Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Small Corrupt Clique of Men Shouldn’t Rule Anything by Anthony McCarthy

The wider influence of religion and other institutions should always be based solely on the demonstration of active justice and morality. Those acts should be continual and ongoing, they shouldn’t be allowed to rest on the acts of other people in the past. The granting of political and social influence by mere assumption and rote stipulation is one of the worst features of organized religion through history. Religious texts from most traditions give warnings about people who put on robes and assume titles and with those the influence and, worst of all, power unwisely given on the appearance of religious sincerity. The scriptures, no less, of Buddhism and Christianity are quite explicit about phonies in religious dress, as are popular songs. The tendency to corruption among the clergy of established religion apparently isn’t entirely abandoned in countries without established religions.

Today’s Catholic hierarchy has forfeited its claims to respect and should be stripped of its general political influence. Its lackies, such as Bill Donohue, shouldn’t automatically get their ranting voices in the media. It has absolutely no credibility in the area of sexual morality, none whatsoever, its heavy hand on legislation dealing with sexuality and reproduction should be cut off as the offending one.

To a lot of Catholics and ex-Catholics, one of the minor annoyances of the gradually building scandal of clergy sexual abuse and enablement by the hierarchy is the hypocrisy of the hierarchs. The small clique of unmarried men who rule the church could be counted on to explain their stamping out any small progressive deviation from their rigid preferences with the phrase “it give scandal”. And now they, themselves, have given the church the biggest scandal since the Vatican did in WWII.

While Cardinal Ratzinger and Karol Wojtyla were doing their best to put a stop to the mild reforms of progressives begun during the papacies of John XXIII and even Paul VI* they were also continuing what we’ve found out is a long tradition of treating priests and other church employees abuse of children as a minor personnel problem, their rape and abuse of children as something to be covered up not reported to law enforcement**. I don’t think the two things, centralizing power in the Vatican and the abuse scandal are separate, they are two aspects of the same corruption. And it’s a kind of corruption that isn’t limited to religious institutions but has also arisen in purely secular situations. What it can tell us about some avoidable dangers inherent to institutions is universally important.

Apparently it wasn’t the FACT that children were being abused that was seen as the more serious problem, it was to create the illusion of chastity being maintained by the church. To some extent that was due to the perennial shortage of priests, due to the exclusion of the majority of Catholics from that vocation. When you’ve got priests carrying two or more parishes now, getting rid of the bad ones would leave the ones left stretched past the breaking point. The idea that married men and women were eligible for the priesthood, that there were no scriptural bases for their exclusion was one of the ideas Wojtyla came down hard on as soon as he became pope. No doubt his #1 henchman, Ratzinger concurred in that***.

I think it’s fairly obvious that the clique of unmarried men who run the church has done this primarily in order to maintain their absolute control of the wealth and power of the Catholic Church. I do believe that no other part of the church has had a hand in retaining pedophile priests and enabling their further crimes has been the decision of only unmarried, ordained men. I haven’t been able to find any instance in which a priest was retained or dismissed on the say so of any woman or married man. But it isn’t true that no priests were fired during the period when Ratzinger and his lackies were not only retaining and shuffling around abusive priests and other church employees, there were firings and even defrockings. Consider the case of Sr. Jeannette Normandin and Fr. George Winchester who got thrown out of their jobs at the Paulist Center in Boston.

I’ll concentrate on the case of Sr Normandin because I know people who have told me about their experience with her. They inevitably call her a saint. Sr. Jeannette had founded Ruah House, to care for women with AIDS, she had worked in prisons and among poor people for decades. Her great crime was that she baptized children of gay men who were part of the Paulist Center community. She lost her job, her home and was excluded from her community after giving 53 years to her religious vocation. The Cardinals and Pope who had a say in her dismissal obviously were more bothered by her baptizing children than they were over the rape of children by the priests they retained and reestablished, now we know more than once, so they could continue to abuse children.

It’s especially interesting to contrast how the Cardinals, up to the Pope, who threw her and others, out on these minor points are the same ones who got Cardinal Law out of Boston before he could be indicted for his part in the crimes of the pedophile clergy he enabled and supported.

The biggest scandals in the Catholic Church haven’t been from the majority of its members, it has come from the crimes of its most powerful rulers. They’ve pretty much lost their moral authority, Ratzinger’s part in the cover up was known before the CARDINALS chose to make one of the more corrupt among them pope. The same thug who cracked down on progressives over minor deviations from his preferred neo-medieval revival is now known to have been an enabler of priestly child rapists. What else he might be is yet to come out but I wouldn’t be surprised if this scandal doesn’t get much worse.

I asked one of my observant cousins why she stayed in the church, she said that the church didn’t belong to the pope, “it’s my church”, she said. While that wasn’t the way I took, I respect her and the other Catholics like the late Sr. Normandin who do good work from within the church. There is a lot of good that is done by people in the Church, though I think they owe it to us to make it explicit that their work doesn’t cover up the sins of Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, some Nuns and Brothers. It doesn’t make up for the child abuse and cover up, the coercion to silence the victims of crimes.

The use of scripture to explain things is a sometimes thing and, at times, a two edged sword. The vast variety of texts by different authors writing in various conditions and of varying experience passed down to us in copies of varying textual quality and authenticity, lends itself to contradiction. But I don’t believe the text in which Jesus said that people who corrupted children would have been better of drowned with a millstone around their neck is really ambiguous. Pope Benedict has had a hand in corrupting children. Many Cardinals such as Bernard Law have permitted the abuse of children. As seen in the recent procurement scandal within the Vatican apparatus it is a place where corruption can go on for quite a while. But this pope, who has been among the greatest proponents of the revival of confession, is stonewalling on his own, disqualifying, sins. The hypocrisy of the conservatives in control of the hierarchy doesn't seem to have a bottom.

I stopped being an active Catholic many years ago, I stopped identifying myself as even a lapsed Catholic later. While I have respect for many Catholics, who are doing good things and who are sincerely trying to be better people, the institution is hopelessly corrupt. Short of opening up the priesthood and the power structure to women and men, regardless of their marital state, the corruption flowing from the all-unmarried-male power structure will never be ended. The extent to which the power held by the Pope is absolute and that by the Cardinals and Bishops as absolute as the Pope will allow, will be the extent to which corruption and crime are incubated.

The Catholic Church in its present form is a good illustration of why non-democratic government will always devolve into criminality and corruption. I think the sincere Catholics deserve a lot better than that, they should stop giving the criminals money, they should demand that power be devolved. They should demand that the windows John XXIII tried to open be opened for good and that the all male power structure give way to something else. The People of the church could hardly do worse.

* Hard to remember how conservative he seemed at the time, isn’t it?

** Part of the early negligence was due to an unsupported faith in the ability of psychology to correct the behavior of pedophiles. The attempt to use psychology to rehabilitate priestly abusers was found, even by some of its early advocates, to be disastrously ineffective.

*** Ratzinger and Wojtyla were especially keen on trying to pin the pedophile scandal on gay men. Gay men are, of course, not automatically pedophiles anymore than straight men are. I, as most gay men I know, hold pedophilia to be an immoral violation of the rights of children, but to be disgusting. The recently revealed procurement scandal within the Vatican Choir is a good indication that the public campaign to purge seminaries of gay men was a PR stunt as well as unjust hypocrisy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Question for the weekend (by Suzie)

How will the new Affordable Health Care for America Act affect you personally?

I'll go first. Because I pay for Medicare Part D drug coverage, I'm happy that there will be rebates and discounts for those who fall into the doughnut hole, where we have to pay for everything ourselves. I usually fall into it in November or December. The hole will be closed in 10 years.

(Keep in mind that we aren't getting free drugs. I paid $2,000 last year in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.)

Some of you may be surprised to hear that 16 percent of Medicare recipients are younger than 65, but qualify because of a disability. A lot of people discuss Medicare as if it only affected elders. (For the stats, go to CMS and click on "populations.")

As of 2014, insurance companies cannot discriminate against adults because of pre‐existing conditions and health status. I wonder how that will work in regard to Medigap. Those of us with regular Medicare have to pay a deductible and 20 percent of costs unless we have a private Medigap policy to pick up those expenses. When I got mine in 2004, only one company in my state would write a Medigap policy for someone under 65. No one asked me about my health status, but that wasn't necessary. They already knew that I had to have a serious diagnosis to qualify for Social Security Disability and thus, Medicare.

People under 65 with disabilities are treated differently than seniors. We have to wait two years from the date that we were entitled to Social Security before we get Medicare. For me, that meant two years in a very expensive state risk pool.

I've followed the discussion of health-care reform in regard to gender. But now, I'd like to hear how the whole enchilada will impact you.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

Calling all lizard lovers: Is this a monitor? I swear I'm going to take notes when I take photos in the future. This one comes from Busch Gardens in Tampa.

ETA: Lars says they are Dracaena guianensis - Caiman lizards.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Botswana Music

This is Ronnie. Watch his fingers.

The F-Word

Such an interesting piece about the new direction of Venus which used to be a feminist zine covering "women in music, art, film, fashion, and DIY culture." It has now been sold to a new owner who wants to get rid of that feminism-tag which smells of bra-burning, Birkenstocks and 1970s hirsute women with schoolmarm personalities:

I asked Beardsley about Venus and its commitment to feminism. "That's such a word fraught with interpretation and meaning," she said. "We don't use that particular F word around here. It just doesn't seem relevant." She called feminism "an old-fashioned concept" and explained that "it doesn't enter into our discussions about what we're going to cover and what have you." She said, "We're much more into discovering trends, talent, whatever they are, and they can come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and forms."

And I bet my goddess helmet with the emerald-studded snake decorations that the "trends, talent, whatever they are" come in the exact percentages matching the population percentages of all those "shapes, sizes, genders and forms." We now live in post-patriarchy and therefore fifty-plus percentage of the reported talent will be attached to a female "shape, size, gender or form."

But in that case why have a zine aimed at women in the first place?

There was no winter 2010 issue of Venus, but the spring issue, Beardsley's first, was given away at South by Southwest and it'll be on the stands March 30. It carries a note from the new owner telling readers, "You prove that smart, creative women are a force to be reckoned with."

If feminism is no longer relevant, surely the general magazines of the field cover women quite adequately?

I find this fascinating, because a) it will allow me to get going with that cannibalism book supposed to be my big project in the F-word utopia, and because b) the general definition Beardsley gives us about her plans does sound a bit like some new definitions of feminism. And I no longer need to write this blog! (High-fives herself.)

A Nasty Post on Women And Religion

Jodi has written an excellent post on the reasons why nobody should listen to the U.S. Catholic bishops as the arbiter of morality. Read it and grit your teeth.

And what about the Pope himself?

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.

Perhaps Ratzinger was way too busy writing about how women can never be priests and how people should not use condoms as a protection against HIV in Africa?

An alien from outer space would not be able to get its head (if it has one) around the way we decide on whose values matter. Stupak listened to the Catholic bishops, a celibate group of men, on the question of women's sexuality. Millions of people listen to Pope Ratzo, another celibate man who put his church ahead of the abused children, on the question of women's roles in the society. It sounds like a surrealistic play.

Here comes the nasty part: The reason why the Catholic bishops and the Pope have so much power is that they run a gigantic religious organization with many believers who give them money. They have power. What they say affects the behavior of hundreds of millions of people on this planet, and anyone who wants the votes, say, of some of those people must at least pretend to listen to the bishops and the Pope.

And many, many of those believers are women. Indeed, the majority of church goers in the Catholic church are women, and this is true for other forms of Christianity, too. It may be true for all the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. It may be true for all religions.

Most women on this planet stay faithful to religious organizations which will not want to share power with them, which have holy texts full of misogyny and which in their extreme forms support societal structures completely unfair to women.

Yes, I understand the reasons for women's religious fidelity. Spirituality is channeled into the avenues that exist where you are born. Community is built around religion. Religion succors those who have less power.

I even understand how hard (and even dangerous) it is to tear oneself away from shared community values and approval, even when those values are bad and the approval based on a role which slowly suffocates you, and I certainly understand the fear of infinite hell if one believes in that. But it is still true that misogynistic religions would have less power if fewer women supported them, if more women spoke openly against the misogyny and refused to participate in it.

The consequences of such rebellious acts are not the same for all women, and I'm not advocating suicidal acts here. But most women will not be stoned to death for asking questions about their religion or for demanding more access to its corridors of power.

And no, I'm not arguing that religions must by default be misogynistic or that atheism is the only feminist answer. But it's necessary to note that silence can be interpreted as acquiescence.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Meanwhile, in Ukraine

The new all-male cabinet of Ukraine is not an accident, as told by the new prime minister, Mykola Azarov:

Women's groups in Ukraine have angrily reported Azarov – who presides over an all-male cabinet – to the country's ombudsman following his remarks last week. They accuse him of gender discrimination and holding Neanderthal views.

Speaking on Friday, Azarov said Ukraine's economic problems were too difficult for any woman to handle.

"Some say our government is too large; others that there are no women," he said. "There's no one to look at during cabinet sessions: they're all boring faces. With all respect to women, conducting reforms is not women's business."

There ya go. Women should stay in the kitchen.

But isn't it interesting how only feminists are supposed to be angered by this? I guess everyone else thinks the comment was perfectly appropriate.

My impression is that most of the countries which used to belong to either the Soviet Union or the old Soviet bloc have lots of open sexism of this pre-feminism type.

The World Of the Wealthy

Is a planet which revolves around a sun made out of real gold and diamonds:

Six of eight managers who had their 2009 awards set by Feinberg, the Obama administration's special master on executive pay, had their overall packages increased this year, according to a Treasury Department report released today. Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche has said that AIG must offer competitive pay to keep employees needed to repay its rescue.

Feinberg, who controls pay for AIG's 25 highest-paid employees, last year slashed overall compensation for that group by about 58 percent and instituted a $500,000 base salary cap for most workers. The majority of the employees who were among the top 25 when the insurer was bailed out in 2008 have left the company, and those new to the group had their 2010 awards lowered, on average.

It's that word "competitive" that deserves further attention, because I don't think the markets for top executives in this field are at all competitive. Neither do I quite understand why the skills of destroying a financial market are so rare that one needs to pay huge amounts for people who were doing that.

I understand that AIG is not necessarily rewarding the people who broke the market as the current crop of executives appears to have been hired recently. But that's the argument I read whenever someone defends the very high compensation packages of financial market executives: The skills and talent required are so rare that all the firms are fighting for a small handful of supermen (and an even smaller number of superwomen).

Of course such a market wouldn't be "competitive" in the first place but a monopolistic one. But if those people are truly so scarce, why not hire me? I'm pretty sure I can destroy a market. Can't be harder than goddessing.
Hat tip to moonbootica.

Signing The Executive Order

In silence. (Read the whole post. Do NOT read the comments if you feel serene and happy right now.)

Still, this is an improvement on the Stupak amendment because it doesn't (necessarily) expand the Hyde amendment to the private expenses of individuals. That's not much of a consolation, I know, to those of us who don't like the Hyde amendment.

I don't have the right to refuse the use of my taxes on illegal wars and the killing of innocents abroad, but those who are against abortion do have the right to refuse the use of their taxes for medically necessary abortions, as long as the woman will not die right there and then.

Perhaps we should start campaigning for a Dr. Jekyll amendment so that everyone gets to determine the specifics of how their taxes are used?

Just kidding there, and not too successfully.

How It Is Done. Or Popularizing Gender Research

A new study about the impact of shared parenting on mothers' self esteem could be picked up for a model of how these studies are so often popularized.

One starts with pointing out how women have been totally messed up by feminism, in some form or another:

Dads are helping out with childrearing more and more these days. The result can be both a boon and a letdown for super-moms, whose self-competence can take a hit when paired with husbands who are savvy caregivers, new research finds.

The findings reveal the fallout as women have entered the workplace in droves over recent decades, many of them leaving young children at home. One result is mothers have less time for care-giving. Past studies have shown working moms are torn between full-time careers and stay-at-home duties. And lately more diligent dads are helping out with the diaper-changing and other household duties.

But since mothers pride themselves on being just that - moms - their self-esteem can take a blow.

That's a beaut of a quote! Lots of loaded words all nicely together. Note the use of "fallout", like something from a nuclear explosion, and also the use of "torn" for women, "savvy" and "diligent" for men. And working mothers "leave young children at home," not working fathers!

If you stopped reading at this point you'd go away with what impression, exactly?

But of course the research didn't really use all those loaded expressions. It was the popularization. The usual next step is to summarize the study and introduce some more correct information about it. Here's what the lead author of this study says:

When mothers perceived fathers to be competent caregivers, the more time those dads spent solo with children, the lower was mom's self-competence rating. But when mothers considered spouses relatively incompetent caregivers, increased father-only time with kids was unrelated to mothers' self-competence.

As for why a mother's self-competence took a hit from perfect dads, Sasaki suggests pressure to keep up with societal norms plays a role.

"In American society, women are expected to take a main role in parenting despite increasingly egalitarian sex roles," Sasaki said. "Thus, we believe that employed mothers suffer from self-competence losses when their husbands are involved and skillful because those mothers may consider that it is a failure to fulfill cultural expectations."

Sasaki added, "Husbands do not suffer from self-competence losses even when their wives are involved and skillful because that is consistent with cultural expectations."

And what does the popularization suggest that we do about all this? Astonishingly, the women with jobs are not told to drop them:

The results don't suggest a stay-at-home mom is the answer. For one, the study showed work hours can boost a woman's perception of self-competence. And a father's care-giving was linked with a mother's marital satisfaction.

Here are some tips for working moms on how to juggle work and home.

I bolded those two sentences because they are so explicitly about gender politics. The problem is a problem for women and hence they are to juggle it. It's their fault, to begin with, because they shouldn't be having paid jobs and what do you expect then? So go and juggle.

That the self-esteem problems the study found might be because of societal norms in the first place is ignored. What is also ignored is that most people work because they need the money, and that goes for both fathers and mothers. But only mothers are to feel guilty about that.

Note that I'm not writing about the study here but about its popularization. I am not surprised to learn that women have role conflicts, given the extremely strong cultural messages about who is supposed to take care of children and the cultural approval of only certain kinds of mothering. It helps to be aware of those messages, I believe.
Thanks to res ipsa for the link.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Did I Ever Tell You This Story?

When I first got Henrietta the Hound, my now-angel dog, she was mentally pretty broken, what with having been abused and so on. She had very little self-confidence, despite her utter speed, beauty, wrestling skills and ability to dominate all other dogs (though most of them I only learned later).

Instead, she behaved like a Lady Dog, heeling perfectly, sitting perfectly, staying perfectly, with a robot-like competency in everything and matte eyes. For the first three months I thought she belonged to some breed which kept its tail between the legs all the time. Little did I know what was to come...

Anyway, the story is about the time when I started thinking that more desperate measures had to be taken to bring her back to some kind of normality.

I went running with her in the local park which is a large area with a jogging path, lots of trees and not so many people. As we were running along and all alone (though connected by a leash, naturally), I started singing to her: "Let's turn a switch! You are no lady! You are a frightening, frightening bitch!"

After a while I was bellowing: "We are two frightening bitches! Frightening bitches!"

Then I turned a bend in the path and came face-to-face with a group of rather stunned-looking joggers.

David Frum Is Sad

David Frum is a conservative thinker, married to a well-known anti-feminist conservative, Danielle Crittenden. Frum is often given as the inventor of the "axis of evil" term and in general he's the thinking man's conservative (heh).

Now he has written a fun piece on the wingnuts' defeat in health care, with bits like this:

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It's hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they'll compensate for today's expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

(1) It's a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.


No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the "doughnut hole" and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents' insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

Yeah. Once something is given to people it is very hard to take it away. Still, I found it most interesting that Frum admits his preferred way of providing health care does offer the elderly only the hole in the donut, does regard being a woman a pre-existing condition and so on.

Happy Frum is not, right now. He's even grumpy about the Fox News. Fox was supposed to help the Republicans but now it seems like the Republicans are there to help Fox instead!

Oops. But then what do you expect when you believe in the power of corporations over the power of individuals?

How Women Fare In The Health Care Bill

Jodi offers a good summary of what is currently known about the impact of the new bill on women in general and on various groups of women in particular.

She addresses both those parts of the bill which have to do with reproductive health care and also those parts which are not particularly aimed at women but which will have a bigger effect on women than on men because women are more likely to fall into particular categories (the poor, the elderly).

She lists both gains and losses. Note that both of those are in comparison to the existing patchwork of systems.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Newsweek And Sexism

Picture from here.

An interesting piece by several women who work at Newsweek discusses the progress of women at the magazine since the early 1970s. They begin:

They were an archetype: independent, determined young graduates of Seven Sisters colleges, fresh-faced, new to the big city, full of aspiration. Privately, they burned with the kind of ambition that New York encourages so well. Yet they were told in job interviews that women could never get to the top, or even the middle. They accepted positions anyway—sorting mail, collecting newspaper clippings, delivering coffee. Clad in short skirts and dark-rimmed glasses, they'd click around in heels, currying favor with the all-male management, smiling softly when the bosses called them "dollies." That's just the way the world worked then. Though each quietly believed she'd be the one to break through, ambition, in any real sense, wasn't something a woman could talk about out loud. But by 1969, as the women's movement gathered force around them, the dollies got restless. They began meeting in secret, whispering in the ladies' room or huddling around a colleague's desk. To talk freely they'd head to the Women's Exchange, a 19th-century relic where they could chat discreetly on their lunch break. At first there were just three, then nine, then ultimately 46—women who would become the first group of media professionals to sue for employment discrimination based on gender under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Their employer was NEWSWEEK magazine.

What comes then? This:

Until six months ago, when sex- and gender-discrimination scandals hit ESPN, David Letterman's Late Show, and the New York Post, the three of us—all young NEWSWEEK writers—knew virtually nothing of these women's struggle.


In countless small ways, each of us has felt frustrated over the years, as if something was amiss. But as products of a system in which we learned that the fight for equality had been won, we didn't identify those feelings as gender-related.


Yet the more we talked to our friends and colleagues, the more we heard the same stories of disillusionment, regardless of profession. No one would dare say today that "women don't write here," as the NEWSWEEK women were told 40 years ago. But men wrote all but six of NEWSWEEK's 49 cover stories last year—and two of those used the headline "The Thinking Man." In 1970, 25 percent of NEWSWEEK's editorial masthead was female; today that number is 39 percent. Better? Yes. But it's hardly equality. (Overall, 49 percent of the entire company, the business and editorial sides, is female.) "Contemporary young women enter the workplace full of enthusiasm, only to see their hopes dashed," says historian Barbara J. Berg. "Because for the first time they're slammed up against gender bias."


We know what you're thinking: we're young and entitled, whiny and humorless—to use a single, dirty word, feminists!


Somewhere along the road to equality, young women like us lost their voices. So when we marched into the workforce and the fog of subtle gender discrimination, it was baffling and alien. Without a movement behind us, we had neither the language to describe it nor the confidence to call it what it was.

The whole article is important to read. What I wanted to do above was to summarize the very common story of how lots of women view feminism: The old fight was won and everything is perfect now. If it isn't perfect it's most likely you yourself who is at fault. And somehow the history got erased again, oops! Pointing out sexism makes you whiny and humorless, too, and everybody in this world has problems more important than yours.

Mmm. I should point out that the above paragraph is not written with sarcasm but with empathy and understanding. All of that has to do with the past victories, in a twisted way, especially in the area of jobs.

Outside the question of sexuality, the culture now does tell younger women that they can be anything they want if they work hard enough, though this suggestion is made before one enters the labor force or has any children. I suspect that the transition from college to the labor force is when some women hear that feminist alarm clock ringing. And ringing and ringing. It's ringing, because the job of making the world a fairer place was only begun and not finished.

But part of that odd rewriting of the history has always been the idea that all the necessary changes were successfully completed about forty years ago. Done! Old hat! This despite the millennia of gender-based laws and traditions!

Likewise, the history of gender tends to be scrubbed far too clean. Thus, we learn that "women were given the vote" in whatever year a particular country decided to kindly do so with not much on the women who were force-fed in prisons or threw themselves in front of horses for the cause of suffrage. To address those aspects of the history automatically introduces the fact that the vote was won against an opposition. And what did the opposition say? Did they just disappear completely, the way they do from official history? To this day the Ann Coulters of this world suggest that women shouldn't have a vote.

The point is that if the Second Wave of feminism won a few victories it certainly didn't kill all the seeds of sexism in the society. Why are so many writers drawing that corollary?

Enough of that. What IS the sexism these writers are talking about? It's not the obvious kind of being told that you can't be a writer because you are a woman. It looks much more of the "planet of the guys" type or "invisible women" type. Hence the magazine cover about "a thinking man", twice. Both men and women can be oblivious when it comes to the status of women as half of humankind.

Kudos to Newsweek for publishing an article critical of Newsweek.

One Simple Question About Health Care

Why would surgery on a broken ankle, however difficult, have a total treatment cost in excess of $200,000?

It is not that I don't know the answer to this question. But it is the length of a book and it has lots of political landmines, having to do with the equation between expenses and incomes. Ultimately, though, we cannot afford this price tag as a country (just compare it to the median incomes), and I don't see how the new health care bill would address this.
Added later: Yes, this is not the day to think such thoughts, and I AM mostly pleased that millions more people will get coverage. But the health care sector still suffers from a few chronic conditions and long-term treatment is indicated.

Added even later: This case is not intended to reflect the average costs of ankle surgery but to point out that if we have too many outliers like this they will pull up the average over time.

Gah. This is a really stupid post.

Dragged Kicking And Screaming Into The Century Of The Fruitbat

My sick sense of humor is a terrible personal flaw. After I read these impressive pieces about the new health-care bill, with the appropriate shivers down my spine and somewhat dewy eyes all I could think about was Terry Pratchett's funny fantasy world where people are always being dragged kicking and screaming into the century of fruitbat, even when that was the last century.

But what other response is appropriate to this?

Interviewed Monday on ABC's ''Good Morning America,'' McCain repeated House Republican assertions that the transformative legislation amounts to a ''government takeover'' of health care.

We didn't even get the public option! The health insurance companies are still exempt from anti-trust regulations! They get to have millions of new low-risk customers in exchange for a few limitations!

Who is it anyway who owns the health care system right now? Not the consumers, that's for sure, and not the non-consumers without any coverage.

And that's why I see McCain and others like him dragged kicking and screaming into the century of the fruitbat. They belong on Pratchett's Discworld.

So do some of the supporters of the bill. It's not the Greatest Thing Since Zippers And Sliced Bread, and neither is it Maoism or anything like that. It's something fairly middle-of-the-road, with some bad bits and some good bits in it. I hope that the good bits weigh more in the cups of the scale than the bad bits, but that all depends on the practical implementation of the bill and how well and rapidly problems in it are fixed.

The reason for Speaker Pelosi's picture is that she really did an astonishing job on this bill. Whatever one thinks of the contents of the bill, her performance was almost flawless in terms of the politics of persuasion.

More on Nazia Quazi

Nazia Quazi is the Canadian citizen held against her will in Saudi Arabia because her father has decided that she should stay there and the laws of Saudi Arabia give him all the power and her none. The Canadian government isn't doing much to help her.

As this is is about the most obvious example of patriarchy (the power of the fathers), it deserves feminist attention.

Tim Bousquet interviewed Nazia recently over the phone. You can read what she says here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Something Came Up

and I don’t have time for writing this morning. In light of the softened presentation of the ugly Republican front thuggery in DC yesterday. Here’s something to consider by a little remembered philosopher who had a major effect on the thinking of Martin Luther King jr. and so on some of the most successful efforts of the left, to date.

In a very important sense the respectable class is the dangerous class in the community. By its example it degrades the social conception of the meaning of life, and thus materializes, vulgarizes, and brutalizes the public thought. Also, by its indifference to public duties, it constitutes itself the guilty accomplice of all the enemies of society. By this same indifference, too, it becomes the great breeder of social enemies; for only where the carcass is are the vultures gathered together. The ease with which self-styled good people ignore public duties and become criminal accomplices in the worst crimes against humanity is one of the humorous features of our ethical life.

In the application of principles to life there will long be a neutral frontier on the borders of the moral life, where consequences and tendencies have not so clearly declared themselves as to exclude differences of opinion among men of good will. Here men will differ in judgment rather than in morals. It is very common to exaggerate this difference into a moral one; and then the humorous spectacle is presented of friends who ignore the common enemy and waste their strength in mutual belaborings. This is one of the great obstacles to any valuable reform.

from The Principles of Ethics, by Borden Parker Bowne

Posted by Anthony McCarthy