Dear Walt

Dear Walt Whitman, on your 200th Birthday, some words back atcha:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

… 200 years old and as alive today — your atoms and your words still among us — as when, in your body, you lived and loved. Thank you for the many times you have led me to recognize joy in this life, the words you paint on the canvas of visceral connection to Everything, your spirit transcending time, across generations. Today I will close my eyes, take a ride on the Brooklyn Ferry and give you a hug.



Martyrs of the Race Course

To truly honor Memorial Day means putting the politics back in. It means reviving the visions of emancipation and liberation that animated the first Decoration Days. It means celebrating those who have fought for justice, while exposing the cruel manipulation of hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members who have been sent to fight and die in wars for conquest and empire.”

Chew on that while enjoying the BBQ.

And here you can read the actual history of Memorial Day from a Yale professor, a history in which 28 black workmen in Charleston, SC exhumed and gave proper burial to 257 Union soldiers who had died at a confinement camp on a former race track, and built an archway entrance bearing the double-entendre: “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

Black Civil War soldiers.

Black Civil War soldiers.

Guns Don’t Kill People, Ex-Husbands Who Threaten to Put a Cap in Ex-Wives Do

(source unknown)

Michael Luo recounts a chilling episode experienced by  a woman who obtained an order of protection from her former husband in a state that does not require him to relinquish his firearms. In all but a few states there is no law allowing a judge to force a threatening individual to do so. Why?

The National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups “argue that gun ownership, as a fundamental constitutional right, should not be stripped away for anything less serious than a felony conviction — and certainly not, as an N.R.A. lobbyist in Washington State put it to legislators, for the ‘mere issuance of court orders.'”

Ban poverty, not soda

If you don’t know what a quarter water is and you’ve never resorted to drinking one when in need of liquid & carbs because 25¢ is all you’ve got, or because in the environment you were brought up in quarter water (or, on rich days, Tropical Fantasy) is what you know … please don’t pontificate on the subject of inner-city dietary choices. 

Ginia Bellafante knocks it outta the park in the New York Times today: “The articulated goal should not simply be to create a population of poor people who are thin, but to create a population of poor people who are less poor. In 2010, the poverty rate in the city remained what it was 10 years earlier, 21 percent. ” AMEN. (Not to mention the poverty rate in NYC of children is 30 percent. Yes. In the 2nd richest city in the world.)

They died but, hey, we gained a strategic relationship

From military dot com, a piece about an Iraq War study done at Brown University:

Study: Iraq War Cost 190K Lives, $2.2 Trillion

 Remember the Team Bush estimate of war costs was $50-60 billion?

This piece quotes State Dept response to this report: “both countries made enormous sacrifices”… when 70% of the casualties were Iraqi civilians! (This is !!not!! to dismiss the sacrifice made by US troops sent over there, and their families … who had no choice but to follow orders.) State Dept also points out that we have forged a “strategically important” relationship with Iraq … I wonder what the legions of dead folks and their famlies might say about the importance of a US/Iraq strategic relationship when weighed against the cost of so many lives and so much destruction.

Bring back the concept of ZPG

In today’s Guardian:

Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world’s population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages.

Agreed, but WHY AREN’T WE TALKING ABOUT POPULATION CONTROL, SCIENTISTS??? When I was a kid in the 60s a very important discussion began about a concept dubbed Zero Population Growth. It was a point of discussion even in my conformist baby-boom grade school classrooms. We don’t talk about it anymore.

Just more evidence of how scientists have grown scared of going up against religious forces that are opposed to reproductive freedom including birth control.

I might add that when I was in that baby-boom-era grade school classroom and we were required to learn various dry facts about geography and demographics, one fact was this: “There are 3 billion people in the world.” I am 55. To some people reading this that might be “old,” but think of it as “less than one expected life span.” The 3 billion has already turned into over 7 billion as of March 12, 2012.

The exponential breeding of humans is one of the most frightening factoids. Check this chart.

And since the vocal anti-science forces are breeding faster and indoctrinating their offspring … if The Awake Ones are not outnumbered yet we will soon be, by far. What does that mean in this democracy? That our progeny will have to experience a horrible toxic world complete with massive disease and die-offs? ‎And will it by then be too late to “learn our lesson” and rectify the situation?

I personally stave off the depression from peering into this particular abyss by engaging in teaching the children. Teach the children (all children! this has nothing to do with “parenthood”) and, more importantly, teach them to teach others.

Women’s "natural right" to be society’s slave

Law professor Shari Motro proposes “Preglimony” — the codified responsibility of a male involved in the conception of a fetus to contribute financially to the mother’s well-being while she is pregnant.

The problem is that under current law, most states frame men’s pregnancy-related obligations as an element of child support or as part of a parentage order, which generally kicks in only after the birth of a child and is limited to medical expenses. Until and unless the pregnancy produces a child, any costs associated with it are regarded as the woman’s responsibility.


Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange, 1936

But we need more than to institute such societal expectation as a matter of law with regard to pregnancy. And we need to look much deeper than fiscal support when we consider the responsibilities of procreating men.

We need to rewrite the laws that stipulate that default custody of offspring born “out of wedlock” (isn’t wedlock such a strange word?!), goes to the woman. WHY? When a single mother is unable to care for her children with some level of stability they are taken from her; when she goes completely off the deep end and throws her baby in the dumpster, she is arrested. Does all this happen in one day? No, the problem perhaps started before the child was born, and the safety and well-being of the child is at risk prior to the day that he or she is abandoned or abused.

So where was the child’s father during this period of escalating disorder in the child’s life? Even if he pays his child support (which so many get away with not paying), why does the father have no custodial responsibility to help raise the child, to check in on the child, to offer the mother some relief in the duties of child-rearing, to intervene before tragedy happens? Why is the father not also arrested when a child is abused, after he completely ignored his child’s welfare during a developing situation?

The answer to “why” is codified in our laws. It is beyond reason that, for the simple fact of the absence of a marriage certificate, 100% of the responsibility for rearing a child lands on the female and 0% lands on the male apart from “child support” … unless he proactively seeks some level of custody. Unless he decides that he would like to share the responsibilities that go so much farther than economic burden, he is free to walk away.

A quick web search on “child custody laws unmarried” turns up a page on LegalMatch that summarizes the way our laws stick it to women with regard to the duties of child rearing, while disguising that solo burden as a “right” (emphasis added here):

The unmarried mother is presumed to have the primary or natural right to custody of children born when she is not married.  Therefore, she has the legal right to custody, care, and control over the child and her rights are superior to those of the father or any other person.

“Her rights are superior” my ass! Where is her right to take a break, to have the father rear the child so she can go to college or take a job on the other coast or just have a frickin’ week off? “Rights” are something we may or may not choose to exercise. Yes, in some cases, a child might be better off with limited or no contact with their father, and in such a case the mother ought by default to enjoy full control over the child’s welfare. But where does the law speak to an unmarried mother who perhaps is not interested in rearing the child, or simply needs the father to share in everything from taking time off from work when a child is sick or to taking kids to the dentist, to teaching the kid how to ride a bike, or running all the errands involved in ensuring a child is fed, clothed and equipped with necessities?

The next sentence on that page proves my point that the law looks at this question in a very strange way:

These rights can be defeated if it can be shown that the mother is unfit or has abandoned the child.

Okay, then, so we wait until the mother is acting “unfit” or has abandoned her child, before we contemplate looking at whether the father ought to be pitching in with some relief from the daily grind, for the children’s sake at least?

This perspective also shines a light on fathers’ rights. I personally have known men who wanted equal access to their own children, or full custody when they truly were the more “suitable” primary caretaker, yet had to do battle with judges and social workers while working at a handicap under law and social policy. The results of their fight to partner in, or take over, raising their children were mixed and any successes were very hard-won. My brand of feminism looks for equal rights for all. Including men.

Until we revamp laws that actually codify that a woman’s biology is her destiny, women will remain second-class citizens in this country, will continue to contribute billions of dollars’ worth of services to the GDP without any consideration or compensation, will continue to bear the stress of putting in exhaustingly long days, day after day, for decades, shouldering alone the work that by all reason ought to be shared by two people. And fathers who want to be equitably involved with raising their children – and also men who have gained custody and then need the same social support services (subsidized daycare, etc.) that a woman would need in the same situation – will continue to find themselves at a handicap in the courts and social services systems.