was immediately criticized by many groups and individuals.
The Human Rights Campaign was quick to condemn his statements as was Republican Senator John Warner. The Virginia senator said specifically, "I respectfully disagree. . . that homosexuality is immoral."

Nice job Senator Warner....a clear and concise answer to a simple question--are gays immoral?

Now....do you want to know why those of us on the left are so concerned about our current crop of presidential contenders? Here is the reason. After Pace's moronic statements, the leading Democratic candidates have all been asked to comment. Here are some of their answers--please read carefully:

Senator Clinton, when asked if gays were immoral responded with the following statement:

"Well, I’m going to leave that to others to conclude. I’m very proud of the gays and lesbians I know who perform work that is essential to our country, who want to serve their country, and I want make sure they can."

Wow, that's really a strong pro-gay statement isn't it--"I'm going to leave that to others." The Clinton spinmeisters immediately realized there might be a problem. Later in the day, the New York senator--or her staff--made some amends by stating:

"I disagree with what he said and do not share his view, plain and simple. It is inappropriate to inject such personal views into this public policy matter, especially at a time in which there are young men and women in such grave circumstances in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in other dangerous places around the world."

In the meantime, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, when asked about Pace's comments on whether gays were immoral gave this quasi-definitive statement:

"I think traditionally the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman has restricted his public comments to military matters. That's probably a good tradition to follow."

What the hell does that mean? When asked later, Obama maintained that the main issue should be who was willing to sacrifice their life for their country. Which again, seems like it doesn't really deal with the question of gay morality.

Okay, now behind Door #3 we have John Edwards. In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, the former senator was asked the same question.

BLITZER: Let's talk about General Peter Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs. He suggested today, his own personal opinion, homosexuality, he said, was immoral. As a result, don't change the don't ask, don't tell policy. First of all, in your opinion, is homosexuality immoral?

EDWARDS: I don't -- don't share that view. And I would go -- go further than that, Wolf. I think the don't ask, don't tell is not working. And as president of the United States I would change that policy.

BLITZER: Is the don't ask, don't tell policy immoral?

EDWARDS: I think the don't ask, don't tell policy is wrong. It's not working. I think what it's done, effectively, is kept us from having some of the most talented people we could have in our military. It's caused -- caused more problems than it's solved. And it ought to be changed.

By today (Friday) both Clinton and Obama were till trying to spin their weak responses. While both candidates finally agreed that that being gay was not immoral, it seemed to take a while.

Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese, who spent most of yesterday on the phone with both camps, was relieved and a little mystified that he had to fight to elicit the statements."I hope that we have learned moving forward that, at the end of the day, all that American voters expect, whether they are gay or straight, is clarity from the candidates," he said.

So by the end of the week, all appears to be well. But several things concern me.

1. The answer should have been clear, obvious, and easy--NO, gays and/or the gay lifestyle is NOT immoral. It shouldn't have just rolled off the tongue--no thinking involved. Pandagon reported that:

"Clinton and Obama supporters, speaking on condition of anonymity, said both might have been trying to avoid offending socially conservative Democrats, particularly churchgoing African-Americans, who share Pace’s views."

2. Both Clinton and Obama are still trying to out-triangulate each other. When will this end--and when will either, or both of them, start talking straight.

3. Finally, John Edwards looks better and better each week.

13 March 2007

News Items of Interest

SDS is Back Again!
In New York City on Monday, about 100 students, all members of SDS New York, occupied an Armed Forces Recruiting Center for two hours. The occupation ended when 20 students were arrested by the NYPD. The students were charged with criminal trespassing.

At approximately 11:15 am, a large contingent of New School SDS members left the New School Graduate Center (65 Fifth Avenue) heading south. The column weaved its way through lower Manhattan, arriving at Chambers and West Broadway--where they connected with another march, this one originating from Pace University. The two columns streamed west on Chambers and entered the recruiting center which 25 students occupied for about two hours. Recruiters in the facility slammed and locked the doors to their offices, apparently to avoid interaction with the students--effectively closing the center for the duration of the occupation. Outside, dozens of additional protesters stood with signs chanting: “Troops out now,” “No justice, no peace. U.S. out of the Middle East,” and “Stop the war, yes we can. SDS is back again.”

This is wonderful! What more can I say. These sorts of protests should be taking place all over the country. And we really need to do something about these military recruiters.

American Historical Association Opposes Iraq War
Members of the American Historical Association have ratified the “Resolution on United States Government Practices Inimical to the Values of the Historical Profession.” The vote was 1550 (75.61%) in favor and 498 (24.29%) opposed. Two persons submitted incomplete ballots. The number of voting members represented 14.67% of the AHA membership.

A major role was played by a relatively new group, Historians Against the War (of which I am a member). For the past few decades, academic groups have felt they should not get involved in these sort of partisan political activities. I guess some still believe students are not supposed to know that we have political views!

comment: Yes, I actually WANT my students to know that I am a passionate political creature with strong opinions. They don't have to agree with me--and most of them don't. But I will not become an ideological eunuch just because some spineless administrators are afraid some student might be offended by my views!

Now It's NORTH Dakota!
Here we go again. The North Dakota Senate is poised to hear a bill, HB 1466, which would ban all abortions in the state. And this proposed ban is even more extreme than the beaten-down South Dakota ban! There are no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the woman AND the ban would impose criminal penalties on women and their doctors.

The bill would also allow the Attorney General to implement a ban on abortion regardless of the status of Roe v. Wade. Performing an abortion would become a Class C felony in the state.
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota is monitoring the situation. Go to their website for news and other information.

I don't know what else can be said about these assholes. They clearly will not accept the fact that the public opinion tide appears to be running against them. Oh, I almost forgot though, God is on their fucking side isn't she? We just need to keep working.

Kroger Does the Right Thing
The supermarket giant Kroger said last week that "medication is a private patient matter" and that it will fill all requests for emergency contraceptives. The controversy began when a customer in Atlanta was apparently denied the "morning after pill" at one Kroger store.

Several other pharmacy chains have made the same pledges, including CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens.

As we should have expected, there was a statement from the "critics" who said that this contraception "encourages promiscuity and unprotected sex...." blah, blah, blah, blah.

comment: Good for Kroger. This shouldn't even be an issue should it? If these bastards are allowed to pick and choose whom they serve--aren't we really back to the days of Jim Crowism? If they don't have to serve women, maybe they can refuse service to African Americans.....or overweight people....or the handicapped. Where does it end?

This Is Sick

This isn't really news, but it seems creepy enough to report. I first read about this on Feministing--and it's weird. Purity Balls are where teenage girls are escorted on "dates" by their fathers! During the balls themselves, vows are exchanged, cake is served, and the elaborate ceremony leads to some sort of abstinence-until-marriage pledge by these young ladies. The fathers, in turn, promise to protect the chastity of their daughters.

comment: This seems really sick to me. I can't even write about it anymore. What the fuck is going on in this country? Here in Minnesota, Planned Parenthood has a wonderful program called Teen Council. These are groups of hard-working, dedicated, and passionate high-schoolers who go into schools and talk to their fellow students about sex education. It is a fabulous program (I will blog more about them in a future post). Now, wouldn't you rather discuss healthy sexual relationships with your peers--instead of making some kind of sick "pledge" with your dad?

On the Sexualization of Girls

A psychology professor friend emailed me a recently published copy of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force Report on the Sexualization of Girls. While the findings may not be startling news to many, the report makes for fascinating reading. Let me offer a few quotes/conclusions:

"Virtually every media form studied provides ample evidence of the sexualization of women.”

"In study after study, findings have indicated that women more often than men are portrayed (in the media) in a sexual manner (dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness) and are objectified (used as decorative object, or as body parts rather than a whole person). In addition, a narrow (and unrealistic) standard of physical beauty is heavily emphasized. These are the models of femininity presented for young girls to study and emulate.”

Specific examples are even presented:

-Skechers “naughty and nice” ads that features Christina Aguilera dressed in schoolgirl pigtails, with her shirt unbuttoned, licking a lollipop.

Bratz dolls (see picture above) dressed in sexualized clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stockings, and feather boas.

Thongs sized for 7-10 year olds, some printed with slogans such as “wink-wink”.

And the report’s “Consequences” section was what we might expect. The research linked sexualization with “three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed moods.” In addition, frequent exposure to these media images that sexualize girls and women also affects how girls conceptualize femininity and sexuality.” The study finds that girls and women heavily exposed to these stereotypes are the ones that place an emphasis on “appearance and physical beauty” and tend to make those traits the focal point of their value system.

Other societal problems stemming from sexualization include:
-fewer women entering science, technology, engineering, and math
-increased rates of sexual harassment and sexual violence
-increased demands for child pornography

Now here is the one that really concerned me…and the one I want to rant about for a few minutes: “Exposure to narrow ideals of female sexual attraction may make it more difficult for some men to find an “acceptable” partner or fully enjoy intimacy with a female partner.

Yes, men and boys are also deeply affected by the sexual objectification of girls and women. How many American dads take the time to teach their young boys about the sexual problems that women face day-to-day? Isn’t it about time that men start doing their part to change the way society objectifies women? This is not just a women’s issue—it’s a societal issue.

I see college-aged men (boys actually) each and every day, and they appear unwilling to even consider this an important issue. They rationalize their fraternity-like behavior with a variety of excuses:

-Advertisers and/or the ubiquitous “market” can do whatever it pleases.
-It’s just those feminists complaining again, why do they hate men anyway?
-Girls aren’t really affected by that sexual objectification stuff. And this is a fascinating one because the guys generally get one of the young ladies in the class to agree. The interesting thing is that the female who they use as their spokesperson is, more often than not, a young lady with low self-esteem that says whatever the boys want.

What can men do—plenty? Here are some of the things that I think important, and I would appreciate comments from other men (and women) about we (especially white men) can do to help stop the sexualization of young girls and women.

1. Question your buying choices. Don’t buy products that advertise using female sexual images and stereotypes. And don’t shop at establishments that use this form of cohesion.

2. Question the media--especially the ultra-sexist sports media. Just because you like football doesn’t mean you need to accept the objectification of women in beer ads and other marketing ploys.

3. Listen to women—they live with this crap every day. And when they try to help…listen. Try to understand by shutting up, not getting defensive, and not being so egotistical as to think their concerns are about us.

4. Call out other men on their sexist behavior, jokes, and other crude antics. Speak up against the locker room mentality that seems to dictate American male actions. This one is difficult….”they might not like me anymore.” But what’s really more important? Think about it.

5. Encourage every young girl that you know to study math and science. And convince as many as you can to NOT try out for cheerleading; and to QUIT using makeup.

6. Understand white male privilege. If we fail to own and accept that privilege, we will never understand these sexualizing issues. Just because white males SAY they don’t feel privileged, doesn’t mean they aren’t!

7. And once and for all…..there is no fucking reverse sexism. This is the biggest crock of shit that the fratboy-types attempt to impose on a compliant male public. As one writer so persuasively argues, “The fact that an individual man can be harmed by an individual woman does not override an entire misogynistic social system.”

8. Stop whistling, gawking, drooling, and staring at women. Leave them the fuck alone.

9. Act like an adult with some class.

10. Start becoming part of the solution.

12 March 2007

Carry Me Back to Ole Virginny

Gentlemen.....Confederate jewelry. Doesn't it just give you a warm and fuzzy feeling? Mother's Day is coming up--and how about a gift for that significant other!

Buddy's Book's and Bait is pleased to present a new contributor. Our friend Chet Brinkley will hopefully be writing many more columns in the future. Today, Chet comments on a topic we started several weeks ago....the South and the Confederate flag.

My lovely partner and I recently visited our dearest friends, who in late 2005 decided to leave Minnesota for the warmer climes of Virginia. This might seem like a perfectly sane decision, but here’s the deal: he is black and she is white. And while Virginia may not be Mississippi, make no mistake: it’s still THE SOUTH. More than 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education we may have made significant strides toward addressing segregation, disenfranchisement, and unequal opportunity, but we still have a long way to go. If you need to be reminded, just go visit an interracial couple in Virginia, where every joint departure from your home necessitates a strategic defense plan.

I accompanied my friend to the lumber yard the first morning of our visit. He is retired, well-educated, dignified, and a peaceable, affable fellow who just wanted to order some building materials. Yet we no sooner made our appearance than the fellow behind the counter looked up and his demeanor changed immediately. His two associates down the way who had been engaging in spirited banter stopped talking and glared at us for the first full five minutes of our transaction. I started wondering if my shower hadn’t taken. Later that night I was talking with my friend and asked him if I’d been imagining things. He replied, ‘I’m so glad you noticed.’ Am I just an overprotective liberal with an overdeveloped imagination enabling an African American friend who’s been forced to live his entire life on the defensive? Absolutely not.

The next morning we went to the supermarket, and while the woman behind the bakery counter cheerily fetched loaves of bread and pastries for all the other white customers in the store, she had my friend get his own. That night, in an effort to get something nice for my NASCAR-loving, salt-of-the-earth neighbor back home who was plowing the snow off my driveway while I walked around in shirt sleeves, I visited one of the omnipresent “NASCAR” shops in town. One can’t really quite make a living selling only toy cars, racing caps, key chains and bumper stickers, so the store had to diversify its stock with NFL merchandise and “Southern” paraphernalia. My “favorite” was a bumper sticker that read, “I Have a Dream” and featured the White House with a rebel flag flying overhead. Another depicted a mosquito with stars and bars wings quipping, “Send more Yankees. They are delicious.”

All the arguments about “heritage” and “culture” are a big, stinking pile of shit. The Confederate flag wasn't around long enough to embody much of anything except secession. But since the so-called federal government allowed Southern whites to terrorize their black neighbors after 1877 and didn’t start taking white supremacy seriously until
two Jewish boys got killed with James Chaney in 1964, Southerners are used to speaking or hearing unapologetic defenses of racism. And it’s not like the North has much room to feel superior.

So what kind of life do my friends expect to have in small-town Virginia? I’m proud of their resolve to live there. They are a wonderful addition to any community. I know any local citizen who can, after seeing a black man with a white woman, calm down long enough to actually engage his/her brain will see they are wonderful, charming, warm-hearted people. And there are actually more black professionals in their current zip code than my friends ever met here in the Twin Cities. So perhaps I shouldn’t be so concerned. The guy behind the counter at the lumber yard eventually thawed and treated my friend like an actual human being. Another supermarket employee came over and engaged us in neighborly conversation after his coworker’s snub. But I’d feel better if I hadn’t seen that tattered rebel flag hanging from a house about half a mile down the road from where my friends live.