Friday, May 07, 2004

Happy Mother's Day!

It's not today, but as I may not stay sugary-sweet all through the post I decided it would be nicer of me to post my greetings a little early, so there's time for the wounds I inflict to close by Sunday.

The Sunday that is the one day of the year when mothers are celebrated. The second Sunday of May as the Mother's Day began as something totally different from today's celebrations: it was created in the United States 150 years ago by one Anna Jarvis to organize a day to raise awareness of poor health conditions in her Appalachian community. Julia Ward Howe (the author of the lyrics to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic) borrowed the idea fifteen years later for peace rallies. She felt that mothers were especially suited for this work. It was the daughter of Anna Jarvis (also called Anna) who finally got the day made into a national holiday by Woodrow Wilson in 1914, though she supposedly regretted all her work later on when Mother's Day became increasingly commercialized.

Not all countries celebrate Mother's Day or celebrate it at the same time. The United Kingdom has its Mothering Sunday earlier in the spring. It began as a day when young women who worked as domestic workers could go home to see their mothers. It is an older holiday than the American one, but the earliest Mother's Day of all is probably the spring festival the Greeks dedicated to Rhea, the mother of some of the gods and goddesses that I know so intimately. Never met Rhea, though.

A special day for mothers sounds such a nice idea that I'm immediately suspecting some sort of a heinous plot. And there may be one: if you see enough Mother's Day commercials and ads you will soon learn that mothers are all-sacrificing and completely trustworthy; that's why they need a box of chocolates once a year. This heinous plot, and I don't mean the commercial one, makes all less-than-perfect mothers feel guilty, and that's 99.9% of us. What's more, the impression these ads and commercials give (me at least) is that any mother who doesn't think that one day off each year is a sufficient compromise for all the unending sacrificing and trustworthiness must be an ungenerous mean-spirited harridan.

As you may notice, I'm not too keen on Mother's Day. Yes, it's lovely when small children give their mothers home-made presents and scorched breakfasts, but it gets a lot less lovely when the whole society writes mothers off by having them fanfared for a period of few days and then forgets all about the job of mothering for the rest of the year. Besides, the media always uses the Mother's Day as an opportunity to bash women: either not enough of them are becoming mothers or too many of them are out there working rather than at home with their children or they fail in one of the zillions of other ways that journalists can think up. What we need is a reversal of the time spans allowed for Mother's Day and the rest of the year: one day a year that is not a Mother's Day.

I am a mother myself, though the rules for goddesses are somewhat different. For one thing, nobody dares to criticize me for the excess heads and tails that my children have. My offspring have all done very well, if I say so myself. The only one I worry about a little is Cerberus. He is such a yes-monster, always kowtowing to Hades and always working, working. He can't even come to see his poor old mother on this one day of the year when mothers are celebrated; no, he has to guard the entrances to the Underworld. Who would try to sneak in on Mother's Day, I asked him. George Bush? But my pleas fell on deaf ears. Cerberus would stay away, again. He sent me the same old card, of course, all about the all-sacrificing mother who now gets a card in return. Rubbish, total rubbish. I had a ball bringing him up, and when I needed a break I took it. No self-sacrifices there.

I probably should not have shared this with you, my dear readers. Anything mothers do will be used against them, and I can already see the headlines: "Goddess mother out gallivanting; son develops three heads."

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The National Prayer Day

Today is the day. We are all supposed to pray today, even those of us who are atheists. I'm going to crash the local town prayer circle as a whirling dervish. The stitches were taken out today, and my hand is ready for some more enlightenment. I'm going to whirl right next to the mayor!

So what are you going to pray for? The recommended things in the newspapers are to pray for the Bush administration and the troops in Iraq. The administration sure could use some help, and the troops need to be brought home safely. But it would also be good to pray for the Iraqis and for all people of this world. Pray that honor killings (like this horrible one in Turkey) will end. Pray that AIDS will stop ravishing this world. Pray that we all finally get some brains and start talking to each other instead of killing each other. Pray that the powers-to-be on this planet get some of the humility that is excessively the lot of the poor and the oppressed.

Pray for the animals. Pray for this planet in its hour of crisis. Pray for a second chance, or a third one. And then get up and get active. That's how prayers are answered.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Does Donald Know?

Donald Duck, that is, and what he might not know is this:

In yet another case of corporate media censorship, executives at Disney have decided not to distribute filmmaker Michael Moore's new documentary entitled, "Fahrenheit 911". Moore's new film is highly critical of the financial ties between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family as well as the action taken by the government in secretly evacuating relatives of Osama bin Laden out of the country immediately after the attacks on September 11.

Published reports indicate that although the movie is ready for release, Miramax studios have been told by parent company Disney that it has decided to ban distribution of the film.

Why? According to one Disney executive, "It's not in the interest of any major corporation to be dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle".

This according to Common Cause. Donald might be interested, given that he runs around without anything on his lower body, and this is regarded as perfectly acceptable by the Disney executives. Also, all the nephews hate Donald, and Uncle Scrooge is a really sick example of what capitalism can do to warp a person (or a duck). Not good publicity for either family values or capitalism, one might think.

So what's one more film by Michael Moore compared to decades of anti-parental, anti-money, pro-nudity indoctrination by Disney? Come on guys, give Michael's film a chance to be assessed at its own merits or the lack of them.

Oh Atrios!

I love to visit Eschaton and poke my nose into the comments threads. It's like going to a big leftie carnival. But now I can't go there. Atrios has an ad about tortured chickens with a picture. As I mentioned in the previous post, torturing living creatures is horrible, and that includes chickens. Let this serve as a warning for anybody else who is equally lily-livered. Let me know when that particular picture is further down the screen.

There is a larger point to this post, I think, which is the way in which we tend to preach to the converted. Who gets all the letters about abused and tortured animals pictured on the envelopes? Answer: those kind-hearted souls who have already given money to stop animal abuse. Not the torturers. Who gets letters telling about human rights abuses and AIDS in Africa? Probably not the people committing abuses or enabling the spread of the disease, probably not even the people who are indifferent. No, the recipients are the ones who are already involved in trying to stop bad things from happening.

I understand why this happens, but it stinks, nevertheless. We should find a way to fix this, or alternatively, have the senders of these letters come around once a week to pick up the hundred pounds or so of Bad News Mail I get during the average seven days. The senders should also apologize, if not to me, then to the trees that have been transformed into unnecessary paper. I'm already giving what I can, do you hear me!

I even give to chicken-causes, so there's no need to remind me how ineffective I have been.

Vacationing in the Liberal Coalition, Part II

More places to visit, to escape the stresses and disappointments of life, to get reinvigorated and informed and even to laugh a little. Here are our current suggestions (our as in Echidne's Travel Agency, our motto being: SSSmooth as a SSSnake):

-Bushland: Here you can learn all about our president and his life. May I offer Tony Wright's enjoyable discussion on Bush and racism? or Wanda's interesting theories about why Bush dumbed down and holied up? (and no, Wanda, he won't suddenly turn all normal). Or something a little further in the wilderness? How about some time with Rush Limbaugh? Thomasblog gives us Rush as the ridiculer of people with Aspergen's Syndrome, and Mercury visits David Brock's new site to learn more about the horrible things that routinely slither out of Rush's mouth. For those who like ideas more than people, I recommend archy on how even in Italy evolution and schools don't mix that well all the time, or Bryan on how the right sees attacking business interests as a really cruel thing to do, or musing's musings on Christian spam (among other funny stuff).

-Women as torturers: A topic in the news for obvious reasons. Kick the Leftist tells how one right-winger argues that the news about detainee abuses in Iraq must be false, as everybody knows that women make inept torturers. Edwardpig doesn't doubt that women can be torturers but he's nevertheless disappointed in finding this to be possible. And he's disappointed in finding out about his own disappointment. I don't really know what to say here. Nobody should torture other creatures, but everybody has the potential of doing so, given the indoctrination and emotional stress that produces torturers out of otherwise fairly normal people. To assume that women are exempt from this is not that different from assuming that women as a group are exempt from things like intelligence. In other words, women are not mythological creatures (with the exception of yours truly).

-Other interesting destinations: Victoria has a good survey article on some of the issues that have to do with the current EU enlargement. American readers should read this one. Chris Brown has started a new series of interviews with 'ordinary' people (nobody is really ordinary), and the first one is very interesting. Rubber Hose has a fascinating glimpse into what it means to have visited a distant hard-to-reach-locale, and then to find it in the news (Siyu), and Invisible Library gives an excellent discussion on codes in human life. Finally, Rick Blaine reveals how he has dropped lawyering and taken up standup comicing and poker playing!

Good News Only, Thank You Very Much

How well is the Bush administration working for women? Consider women in the labor force. What information can they get from our government? Here is a list of books and fact sheets which were available in 1999 but which have vanished in 2004:


Don’t Work in the Dark, Know Your Rights
1993 Handbook on Women Workers

Fact Sheets

Domestic Violence:A Workplace Issue
Earning Differences Between Women and Men
Women Who Maintain Families
Hiring Someone to Work in Your Home
20 Facts on Women Workers
Facts About Asian American and Pacific Islander Women
Work and Elder Care:Facts for Caregivers and Their Employers
Women in Management
Child Care Workers
Outlook on Women Veterans
Black Women in the Labor Force
Women of Hispanic Origin in the Labor Force
Worth More Than We Earn:Fair Pay for Working Women
Wage and Occupational Data on Working Women
What Works:Fair Pay for Working Women
Meeting the Needs of Today ’s Work Force:Child Care Best
Equal Pay:A Thirty-Five Year Perspective
First National Working Women ’s Summit
Working Women Count
Care Around the Clock:Developing Child Care Resources
Before Nine and After Five
Median annual earnings for year-round full -time workers by
sex in current and real dollars,1951-1997 (Statistical Report)
Women ’s Jobs 1964-1996:More Than 30 Years of Progress
(Statistical Report)
Women ’s Earnings as Percent of Men ’s 1979 -1997 (Statistical Report)

Here are the still available and any new fact sheets:

Hot Jobs for the 21st Century
Women Business Owners
20 Leading Occupations for Women
Nontraditional Occupations for Women
Women in High Tech Jobs (Statistical Report)
Trafficking in Persons
Occupational Outlook Handbook (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

What do you think? That we no longer need to worry about fairness and justice in the workforce? No longer need to know our rights? No longer need to have information on minority women as a separate category? Are all the news now good news (with the exception of trafficking)? Or is the government just trying to save us money by cutting back on publications of interest mainly to women? Hmmm.
The source for these statistics is a pdf file which you can download here.
Postscript: Trish Wilson (in the comments) shows that the disappeared materials are back! This ruins my post, of course. Oh well, I guess on balance it's positive that the materials are available again.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Silly, silly,...

There is a time for everything on this earth, including being silly. In other words, my muse has a hangover.
Silly 1: Men who look like Kenny Rogers
Silly 2: A gift for someone who has everything
Silly 3: Test your IQ (a silly concept) with the question below:

There is a mute who wants to buy a toothbrush. By imitating the action
of brushing one's teeth he successfully
expresses himself to the shopkeeper and the purchase is done. Now if
there is a blind man who wishes to buy a pair of sunglasses, how should he
express himself?

The answer will be in the comments section.

Monday, May 03, 2004

My Recent Conversion

You read it here first! I've become a conservative anti-feminist. I'm going to join the Independent Women's Forum and the Republican party's extreme right edge. I'm going to turn into a commentator for Faux News, and I'm going to have my hair beautifully permed. Everything in this snakepit will be ladylike and smell of violets, and the heels in my shoes will be so high that just looking at them will make people go dizzy.

This is part of my new career plan. This is the way to make lots of money and to become a famous woman. Then, after a few years of getting my face into every single news-related show in this country, and after writing several best-selling woman-hating books I shall recant my conversion and start a feminist website with two million dollars worth of grant money from all kinds of very kind leftie billionaires. And this will naturally make me famous and rich all over again.

It worked for David Brock, with some obvious adjustments:

David Brock, the former right-wing journalist turned liberal, describes himself as once having been a rather large cog in the machinery of the conservative media.
Now Mr. Brock is starting a new endeavor built to combat the very sector of journalism that spawned him, with support from the same sorts of people (Democrats) about whom he once wrote so critically.
With more than $2 million in donations from wealthy liberals, Mr. Brock will start a new Internet site this week that he says will monitor the conservative media and correct erroneous assertions in real time

His original claim to fame was the smearing of Anita Hill in the early 1990's:

For Mr. Brock, 41, the project is yet another considerable step in his public evolution from conservative muckraker to liberal activist. That evolution began after Mr. Brock began publicly apologizing in the late 1990's for reporting that brutally criticized Anita F. Hill and a report that Arkansas state troopers had helped Bill Clinton procure paramours when he was the governor of Arkansas, the veracity of which he is no longer sure.
Mr. Brock has also said that he knowingly lied in an article he wrote for The American Spectator in 1992 that raised doubts about the credibility of Ms. Hill. The article formed the basis for a later book about Ms. Hill, whose charges of harassment almost derailed Clarence Thomas's appointment to the Supreme Court

What do you think? Will this work more than once? If it does, I had better hurry before someone else gets the same idea. The first change on this blog will be in its name: From 'Echidne of the snakes' to either 'Mrs. Typhoon' (though I never actually married him) or 'Cerberus' Mom'. Or both: 'Mrs. Typhoon, Cerberus' Mom'. That should please the family values crowd as I have nicely erased any reference to me as a goddess or a person. The second change will be in the layout and color. I need to get lots of pink stuff and pictures of lambs. The third change will be the hardest: some extreme right-wing anti-women reporting. Would it be too unethical to steal it from

How to Report on Religion

Barbara Bradley Hagerty is the religion correspondent for the NPR, the National Public Radio. She works in the very middle of the dreaded liberal media, at least according to our friends on the right.

What qualifies someone to be a religion correspondent? I was curious about this, especially after the storm Hagerty has caused in our little blogosphere (more about that later). It seems that Hagerty was trained in economics and law and that her prior experience is largely in covering legal affairs and crime as well as politics. She seems not to have had any special training in religion. Is this the customary way of selecting religion correspondents? What qualifies Hagerty to report in this area?

My guess is that it is her own fervent faith. She is quite open about her own religiousness, and used to be affiliated to the now-famous World Journalism Institute. The WJI once had this interesting mission statement:

To accompany reporting with practical commentary on current events and issues from a perspective committed to the final authority of the Bible as the inerrant written word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:14-16).

but after Atrios wrote about them and Hagerty in some detail, the mission statement was diluted to the usual wishy-washiness. Nevertheless, it's pretty clear that the WJI has a fundamentalist flavor. Of course, Hagerty's one-time association with them doesn't necessarily mean that she subscribes to fundamentalism.

But she sure does subscribe to Christianity. Which is interesting, as the media in general frowns upon journalists who take an activist role in the fields that they report. Things are different in religion, the last bastion of immunity from critical reporting in the media. Not only doesn't the reporter need any training in the area, being fanatically invested in one side of the debate might be an asset. Hmmm.

The blogosphere of the left doesn't like this. Neither do I, actually. That's why I'm grateful for Atrios and his readers as well as Body and Soul for doing some critical research and reporting on Hagerty's research and reporting. Consider this direct excerpt from Hagerty's program on John Kerry and the Catholic Church (thanks to Atrios):

HAGERTY: Last week some 300 people protested church doctrine on birth control in front of the Vatican embassy in Washington. Frances Kissling was there. She's the president of Catholics for a Free Choice.

Ms. FRANCES KISSLING (President, Catholic for a Free Choice): Catholics are no different than the rest of Americans. They vote on their pocketbook, they vote on the economic issues, Social Security, Medicare, crime, education and health. They don't vote on the abortion issue.

HAGERTY: Surveys from Georgetown University show that the number one issue for Catholics in 2000 was the economy. Taxing, spending and government programs came in second. Moral issues were a distant third.

(Soundbite from a Mass)

HAGERTY: But tell that to the worshipers at the 8:00 Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington. All but one interviewed there on a recent morning said they won't vote for Kerry. They said they knew he personally thought abortion was wrong but that his stand on abortion rights had a larger meaning. Here's Philip Monos(ph), Carrie Gress(ph) and Ted Flynn.

Mr. PHILIP MONOS (Worshiper): It's really character and personal integrity, and a man who does not seem committed to his faith, I don't see why he would be committed to his ideas or necessarily even his country.

Ms. CARRIE GRESS (Worshiper): It seems that he doesn't take his faith seriously, and it's something that it seems like he's using as a political card instead of something that he deeply believes in and is committed to.

Mr. TED FLYNN (Worshiper): I would work very hard against Senator Kerry because I think he is actually, from start to finish, a four-star phoney.

HAGERTY: Another early worshiper, Charles Loveless, a union official, downplayed the abortion issue.

A straightforward both-sides-are-covered story about the religion, one might think. Of course, one side has a famous named leader of the group interviewed (Frances Kissling), whereas the majority of the other side consists of the 'ordinary people's views, random opinions from the actual church pews. Too bad that only one of the nonfamous people told Hagerty his job (the union guy).

Quite innocent, isn't it. So where's the storm? Well, it turns out that St. Matthew's Cathedral doesn't have 8 a.m. masses on Sundays but on weekdays. People who go to mass on weekday mornings may quite safely be seen as more religious than those who only attend on Sundays, don't you think? It also turns out that the randomly selected congregants might not in fact be so randomly selected, but just could be quite well-known people from the Catholic right.

Hagerty is very good in subtly flavoring her reporting with the True Word of God. Maybe God told her to find out that the only congregant who downplayed the abortion issue was a union official, but forgot to ask her to check about the jobs of the others she interviewed? Maybe God told her that the average run-of-the-mill Catholic can be found attending a weekday morning mass?

Maybe. But this reporting does make me a little worried about Hagerty's impartiality as a correspondent on religion. I think that the NPR should hire me as their correspondent on heathenism, and let me write shadow articles on all these god-and-goddess issues. This would be good for religious diversity and would frighten the right wing. It would also increase my budget for nectar. All good causes.