Jane Smiley has an excellent post up at HuffPo today on the Palin pregnancy:

Sarah Palin and her church and her pastor have made themselves abundantly clear on issues of reproductive privacy — there won’t be any. In a Palin world, if my daughter wanted birth control, she wouldn’t be able to get any, and if I wanted sex education to be taught in my son’s school, I would be out of luck. If a girl I knew were raped and impregnated by her uncle and she elected to have an abortion, she would not be allowed to do so. She wouldn’t even be allowed to take the morning after pill in case he got her pregnant. Maybe there’s something you guys don’t get about this. Bristol Palin’s pregnancy is at the heart of what women and the right wing have been fighting over for thirty years, and it isn’t abortion, it’s privacy and the right to control your own reproductive choices. There will always be abortion, and there will always be choice, but Palin would like the choice to be illegal and punishable. Same with birth control.

Right on, sister! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sarah Palin hates women. She hates me. She hates my freedom to control my uterus. She hates my access to contraception. This is not a woman who should be anywhere near a Presidency. Neither should John McCain. The Bristol Palin pregnancy is not an issue of family privacy, it’s a reminder of the bigger problem: the Vice Presidential nominee’s archaic and misogynist attitude towards reproductive health. Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to live in a world based on The Handmaid’s Tale, vote for McCain/Palin in ’08.


Amy Goodman and two Democracy Now! producers were violently arrested outside the Republican National Convention yesterday.

Watch the video:

The Democracy Now! site has updates.

Well, damn. Here’s a curveball: Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. With most politicians’ children I’d say “big deal, it’s none of our business,” but Sarah Palin is so damn sure that my uterus is her business, so this one, my friends, is open for discussion.

First, a caveat: it’s probably really shitty to be pregnant at 17. I can only imagine that, being still a child and all, you must be damn scared for your future. Forget college applications and SATs, you have chosen Door Number Three! Congratulations, you’ve won: a baby! And at least eighteen years of massive responsibility!

Now, I imagine it’s also really shitty to be told by your VP Candidate mom that you have to marry the boy who got you pregnant, even though he’s also still a kid and is probably more interested in his Nintendo Wii than the ins and outs of effective parenting, never mind interested in creating that lifelong romance you’ve probably dreamed of while watching all those Disney movies growing up. But, whatever, shit happens, and I feel really sorry for a young girl who is not only going through the trauma of an unexpected pregnancy but also the much scarier trauma of having 300 million people talking about what’s in her uterus. Oh, and dealing with the whole “mother running for Vice President” thing.

Now, here’s my problem with how this delightful little fetus has been discussed by the McCain/Palin team. The McCain campaign has been careful to say that Bristol Palin made the decision “on her own” to continue with her pregnancy. But as Ann at Feministing correctly points out:

While it’s obvious why they made this statement to assure the public that Bristol was not coerced into keeping the baby (after all, she does have a parent who is a staunch opponent of the right to choose and is currently on the Republican presidential ticket), as my significant other pointed out, there’s some serious hypocrisy at play here. I mean, John McCain and Sarah Palin don’t believe women have a right to choose. It’s absolutely absurd for the campaign to emphasize the fact that Bristol “made this decision,” and then push for policies that take away that choice.

Ann is right on the money. It’s hypocrisy to suggest that this 17-year-old girl made the right choice when the whole idea of choice is so beyond any Republican position right now. Other women should be denied any choice as to whether they continue with their pregnancies, but Bristol Palin should be congratulated for exercising the choice that would be denied her if her mother was elected? That’s fucked up.

I’m glad that Ann also brought up Cara’s great post from last week on the discussions surrounding Sarah Palin’s “choice” not to abort her son, Trig, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. Here’s another case where Palin was congratulated for choosing to continue with the pregnancy, even though under a McCain/Palin administration, she would deny all of us that same choice. As Cara said,

You know what we often say about how conservatives care a whole lot about fetuses but very little about actual children? Well here’s your example. It’s almost as though they think that Palin became pregnant and gave birth to a child with Down Syndrome simply to please them. And the thing is that if they really believe their rhetoric, the answer was obvious, so obvious in fact that Palin didn’t really have a “choice” to make. Only now, because it’s convenient, they want to acknowledge that the decision of whether or not to abort after getting news that your child will be born with a disability is a difficult one, simply so that they can point and say “but look at her, she searched her soul and then did the right thing — so should all women!” They don’t want women to have a choice, but then want to praise this particular woman for the choice that she did make.

Cara and Ann make great points. As a pro-choice woman, I believe that my uterus is mine and mine alone, and I am grateful to be living in a country (not the U.S.) that upholds my right to decide what is best for me and mine. At least in this country I am judged to be intelligent enough to make these decisions for myself, without needing a Sarah Palin telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing. It’s hypocrisy, then, for the Republicans to be congratulating these two women on their choices not to terminate their pregnancies when Palin doesn’t believe she or her daughter should have that choice in the first place.

And let me agree with another point Cara raised; while Palin’s “choice” to have a baby with Down’s Syndrome has been congratulated by the right-wing for being an example of her pro-life family values, this is not a choice that only “pro-life” women make! It is ridiculous to suggest that all pro-choice women would all immediately choose abortion if faced with the same amnio results. Pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion; it means pro-choice. It means supporting safe and accessible reproductive health care for women, whatever your politics. Many pro-choice women choose to continue with pregnancies even when faced with abnormalities like Down’s. The point is, they have the freedom to make that choice according to what works for them. I don’t know why Sarah Palin should be held up as a great pro-life role model for having a baby with Down’s Syndrome when there are a hell of a lot of pro-choice women who do the same, and when she wouldn’t have a choice anyway if she got her own way. Under a McCain/Palin administration, all women would be forced to continue with all pregnancies.

Isn’t that a frightening thought?

I find it very creepy that Palin is against abortion even in the case of rape or incest. In response to being asked what she would do if a man raped her daughter, she answered, “I would choose life.” Drew Westen at The Huffington Post puts it like this:

Palin apparently even believes in forcing teenage incest survivors and rape victims to bear their rapists’ babies…the position she and others on the right have articulated gives every rapist the right to pick the mother of his child. That position is tantamount to a Rapist’s Bill of Rights, which privileges the rights of rapists and child molesters over the rights of their victims. Those are McCain-Palin’s “family values,” and they are not mainstream American values.

Thank you, Drew Westen, for pointing out how sick Palin’s values really are, and for once again bringing the point home: pro-lifers hate women. Sarah Palin hates women. Sarah Palin hates me.

Welcome to your Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, America. This could be your future.

*Update: Check out Rebecca Traister’s great piece in Salon on this same topic.

“It’s a little hard to take. In the big picture, Keith, I think this is a Dan Quayle choice. I think it’s great to have a woman on the ticket, but I think Sarah Palin as this specific woman on the ticket, is a bit of a laugh-out-loud choice.” – Rachel Maddow

While we’re still talking Sarah Palin, check out this great piece by Michael Seitzman at the Huffington Post. He asks a question I think many people are thinking about but are too polite to ask: what if McCain kicks the bucket early? What if Palin has to take over the role of President in an emergency? Says Seitzman:

She’s never actually used the word Shiite in a sentence before. She’s never had to. She’s never given any thought whatsoever to nuclear proliferation. She’s never had to. She’s never thought about Israel, Russia, Korea, or Iran. She’s never even thought about Mexico. So, what HAS she thought about? I mean, what has she thought about that’s going to directly affect you and me if (yes, God forbid) she has to slip into the role of the most powerful leader on the face of the planet? Well, we know she’s given a lot of thought to your uterus. Hell, I think about your uterus all the time and nobody should ever elect me to any office.

Dude, it’s clear what else she’s thought about: drilling for oil and shooting polar bears. But federal budgets and foreign policy and defense spending and nukes, nope. I guess she still has 64 days to figure this stuff out.

I can’t wait to watch Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow respond to McCain’s pick. That’ll make my weekend.

Sarah Palin is ridiculously stupid when it comes to climate change. It’s like she’s a Bjorn Lomborg disciple (ewww…). It would be nice if she’d read Tim Flannery or George Monbiot or Elizabeth Kolbert. Then again, she is a fan of Big Oil. And she clearly doesn’t understand Science, given that she wants Creationism to be taught in public schools. But this is just heartless: she doesn’t think polar bears should be added to the list of threatened species.

“Why have you forsaken me, Governor?”

After four days of moving speeches and inspiring messages at the Democratic National Convention, we woke up this morning to find John McCain naming Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin is the first-term Governor of Alaska, 44 years old, whose Republican-endorsed attributes include being a former beauty queen and a “hockey mom” to five kids. She’s anti-choice, against same-sex marriage, and supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. She’s also a proud member of the National Rifle Association. In short, she’s a right-winger bent on taking away the rights of women and destroying the environment for Big Oil.

McCain probably thinks he’s done a great thing, putting – gasp! – a woman on the Presidential ticket. Ooh, look, we’ve got a person with a vagina here, folks! A vagina that produces children! And she’s pretty, too! And she’s not uppity, either! She’s one of them good ladies! Welcome, Sarah!

Here’s one word the Republicans need to consider: tokenism. Palin actually celebrates being compared to Margaret Thatcher, calling herself the “Iron Lady of the North.” Check it out on the Palin for VP website. (John Rentoul of The Independent caught this first). It’s as if the Republicans think we can’t tell two women apart. Hillary Clinton may not be a radical, but she’s sure as heck no Margaret Thatcher.

Here’s my problem with Palin as VP pick: I suspect McCain’s team chose her because she’s a woman, and only because she’s a woman. I suspect they think that disgruntled Hillary supporters and people on the fence will look at this woman and say, “wow! glass ceiling!” and vote for her. McCain just doesn’t get it. Palin will not work for women, she’ll work against them. So she has five kids – well, that’s nice. But she supports policies that hurt other people’s kids. She supports policies that will destroy the very environment that her kids will inherit. She supports policies that hurt women, including other mothers. She may be a woman, but she’s still a Republican. Is she supposed to make me feel better about voting McCain? Do they really think I’m that stupid?

While we’re here, I wonder if Palin has any comment on a) McCain calling his wife a “trollop” and a “cunt;” b) McCain volunteering his wife as a contestant in a bikini contest a few weeks ago; and c) McCain cheating on his first wife after she was in a car accident. Let’s not forget that McCain has a really shitty position on birth control – although Palin probably agrees with him on that one. Nice attitude towards the ladies, eh?

The choice of Palin as VP candidate is insulting to women. In fact, the entire Republican ticket is insulting to women. You can’t cover up misogyny with a pretty face, dudes.

There are some good discussions on this going on at Feministing, Pandagon and Feministe. Go check ’em out!

Dudes, go watch this. Sooo funny!

It’s hard not to love this man:

The Erminskine band of Hobbema, Alberta, is suing the Canadian Government for $270 million, accusing it of not providing adequate health and sanitation:

The native community alleges the government hasn’t ensured the necessities of life — including water — are available on the reserve. According to the statement of claim, the federal government has not funded a well upgrade or installed pipe necessary to carry water, so the band must continue to truck supplies in from a nearby community.

The statement also suggests programs by the Indian and Northern Affairs Department to reduce hunting and fishing have resulted in substantial changes to the Ermineskin way of life and diet.

These changes have led to a “calamity” consisting of “overwhelming” diabetes, gangrene and kidney disease, alleges the statement of claim.

The Hobbema reserve faces massive challenges, including serious gang violence, on top of the challenges that are all too common on Indian reserves in Canada. In May CBC’s The National aired a 20-minute documentary on Hobbema called “One Bullet Too Many.” It’s a devastating portrait of this struggling community. The Canadian Government needs to bear its share of the responsibility for these troubles and live up to their promises to provide health care and support for Hobbema. Good luck to the Erminskine band in their campaign for justice.

[See other CBC news stories on Canada’s Aboriginal communities here.]

The Conservative Government of Canada had decided that it would be really nice if veterans of the war in Afghanistan were included in the torch relay leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Let’s bring ’em on out and cheer them as they run through the streets carrying the Olympic torch! Forget about the injuries, the PTSD, the fallen comrades! Forget that we’re losing the warand will still be losing in 2010! Veterans are a national symbol, dudes – we’ve got to put them on display at every special occasion, even when the occasion has nothing to do with their military service.

There’s more:

The federal government is also pushing to have Canada’s French and English “linguistic duality” highlighted by the relay, going so far as to propose a list of 83 communities that could be part of the run — and provide a chunk of the roster of torch bearers, expected to number 12,000.

Both those proposals are put forward in an undated memo from the official languages group of the 2010 Federal Secretariat obtained by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin under an access-to-information request. The proposals on the torch relay follow revelations last week in The Globe and Mail that the Harper government provided $20-million for the opening ceremony of the Winter Games to ensure the event “adequately reflects” its priorities and “to achieve its domestic and international branding goals.”

Dudes, there’s so much wrong with this. First, why does the Harper Government want to associate the Olympics with the war in Afghanistan? It blows my mind that they have no problem militarizing the Olympic Games. These are the same people who insist that the Olympics aren’t political. The war isn’t political, right? War isn’t contrary to the spirit of the Olympics, oh no. War = peace, didn’t you know?

Here’s a second problem I have with Harper’s approach: the French and English “linguistic duality” argument is fundamentally flawed as it ignores a whole bunch of Canadians who don’t identify as “English” or “French.” Way to whitewash the country’s diversity with old-school colonial labels, Stevie. No mention of Canada’s Native communities, to start, nor any mention of the many immigrant groups that have built the country. And third, all this talk of “domestic and international branding goals” is code for “making sure the whole world knows about Canada’s NEW Government and the great war we’re fighting in Afghanistan!”

We all know that the Vancouver Olympics are plagued with problems. To begin with, the activists supporting the no2010 Campaign have some damn good points to make about indigenous rights, poverty, and injustice. Check out the words of Zig Zag over at no2010:

The 2010 Winter Olympics, to be held in Vancouver-Whistler from February 12-27, 2010, is today a very real threat to Native peoples, the urban poor (many of whom are also Native), and the environment.

While cutting social services, healthcare, education, etc., the BC Liberal government is at the same time providing billions of dollars to construction companies & other Olympic-related industries. The capitalists are making millions, while the poor are literally dying in the urban & reservation ghettos.

The Harper Government, along with the Liberal Government of B.C., need to be paying more attention to these problems in Vancouver instead of pushing their pro-war and pro-business agenda at the Olympic Games.

I’m not impressed with China. OK, that’s an understatement. It would be nice if we were able to say that the Olympics made things a little bit better. But the folks over at Human Rights Watch don’t think anything has changed. In fact, they argue that hosting the Olympic Games has actually hurt human rights in China. I quote:

“The 2008 Beijing Games have put an end – once and for all – to the notion that these Olympics are a ‘force for good,’” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The reality is that the Chinese government’s hosting of the Games has been a catalyst for abuses, leading to massive forced evictions, a surge in the arrest, detention, and harassment of critics, repeated violations of media freedom, and increased political repression.”

China claimed they would be open to protest during the Olympics, but many accounts reveal that the Chinese government has a very limited idea of what “freedom to protest” really means. Those wishing to protest in the designated protest areas were required to apply for permits from the authorities. The Guardian has revealed that, of the 77 applications made during the games, not one was granted by authorities in Beijing. On top of that, two elderly women who applied for a permit to protest their eviction from their homes were not only denied the permit but also sentenced to a year’s labour in re-education camps.

During the two weeks of the Games Students for a Free Tibet managed to organize eight nonviolent direct actions, drawing significant international attention to their cause. The activists were deported during the closing ceremonies after ten days of “administrative detention.”

Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, stated pre-Olympics that “the Games are going to be a force for good.” It appears that despite many news stories of continuing human rights abuses by the Chinese, the two weeks of competition didn’t change his mind. During Sunday’s official closing ceremonies he called the Games “exceptional”:

“Tonight, we come to the end of 16 glorious days, which we will cherish forever. … Through these games, the world learned more about China, and China learned more about the world,” Rogge said.

Yes, China learned more about the world. They learned, I’m sure, that the world will turn its face away from abuses and atrocities when national glory and world swimming records are at stake. They learned that even British Cabinet Ministers will ask the media to be silent on human rights abuses. They learned that the Olympic Games cannot be politicized, despite everything about nationalism, national teams, committees, scoring controversies and funding for athletes being political. The Olympics are no place for protest, no place for voicing concerns about ongoing human rights abuses in the host country, no place for statements of any kind. Run your races, swim your laps, smile and wave, then get out.

But the Olympics may be the best time for statements to be made. When the world is watching, great things can be achieved. Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ 1968 Power to the People salute has been inspiring nonviolent protest for forty years, overcoming the abuse they received for daring to speak out. As Geoff Smith wrote in The Guardian last month,

The magnetism of that monumental moment continues to captivate and intrigue. For actor and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, it is “one of the most definitive expressions of manhood, of service” he has ever seen. And this notion of “service” makes Smith and Carlos’s victory stand as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. From Athens to San Francisco, the run-up to this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing has witnessed a series of embarrassing anti-China protests. British Olympic team athletes have refused to sign contracts that include “gagging clauses” that stifle their right to protest.

The world today bears little resemblance to the one occupied by Smith and Carlos four decades ago. But one feature that has not changed is injustice and our sensitivity to it. The time is ripe for the next generation of Smiths and Carloses. But only time will tell whether the current crop possesses the political will to use the Beijing stage to carry the baton.

Sadly, none of the athletes took the opportunity to make a real statement at these Olympics Games. So be it; they had other things on their mind. But we should be grateful for the activists in China and those internationally who refused to be silent over these last months. We should be grateful for those journalists who did write critical stories on the Chinese administration, even though it wasn’t enough. And we should be careful not to turn our gaze away now that the medals have been awarded and the lights have been turned off at Birds Nest Stadium. The fight for justice is only beginning.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now is an exceptional journalist who asks the right people the right questions. A few months ago she gave a talk at a WILPF meeting, and some wonderful person uploaded it to YouTube. I’ve spent the last twenty minutes wishing I’d been there. Here’s Part One:

And Part Two:

The wonderfully smart and sexy Rachel Maddow is getting her very own show on MSNBC. Dude, this woman has a doctorate from Oxford, has done AIDS work in prisons, and has maybe the biggest brain of any political commentator in the United States. Here she is with Keith Olbermann, another crush of mine. Swoon!

A long hiatus, to be sure. Still have a lot to say, though, so let’s get started…

There’s a really good post up at Adventures in Ethics and Science on whistleblowing at universities – check it out.

The Independent reveals today that the Admiral at the head of the Royal Navy at the time of the Iraq invasion seriously doubted whether the war was legal.

This confirms what I already suspected about the chasm between the military and government in 2003. From what I understand – in the UK, at least – the military was not keen on invading Iraq. Nor are they keen on staying in Iraq. Yet they can’t say this publicly because they aren’t supposed to be political. It’s a shame, really, because it seems to me the people who are actually on the ground might have a little more to contribute to the debate than, say, a Prime Minister who is more concerned with creating a legacy for himself and cozying up to Bush than doing what’s right.

The Iraq war is the responsibility of Tony Blair and the Bush Administration, not the military. I can’t tell you how angered I was to hear that tool Lou Dobbs tell Bill Maher recently that the failures in Iraq were due to the poor planning of the U.S. military. No, the failures in Iraq are due to the shitty idea of going into Iraq in the first place – a decision that was taken by Bushy and his cronies. Hell, I was still in undergrad when the invasion happened and even I thought it was the stupidest idea ever – not only because the reasons for it were unclear and it was illegal, but also because there was no way they’d win. It was a bad strategic move – expensive, deadly, wasteful, pointless. Oh, and morally wrong – but that’s a different argument that the pro-war folks don’t really want to engage with.

Here’s an excerpt from the article on Admiral West:

What was noticeable was the difference in attitude among the men and women compared to the Afghan war. There was genuine unease and it was the duty of the chiefs of staff, as the head of the services, to get clarification about whether they would be in breach of international law. There was also a degree of worry about the independence or otherwise of the government legal advice.

Admiral West approached lawyers … on whether the impending action over Iraq was justified. It was a personal decision on his part and he felt this was necessary because of his duty of care towards people serving under him. He and the other service chiefs did not walk blindly into Iraq, they asked all the questions they could under the circumstances and with the ever-present caveat that they could not stray into the field of politics.

I have as many problems with the culture of the military as the next anti-war feminist – military culture is inherently misogynistic and pro-violence – but I’m also not one to blame the messenger. The responsibility in going to war lies with the politicians, while the responsibility for the conduct of war is shared both by the military and by the politicians that sent them there ill-equipped. And, remember, it is the politicians at the top who gave the military the OK to torture, and who continue to proclaim the virtues of torturing suspected terrorists. The recent Republican presidential candidates debate reveals that all the candidates, with the exception of good old Ron Paul, are clear supporters of torture – even going so far as to say that the US needs more folks like Jack Bauer. (Watch that clip – sickening!)

Here in the UK, blood is boiling about the war and I suspect there’s only a few little loyal Blairites who are still in support of Iraq. It should be interesting to see what Blair’s legacy really is a few years from now, and how long the British public – and the British military – put up with a bunch of tools making stupid decisions that are costing far too many lives.

From CBC News:

Family and friends of missing aboriginal women were set to hold a rally in Edmonton on Saturday to raise awareness of the unsolved disappearances.

Organizers of the Stolen Sisters Awareness March say they’re staging the event to remind people of the grim realities some aboriginal women face.

They say far too many — in particular those who live on the streets, are drug addicts or work as prostitutes — have disappeared without their families knowing what has happened to them.

April Eve Wiberg, one of the organizers, said that over the last 20 years, more than 500 aboriginal women in Canada have been murdered or they’ve just disappeared.

Guess what The New York Times revealed today?

WASHINGTON (AP) — American Indian women are more than twice as likely to be raped as other U.S. women, and the suspects often go free because of confusing police jurisdictions and a lack of nurses, Amnesty International reports.

Don’t believe me? Read this post.