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12 January
va hb 1677 gets pulled...
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Last week, the web went nuts over the proposed Virginia state bill HB 1677, which was theoretically intended to bump up existing penalties for dumping newborn babies but could easily be read as requiring police reports for any miscarriage or abortion.

Assuming that the intent was only to do the former, it was a pretty spurious bill to begin with. Callously put, one incident in a year or two is a very small situation to prompt a new law. But given the language, with it's shaky implications for reproductive freedom, I'm glad to see this one got jumped on so quickly.

The end result? The bill got pulled. See Democracy for Virginia's coverage for further news on the story. The weird thing, though, is that the delegate (Cosgrove, of Chesapeake) responsible for introducing this bill essentially got huffy with the internet for calling him out on his badly-worded bill. His back-tracking ranged from "oh, it was the police's fault" to "no one called/emailed/asked ME" (I know I did, with no response) to "I never meant THAT", without ever accepting responsibility for it.

Is this the best we can expect from our legislators? Well Timed Period reflects on just how sad that is. Or is this the best we demand? Are our standards that low? Cosgrove ran unopposed last time he was elected; it sounds like Chesapeake's just fine with sloppy law-writing, and he's clearly not all that chastised.

I'm just thrilled to hear Cosgrove's also sponsoring a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, too. Maybe it will be written badly enough to effectively cancel out the Affirmation of Marriage Act from last year (although fortunately a repeal is already in the works).


05 January
utopia part four
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This is about sex. Specifically, it's about to be parti quatre of the utopia series I started and abandoned a couple of months ago.

I haven't talked about sex and the media yet. And I think they're linked, in a very Venn diagrammy way where they overlap just a tad but influence each other in many ways. This is not, however, a preamble to moaning about how the media is forcing young people to have sex at an early age and corrupting our culture, because that would be a very silly argument for me to try to make.

So. In my happy little utopian view, children would be listened to, communities would be the core concept of governing, and we would all be blissfully divorced from our tendency to see things like gender and sexuality and identity in general as purely dualistic. Would those things resolve the problems I've referred to in the past re: the porn culture [that is, a culture with an emphasis on sex as a commodity and using sexual imagery to promote, well, everything]?

Well, yes - if they were applied to a whole new culture, a group of people completely uninfluenced by events up till now. Not so much so if applied to us as we stand today; Americans particularly have a long, strange history of puritanical mores and sensationalist tastes. It seems like the worst effect of the porn culture thing might also be the easiest one to solve, though - rape and sexual violence could be stopped if we built "don't rape" into the culture (along with the complexities like communication and gender equality in sexual interaction). We're just apparently unwilling to do it now (it's so much easier to argue legal issues like whether what someone's wearing contributes to violence against them, I suppose).

So, in happy little utopia, there would be no notion of violence that looked sexual on the outside. Would there still be sex that looked violent on the outside? That is, would there be bondage, or dominance play, or pain play? I don't know. It's so hard to tell whether that's something people would still want if divorced from the power imbalance of heterosex - which is also, for the most part, the model for all sex.

But I would expect that the lack of duality thing would lead to a much wider range of preferences of any sort, including sexual, being acceptable. I just have no idea what those preferences might be and how much power exchange might be part of them. Or whether sex would even retain its current function if our concept of family were different. Hrm.

Which is also the deal with media. Ideally non-internet media would be about as diverse as the internet, as that's what people would want. It makes sense, really, given the lowered cost of producing many things (movies, tv, even books) digitally or semi-digitally; it could be less costly to produce a wider variety of things. Ultimately, though, I suspect that the whole media-ownership thing would have to change dramatically to see real diversity. Basically, this is the one area where I'm a full-on socialist. As long as the distribution of the more widely consumed media like radio and tv are controlled by companies who answer to shareholders, I'm not sure real change would be possible. I think independent media are the answer, but there's usefulness in having some form of interconnected global medium (the internet being an example of this) so that everyone can communicate.

I'm about to start reading a book that may give me more ideas on this one, though. So stay tuned.


04 January
this, my friends, is progress
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On the Today Show this morning and on MSNBC, there's coverage of recent studies that question whether dieting is any good or not: they basically say Weight Watchers is the only viable plan, but the NY Times article on essentially the same topic comes pretty close to condemning dieting as a practice and goes a little further into examining the reasons people diet - like the fact that just going on a weightloss diet often makes people instantly feel like happier, better people, without any results at all.

I started watching the Today Show three years ago after the whole terrorism thing shocked me out of my liberal news-bubble of NPR and into watching CNN, which totally disabused me of the idea that the media is liberal. Cause, whoa. It's not. I don't know if it's me too far to the left or the conservative talk radio phenomenon being too far to the right, but CNN? Disturbingly hawkish, in my view. NBC's morning news is much lighter fare, and widely watched in a way that makes me feel I'm Being America by tuning in.

I'm sure y'all don't care what morning television I watch and why, but seeing this covered by the Today Show felt pretty significant to me - as if America in a large, capital-lettery way were finally starting to get the message about fat. Just barely, but starting. That's something! The Times article, even though it was more thought-provoking, feels less significant because the Times has already covered some kinda radical perspectives on fat and food and stuff. To hear "well, maybe diet programs aren't the swellest; we don't know" from Today, bastion of weight loss surgery (if you don't know the show, the weatherdude's WLS was very highly publicized and praised), feels like major progress - even if it is heavily qualified as "commercial" programs "other than Weight Watchers".


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