Thursday, April 27, 2006

More on Doc Meyers, and on Abstinence

Bless her heart. She may have been bugging Kraft lately about its support of the "homosexual lifestyle," but Marcella Meyers, M.D., M.P.H., has been doing this activism thing for quite a while.

Way back in the 1970s, she got nervous when the schools tried to teach her kids about contraception. So she started something called the Southwest Parent Committee in Chicago. In 1990, with Meyers as project director, SPC was a subcontractor for a troubled abstinence-only educational program in that city.

1998 and 2003, Meyers appeared on WGN Radio (Chicago) pushing her abstinence-only agenda.

In 2001 she submitted a proposed resolution – twice – to the American College of Preventive Medicine asking that organization to “go on record as approving [the] Abstinence Education Programs for young people.” On account of the after-effects of the Sexual Revolution, you see.

The ACPM declined to adopt the resolution, saying that “evidence supporting the effectiveness of such abstinence programs was lacking. Several committee members commented that any abstinence education program should be part of a more comprehensive sexual education curriculum.”

For whatever reason, Dr. Meyers has now turned her attention to us gay folk and our evil ways. Lucky us.

So, anyway, why am I picking on Dr. M? Well, mostly it's because I got bored. And when reference librarians get bored, they research stuff.

But I also got curious -- why would someone who's a scientist -- a public-health scientist -- take a political stand that's, well, unscientific and unhealthy? Not just about the gay stuff, but about a critical health issue like sex education?

Which leads me straight to my soap box for today.

Abstinence-only education does not save lives any more than it saves souls. Indeed, one study found that compared to other kids, students in abstinence-only programs were:

• less likely to feel comfortable asking questions of parents or other trusted adults about sex;

• less likely to understand how decisions about sex can change their future;

• less likely to understand how alcohol and drugs can influence decisions about sex;

• less likely to have skills to resist pressure to have sex; and

• less knowledgeable about the consequences of having a baby as a teenager.

Look, I’m not wild about the idea of my daughter having sex either. Frankly, I'm hoping she'll put off dating until she's around 42. Or maybe 50.

And believe it or not, I do preach abstinence. I don’t want her to be sexually active until she’s married, and I've told her so. Hey, I can be just as provincial as anybody.

At the same time, though, if she decides to ignore my advice, I’m sure not willing to sacrifice the life of my daughter – or anybody else’s kid – just because I’m a little squeamish about sex.

Of course, it does take all kinds, and this is America. I admire the doctor's activist spirit. I really do. It's just too damn bad her brand of activism is fatal.

See also this New York Times article for an overview on the results of abstinence-only education.

But I hate Velveeta…

Darn it all! Now one of my favorite corporate villains, Kraft Foods – you know, the mega-conglomerate that owns RJR tobacco – is doing noble things. I’ve been boycotting Kraft (and Nabisco) for years because of its tobacco holdings. Now what am I supposed to do?

Well, Marcella V. Meyer, M.D., M.P.H, knew what to do. You see, Dr. Meyer is a shareholder and she doesn't like how Kraft is spending its charitable contributions. Specifically, she is peeved that the corporation is helping to sponsor the 2006 Gay Games to be held in Chicago this summer.

So Doc Meyer submitted a shareholder proposal requesting that, in the “best interest of our company Kraft Foods Inc. as well as in the public interest, Kraft Foods . . . hereby disassociate itself from the 2006 and all future so-called "gay games", and that no future financial support be given for the 2006 "gay games" or any other future activities supporting, proselytizing, promoting or encouraging homosexual activity or life style.”

And on what does she base her proposal? Well, it’s quite a stretch. Among other things, the good doctor is worried that “because of the ‘gay game’ sponsorship by our company, Kraft Foods may at some future date be found to be complicit and legally liable in a case in which a young attendee at the "gay games" decides to experiment with homosexual encounters and later develops a serious, even fatal, illness.”

Like I said, it’s a stretch.

So where do the white hats come in? Well, Kraft's board of directors considered the doctor’s proposal and recommended that shareholders vote against it. And I’m happy to report that the shareholders did exactly that, voting it down by a margin of more than 99 to 1.

Naturally, some wingnuts are attempting to chalk the vote up to shareholder apathy and inaction.

(Uh, how come when they win, it’s a moral victory, but when we win, it’s just voter apathy?)

By the way, the American Family Association has had an action alert posted about Kraft for nearly a year now. I figure any company that invokes the wrath of the AFA just can't be all bad.

Looks like mac and cheese for dinner tonight!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Well, are they civil or aren’t they?

From time to time, I’m told that it’s wrong to compare the gay rights movement with the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. I have a lot of trouble with this. While it is certainly true that I will never understand what it is to be African American, it is equally that a heterosexual African American male cannot know what it is to be female or gay.

What is most disheartening is that this “gay rights aren’t civil rights” argument has been co-opted -- if not created -- by right-wing demagogues who seek to divide groups that should otherwise be working together. After all, extreme right-wing hate-mongers see African Americans, gays and lesbians, Jews and Muslims in about the same light.

In any event, just what does the term “civil rights” mean, and can it truly be applied to our struggle?

According to (I’m too lazy to get up and go use a real dictionary), “civil rights” means the following:

civil rights

The rights belonging to an individual by virtue of citizenship, especially the fundamental freedoms and privileges guaranteed by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and by subsequent acts of Congress, including civil liberties, due process, equal protection of the laws, and freedom from discrimination.

adj. or civ·il-rights

  1. Of or relating to such rights or privileges: civil rights legislation.
  2. Of or relating to a political movement, especially during the 1950s and 1960s, devoted to securing equal opportunity and treatment for members of minority groups.

If these definitions are correct, then the term does, indeed, apply. Putting aside the issue that seem to freak everyone out – sex and marriage – consider the following

  • In most American jurisdictions, I can be fired from my job – any job – because I’m a lesbian.
  • In most American jurisdictions, I can be refused service at restaurants, hotels, and other businesses because I am a lesbian.
  • In most American jurisdictions, I can be denied housing because I’m a lesbian.
  • In many states, I cannot adopt a child because I am a lesbian.
  • If my child becomes the subject of a custody dispute, she can be taken away from me because I am a lesbian.
  • I cannot serve in the military because I am a lesbian.
  • In many American communities, I put myself in physical danger if I am open about being a lesbian. Therefore, I must be careful what I say and what I read in public
  • Of the 14 victims of hate-motivated murders reported by the FBI in 2003, 6 were gay – more than any other group. Of 5 rape victims, 3 were lesbian or gay (leaving aside, of course, the fact that all rapes are hate crimes).

Dunno. Sounds pretty damned civil to me. Coretta Scott King thought so, too.

Monday, April 17, 2006

That's Jerry With An L

Poor Jerry. Falwell, that is. Not Fallwell with two Ls, but Falwell with one L.

You see, Jerry is a – well, you all know perfectly well what Jerry is – and an enterprising fellow named Christopher Lamparello decided to call it like he sees it, on a website of his own making called That's Fallwell with 2 Ls, not Falwell with 1 L (there's a parody of "Liza with a Z" in there somewhere, I'm sure of it!).

To be truthful, Lamparello doesn't really attack Jerry personally; just Jerry's views on homosexuality.

Well, Jerry-with-an-L dishes it out pretty good, but he can't take it. So, not appreciating the criticism, he sued Lamparello for trademark infringement.

A federal district court agreed with Jerry-With-An-L, and told Lamparello to cut it out or else.

Lamparello appealed and won at the circuit-court level. The appeals court found that www.fallwell didn’t violate the anticybersquatting provisions of federal trademark laws.

Anticybersquatting... Now there’s a visual.

Anyway, Jerry-with-an-L – not one to give up easily – appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court denied certiorari, which means that it’s not even going to give him a chance to make his argument, much less side in his favor. In other words, he's stuck with the appeals court decision and Lamparello gets to keep his website. You lost, buddy.

Want to know the best part? Both parties agreed that had minimal impact on Jerry-with-an-L, and they even stipulated the site only received around 200 visitors per day.

So if Jerry-with-an-L had kept his big mouth shut and ignored the site, hardly anybody would have seen it. But because Jerry is a – well, you all know perfectly well what Jerry is – anyway, because he is one, our friend Lamparello has probably had a whole lot more than 200 visitors per day lately.

I visited Jerry's website, by the way, to see if there was any response and -- well, whaddya know. No mention whatsoever of his defeat or of the lawsuit, at least not at first (and only) glance. Surprise, surprise. Too bad the horse's ass is already out of the barn.

Jerry, you’re such a – well, you know.

Friday, April 14, 2006

It's time for bad writing, and for me to get a routine!

I don't know if anybody out there is still listening -- I'm sorry I've been sooooo quiet. Burn-out from resume-writing, car problems, Doc landing in the emergency room with a leg injury, and oh everything. I need a house, a car, a schedule!

At any rate, I'm happy to report that I did manage to submit my entries to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest today. You remember him right? The guy who gave Snoopy his start as a writer by coining the opening line, "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night."

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest challenges entrants to outdo the old fellow by writing bad opening lines of their own. The deadline is tomorrow, but it sounds like they're pretty loose about it.

Here are my entries, just for fun. I didn't manage to hit every category, but I got most of 'em.

Bulwer-Lytton writing contest entries

Sci-fi. As the hatch opened, a creature with one foot and four long toes danced down the ramp like drunken slugs trying to find their way home after a bachelor party at a strip joint, leading me to wonder if the Pony Lounge does catering, and when the thing caressed my cigarette with one finger and murmured “Mmmphlgmmmlpht,” my jaw dropped like scabs from an eczemic rabbit.

Children’s. As Cinderella’s stepmother stared down at the knife buried deep in her own aging breast, and as the crimson blood and green bile poured from her hanging entrails onto the freshly scrubbed stone hearth, she realized that she probably should have said “please” when she asked Cinderella for yet another crumpet.

Dark and stormy. It could have been any dark and stormy night, except it was about eight in the morning and there weren’t any clouds except for a wispy thing on the horizon that reminded me of my grandmother’s hair (except that it wasn’t blue), but still, my heart was dark and stormy because of the terrible loneliness that comes with getting more than your fill, as only Michael Jackson knows, and now me.

Western. The cowboy was thin, as thin as a jackalope that has been chased by a coyote for three days, except that there’s no such thing as a jackalope so you really can’t imagine it, but if you could, its ribs would show three sides to Wyoming in a bucket of spurs.

Detective. The face of that dame was stuck in my head like a scab on someone’s nose you’ve just got to pick, like spinach in somebody’s teeth that you try not to look at, like a hair in somebody’s mole you’re longing to pluck, somebody like that dame with the scab and the mole and the spinach in her teeth.

Romance. “I love you,” Sevilla whined, and she dropped her eyes and her pants; but while Marvin’s virile masculinity wished he could love her femininity, it was Ted’s virile masculinity that stimulated his own masculinity, which was unfortunate because Ted was four hundred miles away having a sex-change operation so he wouldn’t be all that masculine when he got back.

Romance2. Marynda looked adoringly at Jean-Pierre, but when she saw the disappointment in his face she cried out in anguish, because she knew that by failing to forward his email to fifty friends, she had revealed herself to be utterly contemptuous, and she knew then that she would die an old maid, dried up like an old, unchewed-up raisin.

Adventure. On a breezy summer day thirty-five intrepid souls waited for the beginning of the 24th Annual Around-The-World Pencil-Flipping Tourney; but while thirty-four of the adventurers held regulation number-two pencils, they couldn’t know – nor could the enthusiastic crowd – that the thirty-fifth contestant, one Sludge T. Hardlip, held a cleverly disguised number-three.

Adventure2. "Heigh-ho," said the knight as he rounded the corner on his steed of gray, not the gray of an unpainted old Studebaker that's overheating but gray like that moldy stuff that grows in coffee when it’s been sitting around for a few days because the boss is too lazy to empty his own cup and the secretary won’t do coffee and rightly so.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Open Joyful Sourcing

The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas - the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market . . . . Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, dissenting in Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616 (1919).

I hardly ever write about real librarian stuff because . . . well, to tell you the truth, it’s really boring. But as I learned in Civil Procedure, even the most mundane things are sometimes really about justice. So today, I address the wonderful world of open sourcing. Which, I’m afraid, is true library stuff.

For those who don't know, “open sourcing” is sort of the first-amendment adversary-system version of writing software. Essentially, program code is written and evaluated in the light of day. People can use it for free, have access to the code, revise it, even sell it. By letting everyone have a crack at it, you get everyone's good ideas and the software improves at a rate far faster than it can in the hush-hush world of proprietary secrets a la Microsoft. That's the theory, anyway, and it sounds reasonable to me.

I bring this up because my laptop died over the weekend and I had to buy a new computer. Since most of my moonlighting income depends on being able to format resumes, I have to have a really good word-processing program.

I thought my only options were Word and WordPerfect – both of which are pricey if you're broke, which I usually am. I did end up buying Word on eBay because I’m too corporate-conditioned to try to go without the “real thing.” But Glory Be, I think I may have been wrong!

OpenOffice does most of what Microsoft Office does. It’s got decent clones of Word, Access, Excel, PowerPoint, and some other stuff.

And it’s free.

This software has been around for a few years, and it’s probably not news to you, but it sure was news to me.

Maybe if I'd been reading all that boring librarian stuff I get in the mail every day, I would have known about it before now....

Anyway... Oh – did I mention that it’s free?

As it turns out I couldn’t get OpenOffice to download because I’m just sort of a moron when it comes to stuff like that. Fortunately we are just beginning to test OpenOffice for use at the law school, and our esteemed IT guru was able to give it to me on a disk. So I’m now an official tester.

There’s something deliciously socialist about the whole thing, don’t you think? The People’s Software.

Word is getting out…so to speak.

Just one more thing, this time about Oliver Wendell Holmes. Although he was right about that marketplace-of-ideas thing, he was real idiot in other areas. In upholding the right of the state to forcibly sterilize a mentally challenged woman, he wrote, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough." Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927). Nice, huh?

Ironically, Holmes' own nastiness provides a good illustration of why the free and open exchange of ideas is so vital to a democracy.

For more information about OpenOffice, try these links:

Oh Happy Day!

Saturday, April 01, 2006


I’m working on very little sleep here, so forgive whatever follows.

The application is In. Finished. Complete, I hope. My daughter the artist has submitted her application to our city’s public school of the arts. And with it, her first portfolio and her first taste of college life, even though this isn’t college.

And my role in all this? Well, I didn’t read her essay answers, and she wouldn’t let me see the artwork until pretty late in the game. I didn’t even nag. Nope. I was strictly gopher and cheerleader. I made sure that she had what she needed to get the job done, and I got my part done (getting a transcript and proof of residency and making sure she knew what she needed) and I delivered the application.

I’m really very proud of myself, because inside me is a seriously deranged stage mom who knows all the answers. And not once did I say, “You know, if you’d started earlier, you wouldn’t have to rush now.” (She started weeks ago; who knew she would need months?).

I kept things positive and supportive. I let her stay up all night to finish, but I made her go to school on the due date.

The results, I am very proud to say – although I take no credit – are stunning. Toward the end I got to see it all, and it took my breath away. Zeze submitted five pieces of art that range from whimsical to heart-wrenching. She may not get in, but it sure won’t be for lack of talent or drive. How on earth did I merit the privilege of caring for this incredible child?