Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Note About Biden

So many feminist bloggers have done a great job digging up details on Biden's mixed record. Thank you so much.

After I voted for Ralph Nader for president, I came to the ugly realization that no one whose political views really match my own has any chance whatsoever of even being elected dog-catcher.

I am too unlike the majority of Americans to ever see most of my views represented by any mainstream candidates.

And so, ever since my Nader years, I have sold out. For now.

I blog with enthusiasm about Obama and Biden not because I don't know or care about how disappointing they are to radical feminists and far leftists, myself included, but because, honestly, they are our next best hope.

Nader won't get elected. No one like him will. McKinney won't get elected.

I WANT A TICKET THAT CAN WIN - a ticket that is NOT four more years of Bush.

I have carefully reviewed a list of positions held by Obama, Biden, and McCain and I have concluded that Obama/Biden is at least 70% better than McCain overall.

I can't take another four years of conservative rule, where 100% of what they do keeps me so upset that sometimes I can't even get to sleep because I'm so frustrated and mad.

Yep, I learned that voting for Nader did nothing. At this point in my life, it's Obama/Biden all the way. Seventy percent good is WAY better than ZERO percent.

Thanks again to the bloggers who have written about this in so much detail. Great work!

P.S. I notice that PennyRed writing from England has also written recently about Labour being too conservative now and wondering where real liberals and radicals can now go on election day.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I Want my Biden

On the radio earlier today, Randi Rhodes said of the Obama / V.P. watch, "I know, it's like waiting for a baby to get born. I want my Biden. I want my Biden."

gun owner calls gun his "baby;" Biden says gun owner needs his head examined and mentions that he, Biden, wrote the assault weapons ban of the 1990s:"

Brian Williams asks Biden if he has learned to control his verbosity. Biden replies in one word.

Biden on red state dreams - reality check:

Biden on Iraq war and Bush incompetence - PISSED, PISSED, PISSED, PISSED

Biden with Bill Maher (funny; Maher makes Biden blush):

Biden on "The View" (he follows Jimmy Smitts; the women of "The View" had been discussing Smitts' "booty"):

Biden on violence against women; says introducing and passing the Violence Against Women Act is the most important achievement of his 32 years in the Senate:

Once a domestic violence victim steps out from the shadow of an abusive relationship, what does she need? Lawyers. Domestic violence victims are in dire need for legal help for everything from obtaining protection orders to arranging child custody to instigating divorce proceedings.

A national survey by the National Network to End Domestic Violence found that in just one 24-hour cycle, more than 5,000 pleas for services, be it emergency shelter, transitional housing or legal aid, were unmet because of a lack of resources. This shortage means that thousands of victims of domestic violence go without legal representation in this country every day. And in fact, reports indicate that fewer than 1 out of every 5 low-income domestic violence victims ever sees a lawyer.

It is vital that a victim have an advocate helping her when she steps out of the abuse for the first time. The very second a battered woman calls the Hotline, reaches out to the police or walks into a courtroom, we need to connect this courageous person with legal assistance. Victims walk out on a limb when they seek help, often risking their personal safety. These first calls for help are critical moments when a victim must feel supported; if she doesn't, she may retreat back into the abuse.

The single, most important legislative accomplishment in my 32-year-old career in the Senate is passing the Violence Against Women Act. After years of work, countless hours of hearings, pages of expert testimony and Senate floor debate, my Act passed in 1994. The law was renewed in 2000 and most recently expanded in 2005 when I worked to include new measures to treat children who witness violence, to increase housing opportunities and to create dedicated resources for rape crisis centers.

Recognizing that campus gates don't keep out abuse, stalking and sexual assault, the Violence Against Women Act also created a special $15 million program for colleges and universities to create campus-wide victim services and security programs. The Act has transformed the way police, prosecutors, judges and advocates tackle domestic violence in their communities, and infused more than $4 billion dollars to state systems to fight violence against women. In 2007 alone, Iowa received $1.3 million for domestic violence programs with police, prosecutors, judges and advocates. But we are not done.

In May, I introduced the National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act, legislation that, for the first time, creates a streamlined national system to recruit and train volunteer lawyers and match them with domestic violence victims. Using the power of the Internet, this nationwide network of attorneys will be coordinated by American Bar Association; statewide legal coordinators would manage legal services in their individual states, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Internet-based services would provide legal referrals to victims. The historic partnership forged in my bill will mean that enthusiastic potential advocates quickly and seamlessly will get linked to training and new clients. And at the same time, desperate victims will be referred to a statewide coordinator and quickly connected to a lawyer. I want to end the frustrating, and often fruitless, task of calling different agencies, offices, or groups, either to volunteer or find a lawyer.

I'm with Randi. I want my Biden.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Great Quote

Now, I’ve never been much of a joiner. As a whole, people in groups make me nervous. People in groups do things that they would never do on their own. On the upside, groups of people can feed the hungry, free political prisoners, and get medical marijuana legislation passed. On the downside, groups of people burn books, lynch people, and drive through the streets in limousines, grabbing their crotches, screaming “Do you want a piece of this?”

Shamelessly stolen from lipralp's lament

Senator Obama: Joe Biden, Please

I've been thinking for a while now that Biden would be a great V.P. choice because of his foreign policy experience. Tonight, I just realized the obvious! Biden would also be the perfect attack dog! Geez! He can go after the Repugs and say things Obama can't. Biden will say what needs to be said (yeah, I know, he used to have a problem with saying too much, but he's gotten much better; you could really see it during the primary debates).

thirty seconds of "fightin' Joe" (Rudy = a noun, a verb, and 9/11):

Please, Barack. I know you're Mr. Nice Guy. Let Biden go after 'em.

Who is Joe Biden?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cheating Husbands Bingo Card

Thinking of my crying sister and Elizabeth Edwards, who are both sick and both have husbands who just couldn't wait.
I made a terrible mistake. It was a lapse in moral judgment.You're too controlling / sickly / busy.Everyone knows I love my wife, who is beautiful / smart / the best.It was so flattering. I couldn't help it.I guess I wasn't sure I wanted to be married anymore.
I fucked her, but I didn't love her.

I thought I loved her, but I didn't fuck her.

You know you're the only one for me, baby.
I guess I thought I just didn't deserve you.

Well, she wanted it. I kind of felt sorry for her.
I guess I was jealous that you were becoming so successful.Really, my family means everything to me.
“I don't know …”
It only happened once.I don't know why it happened. I only know it won't happen again.
It isn't you, baby, it's me.

This is the first time it's ever happened.

I was drunk / stoned / sad / lonely / depressed.

I didn't feel close to you since the baby came / your mother died / you started school.It has nothing to do with our life together.

I guess I was starting to feel old. It was flattering.

I tried breaking it off, but she kept calling me, like "Fatal Attraction."
I had her hang out with us so she could see how happily married I am.
You KNEW our marriage was unhappy at the time. What did you expect?Hey, wait, it's sexist for you to point out that all the men you know have done it!

(with credit to Hoyden About Town, who did the "anti-feminist bingo" games.)

The Price of Pleasure - The Movie

"The Price of Pleasure"


The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships

Directed and Produced by Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun Co-Writer and Associate Producer: Robert Wosnitzer

Once relegated to the margins of society, pornography has become one of the most visible and profitable sectors of the cultural industries in the United States. It is estimated that the pornography industry's annual revenue has reached $13 billion. At the same time, the content of pornography has become more aggressive, more overtly sexist and racist.

The film features the voices of consumers, critics, and pornography producers and performers. It is particularly revealing when male pornographers openly discuss their views about women and how men should relate to them, and when male and female porn users candidly discuss the role pornography has played in shaping their sexual imaginations and relationships. Honest and nonjudgmental, the film paints both a nuanced and complex portrait of how pleasure and pain, commerce and power, and liberty and responsibility are intertwined in the most intimate aspects of human relations.

At the same time, the film examines the unprecedented role that commercial pornography now occupies in U.S. popular culture. Going beyond the debate of liberal versus conservative so common in the culture, The Price of Pleasure provides a holistic understanding of pornography as it debunks common myths about the genre.

The film features interviews with scholars of mass media (Gail Dines and Robert Jensen), economics (Richard Wolff), and psychology (Dr. Ana Bridges); writers on pornography and popular culture (Ariel Levy and Pamela Paul); producers and performers from the pornography industry (John Stagliano, Joanna Angel and Ernest Greene); and a former stripper/porn performer-turned-author (Sarah Katherine Lewis).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Very Self-Indulgent Fortieth Birthday Post

(this started out as a response to a comment and grew to become its own blog entry; please forgive the self-indulgence of this piece)

Hi, Leigh!

Thanks much for the birthday wishes.

I wish I could say I am taking the whole "40" thing in stride, that I am proudly ready to enter some wonderful wise-woman stage of life, that I'm excited to become an "old woman who wears purple," join the red hat club, and all of that (dear god, I just realized, I really AM now eligible to have lunch with my aunt's red hat club!).

I'm now remembering how, years ago, I asked my grandmother if she felt "wiser" as she was getting older. She laughed heartily and said, "No, honey, I still don't know a damn thing." My mother too has said for years that she is still waiting to "feel like a grownup, let alone a middle aged woman."

That pretty much sums up how I'm feeling. I don't feel much wiser, really. Maybe a bit, in some ways, but definitely still so lost in others, you know? I get it that growth continues until one reaches the grave, so I am not SUPPOSED to feel like I'm THERE yet (because one is never THERE), but I guess I thought that by age forty, I would feel more sure of things, more settled, that old wounds would have healed and been forgotten by now - but I find they are still there and they still require my attention sometimes. One might think that by 40, I would have by now made peace with a childhood that included domestic violence and a kidnapping at age 7 that included promises from my father to me that if my mother found us, he would kill her; put sexual assault well behind me and become confident and sure about my own sexuality, with both boundaries against what I don't want and confidence about what I do want; overcome depression permanently (what Hurricane Katrina and my negligent government did to my beloved New Orleans certainly hasn't helped); have figured out what I really want next as far as my twenty-two year marriage to a dear friend who has also been an unfaithful and therefore hurtful husband; have gotten my legal career launched and settled (when post-Katrina depression has delayed my finishing law school); have gone beyond the volunteer work I've done and really somehow changed the world (so I've worked at women's shelters and done other stuff like that, and yet every day the violence against us continues; I've attended every peace rally around, gotten myself and friends a government file as confirmed by the ACLU, and even slept outside George Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, with Cindy Sheehan, yet still the war goes on and on); have some money in savings (especially money of my OWN).

Forty has snuck up on me. I remember when I was a teenager older folks told me that the older you get, the faster time flies. But you still just don't get it until you get older.

I can't believe how quickly these last few years have flown by.

How is it possible I've really been here for forty years? And I'm still not anybody really and I still don't know all that much....

Sigh...maybe that is the point of getting older. If I remember correctly, when I was a teenager and young adult, I thought I knew a hell of a lot. Maybe part of the work of growing older is learning how much you don't know. Well, if that's the agenda, then maybe I AM where I'm supposed to be.

I guess part of the angst about this birthday is that I'm worried it means the ride is closer to the end than the beginning - and I really fucking love the ride. I look over my many, many genealogy charts, the names of all those Cajun and Irish women, most of whom had at least a dozen children and almost all of whom buried at least a few of them, who lived and loved and now exist only in my genealogy charts and in my daughter's DNA, and I think how their lives were as real to them as mine is now to me.

Well, the joke goes, you know why genealogists die with smiles on their faces? Because they know they've filled in another square on the family chart.

At least I still look young, which (pardon my vanity here) suddenly matters to me this birthday for some weird reason. Last week, I told the stepmother of my daughter's friend about my upcoming birthday and she said, "Forty? I never would have guessed! I thought you were my age, and I'm twenty seven" (and I said, "Uh, I've been married for twenty two years, so to be your age, I would have to have gotten married at age five - and I didn't, although that's how it feels sometimes). My husband agreed that I could pass for twenty seven. It makes sense. At sixty, my grandmother hardly looked forty. At eighty, she hardly looked sixty. Now, at ninety, she has only JUST started to look like an old lady.

Grandma at ninety years old:

my blog entry on Grandma as an example of "real beauty"

And my mother got carded well into her forties. When I was in my mid-teens and she was in her mid-thirties, we'd go shopping and store clerks would say to my mother, "Oh, how sweet, you took your little sister out for the day." Even now, she doesn't look sixty. When her students learn she has three children - one as old as forty - as well as nine grandchildren - one as old as eighteen - they are shocked. Word spreads quickly among that year's crop of freshmen - "Can you believe it? You know the English teacher, Ms. K, you know who I mean, the flower child one - man, she has grandkids older than we are!"

Looks aside though, I am beginning to feel like a car whose warranty expires and suddenly has a dozen little mechanical problems - constant neck pain, prolapsed uterus, diabetes, fatty liver, Barrett's esophagus and hietal hernia (which means acid reflux and quite an increased risk of getting cancer of the esophagus, for which I have to get a scope check yearly), fillings from childhood that the dentist wants to replace that I can't afford to have done...blah, blah, blah. No one told me I was going to have a bunch of little health problems already. What the hell? Although...well, I should remember to be glad that they are only small problems. It's just the range of them that is surprising me.

So, for this weekend, Mr.Me surprised me with reservations at a New Orleans hotel at which I have always dreamed of staying. We used to drive by it when I was a kid, and I was just in awe. When I was engaged, we booked our wedding reception in their ballroom - although we ended up just having a small wedding instead because we weren't able to save the money we needed for a big wedding. He was in the military, living in the barracks in California, and blowing through all of his salary going out drinking with the guys. On the other hand, I was still in high school, working part-time at K-Mart, and had built up $150 in my little Pelican Homestead savings account (Is Pelican even around anymore? I hate it that Hibernia is now Capitol One, dammit!). So, we ended up not getting married at that hotel, but I've still drooled every time I've passed it over the years. We'll be staying there for two nights - turns out it's a bit more expensive than our usual Motel 6 but really not nearly as expensive as I had always imagined - and going out in the French Quarter and Marigny.

I got crazy and bought an outfit for this weekend that is NOT the kind of thing I normally wear at all - a short plaid pleated skirt and a matching kind of corset looking top (good god, I was supposed to be shopping for the kid when I was in Hot Topic, not for myself!). I emailed friends and family asking if it was ridiculous to wear something really crazy for my fortieth birthday and sent them a link to the outfit online. Without exception, everyone told me to go for it. It is, after all, for wearing to the French Quarter. In that context, it's pretty darn modest.

Yes, this quite possibly makes me a bad radical feminist.

Ah, well, at least I haven't done anything crazier than buy a wild outfit to flirt with feeling ridiculously youthful looking. Some people - ahem - have mid-life crises and have affairs. I would never do anything that involved a third party or hurt anyone just for my ego.

Hopefully, after my birthday, I'll start the process of making peace with middle age. Hopefully, soon, I'll get closer to becoming a wise woman crone who doesn't look in the mirror for those (still nonexistent) wrinkles. And I'll be a better radical feminist for it.

This weekend though, I rebel.

And as for the new outfit, well, this is New Orleans, thank god, so I can always wear it for Mardi Gras and fit right in!

The Death Clock

I wasn't being morbid about my birthday, I swear, but I was updating my links and came across the death clock

Given my weight, gender, and the fact that I don't smoke, my estimated date of death is 2047. Not so bad!

I plugged in my husband's stats and his estimated date of death is 2031 - sixteen years before mine.

No comment.

I'm Voting Republican Because...

This is very funny. Really.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I'm not going to type his full name here (because it turns out he is now googling himself and getting off on all the attention he's getting in the feminist blogosphere), but most of you already know about he-who-will-not-be-named, he who spent much time masquerading as an anti-porn activist, pro-feminist, and rape victim advocate and has now pled guilty to the unthinkable. I was away from the computer for two months, so I am hearing about this late.

Years ago, I quoted to Mr.Me something a guy in one of my Women's Studies classes had said. Mr.Me was surprised that there were any men in such a class and told me, "He's just there to get laid."

At the time, I was furious with Mr.Me. Now I realize he was guilty of nothing more than telling the depressing truth.

I attended the Stop Porn Culture conference six months ago in Austin. I can not adequately express how disgusted I am - both because of Payne's behavior and my own utter lack of suspicion. I guess I should have known that Mr.Me knows all about these things from a male perspective and that somebody like Payne indeed was up to no good.

During that three day conference, we viewed graphic slideshows showing how women are depicted and exploited in pornography and in advertising. We had discussions that were rather personal in nature, especially outside the conference room. We hung out together in the hallways, outside the building late at night before heading back to our hotels, and during lunch and rest breaks. We discussed things like rape and rape prevention, protecting children, women and body image, and we brainstormed about activism.

There were only - I'm pretty sure - four men present.

Now I find out that one of them had child pornography on his computer and had - I believe before the conference - been charged with assault for touching and photographing an intoxicated young woman he had been asked - as a college R.A. - to escort safely to her dorm room (being the pro-feminist, anti-porn rape crisis counselor and oh-so sensitive truthworthy dood that he was).

Recently, as he prepared to plead guilty, he emailed his sick pity-party confession to hundreds of feminist bloggers, like he's apparently expecting - hoping - to someday possibly be welcomed back into his old clique again. For the record, Payne, if you and I end up sitting around the same conference table again, one of us is gonna end up gettin' shown to the door.

Then it turns out that he's reading over all the comments about himself at all these feminist blogs, spending hours doing it like the self-obsessed ass he is.

Dude, you really make me sick.

For some reason, this makes me remember a Roseanne episode in which Jackie's boyfriend Fisher had beaten her. Roseanne tells him, "You know, I'm a pretty good judge of people, which is why I don't like none of 'em, but you really slipped beneath my radar. I liked you. And that really pisses me off."

I remember standing outside the conference building talking to a woman who, like me, was married to someone who had used pornography but had eventually realized it was wrong and given it up. Like me, she had for years been okay with pornography until she saw what it was doing in her own life and began to understand what it was doing in others' lives. I actually stood there and told her, "If I end up leaving my marriage, I will never again be involved with any man unless he is truly a feminist activist. I mean, he would have to really get it. He would have to be someone so committed that he would decide to attend a conference like this - you know, like the couple of guys who are here this weekend."

I am an idiot. Somebody just smack me.

Now, courtesy of Payne, I'm revising that night's statement. If I end up leaving my marriage, I will never again be romantically involved with any male person.

That's it.

Even the members of dood nation who show up for anti-porn conferences aren't necessarily the real deal.

Even the guy I married wasn't necessarily the real deal (although he is doing some training with these issues, I don't trust how deep that really goes). He too has always been seen as oh-so sensitive and sweet by every woman he meets.

Individual members of privileged groups should never, ever be completely trusted by members of oppressed groups. Never - not even if they, like Payne, manage to talk a good game. Never.

And I say that as a white person too. I try my best when it comes to racism, but I, of course, always have the option of taking a break from that fight, of choosing not to fight if it's inconvenient for me at that moment. In other words, I am privileged, and because I am privileged, I can not, should not, be completely trusted as an ally.

I heard somewhere about a group of native American activists in Washington State who were mobiling around a particularly urgent issue and found that several white would-be allies were offering assistance and attending some organizing meetings. The original members of the group decided to tell the white attendees that if they really wanted to help, what they could do was provide free childcare so that 1) as many native Americans as possible could attend, 2) white allies could actually be involved, but by doing support work rather than leadership, and 3) native Americans would be in charge of their own activism.

Maybe this should have been the only role for someone like he-who-shall-not-be-named at a Stop Porn Culture conference. Instead of sitting at a conference table doing his oh-so sensitive pro-feminist male routine, convincing an idiot like me that he's the rare man who gets it (when am I gonna learn???), he should have only been allowed a support role, like making coffee and picking up conference room trash at the end of the day.

I had thought that having male allies against pornography was important, because, after all, when women make the case against pornography, we get called uptight bitches who just need a good fucking. Andrea Dworkin, in a speech to "men's movement" men said the following:

What's involved in doing something about all of this? The men's movement seems to stay stuck on two points. The first is that men don't really feel very good about themselves. How could you? The second is that men come to me or to other feminists and say: "What you're saying about men isn't true. It isn't true of me. I don't feel that way. I'm opposed to all of this."

And I say: don't tell me. Tell the pornographers. Tell the pimps. Tell the warmakers. Tell the rape apologists and the rape celebrationists and the pro-rape ideologues. Tell the novelists who think that rape is wonderful. Tell Larry Flynt. Tell Hugh Hefner. There's no point in telling me. I'm only a woman. There's nothing I can do about it. These men presume to speak for you. They are in the public arena saying that they represent you. If they don't, then you had better let them know.

Then there is the private world of misogyny: what you know about each other; what you say in private life; the exploitation that you see in the private sphere; the relationships called love, based on exploitation. It's not enough to find some traveling feminist on the road and go up to her and say: "Gee, I hate it."

Say it to your friends who are doing it. And there are streets out there on which you can say these things loud and dear, so as to affect the actual institutions that maintain these abuses. You don't like pornography? I wish I could believe it's true. I will believe it when I see you on the streets. I will believe it when I see an organized political opposition. I will believe it when pimps go out of business because there are no more male consumers.

You want to organize men. You don't have to search for issues. The issues are part of the fabric of your everyday lives.***

So, as Andrea said, it would, I knew, require men to convince men if they were to be convinced at all. As Andrea said, "I'm only a woman." And women in the patriarchy can't convince men ourselves - because we just get dismissed. No, I figured, we would need male allies in this fight.

But then look what happens when someone like a Payne does show up at conferences pretending to be an ally.

I don't know. Maybe they should attend if they want to and listen but not be allowed to speak - and this guy definitely did speak. Fucker.

I can't decide. I'm not even making any sense. I just know I'm pissed off because, as Roseanne put it, "You slipped right under my radar. I liked you, and that pisses me off."

Well, anti-porn conference attending doodz, as George Bush would say, "Fool me once, can't get fooled again."

***source: Take Back the Day: I Want a 24-Hour Truce During Which There is no Rape

Memo: Sisters Know How to do it for Themselves

Female Orgasm and the Need for a new Definition of Sex


The Hite Report on Female Sexuality presents a large body of research showing that women can easily reach orgasm. The report documents, in women's own voices, how women reach orgasm privately through masturbation. The great majority of women can masturbate to orgasm and do not use penetration during masturbation. The report shows that women do not have a problem reaching orgasm, but rather that society does have a problem in accepting how women reach orgasm. Society insists that women try to have orgasm during intercourse or coitus, even though this is not the easiest way for them to reach orgasm. Clearly, they do not use vaginal stimulation or penetrate themselves during masturbation.

via anji at shut up, sit down

McCain's Mansions : The Real Elitist

From Brave New Films

More from Robert Greenwald at Brave New Films: The Real McCain

And my mother, a Democrat for Hillary, told me last week that Obama is an elitist. I told her about him trying to attend the 2000 convention and having his credit card rejected, how he owed lots of student loans until two years ago when his books became best-sellers, how as a child Michelle and her family lived in a one room apartment. So then my mom got sarcastic and said, "Okay, you're right. He owed student loans so he's wonderful, he's a god, and he'll be a great president." Uh-no. The point I successfully made was not that he's wonderful or a god but simply that he was not elitist - certainly no more so than Bill Clinton, and she adores Bill Clinton.

Yet again, whatever mental acrobatics it takes to avoid voting for a black man, Mother (see previous post on the old family plantation - I guess the family has moved away from River Road, but we haven't really moved away from the plantation, have we, Mother?).

Sarandon - PSAs on Child Molestation

Susan is gutsy.

Uncle Al:

Coach Sanders:


"Trouble The Water" in September

From We Could be Famous blog

People really should start getting excited about Trouble the Water, which will play at Canal Place starting in September. It's follows a 9th ward family that actually began filming their own little documentary of the water rising. If you don't see it you hate New Orleans and hate America.

I was actually privileged enough to see a screening of the film at Netroots Nation and will testify that it is incredible. Their work is the real-deal and will almost undoubtedly be nominated for best doc at the Oscars.

When I saw that it was made by the producers of Fahrenheit 911, I was a little bit concerned that our tragedy would nothing more than a Bush-bashing flick. Yet, Tia Lesson and Carl Deal don't do that at all. Reality bashes Bush and they didn't really have to draw and lines of connection or assign responsibility or blame. Instead, we get to see the personal strength of our neighbors in the face of the administration's malicious neglect of our region.

It's a big winner in my eyes, though painful to watch on an emotional level - how could it not be?

Thanks. I will be there!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olbermann Rocks, Part 387

Commenting on the Edwards affair (pun intended), Rush Limbaugh suggested that perhaps John couldn't keep his pants zipped because his wife is just too bossy.

Then, he said, "Maybe Edwards was attracted to the other woman because she knew how to use her mouth to do something other than talk."

In response, Keith Olbermann calls him a "hole" and does a whole rant about Limbaugh being afraid of "intelligent women."

The "yes-yes-yes, hell-yes" stuff begins at minute three:

I heart you, Keith.

You're the only real truthteller on the networks.

A Modest Request of Cheating Husbands, Part II

Last week, I made my first modest request of cheating husbands.

Prompted by Elizabeth Edwards' brother's statement that John Edwards "revealed the details of the affair to his wife slowly and only gradually," I offer my second installment.

Okay, here's the thing. Have you ever removed a band-aid that was really stuck to your skin? You know how if you try to peel it off slowly, it just hurts more, so you have to go ahead and just rip real fast?

It's kind of like that, the "oops-honey-I-broke-our-wedding-vows" thing.

If you confess what there is to confess and get it over with, the ripping is done and the processing of the pain from that ripping may begin.

If, on the other hand, you try denying it for a while when it's clear you've been busted, then you try to reveal as little as possible for as long as possible, then only gradually admit to worse and worse details, that's like ripping off the band-aid an inch a month over many months.

Do you understand yet?

First it's "Oh, no, there's nothing going on - really."

Then it's, "Okay, well, yes, I did have sex with her. But it was just once. I'm not even sure why I went over there. But I felt so guilty about it, I got the hell out of there and never went back."

Then it turns out that it happened more than once, multiple times.

Then it turns out that he had the children around this woman (or perhaps the whole family)***; that he snuck away from a big family reunion to meet this woman; that he was talking to her months before he's previously admitted that it all started; that he was still seeing her months after he's previously claimed he'd stopped; that he told her things about his wife and marriage that are hurtful and horrifying; that although he's been claiming it was "only sex," he did indeed lead this woman on in other ways (Memo: if you're bitching to another woman about your marriage and you're fucking that woman, most likely she doesn't think this is "just sex;" she thinks you may be considering actually leaving your marriage. Why are you shocked to learn she actually thought you might be "available" when you are, after all, out bitching about your wife and fucking someone else? To many women, these things do not signal "committed" - big shocker. Quit pretending to be oh-so fucking shocked when you learn that your girlfriend actually thinks you might divorce your wife, okay? Expect that.). Then maybe it turns out that his claims that he always (I was tempted to write "religiously" or "faithfully" here, then I realized how out of place these words would be) used condoms were lies.

With political scandals, we so often hear media pundits say, "It's not so much the crime as it's the coverup."

This is also the case with adultery. How fucking hard is it to get this through your heads???

So, my modest request, part II is as follows: once you're busted or you have, for whatever reason, decided to confess, confess it all. Period. Anything less is, for your wife, death by a thousand cuts because every time she starts to think maybe she's recovering, she finds out still more horrifying shit she didn't know about. Just confess in full when you confess.

Thank you.

***I have seen this happen in at least half a dozen cases with people I know, where it turns out that a cheating husband allowed his family to end up in the same place with his "girlfriend." Recently, since it's now happened to both of us (my sister just recently, which is why the subject came up), my sister and I were trying to figure out this particular salt-in-the-wound pathology. What the hell is that about? Excitement from the danger of getting caught? An ego stroke from having both women right there, together? My brother-in-law actually claims he was hoping for his wife to catch on so she could somehow stop him, stop the other woman, that he was hoping that when this woman saw him with his wife, she would leave him alone (odd, since he was always the one pursuing her!)...WTF? My cousin reports that she later realized that she had apparently served fried chicken and fresh lemonade, in her home, to her husband's "girlfriend." Okay, then, I guess I need a modest request of cheating husbands, Part III: Please do not, if you can help it, allow your wife and your "girlfriend" to end up in the same room together.

To recap:

A. First, just don't cheat on your wife

And then:

1. Don't babble about how wonderful your wife is once you've gotten caught. It only makes it worse.

2. Don't hold back bits of information so that each new revelation hurts your wife all over again, every time she thinks she's recovering. It only makes it worse.

3. If you can possibly avoid it, do not allow your wife and your "girlfriend" to end up in the same room together. Once your wife finds out that this happened, it will only make her want to murder you in your sleep.

Thank you for your understanding in this matter,
one of you fuckers' wives

Random Observations on News Items

First, I can't wait until the Olympics are over. I won't watch some grand pageant from human rights abuser China, yet everywhere I try to watch or read news, it seems to be all Olympics all the time. Yawn.

So, celebrity chef Julia Child (follow previous link to a very fun short video of her!) was, it turns out, a spy. How cool is that! My daughter really wants to be a spy. She also really wants to be a chef! It's just too bad she's too young to know who Child was. Maybe I'll find get film footage somewhere and show it to her. I don't know if she'll really watch though. I seem to be becoming less cool in her eyes every week.

In England, a man has been banned from his girlfriend's apartment because they were too noisy during sex. I have a friend in the Pacific Northwest, where his home, like most homes there, does not have air conditioning. One summer evening, he was making love to a new acquaintance who turned out to be very loud. Having taken a break and resumed their love making, they heard his next door neighborhood yell up to the second story window, "All right, enough already, huh? Some of us have kids out here." He had forgotten that the window was open! Oops.

NBC News just reported what we all already knew. A study out today says that shit is getting really expensive. I knew potatoes shouldn't be $4 a bag! It turns out that the price of potatoes has risen 20%, bananas 20%, and rice a whopping 35%. A chain of dollar stores in California is going to start charging more than a dollar for the items it sells (I remember when the "dollar show" near me had to raise its movie ticket prices to $2.50. After that, we never could figure out what to call it - "...the dollar show...the used-to-be-dollar-show...the $2.50 show..."). The report says prices have increased at the highest rate in 17 years while wages have increased at their lowest rate in 18 years. Wages have fallen 3%. Seventeen percent of the homes on the market are there because the owner is going through foreclosure.

But, hey, what the fuck, let's just keep focusing on politics as playtime because that's what the media wants to do - and what the Republican party needs us to do. They have no ideas. They offer working Americans nothing except perhaps many more years of military enlistment as a career option. No help with health care. No end to George Bush's war. No restoration of our shredded Constitution. No plan to pay down the national debt so our leaders could openly criticize China's human rights record, which they should be doing right now but can't because we are now the world's biggest debtor nation and our national credit card has "Bank of the People's Republic of China" imprinted on it.

No, they offer more offshore drilling leases to the oil companies, even though the oil companies already hold leases on lots of federal land on which they aren't bothering to drill (meaning this isn't about drilling but rather about land-grabbing) and there are hundreds of wells in the Gulf off the Louisiana coast that are perfectly viable but are currently capped; even though it would take decades to drill enough new oil sources to affect prices; even though continuing to find new sources to feed our current addiction will do nothing to solve the climate crisis; even though if the oil companies do get their new leases, the American steel industry has been so thoroughly decimated that our country now lacks the means to build new oil rigs promptly anyway; and even though, as a Baton Rouge caller to the Ed Schultz show pointed out the other day, those of us here in Louisiana already know that offshore oil drilling jobs are definitely not McJobs. The work is brutally tough. Country singer Trace Adkins, who was an ordinary blue-collar Louisiana boy before becoming an "overnight" success in his forties, has talked about working offshore and actually sweating black from the oil. A taste of what the life is like from his song "Missing You:"

An hour into my shift
I'm covered from head to toe
Drilling oil from the bottom
Of the Gulf of Mexico
Sun's on the rise
Sweat rolling black down my face
Work until I can't move
Another back-breaking typical day

I've weathered waterspouts and hurricanes
Hailstorms and driving rain
And missing you
I've worked through broken drills
And busted hands
Weeks without seeing dry land
And missing you
I'll work as hard as any man
But until I'm home with you again
The toughest thing out here
That I go through is
Missing you

I lay down on my bed
And stare at the picture of you
Barefoot on the beach
Looking at me the way you do
I fall asleep with your letter in my hands
Dream about you until
That ol' whistle starts screaming again

(repeat chorus)
Ill work as hard as any man
But until I'm home with you again
The toughest thing out here
That I go through is
Missing you

Yeah, so let's just go find a bunch more people to work on those rigs, right away! It is dangerous and difficult. Injury rates are so high that some Louisiana attorneys just specialize in such cases. It requires weeks at a time away from home and is notoriously destructive to family life. Still, people (men? I think it's all men) take those jobs because they pay well and that was the Schultz caller's main point - these are highly skilled jobs. If there were to suddenly be a bunch of new oil rigs, where would the oil companies suddenly find enough qualified offshore workers to get them going? This is not a field in which an employer just goes to Manpower and hires a crew of day laborers! So, it would take time to find lots more workers, time to get the steel industry able to build the rigs, time for new refineries to be ready, and years for the oil from new sources to hit the market and possibly affect the prices. And this is an energy policy?

But the games continue in the political arena. From Senator Kerry came the following email today:

The Liars Are Back:

Pick up the New York Times this morning and read the headline: "Book on Obama Hopes to Repeat Anti-Kerry Feat."

Yes, Jerome Corsi, the right wing fringe author who made his bones smearing the Catholic Church and lying about my military record, is back atop the best seller list with an anti-Obama book chock full of lies.

If your blood isn't boiling yet, read this: "This is a fact: Today Barack Obama is subject to what is probably the greatest concentrated attacks of smears, lies and innuendo in the lifetime of anyone who reads these words."

Those are the words of Brent Budowsky in Editor and Publisher. He knows what he's talking about.

And it's not just Barack: up and down the ticket and all across the country, the rightwing smear machine is ramping up attacks on Democrats.

We've seen this movie before. The Republicans, without ideas, start running a negative campaign filled with personal attacks and misleading ads. The attacks get condemned, but they get lots of attention and get played on TV endlessly.

Kerry then goes on to say that he is starting a new website:

We're launching a new website that empowers you to fight back across the country in ways no campaign has attempted. It's called truthfightsback.com, and we can use all the help you can give.

By signing up, you'll stay on top of what the rightwing is doing and help fight for the truth. And you can report smears when you see them to keep us on track on what the smear machine is up to at every moment. You will be our eyes and ears.

We know the game, we've learned some things, and we have a fired up movement of activists like no party has had in decades, all networked together with great Internet tools.

So sign up to help. This is a massive undertaking, so we need your help to pull it off....

You can't just play defense against smears, pointing out how they aren't true. You've got to play offense, too, exposing the whole cynical game for what it is: an attempt to keep us from talking about the real issues and ultimately changing our country for the better.

The Republicans have nothing to run on, no ideas to push, no solutions for America. They'll run a campaign of laughable gimmicks and outright distortions and lies. But we can fight back with the truth - and the truth can win this time.

Let's do it.


John Kerry

See Senator Kerry confront Senator Kyl on live television, demanding to know what the hell the Paris Hilton celebrity attack ad has to do with anything important:

The AP tells us about the new book by "swiftboater" Corsi:

Jermone Corsi's anti-Obama book, "The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality," claims the Illinois senator is a dangerous, radical candidate for president. The book is a compilation of all the innuendo and false rumors against Obama — that he was raised a Muslim, attended a radical, black church and secretly has a "black rage" hidden beneath the surface....

Corsi's book is off to a swift start and is No. 1 on The New York Times' hardcover nonfiction best-seller list, even though Obama's campaign would argue the book should be listed as fiction.

Obama's campaign says the book is full of factual inaccuracies that include the wrong date for the Obamas' marriage. Corsi also writes that Obama left much of his family background out of his autobiographies — his father's polygamy and alcoholism, his sister's birth in Indonesia and that his then-fiance Michelle accompanied him on a visit to Kenya — but the campaign points out page numbers from "Dreams From My Father" where Obama discussed all those things.

In "The Obama Nation" — the title is a twist on the word abomination — Corsi catalogs various allegations that have haunted Obama on right-wing blogs and anonymous e-mails.

Corsi suggests, without a shred of proof, that Obama may be using drugs today. Obama has acknowledged using marijuana and cocaine as a teenager but says he quit when he went to college and hasn't used drugs since.

Corsi makes an issue of the fact that, before he quit smoking cigarettes, Obama didn't want it widely known that he smoked. "If Obama takes pains to hide his smoking from us, what else does he take pains to hide?" Corsi asks in the book.

He smoked cigarettes? Oh my god. I wonder what's really in that Nicorette gum he's been chomping on the campaign trail! Maybe it's really some halucenogenic!

Corsi also dwells on Obama's mother marrying Obama's African father and later marrying someone from Indonesia — whom Corsi describes as "a second man of color to be her mate." The Obama campaign says the description is one of many examples of Corsi's "offensive language" in the book....

Before I comment further, I probably should admit that my mother has been married - at different times, of course - to three different white men! Three of them - can you believe it? And my father has been married - at different times, of course - to three different white women. I really hope people of color aren't offended by that! Oh, and there was alcoholism and abuse involved in some of those marriages too - just tring to be totally honest. I hope no people of color get the wrong idea. There are some white men who are decent husbands and fathers. Just because my white father beat my mother, was a drunk, dressed in drag and kidnapped me, psychologically tortured his children, was unfaithful, and refused to ever pay a dime of child support for the three children he fathered doesn't mean all white men are like that. I promise - some are pretty decent, you know, especially if genuine economic opportunities are available to them.

He accuses Obama of wanting to weaken the military even though Obama's campaign calls for adding 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Corsi defended raising the issue of drugs without any evidence.

"I don't need more," he said. "I'm putting this question forward. I'm putting the evidence forward. Voters can make up their own minds."

Corsi writes for World Net Daily, a conservative Web site whose lead headline Thursday was "Astonishing photo claims: Dead Bigfoot stored on ice." In a series of Web posts several years ago, Corsi said Pope John Paul II was senile and unconcerned about sexual molestation of boys, referred to Islam is "a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion" and suggested Kerry was secretly Jewish.

Corsi apologized for the remarks and now says he didn't mean them and was simply trying to provoke discussion.

"Obama Nation" is published by Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster that is run by Mary Matalin, the former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Corsi readily acknowledges the political goal of his book. He considers Obama a "radical leftist" who should not be elected president. Corsi said he has no plans to work against Obama with groups comparable to 2004's Swift Boat Veterans for Truth but said he would be willing to consider it....

Hey, man, you say "radical leftist" like it's a bad thing!

Here is camp Obama's forty page rebuttal in pdf format.

For a minute, I thought it couldn't be true that this trash is number one on the New York Times bestseller list, but it is.

Did I mention that potatoes are $4 a bag, that the price of rice is up 35%, that 17% of all homes for sale are there because of foreclosure, and that wages are down 3%? Oh, and it now takes $50 to fill up my little Hyundai.

Play on.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"They" Aren't Supposed to Live in the WHITE House, Right?

(All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. A reader has informed me that the photos were throwing the text out of line, with photos sometimes covering part of my text. Very frustrating! So, I've reduced the size of all the photos. Hopefully that will help. Now, they're just too small to really see while reading through, so you may have to click on individual photos & enlarge them that way. Damn blogger!)

When I was a child, a teacher of mine, learning that I aspired to be a doctor, warned me that because I was a girl, I could only hope to become a nurse. Soon after that, I was with several family members at a reception for Democratic party volunteers when my mother, outraged by my teacher's comment, introduced herself to Congresswoman Lindy Boggs and told her the story. The congresswoman did exactly what my mother hoped she would do - encouraged me to think that girls could aspire to do and be anything. As my mother tells it, "Lindy Boggs, in a navy skirt and navy stockings, knelt down, getting white chalky floor dust on her stockings. She took your little face in her hands and told you that she was a girl AND a member of Congress and that YOU could be anything too - not just a nurse, but even a doctor." And so, over the years, I have paid attention to the Boggs family, including the life and work of Lindy's daughter, Cokie Roberts.

Unfortunately, Roberts seems to become more of a flake every year. Check out this latest. Roberts, asked about Obama vacationing in Hawaii, says that although she understands Obama went to high school there and has a grandmother there, it still is an "odd" choice for his vacation because it will make him seen too "exotic" to voters.

And she had said this twice in the last two days. Does she not know Hawaii is just part of the United States?

Hey, Cokie, why are you spouting Republican talking points about Obama being "exotic" (which is code for "black")? Are you yet another fair-skinned daughter of the old South (and it's not just fair-skinned daughters of the South, actually) who just can not, will not vote for a black man? I know maman was born at Brunswick Plantation in Pointe Coupee and that papa, Congressman Hale Boggs, was a signer of the Southern Manifesto (which, in response to Brown v Board of Education, condemned desegregation), opposed the 1964 Voting Rights Act, and that decades before that, he had led the movement to break the power of populist Huey Long and Long's political machine. Is it still that kind of thing, Cokie?

I come from slaveholding people too, Cokie. And for several months now, I've been thinking of posting my photos of the old plantation on my blog, and I'm not exactly sure why. I just know I am furious about the racism I am still hearing from Democratic members of my own family who just will not vote for Obama. Maybe I want to hold a mirror up here - to ask those of us who descend from slaveholding people to really think about race and oppression, to demand that we be honest and look fearlessly and relentlessly at what dwells deep in our hearts, to challenge us to join the fucking twenty first century here. Are we going to do it? Are lifelong Democrats going to actually vote for McCain now? Mother? Little sister? How 'bout you, Cokie? "Exotic" indeed, Madam Roberts. Our people have been on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of humanity for far too long.

the plantation (with my daughter on the porch)

It's called St. Amelie. It's on the River Road, on the east bank of St. James Parish. It was a middle class sugar plantation back in the day. It was one of several such homes in the area that my family, German and Acadian settlers of the German Acadian Coast, owned from the time the Germans settled as indentured servants in 1724 through when the Acadians settled as refugees from French Nova Scotia in the 1760s to the time of the Hymelia Crevasse of 1903 (Hymel - pronounced "E-mel" - was the family name. Hymelia was one of the plantations they owned. A crevasse is a levee breach and resulting flood. The Hymelia Crevasse of 1903 was a levee breach that sent floodwaters from my family's riverfront property across hundreds of miles. For many old time planter families who had struggled to keep planting profitable post-slavery, including mine, this loss of crops, land, possessions, and farming implements was what finally pushed them out of the farming business forever.).

St. Amelie is the only house my family owned that is still standing. The rest of the houses ended up in the Mississippi River as the river changed course over the centuries or ended up just crumbling over time, abandoned or unprofitable after the Civil War. One, Minnie Plantation (thus named by Clairville Himel because Minnie was the nickname of his bride, Lavonia), is now just a chimney in the middle of a muddy cane field (thank you to my husband for tromping through the mud to get this photo for me, and for thinking to bring me back a single brick):

what's left of Minnie Plantation:

Minnie Plantation's chimney from a distance:

The following reports regarding slaves involve Drausin and Clairville Himel (uncles to Mary Himel Blanchard, see below)

Assumption Parish, 1852: Virginie, a nineteen-year-old woman of color, seeks to recover freedom for herself and her five-month-old daughter named Philomène. Virginie represents that she, her mother, and her two sisters were formerly the property of the late Joseph Bernard. During his lifetime, Bernard took the three women to Cincinnati, Ohio, where in 1835 he legally emancipated them. Bernard and the three women then went to St. Louis, where in 1836 Bernard took steps to ensure the validity of the deed of emancipation. Virginie contends that she and her family lived free “publicly and openly” from 1835 until 1847, with the knowledge of Bernard’s heirs. In 1847, however, she was sold back into slavery by one Théodule Mollère at the instance of Bernard’s heirs. She is now in the possession of Drausin Himel. Virginie seeks an order declaring her and her daughter, born since her emancipation, free and commanding Drausin Himel to pay compensation for her services at the rate of $180 per year until she is restored to liberty. She seeks the appointment of a “curator ad hoc” to represent her daughter.

Assumption Parish, 1852: Celesie, a twenty-three-year-old woman of color, seeks to recover freedom for herself and her two mulatto children, Victorine and Gustave. Celesie asserts that she, her mother, and her two sisters were formerly the property of the late Joseph Bernard. In his lifetime, Bernard took the women to Cincinnati, where in 1835 he legally emancipated them. Bernard and the women then went to St. Louis, where he took steps to ensure the validity of the deed of emancipation. Celesie contends that her family lived free "publicly and openly" from 1835 until 1847, with the knowledge of Bernard’s heirs. In 1847, however, she was sold back into slavery by Théodule Mollère at the instance of Bernard’s heirs. She is now in the possession of Clairville Himel. Celesie seeks an order declaring her and her two children, born since her emancipation, free and commanding Himel to pay compensation for her services at the rate of $180 per year. She seeks the appointment of a "curator ad hoc" for her children. A related petition describes Celesie, her mother, and her sisters as "mulatto" women.

St. James Parish, 1849-1850: Clairville Hymel represents that Henri Baudet falsely and maliciously accused him, in an affidavit before a justice of the peace, of having incited a slave named Valery to run away, and of concealing and stealing him. Hymel further claims that he was “publickly arrested” as a result of the charge and arraigned before a grand jury, although later released. Hymel contends that Valery is not Baudet’s slave but his and, inasmuch as the accusation was “without reasonable or probable cause,” he has suffered damages. He prays the court to condemn Baudet to pay the damages plus costs of suit.

Drausin's grave in Labadieville cemetery

An oak tree stands where a plantation called Welcome belonging to my family used to be. Whenever you find an oak tree in the middle of nothing on the River Road, a plantation once stood there.

St. Amelie is not particularly impressive by modern housing standards. It's much smaller than most modern homes, with just two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a dining room (no grand rooms like Tara in "Gone With the Wind" or anything). And it's probably much less impressive than Brunswick where Lindy Boggs was born, but even so, it's still nicer than what poor whites had in centuries past and far nicer than what slaves had.

slave quarters in St. James Parish

St. Amelie from the side:

The other side view. My great-grandfather's uncle, Dr. Numa Himel (all lived at St. Amelie together), visited patients by horse and buggy until well into the twentieth century.

River Road residents who needed a doctor would hang a white flag outside, and the doctor would know to stop. Most families had no cash and the doctor often got paid with chickens or eggs. As Dr. Himel aged, he wanted a partner to join him in providing medical care in the area, but it was difficult to entice another doctor to come work in the country for mere chickens and eggs, so he offered a young doctor from New Orleans a free spot on his land on which to build a home if the doctor would relocate to St. James. Here you can see the newer brick home, built by the younger doctor, Dr. Campbell. Notice the wire between the two houses - this ran between the two doctors' offices and was, in the days before telephones, how the doctors summoned one another.

This is the front porch, which my mother remembers being washed with ice water daily by maids so that it stayed really shiny. My part of the family was not generally welcomed at the old Creole plantation because we were, scandalously enough, Irish half-breeds, but my mother was once sent here for the summer as punishment because she had failed her Catholic school French class. As a result, she had to spend three months out in the country, bored to death, with two old maid great aunts who only spoke French to her (although they were bilingual schoolteachers - talk about learning a language by the immersion method!). The aunts found it shocking that their brother's own grandchild had actually failed French and took that fact to be further proof of the folly of his having married a lowly Irish woman. Said they of their sister-in-law, "She can scrub her floors and wash her clothes as much as she wants, but she will always have the taint and smell of the Irish."

My Irish great grandmother, Catherine Caroline Mullen Blanchard (1897-1977; seated, right)

This is an old sugar kettle that is now being used as a planter behind St. Amelie. In the old days, slaves cooked down the cane over intense heat through a series of kettles until only granulated sugar remained. Because Louisiana has only a semi-tropical climate and does sometimes get freezing temperatures in winter (while sugar is usually a cash crop only in frostless tropical climates because the crop takes many months to mature and can not survive a freeze), the cane crops here had to be feverishly harvested round the clock as soon as they matured, lest the stalks be turned to mush by a single overnight freeze. And so during the harvest season slaves on Louisiana sugar plantations worked in exceptionally brutal conditions. Seven days a week, they worked at least two eight hour shifts a day and sometimes twenty hours a day (the Code Noir required that slaves be given Sundays off, but that law was routinely ignored on sugar plantations during harvest season). As a result, slaves on south Louisiana sugar plantations had fewer live births, suffered more illness, experienced more fatigue-induced accidents, and faced much shorter life expectancy than did other slaves of the era.

In one of the two bedrooms, my great grandfather's crib, already an antique when he slept in it, can still be seen (bottom of the photo). Another family now owns the home and lives in it. Luckily, they have kept EVERYTHING original except for, they say, hanging their clothes in the closet. They did have a kitchen added on to the actual house; in the old days, kitchens were always separate buildings because of the risk of fire. In their old age, the aunts sold this place to proper French strangers because they found that preferable to having Irish halfbreeds inherit it.

I should mention that all photos of the interior of the home were taken when I just knocked on the door and introduced myself one day. Mr. and Mrs. (very French surname) understood right away who I was and how I was related to the previous owners, but even so, their graciousness in allowing a stranger to walk through and photograph every inch of their home was extraordinary.

my great-grandfather, Arthur Eli Blanchard II, as a baby (1891-1971)

wash basin

These days, few families farm in this area, although agribusiness does still grow some sugar cane here. Large blocks of land - former plantations - were sold decades ago to petro-chemical companies like Exxon, Shell, breast implant and Agent Orange specialist Dow Chemical, Union Carbide (responsible for a 1984 chemical release in India that it admits killed 3,000 people and Green Peace claims ultimately killed 20,000), and Monsanto (if you don't already hate and fear the evil Monsanto, click on the links to find out more about their genetically modified food, their terminator seeds, the recombinant bovine growth hormone in your dairy products and how they've sued farmers advertising rBGH-free products, their efforts to get patents on the breeding and herding of pigs, their responsibility for 56 environmental superfund sites in the U.S., and how they sued a 70 year old Canadian farmer for "seed stealing" because their genetically modified seed was carried by the wind onto his land - after years of their assurances that genetically modified seeds knew how to stay in their own designated spaces and would never contaminate naturally occurring species). The companies purchasing the land have sometimes destroyed grand homes of great historical significance, but in a few cases of relatively responsible corporate citizenship, companies have paid restoration costs, and old large plantation homes on the grounds of sprawling petro-chemical processing plants now serve as on-site meeting rooms.

The families who remain here - mostly the descendents of slaves - face extremely elevated risks of miscarriages, birth defects, cancer, and other ailments due to water, air, and soil contamination from the chemical plants (as The Who might say, meet the new boss, same as the old boss). Near St. Amelie is a large plantation open to tourists that is called Oak Alley. Here in Louisiana, however, this entire region is now known to us as Cancer Alley.

the entrance to the Monsanto plant (notice the row of oak trees, indicating that this was once the entryway to a plantation):

chemical plants have been built around the old cemetery...:

...down the street from St. Amelie and tourist mecca Oak Alley (below):

the aunts' gravesite in St. James cemetery (Himel and Blanchard):

the dining room fireplace with original tools, clock, and mantel knick-knacks:

another fireplace, still more Victorian basins (there were some in each room):

This is the dining room. To the left is a sideboard that was used as an ice cart. My grandmother vividly remembers from her visits that during meals, a maid would take each diner's drink and keep it on ice in the cart, then hand the drink over each time the diner wanted a sip.

This is the Persac map in the dining room. Most plantations on the River Road had a copy of this map. Persac had surveyed the area, and the map showed every plantation along the river and named the owner of each. The names are difficult to read because the river turns so many times and because land grants were, in the French custom, long and narrow so that each plantation had access to the river, where goods were shipped and people could travel by boat (the long, narrow strips make reading the owners' names very difficult).

A hallway bookcase with the original books belonging to my great grandfather's uncle, Dr. Numa Himel. My great grandfather and his two sisters returned from New Orleans to this house, the childhood home of their mother, Mary Himel Blanchard, when they were small children after their father, Acadian riverboat pilot Captain Arthur Blanchard, died suddenly in his thirties. When her elderly great aunts sold this place, my mother was permitted to choose one thing from the home for herself (the custom was that when a plantation was sold, the furnishings went with the house). My mother chose a set of books - the complete works of Sir Walter Scott. The books were originally given to my great-great grandmother, Mary Himel Blanchard, by her brother, Dr. Numa Himel, one or two each Christmas, over about a twenty year period in the second half of the nineteenth century. Inside each book is an inscription with the siblings' names, "Merry Christmas," the date (December 24 or 25 and the year), and sometimes a brief note. These books were the bestsellers of that period and greatly influenced the worldview of white antebellum southerners. The books, such as "Rob Roy," presented themes like honor, chivalry, and gender in ways that epitomized the values of white southerners - particularly the planter classes - on the eve of the Civil War. My mother still has them, although some sustained a little water damage during the famous "May third" flood of 1978. When my mother fled south Louisiana ahead of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she packed only necessities. In the final hours before Katrina made landfall, as the winds were already frighteningly intense and the electricitiy had already gone out, my husband drove sixty miles to my English teacher mother's home to rescue her important documents, photographs, an antique set of the complete works of William Shakespeare, and the Sir Walter Scott books from the old plantation.

My great-great grandmother, Mary Himel Blanchard (1865-1945)

My great-great grandfather, Arthur Eli Blanchard (1858-1895)

Below is the steamship G.W. Sentell (G.W. as in "George Washington"), purchased in July, 1891, as a joint venture of the Blanchard Brothers (one of several steamships owned over the years). It was owned by C.J. Blanchard, the eldest brother, who served as her Master; by Arthur Blanchard (above) who served as Chief Engineer; by Max A. Blanchard (who was considered Max, Jr., although the brothers' father was Maximin Telesphore Blanchard, a son of Acadian refugees from French Nova Scotia); and 2 friends or investors: Frank Dunos & Nicolas Burg. Max, Jr., & Edgar served as pilots. In August of 1892, according to the Daily Picayune, C.J. had a large B mounted between the stacks, which had already been painted a bright red. The Sentell was a sternwheel packet with a wood hull built in Jeffersonville, Indiana. On December 28, 1894, while docked near Hillary St in Carrollton, she burned & sunk. The exact cause of the fire was unknown.

Federal records of shipping-related deaths and accidents show the Blanchard brothers were peculiarly prone to losing black deckhands and screwmen during the night, without witnesses, to fatal accidents or drowning. Granted, the river trade was very dangerous in those days, but the Blanchard brothers seemed to lose black sailors in particular with alarming frequency. Eventually, the respected and well-known C.J. Blanchard would face trial for murder over one such case once his ship had docked in St. Louis, apparently outraging New Orleans newspaper reporters and editorial writers.

Below, another steamboat owned by Max Blanchard, Sr., the E.W. Cole. Max Blanchard purchased this boat in 1886 from Captain Thomas L. Morse. In 1888 (after winning the state lottery) he spent over $8,000 to overhaul her. She then began to ply Bayou Lafourche as a regular packet. The Cole was 201 ft long, 31 ft in the beam with 5.4 ft depth of hold, reportedly the largest boat to regularly steam on the bayou. The Cole was built in 1880 at Jeffersonville, Ill. She was snagged and sunk on January 1, 1891. At the time of the sinking, Max Blanchard was master; O. Blanchard and Frank Hymel were mates; Max Blanchard, Jr., and Camil Jacobs were pilots; A.E. Blanchard and Charles Gillham were engineers; Amede Blanchard was carpenter. As with the Sentell above, a large "B" can be seen between the smokestacks.

hallway at St. Amelie - wash basin

The camel hide sofas in the living room. My mother remembers that children were not allowed to play in this room or sit on this furniture (which was fine with her since apparently camel hide is really scratchy). I can't imagine any other space inside where kids could have played; I guess they just stayed outside most of the time. My grandmother relates that when her father was disciplined as a boy, his mother would dress him as a girl and force him to stand on the levee for all passersby to see. In his teens, my great-grandfather's idea of fun was to line up "pickaninnies" and see how many he could jump his horse over. God. Maybe "American Idol" is not such hideous entertainment after all.

The hallway, facing the front door and porch. The piece of furniture on the right was for holding hats and coats, obviously, but my mother remembers that the drawer in the bottom was the only place in the house where the aunts kept anything fun for children. On rainy days they would open it, and inside were hundreds of scrolls the aunts had made from newspaper comics. Each one had two sticks, and my mother would hold the sticks to unroll the scrolls and enjoy reading the comics inside (hey, the aunts didn't have television).

bedroom 2 - wardrobe

bedroom 2 - dresser

In bedroom two, a tester bed (pronounced "tee-ster"), which was basically a canopy bed and had mosquito netting draped over the whole thing, although someone has in recent years chopped off the four corner poles.

So, there it is - Cokie, Mother, little sister - our past, as a people. Take a good look - at the shiny porch floor and the ice cart maintained by maids; at the slave quarters; at the cane fields; at the old sugar kettle that meant backbreaking, round the clock labor and early death to so many human beings; at Mark Twain's beloved glamorous Mississippi River steamboats on which black sailors who displeased could simply disappear.

When will we finally move beyond who we as a people, as a region, have been?

Why are lifelong Democrats I love doing what you're doing? Cokie says Obama is "exotic." My mother says he "can't be trusted." My former Carter delegate aunt is horrified by the prospect of his being the nominee.

He's not supposed to get to live in the white house, right? I mean, not St. Amelie on River Road, not Brunswick in Pointe Coupee, and not the other white house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue either, yes?

Day Two of School - Grammar Watch Begins

My cousin reports the following (bear in mind that her son attends a magnet school - woo-hoo):

It's day 2 of school, and (W) seems to be happy. Today, (W) brought home some information from the 2nd grade reading teacher. The teacher's brochure reads as follows:

"I have a Masters Degree in Reading Education, a Reading Specialist and am Nationally Board Certified in Early Childhood Education."

(She has a reading specialist?!!!)

"I love working with young children and nothing makes me prouder than when a student is successful in their learning."

I'd like to know who gave this woman a Masters Degree!!! How about this one:

"Students will have the opportunity to read the books in class however they will NOT be able to go home every day."

(I hope that she means the books and not the children!!!)

Or this:

"Test papers will be sent home on Wednesdays. Your child's weekly conduct will also be sent home at this time."

(I'd prefer that they keep my child's "conduct" at school!)

This could be a very painful year for me. How does an educated parent refrain from returning the teachers' comments EDITED? Fortunately, a similar brochure from the math teacher was very well written.