Party-pooping White House doesn’t think states should secede

Well, this is certainly disappointing. All those people who signed all those petitions for secession on the White House website are going to be like soooo annoyed. I mean, what’s the point of petitioning for secession rights for South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana if White House is just going to blow you off? I even signed the one for Texas, and I don‘t even live there. Here’s the White House response. Notice that it’s full of namby-pamby happy talk about getting engaged and working together to solve our problems. What’s that all about? And where was Mississippi while this was going on? Someone slipped up there.

Meanwhile, the lead story in The New York Times for much of the day today was about the soaring rate of gun sales in America since Obama’s re-election, driven by the usual tin-foil hat paranoia that Obama’s black helicopters are going to break down your front door and take away everyone’s slingshots or something. Why will I not be surprised if it turns out that these soaring gun sales come from those states that want to, you know, secede? Just saying. It’s not like they’re not already armed to the teeth, but you never know. Honestly, if you want to take your semi-automatic hunting rifles and go home, don’t let us stop you. Wait, it’s the White House that’s stopping you. Where’s Mitt Romney when you need him?

Honestly, you have to laugh. People really thought that a petition to the White House to let South Carolina secede would lead to…what, exactly? Secession? And then what? The state with one of the lowest literacy rates and highest violent crime rates in the United States is somehow going to manage to surive as an independent country? On what? Abandoned military bases?  We’ve been over this ground before. It won’t work—those states, with the possible exception of Texas and Florida, are all dirt poor, and can’t possibly afford to support themselves. The amount of magical thinking here is astonishing, but we should be used to that there days. What do these places have going for them aside from college football and right to work laws? I suppose they could set up a football league to rival the NFL, but I suspect it would look more like the CFL. Still, points for trying.

Oh, and you know what else? The White House won’t support construction of the Death Star either. Something about “The Administration does not support blowing up planets,” and it costing about $850,000,000,000,000,000. Typical of the Democrats to wuss out. Thank god Paul Ryan is already looking presidential.

Update (January 16)–The White House, obviously fed up with having to treat crap like this seriously, has raised the signature threshold from 25,000 to 100,000 for a response.

S&R Honors: Ivan Toms and Lawrie Schlemmer – what we were we still are

Waiting for a miracle

“How long are you prepared to wait?” I asked.

It was 1991 in the Eastern Cape city of Port Elizabeth and I was in my final year of high school. Nelson Mandela had been released in 1990 with me hovering over the television, my camera on a tripod, in a futile and excited attempt to capture the moment.

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Urgent: stand up for a rapist’s right to choose [trigger warning, as if that’s not obvious]

Paul Manship's bronze, Eve (#1)

Seriously, how could you not “rape” this?

The Sanctity of Human Life Act is back.

In a new year only 3 days old at the time, Rep. Paul Ryan, fresh from seeing his chances at VP aborted, wasted no time trying to breathe life back into the Sanctity of Human Life Act.

As reported by Laura Beck at Jezebel:

But now it’s baaaaack, which is scary because not only is the above terrifying, there’s all sorts of other creepy shit hidden in this monster. Like, if a woman who was raped in a state that banned abortions went to a state that didn’t ban abortions and had an abortion? Her rapist could theoretically sue to stop the abortion from happening, and probably win. And it doesn’t stop there with the reproductive weirdness, if passed, it’ll probably make many forms of IVF illegal.

As of today he has sponsored zero bills and has only co-sponsored this one according to the data available at  We can see where his priorities are, and they clearly aren’t focused on the economy, thank goodness.  I can understand, however much I may disagree, how pro-life/personhood advocates are so zealous on the issue.  As a matter of faith, I’m sure it’s of paramount importance to them.  But seriously, the assault on the other rights of women really needs to come to an end.

For the sake of argument, let’s just assume for a moment that even when a woman becomes pregnant from rape she shouldn’t have any say, legally, morally, ethically, or otherwise over the fate of her body or the undesired progeny of a rapist, replete with all of the possible genetic predisposition to sociopathic traits it may have instilled in it by the rapist’s insinuation of DNA into the mix.  How in the ever living fuck does this translate into a violent criminal’s right to intervene in the legal proceedings involving his victim’s rights, or lack thereof, before the law?

Stop.  Right there.  Let’s cut right to the chase here.  When a rapist decides to obstruct his victim’s access to abortion, let’s be really clear about what’s happening.  This isn’t a morally ambiguous character in some graphic crime drama generated by Hollywood.  We are talking about a man who, for a host of pathological reasons, takes it upon himself to overcome a woman’s objections by spewing his diseased sperm into her body.  Suddenly we’re to believe that this paragon of virtue is only interested in preserving the life of a zygote he created without the consent of the incubator he raped?  No.

Whoever may have standing in such a case, the rapist is the very last person who should have it.  This is not about fatherhood.  This is about a violent sociopath asserting more power over his victim, but this time, to compound injury with injury, it is legal power, the power to have his victim faced by police with guns, the power to have his victim caged like an animal, the power to potentially ruin her finances, her self-sufficiency.

Think that far-fetched? Then I humbly submit that you are not following the ramifications.  A rape victim, served with a subpoena or an injunction, runs afoul of the legal process stacked against her by not playing according to the rules established for her by people more sympathetic to the rights of a rapist than they are to her suffering as a victim.  At some point, a police officer will be involved.  Should she resist enough, she faces the very real and tangible risk of being tased or looking down the barrel of a drawn weapon, to say nothing of charges ranging from resisting arrest to assaulting a police officer, depending on just how adamantly she defends herself from this incursion by the state into her womb, all because a man forced his semen into her against her will.  Taken into custody, she will most certainly be behind bars, whether for an hour, a day, a week, or longer.  Getting out under any circumstances other than solely on her own recognizance will result in costs.

So, again, assume that the birth of the child is the singlemost important outcome in your worldview.  Just how many other ways do you feel it necessary to violate this woman’s person?

Of course, it’s not just Paul Ryan who, one might imagine, feels that his inner Fortress of Rectitude looks suspiciously like the walls of a vagina defended by the pristine Gates of Labia, both major and minor.  He is but one knight at this round table, lance at the ready.  King Arthur, in this demented twist of chivalry, is Paul Broun of Georgia.  The other knights that stand tall and proud in their desire to plant flags for Christendom in vaginas across the country are: John Carter (TX), Michael Conaway (TX), Blake Farenthold (TX), John Fleming (LA), Trent Franks (AZ), Bob Gibbs (OH), Phil Gingrey (GA), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Walter Jones (NC), John Kline (MN), Stephen Palazzo (MS), Stevan Pearce (NM), Martha Roby (AL), David Roe (TN), Harold Rogers (KY), Lee Terry (NE), and Lynn Westmoreland (GA).

What fevered impulse puts one token woman on the side of the rapist is beyond me.  Try as I might to put myself in the shoes of a pro-life zealot, I just cannot fathom this.  Maybe, in this worldview, the victim always has it coming, what with being the spiritual heir of Eve, first temptress, and bearer of a foul cesspit of wanton promiscuity.  No cry of “rape” is ever true and just.  To be cursed with a vagina is to be subject, forever, to the caprices of men.

So, since these political knights (and their fair lady) fail to see just how very personal this is to the women they prefer to beat into submission with sociopaths’ penises, let’s turn the tide for just a moment and flip their script.  Let’s make the same kind of horrid assumptions about them and their characters as they clearly make about rape victims.  It’s okay for Rush, right?  And we’re not ones for double standards, are we?

With her espousal for absolute subjection to men, one can only wonder just how lucky Ms. Roby is to not have an extensive brood of rape babies.  Has she never been alone in the presence of a man (or men) before?  Surely her vagina is clearly labeled “open for business,” right?  After all, if the “rapist” is to have the kind of rights she sponsors in this bill, we’re not actually talking about “legitimate rape” and we are indeed talking about the prerogatives of genuine and authentic fatherhood.  That kind of willingness to fully embrace the personal responsibility for what goes into her vagina, even without her express consent, must be an aphrodisiac to every swinging dick within 500 feet, and who is she to say no or allege rape, after the fact?  With that kind of spiritual purity, one might be led to think that her well-trafficked bed is the best kept secret in town.  Just how did she fund her election, anyway?

As for the men in this Society for the Creative Protection of Rapists, we may be led to wonder as to the ultimate source of their defense.  Could it be that each and every single one of these gentlemen has a problem with understanding the nature of consent?  Could it be that, according to the definition of rape as updated by the FBI, every single one of these men is a rapist with a vested interest in protecting the rights of their kind?

As long as people of this particularly troglodytic bent keep calling the shots, we may never, ever know for sure.  Me?  Were I to have a daughter, I think I’d make sure she gave all of these politicians and their associates a wide berth.


Image credit: Photo of Paul Manship’s bronze, Eve (#1) by cliff1066, licensed under Creative Commons.

Uganda Journal: making matooke


Because he’s back home from secondary school for the holiday, Simon is in charge of the kitchen at the Bethlehem School this month. Although only seventeen, he’s easily one of the best cooks whose food I’ve ever eaten. “In Uganda, it’s considered a disgrace for a man to cook unless he trains to be a chef,” he tells me.

“In America,” I tell him, “if you like to cook, it’s a good way to find a girlfriend.”

“I love to cook,” Simon admits.

Simon’s kitchen is a mud brick hut with a metal rook and two small cookfires crackling away on the dirt floor in one corner. In the opposite corner, two tables give him room to lay out his diced peppers, sliced tomatoes, a bowl of beans soaking in water, and several banana leaves each larger than a sheet of newspaper.

Outside there’s a room-sized pavilion where he can build larger fires for larger cooking projects. Several other secondary school kids home for the break are out there now, roasting ears of maize to snack on, but when the kitchen is going full-swing during the school year, it feeds six-hundred kids a day: porridge for breakfast and pasho and beans or pasho and matooke for dinner.

It’s the matooke that’s brought me to Simon’s kitchen today. Matooke, also spelled “matoke,” is basically a thick mush made of plantain bananas, and it’s the staple food of Uganda. Although high in calorie content, matooke is a great source of potassium, and I’m told it’s fairly nutritious. Most importantly in a country where life can be little above subsistence, matooke is extremely filling. I’ve asked Simon to teach me to make it.

SimonPeelsWe sit outside the kitchen on a bench with a box of the green bananas on the ground in front of us. Forget the easy-peel Cavendish—the supermarket banana most Americans and Europeans are familiar with—these plantains mean business. The peels don’t just slip off. Simon cuts off the top end with a knife and then runs the knife back toward him to cut the peel away. With several quick knife strokes, he strips away the peel, the slices of skin falling back into the box. He drops the peeled fruit into a pot and then grabs another unpeeled plantain. The process takes on the rhythm of a private peeling potatoes, although Simon does it with good humor.

“It gets sticky,” he says. Banana sap is notoriously thick and gooey. He shows me the build-up on his fingers as he goes. He’ll need kerosene to clean it off his hands and knife when he’s finished.

It takes about ten minutes to peel the fifteen bananas. As the peels pile up, Simon lifts the box and shakes it like a sand sifter, and the few unpeeled fruit rise to the top.

He rinses the banana, and then fills the pan with enough water to cover them, then wraps a banana leaf over the top of the pan and sets it on one of the cookfires to simmer for half an hour. While they cook, he works on a sauce for the beans he’s making, mixing diced peppers, onions, and tomatoes. “I add salt to break up the tomatoes,” he tells me, as though divulging his secret recipe.

MashingThe plantains absorb the water as they cook, and when we pull them off the fire, they’ve turned yellow and mushy. One of Simon’s assistants, Nmutale, wets his hands to cool them, then begins to knead the banana leaves that cover the cooked plantains, mashing them to pulp. “He’s kneeling as he prepares the food,” Simon points out. “In Ugandan culture, we believe it’s important to respect the food, so that’s why we kneel.”

Every few seconds, Nmutale dips his hands again to cool them, then continues kneading. When he finishes, he scoops the mash from the saucepan into a banana-leaf-lined basket. He then folds the leaves in on themselves, wrapping the mash into a volleyball-sized globe. Who knew it took so banana leaves—let alone bananas—to make this stuff; there’ll be no way I can make it at home.

As Nmutale mashed, Simon has taken some of the thick central veins from other leaves and coiled them, then set them in the saucepan. He’s also added some water to the bottom, and then lines it all with more banana leaves. The coils keeps the leaf ball out of the water and will allow the pot to act like a steamer once Simon sets it back on the fire.

CabbageWhile all that’s been going on, Simon has had me washing slices of cassava root and pumpkin. Nmutale sets the wrapped mash in the pot, and I place the washed vegetables around it. Simon folds up the leaves into a tidy package looks almost like a cabbage. It will slow-steam like that to stay warm until ready to serve.

By the time we all sit down for lunch, another hour has passed. The matooke arrives still wrapped in the banana leaves. People lift a flap of leaf like a game of peek-a-boo and scoop off big gobs. It’s yellow by now, and tiny, tiny black dots—banana seeds—are visible throughout. People eat it plain, although I’m still experimenting with a way to make it taste palatable. Heaps of salt might help, but that’s no good (and not really available), so I’ve tried mixing it with ground nuts (which look like hideous purple baby puke but taste sweet), beans, goat soup, and beef soup. So far, nothing’s helping. “It’s an acquired taste,” Deb admits.

I’ve been trying for ten days and haven’t acquired a taste for it yet. I’ll keep trying.