when the status quo frustrates.

This does not really bother me.

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Saudi Arabia’s judicial practices are often abhorrent to me–sentencing a gang rape victim to hundreds of lashes, for instance, or refusing to allow an eight-year-old to divorce the 47-year-old man her father sold her to, or even beating and jailing a 75 year old woman for being alone in a house with two young men (both of whom were also beaten and jailed).

However, I’m mostly fine with beheading this guy for kidnapping and murdering an 11-year-old boy and then doing the same to the boy’s father. I’m also confused as to the additional upset about the fact that they displayed the guy’s (re-headed) body afterwards–so?

Sonia Sotomayor’s judgement and the Duke Lacrosse case

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor at Princeton in the early 1970′s.

Not that these two things ever directly interacted, to the best of my knowledge–but I found myself musing on the latter while reading this article about the former this morning.

Way back in 2006, when the Duke Lacrosse case hit the fan and subsequently spread outwards into the media, I was coming to the end of a period of a year or two where I’d been fairly active posting on an MRA (men’s rights activists) message board. What the heck was I doing there, you might ask..? No, I wasn’t trolling, thank you!–I had simply encountered a few of them on another message board, a feminist message board, that I had been posting on since 2002 or so, and having never heard of any such animal, I was quite interested in the meaning of their existence and what on earth they thought they stood for. I mean, men’s rights activists? Did I miss the period in history where the gender male was actively and specifically legislated against..? The best notion I could come up with on my own was that they objected to Selective Service registration. (As it turns out, that’s not something most of them care very much about, though it does come up periodically.) One of the MRAs on the feminist message board, upon discovering my interest, invited me to an MRA message board that he participated on–I followed him over, and spent the next two years being enlightened on the subject.

At any rate, as one of the very few (I believe only, at that time) resident feminists on the board, I was immediately harassed for my opinion on the case. My opinion was that I didn’t have one–I had no details other than the bare minimum, that a woman of color working as as stripper had accused one or more members of the Duke university lacrosse team of raping her. I had no knowledge of the truth or lack thereof of the accusations, the denials, the claims of evidence, or anything at all, really. My opinion was that that’s what we have a police force and a judicial system for.

But, you know, I was a feminist! And the definition of feminist is woman who instantly believes every word that ever comes out of any woman’s mouth on any subject whatsoever if the persons disputing that word are men, right? …well, no. I am a feminist, and happy to acknowledge that, but I will point you to the dictionary for the definition of that word and subsequently, the definition of what I, a feminist, am.

I was reminded of all this when I read this excerpt from today’s LA Times article, called The Two Sides of Sonia Sotomayor:

After Princeton, at Yale Law School, as a prosecutor and a corporate lawyer in New York, and while serving as a federal judge for 17 years, Sotomayor continued to display a passion for minority rights. She was active on the board of directors of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund when it sued New York City over alleged discrimination in police hiring and the drawing of voting districts, as well as when it challenged New York state’s death penalty law.

Eight years ago, while sitting on the federal appeals court in New York on which she still serves, Sotomayor said it was “shocking” that there were not more minority women on the federal bench.

But little of that activist sentiment is revealed in the hundreds of cases Sotomayor has decided in her 11 years on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, raising the question of which jurist will present herself if she is given the lifetime tenure and complete independence of a Supreme Court seat.

Thomas Goldstein, a Washington lawyer with a Supreme Court specialty, said last week that he had reviewed 50 appeals involving race in which Sotomayor participated. In 45 of those cases, a three-judge panel rejected the discrimination claim — and Sotomayor never once dissented, he said.

“This is a judge who does not see it as her job to fix all the social ills in the world,” said Kevin Russell, a Washington appellate lawyer who also has analyzed Sotomayor’s opinions.

But in her 1974 letter to the student newspaper–

Whoa, horsies! In the letter she wrote…35 years ago, when she was nineteen years old..? This has, excuse me, what relevance to her today? What were you doing when you were nineteen years old, and for your sake I hope it isn’t really a good and accurate snapshot of your activities now in your mid-fifties..?

But beyond the patent absurdity of such a side-by-side comparison, the deeper issue that I find unpleasant to see as such a widespread issue is that it is not possible to have philosophical beliefs in general and yet be unable to reason logically in any given specific situation. I’m not sure if this is a sexist or racist issue–is it impossible for people to believe that a woman, or a person of color, can be rational about any issue that even remotely touches on gender or race? However, I’m inclined to think it isn’t even that–I’m inclined to think that it is a human issue, because most people find themselves quite unable to formulate a rational, logical opinion on a specific incident that touches closely upon any general philosophical belief that they hold. And because they themselves can’t do it, they both assume that nobody else can, either, and they are subsequently terrified of anyone whose philosophical beliefs don’t agree with their own having any position of power or arbitration whatsoever in their society.

There’s certainly a great deal of evidence for this. Witness the unending struggle in multiple school districts to essentially ban the accurate teaching of the academic subject biology by people who are passionately committed to a religion with a creation story, for instance. And, to present another and more pertinent to this post example, witness the large number of self-professed feminists who quite eagerly first convicted the Duke lacrosse players without knowing a single fact of the case and then, as more facts did come to light, went even further off the deep end by simply flatly denying they could be true, at all. So, clearly many people, indeed, cannot function rationally if the situation in question touches upon their personal philosophical beliefs.

But really, I think it’s amazing to make a general assumption that just because you can’t do it, nobody can. History also abounds with examples of people who can do so and have done so. Harking back to the the evolution vs. creation debacle, most scientists do have spiritual beliefs of some description, and still function quite successfully in their work in unlocking the secrets of life on earth. Interestingly enough, though, these same scientist are far less likely than the general population to hold fundamentalist spiritual beliefs–ie, their belief system is specifically flexible. It seems reasonable to suppose that people in the judicial profession are similarly less likely to hold fundamentalist-style beliefs–or they wouldn’t be in such a profession in the first place, where the search for the genuine and accurate truth of any given situation regardless of preconceived notions is a core part of the profession.

Sonia Sotomayor, from her judicial record, would appear to be a person whose philosophical beliefs do not unduly influence her rational judgement. Will she be credited for that, or is that simply too impossible for those who are hopelessly enslaved to their own dogma to swallow? It’ll be interesting to watch the progress of her confirmation.

Pro-life = No Sense

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Hubby and I are on the move, so that meant we had to go by a million or so of the “Prolife Across America” billboards. On our trip, there are some classics, like:

What! Grammar suggests I put a question mark there?


Both of these billboards make me want to risk the penalty for vandalism; the first because I want to put correction markings on, the second because I’m so tempted to draw a Hitler-stache and a Nazi armband on the baby.

There was a new billboard that we saw that confused Hubby so much that I just had to include the exchange here:


Why Aren’t Women Funny?

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

At the very first, this post is going to seem a little contradictory. The answer is, “women ARE funny” and thinking off the top of your head, I’m sure people can come up with dozens of examples (Roseanne Barr is one of my all-time favorites, but I’m also a fan of the classics- Lucy Ball and Carol Burnett). I know I’m a huge fan of a great many female writers, and I find nothing funnier than a good ole snarking a la Marcotte.

Some will continue a little further, and say things like “There aren’t as many women in comedy because no one writes parts for them in movies or there’s still a lot of entrenched sexism in stand-up”. They’d be right about that, as well*.

But, instead, I’m asking why, if we’re in a group of men and women, it’s going to be the men who are telling the jokes, and the women laughing (normally). Why if a women says “something funny happened to me” she’s going to tell a story, and a guy is going to do an impression or a one-liner.

My friend PE does great impressions. I’m particularly fond of his Christopher Walken. He also can create a bicycle horn noise that is more realistic sounding than an actual bike horn. Hubby can do the Spock one-eyebrow raise (which I find funny as heck). But the thing is, all of those things took TIME. PE discovered the bicycle horn noise by accident, but worked on all of his impressions for a long time, and he had his dad help him out. It took Hubby a whole semester’s worth of practice in order to get the Spock-brow right, with his friends encouraging him the whole way.** Heck, even my friend T (who is decidedly NOT as funny as he thinks he is) still gets his girlfriend to laugh at his dumb jokes.

When I was a kid, I did a Woody Woodpecker impression. It had all the kids in the daycare my mom ran in giggles. *** That was, until the day JT Larson came into the daycare. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but I knew it ran to the “Girls aren’t funny, and you’re stupid” line of thought. Not the most intelligent riposte, but the older, more mature 7 year-old boy dashed my 5-year-old dreams of being a comedian (for that moment in time). As years went on, I kept trying to do jokes, and sometimes people laughed…but more likely, people would stare blankly at me, and some guy would say THE EXACT SAME JOKE and get a huge laugh.****

So now, I’ve quit trying to be funny, with the exception of some wry commentary and sarcastic quips, and those are mainly to amuse myself, instead of other people. And I wonder how common this experience is: guys get the encouragement, women get the discouragement. And I wonder how this sets it up that there aren’t as many funny females, or females are considered to be not as funny. It could be that I’m just not funny; but it could be that I might have been if I wouldn’t have been told off it so many times. And I feel bad, because the world is a sadder place because maybe we’ve lost a lot of Lucy Balls and Roseanne Barrs to make fun of it.

*I know that I’d probably have some fears about going up on stage after a male comedian has told everyone how stupid women are, and the audience is laughing their ass off.
** Glad to see public education is entirely worthless.
*** And my mom as well, but that probably doesn’t count.
****This happens to me in class as well when it came to giving answers. I talk really loudly to this day because I thought people just couldn’t hear me. But no, they can hear me just fine; for whatever reason, I’m ignored.

Survey Results for That Burning Question: What body part do YOU wash first in the shower?

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

In no particular order, and make of ‘em what you will, people:

According to Wikipedia, 7 to 10% of the population is lefthanded. Apparently there’s something even more special about PunkAssReaders than we already suspected, because 14% of you are lefthanded, with another 5% being ambidextrous. I read somewhere once that lefties have a higher rate of accidental demise, the world unfortunately not being designed to accomodate their preferred spatial orientation, so take care!

Of the 11% of you who chose “None of the above” when asked what part of your body you washed first, over half of those can’t follow directions. The question specifically excluded hair, face and head, folks–back to grade school for each and every one of you! The rest apparently do not consider their armpits to be either a part of their arm or a part of their torso, but separate entities in of themselves, and either didn’t feel like specifying which side they start on or simultaneously scrub both pits from the get-go, which presents me with an interesting mental image. One of you does, indeed, start on the left armpit specifically though.

77% of our PunkAssReaders are of the lady gender, which is probably all Quin’s fault.

And yes, it is all as that unknown guy on the radio said and much to the ex-spouse’s chagrin–coming in at the big 37%, more of you start on the left arm or shoulder in the shower than anyplace else. The two next-most-common initial scrub locations are the chests or breasts (13%) and the torso or belly (11%). A whopping 6% of you do represent! for starting on the genitals. However, absolutely nobody wants to go anywhere near the butt to start off with (0%). One flexible and nonconformist individual starts with his or her back, which does actually impress me. The remainder divvy it up between neck, right arm or shoulder, or one leg or the other first.

More polls may be forthcoming at random intervals–stay tuned! :)

Why You Specifically Can’t Take Our PunkAssShower Survey

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

…because SurveyMonkey sucks and won’t let more than 100 people do a survey for those of us with the “basic” (read “free”) account package and we hit the “100″ mark pretty early in the day today, it seems.

:( For all of you who are massively disappointed that you don’t get to share your shower preferences…yes, believe it or not, that’s how I even know there was a problem with the survey, apparently this is a far more driving need than I expected it to be for others…I am really sorry that SurveyMonkey did this to us.

Since we’re not gettin’ any more answers, I will post results by tomorrow.

Juanita Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Or something like that. All them there Mexican* names just blend together, don’t they? Something I’ve just never understood–why all those furreigners with their funny furreign names don’t just change ‘em to a real American name like “Betty Brown.”

She has more qualifications than any of the other justices currently serving on the Supreme Court did at the time of their nominations, which really is the only acceptable standard for nominating a female minority–I think we all know this.

So far I’ve heard both that she once saved baseball and also that she has a personal vendetta against white firefighters. (Now that’s one of the most specific prejudices I’ve ever encountered anyone being accused of.)

Naturally Michelle Malkin is weighing in on this–nobody could ever accuse Michelle of being able to even remotely stand her own status as a woman of color, which since Sonia Sotomayor seems to think that both having and considering having experiences other than that of white men is okay in a judge, means that these two ladies will probably never even get close to the recipe-exchanging stage of friendship. What a shame!

*Puerto Rican, but whatever, six of one, half-dozen of the other, right? (Thank God my Colombian and Salvadorean friends don’t read this blog! or if they do, I bet I’m about to find that out.)

By Popular Demand…

Monday, May 25th, 2009

An extraordinarily unscientific poll, the data from which I will definitely use to draw societally-shattering conclusions about (a) our caveman ancestors and (b) the evolutionarily defined gendered behavior of right- vs. left-handed homo sapiens.

What body part do you wash first when you shower? :D

Click Here to take survey

(Results will be posted in a week or so.)

Memorial Day

Monday, May 25th, 2009


Just a harmless theoretical scenario.

Let’s imagine that the worst fears of many liberal conspiracy theorists come true. A staged terrorist attack leads to a fascist coup, and in the confusion Dick Cheney becomes President of the United States. Of course, not everybody takes this lying down, so Cheney turns the military and police directly against the people of America. Civil war. Within a couple of years, a million Americans are dead– about two thirds of them adult men, the other third women and children. Millions more are injured, maimed, or shell-shocked by the destruction of all they held dear; roaming the land, squatting in burnt out suburbs, dispossessed, starving, homeless. Bodies of the dead line the highways.

After a while, the situation stabilizes some. Cheney steps down, but his neocon coterie still control the guns. Quasi-democratic elections resume, but the winning parties always serve at the pleasure of the military. Resistance and even peaceful dissent is dealt with mercilessly, with imprisonment and torture, er, ‘enhanced interrogation’ of the offending parties. There are frequent whispers of rape and race-driven arrests, and the only judicial oversight is in the form of rubber stamp kangaroo courts.

If you were a civilian in a situation like this, would you be one to “Support the Troops”? If people you knew had been killed by the military? Friends? Your parents? Your children?

After all, it’s not any individual soldier’s fault what they are commanded to do. And many of them, as young men and women, had no other path forward out of economic misery. A large percentage joined up before the military coup and thought they were just going to be defending their own country in a more traditional manner. Perhaps you have friends or family who are soldiers, not just victims. Does it really do any harm to attend parades celebrating the troops? To simultaneously wear black armbands to remember the dead, and yellow ribbons to give moral reassurance to the ones who killed them?

Let’s leave fantasy land and come back to reality. The real question is: Does revering the troops no matter what only serve to uphold the status quo?

If not, why not?

I am evil.

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Of course this was a terrible thing to have done, and he needs to be charged with attempted murder, because that is the act he committed.

But having been stuck in traffic on the Woodrow Wilson bridge outside DC for three to four hours on more than one occasion (in midsummer, with two starving, squabbling kids in the backseat, without a functioning air conditioner, surrounded by diesel trucks belching out massive clouds of 99 degree exhaust directly into my car) in the last several years because somebody decides to make a dramatic plea for attention by staging a suicide jump (that I would like to point out, seldom is actually carried through)…

…I have the sneaking sensation that at the time, I’d have applauded and wolf-whistled and thrown money.

It’s always distressing to discover these pockets of misanthropy within oneself!

Twit, with cool response.

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Oh, Charlotte Allen–remember her? (I hadn’t, til I saw this on my Twitter feed from PZ.) In case you’ve forgotten, she is the, um, journalist? who penned these deathless words last year re the popularity of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign amongst the gender female:

[I] wonder whether women — I should say, “we women,” of course — aren’t the weaker sex after all. Or even the stupid sex, our brains permanently occluded by random emotions, psychosomatic flailings and distraction by the superficial. Women “are only children of a larger growth,” wrote the 18th-century Earl of Chesterfield. Could he have been right?

Kyso did the takedown on all that here and here–as with Ann Coulter’s blatherings, I couldn’t be bothered myself–if you tell me you’re stupid, psychosomatic, superficial, etc, I’m not gonna argue with you, and I’m certainly not going to bother my pretty little head about anything you might have to say subsequently to you informing me of that.

And amazingly enough, she’s at it again! This time her preferred target isn’t the gender female–it’s Teh Atheist! If you read it, it becomes rapidly clear that she’s never actually really read anything any atheist has ever written past the title of the works, but hell, people never let that stop them from cranking out detailed critiques, do they..? :D

Much like with the misogyny essay and resultant Q&A, I can’t be bothered to deconstruct it; I choose to let better minds than mine do that. Check out PZ’s LA Times’ letter instead–it rocks.

What Can I Do?

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

I’m looking for ways to volunteer in my community. The catch is, I live in Fukuoka, Japan, and my Japanese language skills, while functional for my daily life, are really not at a level where I can be useful in the same ways I could in an English-speaking country. Which is to say, I talk like a four-year-old. At least I can talk at all, but still, options. Kind of limited.

My vague thoughts on the matter run like this. I’ll get Japanese friends to help me research, and see if I can find a worthy oppression-fighting organization, and then offer my services by:

1. giving free English lessons to their activists (if it’s a group for whom this is helpful);
2. helping with childcare, if their activists rely on any kind of volunteer childcare– maybe I could even lead some free music or English classes for the kids, since, after all, teaching English to Japanese kids is my regular day job; or
3. doing anything else they think I could helpfully do.

I’m a bit stymied by my language restrictions. I’m afraid any kind of proper activism is beyond my means right now. I mean, I guess I can just ladle out soup to the homeless if need be…

Please share any other ideas you might have.