Saturday, December 11, 2010

Marc-Antoine Charpentier

Magnificat for Three Voices

Bernie Sanders Champion of the Truth [Anthony McCarthy]

Once I found out he was doing it, I found Bernie Sander's non-filibuster for the truth being live cast online and listened to as much of it as I could. I don't know when the last time such a sustained act of truth telling happened on the floor of the Senate, I'm not sure that this might not be the record for telling the truth, but if anyone has outdone him it's not within my memory.

If you didn't listen to any of it, Senator Sanders gave a remarkable speech, it was a short course in what is wrong with the country today. Hour after hour of coherent, substantial, and enormously important discourse on why the agreement among Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the Republican leadership was an abominable idea that shouldn't be accepted by Democrats, honest Independents or even rational Republicans. If there is any indication of who is right on that and the other issues that Senator Sanders covered in the speech, it is in that coherence, that substance and the numerous citation of how the Republican-Neo-Liberal policies are destroying the working class, the middle class and the destitute in this country.

If you don't have time to listen to it, here is a summary of some of the highlights.

I kept wondering if Senator Sanders' remarkable marathon of continual truth telling would be relieved by progressive Senators and it was briefly by Senator Sherrod Brown and, surprisingly by conservative Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu. I don't know if other progressives in the Senate offered to relieve him or to contribute or if Senator Sanders asked for help. I can only hope that his example was one for them, giving them the spine they have so obviously lacked for the past two years and longer.

One thing that is almost certain, the corporate media will ignore Senator Sanders' speech with all its might, mentioning it only to dismiss it or to ridicule it.
It's what the "free press" in the United States does, the more than effective majority of it, many of whom directly benefit from the Bush bonanza for the super-rich.

Barack Obama and his neo-liberal wing of the Democratic Party has dominated its official power center for two decades. Those decades have seen the erosion of the only possible, effective opposition to the party of the corporate-bigot coalition. They have concentrated on selling out to the same corporate power, giving the rich a safety net when the propagandized majority of the electorate desperately unites behind a Bill Clinton or Barack Obama in a futile attempt to change the massively unjust system that has prevailed since the election of Ronald Reagan.

Barack Obama bought the votes of tens of millions of people with spoken promises, such as his promise to kill the huge tax bonus that George Bush II and the Republican-Neo-liberal ruling coalition has given to their oligarchic patrons and many of themselves. He promised us that over and over again, only to fail to fight hard for that position. Just as he has failed to fight for just about every other position he promised us he would take, touting watered down bills that managed to pass, often without much help from him, as being good enough. In the negotiations on the billionaire tax bonus, largely conducted by Joe Biden and his chief of staff, Ron Klain, the Republicans got everything they insisted on, for the next two years, but, in an astoundingly stupid move, the Obama administration gave them an election issue, blackmail and hostages in order to make those bonuses permanent in the next presidential election.

I don't believe, anymore, that this is simple political ineptitude, it's too obviously bad politics for it to have been those. You would have had to believe that the President, the Vice President and Ron Klain, a team that includes two magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, somehow missed that part of it. I can believe there is a component of political cowardice in it, though I think the lack of real fights undertaken by the President all during the Obama administration is more like slacking. Those who believe that it is an example of intentional betrayal gain credibility every time one of these things happen.

The fact of a Democrat holding the presidency was an important enough possibility that I've said we should hold out hope as long as it was possible to that Barack Obama would grow in office and take the responsibility that he asked us to give him. I said that he had a few weeks in the lame duck session after the debacle of the mid-terms to convince me. He has convinced me that he is not good enough to continue as president. Only being slightly less bad than Republicans, while being a serial hostage to them is not good enough to do what MUST BE DONE, it's not good enough to even hold the office.

It's time to find a challenger to Barack Obama for the 2012 election. That choice is extremely dangerous, Barack Obama has a completely understandable place in the hearts of one of the most valued, most constant and most deserving parts of the Democratic Coalition. If black voters can't be convinced that Barack Obama shouldn't be reelected, it could fracture the coalition even further. But losing with Barack Obama is not going to be any worse than losing without him. One thing is obvious, the neo-liberals are doing damage to the Democratic Party that is as bad as challenging Obama would. If we can't take the leadership of the Democratic Party away from Republican lite, it will be destroyed from within. A third party challenger to him, who couldn't win but who could spoil the chances of preventing a Republican win gains credibility with every sell out, with every capitulation.

If Barack Obama continues as he has, if he works and campaigns against the Democratic heart of the Democratic party, he has given Democrats in the Congress, state legislatures and governorships little choice but to consider leaving the decaying corpse of the party and striking out on their own. If they were an independent entity that could hold the balance of power, trying to force the corporate Democrats to live up to the ideals of the party, they could force things in a better direction. I believe that many state Democratic party memberships would enthusiastically join in that effort. But that isn't a certain thing. It would be irresponsible to not point out that they run the risk of allowing the corporate Democrats to formalize their coalition with Republicans, they might not be able to force the sell-outs to the left. But they risk their souls by continuing to go along with the blue-dogs and the neo-liberals. If real Democrats don't insist on basic decency, they have made themselves irrelevant to the struggle for democracy. They must not do that. A real challenge by those already proving they can win a real election has a chance to succeed where the past third party attempts have failed. Barack Obama has depended on voters having no alternative, seeing that as insurance covering his sell outs. We have to remove that assumption.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bernie Sanders

Is still speaking at 6:39 pm EST. He has given a very good survey of American politics in his one-man protest against the planned "compromise" on taxes and unemployment benefit extensions.

I want him to have my children.
Added later: He finished at 7 pm EST.

Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson

She would be 180 today.

I felt a funeral in my brain,
And mourners, to and fro,
Kept treading, treading, till it seemed
That sense was breaking through.

And when they all were seated,
A service like a drum
Kept beating, beating, till I thought
My mind was going numb.

And then I heard them lift a box,
And creak across my soul
With those same boots of lead,
Then space began to toll

As all the heavens were a bell,
And Being but an ear,
And I and silence some strange race,
Wrecked, solitary, here.

And then a plank in reason, broke,
And I dropped down and down--
And hit a world at every plunge,
And finished knowing--then--

That's my favorite among her poems. So sue me. I'm a gloomy goddess.

Another one of interest for its possible feminist connotations is this one:

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed - identified -
And carried Me away -

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods -
And now We hunt the Doe -
And every time I speak for Him -
The Mountains straight reply -

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow -
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through -

And when at Night - Our good Day done -
I guard My Master's Head -
'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow - to have shared -

To foe of His - I'm deadly foe -
None stir the second time -
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye -
Or an emphatic Thumb -

Though I than He - may longer live
He longer must - than I -
For I have but the power to kill,
Without--the power to die--

Adrienne Rich interprets it as follows (though also see here for different omissions):

..I think it is a poem about possession by the daemon, about the dangers and risks of such possession if you are a woman, about the knowledge that power in a woman can seem destructive, and that you cannot live without the daemon once it has possessed you. . . .

I do not pretend to have--I don't even wish to have--explained this poem, accounted for its every image; it will reverberate with new tones long after my words about it have ceased to matter. But I think that for us, at this time, it is a central poem in understanding Emily Dickinson, and ourselves, and the condition of the woman artist, particularly in the nineteenth century. It seems likely that the nineteenth-century woman poet, especially, felt the medium of poetry as dangerous. . . Emily Dickinson's is the only poetry in English by a woman of that century which pierces so far beyond the ideology of the "feminine" and the conventions of womanly feeling. To write it at all, she had to be willing to enter chambers of the self in which

Ourself behind ourself, concealed--
Should startle most--

and to relinquish control there, to take those risks she had to create a relationship to the outer world where she could feel in control.
All this may be true. At the same time, I've become more and more convinced of isolation as an absolute necessity for the successfully creative women of the past.

They had to detach themselves from the societal norms for women which did not reward female creativity but female connectedness to others and female service in general, and that detachment was best achieved by physical isolation, to the extent it was feasible.

Only women with funds and some amount of social freedom could even contemplate that, and the emotional cost of that isolation was always considerable. Neither did it work equally well for all types of endeavors, because some required membership in a circle of like-thinking individuals. Still, there are enough examples to suggest that the physical isolation of women such as Emily Dickinson and Georgia O'Keeffe was not a purely accidental aspect of their creative lives but perhaps a necessity, that which gave space and air for their work.

It can be argued that something similar applies to all creative individuals in arts. But the societal pressures were harder for women than men because the gender myths placed creative women more at variance with the societally expected behavior.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Guess Who Isn't Getting A Tax Cut?

The poor:

Larry Summers, the president's outgoing chief economic adviser, conceded that families earning less than $20,000 a year will pay more in taxes next year, after President Barack Obama agreed with Republican demands to replace the expiring Making Work Pay tax credit with a one year cut in the payroll tax used to fund Social Security and Medicare.

But he argued that there was no hope of avoiding this outcome after the House voted to trim the Making Work Pay credit – one of Obama's central promises in his 2008 presidential campaign. At the same time, Summers said, that the president fought harder to preserve other tax benefits, such as the child tax credit, that will do more to help working families.

Critics of the deal should "look at the totality of it," he said.
The Making Work Pay tax credit is replaced by the payroll tax holiday:

In a White House blog posting, Bernstein called this change "A new, job-creating payroll tax cut for workers: a 2% payroll tax cut for over 155 million workers, providing about $120 billion in tax relief administered through higher paychecks.

"The key word here is "new, " wrote Bernstein "This piece of the agreement goes beyond extending policies that were already in place and is widely recognized as a potent way to generate jobs and growth."

But poor families will lose income, compared to 2010, according to Roberton Williams, an economist at the non-partisan Tax Policy Center,

An individual who earns $10,000 a year would lose half of the $400 he or she received in 2010 under Making Work Pay. Every family earning less than $20,000 a year would end up losing money under the proposal, according to Williams.

On the other hand, taxes will drop dramatically for those earning $95,000 a year or more, who made too much to qualify for the Making Work Pay credit, said Williams. The $400 credit under Making Work Pay starts phasing out for individuals more than $75,000 a year and disappears above $95,000; but under the proposed payroll tax cut, all earners get a 2 percent tax cut, no matter what their total income, up to a maximum per-family credit of $4,362.

A rough estimate is that this new tax cut will deliver from $3,800 to as much as $4,362 for the highest-earning 14 percent to 15 percent of the population. This is a new tax cut, Williams, noted, beyond the continuation of current rates for the wealthy that got most of the attention in the tax debate.
Note the use of Republican framing there by Bernstein: tax relief. Of course we also use the term "payroll tax holiday" for those reductions in payroll taxes which will put the Social Security at an even greater risk of cutbacks in the future, what with there being less money available to pay for it.

Hmm. I'm going to start calling bridges which collapse because of tax "relief" and such "bridges on vacation."

Lame Ducks

The 9/11 health bill may be one of those poor one-legged ducklings:

Republican senators blocked Democratic legislation on Thursday that sought to provide medical care to rescue workers and residents of New York City who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke from ground zero.

The 9/11 health bill, a version of which was approved by the House of Representatives in September, is among a handful of initiatives that Senate Democrats had been hoping to approve this year before the close of the 111th Congress.

The Senate action created huge uncertainty over the future of the bill. Its supporters were scrambling on Thursday to have the legislation inserted into a large tax-cut bill that Republicans and Democrats are attempting to pass before Congress ends it current session later this month.


If the bill is not adopted by the current Congress, its supporters will have start all over again next year. With Republicans set to take over the House next year, passing the bill in that chamber will be extremely difficult, according to the bill's supporters. That is a large part of the reason the bill's backers are pleading with Senate leaders to get the bill passed before this Congress finishes its business
So many different ways to approach this topic but the one that sticks to my throat right now is the vast chasm between all that patriotic unity talk in 2001 and then this.

A Minute With: Angelina Jolie, femme fatale and busy Mom

That's the headline of a Reuter's piece about Angelina Jolie's new movie. I spotted it on the front-page when looking for something else, and my feminazi brain immediately reversed it to something like:

A Minute With: Johnny Depp, a studmuffin and busy Dad

(I picked Depp's name only because he is mentioned in the story and not because he might be those things or not.)

Then I asked myself if we could see such a headline, a headline where a man is summarized by his sexual and parental characteristics when in fact he is a professional actor. And I think (I really think!) that perhaps, just perhaps, it could happen! At least the dad bit.

Not often but it's just about conceivable. So is this progress?

Or am I totally wrong here?
The point of the post is naturally to point out that Angelina Jolie is an actor, and that's why she is written about. But she is written about as if she isn't an actor, really. It may well be that she markets those other characteristics but that doesn't really explain why the market likes that.

An Interesting Listen

On Here and Now, a public radio program. I happened to just hear it on a study which looked at the power of adjectives in job recommendation letters:

Is word choice in recommendation letters hurting women's chances for getting jobs? A recent study finds that people writing these letters often describe men with different words than women.

Adjectives like "assertive," "ambitious," and "confident" are used to describe men; while women are more likely to be characterized as "sensitive," "kind"and "nurturing."

Rice University psychology professor and study author, Mikki Hebl, says that these seemingly innocuous distinctions could be preventing women from getting jobs. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
As yet, there is no link to listen to the interview, but I hope one will appear later, because the interview covered an older study which found that survey subjects list certain adjectives to describe a good leader (independent, decisive), then list pretty much the same list of adjectives to describe a good male leader, but list a completely different list of adjectives to describe a good female leader.

And of course this is a problem for women.

This also reminded me of an early 1970s study which found a similar pattern in how study subjects defined psychologically healthy individuals and then psychologically healthy men and women. And obviously links to a post in my feminism series.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Politically Popular

Are the tax cuts for the rich:

Hoping to build support for the tax-cut deal that the president reached with Congressional Republicans, the White House has begun pressing Hill Democrats with polling data showing that extending the tax rates for the rich is politically popular.

A Senate aide sent over a copy of the email that an administration aide sent to offices on Wednesday morning. In it, the aide touts Gallup polling data showing that "Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts for all Americans for two years, and an identical number support extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed."
Mmm. Except that Gallup poll (click on the full questions) didn't have a question about how many Americans would favor extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts EXCEPT for the top two percent of earners. The implicit alternative to the question they actually asked is that all tax cuts would otherwise be rescinded. That's the basis for understanding the answers: The majority of respondents prefer to have all tax cuts kept if the alternative is that none of them will be.

As the Huffington Post article points out, other surveys show clear preference for the option omitted in the Gallup poll:

Americans don't approve of keeping the breaks for upper-income taxpayers that are part of the deal President Barack Obama brokered with congressional Republicans, a Bloomberg National Poll shows.

The survey, conducted before, during and after the tax negotiations, shows that only a third of Americans support keeping the lower rates for the highest earners. Even among backers of the cuts for the wealthy, fewer than half say they should be made permanent.

The Time Of Giving

Two organizations have e-mailed me about needing donations:

National Women's Law Center (your donations will be matched by their Board of Directors during December)

Women's e-news

There are many others which need help. Please make your suggestions in the comments.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

On That Compromise Package

The one about the tax cuts for the rich so that we can all finally get jobs. It's not terrible, given possible alternatives. For instance, it's better than zero percent taxes for the rich and obligatory labor camps for the poor. It's better than a nuclear attack on Iran. It's better than me in this mood I have right now.

But it's still a very odd compromise from a Democratic administration and Senate and House still possessing Democratic majorities. How odd it is can be seen from the fact that these are the reactions from the right:

Republican leaders, clearly relishing the upper hand they have held in the tax fight, reacted positively to Mr. Obama's announcement on Monday night.

A spokesman for the House Republican leader, and soon-to-be speaker, John A. Boehner, called the president's announcement "encouraging." And in a statement, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, praised the administration's "openness to preventing tax hikes."
And these are the reactions from the left:

Even before meeting formally with their caucuses, senior Democratic leaders were signaling their deep displeasure with the White House at the moment, and earlier in the day, leadership aides said it would be largely up to the White House to sell the deal. They also said that it would be mainly up to Republican leaders to deliver the votes needed to approve the package.
Obama sounds kinda like a Republican president, don't you think?

This new definition of a "compromise" is a most unusual one. For instance, the Republicans got concessions on inheritance tax so that someone being left 5,000,001 dollars gets to pay a federal inheritance tax totaling 35 cents. That was exchanged for what part of the package? And when did we discuss this in the open? It may have slipped past me, what with all the other compromises I've tried to understand.

I must admit I'm about ready to give up on political blogging.

And On That Dumping Study

Which Brooks includes in his list of studies which show we are primordially f**ked:

Would you rather date someone who dumped his or her last partner or someone who was the dumpee? For an article in Evolutionary Psychology, Christine Stanik, Robert Kurzban and Phoebe Ellsworth found that men will give a woman a lower rating when they learn that she dumped her last boyfriend, perhaps fearing they will be next. But women rated men more highly when they learned that they had done the dumping, perhaps seeing it as a sign of desirability.
Well, I dug up the actual study. First, the study was done in a lab, with students whose average age was nineteen years. They were given fictional descriptions about possible dates and asked to indicate their interest in those dates as either romantic longer term partners or as sexual partners. They were then given additional information about whether the fictional person had either dumped his/her previous partner, gotten dumped instead or this information was withheld. The researchers' hypothesis was that the students would be less willing to enter a romantic relationship with someone who was dumped.

Second, here is the relevant part of the summary:

We tested the hypothesis that impressions of a person as a candidate for a romantic partner would decrease after people learned that the target had been dumped by his or her last partner. Results supported this hypothesis and revealed that people quickly change their opinions of potential partners when they receive this information. Consistent with our expectations, we also found that information that a target person had been dumped had a larger impact when he or she was being assessed for a long-term relationship compared to a short-term sexual relationship. These results provide preliminary support for the idea that people are sensitive to and quickly integrate cues about how a person has recently fared on the dating market into their estimate of the person's worth as a romantic partner.

We also explored the effect of reports that targets had rejected their last partner and chose not to give any information about their last relationship. Interestingly, we found that female participants reported an increased desire to have a sexual relationship with a potential partner after learning he had rejected his last partner. However, while men's desire to have a sexual relationship with a target was not influenced by her having rejected her last partner, their desire to have a romantic relationship with her decreased significantly. On the other hand, both men and women were put off by a target failing to disclose the circumstances of his or her last break-up. However, this was more of a concern for women relative to men when considering the target for a romantic relationship.

We can at present only speculate about the source of these intriguing sex differences. One possible interpretation is that a man's willingness to end an ongoing relationship in hopes of finding someone better might be interpreted by women as a sign of status or otherwise high mate value. A man taking a dominant role in his romantic relationships may also be seen as more consistent with traditional gender roles. A dominant woman may be less acceptable for this reason, or men may just view her as picky or demanding. Additionally, perhaps women are more suspicious (for some reason) when men fail to discuss past relationships. It should also be kept in mind that, although the influence of these two types of information is significant, it is small compared to the effect of information that the target person was abandoned by his or her last partner.
I have bolded the bits which I want to emphasize.

See how Brooks' summary of a summary of the study produced something quite different from the study? This is the case in many Evo-Psycho popularizations, and it's the reason why I'm going to recap the study findings one more time:

The study found that when asked about unknown (and imaginary) people, nineteen-year-old American students rated someone who had been dumped by a previous partner lower in desirability as a romantic partner and even a little lower as a sexual partner.

Women, but not men, reported increased interest in a sexual (not long-term) relationship with a (fictional) partner who had done the dumping, whereas there was no real difference in that for men. On the other hand, men reported a decreased interest in a romantic relationship with a (fictional) partner who had done the dumping, whereas there was no real difference for women.

Some of these conclusions provoke additional questions. For example, if the theory about women looking for a high-value mate is correct, why doesn't that apply to the romantic relationship but only to the sexual one? Evolutionary psychology would argue that it's the romantic relationship that should be affected by the value of the mate, after all.

My explanation of that is different and depends on the fact that the study subjects were picking among fictional strangers. For women that means having to take care not to end up with someone who might be sexually violent. If the choices you are presented is a man who was dumped by a woman, a man who refuses to tell anything about it, and a man who dumped his last partner, which of them sounds the safest to go to bed with? I'd argue that it's the last one.

That was a detour. The point of this post is that what Brooks says the study says and what the study actually says are quite different things. Grrr.

How It's Done: Brooks and Douthat

So I've been reading the wingnut boyz of the New York Times, and I learn again how the conservatives affect the culture. David Brooks teaches us about social science. Guess what the first study he mentions is?

Yup. The one about the dad avoidance! He concludes that humans are weird creatures, "deeply influenced by their primordial biases!" Of course his summary is a selected summary and even that is based on some guy's weekly summaries on the net. Thus we create an edifice of scientific understanding.

The alternatives are not unthinkable, you know. There are other ways of summarizing social science research and other ways from picking from those summaries. But Brooks presents his menu as if it was objective, though admittedly weird.

Russ Douthat focuses on a different pillar of those which uphold traditional gender roles: Marriage. Now, marriage is not based on primordial urges so something else must be introduced to prop it up. The traditional argument was that good people had Ozzie-and-Harriet marriages and went to church on Sundays, and that bad people were amoral liberal hippies in colleges.

When this doesn't work out any longer, Douthat turns his hat inside-out:

For a long time, the contours of America's culture war seemed relatively straightforward. On one side was the country's growing educated class, who tended to be secular, permissive and favorably disposed to the sexual revolution. On the other side were the social conservatives of middle America — benighted yahoos or virtuous yeomen, depending on your point of view, but either way a less-educated and more pious demographic, with more traditional attitudes on sexuality and family.


That may no longer be the case. This week, the National Marriage Project is releasing a study charting the decline of the two-parent family among what it calls the "moderately educated middle" — the 58 percent of Americans with high school diplomas and often some college education, but no four-year degree.

This decline is depressing, but it isn't surprising. We've known for a while that America has a marriage gap: college graduates divorce infrequently and bear few children out of wedlock, while in the rest of the country unwed parenthood and family breakdown are becoming a new normal. This gap has been one of the paradoxes of the culture war: highly educated Americans live like Ozzie and Harriet despite being cultural liberals, while middle America hews to traditional values but has trouble living up to them.
Well, highly educated Americans DON'T live like Ozzie and Harriet of the television series, actually. But Douthat wants that to be the case and he also wants his ideas of the patriarchal family to win so that's how he interprets the evidence: The educated people are now Biblical "patriarchalists" and the rest of Americans immoral fornicators. Or something of the sort.

Though he doesn't quite get there:

As a result, the long-running culture war arguments about how to structure family life (Should marriage be reserved for heterosexuals? Is abstinence or "safe sex" the most responsible way to navigate the premarital landscape?) look increasingly irrelevant further down the educational ladder, where sex and child-rearing often take place in the absence of any social structures at all.

This, in turn, may be remembered as the great tragedy of the culture war: While college-educated Americans battle over what marriage should mean, much of the country may be abandoning the institution entirely.
In what sense is that the great tragedy of the culture war? Earlier Douthat argues that the very people who chose his side in the culture wars are the people whose marriages are failing. If that is the case, shouldn't he point out that the other side "won" the culture "war", that liberal social values might indeed lead to happier and longer marriages? After all, the sinful state of Massachusetts has low divorce rates.

I get such an odd feeling reading these columns, as if someone is whispering behind my shoulder and pointing out something concealed, something covered up in both of them. In the Douthat column it's that little dirty word, "money", which is erased. Everything in life is more stressful when jobs are outsourced and when houses and health insurance become too expensive, and stress is bad news for marriages. But because Douthat is a fiscal conservative, he refuses to address that in his discussion of the problems of the American Marriage. And because he is a social conservative he substitutes a discussion of morals and ethics, even when he has to do violence to make it fit.

And Brooks, what does he cover up? The fact that academic research offers us hundreds of possible studies to discuss and to summarize, but he picks the Evo Psycho ones to admire.

So it goes.
Don't miss my post on one of the studies that Brooks "summarized."

Go Read Katrina

Mostly because it's such a treat to read someone from the actual left in the mainstream media (to balance all those right-wingers), but also because she sums up the anger of many Democrats rather well.

Or perhaps anger isn't quite the right word here. Confusion, bitterness and frustration? A feeling that the "Democratic base" has been disowned? Wondering about the fruits of all that hard work before the 2008 elections and about the single direction these new political compromises take. Standing behind the backs of the administration and thus never finding a compromising hand extended in that direction.

A Non-Post On The Wikileaks Scandal

I have not written on the leaks themselves because writing about them on a level which would offer something not offered elsewhere would be all-consuming in terms of time. But I have followed the debate, of course, and in particular the rape accusations part of it all.

On the general debate, it is possible to regard the leaks as offering interesting insights into the problems of secrecy in governments and at the same time point out that the Wikileaks revelations are also problematic* in terms opaqueness and no more based on democracy than the problems they have leaked. On how governments are reacting to it all, well, it's pretty obviously not in the terms of greater sunlight.

On the rape accusations: For an outsider, sitting far away, to absolutely know what happened just from the media is impossible and the final conclusions will be made at a Swedish court, most likely.

But if one steps a little away from that and looks at the debates on the net and elsewhere, one notices a few disconcerting twists: The idea that the Swedish law makes a mockery out of rape by defining it as "sex without condom" (which is not the case), the idea that rape is funny (to be found in comments threads, mostly) and the idea that women lie, a lot, about rape.

All this may strengthen the view of rape as non-serious in the public mind. Hence the non-post in the title of this post.
*Thanks to Molly Ivors for this link.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Today's Imaginary Political Cartoon

Although someone may already have drawn it, of course. But it occurred to me today and goes like this:

Imagine a large airplane, at rest on an airfield, with one humongous right wing, causing the whole plane to tip right. Imagine it also has a tiny, puny earlobe of a left-wing. All the mechanics stand around that one and point at it accusingly: Here's your reason why the plane isn't balanced!

Today's Word

Is truculent. Now use it in a sentence.

(This is part of my attempt to improve my English!)

O-Oh! The Supremes, Class Action Suits And Wal-Mart

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Wal-Mart sex discrimination case:

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal in the biggest employment discrimination case in the nation's history, one claiming that Wal-Mart discriminated against hundreds of thousands of women in pay and promotion. The lawsuit seeks back pay that could amount to billions of dollars.

The question before the court is not whether there was discrimination but rather whether the claims by the individual employees may be combined as a class action. The court's decision on that issue will almost certainly affect all sorts of class- action suits, including ones asserting antitrust, securities and, products liability and other claims.

If nothing else, many pending class actions will slow or stop while litigants and courts await the decision in the case.
Now this will be fun! We learn that these women didn't have enough in common to constitute a class:

In April, an 11-member panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled by a 6-to-5 vote that the class action could go forward


That drew a sharp dissent from Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. "Maybe there'd be no difference between 500 employees and 500,000 employees if they all had similar jobs, worked at the same half-billion square foot store and were supervised by the same managers," he wrote. "But the half-million members of the majority's approved class held a multitude of jobs, at different levels of Wal-Mart's hierarchy, for variable lengths of time, in 3,400 stores, sprinkled across 50 states, with a kaleidoscope of supervisors (male and female)."

"They have little in common but their sex and this lawsuit," Judge Kozinski concluded.
Bolds by me. I laughed over that sentence, and I bet many of you did, too. Because what those women had in common, other than the lawsuit, were three things: They are women, they worked for Wal-Mart, and they got paid less than men working in similar positions.

Now, it's possible that the reasons why they got paid less than men could be debated, but it really can be quite enough to be a woman to get paid less in some places. Mmm.

This will all be about the grounds for class action suits. If those grounds can be narrowed the firms will benefit. Pardon my cynicism, but I think that's the way we will be going with this Supreme Court. There's a pattern I spot which has to do with giving Big Money more rights than anyone else. That Wal-Mart itself is humongous is of no concern here. That the affected work force might be humongous is.

Contrast and compare this to the cases about freedom of speech and how that should roughly follow the pattern of wealth in this country. So it's not just about women's rights, though squashing those is good for the ruling classes, too. Costs less.

Avoiding Dad

Ovulating daughters do that so they don't get pregnant with low-quality fetuses. Didn't you know?

This is you daily dose of Evo-Psycho research:

Women avoid talking to their fathers when they are at their most fertile, a new study has revealed.

Previous studies have shown that when women are in their most fertile phase they become more attracted to certain qualities such as manly faces, masculine voices and competitive abilities.

Now a study by University of Miami (UM) psychologist Debra Lieberman and her colleagues offers new insight into female sexuality by showing that women also avoid certain traits when they are fertile.

Women stay away from male relatives when they are most fertile for evolutionary reasons, explains Lieberman who is assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at UM and the study's lead author.

She said: 'Evolutionary biologists have found that females in other species avoid social interactions with male kin during periods of high fertility.

'The behaviour has long been explained as a means of avoiding inbreeding and the negative consequences associated with it.

'But until we conducted our study, nobody knew whether a similar pattern occurred in women.
Isn't it fascinating? Somehow I would have thought that a behavior on this scale would be part of our cultural memory, that there would be jokes about it, that everyone would know about it. But it's like the studies mentioned at the beginning of that quote: Not actually studied in the real-world but with university students using something like drawings of male faces. Or in this case, cell phone records:

For the study, the researchers examined the mobile phone records of 48 women in their reproductive years.

They noted the date and duration of all calls with their fathers and separately, their mothers over the course of one billing period.

They then identified the span of days comprising each woman's high and low fertility days within that billing period.

Martie Haselton, a UCLA associate professor, said: 'Women call their dads less frequently on these high-fertility days and they hang up with them sooner if their dads initiate a call.'

Women were about half as likely to call their fathers during the high fertility days of their cycle as they were to do so during low fertility days.
Wow. You can get pregnant through a cell phone conversation?

Yes, I know that's a silly argument from me. But if this avoidance behavior is so ingrained that it would affect even telephone discussions of daughters living apart from their fathers, then surely we should have spotted it in real life interactions, don't you think?

I haven't looked at the actual study which I should do, of course. But the sample size is pretty small and I wonder if a few outliers might be running the results. I also wonder if the studied cell phone records were from the past, before the study began, or after the subjects were asked about their menstrual cycles and if those subjects knew their phone calls would be studied.

Because if the latter, I'd think that the question about the menstrual cycles would trigger certain type of behavior in the study subjects. Given the general knowledge of all these ovulation studies, had I been in that study I certainly would NOT have talked to my dad during my fertile periods!!! What with women desiring sex then and so on and suddenly insisting on competitive men!!!

No way of knowing without reading the study, naturally. But humans do have something pretty strong in place of such avoidance behaviors by females, and that is the incest taboo. That works pretty well even when the dad and the daughter are in the same house, you know. Not always, but pretty well.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Bela Bartok

Romanian Christmas Carols

Isabella Tong (age 8) and not bad at all.

Music for Advent posted by Anthony McCarthy

Marc Antoine Charpentier

O Salutatis Hostia O Sapientia, etc.

Les Artes Flourissants William Christie conductor.

Alan Grayson Points Out the Obvious, They Want Billionaire Tax Bonuses Because They'll Make Out like Bandits [Anthony McCarthy]

Republicans, blue dogs and just about every media figure you're likely to see will make out like bandits if the tax cuts are continued for income more than a quarter of a million dollars a year.

Alan Grayson gave a too little remarked on speech on the floor of the house where he goes from Rush Limbaugh who will get an additional $2.7 million dollar tax bonus if Obama caves in to Republicans on the billionaire's tax bonus to those who will make a mere $100,000 + dollars.

Watch his presentation, it's one of the best speeches made on the floor of the House all year.

It might not have worked in the conservative Florida district that didn't reelect him, but I'm certain his style of telling the simple truth that people can understand would work in many other if not most districts in the country.

See Also: Frank Rich on Obama's irrational preemptive capitulation.

Questions As The Obama "Compromises" Continue [Anthony McCarthy]

What do we have to gain by keeping Barack Obama as an officially Democratic President?

What would we gain or risk by dumping him?

Who could we run who has a real chance of preventing a Republican takeover, the one we seem to risk if we keep Barack Obama as our candidate in 2012?

He's just not getting it. He apparently never did and doesn't intend to.