Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why Isn't This A Huge Scandal Drawing Outraged Reactions In the Lefty Blogs? [Anthony McCarthy]

I know I've been hard on Harvard the past few months, I've heard a few people think I should stop beating up on them and now when they're on their uppers too. Due to a number of factors, including negligence and incompetence in their corporate leadership, the endowment of Harvard lost $11 billion, leaving it, a few months back, to struggle along on a mere $25.7 billion. So, you can see why they might not be in a position to pitch in to save the Our Place daycare center for homeless children in Cambridge, the city were the most august institution of learning happens to be. After all, it is in need of $160,000 in order to serve the children who depend on it.

If Our Place is forced to close, Kopesky worries that the homeless parents who bring their children to the center will no longer be able to finish school or look for jobs during the day.

She also worries about the impact on the children, who come from homeless shelters, many from domestic violence shelters, Kopesky said.

I'm sure if the fellows and others in the Harvard corporation weren't so busy trying to loosen the money bags of its alums and the fat cats in order to bolster its sadly depleted endowment they'd be willing to step in and lend a hand. You'd think they could at least pass the hat for these children and their parents. And that's only Harvard. Imagine if MIT pitched in as well.

Earning Respect The Old Fashioned Way [Anthony McCarthy]

What a week to be without a computer to call my own!

The first thing to learn from the sliming, abandonment and subsequent vindication and rising of Shirley Sherrod is that her example disproves one of the foundations of machismo and patriarchy. In every way she showed that she had more courage, more wisdom, more fortitude, higher ethics and a greater devotion to duty than any of the men who lied about her from the right or who joined in with them from the Obama administration. Being one of the rare individuals who have stood up to the FOX centered right wing lie machine, STOOD UP TO, NOT PRETENDED THEY DIDN'T EXIST, and to have won against them to the extent that the FOX liars turned tail and made believe they weren't the ones who ran with Breitbart's cut and paste lie, should teach Barack Obama more lessons about politics than he's learned in all his previous experience.

The macho inner circle of the Obama administration could learn something from Shirley Sherrod but it's unlikely they will. She is the kind of person that Rahm Emanuel calls names and which the entire administration has turned its back on since before they took office. This incident is about as pure a microcosm of the problem with the Obama administration, its cynical and cowardly capitulation to the right in the Democratic party and the Republicans, the corporate oligarchs at the expense of its voter base. People are wondering why Barack Obama hasn't gotten the political benefit of his, admittedly, important steps forward, that record of needlessly giving away even more progress to people who will never support him out of sheer cowardice is the reason. He comes across as a strong, bold voice, but the voice has turned out to conceal a timid, conventional politician, albeit one who is very intelligent.

The qualities and principles which made Ms. Sherrod stand up and tell the truth while the administration triangulated itself into a disaster is of the first importance for the Obama administration and Democrats to discover. I think one of the keys is in her hesitancy to take a job in Washington instead of staying in Georgia. Molly Ivins was right, just about everyone in DC ends up saying the same things and doing the same things. The DC milieu rewards cowardly conformity, it rewards corruption and it punishes integrity that disadvantages or could possibly, conceivably endanger the massive system of privilege that is centered there. Entry into the DC elite is not granted to everyone, just as a law degree from an Ivy isn't granted to everyone. Many of the people in the administration, at the higher levels are either full members of the DC elite or they aspire to it. They aspire to the large salaries gotten by corrupting the government on behalf of the wealthy, the glitzy social life, the privileges, the attention, the call that they want you for Meet The Press. They love the attention.

Ms. Sherrod has shown us a good example of how stunningly impressive it can be to tell the simple truth, to refuse to distort it, to refuse to back down in the face of FOX and the entire corporate lie machine going full tilt. It's a lesson that, tragically, ACORN didn't learn fast enough. Maybe it's because she is an individual, she had no organization to protect, she wasn't invested in circling the wagons and trying to wait out the lies. That she was able to win by telling the simple truth the only thing she was invested in should tell the Obama administration something. That the truth is the bedrock, it is the only thing that really will set you free and make progress. It should tell them that MOST of the American People will recognize the truth when they see it and that lies, even those told by the minions of Murdoch on FOX, those started and spread by Drudge, Breitbart, and the rest of those with ties to the DC media, must be fought tirelessly and constantly. Fighting lies is as important as telling the truth to begin with. Lies have the financial support of the oligarchs, our only weapon against them is truth and integrity and bravery and unflagging courage such as we had the privilege of seeing this week.

What we see in the Obama administration isn't a bold step forward, it's baby steps taken by people too invested in the system to challenge it, too afraid of losing a fight to really take it on. Its the same thing we see in the Democratic caucus of the Senate and the Blue Dogs in the House. Barack Obama promised us leadership he has given us Rahm style politics. If there's a job that someone with Shirley Sherrod's integrity and courage should be offered it's as Chief of Staff.

Thank you, Shirley Sherrod. You have given me a reason to believe in the power of good.

Echidne Performs Gender

Well, I perform gender in the divine world. But I gave a stab at trying it in the human world, too, here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Support women’s history (by Suzie)

A purple guitar. A dozen cookies. An original T-shirt from the 1977 National Women’s Conference. An elegant booklet containing the poem Maya Angelou wrote for Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

These are some of the goodies in an online auction for the National Women's History Project in Santa Rosa, Calif. Please pass the link to others who may be interested, and don’t hesitate to bid against me. The auction started on the 19th, in honor of the first Women’s Rights Conference in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
Our auction ends on July 28, which is the birthday of Lucy Burns, a passionate suffragist who worked tirelessly to secure women's right to vote. Lucy Burns demonstrated her commitment throughout six arrests and imprisonments for picketing the White House on behalf of Woman Suffrage.
Molly Murphy MacGregor, a co-founder, had been a high-school social studies teacher before becoming executive director of the educational nonprofit. She says it’s looking to merge with a nonprofit partner to continue its mission: “to recognize and celebrate the diverse and historic accomplishments of women by providing information and educational materials and programs.” She writes about this in a letter on the website, which includes current partners, an interesting list of women’s organizations.

The end of the NWHP would sadden me, but if I’ve learned anything from women’s history, it’s that other women will carry on. I asked Molly to write something for this blog, and she sent the following:
In 1980, five friends founded a grassroots organization, which, with some audacity, we named the National Women's History Project. Our goal was to add the week that included March 8, International Women's Day, as Women's History Week in the school calendar. Our purpose, in addition to encouraging teachers to consider women as a topic, was to promote a view of women's history that was multicultural and international, and recognized women's work, both inside and outside the home.

In the intervening years, the week has been expanded to a month, and the National Women's History Project has grown into a national institution that promotes women's history throughout the year.

Teachers, librarians, historians, publishers, workplace managers, and other interested individuals -- women and men -- helped build, not only a national institution, but more important, a national movement. The history of the National Women's History Project includes countless stories of angels who arrived just in time to help us write a business plan, do a video series, design a poster set, write a press release,* and share their skills with us. It has been the extraordinary generosity of thousands that have allowed us to establish a Women's History Resource Center as well as to design and distribute our Women's History Resource Catalog and our award-winning website.

Our latest challenge has been the same as that of all nonprofit organizations. How do you survive such a deep recession? For us, the recession caused an extraordinary drop in sales, which are the major source of our funding. Of course, donations were also dramatically reduced as everyone struggled just to pay their bills. There is no question that 2009 was our most difficult financial year, but with the help of our auctions, the Bickford Foundation, the nonprofits who joined us as partners as we prepared to celebrate 30 years of "writing women back into history," and the angels who continued to volunteer and donate whenever and whatever they could, this year is much better.

In the thank-you notes I write to people who send us donations, I really try to let them know that we would not be here without their support. I know this is also true for most nonprofits. When I open a note from an elderly woman, who is apologizing because her donation is only $5, I want to cry with gratitude. To know that even on her limited income, she still considers the work we do important enough to make the sacrifice she is making, so that she can send us a check, is the ultimate validation of our work.
*That’s where I fit in.

Bidding for good (by Suzie)

My church had an online auction, and I decided to go a little wild and bid on a balloon ride. It should be interesting, I thought, unless I fall to my death. Anyway, all the money goes to my church.

Wrong. My church got little or nothing. My irritation grew when I saw feminist groups using the same company, BiddingforGood. I changed my mind after talking to its CEO as well as the executive director of the National Women’s History Project. The project has an auction with BFG now, and I’ll write about that later today.

Last year, Executive Director Molly MacGregor was afraid she’d have to end the project before its 30th anniversary. But she said the BFG staff was a great help when the project did an auction last August. She told me: "Our auction made $4,000, thank God, thank God, thank God!"

Women make or influence most purchases. Charity auctions are geared to “affluent Baby Boomers, typically female,” BFG CEO Jon Carson said in this article. (I can’t speak for his company, but I know women from their 20s on up who go to silent auctions, depending on the cause, especially if there’s an opportunity for networking. Many nonprofits mix in cheaper items so that people with lower incomes can participate.)

BiddingForGood falls into the category of cause marketing. Using its resources, a nonprofit can expand beyond its usual donors to increase awareness and donations. Companies can expand their markets and get good PR. For them, it’s product placement.

A nonprofit pays $595 a year to run online auctions on BFG. It also pays a fee depending on how much it raises from online bids: 9 percent of the first $20,000; 6 percent of the next $30,000; 3 percent of the next $40,000.

Nonprofits can supplement their auctions with items from BFG, which started its Instant Item program last year. It finds goods and services, and if a nonprofit sells one of these, BFG takes 33 percent of the final price. For Labor Day, Carson said in an email, his company will roll out new tools to help nonprofits find more items on their own and manage their auctions.

BFG started offering consignment items in 2004, but began winding down in 2005, he said.
We still have 16 suppliers (down from around 50 at the peak) and we will be taking down another 5 in mid-August ... [The vendor] gets whatever price they sell the item to the nonprofit for. Nonprofits typically set the opening bid for that price and then get anything over. Sometimes the nonprofits mark up the opening bid so there is some profit in it for them if it only gets one bid. This ultimately is between the nonprofit and the consignment partner.

To be honest I’m not a big fan of typical consignment as it’s not a very good deal for the nonprofit (37% of the items never get a bid and on average they only take home 23% of the gross auction revenue). The problem is the vendors take 100% of the first bid and, because most of the stuff is expensive, the nonprofits don’t get a lot of additional bids, which is where their profit lies (note: we do not charge our 9-6-3% fee on the vendor cost). The nonprofits will tell you it’s all found money, there is no risk, easy to access, and that they often use the items to spice up their catalogues but I personally think they would be better served working their own contacts. That said, many are small orgs and they just don’t have the horsepower or contacts to get higher-end stuff.
Here is my guess: In an auction, any item identified only with numbers came from the nonprofit. If the item has “CMP” before the number, then the item is either on consignment or is an Instant Item. You can tell Instant Items because the description says who donated it.

It bothers me that nonprofits don’t spell this out, but Carson says: “Keep in mind that these things are usually run by a harried group of part-time volunteers (many have FT jobs) who are overwhelmed and who are just trying to get across the finish line.” In live auctions, he notes, nonprofits don’t list how much they have spent on the auctioneer, their staff, the food, the hall rental, etc.

Have you ever helped run, or bid in, an auction for a nonprofit?

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

My friend, Margaret Shepherd, found Sammy abandoned by a major road. Here she is at four weeks.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oldies But Goodies: Fifth

Hildegard von Bingen. Partly because she was a truly fascinating woman and partly because this is the music I listen when I wish to clear everything out of my body and mind and replace that with lightness and joy. It's not the religion behind the music that speaks to me but the praise and the glory of the pure sounds.

This video has some chatter at the very end, sorry.

Vision of Hildegard von Bingen, voice Hana Blochova-Kvinterna

E. The Female Body As Property

The fifth post in my series. Don't forget to read the comments in these.

Utterly Hilarious

Is this piece about Real Men. I laughed and laughed and laughed until I had to cross my legs. But more seriously, I have learned that the history of gender roles was nothing like the stuff history books contain! Nope.

Women were treasured in the past, because of their wombs. The wombs had to be kept safe and then of course breastfeeding made it necessary for women to have no rights at all. They couldn't very well go out to hunt the mammoth which was the only source of food in the olden days. The only! Don't listen to those mean feminists who talk about gathering and shit. No, it's all about hunting and sweat lodges for days afterward for the Real Men. They had no time to cure the meat, what with the sweat lodges, so of course the women did that and a few other chores while having a couple of babies hanging off their breasts.

But women were treasured in the past! Men would rise up the minute they walked into that mammoth-hunters' circle! Men were all knights who wrote ballads about the lovely ladies and fought duels over them!

Then men got a little bit too excited about protecting women. Stuff like burqas and laws that kept women from education and many occupations... Still, it was really to protect the uteri which were necessary for the survival of the species (through parthenogenesis, I guess).

But in any case the writer of this hilarious and totally ignorant piece is looking for a mammoth-hunting guy who will pop up the minute she enters the room and will only call her a c**t in the locker-room, not to her face. Which men do today because of feminism and women not staying at home under male protection. Calling women c**ts to their faces, I mean.

Oh dear...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oldies But Goodies: Fourth

This is Laura Nyro who should be in the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, both for her singing and for her songwriting.

I love her art. Even the screechy bits are meant to be there. This is what I listen to when I feel overwhelmed and want to be energized in the long-term sense: "When I Die."

Another Nasty Travel Observation

I swear I don't make only nasty observations! The sky, for instance, is the bluest of all blues, the clouds like innocent baby lambs, the forests greener than emeralds and so on. But where else can I complain about finding this cartoon in a fairly large Finnish newspaper?

The text translates as follows: The woman in the cartoon reads a paper which states that a harasser (or something a bit stronger) of women has been arrested. She then swears (oh f**k or something similar).

The joke is of course the assumption that old and ugly women would actually like to be the targets of sexual harassment or violence. Then there's the whole idea that sexual violence is something rather innocent. A good basis for a few jokes about age and ugliness in women.

This is a very old joke. I find it astonishing that it's still found funny, tho.

D. The Invisible Women

The fourth post in my feminism series. After I wrote it I started seeing even more invisibility, combined with the visibility of tits-n-ass and other gender markers.

I also realized that the television, movies and even journalism offer us one kind of false visibility: The few women who are major movers-and-shakers, for instance, are covered much more than the men at equal levels of power.

This makes powerful women seem more common than they really are. Like a group picture of a large group where the two women in the group are seated in the center front and wear red suits. (I saw one of those after a major meeting of government heads.) The less powerful women? They truly are invisible in the media.

I now think that the problem I describe in that post is even more complicated than the post allows, but an essential ingredient is the invisibility of women as individuals with their own personalities, characteristics and talents, combined with an odd visibility of women's sexual markers. These grow from the same root.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oldies But Goodies: Third

Eva Cassidy. I love almost everything she sang but "Route 66" is a particular favorite because we hear a different Eva here. This song makes me dance.

Little League star on ESPN tonight (by Suzie)

This is a trailer for tonight's "E:60" at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Geena Davis, who narrates the show, says:
At age 13, she may be the best Little League pitcher in the country. She has not lost a game in four years.
Here's a longer article on her.

ETA: Whoops, sorry for the coding problem, which put acres of green space between the headline and the embedded video, which I had to unembed. I hope you will go ahead and click on the trailer anyway.

C. Our Father Who Art In Heaven

This is the third post in my feminism series. The title says it, pretty much. Rita Mae Brown once said that as long as God is He, he is God. I'm not sure that we shouldn't reverse that sentence. And neither am I sure that having goddesses would fix problems. But fundamentalist religions bear much responsibility for the unfair treatment of women. Much.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oldies But Goodies: Second

Another artist I love and one of her songs: Nina Simone singing "Do I Move You?" The lyrics are not quite worth her genius, but the song would be a perfect bedroom song, ahem.

An Angry Travel Observation

It's 90 degrees Fahrenheit. What would you call a person who in that heat dresses a five-year-old girl in black tights, a long-sleeved shirt, an ankle-length dress and a woolen head-scarf, while her slightly older brother runs around in shorts and a t-shirt?

No, 'religious' is not an acceptable answer to that question.
Nicer travel observations later.

B. The Planet Of The Guys. Oh, With Gals, Too, Naturally!

The second post in my feminism series. It has something to do with that feeling of finding oneself so very often tugging at someone's coat tails, asking to be heard.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

No more Swiss chocolate for me (Suzie)

And I'm taking all my money out of Swiss banks. Oh, never mind, I don't have any money. But I wish there were some way to protest the Swiss letting Roman Polanski go free.

His lawyers say they didn't expect this, but many of us did. After all, Swiss women couldn't vote on the federal level until 1971, only six years before Polanski raped a 13-year-old.

In a search, up popped a 1981 People article that refers to statutory rape as a "morals charge." The article is about Nastassja Kinski, who said her sexual relationship with Polanski started in 1976, when she was 15, which was legal in both Germany and France, where they were. Later, he got "demanding and possessive." This quote is in a 1997 article that paints her as a Lolita: "Then as now, she wanted to be watched, and then taken." The writer's approach absolves any of the much older men who "took" her. Her relationship with Polanski ended in 1979, when she completed her role in "Tess."

In the middle of this relationship, he raped Samantha Geimer in 1977. Maybe Kinski was too strong for him, and he wanted a younger girl he could control more easily.

The Washington Post has a great editorial on Polanski. The NYT quotes Guido Balmer, a spokesman for the Swiss Justice Ministry, saying that extradition procedures will be changed to allow for "larger judicial considerations and political considerations.” He added that there was no political pressure in this case. I'm not sure what that would look like if political leaders voicing their opinions doesn't count.

Entertainment Weekly has an awful piece, with the headline: "Roman Polanski: Is his legacy affected?" I wonder if there are editors who say: Make your column stupid and offensive so that we can drive up traffic. If so, they got to Dave Karger, who recalls the excitement in the auditorium when Polanski won an Oscar for "The Pianist."
But Polanski’s detractors can also be forgiven for thinking he’s a criminal who never really had to pay for his crime.
I'm not so forgiving of the celebrities who support Polanski. In case you forgot, they include: Woody Allen, Jonathan Demme, Harvey Weinstein, Sam Mendes, Mike Nichols, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, John Landis, Debra Winger, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Pedro Almodovar, Alfonso Cuaron, Isabelle Adjani and Salman Rushdie.
For some good journalism, read the Portland Tribune on its research into the allegations against Al Gore. Unfortunately, websites simplified the story once again with headlines such as: "Al Gore accuser 'not credible' fails lie detector test‎," even though the Trib explained that failing a polygraph test ...
would not have dissuaded the Tribune from publishing the story; polygraph machines detect physiological changes, not lies. Their findings are inadmissible in most courts. And, according to three polygraphers the Tribune contacted, the machines are least reliable when administered to sexual assault victims.
I hope Judge Alison Floyd in Cleveland got this memo. She was the one who ordered young rape victims to take polygraph tests after their rapists had been found delinquent (i.e., guilty). She later backed off her plan.

Filthy Rich as A Dangerous Pathology [Anthony McCarthy]

Note: For some reason I can't get a link from this computer. You can find the article mentioned in the Magazine section of today's Boston Globe.

The Boston Globe Magazine has an article this morning about the continuing McMansion disease that is such a blight on so many suburban and rural landscapes. These awful places, vulgar, irrationally designed, profligate in their consumption of materials and utilities and maintenance schedules, sometimes lived in by only a few people, are more than just esthetically dreadful, they are a red flag of something much worse. They show a pathological condition that isn't confined to any neighborhood unfortunate enough to have one put there. Apparently the recession hasn't finally stopped this craziness. The rich, apparently, we always have to put up with.

Considering the horrible effect the super rich, and those who aspire to become super rich, have no us, on the world and the environment, shouldn't their obsession with accumulating too much money and property be looked on as a dangerous mental illness? You are supposed to look on someone who has dozens of cats or whose house is chuck full of dusty salt and pepper sets or movie magazines as nuts but someone who has more money than hundreds or thousands of people would use in a long and relatively affluent lives, people who are embarked on a bloody and sociopathically indifferent quest to add to their enormous hoard is considered heroic. Which obsession has more inherent danger to other people and the biosphere?

Instead of looking on these people as being role models to be copied, they should be seen as the dangerous people they are. Dangerous as in, yes, they and those who aspire to be like them are the people who have caused things like the Gulf oil gusher, other environmental disasters, wars of conquest, genocidal despotisms, criminal neglect of horrible social problems and have had a hand in every major unaddressed political and environmental problem we have today. And, at the bottom of it, they do so to irrationally acquire more wealth than they or their known family members will ever use. If you doubt the corrupting influence of wealth accumulation, look at the judges who have overturned the drilling moratorium over the past few weeks as they hold stock in the very companies that would be inconvenienced.* Consider the political, legal and media cultures that accept that level of corrupt conflict of interest as a given instead of something to be forbidden and severely punished in those who so sordidly violate their public office.

It's been pointed out many times that you're far more likely to be robbed by a corporation than you are by some pathetic poor person, it would be surprising if you hadn't been already**, It's quite likely that most of the scary people you encounter are scary largely because of the greed of the mega-rich who drive the unemployment rates up, who make the cost of housing ruinously high, who thwart a living wage, healthcare, education, relief mental health services, hospitalization for the truly unable and a host of other blights on our society. They determine the regressive political and cultural atmosphere which has made the United States one of the most violent countries in the developed world. A growing number of people are beginning to realize that the foremost reason for the recession is the fact that the Reagan-Bush regimes have handed over huge amounts of wealth to the filthy rich and there just isn't enough to go around. It turns out that the old rising tide analogy in which the improvement of the lot of the poorest was supposed to leave the rich even better off is just so much flotsam and jetsam on the polluted waters. There aren't unlimited resources, there aren't going to be. The choice is between many people having a decent life and a small number of the criminally insane stealing and hoarding most of it. Our political, legal and cultural orthodoxy favors the insane, we have to change that.

* No country which doesn't hold judges and politicians to a very high standard of integrity will remain a democracy. The bars on conflict of interest in the United States are a fiction. They allow politicians and judges to use their official positions to enhance their wealth, and if not theirs, directly, their closest family members. Instituting real laws and rules on conflict of interest are another area of neglect created and fostered, of by and for the pathologically acquisitive.

** I haven't been brave enough to do the post on the actuarial magazine my state legislator sometimes gives to me. Someone, apparently, sends them to everyone on his legislative committee. The several I've read through are pretty disturbing.

What To Do On A Boring Day

Mostly just silliness.