May 30, 2008

Why has this taken so long?

Posted in Environment, Government, News at 2:28 pm by The Lizard Queen

From Gristmill — Candy-shaped rat poison on its way out:

The U.S. EPA announced today that it would be tightening up the safety requirements on ten nasty rodenticides that are blamed for poisoning around 10,000 children — mostly black and Latino inner-city kids — every year. Those ten chemicals will no longer be available in the form of little pellets that look like candy, and that small children are so prone to stick in their mouths. The new rules will require non-agricultural users of rat poison to use it only inside tamper-resistant bait stations designed to protect kids.

This is great news. Two sticking points, though: first of all, the new requirements don’t go into effect for three more years:

EPA has determined a final “release for shipment” date for the last batch of deadly pellets on June 4, 2011.

Three years … let’s see, three years times 10,000 poisonings a year … let me get my calculator … That means about 30,000 more sick kids before we clean this mess up. You’ve got to be kidding me.

And second, this has been a known issue for ten years already:

The EPA first issued restrictions on these pesticides in 1998, finding that in their current form, they posed an “unreasonable risk” to children, but rescinded the rules in 2001 after chemical companies balked.

In 2004, the Natural Resources Defense Council and West Harlem Environmental Action filed suit against the U.S. EPA for failing to protect children from rat poison. In 2005, a federal judge sided with the children’s advocates, and directed the EPA to make the manufacturers change their practices.

Ten years hence, EPA has finally issued the regulations. But why rush things? From EPA’s Final Risk Mitigation Decision:

The anticoagulants interfere with blood clotting, and death can result from excessive bleeding. Bromethalin is a nerve toxicant that causes respiratory distress. Cholecalciferol is vitamin D3, which in small dosages is needed for good health in most mammals, but in massive doses is toxic, especially to rodents. Zinc phosphide causes liberation of toxic phosphine gas in the stomach.

The second-generation anticoagulants are especially hazardous for several reasons. They are highly toxic, and they persist a long time in body tissues …

… not to mention that children who already suffer the multiple burdens of substandard housing and urban pollution are disproportionately exposed.

Remind me who our government is supposed to be working for, again?

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“The American people should have been listening a little bit closer”

Posted in Government, Iraq, News, Politics at 12:59 pm by The Lizard Queen

Last night Keith Olbermann interviewed Scott McClellan, and they discussed McClellan’s new book and many of the topics contained therein. By and large there were few surprises, at least for anyone who’s been paying attention. Crooks and Liars has a video clip up, and they point out a couple of choice quotes from that particular segment. I wanted to point out a point in the interview that really agitated me, though. Here’s my transcription, with emphasis added:

Keith Olbermann: Relative to the media, and I’m asking this for every person who ever came up to me on the street and said, “I feel like I’m going out of my mind living through this, this cannot be the America that I grew up in” — Were the critics in the media and outside the media of the President largely right?

Scott McClellan: In terms of the Iraq war?

KO: Specifically that, and you can go out in any direction you want, but specifically in terms of Iraq.

SM: I think certainly in terms of Iraq there was a lot that they were right about, as I went back and reflected on this. It’s not that I’m necessarily aligned with them on some other views and things, but certainly on the buildup to the Iraqi war we should have been listening some more to what they were saying — the American people should have been listening a little bit closer to some of what was being said, but I like a lot of Americans was caught up in the moment of post-9/11 and wanting to put my faith and trust in the White House and the President that I was serving.

Excuse me, Mr. McClellan, but what about all those American people who were listening closely? What about those Americans who voiced concern during the buildup to the war, those who protested, who wrote to Congress and the President and anyone else with the potential to do something to prevent the war, who participated in prayer vigils and sit-ins and generally did whatever they could to make it clear that the President was not acting on our behalf? What about the 59,028,444 Americans who voted for John Kerry in 2004, many of whom were desperately trying to send the message that we did not approve of what our government was doing in Iraq?

Mr. McClellan, when you’re telling us that the leaders we ought to have been able to trust were lying to us, then I have absolutely no patience for statements that we ought to have been paying better attention. Fuck you, Mr. McClellan, for implying that actions that a lying, warmongering President takes can still somehow be laid at the feet of the people.

May 28, 2008

Hump Day Poetry: June Jordan

Posted in Poetry at 7:18 pm by The Lizard Queen

Poem for South African Women

Our own shadows disappear as the feet of thousands
by the tens of thousands pound the fallow land
into new dust that
rising like a marvelous pollen will be
fertile
even as the first woman whispering
imagination to the trees around her made
for righteous fruit
from such deliberate defense of life
as no other still
will claim inferior to any other safety
in the world

The whispers too they
intimate to the inmost ear of every spirit
now aroused they
carousing in ferocious affirmation
of all peaceable and loving amplitude
sound a certainly unbounded heat
from a baptismal smoke where yes
there will be fire

And the babies cease alarm as mothers
raising arms
and heart high as the stars so far unseen
nevertheless hurl into the universe
a moving force
irreversible as light years
traveling to the open eye

And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
if necessary
even under the sea:

we are the ones we have been waiting for.

—June Jordan, 1980

May 26, 2008

Memorial Day links and thoughts

Posted in Government, History, Iraq at 4:55 pm by The Lizard Queen

Angry Black Bitch has a touching post up to mark the day: A Memorial Day memory…

Via Crooks and Liars comes this article about the prevalence of mental illness among veterans: On Memorial Day: Broken promises to our veterans

Also at Crooks and Liars is this week’s In Memoriam: “According to icasualties.org, the casualty count for Iraq is now 4,393. And per IBC, there were 158 Iraqi civilian casualties this week.”

Three of my four grandparents served in the military, and I’m grateful to them and to other veterans who have given their time, energy, and even lives to the service.  Even as I respect and appreciate their service, though, I can’t condone war.  My thoughts go to the words of President Eisenhower in 1953 (excerpted from a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors):

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms in [sic] not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Given what I know about politics and the history of the Cold War, I’m not sure whether Eisenhower was truly in earnest or if the speech was mostly rhetoric (in spite of his assertion that he “care[s] nothing for mere rhetoric”) to get the Soviets, etc. to stand down.  Nevertheless, I believe that what he says is true.

May 22, 2008

On binaries and rape apologists

Posted in Feminism, Musings, Rape culture at 4:45 pm by The Lizard Queen

In my recent reading I came across a discussion of binaries. We humans often think in terms of binaries: black and white, good and evil, wrong and right, male and female, us and them, familiar and Other. When I took just a moment to consider those and other dualities, I thought of a post on rape I came across recently, via Cara. In it the author states that “Sociopaths do not rape women, men rape women.” It’s a simplification, to be sure (men also rape men, and women rape women, and women rape men), but the post itself is rebutting the idea that your average man doesn’t rape; only sociopaths do so — the idea that it’s insulting to the average man to put up posters encouraging men to “Man up, get consent” because rape isn’t simply a matter of sex without consent.

And so we’re back to the idea that the only true rape is a sociopath physically overcoming a woman in a dark alley, threatening her with a weapon, etc.

A couple of problems with that, though: first of all, rape is simply a matter of sex without consent. Is that necessarily the legal definition? No, not necessarily. Is that, at the very least, how feminists define it? Yes (obviously). Here’s Cara:

Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.

* Rape victims may be forced through threats or physical means. In about 8 out of 10 rapes, no weapon is used other than physical force. Anyone may be a victim of rape: women, men or children, straight or gay.

So, folks. I don’t care what the law is. I never said that penetrating a woman against her will with a finger fits the legal definition of rape. In some sane places, it does. In many others, it does not. I don’t give a shit. In many places, a man who has nonconsensual sex with his wife has not legally raped her. But he still raped her. In many places, a man who has sex with a woman who is unconscious has not legally raped her. But he still raped her. In most places, a woman does not have to say “yes” to give consent, but simply fail to say “no.” A situation where she did not say “no” but does not want sex and did not agree to it is still rape. No matter what the law says. Rape is the nonconsensual sexual penetration of another person. It’s not that fucking difficult to grasp.

Second, why do people go to so much trouble to defend men who have sex with unwilling women? In the comments of the aforementioned post, an anonymous commenter took exception to the idea that men (as opposed to sociopaths alone) rape.* Many of the standard arguments came out: women who call unwanted sexual activity like that described in the post “rape” are misandrists/man-haters who believe all male-on-female sex is rape, etc. Again, I found myself wondering why someone would put so much time and effort into trying to put down someone who’d been sexually assaulted, thus defending the man who assaulted her.

After thinking about binaries some, I think I might have an idea of what’s behind it. Feminism has had some effect on the rape culture, so that in the abstract, the average person considers rape to be evil. So I suspect there are men out there who think: “Rape is evil. I am not evil. Therefore I could never rape someone. Similarly, the average man is not evil, therefore the average man couldn’t commit rape. It must be something only truly evil people — sociopaths — do.”

Here’s the thing, though: my belief is that each of us has the potential to do harm to someone else. Sure, the average person is most likely not going to grab a knife and accost someone in a dark alley, but there are times when someone who falls well within the realm of “average,” “normal,” might put their needs above their partner’s, or feel like they need to show their partner, or that woman they just spent $289 on for a swanky dinner and the theater and she flirted the whole time and how dare she say she has a “headache” now, who’s in control (given that the general idea is that “Rape is not about sex to the rapist; it has to do with control and power”).

So with that in mind, why spend so much time and energy trying to decide just how far a man can go with an unwilling woman without calling it rape, and instead work toward making sure sex is engaged in with enthusiastic consent from both/all parties, and is safe and enjoyable for everyone involved?

*Please note that this is distinct from the statement that all men are rapists.

May 15, 2008

Hump Day Poetry: Emanuel Litvinoff

Posted in Poetry at 12:07 am by The Lizard Queen

(One more before the book makes its journey back to Maine…)

A Crown for Cain

The Redemption
The river still runs vivid:
through my veins
wounds bleed my brother’s death
the dark heart holds the light
as in a womb closed to enlarge the seed.

All this is pain: the past
remembers the troubled dream of men
the falling stars of death
exploding in lurid flame
like livid roses burgeoning of blood.

The river still runs vivid:
down where it meets the bright shore
of the sea the sun forgets
your bitter moonwashed face

the tide runs high
at noon the builders mend
the curved ribs of their boats—
tomorrow they will launch the mind’s
marauding plunders of knowledge
on the perilous dark waters.

The river still runs vivid: O
my love must be what I am.

—Emanuel Litvinoff, 1973

May 8, 2008

Belated Hump Day Poetry: Charles Baudelaire

Posted in Poetry at 9:39 am by The Lizard Queen

(for Gye Nyame, who requested poetry in translation, and who I very much owe e-mail)

Les Hiboux

Sous les ifs noirs qui les abritent
Les hiboux se tiennent rangés
Ainsi que des dieux étrangers
Dardant leur oeil rouge. Ils méditent.

Sans remuer ils se tiendront
Jusqu’à l’heure mélancolique
Où, poussant le soleil oblique,
Les ténèbres s’établiront.

Leur attitude au sage enseigne
Qu’il faut en ce monde qu’il craigne
Le tumulte et le mouvement;

L’homme ivre d’une ombre qui passe
Porte toujours le châtiment
D’avoir voulu changer de place.

—Charles Baudelaire, 1861

(translation below the fold) Read the rest of this entry »

May 5, 2008

Recommended reads for Monday

Posted in Animals, Civil rights, Feminism, News, Politics, Rape culture at 6:16 pm by The Lizard Queen

I like how Lauren always puts it: what you should read since I’m not writing:

May 2, 2008

106 Books (pretension optional)

Posted in Books, Literature, Memes at 5:38 pm by The Lizard Queen

Snagged this from Evil Bender:

Via Stranger Fruit, I learn about an interesting book meme: “106 Books of Pretension,” which is really “the top 106 books most often marked as ‘unread’ by LibraryThing’s users.” I don’t think these books, as a group, are particularly pretentious.  There is a surprisingly wide range represented . . .

So, here we go — books I’ve read are in italics, books I began and never finished are struck through, and books in standard type I haven’t (yet) bothered with:

* Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
* Anna Karenina
* Crime and Punishment (I really enjoyed this book.  In other news, I’m a huge book nerd.)
* Catch-22
* One Hundred Years of Solitude (very much want to read this)
* Wuthering Heights
* The Silmarillion
* Life of Pi : a novel
* The Name of the Rose (another to-read)
* Don Quixote
* Moby Dick (I also enjoyed this one more than I expected to.)
* Ulysses (someday…)
* Madame Bovary (I was supposed to read this the summer before 12th grade.  Not so much.)
* The Odyssey
* Pride and Prejudice
* Jane Eyre
* The Tale of Two Cities
* The Brothers Karamazov (I made it through the first 300 pages.  That’s only a third of the book.)
* Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
* War and Peace
* Vanity Fair
* The Time Traveler’s Wife
* The Iliad
* Emma
* The Blind Assassin
* The Kite Runner
* Mrs. Dalloway
* Great Expectations
* American Gods (I loves me some Neil Gaiman)
* A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
* Atlas Shrugged
* Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
* Memoirs of a Geisha
* Middlesex
* Quicksilver
* Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West (I want to read this, or at least I like the idea, but on more than one occasion I’ve picked it up at the bookstore, then put it down again…)
* The Canterbury tales (I can’t quite remember if I’ve definitely read all of the Tales, but I’m counting it anyway.)
* The Historian : a novel
* A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
* Love in the Time of Cholera
* Brave New World
* The Fountainhead
* Foucault’s Pendulum
* Middlemarch (I’d like to read this)
* Frankenstein
* The Count of Monte Cristo
* Dracula
* A Clockwork Orange
* Anansi Boys
* The Once and Future King
* The Grapes of Wrath (Had to read this in high school and found it dreadfully dull; had to read it in grad school and loved it.)
* The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
* 1984
* Angels & Demons
* The Inferno
* The Satanic Verses (would very much like to read this)
* Sense and Sensibility
* The Picture of Dorian Gray (ditto)
* Mansfield Park (dude, what’s with all the Jane Austen on this list?)
* One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
* To the Lighthouse (the trouble with stream-of-consciousness prose, for me, is that it’s so easy to put down and forget to pick up again…)
* Tess of the D’Urbervilles
* Oliver Twist
* Gulliver’s Travels
* Les Misérables (I’d like to get around to this someday.  I’ve poked at the beginning a few times, but never really started in on it.)
* The Corrections (on my shelf, just waiting for me!)
* The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
* The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
* Dune
* The Prince
* The Sound and the Fury (Yeah, another nerdy love of mine…)
* Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
* The God of Small Things
* A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present (currently reading — okay, maybe I’ve paused for a little while.  But I’ll finish it!)
* Cryptonomicon
* Neverwhere
* A Confederacy of Dunces
* A Short History of Nearly Everything
* Dubliners
* The Unbearable Lightness of Being
* Beloved
* Slaughterhouse-five
* The Scarlet Letter
* Eats, Shoots & Leaves
* The Mists of Avalon
* Oryx and Crake : a novel (also want to read)
* Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
* Cloud Atlas
* The Confusion
* Lolita (seriously, Nabokov’s prose is amazing)
* Persuasion
* Northanger Abbey
* The Catcher in the Rye
* On the Road
* The Hunchback of Notre Dame
* Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
* Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values (kinda curious about this one)
* The Aeneid
* Watership Down (I seem to recall reading something in high school from the point of view of rabbits, which points to Watership Down, but… I just really don’t remember.)
* Gravity’s Rainbow
* The Hobbit
* In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences (on the shelf!)
* White Teeth
* Treasure Island
* David Copperfield
* The Three Musketeers

Good grief, I think my total is 34.  Maybe I’m not as much of a book nerd as I claim to be…

Emanuel Litvinoff — “To T.S. Eliot”

Posted in Poetry at 4:55 pm by The Lizard Queen

To T.S. Eliot

Eminence becomes you. Now when the rock is struck
your young sardonic voice which broke on beauty
floats amid incense and speaks oracles
as though a god
utters from Russell Square and condescends,
high in the solemn cathedral of the air,
his holy octaves to a million radios.

I am not one accepted in your parish.
Bleistein is my relative and I share
the protozoic slime of Shylock, a page
in Sturmer, and, underneath the cities,
a billet somewhat lower than the rats.
Blood in the sewers. Pieces of our flesh
float with the ordure on the Vistula.
You had a sermon but it was not this.

It would seem, then, yours is a voice
remote, singing another river
and the gilded wreck of princes only
for Time’s ruin. It is hard to kneel
when knees are stiff.

But London Semite Russian Pale, you will say
Heaven is not in our voices.
The accent, I confess, is merely human,
speaking of passion with a small letter
and, crying widow, mourning not the Church
but a woman staring the sexless sea
for no ship’s return,
and no fruit singing in the orchards.

Yet walking with Cohen when the sun exploded
and darkness choked our nostrils,
and the smoke drifting over Treblinka
reeked of the smouldering ashes of children,
I thought what an angry poem
you would have made of it, given the pity.

But your eye is a telescope
scanning the circuit of stars
for Good-Good and Evil Absolute,
and, at luncheon, turns fastidiously from fleshy
noses to contemplation of the knife
twisting among the entrails of spaghetti.

So shall I say it is not eminence chills
but the snigger from behind the covers of history,
the sly words and the cold heart
and footprints made with blood upon a continent?
Let your words
tread lightly on this earth of Europe
lest my people’s bones protest.

—Emanuel Litvinoff, 1973
(written c. 1950)

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