Saturday, December 19, 2009

Debussy - Noel des Enfants Qui n'ont Plus de Maisons

Christmas of Children Who No Longer Have Homes

Victoria de los Angeles Soprano

Our Lesson This Week, Demand Respect Settle For Nothing Less by Anthony McCarthy

I’ll have a lot more to say about the health care fiasco in the Senate and White House later. A lot of that will be hard. But, reality being real and trying to figure out how to do the most good in available conditions, here is what I think is the most important lesson from this for the left.

In their attacks on Howard Dean when he dared to tell the truth this week, in Barack Obama’s reported threat to congressman DeFazio and in their selling out their strongest supporters to the likes of Joe Lieberman, I’ve learned one important thing about dealing with the Obama administration. You don’t get any respect from them unless you force them to give it.

You have to slander, lie about, vilify, betray, flim flam, campaign against and go back on agreements you have made with the Obama people to even get them to pay attention to you. If you do what Liberman has done they will reward you. I think this might be Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama posing as Chicago hard guys and operators, which is as far in the psychologizing of the situation as I want to go.

We don’t have to know why this is true, but it is clearly true now. No one who isn’t a callow idealist knows that those with the power will have a malign effect on government, as they do in every other part of life. Self-interest is the enemy of the common good. The Obama administration clearly has taken this as the basis of their government, of dealing with the corrupt corporate system as a given. What they don't seem to take seriously, is that it's possible for realistic idealists to play hard too.

According to both Robert Kuttner and Matt Taibbi on last night’s Bill Moyer’s Journal, the majority of Democrats in even the putrid Senate are not corporate sell outs. It’s the monolithic Republican-corporate Democrat coalition that has brought us to this point. It has been the source of the corruption in our system from the start, the prevention and resistance to democracy and the common good. It explains how otherwise good people end up doing rotten stuff. Sometimes it is in otherwise good people attempting to harness the rottenness and turning it to better use. It was, as I recall, Kuttner’s explanation of how Emanuel staffed the House finance committee with corporate tools that made a lot of what is happening under Barney Frank’s leadership of that committee clear. He’s got no choice but to deal with Rahm’s people. When Democrats overlook that someone is a crooked thug in order to take advantage of his skills (as I wrongly thought wise a year ago) we inevitably will come to regret it.

We’ve got three more years of the Obama administration, likely with Rahm Emanuel and other, assorted cynical thugs in place. That’s the situation we face. At this point it’s far from clear exactly what Barack Obama’s intention is, though the image as a cagey chess master seems to have been just advertising. If this is the best that he’s able to do with a majority in the House and Senate, he’s an amateur. If the failure of the Clinton administration on health is any thing to go by, and given Rahm Emanuel’s part in that other fiasco, it likely is, the wrong lessons will be learned again.

But apparently the left in the Democratic Party can’t worry about him, it has to do what it can. The off hand chance that he will have a conversion experience that turns around this disaster would be as unprecedented as the scale of this betrayal. I’m not willing to go out on a limb for him to present the two possible, though apparently improbable, mitigations for his conduct that I’ve thought of. There is no apparent sign of them as of now and I spent my credibility on his account. I'mflat busted in that respect.

So, that leaves the left here in a hard freeze in December 2009. Government is too important for us to give up. We have to get as much as we can eke out of the corrupt dark age we are living through.

Non-corporate Democrats must present a united roadblock to well selected legislation and appointments of this Democratic administration. We are brought to this by the extent of corporate corruption and the Courts that purposely have produced it to prevent democracy.

If the Senators who either actually are or run as liberals made an unalterable demand for a public option I don't think we would be where we are. That might not work now but maybe Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama, after they found he couldn’t intimidate them into submission, would have gone to work on the traitors they bent over backwards to satisfy. And that could have been done in the House as well.* If they can't salvage health care, maybe they can salvage their credibility. That's another account that is in arrears. I'm stunned at how acquiescent the liberals in the Senate have been, Feingold going senatorial and brushing aside the learned condemnation of Lieberman was one of the strongest indications that the Senatorial system is utterly corrupted. Other than Tom Harkin, I'm hearing almost nothing serious about changing the rules of the Senate, on which Barack Obama delivering ANY PART OF HIS CAMPAIGN PLATFORM absolutely depend on. With the veto he's handed the worst of the corporate interests, everything he says that sounds good are words, hollow, cynical, empty, dishonest. And that is an absolute tragedy for the world.

Clearly, you’ve got to force this White House to respect you and you don’t do that by cooperation, they see that as a sign of weakness. Which is stupid but a mistake not unknown in macho guys. If they want to show that’s not how it is, let them make the effort starting now. We've done enough work on this relationship.

* As putrid as the poison pill Stupak amendment was, it’s gone little noticed that the House, under Nancy Pelosi, has actually produced a bill with a weak public option. That is worth noting. In her press conference from Copenhagen the other day she’s reported to have remarked that the Obama administration were going to have to be the ones to find any further money to fund the Afghanistan escalation, she wasn't going to do it. I don’t know if it’s accurate but I think she might have just announced her disgust with them.

If that’s true, she should let The President and Rahm Emanuel know in the strongest possible terms that she’s done with them screwing around with the House and intimidating House members who stand up for the things that Barack Obama campaigned on. She delivered a bill a lot closer to what Barack Obama promised us as recently as September. She’s the third in line of succession for the Presidency, a higher position than the flaccid and useless Harry Reid. She is the most Democratic of the Democrats in power in Washington DC. She and the other representatives of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party are our best chance to have anything at the end of this. The position for real Democratic leadership in the government is unfilled. If Nancy Pelosi doesn’t step in, someone else must. If they don’t that vacuum will be filled with a traitor and that is the last thing that the left needs again.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Echo Is Now On

The comments no longer use the old Haloscan system. I have changed into Echo. Let me know how it works for you. So far it looks like the site is loading more slowly and you have to wait until it has finished before you can access the comments. On the other hand, the comments have more toys for you to play with, and the slowness may have something to do with teething pains.

Added: Use the thread below to experiment.

Tiger Woods & Ann Cook

Let’s look at two columns that discuss waitresses and models, in connection with Tiger Woods. Yesterday and the day before, Echidne tore up alleged liberal Richard Cohen, who called cocktail waitresses “dreck” in the Washington Post. The word means “trash, especially inferior merchandise,” from the Yiddish word for excrement.

In the West, under patriarchy, there’s a long history of men judging women who work in public places as less moral and low status. This attitude strengthened as industrialization spread to cities in the 1800s. A “public woman” was another name for a prostitute. It’s not surprising that men considered
waitresses up for grabs, in more ways than one.

Models could be similarly tainted, especially if they posed for a man without a chaperone, or if they exposed a part of their body not normally seen in public.

For the most part, men created the demand and made the demands.

These days, there are plenty of liberal men who oppose restrictions on sexualizing workers (think Hooters), as well as prostitution itself, and yet view the women as “inferior merchandise” – if not crap – when they use their services or when the women are in conflict with men of higher status.

Some journalists knew that Woods treated sex as a sport, but they kept it secret to protect his image as a wholesome family man. It wasn’t just men protecting another man. The media also made money off of his image. They are making money on the scandal, too, but it won’t be nearly as lucrative for mainstream media and advertising as his golfing career has been.

Robin Givhan, also in the Post, writes:
… while Woods is being portrayed as complicated and troubled, the women are merely types. … The women are just "the mistresses." The golfer has been called a dog, a liar and worse. But he still gets the benefit of being perceived as an individual. He is still Tiger Woods.
She notes the power imbalance between a billionaire and women in jobs with little pay or prestige. Women are much more likely to work as models and servers, she notes, which may be one reason that young, attractive ones are so easily stereotyped as dumb and slutty.

Here’s her paragraph that inspired this post:
And pity the poor women who have ever been models. It does not seem to matter if one's only experience modeling was as an infant promoting Gerber's. If you should ever find yourself under media scrutiny, you will forever be referred to as a former model, a kind of shorthand meant to imply that you are vacuous -- all style and no substance.
I attend a Unitarian Universalist church with Ann Turner Cook, in the photo above. She's a woman of intelligence and grace, who writes mystery novels set in Florida locales. I emailed her what Givhan wrote, and she replied:
As the actual model for the Gerber baby, the experience has been a joy to me. The media always treat me with kindness. My real career was as an English teacher and mystery writer, but what could be nicer than to also be a symbol for babies?

Happy Winter Solstice (by Suzie)

This year, the Winter Solstice falls on Monday, the 21st, but I wanted to get my greetings in early.

To get you in the mood, here's a sculpture by Dale Chihuly, who used glass to interpret water, ice and sky at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

This is another song I interpret in my own way. The bit about refusing to be kept on the pedestal, for example. But it's also a nice molasses-flavored tune...

A Housekeeping Post

Haloscan, the commenting system I use for this here blog, will be discontinued on December 26. The alternative I'm considering is Echo. Do you have any preferences? And what are the bells and whistles you'd like to see?

I'm not that fond of the system Blogger supports because it is very slow.

Cohen, After A Night Of Sleep

When I woke up today I realized I was far too nice on that piece about Richard Cohen. So here are a few additional gentle thoughts from the supposedly frailer of the supposed two sexes:

1. To write an opinion column does not mean checking out what interesting lint you might have in your belly button. Opinions totally unsupported by any study are not worth paying for and they smell bad, too. Besides, reading them feels like going through the homework of an elementary school student. To anyone who has actually read in the field or thought about it.

2. To write an opinion column does not mean that you can safely ignore the fifty-plus percent of your potential readers who are women AS READERS. At least don't start lisping and tickling them under the chin and thinking that if you change into French at the last moment they will be enchanted. You insult them.

3. To write an opinion column does not mean that you can leave all logic at home. You can't skate across all the changes in the relative position of women in this country and then argue that nothing has changed. Because you wish that nothing has changed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How To Make Good Coffee

My fluff post for the week, but also a serious question. I used to think that dumping the coffee grounds into boiling water and then waiting a while made the best coffee. My grandmother made her coffee like that.

Now I think it's the whatever-it-is-called which presses the water through the beans. In any case, I've had it with the machines which use filters, because every single one is incontinent around the pouring beak and I have a kitchen covered with coffee stains now. It doesn't matter how expensive a machine I buy; it still leaks. Neither do they keep the coffee hot.

So how do you make coffee if you do?

Today's Hilarity

Richard Cohen offers us a bouquet of laughs with his new column starting:

Why is there no female Tiger Woods?

Why are there no female sex scandals?

Then he goes on the way one does in these kinds of articles: First you bash men as creatures who are driven by their pricks, pushing them along in wheelbarrows and obeying their every urge. You explain, patiently and kindly, that evolution has made men like that (thanks evo-psychos*).

But for some odd reason, all this male-bashing can only end up in one place: Putting women down! It's very very funny. This is how Cohen ends his column:

The reason the Glass Ceiling has not broken is that women have other priorities — maintaining relationships and being a mother. This is the way it is, and this is the way it has always been. As any of Tiger Woods's cocktail waitresses could tell him, Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

N'est ce pas?

I don't know about you but I'm enjoying this shit. Take that last paragraph and tweak it a little:

The reason the Glass Ceiling has not broken is that men have other priorities -- they don't care to maintain relationships or be a father. This is the way it is, and this is the way it has always been...

But Cohen doesn't say THAT. His writing is about as informed as mine would be on the topic of the division of labor in an anthill. He doesn't know anything at all about the Glass Ceiling so of course it doesn't exist! He walks through it every morning and still has hair!

All of that is shorthand for Cohen's privilege to ignore the culture and the environment, both of which are different for women than for men. It could be that our biological inheritance explains the dearth of female Tiger Woodses. But I'm pretty sure that a culture which condones the male type (nudge-nudge) and disapproves of the female type has a role to play, too. And so do writers like Richard.
*I have written much on the topic of how we know what men did in prehistory without any actual evidence. The way these theories have become "common wisdom" is pretty disheartening for those of us who'd like to see that evolved brain actually be used.

Putting On The Mask

So I got a bit angry yesterday, when reading about how just pretending to be a guy (including joining in the chick-bashing when needed) can double or triple your income on the Internet. The anger is still there simmering away nicely, because I picked the very opposite path as is usual for me. I became everything that guarantees I don't get paid for my writing: An openly feminist female writer. Even if I can also write on a zillion other topics I've cut my wings by that one choice.

Putting on the male mask is not a new thing at all. The Bronte sisters did it, George Eliot did it, James Tiptree Jr. did it more recently, and several research papers have shown that sending off identical resumes except for the male and female names attached to them, gives the male names more calls for interviews. But still. I keep believing in people, hoping for the change that should be me, and every morning when I raise my goddessy head from the pillow I think the world has repented.

Such a mystery. But I digress.

When Digby came out as a woman her comments threads changed into something much more vicious and violent and disrespectful. All this is easy to see from outside. What's much harder to know is how I or other women bloggers would be treated if we had names like Brawny Bob, Tess Tickle or Tess Stosterone. When something I say gets no attention is it because it wasn't a useful statement at all, because I didn't write it well enough, because others have said it better? Or is it because it was said by a woman and women can be safely ignored as they're less likely to kill you and then to stomp on your corpse?

How can I ever know what the alternative treatment would have been? It's too late to change my name now and in any case nobody else writes like a shorthand machine with mittens on.

This is not just about me. It's something all women might be affected by and about the choices we must make. Note that James Chartrand of the "Men With Pens" didn't just take a guy handle; she also went along with the chick-bashing to fit in.

And that's where the deeper question of the masks lies: How does a woman negotiate a society which takes points off for her very femaleness? What cost is not too exorbitant?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

If I had Been A God And Not A Goddess...

I would probably have made more money. This post suggests so:

James Chartrand of Men with Pens, is not who he seems.

Chartrand has been all over the 'net for years, blogging at Copyblogger, FreelanceSwitch, FreelanceWritingGigs and basically everywhere else freelance web writers hang out.

He's a she.

She used to write under a female name, but one day:

One day, I tossed out a pen name, because I didn't want to be associated with my current business, the one that was still struggling to grow. I picked a name that sounded to me like it might convey a good business image. Like it might command respect.


Taking a man's name opened up a new world. It helped me earn double and triple the income of my true name, with the same work and service.

A proper study of this phenomenon would be most fascinating. But right now I don't want to talk about that. Instead, I will give the floor to Typhon, a guy I had a few monster kids with and some hawt sex. Other than the sex he's an idiot of the highest order. But a guy god. He will tell you how I should have written on the health care reform to be successful:

Well, hello there! Nice rack, babe. (Scratches balls meditatively, burps.) How about that health care reform, eh? Line 'em up against the wall and shoot 'em, that's what I always say. (Watches a cleavage on television flit by, scratches some more, looks right through the women in the room.)

Hey, did I tell you about that hot goat goddess, in Sparta? Do you know what those chicks do with that beard? It tickles, man, but in a goood way, if you get my meaning.

Anyhow. About that health care crap. A real man would just make them all put their kneepads on or grab their feet. Slam, bam, thank you Rahm. You take Joe's jowls and tie them into a bow. Then you go bwahahah!

You make them all your hoes and you say "jump" and then see them fly over Mount Olympus. Yup. Hey, is there any cool beer in the house? Bitches!

You gotta show them who the boss is. You gotta teach them to blog and to stand up for things, not to be all chickenlike. But they do have nice tits, mostly, and should post them more. That's how you make money. (Finds a nice, ripe boogie. Watches it before sticking it under Echidne's desk.)

OOPS! Turns out that my parody wasn't much of one.

A Health Care Reform Post From Mount Olympus

A report from the health care reform wars. By me.

I have been following the debate over the idea that people 55 to 64 could buy into something like Medicare with great interest. Mostly I knew it could not be a real thing because it so suddenly dropped from the skies, late in the process, and because it's everything the Republicans hate (and we are ALL bipartisan now).

On the other hand, getting that group out of the private insurance markets would make the companies swoon in excitement and have even more caviar-on-gold-leaves parties on their yachts. The average costs of health care rise with age, so if the market could get rid of people over 55 altogether, without being told to cut the average premium, they could get even richer. "They" being the shareholders in the companies, ultimately, though also some groups who work in health care.

On the third hand, letting only the 55-64 group into a public program would guarantee that the costs of that program would remain pretty high, and that would make the public option look bad. Because of those higher-than-average risk levels. So perhaps the Republicans should have wanted it so that they could take the whole program down later.

All that is irrelevant now that Joe Lieberman has torpedoed the idea. We are left with a smaller reform proposal, still containing useful things, still helping some people, but not the kind of thing that would be inscribed in future history books. Except perhaps as an example in political science texts: How a party which governed the country and had majorities in the House and the Senate was finally taken down by one single jowly guy.

If I sat on some other planet I'd be settling down with a few barrels of pop corn to watch this all. It's pretty incredibly hilarious for those who have no cow in the game. With a bit of sarcastic cynicism it still is, because the debate takes place in a country where money buys votes and where the industries threatened by any proposed reforms are the ones who are paying the politicians, where the average person does not vote at all and where lots of voters vote on such populist principles as being scared of foreigners and blacks and gays and "vaginas". Shooting your own toes, that's what a lot of this boils down to.

And we will have no insurance coverage for that.

Tit-For-Tat Strategies In Politics

A few days ago I was struck by this comment about Joe Lieberman and his despicable recent behavior:

Joe Lieberman is an odd political duck, to put it mildly. I understand that he seems to bear a grudge against the Democratic liberals who tried to unseat him in 2006 because of his vote for the war in Iraq, and that he might be engaged in a little pay back right now. Perhaps he's shilling for his home state insurance interests, as if no other senator would ever do such a thing.

Ezra Klein agrees and argues that Lieberman is driven at least partly by pique.

Games of this sort* are meant to make the opposition hesitate before that first move (the tat, I guess), because they know that the revenge is forthcoming (the tit, um). The intention is to make the opposition abstain from the tat move because of the high future cost. So just threatening to tit will kill the tat! Gosh, I sometimes write like an idiot.

I also sometimes think Clarence Thomas is doing something similar when it comes to Supreme Court cases about women's rights, as if he is revenging the Clarence Thomas hearings on all American women. If that were truly the case he'd be a very small man, of course.

Neither Lieberman nor Thomas are playing the sort of repeated game where the tit for tat strategy would work. If they are looking for revenge it's for some other type of reason. But observing these events may make others hesitant to attack politicians too strongly or to fight against them too hard. There might be game going, after all, even if it's in some meta sense.

Of course politicans or Supreme Court justices who act out of personal spite should be sent to the duck pits.
*Tit-for-tat strategies in repeated games such as in a repeated prisoners' dilemma.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Recession Is Over, Summers says


I hope recession hears and obeys.

Eek! Masculinity Threatened Again. Take #356894

It is, my friends. Men are turning into softies and there's nobody around to do manly things such as dominating women:

More women are drawn to softy fellows, which is prompting more men to get dolled up at hair salons, adorn themselves in the latest hip fashions and paint up their noggins with the latest from Mary Kay.

Whatever the cause, the trend may not bode well for America.

If your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, will there be any regular fellows around who know how to fix things and don't mind getting their hands dirty?

The best you may be able to hope for is that a modern fellow stops his car to offer consolation and hand you a cell phone from his purse.

There's something terribly sad about a man who tries to justify the whole existence of manly men with references to changing tires and such.

But even sadder is the author's explanation for the demise of real manly men:

A scientific study, highlighted in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, offers a theory as to why more women appear to be drawn to softy men.

It may have to do with the contraceptive pill.

When a woman is fertile, a few days a month, she is attracted to men who are assertive and masculine.

Her DNA directs her to pick a mate whose genetic makeup is rugged and dissimilar to her own, thus increasing her chances of having a healthy child.

The pill blocks fertility -- thus, women are more prone to go for boyish, softy men?

Note how those silly evo-psycho studies get knitted into the popular culture in no time at all?

The study, having to do with female students ranking pictures of men they'd like to date, did not allow those students to explain why they ranked certain faces higher than other faces. And it's hard to know how pictures of faces can be assertive or how anyone knows whether the DNA of the men in those pictures is "rugggeder" than the DNA of some other men.

It was the researchers in that study who provided the interpretations so eagerly applied in the linked piece. I wish I still had the link to that study, because the faces of the "tough guys" and the "softies" don't look very different at all. And all the study really used as evidence were those faces. Nothing about the actual DNA compatibility. Nothing about assertiveness.

Violet Thoughts

Sometimes I tire of writing feminist criticism of the world. Such a lonely job it is, a job full of hidden dangers and much openly expressed anger, a job most unsuitable of who I am, Sometimes I want to wrap my hair around me and disappear. Let others carry the unlit torch for a mile or two. That is how most women seem to view the question of their own liberation, after all.

I call these thoughts violet thoughts. They are almost violent thoughts but not quite, and they write themselves in purple ink. For instance, my hair is roughly two inches long so it would be very hard to do any wrapping with it and I'm not exactly the only feminist on this earth. But still. The job is hard, the pay is nonexistent and the results at most iffy. It would be so very lovely to write something everybody loves to read! To cheer people up when they come here!

In my next life, perhaps. And under some brawny sounding male pseudonym.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Sasha Blogging. With Purple Finch.

Sasha the mastiffy pup is not really a fully grown dog yet. That might take another year. Here she sends you Season's Greetings. (Yes, she is an enemy of Christmas, too.) Pictures by Doug.

Purple finch picture by 1WattHermit.