Archive for May, 2012

This is Paige Sulzbach, second basewoman for Mesa Prep’s baseball team.  She recently endured her fifteen seconds of fame when her team won the charter school championship in baseball.  Their win would not have made the national news had Mesa not won by forfeit because the coach from Our Lady of Sorrows high school refused to play against a team with a girl on it.   The championship series was a best-of-three series, and Paige sat out the first two games in deference to OLOS’ wishes.  But when push came to shove and the teams were tied with one win apiece, her coach and her teammates wanted her in the game playing second base.  Which, by all reports, she does pretty damn well.

Here is the rationale for the forfeit given by authorities at Our Lady of Sorrows:   “Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we choose not to place them in an athletic competition where proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty … Our school aims to instill in our boys a profound respect for women and girls.”   Needles to say, women have heard all this shit before.  Words like “ladies,” “proper boundaries,” and “respect” are code for “different and lesser.”

When I read this I amused myself for a few minutes imagining the bind the bishop or monsignor or whoever was put in as he tried to find currently acceptable language to cover the ugly truth:   patriarchal men are desperately afraid of women’s sexuality, and so it is very, very important to keep women away from men.  At least until they are married, so some man can lock them away at home caring for lots and lots of babies.

Our Lady of Sorrows is run by the Society for Saint Pius X.  I looked these fellers up, and discovered that they were thrown out of the catholic church during the 1980s.  Seems they refused to accept the reforms of Vatican II–they wanted to return to the Latin mass, for instance–and they became such an irritant that they finally got themselves ejected.   Their name tells us much–Pius X vociferously opposed modernism, a movement that swept through Christian theology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  So, to make a long story short, the men who run OLOS really want to live in the fifteenth century, when they could simply have accused Paige (and her entire family) of witchcraft and burned them all at the stake.

Okay, I exaggerate.  But not much.  By sheer coincidence this morning I ran across this quote from Gordon Hinckley, the high poobah of the Mormon church.  This is from a “Proclamation,” which I guess means that all good Mormons have to abide by it on pain of being put in the stocks or something.   Here it is:   “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. . . . God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”   I note first that gender is approved/given by God and is hence eternal–good Mormon women continue to be women in heaven, where I suppose they are expected to polish the harps and launder the white robes.  And in the second sentence I note that the poobah has carefully omitted the word “one” in the phrase “between man and woman,” thus hanging on to the preference for polygamy that Mormon patriarchs still express when they can get away with it.  How many people know, I wonder, that the Mormons only gave up polygamy so that Utah could be admitted to the Union?   and that they only joined the Union because otherwise the Union cavalry would have kindly escorted them all to Mexico?

Academics label views like these “gender essentialism.”  Churches are the last bastions of institutionalized gender essentialism in the US, and while it is amusing watching them try to utter this truth in a post-feminist world, overall their beliefs are no joke.  Not with Republicans in their lap, crying about religious liberty when it is the churches that want to violate the first amendment by forcing their antiquated and cruel beliefs onto non-believers, such as hospital and university employees.  And second basewomen.


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My neighbor, Betty, died yesterday.  I guess there are some blessings, even in death:  she died without waking from the coma into which she fell on Sunday afternoon.

I liked Betty a lot.  She’d had a hard life when she was young, and the scars were readily apparent even during her relatively comfortable later life.   But she had a great sense of irony which she occasionally let peek through the facade of scatterbrained-ness she has developed as a way of coping.   To the surprise of no one who knew her,  she fought bravely against the cancer that killed her.

Her husband is a different matter.   He is a rock-ribbed conservative, and he likes to pretend he is a hard man.  He and I had some serious fallings-out over our differences on all sorts of issues, mostly political.  But we are neighbors who live in a relatively sparsely populated area, and so we usually got past those disagreements, although sometimes it took us months or even years to do so.

He surprised me this morning, though.  He came over to my house and accepted my invitation to sit awhile.  We talked for almost two hours.  He told me how he had met and courted Betty (stories I had not heard in all the years we’ve lived next door to one another), and something about their relations with their blended families.   He was a different, softer, almost vulnerable man this morning, and we cried together as we reminisced about Betty.   Except when we each admitted that we were scared silly when we rode somewhere in a car while she was driving.   Then we laughed.

As he left, we promised to do better by one another–to be friends instead of just next-door neighbors.  I don’t know whether we can manage that, but I’m determined to try.  I think Betty would like that.

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Chris Hayes’ new show, Up, has become regular fare for my weekend mornings, even though it begins out here in the west at 5 am (thanks to the invisible pink unicorn for DVR).  I may have to stop watching, though, because this news/commentary show, unlike most others, actually tells the truth on occasion.

This morning Chris met with three economists and journalist Ezra Klein to discuss the country’s financial situation.  (I expect a complete transcript will soon be available at Chris’ site on MSNBC).   The discussion entailed  informative commentary on the plight of the EU, as well, and agreed that the USA cannot be permanently harmed by the dissolution of the EU, should that happen, because we have a sovereign currency and very good credit world-wide.

However, said dissolution will  prove disastrous for us if the Rethugs win the presidency and as well as Congress.  Here’s why:   the economists didn’t always agree with one another, but the one point on which they were vociferously united was this:   the Republican economic plan (ie the Paul Ryan budget) is a recipe for disaster.   It is, in fact, the same response initially made by the EU to the situation in Greece.  In addition, if the Rethugs are truly serious about not raising the debt ceiling, they could collapse the American economy.

Even worse, discussions about the debt ceiling and the national budget will probably take place with a lame duck Congress.  That is to say, a significant number of House members and a few Senators, and perhaps even the President,  will have no longer have any political stake in the outcomes of  those discussions.

Chris asked Ezra, who covers the Hill, whether Republicans could possibly actually believe in the Ryan budget, apparently assuming that this is just another Rethug exercise in political cynicism.  Ezra’s answer chilled me to the bone:   he said that while seasoned pols like Tom Coburn (!) were not on board with it, there are nonetheless many many true believers among the new class of House Rethugs.  They have been lying to themselves for so long they have talked themselves into believing their own economic nonsense.

My unease increased when Chris showed tape of a minister in Greece suggesting that economic conditions may soon incite civil disruption, if not revolution.  And then we saw footage of a newly risen fascist party marching in the streets.   Nor was my day brightened by footage I saw later of Chicago police brutally clubbing protestors outside the site of the G-8 meeting.

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From Open Globe:

“The second “Kuala Lumpur War Crime Tribunal” found Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their legal advisers Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo guilty of torture and war crimes. The vote was unanimous among the five-panel tribunal after the week-long hearing.

The trial, held in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, featured testimony by victims whom US military contractors and soldiers had violently abused. Full transcripts of witness statements and other content will be given to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the United Nations, and the Security Council. Additionally, the tribunal has requested that the names of Bush and the six others be added to the Commission’s Register of War Criminals.”


Apparently similar proceedings in Germany and Spain were stopped by the governments of those countries.  (Who can blame them when America shoved all this dirt under the rug first).  But Malaysia has had the courage to pursue Bush’s merry band, and this decision opens the door for the UN to act.  They won’t, of course, but the threat is there, still.  At the very least none of these guys can safely fly off to the Riviera for a vacation.

I heard about this from a caller to the Stephanie Miller Show this morning.   Thank stars for the internets, because this item will never show up on CBS News.

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(Cartoon borrowed from US News, who borrowed it from the artist and the Boston Globe)

According to my journal in December of last year I began to read a bunch of books about the notion of “political theology,” which names the assumption that sometimes political beliefs assume the status of religion among groups that subscribe to them.  The type-locality of political theology is of course mid-twentieth-century fascism, particularly that version sold in Germany.

If you are conservative, like Michael Burleigh, you can write a couple of large books arguing that socialism is also a political theology, and hence you can look down your nose at any belief system (except your own, of course) that can be said to fall into that category.  If you are a liberal historian of ideas like Mark Lilla, you worry about the encroachment of “messianism” onto areas usually thought of as political.

I bought these books when I was working on a book of my own.  But I discovered during the writing that they were too far afield of my immediate needs, so I put them aside.  After I retired I rediscovered them sitting on my shelf, and because I had paid good (and now more dear) money for them, I figured I really ought to read them.  So I did–or rather I skimmed through their more interesting passages.

Thinking about messianism got me interested in creationism, or rather, in the argument between creationists and a whole raft of scientists who oppose creationism for the religious nonsense it is, and I read a couple of books on this, including a nice account of the flap in the Dover, Pennsylvania public schools and a book about the Scopes trial way back when.  For some reason, this reading got me interested in reading about the history of Christianity, which I reported on here, ad nauseum.

This reading, in turn, interested me in reading atheist writers because I was curious to see whether they were familiar with the recent literature in biblical criticism.  Bet your bippy they are–and many of them are fine writers, to boot.  For example, at one point Richard Dawkins runs smack up against a wrongheaded belief held by some creationists which is so embarrassingly crude that he counters it with a bit of evidence and then says:  “And now, I move hastily on.”  And here is a little gem of insight from Christopher Hitchens:  “the literal mind does not understand the ironic mind.”

Reading Dawkins and Stephen Pinker and P. J. Myers over at Pharyngula got me interested in evolution, and now I’m reading around in that, particularly in the story of human evolution.  So Wasserman’s cartoon really caught my eye because the confluence of Christian opposition to gay marriage and to evolution brings me back to the question I started with way back in 2003:  what are these people so pissed about?  Why can’t they leave the rest of us alone?  (As Hitchens put it:  religion “can’t be content with its own marvelous claims”;  instead its proselytizers find it necessary to “interfere with the lives of unbelievers.”)

Christian opposition to gay marriage is being loudly expressed at the moment in the slogan:  “Marriage is a relation between one man and one woman.”  Furthermore, this has been true for thousands of years, according to these know-it-alls.  These sentiments are truly hilarious issuing from the Mormon mouth of Mitt Romney, whose great-grand-parents fled to Mexico in order to protect their polygamous marriage when, in order to be admitted to the US, the state of Utah mandated that men take only one wife.  And any reader of the Old Testament know that those old guys–Abraham and his buddies–regularly took more than one wife.  But the humor is lost on contemporary Christians because of the Hitchens rule.

Some feminist analysts think that Christian/conservative opposition to gay marriage is actually opposition to (or disgust with) the idea of men having sex with one another (patriarchal men don’t mind looking at depictions of lesbian sex, after all).  No straight guy can bear the notion of being cornholed, given the power arrangements that have always circled around “being on top,” literally and figuratively.

But I think there is another reason, as well:   gay marriage empowers women, and patriarchs just can’t have that.  Gay women escape patriarchal control obviously because they don’t have to pamper patriarchs, but also because they are free to make their own decisions about work and reproduction (where they are not compelled by the increasing limitations imposed on women by conservative legislators).

So once again, belief in God is always already enmeshed with desire for power.   I want to think a bit more about why the fundie rejection of evolution is tied up with this desire.  So it’s time to eddy out, have a beer, and contemplate the scenery for awhile.

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Is it just me?  Or is e-mail going the way of those poor farting dinosaurs? (Of course it is emphatically not true that dinos farted their way to extinction.  But their methane emissions did heat up the place, hence raising the temperature of their world.)

When I was working I kept my e-mail on perpetually during working hours.  And when I first tuned into it in the early mornings, my mailbox was full to the brim with posts from students, colleagues, friends, and professional acquaintances.   Now that I have retired, I find I need only to check it every couple of weeks or so, which suffices to catch the occasional query asking me to speak somewhere or to write something.  I also hear from former students who want to celebrate a job or a promotion or a publication, or who want a letter of recommendation, or who just want to say “hi.”  But that’s about it.  Except for the spam.

Because my inbox is no longer carefully patrolled by an in-house IT person, the task of eliminating unwanted sources of e-mail has fallen to me.  And I will admit that the work involved in assigning mail from Best Buy and the place where I buy bras to the trash bin requires more of my time than I’m willing to fork over to such a boring task during the dwindling twilight of my years.

And I seldom hear from friends via e-mail any more.  We talk on the phone when something important has come up, or communicate on wider issues through this  blog.  I suspect, however, that most people, including friends who are under the age of Methuselah are using social media for casual communication–texting, twitter, facebook, and the like.  And if I were less a luddite, I’d sign up for these things as well.  But then I’d have to learn to use my cellphone for more than making calls.

Oh well.  Maybe tomorrow.

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Everyone has probably heard by now that North Carolina passed its double-down constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (gay marriage was already illegal there).  The amendment also raised anti-civil union sentiment to constitutional status, which means that straight folks can no longer avail themselves of any government-granted rights for which, along with gay people, they pay taxes.

The constitutional status also means that challenges to the law will be very difficult, although no doubt court filings are already underway.  And North Carolinians, gay and straight, will soon find their economy on the skids as corporations abandon plans to move there.  Just as has happened in Arizona.

I expect the real surprises will come, however, when cohabiting het couples discover that they are not entitled to food stamps or hospital visiting rights or any sort of child support supplied by the state.  I suppose if you interpret this new law broadly, their children are not entitled to enroll in public schools either.

I’d look forward to the shit hitting the fan when the rednecks who voted for this amendment discover all of this, except for the fact that it is all too horrible and sad.  As always, the real burden falls on unmarried women, who will be left in an absolute lurch when their partners abandon them, as they regularly do.  Some analysts have also opined that the amendment invalidates spousal abuse protections as well.

Elsewhere, longtime Senator Richard Lugar was defeated in Indiana by a rabid Tea Partier who defines “bipartisanship” as “Democrats always agree with Republicans.”  And two moderate Dems were unseated in the part of Pennsylvania that resembles Alabama.  And in west Virginia, a convicted felon running against Obama got 40% of the vote.

To date, I’ve been pretty sanguine about Obama’s chances in November.  If he takes the traditionally blue states, and he will, he’s automatically got around 240 electoral votes.  I was also buoyed by the nomination of Mittens, who is obviously the weakest candidate put forward by the Rethugs since Bob Dole.  And I had hoped that the clown show that was the Rethug primary would turn people off  that party permanently.  Also too, Obama has kept the economy out of serious trouble.  The most important part of that is the stock market, which is soaring, and which fact can’t be lost on that portion of the 1% who pays attention to elections.

But this morning I’m not sure any of that trumps the ignorant willfulness of the American voter

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