when the status quo frustrates.

The Texas School Board Is At It Again

Friday, March 19th, 2010

All I can say is, thank God my kids aren’t being educated by the Texas public school system. Much like Sarah Palin, they lend themselves to easy mockery–but unfortunately they can’t be discounted; they did win at least part of their battle to cheat the children of Texas out of a thoroughly factual science education (State education board approves science standards: New standards remove specific references to age of the universe) Like kids today need to know how old the universe is anyway! Tchaa!

Now that science has been gutted as well as they could manage, the Texas school board is turning its gimlet eye upon our history books, with fairly predictable results. Here are a few of my favorites from the Proposed Revisions to 19 TAC Chapter 113,Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies, Subchapter C, High School Curriculum, with the Board’s deletions shown crossed out and additions in bold –hope you enjoy them as much as I did:

History. The student understands the emergence of the United States as a world power between 1898 and 1920. The student is expected to:

explain why significant events, policies, and individuals, including such as the Spanish-American War, U.S. imperialism expansionism, Henry Cabot Lodge, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and Theodore Roosevelt, Samuel Dole, and missionaries moved the United States into the position of a world power;

History. The student understands the impact of significant national and international decisions and conflicts in the Cold War on the United States. The student is expected to:

describe U.S. responses to Soviet expansion aggression after World War II, including the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the Berlin airlift, and John F. Kennedy’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis;

‘Cause when we do it, it’s quite different from when those nasty Commies do it!

describe how McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the arms race, and the space race increased Cold War tensions and how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government ;

(Notes from the Board meeting: Back when McLeroy was chairman of the SBOE, he sent a list of hand-scrawled editing instructions to the board-appointed curriculum writing committee, made up mostly of educators (the exception was McLeroy’s appointee, contrarian conservative gadfly Bill Ames). It included a note on this standard…it read: “Read the latest on McCarthy — he was basically vindicated.” …McLeroy said he got his ideas from a book by M. Staton Evans, a conservative writer, entitled Blacklisted by History. A Publisher’s Weekly review says Evans is “given to conspiracy thinking—an approach that, by its nature, yields claims that can neither be confirmed nor falsified. Defense attorneys and debaters like Evans follow different rules than historians—they try to score points, not to advance knowledge.” TFN quotes what it calls the leading scholar on the subject, Harvey Khler, a professor at Emory University and author of Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. “The new information from Russian and American archives does not vindicate McCarthy. He remains a demagogue, whose wild charges actually made the fight against Communist subversion more difficult.”)

Sixty years from now, Texas will also be teaching its children that the Patriot Act is the only reason why we’re not all now facing Mecca with turbans on our heads five times a day at gunpoint. Civil liberties are so overrated. Can’t wait!

identify the causes of World War I and reasons for U.S. entry involvement in World War I, including propaganda (information disseminated by an organization or government to promote a policy, idea, or cause) and unrestricted submarine warfare;

Can’t have the kiddies learning about the government engaging in propaganda to garner popular support for engaging in a war on foreign soil! They might apply that knowledge somewhere outside their history class, you know.

evaluate the explain the roles played by significant military contributions of leaders during World War II, including Omar Bradley, Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, Oveta Culp Hobby, Benjamin O. Davis, Chester A. Nimitz, George Marshall, and George Patton; and

Women and black people are overrated too!

identify the roles of significant leaders who supported or opposed of the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Betty Friedan, George Wallace, and others;

Well, I guess it wasn’t possible for them to delete the black people from the Civil Rights history bloc, but hey, at least they managed to get rid of the women!

History. The student understands the impact of political, economic, and social factors in the U.S. role in the world from the 1970s through 1990. The student is expected to:

describe Richard M. Nixon’s role leadership in the normalization of relations with China and the policy of détente;
describe Ronald Reagan’s leadership in domestic and international policies ,

Because kids in high school won’t understand otherwise that the President is a “leader” and think instead that the Presidents’ “roles” are what they ate for breakfast..? I’m actually kinda surprised they didn’t go ahead and amend the above to say HEROIC leadership! or possibly Chuck Norris wears Nixon-and-Reagan pajamas to bed every night! (which now that I think about Chuck Norris’s political views, he probably does)

discuss the role analyze the impact of third party parties candidates such as Ross Perot and Ralph Nader on presidential elections ;

And for a contrast to the pedestal being raised for previous presidentially-related folks, we now see who deserves to have his name cast down forever into oblivion BLEHHH! ..third parties are clearly inspired by Satan anyway.

identify analyze the causes of the Great Depression, including the impact of tariffs on the decline in worldwide trade, buying stock on margin, the stock market crash speculation, and bank failures, and actions the flawed monetary policy of the Federal Reserve System;

Whatever causes the US economy to collapse have a few issues, be it farther back in the past OR IN RECENT TIMES DAMMIT, it so isn’t the fault of Free Enterprise!

And last but not least:

describe the impact of significant examples of cultural movements in art, music, and literature such as Tin Pan Alley, the Harlem Renaissance, the Beat Generation, rock and roll, the Chicano Mural Movement, and hip hop , and country and western music on American society , including;

(Notes from the Board meeting: “I’d like to delete hip-hop and add country,” said McLeroy. Some board members, particularly African-American member Lawrence Allen, D-Fresno, did not take kindly to the suggestion. “What exactly do you think hip-hop is? You might be deleting something you know nothing about,” Allen told McLeroy. An extended debate ensued, and McLeroy lost.)

Why I’m So Glad I’m Not a 21st-Century Republican Voter: A Collage

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Updated: This would be enough all by itself. The Hip Hub of Fun…! (hat tip Jesse)

The history here is well known to everyone interested in politics but worth summarizing. For most of the first 190 years of the country’s operation, U.S. Senators would, in unusual circumstances, try to delay a vote on measures they opposed by “filibustering” — talking without limit or using other stalling techniques. For most of those years, the Senate could cut off the filibuster and force a vote by imposing “cloture,” which took a two-thirds majority of those voting (at most 67 of 100 Senators). In 1975, the Senate adopted a rules change to allow cloture with 60 votes, and those are the rules that still prevail.

The significant thing about filibusters through most of U.S. history is that they hardly ever happened…

…as the chart below shows, the huge increase in threatened filibusters came from the Republican minority, after the Democrats took back the Senate in 2007. Since the time covered by this chart, the number of threatened (Republican) filibusters has shot up even more dramatically.

In an interview on MSNBC this morning, newly retiring Sen. Evan Bayh declared the American political system “dysfunctional,” riddled with “brain-dead partisanship” and permanent campaigning.

In this morning’s interview he noted that just two weeks ago, Republicans who had co-sponsored a bill with him to rein in the deficit turned around and voted against their own bill.


WOW, did Obama REELY go into the LION’S DEN?!? huh? wow…

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

I’m sure you’ve all heard of this by now:

Obama makes appearance at annual GOP retreat

Just two days after giving the State of the Union speech, President Obama stepped into the lion’s den at the GOP retreat in Baltimore Friday to make a fresh start with House Republican leaders. Obama accepted the invitation from the Republican leadership to discuss upcoming legislation initiatives and to participate in a question and answer session about some contentious public policy decisions.

(If you haven’t seen it yet, you can get the whole series of videos here.)

I did watch it, and I should also note that I didn’t really watch the State of the Union address other than a few snippets here and there. I suspect I could have just as easily skipped out on watching both of them. President Obama is a great speaker and clearly a very intelligent and articulate man who performs with admirable coolness under fire–but I already knew all that, dating back from before Obama was actually President. I do admit that it is a pleasure to have him be the official face of America both at home and abroad–I spent most of Bush’s eight years in office cringing every time he opened his mouth.

But I wasn’t too impressed by the activity itself. Really, more even than being unimpressed, I found myself wondering why on earth it was occurring at all. To promote bipartisanship..? Not likely. As anyone who has actually dealt with groups of people who disagree while simultaneously being necessary to whatever final goal is being attempted knows (and if you’ve spent any time in corporate America at anything above the level of absolute peon, that’s you), the only way to get people to really cooperate with you is to air your dissention with them in private. Doing so in public will only work if you somehow have their nuts up against the wall anyway so it doesn’t matter what they think or feel. Basically, if you’re doing so in public with someone or someone who has any real power to screw up your agenda, your purpose is actually not to advance your agenda, but either to (a) make yourself look good to your stakeholders or (b) make them look bad to theirs, as publicly as possible.

It is important to realize that, because otherwise you might find yourself wondering why Obama would feel the need to kiss the GOP’s ass with this rather supplicant-scented meeting–my boy Jon did a pretty funny takedown of that attitude a week or so ago, in reference to the Massachusetts special election:

…because you know, if Coakley loses, Democrats will only then have an 18-vote majority in the Senate…which is more than George W. Bush EVER had in the Senate when he did whatever the fuck he wanted to do. In fact, the Democrats have a greater majority than Republicans have had since 1923.

I did go shopping for conservative commentary on the Obama/GOP retreat Q&A, because I found myself wondering if any of them believed it really was ass-kissing, towards them!–turns out that yes, they do indeed believe this.

Michelle Malkin:

But the session has been most compelling — the most transparency and openness we’ve seen since the start of his term.

Good on the House Republicans for throwing the doors open.

And, yes, I’m going to compliment the president: Good on him for taking part.

Yet another dividend of the Massachusetts Miracle.

Forget the staged dog-and-pony campaign rallies…


The GOP is touting the benefits of having the president say – on the record – that they have offered substantive proposals. They also argue that this appearance puts Nancy Pelosi in a tough position: the president promised bipartisanship, and she’s delivering none. They see the chance to knock her down a few more pegs…Republican Members were delighted after the presentation.

Ace of Spades:

It’s funny how our Post-Partisan President only gets around to addressing Republicans when he needs their votes. Funny how he didn’t do that for a year…And it is this asshole — President “I Won” — who has staked his young and now failed presidency on nothing but winning and steamrolling the opposition and ignoring critics and demonizing dissenting voices, all to “win” on this issue, to prove he could win, and so to prove that he was El Supremo Jefe and we all had to buckle under his benevolent dictatorship.

It is this asshole who has denied himself the wiggle room to compromise, and so it is this asshole who is now attempting to persuade us to compromise, because he can’t.

That was the majority response…though not all of ‘em are quite that stupid:


Okay, I will be looking for the strengthful nuance that knocks down all arguments.

More than the State of the Union — or on top of the State of the Union — this may be a pivotal moment for the future of the presidential agenda on Capitol Hill. (Democrats are loving this. Chris Hayes, The Nation’s Washington bureau chief, tweeted that he hadn’t liked Obama more since the inauguration.)

Got it. The Prez’s people loved it. Maybe this wasn’t really about inspiring bipartisanship but firing up the base.

…bingo? I don’t really follow conservative bloggers much, but this chicky may be one for me to watch in future.

All-in-all, color me “meh.”

Because racism’s dead. You knew that, right?

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Interracial couple denied marriage license in La.

NEW ORLEANS – A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

“There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage,” Bardwell said. “I think those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.”

Yep, children from those marriages, even the ones that don’t last, I mean it’s not like they could e-v-e-r grow up to become President of the United Sta—

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”

Mostly I think of “piles and piles” as describing my laundry. And did he seriously just brag about letting black people use his bathroom..?

I sure love living in “post-racial” America!

It’s Banned Books Week!

Monday, September 28th, 2009

I love Banned Books Week! Some of my favorite books of all time are banned books…I mean, check out this list of classics! Admittedly, a lot of the banning action took place decades ago, but lest anyone think we’ve relaxed our deathgrip on the minds of our children in this new millenium, here are a nice collection of more recent incidents to sneer at:

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Sallinger: Removed by a Dorchester District 2 school board member in Summerville, SC (2001) because it “is a filthy, filthy book.”

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck*: Banned from the George County, Miss. schools (2002) because of profanity.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Challenged in Foley, Alabama (2000) because of the depictions of “orgies, self-flogging, suicide” and characters who show “contempt for religion, marriage, and the family.” The book was removed from the library, pending review.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Burned in Alamagordo, N. Mex. (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic.

If you’re interested in the most up-to-date reporting on the 2008 open season on communication of unapproved ideas, the American Library Association puts out a yearly list of the books that are challenged, restricted, removed or banned–see if your favorites are on there too!

Leaving you with the bittersweet taste of irony, from January of this year. Enjoy!

*I might sympathize with an attempt to ban it from required reading lists–yes, it was on mine in high school–based on the fact that it sucks ass and there are at least one hundred more interesting and compelling novels that could immediately and happily replace it…but no, I have to defend John Steinbeck’s biggest load of crap evar based on principle. A shame, but there you have it.

You’re Fired.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

…if only I had that power. Oh well.

The Obama administration supports extending three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are due to expire at the end of the year, the Justice Department told Congress in a letter made public Tuesday.




…ignoring me. Yep. Figures…well, my vote WAS meaningless, wasn’t it?

On the brighter side:

Operation Rescue says it’s broke, may shut down

Scott Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., faces charges of murder and aggravated assault in the slaying of Tiller as the Wichita abortion provider ushered at a Sunday morning church service.

Tiller’s killing has also been a public relations nightmare for the group — despite its public condemnation of the slaying — since the name and phone number of the group’s senior policy adviser was found in Roeder’s car when he was arrested. A television crew zoomed in on the scrawled note inside the car in images that made their way to the Internet.

…ALL TOGETHER NOW….”Awwwwwww!” :D

When Your Male Privilege Stops Applying To Your Situation, It Goes Beyond Inconvenient, Doesn’t It?

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

I had seen this post by Melissa MacEwan of Shakeville before Hugo wrote about it, but I hadn’t been aware of her follow-up post til he linked to it. Basically, her emphasis in her follow-up post and Hugo’s primary message in his own were the same–in their own words:

Melissa: Feminist men who do the right thing often do it quietly, while misogynist men spew their rubbish at incredible volumes…If, my esteemed male feminist allies, you don’t want to be part of the problem, these fights have got to be your province, too. Giving yourselves the permission to not get publicly involved, or to get publicly involved only when it’s convenient and not all that risky and not all that hard, is the ultimate expression of privilege.

Hugo: I was able to assent intellectually to the principles of feminism long before I was courageous enough to espouse them in potentially hostile settings. I had to take baby steps. Identifying as a feminist in a women’s studies class came before identifying as a feminist in an all-male environment. But I felt a sense of urgency; it is male privilege that allows feminist men to pick and choose to join battles into which women are regularly drafted against their will. If we’re serious about our feminism, we can’t just be allies when it’s safe or convenient, we can’t merely offer soothing reassurance in private to the women in our lives. We’ve got to do it as publicly as possible, remembering that our primary usefulness to the egalitarian cause lies in our willingness to model publicly a different way of living as brothers, fathers, sons, husbands, lovers, bosses, students, roommates, coworkers and friends.

(emphasis on convenient mine)

Certainly this is something I’ve thought about before–even written about, rather passionately–grounded as it is in the unavoidable knowledge that women will never achieve true equality if we can’t get more than 50% of the human race on board with that as a basic societal truth. But seeing Hugo write about it made me pause for a second, because Hugo is, after all, a man…who apparently doesn’t entirely know what he’s talking about. Not when it comes to being a man representing feminism, or even anything remotely like feminism, in an all-male environment…a hostile setting.

I used to be pretty close to someone, a man, who had spent nearly 20 years in the military by the time I knew him. When he was 19 years old, he was stationed in Korea. Now, nobody in the Army brought his family over to Korea then; the Army wouldn’t pay for it and there was no real housing available there for family, schools for the kids, etc. Few Army women were sent to Korea, as nearly all the military specialties over there were either combat arms (outright banned to women) or very closely combat arms-related, in which there weren’t too many women serving to begin with. In short, it was essentially an “all-male environment”–not just for a few hours a day every few days or so, but 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And as anyone who has either been stationed there himself or has been very close to someone who has been stationed there knows, the standard operating procedure was for all the guys to go out together at night, get hammered, and patronize prostitutes.

Now, my friend was not particularly feminist–certainly not at age 19. But he didn’t want to patronize prostitutes. He’d only had sex a few times in his life period prior to being stationed in Korea; he was, he told me, frightened and repelled by the idea of doing it with a prostitute, just like that. His stint in Korea was only a month long–it was a training exercise–so, he said, he did manage to avoid having to do it–though both he and I doubted that he would have been able to continue to successfully refuse if he’d been stationed there for the standard 12-month Army rotation.

Because I don’t think Hugo and Melissa really know what a hostile all-male setting really consists of, sometimes, especially to a five-foot-nine inch, 140 pound, 19 year old boy. Like this*:

A Youth Radio investigation has found that between 2004 and 2006, sailors in the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain Military Working Dogs Division, or “The Kennel,” were subjected to an atmosphere of sexual harassment, psychological humiliation, and physical assaults.

It was inside that Bahrain kennel in July 2005 that Petty Officer Joseph Christopher Rocha, then 19 years old, says he was being terrorized by other members of his own division. “I was hog-tied to a chair, rolled around the base, left in a dog kennel that had feces spread in it.”

Rocha says that beginning six weeks into his deployment, he was singled out for abuse by his chief master-at-arms, Michael Toussaint, and others on the base, once Rocha made it clear he was not interested in prostitutes. “I was in a very small testosterone-driven unit of men,” Rocha says. “I think that’s what began the questioning-you know-‘Why don’t you want to have sex with her? Are you a faggot?’”

Youth Radio has conducted interviews and obtained documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) showing that the hog-tying episode was not the first or only case of harassment and abuse during Rocha’s deployment. In another incident cited in the documents, Rocha was forced to appear in a twisted “training video.” A member of the Working Dogs Division, Petty Officer Shaun Hogan, recalls the scene.

“Petty Officer Rocha and another junior sailor…were instructed to go into a classroom by Chief Michael Toussaint, who orchestrated the entire training. And Chief Toussaint asked them to simulate homosexual sex on a couch,” Hogan says.

Next in the simulation, Hogan says a handler and his dog barged onto the scene, and that’s when “one person…would sit up, kind of wipe off their mouth, the other would get up, and they would be fixing their fly.”

Rocha says Toussaint bullied him, “telling me I needed to be more believable, act more queer, have a higher pitched voice, make the sounds and gestures more realistic…I didn’t think I had a choice…It made me feel that I wasn’t a human being, that I was an animal, rather.”

Youth Radio has obtained a copy of both Braden’s investigation and the Navy’s Findings of Fact, which detail what happened to Rocha, in addition to incidents involving other service members. The FOIA documents have been redacted, so names are blocked out, but the actions listed include: throwing hard balls at the groin, spraying down uniformed personnel with multiple hoses, and a dog attacking a sex worker on base to the point of hospitalization.

Youth Radio’s investigation includes interviewing four members of the Bahrain Working Dogs Division who served between 2004 and 2006. All say the tone was set by Chief Toussaint. Some sailors participated in the culture of hazing as victims, others as perpetrators, or in some cases both.

When discussing his own Korea experience with my friend, I suggested that it might have been different if he’d been sent there as a sergeant in his 30′s rather than as a scared private of 19–he laughed and agreed: “Oh my God yeah…I wish I could go back there now…and this time they’d be like, ‘What’s wrong with you, man? Are you gay?’ and I’d be like, ‘That’s right, not only am I gay…I am THE gay**!’” But that’s now…as a mature adult man who has been to war and seen terrible things, who has the full growth and strength of a male in his physical prime, who has had enough sex of his own choosing to feel comfortable and confident in his own sexuality–and also, as a man with the authority of a senior noncommissioned officer’s rank.

I was in the Army myself, at age 18, in a heavily male environment–I know exactly what that’s like. There is no way in hell you could reasonably expect any of those boys to buck the system, and no, not just because they would be called names, or ostracized–they would be at serious risk of physical and sexual assault…just like I would have been if I’d ever made waves myself. And no feminist alive would have expected me to open my mouth and speak out under those circumstances. Male privilege doesn’t exist anymore when everyone in the group is already male, does it..?

So Hugo’s and Melissa’s messages are important…but they are lacking context. Which would be the privilege of never having served in our glorious Armed Forces, I would imagine. If you really want to advance the cause of feminism, first you’re going to push to make those spaces safe for the young men inhabiting them. That must come first, or you will never accomplish anything real and lasting in terms of encouraging young men to speak up for gender equality. And for God’s sake don’t trivialize a situation you can’t or won’t understand by calling it inconvenient…haven’t we had enough of that from the anti-choicers?

*via Pam

**He’s heterosexual, I should mention–you get his point, though.

We’re Those Stupid Kids

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Hubby and I are BROKE. Very broke. We’re trying to pawn stuff to make rent broke.

How’d we get into this deplorable situation? By being a pair of those stupid kids that got sucked into debt.

Hubby and I have, about, 200,000 dollars worth of debt. About 6,000 dollars of that debt is credit card debt, the rest is student loans. See, back in the day, Hubby turned 18 and went of to school to be a pilot. The very first day, they offered him a free t-shirt and some other things just to fill-out his information. Hubby went “what the hell. They can’t possibly approve me, I have no credit”. A little while later, a credit card with a 7,000 dollar limit came in the mail for him, and a 22% interest rate. Hubby went “Holy fuck. Well, it’d be nice to have an emergency stack of money on hand; I’ll just keep it at home, just in case. And, I heard having a credit card helps build your credit score.”

A few years later, he’s trying to finish a spring course, in an attempt to keep up with his aviation classes. Finishing classes is hard- taking aviation classes literally depends on the weather. It’s harder when you’re also trying to work one or two jobs so that you don’t have to take out extra loans for living expenses. And, if you don’t finish the flight course in a certain amount of time, you have to retake it (which is more time and money). So, he signs up for a few summer classes, and applies for summer loans…which are late. He goes to the horrible green trolls* at the loan department at our alma marter and asks what he can do. The only person who has the authority to give him an extension on his tuition is out for the summer. He asks what he can do. They say “I’m sure you’re loans will be in in plenty of time, after all, you used a reliable bank”. Another week or so passes; loans are still not in (this was actually a refrain for most of my friends and I for college; no matter how early we applied, they were still ALWAYS late. By my last year, I just had the forms for tuition extension filled out at the beginning of the year- it was just another thing to do). In the meantime, he needs money to continue flying and so, he makes the decision to use the emergency credit card to pay for the flight fees, with the idea that he’d pay the credit card off the second he gets his loans.

The last day to pay tuition lapses, and he still doesn’t have his loans in, so they drop him from his classes. He goes to the HGTs to see what he can do. A HGT goes and finds his loan approval sheet, and there are the loans. Hubby goes “Great, can you sign me up for classes again and give me the loans?” HGT goes “You can’t get loans unless you’re registered for classes.” Hubby goes, “Well, put me back in the class and I’ll be registered for it”. HGT says “I can’t register you for classes until you pay your tuition”. After going over this Catch-22 exchange a few times, up three different levels of authority, Hubby leaves in a fit of frustrated passion.

5 years later, we’re still trying to pay down that credit card. Hubby has never missed a payment, but Hubby has also never been able to pay off more than the minimum amount, either. We were doing okay (if still accruing debt), until I left school and we moved down. Now, I have loans to pay off too, and 2 months of unemployment combined with a job that doesn’t pay nearly enough to make ends meet means things are getting tight. Some days, I almost wonder if going to college wasn’t a shell game- if I would have just been better off not going at all. But, too little, too late. Some days it gets bad- Hubby will go off in rages because he doesn’t know how to fix this. Occasionally, I break down and cry a little; over the money that we don’t have and need, and over my lack of ability to help anyone else because I can barely help myself and my tiny family. Most of the time the analogies of debt is a mountain that you slowly chip away at, but to me it always seemed like a looming black hole that I’m throwing money into- maybe the bottom of the hole is actually getting closer, but it’s still so deep that I can’t see the bottom to check. It doesn’t help my depression, that’s for sure; more than once I’ve looked into the law to see what would happen to my debt if I were dead.** Compounded by this is we were both raised in the “don’t every go into debt” style of money management; which may have been possible for our parents (though, since both sets have had mortgages and car payments, I rather doubt), but were not anywhere possible for us.

I’m very glad the credit card bill was passed, even over the objections of people who think we should spend the rest of our life in debt, and that usury is just the free market. People occasionally wonder why I take politics so personally, and the answer is because it is personal. When you tell me that 28% is a reasonable amount of money to charge, and that’s it’s tyranny to have the government control it, you’re telling me that because we made a mistake, we deserve to be in debt forever. That’s personal. When you tell me that women just aren’t as good as men, in all the myriad of ways that people say that, that’s personal. When you say that good health and life is a reward for the rich and not a right of a person living in a modern society, that’s personal. This isn’t some amorphous group of “other” out there, this is me, my friend, my family, my life. And I can’t think of anything else that is more personal than that.

We’ve made our mistakes early, hopefully we can live to see a debt-less existence. (Assuming, of course, that neither of us has a catastrophic health care problem). And we’ve got some things to our advantage- we’re young, we’re educated, we’ve middle class markers (accents, social norms, dress, et cetera), we’re white, and we’re considered “able-bodied”. Right now, we both have jobs (thought that can always change). We’ve got a leg up on a lot of people.

But it’s still hard to not feel a little desperate, from time to time.

*may be a slight exaggeration. They were more moss than true green.
**Based on what I can tell, nothing. The loans are my own; no one co-signed with me. Hubby and I have kept all of our finances legally separate; we don’t even have each other’s names on our bank accounts. They’d go after my “estate” but I don’t have an estate. They can have my 5 dollars in the bank, and my two coming paychecks. Again, this really isn’t great on the “It’s better to stay alive” ledger of the “kill yourself/ don’t kill yourself” scale.

Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states–it’s the 21st century, don’t you think it’s about time?

Monday, August 24th, 2009

I haven’t marched on the Mall since 2004–you know I’m gonna be there! Let’s have a show of support, folks!

How I Grew Up Without Health Insurance, or Emergency Rooms Don’t Do Chemotherapy

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

“Wow,” said the doctor.

That’s not what I expect a doctor to say while peering into my ear, of all places. “What?” I asked.

“You have really heavy scarring in there,” she said cheerily. “You must have had a ton of untreated ear infections as a child!”

Had I? I remembered being sick a lot, and there had been times of excruciating ear pain—“Oh?”

“Oh yeah,” she said. “I’m surprised you don’t have any hearing loss, or balance or vertigo issues. The scarring’s so bad, the cilia in your inner ear, you know—probably not too many of those left.”

Goodness, that explained a lot…I left the doctor’s office feeling kind of dazed. All my life I’ve suffered awful, debilitating motion sickness—even as an adult, after most other people I knew outgrew getting carsick in the back seat on the way to Grandma’s house, I never did. Over the years I’d become the master of what little I could do to mitigate it and also of hiding it from others (to a point—my face turning greenish-white wasn’t something I could ever manage to hide, but luckily that degree of nausea takes hours of continuous motion to achieve and I avoid hours of it whenever possible). My first husband was remarkably unkind about it, insisting it was all in my head and cutting me no slack whatsoever over it in the apparent belief that if it wasn’t coddled, I’d snap out of it.

(Needless to say, that never did work…all it did was make me feel unloved and violently nauseated, as opposed to just violently nauseated. Oh, well.)

When I started junior high, we had a gymnastics section in PE class. How it worked out for the boys I don’t know, but it was a real class divider for the girls. See, girls from nice families got gymnastics classes and gymnastics camps as a matter of course, usually for several years in earlier childhood—us poor girls? Not so much. And there it was, laid out for all to see. And for me, it’d always been even worse—your average poor girl had usually figured out on her own how to do a simple cartwheel as part of the normal childhood process. Sadly, not I—I could never manage one; not because I lacked athleticism, I was always a fast runner and a good catcher, for instance—but because I lacked balance. The very worst, most humiliating part of the gymnastics section, of course, was the balance beam. I couldn’t even get up on the goddamn thing. I mean it—as part of even the simplest routine, we had to do a running mount of some description. I could jump up to it, but I couldn’t catch my balance once up there. I fell off. Immediately and inevitably, every single time. I wasn’t normally a laughingstock—at that time I was generally considered a nice, quiet, smart girl in the semi-official peer rankings—but even the kindest of the other girls couldn’t help letting a few giggles escape whenever it was my turn to give it a try.

Years later, during my first Army physical, the medic informed me that I had significant high-frequency hearing loss. I remember staring at him in surprise and saying, Huh? I hadn’t noticed—“Well, you’re probably used to it,” he said. “You’ve probably had it for years. But it does prevent you from being qualified for some military jobs, so I gotta make a note of it in your records—sorry!”

Well, at least I finally knew why…

…and, about four years ago, one of my best friend’s sisters died from a brain tumor. She died because, among other things, she couldn’t afford chemotherapy to the tune of $5000 a month, and neither could the rest of her extended family, though everyone chipped in for as long as they could. She died because the tumor made it impossible for her to work (it first made itself known by giving her a seizure in her boss’s office), so she lost her job and the health insurance that came with it, and was unable to get any other health insurance because her tumor was a “pre-existing condition.” She wasn’t able to get Medicaid because her husband was employed. But if he quit his job so she could get it, then he and she and their three children wouldn’t have been able to live at all—no money, no home, no food, no clothing—

So she died, literally in my friend’s arms, weighing about 70 pounds, suffering from senile dementia at the age of 39, incontinent and in agony. She left two daughters and a son, ages 18, 16 and 13, behind, and a husband who became a widower at 45.

So these reasons, among others, are why I think it’s really hysterical when people start shrieking about how the government is trying to take away your health care choices! and shouldn’t it be between your doctor and you..!? This is not to pooh-pooh all their concerns; some of them are legitimate—it’s impossible not to be continually horrified at the ever-increasing monster that is the federal budget deficit, for instance. But there seems to be an amazing ignorance of the fact that many of their fellow Americans currently have only the choice of permanent physical disability or death, and the only decision their doctor is willing to make is to refuse them treatment of any description. Or perhaps it’s only indifference—which doesn’t incline me towards extending any sympathy in return, eh? I do wonder which one it is, at times. I hope it’s not the latter.

How Is Someone Supposed to Figure That Out Anyway?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I have now been unemployed for over a month.* This is the longest period I have ever gone without a job since I was 15. It is actually weirdly frightening to me, because I’m not anywhere near “starvation” yet, but it is getting to “very, very, tight”, and loans are coming up in 5 months and counting. I feel like a leech on my husband, as I’m barely contributing to the household bills. I feel pathetic- it is weird how dramatic the change from “Oh, you’re a law student?” to “Oh, you’re unemployed” is.

My friends have been supportive, but not terribly helpful, as have my family. When I tell them the kinds of jobs I’ve been applying for (secretarial, nannying, reception, office drone, retail) they all assume that it’s just a matter of time before I get one, and I definitely get the impression from more than one of them that it’s just an “interim” job until I get a “real”** job. But, at this point in my life, I don’t know what my “real” job would be. Even with a college degree, I’m not terribly qualified to do anything “real”, and I don’t know what kind of “real” work I would want to do anyway.

I went to college, not having a clue of what I wanted to do. In high school, they were all along the lines of “theater lighting worker” and “actress” and “Pro-choice activist”. But, the first two were dismissed as out of hand because I figured I would never be hired for that sort of work. The last I actually have no idea how to break into. But, the advice I was given was to go to school, and take a wide variety of classes and I’d figure out what I wanted to do***. So I went to a cheap college, and took a ton of different classes. But none of them really “clicked” for me. There was nothing that I really wanted to do, and the things that I wanted to study are “useless” (literature, political science, art, music, philosophy, et cetera). I took plenty of “useful” classes (biology, math, communication, economics, law, aviation) and did fairly well in all of them, but not brilliantly, and I tended to hate every minute I was in class or reading the horrible textbooks. The idea that not only would I have to do these boring subjects for the rest of my life, but that I would have to work 80 hours+ per week doing them sent me into a despair that no amount of money could pull me out of. So, I was stuck- the things I enjoyed to learn were never going to provide an actual job for me, and the things that would give me a job made me realize that suicide would be less painful. I finally just got a general degree just to stop the gushing flow of money, (and get the hell out of Grand Forks) figuring that I could not know what to do for cheaper than paying tuition.

So here I am: another aimless member of Generation Y, unemployed, unmotivated, and directionless. It’s supposed to be quite common for my generation. So now I get everyone going “Well, what do you want to do?” and I have no idea- I am probably one of the most introspective persons I know and I can’t even tell you what I want to do for a job; and what’s worse, I don’t know how to figure out what to do. I know I want a job where I can actually have a life; I don’t want my entire self to be wrapped up in a job (particularly since I figure I’m probably going to hate whatever it is I end up doing, like most people in the world). I’d like a job where I’m not actively making the world a worse place to live. I’d like a job that’s reliable, that is actually worth my loyalty and respect, and a job where I’m actively doing something. What kind of job that is, I have no idea.

*Although, technically, I’m not “unemployed” just severely “underemployed”. My old college job still has me working as an emergency technician (a telecommuting job) sporadically (since they liked my work so much). But, I will only be able to do this until August- then I’m officially not a student employee any more and that’s the end of that.

**”Real” being defined, I think, by more than $40,000/year and mildly respectable.

***The option of not going to school was never brought up, except to briefly point out that if I did that, then I’d never go to college and I’d be penniless or something and unable to do any job.

Congratulations, Douchebags

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

For everyone out there who has been praying nightly that Dr. George Tiller would drop dead, and especially those of you who have expressed that wish out loud on a regular basis on your nationally-broadcast talk show, your prayers have finally been answered. The delay in finding yet another total nutjob to do your dirty work has been a shame, sure!–the idiot who bombed his clinic in 1985 was a big F-A-I-L and so was the individual with really bad aim who only managed to shoot Dr. Tiller in both arms in 1993.

To everyone out there who is really, really glad Dr. Tiller is dead, it can’t be denied–his death is going to directly prevent a number of a certain category of abortions from happening. Unlike abortions that occur in the first trimester of pregnancy, where the evil murdering sluts women attempting to obtain them usually (though not always) have access to at least a small handful of providers within their very own state borders, the kind of abortions Dr. Tiller did are performed by less than ten other physicians in the entire United States. (No, I’m not going to provide any further information on them, their names or their whereabouts here, and if you email me asking for it–sorry; unless you can prove you’re not compiling a hit list, you’re on your own.)

But really–congratulations. You can rejoice in knowing that a decent number of women with usually desperately wanted pregnancies who find themselves more than halfway through those wanted pregnancies risking death, permanent disability or carrying a dying fetus firmly ensconced in their own wombs, are now much more likely to be forced to carry their pregnancy to term. I am so, so happy for you.

But I haven’t been in that situation myself…exactly…I mean, the pre-eclampsia I developed in both my pregnancies didn’t actually threaten to kill me off til my babies were full-term and the babies themselves were totally fine, not so much as a hangnail in sight in their ultrasounds. I didn’t get to seek out a third-trimester abortion like all those other feckless, selfish broads that did. Gosh, I’m so jealous! You will be too, after you read their stories–or rather, you’ll be able to bask in the warm glow of satisfaction that now, those awful, heartless, immoral women are really going to suffer when they try to snuff out that sweet, innocent life growing inside their very own bodies–no more easy, thoughtless terminations in the third trimester for them! Damn STRAIGHT.