Friday, August 31, 2007

iowa rules

A district court in the great state of Iowa found in favor of same-sex marriage this week, based on the state constitution's guarantee of equal treatment. The court went on to overturn a state law limiting marriage to being between a man and a woman, saying that this law "constitutes the most intrusive means by the state to regulate marriage."

on senator craig

"Being stupid as a member of Congress is hardly a reason to be ridden on a rail from Washington."
-NY Times editorial, 8.31.07

Thursday, August 30, 2007

so maybe he ain't all bad

"The second thing, and this'll really wrangle, again, some of my Republican colleagues. Bill Clinton and Hillary went through some horrible experiences in their marriage, because of some of the reckless behavior that he has admitted he had. I'm not defending him on that -- it's indefensible. But they kept their marriage together. *And a lot of the Republicans who have condemned them, and who talk about their platform of family values, interestingly didn't keep their own families
-Mike Huckabee

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

oh larry larry

Larry Craig, senior senator from the great state of Idaho, was arrested in early June for lewd conduct in an airport restroom in Minnesota. According to the police report, Craig attempted to proposition an undercover officer through ambiguous hand and foot gestures beneath the wall separating their bathroom stalls. These descriptions alone are enough to make you howl with laughter (though maybe this is actually how such things are done? I just don't know enough about it, maybe), and Craig's explanations are even more ridiculous. His foot nudged the officer's foot because of his "wide stance" when using a toilet. His hand was waving around, palm facing up, into the next stall because he was trying to pick up a piece of toilet paper. Mmmmh hmmm.

This whole thing, despite its inherent hilarity for those of us with no personal involvement in the public humiliation of the Larry Craigs, the Ted Haggards, and the Mark Foleys of the world, leaves me feeling slightly dirty. There's the deep discomfort I feel at the very idea of outing people against their will, even hypocrites working for ultra-conservative family-values types, or even worse, are them selves ultra-conservative family-values types with actual political power. When, as liberals, we place so much weight and value on a constitutionally-protected right to privacy, how can we live with ourselves when we're breaching this right for our own gain? Yet on the other hand, as Glenn Greenwald pointed out in his article today, the conservatives play the same game, playing both sides depending on convenience. It's hard enough to feel bad about the unwilling outing of someone like Ted Haggard, who publicly railed against 'alternative' lifestyles, preaching fire and brimstone and of course gay couples should never be allowed to have children, and then goes and sleeps with a male prostitute and snorts meth. And if it's hard to pity him, it's even harder to pity a guy like Larry Craig who, after all, effectively outed himself by soliciting sex in a public airport restroom, though there is a certain pitiable desperation in such behavior, coming from a man supposedly happily married.

It's a shame that these scandals are what reach the mega-churches and the vast mid-west and the Idaho panhandle of red America, that this is how the conservative masses so opposed to gay rights are exposed to gay lives, if that makes sense. I can't imagine that these scandals, much as they demonstrate the hypocrisy of these individuals, actually do much in the way of furthering gay rights. Ted Haggard claims to have been completely cured of his homosexuality after three weeks of therapy. Larry Craig claims to be the victim of a newspaper's witch hunt and still not gay at all anyway, damn it. And Mark Foley, as it turns out, claims to be an alcoholic and to have been molested as a child.

I don't know. Much as I still feel uncomfortable about the whole outing thing, I find it impossible to feel particularly sorry for these guys, given the power and influence they have, as church leaders and political leaders, over the rest of us. When I argue in defense of the right to privacy, I am arguing against the government intruding in to, yes, a person's right to an abortion, a gay couple's right to have sex without fearing arrest, their right to adopt children and marry and be fully recognized by our government. The invasion of privacy that these men have gone through, and the ensuing humiliation and potential downfall, is a direct result of their choice to meddle in other people's lives. Had Ted Haggard's male prostitute lover not found out who Haggard actually was, Haggard might not ever have been outed. Had Larry Craig not been an elected official, a hugely public person with a very established record of homophobia, his arrest would not have made such huge headlines. It is their very hypocrisy that has lead to their downfalls, and maybe that's not something to get too worked up about.

But still, I am open to discussion.

Monday, August 27, 2007

the gender neutrality of plan b, and other associated ramblings

This week marks the first anniversary of the end of a three-year long fight to get Plan B, aka the morning-after pill, approved by the FDA for over-the-counter distribution. Sales, now that a prescription is no longer needed, have doubled, far exceeding expectations even by the pill's manufacturer.

Pro-lifers, ever fearful of unfettered sexuality, are worrying that this must be indicative of increasingly wanton promiscuity amongst our country's fairer half. I've always wondered, though, why these people assume that we're having more sex rather than fewer unwanted pregnancies. According to an oldish article from Family Planning Perspectives, 48% of the pregnancies ending in 1994 were unintended. Forty-eight percent. The American Pregnancy Association claims that this rate is actually a mere 47%. The CDC claims similar numbers for 2001. Either way, these numbers are astounding to me, and it seems inconceivable (no pun intended) that there are people who somehow believe that providing alternative methods of contraception is a bad thing.

One thing that struck me as odd about today's Plan B article was the specific mention of the fact that both men and women over the age of 18 are able to purchase it. I'm not sure why this jumped out at me. I mean, I obviously believe that anyone, gender-wise, should be able to buy condoms, so why shouldn't everyone, gender-wise, get to buy the morning after pill? Maybe it's the age thing, and the fact that women (and presumably men) will get carded when trying to buy the pill. There's a certain sense of the ridiculous in carding a man for such a pill, given that he will of course never use it. And given that presumably pharmacists are not going to start brow-beating their customers, they will never know for sure that the over-18 man is purchasing the pill for an over-18 woman. So there's this disconnect for me, in that clearly society isn't really enforcing the over-18 thing for girls (nor should it be, in my ever humble opinion), since they can just get someone older to buy it for them, and yet clearly there's no medical reason to prevent younger men from having access. It seems like a cop-out to the religious right, given that most younger women can get around the age limit, and given that many doctors don't think it's dangerous for younger women anyway. Just out of curiosity, are there any age restrictions on condoms?

Anyway, I've been pondering this today, and yet it occurs to me that really, how many guys have been traipsing on in to Rite Aid to buy Plan B anyway? I mean, it's taken decades for us girls to feel comfortable buying condoms, and there's a world of difference, for many of us at least, between the rather minor embarrassment of admitting one is hoping to get laid and the shame of admitting that one has not only already gotten laid, but screwed it up and now needs to take preventative measures. So to speak.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

love letter to new york

NYC 2004 General Election Results

Kerry votes: 1,828,015
Bush votes: 587,534
Nader/other: 44,103
Total votes: 2,459,652

Monday, August 20, 2007

thought process

quote of the day

"We've been attacked by the intelligent,
educated segment of the culture."

-Reverend Ray Mummert, in the midst of the 2005 Pennsylvania public school fiasco in which he and other religious folks wanted Intelligent Design taught in public schools along with Evolution. Thank you, Erik, for sending me that article, which is actually a pretty interesting, if somewhat facetiously written, foray in to the frightening notion that religion is invading politics, and that politics-as-usual has become a test of who's better at dumbing down ideas for the masses. It's an old article, and it's from Esquire, for Christ's sake, but still, it's worth reading. And the author brings up a fact that always appalled me, namely, that

"At the end of August 2004, the Zogby people discovered that 57 percent of undecided voters would rather have a beer with George Bush than with John Kerry. Now, how many people with whom you've spent time drinking beer would you trust with the nuclear launch codes? Not only is this not a question for a nation of serious citizens, it's not even a question for a nation of serious drunkards."

People seem to like Bush because he's down to earth, he doesn't talk smart, he's one of us. Or something. But it doesn't make me feel any safer to imagine a president being just like me. I want someone a hell of a lot smarter, and a hell of a lot better educated, than myself in that Oval Office. I don't want a president wasting time drinking beer with the good old boys at the local pub, or mending fences down on the ranch, or falling off of Segways (though the pictures were fantastic). I want someone quick and brilliant and intricate, who loves to learn, who has an insatiable curiosity and desire to understand cultures and peoples and beliefs outside and alien to his or her own, someone who is beyond seeing the world in an us-against-them mentality, who doesn't see the Middle East as a modern-day Crusade, who understands and can evolve through the complexities of the age in which we live.

And I would never, ever, knowingly go out for a drink with a recovering alcoholic. What the hell is wrong with people, anyway?

Friday, August 17, 2007

mcintosh replaced

McIntosh, Barnard's student center for decades, was never a particularly useful or practical building, and certainly didn't do much aesthetically or architecturally speaking. Yet I have a soft spot for dear old McIntosh, given the many, many hours spent there over the years, listening to strange and wonderful music (Karl Blau, the Microphones, Suzanne Vega, Rhythms of Aqua), talking for hours over long, drawn-out lunches on Friday afternoons, attending the scandalous gay prom, religiously checking my mail box in the hopes of finding something from distant friends & family, waiting on interminable lines to pick up Mom's care packages, not paying attention to the string quartet that played before my father's Barnard memorial service. I will miss this building, in all of it's ugly 1970s glory. But Barnard needs something better, and bigger, and more useful, and hopefully more beautiful. I don't know that I'd have chosen to call it the Nexus, but that's just me. More practical information here.

120th & Amsterdam

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

m & bridge

what changed?

everyone's favorite dick, 1994


In the realm of the ridiculous is the Long Island school district that decided not to change the name of its winter concert. The winter concert has historically been called the Christmas Concert. But the population of this area has changed drastically in the last decade, and more than a third of the children are of Indian or Chinese descent. One can only imagine there is a sizable Jewish population, and indeed the Christmas Concert has often contained a Hanukkah song or two, which makes you wonder at the misleading nature of the name already. And somehow it seems even more offensive to include songs from another holiday or another religion and yet still insist on calling it a Christmas celebration. It kind of reminds me of a friend's mother-in-law finally sending her a Hanukkah card a couple Decembers ago, but then writing Merry Christmas inside. Good try, but still a swing and a miss.

Recently several parents in the district suggested to the Board of Education that the name be changed to a more inclusive Winter Concert, or even Holiday Concert. There was such a burst of outrage at the very suggestion that the Board of Education decided to leave the name as is. But even after the decision had been made, more than 200 outraged parents showed up at the school board meeting earlier this month to protest the idea of having anything but a Christmas Concert.

According to the New York Times article, "One woman said she could not understand how anyone could object to Christmas, 'which is about tolerance, love for your fellow man. Who would be against that?'" This, apparently, with no irony what so ever.

Even creepier, a lawyer made the pseudo-intelligent-sounding but totally insane comment that changing the concert's name from Christmas to Winter or Holiday is "a form of religious discrimination at best, religious bigotry at worst."

I'm not sure that the parents of any Jewish, Hindi, Muslim, agnostic, or atheist children would agree. And I'm not sure how his argument falls into that whole concept of separation of church and state.

What I do know is that these people who wrote all the nasty letters to the local newspaper denouncing those who wanted to change the name (one letter-writer condemned the school officials for their efforts to "execute Baby Jesus in the arena of political correctness") were bad enough. But even worse were those who saw fit to stand up in a roomful of people and continue to so forcefully demonstrate their narrow-mindedness when they had already won. Being a sore loser is sometimes understandable, however annoying it might be; but there is no excuse whatsoever for being a sore winner.


On September 11th, 1857, more than a hundred men, women, and children were murdered as their wagon train passed through Utah on its way from the Ozark Mountains to California. I remember reading somewhere that not only did the Mormons commit this atrocity, but they then tried to blame it on the Paiute Indians. Now, a year before the first presidential election in which a Mormon is a serious contender for the Republican nomination, there is September Dawn. I'm not particularly fond of Mitt Romney, and feel nothing but contempt for his flip-flopping on abortion & gay rights, not to mention his stupid comments concerning his many sons & the military. But this leaves an icky taste in the back of my throat.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

irony that cuts to the quick

irony: Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.
tragic irony: Dramatic irony in a tragedy.

Ohio: Killing at Event Promoting Nonviolence
Published August 14, 2007

A fatal shooting put a chilling end to a youth football tournament intended to promote nonviolence in Cincinnati neighborhoods. Earnest Crear, 19, was in a group of young adults gathered on a street near where spectators were watching the games Sunday when he was shot twice, officials said. The police said three suspects fled the scene. The children’s event, called the Peace Bowl, brought together 14 teams from youth organizations. Cecil Thomas, a city councilman who was at the games, said the Peace Bowl was intended to promote peace in city neighborhoods with athletic competition and family involvement.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

the end of an era

I was walking north on Amsterdam Avenue a few weeks ago with my coworker, Ken, on a Friday afternoon after work. It was a little bit awkward, not quite knowing what to say to each other, and not being entirely comfortable in the not knowing, but it was lovely too, and we are both clearly fond of walking around this crazy city, looking at things, keeping an eye on things, holding and replenishing in our heads a picture of this place we so love. I pointed out to him
my favorite sign in the whole world, and he admired it accordingly, and teased me about the fish, and etcetera, and etcetera. And then a week later we were again walking up Amsterdam towards 125th street, and suddenly Ken stopped, gawking, and I couldn't figure out what he was doing until I looked up and across the street. And my heart sank. My beloved sign had vanished, covered over in cheap siding, gone in a flash, modernized, and oh so horribly.

I am eternally grateful that Nathan convinced me to buy my beloved digital camera those months ago, and so very glad that I've been able to take pictures, however badly, of the world around me, keeping a back-up of sorts for this swiss cheese memory of mine. And I am grateful that I have people like Ken to observe this world of ours with me, and keep an eye on the comings and goings of the history so deeply imbedded in the very bricks at the root of this city; grateful that there are people in my life I can turn to and say, "That was there. I know it was. I know you saw it, too."

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

where i've been wasting my time today

Yet another harry

Freakonomics the blog: I recently, finally, got around to reading Freakonomics the book, which Chris gave me for Christmas or for my birthday or something or other a few years back. I was thrilled to see that one of the chapters, about why so many crack dealers live at home with their mothers, focused on the research of one Sudhir Venkatesh, once a graduate student at University of Chicago and now a Columbia faculty member for whom we have provided reserves readings. Yay.

The world clock, courtesy of Richard

A tornado hit Brooklyn this morning. Seriously. And apparently the morning commute was hell. It took one of my staff members over five hours to get to work. That's commitment.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

follow-up to anonymity

This morning the deli man refused to take my dollar bill, three nickels, and a dime. When I tried to insist, he said that everyone deserves a free coffee now and then. I accepted gratefully and dashed right back up the stairs.

I do so love this city.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

of bombs & abortion

According to some of our elected leaders, it's a good idea to threaten to bomb important Muslim holy sites, like Mecca and Medina, as a deterrent to Muslim extremists bombing us. When in doubt, escalate. This seems to me not all that different from suggesting that we pro-choicers should threaten to blow up the Vatican just because a few pro-life extremists would like to blow up abortion clinics.

Which brings me to my second topic of the day, and not the first time mentioned on this blog, nor probably unfortunately the last. Abortion. As in, who gets to decide. As in, Ohio Representative John Adams and his proposed legislation that would bring potential fathers into the decision-making process. Representative Adams has decided that men should have more of a say in determining whether a pregnancy should end in abortion or not. As he explains, "This is important because there are always two parents and fathers should have a say in the birth or the destruction of that child."

I have no problem with this, on its surface, because in an ideal world, women and their partners would be making this difficult decision together.

But in the real world, of course, this is often not the case.

And in Adams' bizarre and twisted world, men should not be given more of a say, but rather should have the only say. In Adams' world, women would basically need permission slips from the fathers of their fetuses in order to obtain an abortion. The bill itself lists all the possibilities that would be forbidden, i.e. the woman cannot lie about the identity of the father, the woman cannot claim the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest without submitting court or police documents attesting to the rape or incest, the woman cannot claim that she does not know the identity of the father but must submit a list of her sexual partners in order for paternity tests to be performed, etc. But the clincher, the main point of the whole bill, is this:

When the fetus that is the subject of the procedure is viable, no person shall perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman without the written informed consent of the father of the fetus.

Didn't we already deal with this concept when the Supreme Court shot down spousal notification restrictions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey fifteen years ago? If women don't need to inform their husbands, how in the world is it feasible to even imagine requiring them to get permission from a one-night stand?

To quote the text-messaging generation, wtf?!?

Thursday, August 02, 2007


It's a strange, strange world, this virtual world, when you read about the demise and fallout of your own relationship on someone else's blog. Thanks for the sweet words, Maia. And for being such an excellent neighbor and friend. I'm very much looking forward to seeing you next week. As long as Ilke's not along for the ride. She'd probably eat Nova in lieu of milkbones for breakfast and that would make me sad.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline... The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need?"
-Ayn Rand