Saturday, March 13, 2004

The Scales of Justice

Here's an interesting legal case for your consideration:

A 30-year old man, one John Smith, had a son with incurable leukemia. Medical tests determined that the only suitable bone marrow donor for this child was his father. John Smith refused to donate any of his marrow; he said that he was scared of the medical procedure that would have been used. So not very fatherly, our John. But this is unsurprising; it was known that he had suffered from mental health problems most of his life, he took recreational drugs and otherwise acted in ways that proper people frown on. As a result of John's refusal, his son died. Should we now accuse him of murder?

Now change the sex of the person in question, make her name Melissa Ann Rowland, and her age 28 years, and change the circumstances into one where the mother refused a Caesarian section that might have saved her son's life. The son died here, too. Should we accuse her of murder?

What if both John and Melissa can be regarded as vain, narcissistic individuals who refused a little bit of surgery for purely trivial reasons? What if both John and Melissa were mentally ill drug-abusers living on social welfare? Though I have made the case of John Smith up, there is not much doubt in my mind that most legal commentators would not regard John as a murderer. On the other hand, Melissa really exists and the prosecutors in Salt Lake City are charging her with criminal homicide.

Try asking one of those people who voted in the msnbc poll in support of Melissa's murder charges whether John also should be tried for murder; not whether his act was morally reprehensible but whether he should be legally charged. It will be interesting to hear what they might say. I suspect that they see a clear difference between the two cases, though there is no factual difference.

Mothers are held to higher standards than fathers, and mothers of fetuses even more so. In fact, it's beginning to seem as if the only time a child's rights to life are really going to be guaranteed is before she or he has drawn one single breath. After birth, well, you're on your own, kid. And if you happen to be a girl, one day your rights to refuse surgery will not be awarded the same protection as they would if you had been born a boy.
An excellent discussion on this topic is on Body and Soul.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Flotsam and Jetsam

Some funny things end up stranded in my e-mail box. It's most likely a variation of this resume (thanks to Scout for the information). Interesting.


1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20520


Law Enforcement:
I was arrested in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol. I pled guilty, paid a fine, and had my driver's license suspended for 30 days. My Texas driving record has been "lost" and is not available.

I joined the Texas Air National Guard and the last year of my service is unaccounted for. I refused to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use. By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in Vietnam.

I graduated from Yale University with a low C average. I was a cheerleader.


  • I ran for U.S. Congress and lost. I began my career in the oil business in Midland,Texas, in 1975.
  • I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil inTexas. The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.
  • I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money.
  • With the help of my father and our friends in the oil industry (including Enron CEO Ken Lay), I was elected governor of Texas.


  • I changed Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the Union. During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the most smog-ridden city in America.
  • I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas treasury to the tune of billions in borrowed money.
  • I set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history.
  • With the help of my brother, the governor of Florida, and my father's appointments to the Supreme Court, I became President after losing by over 500,000 votes.


  • I am the first President in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.
  • I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing cost of over one billion dollars per week.
  • I spent the U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted the U.S. Treasury.
  • I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in U.S. history.
  • I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.
  • I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.
  • I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the U.S. stock market. In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues every month.
  • I'm proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in U.S. history. My "poorest millionaire," Condoleeza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.
  • I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips by a U.S. President.
  • I am the all-time U.S. and world record-holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations.
  • My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in U.S. History, Enron.
  • My political party used Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S. Supreme Court during my election decision.
  • I have protected my friends at Enron and Halliburton against investigation or prosecution. More time and money was spent investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair than has been spent investigating one of the biggest corporate rip-offs in history.
  • I presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed. I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history.
  • I changed the U.S. policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts.
  • I appointed more convicted criminals to administration than any President in U.S. history.
  • I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the largest bureaucracy in the history of the United States government.
  • I've broken more international treaties than any President in U.S. history.
  • I am the first President in U.S. history to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission.
  • I withdrew the U.S. from the World Court of Law.
  • I refused to allow inspector's access to U.S. "prisoners of war" detainees and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Convention.
  • I am the first President in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 U.S. election).
  • I set the record for fewest numbers of press conferences of any President since the advent of television.
  • I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one-year period. After taking off the entire month of August, I presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history.
  • I garnered the most sympathy for the U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history.
  • I have set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protests against any person in the history of mankind.
  • I am the first President in U.S. history to order an unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. citizens, and the world community.
  • I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families -- in wartime.
  • In my State of the Union Address, I lied about our reasons for attacking Iraq and then blamed the lies on our British friends.
  • I am the first President in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security.
  • I am supporting development of a nuclear "Tactical Bunker Buster," a WMD.
  • I have so far failed to fulfill my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.


  • All records of my tenure as governor of Texas are now in my father's library, sealed and unavailable for public view.
  • All records of SEC investigations into my insider trading and my bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.
  • All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my Vice-President, attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review.

Please consider this resume in voting for the president of the United States in 2004

Bad Poetry

There's a lot to be said for bad poetry, especially as it's the only type I create. The poetry market suffers from a terrible imbalance: many are able to write bad poetry, but only a few wish to read it. The only solution is to force-feed bad poetry to the masses, and I'm doing it here first!

Do not soak your silverware
You cannot go from here to there
The warning signs are everywhere
Do not soak your silverware.

The die is cast, and cast aside
My pain is gaping, gaping wide
And everywhere the other side
seeks for me, I cannot hide.

Do not soak your silverware
If you do, you do not care
and everybody over there
will know you soaked your silverware.

What do you think? On second thoughts, I don't think I want to know... Feel free to use the comments thread for more bad poetry.

This should be silence

There are some things that I can't write about, not really; yet I can't stay quiet about them either. Blogs are not the places to discuss bottomless despair and unbounded grief, but somehow to ignore them seems wrong, too. At least 190 human beings lost their lives yesterday in Spain, people who were traveling to work, to do the shopping, to school. People with spouses and friends, children and jobs; people who were thinking what to make for supper that night, who were checking the soccer scores, who were taking one more quick nap before the day's activities really started. People who loved and feared, hated and adored, felt bored and laughed at silly jokes. People who are now dead, ultimately to be remembered mostly as numbers in the political struggles for power by others.

For those who loved them today is the first day of the After: a horrible time, a time that nobody wants to live through, a time that doesn't seem possible to live through, yet something that must be lived through. There is no other way out but through the necessary suffering. My heart breaks for them, or would break for them if it would do any good at all. But only time, the horrible time, will do any good, and even that will be limited. The lives of the survivors will continue, yes, and slowly they will be patched together again, but they will never be the same: the scars will fade, but they will not stop aching, one will get used to the sudden gaping holes in ones heart, but the holes will not close.

This is what death does. And there are no words vile enough to describe those who use it like a chainsaw in their fanatically orchestrated plans for supremacy.
Postscript: If this sounds familiar, it is. As familiar as the violence that caused it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The New John Kerry: A Rant

I stole this quote from corrente:

"[KERRY:]George Bush is running on the same old Republican tactics of fear — and they're already getting tired," he said. "It's clear that this president will fight like hell to keep his own job, but he won't lift a finger to help Americans keep theirs."

How do you feel reading it? This is what I felt: A warm wave of recognition and joy spread through my body, an impish delight at righteous anger played out tickled my laughing nerves and I found myself shouting "YES! YES!" at the startled snakes still half-asleep. Am I proud of these reactions? Well, yes, but then I'm not bound by the Christian rule of having to keep on turning the other cheek.

Republicans have been hammering away at us poor liberals for over a decade, and we've met this with self-examination and conscience raising sessions and carefully reasoned attempts at compromises. More hammering away, more attempts to remain cordial and polite and so on. The end result: "liberal" is now such a dirty word that it will no doubt soon be banned from all airwaves in this country, civil rights have become "special privileges", anyone daring to speak out for the poor or the oppressed is ridiculed as politically incorrect, and the people on welfare are called piglets at the nipples of the government sow while the Enron crooks gently slide into obscurity. Any war is pre-emptive self-defense, and the country is in furor over "death taxes" which affected less than one percent of all estates. We have given away much of our rights to privacy in exchange for security, but instead of security we get...more fear.

It would be nice to run politics as a civilized form of cooperation and compromise, but such endeavors take at least two willing participants. The Republicans have not been willing participants in anything for donkey's years (or rather, elephant's years) and ultimately even a kind, sensitive liberal runs out of cheeks to turn. Then the rabbit roars ( to really mix my animal metaphors).

And what will the Republicans say about all this? Let me guess, without even looking for a link to prove it. They will accuse Kerry of negative campaigning and the Democrats of nasty language and Hitleresque demagogy. They will raise their innocent eyebrows and shrug their innocent shoulders, as if to suggest that the sudden liberal anger is inexplicable, uncouth, nay, even un-American. Why do they hate America so?

Then they will point out that what we should really be concerned at is the fear that's lurking in the shadows, the fear that's made us silent and cooperative so far, the fear that can only be defeated by going on as we've done so far. What they don't tell us is that it's perfectly ok to change direction when you are heading straight down the cliff, it's even perfectly ok to change drivers of a vehicle that's careening out of control.

I've had it with fear, and I hope that John Kerry has had it with courtesy and manners until a little bit later in the election battles. First he needs to light the lanterns, only then can the light that they spread be celebrated.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Rara Avis VI: George and the Girls

Another Rara Avis, I'm afraid. This time I have dared to raise my gaze upwards, far far into the upper stratospheres. There, in his solitary royal thoughts, flies the King Of All Birds, the most powerful bird of all. The bird that we have raised above the rest, the one who is to protect the free world and the free markets. It's almost a sacrilege to view him as a mere avian among many, and perhaps even greater sacrilege to ask what this great solemn leader with so many real cares on his weary wings might think about women. But that's my topic for today.:

The International Women's Day was a good time to meditate on George Walker Bush and women. Not that there's much in this exercize for us prurient minds. George is either very good or very careful, or his minders even more so. Instead, I'm going to look at his attitudes towards women more generally, as human beings, as the objects of his policies and as voters.

To find out about these attitudes, it's necessary to examine not only what George has achieved in his four-year realm, but also what he has tried to achieve. Not all his brilliant goals have been met. Yet. That's why he wants another four years.

It's easy to decide that George has done very well indeed abroad. One of his very first acts as a president was the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule: no U.S. funding will be given to health care providers in developing countries who as much as whisper about the rumors that abortions are available somewhere. Providers could then decide between receiving American money for things such as condoms or counseling and screening for STDs and HIV/AIDS, and having the freedom to include the abortion as an option in their reproductive counseling. Many opted for the latter.

The Christian right is very pleased with this policy and its international success, especially as they have been less successful in their domestic efforts to illegalize abortion and to demonize birth control as well. Though it's early days still, and the next four years of George would most likely see a spread of these policies at home, too. The effects are hard to predict or measure, but many argue that these international policies have caused an increase in both abortions and maternal mortality rates:

What is known as the "global gag rule" is having a devastating impact on women and families in the developing world. Without U.S. assistance, health clinics have closed in Nepal, Zambia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. The loss of USAID funding has forced others around the world to cut staff and services, including for HIV screening, voluntary counseling and education. At a time when the spread of HIV-AIDS has dramatically elevated the demand for condoms, USAID has stopped shipment of condoms to 16 countries because the sole recipients – local family planning organizations – have refused to sign on to the gag rule.

George's second foreign success must be the canceling of $34 million in funding to the United Nation's Family Planning Fund (UNFPA). This fund provides hundreds of thousands of women in 140 countries with family planning and maternal health programs. But the Bush administration decided that UNFPA had been engaging in coercive abortions in China, and the funds were cut. Four fact-finding missions and Colin Powell failed to find evidence for such Chinese coercion. But we all know that faith is stronger than facts.

I see George's third international success in the way he has shifted the U.S. diplomatic voice from the chorus of demons preaching for birth control and female empowerment to the higher registry of the angels singing for God and the religious traditions. No longer is the U.S. supporting "the right of couples and individuals to determine freely the number and spacing of their children and to have the information and means to do so." No longer is the U.S. supporting "reproductive health services and education" for teenagers, and no longer is the U.S. affirming the Beijing platform of gender equality, as somewhere within these there must lurk the devil of abortion. We now vote in bloc with Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on most matters pertaining to women.

These are the real, intended successes of George's policy in regard to women, and they should be used as the main criteria in judging how well he is doing, especially by those women who have a vote in the United States. But many women are too lenient: recently, a group of women's organizations in the U.S. rated the Bush administration on its foreign policy with respect to women, and this rating didn't even mention the great intended successes. Instead, they focused on several policies which had nothing to do with women's affairs in their initial intentions: the liberation of Afghanistan, the occupation of Iraq and the AIDS crisis in Africa.

Keep in mind that George believed the Taliban to be a rock band only four years ago. That the war in Afghanistan destroyed the Taliban, at least temporarily, was a nice bonus of the campaign but not what we went to war for. The women's lot under the Taliban didn't perhaps look that unsuitable to some in George's base, and in any case the world was fully aware of the situation for several years, yet nothing was being done. No, I can't assign George any credit for wanting to liberate the Afghani women, and the lot of Iraqi women looks more precarious now than it did under the Saddam regime, as cruel as that was. The AIDS funding would help women as it would help men, too, if only the funding was forthcoming.

These women's organizations were wussy, I think, in handling George with kid gloves. Even so, he rated two "Ds" and one "Incomplete" in their final evaluation. Then again, you might argue that "Ds" from lefty women's organizations equal "As" from George's religious base. Maybe he's on the Dean's list, after all.

George's domestic successes are far fewer. True, he managed to close down the White House Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach and he also ended the Labor Departmen't "Equal Pay Matters" iniative. Equal pay doesn't matter anymore, you see, because women are choosing to have less pay quite freely, and to have an office for women's initiatives and outreach would give women 'special rights'. He filled 26% of the vacant positions in government with female appointees, a respectable drop from Clinton's 37%, but he failed in his attempt to close the regional offices of the Women's Bureau in the Department of Labor.

His new budget will do away with programs that advocate gender equality in education. and John Ashcroft has been an excellent hitman in the area of Civil Rights enforcement, gradually turning it into the area of Special Rights Abatement. As an example:

when the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Federal Communications Commission's equal employment opportunity rules—which, according to the Washington Post, represented "the most inoffensive corner of affirmative action," because they only required broadcasters to make an effort to inform women and minorities about job openings and encourage them to apply—Ashcroft's department filed a brief urging the Supreme Court not to review that regressive decision

George failed in his first attempt to do away with the 'special rights' that Title IX in education gives female athletes, but this was only the first battle of the war, and he has since regathered his troops to attack from a different angle: that of reintroducing gender segregation into the public schools without worrying too much about whether 'separate' can ever mean 'equal'. This may not hurt girls, of course, but if it doesn't it's quite likely to hurt boys. Given George's attitudes (as reflected in his other policies), I'd bet for the hurting of the girls here.

Actually, I can do better than just try to surmise George's attitudes from his policies. I can quote Condie Rice as his spokeswoman on this International Women's Day:

As President Bush has said, "No society can succeed and prosper while denying basic rights and opportunities to the women of their country."

Women should not be denied basic rights and opportunities, ok. But what about equal rights and opportunities? Here's Ari Fleischer, another spokesman for George:

At a recent press conference, George W. Bush indicated through White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer that he does not consider discrimination against women to be an offense as serious as racial or ethnic discrimination. According to Fleischer, membership in a group that excludes women is not "a disqualifying factor" for candidates to Cabinet posts. However, when prodded, Fleischer stated that racial or ethnic discrimination is a "very different category for the President."Sources: PR Newswire, "Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer," Dec. 11, 2002; Federal Document Clearing House, "Ari Fleischer Holds White House Briefing," Dec. 9, 2002

All is clear now. I think George doesn't believe that women's issues are as serious as racial or ethnic issues, and though women should be provided some basic rights and opportunities, it is not necessary to worry one's head too much over equality. If God had wanted equality of the sexes, He would have told George about it, I presume. You know, when He told him to attack Iraq and stuff.

I think that I can place George now. He's in the same category of birds as the late Ayatollah Khomeini, who appointed his daughter to run all women's affairs in Iran. Given this, it's interesting whom George selected as the representatives of the United States in this week's UN conference about gender equality:

President Bush's sister and Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter will be delegates to a U.N. women's conference next week aimed at promoting equality of the sexes, a U.S. official said.
More than a dozen ministers are expected at the annual meeting of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, which starts Monday, but the presence of Dorothy "Doro" Bush Koch and Liz Cheney in the U.S. delegation is likely to give the gathering a higher profile.
Koch, the president's youngest sibling and only sister, has recently been campaigning for his re-election. Cheney, a lawyer and deputy assistant secretary of state who focuses on Mideast issues, joined her parents last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and Italy.
"These women leaders represent the best in America and are asked to serve as public delegates to this important U.N. conference," Richard Grenell, a spokesman for U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, said Friday

This was an easy one!

Now I know what George thinks about the girls. What do the girls think about George? Most women I have asked this question give me unprintable answers, but clearly there were many who voted for George in the first place, and there must be some who still like him. Or maybe not. All through writing this, I had that silly old nursery rhyme jingling in my head, and I think it's trying to tell something about George and the voting girls:

Georgie, Porgie, pudding and pie;
Kissed the girls and made them cry...

Don't let him make you cry again!

Monday, March 08, 2004

The International Women's Day

Today is the International Women's Day, though you might not notice it very much if you live in the United States. If I recall correctly, last year's IWD-related programming from my local public radio station consisted solely of a humorous debate about whether the Hooters restaurant chain should take over managing the Amtrak trains in order to increase male passengership. As the NPR is supposed to stand for the extreme liberal media, I was quite disappointed. The right wing mainstream media is more understandably silent about the IWD, given that it has its roots in the women of the American Socialist Party who arranged large demonstrations in 1908 to call for the vote and for political and economic rights to women. The day became an international one in 1910 in the second International Conference of Socialist Women.

From the beginning there was some disagreement about the meaning of the IWD. Should it be a time for celebrating women's progress, for taking stock of what has been achieved or for demanding remedies to problems that have not been solved? My review of this year's news from all over the world proves that the same disagreement still prevails. Some stories take on a festive air of celebration, others lay out starkly the immense problems that women in many parts of the world face. I also found some new interpretations of the meaning of the IWD: it might be a good time to promise Chinese women that a woman, some day, though not yet, might be, perhaps, selected to be a taikonaut in the Chinese space program, or that the women in Brunei have their rights, as defined by others, of course, extremely well guaranteed. And the Iraqi Governing Council chose to move the IWD in Iraq from March 8 to August 18, the date of birth of the prophet Mohammed's daughter, thus connecting women's issues to religion.

I'm sure that the original founders of the IWD would be very pleased to see the progress that has taken place in the last near-century, and celebration is the correct response to this. Women now can vote in the majority of countries in the world. The recent Constitutional Loya Jirga in Afghanistan produced a constitution for the country which safeguards the rights of women as equal to those of men (though with the usual caveat of possible limits to this dictated by Islam), and in Rwanda women won 49% of the seats in Parliament. Even in Iraq women might be guaranteed a quarter of the parliamentary seats. Looks very good from where I'm sitting, in the U.S.A where women's share of seats in the House and Senate hovers around a little more than one in ten...

The 1908 socialists would also rejoice in seeing how women can work in almost any field of their choice today (with the exception, as usual, of many religious fields), and though their pay on average is not equal to men's, the ratio is considerably better than it was a century ago. Women have gained access to education in many countries of the world, to a point where they now outnumber men in higher education in countries as diverse as the United States, Colombia and Iran. ( That this trend is an international one casts serious doubt, by the way, on the argument popular in the U.S. that the greater number of women in higher education is due to an Evil Feminist Plot, unless these evil feminists somehow got their fingers into the pie in Iran as well.)

There is, indeed, much to celebrate. At the same time, much more remains to be done for the girls and women of this world. The education for girls is a pressing need that has not been met in many Asian and African countries, and customs and laws concerning marriage are still nowhere near fair and equal for the majority of world's women. And I'd like to see more women in positions of political power everywhere, not just in places like Scandinavia. It would be good for the world.

The most widely reported themes for this year's IWD are violence and the AIDS epidemic, especially in Africa. Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of UNIFEM has this to say about women and AIDS:

Ten years ago, women worldwide made up 38 per cent of people infected with the disease. Today they make up 50 per cent. In some regions this ratio has tilted further towards women: in the Caribbean it is 52 per cent, in Africa, 58 percent. Ten years ago, women were at the periphery of the epidemic. Today, they are at its epicentre. For young women the situation is particularly alarming. Young women in the developing world outnumber young men among newly infected 15-24 year olds by two to one. The social impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls is greater - they are the ones who assume the burden of care when family members are affected by the disease, putting severe constraints on their access to education, employment, food cultivation, and often treatment. Violence against women, both a cause and a consequence of the epidemic, adds another major risk factor for transmission. Rape, sexual violence and women's inability to refuse unwanted sex or to demand safe sex are serious factors in the spread of the epidemic. (bolds mine)

Violence against women is the Amnesty International's topic for the IWD:

In poor and war-torn countries women suffer some of the worst abuse, Amnesty's figures show. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, some 40 women a day are raped, and many are unable to get medical treatment or report the crimes to the authorities.
In Somalia, more than 90 per cent of women are subjected to genital mutilation.
In Pakistan, a recent survey showed 90 per cent of married women have been abused by their male partners.
But in industrialized countries like Russia, where the Soviet constitution has proclaimed women's equality for more than 70 years, they are still socially and legally disadvantaged.
Some 14,000 Russian women each year are killed by partners or relatives, but there is no law addressing domestic violence.
In strict Islamic countries, women fare badly, regardless of their economic background.
"Fifty schoolgirls were burned to death and dozens of others were injured in a fire at their school in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on March 11, 2002," the report says. "Religious police prevented the girls from leaving the building because they were not wearing headscarves, and had no male relatives there to receive them. They also reportedly prevented rescuers who were men from entering the premises."
However, wealthy Western countries are far from immune from violence against women.
In Canada, government statistics show 50 per cent of women are victims of at least one act of physical or sexual violence after they turn 16.
In France, 25,000 women are raped each year, and in Ireland 20 per cent of adult women have reported a sexual attack. In Iceland only 21 per cent of reported rapes end in a conviction for the accused attacker.

Violence doesn't necessarily discriminate on the basis of gender, of course. But women face the threat of specific acts of violence solely due to them being women, and the legal and law enforcement systems of many countries lag behind in acknowledging the seriousness of these acts. It is sad that the sexual violence against African women has become truly newsworthy only when it can be shown to affect the spread of the AIDS epidemic.

This International Women's Day I'm going to raise a toast for those socialist women of 1908. Bless their hearts. I'm going to feel proud and happy about all the progress that has been made, and I'm going to be a Fierce Goddess in Her Wrath about the dreadful scourges that still remain. After all that, I'm going to write a second post about George W. Bush and the International Women's Day.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

And the Moral of the Story Was?

This is a true story. A couple I know own a summerhouse with an old-fashioned outhouse. Every spring they clean out the base of the outhouse. This year some (misinformed) gardener asked them for the stuff to use as compost, and the couple (also unaware that human waste is not recommended for composting) agreed to save it for this gardener who lives in the same city as they do. They packed 'the compost' neatly into a black garbage bag, and then put the garbage bag inside a large corrugated cardboard box on the back of their truck. On their return trip to the city they stopped at a 7/11 for something to drink. When they got back to their truck, the cardboard box had disappeared. The box had a large picture of an expensive television set on the outside...