Friday, April 27, 2007
Gettin' all Jerry Springer on yo' asses
Here's the thing. There's something I have been keeping to myself. OK -- there's a few things but one of them, I've been inspired to write about. I'm seriously afraid of being overly share-y. There is indeed too much sharing going on, what with Girls Gone Wild and Dr. Phil and all.

But this one, I think, maybe, in my wildest dreams, it might help someone else. Because no one ever talks about it. It's just not done by nice girls in a polite society. But I'm tired of nice and frankly, I think it's about time someone talked about it.

I have something called Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 5-10% of women of childbearing age have PCOS.

Among other things, symptoms include:
  • infrequent menstrual periods, no menstrual periods, and/or irregular bleeding
  • infertility or inability to get pregnant
  • increased growth of hair on the face, chest, stomach, back, thumbs, or toes
  • acne, oily skin, or dandruff
  • pelvic pain
  • weight gain or obesity
  • type 2 diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
  • patches of thickened and dark brown or black skin on the neck, arms, breasts, or thighs
  • skin tags, or tiny excess flaps of skin in the armpits or neck area
  • sleep apnea
In short, it sucks ass. No wonder that women with PCOS never talk about it. Frankly, it's humiliating. Or at least embarrassing. In many women, it makes them feel less than female.

If you have any of these symptoms, you might want to check with your doctor. Seriously.

Recently, in poking around through some medical journals (which I do for fun - not. ). (OK, maybe a little.) ( Ew.) I found an article linking women with PCOS and bulimia.

What a freaking revelation that was!

It seems that along with all of the other symptoms of PCOS, many women with the disease who also have a risk for an eating disorder seem to head full tilt into bulimia.


Anyway, that's all the sharing I'm doing today. For more information, you can check out these journal articles or websites.

Today's Dietitian
Gynecol Endocrinol. 2006 Jul;22(7):388-94
Gynecol Endocrinol. 2004 Aug;19(2):79-87.
BMJ. 1999 Jan 30;318(7179):328.
Gynecol Endocrinol. 1995 Jun;9(2):113-7.


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Thursday, April 26, 2007
I was sure I didn't need it.

1) It seemed like a waste of my time.
2) I had friends to talk to.
3) I didn't want to dredge up the past.
4) What was I going to go for? To sit on a couch with some Ph.D. who would probably tell me that I was fine and why did I come to him/her, anyway? After all, my problems were so silly, so insignificant compared to what his/her other patients were dealing with.

Seriously. This is what I thought about therapy.

And then I had a nervous breakdown.

They don't call it that anymore but it definitely conveys the shape I was in better than the newer term; "major depressive disorder." Quite the difference!

So, I went to therapy. Here's what I found:

1) A waste of my time was so far from the facts, it is almost embarrassing. I am living, whereas prior to therapy I felt like I was wrestling through every day.
2) Although I had plenty of people in my life to talk to, there are some of us out there with things in our heads that no one, and I mean no one, needs to have shared with them. Not my friends, not my family. No one. These are the kinds of things you share with a paid professional -- frankly, I'd feel guilty sharing these things with her if she wasn't paid and trained to hear it.
3) As if the past was over. Done with. As if I hadn't learned everything I knew in the past. As if my past never affected or informed my present. As if the past wasn't haunting me like an uneaten donut...
4) Wrong! My first therapist was not massively helpful. I didn't know that because I hadn't been to therapy. Turns out she was on the verge of retiring and was totally phoning it in. It happens to the best of us.

My next therapist however was amazing. He had his moments of brilliance and his moments of ... maybe not so brilliance, but he was great. He made me believe that I belonged there and that I wasn't being silly. He also referred me to my current therapist who is, as the kids say, bomb-diggity.

She calls me on my shit. I'm able to be honest with her without feeling like she's going to say that I know better. She pushes me, but not too hard. She never, ever asks, "How does that make you feel?"

When I started, I planned to go for a few weeks, skim the crud off the top and get back to my life. Three years later, in recovery from an eating disorder and happier than I EVER have been in my entire life, it was worth it. Every dollar, every ugly cry, every painful admission, every exercise. Totally, totally, 100% worth it.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Meditation on Passion
For anything to endure, it needs to be loved.

Today is the 22nd day of the Omer. Three weeks and one day.

The Omer is counted for 49 days from the second night of Passover until Shavuot. Among other things, the Omer is a time of inner reflection and growth. Each day is a meditation on being a better human being.

Today's meditation is particularly special to me, although, I might come back for a few more meditations in the next couple of weeks. Today's meditation is on love in endurance.

I think about all the things I love and all the things that love me back. These things endure.

I think of the most enduring things in my life, Michael, my friendships, my work, learning about myself, activism, gardening, knitting and writing -- I have a great passion for these things.

Likewise, the things that do not last in my life, a fleeting affair with running a marathon, a fleeting affair -- these things I have no passion for and so I allow them to fall away.

There is something to be said for enduring passion. For finding something you love and sticking to it, thick and thin, easy or difficult. Though it wasn't always clear to me, in bed, covers over my head, crying at the wind, Michael was enduring. He did not give up on me -- even when I might have given up on myself. He didn't always know how to show it ("snap out of it" didn't work so well) just that he was still there when I woke up was proof. I don't know what I did to deserve it.

If there is something, or someone you believe in, you fight for it. You love it, enduring through the yucky patches, overcoming the obstacles because you love it. And it makes you a better human being.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Follow up to Mindfulness
Somehow, my last post has been eaten by the blogger HTML monster and I cannot in any way edit it! Also, comments seem to have been lost to the wind...

I didn’t understand the concept of “mindfulness” oh, about the first 4 dozen times I heard it. It seemed like I was plenty “mindful” -- obsessing over every morsel I had eaten, would eat, wanted to eat. “Mindful” about passing up the 7-Eleven, the Red Ribbon Bakery, the Starbucks and the KFC. I was all too “mindful.”

It turns out I wasn’t actually.

I was obsessing but I wasn’t being particularly thoughtful about it. It would cause me physical and psychic pain that I “had to” stay away from all of this food but I couldn’t get to the part in myself where I “needed” that food. I mean, sure, I could think about every bite I ate but what was it that necessitated that eating?
  • Was it hunger? Rarely – unless I was completely starving.
  • Was it pleasure? I would have to admit, almost never. I was so sad and angry that I was eating at all, I couldn’t possibly enjoy what I was putting in my mouth.
  • Was it emotion? Usually, but boredom, habit and rebelliousness sometimes won out over sadness, anger and frustration.

One year ago this week, I figured it out. I figured out what mindful really meant. I have never in my whole life been happier. It’s a different way of thinking. It is not about punishing myself. It is not about rewarding myself. It is not about comfort or fear or “getting away with something.”

The “getting away with something” by the way, was a big one for me. Being alone with food? It was like finding a hundred bucks on the street. You look around to make sure that no one had dropped it before stuffing it in your pocket and walking away. With the commensurate guilt afterward knowing that it isn’t yours and the fear that you will be “found out.” One of the hardest habits for me to break in the last year is eating in secret.

I haven’t been perfect. In the last year, I haven’t always thought about what I was eating and why I was eating it. I haven’t always eaten when I was hungry. I haven’t always stopped when I was full. I haven’t always made the choices based on what was best for me at the time. Sometimes I made choices based on what was cheapest or fastest or easiest to get my hands on at the time. This happens mostly when I failed to feed myself enough in the first place.

I may have to purposefully “be mindful” forever. On the other hand, perhaps it will become habit (crossing fingers, toes, etc.).

It seems like such a silly thing. Everyone eats – every living thing. I imagine that most people don’t obsess (write diatribes, go to support groups) over this natural part of keeping ourselves alive. But I do.

For more information on Mindfulness, check out the Mindful Awareness
Research Center at UCLA.

Or this book that actually helped "change my brain." It's Not about Food: Change Your Mind; Change Your Life; End Your Obsession with Food and Weight. It's almost exclusively for women. A lot of these kinds of books (Geneen Roth, etc.), I found were really condescending - this one isn't. You've processed this. You've thought about it. You still can't figure out why you eat when you don't even want to be eating. They don't have pat answers like, "you're angry at your husband/mother/children/self. That's why you eat." They are writing for a more sophisticated audience, in my opinionI loved it. For about 3 months I kept it with me wherever I went.


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Monday, April 23, 2007
Congratulations Crazy Aunt Purl!
This morning Laurie finally announced that she is publishing a book. When I went on Amazon at 6:50 this morning, she was ranked at #613,499. By 10 a.m. she was ranked at #376.

Update: Now at #91!!!! Cracked the top 100!!!! Streamers!!!! Trumpets!!! Marching band!!!

Update #2: As of 2:15 p.m. she's at #47!!!! Cracked the top 50 books!!! Wow!


This is the power that Time Magazine was talking about when they named You the person of the year. It used to be that you had to have money and/or connections to get published. You could have all the talent in the world but no one had access to you.

Today, the gifted among us are able to put their talent out there, get recognized and sell a billion books. Not everyone who has a blog has talent, but Laurie does and she deserves to be recognized. Apparently a couple hundred thousand people think the same way.

Congratulations Laurie! I am so thrilled to be along for the ride!!!!



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Saturday, April 21, 2007
Happy Birthday Jeff
We're all thinking about you today. Not that we don't think about you every day. Seriously, we do. We're talking about you a lot too. Yes, we're talking about you.

I miss the way you said anything. You called me a death junkie. (am not!)

I miss how much you cared about me. You called me the mommy. (am not.)

I miss how you let me know that it was important that I cared about you. You sent me a postcard that said "Thank you for caring about me."

We miss you. A lot.

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Friday, April 20, 2007
And you know we have horns....
Tommy Thompson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, who is now running for president of these United States, addressed the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) this Monday.

"I'm in the private sector and for the first time in my life I'm earning money," Thompson told RAC. "You know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition and I do not find anything wrong with that. I enjoy that."

After finishing his speech, one of his handlers may have been just the slightest bit mortified by his comments. Somebody made him go back on stage to apologize. This is what he came up with:

"I just want to clarify something because I didn't (by) any means want to infer or imply anything about Jews and finances and things. What I was referring to, ladies and gentlemen, is the accomplishments of the Jewish religion. You've been outstanding business people and I compliment you for that
and if anybody took what I said wrong, I apologize. I may have mischaracterized it. You are very successful. I applaud you for that."

Oh my god. Seriously. This is a presidential candidate people. This is not Der Sturmer propaganda or even Don Imus.

It's so odd. Being raised Jewish and living in Los Angeles, it really wasn't until college that I realized there were places in this country that you could grow up having never met a Jew. Today, even, some people, when talking about Christmas or Easter, will stop in their tracks and remind themselves, whispering, "Oh right, you're Jewish." Like saying she has cancer.

We're not all good with money, just like not all Asians are good at math and not all black people can dance.

We don't all have hooked noses, we don't all have curly hair, we're not all Caucasian, we don't all have overbearing mothers, Jewish women are not all materialistic whiners. I can't believe I need to point this out. But there it is.


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Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The "so queer" interview
Me? Really?! I'm so honored!

No actually, I asked for it and now I've got it.

1. What is your favorite non-essential possession?

OK - seriously - this is a hard question. I have to ask a question first. What is considered "non-essential"? Is a laptop "essential"? Is a house "essential" - after all, I did live without one for 19 years...

If a house is not essential, then I say house, for obvious reasons. If not, it's a toss up between my electric blanket and my laptop. I'd say my electric blanket because I'm always cold and getting into a pre-heated bed (it has a pre-heat setting) is the most amazing thing in the whole world. My laptop because I love being in touch with the world from anywhere there's a wireless connection (and I can play solitaire).

2. What is your favorite thing about Los Angeles?

Much easier question. I love love love this city. Ive been a bunch of other places but L.A. is definitely my home. My favorite thing about L.A. is its diversity. We have everything!

I love all the little cities and neighborhoods. We have Little Tokyo, Little Tehran, also known as Westwood, Little Ethiopia, Little Armenia, Little India, Thai Town, Chinatown, The Hebrew Hills (or Kosher Canyon), Little Saigon and then all the hidden neighborhoods Larchmont, Venice canals, Beverlywood, Hollywoodland, Leimert Park, Atwater Village, Spaulding Square, Wilshire Vista (a community of respect) and the amazing and totally unknown Victoria Circle (within Lafayette Square). I could go on and on! That's just the city! The valley has it's own fabulous neighborhoods. Magnolia Park, the San Fernando Mission (fab gift shop!), the thrift shops on Sherman Way, Topanga Canyon and then further out there's Bungalow Heaven, San Marino, Monrovia and the unbelievably gorgeous Angeles Crest Highway.

3. If you had to live somewhere else, where would you choose and why?

I'm kind of a contrarian. Maybe you've figured that out already. If by "somewhere else" do I have to move out of L.A. or just out of my house? I really really love my I'll say that I can see myself, past retirement, living far far away from neighbors and the like somewhere that's cold enough to light a fire and read or write all day.

4. You have $500. You must spend it at a casino. How do you gamble? What game(s)? The full amount on a single bet or spread out?

You say I have to spend it at a casino but do I have to spend it gambling? Can I use part of it to go to the spa? I promise I'll use some of it gambling. I'll sit down in front of this here video poker machine and settle in for the long haul, one $1.25 bet at a time.

5. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Hmm. I want to be happy. I want to be less concerned with my body. I want to be a tattooed biker mama. I'm a little bit rock and roll that way.

Thanks Annika!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007
the Case for Happiness

Nietzsche wrote, "It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages."

Of course, taking advice from a man who never married but was turned down twice and ended up being cared for in his final days of complete insanity by his mother and sister is another story. But somehow, Nietzsche knew what he was talking about.

Michael and I have a crazy kinda love. The kind of love where bringing home beer and a black and white cookie is enough. The kind of love where paying the property taxes without freaking me out is enough. The kind of love where sitting on the back porch watching the cool brass sprinkler that I bought at Lowe's for 14 bucks swirling all pretty-like is enough.

This weekend I had the opportunity to share what makes my marriage special with someone else who was trying to figure out how to make his work. My incredibly talented tattoo artist is going through an interesting time with his wife of many years. I won't get into the details but they are best of friends and they definitely want to remain that way.

I want my husband to be happy. That's not just lip-service. If riding a motorcycle and watching Star Trek or starting a business is going to make him happy. I want it for him.

Likewise, if a full body tattoo or a New Year's Day party or a garden full of fruit trees is going to make me happy, he wants it for me.

I've got to admit that, early in our marriage, I told Michael he couldn't ride a motorcycle (he doesn't remember this, thankfully). I'm so, so, so happy I figured things out.

See, not only did I find out that "riding bitch" makes me happy (something I never would have discovered). I also found out that doing the thing that makes him happy (and it does!) makes my life so much more fulfilled.

It's a cyclical thing, even though it's not intentional, he does things that make him happy, he's happy. I do things that make me happy, I'm happy. We are happy. On the other hand, I say, I don't want this thing that makes you happy, someone feels resentful, guilty, spiteful, and so on.

I know lots of people who say things like "over my dead body" or "not if I have anything to say about it." That's not what marriage is about. I'm also not saying that it's this big hedonistic do-anything-you-want-any-time-you-want thing either. With a friendship though, you figure out what works. You compromise. You want to see the other person fulfill his or her greatest ambitions. That in itself is enough.

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Friday, April 13, 2007
My evil plans as a mad scientist
About three years ago for halloween, I dressed up as a mad scientist complete with lab coat, smoke pouring out of a beaker (I love having access to science-y stuff). Of course, I also sprayed my hair white and did a big Einsteinian hairdo (no pictures exist of this festive costume – sorry).

Anyway, the fantasy of being a mad scientist has always intrigued me slightly. Not that I’d ever do anything particularly evil…I just like the idea of having a lair. Come on! Doesn’t having a lair sound awesome!

First off, no one can get in. Because it’s a lair – so it’s secure. I mean, if I was doing something evil, then there would have to be some way to penetrate it so the heroes could come in and save the day but since I’m not, then...impenetrable lair!

Second, good lighting. Don’t lairs always have the best lighting? I mean, there’s no natural light but you can always see what’s going on.

Third, always some fun experiment to try. I mean, if you have all that lab equipment, you might as well use it, right?

Fourth, you can see anything anywhere in the world on your view screen. This is a pretty cool thing because you don’t need CNN or Fox or MSNBC to give you the news, you can just go to the Green Zone or to the Senate floor or to the fire in the Hollywood hills. Gotta get me a view screen.

Fifth, aren’t the beds in lairs always cut out of the side like a little cave? I love the idea of sleeping in a little cave like structure. It just sounds kinda fun and cozy.

Last – of course and best…secret identity. If you have a lair, you have a secret identity. Otherwise, why the lair? I just think the secret identity is a good idea in general. If you don’t like the way things are going in one identity – say things really, really suck and you’re having a hell of a time getting people to lay off, you can just switch to your other identity and kill off the identity that is giving you trouble. Also, in superhero form, you can bring back the dead identity if you need to years later and pretend you’ve been in a coma in some old lady’s care! Or you had amnesia and were off somewhere and married to someone and had learned to play the flute in the meantime.

It could work!

Anyway. Happy Friday the 13th!
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Thursday, April 12, 2007
Logic...or, "Hello? Is this thing on?"
Fascinating article in last week's Los Angeles Times. No really.

Essentially it's about the big abstinence pull-out (he he - I'm 12...).

Anyway, Ohio is pulling out of the State Abstinence Education Program (SAEP) joining Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Montana and New Jersey in refusing funds with abstinence restrictions.

In the article the President of the Abstinence Clearinghouse Network, rebutting this decision says,

"There are kids who don't want to learn how to put on a condom, because they don't want to have sex."

If these are the kinds of arguments they are making, why are the rest of the 44 states still accepting funds from the SAEP?

Here's my equally logic-based rebuttal.

OK, let's say my kid (and this may be why I don't have any) didn't want to learn how to poop in the potty. That is fine. Wear pull-ups for the rest of your life, for all I care. Someday, you might want to poop in the potty. Maybe. I'm not saying you have to, but I would rather have my kid know how to poop in the potty so that when he makes some decision about not shitting in his pants, that he knows what to do when the mood strikes him.

I am not saying he should practice pooping in the potty for when the right potty comes along. Just to clarify.

I'm saying he needs to know how to poop in the potty so he can make the decision to poop where ever and when ever he chooses to.

Also, I know kids. I was one once. If there was something I didn't want to learn (geometry) don't think for one minute that I learned it. I couldn't tell you the difference between an isosceles triangle and a hypotenuse if you gave me a million dollars.

Also, ever heard of OPT OUT you idiots? If a kid doesn't want to take sex ed, they can opt out. No one is forcing these impressionable children (many of which are already experimenting with sex if not doing the full deal) to watch an uncomfortable 45 year old health teacher put a condom on a cucumber. Promise. There is no Clockwork Orange eye clamps in high school.

Man! What a stupid argument!

Things like that get me all riled up so it's no wonder that when I read yesterday that abstinence funds went from

10 million per year in 1997
176 million in 2007,

well, my head just about exploded all over my pretty desk.

As the dems are now in power in congress, there are moves to make more comprehensive sex education the rule rather than the exception. Hoooooowheee.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) believes that schools should gradually shift their focus to more comprehensive programs.

Good idea Frank. And just let all those other kids during that shift get fucked.
Without a condom.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The Atheism Blues

There are days that I wish I believed. I wish I knew I would see my dead friends again like at the end of that AIDS movie where everybody hugs and wiggles their toes in the sand at the big beach party in heaven.

I wish everything happened for a reason, there was someone protecting us and making sure our lives were going exactly the way they were supposed to and that because I'm good and try not to gossip and make sure I do tzedakah and stand up for the righteous I'll be rewarded.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that. At. All.

I believe that being a good person makes the world better for the person in the car next to me and for my niece and my friends’ children. I believe that no one but my mother cares whether or not I have a full body tattoo. I believe that lashon hara makes the world less livable in the here and now. I believe that saving a life is important because the person’s life you save could be the person to save your own. On the other hand, that person might kill you in an auto accident and that would be a damn shame.

I wish I believed in a justice where a man who got away with molesting his daughter in this life would get his in the next one. And that a person that gave of themselves without recognition and without reward in this life would get theirs in the next one.

Being an atheist isn’t easy. In a world where, according to a recent Newsweek poll, 94% of the population believes in a divine presence, it is lonely not believing. Especially when you're a Jew, just 1.8 percent of the American population...and queer...Arrgh!!!

Gotta tell you though...I'm having a lot of fun reading the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins...just sayin'. It's easier when someone really smart and snarky is articulating all of the arguments so well!

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Thursday, April 05, 2007
PEPFAR, far away from effective prevention

This is my first post as part of Blog against Theocracy. Hope you like it - or don't like it. Or whatever. I encourage you to go to the site and see what else is up. Also, check back in here. My goal is to post all three days this weekend.


PEPFAR is the U.S. President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief. In May 2003, Congress approved a $15 billion dollar U.S. expenditure on HIV prevention and treatment. 3 billion is supposed to be spent on prevention programs. It is, in my opinion one of the most theocratic, far-reaching, fucked up Bush Administration policies. Here’s why:

  1. Just to start with, a major tenet of PEPFAR is ABC, otherwise known as the prevention model (in other words, it's for prevention-he he.).

    ABC stands for Abstinence, Be faithful, when necessary use Condoms. I like to say it stands for Arrogance Beyond Credence, Absolutely Bizarre Convictions or perhaps Absurdly Bigheaded Citizens (anyway, I'm sure you can come up with some better ones)

  2. This plan aims to teach people of the third world, the majority of whom do not speak English and for whom the cleverness of ABC means nothing, that in order to prevent HIV infection they must abstain from having sex, be maritally faithful or use condoms as a last resort. Of the 3 billion dollars spent, at least 33% of it MUST go to abstinence-until-marriage programs.
  3. Here’s why this is a problem.
    1. Abstinence is great if you’re into it. I’m not disparaging abstinence AT ALL. It does work. However, in context with human lives throughout the world where people:
      i. Have survival sex
      ii. Cannot deny sex to spouse in order to survive
      iii. Have cultural/religious obligation to have children
      iv. Have hormones like any other human on this planet
      it doesn't work for everyone. Duh.

Let’s take an example: Sarvati is married to Rupesh who has a good job as a truck driver. Sarvati has heard the warnings around town that many of the men who drive trucks see prostitutes but she cannot withhold sex from her husband (abstinence) and she is faithful. Some of the prevention specialists visit the truck stops to teach the ABCs but when they leave, some of the prostitutes get rid of the materials they have left because it hurts business for a while after the prevention specialists come though they do keep the condoms they have brought even though they get paid less for sex with a condom. In order to support their own families, they must get rid of the materials.

Rupesh does not visit the prostitutes though. When Rupesh is driving, he tries not to think about his wife or his home because he knows that they would be ashamed of him. Rupesh likes to have sex with men but this is culturally taboo. He is ashamed, but on the road, some of the men are like him and he doesn’t feel quite so bad. After all, he does love his wife and the sex he has when he is on the road is not the same as real sex.

When Rupesh arrives home, Sarvati asks him if he has ever visited a prostitute. He answers truthfully, no, he has not. She feels lucky that her husband is not like some of the others.

Lets take another, less complex example.

Akwe is 12 years old. She is an only child. Her parents are both living. They want her to be a teacher and they scrape all of their money together for her education. Akwe spends quite a lot of time studying because she loves learning, she wants to be a teacher and she knows how much her parents have sacrificed to send her to school. When her teacher demands sex in order to give her the passing marks she deserved, she feels she has no choice but to accept.

b. The GAO -- a non-partisan investigative arm of Congress -- analyzed the effects of the abstinence-until-marriage requirement. In the report, it found that it limited efforts to design prevention programs that actually met the needs of the local population. This was primarily the teams who had experience with HIV prevention programs.

Well, of course! You might say. Who else is getting funding except those with experience in HIV prevention? Funny you should ask. PEPFARs New Partners Initiative provides funding to community and faith-based programs for HIV prevention outreach. Ideally, partnerships would be with proven effective, evidence-based public health programs. If it was about meeting the needs of communities PEPFAR would be partnering with institutions that have technical expertise in evidence-based HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care, or expertise in poverty reduction, capacity building, reducing gender inequalities, reducing stigma and discrimination, and strengthening health systems.

However, this is not the case. Some of the organizations that have received funding include:
Choose Life - a program for church laity and pastors that advertises "In this programme you will explore knowledge, attitudes and perceptions about HIV and AIDS. You will be empowered to combat HIV and AIDS through ethical and spiritual conduct. You will discover how to transform your community into an ethical community." And all this for 200 Rand - about 10 x the daily average income for an average South African.

Beyond our country, our president is forcing religious morality down the throats of people who need, more than anything, facts. He is contributing to the deaths of thousands. I urge you to ask your Representatives to support the PATHWAY Act which would remove the abstinence-until-marriage earmark that requires that 1/3 of all international HIV prevention funding be spent on abstinence-until-marriage programs and ensure that HIV prevention programs are based on scientific evidence, public health practice, and human rights concerns, not ideology.

Ultimately (this here is my POINT) - If I had kids I'd want them to be perfect. I'm sure your kids are perfect as were your parents in teaching you how to avoid sex until the rings were firmly in place. However, some kids aren't perfect. Some parents are assholes. Some parents are not in the picture, some parents have died of AIDS and some parents have sex with their children to get their rocks off. Let's allow condom distribution for them. OK?

There's a c, d and at least e but I didn't want to write an entire journal article and besides, there's a ton of information out there for the browsing. For more concise, coherent and evidence based information, go to PEPFAR Watch.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

This weekend I'm participating in a frankly awesome event called a Blogswarm called Blog Against Theocracy.

It's not a blog against religion. In fact quite a majority of religious folks are participating.

It's really a bunch of folks sounding off against the rise of the religious right of all persuasions having an influence on our political landscape.

I've been preparing for weeks!

If you're interested in participating, check out Blue Gal who is running this shindig or First Freedom First, a non-affiliated organization that is dedicated to safeguarding the separation of church and state and protecting religious liberty.

Something all of us - atheist or believer - should be fighting for.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Passover redux
Last night was the first night of Passover. Seder with the family.

  • Two Grandmothers
  • One grandfather
  • One grandmother’s husband
  • mother
  • father
  • sister & niece
  • Mother’s first cousin, her husband and two children
  • brother (whose shirt had a collar!) and his girlfriend (who wasn’t wearing a PVC corset!)
  • Aunt & uncle (who are frankly, a little creepy)
  • 2 first cousins
  • One daughter of first cousin

I believe that is a grand total of 92 people. At least it seemed like it. I'm pretty sure I left out a few people. Elijah would not have fit at the table if he hadn't eaten in 5768 years. Ha ha. Jew joke.

I think about 67 of them asked how much weight I’ve lost and how I did it.

What is the recipe for this disaster?

First put at least 8 narcissists into a room with one 94 year old woman with Alzheimer’s disease and a 6 month old child who is teething. Add 3 other children under 12 and a haggadah. Try to keep them all quiet when reading the story of how Moses (oh Moses! Moses!) led the Jews out of slavery.

There you have it. The festival of dysfunction that is my family.

Favorite quote of the night: “When’s dinner and why aren’t there any crackers!?” from the 94 year old grandmother during the reading of the four questions. Very loudly. Maybe screaming.

Ma nishtanah ha’mishpacha hazeh mikol ha’mishpachot.

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Farmer’s wife
So I’ve been a-plantin’. My fab new house came with:
  • One peach tree
  • One pomegranate tree
  • One apricot tree
  • Rose bushes
  • One California Laurel
  • One Chinese Chestnut
  • And a big pile of dirt

This weekend I planted:

  • A strawberry patch
  • A pumpkin patch
  • A weeny little herb garden
  • One Meyer lemon tree
  • One Key Lime tree

All while the gay husband sat on the back porch watching me hoe the dirt, and calling me a farmer’s wife. And a hoe.

I’d like to know where the farmer is?

Oh yeah. He did plant some marigolds. Slut.

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Monday, April 02, 2007
Once we were slaves - Pesach 2007

It is the first night of Passover tonight. On this night, we are reminded that we were once slaves.

Though I ceased being a believer many years ago, I still connect very strongly to my Jewish identity. Jewish is who I am, where my roots are and how I formed my core beliefs.

I am an outsider, and an insider at the same time. Sure, there are plenty of non-practicing, secular Jews. Few of them are involved in the Jewish community. Though I don’t attend synagogue, I do keep up on Jewish goings-on. I lived in Israel and continue to study Judaism, even through the lens of atheism. It makes for an interesting take on our culture.

As a former trained student of Judaism and other religions (I have my degree in Religious studies with a minor in human sexuality – studied at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion [HUC-JIR] the reform Rabbinic school in Jerusalem), I can take the study of the laws both from a believer’s perspective (what G-d wants) to the fully academic perspective.

I keep up with a bunch of the big Jewish blogs, Jewlicious, Jewcy, Zeek and others. In so doing, I have come across some interesting debates. One of which is really sticking in my craw right about now. The issue is the one of Jewish natalism. The idea that procreation is a priority.

I will start out with the fact that procreation, on some level is indeed important. I’m sure I don’t need to say that without procreation, none of us would be here. OK. Having gotten that out of the way, my concern with natalism is the issue that women are charged with that particular task. Sure, men help. But there’s a t-shirt out there that says “my dad isn’t babysitting” for a reason. Men, in general, do not have primary responsibility for the raising of children.

Yes. There are indeed exceptions. I am going to talk about the rule.

A woman on one of these blogs bristled that another commenter delighted that the recent war in Lebanon made more babies because everyone was in bomb shelters with nothing else to do. The comments are a debate between, essentially those that believe that we should be having as many children as we can (look at how cute the kinderlach are after all!) and those that believe that Jewish women have somewhat less than full ownership of their reproductive organs.

In the orthodox Jewish community, giving birth to new Jewish children is of exceptional importance. It has gotten to the point among some Haredi, however, that women become baby-making machines and lose control over their reproductive rights entirely. How? They are adult women. They live in the U.S. or otherwise industrialized first world nations.

First off, birth control is allowed under Jewish law. Unfortunately, in Haredi communities, you have to have a sound medical reason for it though that is not necessarily Halachic rule. It always depends on how each individual rabbi or community interprets the law. If the only reason that you want to use birth control happens to be that you don’t want to raise a fifth child, this is unacceptable.

Frum women cannot use birth control without their husband’s o.k. That is forbidden. They can, however go talk to her rabbi and get a waiver to stop reproducing for a while. That’s right. Go to your rabbi and let him know that you can’t take it anymore. Basically admit, “I know all the other women in the community have managed to have eight children and be fine, just fine with it but I can’t do it.” Hmmm. How likely is that do you think?

Jews have lost a lot of generations due to the Holocaust, pogroms and various other anti-Semitic expulsions and eliminations. It is the position of many Haredi that they are remedying these events by having scores of children. After all, the Tanach says, “be fruitful and multiply”. What does that mean though? Is three not enough? Do we need to be procreating until our bodies and minds are so exhausted that the eldest are raising the youngest? Do we get a say at all?

G-d made women to have babies, the orthodox would say. That may be true. If we do use that supposition, then we also have to concede that G-d made men to haul heavy things. However, I have not recently seen any of the men in tzitzit and payes plowing their fields. Again, rule – not exception. I mean, have they even done their own gardening?

Procreation is important for the survival of any people. However, women must have the right not to be incubating slaves to our religion and the men who fill the Battei Din (Jewish legal system).

Again, I am not talking about women who choose to enter the life of orthodoxy and raise a family of six children. My mother wanted six children when she started being fruitful at the age of 23. By the third child however, she had changed her mind and as reform Jews, my parents had no Beit Din to consult, nor the pressure of the families around them reminding them that it was their responsibility to replenish the Jewish people. My parents had two people, each other, to consult. They decided when it was time to stop breeding.

Women around the world do not have the right to control their own bodies, who they sleep with, where and when and whether they produce children from that union. Women who have lost their reproductive rights include more than those in Congo who are raped at 7 years old, child brides in Afghanistan or women in China who have lost the right to have more than one child. It is right here, at the corner of Pico and Doheny that women are slaves.

Ma nishtanah ha'isha hazeh mikol ha'ishot?

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