Saturday, June 21, 2008

Women's films (by Suzie)


         I swear I'm not on Jeanine Basinger's payroll. Since I just wrote about this renowned film scholar, however, I can't resist linking to this excellent story by her in Variety. She discusses the upcoming remake of "The Women" as part of the "female ensemble" subgenre. 
It's significant that a film starring a female, no matter what other genre it might be (comedy, romance, musical, crime, Western, film noir, melodrama), was always known as "a woman's film." There was no equivalent "man's film" category.
She concludes:
I look forward to a revival of the ensemble subgenre in which women aren't alike, can feel liberated to behave badly without consequence, can fight it out among themselves (why should the men have all the fun?) and can ultimately become friends and learn to work together.

Redefining Fidelity (by Phila)

Maggie Gallagher takes yet another stab at explaining what's wrong with gay marriage. She comes to the odd conclusion that redefining marriage will lead to redefining fidelity, because unlike straight people, gays often choose not to be strictly monogamous.
But hey, if the word "marriage" can be redefined as a civil rights imperative, why balk at lesser ideas like "monogamy" or "fidelity"?
It's hard to understand how even the most promiscuous gay couple could "redefine" monogamy for the rest of us. Or for themselves, for that matter. The ideal exists for anyone who wishes to honor it, as it has despite centuries of lurid heterosexual vow-breaking. If Newt Gingrich and his priapic ilk can't destroy it through sanctimony, it's difficult to see how nonmonogamous gays could destroy it through honesty.

But the very difficulty of accepting this argument is what makes doing so imperative. If you simply throw up your hands and declare her rhetoric incomprehensible, teh gayz win.
War is not about killing your enemies; it's about crushing your enemies' will to fight. Guess what? Culture war is too.
She goes on to frighten us with the specter of mere anarchy, as other forms of legally sanctioned oppression are counted, weighed, and found wanting:
"Experts say organizations that receive state and federal funding will not be allowed to oppose working with gays for religious reasons," the Blade forthrightly reports.
Sounds about right to me. You can have your institutional bigotry, or you can have coffers filled with the tax dollars of people whom you consider to be third-class citizens, but you can't have both. In other words, you can be faithful to your ideals come what may, or you can whine that you should be able to have your cake and eat it too.

If you ask me, the fact that this frustrated opportunism constitutes a religious crisis in the eyes of conservatives like Gallagher is a much better example of declining moral standards than gay marriage.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Critter Blogging

This is a fascinating link to pictures of wild creatures. Check out the top picture on the right, about the turtle hatchling making its determined way to the sea.

And here is FeraLiberal's kitty, melting into the background:

Alienation and allies (by Suzie)

          When Clinton endorsed Obama, I was in Little Rock, staying at the home of an Obama supporter. The relationship with my friend reminded me of one of the take-away messages from the Clinton campaign.
          Let me back up, and make it clear that I was a Clinton supporter. I guess that’s as surprising as Jodie Foster coming out as a lesbian. I held off making an explicit statement of support out of deference to the neutral Echidne, but she gave me permission to come out of the Clinton closet.
          I’ve followed the Clintons a long time. My oldest sister worked with Bill Clinton in the McGovern campaign. When Clinton was governor of Arkansas, I had summer internships at the newspaper in Hot Springs, where he grew up. I later worked for a newspaper in Little Rock.
         When Bill ran for the presidency, many of us liked Hillary even better. We had reveled in her feminism in Arkansas. My oldest sister, who has been a radical lesbian separatist for many years, relished voting for Hillary in her state’s primary.
          During my return to Little Rock, my Obama-backing friend graciously took me to the Clinton Presidential Library, and we found a middle ground by admiring the collection of state gifts.
          At times, I get lulled into thinking that this person or that, this group or another, shares my views and values. Then something brings me up short, reminding me that my friendships exist despite our many differences, and that politics consists of allies and coalitions.
         Although my friends were courteous and informed, I can identify with Joan Walsh, disillusioned by some people she thought she knew: “A writer whose work I respect submitted a piece addressed to ‘old white feminists,’ telling them to get out of Obama's way.”
         Tad Bartimus writes:
         Several friends I'd assumed shared my commitment to dignified gender equality turned into harsh Clinton bashers for the flimsiest of reasons. One rejected her because she was disappointed Hillary didn't divorce her husband after the Monica Lewinsky affair. Another was infatuated with Obama's rhetoric, though she admitted she didn't know much about his political platform. A third resented being lumped into a baby boomer female stereotype identified with Clinton's life experience.
         When a colleague of 30 years gleefully brandished her coffee table centerpiece -- a Hillary nutcracker with incisor-sharp teeth between its thighs -- I was embarrassed for this woman who'd claimed to be a lifelong feminist …
          I’ll vote for Obama because I greatly prefer his policies to McCain’s. And I’ll continue to look for ways to work with those who differ from me. I just wish it was easier sometimes.
         As a former journalist, I understand the concept of writing about news events in a timely fashion. As a blogger, however, I’m writing about things once I’ve thought them through a bit. That’s a weird concept, I know.

Let's change the nominating system (by Suzie)

          Now that the hodgepodge of primaries and caucuses are over, I hope powerful people are thinking of ways to improve this system. I send this plea out to the universe, as one of the Florida halfpeople.
         The Tampa Tribune suggests
Election laws should set up a rational primary system, perhaps one with regional primaries and a rotating schedule that gives each region a turn going first.
         I'm open to other ideas. But let's do something before 2012.

The introspective media (by Suzie)

       Many feminists, whether they supported Clinton or not, decried the media’s sexism during her campaign. But the New York Times reports that most journalists “see little need for reconsidering their coverage or changing their approach going forward.”
        Hold the presses! Journalists think they did a good job! 
        That’s why I was surprised and pleased to hear Katie Couric say,
"One of the great lessons of [Clinton's] campaign is the continued and accepted role of sexism in American life, particularly in the media. ... It isn't just Hillary Clinton who needs to learn a lesson from this primary season — it's all the people who crossed the line, and all the women and men who let them get away with it."
           (Watch the video here.)
           The alleged progressive Keith Olbermann named Couric the Worst Person in the World. I enjoyed Rachel Sklar's response. Meanwhile, Vanity Fair and others have reduced this issue to silly squabbling, ignoring Couric's main point. Others ignore the main point to leap to the defense of Lee Cowan, whom Couric criticized, without naming names, for his saying that it was hard for him to stay objective while covering Obama. I wish more journalists would admit that objectivity is impossible. Nevertheless, I side with Couric on this. A veteran journalist should be accustomed to throngs of excited supporters, whether attending a political event or a rock concert.
           In 2006, Susan Estrich wrote about someone saying America wasn't ready for its first "solo woman evening-news anchor."
           Now consider: if this is what Katie gets after three months, while she’s admittedly still finding her sea legs (if I can refer to them), just imagine, imagine what we’re in for with Hillary.
         If you don’t think her loss is your loss, think again.
              In other words, sexism hurts all women. (Once again, this doesn’t mean that you had to like or vote for Clinton. It means you need to avoid sexism when discussing her.)
              By the way, Couric made her recent comments at the Sewall-Belmont House, which I highly recommend visiting. This museum on Capitol Hill "is the headquarters of the historic National Woman's Party and was the Washington home of its founder and Equal Rights Amendment author Alice Paul." Couric received the 2008 Alice Award. Last month, Congress voted to award a gold medal to Paul posthumously.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How Memes Are Created

From Media Matters for America:

CNN's Gloria Borger asserted, "[Sen. John] McCain really believes that he has an opportunity to win over these suburban women who, in recent polls, have shown that they don't like [Sen.] Barack Obama very much." But of the two recent polls identified by Media Matters that reported results for the subcategory of suburban women, one found that Obama led McCain, while the other, providing results specifically for "white suburban women," gave McCain the lead, but reportedly within the margin of error; in neither case were results reported for likability of the two candidates among suburban women.

Moreover, the second poll actually says this:

In the head-to-head matchup, Obama leads McCain among African Americans (83-7 percent), Hispanics (62-28), women (52-33), Catholics (47-40), independents (41-36) and even blue-collar workers (47-42). Obama is also ahead among those who said they voted for Clinton in the Democratic primaries (61-19).

Yet among white men — who made up 36 percent of the electorate in the 2004 presidential election — Obama trails McCain by 20 points, 55-35 percent. "That is the reason why this election is close," Hart notes.

In addition, McCain leads Obama among white suburban women (44-38), group which makes up about 10 percent of all voters that Hart calls "absolutely critical" for both candidates in the fall.

However, Obama has a seven-point advantage (46-39) among all white women. How important is that lead? Newhouse explains that Republican candidates always expect to win white men by a substantial margin, but it is white women that usually decide the race. "If a Republican wins among white women, we usually win that election," he says, noting that George W. Bush carried that group in 2000 and 2004.

Did you read it? Did you notice how Obama seems to have a much bigger problem with white men who don't seem to like him that much? For instance, if white men liked him better then it wouldn't matter what suburban women think, now would it?

All that is meme manufacturing. The actual findings don't lend themselves to some particular spotlight on suburban women (the group which is most likely to vote Republican among all women). Indeed, a much more truthful portrayal of the findings would be to ask about white men (who tend to vote Republican) and their apparent dislike of Obama. But the new meme is all about bitter women, so that's what we get.

The proper meme is that lots of Republicans are planning to vote for McCain. Now, does that surprise you?

The Pregnancy Pact in Gloucester, Ma.

A clarification:

This is what I read on 6/23/08:
"I am not able to confirm the existence of a pact," Mayor Carolyn Kirk said. "Any planned blood oath to become pregnant there is no evidence."

Time magazine last week reported a rumor, given credence in an interview with Gloucester High School principal Joseph Sullivan, that the girls, all under 16 years old, promised each other to become pregnant and raise their children together.

"Beyond the statement of the principal, we have no evidence there was a pact," the mayor said. "The principal could not remember who told him that."

The mayor and school officials said the girls may have made an agreement to support each other after becoming pregnant, but that was not the same as creating a premeditated "pact" to become pregnant.

So there is no evidence of a pact about getting pregnant. Whether the 24-year old homeless man story is true or not is also unclear.

Yeah. Despite that caveat I entered in the original post, I sort of fell for the story, because it was in Time, with interviews with some of the students, because I woke up to a talk show about it, with experts and because I heard the reporter being interviewed about the interviews she had done. Nowhere did they say that all information came from the high school principal alone.

My apologies. Will try to do better in the future.

Time reports on schoolgirls getting pregnant on purpose, in a pact to bring up their children together. It's not possible to say whether any of that is true, of course, but you can judge for yourselves:

As summer vacation begins, 17 girls at Gloucester High School are expecting babies—more than four times the number of pregnancies the 1,200-student school had last year. Some adults dismissed the statistic as a blip. Others blamed hit movies like Juno and Knocked Up for glamorizing young unwed mothers. But principal Joseph Sullivan knows at least part of the reason there's been such a spike in teen pregnancies in this Massachusetts fishing town. School officials started looking into the matter as early as October after an unusual number of girls began filing into the school clinic to find out if they were pregnant. By May, several students had returned multiple times to get pregnancy tests, and on hearing the results, "some girls seemed more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were," Sullivan says. All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Then the story got worse. "We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy," the principal says, shaking his head.

The whole piece creates more questions than it answers. Is it really true that the school has made pregnancy too attractive an option? What would be the alternative, then? To shame pregnant girls into hiding and not going to school? And does nobody tell these girls what taking care of a child really means? And if they do, why don't the girls listen?

What do the pro-birth people think about all this? Now that's a real conundrum. I can imagine their eyes going all crooked in trying to decide whether this is good or bad.

But of course the saddest part of the story is a future looking so bleak to these girls that getting a baby seems like the best way to get unconditional love and a plan for something to do. The next saddest part is that they have been left adrift this way, without other plans or the healthy kind of self-love they need to wait until they actually do have the resources for a child.


When I first took up a keyboard for blogging purposes there were very few feminist blogs. Now they are many and the voices are powerful and diverse. That is a wonderful, wonderful change.

That poster has nothing to do with the topic of this post, except for the fact that the same fears still crop up about feminism. If they are not about women's suffrage they are about women in the military or about women as presidents. Any progress for women is interpreted as bad news for men and for children. Sigh. We will never have a female Pope.

Oil And Friends

Sometimes reading the day's news causes interesting patterns. Take oil. The industrialized countries need oil, and some countries (such as Iraq) have it while others (such as Zimbabwe) do not. Oddly enough, having oil is closely correlated with which countries get their dictators removed and which countries are allowed to go to rot. No, I'm not saying that the Iraq occupation was only about oil, but staying in Iraq is definitely to do with oil. They have lots of it, and we want it, "we" being the West:

Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq's Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq's largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.

The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.

The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production.

That "no-bid" part means that the fantastic free markets were not allowed to decide who would get in. Funny, that.

Spencer Ackerman notes an important aspect of this re-entry of the old oil lords into Iraq: They are going to need lots of private security:

Any Western oil official who comes to Iraq would require heavy security, exposing the companies to all the same logistical nightmares that have hampered previous attempts, often undertaken at huge cost, to rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure.

So not only will we have unregulated foreign oil companies making money off endless occupation and proxy government, we're sure to have unregulated private security companies providing the muscle for them. This is the real Bush Doctrine.

Private security companies such as, say, Blackwater? Did you hear what Blackwater is doing about a court case in the United States by three widows of soldiers who died in a Blackwater plane crash in Afghanistan? You're going to like this:

To defend itself against a lawsuit by the widows of three American soldiers who died on one of its planes in Afghanistan, a sister company of the private military firm Blackwater has asked a federal court to decide the case using the Islamic law known as Shari'a.

The lawsuit "is governed by the law of Afghanistan," Presidential Airways argued in a Florida federal court. "Afghan law is largely religion-based and evidences a strong concern for ensuring moral responsibility, and deterring violations of obligations within its borders."

If the judge agrees, it would essentially end the lawsuit over a botched flight supporting the U.S. military. Shari'a law does not hold a company responsible for the actions of employees performed within the course of their work.

What makes this most interesting is the fact that Blackwater in Iraq isn't subject to the Iraqi legal system or the rules of the U.S. military. Such shadow military organizations have lots of advantages, it seems, and I started wondering if privatizing the military in this manner isn't the greatest innovation of this administration.

The Bush administration is certainly into privatizing everything (with the exception of women's bodies which are to be kept under public scrutiny). The idea of drilling for oil offshore here in the United States is back on Bush's to-do list. We have all those public lands and nature preserves and we are getting absolutely no profit out of them. So why not hand them over to oil companies? Couldn't that solve the Iraq problem, too? And the Republican problem of turning oil prices into a Democratic problem:

President Bush urged Congress on Wednesday to end a federal ban on offshore oil drilling and open a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration, asserting that those steps and others would lower gasoline prices and "strengthen our national security."

In recent years, the president said, "scientists have developed innovative techniques to reach Anwar's oil with virtually no impact on the land or local wildlife," referring to the wildlife refuge by its acronym. He continued, "I urge members of Congress to allow this remote region to bring enormous benefits to the American people."

President Bush also urged Congress to approve the extraction of oil from shale on federal lands, something he said can be done far more economically now than a few years ago, and to speed the approval process for building new refineries.

Mr. Bush sought to take full political advantage of soaring fuel prices by portraying Republican lawmakers as imaginative and forward-looking and the Democratic majority in Congress as obstructionists on energy policy.

Imagine that! I must tip my hat for that guy's ability to do reversals, a trick I sometimes use when writing about gender. But he is wrong, because there isn't enough oil in all those fragile places to justify the plundering at the cost of doing it and the oil in the Middle East is still needed. Besides, he's not saying anything about what has caused the price of oil to rise so much. It certainly has not been those environmentalists protecting the spotted owl.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another Post About Why No Posts On The Iraq Occupation

I often feel guilty about my silence on that topic. The silence is firmly founded on facts, however. The whole escapade is a clusterfuck. Once you swat a wasps' nest, the wasps come out and you can't just put them back, and interfering in the politics of a country without any real understanding of its history is very much like swatting a wasps' nest, without a backup plan about how to get the hell out of there.

In short, all avenues I can imagine are littered with bloody corpses, and the only workable solution is to pick the avenue with the fewest corpses, assuming that we can figure out which one that is.

And yes, women in Iraq have certainly not been liberated by the U.S. invasion, though many of them have been "liberated" from their husbands as there are now many, many widows there.

Sigh. I don't envy the U.S. administration which has the task of sorting it all out, assuming that the voters are wise enough to choose such an administration instead of one who wants to monger more war.

Congratulations To Donna Edwards

She won a special election yesterday to become the first African-American woman from Maryland to serve in the U.S. Congress. What does that make the percentage of women in the Congress?

Her victory is good news, though.

A Rose By Any Other Name Smells Just As Sweet

Or what's in a name? Like in women changing their name when getting married. A couple of posts on this very old feminist topic turned up yesterday.

Matthew Yglesias thinks changing your name at marriage doesn't make much sense. Imagine if you had to change it every time you change your job, to match the name of the new firm, for instance. That is funny, because Finnish last names were originally often the names of farms, so you actually did change your last name when you moved to a new farm. But most people didn't have last names at all; they were just Someone's Daughter or Someone's Son, the "Someone" always being a man, of course.

Atrios also thinks that keeping your maiden name at marriage is quite all right, and that the whole question of names is not really worth thinking about. Do what you want.

It is pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things, certainly falling far below saving the environment and stopping all wars. But it's an interesting feminist topic to address, for all sorts of historical reasons.

First, the custom of women taking their husband's last name is not a universal one. The Chinese didn't do it, and in many countries people just didn't have last names at all. But where "family names" became the norm those names were always the names of the man's family. Thus, whenever two people married, the woman moved from her family into his, initially physically but later at least in the terms of the last name she adopted at that moment.

For example, Elizabeth Jones became Mrs. John Smith, with just one stroke of a pen on the wedding certificate, and Elizabeth Jones died, to all practical purposes. If you study genealogical records it can be very hard to find out who some "Mrs. John Smith" once was, you know, except for being the wife of John Smith. In a sense, this erases women from much of history.

My guess is that many second wave feminists focused on this topic for the reason that name changes do tend to "disappear" the women from written history, not to mention the obvious imbalance in always expecting her to move to his family group and never the other way around. But then other feminists point out that all the woman is doing is moving from one man's (the father's) family group to another man's (the husband's) family group. The only way around that problem is to pick a brand new family name and to start your own family group.

Except that this seldom happens. Even in the cases where a woman keeps her family name at marriage, even in that case the children mostly get the father's surname. Unless hyphenation is used. But that just reintroduces the problem for the next generation, because at some point there will be too many names to connect together.

I think that viewing the name from the angle of perpetuating a family is the most useful one, and then we are faced with the question of asking whose family it is that is being perpetuated. There are practical solutions to this. For instance, every other child could be given the father's last name, every other the mother's last name, and both parents could keep their own names.

If you find that unappealing it's probably because many feel that families should all share the same last name. The easiest feminist solution to that is to decree that for the next hundred years it will be the men who change their name at marriage and that all children will get the mother's last name. Imagine proposing that. I'm sure that many men would not like it at all. Even if names in general are trivial things, your name is not. Right?

At the same time, the custom of changing your name at marriage has been given a romantic halo by the history, by old movies and books where some poor girl from not-much family becomes a countess by capturing the count's heart. Also, sacrificing your name is part of that gift of love for many women, even today, and the drawbacks of it seem acceptable, especially if you didn't like your original family name that much to begin with. The best way to see those drawbacks is to contemplate that reversal I proposed in the penultimate paragraph.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Should We Talk About This?

This being McCain's comment about his wife in the past, the one where he supposedly called her a trollop and a cunt. Atrios links to a video (full of the word "cunt") which points out that the media is not discussing this comment even when discussing McCain's recent attempts to appeal to women voters. In comparison, Obama's "sweetie" comment was discussed fairly extensively.

The reason for the media silence on McCain's blunder may be in the difficulty of mentioning that word on television or on radio. Or in something else. I'm not sure.

There are hidden shoals in any attempt to exploit this against McCain. For one thing, it would require wide-spread use of the word "cunt", and such use attacks women, even if indirectly. Then there's the problem of exploiting McCain's statements as something party-dependent. All that's needed for that to crumble is that someone finds something similar expressed by a famous Democratic politician. Or more simply: It would sound as if women are asked to choose between being called "a sweetie" or "a cunt", and it would also trivialize the sexism as something only wingnuts are guilty of in this country.

I think McCain's votes are enough to nail him, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.

On Grief and Pets

Grieving for an old dog is an odd state to be in. It is like all grief, in the sense of being about a loss, about the daily sphere of energy being torn apart, about those ragged ends of feeling groping, groping and not finding what they used to. The reassurance of everyday is not there, the empty water bowl looks like a black hole in the floor. The best analogy to me is to think that suddenly there are rotten parts in the floorboards, in the stairs, doors that fall off their hinges, windows that suddenly crack, even though most of the time your life looks just the same as always. You never know when you step into something that gives, and so you must be careful, walk slowly, take care not to stumble.

It's like having to learn the world again. Every day the new world is more familiar, of course. But I still wake up feeling as if my outer shell has disappeared, feeling as if I have to defend myself against my own grief. That it is a dog I grieve for makes everything more complicated, because many think of dogs as not worthy of a human being's grief. Certainly not old dogs. The grief is seen as immature, ill-placed, a sign of something wrong in the griever. Thus, the grief must sometimes be hidden and not talked about.

But a grief for the death of an animal is not that different from the grief for the death of a person. It's all about those intricate webs of memory, love and dependency, and the webs have been cut through by that dark sickle of death. They must be mended, rewoven, repaired, and while that process happens one grieves.


To Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon who after more than half a century were allowed to get married to each other. I hope the cake was double chocolate, of course, but only because I love chocolate.

Monday, June 16, 2008

From The Hair Pulling Files


From the June 16 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Why do you think most women vote Democrat, Heidi? And have for years?

HARRIS: Most women? I don't know. I think women -- sadly, a lot of women are very emotional, and they tend to think with their hearts and not with their minds about some of these issues. They tend to feel more of these kind of things than think it through. I hate to say it, but it's true.

MATTHEWS: You mean it's not hard issues like abortion rights, or Social Security, or minimum wage?

HARRIS: You know --

MATTHEWS: Logical reasons?

HARRIS: You know what it is? I don't think, Chris, that most women under 50 care about abortion rights, and here's why. Because women at that age have -- Roe v. Wade was passed in '73, as you know. So all the women growing up -- my generation, the women 10, 15 years younger than I am, it's always been legal. I don't --


HARRIS: -- think that 30-year-old women have any concept of what it's like not to have that right. So whether you stand left or right on it, it doesn't really matter to most women, 'cause they can't conceive of it. And on the other hand --

MATTHEWS: Well should they have -- well, shouldn't they have a concept of it if the Supreme Court moves further right, and there is no more right to have an abortion?

HARRIS: I don't think it's going to change. I don't think -- no matter who's on the Supreme Court -- it's going to be overturned. And the women who are complaining about it the most are too darn old to get pregnant. So I don't think it's a big issue for young ones.

Ouch. My female heart is bleeding right now. Where did I leave that girl brain, I wonder? Probably in my makeup bag.

Ah! Here it is. Wait while I install it. (Sounds of girly flustering at the task of brain surgery.) Ok.

Note how Harris is creating a false dualism here: Women think with their hearts, and men? What do they think with? Heh.

The false part is the idea that men don't relate to emotional arguments at all, or to arguments which make greed ok or to arguments about kicking the butt of people in other countries. Another false part is to pretend that there is no intellectual reason for women to tend towards the Democratic Party platform. After all, women are, on average, poorer than men, more likely to be the unpaid caretakers whose jobs are made more difficult by the dog-eat-dog Republican view of the world and also more likely to belong to the group for which the Republican ideas of freedom do not apply at all.

But see how sexism can be invited to television, with cucumber sandwiches and tea? See how it's ok to say that women are unable to think about politics, that they are like a giant tribe of lemmings following some sob story in their voting behavior.

A Funny Video

I've posted this before, I think, but it's a fun video to watch if you feel too serious and melancholic today.

From My Mailbag

Hmm. This is a neat way of writing a post without actually writing it, if you know what I mean. On the other hand, it's also a format which goes well with topics that I think deserve more attention but on which I'm no expert, ma'am/sir.

For instance, you can learn more about how habeas corpus is being investigated, as a possible terrorist. Then you can read about what happened to Nitra Gipson when she had "too much" money vouchers at Wal-Mart. Or you can read more about how unreliable web site visitor numbers and such are when politics gets fierce, from Ptarmigan Nest. By the way, it's not advisable to "freep" Internet polls. Neither do those polls measure actual public opinion even without freeping, as they are not based on proper samples of the public.

And here's a real unicorn. I swear.

Bobby Jindal: Change The Wingnut Way

The young Republican governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, has been suggested as one possible running mate for John McCain. He has many advantages: He is young, handsome, a man of color (of Indian origin) and he belongs to that ultra-Catholic group of which Scalia is the most famous example. Such people make the hearts of some fundamentalists clap louder. Megan McArdle of the Atlantic loves him so much:

Of course, I'm just in that first flush of puppy love, when a journalist meets a handsome young politician who just might be The One. Soon enough, I'll undoubtedly find things about him to hate. But frankly, it's rare enough to meet one I like. True love may have to wait.

There are women who always fall in love with men who are not good for them, sigh. Let me tell Megan more about Bobby Jindal:

Bobby Jindal has a 100% pro-life voting record according to the National Right to Life Committee.[22][23] He opposes abortion without exception.[24] However, he does not condemn medical procedures meant to save the life of a pregnant woman that would indirectly cause the termination of the pregnancy.[25][26] Jindal also supports the use of emergency contraception in the case of rape.[27] He opposes embryonic stem cell research[28] and voted against increasing federal funding to expand embryonic stem cell lines.[29]

To oppose abortion without exception means that there will be no abortion in the case of rape, say, or in the case of the woman's health being endangered.

He's also for the teaching of intelligent design in schools. How he would feel about supporting the anti-discrimination laws I do not know, but I recall reading a comment or two by him earlier which suggested that he is no friend of feminism.

More on Jindal:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

First to all daddies and then to everyone else, too. Check out some of the daddy blogs today. This one is a good place to start. Or this one.

Forty Years From Now (by Phila)

"Do you love me? Do you love me, Olympia? Say but that word. Do you love me?" Nathaniel whispered, but as she rose to her feet Olympia sighed only: "Ah, ah!"

"Yes, my glorious star of love." Nathaniel said, "you have arisen upon my heart and you will illumine and transfigure my heart always."

"Ah, ah!" Olympia repeated, moving away.

--E.T.A. Hoffman, "The Sandman" (1816)
Artificial-intelligence theorists are providing plenty of material, lately, for Glenn Reynolds' wet dreams:
Romantic human-robot relationships are no longer the stuff of science fiction -- researchers expect them to become reality within four decades.
I'm not sure why something that's expected "to become reality" within forty years wouldn't count as science fiction, but that brainteaser is child's play compared to what comes next.
"I am talking about loving relationships about 40 years from now," David Levy, author of the book "Love + sex with robots", told AFP at an international conference held last week at the University of Maastricht in the south-east of the country.

"... when there are robots that have also emotions, personality, consciousness. They can talk to you, they can make you laugh. They can ... say they love you just like a human would say 'I love you', and say it as though they mean it ....

"You want your robot to be able to talk to you about what is interesting to you."
Forty years may seem like an awfully long time to have to wait for a robotic sex partner whose avowals of undying love will strike you as plausible, and who'll be able to have intelligent -- but not too intelligent -- conversations about Atlas Shrugged when its amazingly life-like tongue isn't slathering your asshole with artificial saliva. For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain a horny robot with a bottomless appetite for his loudmouthed banalities, and lose his ability to get it up?

Don't be downhearted, though. You have to remember that the Singularity is Near. If Ray Kurzweil's modest dreams come true, the middle-aged among us will meet our robotic partners more than halfway by then, and should be able to indulge in downright Heinleinian bouts of redundant sex and speechifying. God willing, we'll finally force our entry into that Pornotopia whose proud minarets and moist cul-de-sacs Steven Marcus surveyed from afar:
All men in it are always and infinitely potent, all women fecundate with lust and flow inexhaustibly with sap or juice or both....
And even if the old flesh remains weak, these machines of loving grace can simply be programmed to react to the feeble fumblings and thrustings of 90-year-old transhumanists with volcanic exclamations out of Victorian porn ("Ah, my dear Mr. Reynolds! I have spent thrice, and am altogether vanquished! Please do be so good as to expound further upon Plessy vs. Ferguson, whilst I luxuriate a while in love's sweet lethargy.")

Whether you love this idea or hate it, you've gotta love it; there's no use standing in the way of Progress. This is the next stage of evolution, in which earlier patterns of domination, exploitation, and self-defeat will be naturalized and eternalized, and the messier and more disquieting aspects of "freedom" will be mitigated by a new race of sexually malleable beings that's happy just the way it is.

Long live the New Flesh!

Lands of Opportunity (by Phila)

A couple of weeks ago, a 17-year-old undocumented worker named Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez died of heat stroke in a California vineyard.
When Vasquez Jimenez collapsed, she had been on the job three days, pruning vines for $8 an hour in a vineyard owned by West Coast Grape Farming.

During eight hours of work beginning at 6 a.m. in heat that topped 95 degrees, Bautista said that workers were given only one water break, at 10:30 a.m. And the water was a 10-minute walk away – too far, he said, to keep up with the crew and avoid being scolded.

Vasquez Jimenez collapsed at 3:30 p.m., Bautista said, and for at least five minutes, the foreman did nothing but stare at the couple while Bautista cradled her.
In San Diego, meanwhile, crossing the border has become a popular way to beat high gas prices:
The differential in diesel is even greater, selling at $5.04 a gallon in San Diego County and $2.20 in Tijuana.

Paul Covarrubias, 26, who lives in Chula Vista and works in construction in San Diego, crosses the border each week just to refuel his dual-cab Ford F-250 pickup.

"I fill it up with diesel in Tijuana for $60," he said. "It would be almost twice that in San Diego."

Gas is cheaper in Mexico because of a government subsidy intended to keep inflationary forces in check.

Welcome Phila!

He's going to join the Snakepit Inc. when he feels like it. You may already know him as the provider of Hope Blogging on Fridays and those delectable nudibranches at his home blog Bouphonia.

Phila is wicked smart and wicked modest, as you will find out.

Howdy (by Phila)

I have to say right off the bat that it's very daunting to be posting here. I've admired -- and envied -- Echidne's quiet, powerful voice for a long time, and I've also found her guest contributors and regular commenters to be frighteningly insightful and smart. My deep pleasure at being thought worthy of this privilege was immediately undercut by a deeper certainty that I'm not worthy of it, and am bound to let everybody down in the end. If not before.

That's just how I am, and it hasn't made things easy for me in some ways. On the other hand, when I contemplate the literally shameless antics of chattering husks like Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd, my inherent vice begins to seem almost like a virtue. Perhaps instead of apologizing for my "negative self-talk," I should wield it as the sceptre of my dominion over lesser beings.

Kneel before me, puny mortals! (Unless you'd rather not, which I can totally understand.)

Anyway, I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to write about here. Something, probably. My own blog is all over the map, and I have no desire to scatter my sour dust and clutter through Echidne's marbled halls. All I can say for certain is that I'll keep it fairly short and to the point. But don't hold me to that.

In the meantime, I wanted to express my basic agreement with, and appreciation for, the recently but not (let's hope) permanently departed Anthony McCarthy. His thinking has certainly influenced mine, and I think it's fair to say that mine has occasionally influenced his. While we have our disagreements, I definitely share his dour outlook on the interminable shouting-match between religion and atheism, and on certain anti-democratic tendencies, or capitulations, on the left. I don't mention this to announce my intention of picking up any specific burden he's dropped, now or later, but simply to honor his efforts, which I think were met with more hostility than they deserved.

Since I've got no particular place to go, I may as well follow this thread, and confess that my concerns here aren't entirely pragmatic. I'm generally respectful of religious thought, partly as a result of my conversion to the One True Faith of Echidneism, and partly because freedom of conscience is the foundation of what I'd call democratic politics, and partly because we've borrowed from religion the language we use to speak against injustice, and partly for a reason that I can best approach by speaking for a moment about feminism.

I wasn't raised to be a feminist, by any means. If anything, I was raised to be a hopeless romantic and a sentimentalist. As I grew older, I started noticing the undercurrent of brutality in this view of women (and of men, for that matter). Not, I'm sad to say, because my thinking was so elevated and nimble, but because I kept acting like an asshole, and feeling bad about it. And I eventually took an interest in figuring out what assumptions allowed me to act the way I did. Some of them were cultural, it seemed, and some of them were particular to my own psychological problems (which, in my own defense, I'd come by honestly). In the end, the only thing I knew for sure was that I'd be better off if I rooted out and discarded all of them.

Which was -- and is -- easier said than done. It means facing unpleasant facts, naturally, but it also means giving up comfort and power and privilege, and I think that tends to be a much bigger stumbling block for most people. As we all know, it's easy to embrace a theoretical feminism (or a theoretical liberalism, or a theoretical environmentalism, or a theoretical Christianity) while complacently conducting one's business as usual, in the lap of what we might as well call luxury. It's a bit harder to let go of power and privilege, and become deaf to their logic...especially since that logic tends to be embedded, if not embodied, in our art, fashion, and aesthetics (to say nothing of our science, religion, and politics). The ugliness of the Democratic primary underscored how hard it can be even for smart, well-meaning people to rise above the ugliness of this culture.

It's precisely here that religious thought (or what I consider to be worthy of that name) and atheist thought (ditto) ought to agree neatly with progressive thought, and help us to avoid running aground on these rocks. Each of them should remind us that we're responsible for ourselves and for each other, though not necessarily in that order, and that this responsibility isn't going to be fulfilled from on high by divine or technocratic magic, or wiped away by the Invisible Hand like crumbs from our common table.

Have I mentioned that I also admire Echidne for her lack of preachiness and pomposity? I hereby vow to keep mine under control while posting here. But don't hold me to that.

That's more than enough for now. Suffice it to say, again, that I'm grateful to Echidne for inviting me here, and that I look forward to converting all of you to the hopelessly muddled worldview of neo-Muggletonian libertarian socialism. By force, if necessary.