Archive for the 'politics' Category


Life update

Watching: Iron Man (finally), which I thought was just awesome. I love the ending. At last, a superhero whose conflicts and enemies aren’t based on the utterly predictable trope of needing to maintain a secret identity.

Reading: Feet of Clay, by Terry Pratchett.

Seeds for this year’s garden, from Pinetree Garden Seeds (who sells seed packets with quantities and prices that are sensible for home gardeners. We’ve used their seeds for years. I really like this company.

Knitting: A new buttonband for my B.O.B. Sweater. And I need to shorten the hood on Jan’s Wonderful Wallaby. I finished that last fall, and he’s been wearing it ever since, but somehow I ended up making the hood deep enough to suit a Jedi.

Eating: Quesadillas made by Sylvia. Except she likes to call them “tortitos” (and, occasionally, “tornadoes”).

Thinking: About how our eight-year-long national nightmare is over. Oh sure, Obama will definitely do stuff I don’t agree with. But it’s really hard to imagine how he can be worse than his predecessor.


Recycling, politics-style

If you showed your political colors via a pumpkin, your sign can go into a compost bin when it’s no longer needed. But if you opted for one of those lawn signs, composting is not an option.

You could, like a few homes I see in my area, continue to display your sign. At this point, though, that smacks of schadenfreude. I think it’s best to have your Schadenfreude Pie, then move on.*

You could just throw it in the trash. But if just thinking about that triggers your want-to-save-the-planet reflex, then try this instead: turn it into a birdhouse. Looks pretty easy to do!


*The creator of this pie, John Scalzi, has this to say about the pie he made last week: “One of the reasons I love this pie I have invented is that it is perfect for what it’s supposed to be, which is something rich and dark and bitter that you better not have too much of. Last night and this morning, each time I took a slice of it, I took ever-so-slightly more than I should have, and now both times it’s sat in my stomach, threatening reflux. It’s a moral lesson, really: Like this particular pie, too much gloating invites payback. It’s nice to have a physical lesson to go with the existential one.”


Eliding from one month to another

It’s been a busy weekend. October ended with a Halloween double-whammy: Sylvia’s first holiday celebration at school (complete with a parade of costumed kids, followed by a concert of songs sung by the kids for their parents—and their camcorders, of course), and trick-or-treating. Sylvia chose to be a “flower fairy” this year (completely her own idea), so we put together an outfit made up of stuff she already had in her closet: tutu, fairy wings, polka-dotted tights, purple shirt, cardigan handknitted by me, black shoes. Jan and I made her a flower wreath (out of pipe cleaners, florist tape, artificial flowers, and ribbons) and a wand (out of a dowel, plus everything that was in the wreath except for the pipe cleaners). She loved it. We spent about five bucks, and she got a costume that was totally unique. Awesome.

pb014464poopsign.jpgYesterday we headed to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey. Tickets for the three of us were priced at $53. Thanks to one of Jan’s coworkers—who is a long-time volunteer there (he scuba dives into the shark tank to clean it)—we had free passes for the day. WOOT! When we told Sylvia where we were going, she wasn’t really into the idea…until we described the aquarium as “like a zoo for fish.” Then she couldn’t wait to get there.

We had a great time there. The giant tanks are just amazing. They’re well lit, located in dark rooms and (of course) covered with glass, so most of my attempts at photography didn’t turn out too well. One of the best pictures I took was this one, in the area two hippopotamuses (the singular of which is not, as Allan Sherman sang, “one hippopotami”) and an African porcupine share with lots and lots of bird.

pb024547trees.jpgThis morning we went to church (where the minister talked about the Unitarian and Universalist legacies of working toward justice and urged everyone to vote on Tuesday*), then headed to Winterthur, one of the DuPont estates in northern Delaware. We met up with some friends who live in the D.C. area, and our three kids had a ball running around together. (How is it that two-, three-, and four-year-olds can play outside in not much more than long-sleeve shirts and pants while their parents—bundled up in coats, hats, and gloves—and freezing? Seriously—I wonder if there’s been any scientific research on age-related temperature tolerance.) The fall colors were at their peak. In another couple of weeks, I suspect most of the trees there will be bare.


*She used an interesting device: an imagined conversation among the ghosts of Joseph Priestly, Dorothea Dix, Robert Gould Shaw, and other prominent, dead Unitarians and Universalists. I wish the wrap-up section had been more…well, more exhortation and less purple prose. I can appreciate the UU unwillingness to tell anyone what to do, but in this case I would love to hear someone stand up and say, “Hey! If you’re here because you believe in justice and human rights and the inherent value of all people and beliefs and want to save the planet, then you need to vote for the candidates and proposals that support your beliefs!” Obviously, a minister can’t tell you to vote for a particular candidate or party, but he or she can certainly prod you more engagingly—more energetically and strenuously—to vote for your beliefs. I went away from the service feeling not particularly inspired (even though I’m certain my minister and I are on the same page politically)—in agreement, but not fired up.

Maybe a new presidential candidate would cheer you up. Take your pick.

I’ve been wearing a “Cthulhu for President ’08” t-shirt since early summer. But I think Han Solo and Chewie wouldn’t be bad, either.


Rant the second

Dear Senator Clinton:

Just stop it, already.

Seriously. Whether I support you or another candidate is irrelevant at this point. You are not going to win the Democratic nomination.

Some of your supporters and staff call your tenacity admirable. I call it selfish and incredibly destructive. Do you think that your stubbornness-turned-stupidity is actually going to win you more votes? Do you not realize how much your shenanigans are strengthening McCain’s campaign and detracting media and public attention from far more important issues?

Right now you can gracefully bow out of the race with your dignity and reputation intact. But if you wait until summer starts—or even until the convention—all that the public will remember is a kicking-and-screaming departure. To be honest, judging by your behavior lately I think it’s quite possible that the kicking and screaming will be real and not just figurative.

So, please. Do your supporters a favor. Do the Democratic party a favor. Do the nation a favor. Stop pursuing the nomination.

A voter who’s really fed up with you


I can’t wait to see this

Girls Rock!


Indeed they do!

Wow, doesn’t this look like an amazing film? The trailer alone is impressive. How fabulous to see adolescent girls feeling confident and empowered—and not because of what anyone else tells them but because of what they accomplish and how they themselves feel about it.

Here is the website for the film (which hits theaters on March 7), if you’re interested in more info.


Politics, shmolotics

Today is Super Tuesday. It’s very likely that after today we’ll know who the parties’ candidates will be or at least have a pretty good idea of what the ballots will look like.

Via Franklin at the Panopticon, Dolores has announced her own candidacy and platform—which, as you might expect, is very knitting-oriented.

I have nothing against pro-yarn proposals, but I do expect a bit more depth from any politicians I choose to endorse. So I was pleased to see, at the Park Bench, a political platform I like. To paraphrase William Shatner, “I can get behind that!”*

My favorite points are “Mary McDonnell will be named Secretary of Education…just in case” (BSG, anyone?) and “We all will be issued jet packs and robots.”

I mean, really—who couldn’t use a jet pack and a robot? I’m convinced that if everyone had them, the world would be a much better place.

*If you’re looking for a music recommendation, I can say that Shatner’s Has Been truly is terrific. It’s great in all that ways that his Transformed Man—which I admit to owning as well—is bad. Then again, The Transformed Man was so bad that it actually transcended its own awfulness and became kind of good…


USPS rant

I’ve mentioned before that I have a very good friend who lives in Australia. She and I have been pen-and-paper penpals since January 1993, and when we first started corresponding, she lived outside Montreal. We’ve never met, but she’s one of my best friends–maybe one day we’ll meet, maybe not.

Our daughters were born three days apart, so it’s been fun to swap parent talk with her. (She has a son who’s three years older, so this isn’t her first time around with diapers and toilet training.) She recently told me how much she liked some of the clothes Sylvia wears (lots of earth tones and simple lines) and mentioned how difficult it was to get non-pink, non-girly stuff where she is. We chatted back and forth about this, and the upshot is I volunteered to do some end-of-season hardcore sale shopping for her kids–just a few things, whatever I could find that was ridiculously inexpensive–and send them to her.

So a few weeks ago, in about an hour I managed to score some great, high-quality, non-girly stuff for her kids–for almost nothing. Seriously. Something like five shirts and two pairs of pants came out to under twenty bucks. (Clothing is cheap in this country!) The best part is I bought summer stuff that was on clearance because summer is over…here. It hasn’t even begun where she is, so these items would arrive just in time. I wrapped it all up in the smallest possible bundle (brown paper secured with packing tape–not even a box or envelope) and took it to the post office.

I handed over the package and the customs form I had filled out at home. (Pet peeve: people who take up time at the counter filling out postal forms, and the postal employees who don’t attend to other customers while waiting for said forms.) “This can go surface mail. There’s no hurry on it.”

The man behind the counter shook his head at me. “There’s no more surface mail. Only air mail.”

“Are you kidding? When did this happen?”

“Mother’s Day. Wasn’t making any money.”

“Hmmm. Okay, then air mail it is, I guess.”

“That’ll be thirteen dollars.”


Um, hello? That’s almost the value of the contents! I took my package home, deciding to send it when I had more things to add (since the first chunk of postage is the most expensive, a slightly larger package shouldn’t cost a lot more to send).

Now, I’ve been pretty good about defending the USPS in the past. When I was in college, a friend of mine told me about the time he got a letter addressed simply to “Todd Davis, Belleville, Illinois.” That’s it. It was for him, and it arrived something like two years late, but it did arrive. And on the envelope, some postal employee had written “Are we good or what?” Wow.

In light of that–and in light of the stellar service I’ve gotten from the USPS–I’ve been a bit of a fan. Rate hikes have been mildly annoying, but I didn’t mind them that much. (Postage in the USA is still pretty cheap.)

And then the employee at the local post office hassled me when I tried to send a package without a return address. (This was for my first Secret Pal swap, SP8.) Okay, this wasn’t really the fault of the USPS. I blame this one on the Bush-Cheney war on American civil rights, er, I mean the war on terror.

The rates hikes earlier this year didn’t bug me much, until I found out that the international postcard rate was going from 70 cents to 90 cents. Whoa! What’s up with that? That’s one heck of a jump–and since then my Postcrossing has ground to a halt (a temporary one, I hope).

But completely scrapping international surface mail? USPS, you’ve really let me down now. For shame, USPS. For shame.

P.S. You can try to suck up to me by issuing a set of knitting-themed holiday stamps, USPS, but it won’t work.


News that bums me out

Over the years, I’ve occasionally shopped at the Gap and its cousin, Old Navy. I stopped visiting those stores when I heard about how their “Made in the U.S.A.”-labeled clothing was actually made in the Northern Marianas Islands, a U.S. commonwealth where U.S. labor laws do not apply and the workers toil in sweatshop conditions. There was an attempt in 2000—spearheaded by prominent conservative Frank Murkowski, even, who was appalled by what he saw there—in Congress to reform this, but it was stopped by good ol’ (ahem) Tom DeLay. (It looks like some improvements are underway in the Northern Marianas Islands, but it’s still a rotten place to work. Check out the links here if you want to learn more.)

But then I heard that the Gap had changed its practices, so I put the Gap and Old Navy back on my shopping radar. It’s hard to pass up some of their deals, particularly on maternity wear (when I was pregnant, it was nigh impossible to find decent-looking, non-polyester maternity clothes that was affordable–who spends $120 on a pair of pants that can be worn for only four or five months, anyway?) and cheap baby/toddler socks (which get lost in various nooks and crannies in the house).

And then this news hit the airwaves earlier this week. Yes, that’s right: until a few days ago, the Gap was using child labor in India to make Gap Kids clothes. (Oh, the irony.) And they aren’t just ordinary kids–they are slaves, sold to the factory by their families.

Yes, the Gap higher-ups say they didn’t know this was going on. And yes, they’ve severed ties with the factory. But give me a break: last year, the Gap fired twenty-three factories last year for labor violations. I’m not sure if the company is doing a lot of looking-the-other-way-until-it-gets-caught or if the company is simply run by incompetent people. Either way, you can bet I’m never shopping there again.


Emily X

When I was in high school, a friend of mine whose mother served on the local city council told me about what her mother had endured as one of the few people willing to stand up to anti-Planned Parenthood protesters. A new PP clinic had just opened in a small strip mall along one of the busiest roads in the area. As in most cities, this road didn’t have sidewalks alongside it, and the people who turned out daily to protest the clinic wanted the city to put in a sidewalk for them to walk on as they marched with their signs.

My friend’s mother was one the most vocal opponents of this proposition—she was horrified that taxpayers might be asked to make what amounted to a donation to the protesters. She got dirty looks, overheard muttered disparaging comments, and was rudely treated by several of her fellow council members. She stood her ground, though, and the protesters never got their publicly funded sidewalk. (They did get permission to pay for and build a sidewalk of a certain length—something like twenty feet. The sidewalk was built, and though I don’t know how much use it got I do know that whenever I’ve visited my parents over the past fifteen years or so, I’ve never seen a single person on it.)

At least she never got death threats, though. I’ve heard here and there stories on both sides of the debate over reproductive rights, and it was in Faye Ginsburg’s excellent (and balanced) Contested Lives: The Abortion Debate in an American Community (which I read in a grad school seminar on narrative) that I first encountered in-depth narratives on the subject.

A few days ago, a friend sent me a link to a fairly new blog called I Am Emily X, “the true-life diary of a frontline Planned Parenthood worker and activist.” At the bottom of the homepage, a note points out “For their safety and protection, Emily X represents a small handful of Planned Parenthood workers and activists, who may or may not be named Emily.” So I guess it’s technically a collaborative, anonymous blog. (You can read the history of the blog here.)

This blog started as a response to anti-choice/pro-life/whatever activists’ call to picket PP clinics for forty days starting September 26. “Emily” posts nearly every day about something that’s happened at a clinic—some encounter with a protester that’s scary or frustrating, some interaction with a patient that makes it worth all the trouble. The blog is also a PP fundraiser, where, in a curious twist on the walk-a-thon, visitors can pledge to donate a certain amount (as little as five cents) per protester or just make a fixed donation.

It’s been interesting to read, and not just because I’ve long been a fan of Planned Parenthood and what they do. Take a look for yourself.

(If you’re wondering what exactly they do, check out this post from Bitch PhD. In addition to a discussion of PP services—of which only three percent are abortions, you’ll find a link to this post by a medical student, who describes his ignorance about PP until he did an OB/GYN rotation there.)

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