Monday, November 30, 2009

Soon to return to our regularly unscheduled programing

The rough draft of my novel, Sisters from Another Planet, has been completed, with a beginning, a middle, and an end -- and 70,575 words.

I will soon be posting more frequently on this blog, with maybe a little bit of time off to let my hands and elbows heal.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

House health bill shortchanges women in many areas

As the Senate begins debate over Majority Leader Harry Reid's version of the health insurance reform bill RHRealityCheck.org reminds us that the House bill fails to cover many items necessary to women's health. In addition to the notorious Stupak Amendment limiting abortion coverage, the House bill also fails to cover such items as contraception, pelvic exams, and STD counseling.

As RHRealityCheck columnist Amanda Marcotte says:
I’m forced to suggest that the major factor is that our government is still mainly run by a bunch of middle-aged men who’ve been shielded from having to deal honestly and empathetically with women’s lives their whole lives, and therefore are prone to seeing women’s concerns as disposable at best, and at worst, as frighteningly alien and needing to be controlled. When you have that attitude, it’s easy to push aside all the ways you’ve personally benefited from contraception and abortion, and just assume the only women who need assistance in those areas are wayward sluts who need to be slapped down instead of given a hand. After all, I’m sure most of these men have had the benefit of women who quietly make sure that fertility control is taken care of, without bothering the over-privileged men in their lives.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Durbin releases poll results

Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who also serves as the Democratic whip in the Senate, has released his Public Option Poll Results. Durbin's poll showed 80 percent of respondents supporting a public option.

Respondents to the poll were self-selected, so this may not be a representative sample of the US public. But because of Durbin's position as the one who "gathers votes on major issues," this poll may indicate that Durbin is willing to use his position to push the public option through the Senate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My mother called it Armistice Day

My father was a veteran of the Second World War. My mother and father both were civilian employees of the US Army at Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia. I always thought of my mother as being conservative, as supporting US military efforts overseas that I considered unwise at best, but several times she expressed her regret to me at having helped to make armaments for a living. She felt this was something she had to do to support two young children, one of them disabled, after my father died.

My mother was five years old when the First World War ended, and she used to tell a story about how she fell down and skinned her nose on the pavement, and a returning veteran gave her a quarter to get her to stop crying, and called her his "rose of no-man's land." The holiday that we in the United States celebrate every November 11 is now called Veterans Day. But it began as a celebration of the end of the First World War on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh month of 1918. My mother always called the day by its original name -- Armistice Day. Other nations still celebrate Armistice Day -- or Remembrance Day -- on this day.

There are only a handful of veterans of this horrific conflict who are yet living, and not very many others who remember that time. I've heard World War One described as the first modern war, but maybe in some ways the US Civil War was that -- war in which modern technology created effective machines of killing that efficiently slaughtered millions of people quickly. At any rate, the First World War was horrifying and hideously destructive, shattering dreams that technological and economic "progress" were creating a peaceful and prosperous world. Woodrow Wilson sold this mess to the US public as a "the war to end all wars" and a war to "make the world safe for democracy." (Wilson is often portrayed as a progressive idealist, but he was also a notorious racist, and pursued many anti-democratic policies.)

Even today in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US government promotes the polite fiction that its military interventions are designed to make the world safe for democracy.  But we have lost even the hoped for ideal of ending all wars, and I think you can see that in the change from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. Armistice Day celebrated the end of what people were hoping and trying to make the last war. Veterans Day assumes that we will always have wars, that there will always be a justification for the United States to invade some other nation and make it right. On Veterans Day, we are supposed to thank military veterans for their service to their country. Especially on Veterans Day, if we question US military intervention in other countries, we are accused of dishonoring the brave men and women who wear our country's uniform. Heaven forfend that we might stop invading far-off places and use all that money and person power to make our own country right.

Meaning no disrespect to anyone who now is in the US military, or who has been in the military, I am not celebrating Veterans Day today. Today I am celebrating Armistice Day, when the guns fell silent to end the First World War, and when we can hope and dream and commit ourselves toward working for a day when all of the guns in all of the wars will fall silent.

And today, I would like to thank some other people for their service to our country. First of all, I would like to thank the activists who work for peace, for women's rights, for civil rights for people of color, for health care reform, for an end to poverty, for the preservation of our natural world. I want to thank the poets and the artists and the singer-songwriters. I want to thank the school teachers and the day care workers, and the people who labor in hospitals and nursing homes. I want to thank the librarians, and the historians, and the civil libertarians. I want to thank the people who volunteer for food banks, and food co-ops, and the people who tend community gardens. I want to thank the bloggers. I want to thank the bicycle mechanics and the drivers for public transport. I am sure I am forgetting someone, but I think you get the idea. I want to thank the people whose work and whose quiet courage make the possibility of peace more real. To all of you, I want to say, thank you for your service to your country, and to the entire world.

And now I think I'm going to get back to work on that anti-war novel of mine.

Monday, November 9, 2009

On the fall of the Berlin Wall

Today, many news reports celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. The events of 1989, which culminated in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, are celebrated as some sort of final victory of capitalism over socialism. I wish I had the time for a full discussion of whether what was going on in the Soviet bloc countries deserved the name of socialism -- or whether what goes on in the United States deserves the name of democracy. But, ironically, I am in the midst of writing a novel about a character who has time traveled to the present from 1989, and I need to finish 50,000 words by the end of the month.

I did notice that CommonDreams.org cross-posted an interesting article from Reuters writer Anna Mudeva that points out that In Eastern Europe, People Pine for Socialism. Memories of atrocities committed by the old regimes have faded, Mudeva writes.
Capitalism's failure to lift living standards, impose the rule of law and tame flourishing corruption and nepotism have given way to fond memories of the times when the jobless rate was zero, food was cheap and social safety was high.
Furthermore, Common Dreams also reports that a recent global poll shows that most people are dissatisfied with free-market capitalism.

But certainly, advanced capitalist countries such as ours don't build walls defended with barbed wire and armed guards to keep people in. No, of course not. We build walls to keep people out.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Congresswomen speak out for reproductive freedom

Thanks to FeministPeaceNetwork for a link to this post from Spare Candy that shows five Congresswomen speaking out against the Stupak amendment, to the House's health care bill. The Stupak Amendment prevents women who sign up for the public option, or who get assistance to buy insurance from the exchanges, from getting health insurance that covers abortions.

Kucinich votes against house health insurance bill

Thanks to Whole Foods Boycott Action for their link to Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich's explanation of his vote against the health insurance bill.

Here'a an interesting anaylsis of the Stupak Amendment...

...from the always perceptive Feminist Peace Network.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A bittersweet victory on healthcare reform

Our Bodies Our Blog reports that the US House of Representatives has passed the the health care reform bill.

But first, they passed the Stupak Amendment, limiting women's access to abortion. This amendment passed with the support of 64 Democrats. More explanation of the Stupak Amendment can be found here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Counting all the dead

Thanks to CommonDreams.org for reposting this commentary on the Fort Hood massacre from New American Media. Author Aaron Glantz identifies the victims of yesterday's violence as casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It seems clear that the violence that we as a nation have been perpetrating on other nations is coming back to haunt us.

How would space aliens understand our analysis of violence?

ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES has an interesting post on the violence at Ft. Hood. Her main point is that news commentators spend endless hours analyzing the causes of some sorts of violence, while violence against women is accepted as an ordinary part of life, not requiring much thought.

Ironically, the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre is coming up in about a month.