Saturday, April 07, 2007

This Commander In Chief Business Is Entirely Out of Hand

Bush Ordered Carter Not To Go To Damascus
Posted by olvlzl.
Since when does a failed president get to command former presidents to not visit a country? Bush is, without a doubt, a failed president, By the end of his reign he might have racked up the worst record of any president in our history. He could lose two wars and appears to be willing to go for three. Condi Rice is certainly the worst National Security Advisor and could well also be the worst Secretary of State. Rumsfled, hey, Bush got rid of him. Considering who he keeps on you’ve really got to be a total disaster to get dumped.

As Scott Horton points out it seems to only be Democrats who Bush is ordering to stay out of Syria since he’s been silent on the delegation of Republicans who have been there in the past week. Horton points out:

Rep. Darrell Issa of California - sharply criticized President Bush after emerging from his meeting with Assad, something which Pelosi carefully avoided.

The reaction to Pelosi’s visit has been nothing short of paranoid raving. Her going was as brave as it was responsible. Foreign policy and, more urgently, military policy is careening down hill under Bush. Someone has to do something, we can’t just let the boy king and his courtiers go on like this for another two years. Nancy Pelosi has shown several things that Bush doesn’t have in him, bravery and responsibility, I’ve already mentioned. Most importantly, she’s shown leadership. As much as I hate the term, she’s shown world-class leadership. Thank God someone is.

Blogswarm against theocracy Easter Weekend

Posted by olvlzl.
The blogswarm called for Easter weekend on Mock, Paper, Scissors is a good idea and one that should be continued for the duration of the attack of the theocrats. I endorse it even if it's bound to contain some content I think is counterproductive.

This is an emergency. For the left, we’ve got real problems with fundamentalists, here and now. We don’t have political capital to spend on getting involved with this nonsense. We have to defeat the religio-fascists politically and that will require everyone, progressive believers and non-believers alike. Getting involved in unsolvable arguments is worse than a waste of time, it will end up with us divided and so the success of the fundamentalists.

T
here are millions of religious people in the United States who oppose theocracy. If there weren't then the separation of church and state would never have held as long or as well as it did. Now that even the de facto non-establishment of religion is under attack by the Supreme Court itself, the entire body of people who support the wall of separation have to hold together or we will be divided. The theocrats and those who want to use them to gain power are the only ones who will benefit from that.

P.S. Of Special Interest To Highschool Juniors and their Parents

Posted by olvlzl.
Looking at my notes, Lani Guinier also pointed out that in their rankings of colleges and universities, U.S. News And World Report plays a rather malignant role in maintaining the present, testing-based admissions system. They make up figures which would seem to purposely downgrade universities that refuse to use standardized testing as a criterion for admissions or to comply with U.S. New’s mercurial requirements. Their excuse is that any school which would refuse to report the scores of those admitted must be hiding low scores. Why a right-wing magazine is allowed to play any role in determining the status of colleges and universities is a very interesting question in itself. I think the reporting of baseless rankings, alone, should be enough to destroy the pretended journalistic credibility of any publications that report faux-facts have managed to invent for themselves.

A few schools have tried to opt out of the list. When Reed College stopped complying in 1995, the magazine assigned the lowest possible value to the missing statistics; in one year, Reed fell from the second quartile to the fourth. (Since then, the iconoclastic school has suffered no shortage of qualified applicants.) U.S. News now plugs in whatever data it can find for nonparticipants. "They won't let you quit," Drew president Weisbuch says of the magazine's data collectors. "I would spell it U.S. N-O-O-S-E."

Also in last weeks Washington Post:

But this principled decision has put us [Sarah Lawrence College] in jeopardy. I was recently informed by the director of data research at U.S. News, the person at the magazine who has a lot to say about how the rankings are computed, that absent students' SAT scores, the magazine will calculate the college's ranking by assuming an arbitrary average SAT score of one standard deviation (roughly 200 points) below the average score of our peer group.

In other words, in the absence of real data, they will make up a number. He made clear to me that he believes that schools that do not use SAT scores in their admission process are admitting less capable students and therefore should lose points on their selectivity index. Our experience, of course, tells us otherwise.

I will go out on a limb and predict that as more schools revolt against the highly lucrative standardized testing industry, which has benefitted so much under the Bush regime, they will be punished by the corporate media for their refusal to submit.

Meritocracy or Heritocracy?

Posted by olvlzl.
Happened to watch a little of a panel discussion held at Washington and Lee University yesterday, which included Lani Guinier and her polar opposite Gail Heriot sitting right next to each other. Heriot is a recent appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights based, in my humble opinion, on her being your garden variety, right wing, race baiter and echo of various conservative bromides. The Commissioner didn’t say much that you can’t get the gist of from reading her quite odious group blog*. No, you really don’t even have to do that. Imagine what a Bush appointee to the Civil Rights Commission would have to say on the subject of affirmative action and you’ll have the complete picture. Also in my opinion, with her extensive scholarship, Lani Guinier mopped the floor with her.

I’ve had a lot of respect for Lani Guinier since reading her ideas about using cumulative voting to make government more representative. Those were the ones that the right wing distorted and used to sink her appointment as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Clinton Administration. Bill Clinton, to his discredit, didn’t stand up for what would have been a brilliant appointment in the face of a campaign of distortions by corporate media. His out was that some of her writings aren’t conventional. Which is all to the good. While the law, as you’re possibly getting tired of hearing me say, isn’t interested in the practical results in peoples’ lives, they are interested in propping up the theoretical constructs of the law, Guinier’s practical and innovative thinking on admissions to universities aren’t a part of that system. That system, while using the language of equality, turns out to be gamed for the benefit of established power. Focusing on the actual, real life results of present policies instead of just on the superficially neutral aspects of the process her ideas are interesting and important exactly because they focus on real life results.

Looking at the present admissions policies of universities and their real meaning beyond the superficial appearance of equity is a revelation. And, rare for a legal scholar, she never loses sight of the fact that getting into a school is not the end, that the results of the education and subsequent career are the real test of the process. That is rarely done, maybe because it takes more work and harder thinking to see the entire picture. Maybe it’s because ignoring the real life results suits the purpose of people who pretty much like the system to be biased against inclusion.

I was struck by one thing she said, that relying on standardized testing for university admissions was unnecessary. She pointed out that if you simply chose those students whose parents had the highest incomes it would give the same results. Even more important for those of us who don’t practice law, she pointed out that black and latino graduates of law school as a group were more likely to be engaged in community service activities than those coming from a more advantaged background.

Moreover, "successful performance" needs to be interpreted broadly. A study of three classes of Harvard alumni over three decades, for example, found a high correlation between "success"├╣defined by income, community involvement, and professional satisfaction├╣and two criteria that might not ordinarily be associated with Harvard freshmen: low SAT scores and a blue-collar background.4 When asked what predicts life success, college admissions officers at elite universities report that, above a minimum level of competence, "initiative" or "drive" are the best predictors.5

By contrast, the conventional measures attempt to predict successful performance, narrowly defined, in the short-run. They focus on immediate success in school and a short time-frame between taking the test and demonstrating success. Those who excel based on those short-term measures, however, may not in fact excel over the long-run in areas that are equally or more important. For example, a study of graduates of the University of Michigan Law School found a negative relationship between high LSAT scores and subsequent community leadership or community service.6

Those with higher LSAT scores are less likely, as a general matter, to serve their community or do pro bono service as a lawyer. In addition, the study found that admission indexes including the LSAT fail to correlate with other accomplishments after law school, including income levels and career satisfaction.

I was hoping that C-Span would rebroadcast the panel so you could hear and I could take better notes but that apparently isn’t in their immediate plans. One of the highpoints was when Heriot was forced to say that practically all of the admissions to high status law schools were eminently qualified based on the LSAT. She had to because Guinier had just pointed out that women who tended to get lower scores on the LSAT tend to perform better than men in the first years of law school. I seem to recall that Guinier’s attempt to get Heriot to admit that this was equally true of black admissions to law school went unanswered because the moderator saved her from having to say so. What was so ironic is that by virtue of her preparation and scholarship, Guinier is clearly the more qualified of the two but that the “merit based” political and media system that kept her from an appointment has allowed a conservative hack to be appointed with little comment.

Here is the article, quoted above, by Susan Sturm and Lani Guinier which covered a lot of the material she brought to the panel discussion. The follow ups by various people and the answer to them by Sturm and Guinier are worth reading too.

* I don’t know if Lani Guinier was familiar with this rather catty piece by Heriot. Though, given her thorough preparation for the discussion, miles ahead of Heriot, I’d imagine she was.

You can get a taste of the Heriot product, as well as what made her such an eminent appointee by the Bush regime by reading her own pretty dreadful group blog.

Post Script:
More controversially, perhaps, let me wonder what this panel would have been like if Affirmative Action hadn’t existed. I doubt that the three lawyers on the panel would have been there, since all were women. I wonder how many women were admitted to the University of Chicago Law School or taught law at the University of San Diego School of Law in the decades before Affirmative Action became law. White women, like Heriot, are beneficiaries of Affirmative Action, some hold that they are it’s greatest beneficiaries. Like Clarence Thomas, she is almost certainly a direct beneficiary of a system she wants to destroy for others. Of course, the panel itself wouldn’t have existed.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging




By Phila is always a treat but especially today. And just for the sake of love and hope and longing, here is a picture of my now-angel dog Hank when she was a puppy.

Nifty Things To Do With Plastic Milk Jugs



I need to break out my narrow feminazi niche. How about some handy household tips? Then later I could do a post about how to furnish your house out of Salvation Army Thrift Stores (yup, I did that) and a later one about the fifty cent cocktail ring I bought recently at a car sale.

Let's start with the household tips. If you drink milk you are quite likely to have those plastic milk jugs in your domicile. Don't just recycle them. They are lovely material for crafts, sports and self-improvement. Here is my list on new lives for your milk jugs:

1. Save until you have two and then fill them with sand. You have cheap weights for all those bust-enhancing exercises. And if you keep them by your bed you can also use them to cosh any midnight intruders on the head.

2. Take an empty milk jug and poke tiny holes in its bottom. Fill it with water, put the lid back on, and bury the bottle next to the thirsty plants in your garden when you go away for a few days. The water seeps out slowly, the plant won't die and you now have a garden with mysterious plastic objects buried in it. Think how happy future archeologists will be to hit on the Plastic Jug Culture era.

3. Take an empty milk jug, stick a lollipop in its neck and glue feathers all over the plastic. You now have an Easter chick and you can fill the bottle with some Easter booze. This is a good gift for your new in-laws, for example, especially if they're religious Christians.

4. Save six plastic milk jugs and cut off the tops so that you end up with what looks like plastic tumblers. These are excellent wedding gifts. You can personalize them by painting pictures of foods on the sides. I always send these to those brides and grooms who only give me a very pricey wedding-gift list to shop from. That way they know I cared enough to give them something home-made and different. Or so I think, as I usually don't hear from them again.

5. Take two empty milk jugs and cut off the bottoms until the remaining tops are the size you would like your breasts to be. Put them on (with some glue, perhaps) before going out to try bras that fit. You can leave the lids off or on as you please. This is a good stopgap before you can afford to have breast-enhancement surgery. The jug-tits also serve as self-defense weapons because you can bump into people with them. And as the milk jugs come on different sizes you can really go to town with this. For instance, you could have different-sized breasts on different days of the week.

Kathleen Parker on Eternal Truths About Women



Parker is a wingnut anti-feminist columnist whose most recent take (via feministing.com) is about sexual harassment and rape in the U.S. military in Iraq. Her piece argues, in short, that most claims are probably exaggerated and those which are not, well, they are the fault of us feminists:

This is not to say that men at war are expected to behave badly, but there are possible explanations for some of these questionable liaisons that bear closer scrutiny.

Clearly, some of what is considered sexual harassment falls into the category of harmless sport -- the usual towel-snapping that is, in fact, a way to neutralize sex.

But more overt sexual aggression may be the product of something few will acknowledge, at least on the record: resentment.

Off the record, in dozens of interviews over a period of years, male soldiers and officers have confided that many men resent women because they've been forced to pretend that women are equals, and men know they're not.

The lie breeds contempt, which leads to a simmering rage that sometimes finds expression in aggression toward those deemed responsible.

How wise is Uncle Tom Kathleen! Feeling resentment about women who foolishly think they might be equal makes rape understandable! Now if we only could confine that resentment to men in the military and then segregate the sexes! What lessons we learn in Iraq, ladies: If we only accept that we are inferior and then get the protection of gender segregation we will be safe. Doesn't this sound a little backwards in the context of the Bush campaign to liberate the women of Afghanistan and Iraq? Not that we hear about that campaign much these days.

Sexist Paradise?



That is how Jessica Valenti of feministing.com describes the Internet in today's article published in the technology pages of the British Guardian. Read it. Then go and read Ann Althouse's response (via Dohiymir) should you have the stomach for that sort of things.

I have started several longer posts on the topic of sexual harassment in cyberspace, started and scrapped them. It could be that I'm just not ready to write on the questions. Could be. Or it could be that I feel very uncomfortable writing about them in the only way I can get into the zone for writing. Weird.

The Goody Two-Shoes



Judith Warner in the New York Times reacts to an article about the high-achieving high scool girls of Newton, Massachusetts, a wealthy, liberal enclave. Warner's message is that these girls are chasing for the brass ring by trying to outperform their academic peers in high school in grades and in extracurricular achievements; yet for what purpose? The only two students from Newton North who got into the top universities this year are called Dan. Why were these two Dans so successful while the Danielles were not?

Warner doesn't really tell us, but the feeling I get from her piece is that she somehow thinks it's because boys don't try so hard:

I still remember the day when I was in my mid-20s that Cate, my best friend from college, told me her cousin had gotten into Harvard.

She laughed as I expressed my congratulations. "She doesn't know that it's all downhill from here," she said.

I've thought about this exchange many times in the course of my adult life. It came to mind, most recently, when I read Sara Rimer's intriguing piece in The New York Times last Sunday about the "amazing girls" of Newton North High School.

These were girls who took multiple Advanced Placement classes while playing multiple sports and musical instruments, winning top prizes, starring in plays, helping the homeless and achieving fluency in one or two foreign languages. More amazing still: despite all this incredible accomplishment, they weren't guaranteed access to their first-choice colleges.

I felt a bit sick at heart, at first, when I read this.

And then I thought: It's probably the best thing that could have happened to them.

...

We should also maybe — and I can feel the rumble of disapproval starting already — take another look at our boys. They're said to be failing, wretchedly falling behind the girls in the great grades race. Yet they still account for half the admissions to top schools. (The trend toward the "feminization" of higher education doesn't hold up in the Ivy League; in Rimer's piece the two who made it into Brown and Harvard both were named Dan.) And their elders still, in the long run, out-earn and outperform our girls. Is it possible that they're onto something, like the fact that in the long run getting perfect grades and winning all the top prizes doesn't really matter? That what really matters is how you live your life after graduation and how you function in the world, channeling your energies at the right time and place and when the right people are watching? Time will tell.

Warner says a lot of interesting and useful things in her column. For instance, she points out the impossible chase for perfection that so many upper class students are told to follow as a practical guide for life, and she points out that perfection is impossible and later on may start feeling to them as if they were living "life with a gun pointed to their heads. Every day brings a new minefield of incipient failure: the too-tight pants, the peeling wallpaper, the unbrilliant career."

And Warner also stresses the importance of passion, the fire and wind that in the best scenarios fuels our career choices and our lives in general, and whatever else passion is it is certainly not goody-two-shoes perfectionist. Passion prefers to be roughly right than exactly wrong, passion is as likely to kiss you in the face as to slap you in the face.

But she is also very, very silent about the reasons why these very privileged and fairly unusual girls try so hard. What is it that birthed their desire for perfection? Why do they think that they must please everything and everybody to succeed? And why does Warner not point out that men might be more likely to succeed because of the old-boy-networks and because of both individual and institutional sexism in the labor markets?

And why is it that I have an uncomfortable deja vue feeling all over again, a feeling that if only women tried harder (in this case that would mean trying less hard) then they would be happier. If girls did THIS and not THAT then they would have good careers and happy families and love lives. Let's open up the skulls of these girls and let's really poke in their to find out why they are performing too well.

Warner is quite correct in arguing that the upper classes in the United States and in many other countries are overeducating their children in this sense of the futile search for perfection. But something is lacking in the advice I glean from her column. What is it that these liberal and wealthy parents should do to make their daughters happier? What is it that these liberal mothers should do, because that is the audience for this column? Should they just let their daughters hang out, listening to misogynistic hip-hop or rap music? Should they let their daughters obsess about boys and about how to be sexy? I'm grasping for the concept I'm looking for, but it ultimately boils down to the feeling I have that these mothers are offered different patriarchal scripts for their daughters and not the real script.

The real script by necessity would include discussing the wider social ramifications a little more, and it would start by pointing out that girls this lucky are very rare in reality, that the problem the column addresses applies to extremely few American families.

The script would then point out how lucky these girls truly are because they have opportunities that other women in the past and even now do not have, and suggest ways for helping the rest of the women who are not as lucky. But the script would not deny the sexist expectations that limit these young girls' futures, either. It would ask some probing questions, such as the question about why women need to be goody two-shoes to succeed. Because they do need to be that, as anyone who has studied women's labor market experiences can tell you. And the script would ask why these girls might not be mistaken in their assumption that they HAVE to outperform everybody just to get a level playing field later on. Finally, the script would point out that feeling disappointed at the rest of your life doesn't necessarily mean that your initial choices were wrong. It might also mean that the world treats you by giving you impossibly patriarchal scripts to play and then blames you for not getting the roles down pat.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Appropriate Use Of Anger in Political Debate



A gem caught by Oliver Willis, showing Geraldo Rivera and Bill O'Reilly going at loggerheads. Lots of screaming and yelling and lotsa repetition. This is funny because of an earlier post I wrote about the wingnut concern with women's inappropriate anger.




This Odd Boom






Kevin Drum links to this graph from EPI, on the characteristics of the current economic expansion compared to the average characteristics of past expansions. Now, "average expansion" isn't the best basis for comparisons, because it doesn't tell us how many expansions like the current one we have had in the past. My guess is that we have never had a similar one, but I really should research it. Right after eating these chocolate Easter eggs, perhaps...

In the meantime, note the height of the profits column. What the graph shows is that as the economic cake grows, a larger and larger slice goes to those who own the firms.

Nappy-Headed Hos



From Imus in the Morning, yesterday:

IMUS: So, I watched the basketball game last night between -- a little bit of Rutgers and Tennessee, the women's final.

ROSENBERG: Yeah, Tennessee won last night -- seventh championship for [Tennessee coach] Pat Summitt, I-Man. They beat Rutgers by 13 points.

IMUS: That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and --

McGUIRK: Some hard-core hos.

IMUS: That's some nappy-headed hos there. I'm gonna tell you that now, man, that's some -- woo. And the girls from Tennessee, they all look cute, you know, so, like -- kinda like -- I don't know.

Imus is an asshole. No, let me correct that: Imus is covered with assholes. He has them where other people have a mouth and eyes and ears, and they all seem to work the same way the ordinary asshole does.

He is also a sexist and a racist, but that seems to be the par on right-wing talk shows.

Be A Pundit!




It is easy and fun and quite legal. Freewayblogger tells us how you can participate in a pundit competition even if you don't have a blog to use as your pulpit.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Falling Between The Cracks



This should not happen to Iraq war veterans. Many of them have seen enough horrors for more than one lifetime. That they then end up neglected by the country they wanted to serve is tragic:

One of the five served in Iraq: Marine Corps veteran Justin Bailey, 27, who checked himself into the VA hospital after Thanksgiving because of his addiction to prescription and street drugs.

Bailey, who had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and a groin injury, was found dead in his room Jan. 26, a day after he got prescriptions filled for methadone and other drugs. Despite his drug history, he had been allowed to administer the drugs himself.

``My son had made a decision to get help, and they didn't help him. They gave him the bullet,'' Gulf War veteran Tony Bailey, 47, of Las Vegas told the Times.

How much more money are the VA hospitals getting now that the country is at war and the military overextended? How many new staff members have they been able to hire?

Who honors the returning veterans?

Good News On the Walmart Front



An e-mail from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America just informed us that Walmart has signed on to the Planned Parenthood policy on emergency contraception. This policy means the following (quoting from the e-mail). The stores will:

Ensure that customers receive their prescriptions or OTC products in-store, without discrimination (no harassment or lectures), without delay, without judgment or regard for the number of refills prescribed or, in the case of OTC products requested.


Stock emergency contraception in every store in which one or more customers request the product.



Ensure timely access to out-of-stock medication by offering to order the medication or refer the customer to another pharmacy that stocks the medication.



Circulate and enforce these policy and procedures corporation-wide.



On Scarves and Yarmulkes and Ties




The fact that Nancy Pelosi wore a scarf while visiting Ommayad Mosque in Damascus during her Syrian visit has caused some consternation on Little Green Footballs, a wingnut site, as Mahablog reports. Pelosi's scarf-wearing in a mosque reminds me of the time when a friend of mine who is not Jewish was invited to attend a Jewish wedding ceremony at a synagogue. He wore a yarmulke. Gasp! It is called manners, my friends, though of course I am still going to criticize religious customs which assume that women's bodies are sinful in general while men's bodies are not.

All this reminds me of Derbyshire's little rant about the cowardly British sailors in Iran (who have now been released). The rant included this sentence:

And in any case, there was no evidence of torture or mistreatment in any of the filmed cases I have seen. They look just fine. You can't fake that. The girl sailor had that headscarf on within hours. From what I've heard of torture, even weaker cases can hold out for a few days.

The bolds are mine. What a wonderful sentence that bolded one is! It brings us two quite different connotations in just a few words: that girls are really not sailors and that she caved in faster than any real brave Derbyshire-type man might have.

But of course she was made to wear a scarf and the men were not made to alter their dress. Or were they? Look at this picture of the British sailors in Iran:





Notice how all the men look like Ahmadinejad? How none of them wear ties, for instance? Did they all insist on ties until their fingernails were pulled out?

The point I'm making here is that because the female dress required in Iran is so different from the general western dress code it is much easier for us to see when a woman has been made to dress differently than it is when a man has been made to dress differently. Now isn't that funny? That men all across the world tend to end up wearing what is practical and comfortable but that what women wear is so dependent on popular culture, fashion and religion?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Best Internet Handle Ever



Probably someone already has it, but it just occurred to me. The handle is:

Lettuce Prey


It's even better than Olive the Omnivorous Ovary which was one I seriously considered.

Today's Deep Thought



On the success of the war against terrorism:

Some experts warn that the successes of Bush's war on terrorism have been undercut by huge security costs, strains on the U.S. military from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and resentment of the United States abroad.

"Look at al Qaeda's plans," said Michael Scheuer, who once led the CIA team devoted to finding al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. "They're very simply defined in two phrases: spread out America's forces and bleed the United States to bankruptcy. I'd argue America has been under attack successfully every day since 9/11 from that perspective.

"If you're looking at it from the cave, or wherever al Qaeda is hiding at the moment, you have to be pretty happy with the way the world is moving," he said.


How To Be Brave



John Derbyshire at the VERY right-wing Corner is angry at the British sailors and marines who are currently held by Iran. Derbyshire wants them to be heros and heroines and to refuse to do anything but die valiantly:

Once again, it's me and Ralph Peters on the same wavelength, deploring the cowardice of the British sailors and marines kidnapped by Iran. When it happened, I said I hoped the ones who'd shamed their country would be court-martialed on return to Blighty, and given dishonorable discharges after a couple years breaking rocks in the Outer Hebrides (which, believe me—I've been there—have a LOT of rocks). Now, I confess, I wouldn't shed a tear if some worse fate befell them.

The only coherent response I get to these sentiments is: "How do you know what they've been through? How would YOU stand up?" To which the obvious reply is the one Dr. Johnson gave in some similar case: "I may criticize a carpenter who makes me a bad table, though I cannot make a table myself. It is not my job to make tables." It is the job of a Royal Marine to fight, and if necessary suffer and die, for his country. They know that when they go in. It's what they are told! I nurse a quiet hope that if put to the test, I would stand up as well as any Marine. Whether or not I would, however, is irrelevant. Whether or not I could stand up well to torture, I expect Marines to.

Valor and death are being outsourced, too, but the right to feel brave and patriotic isn't. I should note that Derbyshire himself comes from Britain.

To Be Taken Seriously. Or More On WAM 2007.



WAM 2007 stands for this year's conference on Women, Action and Media, which took place last weekend. I was there under my human disguise, having fun and eating enormous amounts of free food. Mmm. But I also learned a lot about the problems women still face in getting their concerns addressed in the media and also in getting themselves hired and promoted by the media moguls.

To be sure, this was a conference for progressive and liberal women and their causes, but I suspect that many of the complaints might not look that different if a bunch of conservative women got together over the same issues.

And what are the complaints? The two major ones, in my view, are first how to get women's issues taken seriously in the media, and, second, how to get women themselves taken seriously. Even the term "women's issues" makes me feel slightly nauseous, because it conveys something like a packet of feminine napkins held under the limelight, something homogeneous, something slightly embarrassing and something definitely not of any concern to men.

Yet women's issues are everybody's issues, given that there are women all over the place, and given that many of the issues individual women struggle with are caused by complex interactions with others and by the laws and rules of the society in general. Neither are women's issues homogeneous but differ depending on the group of women we look at. Women of color have somewhat different concerns than white women, young women and old women have concerns which only partly overlap, lesbian women face yet different types of problems and so do disabled women, to give just a few examples.

So how do we get these issues out into the public discussion? Technology offers some hope, because the Internet has made citizen-journalism a feasible endeavor for all but the poorest among us. Learning how to deal with the conventional media, how to speak its tongue and how to get attention by careful presenting of the issues can also help. Networking (such as through the WAM conferences) helps. A lot. But what would help even more is money, because if you have enough money you can make people take your concerns seriously.

Several sessions at the conference also addressed the question how to take women seriously as journalists, writers or pundits. Much useful advice on self-presentation and research was doled out and many depressing studies were discussed. Women in journalism suffer from the leaky pipeline problem. The "leaky pipeline" refers to the old argument that questions of female underrepresentation would be solved in all kinds of industries once enough women had gone through the pipeline by working themselves up from the factory floor to the managerial positions (or their equivalents in various industries) and by accumulating the necessary expertise. This argument sounded very good in the 1970s when women were first beginning to participate in the labor markets in larger numbers but doesn't sound quite as good today, given that, say, schools of journalism already produce the same number of female and male journalists. Yet the very best jobs are overwhelmingly male.

So we say that the pipeline leaks. Whether the leak is caused by women "opting-out" because of the difficulties of managing both family responsibilities and challenging work schedules or whether the leak is at least partly caused by something more subtle and having to do with the way people judge authority isn't clear. But I found it an omen that after leaving the conference on Sunday I came across an article from 2002 which talked about some of the same points we had just debated:

According to Gerhard Sonnert, a sociologist of science at Harvard University who published a large-scale study on gender and science in 1995, women are often put off by the combative style that's rewarded in scientific research, as well as the emphasis on self-promotion. "There's an accepted language of science that has entered into the folklore and become the field," Blackburn says. "Women don't necessarily speak that exact same language, which is not to say that the language they use is not as good. It is. But all those subtle ways women present things that are different from men, even their tone of voice, play into how what they're presenting is accepted, its authority." What's more, women who do take on an aggressive style are often labeled "difficult."

This quote refers to science but very similar concerns are at work even in the blogosphere. One argument that crops up whenever we get one of those "Where are all the women bloggers" episodes is that women don't like the rough-and-tumble of arguing about politics. Many women do, in fact, but not writing aggressively does not mean that one isn't participating in the debate. Still, this is an interesting topic worth more discussion.

I see that my depressive aspect took over most of this post. Before I end it I should note that the mood was upbeat and optimistic and that much good work has already been completed. And the apple Danish was out of this world.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Daddy, Don't Go! Wade Horn Resigns



From Fox News (!):

WASHINGTON — Wade Horn, the Bush administration's point man for welfare reform, Head Start and abstinence education, resigned Monday as assistant secretary for children and families.

I always thought of him as our daddy, because he used to be the head of the National Fatherhood Initiative before his appointment to run the lives of the poor families. It's all very symbolic of what the administration wanted to achieve: To put a Real Daddy in charge of everything, especially in charge of women's lives. Yup. That's what I think.

But he left anyway.

More on Eric Keroack's Resignation



Keroack was the head of the federal family planning program. He was an appointment Bush meant to assuage the fundamentalist base. A guy who believes in abstinence and no abortions and who used to work for an organization which thinks that contraception degrades women. These are the qualifications that get you the job of running the federal family planning program! Now, the faith-based world we live in is tragedy for many of us, but it sure gives lots of comedy for blogging.

In any case, Keroack resigned very suddenly last week, and all we were told is that his private practice in Massachusetts was being sued by the state Medicaid program (the program which funds health care for certain groups of poor people, mostly those with young children). Here is a little more on that suit:

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services, Juan Martinez, confirmed the agency had a "pending matter against the doctor" that "dates back a few years," but declined to offer details because the process has not been completed. Most of the department's investigations involve fraudulent Medicaid claims.

When I wrote the first post on Keroack's resignation I initially had stuff about it probably being a matter of money, because that is what conservatives tend to stumble on, in my humble opinion. But then I took out my speculations, trying to be a reliable goddess-blogger.

Women, Anger And the Web



This topic was a hot one last Thursday. First the mainstream media began commenting on the Kathy Sierra web-harassment case:

Why did prominent blogger Kathy Sierra suddenly cancel the talk she was supposed to give Tuesday in San Diego? Because of specific, sexually graphic death threats posted on her blog and elsewhere on the Internet. One of the tamer threats featured a photo of her next to a noose.

Death threats! If you've never heard of Sierra, perhaps you assume that she writes about religion, the mob or the Satanic Verses. But actually, Sierra writes about cognition and computers. Wrote, actually -- she has also seen fit to shut down her venerable blog, Creating Passionate Users. (Warning: Some of the particularly grody threats now appear there as part of her final post.) "As I type this, I am supposed to be in San Diego, delivering a workshop at the ETech conference. But I'm not. I'm at home, with the doors locked, terrified," she writes, adding as part of an of apology to conference organizers and attendees, "If you want to do something about it, do not tolerate the kind of abuse that includes threats or even suggestions of violence (especially sexual violence). Do not put these people on a pedestal. Do not let them get away with calling this 'social commentary,' 'protected speech,' or simply 'criticism.'"

Then a conservative blogger, Dr. Helen, decided to write on the very same topic: women anger and the web. But what a difference in the framing!

It would be interesting to do a study of all of the anonymous posters of insults on various blogs around the web and see if proportionally, there are as many (or more) women who pen the insults (I am not talking here about discussing issues--I mean ad hominem attacks). Because if that is the case, that more women are behind the anonymous insults, it indicates that deep down, women have learned little from feminism over the last years--they are still too afraid to come out in the open in an assertive and constructive manner. They are still, ultimately, too intimidated to take real responsibility for their actions. It's no wonder they are so angry.

A lot of ifs in that short quote and no evidence. Perhaps it is the custom in the faith-based world that so many conservatives inhabit.

I brought these posts together not to argue that Dr. Helen was responding to the Sierra case (she probably wasn't), but to point out the two parallel realities of much political speech today. While many of the progressive blogs are busy discussing sexual harassment in the cyberspace, the conservative discussion (in the comments attached to Dr. Helen's post) agrees that women indeed are the angrier sex and pretty much out of control.

Which makes me wonder, once again, what it is that women get from the conservative movement.
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X-posted on the TAPPED

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Andy Rooney Phones In Another One.

Posted by olvlzl.
Gassing on for his ususal 60 Minutes slot tonight, Andy Rooney asked why it costs so much to run for president. He seemed to pretend that it’s some kind of mystery but there’s no guess work involved. It’s the Supreme Court saying that money is speech in Buckley v. Valeo, and similar kinds of rulings that thwart any attempts to take back public office for The People. The Supreme Court doesn’t see their job as promoting or even protecting democracy and The Peoples right to govern themselves. They pretend that their job is to protect the process even if that process results in a corrupt, anti-democratic oligarchy flooding the airwaves, lying to The People, installing puppets and setting up the most corrupt governments in the history of the country. That’s not a secret.

There is no law of nature that says that the rules we’ve had imposed on us are the only ones we have any reason to hope for. Election law isn’t physics. Since the Congress and a number of State legislatures have passed many campaign finance laws and the appropriate executives signed them only to have them thrown out by the courts, it is the judges who are the weakest link in the long fight to take the government back for The People. Maybe the best hope to change that is by pressuring the Senate Judiciary Committee, they’re elected, they can’t entirely ignore The People even if they’re lawyers who have bought even the most anti-democratic rulings of the courts. The courts have to be forced to take the damage they do to democracy into account. Democracy isn’t a footnote, it’s the most basic ground rule, the ONLY thing that gives the entire process of government any legitimacy. Without democracy they’ve got no more right to make rulings than the bosses of crime syndicates agreeing to carve up their territories among themselves.

If you’re not going to answer the question, Andy, why raise it?

Finding Hope On Awakening

From An Allergy Induced Slumber
Posted by olvlzl.
Maybe you are feeling hopeless, maybe you are feeling as if the entire world has been taken over by the forces of evil. Maybe you aren’t feeling strong enough for the struggle. If you haven’t seen it yet you might want to go over to Bouphonia and look at Phila’s Friday Hope Blogging. After seeing the sustainable projects and progressive action around the world (even some in the United States) I’m feeling a lot better and ready to go.

And while you’re there, you should look at the Friday Nudibranch of the week, one of the most elegant Friday animal blogging features anywhere.

For Chicago Tribune Readers



The post you want to read is here.

Want-Ads For Guys and Gals



You may have read about a time in America when job ads were segregated by sex, those dark ages of pre-feminism. Well, you can now find out how it worked. Here is a want-ad from last week's craigslist:

Discovery Channel needs a host for a new series. Must have background in either engineering, product design or crash testing. On camera experience preferred but not required.

Are you a natural innovator? Do you have the engineering creativity to adapt technologies in imaginative ways to save lives? Do you often think – 'a small change to my car/a jet fuel tank/a building could make the difference between life and death? - Then, we want to talk to you.

Ideal candidate is, male, young to late forties, edgy, adventurous, and an innovator. Must feel comfortable conceptualizing and testing their own designs and the designs of others.

Extensive travel and time commitment required.

My bolds. Could it be a hoax? It seems not to be one. Is it legal? Who knows, but one blog I found suggests that it might be:

In academia or corporate America, this job ad clearly would be discriminatory and illegal, but when it comes to TV and film, producers are given a free pass to hire based on gender. At least ads like this confirm our suspicions that gender-based discrimination is alive and well in the sciences. In academia, they pretend it doesn't exist or blame the women.

I find it very hard to believe that this is legal, because usually the sex of a person should have some relevance for the job. For instance, I can see why some people might argue that Hamlet should be played by a man and Ophelia by a woman. But why is the ideal candidate here male and under a certain age? Sex and age discrimination in one exciting package!

I learned about this ad and similar issues at the Women, Action and Media conference this weekend from the folks who run the fairerscience.org. They are worth a separate post later on.

The Escalation Isn't Working

You can bet they've got those focus groups in gear to find their next PR campaign.
Posted by olvlzl.
So, all that talk about the "Surge" working, "beginning to show progress, bear fruit, blah, blah, blah...".

BAGHDAD (AFP) - At least 2,078 people died in
Iraq last month, 15 percent more than in February despite a massive security crackdown in Baghdad, the epicentre of violence, a security official said on Sunday.
On average, 67 people died across the country every day in March, compared to 64 in February.


You will begin to hear new slogans and buzz words from the Republicans any time now. And those will be as empty as the ones they've gone through already. How fast will the media shills adopt them? Anyone doing a study of this kind of thing?

There Will Never Be A Time When It Is More Needed

Posted by olvlzl.
Now it is clear that all civil rights and protections will be under attack, when it is clear that the Supreme Court is just about certain to undermine the rights of everyone, but especially those already at disadvantage, at a time when women are in danger of having their most basic rights stripped from them, the Equal Rights Amendment is more relevant than ever.

It can't be an accident that it is when the enemies of the amendment have had power that all peoples' rights have been most in danger of being lost. The ascendency of the radical right has been a long game of weakening even those gains made in the 19th century. There has never been a time in our lives that pushing forward instead of retreating made more sense. It's time to attack the enemies of personal liberty and dignity and the ERA is a weapon eminently suited to that purpose. It is an amendment that protects all of us. But don't make the mistake of thinking it's going to be easy, it will have all the old enemies and some new ones. When it was killed by a campaign of lies the cabloids and hate talk radio were in their infancy. This is going to be a long, hard struggle but that struggle can make us stronger. We have to be prepared and fight a smarter media battle than they do.

Why It Matters So Much When It's Women Who Write History

Posted by olvlzl.
How should a single, short passage of compelling significance be used by history? The column by Christopher Shea in today’s Globe about historian Wendy Anne Warren’s fleshing out of a rare mention of the actual experience of a slave held in New England is certainly compelling and important. A short, obscure passage dealing with the rape of an unnamed slave by another slave on orders of their owner “desirous to have a breed of Negroes,” is certainly significant, having an account of the woman’s enraged protest is even rarer. Warren says that “Her individual resistance touches me”. Warren’s determination to look farther into what is laudable. She apparently was careful to make clear what she was reporting from the historical record and what was the product of her speculation, would that all historians did. Any criticism of her methods should address how these windows into an important past should be used in stead of ignored.

Howard Zinn has pointed out that Samuel Eliot Morison knew and gave short mention to the undeniable fact that Columbus was a mass murderer, even using the phrase “complete genocide” to describe what he set into motion. Then Morison ignored what has to be seen as one of the most significant themes of the life of Columbus. Zinn’s says:

- he mentions the truth quickly and goes on to other things more important to him. Outright lying or omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm, yes, mass murder took place but it’s not that important it should weigh very little in our judgement, it should affect very little what we do in the world [ A People’s History of the United States].

You have to wonder how many male historians and scholars might have read that tiny description of the distress of the woman raped on the orders of her master who wanted to breed a family of slaves from her and skipped it to go on to other things more important to him. The book was published in 1674 and would be an important resource for the scholars of the massively researched history of Massachusetts. Massachusetts being the home of one of the largest concentrations of professional and avocational historians in the world it almost certainly had to have been read before. Since so much of the history of women and especially of women held as slaves is contained in the small passages so easily skipped, it’s essential to find ways to deal with the record, to tell those truths. They have to weigh in our judgment and should affect what we do in the world.