Saturday, July 25, 2009

Weird twins (by Suzie)

I'm posting this for Purple Girl, who commented on "resale therapy" yesterday. I wrote this poem about my own "weird twin," Mark, but I wonder if others of you have friends like this.

Reincarnation II

In another life, maybe,
we could not bear separation.
We made a pact.
This part is true: We were born
on the same morning, in the same hospital,
two white roses laid on the altar.
Before we forgot our past,
did we look across the nursery
and smile?

Funny Economics

Fred Barnes calls president Obama the know-nothing-in-chief. Because Obama supposedly doesn't understand economics.

I wouldn't be surprised by that, to be quite honest. Most economists don't really understand economics (says she in a snarky voice while filing her scales sharper). Economics is a very fuzzy science and not in that cuddly way.

But Barnes himself has gaping holes in his grasp of the Dismal Science:

Obama professes to believe in free market economics. But no one expects his policies to reflect the unfettered capitalism of a Milton Friedman. That's too much to ask. Demonstrating a passing acquaintance with free market ideas and how they might be used to fight the recession--that's not too much to ask.

But the president talks as if free market solutions are nonexistent, and in his mind they may be. Three weeks after taking office, he said only government "has the resources to jolt our economy back into life." He hasn't retreated, in words or policies, from that view.

At his press conference, Obama endorsed a surtax on families earning more than $1 million a year to pay for his health care initiative. This is no way to get the country out of a recession. Like them or not, millionaires are the folks whose investments create growth and jobs--which are, after all, exactly what the president is hoping for.

There's that free market animal again. It might come as a surprise to Mr. Barnes, but the concept of 'a free market' is not terribly common in economics. There are unregulated markets, true, and there are what economists call competitive markets.

But an unregulated market is not necessarily a competitive market and truly competitive markets are a little less common in real world than in the conservative religion which worships the Jealous God of something called free markets.

Then there's the idea of the rich people as the ones who give the rest of us jobs and growth, through their investments. But actually those people are called entrepreneurs, not rich people. Some rich people have inherited their wealth and some rich people invest and spend it abroad, not here at home.

Note also how Barnes ignores the demand side of the economy altogether. The entrepreneurs are not going to invest if there's no demand for their products and that demand depends on consumers having money. One way to get that money into consumers' paws is through government projects.

Barnes goes on the same way, by focusing on some issues and completely ignoring other issues. For example, he bemoans the high U.S. corporate tax rate and argues that it makes U.S.firms uncompetitive, but he fails to point out that the ultimate corporate tax payments in the U.S. are not high when compared to similar countries, because of all the loopholes the U.S. tax laws allow firms to use.

This Is Bad (Trigger Warning)

An eight-year old girl of Liberian origin was gang-raped in Phoenix by four boys also of Liberian origin and not much older than herself. But that's not the only reason this is news:

Lured by promises of chewing gum and raped in a shed by four boys barely older than her, an 8-year-old Liberian girl is now in foster care and living with strangers instead of the family that raised her and brought her to America.


Police say the girl's father told a police officer and a Child Protective Services worker that he doesn't want her anymore.

We must stop victim-blaming in all countries of the world. And we really must stop thinking that an eight-year old girl could somehow be responsible for her own gang-rape or that a raped woman or girl brings shame to her family. The shame belong to someone else entirely. Most prominently to all the cultures of the world which view girls as less valuable than boys.

It's not that long ago when much of rape here was regarded as shameful enough for women to hide from the authorities. It still happens, actually.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday flower blogging (by Suzie)

I love hibiscus. This was in my garden, when I lived in a house and had a yard.

Identity made material (by Suzie)

The following poem was published by Breath & Shadow: A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature as well as the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative. I think it relates to the post below. I've always been amused that people think I'm smarter when I'm wearing my glasses.
Reincarnation I

In a complex world,
people see simply.
My identity has changed
as I’ve changed jobs, lovers,
I become someone else
by taking off my glasses.
Now I’m a cancer patient,
the rest surgically removed.

Resale therapy (by Suzie)

As a volunteer in the cancer world, I’ve noticed that a lot of newly diagnosed patients feel the urge to give away stuff while others buy everything they ever wanted.

I work primarily with women, and I don’t know if men do this to the same degree as women. My guess is that this behavior is more common in women because women been attached to giving and shopping historically. In the West, for example, it often has been the job of women to remember gifts at holidays as well as to do the household shopping.

Women who give away stuff may see less value in material things as they value other aspects of their life more. Or, they may think the cancer will kill them, and they’d prefer to distribute their stuff to particular people while they still can. This may have to do with the desire to be remembered.

Those who indulge in “retail therapy” may feel like they have sacrificed enough. Or, they may want to enjoy what little time they have left. Shopping can be like hoarding for a rainy day.

I did the former when I was diagnosed. One motivation was: I had settled the estates of my grandparents and parents, and I wanted to lessen the burden on my executor. One friend was so creeped out that I told her she could return my carnelian necklace if I survived five years. (I’ve survived seven, and I got the necklace back. I forgot how pretty it was.)

In addition to giving away things, I didn’t buy new things. Why get new shoes if I’m going to be in a wheelchair? My mattress was almost 20 years old, but why get a new one if I’m just going to ruin it?

A couple of years ago, I got tired of living like a refugee, on the border between life and death. The shopping spree began. Because I can’t afford retail, I love (which I wrote about here) and a weekly flea market at a retirement center near my home. The flea market is open only to residents and their guests, and it's staffed by residents, mostly women in their 70s, 80s and 90s, like the witty Hungarian woman who loves cats and the woman who served as a WAVE in World War II. I enjoy them as much as I enjoy getting a Coach purse for $3.

Sometimes I “rescue” things – like the Finn Comfort sandals for $5 that were too small for me -- in hopes of finding them a home. For a friend’s wedding, I got some ridiculously overpriced bowl on her gift registry. As a personal gift, however, I gave her a Wedgwood bowl I bought for 50 cents because we had talked about how Wedgwood helped fund abolition activities.

Although I watched Absolutely Fabulous, I still didn’t know much about labels until I became a resale queen. I’m intrigued by the markup – how something can cost more than $100 at the mall, but I can get it NWT (that would be “new with tags” for you amateurs) for a few dollars.

Environmentally, I could never justify buying all this stuff new. But I’m happy to recycle it into my closet. A vegetarian, I stopped buying leather a while ago, but now, I’ve bought leather shoes and purses because I figure I’m not adding to the demand. (Phila, come out of hiding and chastise me, if you’d like.) Ditto for the black-pearl necklace.

As medical science takes me, organ by organ, new clothes help my body image. The ideal would be to love my body the way it is. In the meantime, some fantastic outfits have helped.

I know this sounds overblown, but this buying feels like a celebration of life. I’m enjoying the bounty of beautiful things and thinking I might live a while. Even if I don’t, I’ll go out in style.
Please talk among yourselves. Today, I should be driving back from Atlanta, where I went to see still more oncologists and urologists. While I was gone, I hope I won the Farscape action figures on the Shopgoodwill auction.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Some Thursday Fun

Sasha snoozing:

Picture by Doug

And then some Laura Nyro, bless her.

Thought For The Day

The whole New York Post's "Erin Andrews and Peeping Toms" article is really about who has the right to see women naked and whether the women themselves have any say in that.

The Post pretends to be shocked (shocked!) by the idea that someone took pictures of Ms. Andrews without her permission or knowledge and then put them up on the Internet. So shocking is all this that the Post must also print some of the pictures from the video, probably in order to let the rest of us Peeping Toms be equally shocked.

Writing From The Heart. What Heart?

Hard to do. Sometimes I grind my teeth to powder just to be able to type those keys calmly and logically. Sometimes I want to tear my clothes and scatter ashes on my head and then dance the dance macabre. Sometimes I want to sleep a century or two.

Not even goddesses can survive all that emotion. Hence the need to type as if I'm a robot, as if my skull contains nothing but graduate level textbooks, as if none of all this shit ultimately matters. Hence the need to look over those schoolmarm glasses ohso innocently, to pretend that one is leading a class in simple recital. Cool. Dry. Collected. And never, never, lose your temper.

That's what I wrote the other day when I tried to post something on how to strike the right balance between information and fire in blogging. Not quite the thing, obviously, but it was one of those days. We all have them, the days when we feel that all our effort is like drops of water trying to melt down Mount Everest.

But let's be more general: What is blogging for? Is it to provide information, to have a debate, to share in some human experience, to fight to death? How much emotion should be revealed, hinted at, ridiculed? What makes the energy that we toss back and forth here meaningful, human, alive? What opens eyes and ears and hearts? There must be balance of some kind, but not the arbitrary silliness of the mainstream media. Dancing only for the god of the dark moon is not balance.

Neither is being the first horsewoman of the Apocalypse. (Which brings me right back to the invisibility of women, hah, even in our myth-making.)

On The Roethlisberger Case

Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of rape. The case itself is something I cannot comment on yet, but it's worth pointing out that the media is not quite sure what to write about the rumors, so they asked ten sports reporters (all men) about their opinions on that. Well, sports reporters are mostly men, but the case is not about sports but about a sports celebrity.

As I pointed out, the actual case remains for the courts to decide. But in general a celebrity culture is unlikely to treat the two sides in cases like this equally.


That's a name for a sleeveless t-shirt. I guess the idea is that it's worn by guys who beat their wives. Or looks like something that could be worn by guys who beat their wives. There's even something called a "shooter shirt," a sleeveless t-shirt with large armholes. According to the Wikipedia the name comes from the American South and the shirt is worn mostly by men as the large armholes could make women's breasts suddenly pop out.

So I'm wondering what a husband-beater would look like. Or a child fucker t-shirt. Or a murderer t-shirt. Note that what we accept and what we don't accept tells us lots about the culture we live in. Also makes feminazis humorless bitches.

Sigh. This is what I write when I should have my talons sharply on the day's hawt news items.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reaching For The Moon

The Apostate discusses a post by Paul Campos about the fortieth anniversary of the first moon landing and the lack of women in the program. Here's Paul:

(2) Considered as an incredibly expensive and complex exercise in practical engineering, the Apollo program was indeed a stunning achievement. In many ways it was a paradigmatically American achievement, and specifically of American men, or rather boys as men (think of the most impressive neighborhood treehouse, times ten million). Aside from putting the Russians in their place, the most important motivation was probably the sheer desire to figure out how to actually make the thing work. And it was an intensely and peculiarly male project: I don't recall ever seeing a single woman in that huge Houston control center, where hundreds of guys in short-sleeved white shirts and crewcuts ran the show.

One measure of how much has changed in the last 40 years is that the very idea of a woman astronaut in the 1960s would have seemed outlandish to most Americans (that the Russians had a female cosmonaut was widely interpreted as a preposterous publicity stunt).

He later added an explanation to his post:

Update: In response to a couple of comments, I would have thought it obvious from my remarks about how much has changed in regard to things like gender roles and being an astronaut that I wasn't ascribing the intensely male atmosphere of the Apollo project to biology, as opposed to say sexist assumptions about men's and women's work.

But the absence of women astronauts in the program has a much more concrete reason: They were excluded from it. Books have been written about that: Margaret A. Weitekamp's Right Stuff, Wrong Sex and Stephanie Nolen's Promised The Moon.

And there were women involved with the project itself as described by Robyn C. Friend in The Women of Apollo. You can hear one of the original engineers, Ann Dixon, speak about her experiences here:

I'm not sure why women's history appears to evaporate the way it does.
Note that I'm not arguing here that women were common in the Apollo program. But there are all sorts of reasons for that.

Today's Short Economics Post

From the Wall Street Journal:

Executives and other highly compensated employees now receive more than one-third of all pay in the U.S., according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Social Security Administration data -- without counting billions of dollars more in pay that remains off federal radar screens that measure wages and salaries.

I'm sure that executives and other highly compensated employees are a very tiny percentage of all wage-earners.

Meanwhile, in Cincinnati

No, a cockroach has not eaten Cincinnati. Instead:

State legislation introduced this month by Rep. John Adams of Shelby County, and co-sponsored by five Cincinnati-area Republicans, would require women to get a father's written consent before having an abortion in Ohio.

The 'father' in the quote is not the woman's father. That's what I thought they meant at first. It's the man who made the woman pregnant. His permission would be needed unless the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest or caused risk to her life or health. The proposal seems to directly violate the right to privacy argument of Roe v. Wade.

Wild stuff. Smells of patriarchy more than the insides of an old dirty bowler hat. If you don't get the man's permission you have engaged in 'abortion fraud!'

The proposal doesn't seem to be an anti-abortion 'pro-life' bill as much as a men's reproductive rights bill.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

You Are Old, Father William

That's from a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll. The rest of the first verse goes like this:

'You are old, Father William', the young man said,
'And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head --
Do you think, at your age, it is right?'

I like it, because it's an excellent definition of ageism. Note the young man's assumption that someone with white hair shouldn't stand on his head any longer. Just because.

Ageism is different for men and women, on average. For instance, women are affected at younger ages than men. The U.K. Mirror has done some counting of the ages of various television presenters there, and came up with these findings:

We analysed a week's worth of programmes on the main five terrestrial channels and found the average age gap between male and female presenters is six years.

But on Channel 4 the average female presenter is 10 years younger than the average male.

The biggest gap on a single day is tonight on ITV1, where male presenters have an average age of 60, compared to 27 for the women.

AOn BBC2 on Monday, the gap was 18 years. And there is no day this week when the average age of female presenters is higher than their male colleagues.

Our findings come after Strictly Come Dancing was plunged into an ageism storm when judge Arlene Phillips, 66, was replaced with 30-year-old Alesha Dixon, while colleague Len Goodman, 65, survived.

Equality minister Harriet Harman hit out at Arlene's axing this week, saying: "I am suspicious there is age discrimination there."

Selina Scott, 57, won a landmark £250,000 out-of-court settlement and an apology in an age-discrimination suit against Five last December when they went back on a deal for her to cover Natasha Kaplinsky during maternity leave.

They opted for Isla Traquair, 28, and Matt Barbet, then 32, instead.

She said: "Companies want to employ only young people, so ageism has gone underground. It has become institutionalised and it is pervasive.

The Mirror investigation is not a proper study of ageist sexism or sexist ageism in the British television industry. (Such a study would look at a much wider group of occupations, including those behind the cameras, and it would control for all sorts of theoretically valid reasons why women might be younger in that industry.) But it's suggestive, and also suggests that we might want to inquire why all the women pundits on Fox News look to be in their twenties and in the Barbie mold, whereas the male pundits range from moderately good-looking to pretty ghastly.

OK. I put on the eyeglasses of someone who cares about the physical appeal of pundits there for a moment, to point out that we heterosexual women never get much eye-candy and are not expected to want it, either, and now I take them off, to speak about why this really matters:

It's because women in that industry will never reach the lifetime earnings of men in the same industry if they are forced out at much younger ages, and it's because the only reason for that might very well be looks-based ageism which affects women much earlier. What also matters is the fact that this kind of sexist ageism is semi-condoned and even expected by the watching public.

It also matters because the real world and the television world don't look at all the same in terms of age distributions. We all know many people over fifty in the real world. They are quite rare in the television world, and older women, in particular, seem to have died off due to some odd plague. Ultimately the television world might start affecting our views of how the world really looks, you know, and then older people walking down the street will come across as either invisible or somehow totally wrong.
For an American example having to do with a Fox affiliate, read this.

Echidne Loves Jimmy Carter

Right now, anyway. As elmlish in the comments pointed out, Carter has come out strongly against the misogyny the major religions contain. His piece for the U.K. Guardian's "Comment Is Free" says this:

So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when th e convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. This was in conflict with my belief - confirmed in the holy scriptures - that we are all equal in the eyes of God.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths.

Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries. The male interpretations of religious texts and the way they interact with, and reinforce, traditional practices justify some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant and damaging examples of human rights abuses.

At their most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

YESS! *Gives herself a high-five*

I have always said that religion is one of the pillars on which misogyny rests (the others being law and pseudo-science), and that is a truly awful thing. Because either some divine power is a sadistic one or the people who have interpreted the will of that divine power were far too often misogynists. And what are the poor women to do? If they demand their rights they go straight to hell, you know. Sigh.

Besides, for some odd reason all the major religions were created a long time ago and allowing women very few rights didn't seem that odd then, given that the Bible, for instance, urges slaves to obey their owners and such. But we have moved on from the idea that slavery is A-OK. So we could move on from the idea that women are fields for the men to plough as they will and that women should shut up in the congregation and wait until getting home to meekly ask for clarification from their much-wiser husbands. Assuming, of course, that they are let into the houses of worship at all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Which Is It, Hon?

When conservatives and health insurance lobbyists talk against even the idea of a public option in health insurance they come up with funny stuff like this (from a few days ago):

In the Ways and Means session, Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, who offered the amendment to kill the government plan, said it would have unfair advantages over private insurers.

"It is impossible for the private sector to compete fairly with government, with all its muscle and all its tools," Mr. Ryan said. He predicted that many employers who now provided health benefits would "dump their employees into the public plan."

Under the bill, the government plan would initially pay health care providers at rates pegged to Medicare rates, which are on average lower than what private insurers pay. Some Democrats joined Republicans in objecting to this provision.

Mr. Pomeroy said: "I have a serious problem with the public plan in this bill because it's based on Medicare rates."

Why do I call it funny? Because the usual conservative argument against government provision of anything but dead people of other nationalities is that the government is too inefficient! Now suddenly it's too efficient! Butbut... I thought it was the markets which were efficient! My poor head hurts.

It would be possible to take that argument about the unfair advantages of the government and to transfer it to those markets where the larger firms have all sorts of 'unfair' advantages: economies of scale, the ability to get quantity discounts from their suppliers and so on. But I've never read a conservative critique of that (though they may exist, somewhere).

Then Mr. Pomeroy's argument that pegging the public option rates to Medicare reimbursement rates is not fair, because those rates are lower than the private rates. But isn't this reform supposed to be both about getting more people health care coverage AND slowing down the rate of increase in health care costs? If the public option is pegged to current private rates the costs won't be controlled at all and then THAT will show how very inefficient the government is, once again.

It's like a merry-go-round.

Gender-Based Persecution And Asylum

A piece in the Washington Post discusses the problem of women who seek asylum in the United States on the basis gender-based persecution in their home countries:

Rody Alvarado Peña, a victim of brutal domestic violence in her native Guatemala, sought refuge in the United States in 1995. An immigration court judge granted her asylum the next year, but almost 14 years later Rody remains in limbo. She is working in a convent in California and hoping that the Obama administration will finally resolve her case and take steps to protect women who flee their countries to escape certain death from gender-based violence.

The administration recently sent a positive signal about these types of cases, but it needs to do much more. The plight of Alvarado Peña -- an indisputably peaceful woman at risk for deportation -- underscores both the dysfunction in our immigration system and the fact that our nation's promise of mercy and refuge is still applied erratically, even capriciously.

Nobody disputes the facts of this case. At age 16, Alvarado Peña married a career soldier. He raped and beat her with abandon, breaking mirrors over her head, causing a miscarriage by kicking her until she hemorrhaged and viciously beating her until she lost consciousness. With divorce impossible without her husband's consent, and no shelters or supports available, Alvarado Peña fled to the United States.

Initially, she was granted asylum, but because a dispute continues over whether gender-based persecution is a basis for asylum, the Immigration and Naturalization Service appealed the case. A few years later, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the nation's highest immigration court, denied her asylum. The judges did not dispute what had happened to Alvarado Peña, and they recognized her husband's violence as "deplorable." Still, they found no basis in law to grant Alvarado Peña asylum.

Read the whole article as they say. I'm skating on thin ice here (due to not knowing the field very well), but it's my impression that the problem is how persecution is defined. If it is by the government of a country then the law grants a reason for granting asylum. If it is something the home country of the woman just condones or tolerates in general (say, by having laws against wife-beating on the books but not enforcing them) then there is no basis for political asylum.

I may be wrong about this and welcome more information. And discussion, of course.


I have no idea how Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R) of Kansas says his last name, but I hear it as one of those embarrassing bodily eruptions. Because of this:

Arguing to restrict the public funding of abortions within the District of Columbia, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kans., suggested on Thursday afternoon that if such "financial incentives" were available some 47 years ago, Barack Obama himself may never have been born.

"If you think of it in human terms, there is a financial incentive that will be put in place, paid for by tax dollars, that will encourage women who are -- single parents, living below the poverty level, to have the opportunity for a free abortion," said Tiahrt. "If you take that scenario and apply it to many of the great minds we have today, who would we have been deprived of? Our president grew up in a similar circumstance."

"If that financial incentive was in place, is it possible that his mother may have taken advantage of it?" Tiahrt asked. "Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court justice, if those circumstances were in place, is it possible that we would be denied his great mind? The opportunity to have tax-funded abortions, a financial incentive, is something that I think most of us want to oppose in America and it's certainly deserves a clean up or down vote."

Note the racism? It's only black men who are mentioned as possible victims of abortion. It's harder to see the sexism, but note that it's only black men who are mentioned by name, except for president Obama's mother, and she is only brought in as someone who might have killed a fetus which would later have developed into a great mind.

You know, that argument has been used before. Usually it's about someone having aborted the person who would have cured cancer. It's never about someone having aborted Hitler, say, or a serial killer of the more common sort.

Then there's the sexism of ignoring the woman making those decisions in the first place. She's an aquarium for the great minds!

Finally, note the classism. The wealthy can afford to snuff out the great minds of the next generation, so we must not allow the poor single-mothers to do the same. Never mind that poor women are not given much help to bring up their children in the first place, and never mind that the Republicans always want to stop those programs which do exist, however good they are (Head Start comes to mind here).


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Did You Have A Great Weekend?

Sasha did. All you need is a pillow and some uninterrupted time. Pic by Doug.

Is it time for a gender bailout? Posted by Liz

Perhaps what ails us in the U.S. can't be solved by any amount of financial bailouts. Perhaps what we really need is a gender bailout. Instead of throwing money at our problems, why not women? Both Norway and Spain have mandated gender equity on corporate boards. Should the U.S. government demand the same?

Let’s review the numbers:

Women hold only 15 percent of all board seats in this country.

A new report from the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW) titled "Women in Fund Management" shows women are under-represented in fund management positions. Ten percent of all mutual fund managers are women and only three percent of the trillions of dollars invested in hedge funds are controlled by women.

There are similarly low percentages when you look at the number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500, female partners in law firms, women in newsrooms, women in Congress, etc. etc.


Fifty-one percent of the country's population is female.

Women make 85 percent of all consumer purchasing decisions in this country.

Almost half of all workers in the U.S., and one third of all business owners, are women.

Studies continue to demonstrate women are strong assets in business. There is the data from Catalyst that shows companies with the highest number of women in top management experience better financial performance than companies with fewer women at the top. And a little know study from two Boston College professors shows that Wall Street responds more favorably to financial moves made by companies with a female CFO.

So how about a gender bailout? Some might see it as affirmative action. Others might view it as simple equality – half of the population holding half of the power. Or, it might be the kind of decisive leadership we need to help bail us out of our current economic situation.