They are watching you

May 17, 2006

Recently our phone has been clicking when we make calls. I’m sure it is probably because the phone is old. But it occurred to me that it isn’t a crazy idea that our phone is tapped. I don’t really think it is, but these days, really nothing should surprise us. We find out on the ABC news blog that the government is tracking the numbers called from ABC, NYTimes, and Washington Post. How did it become that the executive branch can do whatever it wants? And what are we to do to prevent this from happening? Shouldn’t there be safeguards that prevent this sort of thing or is it just that previous administrations did not dare to be so bold and so sweeping in their violations?



May 16, 2006

So last night President Bush spoke on immigration. We don’t have a TV so I couldn’t watch it, although I find it so terribly painful to listen to him speak that I probably wouldn’t have watched it anyway. I know I should have at least listened to it on NPR, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ve at least brought myself to read about it today. I just had a feeling deep down in my stomach that it was not going to make me happy.

The NYTimes published an op-ed on Mr. Bush’s plan. It is called Border Illusions and you can read it by clicking on the link. First, in the interest of full disclosure, I am married to an immigrant. I have stood in line outside the government building in downtown Boston for 10 hours, I have filed and refiled papers because the information we were given was incorrect, I have spent literally hundreds and hundreds of hours filling out forms, collecting documentation, and searching online and waiting on the phone so I could find out basic information about the process of getting conditional permanent resident status documents, working documents, a social security card, and so on. I have never been treated in a more dehumanized, mean, grouchy, bitchy way than the few times we’ve had to go for interviews or meetings at the government center in Boston.

The Times writes

Those on the other side of the argument have spent frustrating months making a quieter, more complicated case. Supporters of a compromise immigration bill in the Senate want a balanced approach that is both tough and smart. They, too, would add people and technology to enhance security on the Mexican border, which is now about as solid as a screen door. But unlike the House bill, which is fixated on enforcement, the Senate bill seeks to restore law and order in a variety of ways. It would, for example, shorten an immigration backlog by adjusting work and family visa quotas, tighten the enforcement of immigration laws in the workplace and put illegal workers on a path to assimilation and citizenship.

First, thank you whoever wrote this for writing “making a quieter, more complicated case.” This is a complicated matter and one of my biggest frustrations with politics and media today is the way so many things are presented as easy or simple. This is not just a matter of tightening up boarder security, of creating a path to citizenship, or of protesting in the streets. It is a complicated web of political, economic, and social factors that are intricately interwoven. So that is the first point. Complicated matters require complex solutions.

Second, amen to “shorten[ing] the immigration backlog.” One of my Spanish tutors here in Boston had been waiting eight years to have his asylum case heard and that sort of wait is not unusual. It is taking the INS (it isn’t called that now – but whatever that organization is called now) over a year to process W.’s (my husband/partner) application to remove the “conditional” from his permanent resident permit. If you want to get an appointment to do an interview at the immigration center in Boston, you have to wait in line starting at midnight the night before. It was a hassle for us, but some others had traveled from other states, had to miss work, and didn’t speak English and it was just an amazing burden on them. It is embarrassing this our country cannot process immigration stuff in a timely manner and it certainly doesn’t help the system.

Third (sorry this is getting long), you can’t deport 11 million people. Not only is that logistically impossible, it would also devastate this economy. Your ketchup at Taco Bell, your dishes being washed at your favorite restaurant, children being cared for, houses being cleaned, meat being packed all depends on the cheap labor of undocumented workers. There are simply not enough documented workers in the U.S. willing to do this work. So the government might as well find a way to have the workers become documented, and in the meantime develop ways to protect them from being harmed and exploited.

Of course, increased boarder security is important. It makes sense that people shouldn’t just be able to come across the boarder without documentation. Rather, we should develop safe, effective ways to prevent this. If we develop a strong enough system, with the safety of those attempting to cross in mind, it will deter people eventually. That said, I think that we need to develop a way to allow vast numbers of immigrants into this country with documents. This land was stolen from Native Americans by immigrants. It is simply not morally acceptable that a group of once-immigrants or descendents of immigrants says “Well, we came to this land of opportunity, let ourselves in, killing millions of people along the way, and now that we have this land of opportunity we’d like to keep it for ourselves and protect our wealth.” Sorry folks, it just doesn’t work that way if you believe in justice or fairness. Yes, it will be harder for those privileged folks in this country if we open the doors much wider. But tough luck. No one said fairness and justice was easy.

That’s all for today. Time to work on my paper on Simone Weil.

Update from the ark

May 14, 2006

Greetings all. Apologies for such a long absence from the blog. It was nice to visit Kentucky and see family, and to celebrate the life of my grandma. I also worked at The Kettering Foundation for a day, visited the boys I work with in Dayton (all of whom are doing well), spent time bonding with my parents’ cats Sugar Boy, Sebastian, and Priscilla, and thinking about what I will write for my papers that are now due on May 17 and 22. Although I must say that four days of constant rain is not conducive to feeling motivated to write papers. I feel like we are on Noah’s ark. Speaking of animals, we watched March of the Penguins last night which was beautiful but I was really sad when some of them died and that they have to live in such harsh conditions. I am just not a movie watcher, especially when anything sad happens. To me, there is enough sadness in the world without needing to watch movies to remind me of it.


I went to a Mother’s Day party for a fellow Vagina Monologues cast member today, who gave birth to twin boys two months ago. They were early and they are litttttle and cute and all healthy now. I just love little ones and would love to have one, but I just feel like they are so much work. I think we need to be more settled before little ones arrive. Or win the lottery.

Now that I’m back in the swing of things I’ll update more often. Thanks for your comments and I’m just getting around to responding in the next few days as breaks from writing papers.

For those in the Boston area, try not to drown.

E :)


May 6, 2006

I thought of so many titles for this post:

This is why the planet is doomed
This is why the rest of the world hates the United States
The End of the World as We Know It

and so on…

I finally just settled on speechless, which the following quote from this morning’s New York Times leaves me. In the article Statistics Aside, Many Feel the Pinch of Daily Costs Wayne Toomey from Parrish, FL says:

“We went from totally believing in Bush to really having our doubts,” said Wayne Toomey, who owns a house with Ms. Tuttle in the nearby suburb of Parrish. “It comes down to his lack of care about gas prices.”

Now wait a minute. You are telling me it has not been the estimated 100,000 deaths in Iraq or the 2,415 American soldiers who have died in Iraq nor the whole going to war under false pretenses situation nor the torture of detainees in our custody BUT the reason that Mr. Toomey is starting to have doubts about George Bush is because of “his lack of care about gas prices”??!!?!

It is good to read things like this to shake me out of my Cambridge, Massachusetts induced stupor. This is what matters. Buying cheap gas so that we can drive farther, drive bigger, less fuel efficient vehicles, and doom the whole future of humanity.

It reminds me of this ad from during the time of Howard Dean that some conservative group ran on TV:

“Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading …” before the farmer’s wife then finishes the sentence: “… Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.”

We are the freak show, my dear readers. I know I repeat over and over that I don’t want to just complain but that I want to think of ways to do something differently. But it is 6:53 and I need to finish packing and leave to go to Kentucky, so that whole “thinking of a way to do something differently” will have to wait until another posting. But I will be thinking about it. I hope you will to.

Contraception Use Down, Abortion Rate Declines Less

May 5, 2006

The New York Times reports today in the article “Use of Contraception Drops, Slowing Decline of Abortion Rate” that fewer women (or couples) who do not want to get pregnant are using contraception, thus leading to more unintended pregnancies and a slowing of the trend of declining abortion rates.

According to the article,

the researchers blamed reductions in federally and state-financed family planning programs for declining contraceptive use. They called for public and private insurance to cover contraceptives, and for over-the-counter access to the so-called morning-after pill, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after sex.Of three million pregnancies in the United States each year, half are unintended, according to Guttmacher, and half of those are carried to term. About 14,000 women who carry the pregnancies put the children up for adoption, and 1.3 million have abortions.

What I really cannot wrap my head around is why people who think abortion is killing a baby would not be the biggest most vocal advocates of contraception and the morning-after pill. I mean, even if you incorrectly claim that the morning-after pill causes abortion, is it not preferable to have an “abortion” of a fertilized egg that is about two cells big, rather than after the fertilized egg is implanted and starts becoming more “baby”-like? Certainly, the must make a difference between a fertilized egg and a fetus as 12 weeks?

And, I don’t think that it is a huge stretch to imagine that all this abstinence-only education that fails to teach students about contraception might be contributing to the decline in the use of contraception and the slowing of the abortion rate decline.

I think that Dan Savage, a sex-advice columnist (who I have mixed feelings about), contributes some interesting thoughts to what is going on here:

Straight Rights Update: Earlier this month, Republicans in South Dakota successfully banned abortion in that state. Last week, the GOP-controlled state house of representatives in Missouri voted to ban state-funded family-planning clinics from dispensing birth control. “If you hand out contraception to single women,” one Republican state rep told the Kansas City Star, “we’re saying promiscuity is okay.” On the federal level, Republicans are blocking the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception and keeping a 100 percent effective HPV vaccine that will save the lives of thousands of women every year­from being made available.The GOP’s message to straight Americans: If you have sex, we want it to fuck up your lives as much as possible. No birth control, no emergency contraception, no abortion services, no life-saving vaccines. If you get pregnant, tough shit. You’re going to have those babies, ladies, and you’re going to make those child-support payments, gentlemen. And if you get HPV and it leads to cervical cancer, well, that’s too bad. Have a nice funeral, slut.

What’s it going to take to get a straight-rights movement off the ground? The GOP in Kansas is seeking to criminalize hetero heavy petting, for God’s sake! Wake up and smell the freaking Holy War, breeders! The religious right hates heterosexuality just as much as it hates homosexuality. Fight back!

Although I would not have put it quite like, the point is that Republicans and various other conservative groups/people seem to not just be against premarital sex, but sex in general. And who does this disproportionately effect, my friends? Women.

I wish I had some sort of good point to all of this rather than just lamenting how sad and depressing it is. I know that many of us feel a very heavy burden to speak up about so many things – the environment, the war, animal rights, GLBTQ rights, freedom of conscience, and so on. I know we cannot do it all. But do put this on your radar screen, at the least, and if nothing else, pray. Or meditate. Or hope. Or whatever you can do in your quiet time (or if you happen to have magical powers, all the better…). If you can manage to write a letter to your congressperson or speak up in a kind, compassionate, but firm way at your town meeting, or school board meeting, or this weekend’s dinner party, small steps are better than no steps. The tragic thing is that the work of the religious right in making contraception, the morning-after pill, and abortion more difficult to obtain or to learn about results in so much harm to women, families, and children. Planned Parenthood’s motto about “every child wanted, every child loved” is so powerful to me. I am positive that if all those anti-sex, anti-abortion, anti-contraception people truly cared about children they would be pushing for policies that cared for children once they are born – available and affordable health care, quality preschool and K-12 education, adequate and affordable day care, and policies that allowed their parents to adequately care for children such as required living wages, universal health care coverage, and so on.

I truly find it hardly comprehensible. And just very depressing. What I try to remain focused on (and did not do a good job here) is thinking of ways to compassionately and lovingly build bridges of understanding and common ground with those with whom I disagree so strongly with. As I’ve read before, we cannot blog (or sermon, for that matter) our way to revolution. What will it take to change things? Liberals are great at lamenting the ills of the right, but after we have lamented for a while, we must actually do something.

W. (my partner) works for a project on developing a progressive strategy. That is, an actual strategy to change something rather than the big liberal woe-is-us pow wows that we often take part in (myself included). His blog is here. No solutions yet, but I’m glad that at least some people are thinking about how we might actually change some of the horrors we see.

On that cheerful note, enjoy the sunny weather! In solidarity, Elizabeth

Grandma Update

May 4, 2006

A big thank you to those who emailed me or posted comments about my Grandma. Her funeral is on Monday — she passed away peacefully on Wednesday with family around. In a very Kentucky sort of twist of events, the funeral was supposed to be on Saturday but it had to be changed to Monday because it interfered with the church tractor pull. At least some people in this world have priorities straight :) Of course, she would completely understand. I found it amusing.

One big disappointment is that I won’t be able to go to New York City with our church youth group. I went to New York City on a “Summer in New York” trip in 1996 (ten years ago!) with my youth group and have been back many times with various groups to learn and teach about all the things in New York City that one does not learn about in rural Ohio. Urban poverty. Different cultures. Coffee shops (I had my first cappuccino in New York at the Used Book Store Housing Works Cafe which is still in operation). Homelessness. Ultra-rich people. And all sorts of other things. I lived at the Bowery Mission. The youth group will also be visiting the Bowery and seeing a service like no UU service they have ever seen. If you want the free meal in the evening at the Bowery you are required to go to the service. Sort of like food for oil a la Iraq only it is food for God. There is a big push to get people saved as soon as possible. There are a few amen-chanters near the front and many of the others sleep through the service. I can’t wait to hear what the youth think of it. Or Tricia (our minister) for that matter.

Wish I was going. But New York will always be there.

Times of Crisis, Need of Comfort

May 3, 2006

I got off the phone with my mom about a half-hour ago and she told me that hospice says that my grandma will probably only live another few hours or maybe a day. What surprises me a little is how I run back to those religious places in my life that are most comforting even if I’m not even sure I believe them. I want to kneel down and pray. I want to talk to God, not the UU God that I know, that presence that is within us and among us, but my old God that was this big guy with loving arms living up in the clouds. In times of crisis and sadness and just struggle, there is something about going back to that non-intellectual place we were when we were younger. That love of familiarity and that non-complex deity that was just perfect and loving and comforting. I guess the great thing is that the divine can be both of those things. God/dess doesn’t always have to be complex or heady or in need of ten different adjectives (the great mystery, the spirit of life, interbeing…) but the divine is all of those things and more. For me, at least, both simple and complex. Both personal and diffuse. The great thing, theologically, for me about UUism is that we acknowledge that different paths work for different people and that we are all just sort of fumbling toward making sense out of something that is truly beyond words. Beyond our words. It is nice not to have the responsibility or the pressure to systematically develop a theology where it all fits together, that really gets to it all, but to say “This divine, this non-divine, this something, is so great, so loving, so complex, that we simply cannot get all of it at once into language.”

So, Grandma, mother of 12, grandmother to 26, wife to Arnold, devout Catholic, peace, and love, and gratitude to you as you go to that which is beyond our words.