Saturday, February 16, 2008

"There's a greater chance that I would dye my hair green and get tattoos all over my body and do a rock tour with Amy Winehouse than there is that I would run for the Senate, so let me put that to rest. Somehow, just imagine me, green hair, on tour with Amy Winehouse, ain't happening, not running for the Senate, done deal, absolutely no way." Mike Huckabee

Having never heard of Amy Winehouse before she was denied a visa and having heard nothing that about her that isn't horrifically tragic and appalling, does it get any sleazier than having Rev. Huckabee using her like this? Is he paying a price with the 'values voters'?

Amy Winehouse doesn't just belong in rehab, she belongs in long term custodial care. The people promoting "Rehab" and providing yet one more excuse for people who are hard enough to get to treatment without these lines should be lined up against the wall. But the pop-culture industry has never suffered for promoting violent and self-destructive behavior yet and you doubt they will as long as they can make lots of money that way.

Posted by Anthony McCarthy

Against The Beast by Anthony McCarthy

Do I have this right? There’s yet another Rambo movie being released? The extension of chemically enhanced, Hollywood, fascist chic this far into what John McCain enthusiastically forecasts as a hundred years war in Iraq goes well beyond being a symptom of the outsized power of aged non-talents in the intellectual capital of the degenerating American Empire.

I also hear as well that the crypto-fascist, survival fantasy “Jericho” is being revived by what we are told was popular acclamation. As it happens, I saw exactly two episodes of this wretched program before it was canceled last time. Why “Jericho”? Wasn’t it discontinued due to viewer disinterest in the first place? I’ve got a suspicion that the revival of this junk has more to do with its absurd assertion of survival after a nuclear war and the rest of its message than it does quality entertainment. Its revival in an election year has to be seen as the promotion of a political viewpoint.

The cliche that the worst in pop culture represents America to itself and the world is too true. With the series of Republican presidents that have been brought to power by TV and radio and the most insanely irrational wars and foreign policies they have produced, only someone in complete denial would assert that it isn't the predominant product of our culture. It is the marriage of free speech absolutism and profit making under a corporate state system, worlds away from what free speech would mean under a true democracy. The context under which speech happens, the potency given to the messages favored by wealthy corporations when they own the amplification system, can only be ignored by the most willfully blind. Pretending that all speech is equal speech under present day conditions is a rejection of reality. Speech fueled by broadcasting, money, in other words, is not equal in power to speech produced by a single person in any realistic political analysis.

There is other speech in the United States but its rationality and potency is swamped by the media phantasmagoria that is intended to only excite and distract as it misinforms.

William Bolcom has been against the machine for decades now. Going back to before his brilliant Piano Quartet and Piano Concerto from 1976, the Buycentennial of the United States, he has been producing some of the most important statements of rejection of the worst of America. From yesterday’s Boston Globe:

Bolcom says that the symphony was surprisingly easy to compose, in part because he composed the opening - a dramatic setting of the line "Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burden'd air" - more than 40 years ago, when he was a graduate student at Stanford. That line is from Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," from which the symphony's final text is drawn: "For every thing that lives is Holy."

To Bolcom, that line is far from being just watery sentiment. In a recent issue of Symphony Magazine, he wrote that that idea "could not be more relevant to today's miseries: I do feel very strongly that America's shedding of a long, overprotected, and overprotracted adolescence is the only way toward our nation's survival."

"It's a culture that nurtures the infantile," he elaborates. "So our tastes are those of children, we think like children, we got into this last war as if we were children. We have a notion of machismo for handling the world around us . . . and that's a very bad image for us. It's going to kill us."

William Bolcom's work is an example of the best of American democratic culture. He isn’t going to be a household name any time soon.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Patriarchal Ode To Sexual Love

This is a little too late for Valentine's Day, but Glenn Beck just gave a lovely shorthand version of the way one type* of conservative guys seem to view love (the other type consists of fundies who think that God made women as their domestic servants and their sex slaves):

BECK: I mean, here are some other reasons. "You're ugly." Hello! I'm not a sex expert but I'm -- you know, I'm thinking, you know, you're ugly and, you know, that's a tough one to overcome especially if you're a woman. If you're a guy, that's not hard to overcome. I'm sorry. That's just the way the world is. Have you -- how many ugly guys have hot wives? Take me, for example. I don't know why she married -- I think it was low self-esteem. I do. No, really I think it was low self-esteem. I got in -- you know, you buy when the market is low. You know what I mean? While everybody else is selling, you buy. And I think I got in there right at the right time. Low self-esteem, low, wait a minute, could go a little lower, she might come down to my price. Hang on, OK, sold! Now her self-esteem is going up. And if my income wasn't going up, she would have ditched me long ago. She would have gone, "Wait a minute, I think I was depressed when I married you." I'm just -- look. I'm not Tania, but I am a thinker. I'm on to you, Tania!

The bolds are mine.

It's a joke but it isn't really a joke. The thinking goes something like this: Women want money and men want sex. So all women are in the market for a rich guy and all men are in the market for a beautiful woman. Then they trade. And that is called love, I guess. Of course, once you lose your looks or your money you also lose the love...

This is the idea that much of the pseudo-evolutionary-psychology reflects. Though usually the guys there insist that no, women aren't after your money, they really truly honestly find older wrinkled bald guys very hot, and they also argue that even if women earned as much as men it would still be true that nothing is as awesome as someone like that.

It's very sad, really, as anyone who has experienced real love knows. Yes, an older, wrinkled bald guy can be the hottest guy on earth, but not because he is older, wrinkled and bald.

*Not that there aren't other kinds, even kind ones. But these are the two types of conservative men who write about women.

And Some Friday Fun

I inspired Suzie Madrak to write this.

Not Understanding. Demanding, Domineering, Nurse Ratched Kind of Thing.

That is Rush Limbaugh's definition of Hillary Clinton and also his explanation for why white men don't want to vote for her. She's the wrong kind of woman, reminds them of all the white bitches they have met in their lives. A real woman is understanding, soft and cuddly, you know? Of course such a woman is also quite incapable of running for the president of the United States, so Rush has neatly sewn the bag shut. No escape for any woman, ever. Either you are a stuffed toy animal or you are a castrating toothed vagina. Neither of those will get the votes of Manly Men.

For similar sexist takes on the Hillary Clinton phenomenon, you can go to, where at least one writer argued that the downfall of Clinton shows how nobody should ignore the most important voting bloc: white men. The writer notes that, sure, white women are a bigger blog, but they're too ill-informed and too uninterested to matter in politics.

Why do I bother to tell you all this? Because these things are growing out there, like mold on an old shower curtain, and because we in the feminist circles debate each other on questions such as whether the time has already come when the gender of a candidate matters not one whit.

I personally think that we need at least, oh, let's say, three female presidents in the history of this country before we can assume that gender wouldn't enter into those calculations for many voters. And preferably a female Pope or two, too. That Utopian time is not one any of us will ever see.

Blog News

This here blog is going to get a new blogger! Suzie has agreed to write something for us, mostly on Fridays. She will introduce herself when she starts posting, but let me just say that I admire her very much and that you are all in for a treat.

Of course Anthony McCarthy and me will also stay, though I'm tempted to fire myself.

Government Drowning in the Bathtub

The dream of Grover Norquist was to make the government small enough for that, as you may remember. But a government unable to carry out some of those essential tasks is not such good news for us ordinary chumps:

A Chinese factory that has not been inspected by the Food and Drug Administration is the source for the active ingredient of a critical blood-thinning drug whose production was suspended this week after 350 patients reported ill effects from it.

At least four people died after being given the drug, heparin.

An F.D.A. spokeswoman, Heidi Robello, said Wednesday that the agency was making plans to inspect the Chinese factory as well as a finishing plant in New Jersey "as soon as possible."

She said that "it was yet to be determined" if the Chinese plant was the source of the problem that led to the spike in reports of problems with the drug's use.

Heparin is made from pig intestines. Ms. Robello said that she did not know whether the pigs used to produce the suspended product, made by Baxter International, came from China.

Heparin is used widely in dialysis, heart surgery and chronic care hospitals. Baxter manufactures half of the nation's supply of the drug, and the company's suspension of its production of multiuse heparin vials is expected to lead to shortages.

A Baxter spokeswoman, Erin Gardiner, said her company bought the active ingredient for the drug from another concern, which she would not identify. She said that company had plants in the United States and China.

The Government Accountability Office recently reported that at its current inspection pace, the F.D.A. would need at least 13 years to inspect every foreign drug plant that exports products to the United States. The office, an independent arm of Congress, also found that the F.D.A.'s computer systems were deficient and it had little idea how many plants had been approved for exports to the United States.

How do you like that struggle in the tub, Grover? Note that people needing heparin are usually quite fragile already.

There are two separate issues that trouble me here. The first is the fact that the FDA's ability to protect us from dangerous drugs appears to be close to nil. Remember when we were told that buying medications from Canada might endanger our health because who knows what their quality might be? Now it turns out that the quality control of the U.S. delivered drugs is sorely lacking. We'd probably be much better off with all Canadian drugs.

The second issue of concern is how most everything these days is manufactured in China. I have nothing against the Chinese, but it's not a safe policy to have one country specialize in the production of the majority of the foods we eat and of the drugs we take, especially when countries outside China have very little ability to affect the quality control inside that country. We urgently need some internationally enforceable rules about quality control, environmental protection and worker safety.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Today's Action Alert

Saudi Arabia is going to execute a woman for witchcraft:

Human Rights Watch has appealed to Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a woman convicted of witchcraft.

In a letter to King Abdullah, the rights group described the trial and conviction of Fawza Falih as a miscarriage of justice.

The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read.

Among her accusers was a man who alleged she made him impotent.

Human Rights Watch said that Ms Falih had exhausted all her chances of appealing against her death sentence and she could only now be saved if King Abdullah intervened.

Hecate gives the necessary contact information. As always, remember that a polite and respectful message is more likely to work:

Contact information for the Saudi Embassy:

Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Main Number: (202) 342-3800
Consulate/Visa Section: (202) 944-3126
Medical Office: (202) 342-7393
Commercial Office: (202) 337-4088

You Can Haz Dildo in Texas

In LOLcat language. In your ordinary everyday English this post means that the sale of sex toys is no longer banned in Texas:

A federal appeals court has struck down a Texas law that makes it a crime to promote or sell sex toys.

"Whatever one might think or believe about the use of these devices," said an opinion written by Justice Thomas M. Reavley of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, "government interference with their personal and private use violates the Constitution."

The link is originally via JR who noted that the decision came just in time for Valentine's Day. But there's something sad and lonely about writing a card to a dildo, methinks.

Will You Be My Valentine?

Some Nina Simone for the day:

For an interesting variation on Valentine Day, check out what res ipsa loquitur does to celebrate the day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Feminism, Scheminism

The general public has a fairly poor understanding of the different schools of feminism. I have recently heard that Katha Pollitt is a radical feminist, for instance, or that Hillary Clinton is one. I hope that someone else wants to write another piece on the main schools of feminism, because I sure will not do that for no money here. How's that for being reader-friendly and helpful?

Instead, I've been thinking of rebranding feminism into choice-feminism, feminism-lite, feminism-non-fat, feminism-extra-creamy-and-serious and so on. My type of feminism would be called "makes you fall asleep in the middle of an orgasm", but someone has to do that type, too. Which is perhaps another way of saying that I'm the go-to-place for the overthinkers, insomniacs and crossword enthusiasts among feminist readers, the goddess that will lift the heavy rocks nobody else wants to, for fear of what might crawl and slither under them. Me, I think those creepy-crawlers might be edible.

I'm also usually about three days late or three days too early on any interesting topic, but that's probably part of my charm. At least it's something that differentiates my brand of feminism.

(What's the point of this post? It's pointless, just a writing exercise, a desperate plea for my muse to come back home before Valentine's day, a prayer to have writing taste good and not just crunchy and nutritious again. Please, Erato, my love, come back, wherever you are? I'll let you wear my dresses.)

Dowd In A Feminist Coma

Don't you think that Maureen Dowd has been hit by that large truck which says "feminist anger" on the side and that as a consequence she realized that a different way of mocking Hillary Clinton was called for if the important job of grinding Hillary into little bits under that red Prada heel was to be completed? Too much venom and childish insults didn't work quite as well as Dowd thought, so she put on her feminist hat (with the castrating scissors hanging off the sides), set her tongue in the middle of her mouth and started scribbling:

Many women I talk to, even those who aren't particularly fond of Hillary, feel empathy for her, knowing that any woman in a world dominated by men has to walk a tightrope between femininity and masculinity, strength and vulnerability.

They see double standards they hate — when male reporters described Hillary's laugh as "a cackle" or her voice as "grating," when Rush Limbaugh goes off on her wrinkles or when male pundits seem gleeful to write her political obituary. Several women I know, who argue with their husbands about Hillary, refer with a shudder to the "Kill the Witch" syndrome.

In a webcast, prestidigitator Penn Jillette talks about a joke he has begun telling in his show. He thinks the thunderous reaction it gets from audiences shows that Hillary no longer has a shot.

The joke goes: "Obama is just creaming Hillary. You know, all these primaries, you know. And Hillary says it's not fair, because they're being held in February, and February is Black History Month. And unfortunately for Hillary, there's no White Bitch Month."

Of course, jokes like that — even Jillette admits it's offensive — are exactly what may give Hillary a shot. When the usually invulnerable Hillary seems vulnerable, many women, even ones who don't want her to win, cringe at the idea of seeing her publicly humiliated — again.

That must have been so hard to write, except for the pleasure of putting in that "white bitch" joke (I have seen it several times already).

Indeed, I must tip my own feminist hat (with better and longer castrating scissors as the tassel) to Maureen. I'm not sure if I could write an anti-feminist piece as well, and that would be the comparable assignment for me. Though naturally Maureen has some help from the fact that the point of her column isn't that different from all the earlier "I Hate Hitlery" columns she has penned. It's not to get Hillary elected to anything because she is a horrible monster. Only this time Maureen explains carefully why agreeing with Hillary's monstrosity will not make you a bad feminist at all.

Dowd ends her column by arguing that Hillary's much-anticipated public humiliation will not be a humiliation for all women, just for Hillary, because Hillary is not a woman worthy of feminist support.

What I'd really like to know is this: What would be required of a powerful woman for her to be worthy of the support of one Maureen Dowd?

Today's Action Alert

This has to do with the FISA act, and requires you to call your Representatives so that the House version wins over the bad Senate version. See this post for more information.

Mom The Nutritional Gate-Keeper

An article in the Washington Post tells us in no uncertain terms who should be responsible for making Americans slimmer: the moms, or rather the women in families who are already responsible for buying the food and for cooking it. This is the idea of Brian Wansink, the new head of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion at the Agriculture Department. And what does Mr. Wansink want?

Now he wants to recruit mothers to help him whittle the widening national girth. Project M.O.M. is a new USDA campaign that targets the nutritional gatekeepers in every household who call the shots on nourishment.

Society may have changed enormously in the past 50 years, but some things have not: Regardless of social status, income, education, the ability to cook from scratch or to find the closest fast-food restaurant with GPS, "the reality is that the bulk of purchases about food are done by mothers in the household," Wansink says.

Money for nutrition education at the USDA is tight. So Wansink plans to stretch those dollars: Rather than trying to "convince every person in the U.S. to eat better," he says, why not "get the nutritional gatekeeper . . . the one person who makes the decision" to change?

This is one of those examples where "the reality" and "what is fair" diverge from each other. It's certainly true that women do the bulk of grocery shopping and cooking, even those women who work as long hours in the labor market as their male partners. Indeed, women do most of the unpaid work (in hours per year) that having a family entails. So why not just add another moral requirement for that overworked group: the responsibility for the weight of all the family members, including the other adults in the family.

It's wonderful that the government aims to save money by only educating the mothers. This all but guarantees that men won't learn how to eat in a healthier manner, of course, but never mind. The mom will always be there (after a long day at work, in most cases) to make sure that everybody eats enough spinach.

I probably should add the usual warning here: I am not opposing the idea that nutritional information wouldn't be important to disseminate. I'm opposing the unquestioning assumption that it is women who should be the nutritional gate-keepers for everyone else.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And Another Action Alert

The Senate caved in on the FISA law (thank you very much, Harry Reid):

The Senate voted Tuesday to shield from lawsuits telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on their customers without court permission after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

After nearly two months of stops and starts, the Senate rejected by a vote of 31 to 67 an amendment that would have stripped a grant of retroactive immunity to the companies. President Bush has promised to veto any new surveillance bill that does not protect the companies that helped the government in its warrantless wiretapping program.

So the Senate agrees with George Bush that he, George Bush, can break any law or demand others to break it for him and that there will be no negative consequences from any of this. Why bother having laws in the first place, then?

Now, this is the Senate version of the bill. The House version does not have retroactive immunity for lawbreakers in it. The action alert consists of you telling the lawmakers that you want the final bill to look more like the House version than the Senate version. Go here.

The Liberal Decadence

Atrios linked to this post on Open Left:

Erick Erickson, editor of the popular conservative megablog RedState, conceded that progressives currently enjoy an advantage over conservatives online-though he attributed it to an asymmetry in free time, since conservatives "have families because we don't abort our kids, and we have jobs because we believe in capitalism."

It could be a joke, though not a very good one. But it's also a good example of "othering", of stripping the political opposition of any characteristics which might make them look like part of the same human species. If progressives all have an abortion the first thing in the morning, even before brushing their teeth or calling that limousine with the latte service to take them to the unemployment check office, well, then it might be ok to hate on them. They are not real Americans, real patriots. Soon they won't look like real people at all.

"Othering" is a tempting political strategy. I have been guilty of gentle advances in that direction myself, mostly because "counter-othering" sometimes seems to be all that's left after years of reading and hearing me and people like me described as the cancer on the body politic. When I have never even gotten a speeding fine (well, of course the police would have to catch me first for that, but the point remains).

Yes, it's tempting to use "othering" (and what fun would it be to write those stories about the conservatives), but ultimately it is very bad for this country and its politics. I can see the appeal of Obama's calls for unity from that angle. I only wish that Erick Erickson also finds those calls appealing, because if he and others like him do not, "unity" in practice will be just continual "othering" by one side.

Today's Action Alert

Has to do with MSNBC's political coverage and especially their embrace of sexist and racist commentary as part of a clever marketing plan. You can tell them that you don't like this plan. (I wonder when we get to protesting against Fox News? Or would that be like rabbits demanding that the foxes stop eating them?)

On Hillary Hating

Fear not. I'm not going to write another long diatribe on the question why Hillary Clinton is so hated. Instead, you can go to Shakes and read through her series of all the posts on sexist coverage of Clinton's campaign. The NYT has a good blog post on the topic, too. It attempts to categorize and name the different reasons for the hatred:

Comments like these would seem to lend support to the view (voiced by many respondents) that sexism is what ultimately motivates the Clinton bashers. "A woman who doesn't apologize for who she is. What's not to hate?" (79). "Any woman who is anything more than a wallflower will always be attacked" (105). "People just can't tolerate a woman in power" (111). "Why not get right to heart of the matter? It's sexism. Most women on this planet face it every day" (168). If so, they face it from women as well as from men, at least on the evidence provided here. Carol Maloney (158) reports that many of her intelligent women friends are unable "to discuss Hillary in a logical manner." Kat (23) wonders why "women seem to be on the Hillary hatred bandwagon." Carol (359) says "What I find most disturbing is the amount of hatred spewed at Hillary by those who are so much like her … It is very odd. Is it really self-hate?"

One might ask, can it really be sexism if it is women who are practicing it? Sure it can. If sexism is defined as the conviction that women are unsuited by gender to perform certain tasks or hold certain positions, that conviction is as available to women as it is to men. Still, sexism doesn't seem an adequate explanation of the Hillary-hating phenomenon if only because so much of the venom in the comments is directed at the Clintons as a team. The idea is that nothing but evil can emanate from them; they are a moral blot on the nation's escutcheon, a canker-sore on the body politic, and they must be removed (perhaps by any means necessary). No doubt sexism is a component of such sentiments–a number of women respondents accused her of riding on her husband's coat-tails and lambasted her for not leaving him–but sexism doesn't really account for an anger that sometimes borders on the homicidal.

I disagree with that last sentence. Homicidal rage is pretty much how extreme misogyny shows itself. To regard the strength of the hatred as evidence of its non-sexist origins is not a mistake a woman would make.

Yet I agree that the Hillary hatred is not just about sexism. Bill and Hillary Clinton have become a mythical Most Evil Couple Ever, and whenever I try to gently ask for anecdotes to explain how they gained this status I get a recounting of how horrible the Clinton persecution years of the 1990's were, and how the Clintons should not have caused those years to happen. It almost seems as if the Bush Reich has been preferable to some of those expressing these views, and it is this dislocation in reality that I find interesting to probe. But, alas, my probing gets the reaction it would if I was sticking my finger into someone's infected tooth.

To be absolutely clear, I'm not saying that Hillary Clinton shouldn't be criticized on her past political decisions, on her hawkishness or on her triangulations. Neither am I saying that it's not ok to hate the idea of dynasties in a democracy or that Bill Clinton's sexual escapades aren't worth discussing. I'm talking about the quality of the anger, not its existence, about its unreasoning, dark and, yes, in some cases murderous intensity. And it is the reasons for that quality I want to understand. Because I suspect that repressed sexism does lie deep inside that hatred if you dig deep enough.
P.S. Here's the daily nutritional supplement of sexist Hillary commentary for you.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Some Janis Joplin

Kristof on Women Rulers

Nicholas Kristof often writes columns in the New York Times about how he is single-handedly saving the women of the world (which is very considerate of him and also based on him being unable to Google "feminist organizations and the work they do"). Thus, it shows what honest and neutral goddess I am to say that he actually has a point in his most recent column about why women tend not to fare well when a governing system is first democratized:

While no woman has been president of the United States — yet — the world does have several thousand years' worth of experience with female leaders. And I have to acknowledge it: Their historical record puts men's to shame.

A notable share of the great leaders in history have been women: Queen Hatshepsut and Cleopatra of Egypt, Empress Wu Zetian of China, Isabella of Castile, Queen Elizabeth I of England, Catherine the Great of Russia, and Maria Theresa of Austria. Granted, I'm neglecting the likes of Bloody Mary, but it's still true that those women who climbed to power in monarchies had an astonishingly high success rate.

Research by political psychologists points to possible explanations. Scholars find that women, compared with men, tend to excel in consensus-building and certain other skills useful in leadership. If so, why have female political leaders been so much less impressive in the democratic era? Margaret Thatcher was a transformative figure, but women have been mediocre prime ministers or presidents in countries like Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines and Indonesia. Often, they haven't even addressed the urgent needs of women in those countries.

I have a pet theory about what's going on.

In monarchies, women who rose to the top dealt mostly with a narrow elite, so they could prove themselves and get on with governing. But in democracies in the television age, female leaders also have to navigate public prejudices — and these make democratic politics far more challenging for a woman than for a man.

In one common experiment, the "Goldberg paradigm," people are asked to evaluate a particular article or speech, supposedly by a man. Others are asked to evaluate the identical presentation, but from a woman. Typically, in countries all over the world, the very same words are rated higher coming from a man.

Alas, I am very familiar with the many studies which show that just putting a woman's name on some scientific piece of writing, say, will immediately lower the evaluations it gets, from either men or women evaluators. But Kristof's deeper point is also an important one: Democracy is not an automatic way of getting rid of prejudice or bigotry. Indeed, it can strengthen both of those if the population getting the vote is bigoted and prejudiced. Dare I mention Iraq in this context?

But Kristof's story about the experiences of Indian villages which required women to have a role to play also demonstrates something important about this prejudice: It can disappear when the lack of information it was based on also disappears:

Female leaders face these impossible judgments all over the world. An M.I.T. economist, Esther Duflo, looked at India, which has required female leaders in one-third of village councils since the mid-1990s. Professor Duflo and her colleagues found that by objective standards, the women ran the villages better than men. For example, women constructed and maintained wells better, and took fewer bribes.

Yet ordinary villagers themselves judged the women as having done a worse job, and so most women were not re-elected. That seemed to result from simple prejudice. Professor Duflo asked villagers to listen to a speech, identical except that it was given by a man in some cases and by a woman in others. Villagers gave the speech much lower marks when it was given by a woman.

Such prejudices can be overridden after voters actually see female leaders in action. While the first ones received dismal evaluations, the second round of female leaders in the villages were rated the same as men. "Exposure reduces prejudice," Professor Duflo suggested.

Interesting, is it not? This is why the traditional sexual division of labor can maintain prejudice. In an earlier post about the Indian rights in Mexico I quoted a man who argued that the women there don't deserve to have the vote because they don't work hard enough.

Hard enough? When any outside observer might argue that the women in those villages work at least as hard as the men, probably harder? But for the man who made that comment the women's work has become invisible, not viewed as "work", and not viewed as valuable. Sharing that work might change the minds of men like this one. Sexual segregation in societies stops this kind of learning and allows prejudices to go on living.

To return to the feminist implications of introducing democracy: The experiences in Russia and Poland suggest that just introducing democracy doesn't necessarily improve women's lives. Rather the reverse in some cases. Women's earning levels collapsed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, discrimination in hiring became commonplace (only young and pretty women wanted) and female unemployment rates soared compared to male unemployment rates. Fewer women got elected to public offices.

At the same time, public support for the traditionally female areas of responsibility in the society, the ones that had to do with the care of children and of the elderly, also collapsed, and calls for women to return to the kitchens increased. Poland has made abortions difficult to obtain. And none of the ex-Soviet-bloc countries has had a real feminist awakening yet.

It will come, though. Initially democracy often looks like mob rule, or "democracy for me but not for thee", especially when the necessary democratic institutions and habits of the mind are missing. As the system matures and as people learn to work democracy previously mistreated groups demand their share in the cake. I think that the time of women in those countries will come. Well, I hope so.

A Feminist Mental Health Tip

Do you get upset, sad or angry when you read bad news about the rights of women or when you come across yet another misogynistic joke or tidbit? If so, what do you do about those grimy feelings?

One of my solutions is to kick holes in my garage door or to split planks of wood with my karate hand (well, to be honest I did that last thing only once), or to make really frightening faces at myself in the mirror (screw your eyes up and make a lion's maw with your mouth to start, then go by your instincts). But a more useful mental health tip is this:

Whenever you cannot shake off something misogynistic you have seen, read or heard, send a small check to your favorite feminist organization. If you have no money to send, e-mail a thank-you letter to one of those unsung hero(ine)s doing the hard work on behalf of world's women.

I love this, because the more the woman haters foam, the more money and emotional support the feminist organizations get. And you will feel better, too.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Caucus Report by Anthony McCarthy

We had a record turnout, with Democratic candidates and their representatives reporting record turn outs all over York County, a county that often votes Republican. We had an even split for Clinton and Obama delegates, just about an even split in those caucusing. Everyone was enthusiastic and excited about taking back the country.

Those tables and chairs get heavier every four years.

Now Here’s A Thought. by Anthony McCarthy

Going off to set up chairs for the caucus, still not sure about who I’ll stand up for when the time comes.

Maybe it’s time for Democrats to insist that whichever candidate comes in second be asked to stand as Vice President. It seems to be an idea with huge support among Democrats, maybe we need to draft a combination ticket by popular demand.

Washing Hands. by Anthony McCarthy

This piece in today’s Boston Globe Magazine is about Monica Sprague’s disastrous C-section delivery and the subsequent attack of flesh-eating bacteria which came close to killing her and which has left her with no limbs. It is very hard reading, mixing the story of her family with technical information about the problem. Maybe the second part in next week’s magazine will talk more about the general problem and its prevalence in the recently hospitalized.

Nick Daneman, an infectious disease consultant at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, studied all the literature on outbreaks of the bacteria from 1965 to 2004. He found outbreaks that involved as many as 56 patients, lasting from one day to three years. Most people became infected after a surgery or delivery. The most common ways people got it were from another patient or from a healthcare worker who was unknowingly infected. Adding to the mystery is how the infection takes hold differently in different people. "There's a lot to be learned," Daneman says, "about why some people will get simple strep throat and others severe fasciitis."

As you listen to the blather about Republicans’ “health care” policy think about this part of the article.

In a study Daneman published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last August, he reviewed 2,351 cases of invasive Group A strep from 1992 to 2000, of which 253 resulted in necrotizing fasciitis. He found that just 12 percent of all the patients caught their disease in a hospital - most picked it up in the community. Of the 291 who acquired it in a hospital, 10 percent were part of an outbreak and 90 percent were isolated cases.

"Once you have necrotizing fasciitis," says Stephen Zinner, an infectious disease specialist at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, "the treatment really is heroic type of surgery." He describes the disease as a "chance event," and he says doctors seeing it for the first time might even be puzzled initially. "It's a subtle diagnosis," says Zinner, who was not involved in Monica's case, "not initially so clear that every doctor would say, 'Ah, that's what it is.'"

Since the corporate sector will be attacking either Hillary Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s health care plans with all guns as the year goes on, we need to look into a previous defense of our indefensible for-profit system. That was the reaction to Michael Moore’s movie “Sicko”. That attack centered on the British Health Service’s record as the worst in Europe for MRSA infections. Unsaid by most of our media, bought and paid for by the insurance and drug industries, is that a lot of the problem in Britain is due to Republican style ‘reforms’.

The Thatcher governments privatization strategy in the 1980sthe introduction of competitive tendering and the contracting-out of servicesled directly to an escalation in MRSA rates. Over the next decade, efficiency drives saw the almost total destruction of the NHS culture, with nursing staff forced onto short-term contracts and cut to inappropriate and dangerous levels.

Prior to this, in the 1970s, cleaners were employed directly by the hospital. Each ward had its own cleaners who were part of the ward team. Porters, maintenance staff and cleaners had pride in their wards, and many worked for most of their careers in the same place.

The NHS Trust hospitals that emerged from the creeping privatization process are under enormous pressure to cut costs, and will invariably pick the cheapest option in choosing their contracted-out services. This almost necessarily leads to contractors cutting corners and subsequently to a less efficient or thorough job being undertaken. The cleaning companies operate on tightly drawn contracts, where every task is listed and timed, which leaves no place for anything not on the list, including accidents. An attitude of apathy and disregard for cleanliness pervades.

The pressure on hospitals to cut costs has also led to other factors that help spread infections. For example, in the past, hospital workers were issued uniforms for use only on the premises, and these were laundered on siteoften boil-washed. Nowadays, staff are responsible for their own uniforms, which they wear to and from work, via public transport, etc. Uniforms, therefore, gather many germs from the environment en-route, and are then probably often washed at home on normal domestic low-temperature washes, which do not kill many germs.

A journalist from the Daily Mail who worked undercover for Rentokil Initial, one of the firms with contracts to clean hospitals, revealed that he received only a 90-minute induction course and had no relevant experience. He reported finding bags of blooded bandages and plaster casts left overnight in the fracture clinic. He also found 2-inch (5-cm) insects, and heard of cleaners failing to clean areas properly because of their workload. The areas he was allocated were to be checked just once a month by the hospital trust and once a week by his Rentokil Initial supervisor, if she had time.

Privatization for profit, who would ever have expected penny pinching and corner cutting to be a part of that brilliant idea? Maybe it’s all right for cleaning government offices, though I’m sure neither Thatcher nor Blair skimped on their creature comforts, but it just doesn’t work where people are being operated on.

No Republican will provide a safe or affordable health care system in the United States, no ‘reform’ of the type done in Britain over the past Conservative and New Labor governments will either. You have to take the system out of the for-profit system, that is what has given us the system we have, that is what endangers public health care in countries that had put People ahead of profits. While neither Clinton nor Obama’s plans will get rid of the corporate cannibal that feeds on our bodies, both of them are at many steps away from the perennial Republican tax rebate fraud.

There are some other points to consider in this article.