Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Fixing the problem

Now, today honestly isn't Jennifer-hates-Arnold day, but I've got something else about California's lovely governor to share.The Governor wanted to be shown fixing a pothole in a street, as a symbol of his desire to help the lives of everyday Californians.

Ok, so, the logical thing to do would be to 1) find a pothole, and 2) fix it, with news cameras all around to record the Awesome Deed.But, no, clearly it was more logical to, rather than fix one of the huge potholes only a few blocks away, create a whole new one, at taxpayer's expense, for The Governator to fill.

Now, am I outraged about this? No. But I am outraged about what it represents: it is just an example of the fact that politics in this country is all staged. Remember the negotiations each side had to go through before the debates in the last presidential election? Temperature of the room, angle of the cameras, what points can be brought up, height of the podium, etc etc. Remember Bush's "town hall" meetings where participants and questions were pre-screened? These aren't real events, they're pseudo events meant to manipulate us.

Does creating a problem in order to be the hero and fix it sound familiar? It should.

Product Placement

Pepsi Co. and Nestle have both donated over $250,000 to Arnold Schwarzenegger. In his new ad, one can see, cleverly placed, not only Arrowhead Water, but also Ruffles, Sun Chips, and a SoBe drink. Yep, thank you Big Corporation; give me campaign donations, and I'll hook ya up. Sounds like recently confirmed Judge Priscilla Owen and Enron.

It's just kinda funny. And kind of sad.

Back in the day we burned 'em!

The conservative Human Events Online has come out with their "10 Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries," the timeline of which, according to Wonkette, "precluded both the Koran and The Purpose-Driven Life from the running." Alas. No Harry Potter?

The list:
1. The Communist Manifesto (1848) by Marx and Engels
--I bet they've never even read it.
2. Mein Kampf by Hitler
--I thought this was their kind of thing?? Racist, totalitarian... oh well. They probably haven't read it, either.
3. Quotations from Chairman Mao
--now, I've never read it, so I won't comment.
4. The Kinsey Report by Alfred Kinsey
--A little weird, I'll give you that... but fourth most harmful? Have they never read anything by Rush Limbaugh?
5. Democracy and Education by John Dewey
--ok, now this one makes sense. They don't like democracy OR education, so with a title like that, it's bound to be harmful.
6. Das Kapital by Karl Marx
--you go Marx! You're surely doing something right if you make it on their list twice.
7. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
--oh, yes, very harmful. And I guess it was, to their woman-must-stay-at-home way of life. Alas.
8. The Course of Positive Philosophy by Auguste Comte
--'Bout time a sociologist made the list (well, besides Marx).
9. Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche
--Nietzsche does kind of suck. But, again, harmful??
10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes
--damn him! He's the reason why we have a deficit in the federal government (no, no, nothing to do with Iraq)...

Interesting Honourable Mentions:
On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
--haha, that's kinda funny
Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner
Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin
--I'll give them that's it's been harmful (Social Darwinism anyone?), but, funnily enough, they dislike the actual science while accepting the racism.
Madness and Civilization by Michel Foucault
Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader
--oh yeah, gotta hate it when people stand up for consumers! Especially if it hurts big business in any way.
Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Prison Notebooks by Antonio Gramsci
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
--same thing as the Nader book. It's simply awful (and v. v. harmful!) when people stand up for, oh, say, health and the environment, when it stands to hurt corporations.
Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Supporting the troops

The National Guard and Reservists protect us abroad (they make up over 40% of our forces in Iraq).

Republicans protect us from having to take care of them when they or their families get sick (ie offering them relatively cheap health insurance). Nevermind that over 20% lack any insurance and more and more are losing it every day as they lose their jobs because they're in Iraq.

They're afraid of people "gaming" the system. Oh, sure. There are so many people out there looking for cheap health care that they'll risk death in Iraq. And, anyway, it's not like we're short on recruits or anything, no need to give incentives or anything *rolls eyes*.

Friday, May 27, 2005

You wanna talk activist judges?

Picture it: You and your significant other have a child. You decide to raise that child in the religion that you both practice. This child is in school (Catholic school, to be precise--not your religion, but that's not a big deal at the school). You decide that things aren't working out, so you and your partner make a decision to get a divorce. During the proceedings, nothing is brought up by you or your spouse about religion; you intend to raise the child as you always have. But, the judge decides to address that in his opinion. He says that you cannot expose your son to "non-mainstream religious beliefs."


What could possibly be the rationale for this? "There is a discrepancy between Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones' lifestyle and the belief system adhered to by the parochial school." So, because the boy attends a Catholic school, his parents can't teach him their religion? Does that mean my parents were wrong in raising me as a Baptist thought I went to a public school that was theoretically religion-free, because I got conflicting messages?

In case you're wondering, the parents here practice Wicca, but I don't see that that matters one whit. Maybe if the parents were practicing some religion requiring human sacrifice, or something that could feasibly hurt the child. But, no... According to Mr. Jones, Wicca "is an understanding that we're all connected, and respecting that."

Whether or not you agree with Wiccanism, whether or not you think that everyone should be of your religion or of no religion, you should be outraged by this! If a judge decided to rule that parents couldn't raise their children as scary fundamentalists, there would be an outcry about the liberal judiciary.

Who, by the way, decides if a religion is "mainstream"? That judge? National opinion polls? Sorry, I don't think the judge or national opinion belong in my choice of religion or how I raise my (hypothetical) child, thank you very much!


Nothing like a Fruedian slip to get a peek inside the heads of FOX newspeople:

From the May 25 edition of Fox News Live:

ASMAN: So, Senator, if we should have done it and if we had the votes to do it in the Senate -- if you guys in the Republican Party did -- then why did you need a compromise?

LOTT: Well, you know, I would argue that we probably should have gone forward with the vote, all things considered.

I (heart) Calvin College

Karl Rove, seeking out a sympathetic audience, arranged for George W. Bush to give the commencement address at evangelical Calvin College. Unfortunately, Rove did not count on actual Christians that might be hidden among the students and faculty.

On the day of the address, about a third of the faculty took out an ad in the Grand Rapids Press, saying that "we seek open and honest dialogue about the Christian faith and how it is best expressed in the political sphere," and that "we see conflicts between our understanding of what Christians are called to do and many of the policies of your administration."

The letter asserted that administration policies have "launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq," "taken actions that favor the wealthy of our society and burden the poor, " "harmed creation and have not promoted long-term stewardship of our natural environment," and "fostered intolerance and divisiveness and has often failed to listen to those with whom it disagrees." It concluded: "Our passion for these matters arises out of the Christian faith that we share with you. We ask you, Mr. President, to re-examine your policies in light of our God-given duty to pursue justice with mercy...." One faculty member told a reporter, "We are not Lynchburg. We are not right wing; we're not left wing. We think our faith trumps political ideology."

On graduation day, about a quarter of the grads wore a "God is Not a Republican or Democrat" button on their robes.


I really, really dislike all of the discussion in this country surrounding the issue of abortion. This polarization is especially frustrating to me because nowhere can I see my views represented. I consider myself both pro-choice and pro-life. I am sure this is a common position. Everyone, I believe, agrees that we would like to see a reduction in the number of abortions. I want to live in a world where a woman doesn't feel an abortion is necessary yet is able to choose to have one. I hope for a world where every child is wanted and loved. I am very much pro-life, and not in the limited sense in which many right wingers are.

Many people who oppose abortion at the same time oppose policies that would significantly lower the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortion rates. These are, of course, access to contraceptives and education about safe sex. Yet, curiously, many pro life activists vigorously campaign against this. Also, these same people who say that they value the sanctity of life are the ones who want to cut fetal nutrition programs and stop prenatal care for pregnant women.
In addition, they're opposed to publicly subsidized childcare and certain welfare reforms that would give single parents more money.

"Far from discouraging abortion, government subsidies to single mothers have not only rewarded illegitimacy; they have encouraged promiscuity. The point of removing the subsidies is to restore the natural penalties of risking pregnancy outside of marriage."

Exactly. This message, expressed in an article on the website of The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty shows exactly why people do not want to provide money for these children that mothers chose to give birth to instead of aborting: they want to teach them a lesson. After all if they starve, they darn well won't be having any more sex again! (No, what will happen is they will have an abortion next time.).

They want to penalize the choice not to abort a child.

If they claim to value the sanctity of all life, they have to value it, whether it is born into a traditional family or to a single mother. You know, this makes me so sad, because I hear people in one breath touting the evils of abortion, saying that they oppose it because they believe firmly in the sanctity of life. Yet, with the next breath, they oppose policies that will protect the health and well-being of unborn children, and children that mothers have decided not to abort. This seems so tragic. And, to many, it seems a contradiction.

But, to Mark Graber, it makes sense. He argues that when these contradictions appear, what we really see is not a discussion about the sanctity of life, but a discussion about sex. Especially of the premarital, extramarital and non-procreative variety. That these people who endorse the pro life position yet at the same time oppose policies and things that would significantly decrease the number of abortions performed, are actually trying to limit sex to how they view it should be practiced. Because, if you can't have contraceptives and you can't get abortions, well, then, if you're not married, you're probably not gonna have sex and risk it, if you're female.

Before going onto that, though, he says that "Most critics of Roe never note that socially conservative officials who proclaim that fetal life trumps procreative choice apparently regard lower taxes or a balanced budget as an even higher social value."

Indeed, one survey found that pro life representatives are reluctant to vote for higher federal spending for programs designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies or to assist pregnant women.

Graber: "This ignorance can be bliss. Thus, evidence that American reproductive policies taken as a whole are destructive of potential life rarely disturbs conventional critics of Roe."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Note to all print and online journalists:

In future, please refrain from putting spoilers in your headlines,

Just think of the, umm, kids, who've been disappointed.

This is the THIRD Harry Potter book in a row that I have gone into aware of who would not end the book alive. None of these, by the way, by my own choosing. 1) Overzealous fan, describing plots to get me to read the books (I don't blame him. I'm very grateful). 2) Underzealous friend, who when I asked her to read aloud to me while driving (the book had just come out, I wasn't about to wait and not read), decided to be funny and skip to the end and read some, telling me exactly who died. And, 3) every single darn news source on the internet, mentioning that betting has increased exponentially on the death of a certain character and that all of these bets come from a town where the book is being printed (see, you CAN report the facts of a story without giving away the character!!).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Self-Deception of Bill O'Reilly*

"Nor do I think Bill O'Reilly is in a position to abuse families of survivors of 9/11, given his own ethical shortcomings."
Howard Dean
Meet The Press

"Dean's assertion yesterday that I had done damage to the families of 9/11 victims is simply bizarre."
Bill O'Reilly
The O'Reilly Factor

"Get out of my studio before I tear you to fucking pieces!"
Bill O'Reilly to Jeremy Glick whose
father died in the WTC attack
The O'Reilly Factor (after segment ended)

*via Wonkette

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Apprentice

I just got a chance to watch (parts) of The Apprentice finale, which I had missed last week.

Has anyone else noticed this? The previous two winners were male and got these very powerful, prestigous jobs in Chicago and New York, running several tasks and programs. Kendra, who won the last season of the show, was given a choice between working as a subordinate in the Miss Universe Pageant or overseeing the renovation of a building. Hmm.

Why did he even pick her, if he didn't have a job he really wanted her to do? Did he want to avoid seeming sexist by consistently choosing men?

Trump also said that he didn't like how "aggressive" Tana got during the finale. I'm no Tana fan, myself! But why did he say this? Often, people have a hard time evaluating agression in women. Things that would be seen as ambition in men are seen as craziness or agression in women. He questioned Kendra when she cried after the final task was over, yet when Chris cried, he pulled him over and encouraged him. For Kendra, the fact that she cried emphasized her female-ness, which obviously gives anyone in a hiring position in the mainstream corporate world pause. Women are successful when they act like men. Women have to be careful to tread the line between seeming too female and between too male. They have to be "one of the boys" yet still conform to feminine beauty standards. When confronted with the fact that in our society women (even those who work more and get paid more than their hubands) assume most of the responsibility for child care, they are forced to either go into "mommy track" mode (and never make it to the top) or outsource their child care by hiring a nanny, in which case she is judged by society.

Why am I so addicted to this show? I mean, beyond this stuff, which hadn't really hit me until I watched the finale and saw Kendra's assignment, there's the fact that this show totally reinforces the idea of a meritocratic society. Look, whether you got a college degree or not, you all have an equal chance to work for Donald Trump! Yeah, right. Doubly so if you have no Y chormosome.

Down with political parties!

I got this joke in an email and was randomly amused, so I thought I'd share it:

A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, "You're 30 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude."

She rolled her eyes and said, "You must be a Democrat."

"I am," replied the man. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to do with your information, and I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help to me."

The man smiled and responded, "You must be a Republican."

"I am," replied the balloonist. "How did you know?"

"Well," said the man, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You've risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise that you have no idea how to keep, then you expect me to solve your problem. You're in exactly the same position you were in before we met but now, somehow, it's my fault."

The sad reality

I recently saw this quote and sadly realized that it applied to every essay, every paper, and every project I have ever done:

"You don't say, 'I've done it!' You come, with a kind of horrible desperation, to realize that this will do." ~Anthony Burgess (author of A Clockwork Orange)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

You go, girl!

A pregnant high school senior from Alabama was forbidden from walking in her graduation. (It was a Roman Catholic school.)

She did it anyway. At the end of the ceremony, she called out her own name and walked the stage.

The father of the child, also a student at that school, walked with no restrictions.

Now, lemme get this straight: this couple had (probably) unprotected sex (as dictated by their religion) and upon discovery of pregnancy, they "chose life" and decided to carry the child to term.

But because she wears the visible signs of the infraction (sex before marriage), she is the one who suffers.

I just hope that, even though it's a private school, a lawsuit is possible for her.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

More on Newsweek (quickly)

Now that I've read up on the story, it seems that this flushing of the Koran by the American military is nothing new. Newsweek was not "breaking" a story in any sense. The "new" part of it was that their anonymous source said that one such occurrence was going to appear in a government document. They are retracting that, saying that their source cannot confirm that it will appear in a report.

Stories such as this one in Harper's, originally published before the Newsweek piece, report other occurrences. Newsweek was not saying that the story was inaccurate, but that their anon source couldn't verify that the occurrence would appear in a report.

Now, Scott McClellan, White House press secretary, has decided to play Newsweek editor and has recommended that the magazine write a story on how respectful the military actually is to Islamic beliefs and scripture. He says that due to the considerable damage and harm caused by the report, they should take responsibility for it.

Umm. It's kind of funny that he would say that. I call for the White House to apologize (retraction is impossible at this point) for actions taken on the information provided by an anonymous source that turned out to be wrong that has resulted in the death and injury of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Americans.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Dear black preacher on PBS with Tony Brown right now,

I am sorry to inform you, but Martin Luther King was not a conservative.* I know you would like to believe that he was, in order to justify your current movement as a "continuation" of Dr. King's work. But let me stop you right there.

Please do not complain that the civil rights movement has today become "liberal." It was, I assure you, liberal from the beginning. Even radical. You can say, "Well, I chose to get out of the movement *here*." But don't say that it gotten all scary liberal. No, it always was. Conservatives always fought against it. What's changed is that you've joined them.

And that's fine, just be honest about it.


*yes, he was more conservative than other members and leaders of the civil rights movement, but he himself could certainly not have been considered a conservative.

Some of you will get this and be very, very amused... (but don't worry if you don't)

Randi Rhodes: "They're teaching this crap as science? That's about as logical as teaching pyramid schemes as economics!"

Just to be clear--

This will be brief, because I am TIRED and it's 3AM.

About the Newsweek story.

Some people are confused. At least the people on CBS Up to the Minute are.

The story was retracted. Under considerable pressure from the Bush administration (oh, btw, I recently bought a copy of George Orwell's 1984, I saw it at Half Price Books for $3.98).

That actually means nothing as to the truth of the story. Why did they issue a retraction? Their source was anonymous.

Does that mean it's an unreliable source? Well, Newsweek has relied on him or her before. He or she is a top ranking official. They have been consistently accurate. There is no reason to doubt that this story is true besides the fact that the source is anonymous.

This is like the whole CBS/Dan Rather thing. Just because the source is iffy (in the CBS case, forged), doesn't mean the story is untrue. In fact, there's quite alot of evidence suggesting that the story in Rather-gate is true. But in both cases, people assume that because the story was retracted there's no truth to it. Of course, a difference is that in the CBS case there was a forgery. Not true here.

Here's the question: should we censor ourselves if there is a tangible risk that comes from printing a story? Lets assume we know absolutely, for sure, that the story is true. We also suspect that printing it will quite reasonably make people mad. It might even provoke some to violence. People could die. How do we balance the responsibilities of the media to report the truth and the "news" (how do we even define that), with a responsibility to society (do they have one and what does it consist of?)?

Anyway, I'm tired (and probably incoherent), so I'm going to bed. I just wanted to make it clear that a retraction doesn't mean it's not true.

Edited to add: they've brought on an "expert" to talk about the meaning of this for Muslims (burning of the Koran). He's saying that "The Koran is the ultimate word of God to every single Muslim. Unlike in Christianity, where denominations believe different things, all Muslims, regardless of denomination, believe the same thing about the Koran." Ummm. No. I personally know some who don't. *sigh* Also, the anchorwoman just said that the Newsweek piece damaged America's image abroad (as part of the reasons why it was bad). Should our media focus on maitaining a positive image of us? The very idea is scary. Did I mention that I recently bought a copy of 1984?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Read the news, people;

this is how fascism starts.

The Audacity

So, the purpose of this blog is to rant, and so I have a big one just now. It may seem silly or unimportant, but, darn it, it's my blog, and this just pissed me off so very much just now, listening to a local right wing radio host.

He was talking about the UN Oil for Food scandal. I don't know much about it, I'll be honest with you. It was one of those stories that I didn't pay attention to when it first broke (for various reasons), and, thus, whenever I later saw a story on it, I would skip it, telling myself, I don't know enough about it--later I'll do lots of research. Same thing happened with the Scott Peterson case (though that one's less important... well, I guess if you're the mainstream media, that's arguable, but, alas).

Anyway--this guy was saying that Kofi Annan should step down and something about 2 billion dollars being lost.


Have you no shame? No sense of what's going on in the world? Are you in your happy little I-only-see-what-I-wanna-see land?

The utter audacity of these people, the total fearlessness and hypocrisy. Two billion dollars, you say? A little nepotism, some cronyism?


Is that a problem? Sure.


Look at Iraq.

NINE billion dollars LOST.

Halliburton receiving awards from the government for exemplary service (and billions in BONUSES) when they aren't feeding the troops (which they're paid to do). They outsource the job to companies that have no money, so they're feeding them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Halliburton has also failed to deliver on $12 billion more in contracts as well. Yet it gets new contracts and bonuses for good service by the month.

Companies with ties to the Bush family get lucrative government contracts which they didn't have to bid on at all.

Lets looks at who's making money off this war... hmmm?

I'm sorry... But the Oil for Food scandal may be bad. But these are the people we have voted into office not only making money off a war that we were pulled into by deliberate deception (plans for the war were made up pre-9/11, Bush et al knew via the CIA that Iraq had no WMD while they were making the case for war, doing the war in the spring because, and I quote, that's the best time for a "product launch."), but also actively endangering our troops. The very troops that they claim to support.

It's disgusting.

Did this talk show host know this? Is he aware? Surely. But maybe not. The mainstream media doesn't report on this. Why would they? Most are owned by large companies who have a vested interest in continuing the war. Why would General Electric (NBC) report on things that would decrease popularity for the war? They make weapons. Iraq has given them a tidy profit. The military was happy to have embedded journalists. By setting the tone of the relationship (taking away objectivity by making reporters one of the troops) and restricting access of information, they were able to control the PR of the war. No, mainstream media might not have given this guy (or any of us) an objective look at the realities of war and its aftermath.

But, if he is aware, that's even scarier, that the right wing today has the audacity to be so hypocritical. Take the plank out of your own eye, please.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Did You Know?

Watching tv church sermons tonight/this morning (my sleep schedule is all off, and I've been up since 3 this afternoon and will probably just stay up till I go to bed at a regular time tonight). As tomorrow/today is Mothers' Day, you can guess the topic of many a sermon. As a feminist, I was surprised to learn the following facts about feminism, child rearing, and life in general:
  • feminism is, in fact, all about worshipping the feminine. Christians thought God was the measure of all things; Humanists came along and said man was the measure of all things (never mind, of course, that humanists came before Christians!); now feminists are saying that Woman is the measure of all things. We should worship Her (for examples of this insidiousness see the United Methodist Church and The da Vinci Code).
  • when feminists become pregnant, if they do not abort (which most do), they immediately "dump" their kids in day care because their careers are the most important things (men, of course, are perfectly fine if they go to work the day after their child is born.)
  • feminism=evil=Satan
  • "current psychology" says that having a mother (rather than going to a daycare center) makes a child more empathetic. People are kind of doomed if they didn't grow up with a stay-at-home mom. oops.
  • Dads won't do just as well. No, this pastor insists, it is female contact that does the trick, not parental/loving/caring contact in general. hmm. (too bad it's not true)
  • the current increase in school violence is directly correlated to mothers working outside the home. (I wish I could send this to that pastor) (and I won't go into all of why this is wrong *sigh* you are all better social scientists than this)
  • married women have longer, more fulfilling lives than unmarried women (Actually, this is untrue, married men have longer lives and rate their lives more satisfactorily than unmarried men, while the opposite is true for women).
  • women who don't have kids are sort of useless and unfulfilled (implicit in many sermons). There was no mention of this for men.
  • Christian couples have more and better sex. (Where he got his data, I don't know, but I can't say that it's wrong. It is interesting.)

Anyway, I was wondering why all of these sermons were talking about women. Now I realize that the role of women is important in many of these churches, and they'll probably talk about it alot. But three of them? Giving almost the exact same sermon on the exact same day? And then it hit me: it's Mothers' Day.

It's funny to think that Mothers' Day was originally begun in order to protest for peace. Ahh, what is has become. No longer is it a celebration of women and their capacity to change society. No, it's a celebration of their continued, subordinated place in patriarchal society.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

Yesterday, I went to a movie. By myself. See, I hadn’t planned on doing it that way, and, indeed, I’ve never gone to a movie by myself. But I did. And I think that says something about how well I'm progressing in getting rid of my social anxiety.

I was on my way to a meeting that was cancelled at the last minute. Not really at the last minute, but I didn’t find out about it being cancelled until the last minute. I was already out, and so I decided that a dollar movie would be just the right thing. Million Dollar Baby was showing. Even better; I’d been wanting to see that one for a while.

I walked out of the theater still a bit stunned. It was an amazing movie.

But as I began to think about it more (mainly in anticipation of writing up this post), I started to see more and more reasons why I don’t like it so much.

Better get this out of the way now: gender. Most reading this expect my main complaints to be about gender, and they’re not. A little quibble: well, Maggie is supposedly this strong, independent woman. Yet, she must have a man to coach her. And, she must have a man to die. (See medical/legal inaccuracies later on in this post.) She was totally dependent on Frankie. Her whole existence was defined through him. Why do we need yet another movie in which a man is redeemed through the death of a woman? Frankie is absolved of his estrangement through his daughter by his attachment to Maggie.

This movie has been condemned by pro-lifers and disability rights activists both. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE AND DON’T WANT SPOILERS STOP READING—BUT: I went into the movie knowing these spoilers and it didn’t hurt the experience, I don’t believe.

Ok, so, in the end, Maggie suffers a debilitating disability. The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) condemned the film for the way it advanced ''the offensive and dangerous message that death is preferable to life with a disability.” Maggie wanted to die. If she couldn’t box, then there was no point to life. (“If I can’t walk/see/hear/etc, then life has no meaning” isn’t really a good message.)

The problem for me, on re-thinking this, was not that Maggie thought that her life would be worthless without being able to box (ok, that was/is a problem, and I agree with the disability activists). My main problem is that while I was in the movie, that kind of made sense to me. Because the only portrayal of Maggie was as a one-dimensional character, defined by her boxing. If she couldn’t box, the character was sort of useless. We know nothing else about her (Well, her family, but I’ll get into that later). That’s not the fault of Hillary Swank, who did a superb job. I don’t know whose fault it is, but her character didn’t have the depth that Eastwood’s did.

Medical inaccuracies: why was Maggie in a nursing home rather than in rehab? Where were the PTs and others? It is unlikely that any staff would let her leg get to the point that it did. It was easily avoidable. Why did the facility have no lights on in the corridor? No people watching who comes in and out? And WHY did he take her off the ventilator? And why did he do it before administering the adrenaline. Why did he do it at all? It wasn’t necessary. And kind of cruel. Maggie’s death would’ve been excruciating.

Legal inaccuracies: I think that legally, Maggie could have requested to stop the ventilator. With proper drugs (beforehand), I believe that this would have been a humane way to die. The disability rights people would still be upset (and the pro-lifers, for that matter), but I guess relying on Eastwood to do it makes it that much more dramatic. Nevermind that in real life, it’s murder (regardless of the actual moral issues involved, legally, it IS murder), and it is not at all likely that he escapes and runs away into the woods to run his store and eat his lemon pie.

None of these things were things that bothered me in the movie. If you’ll read back to the very beginning of this blog, you’ll see where I complained about not being able to sit through movies anymore without having a constant script run through my head with the things wrong with it. Except for some of the stuff I’m about to talk about in a second, none of this went through my head during the movie. Except the pulling-out-the-ventilator-tube-before-the-medicine thing. That was annoying.

I think the difference is this: this was a truly awesome movie: the script, the actors, the story, the directing. I was enthralled and not able to spare a synapse to think about the problems. Other movies are easier to sit there and critique while watching.

As for the stuff that DID bother me throughout the movie:

I find it vaguely ironic that for all that the right complains about the “liberal elite” in Hollywood, the movie that the establishment chose to honor above all others was one that so catered to and bought into conservative ideology.

Maggie’s family is poor, lazy, and welfare dependent. Oh, and southern. They have “accents straight from central casting.” (I read that in a review for another movie and thought I’d steal the phrase.) This movie represents the worst in stereotypes about the poor, poor women in particular.

Maggie’s mom doesn’t want Maggie’s gift of a house, because if they find out about it they’ll take her welfare away. This character’s primary concern is defrauding the welfare system. And she’s good at it. Now I know that everyone knows about that one woman who a)has multiple kids to keep her welfare check, b)lies about how many kids she has, c)has a real job but doesn’t tell anyone about it so she can get her money from taxpayers, too, d) all of the above, or e)something worse. There’s also that family that doesn’t know how to do anything because they’re just dependent on welfare.

How did you hear about her? “Well, so-and-so told me about her.” Or “I heard it on Rush Limbaugh.” Or “Don’t you remember when Ronald Reagan talked about that welfare queen?”

Yeah, I hate to tell you, those don’t count. Firstly, people don’t know circumstances; also, Rush Limbaugh has a lying (and an oxycontin) habit. And that Reagan thing: yeah, that’s proven to be not true. Sorry to disappoint.

The majority of people on welfare are on it for less than a year. But, isn’t it convenient, in this time of deep conservatism, to have straw figures of people who abuse the welfare system, ripping off good tax payers like you and me?

In the end, Maggie stands up to her welfare-queen mom: “You never signed those papers like you were supposed to because you were worried about losing your welfare. I can still sell that house right out from under you. And if you show your fat, lazy hillbilly ass around here, that's just what I'll do.'' Yeah Maggie, the conservatives chant, show those lazy hillbillies!

Are there people who abuse the system? I’m sure there are. But, the people your friend told you about, or the family Rush likes to talk about, or that one woman you saw on the news… yeah, that’s probably not true. It’s certainly not representative. Because the majority of people on welfare are struggling to make it, they just have to contend with a society that doesn’t really want them to.

So, here’s the ideology of Million Dollar Baby, in a nutshell: If you work hard, try hard, and want something really, really badly, like Maggie did, you can make it! It’s a matter of will; escaping poverty has nothing to do with the social structure. Mobility is an individual thing, a personal responsibility. Maggie’s mom and sister: they were just too lazy to get off their asses and work. Maggie could do it, why couldn’t they?

The problem with this, and with most movies, most media, and, well, most people in America, is that it ignores the social structure. I wish I could scream this at the top of my lungs and everyone could hear: from my friends, to my classmates, to my family, to talking heads, to policy makers. You can’t just blame everything on the individual and not take into account their social circumstances. Yet, this is what this movie (and this society) tells us to do.

MDB portrays the harshest and most inaccurate stereotypes. But they’re useful for certain groups in order to validate their agenda. If people who try hard enough can make it, and people on welfare are lazy, why have welfare at all? I’m sure many of you ask this all the time. If Social Security becomes, as is Bush’s new goal, a plan for poor people (he wants to make special protections for the benefits of low-income people, and while that sounds nice, it’s making SS into a welfare program rather than a general social right for everyone), then it becomes a target of these stereotypes. And there are people (not naming names) who have been hankering ever since the time of FDR to get rid of Social Security. This is their chance.

Pro-life groups have called this movie ''Hollywood's best political propaganda of the year,'' and I agree with them (though in a totally different sense, obviously). And yet I still can’t bring myself to say that it’s a bad movie. It’s a well-made movie. With a bad message.

So, not a fan of boxing? Me either. Not a fan of conservative ideology? Me either. But I still recommend that you see this movie.

Friday, May 06, 2005

End of Semester/Beginning of Summer

I have no good reason or excuse to explain my laziness in updating. So, I won't try.

On the positive side: I got all As and an A+ for the semester, so I'm happy!

Also, if you'll notice, on the right hand side of this blog (scroll down a bit--below archives, above blogroll), I have added a list of things (mostly books) that I am consuming. Or, at least that are on my list to consume this summer. Some of them are books that I started earlier this year but have since set aside for other books or because of classes. I think I'm in the middle of five books right now. I'll finish those first, and then get started on the rest of the list. They look really exciting. And that means I'll probably have lots of ranting and raving blog posts about them.

You see, I am determined to have an exciting and productive summer. Which involves lots of reading. And, also, finding a job. I've applied for quite a few, but, as usual, have had none call me back, mostly due, I am certain, to my lack of retail or office experience. Of course, there is no way to get said experience unless someone actually gives me a job.

To do this summer:
--get lots of exciting reading done
--become a better blogger (more interesting, more frequent)
--study for and become Master of the GRE
--narrow down some graduate schools to apply to
--make money
--continue with work out plan
--cut back on caffeine, must stop addiction
--come up with fascinating yet practical ideas for senior theses (one for sociology and one for gender studies)
--re-learn Spanish; this just seems like a fun and useful thing
--beat high score on Snake game on cell phone; it is so frustrating--I haven't been able to beat my best score for like a month