Elizabeth Moon's Blog, page 9

May 1, 2012

Blue One, the second pair of socks I ever knit, is now off the needles, but not yet ready to wear, thanks to...um...some errors.

However, it's been on my feet for an hour now:

If you think there's something odd about the toes, and notice dangling strands of yarn...you're right.    I grafted (Kitchener stitch) the toes, but...I can't get the loopy bits to agree to snug down.  Not sure why.  Aside from that,  some parts of the socks are still a little large:

But until I get the loopy/bulky  toes fixed, I can't wear this pair for real walking, etc.  Supposedly, you can start pulling the loops snug on the starting side of the grafting, and work your way across, but I can't find one on that end that will pull.   Here are the toes:


The right toe's better than the left.   You can at least see on the right one that the stitches should flow right across the toe end.  But  I started on the left one and was interrupted repeatedly, each time losing my concentration for long enough to make a mistake.    Undoing the mistakes and trying to redo them was not only frustrating, but made the yarn fray and fuzz (it didn't help that two of the interruption-errors involved splitting the yarn with the strand I was using for grafting.

Another error, not caused by interruptions, was that I made the left toe slightly too short.  Just enough that I "feel" the end of the sock all the time.   To make up for that, the right one's just a little long.  Learning experiences, I tell myself.  On the whole, the socks fit better than before, though.  The slightly snugger cuff does leave an impression on my leg (so, no tighter!) but nothing like the dug-in groove that store-bought socks with their elastic leave.

These socks do have a left and right--and when I can do grafting better, I'll like that a lot.  My big toes don't like even gentle knit-sock-tension pushing them toward the center of my foot.   This way I make the sock straight up the "inside" or medial  side, with a curve on the outer or lateral side.

Next up: Green One, the first green pair.    And I'll put a pair of...probably red....on the needles tonight or tomorrow.

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Published on May 01, 2012 14:47 • 73 views

April 26, 2012

Quietly, in the background, in spare moments here and there, and the occasional half-hour in the recliner, the blue socks have continued to grow.   They're now past gussets and onto the straight part of the foot (but not far onto it.) 

Gussets clearly visible between heel flap, bottom, and top of foot. 

Since I'm making the pattern for socks for myself from scratch, I try the socks on multiple times during their growth...and for this pair, compare the feel of the first pair to this pair.  I wanted the socks to fit somewhat closer but not tightly.   The difficulty compared to "textbook" legs, feet, and ankles is that I have some swelling in my lower legs and ankles, but much less in my feet.   So I need a wider cuff than foot....how much to reduce the width in that gusset is still up for review, but this pair definitely fits better than the first pair.

Still a little looser at the heel, but fits better around instep.  Next pair will reduce 2-4 stitches
below cuff ribbing before making heel flap.

Although I'm wearing these socks over thin socks for the pictures, they won't be worn over other socks ordinarily, so I want a fairly snug feel over the under-socks.   Here are a couple of closer-up pictures that show the fit from heel to past the gusset.  Needles distort the first few rows, of course.   (But it's a lot easier to try them on with 4 needles than 3!! 


The sock  on the left has a smoother join at the gusset but some mistakes in the cuff ribbing.  The sock on the right has smoother cuff ribbing but a rougher join at the gusset.  Learning goes back and forth between the two socks in the pair.  You may be able to see a little of the fullness at the back of the heel on the sock on the right.  In that space between the cuff ribbing and the gusset angle is where I'm thinking of taking out a few stitches.  Then I won't need to decrease as many in the gusset itself. 

And Green One socks, the pair after Blue One, both now have ribbing long enough that it won't easily invert itself through the space between needles.  

Yesterday, between supper and choir practice, some of the kids who are in the various youth choirs were hanging out where I was knitting.  I was working on the cuff ribbing of one of the  Green One socks, but had Blue One with me as well, and was wearing Red One, the very first (and full of errors) pair.  Some were more interested than others, including one tiny one who must have been no more than four or five.   .   Not only was she interested, but she was asking really good questions.   Also attracted a woman who had been convinced that socks were far too hard for her, since her one sweater turned out badly.   I showed off Red One's  mistakes--that clearly left it still wearable as socks--and admitted I'd been scared to attempt socks for decades because I believed they were incredibly difficult.   I told her about YarnHarlot's Knitting  Rules, the book that--with a little internet video help--got me through my first pair (and I still need it for heel turning--her description is clear enough and brief enough for the most novice or novices...like me.)   She kept saying "You make it sound easy" and I kept saying "I was amazed how easy it was, mistakes and all."  Maybe she'll try it herself. 

I  would really like to finish Blue One in the next few days.   That would uncrowd my knitting bag (since I'm carrying around the two Blue One socks and the two Green One socks, tiny as they are right now)  and besides I've have two pairs of handknit socks to wear, one of which would fit much better than the other.  I need at least three pairs of socks to take to  A-Kon....and all my store-bought thick socks have holes, besides being so much less than comfortable.   (I hate elastic in the ribbed cuffs.  I especially hate really tight tops of socks.  They make dents in my legs.)   I'd really like to have four pair...and in the long run, many more than that. Red One takes two days to dry--I'm wearing that pair twice a week (Wednesdays, when I have voice lesson and choir which means lots of standing, and Sundays, when I'm singing at services and that means lots of standing, too. 

I've now acquired some Superwash yarn, but since I don't mind handwashing wool socks,  I'll go through the original  colors first, while working on the pattern.    Naturally both husband and son now want socks (and theirs will be Superwash wool--not trusting them to remember which is which) and I've got two more pair promised elsewhere, one for a friend who needs them to wear over compression stockings (which give no warmth, she says.)  

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Published on April 26, 2012 10:07 • 45 views

April 25, 2012

And minor ones, too.   It has been a week of ample numbers of both that kept me away from LJ because (for computer reasons I don't entirely get) it takes longer and is harder to post here than some other places.  Listing the symptoms I know about would take longer than I have (LifeStuff & Distractions still being very active.)    It's quick to post to Twitter (only 140 characters, after all) and quicker to post to my site-based blogs, although I can rarely do more than one a day, so two are orphans while one gets the work.   And why, you may wonder, would I show up here to make excuses for why I've been away from here?   Largely out of guilt for neglecting this group.

But I do have one distraction to report on, that's leading up to something that may be entertaining for some of you.  BBC Radio asked me to be on their program The Forum, for a discussion of Future Wars.   This is the first time I've discussed future warfare with anyone other than SF writers/fans or military folk who were SF fans.   It won't be same-old same-old.    I'm delighted to be part of this particular discussion.  

Since they're in London and I'm not (and no, it was not possible to make a quick trip to the UK to be there--thanks to other LifeStuff)  this involved quite a flurry of email traffic between my UK publisher's publicity person and me, some delayed emails (I don't know if mine back were delayed, but some of hers to me took a couple of days to waft here) and then another flurry of email traffic between the BBC and me, and then a phone call yesterday.   I'm not accustomed to overseas phone calls--they're still a big deal--but the connection was very, very clear.   BBC had to find a studio they could use, here in Texas;  I had to figure out where it was (well, actually, when they sent the address, I knew I wouldn't have a problem finding it.  A friend has agreed to drop me off across the street from it, so I don't have to worry about where to park.)

Now to get back to normal stuff (the book lost ground last week and early this, due to the excitement factor.  Need to get a normal day's work done today--and that means staying off the internet until it is.  Except for this.)

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Published on April 25, 2012 07:23 • 38 views

April 15, 2012

The second pair of socks have made considerable progress, and last night I turned the heels of both.   Here's what the pair looks like, seen from the back: ribbed cuff, a little over an inch of stockinette below the cuff, then the heel flap, with the turned heels at the bottom of the picture:

The front of the sock (where the top of the foot will be) is on the bottom in the this picture, with its needles sticking out of it. The sides of the heel flap appear to slant in to the turned heel.   It's hard to see in this photo that the heels really have turned. so here are a couple more pictures:
Here the heels are "nose to nose" or "heel to heel," forming an arch and with the central stitches pointing "down" (what will be forward, on the bottom of the foot, when the sock is on.   Unlike the heels of the first (red) pair, these heels look alike and are smoother. 

And here they are side by side, again showing that they're the same size and shape.  Hurray, I said last night.   Now all I have to do (!!) is pick up the stitches along the sides of the heel flap, reconnect at the top to the front/top of the sock, do the gusset, then the foot, and then...somewhere in the front and future...the toes.    And I'd better do it pretty quickly, as I need to get these, and another pair, done by the end of May.   Along with quite a good-size chunk of the next book and various other things that need doing.

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Published on April 15, 2012 19:03 • 21 views

April 12, 2012

The chair of the Republican National Committee, Rience Priebus (spokesperson for the GOP, as opposed to a particular candidate)  said in an interview that the "war on women" was "like a war on caterpillars" and merely something the Democrats made up and the media promoted.  Instead, he said, the real issue was a "war on the Vatican."   

But there is a war on women citizens of this country, and it's aimed at taking away their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...rights that citizens--male or female, black or white or brown--are supposed to hold.   Religious opinions of one (minority) segment of the population are being imposed on all, attacking the rights of women to make their own choices. Last time I talked about the GOP's war on women's lives, and how the GOP's reproductive policies placed women's lives in peril.   This time I'm talking about some of the same policies, but from a slightly different angle--women's right to the second of the inalienable rights listed in the Declaration of Independence: liberty.  Freedom. 

Freedom is the right to make choices for oneself.    Fundamental to other social freedoms is the right to make choices about one's own body.    The right to bodily integrity--the right to refuse touch, for instance--underlies the right to accept or refuse medical treatment, or  to accept or refuse sexual congress.   It is this concept--that of bodily integrity and the right to choose whether or not to be physically forced--that underlies the concept of sexual assault and rape.  

It is noteworthy that spokespersons for the GOP regularly deny the existence of rape and claim that it is rare, that most complaints of rape are lies, or at best the woman didn't quite understand that she was being raped.  State Senator Chuck Winder of Idaho, for instance.   Several GOP politicians have argued that post-rape contraception isn't needed because if it's really rape, the woman can't get pregnant.    State Representative Henry Aldridge of North Carolina, for instance, and Pennsylvania State Representative Stephen Freind, who theorizes that a 'special secretion' results from rape and prevents pregnancy.   On the basis that women "can't get pregnant if it's really rape"  the GOP assumes that the desire of rape victims for contraception or (if they become pregnant) an abortion is faked.   It's noteworthy that this kind of thinking began (as some of the datelines show) back in the late '80s at least--the GOP has been working toward denying women freedom at least that long.   New laws passed in multiple states this year--by GOP state legislatures and signed into law by GOP governors--forbid abortion in cases of rape or incest on these grounds--the problem doesn't exist, so all pregnancies are the result of willing sex, and thus the woman "got herself pregnant."

Many other freedoms are affected by the loss of freedom to choose whether or not to continue a particular pregnancy.   Pregnancy status and the need to care for a child after birth affects a woman's opportunity to get an education, to obtain certain (most) jobs,  to travel, to protect herself from assaults,  to earn a good living, etc.  Before birth control and pregnancy termination were available, women's options--their freedom to choose--was limited by pregnancy and childbirth.  Some still want it that way.   The GOP Governor of Wisconsin, for instance, repealed a law providing for equal pay for equal work--for women, minorities, and the handicapped.   One of his enthusiastic supporters, state senator Glenn Grothman, claims "money is more important to men."     Forced pregnancy--abusive pressure from husbands and boyfriends, including sabotaging birth control, to force a woman to bear their child--is still a serious problem, especially from men who are brought up thinking women have worth only as "baby-makers."   It is used by some to keep a woman dependent (the old "barefoot and pregnant" control mechanism)--at the extreme, easy to spot, as in the case of Jacey Lee Dugard, but less easy when a husband (supported by a fundamentalist church) insists on a woman having more children than she wants (as in the case of several women who later killed their children and themselves.)  But GOP spokespersons concentrate on "saving marriages" and getting women to return to abusive spouses.  Wisconsin state representative Don Pridemore thinks women should stay in abusive marriages for the sake of the children, despite substantial evidence that an abusive marriage is bad for the children, not just the woman.

Under new laws created by GOP legislatures and signed by GOP governors, pregnant women can be arrested, jailed, prosecuted at any hint that they may have attempted an abortion:   take for instance the case of Christine Taylor, in Iowa, who went to the ER after a fall to see if her baby was OK.    Other states have passed laws requiring police investigation of miscarriages, on the assumption that all miscarriages are actually abortions.   Since my own mother lost several pregnancies to late miscarriages in the late 1930s and early 1940s before I was born alive, she would have been a target of such vicious notions...and if imprisoned and even executed for "murder" as some state laws now allow, I would not be here today.     Women have been forcibly confined to bed rest or other treatments under laws that privilege the unborn not only over the woman herself, but her other children, as in the case of Samantha Burton, in Florida.    For those with a taste for legalese and logical and factual error, here's a link to the current version of the Georgia law against "prenatal murder" which also criminalizes miscarriage, and makes most abortion illegal even in cases of rape, incest, and the death of a fetus (in other words, it claims to be saving the life of  "person" already dead.  Apparently the Georgia legislature was convinced by Terry England's argument that women are just like cows and sows, and should be forced to hang onto a dead rotting fetus inside them rather than abort it. )  Georgia would allow the death penalty for a woman convicted of a criminal miscarriage.   The Arizona law defining the start of pregnancy as occurring before the sexual act that resulted in a fertilized egg, another counter-factual law, passed the GOP-dominated Arizona legislature.

Using material provided by an ultra-conservative group that sends draft bills to GOP legislators,  37 states with GOP dominated legislatures have passed bills restricting women's freedom--their freedom to make reproductive choice.   Others have restricted women's freedom in other ways, such as the Wisconsin repeal of fair employment treatment (affecting not just women, but minority and handicapped workers.)   GOP politicians have spoken out against women working outside the home, women gaining quality education (or any education in some cases), women in the armed forces (and as a USMC veteran I have a huge problem with dissing women in the military) and have made it clear that the GOP as a whole thinks women should live restricted lives--with far less choice than male citizens have.   (Cutting funding for preschool child care/HeadStart centers can force working single mothers to quit working...but is the GOP willing to give them enough money to raise their kids in decent housing, with healthy food?  Well...er...no.  As soon as a mother isn't working, has no income, and needs help...she's a "welfare mother" and automatically bad.)  

The new laws restricting voting rights in many GOP dominated states impact women as much as they do minorities and the elderly, since women have been denied the right to vote, under the new laws, when they could not provide additional information males do not have to provide (marriage certificate in addition to birth certificate, to prove that their married name--which they've been using for years--is theirs.)   Voting is, of course, the primary political way of expressing choice--the freedom to vote is essential for engaging in the political process.  But again, some GOP politicians have expressed regret that women ever won the right to vote.   If women vote, they might figure out that the GOP is doing everything it can to keep them barefoot and pregnant...and they might vote for a Democrat. 

Women who grew up before the Women's Movement of the '60s and '70s--especially those growing up after WWII, like me--are very aware of how limited girls' and women's lives were supposed to be back then.  The careers book all seniors were given in my high school considered very few 'careers' for women (and only for single women--teacher, nurse, secretary)  because it was assumed all girls would marry and have children, and have to quit working.  Girls interested in forestry, for instance, were told to marry a forest ranger.  Girls were steered away from math and science classes.   Female college students who wanted to enter medical or law school faced the quota system--usually fewer than five percent of an entering class would be female--and were steered firmly away from the most lucrative specialties in those professions (the rare female physician might be a pediatrician or a gynecologist, but not a surgeon or a cardiologist.)  All women expected to be shunted aside, paid less, promoted rarely.   The forty years of freedom--of almost-equal access to many occupations, of much greater (though not complete) equality of pay in many occupations, the right to own property in one's own name, the assumption that a woman is in fact a citizen, with a right to make her own choices and speak with her own voice...is now under attack by the GOP. 

It is a war on women.  It is war on women's liberty waged by the GOP over the past several decades, in the unholy alliance of religious bigots who want a theocracy, and "fiscal conservatives" who deny any responsibility for the "general welfare" (as the Constitution puts it.)   It is a war designed to force women back into second-class citizenship or even lower--by defining them as having no worth but for their ability to bear children--and waged with the age-old weapons of sex and lies.   Women who are not free to make their own choices regarding their own bodies--who can be arrested, detained, imprisoned, even killed for making those choices--or even being thought to make a choice of which someone else does not approve--are not free in any real sense of the word. 

It is a war women must win, and the GOP must lose.

Once again:  Anonymous comments are screened, and if the commenter does not identify himself/herself in the comment, or shows the telltale signs of trolldom or disrespect, that comment will be deleted.   Such a comment showed up. 

Have the basic courtesy (and guts) to identify yourself fully and show respect both to me, as account owner, and other guests. 

As before, I realize that some of you do not have LJ accounts and have no way to post except as Anonymous--but those who pass muster are those who offer their identity in the comment and are respectful.

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Published on April 12, 2012 19:57 • 18 views

April 7, 2012

The blue pair achieved "ribbing done" this week and are on the shorter stockinette part of their tops.  Although the photos of the first socks were not as clear (some done at night indoors) it's clear to me that there are fewer problems...mistakes...messy bits...in the ribbing this time.  On the left is Sock B, presently two rows of stockinette ahead of Sock A...and "standing" on Sock A's needles, so it looks even taller.

You can just see a little of the stockinette rows below the ribbing on Sock B.   The dangling tails mark the joining of the needles, the start of the rows; the red yarn tags originally reminded me which side was "inside" and which "outside" when the knitting was so short it could easily reverse itself through the needles.  Also, I didn't have to look for the tails to know if I was starting a new row.

These socks are going a little faster (not trying to push for speed alone--cramps my hands) and I'm making fewer mistakes, noticing them earlier, and fixing them sooner.   And I suppose, over this many rows, the four fewer stitches per row makes a considerable difference. 
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Published on April 07, 2012 16:10 • 33 views

April 2, 2012

Because I learn better in concentrated doses, and because my feet want more hand-knit socks (this is the greater motivator!)  I've already started the next pair.   Pair Two will be a rich teal-like blue, and I decided to keep track of the individual socks (as I experiment) by naming them A and B in each pair (SockOne and SockTwo will be the only socks so designated.)   Two-B, for instance, has two rows of knitting after the cast-on row, before starting the ribbing.   Two-A's cuff is now over and inch long; Two-B is "behind" and I'll knit a few rows on it as I can until it catches up or surpasses A.  At that point, I'll work on A again.   Doing two at once worked so well for me the first time that I'm going to keep doing it that way.

First Pair, which were drying outside on the picnic table, are holding down the plastic bags in which each growing sock lives as it grows, along with its ball of yarn.   The trees have leafed out (at least partly) so it's hard to see how much bigger A is than B.   Second Pair is not quite as big in the cuff circumference (a little over half an inch difference) and will be a full inch smaller in the part of my foot where First Pair is considerably too big.
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Published on April 02, 2012 11:30 • 24 views

March 30, 2012

Various upsetting things this week led to time spent having to wait in various situations--and I've learned to take the knitting bag along.   By Thursday night, the socks were (I thought) the right length to have their toes closed over.   Today (it was supposed to be "an hour or so this morning"  but it was all day) I worked on closing the toes "properly" (which is to say, with the Kitchener, or grafting, stitch.)

   It's obvious that the sock on the right has smoother and more symmetrical decreases than the sock on the left.  (L is SockOne, R is SockTwo--when I'd learned some things from SockOne.   The directions I was given didn't work for me as well as what I did on SockTwo.  Though I tried on the socks almost every row during the toe decreases, I still didn't get it quite right.

In preparation for grafting the toes, I watched several videos on the method, as well as looking at pictures in a book.   The videos were excellent in teaching me the sequence, which stitches come off when, etc.  The problems I had were not covered.  (Exactly how much yarn you need for closing the toe depends on variables not mentioned as significant--in fact one video didn't even mention that you do the grafting with the yarn you've been using for knitting...you cut it off the skein.    Finally, in midafternoon, I got both socks off the needles with their toes closed--one somewhat better looking than the other. 


They're very comfortable except for those "ears" on either end of the grafted part.  What I was trying to do was make a blunt end for my big and second two (fairly long)  to be comfortable in, and I'm not sure why the grafting formed a "knob" on either end.   Figuring out a way avoid having knobs is on the list of things to do differently next time.    Others include tinkering with the stitch count in particular places,  lengthening the plain-knitting section below the cuff ribbing, figuring out a better place to start the toe decreases and so on. 

But as I said at the start of this adventure, it was more about breaking out of the self-defined limits than producing perfect socks and I gave myself permission to make mistakes (and boy, howdy, did I ever make them!  Including today.)    I am no longer a person who knits only flat things.  Round things, irregular things--anything--are now on my side of the invisible line.  I would like to knit perfect socks.  (I would like to knit, and have, lots of perfect hand-knit socks.   But right now, on this day, I have finished my first pair of hand-knit socks and they're on my feet.   YAY!!!
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Published on March 30, 2012 14:47 • 46 views

March 27, 2012

Other people have expressed what I wanted to say so well that it's taken me a long time to decide it was worthwhile (useful to others) to say it again, myself.    I've signed petitions.  I've retweeted people whose pithy comments or whose referenced blog posts seemed so much more articulate than my initial thoughts--which were pretty much a howl of outrage, fury, and near-incoherence. 

Everything about the events that led to Trayvon Martin's death, and the failure of the police to arrest his murderer screams racism.   There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that had the races been reversed--had a black man in a pickup truck followed a white boy in a hoodie on his way home from the store, and confronted him, and then shot him--the folks now trying to exonerate and excuse Zimmerman would be howling for that man's immediate arrest and ultimate execution.    That they see the situation as one of "self-defense"--when by the evidence of the Zimmerman's own calls to the police before he shot Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman is the one who acted aggressively and provoked the situation--makes it clear that they are biased against the black youth and for the white man from the get-go.

If anyone should be covered by the "stand your ground" law it is Trayvon--because he was being harassed, menaced, and confronted by someone who put him in fear of his life (with good reason, as it turned out.)  Whatever the unarmed and inexperienced Trayvon did, after Zimmerman began following him and threatening him, he did in self-defense.  To claim that Zimmerman acted in self-defense--let along that he acted in accordance with the Florida law--is factually and legally wrong.   If you confront someone who is not committing a violent crime--if you menace that innocent person, if you threaten or attempt to coerce or lay hold of that person, and that person defends himself/herself...then that person...not you...is acting in self-defense.   To argue that Trayvon had no right to defend himself from the obvious (and ultimately proven) deadly force Zimmerman was prepared to use is to argue that black youths have no right to defend themselves so white men have a right to kill them for trying.  

It is ridiculous to claim that Zimmerman isn't racist.   Why did he target Trayvon Martin?   Because (as he said on the 911 calls he made before the final attack)  this was a black  male in a hoodie.  Walking black made Trayvon suspicious.   Considering Trayvon suspicious because he was a black male makes Zimmerman racist.   I believe that if Trayvon had run away (as his girlfriend suggested) Zimmerman would have shot him in the back.   After all, aggressive law officers have shot black youths in the back (as in Austin, Texas recently, where the police chief's response to angry and frightened parents was that his officers had done nothing wrong and parents should tell their boys not ever to run.)    Zimmerman has shown no remorse for killing an innocent teenager; he continues to insist that it wasn't his fault; he had to defend himself, that he is the victim. 

The Sanford police department, as many have said, showed its own racial bias in the way this murder was handled.   They dispatched an inexperienced officer who had never done a homicide investigation.   He accepted Zimmerman's account without question--without checking with authorities to see if Zimmerman really was a member of an official Neighborhood Watch group,  without testing Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol, without questioning why Zimmerman disobeyed the dispatcher's order to quit following the "suspicious" person, without questioning why Zimmerman was carrying a weapon (against policy for legitimate Neighborhood Watch members),  without checking on Zimmerman's record (Zimmerman's record of assaulting a law officer and an incident of domestic violence should have been found immediately and should have been considered as a reason to doubt his account of what happened.  So also, of course, should have been the fact that he continued to tail Trayvon after the police dispatcher told him not to. )    That Zimmerman first  precipitated a confrontation and then claimed to have been in deadly peril is another obvious red flag:  the person who starts a confrontation is rarely the innocent party.   The Sanford police lied to the Martin family about Zimmerman's prior record of violence.   The Sanford police tried to change a witness's report by lying about it (the witness said she heard Trayvon screaming for help; the police said that she heard Zimmer screaming for help.)   The Sanford police played CYA for weeks, citing the Florida "stand your ground" law which is clearly not applicable in this situation (the only violent crime going on was Zimmerman killing Martin.  Zimmerman was put "in peril"--even if you believe it was peril--only because he confronted an innocent citizen and tried to bully him.)

Like many other mothers of children who might, for any reason, attract attention as "undesirables", I have lived with the fear that our son--despite his white skin--might be the target of a bigot's attack or police violence.   Although persons of color are at risk no matter how ordinary their behavior (like, well, walking home from a convenience store with a bag of candy),  anyone at all "different" may be targeted by bigots.  A few years ago, students at Anderson High School in Austin set upon and beat up a mentally handicapped student waiting for his bus ride home...in the parking lot of a convenience store across the street from our church...and no one intervened.   (The store clerk said he was afraid of the teenagers who were beating up the other boy.)    Autistic teens and grown men have been targeted in some jurisdictions; I was even warned by another mother that our son looked odd enough, walking from his apartment to the college campus, that police might pick him up.   One time that I tried to talk to police (before he moved to the city) and suggest that they might seek some training in recognizing autism v. someone strung out on drugs or alcohol, the officer practically sneered at me and allowed that they didn't have time or patience to put up with "spoiled brats or pushy parents."   If my kid did not act perfectly normal and wasn't able to answer questions as a law officer expected, then that was just too bad.

As I've mentioned before, I've been threatened with deadly force...a man called up one night and said he was planning to come over and kill me and my husband (me first, so my husband would suffer more); he said he was armed.    We knew he was a (sometimes violent) schizophrenic.   At that time, the tiny town in which we lived had no police, and the county sheriff said all his deputies were out on other calls.  If we had a gun, we were advised, we should be sure to wait until the attacker was inside before shooting him (that was the law at the time.)   Individuals skipping their meds periodically went off the rails and took potshots at someone's house (someone we know was injured as a result.)   We spent the rest of that night on alert, as you can imagine.   I've had other, less credible, threats (people online are quite willing, in the midst of a pile-on, to make them...these I pretty much dismiss unless I know the person lives nearby.)  We are prepared to defend ourselves if someone carries through a threat or breaks down the door, and (after that night) I am sure I would nail the attacker if the attacker didn't get me first. 

But that's a very different thing than deciding to follow someone who is not committing a crime, not threatening anyone, starting a confrontation, and then shooting the innocent person.    We don't shoot someone for coming down the drive uninvited...or even up onto the porch because they want to convince us their church is the only right one or got lost.   We don't shoot someone  who comes onto our land uninvited (though I would like to have located the person who cut the gap-gate and took a dump on our land, if only to make him dig a hole,  bury his waste and mend the gap gate!   Lazy inconsiderate scumsucker.)  

Whatever Trayvon Martin did or did not do before his murder--whether years or months or days before, or just in the immediate situation--the fact remains that Zimmerman was wrong to consider him suspicious, wrong to follow him, wrong to keep following him, wrong to confront him.   Zimmerman has no right to claim "self-defense."  Trayvon Martin would have had such a right, if he'd lived to make it. 

The (white, male, Republican) Florida legislator who introduced the "stand your ground" legislation claims there's nothing wrong with that law and he's sure it's saved "thousands" of lives.   I'd like to see documentation of that, but since the Florida police (at least in Sanford, but I'll bet that's not unique) are so willing to leave claims of self-defense uninvestigated,  where can the data come from?   I know that in my own state innocent persons have been killed in situations that make the claim "it was self-defense" just about as ridiculous.  Proponents of the law count those deaths as "lives saved"; I count them as murders unprosecuted.  (The paper boy shot by a nervous homeowner, the person lost and asking directions shot by a nervous homeowner...)   If I had shot every uninvited person who showed up on my doorstep, there's be a pile of corpses with my name on them--and yet none of them were committing a crime or threatening my life.   Annoying me, yes.  Interrupting my day or evening, yes.  Startling me sometimes, yes...but not deserving of being shot dead on suspicion.

In my view, every violent killing should be investigated to ensure that a claim of self-defense or interrupting a violent crime is justified--as it is, the law makes it easy for murderers to claim self-defense and get off without any question--as long as they're the right color.   All such laws should include recognition that paranoid and racist bigots exist, and will assume their right to continue to harass anyone they distrust on the basis of color, religion, name (e.g. Hispanic),  or way of walking (spasticity, "tics", etc.)   That such harassment will create in the victims of it a responsive fear that that responsive and legitimate fear means some of them will attempt to defend themselves--and the bigots will use deadly force where it is not warranted.   Police departments need clear, unequivocal guidance of the investigation they must (not may...must) follow in order to ascertain the truth since it is clear that some, at least, will not do so on their own. 

In the larger scale of things, any sign of dishonesty in the law enforcement process--from the police right through to the prosecuting attorney--should be grounds for a deeper investigation.  I disagree strongly with the Supreme Court decision that prosecutors are completely free of any liability for their dishonesty...we have the case here in my county of Ken Anderson, a prosecutor who deliberately withheld information he knew would clear the accused, and who then deliberately refused for years to do the DNA test that also proved the man's innocence.   (I will double-barrel bet you a metric ton of doughnuts that this is not the only case Ken Anderson lied about.   This is a man who ran for office as a Democrat and then--as soon as the election was over, declared that he was now a Republican.   "Fooled you suckers!")  It  is a crime for citizens to lie to the police or under oath...and the law should require those who are tasked with upholding the law to abide by the same rules.  It should be just as illegal for police or prosecutors to lie and they should be held criminally accountable.   (Yes, they have a difficult job.  That does not excuse dishonesty, especially not dishonesty that puts innocent people in jail for twenty years and stigmatizes their families.)   Our legal process has this large rotten core: the supposedly "good guys" are allowed to lie and cheat;  evidence can be and is withheld from the accused and from juries, evidence can be faked by dishonest law officers.  How can juries possibly be expected to make sound decisions when they aren't given the facts?  

Recent research has shown that when people have a firearm in hand--even a toy one--they are much more likely to think another person also has a firearm.   Just seeing a firearm, having one in the same room, but not in hand, does not have the same effect of heightened alarm.   It's hypothesized that since holding an object  activates the brain circuits involved in using that object, holding a firearm activates those circuits as well (more research is needed, certainly, but the preliminary results suggest without proving this as a cause of the frequent "mistakes" when the shooter thinks the target has a gun and does not.  The shooter is already biased to see anything the target carries or reaches for as another firearm.  

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Published on March 27, 2012 07:04 • 74 views

March 19, 2012

Who hates women?

The war on women isn't just a foul-mouthed boor like Rush Limbaugh calling a college student a slut and a prostitute for  telling Congress that birth control pills have important medical uses.

It isn't just Rick Santorum the Catholic  ranting about the evils of birth control, or Mitt Romney the Mormon declaring that "we'll get rid of Planned Parenthood" or Sarah Palin thinking rape victims should pay for the rape kit used to collect evidence after a rape, or Georgia state representative Terry England comparing women to cows and sows  (who, he says, have no problem delivering dead calves and piglets, so why shouldn't women wait until their dead fetus comes out on its own.)

It's a nationwide attack on women's rights as citizens by all levels of the Republican Party.   One of the inalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence is that of "life"...(along with liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but I'll deal with those in another post.)   "Inalienable" means that it cannot be dismissed or curtailed by law.

A citizen's right to life--to choose to maintain her/his own life, to choose the level of risk--has been fundamental to our conception of citizenship.  One of the long-standing arguments against conscription for military service was that it forced men to risk their lives involuntarily.  For much of our history we have had an all-volunteer military, as we do now.  No citizen can be forced to risk her/his life for another.  Some may choose to do so (braving a burning car to save someone trapped inside, diving into a river to save a drowning person, becoming live donors of a kidney or bone marrow)  but the law cannot compel it.   Where medical procedures are concerned, the citizen must be informed of the risks and the choice must not be coerced.

Yet Republicans approve denying female citizens the right of choice in reproductive decisions, demeaning women's citizenship to the level of serfdom or even livestock.  Republicans have advanced the proposition that the embryo, from conception, is a "person" and thus a citizen with more rights than its mother.   I consider their motives suspect at best.    Several states have passed laws allowing doctors to lie to women about the health of their fetus and about the risk to themselves if they continue the pregnancy.  Most Republicans seem to feel that even if a woman's life is clearly endangered, and the fetus has died (thus there's no life to be saved but hers) the woman has no right to save herself.  They believe a citizen--an American citizen who happens to be a woman--has no right to choose life for herself.  She can be compelled to risk her life or die...for someone else's religious belief.

So far, Republicans have not suggested that male citizens should be compelled by law to rush into fires, jump into rivers, or give up a kidney or bone marrow to save someone's life.   They do not question whether a male seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction just wants a hard-on so he can have fun with sex, or suggest that he have himself videotaped having sex with prostitutes and put it on YouTube.  In fact, a male's inability to get it up is treated as a serious medical problem in itself even though a limp dick is not in itself life-threatening.  (Yes, it may be a symptom of another serious condition,  and those should be treated.  Not with Viagra.)

A few examples of the lengths to which Republicans will go to control women and risk their lives by denying them both the knowledge to make informed choices about their reproductive health and the choices that might save their lives, health, and future. 

In Kansas, the Republican-dominated legislature wrote a low that allows doctors to lie to women patients and thereby endanger their health.   Doctors are allowed to lie to pregnant women about the health of their fetus and any danger the pregnancy might pose to her health as well.  The Republican governor,  Sam Brownback, approved it.   This law places women at unequal risk of death without their consent.

 In Oklahoma, the Republican-dominated legislature wrote a similar law that allows doctors to lie to women patients and thereby endanger their health; the Republican governor Mary Fallin approved it.   This law places women at unequal risk of death without their consent.

In Arizona, the Republican-dominated legislature wrote a similar law that allows doctors to lie to women patients and thereby endanger their health.   The Republican governor, Jan Brewer approved it.  This law places women at unequal risk of death without their consent.

Nationwide, Republican-dominated state legislatures proposed--and often passed--legislation affecting women's health by seeking to eliminate or curtail women's access to birth control and pregnancy termination, and defunding clinics run by organizations that sometimes provide abortions.   Planned Parenthood is the primary target of these attacks, but not the only one.

For instance,  In Texas, the Republican-dominated legislature wrote a law that requires women seeking an abortion to have a medically unnecessary, intrusive, embarrassing, and painful procedure and listen to a lecture serving no medical, but a religious, purpose. The Republican governor, Rick Perry, approved it.   The same governor has defunded Planned Parenthood, refusing federal funds for its clinics in Texas.  Planned Parenthood has provided many medical services (including cancer screening) for poor woman in Texas  and the state has no plans to replace it with equal levels of care for women who have no other source of  medical care.  This puts their lives at risk from more than complications of pregnancy.   (Rick Perry and the Republican-dominated Texas legislature have a long history of  either refusing funding for programs that improve the health of women and children, or diverting such funds to other uses--typically giving "incentives" to those they approve.)

 In Virginia, the Republican-dominated legislature also requires women seeking an abortion to have a medically unnecessary, intrusive, embarrassing, and painful procedure and listen to religiously-dominated claptrap before they can have one.  The Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, approved it. 

Arizona's Republican legislature  has proposed a bill that would allow any employer--religious or secular--to deny birth control coverage in their insurance plan, and even fire an employee who used birth control obtained outside that insurance.    (It may passed by now, and their Republican governor may have signed it.)

Wisconsin's Republican-dominated legislature passed a law repealing the "Healthy Youth Act" (requiring that only abstinence-only programs be taught in Wisconsin schools--despite the demonstrated lack of efficacy of such programs) and making it illegal for women to buy private abortion coverage.  

These laws, proposed and adopted, and others not listed here, deny women equal citizenship rights, and specifically limit a woman citizen's right to life--requiring women to risk their life or lose it to satisfy someone else's religious beliefs.   That is a direct attack not only on women's rights, but on religious freedom--since the laws are applied to women of all beliefs.  Religious freedom is the freedom to belief what you want...not the freedom to force other people to adhere to your beliefs.   (The later is theocracy--rule by a specific religious group, and exactly comparable to Sharia law in Muslim countries.  It doesn't matter what religion--if it makes the laws for a country, it's a theocracy.)  



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Published on March 19, 2012 10:04 • 342 views

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