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Anti-Authoritarian Caturday

This blog has been silent too long. I’ve had some health issues affecting my hands; maybe I’ll write about them eventually, but for now let’s just say I’ve recovered enough to tentatively revive this blog, though probably on a low scale.

It’s Caturday; and since the Kittywampus hiatus coincided with an issue that put the word “pussy” in the mouths of the journo-commentariat (they’re still trying to spit out the furballs), it seems only fitting for this blog to support those three brave Russian feminists who are now serving a jail term for questioning the rottenness of their state.

Sure, we’ve got our own rottenness here in the U.S., too. When was the last time the pundits or politicians spared a thought for Bradley Manning? Why do I find far more Canadian sources than U.S. ones on this week’s deportation of war resister Kimberly Rivera from Canada and her arrest at the Canadian border? How can the Obama Administration possibly justify its defense of the NDAA?

But see, it’s not a question of ignoring abuses of the rule of law at home while highlighting abuses abroad. We can deplore the state-sanctioned violence against Manning even as we condemn Russia’s sentencing of Pussy Riot for being loud and insulting in a cathedral (their real crime was criticizing the state).

At the New York Times, Vadim Nikitin wrote last month that Western supporters are simply jumping on a bandwagon, merely [u]sing dissidents to score political points against the Russian regime.” This is too facile. The Russian regime is profoundly anti-democratic. It deserves to have points scored against it. While I respect his point that using dissidents as pawns is a game that goes back to the good ole Cold War days – and thus ought to come under scrutiny – the fact is, Putin is gutting what remains of Russia’s fragile democracy.

Nikitin also joins a number of North American feminists in decrying some of Pussy Riot’s most overtly offensive stunts – in particular, those involving public sex. I will gladly concede that I do not see the political or artistic merit or utility of such stunts, while I definitely do see how they would just reinforce the objectification of women to most casual observes.

But none of these caveats present a roadblock to supporting Pussy Riot, and Nikitin insistence that they’re dealbreakers strikes me as disingenuous:

You can’t have the fun, pro-democracy, anti-Putin feminism without the incendiary anarchism, extreme sexual provocations, deliberate obscenity and hard-left politics. … Because what Pussy Riot wants is something that is equally terrifying, provocative and threatening to the established order in both Russia and the West (and has been from time immemorial): freedom from patriarchy, capitalism, religion, conventional morality, inequality and the entire corporate state system. We should only support these brave women if we, too, are brave enough to go all the way.

Actually, even though I’m not a hard-core anti-capitalist, the Pussy Riot program all sounds pretty good to me. But Nikitin creates a false dilemma. You most certainly can support Pussy Riot in their moment of persecution without agreeing with all of their stances or tactics. We do this all the time, as when we defend the right to freedom of expression for people whose speech we find abhorrent.

The three band members made eloquent closing statements at their trial, showing that they understood, deeply, that this wasn’t a case about punk music constituting blasphemy. The stakes were nothing less than authoritarianism, human rights, freedom of artistica and political expression, and the state manipulation of media. Pussy Riot knows this. We too should recognize it – and dwell upon the ways in which the U.S. government, too, is systematically eroding liberties and making martyrs of dissidents. The rule of law hangs in the balance, not just the freedom of three young women, and not just in Russia either.

And so, by the great power invested in my by this blog, I hereby declare today Anti-Authoritarian Caturday.

Authoritarian kitteh courtesy of Cheezburger.

For the first time since our congresscritters launched their attack on Planned Parenthood last winter, I have the feeling that public outrage has risen to a boiling point. The attacks continue, of course, but their extreme brazenness is finally provoking a robust counter-reaction. Maybe I’m just spending too much time on Facebook (and certainly my Facebook friends are far from a representative sample), but the Komen Foundation’s de-funding of Planned Parenthood – and subsequent backpedaling – seems to signal a change in the people’s tolerance of the war on women’s bodily autonomy. At the very least, it showed that millions of pissed-off women could use social media to defend health services for the most vulnerable among us.

Then Obama actually stood up to the bishops and told the insurance companies to cover contraception, period. As Katha Pollitt noted, he finally noticed that American women are more numerous than the bishops. Darrell Issa’s farcical all-boyz hearing on religious freedom contraceptive coverage earned a backlash as furious as the Komen decision’s. As usual, Jon Stewart perfectly skewered the hypocrisy:

Now, after a couple of days of public shaming by silent protestors at the state capitol, Virginia’s governor has been forced to “reconsider” supporting a bill that mandates transvaginal ultrasounds prior to abortion – and (in breaking news) its sponsor says she’ll kill the bill altogether! She claims an attack of conscience. (Yes, a woman sponsored this rapey bill. No, she didn’t have any ethical pangs until it became a national disgrace.) As Jon Stewart put it, the poor governor evidently didn’t realize the procedure is “like a TSA patdown for your vagina.”

Hey, we’d better not give the TSA any new ideas.

I’m also tickled pink at state legislators’ over-the-top proposals to regulate men’s bodies, for a change. Virginia Senator Janet Howell countered the transvaginal-ultrasound madness with a bill that would’ve required rectal exams before a man could be prescribed an ED drug. In Oklahoma, Senator Constance Johnson proposed (then withdrew) an amendment stating “any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.”

Now, Georgia Representative Yasmin Neal has put forward a bill to sharply restrict vasectomies: “It is patently unfair that men avoid the rewards of unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly. … It is the purpose of the General Assembly to assert an invasive state interest in the reproductive habits of men in this state and substitute the will of the government over the will of adult men.”

It’s high time someone stood up for spermato-Americans!

Of course, no one’s seriously out to punish men. These legislators just put anti-choice laws through the Regender translator, instantly exposing their absurdity and cruelty. It’s telling that these mock proposals hold the power to shock, while anti-choice legislation remains business as usual. Georgia, for instance, is weighing one-to-ten-year jail terms for abortion after 20 weeks – which last I heard was still constitutionally protected under Roe v. Wade.

I’m hopeful, though, that these extremist proposals are galvanizing a majority that will force extremist legislators to back down. But not just yet. Let them keep horrifying every voter who’s ever used contraception. Maybe we can throw out all the Tea Partiers and Blue Dogs, come November.

Remember when proponents of Ohio’s proposed “Heartbeat Bill” tried to get a fetus to testify in favor of the legislation, which would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat becomes detectable? (That’s usually between the 6th and 8th weeks, when many women still don’t know they’re pregnant.)

Well, apparently pre-born witnesses aren’t awfully reliable. One of the two pre-born tykes invited to testify last spring flat-out refused to make a statement. No galloping hearttones were entered into the legislative record for her (or him).

The lastest trick, now, is to bring in post-born children. This age group is bound to afflict our legislators with a new level of chaos. The messes! (I still have one prone to wreaking EVIL with crayons.) The backtalk! (Ditto for both of my beloved boys, though vastly improved.) The irreligiosity! (At our annual Christmas Eve foray to church, my Tiger kept asking loudly what “Amen” meant. Meanwhile, his older brother the Bear managed to set his church bulletin aflame during “Silent Night,” the candlelit portion of the service.)

But not all post-born children are like the hoydenish heathens I’m raising.** Those who testified were surely obedient, docile Christian children. They know when to say Amen. Granted, they’re no longer imbued with the perfect innocent of the pre-born, but at least their heartbeat is reliable.

This is how the testimony of post-born children played out last week (thanks, Daily Record, for covering it):

Christian Harrington didn’t mince words during his moment at the Statehouse Tuesday.

The 8-year-old wants the Ohio Senate to take action on the Heartbeat Bill, legislation that would ban abortions within weeks of conception.

“I’m here to save babies with beating hearts,” Christian, barely tall enough to peer over a podium, told a packed committee hearing room. “And I want to tell the senators to pass the Heartbeat Bill right now. And when I mean right now, I mean right now.”

The youngster was one of more than 50 children who were in Columbus Tuesday as part of the latest attempt by backers of the Heartbeat Bill to convince lawmakers to pass the legislation.

They had a press conference with reporters, held a faux committee hearing showing lawmakers how to vote in favor of the bill and delivered Teddy bears, complete with real heartbeat sound chip, to all 33 Ohio senators.

“Do not believe the stuff the people tell you at the abortion clinic,” said 11-year-old Sydney McCauley. “The just say it’s a blob of tissue, and that is not the truth. That blob of tissue is actually forming into a baby.”

She added, “Think if someone aborted you. That would be a whole generation of people who (would not) be able to live their lives.”

Fifty kids? That’s a veritable Children’s Crusade. These children are being brainwashed into a key tenet of movement pro-life belief: that their existence was predestined. No one is telling these kids, “Well, you wouldn’t exist had the condom stayed put.” “You were only possible because Mama lost her first pregnancy after four months, and you came along 12 months later.” “The only reason you came into this world is that my ex was just too damn hot, and oh, I know I shouldn’t have – I know it! – but I just could stop loving him. A week later he punched me in the jaw. Never seen him since.” Or even: “You can be glad your Mom and I got drunk and horny on New Year’s. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here today.” (This last one came to me via my own father, though I’m pretty sure he didn’t quite say “horny.” I was, in any event, a September baby – and fortunate to have been wanted and well-loved.)

The “Heartbeat” movement has no truck with chance. Its obsessions with the pivot point of abortion as the arbiter of live and death effaces all the other contingencies and serendipities – every crazy chance of fate – leading up to the conception and birth of  a particular baby. It constructs a teleology in which every baby was always and forever meant to be, and thus their (potential) mothers are obligated to carry every pregnancy to term.

Catch me if I’m wrong, but are there Christian religions other than Mormonism that envision a pre-heavenly waiting room of souls? Otherwise, it’s just silly luck that you were born as opposed to another combo of gametes in your parent’s DNA deck of cards.

But this seemingly philosophical question – “what if you’d never been born?” – is a standard cudgel in the hardcore anti-abortion toolbag. It’s as simple as it is existentially threatening. No wonder it resonates with the tween crowd.

The kids hauled into Columbus to testify can’t begin to gauge the depth of dishonesty and muddy thinking in the slough of despond (first their churches, then the Ohio Legislature) to which their parents have led them. And so it feel abusive to me to use children to try to score a few cheap emotional points. All kids can do until their early to mid teens is to parrot their parents’ opinions. I mean, my Tiger has political ideas at 8, but danged if I’m gonna force him to the mat to defend them. I’d much rather test and challenge my kids’ ideals –  in hopes that they will eventually understand what is truly their own.

Let us hope to all the gods – their God, my Buddha-Jesus, and the Ceiling Cat – that these kids urged to perform for the legislature will someday find enough distance from their manipulative parents that they can later make their own wise, considered sexual decisions.

And let us hope that the Heartbeat Bill, which was left to languish last month, won’t be revived by this small horde of child crusaders.

Further, we can only hope that the vicious overreach of the Heartbeat Bill – its overly broad provisions, sloppy thinking, contempt for women, prima facie unconstitutionality, and far-ranging interference with the rights of both doctor and patient – will doom it, no matter how many post-born children mount testimony, church pageants, or lemonade stands in its favor.

But given that the latest  Quinnipiac Poll found public support for the Heartbeat Bill at a dead heat (45% favoring, 46% against), I’m skeptical that Ohio has any chance of electing pro-choice legislators (the theme for this week’s Blog for Choice day).

Instead, we need to start pointing out how the self-styled champions of children are using other children as a political ramrod. We need to question their leaky teleology of sex –> pregnancy –> birth –> earthly arrival of souls from heaven. And we need to howl to the moon about the lunacy of the Heartbeat Bill, which – like a zombie, a vampire – isn’t dead yet, but poses a mortal threat to women’s autonomy.

** My kids are actually quite wonderful, in my wholly unbiased opinion. But the incident with the church bulletin aflame really did happen.

I’m as happy as anyone that SOPA and PIPA seem to have crawled back into the Hollywood hidey-hole from whence they came. They threatened the free exchange of ideas on the Internet as we know it.

But make no mistake: The withdrawal of these nasty bills has very little to do with grassroots protest. Kittywampus went black for the day. My Facebook friends – including the handful of Republicans – vocally opposed SOPA/PIPA, except for a few who didn’t know what the fuss was about. All of this ballyhoo made absolutely no difference. As Jody points out in her incisive post, the contest was only ever between new tech money (such as Google) and old media. Yes, Wikipedia’s blackout made an impact, too, even as a not-for-profit entity. But the real players here were the new tech giants, able to represent themselves as the engine of American capitalist innovation. This was not a triumph of citizen activism.

What’s more, the U.S. government already has the tools it needs to punish pirates. In fact, it already blissfully disregards due process. Initial reporting on the shutdown of Megaupload – a site with sketchy leadership that appears to have openly tolerated blatant copyright violation – gave me the impression that the government had proven its case. Not so! As Glenn Greenwald notes, all it’s got at this point is allegations, not a guilty verdict:

[I]t nonetheless sends a very clear message when citizens celebrate a rare victory in denying the Government a power it seeks — the power to shut down websites without a trial — only for the Government to turn around the very next day and shut down one of the world’s largest and best-known sites. Whether intended or not, the message is unmistakable: Congratulations, citizens, on your cute little “democracy” victory in denying us the power to shut down websites without a trial: we’re now going to shut down one of your most popular websites without a trial.

Yup. With the triumph of the “unitary executive” under Bush and its consolidation and elaboration under Obama, there’s no need to wait for legislation. The rule of law is so twentieth-century!

In case you, too, were wondering why SOPA/PIPA were so evil, here’s a great explainer:

And if you need a good laugh about it, Jon Stewart comes through:

Last week I got a holiday card from President Obama and family. I also keep hearing about how Michelle wants to invite me to dinner – or at least, I’ve got a chance of winning a seat at the table.

Since I’m still Facebook friends with Barack, I took the liberty of answering when he asked on FB what I’d like to talk about over a presidential meal:

WTF rule of law. WTF signing the new detention bill and not vetoing as announced. WTF civil liberties! WTF executing American citizens summarily, without trial, and forcing Bradley Manning to spend long hours naked. WTF habeus corpus and posse comitatus. And not least for us gals, WTF Plan B?!

I promise these topics will flow with pizzazz and charm over fine cuisine and the right wine.

That’s my little holiday rant, verbatim, sent directly to our Commander-in-Chief. Ah, the wonders of social networking!

What are the odds this’ll land me on a watch list of some sort?

(From I Can Has Cheezburger?)

… would be a cat. But I won’t be receiving a kitty any more than you’ll be getting a pony. (Allergies in the family. Meow.)

So instead, here’s a wish that all kittehs get whatever their hearts – or paws – desire.

(If you can’t see the clip, click here.)

Quilted Caturday

I am not a quilter, though I often wish I were. These feline quilt blocks make me yearn for the skllz and the time. They come from a blog with the enviably goofy name Katinka Brusselsprouts. It’s a beautiful blog worth a visit even if you can’t thread a needle. Katinka will lead you to the original source for these patterns, Regina Grewe, whose site is also an Augenschmaus (treat for the eyes – yes, she’s German).

This one looks like a little imp – equal parts charmer and stinker. Such an adorable face!

This little guy looks like he’s sleeping in perfect repose in a perfectly alert posture – the ultimate Zen practitioner (after Shironeko, that is).

Little Miss Daisy (my nickname for her)  looks like the picture of pure innocence. But she’s a cat, so you know she’s got to be cooking up something.

And finally, the Cat before Christmas, who has his very own quilt. To be honest, I love the first three best, because their focus is so intently on the cat, without any distraction from the background. But this little guy is still sweet and seasonal. Merry Catmas to all! (Or should that be “Merry Quiltmas”?)

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