8/27/2005

I was watching network news last night--maybe ABC--it was that goofy-looking sad-eyed anchor with the close-set eyes--and he was introducing a story about RU-486, the so-called “morning after” pill, and just to make sure we knew what it was really about he told us: this is the latest chapter in the abortion debate. FOX has long taken to referring to RU-486 as “the abortion pill”.

The truth is considerably less gory. The pill’s supposed to be taken up to 72 hours after the act, and simply expels the egg, fertilized or not. There is no fetus and nothing resembling a fetus after 72 hours. What there is is called a blastocyst, which after even a whole week of division amounts to a conglomeration of no more than a hundred cells. It is day 22 before there is something akin to a heartbeat, in a set of cells which will only later become a rudimentary heart. You might as well say all contraceptives are really just different methods of abortion. You can say it if you want, but it's hooey.

Personally, I've never been able to understand the obsession with other people's sperm and eggs the busybodies on the right seem to have. I don't concern myself with other people's bodily fluids overmuch, as long as they keep them to themselves. Don't spew 'em at me is all I ask.

I suspect the appeal of the abortion issue to the busybodies has to do more with certain notions of feminism than with fetuses anyway. It’s about demonizing a certain kind of woman—an archetypal woman who may or may not exist in reality. I won’t say it’s a plot of the patriarchy, because the word “patriarchy” has been abused by self-proclaimed feminists who fail to see the role women play in perpetuating misogyny themselves. I’m not pointing the finger, but gender relations are immensely complicated, and throwing words like “patriarchy” about doesn't do a thing to deepen the dialogue. Creating bugbears and demonizing whole classes of people based on imaginary threats is the real problem. And it cuts both ways.

Anyway, the fact that in the mainstream debate over abortion we’re to the point where contraception is tantamount to murder is interesting. And ominous. Personally I am more or less indifferent about the issue of abortion, as it has very little, if anything at all, to do with me. I’m sure it can be a difficult, even unpleasant choice, but it’s not mine to make, now, is it? The only way to look at it that matters much to me is as an issue of the power of the state and the right of the individual to make vital choices about his or her lives: how to live, love and die.

If you look at a slew of “culture war” issues, you start to see a trend. The fact is, those red states that are most for the sanctity of marriage are the ones where divorce rates are highest. So they’re projecting their problems onto blue states. But it’s obviously not “liberal values” that are destroying marriage, since in “liberal” states like Massachusetts more people are staying married (as of 2004 the number of Massachusetts marriages ending in divorce per thousand was 2.4, as compared to 4.1 in Texas). Nine of the top ten states for teen pregnancy are red states (the ninth-ranked is California). Eight of the top ten states with the highest murder rates are red (Illinois was ranked 8th, California 9th in 2003). Seven of the top ten for violent crime. What about infant mortality? Nine out of ten highest ranked are red states.

But there’s another trend that bears considering: nine of the ten states with the highest percentage of their population living in poverty are also red states. The education level in blue states is consistently higher than in red states. When you start looking at trends you can see pretty clearly, I think, that the “traditional values” schlock Republicans are serving up is mostly to manipulate people who are being ill-served by the government where it counts. The shocking thing about the last two elections is really how the GOP got so many people to vote against their vital economic interests by convincing them that they were at war against their fellow countrymen.

Main source: http://www.census.gov/statab/www/ranks.html

8/17/2005

Have the morning off, and am about to head to the garden and try and get something—anything—done there.

Big news today is the Israeli pull-out from Gaza. Talk about queening out. I can do without the drama. People get evicted every day. Most of us don’t get as generously compensated for our property, though. Move on. Of course it will only inflame all the hatred, and the fact that obnoxious Palestinian groups are celebrating obnoxiously doesn't help. But that’s what they do over there. The so-called roadmap to peace and all these peace talks are a joke. There will never be peace in the Middle East until either the Arabs or the Jews are gone. And the wall? I’m all for it.

The media is also busy smearing this woman who has been camped outside Bush’s Neverland Ranch in Texas demanding an apology for her son’s death in Iraq. She’s not doing herself any favors, though. She did a treacly, self-indulgent commercial funded by a left-of-center political group, and the more she talks to the press the more flaky she seems. ‘why am I so emotional today?’ she whined, in a clip NBC Nightly News played over and over again, so you would be sure to get the message (pssst, she’s unstable!)—NBC not-too-subtly implied she had become a political pawn of what they called ‘the radical left’. Of course they say it like, ‘some conservatives have suggested…’ but then there’s no attempt to rebut the ‘suggestion’. I mean, her husband is divorcing her, her remaining kids are sending emails saying they're sick of eating mac-n-cheese and begging her to come home and cook dinner, and she has been heard to voice pro-Palestinian opinions. She must a fruitcake.

For a fair and balanced look at the sentiment toward the war, NBC went to a ‘red state’ and asked three people what they thought about it. The war is a farce, of course. It’s a bad joke, and it’s on them, so of course if you stick a mic in their faces and ask them what they think they’re gonna try to save face. It’s their sons and daughters that are paying the price, not the limousine liberals or the cocaine conservatives playing football with the war. So they intone knowingly, of course we have to be there, rehearsing the canned lines they have heard their commander-in-thief repeat ad nauseam, but they couldn’t tell you why, exactly. Like children who repeat on the schoolyard what they’ve heard daddy say at home, but have no clue as to what it means. Daddy says, and that’s enough.

Not that there aren’t plenty of obnoxious neo-conservatives who couldn’t come up with a thousand rationales for the war and why we ‘can’t cut and run,’ as daddy always says. The Bush administration has been expert at creating crises and then intoning gravely, ‘well, it’s too late now, can’t cut and run.’ I mean, it was a ‘pre-emptive’ war. We started it, without any specific provocation. We created the drama that now embroils a nation addled by the boredom that comes with decadence.

Gas prices continue to soar, but again, Americans aren’t going to give in to the terrorists. Gas consumption is actually increasing. NBC did a piece on hybrid vehicles last night, too, and determined they were really a rip-off. One ‘expert’ they consulted said that while the Prius advertised something like 60 mpg on the highway, they took one for a spin and found it got only 36. They didn’t mention that was still about three times what your average SUV gets. That’s apparently not the point. The conclusion was, well, let those silly radical lib environmentalists have their Priuses. The joke’s on someone else for once.

8/02/2005

Got back from Budapest Sunday and crashed out at, like, 5 p.m., woke up at three yesterday and couldn't get back to sleep. At least where traveling overseas is concerned it's harder coming than going. Went to have a look at the garden, was seriously disheartened (as for why, see my garden page), stopped into Back Bay station to grudgingly purchase my monthly T pass. At forty-four bucks a month, it's costing me over $500 a year for their rude, infrequent, shitty so-called service. And when I got to Back Bay I discovered there was some weird subculture of office drones that come out from their maze of cubicles at two o'clock in the afternoon the first of the month to buy their T passes. I mean, I dropped in at that time to avoid the masses.

The first thing I think you notice when you come back from a country where English isn't spoken is how banal everything people talk about is. In a foreign language even the banal sounds somehow exotic. The second thing you notice is how awfully asexual WASPy people truly are. I'd say 75% of the drones in line with me were twenty-somethings, and not a single one of them was sexy. There were one or two at most who were good-looking, but none were the least bit sexy, which is sad when you're in your twenties. New Englanders are like Nordic people, very cold and abstract.

There were three office wonks behind me in line, swapping gossip. They were talking trash about some sod they were calling the "office bitch," but they were all bitches from what I could see. I mean, prostituting themselves to the man. They dress alternative but they're all the same. This generation is worse than their fathers and grandfathers, because they think a nipple ring and a tattoo or two means they're different. Totally superficial, totally affected, totally whatever. I mean, how can people be this boring and apparently not know it? It's inconceivable.

Then I dropped into Whole Foods. Don't even get me started. I went there because it was on my way home and I wanted something light to eat on account of the heat, and they've got a sushi dude there making fresh sushi all day. Am I as bad as the rest then?