The War on Women

You hear about this, and the very phrase conforms so perfectly to rhetorical excess that it can become misconstrued, misused and made to seem meaningless. But it is real, as this list demonstrates:


Total number of reproductive rights-related laws introduced by state lawmakers in 2011.


Number of abortion and reproductive rights-related provisions introduced at the state level as of June 1.


The US unemployment rate.


Number of jobs created by wasting time debating hundreds of reproductive rights-restricting laws.


Number of children who were in the US foster care system at the end of 2010.


Number of those children with caseworkers who said they were waiting to be adopted.


Number of adoptable foster children who would not have stadium seats if you tried to put all of them into the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.


United States’ ranking on Save the Children’s list of best countries for mothers.


Number of podium pounding speeches given by “pro-life” Congressional leaders on how embarrassing it is that the US has the fourth highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized nation.

Between $2 and $6

Amount of taxpayer money saved for every $1 spent on birth control.

$11 billion

Cost of unplanned pregnancies to the US taxpayer — per year.

$11.2 billion

Amount Broadway musicals contribute to New York City’s economy per year.

Read the entire list. Weep, then wipe your eyes and get real.

Funding as punishment

Or defunding, as the case may be. And is.

This was a spot on the Daily Show recently and, not just because I worked with some UNESCO folks a few months ago, this is an idea whose time has passed and show just petty and ineffectual we can be when put our little minds to it:

The US envoy to the UN urged Congress Tuesday to allow America to resume the funding to UNESCO cut off once the body recognized the Palestinians as a member state in October.

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice argued that the funding reduction – some 22 percent of UNESCO’s annual budget – was hurting American interests and doing little to stem the Palestinians’ efforts for wider recognition at the UN.

But members of the US House foreign operations appropriations subcommittee, before whom Rice was testifying, pushed back against her appeals and indicated little support for providing the Obama administration the waiver it seeks. The funding cutoff was triggered by a law from the 1990s requiring the US to defund any UN body that recognized the Palestinians as a full member state.

The point not to punish yourself while you’re out showing just how tough and principled you can be – also no longer being taught in some of our better kindergartens. Actually, my apologies to kindergartners everywhere for this sort of low-level behavior in high-level places.

Gil Scott-Heron, R.I.P.

April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011

“You will not be able to stay home, brother./You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out./You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,/Skip out for beer during commercials,/Because the revolution will not be televised.”

Good Faith Arguments

The idea that there are principled stands being taken on various sides of issues, and therefore legitimate points of view worth highlighting, and perhaps defending or bringing into high contrast with opposition, is seeming more and more quaint.

Environmentalist groups and celebrities are celebrating “Earth Hour” tonight. They ask that you turn your lights out for an hour, to call attention to global warming.  Folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute suggest that “this sends the wrong message — to plunge us all into darkness as a rejection of technology and human achievement.” In fact, they point out that it’s Earth Hour every night in North Korea, where people lack basic freedoms, as well as affordable, reliable access to many human achievements, such as electricity. Check out this famous photo of environmentally conscious North Koreans observing Earth Hour all night, every night.

CEI rejects the rejection of technology.

Via. So while it may seem more interesting to set up the complex moral conundra surrounding an issue as a way of laying bare the essence of a particular debate, noting does it quite like realizing that some, many, in denial of ______ (because, really, the issue often doesn’t even matter) only want to piss off hippies.

Giving Bad Names A Bad Name

The collection of misogynist, disjointed and just plain lame Super Bowl commercials on display last night were the saddest collection probably since… oh, I don’t know – last year’s edition. It’s like everything else that has gone meta in gorging on its own hype – SB commercials once stood out for audacity and creativity because they were so expensive and had so many eyeballs. Now the ads [seemingly] enjoy iconic status merely by being SB commercials – and hence can be as lame and offensive as any others.

But the steaming pile de la pile, especially around these parts, had to be this “green” one:

Who are these green police? And why buy the audi diesel if eco stormtroopers don’t exist? This was going to convince someone to buy the car or change bulbs or not use plastic or whatever?

Or have we entered the age of reverse advertising? If so, that’s my excuse for the coke trailer above.

Top 10 Things I Started in 2009 But Didn’t Finish (and my excuses)

10. A bottle of moonshine that shouldn’t have been in the house anyway. (I don’t like moonshine)

9. Building a garage/bike-tool-wood shed, for which we have an awesome plan. (too expensive)

8. A painting of a rainy early evening in France where we once lived. (I almost screwed up the light, which was the whole reason to do it, but salvaged it – kinda. Because it’s in oil, I paint on the front porch; it got too cold.)

7. A book proposal for the Eco Hustle columns. (Mmm… since “I got too busy with a new job” is a Phlegmish excuse, I don’t have a good one.)

6. A treatment for a screenplay out of one my novels. (see above)

5. Homer’s The Iliad (I was at my in-laws and left it – on purpose, I think)

4. A magazine article about a Swedish director who shot someone. (This is one I feel both good and bad about, which is somewhat rare. I agreed to do the piece and put in a non-trivial amount of research/interviewing – enough, in fact, to realize that I would need to do more and probably go to Sweden in order to do him any kind of justice. The magazine wasn’t going to send me there, so I ultimately dropped it – but I didn’t tell them. I’m sure they figured it out. It was the right call.)

3. The other blog (It wasn’t meant to be finished.)

2. A new job (see above).

1. A new story that might be a novel if it holds up. (It might be a novel if it holds up. There are several sub-entries here, but this one gets the hope-y attention.)

S0… some (most) of these weren’t abandoned, just not finished. It’s a hazard of writing. Can’t judge the year on just these, but it’s part of the truth of the 365 about to turn.

And you?


How often do you hear that in response to the question, “How’s it going?” or “How are you?” As a signifier busy has replaced doing well – equal parts occupied and honest, abandoned of concern for quality or well-being. And we all understand what it means: harried, overworked, over-scheduled, stretched thin. And we all can sort of commiserate about the state of affairs that deposits us there, short for time and ill-nourished by several easily quantifiable measures. What was once friendly advice after a trauma or tragedy (try to stay busy [and not think about it]) has become the price of admission to this grand life of convenience with which we’ve surrounded ourselves. We have connected affluence and worth to a high volume of activity, heedless even of the nature of that activity.

But when someone is actually engaged in some thing or activity that might produce actual fatigue or absent-mindedness, they don’t report being ‘busy’ but most likely just share what it is they’re doing and allow a conversation to bleed out from there. The importance of the activity, in other words, would take precedence over anything for which ‘busy’ could be a placeholder or substitute for conversation. So we also kind of know that for which ”busy’ stands: quotidian, not quite meaningful but necessary, a function of several levels of overlapping obligations and commitments intended to keep our daily lives moving, with no regard for moving us, or it or anything, forward. It’s hamsterwheel-y.

And it’s not just moving kids around, paying bills or buying groceries that applies here. Even our work can and often does take on the characteristic of motion instead of movement, to the extent that we lose track of the distinctions and forget it’s even happening, and soon the elements of life all run together into an endless stream of commitments we’re merely rushing around to fulfill. We openly admit to ‘staying busy’ as though that is something to be admired and not the minimum-level activity it infers; it certainly saves us from accusations of harboring the evil dread of free and open time, from which surely nothing good can come. And we’re not even appalled by this anymore, if we ever were. We just add another errand to list, get our prescriptions filled and try to… stay busy.

But this is our lives we’re talking about here, and merely being busy should be considered a kind sentence, a punishment for not being engaged in worthwhile activity – whether that activity is writing sonnets or selecting the near-perfect tomato. Actually, especially if it’s about shopping or anything related to cooking or any time-intensive activity ‘Busy’ simply doesn’t begin to cover nor would we want it to. Many things we might do are just more important than that. So we should frown upon and stop allowing ‘busy’ as a kind of lame stand-in for living. Every element of transitional (nee sustianable) living will flow out of that. It won’t be seamless and will take time. But the best things often do.

Because I’ve seen so little reference to it anywhere, here’s a link to the best op-ed in the Times/IHT this week.

Image by my daughter, taken at our vet’s office, of self-rescued chickens that plunged from a transport truck and towards a, um, different fate.