Friday, April 30, 2004

the fallout from the cbs airing of the iraq prison photos is immense - if we weren't hated before, we are now. i came across this essay in mother jones; totally depressing.

a friend responded to all my posts yesterday and if he's reading, i'll unpack it as soon as i can--and thanks for pointing out the trap in front of me.
in other news, more lighthearted news, i'm hosting my first phonebank party for moveon next weekend. who knows if tons of people will come? but a few will and that's all we need.

it'll be like GEO all over again. but less stinky.

Thursday, April 29, 2004


(can you tell it's slow at the office?)

this is disturbing. it's a story of how some of our GIs are treating iraqi prisoners. it's gross and took me by surprise.

last night i had a drink at the duke of perth with J. we talked, like always, about politics and the state of the war. i admitted that my sympathy for the muslim world slipped a bit after seeing and reading about the carnage in fallujah and reading about militant muslims in britain who've called for jihad and declared they won't rest until their flag flies outside 10 Downing Street. i admitted that i think they're anarchists and foolish and unworthy of the name civilized (hey, i also admitted that was a totally visceral reaction to recent events!).

but now my feelings grow more complicated because of photos like this and the story that followed this image. (i'm still unsure if this photo was faked, but the investigation that follwed wasn't.)

it's shaming.
in case you were wondering what the national republican party does to jab home its message, here's a memo. (with a handy dandy email included.)

who knew may 1 was loyalty day??
know what a gaggle is?

it's when the press gets briefed by the white house press secretary and they get to ask all sorts of questions...

like these.

priceless. you can find a whole bunch of them here.
shut up, maureen dowd, pt. 2

...and amy sullivan agrees with me.

and so does the daily howler.

it's good to be right. [updated 3.22 pm]

maureen dowd - why won't you shut up?

where to start?

where to begin to unpack another lame column from sloppy Dowd this morning in the times?

i've read other liberal criticisms of kerry in other papers and, so far, they've managed not to piss me off with their opinions. what is it about this woman that makes her so slappingly annoying? could it be her ability to reduce real ideological differences between bush and kerry to matters of style and comportment?

despite her snarky tone, there is a real choice to be made in the upcoming election. we have a chance to get rid of an administration that's light on policy and heavy on ideology (an ideology that has failed in all ways) and right now our only hope for doing so is Kerry.

if her criticism said Kerry's goals are undefined right now, that's perfectly valid; to call him a weird, smarty pants, flip-flopper without conscience...well, you may as well be Karen Hughes! the ease with which she repeats GOP criticisms of Kerry's character, criticisms that have no substance, makes me cringe and, quite frankly, stirs my ire.

if indeed Kerry 'mimed' throwing away his medals/ribbons (whatever), how is that worse than a president who 'mimed' having intelligence of WMD in Iraq, who 'pretended' there was a connection between al-Qaeda and Hussein, who 'lied' about funding for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and who 'feigns' compassion when his public policies say otherwise?

her columns are coy, fey and only cocktail party clever - when will they reflect the seriousness of our political moment?

god, dowd, SHUT UP.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

when are we going to get angry?

this is an article forwarded to me from Salon re: the scrubbing of important information for women from the federal website for the Women's Bureau. it's in its entirety so it's lengthy.

Making women's issues go away
A damning new report reveals that the Bush administration has quietly removed 25 reports from its Women's Bureau Web site, deleting or distorting crucial information on issues from pay equity to reproductive healthcare.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Rebecca Traister
April 28, 2004 | If you'd logged onto the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau Web site in 1999, you would have found a list of more than 25 fact sheets and statistical reports on topics ranging from "Earning Differences Between Men and Women" to "Facts About Asian American and Pacific Islander Women" to "Women's Earnings as Percent of Men's 1979-1997."
Not anymore. Those fact sheets no longer exist on the Women's Bureau Web site, and have instead been replaced with a handful of peppier titles, like "Hot Jobs for the 21st Century" and "20 Leading Occupations for Women." It's just one example of the ways in which the Bush administration is dismantling or distorting information on women's issues, from pay equity to reproductive healthcare, according to "Missing: Information About Women's Lives," a new report released Wednesday by the National Council for Research on Women.
You've probably heard about some of the other examples in "Missing" -- for instance, the time the Centers for Disease Control removed an online guide to condom use and changed the fact-sheet language to indicate that studies on condom use were inconclusive, focusing instead on abstinence. But the power of "Missing" comes not from its dozens of individual examples, but from the depth and breadth of its findings about the small ways in which the Bush administration is draining the well of dependable public scientific and sociological information.

"When these instances are taken individually, perhaps we don't see the cumulative pattern of what's happening," said Linda Basch, president of the 23-year-old NCRW, an alliance of 100 women's policy, research and education centers, including the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, Planned Parenthood, and the Girl Scouts. "But when we gather the information together, and see the distorted or disappearing information about the economic opportunities, the situation of violence against women, health and particularly reproductive health, it is a very distressing pattern."

Released just three days after an estimated 1 million people gathered in Washington for the March for Women's Lives, "Missing" exhaustively catalogs the ways in which government information about women's health, labor and education has been altered, removed or obfuscated during the Bush administration. "This is really undermining a nonpartisan legacy of government," said Basch, referring to a history of reliable dissemination of scientific data by the federal government. Of concern to NCRW researchers is the possibility that this morphed or absent information will hurt future researchers, policymakers and citizens who in the past would have relied on federal sources of information in their advocacy for women's equity and access.

In an e-mailed statement to Salon, New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney said, "I'm grateful to the National Council for Research on Women for confirming what many of us in Congress have insisted for years -- we can't continue to advance as women if the cold, hard facts of our status are unknown. We've seen a disturbing trend toward hiding the information that helps us improve women's lives. I hope that this is the beginning of a successful effort to uncover the missing data."

California Rep. Barbara Lee also sent a statement, saying, "This report outlines a disturbing pattern of decisions by federal agencies to close down, delay, alter, or spin data about what is happening to American women and girls. Science must not be sacrificed and silenced like this. We must take every opportunity to point out the Administration's attempts to twist, distort, and subvert science to advance its right-wing based political agenda."

Many of the shifts in federal agency information have been reported in the past, but, when seen together, look even more impressive -- or horrifying. Some individual examples -- like the observations about the DOL's Women's Bureau -- will look new.

The report notes that in 1999, the Women's Bureau mission statement, printed on its Web site, described its responsibilities "to advocate and inform women directly and the public as well, of women's rights and employment issues" and "to ensure that the voices of working women are heard, and their priorities represented in the public policy arena." Back then, the Women's Bureau claimed that it "Alerts women about their rights in the workplace, proposes policies and legislation that benefit working women, researches and analyzes information about women and work, [and] makes appropriate reports on its findings." The NCRW researchers noticed that by February 2002, the Bureau's mission statement looked very different. Its asserted goal was "To promote profitable employment opportunities for women, to empower them by enhancing their skills and improving their working conditions, and to provide employers with more alternatives to meet their labor needs." The 2002 "Vision Statement" reads: "We will empower women to enhance their potential for securing more satisfying employment as they seek to balance their work-life needs." In other words: less information about helpful policy and legislation, more potential-enhancing tips on balancing "work" and "life."

Then there are the missing fact sheets, and the popular handbook on the rights of women in the workplace, called "Don't Work in the Dark -- Know Your Rights," that's not to be found. The "1993 Handbook on Women Workers," which was available in 1999, is no longer. Though it is scheduled for rerelease sometime in the future, NCRW researchers who contacted the Women's Bureau learned that no publication date is set.

Irasema Garza, the director of the women's rights department for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, and the former director of the Women's Bureau from 1999-2000, had seen parts of the "Missing" report that pertained to her former department. "As soon as I saw the report, I went to my old Web site and found that the majority of all of our fact sheets were gone," she said. "In my old job, I traveled all around the country giving speeches -- but all the women wanted were these fact sheets. Women really used this information to protect themselves in the workplace."

Contacted by Salon for a response to the report, a spokeswoman for the Department of Labor said that the Women's Bureau director was traveling, but e-mailed a response to the queries about the changing mission statement and publication list. That e-mail said, in part, "Congress created the Women's Bureau in 1920 to 'formulate standards and policies which shall promote the welfare of wage-earning women, improve their working conditions, increase their efficiency, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment.' Under that mandate, the Women's Bureau's focus, programs, publications and website are changed and updated periodically to reflect the priorities of the current Administration, the Secretary of Labor and the Director of the Women's Bureau. The Bureau continues to work with internal and external partners and stakeholders to develop programs to address the needs of 21st Century working women." The White House press office, contacted for comment, did not respond by press time.

"The fact that 25 reports on issues of equality and access have been removed from this website is enormously distressing," said Basch of the findings about the changes at the Women's Bureau. She pointed out that the public, as well as researchers, journalists and policymakers, turns to agency Web sites for information about rights and government policies. Basch claimed that last year there were over 250 million hits to government Web sites.

Those 250 million hits will have also turned up some changes in language at the Census Bureau, which reported on its Web site's "Facts for Features" page for 2003 Women's History Month that the earnings gap between women and men -- about 76 female cents to every male dollar -- means that women's salary are "at an all-time high." That's a considerably more cheerful outlook than the 2000 Census Bureau posting about an earnings gap figure that was only about 1 percent different than 2003's. According to "Missing," in 2000 the Web site told visitors that "Women have almost achieved parity in educational attainment ... but not earnings equality," and that "Men working fulltime, year round, consistently earned more than comparable women in each of the educational levels." According to researchers, the newer, more positive spin on issues like earnings figures is dangerous because it diminishes the notion that there are massive strides to be made before earnings parity is possible.

"Basically, the administration seems to have the assumption that there is a level playing field and that paying attention to a particular subgroup is divisive," said Martha Farnsworth Riche, a demographer in private practice and the Bill Clinton-appointed director of the Census Bureau from 1994-98. Basch noted the effect that changing information and modified spin could have on the future of advocacy for women. "When the information doesn't exist, when no one is there watching out for the interests of certain categories of populations, it's bad," she said. "There are still far too many gender-based inequalities for us to take our eyes off of what is happening to women."

Census Bureau Public Affairs specialist Robert Bernstein was unable to find the language quoted by "Missing" in the 2000 "Facts for Features" edition, though the page contains a link to a press release that is no longer available. Bernstein, who has been with the Census Bureau for 14 years, said that he doesn't believe there is any new spin on earnings information. "What we try to do is present data in a positive light about different groups. It was a fact that that ratio at the time did represent an all-time high." Bernstein also noted that the "all-time high" language would have come straight from the news release about the Bureau's annual Income and Poverty Report. And though he doesn't think that there's been a noticeable upturn in the language of the Bureau, Bernstein did confirm one of the fears of the NCRW. "The point of 'Facts for Features' is to give information to reporters, allowing them to do a particular feature story [pegged to] a particular holiday or observance," said Bernstein. "They're trying to do upbeat stories."

When it comes to issues of women's health, agencies like the CDC, FDA and the Health and Human Services Administration don't fare much better than the DOL or the Census Bureau with the NCRW researchers. One of their chief battle cries -- and arguments about why a study like "Missing" can be valuable in the future -- is over the changed language on a National Cancer Institute Web site. "Missing" cites the case of the 1997 New England Journal of Medicine study that conclusively proved that there was no link between breast cancer and abortion, a favorite claim of anti-abortion advocates. The NCI had a fact sheet with reference to the study posted on its Web site until November 2002, when the Web site was changed to indicate that studies about the link had been "inconclusive," an assertion that lent implied credence to the claims of the anti-abortion advocates. According to "Missing," members of Congress forced the convention of a panel of experts who reinforced the New England Journal's findings, and the NCI again posted information that there is no link between breast cancer and abortion.

Over at the Centers for Disease Control, the NCRW researchers claim, posted fact sheets were revised to suggest studies on the effectiveness of using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs were "inconclusive." Instead, the revised fact sheet focused on abstinence -- a favorite of the family values crowd -- as the only effective path to sexual health. As was reported at the time, the CDC also removed an online guide to proper condom use (replacing it later with a revised edition) as well as a list of successful sex education programs and studies that showed no rise in sexual activity among teens taught about condoms. "These are debates that scientific research has closed," said Riche. "The people who provide the information are now reopening those debates, taking away the scientific certainty. It's more subtle than putting out wrong information or simply removing all the information -- and, frankly, more effective."

According to the researchers behind "Missing," the pressure of right-wing ideology has also led scientists to stop using words like "gay," "sex worker," and "transgender" in their grant applications. This comes in the wake of the Traditional Values Coalition's very long and damning list of 150 researchers and 200 grants in the field of high-risk sexual behavior. Then there's the case of the morning-after pill, which has yet to appear as an over-the-counter medication, despite the two scientific advisory committees that urged the FDA to make it one. According to "Missing," it was pressure from conservative groups that led FDA commissioner Mark McClellan to postpone his expected February 2004 decision on the matter by 90 days.

"Missing" doesn't concern itself only with absent online information. It also lists some of the actual governmental bodies that have disappeared or been threatened during the Bush administration. In 2001, George Bush disbanded the President's Interagency Council on Women, a group appointed in 1995 by Bill Clinton to implement strategies developed at the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, as part of the U.N. Platform for Action. The council was chaired by Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala and then by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "One of the things the office did was make sure the president's policies reflected women's issues," said Garza. "That office is gone. It was one of the first things that was done away with under this administration."

Reversals are possible. When the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality changed the wording in a mandated report on the disparities in healthcare along racial and socioeconomic lines, suggesting that "disparites" in the diagnosing and treatment of HIV, diabetes and hypertension among women of color were actually "differences," people noticed and complained. A spin like that could be very detrimental to attitudes and eventual action on behalf of women of color who are at a disadvantage. The document was restored to its original wording in February. "Missing" cites this example, and hopes that by getting people to pay attention to so many others, information will be restored.

"In my experience, I would say we are probably just seeing the tip of the iceberg with this report," said Riche. "If we know about all these examples, that means there are many, many more." To that end, the NCRW is establishing a Misinformation Clearinghouse Web site through which people can submit examples of information that is no longer available to them. The Clearinghouse will also collect and publish a list of sources for dependable information.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


on why there's so much bullshit.
what do you call the thing you write at the end of a note, right before your name? the exit, the end?

the Librarian's notes are now full of quotidian details (i worked 60 hours this week, i'm about to start recording, i bought a book) and i've lost our ending. before, i could hug his 'ever' or 'yours' and get a little warm. now, it's just - the Librarian. plain, stolid. me.

not 'yours, me'.
just 'me'.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

the roommate and i have seemingly solved all our issues - that is to say that we have gotten drunk together, avoided the sticky parts and pretended that all is well.

three bottles of champagne can smooth a long stretch of bumpy road.

am missing the company of The Librarian horribly would be loathe to admit it in any formal way since i've already decided that we wouldn't suit. this admission, of course, is the product of those three bottles of champagne.

Friday, April 23, 2004


so my roommate and I are breaking up. i think it was inevitable. i think i knew things would change the morning she woke me up at 6 am to show me the grout in the shower.

not even my mother (who grew up in a poor village in the philippines) did that.

so now we're caught in a weirdly tense, icy household. most of the furniture and dishware are hers, so when she leaves i will be left with my tv, books, cds, stereo, a multi pot, a knife, a painting, a wok, strainer, cheese grater, spatula, soup thing, can opener and everything in my bedroom.

another friend is moving in, one who will never show me grout (for god's sake, that's what the cleaning lady is for!). it may be too soon for optimism, but that's where i am for now.

of course, our habits being what they are, i'm sure she and i will turn into raging alcoholics and become a weird straight versiotn of toklas-stein.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004


look at this.
the other day, ali and i chased fog.

we came back from the burbs and saw a dark gray-orange, fast moving cloud of smoke moving through downtown chicago. it billowed, it rolled, it looked like something exploded on michigan avenue, off the lake or in the loop. hoping for news, we scanned the am stations; they only had news of the cubs game. we looked for panic in the populace; they shopped, clearly ignorant of the disaster engulphing the city. then, after chasing it for an hour, we asked a guy selling M&Ms on columbus drive if there was a fire.

he said, i wouldn't be here if there was!

as we headed north on lakeshore, i looked at the 'smoke' floating between the hotels on michigan avenue then i looked at the lake. i looked at the wall of fog rolling in off the lake. i said to ali, i think it's fog. look.

and we watched as a cloud of 'smoke' settled onto the drake hotel from the sky, shining with an orange glow because of the late afternoon sun.

we were silent for a while while we navigated lakeshore's traffic.
then i said, we chased fog.
ali said, we can't tell anyone this.
i said, we spent an hour chasing a weather pattern.
ali said, we cannot tell anyone this.

The Memo


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

oh, easter.

fourth pres was wonderful, if a bit...uh, white. i mean, it's handel's 'messiah' for chrissake! get happy! sing along! do something! don't just stand there and stare dumbly at the choir and breathe! sometimes i miss the sweat of gospel.

i miss the feeling that this is real, you know? not just a pretty show, but real. soul-shaking. not just intellectual.

anyway, easter services were followed with brunch at the four seasons. wow. talk about WASP. so glad i wore my hat. it was like eating with characters from a 30's novel. the american version of jeeves and wooster. cole porter? but drier. less gay. watching old money chicago eat eggs benedict and ham. fascinating. when you're with rich people you find yourself wondering what it is they do all day. do they worry about anything? i don't think so. they all had the sleepy eyed confidence of people whose money will never run out. they talked slowly, sauntered instead of walked, never made eye contact with anyone and ate methodically (if not thoroughly.) they were pink, wore blue blazers with striped pastel ties, and their loafers gleamed.

fascinating. bizarre.
but the food was fabulous.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004


too much champagne. and wine. and cosmo.

my roommate and i, loathe to have a difficult domestic conversation, have blown each other off and are getting drunk in separate locations tonight.

update: the Librarian has not disappeared. he's just been depressed.

(oh, to find the guy whose first instinct isn't to scuttle sideways like a crab in the face of bad feelings...)

guess who hasn't done their taxes, yet?

Saturday, April 10, 2004

of course, my ruminations about abortion and the bleak future for women if social conservatives win their arguments have depressed me.

i think i'm going to leave the apartment and catch 'hellboy.'

ass-kicking will always make me feel better.

the dangers of cold medicine

battling a cold (die, germs, die!) i'm sitting in my apartment on a dishwater afternoon, drinking tea and thinking about abortion.

maybe it's because of an editorial in the Times a couple of days ago that told the story of Portugal and its prosecution of a group of women, their family members and their doctors/nurses for getting/abetting an abortion (they even prosecuted the taxi driver.)

maybe it's because i just went to an anti-abortion site that said i can't 'have it both ways' and it made me angry. (and it didn't help they used abolitionist rhetoric as a parallel argument.)

in portugal, the prosecution lost their cases (except for the nurse whose 8-year sentence was commuted) and the trials so disgusted the public, opinion swayed against the law that has made abortions criminal. one woman interviewed said that when attention moved from the fetus to the women, the issue changed and the public became embarrassed and disgusted with itself.

the fight over abortion is so old hat the arguments are like a game of tennis: the egg at the moment of conception has a soul worthy of protection; the fertilized egg is a microscopic collection of cells; all life, born and unborn needs protection; all life, until it's expelled from my body, belongs to me and i can do with it what i want; this is against all moral law; this is my choice and leave my morality to me to deal with.

if it's about religion, not everyone shares the same religious standard; if it's about metaphysical arguments about what constitutes life, that differs, too, and can't ultimately be proven. viability, however, can be proven, and i'm comfortable with that standard.

chances are that i will never have a child-not that i was really looking forward to the event. i'm creeping up on 35 and i've toyed with the idea of permanent birth control, this medical procedure . it seems rather extreme to permanently destroy one's ability to have children, but one extreme deserves another, almost.

for i can almost forsee a nightmarish margaret atwood-like chain of events: eventually, abortion procedures are narrowed and limited so much they eventually topple and abortion becomes illegal; once abortion becomes illegal, the fight over birth control begins - who has access, how it can be practised, what types of birth control are appropriate and which are not; then, once a woman's ability to control her own cycle and fertility is taken away and given back to men, what then?

i sound like a paranoid feminazi freak but i think it's a valid question. let's give the right to lifers benefit of their vision: you eventually outlaw all abortion and put doctors and women in jail - what then? will you make birth control accessible to everyone in an effort to prevent the need for abortion? will creative methods of family planning, like essure, be included as part of a person's health insurance benefit? will health policy adopt ways of educating, and enabling, the public toward better family planning? will adolescents be taught proper sexual health so that one will never be in the position of needing an abortion?

or, more likely, will all control of a woman's body be channeled into one tiny little pre-approved patriarchal funnel? (yeah, i said patriarchy, so what?)

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

bachelor time

the best bachelor. ever. sort of. maybe.

but only if seeing 25 certifiably stupid women beg for attention from a 3rd-string quarterback qualifies as 'best.' (although the vomiting, crying, bitch-slapping and stalking pretty much guarantee i will watch this show to the very end, thus proving american culture has taken another step into the sinkhole.)

why do i watch this show? it could be boredom. it could be my secret passion for all things trash. i prefer to call it my deep devotion to the human condition. or just the icky thrill of seeing women do things i'd have to be drunk and/or high to do. guys have x-treme sportz; i have the 8 weeks of Bachelor-hell.

my predictions:

i bet the woman of color celeste goes only as far as the second round after getting stuck with only group dates. (they should name the second round Melanin Elimination; is it too much to ask that a brown girl/boy make it at least halfway?? come on, people! interracial dating is great! people do it all the time!!)
i bet he picks a blonde.
i bet they all lie about not having a one night stand. (no one's standards are that high - except, well, you know who you are.)
i bet the words 'awesome,' 'journey,' 'connection,' and the non-phrase 'as to what' get used waay too often and incorrectly.

i bet all their conversations are about nothing - don't these people talk about 'real' things? how about iraq? i'd flash my naked chest to my boss if, for once, the Bachelor asked one of those women what she thought about books, politics, culture or anything not pertaining to her psycho thirst for a rose.
i think i may have reached an all-time social low: i've wandered onto the eharmony site and taken their personality quiz.

apparently fire safety means a lot to me in a partner.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004


Like a dieter on a binge, I'm sneaking away from my work to blog a little. The air is too warm and the sun too bright to be concerned with expenses, presentations and keeping Madame on a tight administrative leash.

The news is, as always, depressing: more deaths in Iraq, the 10-year anniversary of the genocidal massacre in Rwanda, more weird economic news (less manufacturing jobs but corporate America is booming!) and David Brooks fails to be funny.

But there have been some bright spots:
1. Comic books: I've been reading these for the past four months and I can't tell you how wonderful they are (though E-treme X-Men really have to lighten up a bit. Too much chatting and not enough ass-kicking.) They give me the best dreams and satisfy my increasing desire to kick someone's ass. Anyone's. Doesn't really matter.

2. The Prince & Me: Yes, it's a film marketed for the pre-teen. Yes, no one is naked. Yes, it bears as much similarity to reality as The Bachelor. But, for some reason, I loved it. I loved it and so did the other 30-something single women and 13-yr old girls in the theater with me. Needless to say, when 13 Going on 30 comes out, I'll be there, too. (This may be a sign my brain is slowly melting.)

3. It seems the Librarian is ... gone. Or, if not gone, then rudely incommunicado. This is a dubiously bright spot (I can sense a stultifyingly LONG dry spell coming along) but at least now -- actually, there's no good way to end that sentence. It's over and that's that.

So. Two bright spots and a spot I'll just have to put on a good face for. Nice.