One Way To Kill the National Deficit

Filed under: — Ophelia Payne @ 12:11 am

From the New York Times:

Some Republicans have even gone so far as to suggest the one approach Mr. Bush did not mention in his speech, raising the ceiling on income subject to payroll taxes, which is now about $90,000 a year. The idea appeals to some politicians because only about 6 percent of Americans earn more than $90,000 a year. Imposing Social Security taxes on incomes of up to $200,000 would come close to eliminating the entire deficit.

You read that right, folks. Should the wealthy step up?

What will be cut instead?

* grants to local law enforcement agencies
* spending for environmental protection
* American Indian schools
* home-heating aid for the poor
* funding for school districts in low-income communities
* farmers’ subsidies
* grants to local firefighters
* funding to states for incarcerating illegal aliens who commit crimes
* assistance for police departments to improve technology and their ability to communicate with other agencies.

Presumably the Pentagon will get its $419.3 billion.

HT: Pesky Apostrophe


Abu Ghraib Torturer Sentenced to a Whole Six Months

Filed under: — Ophelia Payne @ 11:46 pm

A Texas new outlet reports:

Sergeant Javal Davis, who admitted abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003, was sentenced Friday night to six months in a military prison and a bad-conduct discharge from the Army…

…The former Abu Ghraib guard confessed earlier this week to stepping on the hands and feet of a group of handcuffed detainees and falling with his full weight on top of them.

Apparently his lawyer argued that Davis “is a good man and a good soldier who has already been punished enough for a brief lapse in judgment.”

“How much more do we kick him when he’s down on the ground?” he asked.

Well, it depends. Perhaps he should do his time with a bag over his head and electrodes strapped to his gentials. Then we will allow decent soldiers to stomp on his phalanges.

HT: Talk Left

Under Construction

Filed under: — admin @ 9:31 pm

XX is under template reconstruction.

Update: Apologies for any confusion. Something had to be done after Ophelia Payne botched the template. Good going there.

In addition, it seems that many comments got lost in the queue while we were under a deluge of a link dump for online card games and entertainment of the adult variety. Some legitimate comments have been lost as well. All apologies.

Please have patience while we recover the blog.

Headlines: Liars Lie

Filed under: — Ophelia Payne @ 8:38 pm

FactCheck.org takes a very close look at the SOTU and finds Bush’s claims on Social Security more than lacking.

In his State of the Union Address, President Bush said again that the Social Security system is headed for “bankruptcy,” a term that could give the wrong idea. Actually, even if it goes “bankrupt” a few decades from now, the system would still be able to pay about three-quarters of the benefits now promised.

Bush also made his proposed private Social Security accounts sound like a sure thing, which they are not. He said they “will” grow fast enough to provide a better return than the present system. History suggests that will be so, but nobody can predict what stock and bond markets will do in the future.

Bush left out any mention of what workers would have to give up to get those private acounts – a proportional reduction or offset in guaranteed Social Security retirement benefits. He also glossed over the fact that money in private accounts would be “owned” by workers only in a very limited sense – under strict conditions which the President referred to as “guidelines.” Many retirees, and possibly the vast majority, wouldn’t be able to touch their Social Security nest egg directly, even after retirement, because the government would take some or all of it back and convert it to a stream of payments guaranteed for life.

“What workers would have to give up” is the most important missing key in this proposal. Bush can argue all he wants for an “ownership society,” such hopeful-seeming rhetoric, but what it leaves out is that this arrangment relies on risk and could end in catastrophic loss.

Fact Check has more on the issue of SS’s potential deficit.


Vote for XX

Filed under: — Antigone @ 9:08 am

Yea us!

Our reframing of the “Where are all the women bloggers?” debate has been nominated for a Kofax Award.


Egyptian paternity suit shakes up society

Filed under: — Amanda @ 3:26 pm

It’s a heart-warming tale of a woman who has decided to quit putting up with everyone’s shit, and I think we can all applaud that, regardless of culture. Hind el-Hinnawy of Egypt is profiled in the New York Times today because she decided that instead of doing what was expected of her when her secret husband decided to abandon her when she got pregnant, which is to get an abortion and hymen-replacing surgery and pretend that the whole thing never happened, she would instead have her baby and file a paternity suit. For an American audience, the details of the story are both exotic and familiar all at once.

He accuses Ms. Hinnawy of being a gold-digger, seeking to trade on his client’s fame by taking her case public.

Ms. Hinnawy denies the charge. She says that there was a contract, but that when she first told Mr. Fishawy last spring that she was pregnant, he nicely asked for both copies so he could make the marriage official by registering it. She says that she has not seen the documents since, and that afterward he told her he would never marry an unveiled woman.

Can’t say I really see a difference in his attitude and that of callous American men who use and abuse women they deem beneath themselves and then act petulant when they are asked to own up to their cruelty and instead insist that the women they used should know the score and stay in their assigned place. Or it puts me in mind of the common American sentiment that some women are for fucking and some for marrying. As one can imagine, he is reluctant to take the DNA test that would settle this question once and for all.

The article gives us a glimpse of what we can expect in America if the right to choose is revoked–a world where abortion’s invisibility means that daughters of wealthy families are outright forced to abort and pretend it never happened whereas women without means either submit to back-alley abortions or face down a hostile world with their children. And it’s a chilling reminder of the misogyny that is the underpinnings of anti-choice laws.

In general, abortion is illegal in Egypt, but doctors are given wide leeway to interpret two general Islamic guidelines: that it is acceptable in cases where pregnancy might jeopardize the health of the mother and that the fetus gains a soul at three months. It is an option for women with means, though.

For women in poor Cairo neighborhoods or along the upper reaches of the Nile, out-of-wedlock pregnancies often end in death: the girl killed by her father or brother to end the public shame and cleanse the family honor.

Strip away the thin veneer of pretend concern for fetuses and all you are left with is raw hatred towards women.

The good news is that the high profile nature of the case is helping garner attention for Egyptian feminism.

On one bench Selma Bakr, a novelist with short curly black hair, said she was thrilled because she was convinced that the case would help defeat the conservative Saudi values that she said had changed Egyptian society for the worse since she was a student in the 1960’s.

“These values from Wahhabi Islam are completely different from our Islamic values,” Mrs. Bakr said. “This is petrodollar Islam. Women are considered objects for sex, for family, for marriage. But we need to let women be citizens, to have the same rights as all citizens.”

No matter if it’s packaged as Islamic feminism or Christian feminism or secular feminism, I think that’s a sentiment well-worth backing up.

I’ve Been Nominated For Another Koufax Award!

Filed under: — Trish Wilson @ 12:40 pm

I’ve just been nominated at Wampum for The Koufax Awards: Best Series. This nomination is for my series of posts about fathers’ rights activist Lowell Jaks kidnapping his son. Jaks is the head of the Alliance for Noncustodial Parents Rights. Jaks was found in the Dominican Republic with his son. His son is back in the states with his mother. Jaks has recently finished serving a prison sentence for the kidnapping.

Go vote for me at Wampum.

Fathers4Justice Is Delusional Again

Filed under: — Trish Wilson @ 12:39 pm

Fathers4Justice is spreading rumors that it is working with two groups to tackle the Government. These guys’ opinions of themselves are much higher than reality.

The Countryside Alliance and the UK Independence Party made clear tonight they had not entered into any election pact with Fathers 4 Justice to tackle the Government.

The fathers’ rights group behind a series of high-profile stunts had claimed to be in talks with the anti-EU party about how to maximise their showing in the poll expected on May 5.

And the group also claimed there had been initial contact with the pro-hunting lobby that could mean a co-ordinated campaign of direct action against Labour in the run-up to the contest.

Fathers4Justice is not happy at all with the reforms that are in the works. Jim Parton, from Families Need Fathers, said the proposals “lacked compulsion”. Fathers4Justice spokesman John Ison said: “What we have got is a cynical case of recycling existing legislation.”

Well, I could have told you that. You are going to get more expensive divorces and custody battles, what with the “parenting plans,” mediation, counseling, “training” (probably means parenting classes), a “legal advice helpline,” and God knows what else is in the works. That’s what we have in the States already.

They aren’t getting the 50/50 custody they’ve lobbied so hard for. They aren’t going to be able to have control over their ex’s lives.

According to the article, “Lord Falconer announced an extra £10 million a year to ensure the courts deal with allegations of domestic violence and other harm at the beginning of court proceedings. The legal definition of “harm” will be changed to take account of the effects on children who witness a parent suffering domestic violence.” This is important because there is a mentality out there that refuses to see how witnessing domestic violence negatively impacts children. Plus, some people like to believe that abusive men can be good fathers. According to the Working Document On The Effects Of Abuse On Children, “"[N]ot only is violence in families pervasive but that both the children who are victims of violence and those that witness violence that occurs between their parents suffer a great deal and are themselves at risk of using violence as adults (Jaffe, Wolfe & Wilson, 1990; O’Keefe, 1995; Pagelow, 1993; Saunders, 1994; Johnson ,1996)…infants suffer from having their basic needs for attachment to their mother disrupted or from having the normal routines around sleeping and feeding disrupted… Older children come to see violence as an appropriate way of dealing with conflict… These children can suffer from serious emotional difficulties…” From the same source are these statements:

“The sheer prevalence of the problem of violence and the dynamics surrounding it make it clear any assumptions about equal partnership in these cases are out of the question… the majority of women never report the assaults or in fact ever tell anyone about it (Johnson, 1996) and thus may not be believed if the first time the issue is raised is at the point of separation… may avoid going to court out of fear of retaliation, a fear which is not unfounded given the data on the escalation of violence at separation… agree to whatever the husband wants in an attempt to pacify him… as an exchange for custody… may appear unstable or emotional while their batterers are perceived as confident, rational and economically secure (Rosnes, 1997)… all the research flies in the face of what Rosnes argues is presently happening in the courts: ‘…judges assume that wife abuse is not necessarily damaging to a child, and that being violent does not necessarily affect a father’s parenting ability…. Similarly, research showing how battered women give up legal rights, and how women and children are at risk during unsupervised access visits and transfer is also upheld.’ (Rosnes, 1997 at 33). “

Domestic violence and child abuse are two big reasons moms withhold visitation, and it looks like both will get a serious look with the reforms. The guys aren’t happy about that because they claim false allegations of abuse are rampant in divorce and custody cases, when the fact is that bona fide false allegations are no more likely to happen in those situations than in the general population. Plus, they account for only about 2 - 8% of all allegations of abuse. A Canadian study found that fathers more than mothers made false abuse allegations.

Regarding enforcement of child support, “those who do breach an order may face a fine or jail for contempt of court as a last resort.” Just like we have in the States.

One possibility that is unlikely to happen that they are happy with is curfews and community service for “parents” (read: mothers) who do not comply with visitation agreements. The community service may go through but the curfews, which included talk of electronically tagging moms, is too punitive and it doesn’t appear to take abuse into account. Sure, lets go back to putting women in the stocks and dunking them in water as “punishment.” Lord Falconer is leaning against the tagging. Why are there no restrictions placed on dads who have visitation but refuse to abide by it? After all, “children need both parents,” according to fathers’ rights activists.

Despite all their publicity stunts dressed as superheroes and their media coverage, fathers rights activists in the U. K. are not getting what they want. Something I’ve been saying all along.


Earth To People Who Don’t Know Anything About Journalism or the News Business

Filed under: — Antigone @ 6:29 pm

Yes, this includes infotainment has-beens!

There is no vast conspiracy in mainstream media that’s out to get the Republicans. Journalists and other newsies operate in a highly competitive environment and their asses are on the line to break stories. Major stories that’ll make you watch or read them more so that they can help their advertisers sell more soap. Period. I know you’d like to believe that everyone at CBS news is out to get Bush, but I’m here to tell you that they’d be out to get anyone and everyone if it helped them sell more soap.

Did the folks at 60 Minutes make mistakes? Sure. Should they be fired? Probably. Would they have done the same thing to Clinton? You betcha!

Now please, pull your heads out of your asses.


It doesn’t look like 2005 is going to be a great year for women in Iraq

Filed under: — Antigone @ 4:41 pm

When it comes to the suffering of women at the hands of our silly-ass policy in the Middle East, I hate to say, “I told you so.” But, I did back in June. Today, the Feminist Daily News Wire reports that in order to avoid attacks from fundamentalists, Iraqi women and girls are being forced to wear headscarves.

And yes, I know Saddam Hussein was a bad, bad man. But, …

A female student at Baghdad University recently stated that she chose to wear a headscarf so she could “walk in the street without fearing someone will kill me or kidnap me…I head rumors about killing women without a scarf. Why should I risk my life?” reports United Press International. One student fears that the fundamentalists “want another Kabul” where the Taliban inhumanely forced women to wear a burqa that covered their entire body from head to toe and denied women the right to education, health care, and employment. Another student asserted that “the scarf has nothing to do with faith” and when women can’t walk the streets without being covered from head to toe “will be the end of Iraq as a civilized country,” according to the Washington Post.

For several decades, even under the oppressive rule of Saddam Hussein, Baghdad was considered a very modern city where women could choose to wear clothes that ranged from skirts and blouses to more traditional outfits. However, today, seeing a woman uncovered in the streets of Iraq is a rare occurrence.

Too bad the women close to the U.S. Administration don’t want to bother their “beautiful minds” with the truth.


Or is the real problem that a woman runs “SNL” now?

Filed under: — Amanda @ 4:50 pm

That’s the not-so-subtle subtext of this story in the NY Times today.

“It’s such a safe, wishy-washy target, as opposed to going after the powers that be,” said Adam McKay, an “S.N.L.” writer from 1995 to 2001, and its head writer from 1996 to 1999. “We always knew that the No. 1 reason the show exists is to do impersonations of the president, our leaders, the Donald Trumps of the world - the people who need to be made fun of. And the show works when you do that, and it doesn’t work when you don’t do that.” By emphasizing broad comedy about celebrity culture, Mr. McKay said, “S.N.L.” had ceded considerable ground to popular rivals like Comedy Central’s “Daily Show With Jon Stewart.”

I call bullshit. This guy is just participating in the time-honored tradition of saying everything went downhill after the speaker left. The example of incisive political satire from the show that this article dredges up is Chevy Chase’s impression of Gerald Ford, which was indeed innovative in that he didn’t try to imitate Ford’s mannerisms very much and also in that it was as apolitical an impression of a sitting President as you could get. Dana Carvey, while actually bothering to imitate Bush I, followed Chase’s lead and managed to pick on the President while mostly avoiding picking on his policies.

Frankly, it seems ridiculous to expect a format that is 30 years old to be innovative anymore. The irony of this article is they are claiming that it’s not an innovative show because its direction has changed.

“With all the tabloids and ‘Access Hollywood’ entertainment shows, we’re already pounded on with Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan,” said Heather O’Neill, co-author of a weekly critique of “S.N.L.” for the pop-culture blog whatevs.org. “When that starts being brought into a show that’s supposed to be controversial, it makes me lose interest in it.” Whereas “S.N.L.” writers of previous eras could generate “an entire sketch out of nothing,” said her writing partner, Jason Nummer, “now they’re based on whoever the paparazzi are targeting.”

But what I find most article is the underpinnings of the argument that the show has lost its “edge". The first is the notion that celebrity and paparazzi stuff is inherently fluffy and not political. The celebrities that the show is being criticized for focusing on are Paris Hilton, Star Jones, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Anna Nicole Smith and the like. The stories that circulate in the gossip rags are hardly apolitical–most have roughly the same message and that is to list the behaviors that women should avoid if they want to be good girls. Famous women’s weight gain and loss, drug use, sexual behaviors, and partying screams at us from grocery store gossip rags and daytime televisions shows aimed at mostly female audiences, reminding us day in and out that the worst thing a woman can do is make a spectacle of herself.

Not to say that Tina Fey is critiquing the message, really, but part of the effectiveness of the gossip rags is that they don’t garner attention from the “important” world and therefore they can work their magic of shaming women for misbehaviors like taping yourself having sex or being fat without being held up to the same level of critique as “important” things like how the President shrugs his shoulders.

Maybe, just maybe, the critics of the notorious boys’ club show have a teeny-tiny problem with the fact that a woman is running the show now and she’s actually exerting control over the content.

The show’s embrace of celebrity travails may have been speeded by the May 2002 departure of Will Ferrell, who took an entourage of recurring characters with him. “He was a huge alpha male,” said James Andrew Miller, the author, with Tom Shales, of the book “Live From New York,” an oral history of “S.N.L.” “You just stick him in the middle of a sketch and you can’t take your eyes off him.”

Will Ferrell is a funny guy, but I wouldn’t say his stuff is particularly profound political satire, either, as his main concern is creating characters that skewer everyday people and their peculiarities. But times change, and there is an alpha female on the program now and her main interest is skewering celebrity culture. If the gossip rags are mostly interested in the misbehaviors of women, then that means that a show oriented towards mocking the gossip rags will have a lot more space for female actors to do impressions than “SNL” usually gives their female actors. Try as I might, I can’t really find the heart to be angry about that. Frankly, I think it’s about time.

I read Live From New York, and it’s no secret that there has always been a huge power struggle between the sexes on “SNL". Of course, everyone gets mad if you point out the sexism on the show in a straightforward manner, as demonstrated by the icy treatment Janeane Garofalo received for speaking out about it. So it’s no surprise that this story only hints at these issues.


A Very Happy New Year From Us to You!

Filed under: — Ophelia Payne @ 8:40 pm

Tonight’s celebrations, for me anyway, include imbibement of many gimlets straight-up, and perhaps some feminist Satan-worshipping, baby eating, and a nice dance around a demonic pyre.

A very happy New Year from the ladies at XX.


Susan Sontag, RIP

Filed under: — Sheelzebub @ 2:22 pm

Via Sappho’s Breathing, Susan Sontag died this morning. She was 71.

Tsunami death toll doubles from yesterday, aid may fall short

Filed under: — Sheelzebub @ 2:20 pm

44,000 dead, and counting. There are bodies to be buried. There is no clean water in many places; the water supply was contaminated by the tsunami. And the people have the possibility of epidemics to look forward to.

One-third to one-half of the victims could be children, and that many surviving children may be orphaned.

Across the devastated region many of the children were fishing or playing on the beach with their parents when the waves hit, too small to run to safety. As the death toll continued to rise yesterday and the full horror of the tragedy began to emerge, rescue workers battled to cope with the scale of the disaster. In some countries, mass burials were being held, while other regions were just attempting to re-establish communication and contact with isolated regions. . .

. . .As survivors were evacuated from stricken areas across Asia, the full horror of carnage wrought by the tidal waves emerged; babies torn from their parents’ arms, children and the elderly hurled out to sea from their homes, entire villages swept away.

So, just to remind you all–and myself–to pick a relief organization from the list that Michele from ASV posted, and send a donation. You can also look on this list.

The U.S. government, whose $15M aid package was dwarfed by Japan’s $30M,has promised to do more. (Between the invasion of Iraq, the “war” on terror, and tax cuts for the super-wealthy, we’re just strapped.) Even with the money given internationally, aid may still fall short, as the cost of repair, body recovery, cleanup, and aid to the living could reach $5B.


Spare me these conservatives in tie dyes.

Filed under: — Sheelzebub @ 3:19 pm

Update: Go to the Democratic Party’s feedback form. Number seven says: Please share other thoughts and comments you have about the 2004 election and what Democrats and the Democratic Party should do going forward. Tell them what you think about their turn to the right. (I got the link from Michelle Jones.)

Via Stone Court, who’s “Seeing Red” over this:

Like in anger. Like in red states all around me. That’s how I feel about the news that Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and John Kerry all seem to agree with “Conservative Women for America” that “it would be ‘very smart’ for Democrats to elect [pro-life Tim] Roemer chairman of the party".

Not one person should be surprised by this. Too many Democrats have sold out the people they claim to represent. Quite a lot of them have rolled over and played dead for the militant right wing.

This happened after the election, when those oh-so-naughty gays were excoriated for daring to seek equal rights with straights. It’s so much easier to scapegoat a minority group than to, oh, I don’t know, actually fight for what’s right.

Law Dork takes on a blogger who said that if everyone just sat nicely and shut up and waited for a little longer (because, you know, waiting for years and years just isn’t enough), “moderate” Democrats and Republicans would have gone to the wall for gays.

I didn’t realize the Republican Bush supporters – who quietly allowed Karl Rove and President Bush to use this issue as a political wedge – and moderate Democrats were just about to support equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples, if we had just been quiet a little longer.

He and I both. I’m not exactly sure how throwing my support behind anti-choice politicians and waiting quietly for support that hasn’t come for the past freaking millennia is in my interest. It’s never the straight white guys who are exhorted to “wait” or to “compromise.”

The Democrats’ corporate-sponsored “Third Way” hooey and their shameless right turns have cost them votes and credibility. This isn’t going to help them win elections; it will help the GOP beat them even worse. Most people who are homophobic and anti-choice tend to vote conservative and Republican; they won’t vote for a Democrat who parrots Jerry Falwell.

I’ve no faith in a party that holds out its hands for my vote only to turn around and kick me in the teeth.

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