E.J. Graff

Adoption Is Not a Solution for Poor Children

Dr. Jane Aronson is a beloved and dedicated figure in the world of international adoption. It's a big deal when she weighs in, which she did this week in response to recent coverage of adoption fraud like the exposes in The New York Times about China's system along with extensive coverage by the Los Angeles Times , The Washington Post , ABC, and other weighty news outfits. (I've reported extensively on the underlying systemic issues; you can find my work and related resources here .) Here's what matters most: Aronson told the adoption lobby that adoption is not the solution for the world's needy children. She asks : Why did we create such a marvelous bureaucracy to improve international adoption practices and not pour some of that money into the welfare of mothers in these countries? Substitute "families" for "mothers" -- some of those children are living with grandmothers, sisters, or cousins -- and that's the right question. Although UNICEF is often quoted as saying that there are...

Very Bunny

Warning: This post includes two very bad jokes, one of which I'll dispose of right up front. When my wife walked into my study to find me looking at scantily clad Playboy bunnies on the Internet, I did in fact tell her that I was going to watch NBC's latest show, The Playboy Club for the articles -- at least for this one. She refused to watch with me because she didn't think she could handle the attitudes toward women. I loved, and she disliked, the first season of Mad Men because of its painfully accurate portrayal of systemic misogyny in the 1960s. The thing about Mad Men is that even though you know how the larger story turns out -- hang on there, feminism is coming! -- and even though the show winks regularly at the future (they smoked when pregnant!), watching it offers insight into the agonies of the time. Seeing the submissive wives, patronizing male doctors, and smart women fighting back sexual harassers as they endure their secretarial jobs isn't quite as shocking as watching...

DADT Goes Out With a Bang

I should've known better. Yesterday, I wrote that DADT would die not with a bang but a whimper. Wrong! There was, indeed, a media fanfare, with general agreement that this was a very good thing. Apparently, I'm an anachronism; but after spending my early adulthood in the Jim Crow era of LGBT issues, it still kills me that mainstream America has come to agree that treating lesbians and gay men equally is worth celebrating. Here, then, are the most interesting DADT pieces I saw: On YouTube , a young man who says he's a service member based in Berlin comes out to his father in Alabama on a phone call and posts it, live. This went viral. Have your hankies ready. (Cynic alert: Am I the only one who thinks it's creepy to webcast such an intimate moment? Or wonders if the dude is who he says he is?) Chris Geidner at MetroWeekly asked some of the pioneering opponents of DADT for their thoughts here , notably including Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer and Michelle Benecke, who helped found the...

So You Say You Want a Sexual Revolution, Huh?

After my post last week on whether "sexual liberation" leads to monogamy , Amanda Marcotte and I twittered briefly about the myth of progress in sexual mores. The progress myth goes like this: Once upon a time, all was repression, imposed by religion/patriarchy/the establishment/your-nominee-here. But that theory is wrong: As with all fashions, libertinism comes and goes, alternating with restriction. Think the wild 1920s, then the marry-young 1950s (whose unexpected procreativity literally gave birth to the baby boom), then the swinging 1970s, then the Just-Say-No 1980s. Then I discovered that Ariel Levy laid out the evidence for this view far more thoroughly in her book essay in the last New Yorker. It's fascinating to see her find evidence of various sexual revolutions dating back to 18 th century, and she suggests that the pattern dates back much further. Check out this parenthetical aside about a device invented in the 1880s as a treatment for female illness: The vibrator was...

Marry Me

Yesterday the Washington Post published a nice summary of the various federal lawsuits underway in the court battles over same-sex marriage, a piece occasioned by a panel at the College of William and Mary Law School's Institute of Bill of Rights Law. The panel, according to reporter Robert Barnes, was debating whether the government's political or judicial branch should decide whether same-sex couples' bonds should be recognized as "marriage" by federal law. Given that LGBT folks now -- after years of organizing effort and personal travail -- have some (some!) political traction, shouldn't we be deciding the question in legislatures, not courts? Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, the well-regarded conservative on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, called the question "wrenchingly hard." He noted the contributions of gay Americans and said it was striking that the movement's aims in the courts is to "partake in the most traditional" of American rights: to serve in the military...

Can Tammy Baldwin Win?

Over at TheAtlantic.com, I look into the question of whether openly lesbian Tammy Baldwin can become Wisconsin's senator. Pop quiz: What's the " L-word" that's likely to hurt her most? Hint: It's not this one . Here's an excerpt: In 1998, Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay candidate to be elected to the U.S. Congress as a non-incumbent, winning a seat representing liberal Madison, Wisc., in the House of Representatives. Now the leading candidate to become the Democratic nominee to replace retiring Senator Herb Kohl, Baldwin would become the first out U.S. Senator in American history if she wins election in November 2012. And in a kind triumph for the gay rights movement, it turns out "lesbian" isn't the L-word most likely to be used against her in a race defeat either likely Republican opponent, whether Mark Neumann or Tommy Thompson. In Wisconsin, the fighting L-word these days is "liberal" -- and, observers say, that's the territory on which her race will be won or lost. .....

The Real Contagion

While we're talking about how policy failures can help illnesses spread, let me pass on some news from organizer Ellen Bravo of Family Values @ Work. As flu season starts (file under: Contagion ), Bravo's group is stressing that real contagion can be prevented if more people had paid sick days. Every year, 44 million low-wage workers go to work even if they or their children are sick because they still have to pay the rent and buy food. Those are the people who handle our food, clean up our tables, change our sheets in hotels and hospitals, and take care of our children. She writes: Seattle just won paid sick days Monday with an 8-1 vote in City Council... looking for another win soon in Philly on an ordinance requiring those who receive contracts or subsidies from the City to provide paid sick days. Denver voters will decide a citywide ballot initiative there Nov. 1. Many other campaigns gearing up for 2012.

Back-Door Anti-Abortion

Earlier this week I posted an excerpt from a funny diatribe by Jeffrey T. Kuhner of the Edmund Burke Institute, published in the Washington Times , that linked contraception with abortion. Kuhner ranted that almost every major religion and civilizations have always opposed contraception, homosexuality, adultery -- oh, pretty much anything having to do with sex unless it's a husband and wife making babies. A Guttmacher Institute staffer very kindly got in touch soon after to let me know that, um, that's not really true; in fact that most Americans, including church-going Catholics and evangelicals, regularly use birth control . Intellectually, Kuhner and his kin are direct descendants of Anthony Comstock , the late-nineteenth-century figure whose "chastity laws" fought contraception, pornography, and all kinds of whoredom ( i.e., any attempt to sever the direct link between sex, marriage, and birth). But while I'm way too easily amused by out-of-control screeds, the underlying reality...

Taking a Stand on Standing

At the Prospect on Monday, Chris Geidner took a principled stand on the procedural question of who should be able to defend Proposition 8 in the courts: Do only California state officials, who have declined to support this antagonism toward marriage equality? Or do Prop. 8's authors and backers. The LA Times essentially agreed that Prop 8 deserves a full hearing in court so that it can die on its merits, saying here: [T]he state should be required to hire an attorney to provide the best possible defense. The constitutionality of Proposition 8 is for the courts to decide, not state officials. Shannon Minter and Chris Stoll of the California-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of the big three LGBT legal advocacy groups, disagree , saying: But Prop 8 has already had its day in court. It lost -- and not because there weren't any lawyers to defend it. Despite hiring a large team of experienced lawyers and putting on the best case they were able to muster, the supporters of Prop...

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go to the Salad Bar ...

In theory, your lunch is soon to be a little safer . In part as a response to Harvard Public Health Review editor Madeline Drexler's devastating food-safety critique in the latest issue of Good Housekeeping , the USDA just announced it would designate all "Big Six" strains of E. coli as "adulterants" -- previously, only one E. coli strain was counted as dangerous. That means food producers are supposed to test for and eliminate them in their products. Drexler's piece opened with the heartbreaking death of a healthy child from an E. coli O111 infection, a strain hitherto permissible in the food supply. As the child's mother said, "I feel like my kid was murdered." Declaring a potentially deadly bacterium an impermissible "adulterant" was long pushed for by consumer groups and legislators, and strongly recommended in the article. Drexler's 2003 book Secret Agents , recently updated and reissued as "Emerging Epidemics: The Menace of New Infections," stopped me from ever eating raw bean...

This Is Your Country "On Alert"

Remember reading that there were some "security incidents" this past Sunday after authorities "erred on the side of caution" for fear of a 9/11 anniversary attack? James Fallows at The Atlantic has some dispiriting insights into one of them: A half-Arab, half-Jewish self-described suburban housewife and former journalism student was detained because, by chance, she was seated on a plane row between two Indian men. As she wrote : Silly me. I thought flying on 9/11 would be easy. I figured most people would choose not to fly that day so lines would be short, planes would be lightly filled and though security might be ratcheted up, we'd all feel safer knowing we had come a long way since that dreadful Tuesday morning 10 years ago. But then armed officers stormed my plane, threw me in handcuffs and locked me up. Is Flying While Semitic the new DWB? No wonder American Jews are the most sympathetic, according to Gallup, to the plight of American Muslims; they're cousins, facing similar...

Did "Sexual Liberation" Make Us More Monogamous?

When I was babysitting back in 1975, I was afraid of a book enshrined on one family's coffee table: Open Marriage, by Nena and George O'Neill. I can't really tell you why it scared me; I never opened it, and I didn't grasp the topic, but its prominent and seemingly fixed placement made it seem evangelically threatening to my family life in some way I couldn't express. Our rural exurb of an Ohio Air Force base (a SAC command, for those who remember the Cold War) wasn't exactly the key-party, "wife-swapping" territory of Updike's Connecticut or Rick Moody and Ang Lee's Ice Storm . But there was Open Marriage , on display deep in Republican territory -- an announcement to the married, retired colonels and military wives who visited that alternatives to each other were available. It was also the year that the fabulously named Dr. Pepper Schwartz and Dr. Philip Blumstein were doing the broad-scale research that resulted in their landmark book, American Couples: Money, Work, Sex. Long...

No, You Can't Just Eat Oreos

What do Jane Lynch and I have in common? (I know this question has been haunting you since I started opining here a week ago.) Obviously Jane is funnier and far more talented, creative, well-off, and famous. But we do have this in common: We both became parents at an advanced age by marrying women who already had children. I wonder if her household is as consumed as mine is by the burning question: Should kids pack their own lunches?

Sim City 2000, Subsidized by Your Tax Dollars

If you were either consumed by the 9/11 retrospectives or avoiding them with your own personal news blackout, you might have missed The New York Times ' exposé on how thoroughly the video-game industry is subsidized by your tax dollars -- courtesy, at least in part, of the government/industry revolving door. You know something is wrong when even the oil companies think your business gets too many tax breaks. Here's the money quote: Michael D. Rashkin, author of "Practical Guide to Research and Development Tax Incentives," said that the video game industry had failed to name a technological breakthrough that had helped anyone beyond its shareholders, employees or customers. "The research credit benefits the wrong companies and encourages the wrong kind of research," said Mr. Rashkin, a tax expert and executive at Marvell Technology, a company based in Santa Clara, Calif. "By diverting funding and attention from where it could be most useful, the credit is hobbling American innovation."

Maybe, Just Maybe, America's Best Days Aren't Over

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I've been feeling pretty lousy about it. Like Rick Perlstein , I have felt pretty Eeyore-ish about the United States for about a decade. Osama won , I wrote last spring, with a jujitsu move that had the U.S. overreacting and morally bankrupting ourselves. But, instead, should I feel fine? This weekend, two chance encounters opened a window onto my gloom. One was Adam Gopnik's excellent book essay in this week's edition of The New Yorker . He provides an overview of the "decline and fall of civilization" genre of nonfiction, using several new books as a kick-off point. Somehow, reading this persuaded me that perhaps the U.S. isn't on the inexorable road to collapse. Please read it, if only for his takedown of Tom Friedman or his explanation that: Americans are perfectly willing to sacrifice their comforts for their ideological convictions. We don't have a better infrastructure or decent elementary education exactly because many people are...

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