Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Supreme Court Divided On Voting Rights Act - Looks Grim

As in, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed to protect minority voting rights, that Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated for tirelessly before his murder.

That one.

The Supreme Court was reviewing it today, due to some racist claptrap about it from Shelby, County, Alabama.

You see, Section Five of the Voting Rights Act requires that 9 states, including Texas and mostly in the South, get federal approval before changing any voting laws or procedures.

This has several times prevented Texas from re-drawing its legislative districts so that areas of the state that are highly populated by minorities get carved up into tiny slivers and tacked on to areas filled with lots and lots of white people so that white people are always the majority.  Quite recently, in fact.  Also, quite recently, it kept that Voter ID bill from instituting an effective poll tax in Texas and other states.

But Justice Scalia called it a "racial entitlement" today and Chief Justice John Roberts asked if the government believed "the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North." 

Well, I hope the government believes that because, yes, the citizens in the South are more racist, overall, than the citizens in the North. This is evidenced by those gerrymandered redistricting plans that Southern states keep trying to have approved and the Voter ID laws they keep trying to pass, and the way they keep trying to cut early voting days, and the fact that repealing the Voting Rights Act was part of the Republican Party Platform in Texas and, oh, you know, the Klan.

The Supreme Court's conservative majority is either in on the racism or strangely clueless, however, because, Mamas - things are not looking good.  It sounds like Section 5 of the Act is on its way out and I am really, really scared of the regression that will cause.

I expect the whole push is mainly about, in addition to All The Southern Racism,  the fact that Republicans know that Texas is going purple and they have to stop it. Keeping minorities from voting is their only way to do that. (Other than having women reclassified as breeding cattle and they are working on that, too.)

The ruling is expected to be announced around June, as far as I could gather.


U.S. Teen Birth Rates at An All-Time Low Due To...You Guessed It

Abstinence?  No, silly.  


Following a years-long trend, teen pregnancy rates have dropped to a record low of 31.3 births per 1,000 women. This drop is linked to the use of more effective forms of birth control by teens.

Some teens are great parents, but teen pregnancy is risky, resulting in high rates of complications for mothers and babies, not to mention the economic difficulties that often accompany young parenting.  Waiting for your body to be ready and until you have a good job makes everything easier, so I think that low teen birth rates are a good thing, in general.

Let's hope that Texas teens still have the access to birth control they need to keep this trend going now that our state is waging its unholy war against Planned Parenthood.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gold-Striving Girls

All three of the girls in my Ambassador Girl Scout Troop have now gotten their Gold Award proposals approved and are starting on their projects!  So exciting!!!

Everyone asks "is that like the Eagle Award?" and it is, in the sense that it is the highest award a girl can earn in Girl Scouting.  It is also not, however.  The Girl Scouts do not award Gold Awards for building ramps and benches - that's the sort of thing little 5th grade Junior Girl Scouts do for Take-Action projects when earning little Journey awards.  The Gold Award is much more involved. Projects must show leadership, meet a community need, have a lasting effect and have global implications.

 Like the quote about Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire could do - in heels and backwards, Ladies, in heels and backwards...

Name Oppression

There was plenty of outrage on the interwebs when this story came out in January about a Florida man who took his wife's last name when he married and then was relieved of his driver's license by the Florida DMV because, as it turns out, it is indeed not legal for a man to change his name through the short marital process that women avail themselves of so perniciously often upon marriage - not in Florida or in 40 other states, including Texas.

Florida backed off after all the media attention and gave the nice man his license back,  but the assumption that women have less right to their name than men is widespread in our society.

I am personally aware of an egregious example of this.  

A friend of mine had a child rather young through an unfortunate dalliance with a man who was unsuitable for fatherhood.  Pregnancy made my friend decide to become a suitable parent, but he had no similar transformation and had very little contact with their daughter over the years (as in, a handful of  meetings with her between the ages of four and six).  My friend never pursued child support, though she really needed it,  because she knew that the man was not always safe to have unsupervised around a young child.

At adolescence, though, the child developed a strong emotional need to get to know her father.  She begged.  So her mother started looking for him and found that she could not locate him through old acquaintances or family members.  She filed for child support in order to get the AG's office to find him, because her daughter wanted to find him so badly.

She was given a court date, to which the father did not appear.  The judge assigned back child support and an order for monthly payments.  Then the judge - a woman no less - started to order the child's last name to be changed to her father's last name, although he still was yet to be located and had never even requested such a thing.

The mother argued that her daughter was eleven and did not want her name changed and that they were not even sure they would find the father.  The judge nastily told her that she would "waive" the name change if my friend waived her right to back child support. 

So my friend did.  Her daughter kept her name.  She never saw a dime of any kind of child support because the father never surfaced in the years that followed.

Who in the nine hells did that judge think she was to order such a thing?  Why should it be a man's right to stamp his name all over a child like a piece of property after someone else bore and raised the child?  What sort of world is this?

A name may seem like a small thing but it tells you a lot about how your society values you.

Or doesn't.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

World Thinking Day

Yesterday was World Thinking Day!  The Girl Scouts of our fair city celebrated in a school auditorium with tables set up with displays from other countries.  My troops had Morocco, which is in the middle of the process of becoming a member of WAGGGS' Arab Region.

My Ambassadors had made the display board and, with their moms,  many lemon coconut cakes and some tea.  My Daisy and Brownies and their wonderful moms made 300 little colorful rug SWAPS out of yarn.  I cut up some temporary henna tattoos to pass out as well.

Last night, the moms and I stood at our Morocco table, teaching troops about Morocco as they came by, stamping their passports and passing out tattoos, SWAPS and snacks. The Ambassadors and the Brownies made the tour of all the countries, learning about them and collecting SWAPS and snacks.  

The girls did great and the moms were so helpful - I have great troops!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bye-Bye, White Stallion!

 Plans for the White Stallion Plant near Houston have been shelved by developers.

 People are finally catching on:  Coal Bad.  

We are going to move beyond all of this dirty energy and save our world, Mamas!  We have to!

The Legislative Budget Board Backs Medicaid Expansion

The Legislative Budget Board backs the expansion of Medicaid called for in the Affordable Care Act as a budget priority for Texas.  When even the Texas Lege wants to accept federal help to cover health care costs for the working poor, Governor Hair is just looking more and more like the looney tunes corporate tool that he is.  Oh.  Except that business is also backing the expansion. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Don't Be Fooled By Marc Rubio: He's One of The Gang of 22

Republican Senator Marco Rubio likes to talk like he is a sweet, compassionate, regular guy.  He is the face the Republican Party is putting forth to try to fix their image (of being women haters and child haters and racists) problem.  Don't be fooled.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with a vote of 78 to 22.  The twenty-two Senators who voted against funding to help abused women (in a society where more than 1 in every 4 women are sexually assaulted) are:

John Barrasso (WY)
Roy Blunt (MO)
John Boozman (AR)
Tom Coburn (OK)
John Cornyn (TX)
Ted Cruz (TX)
Mike Enzi (WY)
Lindsey Graham (SC)
Chuck Grassley (IA)
Orrin Hatch (UT)
James Inhofe (OK)
Mike Johanns (NE)
Ron Johnson (WI)
Mike Lee (UT)
Mitch McConnell (KY)
Rand Paul (KY)
Jim Risch (ID)
Pat Roberts (KS)
Marco Rubio (FL)
Tim Scott (SC)
Jeff Sessions (AL)
John Thune (SD)

Note that both of our Texas Senators joined Rubio and the other backers of batterers and rapists, rather than abused women. 

The Bill is expected to face the House soon.

Happy Birthday, Susan B.!

"Before mothers can be rightly held responsible for the vices and crimes, for the general demoralization of society, they must possess all possible rights and powers to control the conditions and circumstances of their own and their children's lives. " - Susan B. Anthony

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

State of The Union

Best parts:

  • Acknowledging the need to fight climate change
  • Call to raise the minimum wage
  • Call for common sense gun legislation
 Mixed feelings:

Call for offering universal public pre-K.

I have no mixed feelings about it being a good thing - it's a great thing.  It will help.  Every bit helps.  The part I do not like, is that the idea of it is used as the policy cure for the problems that poverty brings to education.  

It is no cure.  

It helps, yes - for a few years.  

It is not enough, though.  Four is too old.  A four-year-old raised in poverty is already too behind to catch up.

Even if she could catch up, the problems of poverty will walk with her well past four.  There will always be more to pull her back down, unless she is very lucky.  Luck is not good policy.

Programs that start much earlier like Healthy Families or Early Head Start are a much better bet, but still not enough.  Schools cannot fix the problems of poverty.

Only policies that truly address  poverty  - universal health care and universal child care and low income housing and family wages and child allowances - will allow poor children to keep up in our schools.  Anything else is mostly just re-arranging the chairs.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

18 Years of Marriage

The Lone Star Girl stayed home sick today, so instead of going out, Lone Star Pa and I are going to curl up with some pizza, our girls and the State of The Union (we already went to the PTO meeting).  As long as we are all together, and live by the sea, these are all the things I really want.

Lacks The Moral Strength, I Say

I never felt the love.  I think the current Pope belongs in prison, not in the See of Peter - when you aid and abet felony child abuse, prison is the place for you.

I would like to think that the Church will install a Latin American Pope who cares about peace and justice, rather than covering up for pedophiles and keeping women down.

I'm not holding my breath, though.  Are there even any Cardinals like that?

I mourn for what the Church of my childhood faith has become.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Favorite YA Novels For Black History Month

I'm a little obsessed with reading lists, I know.  It's just what I do, whether it's any of my business or not.  Here is a list of some of my favorite YA titles with African-American characters or themes - they are wonderful books all year long, though, not just in February, and are wonderful for all youth:

One Crazy Summer 
 by Rita Williams Garcia
I'm hopelessly in love with this book.  Black Panther summer camp, ambivalent mothers, poetry - what else is there worth reading?

Like Sisters on The Homefront
by Rita Williams Garcia
Love this book so much.

by Alice Mead
Super sweet story.

 by Coe Booth
No one could call Ms. Booth's stories exactly sweet, but they are really good.

Fast Talk On A Slow Track
by Rita Williams Garcia
This one makes me worry very much.

After Tupac and D Foster
By Jacqueline Woodson

by Jacqueline Woodson

The Hoopster
Hip Hop High School and 
(a series) by  Alan Lawrence Sitomer

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine and 
My Mother The Cheerleader by Robert Sharenow
These two are about white families struggling with overcoming their own racism during the desegregation of Southern schools.  I am reminded of mothers in my neighborhood sniffing about "busing" when I was a kid.  

Double Dutch 
by Sharon Draper

Al la Carte 
by Tanita Davis
I haven't actually read this one yet, though I plan to, but it is written by a friend of a friend and I adored her book about a transgendered parent, so I expect it is good.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Second Shift

Things That Have Been/Will be Gotten To Tonight:

Eldest's allergy shot
Cookie calls
SAT registration computer stuff
Girl Scout meeting prep. 
Making lunches
Laying out the clothes
This post

Thinks that won't make the cut tonight:

Paying bills
Buying printer ink
Packing for Youngest's Friday sleepover
Yet more Girl Scout meeting prep.

After you get home to the kids (or to the errands with the kids as it so often is) after work, what is your second shift like?

Monday, February 04, 2013

Eight Senators Show Their Stripes - Backing The Batterers

On Monday, eight U.S. Senators voted against considering the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  All of the women in the Senate (with the exception of Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE), which tells us all we really need to know about her, doesn't it?) co-sponsored this legislation.

Because Republican women know about getting beaten and raped, too.

The senators (I keep trying to type another word, but it's senators) who voted against moving forward to debate the re-authorization of VAWA, which Congress allowed to expire before the end of 2012, are:

Ted Cruz (R-TX) (I told you what he was, Mamas - now we have to get him out of office)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Tim Scott (R-SC)
Marco Rubio (R-FL) (Please take note, my Catholic, Republican friends - he is not a good man)
Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Rand Paul (R-KY) (Not a good man - see above)
Pat Roberts (R-KS) (Not a good man)
James Risch (R-ID). 

The re-authorization is expected to eventually pass the Senate (what's a few more dead moms while we wait?) but face a harder time in the House, where there are more batterer-lovers and rapist-lovers, apparently.

Texas School Finance System Ruled Unconstitutional!!!

“There is no free lunch. We either want increased standards and are willing to pay the price, or we don't.”  - Judge Dietz

Word, Judge Dietz!  

Today, after hundreds of hours in Court, State District Judge  John Dietz ruled Texas' "system" of funding public education to be unconstitutional.  The Texas Constitution states that the state must provide adequate funding for the "general diffusion of knowledge" and Judge Dietz ruled that this is not happening.  

WORD, Judge Dietz!

He also ruled that the way Texas funds education is a de facto property tax which is not allowed in the Texas Constitution - pretty interesting.

A written ruling will follow soon but this messy underpinnings-of-democracy business will doubtless make its way to the Texas Supreme Court, which I think may see things through more Republican-colored (read:  public education is ungodly and it is dangerous to teach the masses to think, anyways) glasses. 

I'll keep hoping and agitating for proper education funding, though, and you should, too, Mamas.

Salad Garden

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Collage Artist Girl

The Junior Woman's Candy Girl pixilated collage was part of an art show at the Art Center on Friday night.  Today, she won second place in the annual Visionarios youth art competition at the Art Museum of South Texas for her Green City collage.

We are super-proud.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Weather Divination, Purification and Such

I have no weather divination skills to practice this holiday of Brigid, though I hear that the groundhog did not see his shadow and I am much heartened by this.  Well, sometimes the elbow I broke seven years ago gets crampy when the weather is changing, if that counts.

For me, Groundhog Day is a gardening holiday.  It's about getting hopeful about Spring and sunshine and ladybugs, even though February is unreliable in its weather.  It is usually sunnier than January!  My New Years' Resolutions have been pretty much non-starters this January.  The girls have been sick on and off and super-cranky and everything has been way too busy and exhausting and intermittently cold.  February brings me hope for getting back on track.

I planted lettuces and spinach today in the new nitrogen-fixed salad garden.  I planted a new strawberry in the hanging garden and a bit more chard in the veggie garden.  I bought a little blackberry plant (bush?  mini-cane-thicket?).  

The history - Roman, Pagan and Christian - of this holiday seems to settle most firmly around rituals of purification.  Maybe gardening is that for me. 

The 83rd Legislature: Guns In Schools Watch

I feel strongly that guns do not belong in schools.  Teachers are not law enforcement officers and only people with the level of expertise of a law enforcement officer (and I don't mean some dopey deputization program) should be allowed to have guns in a school.

We need to keep close tabs on where our dear legislators take this issue in the coming weeks.  Here is what has been proposed so far:

HB 223 would allow CHL  school board members and school board officials to pack heat at school board meetings.  Clearly filed by someone who has never attended a school board meeting.  

SB 182 would allow CHL  students to carry guns on college and university campuses.  Because adolescents stressed by the transition of moving away from home for the first time should be armed.  

People just do not think.

Get Your Flu Shot Already! (Wherein One Mother Bemoans The Rise of Pseudoscience)

Seriously - get your flu shot.  Get your kids their flu shots.  I'm not kidding.  It is important.   

When you work in a public school, there is no way to escape the horribly dangerous nature of influenza, especially this season.  It is epidemic, it is severe and it is scary, both at inner-city schools and also in posh gifted programs like the one my own child attends. 

The pneumonia, the dangerously high fevers, the should not be exposing your child to this because you have ever so unfortunately fallen prey to a bunch of crazy-spawned and untrue hype about vaccines.  

Honestly, the pseudoscience is so thick these days, it makes me want to vomit.

Vaccines are good.  They do not cause autoimmune disorders.  They do not cause autism.  

Are they totally without risk?  Of course not.  Is any medicine you have ever given yourself or your child totally without risk?  No.  There will always that one weird person for whom apples are poison, don't even mention penicillin or a vaccine - life is an extremely variable thing.   Don't extrapolate in crazy-inaccurate land because of this fact.

I partly blame doctors.  So many of them are so sure that people can't understand complexities  and gray areas that they try to go black-and-white so starkly that it is lying - "there is no reason to worry about live, attenuated viruses in pertussis vaccines - no need to make them acellular" - "this is 100% safe".  It only takes one parent who has tragically discovered that there was a good reason to develop the now used acellular pertussis vaccine or that their child was allergic to the eggs that their vaccine grew from to start an Internet frenzy that results in alls-the-science being suspect.

But, please.

There are things to be concerned about, yes.   So many vaccines given at one time in infancy could potentially expose babies to levels of metals the safety of which has not been adequately tested.  Allergies are scary.  People who are chronically ill or immuno-suppressed can, rarely,  become ill with the vaccinated-against illness from live-virus vaccines (although normally healthy people do not, and no one does from acellular vaccines!!!).  Sometimes politicians get in bed with Merck and have things approved before they are ready.  A parent does need to pay attention to these matters, even if their doctor would rather that they leave the thinking to them.

I made sure my younger daughter got no more than two vaccines at once (except for the DPT  and the MMR one-shots).  I ask to read each vial so I can avoid excessive mercury exposure.  I wait until a vaccine is on the AAP's recommended schedule before giving it to my children and I waited until Gardisil had been out and working for a few years to give it to my daughter after all the politics involved in its approval. I make sure my asthmatic daughter gets the acellular flu shot rather than the attenuated nose spray, although I will let my non-asthmatic daughter get the nose spray with no qualms.

I don't play doctor, though, and neither should anyone else without that level of education.

There is a huge difference between "many doctors are jerks who do not want to talk to you like you are an adult" and "ignore all real science!  Embrace the whackos!  Make your own shit up out of eighth grade-level experiments"!!!

I am so sick of the pseudoscience and all the sick schoolchildren it hurts.  If you are homeschooling your years-breastfed kids while you are at home with them and they have little truck with large groups of children, it may not seem like a big deal to you - you don't see it.  The kids who go to ballet or soccer with your kid hopefully stay home for those one or two weekly lessons when they are sick.  They probably can't miss a whole week or three of school, though - don't think you know what it is like in the world that most children must inhabit.  

There seem to be two main communities that embrace the pseudoscience - right-wing religious nuts and my natural parenting freak friends.  There is a lot of overlap between the two groups on a surprising number of issues.  I love the natural parenting freaks.  They are my bestest friends.   I am as much one of them as someone who has to manage as a full-time employed mother without a staff can be.  I also nursed my children in terms of years and carried them around in slings and had a family bed and stuff - they are my tribe.  

They are wrong about this, though

Get your flu shots.