Yesterday, while you were powerless to stop them, Congress passed a law declaring Barack Obama to be a native-born citizen, making his takeover complete.

As previously reported, there’s some question about this. While it has been demonstrated that he was born in Hawaii, there is as of yet no definitive prof that he was not born in Kenya, where his father was. At some point. That’s why Rep. Bill Brasky Rep. Bill Posey has introduced a bill requiring future Presidential candidates (including Obama if he runs again in 2012) to prove they were born.

Though Posey did vote for H. Res. 593, which avers “the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961.” In fact, 378 members of the House of Representatives voted for the non-binding resolution, and none voted against (the rest didn’t record a vote at all, not an uncommon occurence, or is it?)

Republicans didn’t just let this happen, of course. Michele Bachmann delayed it on procedural grounds, forcing . . . er, well, forcing Republican Representatives to go on record picking a side. Unsurprisingly, they all picked the side of rational people, but they could have simply not shown up too. In fact, they didn’t, since there wasn’t a quorum.

So now that that’s taken care of, what’s Washington going to talk about now?


I’m not up for a post today, and there’s not a lot of today left. Have a good weekend.

So, birthers. Huh.

Yes, there are still people out there wondering if Barack Obama is eligible to be president. At last count, 17 lawsuits have been filed either claiming Obama is not a natural-born citizen or demanding that he prove that he is (including a reservist who refused to be deployed because the Commander in Chief is supposedly illegitimate).

So why, you ask, doesn’t he simply provide some evidence that he was born in the U.S.—a birth certificate, perhaps—to quiet the doubters and put the matter to rest. Well, there are several problems with this. First, how many of his predecessors or opponents have been asked to show their birth certificates, let alone done so? Maybe McCain, born in the Panama Canal Zone while it was part of the U.S. Second, he did, as early as 2007. (Incidentally, I love the name of the St. Petersberg Times‘s primary-sources Web site.)

The trouble is, there’s always something else, somewhere to move the goalposts to. Now the clamor is for the “long-form” birth certificate. Then that’ll be questioned, because it’ll be a digital copy, because it’s hard to put a piece of paper on the Internet. Even then, there’ll be people saying “yeah, but that’s not his super-duper-secret birth certificate” and the eligibility Calvinball game will continue. A few holdouts will refuse to accept any docuent as genuine, and therefore probitive, if it doesn’t give his place of birth as Kenya, meaning there is literally no document that will prove to these people that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.

Then there’s the third issue: Obama’s a bit busy right now.

(h/t Bint Alshamsa at Feministe and the boys and girls at ONTD_P)

Sorry for no content, I’m taking a break. I’ll be back after the vote on Sotomayor with my thoughts on that.

The notion of trigger warnings rubs me the wrong way for a number of reasons I shan’t go into here, so I’m simply not going to post a link to the article in the Telegraph Vanessa at Feministing discusses here, the one saying that if women didn’t go around dressing like that, they wouldn’t get raped.


So, what you can take away from this is . . . isn’t much, as it turns out, what with the actual study saying nothing of the sort. In fact, it says next to nothing about women, focusing on rape as it relates to rapists.

When you get right down to it, in fact, it says nothing at all, because the methodolgy is more than a little shaky:

[Researcher Sophia] Shaw spoke to about 100 men, presenting them with various situations around being with a woman, and asking them when they would call it a night, in order to explore men’s attitudes towards coercing women into sex. “I’m very aware that there are limitations to my study. It’s self report data about sensitive issues, so that’s got its flaws, participants were answering when sober, and so on.”

But that doesn’t excuse the famously socially conservative paper misrepresenting the study’s conclusions.

So it really looks like they were just trying to be provocative. And, um, wrong. Science journalism sucks, but it’s not typically this bad, Which would be fine if they were just amusing themselves—chacun a son goût and all that—but this sort of thing just perpetuates the idea in society that women can do things to avoid being victimized. And therefore that women who don’t do those things are in some sense willing to be victimized, and not, say, trying to live their lives as if they’re free people.

But ultimately the problem with this isn’t that the results are bad. It would be interesting, to say the least, if we discovered actual solid proof that there is something a woman can do to guarantee she won’t be attacked, however unpopular that might be politically. The problem is that a major British newspaper willlfully misrepresented a study. That’s where the harm comes in.

My Fact-senses are tingling—someone’s getting bad advice!

Found them:

I checked my boyfriend’s online history (okay, invaded his privacy) and saw he’d been looking up porn all day yesterday and the day before while home with the flu. I freaked! We’d talked about porn before. He said he watched it in his younger days, but didn’t anymore, so I was surprised. I confronted him, and he said he’d been bored and curious, but doesn’t watch porn regularly. I don’t know whether I believe him. I’ve heard people get addicted to porn. Beyond that, there are the unrealistic images of women. The fact that he initially lied makes me worry he has a problem. — Smut Patrol

Well, the first problem is that Smut Patrol looked through her boyfriend’s browser history. Unless they’re using the same computer, she has no excuse, and frankly, even if they are using the same computer she probably shouldn’t, unless it’s doing something weird and she thinks he might be to blame (that applies irrespective of the sexes of the people involved).

Now, I’m not going to say, as Amy Alkon did, that men’s penises go online to look at porn without our participation. I don’t believe I have gone to any sites with pictures of naked people in years, at least, unless you count this. But presumably he’s been doing this all along, and the relationship is reasonably healthy, so clearly it’s not causing any problems.

I too am concerned that he lied about it. Hiding something from your partner, unless only by omission, is almost always worse than whatever it is you’re hiding. But even if it’s a dealbreaker for her, she really needs to trust him when he says he doesn’t look at porn unless there’s some specific reason—”he’s male” doesn’t count as a reason—to doubt. It will make the relationship easier for everyone.

Today the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 (pdf) that an Arizona school district was wrong to strip-search a then-13-year-old student suspected of having over-the-counter painkillers tucked away in her underwear.

There were several factors that undoubtedly influenced this decision, not least that the school district was in the wrong. Savana Redding was a girl, and so considered more vulnerable to nudity than a boy. She wasn’t “holding,” meaning the whole thing was a waste and thus all the more outrageous.The only drug they were even looking for was ibuprofen, which is legal for all ages, commonly used, and largely harmless (though not to me personally, as it happens).

Perhaps not surprisingly, I’m finding no real people echoing Clarence Thomas’s warning in his dissent that the decision lets teenagers know they can safely hide things in their underwear, like they didn’t know that already. Most people, it seems, recognize zero tolerance for what it is; a form of control, requiring children to be obedient for obedience’s sake and making sure they don’t step out of line. Zero tolerance means not having to consider students as people with needs and motives, only as cogs in the machine of the school.

It also means gross injustices such as what happened to Redding. While in theory these harsh penalties apply to all students, in practice they’re generally used against those who don’t “fit in” and are considered likely to be on drugs anyway, since after all they’re “bad kids.”

That‘s what the Supreme Court chipped away at with today’s decision: the notion that “bad kids” can be subject to humiliation for vague and flimsy reasons.

As a single American man over 30 (by nine months), I was a bit startled to learn that 30 percent of us have paid for sex. I haven’t, and I don’t expect to, if only because I’m put off by the stereotypes.

But if I wanted to, should I be able to? Perhaps.

The system is brutal to sex workers, encourages corruption in cops, and wastes tax money on useless enforcement. No matter what you think the goal of prostitution policy ought to be, the US policy fails.

That prostitution is illegal makes those in the profession vulnerable to employers and clients in a way people in legitimate professions can only imagine.

At the same time, people practicing prostitution legally can face their own forms of exploitation. While Nevada’s brothel-based sex trade ensures workers a place to practice their profession safe from legal sanction, the system does permit abuses by brothel owners. In particular, women are attached—one might say indentured—to a particular house, with little opportunity or ability to leave a bad situation. The facilities, situated in the ample Nevada desert far from cities or even large towns, allow rampant mistreatment as a practical matter.

The common justification given for outlawing prostitution is that it’s degrading and exploitative, with Nevada being held up as an example. But prostitution in Nevada is regulated, heavily, in a way that suggests the goal is to hide it from “normal people”—an approach that’s only technically distinct from outright prohibition. Exploitation simply isn’t cut and dried; arguably anyone who has to work for a living is exploited, after all, and few people would openly suggest that women (which most prostitutes are) are incapable of making decisions, either in general or about sex.

A new law designed to enhance the safety of America’s food supply is speeding through Congress. If passed, it won’t work, but it might in its failure do lasting damage to the quality and healthfulness of the food we eat.

The most far-reaching effect of the bill is a new annual registration fee of $500 in 2009 dollars1 imposed on all producers—effectively killing off small and struggling farms (the bill has an exemption for “farms,” but on closer inspection, the exemption turns out to refer only to those farms that don’t sell any food). The accompanying documentation must be submitted electronically, notwithstanding a farmer’s religious objections, something I suspect the Third Circuit is going to take a rather dim view of.

The actual safety part is addressed by a government-bureaucracy-style labyrinth of hazard analyses and prevention controls that will, like the fee, impose an equal burden on all producers and therefore a proportionately greater burden on smaller producers (that is, Lexcorp Agricultural Enterprises can simply hand the forms off to its Form Filling Out Department, while Ma and Pa Kent have to take time away from their actal lives to do it).

In general, in fact, the bill suffers from the FDA’s tendency to treat small organic farms the same as large conventional ones. The FDA, as Michael Pollan documented in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has a bit of difficulty getting its metaphorical head around the notion that there are ways of doing things other than Big Agri’s. Smaller and organic farms, then, have to scramble to keep up or have to make their case to an unsympathetic government agency.

It’s really kind of a shame, in fact, that many of the people coming out against this bill are crazy. The Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which has a rational and lucidly written Web site, is against this billl for the logical reason that ” it would adversely impact small farms and food producers, without providing significant reforms in the industrial food system. [The current version of the FSEA] does not address the underlying causes of food safety problems, including industrial agriculture practices and the consolidation of our food supply.” I mention this because it’s easy enough to discredit a position by noting its adherents’ rants on, say, the government trying to take your car away if you put groceries in it, or Monsanto taking over the FDA.

It’s bad enough that the bill violates the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and threatens small farms and organic food production. Don’t let crazy people scare you into acting against your own interests.

1Or $1000, depending on what Web site you read.

Advice Without Consent is a new occasional (i.e., when I can’t find anything else to write about) feature here at Sifwitmify. This is when I take a question from an advice column and give a better answer that the querent won’t, alas, see. Naturally, this is for entertainment purposes (mostly mine) only and shouldn’t be relied upon, used without permission, close cover before striking, this tag not to be removed except by consumer, if erection lasts longer than four hours get fresher jokes.

So, here we go:

Dear Prudence,
I’m 26, and for three wonderful months I have been dating a woman five years older than me. When we first met, neither of us realized the age difference. We share common values, and she gets along well with my friends and brother. The trouble is my parents. They find her “charming and lovely” but are appalled by our age difference. My mother has termed our relationship “weird” and “odd,” which hurts me. They point out that I have not had many serious relationships. I love her and want to see how our relationship fares. It seems to me that this requires a long time, perhaps years. But my parents claim that I must decide within three months whether to marry her or not, since it would be cruel to waste her time on an ultimately futile relationship. Are my parents being reasonable here? Do I have an obligation to decide quickly whether I want to marry this lady? And, should I decide not to pursue this relationship, is there any way I could end it without hurting her?

Oh, good heavens, five whole years! Whatever do they find to talk about? Ahem. This question resonates with me, sort of, because my beloved Deadly Stealth Frogess is an ancient crone six years my senior1, and naturally we represent two totally diferent eras. For example, she saw Star Wars in the theater, while I was born the next year.

Ahem. No one terms our relationship weird or odd, and no one outside our bloody relationship is giving us ultimatums, WTF? Nor does anyone find it apalling. From my parents’ perspective, we’re about the same age. So no, “Not Quite Benjamin Braddock”‘s parents are not being remotely reasonable, or even especially probable—I have a feeling most of this is in the young man’s head. I suspect that, as the one who, after all, invoked The Graduate, the letter writer has a bigger problem with the relationship than he cares to admit, and so hears every evn ambiguously critical remark as being a condemnation, and of the “age difference” in particular. Even the supposed marriage deadline may be no more than a typical anxious mother.

Which is understandable. Even nowadays we tend to expect a man to be older than his partner, as part of the old-fashioned sexist view of a relationship (marriage) as being led by the man. A gap that wouldn’t be worth mentioning if it’s in his favor becomes huge when it’s in hers. Prudence points this out in her own answer: “five years is an insignificant age difference—your parents would hardly be appalled if you were 31 and your girlfriend 26.” So he’s hyperfocused on it, and assumes everyone else is too.

Prudence’s own answer is more about parental overinvolvement. I’ll give her that. If this dude’s parents truly are as nagging as he claims, he needs to tell them to get off his back. I just suspect he’s blowing things out of proportion from needless guilt.

1I don’t really think you’re an ancient crone, sweetheart.

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