Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Brainy Chick of the Week - Soraya Chemaly

Right.  I don't know how to pronounce her name either.  And I'm doubtful that it really means
"see you, enjoy the Mexican food" in Japanese.  I know almost nothing about her, but apparently she's some sort of bra-burning pope-hater.  Risky business, standing up to religious authorities.
This pick it based entirely on her article about women and the catholic church, copied below, which I found to be FANTASTIC.  Her entire article is pasted below, because my faith in the Huffington Post archive is strained, but my faith in the fair use doctrine is alive and well.  Faith!  Gotta have it.  Also a dictionary.  Because she used a bunch of big words.

Here it is:
There are so many perspectives on the Obama/Catholic Church contraception debate that it is hard to keep track. But, after you've stripped it all of its partisanship, wonky indignation and misleading religious angst, what you are left with it whether or not you really think women are equal and how much that equality means to you personally.
At its core, this debate is about control. And not just birth control. Either you are willing to support and participate in a culture in which men, refusing to accept women as fully human, use a perverted claim of divine right to control women and their bodies, or you don't. For me, equality -- for everyone -- and the way I want my children to understand their place in the world outweighed my commitment to a faith, which, no matter how much real good it does in the world, does more harm by its failure to recognize the fundamental humanity of its female adherents. This isn't about freedom of religion; it's about freedom from religion.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in a now much quoted study analyzed in the Washington Post, "Data shows that 98 percent of sexually experienced women of child-bearing age who identify themselves as Catholic have used a method of contraception other than natural family planning." Catholics are also more likely than non-Catholics to support Obama's insurance provisions, even prior to any accommodations. There are organization like Catholics for Choice who are clearly committed to Catholicism, but in defiance of bishops.
Catholic lay people, modern members of a pluralistic democracy, are not adhering to the beliefs of their church fathers, who continue to tell them that using birth control is a sin. Survey after survey shows that they believe that contraception (and other progressive social issues) is a matter of individual and private choice. Catholic women and men understand the conflict between the primacy of conscience and obedience to Church authority -- and are choosing their consciences. In the words of one Catholic woman, "I will start paying more attention to the bishops' position on birth control on the day a Catholic bishop becomes pregnant."
When I was a student at Georgetown University, a Catholic (albeit Jesuit) school, it was impossible to get birth control. Except that it wasn't. Any girl or woman who needed it could walk into the life-saving midwifery office on campus, talk to a practitioner and secure her contraceptive of choice. We were just not supposed to talk about it and were expected to quietly skulk about, so as not to jeopardize the efforts of the only people on campus, who happened to be Catholic women as well, who understood our need.
Personally, I have never been interested in skulking. So, I went home to my Catholic mother and told her I needed birth control. She took me to her doctor, but not before asking me not to ever again put her in a position where she had to lie to my father. I never lied to my father (much to his dismay no doubt) and didn't expect her to, but she, like many women in her position, was ill-equipped to deal with that dilemma. She asked me not to tell him. He was happy, I am sure, that I waited until getting married to have children, however. Hear no contraceptive evil, speak no contraceptive evil, see no contraceptive evil.
This happened during a time when I was deeply immersed in studying the church, its history, theology and bioethics. And, herein lies the true problem: When you educate people, they start believing what you teach them about the importance of equality, empathy, freedom and truth. Liberal Catholics, feminist nuns and the faithful LGTB work hard to change the institution, stay true to their church and value it for all of the good that it does. Indeed, there are congregations led by married ex-Episcopal priests. There are Catholic communities who support excommunicated Catholic priestesses. For me, it was not tenable to do these things and stay Catholic -- it gives too much power to men who ultimately do grave and deep harm to the very people they claim to be helping.
But, the ability to walk away is a real and tangible privilege. I could seek spiritual and material options. I had an understanding-if-startled family, was educated, could support myself, was healthy, had no children. I was reliant on the church for nothing. That is not the case for many, including non-Catholics, who are closely tied to the church through culture, conscience, faith, marriage, need or employment.
Religious institutions are subject to secular law all the time in this country. Polygamy, practiced by some Mormons and Muslims, is a case in point. If Catholic bishops were genuinely panicking about a War on Religion, then they would have to start with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. These two alone constitute a virtual encyclopedia of Catholic error and "immorality" in their cherry-picked personal and political practices. What about war? What about government programs for the "food stamp" recipients? I actually laugh out loud every time one of these men says the words "entitlement programs." It would be humourous, if it weren't so bizarre.
This galvanization of bishops is nothing new where women are concerned. That's because the Catholic hierarchy, men for whom reproduction is as alien as menstruation -- another fully human process they have no part in, really believes that women's bodies are the living manifestation of their inferiority and the way in which God choses to punish them for their original sin. This is not unique to Catholicism and this post is not an indictment of the faith -- just to its leadership's insistence on misogynistic interpretations of how that faith is to be manifested. I could say the exact same thing of any of the Abrahamic faiths in their conservative orthodoxy.
It is hard to describe exactly how cognitively disjunctive being Catholic and female can be. In the first place, you are expected to accept your female second-class status, an all male priesthood and complementarianism, as good for you. Second, you are supposed to pretend that that gendered hierarchy has no influence or implicatons for life outside of the church, which of course it does. Third, any in-depth study of Church doctrine reveals the degree to which biblical hermeneutics and theologies codifying attitudes of virulently anti-female Church Fathers continue to inform the Church now. In this way, even if priests know not to quote St. John Chrysostom or St. Jerome in Sunday masses, women are still an "inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation ... a fault in nature," "the root of all evil," who, according to St. Clement of Alexandria, "should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman." I'm not going to even quote Origen, Tertullian or Aquinas. These men lived during various dark ages, but they could just as easily be shacking up in the Vatican today. Very little has changed since in that sense, and virtually nothing since 1975, when Mary Jo Weaver wrote, "New Catholic Women," about Catholic women "defecting in place." 

Messages, both subtle and blunt, about the subordinate nature and role of girls and women are enshrined in an all-male clerical hierarchy and conveyed to children in schools and churches. What do girls (and boys about them) learn about about their abilities, their roles, their spiritual characters, their inherently weaker souls, their tempting sexuality, their handmaiden-ness? Girls and boys know that dangly bits, compared to compassion, honesty, divinity and humanity, can't be that important. Until we teach them that they are. What are the effects on girls and boys when they see that women are considered not fit or allowed to mediate sacraments? Some believe they can offset these messages through their own example. Kids might indeed do what you do and not what you say, but I think it teaches them that girls are "equal enough," should be obedient and should stop asking for more. It also teaches them to operate in personal ways that keep women's decisions "private" and not political and public. Enough with the adapting, peace-keeping, silent majority.
The 1976 Pontifical Biblical Commission, composed of ordained biblical scholars, found no scriptural justification for banning women from the priesthood. But churches that systematically strip the feminine from the divine have little interest in welcoming serious feminist theological scholarship and exegesis regarding Marian devotions, women religious figures or the authority of Christ. They'd rather fetishize early Christian doctrine formulated by men, obsessed by dualism, who hated women and despised their own sexuality. It goes without saying, even though I'm about to say it, that the church hierarchy's misogyny is the foundation of its homophobia and that its fixation on a twisted, fourth century understanding of sexuality is the root of its abuse of children. Somehow, I am supposed to ignore the horrific aspects of church history, doctrine and theology while simultaneously revering its traditions and submitting to a deeply corrupted authority. Damn that Enlightenment.
But seriously, how obviously violent do things have to get before we learn the lesson that powerful, all-male environments with perverted notions of sex, sexuality and gender have damaging and corrosive effects on the whole society? I have no doubt that the same could be true if the genders were reversed, but that's not the world we live in.
For me, it's simple. Why on earth would I continue to pay any attention to men -- and they are all men, even when they have conservative lay women fighting their battles -- who expect me to not only believe wrong, perverted, ideas about me, my gender and sexuality, but also ask me to transmit that information to my children? To stick with the pre-modern theme at hand, I'd sooner flay myself.
It is entirely possible to worship in environments that do not either actively or tacitly marginalize, subjugate and demonize you. I have close and dear friends and family who do not feel the same way as I do and continue to work within and around the parameters set by the church. I respect their decision to do that. For them, the issue is of equality before God and on Earth, is negotiable. For me, it isn't. You?
Follow Soraya Chemaly on Twitter:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quick Movie Review - HUGO

Thumbs Up. But not way up.

HUGO is a slow moving film that is more interesting than compelling.  Mainly it is a beautiful movie.  The 3-D is the best I've ever seen.  The sets are beautiful.  And of course Paris is beautiful.  Hugo is worth the price of admission just to enjoy its visual pleasures.
Ironically, or not, Hugo maintains this beauty without beautiful actors.  OK, Jude Law and Emily Mortimer are in it. But the rest of the characters look like real people, though admittedly a bit more polished up.  But we are not looking at Baywatch girls and soap opera boys.  This is a plus.
Richard Griffiths courting Frances de la Tour
An old dog using the new dog trick.
Hugo the protagonist is a boy with 99 problems.  He's an orphan living in a train station.  He steals his food & drink and is known among the station vendors as a thief.  And Borat is a security guard who wants to catch him and send him to the orphanage.
Little Hugo's problems are only one of several story lines going at once, which is fine in and of itself.  But the film never seems to decide what is important and what story it wants to tell us.
Hugo is a young boy.  My own boys (real ones) are 8 and 12 and we had a discussion about how old Hugo is.  We think he is 10 to 12.  I think 12.  As a Dad the story of Hugo growing up is one of the most interesting stories within this film.  This is highlighted by his friendship with a girl, who appears to just a bit older than he.  Their friendship starts with the ease of small children finding a new playmate.  But as it goes along we see hints of the growing up that is just around the corner.  The brief holding of hands and a kiss on the cheek.  One moment they seem like babies and the next they are growing up.  Just like real kids.  It is sweet.
Hugo is really all about movies.
These kids are like the "smelly" fresh flowers that Emily Mortimer brings into the station every day that brighten up a downtrodden post war and depression era France.
My sons got a big kick out of noticing that all of the French characters in Hugo have British accents.
The consensus main plot line is that Hugo has an automaton that he and his father were fixing.  The Dad, Jude Law, dies in a fire.  So the real story is that Hugo is a lost orphan and what will happen to him?  The automaton is a key (as is it's key), which we know going into the theatre from the previews and ads.  But this is cheating the movie experience.  The automaton is a great multi-purpose metaphor, but is not central to the story.  Someone got infatuated with it and let it become too important.  
What is important and more interesting is the story of why Ghandi is a grumpy toy store keeper at the Gare Montparnasse.  But we don't realize this until well into the second half of the film.  His story is tied into the story of the losses suffered by France and Europe in World War 1 and this could help explain his unexamined need to help Hugo.  Perhaps leaving it unexplained is to leave us with fodder for conversation.  Or maybe we just need to read the book.
Bottom line, Hugo is not an ordinary film, so enjoying its riches requires setting expectations before going in.  This is a movie about movies and history and loss and healing.  It really turns out to be quite uplifting. There are many gems to be discovered in the film if you are inclined to look for such trivia.  So if you can set aside expectations of an adventure film wrongly promoted by the film's marketeers, and set yourself for a relaxing ride through the past, I think you will enjoy your 2 hours and 6 minutes in Paris.

Friday, February 24, 2012

TGIF - Heat Beat Knicks

Watching Morning Joe in pj's while drinking coffee.  Noticing things I think are wrong.
1. Siemens ad just claimed that their clean gas turbines are powering American cities.  I don't think so. If gas turbines are used for land based electrical generation in the U.S. then it's a new thing.  Let me know if you know different.  Odd thing to lie about.
2. "Steve Rattner"is claiming that Romney's statement that private funding would be available for financing managed bankruptcies is false because nobody would make that investment.  Complete nonsense.  This happens all the time.  It is called debtor in possession financing, and many companies specialize in this.  Puzzling because Rattner knows this.  He's no chooch.  So I wonder if I'm wrong or if he's just blowing smoke for some reason.
Steve Rattner
Social Policy Update:
Babies! Lots and lots of Republican Catholic Babies!  Ladies, start your vaginas!  You (they) are being pressed back into the public domain.  The Inquisition Catholic Church is back, and that means that you and your vaginas are back to the back of the procreative bus.  No more on/off switch for you.  You play, you pay.
Bishop Lori is a Man! Apparently.
Don't smirk, handymen.  No doubt masturbation is next.  Rick Santorum looks like he would know a lot about that.
Ladies & Gentlemen, The Next President of the United States!
TV ad reviews:
Good - VW's "riding dirty" - Love it!
Annoying - Anything by Jos. A. Banks! or BDO.
Jeremy Lin is my new favorite athlete.
Sports Peripherals:
Natch I am closely following the Kate Upton controversy.  See the new SI Swimsuit edition cover girl. Apparently the fashionistas think she's too fat.  This is further evidence that fashionistas are dominated by jealous bitches and homos.  Nothing wrong with them, except that they don't seem to appreciate a good ol' wholesome and sexy all-American girl with curves.  After closely evaluating the issues, I am totally pro-Kate.  Kate has a Niki Taylor / Cindy Crawford vibe.  She makes me wish I was 10 20 30 years younger.  Check out Kate's SI photos here.
Presidential Race - The only republican candidate who doesn't love war is Ron Paul.  The only republican candidate who is a veteran is Ron Paul.  It doesn't matter because whoever is nominated is going to have their ass handed to them by Barack Hussein Obama. That's because

Brainy Chick of the Week:
Bad Alison kicked off her blog this week after making the brave decision to leave the corporate news machine and express herself freely. You can check it out here.
Full disclosure - Hah! Just kidding.  There's no full disclosure here.
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

No Pill for the Pope

Watch Morning Joe.  Joe is in blowhard mode this morning, babbling about 2,000 years of Roman Catholic teaching against women's birth control.  Really?  The Roman Catholic Church has been teaching that woman shouldn't use the Pill contraceptive for 2,000 years?  

This is what demagoguing looks like.
Of course, Joe is not an active politician, so his role here is a little curious.  Perhaps he's just trying to make some noise because he doesn't like to talk about the war (in Afghanistan) and the primary elections are a yawn-fest, and of course the economy is simply depressing.  So a good Culture War issue is just the type of thing for us couch potatoes to get all worked up about and stay on the channel.

Or maybe Joe just doesn't know that the Pill only became available in 1960.
Of course, Obama and woman's groups have already lost this debate because they have allowed their opponents to frame the issue.  This is not a case of the government interfering in how Roman Catholics practice their religion.  Yet that is how the public discussion has been framed.
Prediction - NY Senator Kirsten Gillebrand could emerge as the voice of reason on this.

This argument should be about religious groups role as employers, being able to impose their doctrine on their American employees.  What happens when Muslims start operating schools and hospitals and nursing homes and want their women employees to have their paychecks go to their husbands?  Or what happens when the Cristian Scientists want their Catholic employees to have a physician-free health plan based on prayer because that is what their church doctrine says?  
Religious freedom and the first amendment are meant to free Americans from religious oppression, not empower churches to impose their doctrine on non-member Americans. 
Here is Monty Python's take on this issue:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Correctomundo re Goolsbee

That was quick.  Apparently my references to Mrs. Goolsbee in my prior post were off the mark.  I am informed that her correct name is Robin Winters.

My apologies to Ms. Winters.

Ms. Winters & Dr. Goolsbee

That Stupid Minimum Wage

Good Jobs at Market Wages
King of the Gypsies Republican Presidential Candy Date Mitt Romani Romney keeps putting his foot in his mouth.  Just when he seemed to have pulled it all together, we get this from (who else) Yahoo! News:
"Romney said last week that he supports regular increases in the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation."
OMG.  The next time that man feels his mouth opening he just needs to put a sock in it.  Who knows what crazy idea he'll come out with next, maybe to let all those Mexican grandmothers stay here.
Having a minimum wage is very controversial.  As Yahoo! News reports, "Some experts argue that raising the wage costs jobs, but others disagree."  Natch Yahoo doesn't quote any actual experts, but lots of politicians were willing to fill the gap. Especially our Republican friends, who were quick to set Mitt straight.
South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint
"Senator DeMint opposes the minimum wage because it hurts the poor and destroys desperately needed jobs," DeMint's spokesman, Wesley Denton, told Yahoo News. "Wage mandates prevent people from getting jobs and the skills they need to climb the economic ladder."
How much?
Michele Bachmann, who quit the presidential race last month, has said that scrapping the minimum wage could "potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely, because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level."
Well, of course.  The thing to remember, and please keep this in mind, is that the problem for people who are unemployed is not that they don't have a job, it's that they don't have any money.  MONEY.  So giving them a job that doesn't pay enough money isn't going to help unemployed workers.  It's not.
Why don't all these Republicans get this?  They seem smart enough.  What's the problem?
There is no problem.  They are simply lying.  We should all know this by now.  The press goes along for the ride because it's easier to write or talk about a fake issue like whether or not the minimum wage helps workers than to have to do actual research and analysis, not to mention put your access and credentials at risk, and report on what is really happening.  What's that?  Well, let's ask ourselves who would benefit from tanking the minimum wage.  How about employers?  How about investors who invest in employers?  McDonalds spends a lot on minimum wages.  If they could whack a third of that off the P&L, the C-suite would probably get to pay themselves a nice round of bonuses for a job well done.  Remember, a corporation's duty is to its shareholders, not its employees.  And of course, all of that wealth will trickle down to the rest of America.  Just more slowly.
So, where are the Democrats on this issue?  Can't they round up someone with a few brains who can squash this nonsense? What ever happened to Obama's economic council? 
Personally, I miss that Austan Goolsbee fellow.  He was smart and funny and good at explaining this stuff.  We need a new generation of honest dismal scientists like him who can make sense of things like this and blaze a path forward that doesn't have half of the country mowing lawns for $3.00 an hour.  But Austan and his smokin' hot wife Robin have gone.  So where do we go now? Where is the leadership?
Austan & Robin Goolsbee
Out of Service

Friday, February 3, 2012

Romney in Trumps Casino and His $10,000 Bet

Gambling - What Mormons Preach

Gambling is found everywhere in society; poker, horse and dog races, at the grocery store, slot machines, and even in the home. Gambling is a game of chance that takes without giving value in return. Gambling puts money or other things of value into a pool and then redistributes it on the basis of a roll of the dice, a spin of the wheel, or a drawing of a number. Nothing of value is produced in the process.'1
The Mormon Church has always opposed gambling in every form, including government-sponsored lotteries.
Mormon prophets and leaders have counseled the members over time, to avoid gambling of any type. Doing so, leads one away from righteousness and into the hands of Satan. The Mormon belief is that it is an addictive behavior and leads only to destructive habits and practices. It undermines the value of work and motivates one to think that they can get something for nothing. In time, the gambler will deny themselves, as well as their family the basic needs of life. They will oft times steal from others to finance their addiction, which in turn leads to stealing, robbery, etc.
Government-sponsored lotteries have intensified the gambling issue. The National Foundation on the Study and Treatment of Pathological Gambling says that, 'lotteries may serve to introduce gambling to those who otherwise would shun it. People who have never bet before, seeing a state-run lottery with the [imprint] of government upon it, might buy a ticket; buying the first lottery ticket might be compared to a future drug addict taking his first puff on a cigarette. It's a starting point.'2 
And in 1985, then Governor of Florida Bob Graham, stated that, 'what the lottery says about success is the wrong message…' Catholic priest, Monsignor Joseph Dunne expressed his opinion in that, 'why should [children] get an education when with a little bit of luck they can win a bundle of money for life? That's what lotteries are doing to our youth.'3
Mormons do believe that they shouldn't participate or encourage others to gamble. When local and federal government legislations are considering passing laws dealing with gambling, Church leadership has encouraged members to put a voice in opposing such issues. Current Mormon Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley has urged the members of theMormon Church to do the following: "We urge members of the Church to join with others with similar concerns in opposing the legalization and government sponsorship of lotteries."4
For more information on the Mormon Church or Gambling, please see the following websites:
What do Mormons Believe
1 "Ensign", LDS magazine, "Gambling – Morally Wrong and Politically Unwise", Oaks, Jan 1987
2 "Christian Science Monitor", Custer, 1985
3 "Gambling and Lotteries", 1986
4 "Letter from the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints", 1986