Saturday, July 05, 2008

Totally Crazy (by Phila)

Kathryn Jean Lopez:
A totally crazy Saturday-morning thought: Wouldn't George W. Bush make an awesome high-school government teacher? Wouldn't it be something if his post-presidential life would up being that kind of post-service service? How's that for a model? Who needs Harvard visiting chairs and high-end lectures? How about Crawford High? (Or wherever?) Reach out and touch the young before they are jaded, or break them of the cynicism pop culture and possibly their parents have passed down to them.
Unless the last eight years were a horrible dream, George W. Bush weakened restrictions on air pollution under the Clear Skies Act, turned forests over to loggers under the Healthy Forests Initiative, detained prisoners indefinitely in the name of the law, tortured people in the name of civilization, censored scientists in the name of objectivity, alienated allies in the name of security, and is occupying another country in the name of freedom.

About the only thing he could possibly do to reduce American cynicism, at this point, would be to turn himself in at the nearest police station. (A totally crazy Saturday-afternoon thought, I know, and just about as plausible as K-Lo's fantasy.)

Anyway, while we're waiting for Bush to embark on his life of "post-service service," we mustn't forget to sneer at people who praise Jimmy Carter for building houses.

Obama, abortion and illusions (by Suzie)

      I was leisurely catching up on Shakesville last night when I saw people commenting on how feminist blogs are failing to discuss Obama's recent comments on abortion. Tsk, tsk, I thought. Then: Oh, damn, that's me. 
      I hope no one thought that I had the automated system replace "serious issues" with "Chihuahuas" yesterday. Automation was involved, however. I often write my posts in advance and schedule them for Friday, my usual blogging day.
     I can't keep up with the progressive (and I mean that in two senses of the word) disappointments over Obama. (See this NYT editorial.) Clinton supporters understood that she is a politician, and we knew her positions. But a lot of progressives thought that Obama was different, that he was above partisan politics, that he shared their views. 
     Some thought the same of Bill Clinton before he was elected president, and they ended up feeling angry and betrayed by some of his policies and actions. This colored some people's reaction to Hillary's race for the nomination. Now the cycle is repeating itself with Obama.
      I wish we could break free from the media game of building up people and then tearing them down. I don't mean that we shouldn't discuss Obama's faults, or problems with his policies. I mean that people shouldn't have turned him into the next American idol because that guaranteed disappointment would follow.
      I also see parallels with people hoping that Michelle will straighten out Barack on certain issues. Who knows. Is she a feminist?
"You know, I'm not that into labels," Michelle Obama said in the interview. "So probably, if you laid out a feminist agenda, I would probably agree with a large portion of it," she said. "I wouldn't identify as a feminist just like I probably wouldn't identify as a liberal or a progressive." 
          As an adult, I've always been to the left of our presidents. For me, this election is like many others: I'll vote for a person who can win and who comes closest to my views, knowing that I need to keep working on other issues that he won't support.
        For interesting comments on Obama and abortion, Shakesville has a good discussion. You also may enjoy this post on faith-based organizations at Pam's House Blend. I'm looking forward to a fundamental Christian group training a pagan nonprofit to run a preschool program.

Three Intimations.
The hydrangea tree blooming over the old graves on the rise in the cemetery are the only flowers there. Bent and twisted by the winds and winter, there isn’t a time it wasn’t there. Afternoon wind.
There is nothing whiter than the evening lychnis at dusk. Dry summer.
So still tonight the moonlight is the loudest thing.

Anthony McCarthy: 1978

Noted Without Comment (by Phila)

The latest findings:
A study was conducted to assess whether individual differences in sexual activity during the past 30 days, in particular penile–vaginal intercourse (PVI; which is associated with measures of relationship quality), are related to the perception of the facial attractiveness of unknown men. Forty-five women reported the frequency of a variety of sexual behaviors and rated the facial attractiveness and friendliness of 24 men. Women who reported more frequent orgasm from masturbation rated men as less friendly. This finding might be reflective of the more anti-social attitude associated with more frequent masturbation. The results also show that women who engaged more frequently in most kinds of sexual behavior, not only PVI, considered unknown men to be less facially attractive. That is, individuals who engage more frequently in a variety of sexual behaviors with their partner perceived unknown men as less attractive and thereby may be less susceptible to the lure of other (or if the only sexual behavior is masturbation, any) men.

Supply-Side Shortages (by Phila)

Somehow, Terry Easton has gotten wise to our plans:
You would think that this story is right out of science fiction. But the facts appear to be that the US Democrat-controlled Congress intends to destroy the Republican middle class with $11 per gallon gasoline.

The Democrats’ base -- wealthy white “limousine liberals”, and very poor people -- won’t be harmed, but the families who live in suburbia will be devastated.
Easton left out a few important details. It's not just the Republican middle class we're after; we also need to destroy hungry seniors, whose traditional values pose an obstacle to the acceptance of mandatory same-sex marriage. Underprivileged children and the disabled are another target (Peter Singer absolutely insisted on it, and you know how hard it is to say "no" to him). Higher gas prices will also thwart efforts to control malaria, which will be a fitting tribute to the spirit of Rachel Carson.

Then there are cabbies. How are we supposed to create a socialist wonderland while counterrevolutionaries like these are able to buy food and pay their bills? Eleven-dollar gas is the least these running-dog lackeys to the bourgeoisie deserve. Last, crippling the production and distribution of fireworks will strike a deadly blow against patriotism, just when it's needed most.

The article goes on to explain that limousine liberals have thwarted efforts to drill in ANWR and along the coasts, and concludes with this dirge for human freedom:
Oil sells for $145 per barrel mostly because of artificially-created supply-side shortages. A small part of its price is also determined by speculators and uncertainty over a future cut-off of oil from the middle east that a war with Iran could cause. Assuming that Iran’s nuclear bomb program is destroyed by Israel this fall -- with or without America’s help - look for oil to spike up to $250-300.
Indeed. I think it's fair to say that things are proceeding quite nicely, don't you?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fourth Of July Fireworks

The picture was taken by a friend of mine a few years ago.

Friday Critter Blogging: Deconstructing Disney (by Suzie)

        Now that I’ve become a Chihuahuaphile, I can’t resist Disney’s “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” opening Oct. 3. I wish I could enjoy the little dancing dogs in peace, without seeing how the movie reinforces the patriarchy. But that’s the problem when you swallow the red pill; you can no longer watch fluff without deconstructing it.
         As Joss Whedon said: "People used to laugh that academics would study Disney movies. There’s nothing more important for academics to study, because they shape the minds of our children possibly more than any single thing."
         In the upcoming movie, a “spoiled” little white Chihuahua from Beverly Hills gets “lost in the mean streets of Mexico” and ends up guided by a bigger, darker, lustful Chihuahua. (I hope this isn’t “Swept Away” for Chihuahuas.) Guess which is male and which is female?
         Many people covet the smallest Chihuahuas. Because it’s often easier for bigger dogs to give birth, a lot of teeny-tiny males get bred to bigger females. (My “retired breeder” is one of these BBWs.) When you anthropomorphize dogs, however, I guess you have to stick to the conventions that say males must be bigger. At least Disney didn't make the female Chihuahua pink.
          On the Disney site, the synopsis tells the story of a female finding her footing, with the assistance of male dogs. But the trailer focuses on the male dog, with the female as accessory. Disney has to be careful not to lose too many boy viewers.
         Before the trailer came out, Disney started a viral video campaign featuring the male dog as revolutionary. He speaks of Chihuahuas as if all are male, and these males must reclaim their dignity after being carried in purses. They can no longer take orders from female dogs, either.
         Is Disney making fun of machismo? Riffing on the insecurity of men who fear being “feminized”? I wish everyone would see it that way. 
         You can catch the viral video (which really is funny) on Dog Art Today, where Moira McLaughlin discusses how artists have stolen from one another, in regard to dogs and revolutions. One of those artists, Kevin McCormick, says he has been calling on Chihuahuas to revolt for years.
         Mark Derr says small dogs are stigmatized as women’s pets. Bigger dogs are associated with men and work, such as herding sheep or finding prey for hunters. But a Chihuahua? It's just a companion, and being a companion has little value in our society.
        But hey, happy Fourth of July. Thank the goddess that I don't have a yappy dog that would bark every few minutes, when the fireworks go off. 

Roundup on women and media (by Suzie)

        Recently, I blogged about whether we can simply “add women and stir.” That concept came back to me as I was reading a news release from the International Women’s Media Foundation, which is honoring women who have continued coverage despite harsh conditions and death threats.
        These women deserve to be honored. But it’s not enough to honor women who risk their lives to do what men do. We also must value women who write about the stuff of women’s lives, the sorts of stories that get little coverage in mainstream media. The foundation helps make this possible by offering training and other resources.
          On the subject of female journalists who enter male-dominated areas: "Gillian Anderson will star in and produce a biopic of Martha Gellhorn, a trailblazing female war correspondent who covered conflicts from the Spanish Civil War to Vietnam," according to Variety. Can't wait for this? Then I hope you've already seen the movie about Irish journalist Veronica Guerin.
          (By the way, I'm always amused when writers feel the need to modify a job title with "female" even though it should be obvious from the context. I think readers can figure out that Gellhorn was a female correspondent by her name and the fact that she's being portrayed by a woman.)          
          I got the link on Gellhorn, as well as a lot of other news, from the Women's Media Center. It co-sponsored a forum titled "From Soundbites to Solutions: Bias, Punditry and the Press in the 2008 Election." It has video on its Web site.
          An article on the forum notes that women comprised 91 percent of the audience. Although women have a lot to discuss with one another, in regard to the forum's topic, we need more men interested.

What is art? (by Suzie)

       I made the mistake of taking a doctoral-level philosophy class on this topic, and I thought we covered every angle. But somehow we missed serving sushi on a naked woman. The St. Petersburg Times has a story and photo about a restaurant that does this. (OK, the woman isn't entirely naked. She wears "the smallest of G-strings and tiny flower-shaped pasties.") Invoking Picasso, the chef calls it his "expression of art." The art is enhanced by "two women dressed in skimpy school girl outfits danc[ing] on either side of the model."
         Most historians agree naked sushi — Nyotaimori (Japanese for "female body presentation") — started several hundred years ago in the geisha culture.
Critics say it eventually became less about the art and more about titillation. Now, even in the country where it originated, the event is conducted privately or in the red light districts.
         Naked sushi — banned in China because officials say it's unhygienic and infringes on women's rights — made its way to the United States in the early 1990s. It started in California and was featured in the movie Rising Sun ...
          What message do I get from this art? That women are decorative and functional objects, like fine china.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Music After Storm

Nina Simone: Here Comes The Sun.

More On Fertility Treatment

Suzie's post on the question whether society should pay for poor women's fertility treatment provoked a lot of interesting comments. Every time I read them I had this odd feeling that I should comment on something that is relevant but I couldn't quite get it.

Today I did, and the comment I want to make is that it is not only women who suffer from infertility problems. Around forty percent of all infertility experienced by couples is due to problems with the man. Yet when we discuss infertility and its treatments we see it as a problem for women, almost exclusively. Now why is that?

It could be that it's easier to treat male infertility or that it's not treatable at all. It could be that couples who suffer from male infertility just get sperm from a donor and so those cases never appear in the records of fertility clinics. Or it could be that we see all fertility as somehow all about women.

But surely some infertile men yearn for their own biological child, too. Or do they?

Pop Polygamy

I had a tough time deciding what to think about this article:

Polygamy's pop-culture moment now extends to the closet. FLDS women are offering their handmade, old-fashioned children's clothing for sale online - long underwear, slips and all.

At, pastel-pink dresses and denim overalls mirror the clothing that intrigued the nation when authorities raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas in April, taking children into custody while investigating charges of underage marriage and child abuse.

There are $65 "teen princess" dresses that stretch from ankle to wrist, long pajamas and matching robes, all sewn by the mothers themselves, even some in Arizona's own polygamist enclave of Colorado City.

Sales of the clothing will help the Texas FLDS women pay rent and support their families. Now displaced from their homes at the ranch, most of them are still in the midst of a child-abuse investigation, and lawyers have advised them to establish their own households.

Mothers originally created the site so Texas officials could get FLDS-approved clothing for the children while they were in state custody. Turns out other people were interested, too.

"We're used to our clothing not being popular," said Maggie Jessop, 44, an FLDS member who helps coordinate the sewing efforts. "(But) we've had many, many people say that they would like to have their children be more modest and have expressed interest in our modest lifestyle."

"There were a lot of people that asked, 'Where can I purchase those clothes?' " said Cynthia Martinez, spokeswoman for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which represents 48 of the mothers.

Paul Murphy, spokesman for the Utah Attorney General's Office, finds the FLDS women's fashion offerings quite smart.

"It's very clever," he said. "With all the issues that are going on, most of the media attention has been about the way they dress and the way they wear their hair.

"I give them credit for going where the interest is."

In some ways it's a prime example of how difficult it is for women in traditionally patriarchal systems to make a living on their own, because most of them are not allowed to learn marketable skills. That these women can make some money out of making clothing is certainly wonderful, though how much they actually get is unclear from the article. We all know that textile workers are not terribly well paid.

At least this business offers some women a chance to survive outside the church, should they wish to do so, right? However:

Carolyn Jessop applauds the women for finding a way to support themselves and tiptoe toward independence.

"When 100 percent of their (financial) support is coming from the (FLDS) church, that makes them 100 percent dependent on the church," she said. "If they realize they have a skill that is marketable ... they might realize they could do it outside of the church."

Familiar with FLDS financial practices, Carolyn is concerned that the funds the women earn with their clothing sales won't end up in the mothers' pockets.

According to an FLDS spokesman, the women are paid per item sewn, and if they draw in more revenue than is needed to cover expenses, it is shared with other families.

"If people who purchase (the clothing) would at least request that they make the check out to the woman who made the garment," Carolyn said, "then this could be a really positive thing."

Is all this a positive development or not? When did we start thinking about polygamous systems such as this one as part of the popular culture, as something that is fun to imitate? When did we let people like Warren Jeffs decide what "modesty" might be?

The FLDS wardrobe puzzled and captivated America as events unfolded in Texas. The poufed hairstyles, long dresses and buttoned-up shirts are mandated by jailed FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who disallows patterned fabric and the color red. The FLDS members wear the clothing as a symbol of their faith.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is part of a group that split from the Mormon Church in 1890 over the practice of polygamy. Those who have fled the polygamist sect have long accused it of conducting underage marriages and other abuse.

Jeffs was convicted in September of being an accomplice to rape, charges stemming from his role in marrying a girl to her first cousin.

Suddenly the idea of these outfits signifying "modesty" made me feel nauseous. It's Warren Jeffs who decides what these women and men wear. It's Warren Jeffs who bans the color red but not the forced marrying of little girls to old men as one of their multiple wives.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Today's Funny

This one, about Tyson Gay's great race, as seen through the glasses of an anti-gay news site which automatically converts "gay" to "homosexual":

Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has.

His time of 9.68 seconds at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday doesn't count as a world record, because it was run with the help of a too-strong tailwind. Here's what does matter: Homosexual qualified for his first Summer Games team and served notice he's certainly someone to watch in Beijing.

"It means a lot to me," the 25-year-old Homosexual said. "I'm glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me."

Hat tip to Rorshach.

Hitchens and Waterboarding

He tells us about his experiences being tortured. Somehow I have the impression that he used to be in the other camp about waterboarding: seeing it as not any worse than getting off the wagon before this little test? Note that in any case actually being waterboarded in interrogations would have an additional layer of horror because there the torturee is not in control of the process.

Who would have thought eight years ago that I would today write about the U.S. government applying medieval forms of torture and that there is an actual debate about whether they are torture or not?

How many ways did Osama bin Laden win? You might want to count them, starting with turning a somewhat free and democratic society into something much more closely resembling a police state, continuing with the loss of habeas corpus and the idea of pre-emptive warfare.

Studying the "Opt-Out" Revolution

Kathy G. has blogged about a new study which suggests that women in general or educated women in particular are not opting out of the labor force at any higher rates than in the past, rather the reverse.

I really should read the studies on the "opt-out" revolution (about the labor market hours of women with children) and write a post on them. For various good reasons the topic isn't that easy to analyze.

For instance, whenever employment goes down as a whole, because of an economic slump, some people write about the corresponding drop in mothers' employment as evidence of opting out. Yet when the slump is over those same mothers (and all the other workers who were laid off) are quite likely to return to the labor market. But nobody writes about that return as proof that "opting out" has ended. So if you read popular articles on educated women quitting work you will get the impression that it's happening a lot, and part of the reason for that impression is that nobody writes the articles to tell us about educated women going to work or returning to work.

I'm not arguing here that there is no change in mothers' labor market participation rates in the recent years. Neither am I arguing that there is. Hence the reason to spend some time with the studies.

What I do know, however, is that the articles on "opting-out" which have appeared in such august places as the New York Times are not based on careful research of overall trends but on thinking that such an article would be interesting and on contacting suitable people for interviews. The problem with this is, of course, that I could make up a trend about something, too, and then find people who reflect that made-up trend in their behavior. Trends can't be studied by looking only at people among your acquaintances, unless your acquaintances just happen to be a perfect microcosm of the world in general.

More importantly, there is a hidden emotional undertone to these stories, and the undertone has to do with "opting-out" being voluntary, something that all mothers just really want to do, something that has nothing to do with the meager maternity leaves or the general lack of support for mothers in general, or the idea that all childcare is the responsibility of women or the way work is structured to match traditional male roles. These mothers just wanted to opt out, and that means there's no problem for anyone else, thoughofcoursewenowwonderifwomenshouldtakeplacesfrommenincollege.

Err. Don't know how that got in there. In any case, Kathy's post discusses an interesting reason for the general belief that "opting-out" is common among educated women, whatever statistics might tell us:

Yet, in spite of these strong and consistent findings, the myth of the "opt-out revolution" persists. Perhaps the most interesting part of Percheski's paper is the section that explores why this is so. First, she says, for women, having children does continue to be associated with lower levels of employment, and even though more professional women are working than ever before, many of them still don't work full-time, year-round.

Related to this, since there are more professional working women than ever before, "there are more women available to exit." Writes Percheski:

The average person is thus more likely to personally know a professional woman who has left the labor force. A woman who does not work full-time and long hours may now seem anomalous and be more noticeable than the thousands of professional women who are working full-time in demanding jobs while raising young children. Additionally, although the percentage of women with advanced degrees who are not working is declining across cohorts, the percentage of non-working women who have an advanced degree is growing because the whole population is becoming more educated.

Did you get it? Of course the quasi-trend manufacture also helps. For some reason women tend to be the focus of a lot of them. "Educated women can't get married" is another which crops up at great frequency even when statistics don't support it. I'm sure you can think of others, once you figure out that the main point of them is to highlight the return to traditional gender roles.

Poor Haloscan

It appears to have died. I hope that is not true and that comments appear in short order, all hearty and hale.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Time To Move To The Center

That's the usual assumption about what happens after the presidential party primaries are over. The candidates stop courting their respective bases and start wooing the muddy middle of the so-called independent voters.

Thus, we should start seeing McCain sometimes sounding like a liberal (eek!) and Obama sometimes sounding like George Bush. We should. So far I have only seen Obama move to the right at a fairly good trot. Nothing corresponding appears to have happened to McCain.

The latest example of Obama's general election campaign shift is this:

Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans that would expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — support their ability to hire and fire based on faith.

That last sentence means that religious providers of various social services can discriminate in their hiring decisions and still get tax money perhaps paid into the system by the very people who couldn't get jobs with those providers. I'm not happy with this. Not happy at all, especially given the other religion posts I've written today.

Obama is thousand times better than McCain (who is now openly expressing his contempt for unions and minimum wages and such), make no mistake about that. But we need to keep reminding him of the issues which matter to us.

Church Within Church And Feminist Musings

No, it's not Opus Dei within the Catholic Church this time, but the suggestion in Britain to protect those Anglican ministers who don't want to serve under female bishops:

MORE than 1300 clergy, including 11 serving bishops, have written to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to say that they will defect from the Church of England if women are consecrated bishops.
As the wider Anglican Communion fragments over homosexuality, England's established church is moving towards its own crisis with a crucial vote on women bishops this weekend.

In a letter to Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, seen by The Times, the signatories give warning that they will consider leaving the Church if two crucial votes are passed to introduce female bishops.

The Church's moderate centre is being pressured as never before by evangelicals opposed to gays and traditionalists opposed to women's ordination.

The crisis is unprecedented since the Reformation devastated the Roman Catholic Church in England in the 16th century.

The General Synod, the Church's governing body, meets in York on Friday where clergy will decide whether legislation to consecrate women should be introduced, and whether it should have legal safeguards for traditionalists or a simple voluntary code to protect them.

The signatories to the letter - who represent 10 per cent of all practising clergy and hundreds of recently retired priests still active in the Church - will only accept women bishops if they have a legal right to separate havens within the Church.

I had to read the story to the very end to find this:

At the same time, 1276 women clergy, 1012 male clergy and 1916 lay church members who support women bishops signed a statement objecting to the prospect of "discriminatory" legislation to safeguard opponents.

It's more interesting to focus on those who are opposed to female bishops than those who are for them, even if the latter are more in numbers.

By the way, today seems to have become my "religion-hates-women" day, mainly because religion very often does exactly that. I love the Southern Baptist definition of spiritual equality between the sexes as something which absolutely exists (absolutely!), but which somehow has zero implications in the here-and-now world, the only one on which we can look for corroborating evidence. In that world the men are the bosses and there's no way of firing a bad boss.

It's such a masterful concept! Do those Southern Baptist guys ever fear that to actually get those spiritual equality scales even might mean a hereafter where the women rule over men? Looking at the secular rules those guys have a little heavenly affirmative action in the opposite direction would appear to be necessary.

The Anglican case is nowhere as bad. Women can no longer be ministers at all in the Southern Baptist Church. The Anglicans let them minister and are just arguing over their ability to be bishops. The difference is humongous, enormous and gigantic.

Still, consider this odd fact of life: If you read this blog long enough you will find many, many posts on the topic of biological gender differences, how they are studied and how they are popularized, and in those posts I often scream and thunder about the need to control for the cultural effects before trying to study biology. The studies I criticize hardly ever do so. They pretend that women are treated in a perfectly gentlemanly manner (or cave-manly manner) by all and sundry and that nothing at all stops women from running or invading countries, from being the Pope and so on. It's only their itty-bitty genes which make women coy and family-centered and uninterested in casual sex or being bishops.

So these posts on religion serve as a very good reminder that we are slowly clawing ourselves up from a deep, deep well of gender-based restrictions, limitations and oppression, and that the resistance from the rest of the culture is something women have always had to take into account in whatever choices they were left.

Don't Lift The Rocks

Creepy-crawlies will wiggle and wriggle out of there, just like those who left some of the comments on this article:

A Muskegon Heights mother who put poison in her baby's bottle is headed to prison.

Police say Shatara Jones, 19, put bleach and another cleaner in her child's bottles last February. She entered a guilty plea last month.

Today, the judge went above sentencing guidelines, ordering Jones to prison for 8 to 15 years.

Jones' one-year-old girl never drank the deadly mixture of milk and poison because the child's grandmother took the bottle away. The grandmother pleaded with the judge for a light sentence saying she called police, so her daughter could get help, not prison.

Some in the court cheered the judges' decision for a long prison sentence. Others said it was far too harsh.

It's not possible to tell from the story what Shatara Jones' mental condition might have been or if anyone bothered to look into it in the first place. Post-partum psychosis and depression come to mind as possible candidates. I also wonder if she actually planned to kill her child, given that she did all this in front of her mother who stopped her and called the police in order to get help for her daughter.

Of course what the daughter got was 8-15 years in prison.

Perhaps she deserved it. I cannot tell. But I wonder if she had gotten the same treatment had she been white and rich, or if she had indeed gotten the help she so obviously needs.

Whatever the justice of her sentence, I was thoroughly disgusted by most of the comments attached to the article. We humans really are like the vengeful god we invented.

More Southern Baptist "Old Boy" Religion

Wanna learn how wife-abuse is the fault of the abused wives themselves? It's really easy to prove if you are Bruce Ware, a Southern Baptist preacher:

"One reason that men abuse their wives is because women rebel against their husband's God-given authority."

and that,

"(W)omen desire to have their own way instead of submitting to their husbands because of sin."


"And husbands on their parts, because they're sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged–or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches,"

But of course abuse is one way for men to respond to such disobedient women. Of course.

I'm not sure how to even discuss something like this, to be quite honest. The Southern Baptist world view doesn't have many connections to my world view. For instance, I don't believe that men have a God-given right to rule over women. Neither can I understand how those with that view can blame the women if men fail to enforce that divinely ordained domination. Who was it again who is supposed to have the responsibilities of "leading" (as the religious fundies call bossing other people around)?

And what happens if the husband just likes to beat his wife and decides that the beatings are part of his God-given right to "lead"?

You might want to read more of Mr. Ware's thoughts on women, the evils of feminism and the need for women to voluntarily enslave themselves to the reproductive use of their husbands. For that is what he advocates, really.

Me, I think that anyone advocating such voluntarily enslavement based on nothing but gender is committing a sin themselves. But then I'm past redemption, most likely.

And yes, all this sounds very much like the radical Islamic view of the proper role of women.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Flea's Eye View To The Environment

I was thinking about this today while walking in an area where bugs were everywhere. So many articles view the environmental crisis we might be facing as something to do with how humans could best control it, and many of those articles have the hidden assumption that the humans are the bosses, that the earth is our property and that all we need to figure is how to make the earth do what we want it to do.

It might be a fair stance to take. But suppose, instead, that our situation is more like that of fleas living on a dog (say, a smart poodle), and that we, the fleas, are smart enough to understand that what we are doing to the dog (living off it) is something the dog would rather not experience. If we go overboard on our blood sucking activities, the dog will get sick and might even die. Or -- horror of horrors! -- IF there is an owner to this planetary dog, the owner might decide to give it a fleabath. With poisons.

This changes the way the problem of environmental degradation might be seen. First, we have to try to survive without killing the dog (earth) and that might mean that we have to control the population of fleas. Also, if we are really smart fleas we should figure out how to suck the blood with the least damage to the host.

Meanwhile, in Romania

An eleven-year old girl, allegedly pregnant from rape by her uncle, is allowed to have an abortion even though her pregnancy is past the fourteen week legal limit in her country:

At a meeting, a Romanian government committee member, Vlad Iliescu, read out an emotive letter from the girl.

"I want to go to school and to play. If I can't do this, my life will be a nightmare," the letter said.

Iliescu said a 21-week-old foetus would have a 1% chance of survival. He added that "the girl's mental health would be severely affected if she had a baby".

Members had discussed the options of allowing the girl to travel to Britain for a termination or ruling she must continue with her pregnancy.

The UK has one of the highest legal limits for abortion in Europe, at 24 weeks. A Romanian living in Britain offered to meet the abortion costs.

The girl's parents discovered she was pregnant earlier this month after they took her to a doctor because she appeared unwell.

She told doctors she had been raped by her uncle, who allegedly threatened her and has since disappeared.

There's something horrible about all this being discussed all over the world, actually. We should be discussing the uncle's alleged behavior and he's the one who should be in the court of world opinion, not this little girl.

You Know What's Funny to Bill Kristol? Misogyny

Watch this video to see a conversation about misogyny and sexism which reads very differently as a transcript than the way it sounds. Kristol is making fun of misogyny. Pay attention to his face and the face of the interviewer.

The guys are smirking all through it. Smirking, note.

What about the meat in that sexism-is-funny sandwich? The bit about the Republicans not being as misogynist as the Democrats:

Summary: On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol, who previously declared that "[w]hite women are a problem ... we all live with that," stated of Sen. Hillary Clinton: "She's put behind her the horrible sexism and misogyny the Democratic primary voters demonstrated, which I'm appalled by, personally. Never would have happened in the Republican Party. You know, we're -- Republicans are much more open to strong women."

Much more open to strong women? Are they indeed? And who is it who has loved to hate Hillary Clinton for the last twenty years or so? It's the wingnut wing of the Republican Party, that's who, and even in the recent primaries the most viciously sexist comments came from right-wing talk show hosts and pundits.

Much more open to strong women? Like in the sense of wanting women to shut up and not to have the right to take discriminating employers to court? Like in the sense of wanting women not to have rights over their own bodies? Or like in opposing every single attempt to let American women have maternity leaves. Sigh.

Sure, the Republicans like a few token women, as long as those token women hate women, too. Ann Coulter comes to mind. A woman, sure, but one who thinks that it was a big mistake to let women have the right to vote. The other ones I can think of (Dr. Laura or the gals of the Independent Women's Forum) are all similary against women's rights. What's the latest book on these topics from the wingnuts? Something like Save the Males. Nuff said.

But the whole question of what makes a woman "strong" in the mind of guys like Kristol is fascinating, and it might well be worth our while to poke that one around a little.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Our Finer Feelings (by Phila)

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that it's unconstitutional to execute people who rape children, I've heard and read a lot of gloating over the notion that these rapists will simply end up getting beaten to death by their fellow inmates. It's one of the few things the average American "knows" about incarcerated criminals: they tend to hate child molesters, and will beat and kill them when they can. "Prison justice," they call it, with a faint hint of envy.

The lack of mercy shown by the unmerciful on these occasions is supposed to tell us something about how abysmally low child molesters rate on the moral scale. But I've always suspected that it tells us a lot more about how easily people find things to feel self-righteous about, no matter what they themselves may be guilty of.

You can gun down a child's father in a liquor store robbery. Or beat a child's mother into a coma while raping her. Or vote against childhood healthcare services in your capacity as a member of Congress. Or cheer and wave the flag as a foreign city is bombed. But as long as you hate -- really, really hate -- child rapists, you can flatter yourself that you're on the side of the angels. No matter what you might've done to children through inattention or neglect, or for money -- no matter what you might still be doing -- you aren't as bad as you could be, as long as you can get yourself into a murderous rage over someone else's sexual abuse of a child.

Behind all the sentimental handwringing over the helplessness and innocence of children there's an unspoken assumption that there are better targets for exploitation and abuse and rape and murder. The shadow image of the innocent child who doesn't deserve to be raped is the guilty woman who does, because she wore the wrong clothes or stayed out too late.

We idolize the state of unknowing we call "innocence"...and punish young people for making "bad choices," even when they're a logical result of the ignorance we thrust upon them as a moral ideal. It makes no sense, but who cares? Child-rape cries out for the death penalty specifically because of the lasting psychological damage it inflicts on children...but an adult criminal who was raped as a child deserves no mercy. It's logically indefensible, but so what? Representing children as quasi-angelic messengers of goodness and purity makes them more attractive targets for rapists, and promising these rapists the death penalty in advance gives them no incentive to stop short of murdering their victims. It's dangerous and dumb, but what of it? If it feels good, do it!

McCain and Obama have both denounced the SCOTUS ruling; they agree, as serious men must, that such a "heinous crime" deserves the ultimate punishment. If either man is obliged to drop bombs on children in some other country -- Iraq, let's say -- he'll have no problem being accepted in polite society, though a few hysterics like myself may question whether it really is more "heinous" to rape one child than to mutilate hundreds or thousands with shrapnel.

It all comes down to one's intentions, I guess. The fact that we can overcome our natural abhorrence of hurting children long enough to destroy entire city blocks, regardless of how many children live in them, suggests that our intentions are basically good. Why else would we make such a superhuman effort to put aside our finer feelings?

The fact that we hate people who rape children -- really, really, really hate them, a lot! -- clinches the deal. And if anyone doubts our sincerity, or accuses us of using hackneyed and contradictory abstractions to ennoble or excuse our own everyday brutality, we can always point out that even the most hardened criminals know there's nothing worse than raping a child. QED!

If it were up to me, raping a 20-year-old would seem just as "sick" as raping an eight-year-old, and all the idolaters of innocence, and the self-appointed assessors of other people's "choices," and the people who hold up children as human shields against the justified criticism of policies that are essentially anti-human, would have to fold up their tents and seek honest work.

In the meantime, if children really are so precious that to abuse them, or injure them, or blight their lives is a crime that cries out for merciless punishment, so much the worse for all of us.

Second Best (by Phila)

Samuel Staley of the Reason Foundation has some advice for mass-transit advocates:
Transit’s long-term viability will depend on its ability to provide a reliable, superior alternative to its competition, not a “second best” alternative that consumers choose when they can’t afford their first choice (e.g., the automobile).
This strikes me as odd reasoning. If people increasingly can't afford to drive, being perceived as the second-best transportation option doesn't seem like such a bad thing, from a business perspective. Staley assumes that consumer preference will have a stronger long-term effect on transportation choices than the affordability of owning and operating a car; you don't have to be an "alarmist" to wonder whether this is really the case. (Nor do you have to be a communist to wonder whether Staley has any real interest in people for whom riding mass transit is not a choice, but a necessity.)

I'm old-fashioned enough to subscribe, more or less, to Guy Debord's view that the car is not "essentially a means of transportation," so much as "the most notable material symbol of the notion of happiness." To the extent that this is accurate, comparing a car to a bus or a train is somewhat misleading; much of what a car offers consumers is symbolic or otherwise nonessential, and much of this "value" may evaporate as gas prices rise (cf. the recent decline of cruising, which Atrios brings up).

That's a relatively theoretical objection, though. My real disagreement with Staley is a bit more concrete:
What transit cannot do is depend on high gas prices to make us worse off financially in order to push us out of our cars and onto buses and trains. Nor should transit advocates use public policy to purposely degrade the quality of transportation alternatives such as the car to tip the scales unfairly in transit’s favor.
Of course, public policy routinely degrades the quality of mass transit to tip the scales in favor of cars, and has for decades. Indeed, that's one of the reasons Staley can describe mass transit in generally negative terms. But this type of planning doesn't bother Staley, it seems; it's simply the natural order of things, and so obvious as to be invisible. (Elsewhere, Staley complains that "transit lost its way more than four decades ago when it largely ignored the needs and desires of a wealthier and more mobile middle class." For some reason, I'm picturing segregated, bulletproof buses that offer door-to-door service.)

Anyway, mass transit needs to improve to be viable...but that improvement apparently can't inconvenience drivers, or be justified by reference to higher gas prices. It's almost as though the cards are stacked in favor of auto dependency. To quote Debord again, "those who believe that the particulars of the problem are permanent want in fact to believe in the permanence of the present society."