You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2010.
Grâce à la Toronto Star. Pretty great stuff.
You know that Rolling Stone article that got General McChrystal fired? I was interested in the attitude of some of the soldiers interviewed.
The quotes that grabbed my attention:
One soldier shows me the list of new regulations the platoon was given. “Patrol only in areas that you are reasonably certain that you will not have to defend yourselves with lethal force,” the laminated card reads. For a soldier who has traveled halfway around the world to fight, that’s like telling a cop he should only patrol in areas where he knows he won’t have to make arrests. “Does that make any fucking sense?” asks Pfc. Jared Pautsch. “We should just drop a fucking bomb on this place. You sit and ask yourself: What are we doing here?”
“Fuck, when I came over here and heard that McChrystal was in charge, I thought we would get our fucking gun on,” says [Staff Sgt. Kennith] Hicks, who has served three tours of combat.
I get that soldiers in combat zone feel very insecure about their safety, for a good and obvious reason. I get that seeing a friend be killed by “the enemy” is extremely emotional and difficult and creates feelings of revenge.
But we are still talking about human beings, whose country we are intruding upon. How hard is it to refrain from murder? When civilians are killed, I define that as murder. Why? Because it can be avoided. And should be avoided at all costs. We shouldn’t be occupying any countries at all, but since reality is that we are, our motto must be “first, do no harm.” Otherwise we need to get the fuck out.
If you want to throw up in your mouth, read this NYT story about how new regulations to protect the economy and individual consumers make the bankers sad because it will cut into their massive profits.
Silver lining (for the bankers): they will be able to somewhate mitigate this forced responsibility by “passing on some costs to customers or seeking exemptions from regulatory agencies.” ‘Cause you know who should pay for the misdeeds of the overclasses? The common man, DUH.
We do know how the US government loves its regulation exemptions.
Dan Savage reports:
A pediatric urologist at Cornell—Dix Poppas—has been operating on little girls with what he judges to be oversized clitorises, cutting away important clitoral tissues, and then stitching the glans to what remains of the shaft.
At annual visits after the surgery, while a parent watches, Poppas touches the daughter’s surgically shortened clitoris with a cotton-tip applicator and/or with a “vibratory device,” and the girl is asked to report to Poppas how strongly she feels him touching her clitoris. Using the vibrator, he also touches her on her inner thigh, her labia minora, and the introitus of her vagina, asking her to report, on a scale of 0 (no sensation) to 5 (maximum), how strongly she feels the touch…. Poppas has indicated in this article and elsewhere that ideally he seeks to conduct annual exams with these girls….
I believe all genital mutilation/cutting/circumcision/surgery performed on children is wrong. This is for two related reasons. The first is consent- a child or infant cannot understand the reasons for and consequences of genital surgery. Any surgery that is not medically necessary, and genital surgery is rarely medically necessary, should not be performed without the individual’s consent. Unless a major bodily function is impeded by the formation of the genitals, the surgery is cosmetic. The second is that this surgery may have long-lasting and deep-rooted effects for the infant or child, and so cannot in good conscience be performed without the individuals consent.
Some people are born with genitals that may seem “too big” or “too small” by the parents’ standards or in the opinion of the family’s physician. This is natural variation. There are plenty of genetic situations that can cause a person’s genitals to appear different than what we consider “the norm”. When a person’s genitals don’t neatly fall into what we expect a “woman’s” or a “man’s” to look like, that person is intersex. There is no way to tell by looking at an intersex baby’s genitals whether that baby will grow up to identify as a woman, man, both or neither. There is also no way to tell from genitals whether a person will grow up to be L, G, B, T or Q. The Intersex Society of North America estimates that about 1% of the population is born with “bodies [that] differ from standard male or female”.
That means that reshaping a baby’s genitals to fit a preconceived notion of what a girl or a boy “should” look like is not only likely to harm sexual/sensual function in adulthood, but also may result in the parents and physician guessing wrong and reshaping the child’s genitals into the “wrong” sex. Our sex and gender identification is not formed only by outside society… see As Nature Made Him.
In the article above, Dan Savage is correct in identifying clitoris-reduction surgery on infants as based on sexism and homophobia. Since we do not know whether all children described as having a large clitoris will identify as girls/women in adulthood, I cannot say that this is specifically “female” genital mutilation, but more broadly genital mutilation.
All non-medically-necessary genital surgery is cosmetic. And do we have any good reason to perform cosmetic, permanent surgery on a non-consenting child’s genitals? My stance is “no”. Some circumcision of boys and girls is done by religious dictate: because a holy text mandates it, or because it purportedly helps ensure virginity, etc. Other circumcision is done to fit the child into a cultural idea of what a “woman” or a “man” should look like. It is prescriptive… we see a baby as nature made hir, and we decide god or nature made a mistake that a human must correct.
But why must it be “corrected”? What is there to correct, exactly, when no major bodily function is impeded? Parents and doctors who perpetuate cosmetic genital surgery are allowing their own fears and limitations regarding sex, gender, and sexuality to play out physically upon the body of their child, a child whose very existence makes them fear for the rectitude of their dearly held social categories. Is it right to make a child suffer for life so that the parent and doctor can avoid hard questions and self-examination?
Some will always, inevitably say, “well it is too hard on the child to be raised intersex/with ambiguous genitals/ambiguous gender”. Why is it hard? Because society is sexist and homophobic, believes viscerally in a culturally-moderated gender binary, and people can be narrow-minded about these issues. Is the potential meanness of others, the potential bias against diversity, enough to perform cosmetic surgery? Why is it so hard for the parents to follow their child’s lead, to leave paths open and allow their child to pick one? I suspect that the parents are more worried about themselves, the potential explaining they may have to do, than about the highly touted danger of allowing the child to make hir own decision.
The situation that Dan Savage describes above only takes this human rights violation farther. Farther than even your average person is comfortable with, I think. To draw out the process of forcing a young body into a man-made sex mold for years, with close and constant medical intervention, is cruel and unusual torture. Parents who allow this are gravely remiss in watching out for their children’s best interests. They are also probably deeply misinformed by the “experts” into whose hands they have fallen. And the doctors—and doctor Dix Poppas particularly—are committing deep ethical breeches that I believe are egregious enough to be human rights violations.
Discuss infant genital surgery in comments, if you will. Slurs and insults not tolerated.
DISLABELEDtv is covering New York City’s huge cuts to Access-a-Ride, a program that provides public transportation for clients who cannot access the subway or buses due to disability.
DISLABELEDtv is a project of Disabilities Network of NYC.
I’m such a sucker for these:
From America’s Voice. Sign a petition asking Obama to prevent the enactment of SB1070 here.
Here is a a video of a white police officer trying to arrest some black teenage women for jaywalking. He punches one in the face. You can read from the police transcript of the event here.
Here is an earlier incident where a white police officer, Shandy Cobane, kicked a young Latino man in the head while calling him racial slurs. The young man was eventually allowed to go free and was charged with no crime.
Calculate your carbon footprint at WattzOn. This calculator is better than some of the ones you can find by random googling, but is still imperfect. It’s cool to see which of your activities contributes most to your carbon footprint. Air travel is the worst.
H/t Ayana J.
ALSO, I just heard about the Environmental Working Group, which offers a compendium of tips for avoiding poisonous industrial chemicals in many areas of your life. Huh, isn’t it strange that we have to rely on random non-profits to avoid life-threatening substances in common products? Doesn’t it seem like there should be some sort of government regulation preventing such toxins, or, even more radical, humans with functioning morals who work at the companies producing these products? I wonder what it feels like to live comfortably with money you make by offering poisonous products.
H/t Louise J.
The Food Paradox: How Obesity Commingles With Hunger in Brooklyn
In Brooklyn’s communities of color, the poor sometimes experience obesity because of lack of access to healthy food. Healthy food can be very expensive, and is often not available at the small bodegas that stand in for the lack of supermarkets. Note: not all obesity is due to unhealthy diet.
362 Dollar Water Bill Costs Black Mother Her Home
Vicky Valentine owned a home in Baltimore with all mortgage debts paid. The city sold her water bill debt to a private company, who, using tax liens, tripled the debt and eventually auctioned off her house to pay for it, putting her and her children on the street. This process is legal, and supported by the Baltimore city government, which defeated a bill to prevent such situations.
Everyone is talking about the New Yorker’s profile on Julian Paul Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. The MSM took notice of Wikileaks after it published a video of American soldiers killing unarmed Reuters journalists in Afghanistan.
Author Raffi Khatchadourian provides plenty of interesting details about Assange’s life, but adopts a somewhat strange stance to his work. He makes the valid point that Wikileaks has created a bounty of their own secrecy in order to safely bust government and corporate secrecy, and that power could just as easily be misused by Wikileaks as it is by the latter two.
But he also says this:
[U]nlike authoritarian regimes, democratic governments hold secrets largely because citizens agree that they should, in order to protect legitimate policy. In liberal societies, the site’s strengths are its weaknesses.
I take issue.
A. That is facially, patently, emphatically untrue.
B. For example, when did we citizens of the USA get together and give carte blanche permission to our government to hide from us whatever they see fit? Or even limited permission?
C. Democratic regimes hold secrets for the same reasons authoritarian regimes do: to keep citizens in the dark about things that might make them angry enough to question those in power. Also, to avoid international condemnation for war crimes and human rights abuses.
D. In liberal societies, Wikileaks’ strengths are the same as in more repressive societies. State secrets do not suddenly become valid in one form of government, while remaining problematic in another.
E. An elite in a “liberal” “democracy” cannot claim exemption from scrutiny simply because hir country is “liberal” and “democratic”. It doesn’t work that way. Liberality and, hopefully, democracy should be defined by their transparency, not exempted from it.
(Yes, I am including war secrets in my statements. Killing is wrong. The government hides information about it’s state-sanctioned killing so that citizens can’t be upset by it. Your average person is sickened by any sort of killing, as the video depicting the Americans killing journalists showed.)
Arizona Elementary School (Almost) Whitened The Faces Of Its Own Students On A Mural Because Some Racists Yelled At It
From the Huffington Post:
An Arizona elementary school mural featuring the faces of kids who attend the school has been the subject of constant daytime drive-by racist screaming…
From AZ Central:
A group of artists has been asked to lighten the faces of children depicted in a giant public mural at a Prescott school.
The project’s leader says he was ordered to lighten the skin tone after complaints about the children’s ethnicity. But the school’s principal says the request was only to fix shading and had nothing to do with political pressure.
From Mother Jones:
While creating the mural, “We consistently, for two months, had people shouting racial slander from their cars,” said artist R.E. Wall of the Prescott Downtown Mural Project. “We had children painting with us, and here come these yells of (epithet for Blacks) and (epithet for Hispanics).”
I assume you can fill in those blanks.
Prescott Councilmember Steve Blair said on the radio:
“I am not a racist individual, but I will tell you that depicting a black guy in the middle of that mural, based upon who’s President of the United States today, and based upon the history of this community when I grew up, we had four black families, who I have been very good friends with for years, to depict the biggest picture on that building as a black person, I would have to ask the question, ‘Why?’” (Blair was mistakenly identifying the Hispanic boy on the mural as black.)
Back at Mother Jones:
The school district head and the principal, confronted with a crowd of protesters, made a dramatic about-face and announced by bullhorn that the mural would remain as is. “Miller Valley made made a mistake,” said principal Jeff Lane. “When we asked R. [the artist] to lighten the mural, we made a mistake.”
*My note: “hispanic” is not a race. A person can be hispanic and white, hispanic and brown, hispanic and black. Just saying.
My Daughter, Her Hair, and the Seattle School District
Sez Charles Mudede at the Slog:
…just last week, my daughter—who is 8 and happens to be the only brown person in her Accelerated Progress Program class at Thurgood Marshall Elementary—was ordered out of the classroom because her teacher did not like the smell of her hair. The teacher complained that my racially different daughter’s hair (or something—a product—in the hair) was making her sick, and then the teacher made her leave the classroom. My daughter was aware of the racial nature of this expulsion not only because she was made to sit in a classroom that had more black students in it (the implication being that this is where she really belongs, in the lower class with the other black students), but because her teacher, she informed me, owns a dog. Meaning, a dog’s hair gives the teacher less problems than my daughter’s human but curly hair. Most white people do not have to deal with shit like this. Shit that if not checked and confronted will have permanent consequences for the child.
The lawyer hired by the Seattle school district, if he knows anything, knows that THERE’S NO RACISM HERE!
Any allegations of racial insensitivity or negligence are “wholly untrue,” [Kevin] O’Neill says, “because, well, because the district would not tolerate employment of a teacher that has racial animosity towards a student.”
…However, O’Neill also says he doesn’t know what exactly happened or “the reasons that this child was asked to leave.” Until the investigation is complete, he says, it’s unclear what was offensive about the hair product that reportedly made the teacher sick, why the district hadn’t done anything for three days, whether an incident like this had ever occurred before, whether anyone had spoken to the teacher about the incident, whether school district rules prohibit any cosmetics, or what current or future steps are required for the investigation.
Mudede concludes with:
Feeling the seriousness of this situation, we decided not to send our daughter to school until the teacher had medical proof that our daughter’s hair or something in her hair was to blame for the nausea. (The last thing you want to happen to your daughter is for a teacher to faint or vomit at the mere sight of her.)
Days passed and the school took no action. This unresponsiveness left us with no other choice than to turn to a lawyer.
From the World Bank, via Global Issues.
Some total whackos in Providence, Rhode Island have come up with a new and frightening way to assist the homeless: get them housing and health care.
I know, you are probably reeling with shock and revulsion as I am.
Supporters say it’s not only good for the hardest-to-serve, but makes economic sense, too, by keeping them out of emergency rooms, shelters, detox centers and jails.
Who woulda thunk it? Respecting human rights also makes economic sense? SCARY.
On a talk show tonight in South Carolina, State Senator Jake Knotts told listeners “we already have one raghead in the White House, we don’t need a raghead in the governor’s mansion.” Obama is … well, Obama and “raghead” number two is gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, who is the child of Sikh immigrants from the Punjab. Knotts later released a statement saying that his comment had clearly been meant in “jest,” which I guess counts as exculpatory in those parts.
Oil spill threatens Native American land
“This could be the end of our way of life,” said Chuckie Verdin of the Pointe Aux Chenes Indian Tribe.
Palin Blames BP Spill on “Extreme Enviros”
Palin wrote on Facebook:
With your nonsensical efforts to lock up safer drilling areas, all you’re doing is outsourcing energy development, which makes us more controlled by foreign countries, less safe, and less prosperous on a dirtier planet. Your hypocrisy is showing. You’re not preventing environmental hazards; you’re outsourcing them and making drilling more dangerous.
LA Senator David Vitter wants to “double-down” on off-shore drilling
He also wants to cap BP’s liability!