Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Ghost of Vietnam & Recent US Military Conflict

[The following is something I wrote back in fall 2002 to practice for a midterm written exam in my Strategy and War class at SFSU. This was a highly demanding class in the International Relations department that required us to study 60 conflicts through history and 4 hour closed-note essay questions. Professor Hanami taught me to analyze war not from the lens of a hippish anti-war activist, but on tactical and strategic grounds. This hippie got an A-.


This was written during the lead up to the current Iraqi invasion and occupation, so many of the observations I had back then were somewhat prophetic. Knowing what was known then, a reasonable person could forsee problems and know that this war and how it was executed would be a mistake. Keep in mind that this essay is not exhaustive as it was designed to be handwritten in a blue-book within 4 hour time limit where this was not the only essay question. ]


When you look at the Persian Gulf War, Vietnam, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, you see different ways the US has approached War. They differ in causes and foes faced. The Persian Gulf was informed by the experiences and mistakes of the Vietnam War. It seems that only a decade later the lessons of Vietnam have become lost in the Operation Enduring Freedom.


The Persian Gulf War


The Persian Gulf War was a conflict between the United States with Coalition forces against Iraq. This conflict occured between January and February 1991. The Coalition forces were made up of 34 countries including Britain, Saudi Arabia, and France. This was the first conflict where the United States was the lone superpower after the fall of the Soviet Union. I rely on course readings, lecture, and frontline interviews from Trainor and Atkinson, both authors if books about the Persian Gulf War.


Unlike US conflicts in Grenada and Libya, the US faced the fourth largest army in the world in Iraq. The Iraqi Armed Forces had been built up during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s with help from the United States. In the Iraq-Iraq war, Iraq was seen by the United States as the lesser of two evils against Iranian Fundamentalism that had held our people hostage. The United States supported Iraq knowing they were harboring and supporting Palestinian terrorists, using Chemical weapons on the Kurds, and were purchasing materials that strongly suggested development of a nuclear program. In face of this Iraqi behavior, the Reagan-Bush and Bush Sr.'s administration made the call to look the other way. Clearly, Saddam Hussein was a thug, but he was seen as our thug that could be controlled while countering the influence of Iranian power.


Causes of the Persian Gulf War


There are two answers to the question of what caused the Persian Gulf War -- the short answer and the long answer. The short answer was that on August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded or "annexed" Kuwait - it's neighbor. The long answer is that Saddam Hussein had felt slighted by Kuwait and his other Persian Gulf neighbors. He accused Kuwait of overproduction of oil which ended up costing Iraq 14 million dollars and pumping illegally from the Rumaila oil field. After fighting the Persians for the Arabs in the region, Saddam had reasoned that he should get more priveledge and respect.


When Saddam was making noises and threats toward Kuwait, the US viewed it as merely saber-rattling. US intelligence saw something completely different in the build up of troops along the Iraqi-Kuwait border.


In July 1990, the US State Department sent Iraqi ambassador, April Glaspie, to meet Saddam Hussein. April Glaspie's message to Saddam was that the US did not have direct interest in border disputes in the region including one between Iraq and Kuwait. Glaspie concluded the meeting without advising any stronger actions against Iraq to warn them away from taking the disputed territory between Iraq and Kuwait. It can be argued that this gave Saddam a green light to take what he could move into Kuwait without any US intervention to stop him.


Why didn't the Bush administration not use stronger language during the July meeting or why didn't they forward project their naval forces in the region to send a clear message not to cross the Kuwaiti border? Was it because the Bush Sr. administration was distracted by the events of the fall of the Soviet Union? Was it that the Bush administration simply failed to come to terms that Iraq couldn't be controlled by a series of carrots when sticks were necessary? Was it because Bush's relationship with Saddam was personal and he couldn't imagine that Saddam would betray him.


It took three days after the invasion before Bush declared that the invasion "could not stand." King Fahde asked US troops to station themselves in his country for protection. US planes and troops arrived to guard the oil reserves.


On November 29th, the UN Security Council voted on a resolution that called for Iraqi withdrawal by any means and set a January 15th deadline. From November 29th to January, US troops were forward positioned for the conflict to come.


Objectives of the Persian Gulf War


US objectives were the immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait. The secondary objectives were the re-establishment of the legitimate rulers of Kuwait and the safety of Americans. To this end, they had the following military objectives:

- isolate and incapcitate the Iraqi command structure

- win air superiority

-destroy all nuclear, chemical, and biological capabilities

- Eliminate Iraqi offensive

-Eject Iraqis from Kuwait


The Persian Gulf War commensed on January 18, 1991 under the command of Army General Norman Schwartzkopf. Operations were in four parts: 1. Strategic air campaign; 2. Suppression of enemy air defense; 3. Air attacks on ground forces; 4. Ground operations as needed.


The tactic of the air campaign in 1991 was to destroy Iraqi air denfenses to the point where Coalition pilots felt confident. If a pilot doesn't have to worry about Iraqi air defenses of anti aircraft weapons, the pilots can concentrate on strategic targeting or offensive strikes.



The US fired a total of 291 TCIBM or tactically-launched cruise missles from two submarines in the Red Sea which were focused on the command bunkers.


The air campaign showed that Saddam was using economy of force with his air force. At most, Saddam was thought to have 700 air planes, but in the first nights of the campaign, only 50 went up, flew around and landed. Saddam sent about 122 aircraft to Iran which stayed there throughout the war. He lost about 90 aircraft to Coalition forces. It was suspected that Iraqis decided that in the face of overwhelming strength and numbers of Coalition forces, it was better to hold back and wait out the Coalition -- saving their air force to fight another day. At the very best, Iraqi aircraft were mediocre by US standards.


On February 23rd, Coalition forces commensed the ground force attack. US forces feigned an amphibious attack through Kuwait as the Iraqis suspected they would. This was merely a diversion or cover for the land attack about 40 miles West and North of Kuwait. While Iraqis were responding to the mock amphibious attack, the bulk of the force could encircle the Iraqi forces. Encircling is squeezing enemy forces between your two flanks.


Iraqis were forced to try to escape toward the Eurphrates River. Since US forces knocked out the railroad bridges, they were forced onto exposed highways which made them vulnerable.


In 100 hours, US forces had successfully repelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait by using deception and encirclement after a successful air campaign. The decision was made not to go onto Bagdad to unseat Saddam. Bush received much criticism for this. The argument for not going in was that the UN had not sanctioned more than expelling of Iraqi troops from Kuwait, and that going beyond that mandate would have broke the Coalition especially Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egyptian support.


Flaws of the Persian Gulf War


Twelve years since, the Persian Gulf War was seen as a decisive victory to be celebrated by the United States. This notion has been contested by those who believe that anything less than total victory, defined by Clauswitz as the total defeat of your enemy and its forces, makes the Persian Gulf War less decisive than conventional wisdom would have it. Saddam and over 100 Republican Guard Elite were allowed to remain in power. The fear after the conflict that someday we would end up fighting two wars in Iraq instead of one to resolve the Iraqi question once and for all.


Another flaw of the Persian Gulf War was the heavy reliance of Electronic Warfare (EW) which is known to flakey and prone to some close calls. For example, a satellite mistook our B-52s as SCUDS. Fortunately, AWACSwas able to correct the error just in time. EW also failed in damage assessment which made for duplication in bomb sorties to knock out targets that has already been destroyed.


Despite these flaws, the Gulf War was a vast improvement over the Vietnam conflict. In fact, it was the ghost of Vietnam that informed tactics and strategy of the Gulf War. There was a desperate need on the part of the generals not to replicate mistakes made in Vietnam.


There are many contrasts between the Gulf War and Vietnam. The most obvious was the differences in the battlefield itself. The Gulf War was a desert which was mostly flat lands, whereas Vietnam was a literal jungle with triple canopies where the enemy could hide and easily conduct guerilla tactics. Air power was vital in the Gulf War since it softened up conditions on the ground prior to ground operations. Air power in Vietnam was rendered ineddectual against guerilla operations by the Vietcong. In the Gulf War, there was never more than a two hour break in Air Stikes to great effect, whereas in Vietnam, there were infrequent strikes with minor effectiveness. The Gulf War had much more logistical concerns than Vietnam. In the desert, water was scarce and had to be brought in, in Vietnam water and rice was available.


A major differece between wars is that there was a centralized command off all forces, but decentralized control of troop targeting and when to target. In Vietnam, over all command was decentralized between the branches of the armed forces, yet targets would be picked thousands of miles away in Washington DC. This practice would rear its ugly head in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.


In Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan it seems all that had been learned in the Persian Gulf War and the conflict that informed that operation was lost. Just as the Ghost of Vietnam was put to rest in our Persian Gulf War victory, it was reawakened in Afghanistan.


Operartion enduring Freedom was in response to the events of 9/11. Unlike the Gulf War, this conflict was organized by the CIA and took sometime to get off the ground. Instead of using this time to forward position an overwhelming force, what eventually was mustered was paltry. The tactic was to rely on the Northern Alliance, Pakastani troops, and payoffs to the warlords. This is reminicient of the Vietnam War where we relied on the South Vietnamese. The Northern Alliance and the Pakistanis proved to be unrealiable allowing US Special Forces to be ambushed and allowing the enemy escape.


Similar to Vietnam, bombing in Afghanistan was unable to penetrate enemy natural fortifications. In Vietnam, bombing was unable to bring down the system of underground tunnels, whereas in Afghanistan we were unable to collapse the system of caves and paths that allowed Al Queda and Taliban fighters to move around with impugnity. As of this writing, only 1/3 of the Al Queda leadership has been eliminated.


Despite declarations of success and progress in Afghanistan, it seems that US Troops are still involved in the region and Al Queda is still a threat. They have been unable to capture Bin Laden and Afghanistan is still quite unstable. Instead of a quick and decisive campaign, we may have the potential re-emergence of the Taliban and an ongoing conflict similar to Vietnam on our hands.


It is essential that we look at what went right and wrong in the Persian Gulf War, Vietnam, and Afghanistan -- given we are on the eve of another major conflict in Iraq. It is essential that we avoid the dangers that could lie ahead.


We may have won the Persian Gulf War, but often the victors learn less than the losers of the conflict. If we go into Iraq once more, we may find that there will be a different result. This time we will not be repelling an army from a neighboring country, but be facing an enemy with the advantage of being a native defender against an invading force and defender that has learned from its own mistakes.


It may have been necessary to repel Iraq from Kuwait back in 1991. On the other hand, it may have been easily averted by stronger language, pre-emptive diplomacy to resolve issues between Kuwait and Iraq, and forward positioning to warn Iraq of our serious objections to encroaching on Kuwaiti territory. Once we got UN sanction and support from a wide coalition that includes Middle Eastern Actors, we went in and we went in with an exit strategy based upon the Powell Doctrine, which was informed by the Ghost of Vietnam.




Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cloneburgers?




Do we really want to eat meat that comes from cloned animals or the progeny of cloned animals? Do we want milk from cloned animals? Do we really want to be guinea pigs to test if the FDA is right about such cloned animals being safe to eat? You will have until May 3, 2007 to write to the FDA, your concerns about eating such animals.


So far, the FDA has said that there is not any danger in eating cloned meat and drinking milk from cloned animals, but opponents say that the FDA has used studies from two sources that would most likely benefit if FDA approval goes though. Opponents say that there is simply not enough data to make a judgement to its safety. Cloned animals could be carrying genetic markers that have been overlooked that could create health risks down the line. Plus, this could give other countries reason to block our meat and hurt our farmers.


You can write the FDA at WWW.FDA.GOV and make a comment on Docket # [Docket No. 2003N-0573]: draft animal cloning risk assessment; proposed risk management plan; draft guidance. The regulation will not require any labeling to let you choose whether or not it is from a cloned source.


Let's tell the FDA to say no to cloned food.


Carole Migdon has authored a bill in California that would be more stringent than federal laws where all meat and milk from cloned animals have to be labelled as such. A similar law has been authored in the California assembly. If the FDA allows cloned meat and milk, it is essential for accurate labelling so consumers can have the liberty to decide whether or not they want to apply the precautionary principle if the FDA refuses to.




Thanks to MMMMMMMMM for the heads up and check out his article about this whole issue.

Weekend Update

Is it just me or do you feel kinda creepy supporting Yahoo via creating content for them while they turn in Chinese dissidents? I am too old for Myspace and Facebook. I do have my own blog I could return to or one of the other blog communities, but I would miss my buddies here. I would want you all to come with me. Yahoo really does bother me though that they would sell their souls so deeply to get marketshare in China. How do you guys sleep or is Kurasawa right, "The Bad Sleep Well?" Speaking of "The Bad Sleep Well" you should know that this is a worthwhile piece of cinema by Akira Kurosawa. It is based on Hamlet and is set in post-WWII Japan. Like the original Hamlet, it doesn't end on a happy note.

Girlfriend's Guide to Oppression

There are two books I highly recommend and I find them oddly complementary as they both have female protagonists who have been around long enough to remember time when women had freedom. One is a memoir and one is a novel. The memoir is Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. The other is The Handmaiden's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Reading Lolita in Tehran is a memoir by Azar Nafisi that is so good on so many levels. On one level it is a meditation on the value for fiction for its own sake and the role of fiction in an oppressive society. There is romance and comfort in a rebellious act of reading literature when the world around you is chaotic and brutal. The rebellion is reading things that cause discomfort and seeing shades of grey in a world that only sees black and white. Instead of having students who groan about reading literature you have people try to seek out copies, read, discuss, write, and argue over books -- people flock to classes even if they don't belong to the school. It offers a look into Iranian society through the experiences of a wide variety of women -- women who risk losing their identity from freer pre-revolutionary time and women who never knew they had the right to a seperate identity. The book also goes into what it feels like to feel lost in your own homeland and what reasons we cling to stay and try to change things and what reasons we finally give up and go into exile. Some live in exile in their own country.

The Handmaiden's Talewas written in 1987 and is a decidedly darker fictional account of America under a neo-puritan society where women have no rights nor are allowed to read. Atwood leaves the circumstances of this transformation vague. Eerily she suggests that some sort of event --perhaps a nuclear attack -- in the Autumn (9/11?) leads to this regime that controls women and their reproduction. Like Reading Lolita, the husbands of the lead characters are sympathetic to their wives, but do not feel the full weight of the oppression the women in their lives feel and have an easier time adjusting to the change.

Tip of The Day For George W. Bush

Replace Attorney General Gonzales with Sanjaya. After Ashcroft and Gonzales it never really was about qualifications, was it? Can you imagine Sanjaya's famous hair against the Judiciary Committee? How could they NOT confirm that after confirming men who defy sanity and logic?

Quote of the Day

"The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together. "
- Hanna Arendt

First They Came For Our Chocolate



In 1984, I spent time in Prague while it was still behind the Iron Curtain. We stood in line and went to a small hole-in-the-wall "market" that was merely a closet with shelving to find chocolate. We got the most expensive chocolate we could get (not that there was much to choose from). After spending two hours looking for a bank in a Communist country, we opened the wrapper while in line for the bank. It was a milky tan bar and our hearts sank. A Czech woman turned to us and said, "Don't worry, we don't like our chocolate either."

US Chocolate makers are asking the FDA allow them to redefine chocolate. Instead of cocoa butter they can use vegetable fats. Instead of milk, they can use milk substitutes. If the FDA lets them get away with this it will be the end of chocolate as we know it. The word chocolate will loose its meaning.

Whether you are for Hillary or Huckabee, Pro-life or Pro-choice, Pro-Bush or Anti-Bush, r want to pollute or save the earth, or imprison or free Mumia this is one issue we can drop our differences and unite over. If we cannot unite over this, our republic is doomed. Americans deserve to have REAL CHOCOLATE. Anything less is communism. Believe me, I know.

According to Guittard's dontmesswithourchocolate.com website, the FDA has extended the date for public outcry...err comment till May 25th. They have instructions how to file your displeasure with the attack on chocolate.

[Note: It looks like Guittard's instructions may not be updated. The best thing is to go to www.fda.gov and look for "Let Us Hear From You Section" and click on "Comment on Proposed Regulations". Click on "submit your comments". It will give you a listing of all the FDA dockets. Click on the "sort" button on Docket ID and look for 2007P-0085.Then it will take you through the process.]

Here are the guys who are behind the regulatory change:

Chocolate Manufacturers Association

8320 Old Courthouse Road
Suite 300
Vienna, VA 22182

Ph: 703-790-5011
Fx: 703-790-5752

Monday, April 23, 2007

Reproductive Rights Rant




It bears repeating...


"My position on reproductive rights is based on the idea that a government that bans abortion is the same government that can make it compulsary due to the governmental assumption that women have no sovereignty over her body, life, or ability to make medical decisions with her doctor." - Maven


[This morning I was listening to a story of women in rural China being dragged away to hospitals and forced to have a late term abortions. All I feel is horror and overwhelming anger at government controlled reproduction.]


In her book, "Beggars and Choosers" Ricki Solinger talks about how as soon as the Roe v. Wade decision came down what was once called "reproductive rights" turned into "pro-choice." All of the sudden, reproduction became a choice where some women were deemed better choicemakers than others or able to become consumers or not. Instead of a right of every woman to reproduce or not that cannot be denied, it became a choice that can be viewed as trivial as choosing a dress, a car, a tube of toothpaste. The right to reproduce or not becomes only exercised by those who can afford it or are found worthy -- just as it was in the pre-Roe v. Wade world.


For the first 18 years of life I didn't have any real opinion on abortion and reproductive rights issue. I vaguely remember Roe v. Wade being announced on the news and wondering why there was such a fuss over it. Heck, I was six years old, what did I know? I did grow up with a Catholic-Jewish mother, who told me stories about what things were like before Roe v. Wade. One time during the late 1940s, she went with her best friend to a back alley clinic after her friend had out-of-wedlock pregnancy with a Mexican-American. That was scandalous on so many levels. When my mother saw the abortionist with his dirty fingernails, missing teeth, and general lack of hygene, she threatened her friend with going to the police if she went in. This forced her friend to go to a maternity home and lie about the infant's heritage (Italian instead of Mexican) in order to get someone to adopt the child. Her friend never talked to her again and somewhere there is somebody who thinks he is Italian when he his really Mexican. My mother stopped her friend not to save the life of the fetus, but save the life of her friend.


My mother was generally apolitical and hated the political debates my dad would have with me. She was born in 1930, so she was a product of her time -- she was not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination. The only things she felt strongly about was reproductive rights and anti-child abuse. She would get really angry seeing men on television talk about pro-life and say, "What does he know? He is a man. Why men feel like they can talk about this?" This is a woman who lost her only pregnancy when a umbilical cord was wrapped around my brother's neck when I was three. All she wanted to be was a mother. Again, she wasn't a feminist, but she was always for reproductive rights.


My mother also worked for Children's Services and would be the one social workers would take abused children to because she knew how to comfort them. It would break my mother's heart seeing children with cigarette burns, bruises, burns, and all the taletell signs of abuse while she would compliment them on their dress or hair. It would kill her to hear their cries for their abusive parents -- the only ones they knew. She felt strongly that all children should grow up knowing they are wanted. She saw adoption and reproductive rights as ways to make sure every child is a wanted child.


As an adopted person, there is always people willing to volunteer that isn't it great that you weren't aborted when they find out your adopted. It is a horrible thing to say to a person and quite unreasonable since all of us could have potentially aborted, or victims of miscarriage, or just fail to attach ourselves to the uterine wall. I always felt that if I had been aborted, that I really be moot whether or not I cared about it.


It was not until the Fall of 1984, after returning from Europe and entering college that I was forced to figure where I was on the subject when I volunteered for the Mondale-Ferraro campaign. I canvassed Daly City for Mondale and did frequent tabling for Mondale on campus with the only other Democrat on campus (I was told that there was pro-Reagan graffiti in the men's bathrooms on campus). I was for Mondale, because I disagreed with Reagan's policies and really not about the abortion issue. In fact, It really didn't occur to me until someone came up to our table and called us "BabyKillers." Now, it took me a few minutes to search my brain on this. Then I remembered that Mondale was indeed Pro-Choice and I got it. From the very beginning, I have always thought reproductive rights protected both the woman who needs an abortion and the woman who doesn't want an abortion from being forced into one.


This forced me to do research to figure out this whole Roe v. Wade situation. I really struggled with it, but after reading about the history of abortion, the right to privacy, Griswald, Roe, and talking to people who lived in the pre-Roe era, I had no choice to come down to fighting for reproductive rights. You can detest the practice, but believe that if we don't give women a right to her own body, what rights does she have?


If you looked into life before Roe, criminalizing abortion just didn't work. The wealthy and the well connected got their abortions, and it didn't stop desperate poor and working class women from going underground for dangerous abortions.



I volunteered for Clinic defense in the early 1990s against Operation Rescue, not necessarily for reproductive rights, but because many poor women used Planned Parenthood for pregnancy testing, pregnancy prevention, and pre-natal care because they did not have health care. I figured that I was fortunate enough to have health care coverage and could go directly to a hospital for pregnancy prevention in complete privacy since Operation Rescue doesn't haunt hospital grounds. The poor should have the same type of privacy that Americans with health care have. Being a clinic defender meant I escorted clients through a gauntlet of yelling people calling them names and holding up posters of aborted fetuses. I would talk to them to get their minds away from the pleading walls of bodies and tell them that they are under no obligation to tell them why they were going to the clinic. They could be going in for a pap smear, HIV test, adoption referral, birth control, breast exam, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, prenatal care, as well as an abortion.


It also meant I was there to protect the pro-life protestors. As I escorted a very pregnant woman, her husband, and seven year old daughter a protestor told the little girl that her mother is a murderer. I had to calm down the husband because he wanted to hurt that person. I told him that I was there to remind them that these people are just protestors, they know nothing about them, and they have no right to know that they are going in for a pre-natal appointment. Everytime, I would come to the clinic, I would be very polite to the protestors even though they would sing outside of the clinic windows. Even though I would see cars slow down in front of the clinic and move on. Some would say that was an abortion prevented, one could also argue that it could have prevented someone from getting birth control or pre-natal care.


One time during a particular Operation Rescue "hit" the local police after being very patient and clear about the rules with the organizer, told them to clear out. The head of the Operation Rescue in San Jose decided that in protest he would lock himself up in his van and keep dialing 911 to lock it up. So much for pro-life...hope no one needed emergency services to save their life.


I have quit the National Organization of Women when Molly Yard, its president at the time said that women should be proud of their abortions. I quit and never returned after all these years on principle even though I remain a proud feminist.


I have tabled with various people for reproductive rights over the years from elderly Population Zero folk to mothers and grandmothers. One time somebody came to our table and threw down a package of diapers and called us "baby killers" and a woman at our table said, "Thanks, that happens to be my grandson's size!"


One time we were tabling at a wine festival and countless people from all walks of life, especially those who remember life before Roe vs. Wade and thanked us for being there. They expressed their dismay that in 1990-91 we were still having to fight for reproductive rights.


Finally, a man in his sixties came to our table.


"I am a conservative republican and I have more reason to be pro-choice than any of you."



We kind of looked at each other and raised eyebrows.


"My mother died of a botched abortion."



Thud.



He signed an oversized post card to Bush Sr. to protect reproductive rights and wrote down what he told us.


In my years working on Adoption reform, I have actually joined forces and have been praised by pro-lifers and organizations. I have been able to argue that changing adoption laws and attitudes toward adoption can do far more to encourage adoption over abortion than anything else.


Over the years I have formulated a better solution in stopping abortion or making them extremely rare. The overwhelming amount of abortions are based on the decision not to carry a pregnancy to term. Why do women want to terminate their pregnancies?


In many cases their parents and family members, as well as society, say that an unplanned pregnancy will "ruin their lives" by keeping them from school, higher education, a career, a better life, and someone who will marry them. These parents see pregnancy out-of-wedlock as a poor reflection on their parenting to have a daughter get pregnant unmarried and too young.


I have seen this phenomena of generations of women who got pregnant out-of-wedlock who disappeared to maternity homes to relinquish their offspring for adoption -- scared girls and women who get the horrible ultimatum hide your shame or loose the connection to your family. Women who wanted to keep their pregancies and become mothers were told that no one would want them and their lives would be ruined. The government would tell them that the closed adoption system was to protect them from their offspring who they gave up in shame and were told that they would never see again. Countless generations of women have left hospitals empty handed with their milk coming in and people saying to them that they couldn't imagine giving up their child. If these pregnancies are seen as so shameful, then why would anyone want to take a pregnancy to term?


In these cases, we need an entire cultural shift that all families welcome all births regardless if they are a result of wedlock or not. Just make room for the pregnancy and make sure the pregnancy doesn't interfere with the woman's education and job prospects by having the family pitch in for child care.


There are also cases where a family has a whoops child which puts the family in financial peril. The family just doesn't have the luxury for the mother to miss work due to pregnancy or child birth. She can't be pregnant and work. This is where society has to stop the whole belly-aching about paying people to have more kids isn't encouraging people to carry a pregnancy to term. Our culture and government need to be able to step in and help families to stay intact and keep their kids and pregnancies. We need free childcare or benefits that encourage extended families to live near each other to provide help to couples and families on the edge.


Then there are cases where there is domestic violence, incest, and rape where women will become indangered if their pregnancies are discovered. Again, our culture and government needs to help these women not be victimized again by being forced into a situation not of their chosing. Counseling, shelters, job training, child care, health benefits including pre-natal care, and long term housing are needed to encourage these women to take on the role of single mothers.


In general we have to stop calling all single mom's welfare queens, baby-making machines, or burdens on society. All mothers need to be respected and supported. That means job training, education, child care and pre school, affordable housing, prenatal and post-partum support, parenting classes, medical coverage, drug treatment if necessary, and being paid to stay home and take care of her children -- especially for breastfeeding.


We need to involve extended families and support them in raising children when the mother cannot.


For women who don't want to parent there should be ethical and humane adoption practices that provides impartial counseling and support during and after relinquishment to make sure if parenting is what she really wants, or if she wants to choose adoption. Adoption should treat mothers as mothers, until she signs the relinquishment papers, and then and only then is she a birthmother. There should be lifelong post adoption support for birthmothers, adoptive parents, and adopted persons that encourages openness and what is truly in the best interest of the child and when that child becomes an adult. Encouraging adoption means taking the shame and secrecy out of adoption. It means the end of the scare tactics and coercion and lawyers who claim to represent both the mother and the potential adoptive parents. It means culturally Americans have to view adoption as equal to blood ties on every level, but without diminishing the either. There are abuses in the adoption and foster care system that keep families from staying together or making families form.


Then there is the men. In the abortion debate, no one talks about men keeping it in their pants. All they do is whine about how men have no voice without acknowlege that it is so very often the men who insist on an abortion, if not the woman's family. Men would have a lot of power if they would just keep their pants zipped. There are cases where couples do come to a conclusion together because they are either married or have a long term, loving relationship. In the context of a loving and equal relationship, men should and have an equal voice. Should men who have no interest in or counters the mother's well being be in the position of telling her what to do with a pregnancy either way? Should men who have no interest in being legally bond to a woman and child have a say? How can someone who will have no ability to ever get pregnant speak to what a woman who becomes pregnant is going through? How does he justify knowing more than a pregnant woman does about her motives, morals, and mandate her behavior?


We also need full access to fact based sex education and free and effective birth control. Every adolescent (since girls are going through puberty as early as nine) needs to know how their reproductive systems work, how they can get pregnant or get diseases, and how people protect themselves from pregnancies and diseases. While abstinence only education (especially abstinence only education that overstates risks of birth control) doesn't work, abstinence plus (where abstinence is taught along with education about birth control and prophylactics) does work as long as there is reinforcement classes throughout teens and young adulthood.


A weird irony is that the same people who claim to want to end abortion are also defending pharmacists who refuse to sell birth control to women that would prevent abortion in the first place. The problem is that many pro-lifers think that birth control is a form of abortion, any prevention of conception or attachment to the uterine wall is abortion. I have heard a liberal talk show host, Bernie Ward say that these people are not pro-life as they are pro-birth. They don't care what happens after birth of the child they saved in fetus-hood and they don't care about the life of its mother.


I am a mother. I am a mother who had trouble conceiving and did so after a long and difficult process. I am a mother who truly appreciates the life that was inside me even though I had complications in pregnancy and birth. I am not a baby killer, but I am a thinking, compassionate woman who understands completely that adulthood presents difficult and messy decisions. The best thing we can do is create affirmative choices other than abortion, and that requires us all to change our prudish and judgemental nation that builds itself around supporting all mothers.



Sunday, April 22, 2007

In the USA Women's Lives Don't Matter



"My position on reproductive rights is based on the idea that a government that bans abortion is the same government that can make it compulsory due to the governmental assumption that women have no sovereignty over her body, life, or ability to make medical decisions with her doctor." - Maven

In a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court allowed a ban of a method of late term termination of pregnancy, or what pro-life people call "partial birth abortion." This law has no exception for the life and health of the woman. Here is where the absence of a second woman on the court, even though she was conservative made the difference.

Of course, pro-life advocates try to convince people that women who use this method are just thoughtlessly using this as a form of birth control or in the same situation as the vast majority who terminate pregnancy in the first trimester. They want you to believe that there is no good reason to do this procedure and focus on the horrific aspects of the procedure.

The banned procedure collapses the fetal skull to allow for a vaginal delivery that decreases the chance of damaging the uterus or incurring the risks of surgery.

My pregnancy came with it difficulties in conception, pregnancy, and birth and through that process I was on many support groups for women who had complications in their quest of wanting to give birth to a baby. Some women had to do this procedure due to massive deformities, or to save another of their fetuses, or something the doctor found on the ultrasound that necessitated this procedure. If a woman carries a pregnancy to the second and third trimester, that woman wants that child and she is not terminating the pregnancy to avoid parenting. When these women and their partners are given the horrible news it is devastating -- all their plans, hopes, and dreams are replaced with horror, grief, and unimaginable pain. When you are pregnant people gush over you not knowing that the fetus inside will never have life, or very short painful life that will never leave the hospital.

The banned procedure is the safest procedure for these cases. The Supreme Court opined that since there are other admittedly more risky procedures (taking the fetus out piece by piece or c-section) that is enough to protect the rights of women in this circumstance to take away the safest procedure. Even c-sections are risky, my uterus burst and I got a major infection that needed three-super antibiotics for 48 hours.

According to the CDC, everyday 2-3 women die of pregnancy complications in the United State (as of 2003), a rate that hasn't declined in over 20 years (although I have seen graphs that show an increase after 2000. Deaths are due to hemorrhage, blood clot, infection, high blood pressure, amniotic fluid in the blood stream, stroke, and heart muscle disease. Women 35-39 have three times more risk of death than women from 20-24. Women over 40 have five times more risk of death. How many more will die when they don't have this option?

People would say that the numbers of maternal deaths are relatively small compared to the amount of births or pregnancies, but the numbers of women having the banned procedure is very small as well in comparison to the total number of abortions which occur in the first trimester of pregnancy.

It is amazing to me that anyone would ban a procedure that can be an option to save the mother's life or other fetal life (in cases of twins, triplets, and so on).

Pro-lifers decided to pick on the bad fortune of couples who so desperately wanted a child and had to make the choice to save the life of the mother instead. Too devastated to come forward to fight this ban, they only can speak in private support groups that are sometimes invaded by pro-lifers who add only to their misery.

This decision clearly says that the lives of women don't matter. Husbands are supposed to watch their wife die in order to deliver the baby the way pro-lifers want. Women are so easily sacrificed.

In the USA Women's Lives Don't Matter



"My position on reproductive rights is based on the idea that a government that bans abortion is the same government that can make it compulsory due to the governmental assumption that women have no sovereignty over her body, life, or ability to make medical decisions with her doctor." - Maven


In a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court allowed a ban of a method of late term termination of pregnancy, or what pro-life people call "partial birth abortion." This law has no exception for the life and health of the woman. Here is where the absence of a second woman on the court, even though she was conservative made the difference.


Of course, pro-life advocates try to convince people that women who use this method are just thoughtlessly using this as a form of birth control or in the same situation as the vast majority who terminate pregnancy in the first trimester. They want you to believe that there is no good reason to do this procedure and focus on the horrific aspects of the procedure.


The banned procedure collapses the fetal skull to allow for a vaginal delivery that decreases the chance of damaging the uterus or incurring the risks of surgery.


My pregnancy came with it difficulties in conception, pregnancy, and birth and through that process I was on many support groups for women who had complications in their quest of wanting to give birth to a baby. Some women had to do this proceedure due to massive deformities, or to save another of their fetuses, or something the doctor found on the ultrasound that necessitated this procedure. If a woman carries a pregnancy to the second and third trimester, that woman wants that child and she is not terminating the pregnancy to avoid parenting. When these women and their partners are given the horrible news it is devastating -- all their plans, hopes, and dreams are replaced with horror, grief, and unimaginable pain. When you are pregnant people gush over you not knowing that the fetus inside will never have life, or very short painful life that will never leave the hospital.


The banned procedure is the safest procedure for these cases. The Supreme Court opined that since there are other admittedly more risky procedures (taking the fetus out piece by piece or c-section) that is enough to protect the rights of women in this circumstance to take away the safest procedure. Even c-sections are risky, my uterus burst and I got a major infection that needed three-super antibiotics for 48 hours.


According to the CDC, everyday 2-3 women die of pregnancy complications in the United State (as of 2003), a rate that hasn't declined in over 20 years (although I have seen graphs that show an increase after 2000. Deaths are due to hemmorage, blood clot, infection, high blood pressure, amniotic fluid in the blood stream, stroke, and heart muscle disease. Women 35-39 have three times more risk of death than women from 20-24. Women over 40 have five times more risk of death. How many more will die when they don't have this option?


People would say that the numbers of maternal deaths are relatively small compared to the amount of births or pregnancies, but the numbers of women having the banned procedure is very small as well in comparison to the total number of abortions which occur in the first trimester of pregnancy.


It is amazing to me that anyone would ban a procedure that can be an option to save the mother's life or other fetal life (in cases of twins, triplets, and so on).


Pro-lifers decided to pick on the bad fortune of couples who so desperately wanted a child and had to make the choice to save the life of the mother instead. Too devastated to come forward to fight this ban, they only can speak in private support groups that are sometimes invaded by pro-lifers who add only to their misery.


This decision clearly says that the lives of women don't matter. Husbands are supposed to watch their wife die in order to deliver the baby the way pro-lifers want. Women are so easily sacrificed.


In the USA Women's Lives Don't Matter



"My position on reproductive rights is based on the idea that a government that bans abortion is the same government that can make it compulsory due to the governmental assumption that women have no sovereignty over her body, life, or ability to make medical decisions with her doctor." - Maven


In a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court allowed a ban of a method of late term termination of pregnancy, or what pro-life people call "partial birth abortion." This law has no exception for the life and health of the woman. Here is where the absence of a second woman on the court, even though she was conservative made the difference.


Of course, pro-life advocates try to convince people that women who use this method are just thoughtlessly using this as a form of birth control or in the same situation as the vast majority who terminate pregnancy in the first trimester. They want you to believe that there is no good reason to do this procedure and focus on the horrific aspects of the procedure.


The banned procedure collapses the fetal skull to allow for a vaginal delivery that decreases the chance of damaging the uterus or incurring the risks of surgery.


My pregnancy came with it difficulties in conception, pregnancy, and birth and through that process I was on many support groups for women who had complications in their quest of wanting to give birth to a baby. Some women had to do this proceedure due to massive deformities, or to save another of their fetuses, or something the doctor found on the ultrasound that necessitated this procedure. If a woman carries a pregnancy to the second and third trimester, that woman wants that child and she is not terminating the pregnancy to avoid parenting. When these women and their partners are given the horrible news it is devastating -- all their plans, hopes, and dreams are replaced with horror, grief, and unimaginable pain. When you are pregnant people gush over you not knowing that the fetus inside will never have life, or very short painful life that will never leave the hospital.


The banned procedure is the safest procedure for these cases. The Supreme Court opined that since there are other admittedly more risky procedures (taking the fetus out piece by piece or c-section) that is enough to protect the rights of women in this circumstance to take away the safest procedure. Even c-sections are risky, my uterus burst and I got a major infection that needed three-super antibiotics for 48 hours.


According to the CDC, everyday 2-3 women die of pregnancy complications in the United State (as of 2003), a rate that hasn't declined in over 20 years (although I have seen graphs that show an increase after 2000. Deaths are due to hemmorage, blood clot, infection, high blood pressure, amniotic fluid in the blood stream, stroke, and heart muscle disease. Women 35-39 have three times more risk of death than women from 20-24. Women over 40 have five times more risk of death. How many more will die when they don't have this option?


People would say that the numbers of maternal deaths are relatively small compared to the amount of births or pregnancies, but the numbers of women having the banned procedure is very small as well in comparison to the total number of abortions which occur in the first trimester of pregnancy.


It is amazing to me that anyone would ban a procedure that can be an option to save the mother's life or other fetal life (in cases of twins, triplets, and so on).


Pro-lifers decided to pick on the bad fortune of couples who so desperately wanted a child and had to make the choice to save the life of the mother instead. Too devastated to come forward to fight this ban, they only can speak in private support groups that are sometimes invaded by pro-lifers who add only to their misery.


This decision clearly says that the lives of women don't matter. Husbands are supposed to watch their wife die in order to deliver the baby the way pro-lifers want. Women are so easily sacrificed.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

When Will The Insanity End?


I came across this on Wonkette which labeled this as, "Hello God, It's Me, an *******." American Family Radio wants you to know that shootings have nothing to do with the mass production and easy availability of weapons to troubled people, or the persistent nature of our gun culture, the lack of mental health support, and our culture that believes that violence solves problems. Instead all these school problems have to do with the lack of God in the classroom with no prayers or bible studies (never mind that one of the school shootings happened during a prayer meeting). Abortion, condom availability, Gays, lack of spanking, and Bill Clinton's affair with Monica led to all the school shootings.



Then Huffington Post found a nugget on the Charlie Rose show with Tom Delay offering his solution:


Rose (holding up a newspaper photo of Cho Seung-Hui): The picture on the other side is the gunman at Virginia Tech. This is an old debate, and we don't have time to talk about it, but does it make you rethink guns? What he did was all legal. He went in and got a handgun, bought a handgun, was checked, had no criminal record. Went back a month later, got another gun. Do we need to do something about this?


DeLay: Yeah. We need to remove the ban of guns on the Virginia Tech campus, and allow people to defend themselves, and allow people to get concealed carry licenses. Maybe if there was one person in there that had a concealed carry license, was carrying a gun, he wouldn't have killed as many people.


Rose: So if there was a student in the classroom or a professor in the classroom that had a gun, they could have defended those students?


DeLay: That's right. Rose: Do you think that's the answer?


DeLay: That is the answer.


Rose: More guns?


DeLay: It's been proven over and over again.


Rose: More guns in the hands of students in this case, or in the professors' is the answer to--


DeLay: It has been proven as such. The criminal doesn't know that you have a gun.



Yup. Shots go off and all of the sudden you have armed freaked out students increasing the chance of friendly fire and leaving law enforcement to figure out who is the shooter in a sea of armed students. All this leads to is an arms race on school property. Yes, that is what we need! Wouldn't Jesus proclaim, "More Guns! More Ammo!"?

When Will The Insanity End?


I came across this on Wonkette which labeled this as, "Hello God, It's Me, an *******." American Family Radio wants you to know that shootings have nothing to do with the mass production and easy availability of weapons to troubled people, or the persistent nature of our gun culture, the lack of mental health support, and our culture that believes that violence solves problems. Instead all these school problems have to do with the lack of God in the classroom with no prayers or bible studies (never mind that one of the school shootings happened during a prayer meeting). Abortion, condom availability, Gays, lack of spanking, and Bill Clinton's affair with Monica led to all the school shootings.



Then Huffington Post found a nugget on the Charlie Rose show with Tom Delay offering his solution:


Rose (holding up a newspaper photo of Cho Seung-Hui): The picture on the other side is the gunman at Virginia Tech. This is an old debate, and we don't have time to talk about it, but does it make you rethink guns? What he did was all legal. He went in and got a handgun, bought a handgun, was checked, had no criminal record. Went back a month later, got another gun. Do we need to do something about this?


DeLay: Yeah. We need to remove the ban of guns on the Virginia Tech campus, and allow people to defend themselves, and allow people to get concealed carry licenses. Maybe if there was one person in there that had a concealed carry license, was carrying a gun, he wouldn't have killed as many people.


Rose: So if there was a student in the classroom or a professor in the classroom that had a gun, they could have defended those students?


DeLay: That's right. Rose: Do you think that's the answer?


DeLay: That is the answer.


Rose: More guns?


DeLay: It's been proven over and over again.


Rose: More guns in the hands of students in this case, or in the professors' is the answer to--


DeLay: It has been proven as such. The criminal doesn't know that you have a gun.



Yup. Shots go off and all of the sudden you have armed freaked out students increasing the chance of friendly fire and leaving law enforcement to figure out who is the shooter in a sea of armed students. All this leads to is an arms race on school property. Yes, that is what we need! Wouldn't Jesus proclaim, "More Guns! More Ammo!"?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ugh!

Joe Derbyshire of the conservative National Review calls the victims of Virginia Tech cowards. Here is what Keith Olbermann had to say about Derbyshire and folks who had really awful thoughts about this tragedy.



I have been appalled at the few who are now coming out and blaming the victims for not rushing the guy with the automatic pistol with cartridges of 10-16 bullets each. You have kids in class in the morning -- probably the first class of the day. As a former college student, any class before 10 am I would be tired and out of it. Out of the blue someone goes through the door and shoots the teacher and then your fellow students before you can even form a thought. I suspect the first class had it the worst, as they didn't have the benefit of hearing the bullets and screams.


There were tales of heroism. I think that people need to cut them some slack as these people had no reason to suspect that they would have to respond to such violence in a language or engineering class. It is unreasonable to expect these people to be able to make split second calculations as to their chances against a mad man with such weapons.


It is entirely too easy and unfair to judge people in the safety of your own home and imagine what you would do. The horrible truth is that no one knows what they would do in those exact circumstances to try is pure speculative fantasy.


Can we stop blaming the victims of this tragedy and wish them peace? Can we instead think about what it is about our culture that our country is uniquely prone to this phenomena?

Monday, April 16, 2007

One of those Horrible Days


When I checked CNN this morning it was only one killed and one injured, then it was 7 dead, then 21, 29, 31, and now 33 dead. There is this horror and sadness for the families of the victims and the faculty and students that had to witness the violence and be there. Then there are the rest of us who find ourselves struggling with this darkly familiar scenario another school or workplace surrounded by ambulances and SWAT teams.



These things bring me back to when I sat with a mother of a young man who was trapped at a workplace shooting in Sunnyvale back in February 1988. She was a girlfriend of a co-worker of mine who worked nearby. She had heard from her son who had called her from under his desk to let her know that he was trapped under his desk while the shooter was walking around shooting. It was a five hour siege. The shooter killed 7 people and injured four. Fortunately, her son got out okay. All I could do was sit with her and just imagine what her son was going through and what this mother must be going through.


I still have a t-shirt commemorating the Montreal Massacre of December 6, 1989 where Marc Lepine separated the men and the women in a classroom and killed 14 women while winking at the men.


When my husband and I were at SFSU in 1994, a student went to his girlfriend's dorm room and shot her and then himself. The dorm buildings loomed tall on campus and the entire campus was in shock. Then I was working in San Francisco Financial District just blocks away from 101 California shootings.



Then there was Columbine, Kip Kinkle, and the countless other sites of tragedy.


When you are a student or employee you volunteer to be stuck somewhere that could be a target for a disgruntled person who can easily get semi-automatic weapons that can kill many people from a comfortable distance. You cannot kill as efficiently by any other means (except for maybe bombs or WMD).


Bowling for Columbine tried to delve into why our country is unique in the amount of gun violence in the world. Although Moore did try to be comprehensive, I think he may have just touched the surface. I think we have a lot of troubled people in this country who do not get help because no one takes the time to look out for each other and guns are plentiful and very easy to get. Many of these troubled people don't have a criminal record and were law abiding citizens who could pass for "responsible gun owners." When these people snap for the first time, people pay with their lives.


We are second to China on how many our government puts to death via the death penalty -- we believe in solving problems through violence. We don't believe in diplomacy because it is seen as being weak or akin to appeasement, so instead we focus on military might to solve our problems. Violence is so a part of our culture that it isn't that hard to understand why when people with warped minds and a sense of injury would seek violence to solve their problems. I am not arguing that we should let murderers off the hook for what they do, but I am saying that our culture is somehow complicit in this phenomena.


I am incredibly sad and angry today. Prayers go out to the victims and their families.



Saturday, April 14, 2007

Proto-Feminism-o-Rama



When this song was sung there were some states where it was illegal for a doctor to prescribe birth control to married women, much less single women who shouldn't be having sex. So you have this lovely Leslie declaring a sense of control that was pure fantasy at the time. The year this song was sung Betty Freidan wrote The Feminine Mystique, which started to articulate the angst that led to the modern feminist movement. This song seems to rage against everything that a woman had to face in the stifling 1950s and early sixties. Somewhere the angst about being forced into the role of mother got confused with the devaluation of motherhood in favor of career and freedom. To my mind feminism should mean that women have a free choice to pick what they want to do in life even if it means wanting motherhood. As a feminist, I was disappointed to learn that feminists ignored the complaints of birth mothers who were forced to relinquish their children for adoption, since it was thought at the time that motherhood was more a burden. Relinquishment was seen as some sort of freedom. At this time, women who found themselves pregnant out-of-wedlock would be whisked away to maternity homes throughout the country. They were told that if anyone found out about their shameful little secret that no man would ever want them -- many of them look very much like our lovely Leslie Gore.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Book Maven: "The Kite Runner"


I recently had the pleasure to read "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini after it had been on the bookshelf for months. I found that this was an incredible story that is at its heart a story about friendship, betrayal, and possibly redemption in the mid 1970s Afghanistan. Two boys are connected by the loss of a mother but cannot be any further apart. One is Sunni and the other is Shi'a. One comes from wealthy Persian family, the other comes from a poor Pashtun family. One is educated and the other is illiterate. They live in the same household in an employer and servant dynamic, but also as family. The boys are thrown together by the loss of their mothers, and find a common interest in kite fighting. Hosseini offers elegant writing and excruciatingly poignant passages using the backdrop of a culture and geography that has relevance to a part of the world that effects us here. Yet, the lessons the central character learns could be learned anywhere where there are differences in class, religion, education, and culture.


This is a wonderful book, check it out.



July 4th, 1989 Dead Show in Buffalo, NY

U.S. Blues Live. Maven saw these guys the night before in Foxboro, MA.


Maven's Video-Rama: Boots

Back in 1988, I went to a party in the Haight where they had this video playing in the background. Proto-Feminism-o-Rama, Baby.



Thursday, April 12, 2007

Goodbye Kurt


At Fourteen years old I had an enormous crush on Jesus. I went to Church services and the Sunday school for teens every Sunday without my parents even asking me. The Presbyterian Church was the biggest church in Menlo Park, California. If you were a pre-teen looking to do exciting things in this sleepy town the Presbyterians could provide you with prayer camps, field trips, and teen groups where you can meet boys outside of school without making your parents nervous. One of my best-friends would put notes in my bible marking her favorite bible passages.


My parents refused to have me baptised as a baby or young child. My mother was a catholic-Jew and my dad, a self-proclaimed Atheist. So at fourteen, I got baptised along side my friend and later we would joke in our twenties that baptism really didn't turn out how we expected. She turned into a hard-core New York business-girl and I was a hippie-chick.



It was as soon as I got baptised that the spell began to be broken. This church told me that my catholic mother was going to hell. A christian youth leader declared to me that she didn't care if there was a nuclear war because Jesus was going to save her. Genuinely shocked and disturbed, I told her off. At prayer camp, I was the only one not to sob hysterically when giving myself to Jesus, which made me feel very awkward being there alone with sobbing teens. Then I realized that a lot of the kids in my teen Sunday school were not very nice people. I discovered that the nicest kids were not going to Church or were of a different faith. To me, they actually lived how I thought Jesus would want us to live. I became adrift being a Christian without a church at the age of 15 or 16. I discovered Bertrand Russell's agnostic writings and skipped Spanish to discuss philosophy at a park near the Menlo Park library.



Then I found Vonnegut.



"People don't come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God." - Vonnegut



An elder brother of another best-friend had been allowed to do a term paper on his books and I heard Vonnegut was cool since his books had been banned. I love banned books. Vonnegut's humanism spoke to me and was a perfect match for my teen angst over humanity. He was like this uncle who pulled you aside and showed you the lay of the land and showed you a different way to look at the world with all its blemishes and beauty.



"Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything." - Vonnegut



I got his humor.



Life is full of asterisks.



When I was travelling through Europe I was reading "Jailbird" on a double-decker bus at the age of Eighteen. Since then there have been other authors and a growing sophistication that being a follower of Christ doesn't need a church and doesn't mean I cannot also be a free-thinker. I still dig Jesus, but we have a more mature relationship.



It has been a long time since I have read Kurt's books. I have most of his books on my book shelf and I will have to crack them open again.


Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. has made this world a better place because of his writing and of who he was as a man. His passing makes me sad, but I can bring him back by reading his words. How lovely.



Goodbye Kurt.


"If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who." -- "Cat's Cradle"




Maven's Musings First Birthday


A year ago I started writing on my Yahoo 360 blog commenting on Myspace, Celebrity, and Tabloids. Then I posted the following quote, since the blast bubble had a character limit.



"...We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully. Cassius was right. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves." - Edward R. Murrow

See it Now (CBS-TV, March 9, 1954)

"A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy"


Then I ranted against Reverand Phelps and praised the Patriot Guard Riders who were blocking him from crashing the funerals of our fallen soldiers.


After 156 posts covering topics like adoptee rights, art, adoption, baking, celebrity, Bush, Civil Rights, Creationism, Film, Genealogy, haircolor, Iraq, death, memories, motherhood, poetry, politics, Oscars, Rabid Conservative Personalities, religion, the religious right, safe beauty products, and science I find that it is amazing that I still find so many things are left to talk about.


I have met some interesting people and have changed my hair color twice.


I am still a proud liberal.


Thank you all for stopping by and here's hoping I can continue to entertain you and plant seeds of doubt, reason, humor, wisdom, and random beauty.


We can master change not though force or fear, but only

though the free work of an understanding mind, though

an openness to new knowledge and fresh outlooks, which

can only strengthen the most fragile and most powerful

of human gifts: the gift of reason.

Robert F. Kennedy, Johannesburg, South Africa

June 8,1966

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Saying Goodbye




[The above photo is a picture of our cats Molly and Chompski. Chompski is the orange one on the right.]



We got our cat, Chompski, along with his sister, Molly, in May 1994 as five week old kittens. Their litter was abandoned in a barn in Marin County and rescued. We originally only wanted one cat and was leaning toward just getting his sister, but her orange tabby brother collapsed on top of her and looked so cute.



We named our cats after Noam Chomski and Molly Ivins, the authors we were reading at the time.


Chompski was the cat that for a long time thought he was a dog. You could throw a bottle cap down the hall and he would play fetch. Of the two cats, he would be the one who would climb on your lap and stay there. Chompski would make us sit on the edge of our chairs because he love sitting behind us. He slept at the foot of our bed, except for last night.


Over the years Chompski tended to have more bowel problems than his sister. In the past month or two he wouldn't eat or throw up what he was eating, he got very skinny. We tried medication and all kinds of different food to see what he would eat. We even tried baby food and fresh shrimp. We knew he was on the decline, but when my hubby found him this morning passed away it hit us hard.


Chompski was a good cat and we will miss him.


Saying Goodbye




[The above photo is a picture of our cats Molly and Chompski. Chompski is the orange one on the right.]



We got our cat, Chompski, along with his sister, Molly, in May 1994 as five week old kittens. Their litter was abandoned in a barn in Marin County and rescued. We originally only wanted one cat and was leaning toward just getting his sister, but her orange tabby brother collapsed on top of her and looked so cute.



We named our cats after Noam Chomski and Molly Ivins, the authors we were reading at the time.


Chompski was the cat that for a long time thought he was a dog. You could throw a bottle cap down the hall and he would play fetch. Of the two cats, he would be the one who would climb on your lap and stay there. Chompski would make us sit on the edge of our chairs because he love sitting behind us. He slept at the foot of our bed, except for last night.


Over the years Chompski tended to have more bowel problems than his sister. In the past month or two he wouldn't eat or throw up what he was eating, he got very skinny. We tried medication and all kinds of different food to see what he would eat. We even tried baby food and fresh shrimp. We knew he was on the decline, but when my hubby found him this morning passed away it hit us hard.


Chompski was a good cat and we will miss him.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fluffy Bunnies in Bagdad: What Bad News?



I know this may be late, but I found the whole McCain claim that you can just stroll through Bagdad as a lame attempt to bolster his support for Bush's Surge plan.



From PRWATCH.ORG Spin of the Day: Imus and the Mainstream Press, Drop in Tourism to the U.S., America's Hidden War Dead, News Stations paying for Fake News, Rebranding Russia, Wal-Mart "Threat Research", Rick Berman, NIH Consultant Conflict of Interest, U.S. Department of Interior harrassment of government scientists, Bush Recess Appointments let Industry Foxes into the Henhouse.


Just Food For Thought -- News from Alternative Press from the Right, Left, and elsewhere:

From Project Censored: Senator Feinstein's conflict of Interest in Iraq, UN Massacre in Haiti, Farmer Suicides in India, Genetically Modified Seeds: Women Take On Monsanto, US Seeks Impugnity for Farm Payments from WTO, Behind Blackwater Inc, Media Exaggerating Iran Threat?, Vulture Funds, Nafta Superhighway?, The House of Death, DEA National Security Clim Bogus in the House of Death story, Executive order expands presidential power over agencies, Repealing Habeus Corpus?, Asian Workers Traffiked to Build World Largest Embassy in Iraq?


Think Tank of the Day: The Heritage Foundation

- From Sourcewatch

- From Wikipedia

- From Heritage.org

- From People For The American Way

- From Mediatransparency.org

Monday, April 9, 2007

Post-Easter Roundup



When I heard rumblings that Newt Gingrich was making a public comeback and thinking about running for President, I knew that it was only a matter of time before he imploded. I am shocked that it happened so soon. You may have heard that Newt made a comment that bilingual education is so ghetto. Now he has released a empirial non-apology, apology in two languages. I think I have the perfect running mate for Newt. I must give him props for stating the obvious about the need for Gonzales to find out what its like to be fired for political reasons (oh! what irony that would be!) I have to say I missed Newt "All-you-have-to-do-is-send-poor-children-to-Dickensonian-orphanages" Gingrich. Our cats were given a Newt catnip chewtoy way back in 1994, it may be time to dig that up -- they LOVED Newt!

Sending a Woman to Do a Man's Job?...It seems the Whitehouse and all the usual suspects are up in arms over Pelosi talking to the Syrians and respecting their culture by wearing a headdress (Oh my! Political Correctness! For Shame!). It doesn't matter that the Baker commission advised that this was the best way to accomplish a resolution in the region and Bush decided to ignore that. It doesn't matter that the Baker version of Surge was only supposed to be in a shorter time frame than Bush imagines and uncertain of its success. Bush ignores this and a smaller force with an open-ended time frame -- complete opposite of Baker. I totally understand that Congress is not supposed to conduct foreign policy, but what if the executive refuses to conduct foreign policy in line with the wishes of the American people? Last November was a clear message that the majority of American voters wanted a plan to get out of Iraq, not escalate it. Voters clearly have lost faith in Bush to be able to do anything and it looks like even the Pope has too (not to mention one of the Iraqis who was shown to be knocking down Saddam's statue). Democrats were sent in to change course in Iraq, at least someone realizes that they work for the people.

Quote of the Day: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed—those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending its money alone—it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." —Dwight Eisenhower, Speech (1953)

The High Cost of Low Price


When my husband and I went on our honeymoon, we stopped in Kingston, Ontario and had to do laundry at the midpoint of our trip. We found a coin-operated laundrymat. I was talking to a woman there and the topic of Wal-Mart came up. I, of course, went through the litney of criticisms about the chain. I quickly felt her desperation, she had a low income and had four kids and Wal-Mart allows her family to have things. It moved me back in 1995. Had I let my relative affluence that allows me the luxury to shop at higher priced neighbor-owned stores and more socially responsible places rendered me unable to the benefits of Wal-Mart to the poor?

Frontline did a great documentary called, “Is Wal-Mart Good for America?” The answer ends up being a emphatic NO.

There is another documentary I have called, “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” available on DVD.

Wal-Mart has transformed manufacturing and distribution by telling American manufacturing that the HAVE to move their operations to China or they will not do business with them. This kills domestic manufacturing jobs, or completely edges out manufacturers who want to keep their jobs in American hands. It used to be that individuals came up with ideas and manufactured them domestically, Wal-Mart comes in and tells manufactures what they want them to make it and how. Do we really want to support this business model?

They are anti-union and spend a good amount of money in surveillance of employees and overall union busting. In fact, the only time someone was caught in Wal-Mart parking lot crime it was because that store happened to have video cameras because employees were thinking of organizing. Do we want to support a business that is hostile to working people and their right to organize?


One of their practices is to muscle into a community and knock out mom and pop stores, and then when they have wiped out the local retail stores, they close the store forcing communities to drive farther and farther to go shopping. Which leads to another problem – since Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the United States taking a huge footprint at each store, it has security problems at each store and does little to make consumers safe.

Many communities see that since Wal-Mart doesn’t give adequate benefits to their employees local and state governments have to carry the burden in social services for them.


One of the big arguments of Wal-Mart is that they are able to offer a wide selection of goods in one place and the aisles are bigger. It is my experience that Wal-Mart isn’t really that less expensive without the price leaders and the quality of the products are sub par. Do we really want consumerism to be easy or encourage purchasing a lot of stuff that is poorly made and made such a trek to get there from China? Do we really want to support a business model that has really no intrinsic roots in our communities and have knock out neighbor-owned businesses?

Neighbor-owned businesses have a bigger stake in the well being of the community than Wal-Mart because they actually live there. You can also talk to the owner and control somewhat what they sell unlike a big corporation like Wal-Mart. I have also found that people who work at small businesses that they know more about what they are selling more than those at Wal-Mart, the big chain hardware, or any chain store. Getting good information can save you a lot of money over having to buy the wrong thing because a retailer doesn’t bother to train their employees. You may have to pay a little more at the mom and pop store but you will probably get that back through the information and advice they are able to give you.

So the relatively small contribution to local charities is hardly and offset to all the social and economic problems Wal-Mart creates.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Celebrating Easter & The Chocolate Jesus



Despite being Christian, I fully support art that some Christians find offensive, because that art comments on how our society, corporations, Madison Avenue, and some Christians themselves pervert Christ, his life, and his teachings for their own benefit. The Chocolate Jesus like the Crucifix in Urine, have shock value and I can see if you are a literalist you would be offended. I see this type of art as a mirror held up on our society. How we all turn religion into commercial events and forget the spirit of who Jesus was and what he represents.



Even Sister Wendy Beckett, a Catholic nun who happens to be an art critic author of art history and appreciation has said that even if we find the Crucifix in Urine distasteful it is still art that has the job to provoke thought. She explained in a television interview with Bill Moyers that she regarded the work as a statement on "what we have done to Christ" - that is, the way contemporary society has come to regard Christ and the values he represents. I think the Chocolate Jesus would serve a similar need.


Chocolate Jesus is a clear comment on how a day and ritual that supposedly is about Christ's resurrection has been turned into a day about chocolate bunnies, baskets, egg hunts, and the kinderworship of a human sized Bunny. I believe that Jesus was the son of God, whose resurrection we celebrate today in a season that represents resurrection of life. I also believe that Jesus died because he was a revolutionary of his times against religious convention and hypocracy. To follow Christ means taking up the mantle of sticking up for those who are marginalized in society and to fight against greed and hatred. Jesus is all that. Jesus made people feel uncomfortable, especially those who thought themselves pious.


Reasonable people can argue if this is really art or if Pop Art is art. Why would God give us the talent to create art, the curiousity to question, and the ability to discern and analyze, if not for us to be able to exercise those urges? What does free will mean if we don't have the courage for our beliefs and how consistent we are to those beliefs to be questioned?


Some Christians do more offense to Christianity than any of this art can do. It makes me ashamed to be a Christian when other Christians use our religion to exclude people, to shame people, and to deny them civil rights. They use our religion as means to gain political and economic power. It is really hard to argue that what these people do would be what Jesus would do, and they proclaim to follow Christ. To them the Sermon on the Mount is completely ignorable.



From Wikipedia:

1. Blessed are the poor / poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.(Matthew 5:3)

[...] Blessed be ye poor (οι πτωχοί): for yours is the kingdom of God. (Luke 6:20)

2. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.

3. Blessed are the meek / humble or powerless for they will inherit the land.

4. Blessed are those who hunger / hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

5. Blessed are they merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

6. Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God.

7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

8. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.



There is a 9th beatitude in the gospel of Mark. It reads: "Blessed are you when they insult you and utter every kind of slander against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven...."


Art like Kincaid's safe cottage scenes never need to be protected since they never cause controversy. It is works like these that make people uncomfortable.


The best way to celebrate Easter is to remind ourselves who Jesus was and what he wanted to impart to us via the Beatitudes and the decisions he made during his short life. Think about what it really means to follow Christ and compare that with the Dogma that we are taught and how religious leaders diverge from what Christ would do. Easter is a leap of faith, not just in the Easter Bunny, but that a man ages ago was the Son of Christ and resurrected from a torturous death for humanity's sake. Following Christ is a leap of faith because the beatitudes run counter to our society that worships wealth, greed, power, and breastbeating, while marginalizing and punishing the poor, the powerless, the peacemakers, humble people, and those who are persecuted (ie. Gays and Lesbians). Christ walked among and associated himself with the lowest rungs of society and those who were hated by those who were supposedly righteous.


Easter to me is supposed to be humbling, that this brave soul did this for all of us -- humanity -- all God's Children. What does humanity do? Humanity turns around and seperates those who they think will be saved or not, or who deserve to preach to them or can worship, or wed. They take the bible and the gospels and use it to lift themselves over others. It is time for humanity to humble themselves.


Easter is a time to resurrect oneself by renewing yourself to focus on what Christ believed was the important things he fought against -- greed and religious hypocracy.


Happy Easter and may all humanity be blessed.