Saturday, February 23, 2008

Samples of William Bolcom on You Tube posted by Anthony McCarthy

A reader wanted to know why I am so enthralled with William Bolcom.

The darkest, densest tango you are likely to have heard in a long time. The Dead Moth Tango.
I wish they had the Knock Stuck, dedicated to Curtis Curtis-Smith, my favorite of the Dance Portraits, but they don’t.

The justly famous Graceful Ghost Rag
And a concert variation on the same.

Another of the Ghost Rags, Poltergeist.

This is just a sample. William Bolcom is a wonderfully prolific and varied composer, mixing audacity, genius and great technical and musical competence. This is just an unrepresentative sample.

The Iseman Commeth by Anthony McCarthy

You know that Hillary Clinton is damned for all time for the sin of keeping her family intact and we are seeing the beginning of a campaign to make Barack Obama's parents being married a disqualification for being president*.

But will John "Lucre" McCain ever be made to answer for the lies he's told about his pulling strings for a big supporter, AFTER he got fingered as one of the Keating Five? If someone's going to hold him accountable, it's up to us. The media are still all in denial like Maggie and Pearl at Harry Hope's Bar.

"An apparent contradiction in his response to lobbyist story. By Michael Isikoff Newsweek Web"

"Apparent"? You can take your pick, either he was lying last week in response to the story in the NYT or he perjured himself in a sworn deposition. Unless the media lies for John McCain, it has to admit that he's either guilty of one or the other, there is no other possible explanation. This is far past arguing about "is".

* See Roger Ailes' Blog from last Tuesday. Can't get the permanent link to work. And you might want to read the comment thread from Wednesday while you're there.

No more can be told

A white crow in an oak tree.
I've seen a white crow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bodily conversations by Suzie

Now for something lighter. "The Vagina Monologues" are being staged in my town tonight, and my mind wandered to the Labia Dialogues, better known as Luce Irigaray's "When Our Lips Speak Together." An excerpt: 
  Open your lips; don't open them simply. I don't open them simply. We -- you/I -- are neither open nor closed. We never separate simply: a single word cannot be pronounced, produced, uttered by our mouths. Between our lips, yours and mine, several voices, several ways of speaking resound endlessly, back and fourth. One is never separable from the other. You/I: we are always several at once. And how could one dominate the other? impose her voice, her tone, her meaning? One cannot be distinguished from the other; which does not mean that they are indistinct. You don't understand a thing? No more than they understand you. 

Gender, race and essentialism, part 2, by Suzie

       I decided to write on gender, race and essentialism after reading “Hillary's Scarlett O'Hara Act” by Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell.
      Harris-Lacewell suggests that Hillary wants the allegiance of black women, even though she has been complicit in their oppression. “Many African American women are simply refusing to play Mammy to Hillary,” she writes. This implies that black women who support Hillary are playing Mammy.
       Harris-Lacewell describes oppressors who expect affection and allegiance from people who serve them, while giving little or nothing in return. The oppressors mythologize those who serve them, in an attempt to justify their oppression.
       Although used to describe the Mammy mythology, this scenario also fits the idealization of women who are selfless in their service to their men and children.
       If Harris-Lacewell is suspicious of privileged whites as a group, how does that differ from a white woman who assumes a woman would have more of her interests at heart than a man would? In other words, if a person generalizes about one group, then she can’t fault someone else for generalizing about another.
         No voter should assume the allegiance of any politician, and vice versa. It's politics, after all. 
    Harris-Lacewell concludes: Black women want out of the war. Black women need health insurance. Black women need decent schools for their children. Black women need a strong economy that creates jobs. Black women need help caring for their aging parents. Black women want a Democratic win in the fall. Sisters chose Barack on [Super] Tuesday because they believe he can deliver these things, and that is much more empowering than just having a woman in the White House.
          I don’t know any Democrat, no matter what gender or color, who would disagree with the agenda Harris-Lacewell describes. Nor have I heard anyone say that, even though she doesn’t think Hillary can get us out of Iraq, pass universal health care, improve education, etc., she’ll vote for Hillary anyway just to elect a woman as president.
         Jezebel’s critique of Harris-Lacewell includes information on actual policies.

Friday Critter Blogging

The first picture is from swampcracker. He suggested it be called: "Spring is in the air but somewhere on the road of evolution, the human male lost a certain savoir-faire." I thought how funny it would look if humans stood on top of each other in that way. Very pretty grasshopper sex, though.

The rest of the pictures are about Tintti's puppy Onni, living his first exciting winter and trying to figure out if he's going to look like a Lab or a Golden Retriever, given that his parents had one of each:

Gender, race and essentialism by Suzie

      This political season, a lot has been written about white women and black women as if they were monolithic groups. We need a refresher course on essentialism.
       Some people consider women innately different from men. Some critics call this essentialism because it suggests all women share the same essential traits.
       Others think that the oppression of women as women links us all together. Some also consider this essentialism, saying not all women have the same experiences. For example, some women of color accuse white feminists of talking about “women” without understanding or acknowledging differences.
       Learning about difference can be a lifelong project because each of us is unique.
       If you oppose universal statements in regard to gender, it would make sense that you would oppose them in regard to other categories, such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, class, age, ability, etc. For example, talking about black women as if they all share the same views and a common experience of oppression would seem just as essentialist. It would erase differences among black women.
       The same goes for privilege. If people don’t all experience oppression the same way, then they don’t experience privilege the same way. To put it another way, if we can’t say that one group shares the same disadvantages, we can’t say that another group has all the same advantages.
      Want more concrete examples? A white woman who suffers from a chronic illness and works for low pay still has racial privilege over a black woman who also is ill and low paid. But a healthy, rich black woman has privileges in regard to ability and income. Consider two white women who have the same illness and same low pay. One may feel oppressed, and the other may not. We do not all experience the world in the same way.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

From the I-Can't-Believe-This Files

Dallas, Texas:

DALLAS -- Security details at Barack Obama's rally Wednesday stopped screening people for weapons at the front gates more than an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage at Reunion Arena.

The order to put down the metal detectors and stop checking purses and laptop bags came as a surprise to several Dallas police officers who said they believed it was a lapse in security.

Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence, head of the Police Department's homeland security and special operations divisions, said the order -- apparently made by the U.S. Secret Service -- was meant to speed up the long lines outside and fill the arena's vacant seats before Obama came on.

"Sure," said Lawrence, when asked if he was concerned by the great number of people who had gotten into the building without being checked. But, he added, the turnout of more than 17,000 people seemed to be a "friendly crowd."

Incredible. Just incredible.

Today's Not-So-Deep-Thought

After following tonight's Democratic debate: Isn't it wonderful to have the choice between two intelligent and well-informed candidates? And isn't it wonderful that the debate never goes into questions about how old this earth is supposed to be or about how tall fences could somehow keep out all the evildoers?

I think we forget far too quickly how refreshing this change has been.

The Demographic Winter

Kathryn Joyce's article in the Nation magazine tells us about a conservative war you may not that often think about: the war of the wombs. The soldiers in this war are, surprisingly, women, and the Muslim women are winning over the non-Muslim European white women, because the former have more children than the latter. Indeed, the white women have refused to be proper baby warriors and must be persuaded back into that role very fast indeed. Otherwise Europe will die and turn either into a wasteland with an eternal winter or into something that looks very much like Saudi Arabia.

Or this is the story told by some in the American religious right:

Steve Mosher is telling me about wolves returning to the streets of European towns. Not as part of some Vermont-model wildlife-recovery scenario but as emblems of a harsh comeuppance mankind is due--they're stalking out of the forests like an ancient judgment, coming to claim mankind's ceded land. We're sitting in a sunny Main Street cafe in Front Royal, Virginia--a beautifying ex-industrial town in the Shenandoah Valley that, as the far edge of DC's suburban sprawl, is lately home to a surprising number of conservative Christian ministries. Mosher, president of the Catholic anticontraception lobbyist group Population Research Institute (PRI), describes his grim vision of Europe's future: fields will lie fallow and economies will wither. A great depression will sink over the continent as it undergoes "a decline that Europe hasn't experienced since the Black Death." The comeuppance has a name, one being fervently hawked among a group of Christian-right "profamily" activists hoping to spark a movement in secular Europe. It's called the "demographic winter," a more austere brand of apocalypse than doomsayers normally trade in, evoking not a nuclear inferno but a quiet and cold blanket of snow in which, they charge, "Western Civilization" is laying itself down to die.

How so? Europe is failing to produce enough babies--the right babies--to replace its old and dying. It's "the baby bust," "the birth dearth," "the graying of the continent": modern euphemisms for old-fashioned race panic as low fertility among white "Western" couples coincides with an increasingly visible immigrant population across Europe. The real root of racial tensions in the Netherlands and France, America's culture warriors tell anxious Europeans, isn't ineffective methods of assimilating new citizens but, rather, decades of "antifamily" permissiveness--contraception, abortion, divorce, population control, women's liberation and careers, "selfish" secularism and gay rights--enabling "decadent" white couples to neglect their reproductive duties. Defying the biblical command to "be fruitful and multiply," Europeans have failed to produce the magic number of 2.1 children per couple, the estimated "replacement-level fertility" for developed nations (and a figure repeated so frequently it becomes a near incantation). The white Christian West, in this telling, is in danger of forfeiting itself through sheer lack of numbers to an onslaught of Muslim immigrants and their purportedly numerous offspring. In other words, Mosher and his colleagues aren't really concerned about wolves.

Scary, is it not? And what's to be done about this? These religious men have a solution:

Carlson is a compelling conservative historian who uses secular arguments to craft a social science rationale for the necessity of large patriarchal families, or the "natural family," as he calls it in his manifesto--a correction of Marx that aims to turn America and the Western world away from the perils of liberal modernity and back to the "natural family" model, where fathers lead and women honor their highest domestic calling by becoming "prolific mothers." In this scheme, families are the fundamental unit that society and government should be concerned with promoting, and individual rights are valued insofar as they correspond with pronatalist aims. Thus Carlson and Mero qualify their "wholehearted" support of women's rights: "Above all, we believe in rights that recognize women's unique gifts of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding."

Ok. So let's see if I have this right. Not only must European Christian or secular women have many more babies, but they must do that while staying at home and while being subservient to a man. If the women refuse to do this, well, then Islam will win and the women will have to stay at home and have lots of babies whether they want them or not. Sounds like a lose-lose plan for any woman who wouldn't choose that particular lifestyle, not to mention that most people can't afford to support large families with just one paycheck except in poverty.

Where did all those additional conditions come from? How come aren't these religious guys eager to stay at home themselves, taking care of as many white babies as they can possibly find? It would seem to me to make more sense and might assuage their obsession with this particular topic. Besides, good childcare is both expensive and hard to find, so they should have a ready-made market for those services.

Well, Joyce does suggest that the movement isn't really as interested in the question of providing more white babies in Europe as it is in getting its patriarchal values adopted in Europe. Poland is supposed to be the foothold from which to launch the Great Patriarchal Attack (via the wombs, though):

The fourth conference of the WCF, in Warsaw last May, provided much of the commentary for the Demographic Winter film. And little wonder: besides Carlson, Family First Foundation's board of directors is composed entirely of WCF leaders and speakers, all of whom gathered in Warsaw's grand Palace of Culture and Science, the old Polish Communist Party headquarters, with more than 3,000 other religious conservatives, to hear predictions about Europe as a sinking ship, a Titanic nearly lost to the repercussions of the sexual revolution. But for the first time in a long time, the "natural family" has a white knight in Europe: brave Poland, the anti-Sweden. Following Pope John Paul II's philosophy that particular countries can change the course of Europe, Poland has been heralded in US profamily literature as the likely salvation of the continent: a heavily Catholic bastion of conservatism amid the gay-friendly EU. Under the leadership of the Kaczynski brothers--extremist twins in office as president and prime minister--the country has shifted far to the right, embracing a social conservatism that aggressively targets gays, Jews, women's rights and foreigners, and that in 2006 went so far as to propose that Jesus be named honorary king of Poland.

To Carlson, this proves Poland is "an island of profamily values" amid the tides of "Christo-phobic" "population-control types" who dominate the rest of the continent. Poland, he says, could provide an important counterbalance to European modernity and become a launching point for "a profamily resistance," and thereby "save Europe again": a not-so-coded reference to the Battle of Vienna in 1683, where Polish King John III Sobieski led a "Holy League" army of Christian soldiers against the Ottoman Empire, culminating in a decisive victory for Christendom over the invading Muslim troops. The profamily movement's bald reference to this ancient holy war informs new conservative foot soldiers who see today's immigration conflicts as "a new phase of a very old war." And so the WCF chose Poland as the site of last spring's massing of the troops, drawing thousands of leaders from across the spectrum of religious-right activism: from US evangelical and Catholic nonprofits to Eastern European Catholic and orthodox antiabortion and anti-gay rights groups, to bureaucrats from European, EU and US governments, taking policy notes to bring back home.

Poland! It's not just a member in the Coalition of the Willing!

At this point of reading the article I looked up the birth and death rates for Poland, Sweden and Finland, the last two picked for comparison purposes as fairly feminist countries. Finland also has a very small immigrant population so the birth rates there should be really low, right? To reflect those white feminist anti-family women?

Well, it turns out that Poland's birth and death rates in 2007 were both 9.94 per 1000 people, which means that the country was not losing population. The corresponding figures for Sweden were 10.2 and 10.27 and those for Finland 10.42 and 9.93. These figures mean that Sweden had a slight decrease in population and Finland an increase. Confusing, is it not? Certainly not quite as dire as the "natural family" folk would like us to believe.

I've often wondered what it would be like to have the gall of, say, Pat Buchanan: To have produced exactly zero children (or at least zero known children) to boost this great white race of ours and to still feel completely entitled to tell women that they should turn their wombs into production lines.

Indeed, the extreme clerics on both sides of the womb wars view women less as soldiers and more as mules, to be whipped into obedience. Or perhaps not even as mules, given that mules get the occasional carrot, too.

Love of a Lobbyist?

The New York Times has published an odd article about John McCain's past:

Early in Senator John McCain's first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client's corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist's client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

The story is odd because it skirts around the question whether McCain had an affair or not and whether any such affair would have made him less ethical in his treatment of Ms. Iseman's clients. Why so fluffy a piece?

Josh Marshall has some ideas about that:

At the moment it seems to me that we have a story from the Times that reads like it's had most of the meat lawyered out of it. And a lot of miscellany and fluff has been packed in where the meat was. Still, if the Times sources are to be believed, the staff thought he was having an affair with Iseman and when confronted about it he in so many words conceded that he was (much of course hangs on 'behaving inappropriately' but then, doesn't it always?) and promised to shape up. And whatever the personal relationship it was a stem wound about a lobbying branch.

This particular aspect of politics bores me to sleep. I tried writing about it to see if doing so would make it more interesting, but no. Yes, I understand that the candidates must be vetted and studied and that there is now open season for anyone who wishes to hunt for skeletons in their closets, and yes, I understand why something like this might kneecap McCain fairly effectively in the eyes of certain types of voters. I also can get the intellectual excitement of wondering why the story was allowed to come out now, rather than earlier or later, given that the timing does matter in the amount of damage the McCain campaign incurs.

But the criticism I find most convincing about McCain has to do with the policies he supports, not with whatever skeletons he might be hiding.

On the Pakistan Election

Well, the opposition to Musharraf did well there, and on the whole the elections were judged to be quite successful, what with not so many deaths or vote rigging incidents:

International election observers said Wednesday that the election had not met international standards, mainly because of the seriously flawed pre-election environment. They cited in particular the period of emergency rule in November, which favored the government's candidates.

Yet they said that the election still proved competitive, that voters were able to express their will and that the vote produced a result broadly accepted by the population. "Millions of Pakistanis took a leap of faith Monday by showing up at the polls," said James Moody, who led an American group of election observers.

I'm glad to learn that the religious extremists didn't do well in the elections. Those guys scare me, and for a very good reason. But I'm not happy that the attempts to stop women from voting were not given more attention in the media. Until we take women's rights as seriously as human rights in general (and yes, I know those aren't always taken that seriously, either) we are going to go on discussing whether cultural traditions make it perfectly all right to disenfranchise half the population.

I sometimes imagine how I'd see the human societies if I was an alien from outer space, and it seems to me that the aspect I'd be most distressed by is the time-honored oppression of women, the stunting of girls' intellectual and ethical growth and the astonishing fact that if you are opposed to those practices you get a specific label: a feminist. It shouldn't be like that. It really should not.

The Story Seldom Told

About the current presidential primaries has to do with the enthusiasm gap or whatever you wish to call the fact that the Democratic primaries attract many more voters than the Republican ones do. This has been true for state after state, most recently in Wisconsin where Hillary Clinton, despite coming second in the Democratic primary, still got more votes than all the Republican candidates put together.

Why are the Democratic primaries so much more popular? Is it just because the race between the two top Democratic candidates is more interesting or more exciting? Or is it because those who vote in the Democratic primaries are expressing their great unhappiness with George Bush's administration by that act of voting? Or is it all to do with Barack Obama's campaign of change and unity? And what does this tell us, if anything, about the potential voting numbers in the general election?

I'm not sure about the answers, but I'd love to see a proper analysis of the enthusiasm gap.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Scraping The Bottom of The Barrel

Digby tells us that Tucker Carlson, perhaps in despair over his miserable ratings, invited the C.U.N.T. guy on to his show. If you care for such things you can watch the video of him at Digby's.

In other news about scraping the bottom of the barrel, the conservative site posted a diary with the mysterious title "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Constituency?". It's a diatribe aimed against Obama's candidacy and much more openly racist than I would have thought palatable even on that site. The author appears to think that women are a minority, too:

How exciting it must be for the Democrats these days; two minority candidates running for President of the United States of America. What must be especially pleasing to women and blacks in this country is the fact that neither of these presumed "Poster Children For Minorities Rising Above Their Stigma" candidates actually CARES to really fight for the causes of these minority demographics from whence they have arisen, satisfied in their presumption that their "peeps" will vote for them, "just because."

So it goes.

I promise not to etch every sexist and racist inanity said during the election season into the stone that is this blog, but I fear that a few gentle mentions will be unavoidable.

Domestic violence and men's rights (by Suzie)

This article on Alternet suggests society should help men who experience domestic violence at the hands of women. That seems only fair. But the article is a good example of how statistics can be misused and experts presented as objective. It states:
Although [U.K.] government statistics estimate that one in six men suffer some form of domestic abuse during their lifetime compared with one in four women (and there is consensus among those working in the area that men are far less likely to seek help than women, meaning the number could be even higher), violence perpetrated by women against men remains one of the least openly discussed problems in today's society.
        Some readers might assume that 1 in 6 men suffer abuse by women since the article tells the story of two men attacked by female partners, and never mentions same-sex relationships. But gay men experience a fair amount of domestic violence. Here are statistics for the U.K.  and the U.S. (Yes, I understand that women also abuse other women.) 
        From the statistics in the Alternet article, readers might get the impression that women abuse men almost as much as men abuse women. Professor Richard Gelles has an excellent response to similar statistics in the U.S.:
   To even off the debate playing field it seems one piece of statistical evidence (that women and men hit one another in roughly equal numbers) is hauled out from my 1985 research - and distorted - to “prove” the position on violence against men. However, the critical rate of injury and homicide statistics provided in that same research are often eliminated altogether, or reduced to a parenthetical statement saying that “men typically do more damage.” The statement that men and women hit one another in roughly equal numbers is true, however, it cannot be made in a vacuum without the qualifiers that a) women are seriously injured at seven times the rate of men and b) that women are killed by partners at more than two times the rate of men.
     The Alternet article makes no mention of politics. But Erin Pizzey, the quoted expert, thinks that feminists are man-haters bent on destroying the family, and that gender has nothing to do with domestic violence. 
     Have you heard all this before? Yeah, me, too. So, why do journalists still muck it up? Are they biased? Or, are they so ignorant of the issues that they don't even know enough to do a quick search of the Internet?       

The Little Girl Giant

I first saw a video of the giant puppet from a parade in Iceland. She even squatted down and peed in that one! My instant reaction to her was very warm so I was surprised to find that many people think she's frightening. What do you think? And are the different reactions something similar to the fear vs. love of clowns?

It's fascinating to dig into our unconscious fears and joys, just to find out which we share and which we don't. Well, I find it fascinating, but then I like to tease the scabs off zits, too.

More On Abstinence Education

A new report looks specifically at how women and girls are affected by the cross-your-legs policy that the Bush administration has so eagerly supported. I have written earlier about some very carefully done studies which show that abstinence education does not work in terms of decreasing sexual activity among the target population of teens, but of course the real test of the policy is whether it works politically by keeping its supporters well funded from the public pockets.

I have downloaded the report but haven't read it yet. The e-mail it came with included this quote from a teenage girl who had participated in an abstinence education program:

Because we didn't have accurate information about what was healthy and what wasn't, I endured some awful situations because I didn't know the difference. We didn't talk about respect, boundaries, and sexual communication. So the myth of 'boys push and girls resist' informed everything. We never talked about consent because with abstinence curriculum you shouldn't consent.

Of course you shouldn't consent! That's the whole point! Though I find it interesting that boys are still expected to push, just as if there had been no abstinence education for them at all, and that girls are supposed to gate-keep. It's the very old double standard, the story about the hunter and the hunted, with the interesting variation that all blame lies with the prey.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

All-male social clubs (by Suzie)

         Tampa has a Mardi Gras knockoff called Gasparilla. Two brothers from a prominent family recently resigned from an all-male krewe in an imbroglio over a DJ yelling at a woman to lift up her shirt and show her "boobies" for beads.
        I would love to see more men demand changes and refuse to participate in sexist nonsense.
        Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla hosts the "invasion" by boats and the subsequent parade. The host krewe was forced to integrate racially, but it still refuses to admit women. The event has grown to include all-female krewes and krewes with both men and women. But the Krewe of Gasparilla still has the most clout and offers invaluable networking to wealthy businessmen. 
      A similar issue arose over the all-male membership of the Augusta National Golf Club. 
      Some of you may say: Who cares if rich women get excluded? But I think it's bad for all of us when powerful men have a desire to lock out women. 

On Gender Stereotypes

Drake Bennett has written an interesting piece in the Boston Globe, asking whether gender stereotypes are harder to address than racial stereotypes. Bennett quotes a lot of research which suggests that it's harder to get rid of the hidden sexism in the mind than the hidden racism. I don't have the knowledge to tell whether this impression is the correct one. Perhaps there are other studies which suggest something different? Or perhaps not.

But I noticed, once again, the interesting assumption lots of people unconsciously make that research done in the United States or in Canada or in Britain is representative of general human nature and not just of the Anglo-Saxon cultural inheritance or related biases. The context in which I mostly see this error is in the assumption that the American teenage trauma called "the high school experience" is how all humans grow up, but even here it's useful to point out that studies done in different cultures would probably unearth somewhat different types of sexist beliefs, and either more or less of them, and the same would have been true of studies like this done, say, a hundred years ago in this country.

All that is meant to say that when psychologists study something like gender or racial beliefs they can't just study some innate and isolated part of the human mind; they study the totality of the junk we have in our heads, a lot of it brought in from the movies and the popular culture and so on.

Why am I talking about this? Because Bennett also introduces a "biological" explanation for the enduring nature of gender bias: those prehistoric tribes which locked up our brains against any further evolution:

Tooby takes a more biological view. As he argues, in the prehistoric environment in which our brains evolved, race had no meaning -- no one could travel far enough to meet anyone who didn't look like them. Gender, on the other hand, meant a lot. It predicted what someone's status would be, what their priorities were, whether they were a potential rival or a potential partner.

It's not a "more biological" view, given that we don't have any actual biological evidence. It's speculation, and speculation based on some time and place of which we know practically nothing. But Tooby still believes that race then had no meaning, but sex had. And what was the meaning of sex? It told about, say, what someone's status would be.

And what was the status of women in those tribes? We don't know that, either, of course. This is why I'm unhappy with the kinds of "biological" explanations that are advanced by some. They don't provide us any additional evidence but certainly serve to reinforce various pop-evolutionary soundbites.

And for those suffering from primary-season allergies: Warning! The article is based in the context of Clinton vs. Obama.

Prognosis is Poor Without Health Insurance

A study reports on something which is also the common-sense conclusion to come to: If you have no health insurance and little money you are less likely to see a doctor regularly or early when symptoms appear. So you go and seek treatment much later than would be good for you:

A nationwide study has found that the uninsured and those covered by Medicaid are more likely than those with private insurance to receive a diagnosis of cancer in late stages, often diminishing their chances of survival.

The study by researchers with the American Cancer Society also found that blacks had a higher risk of late diagnosis, even after accounting for their disproportionately high rates of being uninsured and underinsured. The study's authors speculated that the disparity might be caused by a lack of health literacy and an inadequate supply of providers in minority communities. The study is to be published online Monday in The Lancet Oncology.

Previous studies have shown a correlation between insurance status and the stage of diagnosis for particular cancers. The new research is the first to examine a dozen major cancer types and to do so nationally with the most current data. It mined the National Cancer Data Base, which began collecting information about insurance in the late 1990s, to analyze 3.7 million patients who received diagnoses from 1998 to 2004.


When comparing blacks to whites, the disparities in late-stage diagnosis were statistically significant for 10 of the 12 cancers. Hispanics also had a higher risk but less so than blacks.

The study's authors concluded that "individuals without private insurance are not receiving optimum care in terms of cancer screening or timely diagnosis and follow-up with health care providers." Advanced-stage diagnosis, they wrote, "leads to increased morbidity, decreased quality of life and survival and, often, increased costs."

The study cites previous research that shows patients receiving a diagnosis of colon cancer in Stage I have a five-year survival rate of 93 percent, compared with 44 percent at Stage III and 8 percent at Stage IV.

"There's evidence that not having insurance increases suffering," said Dr. Otis W. Brawley, the American Cancer Society's chief medical officer.

Note that not having health insurance has an impact on continuity of care, but that being black or Hispanic has an extra impact on top of that. The reasons for the extra impact might be the ones the quote suggests. My guess would be that it has to do with lack of doctors in overwhelmingly low-income areas. Such areas are also often racially or ethnically segregated. In short, a white uninsured person with no money might live closer to sources of regular medical care because of less housing segregation, whether voluntary or not.

Despite the importance of this article, I have trouble with the way screening is sold here. Consider some disease that can be spotted by screening and suppose, just as a thought experiment, that early treatment actually has no benefit at all. Suppose also that the disease takes five years to progress from Stage I to Stage IV and then one year to kill. Given this, people who are diagnosed by screening in Stage I would live an extra six years, people who are diagnosed by advanced symptoms in Stage IV would live one year. But in reality all these people are living exactly the same length of time with the disease; it's just that some of them know they have it earlier.

This is why I'm not too satisfied with the use of the five-year survival rates as a measure of how good the treatment is.

Of course the above is just a thought experiment, and no way am I saying that early detection has no benefits. It obviously does, in every case where early treatment improves the final outcome. But screening in itself is not a treatment.

JAWS by Suzie

      I promise to settle into my Friday writing spot, but now that I've figured out some of the mechanics of posting, I'd like to go ahead and tell you about Tad Bartimus winning the Washington Press Club Foundation's lifetime achievement award.
      My career was spent in journalism. As a teenager, I admired Tad, the first female bureau chief for the Associated Press. She wrote about people and places with empathy, as if she were at home. She wrote so well that you forgot her writing. You thought only of the story, not who was telling it. 
      Later, I realized that it matters who does the telling. Different storytellers, different voices, enrich our understanding of the world.
     Tad founded the Journalism and Women Symposium. I was giddy to go to my first JAWS, imagining that I would be going to my home world, full of feminist journalists who would welcome me into the sisterhood. Instead, the women were like my real sisters, each one different, each one with her own ideas. I sent home a postcard, saying I feared I'd feel alienated even in a convention of clones. 
        I found my connection during a night of wine tasting. Earlier, a businessman fondled one of the JAWdesses as he walked past. That evening, we saw him, went after him, surrounded him and made him get down on his knees and apologize. It was sweeter than a late-harvest riesling. 
     That was 1996, when JAWS was held in Napa, Calif. 
    May we all find people to inspire us and come together to confront injustice.

Happy Feminist News

Thanks to Dan S. in the comments for alerting me to this story:

Kansas activities officials are investigating a religious school's refusal to let a female referee call a boys' high school basketball game.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association said referees reported that Michelle Campbell was preparing to officiate at St. Mary's Academy near Topeka on Feb. 2 when a school official insisted that Campbell could not call the game.

The reason given, according to the referees: Campbell, as a woman, could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy's beliefs.

Campbell then walked off the court along with Darin Putthoff, the referee who was to work the game with her.

"I said, 'If Michelle has to leave, then I'm leaving with her,'" Putthoff said Wednesday. "I was disappointed that it happened to Michelle. I've never heard of anything like that."

Fred Shockey, who was getting ready to leave the gym after officiating two junior high games, said he was told there had been an emergency and was asked to stay and officiate two more games.

"When I found out what the emergency was, I said there was no way I was going to work those games," said Shockey, who spent 12 years in the Army and became a ref about three years ago. "I have been led by some of the finest women this nation has to offer, and there was no way I was going to go along with that."

It's not absolutely clear that Campbell was not allowed to referee the game because of her gender. But if that indeed is the case, we are all reminded of the work that still remains to be done in feminism (as if you needed reminding; I'm just pontificating here).

But isn't it sweet and wonderful how the other referees had her back? I got a tear in my eye reading that part. Because on some deeply primal emotional level this is what equality and fairness is all about: being accepted as a full member of the team.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Today's Deep Thought

I was surfing the liberal blogs yesterday, trying to avoid vacuuming, and came across a troll comment saying roughly this about Hillary Clinton:

No white bitch will rule over me. Obama or nothing.

Now, it's primary time and emotions are heated and many believe that the White Bitch is the trademark of Hillary Clinton (thank you, sexists in the media for that), and the troll won't get "nothing" if neither Obama nor Clinton gets elected the president of the United States. The troll will get John McCain.

But it occurred to me that the first sentence in the quote is a good rough definition of anti-feminism. If you replace the adjective "white" with, say, "fat" or "ugly" or "old" or "rich" or "greedy" or "frigid" or "black" or "yellow" or whatever nasty things women are supposed to be you get a fridge magnet for all those Men's Rights lads. The definition is rough both in the sense that the language is crude but also in the sense that a full definition would include something about the lads ruling over the bitches instead. Perhaps that's the reason why the occupation of a pimp has reached mythological levels of admiration in all sorts of odd places (Peoria?).

I'm not making some jaw-gaping new observations here. But it's useful to remember that many anti-feminists like women just fine (preferably naked and cooking). It's the uppity women they hate.

"We Can Do Nothing."

Women in some tribal areas of Pakistan could not vote, because the tribal elders decided that their culture does not allow such activities:

Peshawar district mayor Ghulam Ali said voting had to be discontinued in Maryamzai, Budaber and other areas on the outskirts of Peshawar, which is close to the Afghan border where Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants are active.

Men and women vote at separate locations throughout Pakistan, an Islamic republic.

"I have reports that elders in the area decided that voting by women is against our culture," Ali said.

"This is their tradition. We can do nothing."

This problem is not any greater than the other problems of voting in Pakistan. But I find it fascinating how it is so easy to "do nothing" when it comes to women, and how this attitude appears to be pretty global.

Monday's Little Bit Of Fun

Go and read Bill Kristol in the New York Times. Go on. It won't kill you and he's actually quite funny today.

He begins by linking Rudyard Kipling to the current Republican party via George Orwell:

Browsing through a used-book store Friday — in the Milwaukee airport, of all places — I came across a 1981 paperback collection of George Orwell's essays. That's how I happened to reread his 1942 essay on Rudyard Kipling. Given Orwell's perpetual ability to elucidate, one shouldn't be surprised that its argument would shed light— or so it seems to me — on contemporary American politics.

Orwell offers a highly qualified appreciation of the then (and still) politically incorrect Kipling. He insists that one must admit that Kipling is "morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting." Still, he says, Kipling "survives while the refined people who have sniggered at him seem to wear so badly." One reason for this is that Kipling "identified himself with the ruling power and not with the opposition."

"In a gifted writer," Orwell remarks, "this seems to us strange and even disgusting, but it did have the advantage of giving Kipling a certain grip on reality." Kipling "at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like." For, Orwell explains, "The ruling power is always faced with the question, 'In such and such circumstances, what would you do?', whereas the opposition is not obliged to take responsibility or make any real decisions." Furthermore, "where it is a permanent and pensioned opposition, as in England, the quality of its thought deteriorates accordingly."

If I may vulgarize the implications of Orwell's argument a bit: substitute Republicans for Kipling and Democrats for the opposition, and you have a good synopsis of the current state of American politics.

Get it? The ruling power is the Republican party, and they are really good at running the government because they have spent so much time asking themselves: "If such and such were to happen then what?" For instance, lots of this self-examination took place right before the Iraq invasion, I'm sure, and also when deciding on how the government should respond to the disasters caused by hurricane Katrina, and also when the Republicans decided to make the Food and Drug Administration go on a starvation diet, just in time for all the dangerous foods and medications entering this country. All that careful thinking, all that responsibility! Though the responsibility tends to come with retroactive immunity these days.

I never realized that Kristol is a comedian. Perhaps that's why the Times hired him?

The Media On Mass Killings

I couldn't sleep last night, thinking about all those families now trying to hold grief from totally destroying their lives, all those parents whose young adult children will never come home again, all because some mentally ill and severely selfish person decided to take a retinue with him or her to the land of the dead. And I also couldn't sleep because of the way these mass killings are covered in the media.

It's beginning to look pretty clear to me that some would-be killers commit these disgusting acts in the very hope of getting their posthumous fifteen minutes of fame and glory. Just think about the usual coverage of these massacres: After many descriptions of the panic and the horror of the actual slaughtering the stories always settle down to giving us several "up close and personal" glimpses of the butchers. And more and more stories, asking friends or relatives about the killer, wondering what the motives could possibly have been (hint: the person is mentally ill), publishing pictures of the killer at various ages, hunting for past girlfriends. For someone who wants attention and doesn't care how that is obtained or is willing to ignore the uncomfortable fact that the dead don't watch television , well, what's there not to like?

If I sound angry here, I am. In many countries the media doesn't report on suicides because such reporting always results in lots of copycat suicides. I understand that the media can't NOT report on mass killings. But surely it would be possible to focus the story on the victims, to make their lives seem real and valuable to us, and to leave the killers to the shadow-land they belong.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday Night Marcel Aymé Blogging posted by Anthony McCarthy

Le Passe-Muraille

The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls

Objective journalists vs. partisan police (by Suzie)

       TV writer David Bauder discusses the plight of MSNBC's David Shuster and Chris Matthews, who had to apologize for sexist statements about Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. "Web sites and bloggers" are "obsessive," which "foster a hypersensitivity over words and deepen the nation's partisan divide," writes Bauder.
       Let me get this straight: Bauder is NOT obsessive about television because he's paid to watch it all the time? The mainstream media does nothing to deepen the partisan divide?
       We knew, didn't we, that it would be only a matter of time before someone called us hypersensitive.

Not Just Burying The Lead But Killing It by Anthony McCarthy.

This would be analysis of the nomination contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama by Drake Bennett is fatally flawed for many reasons. The first among those is its reliance on a mishmosh of behavioral sciences for its would be explanations of how voters are voting. I’ll get to that in a minute but it’s impossible to analyze anything about Hillary Clinton without taking the foremost fact of her political life into account.

Bennett ignores the sixteen year campaign of hate against Hillary Clinton by the media, fundamentalist religion and the known, well-financed campaign of lies and vilification by the likes of billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife and Jerry Falwell. No lie was left untold, including accusations of murdering one of her close friends, Vince Foster. Every non-issue was inflated into a criminal conspiracy. And this hate campaign used every single aspect of sexism in its war against Hillary Clinton. Her enemies are the purveyors of sexist stereotyping in this issue. Pretending that her potential supporters and not her enemies are the real story of sexism in this nomination contest is to continue to do their work for them.

Hillary Clinton’s success in overcoming the wall to wall smear campaign against her on the basis of her own competence, dear Drake Bennett, “journalist”, is the most salient fact of her political career. To ignore that in favor of social science of who knows what validity, renders your piece useless. To deny that she still has to answer for the invented “Clinton era scandals” such as “Filegate”, which the corporate media won’t ever admit was no scandal at all, should be enough to impeach any would be ‘journalist’.

In order to concentrate on the psychobabble instead of the facts it is necessary to do what just about no serious voter does, it transforms two distinct individual candidates into generic abstractions for the purpose of inventing reasons for how people vote. People who vote in primaries and caucuses tend to be a lot more rational than this journalistic fiction would have them.

I’ve talked with scores of Democratic voters and have heard one after another say that they would love to vote for Hillary Clinton, some of them torn over the chance to put a vastly competent and accomplished woman in the office, but who are afraid that she can’t overcome the years and years of the well financed hate campaign against her.

The media hates Hillary Clinton. You get the feeling that for many of them it is not a matter of disdain for her history or even her personality. For most of them it is a matter of being seen to repeat the received viewpoint of their chosen class. A "journalist" who refutes the lies about Hillary Clinton? How many of them are there as compared to those who pass on lies about her? Well, you don’t do so unobserved. Did you think that Democrats who like Hillary Clinton AND Barack Obama can’t tell who is going to have the more hurdles to clear before they can assume office?

Don’t forget where Democrats have been. We saw the corporate media go after the Clintons hammer and tongs on behalf of their wealthy owners and advertisers. We saw an objectively clean administration, as compared to Reagan’s and the Bushes, mired in a series of phony scandals promoted by the Republicans and every media organization from FOX to C-SPAN and NPR. We saw Al Gore have the presidency stolen from him by one of the most corrupt actions ever taken by a Supreme Court for clearly partisan reasons. And we saw John Kerry likely denied a victory by a corrupt election process in Ohio and other states all with the compliance of the biased media. We have your number, we know that our candidate will have to overcome the press.

I’ve talked to people who didn’t stand up for Clinton in our caucus who are fully aware that she has the longer record of achievement and that, against high odds, triumph over the character assassins. She was elected to the Senate after one of the longest and most aggressive media campaigns in modern history. But that campaign is continuing and none of its lies ever falls on the weight of massive refutation.

One woman I talked with was in tears because she knew she was giving up the best chance of seeing a wonderfully qualified woman as president during her lifetime. She had every confidence that Barack Obama is an excellent candidate who will certainly be better than any Republican and that a Democrat must win this election and assume the office. She decided to stand up for him only because she made a rational decision, taking the continuing campaign to demonize Hillary Clinton into account. I have also talked to men who have made the same decision on exactly the same rational basis.

No one in the media should be allowed to hide behind a bunch of social science mumbo-jumbo in order to deny their part in Clinton's possible defeat for the Democratic nomination. If the United States is deprived of having someone as accomplished and competent as Hillary Clinton for president, it is because of the corporate media doing the bidding of her enemies.