Monthly Archives: October, 2010

Enough With the Politics

It’s time to talk about something really important.

Dominique Browning, in an essay in today’s New York Times asks the question on all of our minds– ‘Why Can’t Middle-aged Women Have Long Hair?’

Long hair is not the appropriate choice of grown-ups. It says rebellion. Hillary Rodham Clinton softens her do, and sets off a bizarre Howl of Angry Inches, as if she had betrayed some social compact. Well, my long hair is indeed a declaration of independence. I am rebelling, variously, against Procter & Gamble, my mother, Condé Nast and, undoubtedly, corporate America in general. Whereas it used to be short hair that was a hallmark of being a liberated woman — remember the feminist chop? I do; I did it — these days, long hair is a mark of liberation.

Well, she and I are the same age, 55. Years ago I stopped coloring my grey hair (see earlier post Naturally Grey ), but I like it long. I also like it wavy, and Purple City Hair Salon took care of what Nature didn’t.

Another woman of this uncertain age covers the cutting edge of hair issues for women of color. Debra J. Dickerson at Slate’s XX defends her right to go short and natural in ‘Fried, Dyed and Laid to the Side’–

However we feel about our bodies, black women, as a group, simply torture ourselves over our hair. “Fried, dyed, and laid to the side,” is how a jingle I’ve heard all my life goes in sardonically describing this battle. Black women forego sex and exercise to maintain those expensive, time-stealing and often unattractive hair styles. Lye, ladies. Yes, lye (i.e., “relaxers”) and red hot pressing combs forged in open flame:That’s what most black women have endured since kindergarten or so. I freed myself from all that at age 32 and have been mostly “happy nappy” ever since, with what I like to call my “Malcolm Gladwell meets Sideshow Bob” hair. But most sisters wait until 55 or so to make this painful journey.

Who are we trying to please? If we’re okay with ourselves and our partners, what’s left to worry about? It’s nothing but heartbreak and futility to try to please men, but relatively easy to please a man you know well. And don’t even think about pleasing women– we are the most merciless judges since the Puritans looked for witch marks. We buy magazines that tell us which parts of our bodies we’re supposed to hate. I decided long ago to just please myself. I’m happier since I gave up Glamour for Scientific American. And I use the time and money I used to spend on hair color furthering my dream of world domination.

Save Those Coats

If you love crowds and standing in long lines while spending money on stuff you’re not sure will make anyone happy while listening to singing chipmunks, then don’t read this post. Go to the Provicence Place Mall the day after Thanksgiving.

But if you’re a dour curmudgeon, or just contrary, November 26 is Buy Nothing Day. Right across the street, on the State House lawn, is the 14th annual Winter Coat Exchange. (in case of rain, St. John’s Cathedral will host). Bring a coat you don’t need, or get one you do need. Link to the event is here.

There are other coat exchanges around town, I’ll list them as I find out about them.

A Conscious Ignorance

I have grown weary of paying heed to a heedless world. Weary of daily examining the endless tragedy, corruption, greed, degradation, misery, and injustice that passes for news these days. Weary of watching and listening while others simply turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Weary of caring more for humankind than it cares for itself. Why should I?

A flower that turns away from the light cannot fully blossom. My spirit has shriveled with the darkness. I yearn to escape the shadows. Is that so wrong?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that “there are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.” At this moment, I wish to be ignorant of the world’s myriad troubles and of the fools and tyrants that enable such. Knowledge is not power here. It is spiritually corrosive. It is painful and distressing. A conscious ignorance is the anodyne.

For the time being, I choose to pay no heed to the world at large. I will no longer allow the current of current events to drag me down. I will not read the New York Times, listen to NPR, watch newscasts or even the Daily Show, respond to mailed and e-mailed pleas for support from various groups and causes, or otherwise make an effort to remain informed. Strife and suffering will go on whether I tune in or tune out. What will change if I bear witness?

I will leave it to others to fight the good fight, rail against injustice, expose deceit and hypocrisy, and tilt against windmills. I can devote myself to less taxing pursuits. There are other things I can do and say and focus upon. I can write poetry and prose instead of diatribes and opinion pieces. I can take a different path, one that is less toxic and more affirming to my spirit.

It will not be easy. I have grown unhealthily accustomed–perhaps even addicted–to a diet I can no longer stomach, one that never truly fed me in the first place. I hunger for something more nourishing.

Do you understand?

Adieu, for now.

Faith in Technology

We’ll never evolve enough to become infallible. I hope we can one day evolve enough to achieve nuclear disarmament. Mistakes happen…

A British nuclear-powered submarine described as the “world’s most advanced” that ran aground off the coast of Scotland has been towed free, Sky News reported.
The HMS Astute — the Royal Navy’s newest and largest attack submarine — was floated free at high tide Friday with the help of three support vesels, according to Sky News.
The sub ran into trouble Friday morning in shallow waters near a road bridge linking the Isle of Skye to the mainland when the vesel’s rudder apparently became stuck on a shingle bank, according to British media reports.
..In a statement, the defense ministry said the accident was not a nuclear incident and that no injuries had been reported.

Nuclear Safety

This story caught my eye because I’m a nurse now, but years ago worked as a motel maid. I can easily imagine a pregnant, minimum-wage worker making beds or sorting laundry in a motel, with no one aware there might be a hazard. Here’s from Associated Press…

WASHINGTON – Reports of thyroid cancer patients setting off radiation alarms and contaminating hotel rooms are prompting the agency in charge of nuclear safety to consider tighter rules.
A congressional investigation made public Wednesday found that patients sent home after treatment with radioactive iodine have contaminated unsuspecting hotel guests and set off alarms on public transportation.
They’ve come into close contact with vulnerable people, including pregnant women and children, and trash from their homes has triggered radiation detectors at landfills.

My objection to nuclear power is that radioactive material causes cancer and birth defects, is difficult to detect, is lethal in tiny amounts and stays around forever. Radioactive iodine is an old treatment, and patients used to stay in the hospital long enough for the radioactive elements to wash out of their system. But now we kick people out of the hospital asap, and no one was considering the danger to the public.

• A patient who had received a dose of radioactive iodine boarded a bus in New York the same day, triggering radiation detectors as the bus passed through the Lincoln Tunnel heading for Atlantic City, N.J., a casino Mecca. After New Jersey state police found the bus and pulled it over, officers determined that the patient had received medical instructions to avoid public transportation for two days, and ignored them. The 2003 case highlighted that NRC rules don’t require patients to stay off public transportation.

• About 7 percent of outpatients said in the survey they had gone directly to a hotel after their treatment, most of them with their doctors’ knowledge. Hotel stays are a particular concern, since the patient can expose other guests and service workers. In 2007, an Illinois hotel was contaminated after linens from a patient’s room were washed together with other bedding. The incident would probably have gone unreported but for nuclear plant workers who later stayed in the same hotel and set off radiation alarms when they reported to work.

That is terrifying. The nuclear plant workers stayed in a hotel where a patient had stayed, maybe slept on sheets that were washed in the same washer with the patient’s sheets, and they set off alarms. What about the maid who stripped the bed? What about the laundry workers? What about other guests in the hotel?

One thing to learn from this is that financial pressure to discharge people from hospitals as soon as they are medically stable has to be countered by a consideration for what happens in the real world.

Another thing to consider is that it’s human nature to cut corners and do the expedient thing. Radioactive material is long-lived, and unforgiving. Despite all the assurances that nuclear power will always be handled safely, mistakes will be made and humans will make errors. This stuff is too dangerous to be an answer to our energy needs.

Taking One for the Team?

Less than two weeks mid-term elections, a devout Tea Party activist decided to bring an old Republican scandal out front and center. The Clarence Thomas hearings never did settle the question of whether Thomas was falsely accused of crude and harassing behaviour to an employee. Anita Hill, in her subsequent life as a law professor, did nothing to suggest that she was unstable or a publicity-seeker. The episode came down to ‘he said, she said’ and was largely forgotten. Thomas, when he was discussed at all, was criticized or praised for his judicial conduct.

And then Ginni Thomas re-opened the whole painful mess, when she grabbed the phone at 7:30am on a Saturday and left a recording. Why not a carefully worded letter? Why not a tactful approach through an intermediary? This looked like the kind of impulsive thing you might do when you are under the influence of something.

I am leaning to the Serena Joy theory. Ms. Thomas was pumped up on the high of her political movement, she surrounded herself with true believers, and it seemed obvious that Prof. Hill must be living a life of shame, just waiting for the day when she could confess her sins and be forgiven. Ms. Thomas looked forward to forgiving her. I think she would have enjoyed doing it in a stadium, Ginni wearing a flowing white robe, Anita in sackcloth. I heard the Crystal Cathedral is up for rent.

But it’s said that Ginni Thomas is a very smart woman and an expert strategist. So maybe Ginni Thomas was taking one for the team…

Why now? What, after almost twenty years, prompted Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to leave a message on Brandeis professor Anita Hill’s office voicemail asking her to apologize for accusing Justice Thomas of sexual harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearings?

The timing was interesting. Ginni Thomas placed her call to Hill the morning after the New York Times reported that Virginia Thomas’s new Liberty Central organization accepted “large, unidentified contributions” totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those untraceable dollars came in the flood of right-wing funding following the Citizens United campaign finance decision, in which Justice Thomas voted with the majority. The Times reported that a wide range of legal ethicists said Liberty Central’s financing raises “knotty questions” about a conflict of interest for Justice Thomas.

A famous line from Watergate was ‘follow the money’. We are being flooded with messages but the messengers stay behind the scenes. This has to end.

Free speech is the foundation of democracy. Anonymous paid speech is no substitute– it’s counterfeit. If Ginny Thomas intended to take the spotlight off her own activities it’s not going to work.

I favor the ‘dialing while disturbed’ explanation. We don’t always act rationally.

TAKE YOUR PICK: The Week has five theories of why Ginni Thomas made that call, including the two covered above.

ENRICHING FAMILY VALUES: I heard a lawyer on NPR discussing the potential conflict of interest if a judge makes a decision that allows his wife to recieve– say a quarter of a million dollars for her organization, which might gratefully give her a raise, and then she buys new furniture, or adds a deck to the house or some such contribution to the judge’s domestic comfort. It could look like he wasn’t 100% impartial. It’s funny how little it takes to compromise someone if they are not vigilant about ethics.
I’m putting up an old post about that, recalling how John McCain managed to marry a woman who was richer than God and live with her for decades while keeping their finances totally separate–
‘Life of Sacrifice–The Journals of Cindy McCain’

NO SYMPATHY: New American Media, which covers minority issues, is cutting Clarence Thomas no slack.

A Halloween Message

This has been posted all over, but I’m going to put it here because it’s in the spirit of season, and I’m a huge fan of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark…

Tears of Aqua Buddha

My first impression of the Rand Paul college prank was that it was kind of nasty and bullying to tie up a fellow student and then tell her to be a good sport, but I’m not objective. I don’t like him.

Today I was making early visits with WRNI on the radio and they played Jack Conway’s commercial and Rand Paul’s counter-commercial. I’m only a simple Pagan, but I think after the election both of them had better go to confession for taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Jack Conway’s commercial doesn’t ask the real question– whether Paul had a convenient conversion when he decided to run for office. Instead, it implies that he’s guilty of disrespecting Jesus and maybe has occult connections. This is the same kind of mud that can get thrown at anyone who isn’t publicly pious enough.

Paul’s rebuttal is a Dolly Parton-like female voice saying that Paul holds Jesus in his heart. Ew. What is Jesus– his human shield?

Shame on both of them for using religion to get votes.

I pray for a leader who will stand up and say that religion is a private matter of conscience, and that the record is public. A leader who respects the law and serves for the benefit of all people, without favoritism.

Instead we are inviting religion into politics and rewarding hypocrisy.

Incidentally, there are many American Buddhists who didn’t ask for their religion to be made into a joke, and if anyone has a right to take offense at Rand Paul, it’s them. A devout Buddhist or an honest atheist won’t be winning any elections this cycle.

Harassing Anita Hill

For the past two decades, Dr. Anita Hill has led a quiet life as a writer and law professor, far removed from her brief notoriety when she testified before Congress at the confirmation of Judge Clarence Thomas.

Clarence Thomas is also leading a quiet life, likely to set a record for reclusiveness on the bench and earning the nickname, ‘the silent justice’. His wife Ginni, on the other hand, is making lots of noise lately, lobbying for right wing causes with money from nameless sources, and giving rise to questions about judicial ethics and partiality.

Mrs. Thomas made what she ‘portrayed as a peacemaking gesture’, but how would you take something like this?

In a voice mail message left at 7:31 a.m. on Oct. 9, a Saturday, Virginia Thomas asked her husband’s former aide-turned-adversary to make amends. Ms. Hill played the recording, from her voice mail at Brandeis University, for The New York Times.
“Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas,” it said. “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband.”

Anita Hill turned the message over to campus security.

It’s very weird stuff, and troubling that a Supreme Court judges’ wife, hopped up on Tea and anonymous donor money, would perhaps be looking to settle old scores with a woman whose conduct since the Congressional hearings shows nothing but a desire to pursue a quiet career and a private life.

From the Kmareka archives, 2007, comes a post that’s worth re-reading–

The Real Anita Hill

It was David Brock who wrote the hatchet job on Professor Anita Hill, the former federal employee who testified against Clarence Thomas in his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Today, Brock is the President of Media Matters for America, a website that runs transcripts of shock jocks such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, thereby causing them much embarrassment. Brock is a little too free-press for the Fox crowd now, but twenty years ago, he was a rising star of the Washington conservative establishment.

Brock was the one who labeled Professor Hill, ‘a little bit nutty, and a little bit slutty.’ He published a best-selling ‘expose’ that portrayed her as a hysterical accuser.

Not long after his book, “The Real Anita Hill” was published, he learned things about Justice Thomas that led him to believe Professor Hill’s testimony. While reading Hill’s account of the episode, ‘Speaking Truth to Power’ he became overwhelmed with remorse at what he had written about her.

‘As I read the passages where Hill referenced my allegations, I was again struck hard by the realization that I no longer believed in my own book, and for the first time I began to contemplate the personal consequences for Anita Hill of having been the subject of a well-publicized, best-selling book that attacked her, wrongly, as a liar. I made this woman’s life a living hell.’
David Brock, Blinded by the Right, p.295

Brock goes on to relate that he sent Professor Hill a letter of apology c/o feminist author Naomi Wolf. Professor Hill called him back, but got his answering machine, and he never got up the courage to meet her in person.

Meanwhile he agonized over the fact that he had given a woman he had treated as a political enemy a piece of ammunition she could use to take him down and expose the dishonesty of his attacks on her reputation. He waited in fear for her to make his letter public.

‘As far as I know, Hill has kept [the letter] private to this day.’
Blinded by the Right, p.327

So that is the real Anita Hill.

SECOND THOUGHTS: It seems possible that Ginni Thomas left her 7:30am voicemail when she was agitated for some reason, but there’s another possibility that occurs to me. Prof. Hill is a lawyer, and she knows that an apology would be equivalent to admitting that she lied under oath to Congress. Did Ms.Thomas think that she was so powerful in Washington that intimidation of some kind was an option she had in reseverve? Did she plan to parade Prof. Hill’s apology at the next Tea Party, or just have Prof. Hill show up in person wearing a scarlet letter?

APPEARANCE OF WRONGDOING: That liberal rag, The Christian Science Monitor has some background on the issues that come up when a judge’s spouse is engaged in activities that might be affected by the judge’s rulings. But I don’t expect Justice Thomas to recuse himself over qualms of conscience.

TEARS OF REPENTENCE: I wonder if Ginni Thomas had some fantasy that Anita Hill would pray with her, then agree to appear at her side at the next Tea Party rally, wearing sackcloth and apologizing. Thomas said in an interview that she looked forward to forgiving Hill. She reminds me of Serena Joy in the Handmaid’s Tale.

NO SYMPATHY: New American Media, which covers minority issues, is cutting Clarence Thomas no slack.

That’ll Show ‘Em

One of those well-funded, innocuous-sounding advocacy organizations that has sprung up like weeds, especially since Citizens United, bought a hunk of time on Univision, a Spanish-language cable TV station. ‘Latinos for Reform’, a Republican group spent almost a million dollars in commericals. They urged Hispanic-Americans to make a show of strength by staying home on election day.

They say that neither party has solved the immigration problem, so it’s time to take a stand by staying home and keeping quiet.

They could have said, ‘vote Republican’ if their candidates had more appeal, but that’s a tough sell, even for an Asian-American like Sharron Angle.

Anyway, Univision is pulling the ads, maybe thinking that ‘don’t vote’ is a message that will come back on them when they’re painting themselves as community-minded.


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