Friday, March 30, 2012

April Fool!

Dear Readers,

Hoaxes are part of the history of humanity, and if you want to get in on the fun this year, check out this website for some ideas. The Museum of Hoaxes will also alert you to whether someone is pulling your own leg.

Did you hear about the little girls in England who took photos of real fairies in their back yard? A hoax.

What about crop circles? An amazingly elaborate hoax carried on by a lot of people.

And some April Fool's Day pranks are right here, including the best ever prank...Just please don't play any cruel jokes on your friends.

Not Kidding,

Madame L

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Has Barack Obama Done?

Dear Madame L,

I don't know why you keep supporting Barack Obama, since he hasn't kept the promises he made during the 2008 elections.

Don't you think someone else could do a better job?


Questioning Obama's Accomplishments

Dear Questioner,

Madame L thinks --- and knows you won't be at all surprised to read this --- that Barack Obama has done an incredible amount in his first three years of office, and, what's more, has done almost all of it in spite of continued Republican efforts to block his accomplishments, even in areas that they would have supported if anyone else had been president.

In spite of the Republicans' admitted primary goal of denying Pres. Obama a second term (cf. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky), Pres. Obama has accomplished these things (and this is just a partial list):

Passed health care reform;
Passed the stimulus;
Passed Wall Street reform;
Ended the war in Iraq;
Began drawing down the war in Afghanistan;
Eliminated Osama bin Laden;
Turned around the U.S. auto industry;
Recapitalized banks;
Repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell";
Toppled Muammar Qadaffi;
Told Hosni Mubarak to go; and
Reversed Bush torture policies.

Please read "The Incomplete Greatness of Barack Obama" and "Obama's Top 50 Accomplishments" in The Washington Monthly for more information.

Madame L doesn't think anyone else could have done so much, and she's looking forward to seeing what Pres. Obama can accomplish in his next term.


Madame L

Monday, March 26, 2012

This Bizarro Republican Act of Political Seppuku

Dear Madame L,

Did you hear that the Republicans are planning to oppose the "Violence Against Women Act" when women Democratic senators introduce it again this month? 

The Republican Party would be making a huge mistake, don't you think, especially since they supported the bill when it was first introduced in 1994? 

It seems to me like opposing this would be a bizarro act of political seppuku---especially after Rush Limbaugh's recent verbal assault on a young woman, and recent and ongoing Republican attempts not only to make even medically necessary abortions harder for women to obtain but to make contraception and even general medical care harder for women to obtain.


Do They Want to be Known as the Party That Hates Women?

Dear Reader Who Doesn't Hate Women,

Is it all right if Madame L calls you that? Madame L hopes she's right in assuming that you support this legislation.

Madame L thinks the Republican Party is going to have to do a quick turn-around on women's health and safety issues if it wants to retain the support of very many women in this country. 

Madame L has read also that Republican presidential primary front-runner Mitt Romney is going against his work as governor in Massachusetts in favor of health care for women, and that he even promised to end Medicare if he's elected president. (Madame L has read that Mr. Romney, who just turned 65, hasn't enrolled in Medicare because he won't be needing Medicare for himself --- a luxury that most people simply don't have!)

But, Madame L digresses. Here's an excerpt from the New York Times article about the proposed bill: 

"'I am furious,' said Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington. 'We’re mad, and we’re tired of it.'

"Republicans are bracing for a battle where substantive arguments could be swamped by political optics and the intensity of the clash over women’s issues. At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as antiwoman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall, several Republican senators said Wednesday." 

The article goes on to note that conservatives are feeling "trapped" by the introduction of this legislation at this point. Madame L notes that she hears their tiny violins and doesn't want to hear the chorus.

Again, quoting from the Times: "The legislation would continue existing grant programs to local law enforcement and battered women shelters, but would expand efforts to reach Indian tribes and rural areas. It would increase the availability of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking, and provide training for civil and criminal court personnel to deal with families with a history of violence. It would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence."

Madame L thinks this is a law whose time has come, again and again, and anyone who opposes it, for whatever reason, really does hate women.


Madame L

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, March 25, 2012: The Book Thief

Dear Readers,

This is the best book Madame L has read in ages. Please read it.

Oh, do you want some more details?

Liesel Meminger's parents are Communists in Nazi Germany. Her little brother dies even as Liesel's mother is taking them to a foster home to be safe. Their father has already been taken away, and soon enough Liesel finds out that her mother has been taken, too.

Is that why Liesel steals books? No, it is not. The many reasons for Liesel becoming the book thief are too complex to relate here.

Maybe you would have to be Death Himself to understand why. And that's okay, because Death is the narrator of the Liesel's story. Can you imagine a more appropriate --- or more omniscient --- narrator for a story about surviving Nazi Germany?

Don't try to read this book while you need to focus on something else. It's not great beach or airplane reading. It demands that you savor every sentence, that you go back and re-read whole passages, that you promise yourself to re-read the whole book.

But read it. You'll find more satisfaction in reading this book than in any quick-read page-turner. Madame L promises you that.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Should Obama Apologize to Afghanistan?

Dear Madame L,

I'm really sorry for those poor Afghan people whose family members were killed in a crazy rampage by a single U.S. serviceman last week.

But I don't think the President of the United States should have to apologize for it. I think Pres. Obama is apologizing way too much. 


It Wasn't His Fault

Dear Non-Apologist,

Madame L agrees with you that those killings, and the other horrible things that have been done, whether purposely or accidentally, by American soldiers and contractors in Iraq are not Pres. Obama's fault. 

But Madame L notes that Washington Post fact-checkers discovered that Pres. Obama is NOT going on some "apology tour," as his detractors have claimed. Instead, they found, he "repeatedly extolled America and its ideals. Like his predecessors, Obama has become practiced in conceding error without saying sorry..."

But, more importantly, here's why it's very wise of our President to apologize for in this way---"conceding error without saying 'sorry'"---for such acts as the Koran burning and the more recent massacre, from "The Politics of Sorry," by Karl E. Meyer, in "Foreign Policy":

"Few wounds fester longer than a failure to acknowledge gross abuses, even in times long past. Japan to this day remains tongue-tied regarding treatment of Korean "comfort women" during World War II and is still faulted in Asia for its tardy and awkward apologies for its wartime transgressions. Turkey steadfastly resists to even acknowledge its indiscriminate slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman troops during World War I, prompting the French National Assembly to pass a law criminalizing denial of what is widely regarded as a genocide. Turkey, for its part, accuses France of ignoring its own crimes perpetrated during an Algerian war that claimed more than a million lives (Algeria's count) or at least 300,000 lives (in France's reckoning) -- a discrepancy ironically symmetrical with contested counts of Armenian fatalities in Turkey."

What happens when national leaders do NOT apologize? Here's an example, from that same article:

"Concerning France's undeclared war in Algeria, President Nicolas Sarkozy all but shrugged prior to his sole visit to Algeria in 2007... To date, there has been no official apology for France's violent repression and use of torture in the war, so Algerians have repeatedly complained."

Partial apologies don't work. Neither does blaming someone else, or spreading or sharing the blame. And when denials are later shown to be false as the truth is revealed, the situation is even worse for the country or person responsible.

Madame L suggests that Pres. Obama's method of dealing with such unfortunate incidents, acknowledging the problem and the hurt while pledging to investigate, is the best way to handle them.


Madame L

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Silence Gun: No, Please, No!

Dear Madame L,

Thanks for the post about cell-phone jammers. 

But what about this new idea: a "silence gun" that doesn't disrupt any communication frequencies. It's called a "Speechjammer." It reflects the words of the person who's talking on a cell phone or chatting it up in the library right back to the person. The "echo effect" disrupts the person's ability to even think about what they're going to say next, leaving them speechless.


Wanting a Quieter World

Dear Quieter,

Madame L also wants a quieter world, but she believes that fighting rudeness with incivility is not the way to achieve this dream.


Madame L

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sauce for the Gander

Dear Readers,

As you know, Madame L has ranted about the Constitutional problems behind recent legislative proposals requiring undue intrusions into the bodies and personal lives of women. 

Now Madame L thought you would enjoy these news items about state legislators who have introduced legislation that would require men looking for Viagra prescriptions to receive "extra" medical attention. 

These bills seem to have been introduced for their tongue-in-cheek irony, as none of them has a chance of being passed. But here are some of them: 

Virginia Sen. Janet Howell introduced an amendment to Virginia's ultrasound bill that would have required men seeking Viagra to undergo a rectal exam. 
Missouri Rep. Stacey Newman submitted legislation that would allow men to get vasectomies only in life-threatening situations.
And, most recently, Ohio Sen. Nina Turner introduced a bill that "would require a man seeking Viagra to first attain an affidavit from a sexual partner attesting to his impotency, see a state-approved sex therapist, complete a stress test to assure he is healthy enough for sexual activity, ... return to the doctor every 90 days to check on his cardiac health, and ...attend three outpatient counseling sessions within six months of receiving his prescription to ensure that he fully understands the 'dangerous side effects' of taking erectile dysfunction drugs," according to 
If any of these bills were introduced with the actual intent of being passed, Madame L would certainly object, but in the spirit of the current political storm, Madame L likes them.
Best wishes for freedom and equality,
Madame L

Monday, March 19, 2012

Don't Try This Prank!

Dear Madame L,

I've heard that people have put a few drops of Visine in someone's drink to get revenge or just for a harmless prank, but I've also heard this can be dangerous.

I looked it up online and found out it really is very dangerous, can cause death and at the least very severe illness which takes a long time to recover from. Will you please spread this information to your readers?



Dear Concerned,

Thanks for sharing this information. This is indeed extremely dangerous, and people who have done it to other people, for whatever reason, have been arrested for and convicted of crimes such as assault and attempted murder. 

Please check this article for more details. Meanwhile, remember, putting any harmful agent into another person's food or drink is called poisoning. It's not funny, and it can cause permanent harm.


Madame L

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, March 18, 2012: You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought

Yep, that's a very long title for a very long book, and one that Madame L has been enjoying for years now. 

It's the kind of book you can pick up any time you need a lift. In fact, it's the kind of book you don't want to read straight through, because you'll be overwhelmed with amazing nuggets of wisdom about how to get happy, how to stay happy, and why it's so important for your health that you do so.

Madame L has an old hardcover edition of the book, but it's available now in paperback on  for $7.95, and Madame L believes it's worth that and more.

From the blurb about the author on the back cover of "You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought": "Peter McWilliams published his first the age of seventeen...He is a nationally syndicated columnist, teaches seminars, and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Donahue, Larry King, and The Today Show. He hates bar codes and realizes his bio could have been longer if the designer didn't have to make room for one on this book."

So he has a sense of humor, too. This book is not your typical self-help book. It's not just for healthy people and not just for sick people. It's for everyone. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saint Patrick and the Snakes

Dear Madame L,

Is it true that Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland?



Dear Irish,

And a happy St. Patrick's Day to you, sure and begorrah! (And that expression, according to, comes from the Irish for "Would you look at that!"

Patrick, as a 16-year-old Welsh boy, was captured and enslaved by Irish raiders. After he became a Roman Catholic, he returned to Ireland to preach the gospel, and because of his missionary work and good deeds he became the patron saint of Ireland.

Apparently the story of banishing the snakes isn't true, because Ireland, being an island, never had snakes. The symbolism of the story is beautiful, though: One can imagine Patrick standing on a hill, using a wooden staff (remember Moses and his staff?) to drive evil (symbolized by snakes) out of the land.

May the road always rise to meet you,

Madame L

BONUS! Here are the complete words of that traditional Irish blessing and a beautiful version of the song:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again may the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Yes, Virginia, Mitt Romney Does Have a Sense of Humor

Dear Gentle Readers,

Madame L thought you might be interested in this article from The Atlantic praising Mitt Romney's sense of humor. 

Like Madame L, you've surely seen a lot of TV "news" commentators talking about Romney's lame jokes, so maybe, like Madame L, you'll welcome this appreciation of his humor. Here's just a small bit of the article:

"For all the hype about his woodenness, Romney, I submit, actually has the most sophisticated -- and underappreciated -- sense of humor of any presidential candidate. It is dry, self-deprecating and a bit dark, a far cry from the safely hokey laugh lines of most politicians on the stump. And it bespeaks a confidence and flair not often attributed to the much-maligned candidate. 

"This is the man who famously went to Michigan, the state he grew up in and then left for good, and praised it thus: 'The trees are the right height.' You pretty much can't get a better absurdist parody of politicians' vapid sure-is-nice-to-be-here patter than that. 

"Romney's Southern quip was similar -- a knowing play on how glaringly out-of-place he seemed. This is a man, after all, who is viewed by dyed-in-the-wool Southerners as not just a Yankee, but a Yankee who belongs to a cult. "Stranger in a strange land" doesn't begin to cover it. And so he jests that he's becoming acquainted with the region's exotic folkways: 'I'm learning to say 'y'all'! I like grits! Things -- strange things -- are happening to me!'" 

The author of the article, Molly Boll, references this video of Romney poking wry fun at himself:

She adds:

"Then there's this passage from Sridhar Pappu's Romney profile in this magazine in 2005, when Romney was a Massachusetts governor with poorly hidden presidential ambitions. At a South Boston Saint Patrick's Day breakfast, "the best one-liners at Romney's expense came from Romney," Pappu reported.
Standing at the podium to begin his remarks, he said, "Well, it's great to be here in Iowa this morning -- whoops, wrong speech." He threw down a piece of paper and then continued. "Seriously, it's good to be here in Massachusetts. I'm visiting for a few days." Everybody cracked up, and from that moment the room was his. He kept up a genuinely funny line of patter -- much of it self-deprecating and based on his presumptive aspirations to higher office -- for eight minutes; in comedy terms he killed. (Sample joke: As a Mormon, he said, "I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman and a woman and a woman.")
If you follow the link to the mostly favorable 2005 profile of "The Holy Cow! Candidate," you'll find some more interesting facts about Romney. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cell-Phone Jammers

Dear Madame L,

I have a long ride on a Metro train to work every day, and I'm so sick of listening to other people's cell-phone conversations. You can't even glare at them to get them to talk softly because they're not looking around while they talk, or they just glare back aggressively. What can I do about this? I've even heard that you can buy cell-phone jammers that keep these people from receiving a signal so they can't talk.


Just Want Some Peace and Quiet

Dear Peace and Quiet,

Madame L urges you NOT to buy a cell-phone jammer because these are against the law, as are GPS and Wi-Fi jammers, and the FCC is beginning to crack down on their use. 

The FCC said in a statement, "Cell phone jammers do not distinguish between social or other cell phone conversations and an emergency call to a family member or a 9-1-1 emergency responder. Similarly, GPS and Wi-Fi jammers maliciously disrupt both routine and critical communications services." 

A lot of sites offer advice on cell-phone etiquette, such as this comprehensive list of rules from 

But, assuming you follow these rules yourself, Madame L can only suggest that you improve your skills of ignoring such noises, bring along a good book to read, or become engrossed in your own music.

Dear Readers, do you have any other suggestions to help this person who just Wants Some Peace and Quiet?

Please comment,

Madame L

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, March 11, 2012: Beyonders Book One: A World Without Heroes

Madame L read this book because a certain almost-12-year-old friend of hers recommended it to her, and she recommends it heartily for all her Dear Readers, even though it's written specifically for children in the third through eighth grades.

The 13-year-old hero, Jason Walker, is going through the usual 13-year-old school and girl worries when he falls (in a most fantastical way) into another world, Lyrian. In that world, most people have given up because an evil emperor has taken over, blinded the good king, and invited (forced) all would-be heroes and heroines to a castle where they feast or drug themselves to death.

But Jason, who doesn't think of himself as a hero, meets Rachel, who has also fallen into the world in a most fantastical way and who doesn't think of herself as a heroine, and the two of them begin some even more fantastical adventures.

Author Brandon Mull's world of Lyrian reminds Madame L of some of Stephen King's imaginary worlds, such as "The Talisman," but without Stephen King's frequent mentions of gross bodily functions and human sickness.

Mull is the author of  "The Candy Shop War" and the "Fablehaven" books, none of which Madame L has read, but all of which she now wants to.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Dear Madame L,

Now that Rush Limbaugh has apologized for his revolting insults of a private individual (Sandra Fluke) who dared represent the  views of many young single women in a Congressional Democratic forum, shouldn't people just let the issue drop?


Enough Already

Dear Enough Already,

Madame L points out again that Limbaugh's apology was not sincere. It meant nothing. Madame L points out that this kind of public discourse indicates a deeper problem among many sectors of our national community: a problem of basic misogyny, of fear of what might happen if women were able to control their own bodies, earn equal pay for their work, and so on.

Madame L was pleased to hear that Pres. Obama called Ms. Fluke to offer moral support; and Madame L was appalled to read that Republican presidential candidates did not take the initial insult seriously, with even Mitt Romney, whom Madame L thought would do better, only saying he wouldn't have used the same words. (See, that makes it sound like he would express the same views but instead of using the words "slut" and "prostitute" he would have called Ms. Fluke some other synonym.)

Madame L quotes here someone else's (Irin Carmon's) writing on why Limbaugh's behavior is so appalling, and why the refusal of many men, including so-called progressives like TV "comedian" Bill Maher, to condemn it, is just as bad:

"If you think employers should be able to deny women coverage of contraception while covering Viagra, because their religious philosophy happens to be that women’s purpose is baby-making, or that women should “pay a price” for having sex, or that you should be able to determine which uses of birth control are permissible and which are slutty, you’re a misogynist. Even if you use politer words than “slut” and don’t demand a sex tape.

"If you believe that women who are about to have abortions don’t realize they’re pregnant, and that they need to be “empowered” by being shown a picture of their “child” (misrepresentations are courtesy of McDonnell), to teach them a lesson about what’s at stake, you’re a misogynist. Even if you’re not forcing them to have a transvaginal ultrasound."

The good news: "The Rush Limbaughs of the world don’t get to define the boundaries of appropriate sexual or moral behavior. But something is happening: Women are defining those boundaries for themselves, with many men alongside them, and they’re being reminded that there’s a concerted movement to take that right of self-definition away. And we’re mad."

Madame L is mad, too. Madame L, as you know because she repeats it every time she writes about this, opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incestuous abuse, the mother's health, and such reasons. 

But Madame L affirms the right of every woman to make her own decisions, without some dirty old man (like Limbaugh) or comedian who will say anything to get an outraged laugh (like Maher) or ambitious politician who will do anything to curry the favor of Tea Partyers (like Va. Governor Bob McDonnell) coming between the woman and her own family and doctor.


Madame L

Friday, March 9, 2012

Global Warning, Really?

Dear Madame L,

I read your pal Aunt Louise's blog about March coming in like a lion, and stuff like that is what makes me doubt the theory of global warming. What can you tell me about that?


Global Warming Doubter

Dear Doubter,

Where to start? A lot can be and has been written on this topic, which has become a political hot potato. Madame L should leave this one to the experts.

So, from our friends at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), here's the U.S. Climate Report for February and Winter 2011-2012: 

"This is the fourth warmest winter on record, running almost 4 degrees F warmer than average.

"Warmer-than-average temperatures dominated the northern and eastern regions of the country in December, January and February, leading to the fourth warmest winter on record for the contiguous United States.

"The winter season was also drier-than-average for the Lower 48, with dry conditions experienced across the West and the Southeast  but wetter-than-average conditions in the Central and Southern Plains and parts of the Ohio Valley.

"The average contiguous U.S. temperature during the December-February period was 36.8 degrees F, 3.9 degrees F above the 1901-2000 long-term average — the warmest since 2000.

"The precipitation averaged across the nation was 5.70 inches, 0.78 inch below the long-term average."

This winter also had the third smallest snow cover in the 46-year satellite record, about
237,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average

The snowpack "was particularly limited across parts of the West, where parts of California, Nevada, and Arizona had snowpack less than half of average."

So, doubter, it really is getting warmer. The next question is whether this warming is a naturally recurring phenomenon or how much it might have been caused by humans; the next question is whether we can or should do something about it.

Madame L will have a few answers in future columns.


Madame L

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rush's 20 Million Listeners: The Challenge

Dear and Gentle Readers,

Madame L has received this challenge:

I challenge Madame L to set the record straight - how many listeners does "Bad Rush" (as opposed to the great band with unfortunately the same name) actually HAVE? His website claims 20 million, but that number is, as they say, "round and steaming."

Madame L accepts the challenge with delight and finds the following, which Madame L suspects will come as no surprise to any of her Gentle Readers: Rush Limbaugh's supposed 20 million listeners are completely made up.

Cenk Uygur, host of "The Young Turks," has done the research for us. He found the original source for the 20 million figurein "Billboard" magazine in 1993: "Limbaugh's show is now heard on 610 stations and reaches approximately 20 million listeners, according to [Kit] Carson." And who is Kit Carson? He is an employee of Limbaugh.

The other number the Limbaugh people come up with is 15 million. Mr. Uygur tracked that one down, too, quoting Michael Harrison of Talkers magazine: "They are only our thumbnail estimates based upon our contacts in the field, tracking of Arbitron estimates and understanding of the business. We make no claims as to 'scientific' accuracy... [T]hey are not 'ratings' per se."

Mr. Uygur challenges Rush Limbaugh to prove that he has anywhere near those numbers. He's pretty sure Limbaugh can't do it, because (a) it's impossible to get reliable ratings figures for radio and (b) he has far fewer readers than he claims.

Mr. Uygur concludes, "Rush's audience is a myth. He is a paper tiger. Do some people listen to him? Of course. Is it anywhere near the hype? Not remotely. Talk radio is a dying business. I wouldn't be surprised if his daily listeners didn't even reach a million. I wouldn't be surprised if we have more online viewers on The Young Turks (which are100 percent Google verifiable) than he has radio listeners.

"Rush is a sad, old man that a couple of other sad, old men listen to. His days are numbered. Rush, it definitely wasn't nice knowing you. Tick tock, tick tock."

Madame L  thanks Jeff for the challenge. She enjoyed listening to and watching "The Young Turks" as she researched this story. Mr. Uygur expresses outrage against injustice and hypocrisy without losing his sense of humor. 

Great listening! He's one of the few journalists online who faces these kinds of issues head on. For example, check out his show on Attorney General Eric Holder's ridiculous distinction between "due process" and "judicial process" as he justifies killing American citizens by an Orwellian re-defining of the terms. 


Madame L

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Virginia Anti-Woman Law

Dear Madame L,

You keep carping on these ideas about women's rights being trodden upon in the American democratic system, claiming that pro-life legislation will put women in the same situation as women in backwards FLDS and Saudi communities, and so on. 

Why do you keep making connections that are not really very obvious?


Seriously Worried About You, Madame L

Dear Seriously Worried,

Madame L appreciates your concern and raises you one: Madame L is worried about you. 

Pay attention, Dear Readers! Madame L is not saying that Calif. Rep. Darrell Issa (R), or Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) hate women or want to deprive them of freedom. She doesn't think that even Catholics Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich or even the fake libertarian Ron Paul want to see a society of Stepford Wives or black-draped drones of women confined to their homes.

What Madame L is saying that even the best of intentions---and Madame L wants to give these politicians the benefit of the doubt---can have unforeseen consequences. 

So, while these guys may think that most abortions are being requested by women who are stupid or careless, who are using abortion as a back-up birth-control method, and Madame L acknowledges having read that this happens in some cases, Madame L doesn't think their tactics, of viewing ALL women in this way, will be helpful for women or families or the future of our democracy. 

Madame L notes that there are many better ways to prevent those kinds of abortions while allowing women whose health is at risk or who have been the victims of rape or incestuous abuse to return to their lives. Since these methods include education and the availability of birth control medications and devices, Madame L thinks it should make sense to make these available. Instead, these same politicians who rail against abortion (which Madame L also opposes) want to block funding to birth control education and medications.

Additionally, Madame L hates the way these politicians wave the flag of "religious freedom" with one hand while covering up the rights of individuals with their other. As if anybody believed any of this was about religious freedom!

Finally, Madame L is appalled at the hypocrisy that makes these politicians want to limit basic women's health care insurance coverage while making sure that men's Viagra prescriptions are covered by health insurance.

To summarize, if politicians really wanted a society in which all rights, including religious rights and women's rights, were protected, they would be legislating for equal access to health care coverage, education, and transparency in government, instead of spreading lies and making hypocritical and inflammatory statements against people who disagree with them.


Madame L

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rush Apologizes: Too Little, Too Late

Dear Madame L,

Thanks for writing about Rush Limbaugh's latest stupidity. I see he has apologized, but I'm not impressed. What do you think about it?


I Think Rush Should Just Quit

Dear Wanting Rush to Quit,

Madame L certainly agrees with you that Rush Limbaugh has gone so far overboard this time that he should have been beached by the Republican Party.

Madame L notes that the only reason Limbaugh has apologized at all is that (as of this writing) more than nine of his former advertisers have pulled their ads from his show, in spite of his so-called apology.

In summary, Limbaugh justifies his behavior, reinforces and amplifies his mistakes, and lies. Dear Prudence concludes: "Actually, to begin, Limbaugh needed to first call Sandra Fluke, and if she wouldn’t take his call, he should have had a letter of apology delivered to her. Then when he issued his public statement it should have been something like: 'I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke. My remarks about her were false, cruel, and repulsive. There’s no excuse and I offer none. I seriously crossed the line and I am sorry.'"

But you'll want to read the whole column yourself, as it's a lesson for everyone on how not to apologize.

Madame L hopes you're still letting advertisers who haven't withdrawn yet know that you will not be buying any of their products.


Madame L

Monday, March 5, 2012

Google's Privacy Policy

Dear Madame L,

Is there anything I can do now to protect my online privacy?


Not Paranoid, But, Yeah, Concerned

Dear Not Paranoid

Yes, there are still things you can do to protect yourself from Google's relentless acquisition of your personal history. 

First, Madame L suggests that you read this article on the Internet giant's privacy policy and what you can do.

According to that article, the new policy makes it clear that Google can and will "combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience."

Like you, Madame L isn't as interested in having a "simpler, more intuitive Google experience" as the people at Google think she is. While Google is famous for its motto, "Don't be evil," Madame L understands that its underlying business philosophy makes her, and all of you, Dear Readers, no more than valuable objects in a series of financial transactions. We are not in any way "customers." We are products that Google sells to its advertisers.

So, follow the advice in that article. In addition, here are Madame L's own tricks:

---When you sign in to any Google application, make sure to un-click the "Stay Signed In" box.

---Never stay signed in to any Google application while you're doing anything else on your computer.

---Set your computer to automatically empty its history folder every time you turn it off.

---Check at Google's own website for more information. You can read Google's own description of its privacy policy online. 

---When you get one of those notices---you know the ones Madame L is talking about---they begin, "Hey, this is important!"---like they think you're a moron---that you need to provide Google with your photo, address, phone number, or alternate e-mail address, don't do it.

---Develop your own system for remembering or noting somewhere your passwords, etc., so you won't have to worry about Google's ever-so-kindly-warnings about the dire consequences of losing your password or whatever.

Other Dear Readers, please chime in with your suggestions.


Madame L

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, March 4, 2012: Oogy

Larry Levin's story about "Oogy, The Dog Only a Family Could Love" is simple and touching. It would have made a great magazine article.

But someone, apparently some editor at Grand Central Publishing, evidently told Mr. Levin that he needed to add more details to make the story into a book.

And so he adds the details about how his family got Oogy---not too bad, shows how the family loved its previous pet; how he and his wife got their family---they adopted twin boys, also not bad at all, shows how the family started by taking in human babies who needed a home; how the veterinarian who saved Oogy's life decided to do that---not bad, because that in itself was an act of supreme love and care; how Oogy's life was put in danger in the first place---essential, because it sheds light on dog-fighting and other crimes against animals...Madame L even enjoyed finding out how the family discovered Oogy's true breed (not a pit bull mix, as they'd originally thought, but a Dogo Argentino---Fascinating!

But then Mr. Levin tells about how he takes his coffee into the room where he sits with Oogy and they snuggle together, how he unlatches the door to let Oogy out, how he pours Oogy's food into his dish and how Oogy savors every bite, how Oogy gets his nails clipped, how the twins sleep at night with Oogy nearby, how he drives to work and his wife drives home from work, and so on and so on.

Hey, all you teachers of writing classes! Yes, Madame L means you! And all you editors who spot a great story and want to turn it into a money-making book! You know who you are! KNOCK IT OFF! Stop telling your students to add more details!

Just let the story be its own story, okay? 

Oogy's story didn't need all those extra words.

Dear Readers, Madame L cannot recommend this book wholeheartedly, in spite of the wonderful story of this wonderful dog, Oogy, because of the over-writing. But if you don't mind that kind of writing and you need an inspirational book about human love and kindness and the unconditional love of animals, you'll like the story of Oogy.

You can get it in paperback from for $10.98, or borrow it from your local library for free (as Madame L did). It's also available as an audio CD for about $10.00 at Costco, which is where Madame L first saw it.

Hush Rush

Dear Madame L,

Three questions:  Have you heard about Rush Limbaugh's latest insult to women and all Americans? 

Have any Republican leaders made any real responses yet? 

Is there any way I can protest his behavior?


Outraged and Appalled

Dear Outraged,

Madame L is also outraged, even though Madame L hates to satisfy Rush Limbaugh by being outraged, since that appears to be his purpose in saying the outrageous things he says.

By dragging a private citizen into his meanness and insulting her and her parents, though, he has gone so far that Madame L is as appalled at the lack of response from the Republican Party. (Madame L doesn't think comments like "It's just entertainment" or "It's inappropriate" are real responses.)

Here's what you can do: Boycott companies that currently advertise their products on Limbaugh's radio show, and let them know you're boycotting their products because of Limbaugh. 

Do this even though Limbaugh has issued a rather lame apology. 

Let them know that you won't buy their products as long as they continue to advertise on Limbaugh's show.

Boycotting has more power than meaningless comments from politicians, anyway.

Some companies which have already withdrawn their ads from Limbaugh's show include Sleep Number, Sleep Train, Legal Zoom, Citrix, and Quicken Loans.

Companies that still advertise with the radio monster include ProFlowers, Tax Resolution Services [TRS], Lifelock, Hillsdale College, Health/Heart and Body, Allstate Insurance, AOL, and Lear Capital The Precious Metal Leaders.

Boycotting works, as shown by this statement from the company Carbonite even after Limbaugh issues his so-called apology:

“No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.”

Show Limbaugh and his advertisers and the Republican leaders who are running scared of him that they need to back off and join the rest of the country in working together in a civilized way.

Go for it,

Madame L

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Yeah, But Planned Parenthood Does It

Dear Madame L,

I don't get why you're so upset about doctors being required to perform ultrasounds on their patients who want an abortion. It's my understanding that this procedure is routinely performed by Planned Parenthood doctors in their clinics.


What Gives?

Dear This Is What Gives,

Are you suggesting that what Planned Parenthood doctors do is the correct standard for all doctors? 

Or are you suggesting that politicians know better than doctors what's good for their patients?

The problem with the proposed Virginia legislation---even in its current form, which requires "abdominal" rather than "trans-vaginal" ultrasounds of women who request abortions---is that it represents an intrusion into the persons and rights of women. 

Virginia Bob McDonnell thinks this is okay, even though he hates it when the TSA does airport body scans and pat-downs. What's sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander?

"You see the trick, right? It’s either that all doctors do ultrasounds, thus it’s OK for the state to mandate it. Or that only some doctors do it, so it’s OK for the state to mandate it. Again, the state knows better than the physicians."

The fact is, as Lithwick writes, "all mandatory ultrasounds represent an impermissible incursion into a doctor’s judgment and a woman’s rights." 

The Virginia governor, a right-wing Republican who NOT UNCOINCIDENTALLY would like to become the vice-presidential running candidate of whichever Republican wins that party's nomination, claims the ultrasounds will just enhance women's rights "to know all the right medical information before they make an informed choice." 

Madame L has news for McDonnell and his pals in the down-with-women's-rights movement: Women who ask for an abortion already have the medical information. They don't need some politician to get between them and their doctor, or between them and their Constitutional rights.

Again, to quote Dahlia Lithwick:  "Everyone has a right to privacy and dignity, and if the government seeks to intrude on those rights it should be able to articulate a reason. 'Women don’t really know what they’re doing' isn’t a reason. It never was."

And it never will be.


Madame L

Friday, March 2, 2012

Who's to Blame for Government Waste?

Dear Readers,

Madame L has just been made aware of an unusual occurrence: A Member of Congress has admitted that it's the Congress itself which is to blame for much of the federal government's waste and abuse about which so many Members of Congress are so quick to complain.

In a hearing on Feb. 28 which took as its starting point a recent report by the Government Accounting Office which found multiple areas of overlap and duplication, Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said everything is the fault of federal employees and offices. “I have always said that the enemy isn't the Democrats, the enemy isn't the Republicans—it's the bureaucracy. A bureaucracy that inherently resists change and adaptation,” he said.

And there's definitely a problem. “We identified 51 areas in our 2012 annual report, including 32 areas of potential duplication, overlap, or fragmentation as well as 19 opportunities for agencies or Congress to consider taking action that could either reduce the cost of government operations or enhance revenue collections for the Treasury,” GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said.

However, in a rare burst of honesty among Members of Congress, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the blame for the “maze of government programs” belongs with Congress. Coburn's full statement is available online.

In it, he pointed out some of the duplications caused by Congressional lack of oversight:

--- 100+ surface transportation programs;
---88 economic development programs;
--- 82 teacher quality programs;
---56 financial literacy programs;
--- 47 job training programs;
---20 homelessness prevention and assistance programs;
---18 food for the hungry programs; and
---17 disaster response and preparedness programs.

“We are all culpable,” Coburn said in his statement. “Duplication in this country has been created by the ruling class of career politicians seeking to slap short-term fixes on problems in order to claim credit at home and recognition in Washington.”

He added, “Though the executive branch is not without fault Congress is the main offender. We set the budget, we pass the appropriations bills and we authorize new activities at the federal agencies. We refuse to apply metrics and standards to the programs we create. We ignore our duty to conduct oversight. And we choose to remain uninformed about existing efforts before creating new ones.”

Madame L thanks Rep. Coburn for that one brief shining moment from the usually glum and dismal hearing rooms of the U.S. Congress.


Madame L

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Santorum Will Miss This Guy?

Dear Readers,

While Madame L does not want to speak ill of the dead, please allow her to express astonishment and dismay at the fact that Republican presidential nominee candidate Rick Santorum says he's going to miss Andrew Breitbart.

Santorum said Breitbart was a ""powerful force." He added, "What a huge loss … for our country and certainly for the conservative movement."

To be fair, the other candidates also had kind words to say about Breitbart, although Madame L would quibble with them, too. Madame L would particularly argue with Newt Gingrich's tweeting that the man had "great courage and creativity." Madame L appreciated the fact that Mitt Romney emphasized that he was a "loving husband and father." 

Madame L likes the fact that most liberal commentators so far are not blasting him for his tactics, but acknowledging his commitment to his causes.

As Ari Rabin-Havt of Media Matters said, "We've disagreed more than we've found common ground, but there was never any question of Andrew's passion for and commitment to what he believed." 

Madame L wishes his family the best.


Madame L

Senate Votes Down Blunt Amendment

Dear Readers,

Madame L sees that the U.S. Senate has just voted, along mostly party lines, to disallow legislation that would have allowed employers to keep from providing equal health care coverage for their female employees.

The amendment to a highway funding bill was proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). It would have allowed any employer to object on "moral" grounds to providing health insurance coverage of birth-control access to its women employees. 

Only one Republican, Sen. Olympia Snow of Maine, joined the Democrats in voting down the amendment.

Ironically, those same Republican Senators who don't want insurance coverage for birth-control medications and devices  have voted for Viagra to be covered by health insurance.

"I certainly do not want to discuss that issue," said McCain.

No doubt.

And now do you, Dear Readers, see again why Madame L says it's so important that you vote in EVERY election? Vote even in municipal and county and state elections. That's how people get started in politics, and you want to have elected officials at every level who will actually represent YOUR needs, don't you? Some of these county board members and state legislators will eventually become federal representatives and senators, so make your vote count!


Madame L

Santorum and the War Against Women

Dear Madame L,

I've been thinking about what you wrote about Rick Santorum and other right-wingers' ideas, and actual laws that have been passed in some states and are being proposed in others, about how women should not have access to birth control and must be shown ultra-sounds (often obtained by invasive and medically unnecessary procedures) of their fetus before being allowed to have even a medically and/or personally necessary abortion performed.

I think it's kind of weird for these far-right politicians to behave this way while at the same time they condemn Mitt Romney for being a Mormon (and therefore not a true "Christian" like them), for not somehow influencing his church to change its doctrines and policies, for being descended from a polygamist, and so on.

I had to laugh when I read an online review of a book written by a woman who had escaped from her polygamous husband in the modern-day U.S. According to the review:

"Escape exposes a world tantamount to a prison camp, created by religious fanatics who, in the name of God, deprive their followers the right to make choices, force women to be totally subservient to men, and brainwash children in church-run schools."

Madame L, isn't that very life for women the logical outcome of following those right-wing "Christians'" ideas about women and the family?


Still Supporting Romney

Dear Still Supporting Romney,

Thank you for that question. Madame L has found the review you mention, of a book called "Escape," which is available from for $10.20 (and can be borrowed for free from your local library). Madame L wants to add this bit from it:

"Carolyn’s every move was dictated by her husband’s whims. He decided where she lived and how her children would be treated. He controlled the money she earned as a school teacher. He chose when they had sex; Carolyn could only refuse—at her peril. For in the FLDS, a wife’s compliance with her husband determined how much status both she and her children held in the family. Carolyn was miserable for years and wanted out, but she knew that if she tried to leave and got caught, her children would be taken away from her."

Madame L thinks this is the way many women in conservative, patriarchal, "Christian" communities in the U.S., not just among the FLDS, live now, and agrees with you that it could get worse.

But Madame L doesn't think voting for Mitt Romney will resolve this problem. Madame L thinks re-electing Pres. Barack Obama will send the message to the right-wing hate-mongers that they're off base, that the American people want us to continue growing away from the oppression of women and minorities.


Madame L is reminded of an American friend who has been living in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years now and who told Madame L that one of the Saudi royal princes had recently made a $300 million investment in Twitter. Why did this prince not invest that money in improved elementary and high schools, more complete university faculties, and other educational opportunities for his subjects?

Madame L's friend said, "Duh. He doesn't WANT people to have more education. He doesn't WANT people to know what's going on in the world. He doesn't WANT people to think for themselves. He's DOES WANT "his" people to spend their time in school memorizing the Koran and to keep their wives and daughters closed up behind bars and abayas instead of being part of the world."

Madame L thinks this kind of reactionary worldview is exactly what Rick Santorum and his ilk want for women in the U.S.  And she's pretty sure it isn't really because they think women can't make their own decisions. She's pretty sure that it's because they know that women CAN make their own decisions, and they're scared of what will happen when women decide to move away from their patriarchal control.

Again, to quote the bit you sent Madame L from that book review: ""Escape exposes a world tantamount to a prison camp, created by religious fanatics who, in the name of God, deprive their followers the right to make choices, force women to be totally subservient to men, and brainwash children in church-run schools."


Madame L