Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bill Napoli Defines Real Rape

Bill Napoli, a Republican State Senator in South Dakota, is a man who knows more about rape than I thought any mere man could know. He knows what real rape is; the kind of rape that would let the victim have an abortion under the new South Dakota law which only allows abortions when the pregnant woman's life is threatened:

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother's life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

Bill NapoliBILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

Butbutbut. Wouldn't this girl's life be threatened because she would try to commit suicide? And isn't that a really anti-life stance? Much better to put her into restraints for nine months and save two lives for Christ!

There are good women and then there are bad women. As Digby points out, bad women have abortions because they can't afford another child on top of the ones they already have trouble feeding. Good women have abortions because they were untouched religious virgins determined to save their hymen for their husbands and then they were viciously and extensively raped and got pregnant. It doesn't matter if they have lots of money to pay for childcare. Good women never wanted to have sex, good women are never atheists, and good women are never past their teenage years when they get raped. And anyone who has ever had consensual sex before is strong enough to carry the fruits of a violent rape to fruition. And sodomization must be a part of real rape, according to our Bill.

Imagine the hearings to decide if a raped-and-now-pregnant woman was young enough, virtuous enough, religious enough, determined enough to hold on to her hymen to be allowed to have an abortion. Imagine who would run these hearings: clones of Bill Napoli? Would the skin color of the woman matter in his calculations? Would the religion matter in these calculations? How many details of the actual rape would Napoli need to examine before he would decide which suicidal woman deserves life and which one does not?

This stuff makes me so sick. Go and read some actual descriptions of rape and what rape does to the women. Go and find out about the years of therapy bills and the medications and the razor blade safely hidden in the desk drawer for those really bad moments that come again and again. And then mail some of those stories to Bill Napoli.

More On What the Wingnuts Talk About

I posted earlier about the dangers that wingnut blogs worry about in these days of the Bush administration, things such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg falling asleep and liberal teachers hurting wingnut children's beliefs.

The Wingnuttia more generally has decided to worry about the academia: that place where feminazis run rampant and where all evil things have their beginnings. The prophet on this danger to America's heartland is David Horowitz:

Summary: On MSNBC's Scarborough Country, right-wing activist David Horowitz claimed that "[t]here are 50,000 professors" who are "anti-American" and "identify with the terrorists." There are just over 400,000 tenured and tenure-track full-time university professors in the United States. If Horowitz's numbers are accurate, that means approximately one out of every eight tenured or tenure-track college and university professors is a terrorist sympathizer.

Frightening, isn't it? Or rather, how extremely insulting that slander like this is freely disseminated on mainstream television. One in eight of our university faculties want Osama bin Laden not to be found and killed! One in eight of our university faculties are "anti-American"! Is this why the government is building new detention centers?

Where does Horowitz get his numbers? We are not told, naturally, so that it's impossible to have an intelligent discussion about his assertion. But suppose that he in fact was correct in his preposterous statement. Suppose that one out of every eight professor was a terrorist sympathizer. Then what are the other seven out of eight professors? How many of them are American Taliban sympathizers? How many of them are Dominionists who believe that women should be in kitchens, barefoot and pregnant? How many of them identify with Attila the Hun or Torquemada?

Horowitz doesn't tell us. What we need are websites like his but from the other side. Where all those of us who were lectured by rightwing professors can send our complaints, especially if we didn't get an A in the course.

All About Echidne

I have been nominated for the Koufax awards in four categories: Most Deserving of Wider Recognition, Best Writing, Best Blog (nonprofessional) and Best Post (two posts, one at American Street and one here at home). Thank you so much for those who nominated me. My cup overfloweth with the nectar of happiness. The snake energy blessings are in the mail.

Should you feel an urgent need to vote for me you can do so at the Wampum blog. On the other hand, if you hate my blog and all it stands for, keep it to yourself.

Olberman on O'Reilly

Some of you may not watch political shows on tv or listen to political talk radio. It's understandable, given the silliness of so much of it, but sometimes the silliness borders on something so awful that it's kind of interesting. For example, Bill O'Reilly has recently been acting in a manner which raises a bit more than eyebrows, and Keith Olberman took him to task on it. Enjoy.

Friday, March 03, 2006

What The Wingnuttia Blogs Worry About

They don't worry about the same things as we do. They worry about Ruth Bader Ginsburg falling asleep on the bench, or about the horrible fang-toothed liberal teachers and perfessors. They don't worry about the Bush administration at all. It must be a wonderfully light feeling to be a Wingnuttia blogger, though looking for topics could be a little hard.

Wonders Never Cease

Earlier today I posted my Friday Funny about Bush telling this about his visit to Pakistan:

"I will meet with President Musharraf to discuss Pakistan's vital cooperation in the war on terror and our efforts to foster economic and political development so that we can reduce the appeal of radical Islam," Bush said shortly before taking off for Pakistan. "I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbor for India and a force for freedom and moderation in the Arab world."

Now CNN com has something slightly different about the same comment:

"On my trip to Islamabad, I will meet with President Musharraf to discuss Pakistan's vital cooperation in the war on terror, and our efforts to foster economic and political development so we can reduce the appeal of radical Islam," Bush said in a speech in New Delhi, India, before his departure.

"I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbor for India and a force for freedom and moderation in the [Muslim] world."

Who corrected the sentence about the Arab world? Is that the task of the media now, to explain what the president really meant? If so, why are they not correcting all the other errors he makes?
Link to CNN by Pere Ubu.

Friday Dog Blogging

This is really interesting. It's a bulldog skateboarding. Scroll down to the movies. You can pick between several videos but I recommend the last one in the row.

A Christian God for Missouri? Catholic Pizza in Florida?

Via Atrios, we are given this bit of news:

Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion.

House Concurrent Resolution 13 has [sic] is pending in the state legislature.

Many Missouri residents had not heard about the bill until Thursday.

Karen Aroesty of the Anti-defamation league, along with other watch-groups, began a letter writing and email campaign to stop the resolution.

The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that, "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition."

State representative David Sater of Cassville in southwestern Missouri, sponsored the resolution, but he has refused to talk about it on camera or over the phone.

Joshua Holland on Alternet notes that this proposal will not come to pass. It's purpose is to point out how oppressed the Christian right wing is in this country.

What struck me was the similarity of this to what is happening among the Islamic fringe in other countries and what is also happening among the Jewish fringe in some countries. All these groups appear to feel very threatened by modernity and all that it entails, both bad and good, and their response is to fight modernity tooth and nail. Hence proposals like this one or the weird plan for a Catholic town without any porn or contraceptives that Thomas Monaghan, the billionaire founder of Domino's Pizza, is launching in Florida.

I wouldn't mind so much if they left me and others like me alone in these plans. But it's our very existence that seems to oppress some of these religious folk.

The Death Of Irony

I remember reading a story about the death of irony in media right after 911. But irony came back, of course, as these things do, and I assumed that this would always be the natural law of writing: styles fluctuate in suitability, fashions come and go but irony in some form will always be with us.

Now I'm not so sure. It is hard work to write irony on the Bush administration, almost impossible. This is one definition of irony:

1. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.
2. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.
3. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect.

How do you write irony about an adminstration which names it's anti-environment policies "The Clear Skies Initiative" or the "Healthy Forests Initiative", or which calls its plan to make it harder to us to know what our foods might contain "The Food Uniformity Act"? How do you write irony about an administration that believes water-boarding is not torture? Or how do you write irony about the wingnut state governments which call their anti-woman and pro-rapist abortion bans "Women's Health Initiatives"?

Note how the wingnuts have usurped the first two definitions of irony I listed above, and how they have made it impossible to use these contrasts for humor or rhetorical effect, because the ironist (is there such a word?) who tries to do this will just repeat what the wingnuts did in the first place.

One practical device in irony writing is to exaggerate, to take the opponent's argument one more step towards the edge, and to thereby show how ridiculous it is. But this doesn't work anymore, either, because there are no more steps towards the edge of real inanity.

Why can't I sue the government for causing me all this trouble?

Friday Funny

From Business Week, on what Bush said when he arrived in Pakistan:

"I will meet with President Musharraf to discuss Pakistan's vital cooperation in the war on terror and our efforts to foster economic and political development so that we can reduce the appeal of radical Islam," Bush said shortly before taking off for Pakistan. "I believe that a prosperous, democratic Pakistan will be a steadfast partner for America, a peaceful neighbor for India and a force for freedom and moderation in the Arab world."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Don't Forget The Thank-You Letters!

I'm sure that your parents taught you to write those little notes right after a birthday present. Judge Alito's parents must have taught him to do the same, because his letters have gone out and James Dobson (of the Focus on (the patriarchal) Family) told everybody about his letter on the radio:

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said Wednesday that new Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito sent him a letter thanking him and his radio listeners for their support during his confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate.

Alito wrote that "the prayers of so many people from around the country were a palpable and powerful force. As long as I serve on the Supreme Court I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me," Dobson said on his radio broadcast.

Dobson is an opponent of abortion and his conservative Christian ministry, based in Colorado Springs, says his radio show and its other broadcasts and publications reach more than 200 million people worldwide.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Alito's note was in response to a letter Dobson sent him congratulating him on his confirmation. She said his pledge to "keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me" was a line he included in many replies he wrote to congratulatory letters.

David Yalof, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut and the author of a book on Supreme Court vacancies, said Alito's letter did not appear to violate ethical standards.

May I point an etiquette breach here? I also prayed, very hard, on the Alito nomination. So where is my thank-you-very-much letter, hmh?

I, For One, Welcome Our New Corporate Overlords

This time in the food industry. Representative Louise Slaughter has written a post about the new "Food Uniformity Act", an act, which tries to make it impossible for states to provide more information about the food we eat than the industry wants us to get:

This legislation which will make American consumers more vulnerable to some of the more horrific practices of our food industry and will have consequences just like the costs of Republican corruption we detail in America for Sale: The Cost of Republican Corruption.

Here is one specific example of exactly how this legislation is going to hurt average Americans who live next door to you.

Think about the meat you buy every week in your local grocery stories. Right now, the Bush FDA says it's OK for the meat companies to lace our meat with carbon monoxide.

If some of the meat in supermarkets is looking rosier than it used to, the reason is that a growing number of markets are selling it in airtight packages treated with a touch of carbon monoxide to help the product stay red for weeks.

This form of ''modified atmosphere packaging,'' a technique in which other gases replace oxygen, has become more widely used as supermarkets eliminate their butchers and buy precut, ''case-ready'' meat from processing plants.

The reason for its popularity in the industry is clear. One study, conducted at Oklahoma State University for the Cattlemen's Beef Board in 2003, said retailers lost at least $1 billion a year as meat turned brown from exposure to oxygen, because, though it might still be fairly fresh and perfectly safe, consumers simply judged meat's freshness by its color.

The carbon monoxide is itself harmless at the levels being used in the treated packaging. But opponents say that the process, which is also used to keep tuna rosy, allows stores to sell meat that is no longer fresh, and that consumers would not know until they opened the package at home and smelled it. Labels do not note whether meat has been laced with carbon monoxide.

The "Food Uniformity Act" would prevent states from stopping this practice if they decided thay didn't want its citizens eating meat laced with carbon monoxide.

This reminds me of a European indoors market where funny lights made all meat look rosy, until you took your purchase out and saw the maggots. Just kidding about the maggots. But I'm not kidding about the real intent of an act like this: it aims at making us unaware of what we are actually buying. And don't you just love the names they give these acts! "Food Uniformity" indeed. It's 1984 all over again.

On Choice, Abortion and Multiculturalism

An interesting blog conversation has been going on about these questions. It was started by Jeff at Protein Wisdom who asked how feminists would evaluate the practice of aborting female fetuses in countries such as India. Aren't the women entitled to this choice, even if the choice itself is directed against the female sex and therefore inherently sexist? And what about all that multiculturalism, of all cultures being equally valuable? If the women in India regard girls as a burden, who are American feminists to say that they are wrong? But doesn't this situation put feminism into a tricky place? And is there any answer to the conflict in India or China except for improving the social valuing of girls and women so that female embryos wouldn't be aborted just because of their sex?

Jill at Feministe and Trish at Countess answered Jeff well and carefully, pointing out all the types of things that need to be pointed out: That there is no such thing as one feminist answer to Jeff's questions, that women in India are not truly free to determine whether they want to carry pregnancies to term or not, because their families and the society in general affect their choices, sometimes even forcing them to abort an embryo because it is female, and Jill, in particular, presents a good analysis of the inevitable conflict between feminism and Jeff's definition of multiculturalism. And they both point out how even the concern of the sex imbalance is driven by a patriarchal motive rather than the actual valuation of women: the worry that men don't have enough brides.

I have little to add to Jill's and Trish's answers on the topics they covered. But don't go away just yet. I do have something I'd like to add to the whole discussion, and that is the way I interpret choice in feminism and how this interpretation is relevant for the question of the missing girls in patriarchal countries.

There is no such thing really as truly "free" choice, if we mean choice unaffected by the constraints that people labor under. We are all limited in our choices by time, money and our own talents and faults, of course. But some of us have more limits on our choices (less money or health or information, more legal constraints or more severe societal ostracization as a consequence of certain choices) than others, and to me the point of feminism was to make sure that these limits are not based on sexist beliefs and practices, that men and women could make choices in as equal circumstances as possible. The pregnant women in India do not make "free" choices to abort pregnancies. Instead, they are affected by the reaction to this pregnancy from their partners and other family members and by the values the wider society places on having daughters. They are also affected by the need to have sons because old-age care for the parents is the sons' duty in these cultures. A woman who has only daughters might face hardship when she is old. And they are affected by the need to provide dowries for their daughters.

All this affects the constraints under which these women decide whether to abort a pregnancy or not, but they also affect the preferences of these women. By "preferences" I mean those things that people think they actually want, those things that the conservatives, especially, often view as autonomous and unchanging parts of the human mind.

I believe that our preferences do change when the culture does, though not completely. It is possible to look for the deeper layers of our wants and desires and to find those fairly constant, but the surface-level expressed desires and wants are partly determined by the environment in which we live.

If you accept this premise then it is important to ask what we mean when we talk about feminism as something that guarantees women free choices over such fields of their lives as reproduction. As I don't believe that choice can ever be free in the sense defined above I view this definition of feminism fairly meaningless. In fact, it is the definition often used by those who actually wish to attack feminism, the idea of feminism as sanctioning anything if a woman has chosen it.

That is a silly definition. A better one is the old-fashioned boring one of defining feminism as the ideology that men and women should have equal opportunities in life and that traditionally male and female areas of life should be equally valued activities. If we apply this definition to the question of sex-specific abortions in India or China an answer to Jeff's questions follows: This practice reflects the favoring of all things male over all things female, whether it is caused by purely societal constraints on the women who decide to abort a fetus because of its sex (in, say, the form of family force used against her) or whether it is a consequence of her having internalized the differential valuing of men over women.

When I say that "this practice reflects the favoring of all things male over all things female" I mean exactly that. It reflects the patriarchal society. It is not the cause of the differential valuing, and banning sex-based abortions would not stop women from being less valued in India or China. But it would make the lives of individual women harder by increasing the number of pregnancies they have to experience before getting the desired number of sons, with all the health risks that pregnancy and giving birth introduce.

What sex-specific abortions have done is to make the patriarchal bias in certain societies more visible. Jeff links to a piece in the U.K. telegraph which talks about a man going around the villages shaming women who have had an ultrasound test, in the hope that this will discourage them from aborting female embryos:

Khrishan Kumar, a civil servant in the northern Indian state of Punjab, stalks pregnant women. If he hears even a hint that someone plans an ultrasound test to discover whether their baby is a girl, he arrives on their doorstep.

Women in Nawan Shahar district, where he is deputy commissioner, fear his telephone calls and surprise visits and dread their names being added to his "watch list".

But his inquisitive methods are helping to stamp out female foeticide, a practice so widespread in India because of the preference for sons rather than daughters that The Lancet recently estimated that 10 million baby girls had been terminated in the past 20 years.

"What kind of society are we building?" said Mr Kumar. "One without any girls? One where parents kill their own child in the womb just because she's a girl?"

The gender ratio of babies has fallen to fewer than 600 girls for every 1,000 boys in the Punjab, a predominantly Sikh region, partly because for the equivalent of £10 even poor farmers can afford a scan to determine the sex of a foetus. Worldwide, 1,050 female babies are born for every 1,000 boys.

As a result, Punjab is suffering from a shortage of brides. Men in their twenties are unable to find wives because more than a quarter of the normal female population is missing.

I bolded the last paragraph. See how quickly the writer of this article got to the patriarchal meat in the whole concern? It is not the absence of girls that is the worry; it is the absence of fecund young women who are needed for... can you guess it? Yes, for the production of children and boys, in particular. Until this changes we are going to have disappearing girls in this world.

Watch This Video

From Crooks&Liars, it tells us more than we want to know about Bush's unpreparedness before Katrina. Editor and Publisher summarizes its contents:

In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to confidential video footage.

Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."

The footage - along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press - show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.

[The video received wide airing on television news Wednesday night, as questions were raised about exactly how AP had obtained it.]

Linked by secure video, Bush's confidence on Aug. 28 starkly contrasts with the dire warnings his disaster chief and a cacophony of federal, state and local officials provided during the four days before the storm.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

More On the South Dakota Abortion Bill

You might want to know that the known possible Republican presidential candidates are pretty much ok with the South Dakota bill banning abortion unless the pregnant woman is sure to die otherwise. Mostly they want to add something about allowing abortion for rape and incest, too, though not all of them. Here is Mitt Romney, the governor of the northern Sodom of Massachusetts:

MA Gov. Mitt Romney has yet to be asked about the SD ban. Spokesperson Julie Teer: "If Governor Romney were the Governor of South Dakota he would sign it. The Governor believes that states should have the right to be pro-life if that is the will of the people."

Pro-life until birth, pro-death after that? How do these candidates rate on death penalty, I wonder, and on making live livable for the very poor.

Bush's Ample Political Capital

Sounds like he talks about someone's backside in this interview with Elizabeth Vargas:

VARGAS: I am going to ask about a poll, just the most recent poll that's out today that does have your approval rating at an all-time low for your administration. You don't care about that, but you have talked a lot about political capital, the importance of it, the value of it, your intention to use it. Do you think you have political capital right now?

BUSH: I've got ample capital and I'm using it to spread freedom and to protect the American people, plus we've got a strong agenda to keep this economy growing. The economy is strong. A good, healthy rate last year, productivity is up, we're creating jobs. The unemployment rate's 4.7 percent nationally. I mean, this is a strong economy.

The rich really are different from the rest of us. They have political capital even when they are almost universally disapproved of. Even the military show criticism of Bush:

Le Moyne College/Zogby Poll shows just one in five troops want to heed Bush call to stay "as long as they are needed"
* While 58% say mission is clear, 42% say U.S. role is hazy
* Plurality believes Iraqi insurgents are mostly homegrown
* Almost 90% think war is retaliation for Saddam's role in 9/11, most don't blame Iraqi public for insurgent attacks

Funny that Bush wants to fight the Islamic fundamentalists abroad but tries to turn the United States into a country with a gentler and kinder version of the very same values. Funny that he wants to have wars against them but votes en bloc in the United Nations with them when it comes to taking women's rights away or shunning gays. And it is terribly sad that ninety percent of the interviewed military personnel believes that Saddam had something to do with 9/11, when the Iraq war has much more to do with unfinished business from Bush the Elder's era.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Gini Coefficient and the Lorenz Curve

These are measures that economists use for income inequality in a society, but I'm not going to talk about them at. Just put them in the headline to scare you. Instead, I'm going to talk about the income inequality itself which really should scare you. Krugman gives us some worrisome data in his latest column where he first debunks the myth that it's education which makes some Americans earn so much than others:

So who are the winners from rising inequality? It's not the top 20 percent, or even the top 10 percent. The big gains have gone to a much smaller, much richer group than that.

A new research paper by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, "Where Did the Productivity Growth Go?," gives the details. Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn't a ticket to big income gains.

But income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that's not a misprint.

Just to give you a sense of who we're talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The center doesn't give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it's probably well over $6 million a year.

Did you get that? The ninety-ninth percentile, for example, means that a person whose income falls in that percentile is richer than 99% of people in this country.

So what this evidence suggests is that the super-rich are getting even richer, not that those who have a college degree are doing so wonderfully well. Elsewhere in the column Krugman points out that the earnings of the educated have risen over time but only moderately. No, it is not education that has created this increased income inequality in the United States. It is something else. What, exactly, is not clear, but I'd be willing to bet that it has at least something to do with the relaxing of various federal regulations that in the past were used to stop the monopolization of markets and the offshoring of corporations.

Why would any of this matter? Doesn't the cream always float on the top? Perhaps, but so does scum. In any case, very few people probably want to live in a banana republic where a handful of the very rich guard their properties with private police forces and ferocious dogs against the hordes of the starving, and that is where we will end up if we let the income distribution get more and more unequal. Crime and corruption will follow, and if we lose the middle classes democracy itself will be in peril.

Faith-Based Politics

Of a different sort. This time we are to place our faith in George Bush:

During the February 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, in response to co-host Alan Colmes's statement that the public may not be getting the whole story regarding the port deal involving a company owned by the government of Dubai, a member state of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Fox News political analyst Dick Morris said that "this is one area where he [Bush] has earned the right to be taken on faith."

An interesting idea. Osama bin Laden is still free, we invaded (oops) a country that didn't harbor terrorists when we started the war, and the freight that goes into planes is still pretty much unscreened. Faith, of course, doesn't need external evidence to support it.

You know, these wingnuts have ruined the word "faith" for me.

How Tierney does it

I was too angry in my Tierney post to spend adequate time on the underpinnings of his edifices, but it would probably be a service to my readers (the erudite and interesting bunch of pathbreaking people and divines!) to explain a little more about how I imagine Tierney's type columns get written.

First you go and look hard in the fringes of academia for researchers who agree on your special type of lunacy or you sift and sift a more mainstream piece of research to see if it can be twisted to back your opinion by focusing on a tiny bit of it or by pretending that, say, a five percent difference between men and women can be made into a BIG MARSVENUSGIVEEQUITYUP finding.

Then you write your article AS IF you were just innocently walking by a certain study and it reared up on its hindlegs and grabbed you and forced, FORCED you to look into the abyss and see that, indeed, the opinions of one John Tierney or one David Brooks just unfortunately happen to be the law of the universe. So stuff that down your throats, you mean and irrelevant feminists!

Finally you pack it all into a wider network of wondering about how all this really fits into our history so well and how sad it is but oh, also so courageous, to point out the truth to all and sundry.

Then you get your paycheck and go out to celebrate, while real writers like one Echidne of the snakes sit here impotently typing away.

What Does John Tierney Want?

A valid question about a guy who starts a column rehashing poor Freud's inability to answer the question what women want. I even have an answer to this much easier question, the one about Tierney's wants: He wants to spread a certain way of thinking about women and feminism, one which makes us all throw up our hands in despair and to acknowledge that there is no understanding those poor little ladies. On the one hand they say that they want fairness and equality, on the other hand what they really want is a man to take care of them and to boss them around.

Tierney is glib in his misogyny, glib indeed. See how he introduces the lates piece of sociological research he then mines:

Freud confessed that his "thirty years of research into the feminine soul" left him unable to answer one great question: "What does a woman want?" Modern feminists have been arguing for decades over a variation of it: What should a woman want?

This week two sociologists from the University of Virginia are publishing the answer to a more manageable variation. Drawing on one of the most thorough surveys ever done of married couples, they've crunched the numbers and asked: What makes a woman happy with her marriage?

Their answer doesn't quite jibe with current conventional wisdom. Three decades ago, two-thirds of Americans surveyed said it was better for wives to focus on homemaking and husbands to focus on breadwinning, but by the 1990's, only a third embraced the traditional division of labor. The new ideal — in theory, not in practice — became a partnership of equals who split duties inside and outside the home.

This new egalitarian marriage was hailed by academics and relationship gurus as a recipe for a happier union. As wives went off to work and husbands took on new jobs at home, couples would supposedly have more in common and more to talk about. Husbands would do more "emotion work," as sociologists call it, and wives would be more fulfilled.

That was the theory tested by the Virginia sociologists, Bradford Wilcox and Steven Nock, who analyzed a survey of more than 5,000 couples. Sure enough, they found that husbands' "emotion work" was crucial to wives' happiness. Having an affectionate and understanding husband was by far the most important predictor of a woman's satisfaction with her marriage.

But it turns out that an equal division of labor didn't make husbands more affectionate or wives more fulfilled. The wives working outside the home reported less satisfaction with their husbands and their marriages than did the stay-at-home wives. And among those with outside jobs, the happiest wives, regardless of the family's overall income, were the ones whose husbands brought in at least two-thirds of the money.

Ho, ho! Take that, you nasty feminists! You will never get equality because women (that amorphous mass which thinks with one mind and one set of emotions) don't really want it! And yes, we can measure happiness across individuals. It's easy! And no, nobody's happiness is based on how far away they are from the prevailing social norms, nope. And none of us boys are at all biased in talking about this research.

Well, I beg to disagree. Let's have a look at the two researchers of the study. First W. Bradford Wilcox:

Mr. Wilcox's research focuses on the influence of religious belief and practice on marriage, cohabitation, parenting, and fatherhood. He has published articles on religion, parenting, and fatherhood in The American Sociological Review, Social Forces, The Journal of Marriage and Family and The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. His first book, Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands, (Chicago, 2004) examines the ways in which the religious beliefs and practices of American Protestant men influence their approach to parenting, household labor, and marriage. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, Mr. Wilcox is now researching the effect that religion has on relationships among low-income parents in urban America.

The bolding is mine so that you can see what the prior position of professor Wilcox might be.

Then Steven Nock:

Mr. Nock is the author of books and articles about the causes and consequences of change in the American family. He has investigated issues of privacy, unmarried fatherhood, cohabitation, commitment, divorce, and marriage. His most recent book, Marriage in Men's Lives won the William J. Good Book Award from the American Sociological Association for the most outstanding contribution to family scholarship in 1999.

He focuses on the intersection of social science and public policy concerning households and families in America.

Mr. Nock teaches courses on the family at the introductory and advanced undergraduate, and advanced graduate levels. He has team-taught graduate courses on the family in the Department of Psychology. He also offers courses on quantitative methods, statistics, and demographic techniques. He won the 1991-1992 All-University Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award.

His current research is the Marriage Matters project. This ongoing effort examines the legal innovation known as Covenant Marriage in Louisiana, Arizona and Arkansas. In these states, couples wishing to marry must choose betweent the: standard regime of a marriage governed by no-fault divorce laws, and a Covenant Marriage regime, which is governed by fault-based divorce laws. The latter is more difficult to enter and more difficult to dissolve. This ongoing project, funded by the National Science Foundation and other sources, seeks to determine the role of law in marriage by following a large sample of newly married individuals in each type of marriage for five years.

Bolds are mine, again. These guys are into studying traditional marriage, and I'd be very surprised if their findings didn't accord with their premises. So.

Monday, February 27, 2006

We Don't Like George

No, not even to have a beer with. That is the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from all these recent polls. The CBS poll:

The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.

Americans are also overwhelmingly opposed to the Bush-backed deal giving a Dubai-owned company operational control over six major U.S. ports. Seven in 10 Americans, including 58 percent of Republicans, say they're opposed to the agreement.

The troubling results for the Bush administration come amid reminders about the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina and negative assessments of how the government and the president have handled it for six months.

In a separate poll, two out of three Americans said they do not think President Bush has responded adequately to the needs of Katrina victims. Only 32 percent approve of the way President Bush is responding to those needs, a drop of 12 points from last September's poll, taken just two weeks after the storm made landfall.

Someone please break these news to Chris Matthews. He is still worshipping at the Bush altar.

Mardi Gras

In New Orleans. Some say it's a good idea to get the city back on its feet, others say that it's a horrible idea, given the vast number of people who are still suffering and waiting for help which is not coming. I'm beginning to sound fairandbalanced here...

But whatever your opinion, this picture (via Mag) is a good one:

For more pictures, click here.

Back To Plan B

The Washington Post has an article discussing the consequences of the Food And Drug Administration refusing to decide on the availability of Plan B, the morning-after contraceptive pill: the states must decide on it instead. That was probably the whole reason for the FDA's reluctance as they want the anti-choicers to determine these things in the more wingnutty states. This is what the article says:

The FDA's inaction on Plan B has been sharply criticized by most major medical societies and many in Congress, and led to a lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. The federal magistrate judge hearing the case on Friday concluded that the center had established a "strong preliminary showing of 'bad faith or misbehavior' " on the part of FDA officials, and so ordered the case to go forward and ruled that top current and past FDA leaders should be interviewed under oath.

With the application in regulatory limbo, a growing number of states have passed bills that allow pharmacists working in conjunction with doctors to dispense Plan B to women who do not have a prescription -- with Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Mexico and California acting most recently. The Massachusetts bill was passed last year over Republican Gov. Mitt Romney's veto.


While proponents are achieving some success in the more Democratic blue states, their efforts have not been as well received in Republican-leaning red states -- and Barr's lobbyist said the company spends little time pushing legislation in those more conservative states. The director of the Kentucky Right to Life Association said that a Plan B pharmacy access bill introduced this year is not expected to succeed.

"We're confident that our legislature will not approve the bill because we are strongly pro-life here," said Margie Montgomery. "Doctors tell us that Plan B can cause a very early abortion, and we oppose that."

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, has testified against Plan B before the FDA and in numerous states because, she said, easier access jeopardizes women's health and welfare. Women need a prescription to buy birth control pills, she said, and it makes no sense for them to buy Plan B, a stronger version of the pill, without one.

"Doctors tell us that Plan B can cause a very early abortion..." An interesting way of putting it, especially as the Plan B contraceptive consists of your average contraceptive pill, only given in stronger doses. So what Wendy Wright is telling us is that she believes the contraceptive pill to be an abortifacient. Take careful note of this, women of America, careful note. If Roe is overturned the next step in the anti-choice campaign will be your right to contraception.

The other nasty thing about the Plan B fights in the states is that they pit the religious rights of pharmacists against the rights of women to have their prescriptions filled. Missouri is the most recent state to introduce protective legislation for anti-choice pharmacists:

SB 609 - This act protects the conscience rights of pharmaceutical professionals. Such pharmaceutical professionals shall not be required to perform, assist, recommend, refer for, or participate in any service involving a particular drug or device that they have a good faith belief is used for abortions. In these instances, the pharmaceutical professional shall be immune from civil or criminal liability and will not have their license suspended or revoked.

Employers cannot refuse to hire, discriminate against, segregate, or terminate a pharmaceutical professional because of their opposition to any service involving a particular drug or device that they have a good faith belief is used for abortions. Colleges and teaching hospitals are also prohibited from discriminating against any person who refuses to participate in any service or training which involves a particular drug that they have a good faith belief is used for abortions. In addition, they are prohibited from requiring a student or teacher to pay fees to fund these activities.

A party injured by any of the acts described in Sections 338.603 to 338.606 can institute a civil action to recover treble damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney's fees.

What is "a good faith" belief? It doesn't seem to based on scientific evidence. And this bit I find very interesting:

Colleges and teaching hospitals are also prohibited from discriminating against any person who refuses to participate in any service or training which involves a particular drug that they have a good faith belief is used for abortions.

Now, when they use the term "discriminating", what are they talking about? Note that "to discriminate" in the sense of sex or race discrimination a firm must use sex or race as a variable in its decision-making when sex or race in fact should be irrelevant. That a person refuses to provide certain medical services that would benefit the patient is not irrelevant. Consider another extreme example: Suppose that I as a vegetarian get a job at the local deli, and suppose that I firmly believe that eating animals is wrong. Can I then refuse to fill any orders that include meat? And can I expect to be paid the same as those who do most of the work I refuse?

What these religious refusniks are doing is not irrelevant in the running of a pharmacy. If they can get away with this, how could we justify not hiring a Christian Scientist who refuses to prescribe every single medication in the pharmacy? That the Missouri law proposal is only about abortion doesn't matter for this wider question, for what we are talking about is the right of individuals to follow their ethical norms even when that means imposing them on other people who are engaging in a wholly legal practice and who do not share these ethical norms.
Links via this Kos diary.

Some More Polling

Rasmussen (which tends to find things more positive for the Republicans than other pollsters) has this to say:

2006--Forty-three percent (43%) of American adults approve of the way George W. Bush is performing his role as President. That's his lowest Job Approval Rating since January 12.

Confidence in the War on Terror has also fallen sharply. Just 39% of Americans now believe the U.S. and its allies are winning. Thirty-six percent (36%) believe the terrorists are winning. This confirms last weeks poll showing that the Dubai Ports deal has tarnished the President's national security credentials. Just 17% of Americans favor that deal.

The President earns Approval from 48% of White Americans, 5% of Black Americans, and 39% of all other Americans.

There is something very fatalistic and sad about the fact that nearly half of all white respondents to this poll still approve of George. They'd probably always approve, even while our little train careens driverless into the abyss. He is a good man, after all...

Octavia Butler, RIP

Octavia Butler was a science fiction writer who wrote something more than science fiction, something harder to digest than stories about monsters or space travel. She died last Friday after falling down.

Her Parable of the Sower is an important book. It is a story about a dystopian future every bit as American as our present and because of that it is credible and works as an awful warning. We would do well to heed it.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

From the Tinfoil Archives: Alaska

The fairness of the 2004 elections is not a politically correct topic to discuss. If you as much as mention the possibility that not all votes were properly counted or recorded you are a tinfoilist. This horrible political group includes anyone who believes that politicians might actually wish to exploit the built-in problems of a voting system which belongs to private corporate interests and which does not leave a paper trail. And which uses a program that even I could probably crack in a few hours. If you write any of this you are going to be tarred and feathered (still wrapped in your tinfoil) by all respectable people, whether wingnuts or moonbats or the wishy-washy muddy middle.

So I'm waiting for the tar-and-feathers brigade, because I'm going to mention that there are indeed problems with the way we vote and if there are such problems then democracy itself is in peril. For example, see what is happening in Alaska:

The state Division of Elections is once again refusing to give its electronic voting files to the Democrats, arguing that doing so presents security risks to state government and the election system.

Releasing the files could allow someone to use an easily available data-management program, like Microsoft Access, to manipulate the data without the knowledge of the Division of Elections, said director Whitney Brewster.

The state denied the request in a letter dated Feb. 22, more than two months after the Alaska Democratic Party filed a public records request seeking the data file, which contains the final vote tallies for the 2004 general election.

The accuracy of the vote is in question, the Democrats said. Even the division's Web site contains glaring errors, with huge discrepancies between the number of votes cast statewide for each candidate and the number of votes cast district by district, they said.

"The public deserves clear, accurate data about the election," said Democratic spokeswoman Kay Brown. "We wonder why they're so determined not to shed light on this."

The Division of Elections initially said Jan. 19 that the file could not be released because it was proprietary information belonging to Diebold Election Systems, the contractor hired to provide Alaska's electronic voting machines.

Several days later, Diebold consented to the release of the records. But the Division of Elections, after two extensions totaling more than two weeks, denied the request.

What is so bad about a pen-and-paper system? Sure, it takes work and time and people but isn't democracy worth that much?