Saturday, May 13, 2006

THE Place to be this weekend...

The Gift of Peace for Mothers Day
By Medea Benjamin

Friday 12 May 2006

It's true. Mothers Day was NOT invented by Hallmark. Or by 1-800-FLOWERS or even Sees Candies. In fact, Julia Ward Howe, the woman credited with initiating Mothers Day in 1870, would have been appalled by its crass commercialism. Were she alive today, Julia probably would have told her kids to dispense with the roses and chocolates, and instead join her in an anti-war rally. Yes, Julia Ward Howe was a peacenik.

While best known for writing the Battle Hymn of the Republic and her stance against slavery, Julia was horrified by the carnage and suffering during the Civil War and the economic devastation that followed. She was also heart-broken by the outbreak of war between France and Germany in 1870, with its ominous display of German military might and imperial designs. She used her poetic gift to pen a proclamation against war, a proclamation that birthed Mothers Day.

"Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause," Julia wrote. "Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. " Her solution? Women should gather together to "promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace."

This year on Mothers Day weekend, May 13-14, CODEPINK: Women for Peace is organizing a gathering in Washington DC in the spirit of Julia's original proclamation. Recognizing that our nation and our world is in crisis and that we, the women, must intervene, we will be gathering for a 24-hour vigil in front of the White House.

We'll be calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq and for stopping an attack on Iran. We'll spend our time strategizing about how to promote citywide resolutions, state orders to bring home the National Guard, legislation to cut off funds for the war, campaigns to support disaffected soldiers, global efforts to stop the next war, and people-to-people ties with Iraqis and Iranians.

Our weekend plans also include a performance of the historic antiwar play Lysistrata, an evening concert, antiwar films, writing letters to Laura Bush, a pink pajama party, an interfaith service on Sunday morning, and a visit to Walter Reed Hospital to deliver roses to mothers/wives of injured soldiers.

This Mothers Day, we'll be echoing Julia Ward Howe's plea: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."

Instead of trinkets and breakfast in bed, we'll be giving our mothers and the mothers around the world the greatest gift: our energy, our passion, our commitment and our determination to stop the violence and build a world without war.


for Mother's Day stories that challenge our thinking...

...check out The Huffington Post this weekend. There are quite a few interesting stories. This one is one of my favorites.

And then go to Salon's Broadsheet for a number of provocative and very relevant stories all posted on Friday (the 12th) in advance of the Sunday holiday.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

more food for thought

Who is going to stop this man...

...from destroying our Constitution?

It appears that only a few men are willing to say no to him when it counts, but it doesn't really matter since George W. Bush does not willingly listen to advice from any of the men in his life anyway. However, we do know, at least anecdotally, that GWB does pay attention-- sometimes-- to what women say: his mother, his wife, Condi Rice, Karen Hughes, Harriet Miers. Maybe even his daughters.

So, what if, in honor of Mother's Day... we send letters, emails, faxes to these women, and explain to them, unsentimentally, how important it is that they, once again, save GWB from himself. Remind them that he is in near danger, not only of being rated the worst president in US history, but also of being the one to destroy our Constitution. Remind them that they have to save not only him from himself, but their own children and grandchildren, who are in danger of growing up in a very different world than the one in which they have grown up. Remind them that they already get some credit for being able to smooth over the negatives of his public personality, but that this is their moment to make real history by helping to save a democracy. Remind them, that like Charity, Democracy must start at home. Remind them of whatever else you really care about.

Of course, we're all busy people-- so, think of this as a long-term project that does not have to be completed by Sunday. Decide on how much you want to do, figure out a time line, and plan something that won't require burning the candle at both ends. Feel free to comment or email about your plans, or drafts of your letters. We'll post them prominently.

If there are any men reading this and saying, "hey, what about me?" ...well, I sympathize. We all wish that George Bush were willing to listen to you, too. I've always thought that the world tends to be a much better place when men censure one another's bad behavior. But it doesn't always work that way in the world. And it really doesn't work that way in BushWorld. So, perhaps you could ask your wife or girlfriend or mother or aunt or sister or coworker to do something, and in exchange, offer to do something for her (or them): a load of laundry, some errands, a foot massage. You know what she/they will want or need in order to find time to write a half-dozen or a dozen letters. And... my honest opinion is that actual letters will be more effective, and not as many will be required. It is very difficult to ignore a crisp piece of stationery with the personally composed letter, signed by another woman who has taken the time from her own busy schedule to encourage a woman who has the ear of the president to help us all by helping, once again, to save him from his own worst tendencies. But if email is all that is possible for you, then use email.

Update: Okay, I'm sort of stumped. At one time, it was better to email, because of the security risks and the lengthy time involved in inspecting paper mail. However, the White House's web page suggests that, due to the volume of email they receive, invitations should be sent by regular mail in order to ensure timely processing. The contact information for the White House is here, which presumably should work for everyone on our list. Does anyone else have more updated information?

food for thought.

Men don't like nobility in woman. Not any men. I suppose it is because the men like to have the copyrights on nobility -- if there is going to be anything like that in a relationship.

~Dorothy Parker

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.

~Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

on getting women out to vote...

Read la Hamsher... and follow the links, too! You won't be sorry if you do, but you might be very sorry if you don't, once 2008 rolls around, or maybe even this coming November.

Young women, in particular, don't see enough other women talking about political issues and campaigns. We need to speak up! Speak out! Let them hear us!

This is important. In fact, there are few things that are a higher priority than getting the non-voting, yet eligible-voting-age women out to vote.

Except, perhaps, helping them to feel informed enough to vote. They need to know what current policy issues mean in their own lives. And perhaps their children's.

the inspiration for Lyssa Strada

The original inspiration for this blog began long before there were blogs-- with an event that to many might seem rather trivial these days: these post-9/11, but not yet post-Iraq, not yet post-Bush-administration days. A woman working in a bar in the Philadelphia area was humiliated by a professional football player who chose to expose himself to her while she was working. Not knowing that he was a pro-ball player, she, of course, did not understand the honor being bestowed upon her, even when his buddies said "Don't you know who he is?" Frankly, no; she did not. The story became quite a brouhaha in the press, with speculation about who did or did not deserve what, questions of suits and money, a non-apology apology, and more. In the end, she ended up losing her job, and he went on his merry way. That is, he continued playing pro-ball. However, there was one local sports writer-- a male!-- who took the lady's side. In other words, he made no excuses for the athlete's behavior, and did not consider that being a so-called SportsCelebrity entitled one to expect that such behavior was excusable.

I'm not sure his understanding helped the then-unemployed waitress much, but it made an impression on me, contributing to an image I would carry around for quite a while of competing choruses of men and women (more about them later), but updated and in modern dress (except that the men would be wearing plastic molds of brains as codpieces, hanging from the fronts of their khaki shorts, and singing "hanging brain, hanging brain, hanging brain" as if they were singing about "dropping trou"), and with this image came the beginning of an idea for something with Lysistrata as a jumping-off play, and the Philly environs as a starting place. Would it become a story or a novel or a play or what? The answer to that question changed constantly with the cast and landscape in my mind. I still had to imagine how the women in the tale would wreak their vengeance, righting not just the injustice suffered by one waitress, but correcting injustices for women all over the world. Would they be Furies? Or the Eumenides? All questions with answers in flux.

In the summer of 2001, several ideas began to gel, and some time later, after a week spent on Monhegan, I thought I could envision a book that would weave them all together, but, before I got very far with my idea that fall, I woke up one gorgeous morning in September, feeling a bit of spring finally returning to my limbs after a period of living with a chronic condition. Yet, even before I arrived at work, there were hints on the news on the car radio that something was amiss.

For some time afterwards, even wanting to write anything seemed so frivolous... and in a sense, it was. Ultimately, that day cost all of us so much more than we were aware of at the time. Conservatives like to pretend that only they lost anything of value on 9/11, or perhaps, that only they truly appreciate the losses of that September morning. Yet, the rest of us are-- finally-- all too aware that our losses in Iraq are fast approaching the numbers of our losses on 9/11. And, we mourn daily the increasing losses of all kinds that accrue like silt. In addition to the tragic loss of life and the destruction of a major city's skyline, that day ultimately meant we were to have not just one, but two terms of George W. Bush at the helm, clueless, oblivious, contentious, arrogant... that we would be responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives, for unbelievable torture, for an almost complete loss of innocent belief in America as a force for good in the world. I could go on, and on, but I don't need to now, because now, enough people have experienced the shock and awe of thinking, with each new and horrible headline, that surely things cannot get any worse. Until they do get worse. And now enough of us wonder every day how much worse things can get. And can our Constitution hold on until 2009? But what does it really mean if, finally, enough people see how upside-down our world has become?

In Aristophanes' play, Lysistrata and the women she recruits are unhappy with both their third-class lot in the world and with the effects of the Peloponesian War on their lives. And now a personal, creative impulse that originally began as a wish to create a piece of art, and was informed by a belief in the proper-ness of a woman's autonomy, has evolved through a series of notions that did not become it-- including the wish for a simple feminist statement about women in the world-- and, finally, has been prodded into existence by a senseless war. Started by an insensible president.

There is a bit of hope, but we must harness women's Wrath, if we are to have any real effect. GWB willfully ignores the counsel of other men, but he has been known to be vulnerable to the influence of the women in his life.

Potent Policymaking

Here's another post from that cuddly meth-head, Belacqua Jones.

Dear George,

At the end of the day, policy is a guy thing, and the nastier the policy, the more fun guys have formulating it. It’s downright stimulating to hash out strategies for containment, neutralization, or collateralizing damage. He needs a nasty policy to implement because the manly virtues have all become unfashionable. For this, I blame the nation's female school teachers. They are the ones who make the boys stay in their seats or send them to the principal’s office every time display the testosteronic energy that is their birthright.

This self-stimulation through policy had its finest moment at the Wansee Conference when German businessmen, civil servants and technicians signed on to the holocaust. Those were heady days, indeed. What a joy it must have been to plan and organize state-sanctioned violence with the added benefit of never having to see a dead body.

Let me give you an example of how strong this lust for policy is. In 1992, the DOD prepared a document titled Defense Planning Guidance (DPG). This document stated that the goal of United States foreign policy was to prevent the emergence of any power that could threaten U.S. military supremacy. The press got wind of the document, there was a public outcry, and the DPG was dismissed as being the product of a lunatic fringe.

History proves that yesterday’s lunatic is today’s policymaker.

With your selection in 2000, Rummy rode to the rescue, white of hair and white of horse, to bring the DPG back to life. Now, the first rule of rehabilitating bullshit is to repackage it. Same shit; different box. On February 5, 2006, Rummy issued the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), and, damned if the goal stated in the DPG didn’t rise from the dead. Only, Rummy went the DPR one better. He identified a specific threat to our military superiority. It was none other than the pawnshop where we’ve hocked our children’s future—China.

Do your realize what this means? It means the Cold War is alive and well, but instead of containing the Soviet Union, we’re going to contain China, which will require all sorts of new weapons systems. As one commentator put it, “Preparing for war with China…is to be the future cash cow for the giant U.S. weapons making corporations in the military-industrial complex.”[1]

The simple fact is that we have become psychologically dependent on the presence of an evil force bent on destroying us. Fifty years of a Cold War conditioned us to the point that we feel naked and exposed in the absence of a threat. A man can’t be a man unless somebody is out to get him. It is this threat that keeps him in fighting trim. Fantasies of destruction have always been more invigorating than fantasies of growth and maturation. What man ever dreams of being wise or just? Rather, it is our fantasy to combine the best qualities of the conquistador and the stud muffin.

W.H. Auden got it right when he said, “We would rather be ruined than changed.” The one manly virtue that can never be touched is the romantic glory of self-destruction. A public flameout glorified artists like Van Gogh and Pollack. Would not the public glorify the state that self-destructed? After all, the British made an industry out of glorifying their military disasters.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

[1] See Michael T. Klare’s article at

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

U.S. ranks near bottom of first world countries in children's survival...

According to the annual State of the World's Mothers report, as reported by

Charles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children, said the report card "illustrates the direct line between the status of mothers and the status of their children."

"In countries where mothers do well, children do well," he said in a written statement accompanying the report.

Unfortunately, that same report has little good to say about the mortality rate of children in the U.S.:

Only Latvia, with six deaths per 1,000 live births, has a higher death rate for newborns than the United States, which is tied near the bottom of industrialized nations with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with five deaths per 1,000 births.

What must these reality-based facts say, then, about the status of mothers in the U.S.?

Once again, we point you to for questions, answers, and actions you can take.

More to follow...

Plan B

In a move of subversion that must be applauded, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on Monday recommended that women get prescriptions for Plan B, the emergency contraception pill, filled now. You know, just in case. Because the FDA is dragging its feet on approving OTC status for Plan B.

This quote from Ms. Magazine:
Emergency contraception is most effective if taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, birth-control failure, or rape. Most states require a doctor’s prescription, which takes time and therefore increases risk of pregnancy. Making access even more difficult, in some states pharmacists can refuse to fill EC prescriptions based on religious beliefs.
Despite several of its own scientists recommending approval for OTC status, the FDA continues to delay, delay, delay.

The old tired rhetoric from religious fundamentalists continues to be trotted out. "This will just encourage teenagers to have sex." As if teenagers needed any encouragement. Yet again, the implication being that it is the girl who is responsible and should therefore be punished.

Thank you Eve. Let's just skip over the part where Adam could have said "no."

Another little fishing story...

A friend sent me a story, with the label: "A Little Humor." My apologies if you've seen it before. I have, too, but I still laugh when I read it. And we do need to laugh more, so here it is...
A couple are away on vacation. One morning, the husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, his wife decides to take their boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, and pulls out her book.

Along comes a game warden. He pulls up alongside the woman and says, "Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?"

“Reading a book," she replies (thinking, "Isn't it obvious?!").

"You're in a restricted fishing area; I'll have to take you in and write you up," he informs her.

"I'm sorry, Officer, but I'm not fishing; I'm reading."

"Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment.

"If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault," says the woman.

"But I haven't touched you," says the game warden.

"That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know, you could start at any moment."

"Have a nice day, Ma'am," he said as motored away.

Moral of the Story: Never argue with a woman who reads... it's likely she can think.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A President Who Prefers Fishing

Tim Grieve over at highlighted the story of a German interviewer who asked George W. Bush last Friday to name the "most awful" and the "most wonderful" moments of his presidency so far. The president responded:

Bush: The most awful moment was September the 11th, 2001.
Reporter: The famous picture when somebody gave you the information?

Bush: Yes, that. I think, like all of us, it took a while for the -- it was more than a moment. It was the event and the aftermath. On a situation like that, it takes a period to understand exactly what was going on. When somebody says, America is under attack, and -- you've got to fully understand what that meant. And the information coming was haphazard at best for a while. We weren't sure if the State
Department got hit.

I'd heard the White House had got attacked. Of course, I was worried that -- my family was here.

And so I would say the toughest moment of all was after the whole reality sunk in and I was trying to help the nation understand what was going on, and at the same time, be empathetic for those who had lost lives.

The best moment was -- you know, I've had a lot of great moments. I don't know, it's hard to characterize the great moments. They've all been busy moments, by the way. I would say the best moment was when I caught a seven-and-a-half pound large-mouth bass on my lake.

This news inspired a dialogue with my friend Shawn. I’ve adapted it into this short script:

Chorus: The president reveals too much in this, America. Would it be too much to ask of him to find the mental wherewithal to define any moment relevant to the nation or the world instead of some personal and highly irrelevant event that a majority of you give a rats-ass about?

Citizen: I guess we should give him a break on this, eh? I mean, what high points are there to list. Really?

Chorus: Listen to reason: You know a man by what he talks about, especially if approached to speak about defining moments. Don't you think he could have thought of just one policy that he cared about or that was even remotely successful or appreciated by his lapdog Republicans? Where were his emotional insights about climbing the rubble at Ground Zero? Where were his supposed strategic successes of his Homeland Security plan? Could he not even fall back on the good fortune of John Roberts becoming the newest Supreme Court Justice?

Indeed, what are we to think of a president whose thoughts and feelings seem disconnected from his responsibilities? He's the president of "away on vacation," "out to lunch," and "out of touch."

Citizen: Of course. Of course. He should have thought of something meaningful. And maybe it is something all together different: I have this nagging feeling that possibly he's too dense to take a minute to give a thoughtful answer. Maybe, he is too selfish, only interested in getting back to an inane activity. Maybe, for him, being president is about being the world's number-one "decider," not because it gives him the opportunity to do good things, but because it makes him the most powerful guy on the planet.

Chorus: Hard times require a president whose cognizance aspires to the ascent of man. Here is an example of one whose thinking is focused on his descent.

Beating Back the Tsunami of Sin

Here's another letter to our President from that misogynous neocon, Belacqua Jones.

Dear George,

Stop the presses; I have a hot nominee for the Medal of Freedom.

George, there are Christians and then there are Christians. However, the one I have in mind makes all the others look a bunch of crack whores turned loose in a boys’ locker room. I am speaking of none other than the pastor of the Landover Baptist Church, Pastor Deacon Fred. He first came to the public’s attention when he uncovered the homosexual motif in Disney’s Finding Nemo, warning America that the bright colors and hues of the fish were, “trails of poop leading right up to the rabbit hole of homosexuality.”

As noble as were his efforts to protect the children of America from the Disney fifth, he really deserves the medal for a movement he is spearheading that will save America from falling into the depths of depravity and degradation. The good pastor is petitioning Congress to outlaw tampons, which he describes as, “Satan’s cotton fingers.” To which I say, why stop there! Get rid of the sanitary napkins, too. If a handful of moss was good enough for Eve, it is good enough for today’s woman. Besides, everyone knows the monthly flow has nothing to do with ovulation. It is the blood of penance shed in payment for Eve’s original sin. God threw in cramps and PMS as a bonus, sort of like a double-stamp day at the supermarket.

While we are at it, let us go after another symbol of feminine depravity, pubic hair. Yes, Brothers and Sisters, I am talking about that Delta of Venus that conceals the pearly gates through which men tumble downward into the fiery pits of hell where Satan roasts their gonads on the tines of his pitchfork. It is the duty of every Christian male to seize the nearest female, hold her down, shave, then wax, and finally Simonize that pube ‘til the mons veneris shines, creased as it is by the tiny slit that…

But I digress.

Honor Pastor Deacon Fred, George. Satan trembles every time He hears Pastor Fred’s name, for the Evil One knows Pastor Fred will wrestle him to the ground, bite his nose off and practice anal penetration with His horns. Pastor Fred is the point man in our bid to return America to the decency that was once hers before women got the vote.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

Note: Anyone interested in a well-executed parody should go to All of the above quotes are from their webpage. --t

Contra-Contraception: NYTimes Magazine reveals ugly truth of Bush's Base and its view of women

Perhaps this story, by Times writer Russell Shorto, will finally put an end to the labels of "paranoid" or "conspiracy theorist" or "whiner" that have been unwittingly elicited by anyone who has written that Bush's Base will not be satisfied at restricting or even eliminating any provisions for abortion, leaving no exceptions for the health of the mother, viability of the fetus, or the circumstances of rape or incest. (In fact, for many of those who are waging war on women's reproductive lives, only the life of the mother is considered, reluctantly, a worthy reason for having an abortion, presumably for the same reason it makes no sense to allow an egg-laying hen to die unnecessarily.)

What the Times's piece makes abundantly clear, finally, for those who have been in denial about the ultimate aim of the GOP's power-hungry religious-righteous, is that contraception is also on their agenda. In fact, one quote makes clear what many of us have already known for some time: that whatever they might say about their concern for women's health, their real goal is to prevent anyone (i.e., any woman) from having sex without consequences.

More importantly, though, Shorto takes an even-handed and more nuanced approach than most writers on this topic and eloquently articulates the murkier middle of this debate... that area where our thinking cannot ignore the huge quantitative differences between the US and most of the rest of the civilized world where easy access to both contraception and abortion results in far lower rates of both unwanted pregnancies and abortions than in the US... yet, where our moral nature is uneasy about the impact of making freely available to teens and unmarried women practical sexual information and medical services that are completely clinical and nonjudgmental.

Perhaps because he takes such a high road, Shorto is simply unaware of the very relevant dirty laundry of one of the players he mentions; more likely he just decided not to mention Dr. W. David Hager's long-term history of sexually abusing and sodomizing his wife because it is so personal and lurid. I am under no such obligation, however, and my point in mentioning it, besides reminding us all once again of this administration's penchant for naming the most peculiarly qualified appointees-- Hager claimed to use the Bible in his ob/gyn practice-- is that, whenever there is soooo much heat around any topic that is at all connected to sex, we can be sure that a damning hypocrisy is just below the surface. We have only to scratch it.

It also seemed appropriate to write about this topic since on Sunday we celebrate Mother's Day, a holiday that began as day when women protested the war that turned their children (really, their sons) into cannon fodder, but has since evolved into a day with traces of familial passive-aggression: Buy/do something nice/expensive for your mother! Or the mother of your children! Make your children feel guilty for your labor pains! Just be sure to support the economy to the best of your ability. Or beyond it.

However, lots of organizations have wonderful suggestions for other ways to spend Mother's Day, including Code Pink and

With the approaching holiday, expect to see more posts on related topics here.