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The Tally Ho

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Great essay

from Elisabeth Eaves:

"So, gentlemen, pay the bill. A reasonably priced lap dance is not a right."

Read the rest. Archives are the same place they've always been, by request only.

It's over

John Thorn called it the "Wallflower World Series," and it was a short date. Real White Sox fans, I think, are blinking in confusion this morning--how'd it happen so fast? How did they win the World Series so suddenly? Elwood reports the gym is empty this morning, and possibly all the revelling and parades will give us Northsiders a few days' respite from the accusatory glares and hisses of "You're a Cubs fan, aren't you, I can tell." Ironically, the hangovers might actually make Sox fans nicer for a few days.

My (careful and respectful) little study of south side baseball left me with a few insights. South side baseball is not supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be epic and difficult. I think that White Sox fans believe that their 88 years of suffering and near-choke in late summer have somehow ennobled them, and that they deserved to win for those reasons. They didn't. They only deserved to win because they were a really good team this year, with a stellar manager. Hopefully, Guillen will do it again over the course of the next several years, so that the players feel they're getting some more respect and Sox fans can finally let the chip drop from their shoulder. I'm also hoping for the public firing of Astros' manager Phil Garner, who was obviously not up to the challenge of managing a team through the World Series. Slumps from any given player are to be expected every now and then, but if the whole team starts playing badly all of a sudden, it's probably the manager's fault. Guillen showed just the opposite: that a good manager can talk a team into doing things they'd convinced themselves were impossible. When we went to the Sox-Sox game last week, we sat next to a sign that said, "Ozzie para presidente!" and Guillen claimed (in September) that he'd run for mayor of Chicago if his team won the Series. I imagine he's receiving offers of campaign funds this morning.

I also had the odd experience of reading about Jimbo's in the NYTimes.com, which is where a bunch of Real Sox Fans hung out and watched the game last night. NYTimes is careful to correct a bunch of Chicago websites that report Jimbo's only sells beer in bottles. According to the bartender, Jimbo's serves both bottles and cans.

I'm proud of my city, but it was also a tiring season of baseball. I'm not really cut out for epic drama; I'm happy with my brat and my beer and my game on the radio (since I've found at the actual game, I can't tell balls from strikes and have to rely on the scoreboard). I'm not a real Sox fan. But that's okay, because I'm enjoying them anyway.

Monday, October 24, 2005



Scientists at Rice University have built molecular vehicles so small that more than 20,000 of them could sit side-by-side on a human hair.

The fleet consists of nanocars, nanotrucks capable of carrying small-molecule payloads, and trimers that pivot on their three axes. All of them roll on buckyballs, which are 60-atom, soccer-ball-shaped spheres of pure carbon. Each axis pivots up and down independently to allow the vehicles to negotiation atomic potholes and mounds.

Read more. Or, if you're late, ask (at "Contact Us") and ye shall receive a summary.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Who was that masked volunteer?

The Sacramento Bee reported last week that a Catholic school drama teacher lost her job on Oct. 14 because of her previous volunteer activities at Planned Parenthood. Marie Bain spent nine months working as a volunteer clinic escort to assist patients getting in and out of the health center. She also apparently wrote a letter to the editor, one month before she began teaching. She said:
"Like it or not, teens get pregnant," the letter stated. "And the most important issue is keeping them safe. Safe means access to reliable health care, not gut-wrenching red tape."

A student's parent obtained pictures of Bain working outside the clinic, and sent the pictures to Bishop Weigand, who was head of the diocese. Weigand wrote to the principal of the girls' school to request her termination in clear and hugely quotable language. He said:
"Abortion is gravely immoral and Ms. Bain's active and public participation in the procurement of abortions is morally inappropriate and unacceptable with regard to her work as a teacher at Loretto.
"...[we must ensure that] those entrusted with forming responsible Catholic women at Loretto High School share our important Catholic moral beliefs and can serve in all respects as worthy role models for our young women."
Normally, I would assume that "worthy role models" would place a high value on volunteerism and standing up for one's beliefs, even if those beliefs happen to be unpopular in the larger world. Not so with the diocese of Sacramento, however. I've only been to Sacramento once; it was warm and welcoming to a stranger traveling alone, and seemed to be a progressive town. I'm sure Ms. Bain will have no trouble finding a job, and think that sooner or later this case will come back to bite the diocese that was so willing to discriminate and so unwilling to "teach the controversy," as the ID'ers would say.

This is a noteworthy case for me, since I engage in similar volunteer activities from time to time. One of my fellow volunteers wears sunglasses and a hat every time she works outside the clinic; she says that it's no one else's business who she is. I've always shunned the sunglasses and preferred to look patients in the eye as I greet them, but as a teacher, I'm suddenly wondering if that's not the best career move.

Speaking of which--why was that parent loitering around an abortion clinic, anyway?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Timing is everything

As the Cylons would tell us, this has all happened before and it will all happen again.

All the local news sources are shouting about Harriet Miers' reponse to a questionnaire back in 1989, stating that she would support congressional action to ban abortion in cases that did not endanger a mother's life. The liberals say, "Look! We told you she was anti-choice!" and the conservatives say, "That was 14 years ago and we don't trust it!" This only strengthens my belief that Miers is not really a nominee but more of a scapegoat; Congress will fight over her for months, the Repubs get to call the Dems obstructionist and oppositional (and sexist too, as a bonus!), and possibly gain a boost in the midterm elections.

But when she goes through confirmation hearings, this questionnaire will be important not only for its content, but for its timing. In 1989, conservative and religious opposition to abortion was growing stronger, and most pro-choice folks were still sleeping because they felt that Roe was a done deal. When Planned Parenthood v. Casey came along in 1992, it was supposed to be the decision that overturned Roe, since the conservatives felt they finally had a majority on the court. It was carefully crafted and timed to take down abortion rights. Because of O'Connor's vote, Casey couldn't do that. It reaffirmed a woman's basic right to abortion, though it allowed states to regulate abortion in ways that did not put an "undue burden" on the woman seeking it. (This case actually laid groundwork for a lot of the restrictions that are giving abortion-rights advocates fits right about now, so it was a mixed blessing.) Later next month, the Supreme Court will hear a New Hampshire case concerning parental notification (Ayotte, I think?), which is seen by many conservatives as the next big challenge to Roe. Some states have "trigger laws" saying that abortion is considered illegal by their state government, either still on the books from the early 70s or laid there later in case Roe is ever overturned. Other states are currently bringing cases against abortion providers under those same laws, hoping that by the time they are appealed, the Supreme Court will be conservative enough to uphold the state's case. (Will seek out particulars and post them when I have more time.) Anyway, Meirs' response on this questionnaire was a politically correct and powerful thing to say when running for the Dallas City Council in 1989; there are remarkable similarities to our current political climate; and I think she was answering quite truthfully and probably hasn't changed her views much since then. Added to the fact that she was Bush's lawyer and will probably be hearing cases about executive power, and the fact that she has NEVER BEEN A JUDGE, the Democrats' job now should be to take her down as quickly as possible with broad popular support.

Though if O'Connor remained on the bench long enough to rule on Ayotte, I sure wouldn't mind.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I repent!

As someone who works with kids, and their sometimes neglectful and stupid parents, I've often made sarcastic comments about licensing people for parenthood. After all, if you have to have a license to drive or to fish, why shouldn't you have to have a license before you take complete responsibility for a helpless human being? "There oughtta be a law," says I, "so that you have to take a test before they let you be a parent."

And good golly, some overzealous state senator in Indiana this week proposed to do just that. (Link opens a pdf to the proposed legislative change.)

Bitch. Ph.D, feministing, and Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon have summarized the issue nicely, so I'll confine myself to a quote from NUVO. (Besides, Wells asked me so politely to cover this story that I couldn't neglect his link.)
According to a draft of the recommended change in state law, every woman in Indiana seeking to become a mother through assisted reproduction therapy such as in vitro fertilization, sperm donation and egg donation must first file for a “petition for parentage” in their local county probate court.

Only women who are married will be considered for the “gestational certificate” that must be presented to any doctor who facilitates the pregnancy. Further, the “gestational certificate” will only be given to married couples that successfully complete the same screening process currently required by law of adoptive parents.

As the draft of the new law reads now, an intended parent “who knowingly or willingly participates in an artificial reproduction procedure” without court approval, “commits unauthorized reproduction, a Class B misdemeanor.” The criminal charges will be the same for physicians who commit “unauthorized practice of artificial reproduction.”

Fortunately, Miller seems to have backed down from this harebrained scheme, due to the controversy it has engendered. The very terms--"gestational certificate"?--are creepy. I can see the scene in the hospital now: A woman in labor staggers into the ER. The attending nurse says, "Excuse me, ma'am, could I see your gestational certificate?" It's like a really bad sitcom.

But don't worry, they wouldn't be regulating old-fashioned reproduction. As long as you're a straight girl with a working reproductive system and know a man who wants to get laid, you can have all the kids you want. The only folks who need to pay attention are:
1) Het couples who are infertile
2) Single women wanting to have a baby
2) Queer folks wanting to gestate.

And gosh, how many of us know anyone in those three categories?? (If you really don't, go do some research. A Little Pregnant is unsparing, and also sidesplittingly funny. The sadly-retired Chez Miscarriage still has a list of hugely informative links. Diary of a Lesbian Stepmother is not written by my friends, but could be.)

Sadly, Miller's idea is not going to go away. Infertility treatments are expensive and chancy. Insurance carriers are doing their damndest not to cover them, particulary for women past a certain age or who have specific types of infertility. Doctors, like adoption agencies, have realized that since they have such control over who becomes parents, they can get away with asking hugely intrusive questions about a person's fitness for parenthood, or passing judgement on what kind of parent they think the candidate might be. So, be on the lookout for state legislation that tries to restrict adoption to two parent families (keeping in mind the DOMA laws and several state laws declaring that GLBT partners cannot co-adopt), or for insurance regulations declaring that women must meet certain social (not medical) criteria before their infertility treatment is covered. Finally, keep an eye on the costs of assisted parenthood: adoption with a reputable private agency runs upwards of $20K nowadays, and assisted reproductive technology is anywhere between $12K (from my friends who are trying to do it as cheaply as possible) and $100K. Pricetags like those make me wonder if Ed and Hi in "Raising Arizona" had the right idea.

As for me? I'm hugely relieved that the bill is withdrawn, and see it as a wake-up call for anyone who wants to have some control over whether and when they parent. I'm still enraged by parents who don't have any parenting skills, families who are on their eighth child because they "just love babies", and women who let their kids wander into my office because they believe that a three-year-old can be left unsupervised in a waiting room for thirty minutes. I still fantasize about getting to have the final say on who gets pregnant and when. But I'm not ready to cede my parental decisions to anyone else, and not naive enough to think that a bureaucracy can decide what is best for me OR my obnoxious neighbor. It's gratifying to see so many people objecting to this bill. And I swear that I will never, ever, EVER make jokes about parenting licenses again.