Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Ordinary Dinner Party (by Phila)

Fancy Water Markets (by Phila)

Anyone who follows the climate change debate knows that it's common for hack journalists and inactivists to weigh the negative effects of rising seas on New York City, Tokyo, and Bangladesh against the positive effects of warmer temperatures on Greenland. It's possible that a few million people here or there may be displaced, the argument goes, but these refugees can at least be fed on fresh vegetables from the Arctic Circle. Things may get a little worse in Nyala, but they'll get a little better in Nuuk, and who can say that this is not for the best in this best of all possible worlds?

Greenland's officials have been more than happy to play this game, and can usually be relied on for rather sociopathic quotes about the "benefits" of global warming to that country's 58,000 citizens. We may not ordinarily pay much heed to their complaints about cold weather -- no one asked them to live there, after all -- but expecting them to forgo economic opportunity amounts to a sin against the holy spirit. We may not quite accept the physical connection between human activity and climate, or between Greenland's climate and America's, but the ideological connection between Greenland's unbridled growth and our own is perfectly clear, and makes their struggle ours.

Apropos of which, Joseph Romm notes that Greenland's melting glaciers comprise a lot of fresh water that could easily be sold to "fancy water markets" around the world. Currently, the government is planning to drill into its icebergs; however, Romm points out that Greenland's ice melt is "enough to supply the city of Los Angeles with fresh water for more than 50 years." At a couple of dollars a bottle, that's more than enough to put Greenland on the map! Better yet, this water has been frozen for thousands of years, which means it has fewer pollutants and will allow people who buy it to feel a deeper connection with pure, unspoiled Nature.

One potential boom market could be Appalachia, where the government is preparing to scrap the rules that forbid mining companies from dumping waste into streams:
On Friday, the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) released its assessment of stream buffer zones - basically giving mining companies the environmental green light to dump mining waste in or near streams.

For years the OSM has failed to enforce the Stream Buffer Zone Rule, which prevents mining within 100 feet of streams, in communities across Appalachia. So instead of enforcing the current law, the OSM decided to just get rid of it - saying this is best possible protection for the environment.
Better yet, it could help Greenland cash in on the fancy water market! And if they're happy, then we're potentially happy, at the very least.

If you have no qualms about standing in the way of progress, you might want to contact the EPA and ask them not to repeal the Stream Buffer Zone rule. You may also want to consider whether John McCain's pathetically low rating from the League of Conservation Voters is relevant to any of these issues.

Vote. EARLY.

Justify FullYou've seen the bumper stickers, you've heard your friends wax self-righteous that they've already done it. Now it's your turn: Vote, dangit.

Ten days to go, and here's why you want to vote now. Not tomorrow, not next week, and definitely not on election day.

I sat in on a meeting a few days ago for partisan volunteers who are aiming to work the precincts on election day. It was an interesting talk, from a strategy perspective. The on-the-ground democratic strategizers are predicting - assuming, preparing for - regular and systematic challenges to every voter with any iota of irregularity worth challenging in any precinct that has traditionally leaned blue. A misspelling of a long ethnic name, a discrepancy between "street" and "avenue" on your drivers license, a typo that transposes a couple of numbers in the address on your voter registration card. If you live in a heavily democratic zone, expect there to be any guff that can be cooked up over your right to vote. It may not happen, this may be a regional over-reaction to national scrapping between the big guns, but after Florida circa 2000? I'm not gonna call it conspiracy theory; the democratic brass aren't calling it that either.

In historically democratic precincts, it won't just be about throwing individuals off the rolls - that's small potatoes. The real goods are in a different goal: slowing down the lines at the polls until people by the handful or the dozen or the hundred get bored, cold, or compelled to go back to work/pick up their kids from daycare/return to the demands of their lives before they reach the front of the line to cast their vote in those blue-hued precincts. Even if your personal data line up like the moon in the seventh house, the time will be taken - if you are in those precincts - to inspect your credentials. Slowly. Carefully. Painstakingly. Just, ya know, to make sure you're legit. While someone in line behind you considers if they can really wait another five minutes before their kid's daycare closes, or their afternoon shift starts, or that chill in the November air turns out to be too much for their elderly lungs.

It is difficult to face this head on right there on election day. It's an effective strategy, one that is easily wrapped in the patriotic flag of protecting the integrity of the vote - wouldn't want all the Mickey Mouses that ACORN registered (that surely slid right through the voter verification process, natch) to actually cast any of those fraudulent votes, you know.

But there is a counter-strategy, and this is it: vote early before the deadline grows short on those long lines. Maybe you'll be that person who will leave the line if you have to wait more than half an hour that day; make your vote count by going to vote this weekend or some day between when you don't have that pressure on you. Maybe you will have all day and then some to wait in line on November 4th: doesn't matter, your presence in line that day will make the line incrementally that much longer, and you may be the straw in the camel's back that causes another voter to leave because the line is just too long.

No one who has the ability and the wherewithal to vote before November 4th should be taking a space in line that day.

Especially not in historically democratic precincts. Especially not with the stakes so high, and the potential so overwhelming for shifting not only the presidency, but the House, the Senate, and a whole raft of local races toward a more tolerant, peaceable, and progressive future.

Now, I know, not every state has early voting. So you can preemptively excuse yourself from my brow-beating if you are from Maryland, Rhode Island, or Washington (Oregonians: hats off to you for running another 100% mail-in/drop-off election - a great end-run around this kind of meddling in the rights of working people to cast their votes).

And if you are one of those people who have the time to take off a half day, or even a whole day? Consider hiking your own bad ass down to your local democratic headquarters this weekend to see if they are recruiting volunteers to work on election day. In my region, the main block of volunteers will not be used to defend vote challenges or get tangled up in arguments over whose driver's license is legit, but will be outside on the lines in target precincts bringing warm beverages, bottled water, snacks, chairs, coats, whatever might be needed to keep every voter from leaving that line before they have cast their vote. Even if you drop your ballot for a Green or an independent candidate, you can bet that protecting voter rights in democratic districts where the republicans will be targeting their voter challenges will be a likely way to protect the other independent-minded voters among us. It's a chance to participate in democracy in a larger way than just hanging your chad and moving along; you might even meet some interesting folk.

And if you can't afford to spend election day at the polls, even better reason: Vote. Now.

A Post For Us, We Who Dodged Out of Pep Rallies by Anthony McCarthy

Organized games are something I just don’t get at all. A form of entertainment in which 100% of the players and fans are hoping that 50% of the players will not do well and so 50% of the fans will be unhappy, it just doesn’t make sense to me. What’s there to be happy about? The unhappiness of the opposing players and fans? If it was the skill and pluck of the players that made people happy, wouldn’t it be set up so the criteria for achieving pleasure allowed all of the players to succeed to the best of their ability? I’ve never understood how, for example, the absurdly named World Series could come out with one of two superbly skilled teams being complete losers. Isn’t the losing side comprised of excellent athletes as well?

When you go to a concert or other performance in the arts, you hope everyone does well and the entire audience is edified by the results, unless you’re a creepy, cynical critic with ulterior motives. Why do they go to the performance to begin with, you have to wonder. Maybe their perverse pleasure delivers the same flavor of gratification that the winning side gets from contemplating the pain of the losers in sports.

Yes, I know it will be said that analysis is ‘thinking too much about it’. But, isn’t it accurate? I'm going to continue this analysis from my personal experience and observation. Having gone to school before Title Nine, it is an analysis of the antiquated culture. I don't know how the greater participation of girls and women in sports has changed things, I rely on readers to fill that in.

Apart from the violence and injury that seems to be an intrinsic part of much of it, the thing I most resent about organized sports is the phony moral value attached to athletic competition. Since shortly after the age of six, I’ve resented that I’m “supposed to like it”. That was a constant expectation of adults during childhood, it was taken for granted that “kids like sports” when it’s clear that many don’t. Refusal to go along with that enforced regime of false enthusiasm carried opprobrium as well as dumfounded astonishment. As Foghorn Leghorn put it, “There’s somethin’ just ‘yeeesh’ about a boy doesn’t play baseball’*. And, for a boy back in those days, it also carried threats of violence, especially if you were unlucky enough to have a school involved in some stupid championship. I especially hated the mandatory pep rallies and the risk involved in illegally skipping out of those.

The bromide “sports builds character” was a patent lie. The nice kids who played sports started out nice, the thugs would have been thugs if they’d never put on a team uniform. And there were cases when a kid who used to be nice took a turn for the worse, clearly as a result of taking up a team sport. No one got their character built, though egos and the kind of pack mentality that being part of an approved clique certainly brought out the worst in a lot of them. Maybe you could say that it was bad character that sports built up. The jocks I went to school with, sometimes benefitted in later life from their reputations gained from playing sports in school, sometimes to the detriment of their employers and their customers. The nice guys sometimes didn’t finish ahead but they generally remained nice guys.

The association of sports and traditional “christian” morality is a real hoot. Jocks are just so famous for their chastity, their respect for the dignity of women, and their sobriety, aren’t they. That obviously mendacious identification of “christian” morality also is made with the military, the association of which, with sports, would add about another thousand words to this post so I’ll leave that to you.

As for health, forty years after, from what I’ve seen, it’s often the jocks who are the most overweight and have bad knees, backs and hips. For some reason gluttony for “manly food” and beer seems to be a constant feature of sports culture.

The identification of sports with schools is entirely unfortunate, there is the already mentioned crypto-fascism of “school spirit” but the mania for school sports also brings other problems. Many of the principalis and, especially, vice-principals in the schools I’m familiar with seem to have little apart from their having been sports coaches to qualify them. There have been teachers hired outside of their college majors based on their coaching qualifications. One basketball coach in our highschool majored in business, was hired to teach biology to vocational students** and went on to teach history, also to vocational students who generally get the educational short stick. He was the tallest and one of the most incompetent teacher in the place. And he wasn’t a very good coach as it turned out. He’s a vice principal now.

Well, some of us never give in to the pressure and once liberated from that form of penal servitude we are happily free to ignore sports in most, though not all instances. I couldn’t care less about any of it, except for when some sector of the sports industry tires to extort tax money from a public denied the most basic services it has a right to expect. I don’t dislike people just for their being involved in professional sports and am glad to find out there are some of them who are fine people. Though I’m never, ever surprised to hear some sports star endorse a Republican.

* What there really is, is something cruel and sick about adults who continue and encourage that school age pecking order behavior against children down to ages you can count on one hand. There isn’t anything more despicable than an adult who does that, some of them employed as teachers. The ones who do that are generally built by sports and sports fandom.

** Vocational track students are often the victims of the least competent teachers in a school. People who often go on to work growing and handling food and caring for young children and sick people would seem to need better biology teachers than people who are going to major in English or history or financial piracy.

Update: Just remembered, Ruth Moore, the finest writer my state has yet produced, in my opinion, gave the about best account of what this was like in her novel The Walk Down Maine Street.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Some Joy For Your Friday

I found this video at hecate's blog. It's by Duirwaigh and called "Heavens Rejoice."

Friday sunflower blogging (by Suzie)

David Lubin, M.D., took this photo, which I've also posted at the Sarcoma Alliance blog because the sunflower is our symbol.  

Washed out (by Suzie)


        I’ve never liked the labels “second wave” and “third wave” because they are so ill-defined.
        Some describe the first wave as the early 1900s, culminating in the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. If that’s the case, how do we characterize the suffragists of the 1800s? Others see the first wave as stretching from the first women’s rights convention in 1848 until 1920. But this period contained multiple generations. Activism rose and fell and changed course several times.
          Echidne wrote recently (sorry, I can't remember from which comment thread I lifted this): 
I'd say that the First Wave was mostly aimed at women's political participation rights and the Second Wave mostly at women's rights to participate in the labor market and women's reproductive rights.
This is oversimplified, because all waves contain lots of different goals and lots of different campaigns, but in hindsight the two waves succeeded in those aspects the most.
          I think that’s a good description, but note that laws were changed to let married women own property, including their earnings, during the 1800s. Although not a matter of laws, many occupations also began to open up to women during the first wave.
         The second wave generally refers to the activism of the 1960s and ’70s (although Wikipedia includes the '80s.) Describing the first and second waves as time periods is easier because few women active in the early 1900s remained so in the 1960s. Such a division is more difficult with the third wave because it overlaps with the second. 
         If we classify feminists by age, what do we say about one who has been active from the 1960s until now? If a 60-year-old woman becomes a feminist today and embraces the latest theories, how does she get categorized? Using age as a criteria would lock older women into the second wave, no matter how their views and activism have changed. Philosopher Judith Butler would be dumped into the second wave, while Sarah Palin could claim the third wave. (For the purposes of this post, I’m not arguing who deserves to call themselves a feminist.) Does the third wave lump together women in their 40s with teens?  
         Chilla Bulbeck questions universalizing by age:
The third waver privileges the commonality of age over all other aspects of her complex and contradictory identity. … She is torn between a desire to deconstruct an essentialised feminist "we" and the political need to confirm common bonds.
         Some see third-wave women as bonded through experiences, especially growing up with feminist mothers in a time that accepts, at least superficially, the idea that women should have equal rights. But what about women who grow up in towns or countries where feminism isn't the norm?
        If it's difficult to define third-wavers by age or experience, what about issues? Bulbeck writes that feminism shifted its focus from economic and political issues to culture and sexuality in the third wave. But she notes the discrepancies in that theory. For example, the first project of Rebecca Walker’s Third Wave Direct Action Corporation was Freedom Ride 1992, a bus tour to register voters in poor communities of color.
        The second wave can claim enormous influence on culture. Think of the rise of feminist artists, authors and musicians. Nor do younger feminists have a lock on sex. The first wave had Victoria Woodhull and ideas of “free love” in the 1800s, and the second wave brought the sexual revolution and “pro-sex” feminists, such as Betty Dodson.
          Cathryn Bailey writes:
It should be emphasized again that second wave feminism is regarded as a definable phenomenon, as embodying a more or less coherent set of values and ideas which can be recognized and then transcended. Yet even a cursory look at the literature of the feminism of the 1970s and 1980s undermines this assumption. Introductory feminist texts, for example, have long struggled to gather coherently the myriad theoretical perspectives from which feminists have approached problems. Such perspectives have been described, for instance, as Radical Feminism, Liberal Feminism, Marxist Feminism, Womanism, Lesbian Feminism, and so on. The fact that there is no one feminism has been apparent for some time.
          Wikipedia says the third wave encompasses virtually every leftish political theory since the 1980s. If so, someone needs to pass out cheat sheets because I guarantee not everyone who identifies with the third wave can rattle off the definition of post-structuralism or queer theory, for example. 
          Nevertheless, some third-wavers do suggest that feminism = fighting all oppressions, as I mentioned in this post. See also the Third Wave Foundation and the link above for Rebecca Walker. No feminist could argue against her organization's first project,  registering poor people of color to vote. But ... what if the newly registered people vote against gay rights, for example? In my state, there's some concern that a higher black turnout in this election might mean we get stuck with a constitutional amendment barring same-sex unions. The world is frustrating in its complexity. Not everyone sees the same oppressions or the same solutions. 
        Many have described the second and third waves as a mother-daughter split. Does that mean that every generation gets its own wave? Or, that there will be no conflict between third-wave mothers and their daughters? 
An ethical negotiation of the relationship between generations requires us to recognize and resist the vicious circle of contempt.
          That quote comes from Madelyn Detloff, who also notes that, in academics, “one’s work must be ‘original,’ meaning that it must present the appearance of newness, which is often achieved by attacking the old.” This goes beyond universities. People must claim new ideas, if not new identities, to attract members and money to their organizations, sell books or attract the media. Thus, women who want to make their mark may feel the need to set themselves apart from the women who went before, and older women may welcome younger voices who can make their enterprises look hip, new and attractive.
         There has been discussion here and elsewhere about a fourth wave. There's even a blog by that name. I think I'd rather work issue by issue, cobbling together whatever coalition I can. "Feminist" is enough of a label for me. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Talking About Blasphemy...

This news item from Afghanistan fits rather well with the discussion in my yesterday's post about women and religion. In that I pointed out the enormous difficulties in debating women's rights with fundamentalists of any stripe. This is the sort of thing that can happen when things get very nasty:

An Afghan appeals court overturned a death sentence Tuesday for a journalism student accused of blasphemy for asking questions in class about women's rights under Islam. But the judges still sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

The case against 24-year-old Parwez Kambakhsh, whose brother has angered Afghan warlords with his own writing, has come to symbolize Afghanistan's slide toward an ultraconservative view on religious and individual freedoms.

"I don't accept the court's decision," Kambakhsh told The Associated Press as he was leaving the courtroom. "It is an unfair decision."

The case can be appealed to the Supreme Court, the highest court in Afghanistan.

As the linked article points out, Kambakhsh may have been harassed because of his brother's actions. Nevertheless, the lesson to be learned from this court case inside Afghanistan is a fairly obvious one.

By the way, didn't we liberate the women in Afghanistan? I distinctly remember something about that.

I Laughed And Laughed

Until I cried. Because this really is the most hilarious thing I have read recently:

Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said Thursday that the current financial crisis had uncovered a flaw in how the free market system works and that had shocked him.

Mr. Greenspan told the House Oversight Committee on Thursday that his belief that banks would be more prudent in their lending practices because of the need to protect their stockholders had proven in the latest crisis to be wrong.

Mr. Greenspan said he had made a "mistake" in believing that banks in operating in their self-interest would be sufficient to protect their shareholders and the equity in their institutions.

Mr. Greenspan said that he had found "a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works."

And this is the guy the Congress critters called "the Oracle"? Bwahahah!

Maybe this is funny only to economists.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

3. Our Father Who Art In Heaven

This is the third post in my series about the simple reasons why I became a feminist and why feminism is still needed. The first one was about the right to go out and the second one about the invisibility of women as human beings. This one is about religion. About gods. About guy gods.

First the first required statement: There are female-centered religions, such as some forms of Wicca, and there are goddesses in many other religions, too, most notably Hinduism. But Christianity is a guy religion. Islam is a guy religion. Judaism is a guy religion. Even Buddhism is less than equal in its treatment of women and Taoism has branches which explicitly interpret the yin energy (or the "female" energy) as inferior to the yang energy (or the "male" energy). And the boss god in Hinduism is male. Most women in this world worship male gods.

Then the second required statement: Yes, the treatment of women in some of those guy religions has greatly improved. We can now have female ministers in Christianity (though not in Catholicism) and female rabbis in Judaism (though not in most Orthodox synagogues). As far as I know there are no female mullahs in Islam.

And yes, many modern believers don't view their god as male any longer. But most of the holy writings of Christianity, Islam and Judaism do.

Then the third required statement: All I write about religion in this post is based on a sociological view of religion, or the idea that "man created God in his own image." I'm not going to present my theological views here (though you may notice that I myself am the goddess of snakes, so there).

Remember the alien from outer space I pretend to be for the purposes of this series? Suppose that I have just arrived on earth and am eager to learn about the human religions. A kind earthling has given me the names of the possible members of a nuclear family: father, mother, daughter and son, and one such nuclear family takes me to their church on a lovely autumn Sunday. While in that church I learn that the family worships the Father and the Son. I also learn that it does not worship the mother or the daughter. This I, the alien, find rather informative and shocking.

But my nuclear family hosts don't see any of this. For them the idea of a patriarchal religion is natural and normal. Even the word "priestess" must refer to some ancient magical superstition, something that all good believers have forsaken.

This example is taken from Christianity, but similar examples apply to all the major guy religions. As Rita Mae Brown once stated: "If God is He then "he" is God."

Why would any of this matter for a feminist? Aren't we (in this country, at least) free to choose our religion or to have none at all? Why not just dance wildly in a Wiccan circle for the goddess and let other people believe what they will?

That would be very nice. But reality has the unfortunate effect of forcing other people's religious beliefs on us, beginning from the day we are born. A girl born into a fundamentalist Christian, Jewish or Muslim family will not be brought up to Wiccan beliefs. She will be brought up to believe that her role is to submit.

And being born into a non-fundamentalist family is not going to keep a woman safe from the patriarchal religious beliefs. Those beliefs fuel much warfare, they fuel the traditional cultures of many countries. They fuel the killings of women who dare to go out in Afghanistan. They fuel some political movements in this country. They fuel.

For all these reasons our inquiring alien wants to learn more about patriarchal religions. What it finds is that not only are gods mostly male but that the organizations which worship them are also mostly male. It is as if women can worship only from a great distance, only through intermediaries. It is as if contact with women can pollute the gods themselves. (Well, the alien is a fanciful one and likes poetic terms.)

It also finds that most holy writings contain scattered statements about the inferiority of women, presumably straight out of the mouth of a guy god, and separate sets of rules for women, over and above the rules that are given for "everyone." These rules, astonishingly, tend not to be about the women's relation to the god but about the women's relations to men. In that sense they are not religious rules but political or sociological rules, guaranteed to keep women in submission not to god but to men.

Finally, our visiting alien (being a brave one) goes out to debate religion with a bunch of fundamentalists from different religions. Poor, poor alien. It finds out what happens to anyone who starts debating religion with a fundamentalist: This cannot be done, because a literal fundamentalist believes that everything written in his or her holy book has come straight from the mouth of a living god. To debate anything in those books is blasphemy, because you are debating God.

Poor alien. It is stuck in this theological trap. Stuck like a fly in flypaper. But notice how cleverly this trap works against anything feminist? If God Himself has decreed that women should submit to men who are lowly women to say otherwise?
For a much shorter summary of this post, just reverse the situation and imagine an earth where almost every important deity is female, where all the major monotheistic religions worship the Mother and where the Christians also pay homage to the Daughter. How would all that look, sound, smell and feel to male human beings?

Clothes Horses

Apparently the clothes of the Palin family have cost the RNC more than $150,000 this campaign season. That's a lot of money, of course, a lot, but then the RNC is dressing a family of seven for public appearances. This still comes to more than $20,000 per head, assuming that the money was divided equally between all family members' clothes.

Most of it is probably spent on Sarah Palin's wardrobe. It's possible to view this little item from two different angles, one being the usual one which points out that large amounts of money have been spent on her clothes. She's a clothes horse! Also, the money spent seems exorbitantly high and such uses of donors' money questionable.

The other angle that opens up for us is to think about the likely clothes costs of male and female politicians. If I was running for a nationwide political office in this country, what would I need to wear? My usual scales would be totally insufficient and so would my old dog-walking or house painting outfits. I'd need to wear suits, with all the accessories to those. OK. So do men need to wear suits, too.

But here's the difference: We don't expect male politicians to wear a different suit every time they are photographed. We pretty much do expect female politicians to do just that, and the suits must be different enough from each other to photograph as "different." That means not just quite a few suits but also matching shoes, tops, bags and so on. All that adds up to a lot more than, say, five dark suits for a guy with the shirts and ties to match. You can probably get away with just a few pairs of shoes, too.

This rule is not a rigid one. I think it would be possible for a woman politician to campaign in just a handful of dark suits, just like the men do. But she'd be taken to task on all those fashion pages for her poor fashion sense. Someone would write an article about her boring suits. Someone else would ask if she's denying her essential femininity in the way she dresses or if she really would like to be a guy.

The hair and the face. That's where the real cost differences open up, because a male hairstyle on a woman is certainly interpreted as "political," and the female hairstyles cost a lot more in upkeep. Make-up can cost almost as much as you wish to sink into your face.

I wonder if anyone has done a study of the clothing costs of politicians. You know, the kind of "basic package" needed to start campaigning. My guess is that the cost of such a basic package is higher for women than for men.

Oh, I almost forgot. There's a third angle to this study, too, and that is to look at other types of candidate expenses. Things like dining out and such. Might be well worth doing, for those who need to know where the money goes.

Rachel Speaks.

This is very enjoyable:

Isn't it weird how the opportunity of seeing two women running-while-female in politics has taught us so much about the horrors of liberal feminism but approximately nothing about the very lively state of sexism in this country?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Sneaky Traps We Set

You have probably seen this video of Michelle Bachmann wondering about the anti-Americanism of Barack Obama and liberals in general while being interviewed by Chris Matthews on Hardball. Bachmann suggests that the press should research all Congress critters to find out which of them are anti-American. Mmm.

Bachmann's statements haven't exactly helped her (though they have done wonders for her political opponent), so it's not that hard to understand that she saw the interview from the point of view of a poor rabbit or deer which accidentally stepped into a horrible trap:

In a talk to the Rotary Club of St. Cloud Tuesday, Bachmann said that she made a mistake appearing on Matthews' show, which she said she was unfamiliar with.

"I had never seen his show before," she said. "I probably should have taken a look at what the show was like. A trap was laid and I stepped into it."

While Bachmann told the luncheon crowd of 100 that she didn't question Obama's patriotism, she added: "I'm very concerned about Barack Obama's views. I don't believe that socialism is a good thing for America."

Very funny. Except that the trap consisted of Matthews asking her a question. Which she then answered and went on answering. So it wasn't an awful trap which snapped around her foot, it was her mouth.
Star Tribune link thanks to AndyMN.

Sign Up Here For The Liberal Feminist Agenda For America!

This video of McCain talking about the liberal feminist agenda is delicious (via Feministing):

So McCain's conversion to feminism didn't last very long, eh? Too bad.

I loved that phrase "the liberal feminist agenda for America"! It makes me feel so powerful and dangerous. What ever might I do when I get to rule this country?

Well, first all men must wear high heels and purple eye shadow, of course, because feminazi is really code for "effeminaze"! Then I shall decree padded codpieces, because we can't allow that floating to distract hard-working women in public places. Or depending on how I feel when I wake up in the morning (in the White House, natch) I might decree that men must wear nothing but their underpants!

I can hardly wait for the time when I and my sisters will be the overladies of this land.

Taxation Without Representation

There's a silly argument going around about taxes and especially about Obama's promise to cut taxes for 95% of working families. Hilzoy gives a good summary of the issues:

Cliff May at The Corner quotes Kimberley Strassel:

"To kick off our show tonight, Mr. Obama will give 95% of American working families a tax cut, even though 40% of Americans today don't pay income taxes! How can our star enact such mathemagic? How can he "cut" zero? Abracadabra! It's called a "refundable tax credit." It involves the federal government taking money from those who do pay taxes, and writing checks to those who don't. Yes, yes, in the real world this is known as "welfare," but please try not to ruin the show."

It is a silly argument, because what Obama's election promise (always to be remembered as an election promise) talks about is something to do with "working families", not with "all Americans." Lots of Americans are children, for one thing, and "families" often contain more than one person and some of those other members of the family are not actually paying income tax even though the family on the whole is. In short, "American working families" is a different counting concept than "Americans." They are both pretty fuzzy concepts, though, when it comes to defining who pays taxes in this country.

More generally, Americans pay all sorts of taxes, not just the federal income tax. There are payroll taxes, property taxes, estate taxes, sales taxes and so on.

The argument is silly not only for those reasons, but also because presidential candidates always promise the moon, on platter with parsley nicely next to it, and we know this. McCain's campaign promises have a small mathematics problem, too. Or rather, not so small a problem.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fareed Zakaria Endorses Obama

Interesting. The end of his piece is very touching:

This is the case for Obama on substance, which is the most important criterion. But symbolism is also a powerful force in human affairs. Imagine what people around the world would think if they saw America once again inventing the future. And imagine how Americans would feel if they saw their country once again fulfilling its founding creed of equal opportunity, if they saw that there really were no barriers in their country, not even to the highest office in the land, not even for a man with a brown face and a strange name.

I admit to a personal interest. I have a 9-year-old son named Omar. I firmly believe that he will be able to do absolutely anything he wants in this country when he grows up. But I admit that I will feel more confident about his future if a man named Barack Obama became president of the United States.

Zakaria's biography tells us this:

He received a B.A. from Yale and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard. He lives in New York City with his wife, son and two daughters.

2. The Planet Of The Guys. Oh, With Gals, Too, Naturally.

This is the second post in my series about the very simple and basic reasons why I became a feminist and why I still see lots of work for feminism. You can read the first post here. There will be more posts and they are not in any particular ranking by value of importance.

This series differs from my usual writing style. I'm trying to let the immediate response come through and to use other parts of my mind and memory more than the analytical machine I mostly employ. I'm trying to view this planet from the outside, to ask questions about the taste of the water we drink and the color of the air we breathe. This is hard to do, because each and everyone of us is immersed in the systems in which we live and we don't see them as systems. Please remember that, especially if you start feeling that I'm accusing individual men or women of what I discuss here.

Let us begin by looking at two photographs of powerful people from the Western world:

Never mind that the top picture shows George Bush signing an anti-abortion bill and never mind that I could have found pictures with powerful women included. Instead, ask yourself how you would view pictures like this if every single person in them was female?

You would view them as pictures of women. But unless you are forewarned (as you are in this post) you might very easily regard the above pictures as just pictures of human beings (well, as almost-all-white, middle-aged powerful people). Being male is the default value for the category "human."

Now consider the following two pictures. These are fairly iconic ones and we all know what they are intended to convey:

Great moments in the history of man, right? Now do this thought experiment: Change the sex of the people in the pictures and ask yourself if you still see them as reflecting all humankind.

Didn't we do this crap once before, some of you might ask. We now carefully write "he or she" (though hardly ever "she or he") and the conservatives whine about how the Second Wave feminists broke the language and took away their freedoms to insult, too. Isn't all this an old topic not worthy of attention?

I once thought that all that identifying "man" with "man" was over, but my years on the Internet have taken away that illusion. This planet is still very much the planet of the guys (though not the planet of ALL the guys or guys of all races) in the sense that we might very well imagine an alien from outer space writing home about the "citizens of Earth and their wives," especially if that alien had spent too much time reading evolutionary psychology or following the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaigns.

Here is my artistic summary of the way we view human beings. The top picture is how we DON'T view human beings. The bottom picture is how we DO view human beings:

Neat, huh? The artwork, I mean. The rest is not so great. Try a few thought experiments, though, and you will see that I got the picture right. This explains why "gender" seems to be something only women have (just check the bottom graph) and why all gender-related problems appear to be women's problems. The other things which are correlated with gender but not necessarily to women's disadvantage (such as violence) are seen as human problems.

The graph also explains why I have had such difficulty debating certain issues during the Democratic primaries. I was using the top graph as the frame in my mind while the person I was debating was using the bottom graph. In that graph men's issues are always human issues, whereas women's issues are not. Bringing up an issue that applies to women is seen as asking for special rights and special considerations which other people don't get.

An alien from outer space might not observe all this but such an alien would certainly observe the predominance of men in our cultural discourse. The alien might also notice that it's not gender alone which defines who is seen as the "default human being" (race has lots to do with it, too) and had that same alien visited this planet earlier it might be quite surprised with the amount of progress we have made in gender equality.

On the other hand, women still are the numerical majority in this world. That those most numerous are not the default for human beings is worth thinking about.

Digby In The Limelight

The great Digby was interviewed in the LA Times. The interview is a fascinating read and even has some feminist food for thought.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Are we hard-wired to be mean, too? (by Suzie)

         I had warm-and-fuzzy feelings toward The Ophelia Project. I didn’t know much about it, but I assumed it helped girls. Then I read that Michael Gurian would be the keynote speaker Thursday at the Tampa project’s annual benefit dinner. MICHAEL GURIAN. Yes, the guy we’ve discussed here, here, here,  here and here. 
         In an interview, once again, Gurian, who isn't a scientist, talks as if every scientist knows that males and females think and act differently because their brains are different. That’s not political, he assures us. Those are just the facts!
Girls are now succeeding so much in school and college, but when they get into the workplace, the stuff that made them successful in high school and college isn't translating - especially if they are in a field that has any kind of science side to it. Another big area is the emotional and relational ... Girls and women do process more emotive and sensorial data. That makes them better in writing English papers, but they also get caught up in relational aggression and confusion in the workplace.
          Let’s see, women don’t do as well in the workplace because our brains aren’t as good at science and, um, we’re mean. Why, oh, why, are women paying this man to speak to them?
          The Ophelia Project was begun to “increase social and emotional support for adolescent girls,” but it changed its focus to “relational aggression,” such as “exclusion, malicious gossip and rumor spreading, teasing and name calling.”
As our research progressed, we found that there are no gender effects when it comes to relational aggression. Today's boys need our help just as much as today's girls.
         This seems part of the thinking that women do just as much harm to each other and to men as men do to women. Even if you think this is true, it ignores the context of a society in which men hold almost all of the top positions, and thus, more power.
          (Check out this site, with explains mean girls with pictures.)

Norman McLaren

Several weeks ago Phila posted a link to a You Tube of one of Norman McLaren’s experimental films. Here’s another

Synchromy Synchromie 1971

and a film, I believe, made by a video artist admirer

Because of Norman McLaren.

McLaren was a master of directly drawing on film stock, making both the image and sounds that way. I think almost all his work was funded by the National Film Board of Canada, proof that in some countries the government funding of the arts produces great and innovative art.

There is a lot of his work posted on You Tube, though I haven’t found the one that starts with him dropping a ball to have it multiply in amazing ways. I wonder if that could have inspired the vault scene in the last Harry Potter book. McLaren’s inspiration and technique seem to have multiplied readily too. You can watch one after another and be amazed at their diversity.

posted by Anthony McCarthy

Colin Powell backs Obama

Wow, here's a surprise that's not a surprise. I'm trying to figure out if I'm reaching for the word "hypocrisy" or the word "redemption" when I feel around for the right way to describe one of the main players who enabled Bush's homocidal, sociopathic intentions in the Middle East who has now flipped sides to back a candidate who was against the war from the start and now promises aggressive moves toward and unequivocal end.

I've always liked Colin Powell despite it all. I'll go with redemption.

Be interesting to see if Condoleeza Rice follows suit. Not holding any breath.

P.S. In other news, CNN's down-ticket headline reads "McCain snags key endorsement." That key endorsement? The Tampa Tribune. I don't for a moment rest complacent on any laurels (not with the grand clusterf*** that is our voter system throwing the newly registered and long-time voters alike off the rolls), but this is just getting sadder and sadder for the McCain camp, isn't it? Obama snags the former Republican Secretary of State, McCain gets himself Florida newspaper endorsement. Almost feel sorry for the guy. Except not.

Our Blood Our Vote by Anthony McCarthy

The other day I heard a member of the Washington Press Corps talk about how Iraq, now allegedly pacified by “The Surge” has fallen out of notice. It was yawningly observed that it’s barely registering in the attention of the American Public. You wonder how it escaped the notice of the American Public that people are still getting killed there and that the bribes paid to pacify many of the former insurgents are hardly sustainable in our present economy. Could be because, in line with the doctrine that “The Surge” has been an indisputable success*, the media hasn’t done much in the way of reporting this. These well paid members of the press were obviously bored by the subject.

I am not certain but none of the members of the DC press taking part in that discussion mentioned their children or loved ones being in harms way in Iraq. I am certain that the survivors of those still dying and those who have been maimed are somewhat more interested than the jaded talking heads. But that’s just as a prelude to the substance of this piece.

We can't ignore this any longer. It's not exciting, it's not trendy, it's not sexy, it's entirely clear how it could be fixed so no one is going to gain a reputation for brilliance and become the toast of the scribbling class over it. It's only a question of whether the United States is a nation of laws and not of richmen, a democracy of a despotic oligarchy.

- We need one national ballot form for the national constitutional offices, President, Vice-President, Senator, Congressman. These are the only four offices that have a direct impact on us all. The citizens of the entire country have a right to these four offices being filled in a completely honest way. Everyone has a right to know that every congressman was chosen honestly, even in the district farthest from where they live. They make the laws that govern all of us. There is an overriding interest in the citizens of the entire country having an honestly chosen federal government strong enough to overcome constitutional objections. This is THE question of national integrity, not a detail of petty federalism.

- We need one form of ballot for those offices, no butterflies, no esthetic tampering. One form that a child learns in fourth grade and that doesn't change for as long as our form of government doesn't change. President, Vice-President, Congressman, Senator. One ballot for each office if there are that many candidates in a district but one form that is as familiar to a voter as a Lincoln penny.

- We need those ballots to be on paper, marked clearly by hand with an X or a check mark, either a valid mark. One ballot form, one thing for the voter to do. Both have worked for decades and there is no reason to fool with it. People unable to mark their own ballots is an issue, but it is one that can be solved without recourse to unreliable machine voting.

- We need them to be counted by hand with observers from all parties. Those ballots are to be counted honestly, everywhere, every time. If local officials can't run a clean election it will be run by a higher level of government. If you don't like that, look at those clean, honest, simple and quick elections they've got in Canada run by Elections Canada. You can go to their web site and see how those practical people have managed simple methods for dealing with problems of disabled voters. Look now before the Conservative government starts trying to copy cat the United States to steal elections for themselves. They manage to pull it off in a matter of weeks, our system, designed for corruption, can’t get it right in as many months.

No electronic voting for the federal constitutional offices is to be tolerated. We have seen that electronic voting and vote tabulation is certain to give an inaccurate count and that's even when it isn't rigged to steal the election.

The results of two almost certainly stolen presidential elections in a row are all the proof anyone needs that a crooked election gives us a crooked government. We might get a crook in an honest election, we are certain to get one from a crooked election. The elections of 2000 and 2004 have given us the disaster of Iraq and will produce at least one more disaster, probably in Iran. The Republicans who stole these elections are costing us in blood, in honor and in money. We cannot afford to nickel and dime democracy, the cost is staggeringly high if we continue to cheat ourselves out of honest elections.

Computers and modern research have allowed the Republican Party to destroy the last and best hope for a free people to govern themselves. We aren't living in an age where genteel comity and a bit of indulgence of petty theft can be smiled at. If the DC-NY scribblers and the law professors had the blood of their children and themselves at risk they might see it more clearly. It is only a matter of who lives and who dies.

* I’m going to predict that what Petraeus said about the need to concentrate on Afghanistan, talking with those counted as enemies, is a bit of bet hedging because he suspects John McCain is not going to be his boss next year.

I suspect that when “The Surge” is no longer needed as political cover by the Republicans it will be allowed to lapse and the resulting renewal of the normal course of chaos in post-Bush II Iraq will make Bush I’s lame duck Somalia intervention, a move tailor made to cause problems for the Clinton administration, look like a minor transition prank.

Updated from June 2006

Further Update: If we are lucky and Barack Obama is elected president with an effective majority in the legislative branches we have to force them to finally make the vote in the whole country secure. After listening to Mark Crispin Miller on Bill Moyers show Friday, I think it should be a federal law that the production, sale and use of non-secure voting apparatus is prohibited and illegal. They pose a far greater risk to The People of the United States than marijuana or many other devices which are prohibited by law.

I would also advise Barack Obama to screen potential Supreme Court and federal court nominees on their fidelity to this absolutely basic part of representative democracy. Barack Obama is eminently qualified in ways that white men are not to understand the vital necessity of securing the equal access to the vote. No one who holds that The Peoples’ right to vote is optional is fit to serve in any post in government, least of all the courts.

If he needs to be reminded he should review the late Barbara Jordan’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing the confirmation of Robert Bork . If he needs comic relief, he should review the interchange between her and Gordon Humphry (R-NH). Hearing the man who was regularly voted the dimmest bulb in the Senate try to go up against that giant of intellect and experience was quite strange.

That is if we’re lucky this should be done. If we aren’t and John McCain is either elected or imposed on us, securing the vote is a practical impossibility, perhaps for the rest of our lives.