Saturday, March 21, 2009

Inspiration (by Phila)

David Bossie and his group Citizens United have been trying to convince the Supreme Court that their film attacking Hillary Clinton is a documentary, rather than a piece of wingnut agitprop that's subject to the McCain-Feingold Act, as federal judges ruled in 2008.
Citizens United appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that "Hillary: The Movie" should not be considered a political ad. The group says there is nothing in the movie urging people to vote against Clinton. The group says the film is more of a documentary comparable to critical television news programs such as "Frontline," "Nova" and "60 Minutes."

"The fact that 'Hillary' presents a critical assessment of Sen. Clinton's political background, character, and fitness for office does not convert the movie ... into an appeal to vote against Sen. Clinton," said Theodore Olson, Citizens United's lawyer.
That's kind of amusing. But here's the really funny part:
This isn't the first time documentary filmmakers have been questioned in relation to campaign finance laws. Citizens United in 2004 sought to keep filmmaker Michael Moore from advertising "Fahrenheit 9/11" — which was critical of President George W. Bush — in the run-up to the presidential election.

The Federal Election Commission, charged with enforcing the McCain-Feingold law, dismissed the complaint after Moore said he had no plans to run the ads during election season.

Bossie said Moore's success is what inspired him. "Michael Moore forced me to recognize the power of documentary film," said Bossie, who was involved in the House's investigation of Bill Clinton that led to the president's impeachment and trial.
So after acting outraged at the possibility that Moore might violate McCain-Feingold by running ads for his documentary during the 2004 election season, Bossie was "inspired" to make a movie-length attack ad, and hoped to avoid McCain-Feingold entirely by broadcasting it as a documentary during the 2008 election season.

That's as perfect an example of the modern conservative's approach to the rule of law as I've ever seen.

Bossie also provides a neat summation of the modern conservative's approach to history:
Bossie expects to produce at least 15 movies at his Washington-area studio by the next presidential election in 2012. Among them, he says, will be "Stimulate This," an indictment of the recently enacted economic stimulus package.
The script's already written, I hear. Now, they just need some pictures to go with it.

Notice of Foreclosure by Anthony McCarthy

Those who are defending Timothy Geithner from the tidal wave of criticism over his handling of the financial rescue might have a point or two. The guy didn’t single handedly cause the pretty shell of the banking and insurance industries to crumble like a hollow Easter bunny. And he is doing what his expensive education and his received morality have told him to do. I’m sure, by the dim lights of economic orthodoxy, he has been a model of rectitude. But, if I might kill off a tragic metaphor, the flash that catches Geithner in full panic are the headlights of reality caught up with him. It’s going to crash. If he’s incapable of moving to safety makes no difference, the consequences of his ideology are here and how. It’s not only the prestige of his position, won by adherence to the principles of market orthodoxy, that is about to splat, it’s the entire phony world resting on the underpinning of un-illegalized theft and swindle.

Anyone who is relishing the just deserts that time is about to serve is crazy. The Great Depression wasn’t the comeuppance of the wealthy thieves and the high priesthood of market capitalism, it was a long period of misery and death that culminated in the unprecedented blood letting of WWII. It was only by luck that we escaped the worst of what Europe and Asia suffered. By and large, the plutocrats who had brought us the Depression weren’t the ones who lost their lives. If anyone needs a refresher in that fact of life, just watch what happens to any attempt to raise the taxes of the rich to pay for TARP and the rest of the bailout.

Geithner, Summers, etc. should be informed, before they make any more stupid decisions benefitting the well spoken and perfumed crooks they are used to dealing with, that their position is dependent on that most vulgar of realities, politics. Politics, the necessity of consulting the great unwashed, the hoi polloi, We The People. Unlike the mandarins of the Fed, their position isn’t cushioned from the will of The People.

The People’s freshest experience of contracts is that they are legalized instruments to cheat them and rob them. We are not in the mood to hear Larry Summers’ pious citation of their sanctity. We are losing patience with that most isolated branch of the government, the judges, acting as a protective levee between the oligarchic con men and us. The constitution, we are told, guarantees the rights of those contracts. Well, there is no contract contained in the constitution more basic than that of representative government, of the rights of We The People to have laws that protect us from exactly the kinds of crooks that have destroyed the economy by stealing everything in sight. Everything which they, the money managers, have so conspicuously not produced with their hands and toil. We might joke that the law is an ass, but when it’s an instrument of robbing us it earns more than our contempt.

The AIG bonuses, the redecoration of the Citibank offices and, no doubt, multiple outrages yet to be disclosed will prove to be too much to be sustained. If the clunky, constitutional framework, set up as a cushion against too much democracy, won’t rectify the situation, it will, eventually, be destroyed.

I don’t look forward to the consequences of that, I don’t want to gamble on us having better luck setting up something better. Most revolutionary change results at best in something as bad as it replaced or something worse*.

We’re in the habit of thinking that the American constitution is the bedrock we can rely on being there but its provisions aren’t laws of nature, they are political instruments. POLITICAL instruments. None of it, including the guarantees of the enforceability of contracts, is not, ultimately, dependent on at least the acquiescence of The People. The constitution itself is a contract, one superior to any made under its authority. That is the real contract, the contract that the government of the United States is valid only so long as it is of, by and for The People. And that contract has come to be in a state of continual breach by the governing class and most clearly by the economic elite. Now, that breach of contract is more vulnerable to action than at other times.

Decisions made in the federal government have consequences that don’t become obvious for a long time. I think just that kind of thing happened in 2000. The wall of sanctity around the constitution was breached by the five Supreme Court members who issued the decision in Bush v. Gore, after that there is no solid wall. The vote was the action that made any decision made by any politician or bureaucrat or, yes, even Supreme Court Justice legitimate. Unless the vote of The People is not secure, if we don’t have that stake in the constitution. If the constitution doesn’t guarantee that the government is of, by and for The People none of its articles carries the weight of moral authority. That the government that results acts against our interest is only evidence of the truth of the theory of democracy. Government not of The People, will inevitably become the enemy of The People.

The outrage of The People over the insulting bonuses given to thieves, the bill for the luxurious accommodations and entertainments of bankers and other crooks are just the most recent in a long string of proofs that the government doesn’t work in our interest. The clergy of capital, experts in the mythology and theology of market economics, living in the world created by and for those very crooks, might not notice but the world is changed.

The confluence of disasters that led to his election have given President Barack Obama the chance to remake the contract between The People and the government under that constitution. I don’t think he realizes yet how basic the change will have to be. If he does not change things fast and in ways that his financial experts won’t like he will lose that chance. It’s our job to pressure our president, the man we have chosen, to make that change. His success will depend on his ability to change the course that his economic team has chosen. I still think he will do that but it must be done soon.

* Successful revolutionaries know better than anyone else that it’s entirely possible to overturn established authorities. It’s how they come to power. The resulting rulers know better than most their own vulnerability to toppling and the results are seldom democratic. Most don’t take that way and the results are even more blood shed and corruption.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A minister on Obama (by Suzie)

            The former pastor of my church conducted the memorial service for Obama's grandmother in December. The Rev. Mike Young is direct and honest in the great heretical tradition of the UU denomination.
            An example: He recalls working with a Catholic priest in Tampa. “If people came to Introduction to Unitarian Universalism, and their natural language was Catholic, but it had been shoved down their throat,” he would recommend they talk to the priest to see if they could still find a place in Catholicism. Similarly, the priest would recommend people to the UU church if they told him, “I can’t believe any of this shit.”
          "The other Catholic priests in town were idiots."
          Young left Tampa to become pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, where the service was held for Madelyn Dunham.
          “The most interesting part was dealing with the Secret Service. I expected the Men in Black.” Instead, he said, “it was much more like a fraternity party. They were relaxed, friendly, chatty” but still thorough, including four sharpshooters on the roof, with rifles assembled from suitcases.
           Obama attended the only UU church in Hawaii for several years as a child. Previously, his grandparents and mother had attended a UU church in the Seattle area. Doesn’t Young want Obama to return to his UU roots? No, Mike is too UU for that.
          “People should go where their spiritual and intellectual path leads them.”
          Young, known for his social activism, voted for Obama.
          “In the primary, I had a choice between the first woman and the first non-white, both of whom I could support. And it was the first time since I turned 21 that I voted for, rather than against, a presidential candidate.”
          He refers to Obama as Barry. “That’s who he was here [in Hawaii]. No one here called him Barack.” At the memorial service, the 70-year-old minister saw Obama as “a tall skinny kid.”
          “The person who was the most impressive was not the president or Michelle. They were just folk.” Instead, Young was intrigued by how “bright and articulate” Maya Soetoro-Ng was. She is Obama’s half-sister and a local high-school history teacher. Young also learned from his director of religious education, who is an anthropologist, that Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, had been, not just an anthropologist, but “she was a damn good one,” who was instrumental in recovering traditional art and artisan skills in Indonesia. “She’s a person of significant standing in her own right.”
          If you're interested in more information about the service for Madelyn Dunhan, read what Young wrote under the Amazon listing for his book “A Preacher’s Poems.” 

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

Here are Deacon and Chloe playing in my sister's backyard. Deacon is the white German shepherd, and Chloe is a St. Bernard. It would not be wise to get between them. 

Chloe is an old woman - about 9 years old. We think Deacon is about 2. Chloe is trying to teach Deacon manners. For example, if he tries to eat food off of the table, Chloe will bark as if to say, "Young man! We do not eat food off of the humans' table! We sit beside them and stare pitifully until they give us their food."  

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Via NTodd who got it from Aravosis:

It has some interesting gender commentary, too....

Today's Echidne Thought

Echidne thoughts are thoughts which I get, as it were, from outer space, suddenly, and usually this means that Echidne stuck them into my hat. After suitable censoring (no, sheep shears are not the new fashion accessory for women everywhere) I either jot them down for further digestion or let them loose here. This one is of the latter kind.

You know how the media discusses something controversial by picking some people from each end of the opinion-line to fight each other, bare-fisted and ready-fanged, in front of us all? That's in theory, of course, and even then the approach has a problem, because the most correct opinion might lie in the middle of that long opinion-line. Broccoli is not necessarily greater than Viagra-for-angels or worse than Dick Cheney's wet dreams. It may just be a vegetable.

Where was I? Oh yes: The second problem with this approach is that the representatives for the extreme opinions are selected oddly. Far too often I see the end-points defined by a rabid right-winger yelling and screaming at a Mr. or Ms. Milquetoast-Middle-of-the-Road (think of Hannity and Colmes). But there's a second odd selection criteria, and that's the topic of today's Echidne Thought:

Think of the way we debate gender roles. The two end-points are often seen as someone with Talibanesque views on women on one side and someone who'd let women go out and run for the President of the United States, sure (as long as the dinner is still on the table when the hubby comes home). Well, perhaps not quite, but you get the point: There's nary a radical feminist anywhere in sight.

More importantly, the two end-points of this opinion line are seen as 'Kirche, Küche und Kinder' for women, at one end, and 'legal equality of the sexes' at the other end. Or 'men should dominate' vs. 'everybody is equal'. Note what's missing there, as is missing from all the other debates about women's essential nature or whatnot?

The symmetrical end-point to the view 'men should dominate'. The effect of this one is to make 'compromise' appear something inbetween full equality and absolute male domination, and the effect is also to make someone like me come across as an extremist, when in fact arguing for equality should be the middle position. Don't you think?

Pope. The Soap Opera.

By Issouf Sanogo, AFP/Getty Images

It's hard not so see Pope Benedict's recent attempts to stuff both of his Prada-shod feet in his mouth as anything but soap opera. He would be excellent mental dissection material for a good satirist, except for the fact that what he says and does can kill people. Every word that manages to get out of his mouth past those Pradas becomes a rule for some Catholic person somewhere, a bullet which can kill.

So now this excellent Pope tells us that condoms are not the answer for Africa dying of AIDS. It's like saying that surgery is not the answer for cancer. Sigh:

Pope Benedict XVI said on his way to Africa Tuesday that condoms were not the answer in the continent's fight against HIV, his first explicit statement on an issue that has divided even clergy working with AIDS patients.


Benedict said that the Roman Catholic Church is in the forefront of the battle against AIDS.

"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane headed to Yaounde. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."

The pope said that a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease.

About 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, according to UNAIDS. In 2007, three-quarters of all AIDS deaths worldwide were there, as well as two-thirds of all people living with HIV.

Rebecca Hodes with the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa said if the pope is serious about preventing new HIV infections, he will focus on promoting wide access to condoms and spreading information on how best to use them.

"Instead, his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans," said Hodes, director of policy, communication and research for the action campaign.

While she said the pope is correct that condoms are not the sole solution to Africa's AIDS epidemic, she said they are one of the very few HIV prevention mechanisms proven to work.

Deep under all those feminine layers of frockery lies Benedict's heart, I suspect. Wonder what's there? One guess:

Why does the Church persist in such a manifestly immoral doctrine? One suspects that it must be the usual twisted thinking about sex and women. The Church's opposition to birth control is largely an outgrowth of its all-male composition and those males' attempts to degrade women's physical powers by asserting that women and the intercourse into which they supposedly tempt men are necessary evils ("It is well for a man not to touch a woman," Paul instructed the Christians of Corinth), the only purpose of which is procreation.

Misogyny may not be "the Church's one foundation," but it is a major part of the base on which it was constructed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Read This

A post on adoption and its effects on the birth mother.

And The Winners Are....

The National Book Critics Circle awards for the best books:

The co-winners were Juan Felipe Herrera's Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press) and August Kleinzahler's Sleeping It Off in Rapid City (Farrar, Strauss), who both offered capstone books to important careers—works that were resonant, weighty, and accomplished.

Roberto Bolaño's monumental 2666 (Farrar, Straus), a tale of love and violence set within the framework of the fictional town of Santa Teresa, Mexico, that's widely regarded as the late author's masterpiece, won the fiction award.


The general nonfiction award went to Dexter Filkins's The Forever War (Knopf),


The biography award went to Patrick French's The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul,


The autobiography award went to Ariel Sabar's My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq (Algonquin),


The criticism award went to Seth Lerer's Children's Literature: A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter (University of Chicago Press),


The evening ended with a fitting memorial tribute to John Leonard.

Bolds mine.

The list of nominees did include women writers, and women have won various categories in the past. But it's odd to read this list (and even odder to scroll down the videos of the recipients, starting here) and then to muse over the argument that women are so rare among mathematicians and scientists because their talents are verbal and literary. I also suspect that if every single winner had been female people would have talked about that, and I think that the reverse situation is also worth some talk.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

In its honor the background of this blog is green today. Heh.

P.S. Not celebrating the myth of snake killing in Ireland or the guy himself, but those who celebrate their Irishness today.

Some Headlines

The Austrian case of a man holding his daughter a prisoner under his house for decades has come to court. Some headlines from yesterday's papers:

Incestuous Austrian Father Admits Wrongdoing in Court

Incest trial begins for man charged with imprisoning daughter for 24 years

Austrian incest father pleads not guilty to murder

Trial for Austrian Incest Dad Begins

And so on. I understand that he is probably being tried for the incest part first, but those headlines still grate me because they suggest that it might somehow have been better if this man had kidnapped a total stranger, raped her 3000 times and kept her imprisoned underground for over two decades. The incest part appears to be the very least of his crimes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday Critter

Because there are two long posts right below this one and because these are great pictures of Pippin, the intrepid explorer (by FeraLiberal, as usual).

Beckiples. Part II.

This post looks at the last five of the nine principles of Beckianism. Before I start on number five let me point out another neat trick that presenting the list and asking whether people agree with the principles does: It implicitly assumes that if you don't agree with what's written, then you agree with its opposite.

For example, to reject the principle #3, about striving to be ever more honest, doesn't mean that the reader doing the rejecting is intent on getting more and more dishonest day by day. But simplistic statements usually get their power from that invisible shadow side: the fear of appearing to agree to something unwholesome.

Keeping that in mind, here's the fifth Beckiple:

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.

The distinction between normative and positive statements is crucial when looking at these sentences. The statement is clearly a lie as a positive statement: The rich get away with softer punishments and so do white-collar criminals in general, while African-Americans are often punished out of proportion to the crimes they have committed.

It's a nice normative statement, on the whole (though I'd like to give justice some new eyeballs). But the Republican Party hasn't exactly fought for these principles in practice. Rather the opposite.

Beckiple number 6 is a beauty:

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.

This normative statement is so deep that I need a diving bell to respond to it. Who is the "I" in the principle? Glenn Beck? Or his reader? Probably the latter. What does this 'right' consist of? How is it guaranteed to exist? Do all people have the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

For instance, suppose that a person is born with a handicap of such severity that she or he can never make an independent living. How do we guarantee the opportunitites of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to this person? What do we do? Or rather, what should the government do? And if not the government, then who? Charity? How does that guarantee the right Beck argues to exist, given that charity is a fickle source of funding?

The point I'm trying to make (from a diving bell) is that people don't just 'have' the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, especially if this right is intended to be something more than lip service by the rich Beck. Some people will have much more of this right than other people, simply on the basis of luck, genetics, societal prejudices and so on. For this right to be meaningful, the starting line of this great capitalist race should be made the same for every person.

Beck doesn't mention that. I'm not even sure what he means by 'life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.' It could be something very minimalist, such as letting people who look like Glenn Beck be the winners in the race of life.

But of course I know what Beck is really trying to say with this principle, and it's all about unequal outcomes being just fine because they are caused by what people deserve. Rich people deserve to be rich because they worked hard. Poor people deserve to be poor because they were lazy. And so on. Never mind that some rich people are rich because they inherited their money or because they did something deeply unethical (if not illegal) in the market place, and never mind that many poor people are anything but lazy. Women, using the same argument, 'choose' to have children, and if this puts them at a disadvantage, well, it was their own 'choice' that made them trip on the hurdles in the race. Forget about the societal needs for the next generation; it's all a choice similar to picking an ice-cream flavor.

Now we move into the conservative bread-and-butter statement:

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.

The Axiom Of Greed. But is this statement a positive one or a normative one? It looks like a real mongrel. The second sentence is false as a positive statement, because the government can indeed force us to be charitable through its power to tax us. The first statement might also be intended to be a positive assertion, but then it might not be true for all readers, some of whom don't work at all or very hard. So that's one way of viewing the seventh principle: as a positive assertion which is mostly false.

But I think it's probably meant as a normative rule against income redistribution through the government, combined with a value judgment that the person agreeing to it is also a fantastically hard worker (and rather mean-spirited). Would it be OK for the government to force people to be charitable if those people didn't work very hard? I'm not sure.

Mmm. I'm turning all dry-and-academic here. Still, note the term 'charity' in this context and the very clear separation of the 'I (who works hard)' from 'the government'.

To call income redistribution 'charity' disguises some aspects of the former which distinguish it from charity. Beck sees the recipients of such redistribution as 'the others', the ones that he might support by throwing a quarter into a hat in the street. But income redistribution is much more than that. It's a social insurance system which might one day cover someone like Glenn Beck should his life fall apart. Or the grandchildren of Glenn Beck.

Income redistribution also has immediate benefits for those who are paying for it. A society with extreme income inequality can easily become a banana republic where the rich live in armed enclaves while the poor roam the streets. I don't want to live in that kind of America, but it probably would suit Beck just fine.

The Beckian world doesn't have a government which is 'of the people, for the people, by the people'. Instead, the horrible villain-government can come and try to force obligatory charity on hard-working people. That the government is elected by the people, as its representatives, doesn't enter the discussion at all.

I'm almost done with the Beckiples (and no, that wasn't so funny, after all). Only two more to go:

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.

I sincerely hope you didn't die laughing after reading that one, given the last eight years of the conservatives telling us that criticizing the Bush administration amounted to treason! But I whole-heartedly agree with this new interpretation of the conservative dogma, and show it by trying to chew our Glenn into little pieces here. Metaphorically speaking, natch.

Finally, the last principle:

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

I thought the government worked for me? And you. And you. And so on.

The government doesn't work just for Glenn Beck and it doesn't answer just to Glenn Beck, or to any one of the people reading through these principles. To the extent the government is 'of the people, for the people, by the people', any one of us can indeed be made to answer to it (such as in a court of law). But it's certainly true that the government is the servant of The People. However, 'The People' does not equal one conservative talk-show host or any one reader of his website.

Beckiples. Part I.

Glenn Beck (the famously rabid conservative media pundit) has listed Nine Principles on his website. These are supposed to be the principles a conservative holds, and if you, the reader, agree with at least seven of them, well, then you are a Beckian conservative! And you memorize the Nine Beckiples. Aren't I cute today?

I'm going to discuss those nine statements in some detail. But before I do that, it's important to distinguish between positive and normative statements/value judgments. A positive statement expresses something which supposedly is. For example, "Echidne is a blogger" is a positive statement and it happens to be a true one. "Echidne is a three-pronged fork" is also a positive statement, but it happens to be a false one.

A normative statement is an evaluative one or one which argues that something should be. "Echidne is an asshole" is a normative statement, assuming that we use 'asshole' in the non-concrete sense. Whether this statement is true or not is something that depends on the value judgments of the person making it or responding to it.

The distinction between positive and normative statements is sometimes a slippery one. But it's never a great idea to mix the two types in all sorts of odd combinations and that's what Beck does in his Nine Beckiples.

Let's look at the first four principles in greater detail. The first one goes like this:

1. America is good

I bet you immediately noticed that this is a normative sentence, in the sense that the reader is supposed to agree to the basic idea that America is good. At the same time, it would be possible to write a long book about the goodness of America in all sorts of different political, social and economic fields, to see if America indeed comes out smelling of roses in all of them. That's not what Beck intends, naturally. What he means is that only the dirty-fucking-hippies 'hate' America.

Yet any thinking person can easily swallow the contradictory concepts that America might be absolutely fantastic in one area of life and not-so-great in some other area of life. Such a thinking person could even accept the idea of patriotism and love of one's country while acknowledging its flaws and problems. But Beck doesn't like shades of gray.

The second Beckiple:

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life

This is clearly a positive statement by our Glenn. He's telling us that he believes in a god and that his god is the center of his life. He invites you to join the Beckians if you also believe in a god and have him as the center of your life.

But nowhere is it specified which god this might be. I suspect it's a Christian god, of the male sex. What if the reader is a very religious Wiccan or Buddhist? Are those types of people welcome among the Beckians or not? Atheists certainly aren't. Then there's the whole question of what Beck's god's beliefs are. There are people who believe in gods who want them to do stuff which to outsiders looks pretty awful and wrong, and before I'd commit myself to having a permanent god lodger in my house I'd like to know a little more about His dogma.

We learn even more about Beck in the third principle:

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday

A great principle! But what does 'honesty' mean in this context? Honesty to yourself or towards others or both? Does it mean opening your mouth ever wider and stuffing in a bigger wingtip every day? Or does it mean self-examination, meditation and humility? And why is this particular quality listed so early in the principles? What about loving your neighbor like thyself, for instance? Still, I might be on the way towards becoming a Beckian, because I certainly think Glenn Beck should become more honest every day.

The fourth Beckiple is where the dog of anti-feminism lies buried:

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government

These are normative statements. The first one takes a religious concept, 'sacredness', and applies it to the nuclear family. What does it mean to say that the family is sacred? And based on which religion? Fundamentalist Christians argue that men are the heads of the family. Islam argues the same, with the addition that the male head of the family may have multiple female spouses. Is Beck telling us that these particular family arrangements should never be changed?

Or perhaps he uses the term 'sacred' to imply that the government should keep its paws off family matters? This becomes a real problem when a member of the family is abused or killed by other family members, doesn't it?

The second statement, also normative, tells us that families are not democracies but tiny dictatorships where the dictators are the parents. Funny that he wrote 'my spouse and I are the ultimate authority', given what I stated about the patriarchal family above.

So much for the first four principles. The other five principles will take a post of their own.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chronicles of A Dying Culture: Hooter’s Swim Suit Pageant Edition by Anthony McCarthy

A fellow insomniac told me last week about flipping through the cable stations in the early, early morning to see women in bikinis having stuff sprayed to their bottoms. It turned out to be a contest sponsored by what is widely considered to be the mildly pornographic restaurant chain, Hooters. My friend noticed something familiar about the spray can, though he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was spray adhesive that he’d used on the job to attach Formica to wood. He showed me a can he had in his basement. It looked distinctly dangerous and considering the kind of solvents and other chemicals those kinds of things contain, it probably is.

Here’s what a “FOX Sports Blogger” says about it.

The Secrets of the Pageant

The girls have this magic concoction that keeps the bottoms of their bikinis in place. They call it butt glue. In actuality it's an acrylic adhesive that they're getting sprayed onto their posterior. I wonder if the manufacturers know that what their making is being used to hold bikini bottoms in place. That would make for a whole new marketing campaign. Do you need to attach lightweight foam to something? Do you need to prevent your bikini from riding up? Use our adhesive. And apparently it's not fun to take off. I can't imagine why. I mean it seems natural that you're supposed to apply it to your skin and then rip it off.

Bring something like Hooters up in the blogs and you'll get yelled at for infantalizing women, for "disrespecting their choice". Does anyone really believe that thinking, informed adults would do this as a matter of choice?

Do read the blog and count the number of men associated with this mentioned by name as opposed to the women. It's a good indication of who are considered people in this and who are considered interchangeable objects.

Comments please?

Why ask, “Why Do Women Try To Change Men”? by Anthony McCarthy

Would you forgive an uncle for bragging? Without coaching, my twelve-year-old niece was outraged last year when she saw the movie of My Fair Lady. She hated the ending when Eliza went back to Henry Higgins in the end of it and found the big baby’s slippers for him. It is the inherent sexism in the assumption that Eliza Doolittle would submit to his tyranny that outrages her, being informed that it was a distortion of Shaw’s original is just confirmation that the Hollywood treatment of the ending was all wrong.

Marianne Jacobbi makes a similar mistake in her short piece which asks today “Why do girlfriends and wives keep trying to change their men”?

In the movies, love changes people for the good all the time. After Henry Higgins gave his pupil Eliza Doolittle an extreme makeover, she morphed into a fair lady and they fell in love. Imagine how it might have played out had there been a sequel, My Fair Gentleman.

Love Higgins? Who couldn't take Eliza at her word when she says she doesn’t love Higgins after he proposed to adopt her and marry her off to Pickering. More to the point there is this:

LIZA. Freddy's not a fool. And if he's weak and poor and wants
me, may be he'd make me happier than my betters that bully me and
don't want me.

HIGGINS. Can he MAKE anything of you? That's the point.

LIZA. Perhaps I could make something of him. But I never thought
of us making anything of one another; and you never think of
anything else. I only want to be natural.

And shortly after that:

HIGGINS [wondering at her] You damned impudent slut, you! But
it's better than snivelling; better than fetching slippers and
finding spectacles, isn't it? [Rising] By George, Eliza, I said
I'd make a woman of you; and I have. I like you like this.

LIZA. Yes: you turn round and make up to me now that I'm not
afraid of you, and can do without you.

HIGGINS. Of course I do, you little fool. Five minutes ago you
were like a millstone round my neck. Now you're a tower of
strength: a consort battleship. You and I and Pickering will be
three old bachelors together instead of only two men and a silly

It’s too bad that Jacobbi doesn’t have the time to go into it farther because she has some mildly interesting observations to make on the subject, though she really began with the wrong question. Considering her use of the film distortion of Pygmalion* she should have asked why people try to change other peoples’ behavior. Going into the eternal stereotype of women nagging men should be an occasion for more interesting exploration than she can fit into the tiny last page of this Sunday magazine treatment. And you can begin by asking why men who nag are eternally let off the hook.

Higgins proposal that they be “three old bachelors together” is interesting for two reasons. One is his inability to see the liberated Eliza as a woman, the second is his idea that their menage a trois will produce independence. Given the way he condescends to Pickering it’s hardly going to be a marriage of equals. And the idea contains an almost universally accepted lie. Any man who is honest would tell you that even someone who isn’t married or as much as a bachelor as Higgens can hardly escape men who nag, pressure, bully, browbeat and actually beat on other men to try to change them. And I am certain that some men do worse to women to enforce change in their lives. And I know many women who just don’t try to change anyone’s behavior, either because they know, perhaps from experience, it’s likely to be futile or because they won’t demean themselves by doing it.

So what do you make of the eternal issue of “nagging women”? And, considering how much nagging men put up with from other men, why it’s only an issue when women do it?

* If she would do herself the favor of forgetting Hollywood and Broadway and going to Project Gutenberg to read the original along with the long post script Shaw added explaining the further history of Eliza, Higgins, Freddy, Pickering and, Clara (Freddy’s sister, as one is apt to forget). Of course Eliza didn’t fall in love with Higgins. Who could? She married the more pliable Freddy. Shaw goes into a lot of detail about how the marriage and the subsequent poverty and move into “trade” changed both of the young couple. The picture of the struggles and compromises they are forced to accept are a lot more interesting than the play. It’s a lot more interesting than the movie and musical “romantic” ending. Though it really shows that Shaw had a real mean streak in him. I don’t think he could have written Higgins without it.

Though it’s his treatment of the liberation of Clara from first the conventions of upper middle-class conventions, then the ridicule of her new crowd that are really interesting. Maybe it’s because she’s not saddled with the responsibility of a husband like Freddy.