Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Some Of Your Future Lawyers In Action

Jill on feministe writes an important post having to do with this article about a new way for sexists to have fun with women's bodies and reputations:

She graduated Phi Beta Kappa, has published in top legal journals and completed internships at leading institutions in her field. So when the Yale law student interviewed with 16 firms for a job this summer, she was concerned that she had only four call-backs. She was stunned when she had zero offers.

Though it is difficult to prove a direct link, the woman thinks she is a victim of a new form of reputation-maligning: online postings with offensive content and personal attacks that can be stored forever and are easily accessible through a Google search.

The woman and two others interviewed by The Washington Post learned from friends that they were the subject of derogatory chats on a widely read message board on AutoAdmit, run by a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania and a 23-year-old insurance agent. The women spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution online.

The law-school board, one of several message boards on AutoAdmit, bills itself as "the most prestigious law school admissions discussion board in the world." It contains many useful insights on schools and firms. But there are also hundreds of chats posted by anonymous users that feature derisive statements about women, gays, blacks, Asians and Jews. In scores of messages, the users disparage individuals by name or other personally identifying information. Some of the messages included false claims about sexual activity and diseases. To the targets' dismay, the comments bubble up through the Internet into the public domain via Google's powerful search engine.


The chats sometimes include photos taken from women's Facebook pages, and in the Yale student's case, one person threatened to sexually violate her. Another participant claimed to be the student, making it appear that she was taking part in the discussion.

"I didn't understand what I'd done to deserve it," said the student. "I also felt kind of scared because it was someone in my community who was threatening physical and sexual violence and I didn't know who."

The woman e-mailed the site's administrators and asked them to remove the material. She said she received no response. Then she tried contacting Google, which simply cited its policy that the Web site's administrator must remove the material to clear out the search results.

I cannot say anything as useful as Jill's post so you should go and read it now. Then come back for the rest of my thoughts.

They are not many, but I see this perhaps the first new form of sexism that has been created or at least a much extended and more visible form of sexism. It is now possible to take an actual named but private person and to give her a misogynistic mental rape session, and there will be a record of that, too! Yah! Or at least she and her reputation can be dissected and cooked for an all-misogynist dinner. - Note how all this is about what rights a woman has over how her likeness is used, and the answer of this website is that she has no rights at all if she ever has published any pictures of herself on the net for any reason whatsoever.

This is like "The Ivy League Women of Playboy", but with one important difference: The women are FORCED to participate. And the assumption is that if there are any pictures of you anywhere on the net these guys own you.

Now, there are worse sites than the one described in this post. Much worse. But they operate on the same premise: That anonymous men have the right to view and comment on physical representations of named women whether those women are willing participants in this game or not.

My final thought has to do with Ann Althouse's comment on the Washington Post article I linked above. Althouse (a conservative blogger who also regards herself as a feminist as long as feminism can be outsourced to the little people to perform) says:

Too beautiful to appear in public? Too hot to be hired? Come on! What rational employer would deny you a job because idiots chatted about you on line in a way that made if obvious that the only thing you did was look good?

(I am sympathetic to the woman who had someone impersonate her by name in a chat. There is a popular blog where that is done to me in the comments and openly encouraged. As I noted here, the blogger in question flatly refused to do anything about it.)

The mind boggles. "...because idiots chatted about you on line in a way that made if obvious that the only thing you did was look good?" Ann, this is HOW they chat about your beauty online:

What is exploitative is to use someone else’s pictures in a contest that they haven’t consented to, which can have negative consequences on their careers. I emailed the contest site owners (who are anonymous, naturally) and asked to be taken out of the contest. They didn’t even bother to respond — except by posting a clarification on the contest site that they would not be taking down any pictures until after the contest was over. I emailed them again, reiterating my request, and letting them know that I have rights to the pictures they posted, and would be taking further action if they didn’t take me out of the running. Again, no response — except that they copied my email onto their message board, where commenters roundly attacked me for being a bitch and a whore, and began speculating as to how many abortions I’ve had. At that point I started browsing their other threads, and found similar comments about all the women who had asked to have their pictures removed. Another NYU contest nominee, who is a very sweet and smart woman and whom I know fairly well, took the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” tactic, and emailed the contest creators offering to send on better pictures of herself (they took some of the pictures of her from my Flickr account, and posted one of the two of us). They posted her email on the message board as well, and a long debate ensued over whether she was cool and laid-back, or a stupid slut who employers shouldn’t hire since she is immature and insecure enough to voluntarily participate in this contest.

You can’t win.

Several other women requested to be taken out of the contest, and they were all attacked on the message board. Commenters regularly used the term “bitches” in place of “women” (i.e., not as an individual insult like “she’s a bitch,” but as a collective term, as in “post more pictures of hot law school bitches”). They speculated as to how promiscuous the contestants are, called us whores, talked about masturbating to our pictures, and discussed the sexual acts they would perform on us. At least one commenter made it clear that he goes to NYU Law, and that he had seen the other NYU contestant in person. So not only were random internet creeps posting this stuff, but my own classmates were.

My bolds.

Althouse needs to get out more.

The Liberal Media Strikes Again

In the form of a Washington Post editorial on the Libby verdict. A taste of it:

The fall of this skilled and long-respected public servant is particularly sobering because it arose from a Washington scandal remarkable for its lack of substance. It was propelled not by actual wrongdoing but by inflated and frequently false claims, and by the aggressive and occasionally reckless response of senior Bush administration officials -- culminating in Mr. Libby's perjury.

So many adjectives! And none of them easily quantified or converted into evidence.

Today's Divine Product

Holy drinking water, link courtesy of JR on Eschaton threads. Note the warning for sinners:

"Warning to sinners: If you are a sinner or evil in nature, this product may cause burning, intense heat, sweating, skin irritations, rashes, itchiness, vomiting, bloodshot and watery eyes, pale skin color, and oral irritations."

I should start selling Echidne-blessed chocolate, guaranteed to turn you into a raving feminazi and a Very Nice Person with exquisite taste in one second flat. Even if you start off as a sinner.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What I've Learned On The Internet

And haven't mentioned here yet, is the astonishing number of really misogynistic comments on sites that I would not expect to have them. For instance, a site on the housing industry had a story about single women buying houses and apartments, and the comments were full of truly hateful stuff about women: How dare the bitches buy houses on their own! Well, they are too stupid to understand money so they will go under and then we will invite them to suck our cocks!

As bad as the stuff on the MRA sites. I couldn't figure out if it was just one or two people with sock puppets (different names attached to the comment), although I sensed certain similarities in the writing styles. But the effect of all this was to silence the other side of the arguments, and to even silence all sane discussion. - A little frightening.

Then there is the way most posts on women turn into something very similar (though more polite) on the Alternet blog, and there it is not a few right-wing commenters who do it. It is our own lefty/liberal brothers who get the taste of bile in their mouths about our issues. Mmm.

Why Men Rule/ Women Drool

Denise sent me a link to this article about men being the preferred bosses at work:

Hillary Clinton might want to sit up and pay attention to results of our exclusive survey on attitudes in the workplace.

While Clinton hopes to smash through the ultimate glass ceiling to become the nation's first female president, the Work & Power Survey conducted by Elle and suggests that stereotypes about sex and leadership are alive and well.

While more than half our 60,000 respondents said a person's sex makes no difference to leadership abilities, most who expressed a preference said men are more likely to be effective leaders.

Of male respondents, 41 percent said men are more likely to be good leaders, and 33 percent of women agreed. And three out of four women who expressed a preference said they would rather work for a man than a woman.

The survey, conducted early this year, found a bonanza of stereotypes among those polled, with many using the optional comment section to label women "moody," "bitchy," "gossipy" and "emotional." The most popular term for woman, used 347 times, was "catty."

Of course the real news is that the majority of people in the survey didn't care what the sex of their boss was, but that is not how the story was written. Or how the comments-section took it, either. And boy, but are the comments delicious reading for a feminist! I expected the usual Men's Rights Activists and wasn't disappointed. I also expected references to the poor oppressed ex-president-of-Harvard Summers and wasn't disappointed. But I was fairly astonished with the strength of anti-women comments and the argument that women indeed are overemotional bitches and therefore should stay at home, in total charge of minor children.

You know, I never got that. The people who really believe that women are incapable of leading or logic or of anything but backstabbing and gossiping and bursting into tears want these same people in SOLE RESPONSIBILITY of vulnerable minors! Imagine that.

In reading those comments, remember that the internet comments sections are not a fair sample of all opinions in the society. They are quite likely to vastly overrepresent trolls and the views of those who feel strongly on the topic. So I expected to find a lot of misogyny in this thread. But I wasn't quite as prepared for these types of comments:

The problem with this "stereotype" is that it isn't a stereotype at all! As a woman, I can tell you that of the numerous women bosses I have worked for, only one has been a true professional without the emotionalism, the bitchiness, and gossipy behavior that often characterizes women bosses. I have sworn time and again that I would never work for another woman yet I am currently working for one in a very high level position. Yes, she fits the "stereotype," but not to an extreme extent so working for her is not the nightmare experience I have had with some women. As a woman who has managed a division within an organization, I can tell you that what I have learned from my previous women bosses is what not to do and how not to act in the workplace. Hilary, based on past behavior, fits all the negative stereotypes. I pity the White House staff if she is elected.
I can't wait for the day that my boss is a man. I've had female bosses my entire career over several different companies and I'm tired. Yes, they fit the bill: bitchy, two-faced, emotional, gossipy and love to have "pet faves" in the office. Guys don't get into a whole lot of meaningless nonsense. Frankly, they don't have time for it. And for the record, I'm female. Smile
I am glad that the numbers are higher for men bosses than for females. There are tooooo many female bosses out there that I have noticed and I don't think that should be. There should be more men bosses than females because the Bible says that men are Rulers not females. If females were made to rule so much then that would make men look weak in my eyes. I am a female who feels this way very strongly and I am very Religious.

Now these commenters could well be men. There is no way of knowing on the Internet.
But if the writers indeed are women, note the "they" language in the first two posts. A woman writing about women calling them "they" sees herself as not part of "them". A woman deciding that women are bitchy, two-faced, emotional and gossipy, and this woman still thinks that someone would want to read HER opinions on anything?

It is a very sad example of the alienation the society manages to perform on some women.

What about the topic of the article itself? As I said earlier, the major message of it is that the gender of the boss does not matter for the majority of the respondents. But because more people prefer a male boss to a female boss the article then veers into the question of what might be wrong with female bosses. Note that we don't really get a discussion anywhere on what might be wrong with male bosses (or what might be good with female bosses), and so the comments begin with the assumption (unstated) that male bosses are good, and that all one needs to do is to point out the worst possible characteristics of female bosses to compare them to the good male boss. Although some comments later diverge from this, the topic is not set up as a neutral one, and it is not surprising that we don't get a balanced discussion.

How does one go about deciding that female bosses are worse or better than male bosses anyway? Most of us don't have a very large number of bosses of both genders during our working lives, so almost all these opinions are based on a very small number of people. How can one then assume that a bad boss was bad because of his or her gender and not because of some personal quirk? Surely prior prejudices feed into this.

I found the focus on women's presumed overemotionality fascinating. How do we decide that women are too emotional? Clearly, we base this on how men are being viewed, as just correctly emotional. But there is no objective measure of just-the-right-emotionality anywhere in the world, and one might as well argue that men are underemotional. Not that I'm arguing so; just pointing out the hidden premise in this story. Once again, I find it horrifying that the solution to these overemotional and illogical women messing up the career ladders is to send them home to rule over vulnerable children.

On Tai Ji/Tai Chi

I spotted another article advocating tai chi for the elderly as a way of improving balance in general. It is good for that, but I wonder how many in the U.S. understand that tai chi is a fairly difficult form of qigong and that easier results might be available by studying qigong first or certainly with tai chi.

My tai chi practice started over ten years ago. Over time I branched into much more giqong, then added bagua. I differ from the average tai chi practitioner in this country in that I'm very interested in the self-defense aspects of martial arts, and that interest colors what I focus in my training. But the health benefits of my practise are very evident, too. For exampe, my spine feels very elastic and I can do splits with great easiness and elegance, too. Now don't ask how a snake tail splits. That would be rude.

The health benefits from tai chi or qigong in general are not instantaneous or a replacement for getting medical treatments. That makes it hard to sell the art to people who want a pill to take for some discomfort and also explains why many of the examples I know of the healing effects of tai chi or qigong have to do with people who were offered no more working solutions by the Western medical system. They were very motivated and willing to stick to the exercises for a few months at least. But learning tai chi initially can be very hard and a simpler qigong program could make the benefits more easily available.

That, and more knowledgeable teachers. I once heard about someone watching a video course of tai chi and then starting to teach tai chi to the elderly. I could never have done that. A teacher is absolutely necessary in the early stages of learning, because what is being taught is mostly internal and not visible to an untrained eye watching a video.

The article I mentioned at the beginning of the post talks about the improvements in balance the elderly received from their practice. The next level of benefits comes from the much increased body awareness in general, the ability to listen to what is going on internally and the ability to adjust the movement to those feelings. In many ways this increased body awareness has been the greatest benefit to me, as I used to mostly ignore my body if it wasn't screaming with pain. It can be a very interesting trip to visit your body, once in a while, and to make it an equal partner with your mind in this adventure we call living.
The picture is about an applique piece I did on the yin-yang circle, with a little frivolity thrown in. It will be a pillow cover one day, perhaps.

On Barbie Dolls

I have not found if it is legal to post a part of a poem here, but as it is for the purposes of discussion I'm going to do it and then delete it if it turns out to be illegal. The poem is by Margaret Atwood and titled "The Female Body" (from the collection Good Bones and Simple Murders), and this is the excerpt I want to quote:

He said, I won't have one of those things in the house. It gives a young girl a false notion of beauty, not to mention anatomy. If a real woman was built like that she'd fall on her face.

She said, If we don't let her have one like all the other girls she'll feel singled out. It'll become an issue. She'll long for one and she'll long to turn into one. Repression breeds sublimation. You know that.

He said, It's not just the pointy plastic tits, it's the wardrobes. The wardrobes and that stupid male doll, what's his name, the one with the underwear glued on.

She said, Better to get it over with when she's young. he said, All right but don't let me see it.

She came whizzing down the stairs. thrown like a dart. She was stark naked. Her hair had been chopped off, her head was turned back to front, she was missing some toes and she'd been tattooed all over her body with purple ink, in a scroll-work design. She hit the potted azalea, trembled there for moment like a botched angle, and fell.

He said, I guess we're safe.

Scooter Guilty And Other Political Snippets With Nary A Link In Sight

Your best source for the Scooter Libby trial results is Firedoglake, but they are asking no direct links due to the number of people interested in reading what they have to say. In short, Scooter was found guilty on four counts. He might, of course, get pardoned later on by president Bush.

The Libby trial is a good example of those blogging tasks which require specialization. Other similar ones are the current federal prosecutor firing bout, though I plan to write a little about it later on. But mostly these kinds of cases must be closely followed by someone with legal expertise for the blog posts to be worthwhile.

Other areas have no such requirements. For instance, the recent mini-interest in Hillary Clinton's accent. Is she pretending to be a southerner when it benefits her? Candy Crowley thinks so:

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think what this does do is feed to that image that Hillary Clinton is very, very studied, that she does everything with a purpose, and that she makes her message so that it points toward a particular audience. So, that's where the harm is in this.

Yup. It would have been fun to have a similar mini-interest session in the accent of our president and his brother. How come are they so different? How does one acquire a false Texan accent in Connecticut? And how harmful is this? But we didn't get that session, for some reason.

Then there is the Walter Reed scandal. Is it just extra evidence that somehow perfectly good people turn bad the minute the government enters into the picture, as right-wingers would like us to believe? And if so, how can we reconcile this with a lot of evidence showing that the Veterans' Administration health care provision has on the whole worked very well for not very much money? Or with the recent privatization of many of the parts of Walter Reed which now malfunction? I'm going to write more on this one, too.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Tightrope Walker

Feministe has a good take on a new Los Angeles Times article on Loretta Sanchez, an article which describes Sanchez in these glowing terms:

Pacing next to the desk and U.S. flag in her district office in Garden Grove, the paradox that is Rep. Loretta Sanchez was on full display.

The congresswoman ticked off a meaty legislative to-do list: immigration reform, port safety, stopping sex trafficking, revamping "terrible management" at the Department of Homeland Security. She was articulate and sharp, even magnetic.

At the same time, she was shedding a red St. John Knits suit and shimmying into an ao dai, a traditional Vietnamese tunic and pants, for her next event. Meaning that she was telling a female reporter about her chairmanship of the House Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism while wearing only pants and a black bra.

Was this a glimpse of Loretta Sanchez, siren, a politician known for her strenuous workout regimen and fondness for come-hither heels? Or was this Loretta Sanchez, harried congresswoman, too wrapped up in important national issues to take a break in the name of modesty?

Mmm, modesty. The characteristic which is so common among all male politicians. Oops. I forgot, male politicians don't have to worry about modesty.

But female politicians do. They also have to worry about sexiness and femininity and competence, all aspects which must somehow be fitted into one package. As feministe points out:

If the feminine mold you squeeze into is the one that many younger women are presented with — the hyper-sexualized Girls Gone Wild ideal — then you cannot be taken seriously. If the feminine mold you squeeze into is the one that many female politicians are presented with — the male-impersonating-but-slightly-softer ideal — then you cannot be attractive, and can just barely be a "woman."

It's a tightrope walking exercise, this being a woman and a politician, and falling off is very easy to do.

A little helpful push can do it. For instance, an article might cast worries about the ability of a sexy politician to be competent:

In the coming months, Sanchez will be tested on whether her reputation will be more coquette or congresswoman. Entrenched in the House majority for the first time, she is allied with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and sits on two of the most prominent committees: Armed Services and Homeland Security, being the second-ranking Democrat on the latter.

What would be the male equivalent for "coquette or congresswoman"? A horndog or a congressman? And when were the two seen as mutually exclusive in this country?

This Blogging Bidness

I woke up quite early this morning to the sounds of a pile driver. A brand new McMansion is rising a few houses from me. It dwarfs everything around it, looking like some monstrous zit on a fairly average face. Now I will live in the shadow of the zit.

What does this all mean? It means that I'm grumpy and looking for angry material to write on. Such fragile creatures we humans are!

It also means that I really, truly hate the visuals of my blog and want one those new-fangled clean and artistic blogs with lots of other bloggers posting funny videos and snappy surveys of other blogs. And lots of faithful readers who all gather here to talk to each other. Sniff. I'm not going to get any of those things, because that is not what I'm good at.

I'm good at grumpiness.

The Empty Halls of a Megachurch

Remember the Ted Haggard scandal? It has had its impact on his church:

The megachurch founded by the Rev. Ted Haggard, who was fired over drug and sex allegations, has laid off 44 people amid falling income following the scandal.

The cuts announced during services Sunday amount to about 12 percent of the church's work force, associate pastor Rob Brendle said.

Brendle estimated that church income has fallen 10 percent since the scandal last fall, forcing layoffs including pastoral staff, support staff and nursery workers.

Am I right in thinking that many of these megachurches are quite dependent on the charisma of one pastor? I recall reading about the relatively short life of those churches which lose their star preachers.

I'm also wondering if these megachurches are one of those things which future history regards as a passing quirk in religion, or if they are here to stay and if the latter, if they are always going to be homes of wingnuttery.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

I'm Back, It's Been A Long Weekend

Posted by olvlzl.
Thank you for your kind wishes. Things are all right. I expect to post several pieces in draft but which aren't ready next week.

A Response Too Long For HaloScan

Posted by olvlzl.
The major point of the post is that history provides a sounder academic field with which to guide political decisions and policies than behavioral or cognitive science. I didn’t say that there isn’t something to either behavioral or cognitive science, though I’d certainly argue that many researchers in both fields tend to go way beyond what their research supports. The amazingly baroque structures that they tend to build on rather shaky pilings are impressive until you look at what they’re built on.

The recent dustup begun by Steven Pinker in the New Republic, George Lakoff’s defense of his work (Pinker seems to have quite opportunistically distorted what Lakoff said, I didn’t read the book so I will have to depend on Lakoff’s rebuttal. Lakoff should know what he wrote, afterall.) and Geoffrey Nunberg’s analysis of it is a good window into just what the field can get like. If any of the various viewpoints will stand even a couple of decades is anyones’ guess at this point. This part of Nunberg’s analysis is germain to the point of what I wrote:

Why does any of this matter? Pinker suggests that the danger is that Democratic politicians might actually take Lakoff at his word and build their strategies around his ideas. But as best I can tell, Lakoff's direct influence on the language of the Democrats has been negligible. He may have had the ear of some prominent Democrats, but you couldn't tell it by what comes out of their mouths. And no wonder--as Pinker and a number of other people have observed, Lakoff's own framing suggestions are pretty lame. Democratic politicians don't need to know anything about cognitive science to realize that referring to taxes as "membership fees" or to trial lawyers as "public protection attorneys" would make them easy targets of Republican ridicule. And as for his proposal that Democrats should reframe "activist judges" as "freedom judges," a Google search turns up no instances of the phrase apart from remarks that make fun of the suggestion.

True, linguists coin slogans about as well as physicists ride bicycles. And the fact that Lakoff has a tin ear for political phrasing doesn't negate his indirect influence in drawing Democrats' attention to the importance of framing. That's all to the good. It's easy to say that what matters is ideas, not language. But while people often exaggerate the effect of Republican slogans and bumper stickers, there's no question that a well-turned catchphrase can do a lot of work in shaping public opinion--think of "cut and run." As Walter Lippmann pointed out in Public Opinion, American political life is saturated with verbal symbols that "assemble emotions after they have been detached from their ideas." However compelling the ideas that Democrats come up with are, they'll have a hard time packaging them unless they can do a better job confecting the wrapping paper. (My own sense is that liberal Democrats would do better revisiting the populist language that brought them to the ball in the first place than invoking the labored moral frames that Lakoff proposes. But that's for another conversation.)

I’ll admitt that Lakoff’s politics are a lot closer to mine than Pinker’s and I’ll renew the charge that Pinker isn’t above some rather dirty politics (see Lakoff’s rebuttal) and, if it’s not obvious, Pinker is not apolitical. However, though I might agree with Lakoff’s politics, I don’t believe his scientific work is as good a guide to politics as history is. Any agreement between us is on other grounds.

To deny the logical outcomes of biological determinism, both as clearly demonstrated in history and in the adoption of Pinker’s work, in particular, by right wingers, is just to deny what’s plainly there to be seen. If it doesn't go past Brooks and Hoff-Sommers it can't be a very difficult point. It’s a clear danger to progressive politics, I say it’s a danger to democracy itself. The enormous gulf that separates the scientific speculations of these determinists, based on their interpretation of rather skimpy data, and what actual life shows us as revealed by the far larger record of history that resulted from the actions of people, basing politics on Pinker and the rest is an act of faith that is enormously risky. I’m not willing to take that risk on sciences that have a track record of changing fashions quite as often as these do. Even if they didn’t, their assertions, untested in history, are far less impressive than what is learned from looking at ideological and “scientifically” based politics in the 20th century.

Oops, Left This Off
Also from Nunberg’s analysis:

True, many liberals have always been prone to this tone of argument. But Lakoff's writings seem to give a scientific imprimatur to the idea that liberalism and conservatism are distinct mentalities--that we're the ones who are "for nurturance and care," for example. And while liberals may find that picture flattering, it also plays into the rhetorical hands of conservatives, who are happy to reframe ideological divisions as warring personalities and lifestyles and to obscure the economic roots of political divisions. In fact the most damning thing you can say about Lakoff is that he too often takes the right at its word.

Now, here I can agree and disagree with Nunberg. I do think that there is a political danger from the Republican media in this kind of framing, though I do it myself. The reason is that after the going on seven years of the Bush II regime, the years of Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, Lott, Frist, Bush I, Ronald Reagan, Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist.... not to mention the conservatives who hold enormous influence without holding office, anyone who can remain a conservative after the disasters and most criminal governments under them has failed both the tests of morality and history. To not point out their criminality and moral depravity is to distort the truth. You can't talk about them honestly without mentioning it.


It's an embroidery stitch and therefore most suitable as a womanly post title. Even if the post is about Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a faggot:

Democratic presidential contender John Edwards hopes to make some quick campaign cash off a conservative columnist's slur at a convention of Republican activists.

"I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I — so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards," Ann Coulter told Republicans attending the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.

Democrats were quick to condemn her remark.

So were most conservative politicians. But what was astonishing about the whole debacle was the mainstream media's initial reluctance to address it at all. John Aravosis put it like this:

Apparently it's no longer news to the Associated Press and Reuters that a lead conservative voice at THE lead conservative conference, a conference attended by all the GOP presidential candidates (save John McCain) and even the vice president himself, publicly called a lead Democratic presidential candidate a "faggot." And it's not news that the lead gay and lesbian civil rights group in America, and the head of the Democratic party, have called on the GOP candidatees, and the veep, to condemn her hateful comments. No, no story there. But I do hear that Anna Nicole Smith is still dead and Britney shaved her head. Oooh, how exciting.

I don't even need to make the comparisons to whether the Associated Press, Reuters and the rest of the mainstream media would find it newsworthy if Michael Moore or Barbra Streisand, attending the lead Democratic political conference, called a leading Republican presidential candidate the n-word, or a slur for Jews, or Latinos, or any other minority. Hell, the mainstream media was all over the story that Barbra Streisand told some heckler to go shove it - yes, that was apparently news - but a top conservative voice publicly calling a top Democrat a "faggot" at the most important annual meeting of the GOP base, in a month that the word faggot and anti-gay bias has been in the news repeatedly, no, that ain't news.

Because it is a joke! Don't you get it? That's what Ann Coulter said when asked about the comment by Adam Nagourney.

I learned two things from all this. First, the mainstream media is frightened of the wingnuts and prefers to cluck and tut over the nasty and vulgar lefty blogs instead. Second, we should all make it quite clear that our nasty and vulgar language is just a joke and that some people are too stupid to get it.

Do You Want To Buy Me?

All people are sometimes treated as commodities. But women are treated that way often. Just watch the uterus wars and the "they-are-breeding-us-out" wars and all the discussions about how women should act so as not to let the civilization collapse. The civilization is on our shoulders, a little like the tabletop is on the shoulders of the table legs.

Why so gloomy, Echidne? I have been reading about the disappearing Indian girls and the ghost brides of China. From No Capital:

Yang Donghai, a 35-year-old farmer in western China's Shaanxi province, confessed to killing a woman bought from a poor family for 12,000 yuan ($1,545) last year.

She thought she was being sold into an arranged marriage, but Yang killed her in a gully and sold her corpse for 16,000 yuan, the Legal Daily reported Thursday. He and two accomplices then killed a prostitute and sold her for 8,000 yuan before police caught them.

"I did it for the money; it was a quick buck," Yang said, according to the paper. "If I hadn't slipped up early, I planned to do a few more."

The women were victims of an old belief, still alive in the yellow-earth highlands of western China, that young men who die unmarried should go to their graves accompanied by deceased women who will be their wives in the afterlife. Often these women die natural deaths.

Sometimes a dead woman is worth more than a living one. And sometimes a living girl is worth so very little that it's better to abandon her:

Bhavia is sleeping swaddled in a woolly peach cardigan amid the wailing and flailing limbs of 20 other babies. Nurses in lilac saris and face masks scoop the bundles from rockers and jig them under the wintry Delhi sun. Two days ago, the baby girl became the newest arrival at Palna, an orphanage in the capital's Civil Lines district. But Bhavia is not an orphan. She is what used to be known as "a foundling", abandoned by her mother in a local hospital.

When Bhavia came to Palna she was nameless, with no date of birth. What is certain, from a cursory glance at the line of babies, is that an orphanage is one of the few places in India where males are outnumbered. For every boy lying in the sunny courtyard, there are four girls. Some have been dumped outside police stations, some in railway toilets, crowded fairgrounds, or the dark corners of bus stations. Others were left outside the orphanage in a wicker cradle, in a specially built alcove by a busy road. The weight of a child here will set off an alarm, alerting Palna's staff to a new arrival.

Almost always, it is girls who are left in the cradle. Healthy boys are only deserted in India if born to single mothers; boys left by a married couple are the disabled ones. Not all abandoned girls come from families too poor to feed them, however. Some have been found with a neatly packed bag containing a change of clothes, milk formula and disposable nappies.

This is an improvement over what usually happens to the unwanted girls:

The latest estimate of India's sex ratio at birth (SRB) can be gleamed from a sample registration system that covers 1.3m households. For the two years up to 2004, India had just 882 girls per 1,000 boys. Only China is worse. Beijing's harsh, yet effective, family-planning policy limited urban couples to a single child -which was usually a boy. China's sex ratio stands at just 832:1,000. Sabu George, a Delhi-based researcher who has worked for two decades on female foeticide, describes the first few months in the womb as "the riskiest part of a woman's life cycle in India". The sex ratios in the country, he says, are getting worse "day by day". India, he says, now has 930,000 missing girls every year. "What we are talking about is a massive, hidden number of deaths."

And what is it that makes girls and women so unwanted? The system of marrying into the man's family and the expectation that it is the sons who will take care of their parents in old age. A daughter will leave, just when she would be old enough to contribute to the family, and not only will she leave, but she is expected to take a dowry with her. And it is the sons who will take care of the parents later on, or perhaps the daughters-in-law those sons marry, strangers, too. The daughters themselves will take care of the parents of their future husbands, you see.

A trade in women, and a daughter a burden! Who invented this system? Was it based on the greater muscular strength of the sons?

Think how hard it is to be a burden to your parents, to be traded off like that, to have to cut the emotional web you have built over the years, to start from the beginning, under the domination of strangers.

Commodities, to be traded and bought, or to be exchanged for family connections. I used to think that a traditional marriage was like a labor contract for the woman, a contract which specified her duties to her husband's family. But sometimes I think it resembles slavery more than anything else, and I say this fully understanding that many traditional marriages are quite good and that a certain amount of bad luck is required to see just how very bad the situation can be for women.

And what about the psychological effects of being labeled as a nuisance, a drain on the family resources? Someone once told me a joke about women in India or China or some similar place; that having daughters was like watering the neighbor's flower garden. What would the daughters themselves think about that joke? How hard must one inhale the spirit of patriarchy to cheerfully agree with its message? And I have seen that happen.

But of course how commodities feel doesn't matter when it comes to their prices.

Do you know what I find truly ironic about the disappeared girls in China and India? That the concerns usually begin only when someone realizes that --gasp-- men will not find wives now! The market in wives has excess demand! Do something! The price will go up, up, up! And there will be an illegal market of kidnapped brides! The rising price of women does not make them any less commodities, sadly.

I want to bang my head against the garage door, here. But if you think this way of thinking about women is only a problem in far-away places such as China or India, think again. In the offices of Washington Times, the following was recorded:

The day before, there was a brief discussion on the foreign desk about a pending series by religion writer Julia Duin on the abortion of girls in India....In the discussion with colleagues on The Washington Times foreign desk, [foreign desk editor David Jones] said: "The reason we are running this story is that Coombs thinks all the aborted girls means that Indian men will be immigrating to the United States to marry our girls." That is an exact quote, what Jones told his colleagues on the foreign desk.

Now we can't have that, can we? It would mess with the wife-market over here.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

An Old Story For Your Enjoyment

On Feminism

Would you like to do something crazy and reckless with your life? Do you have the strength to throw away job security, pension benefits, even the approval of your dearest and nearest ones? Are you quite content if you'll never set a foot in a TV or radio studio, never get invited to another Republican fundraiser, never have another "Letter to the Editor" published?

If your answer to all of these is a resounding yes and if you have always felt kind of curious about life in leprosy colonies, you might possess the stuff that makes a woman stand up and declare herself a feminist. You can then spend your life fighting for a worthy cause, viz. the conviction that women, just like men, are fully adult full members of the species homo sapiens and should be treated so rather than as domestic gadgets or sexual aids. You will be joined in this fight by a handful of equally nutty and courageous women and men. Your opposition will span millions of men and women and millions of millions of dollars. They will fight you with everything they've got: the old boy network, the old religious network and the big media networks.

You will be accused of everything that ever has gone wrong in this country: crime, abandoned children, divorce, unemployment, promiscuity, even weakened national defense. Wow! This is heady stuff and might make you feel powerful beyond your wildest dreams. Hard to believe that feminists have been able to wreck so much of Western civilization without media access, money or military backing. Well, if it sounds too good to be true....

This doesn't mean that you wouldn't need to be strong to be a feminist. But it is even more important that you can laugh at yourself. Others certainly will. In fact, ridicule and prurient interest in your life, loves and looks will follow you throughout your feminist career.

People will say "No wonder she is a feminist; with a face/clothes/hair like that what other options did she have?" or "All she really needs is to get laid" or even "She is just one of those male-haters; after all, she views women as their equals". If these statements get you down consider an easier career, say, early Christian martyrdom in the Roman style.

If you are still game, get working. We all need you to, us nonfeminists, who will ultimately reap the rewards of your labors without having lifted a finger. Oh, you'll get your reward, too. When you have been safely dead for a century or so we'll erect a few monuments in your honor and insert a sanitized paragraph or two about your life in the history books. We'll even encourage others to choose the feminist career path.

Sorry to leave in a hurry.

Posted by olvlzl.
A family problem has come up and I'm going to be away until tomorrow night. I will post as soon as possible.

Don’t Say That, It Drives Me Absolutely Wild.

Pet Peeve of the Day From Real Life*
Posted by olvlzl.
When a father is taking care of his children it is not “BABY SITTING”. And it isn’t him doing something extraordinarily saintly, it’s him taking basic responsibility for having produced children.
How come they never call it “baby sitting” when a mother does it? Besides, that guy, he's only doing it because he doesn't have a choice today. I know him, he's a jerk.

*Overheard about ten minutes ago.

Go North East Young Mormon

Posted by olvlzl.
In the developing narrative pushed by Howie Kurtz and other moutpieces of Republican media, that liberal, anti-religious bigots are discriminating against Mitt Romney on the basis of his being a Mormon, the most obvious fact is being overlooked. It's overlooked because it wouldn't suit the Republican right's lying line.

While Romney has a real problem finding how to sell himself to the religious right who think he's a devil worshiping cultist - and let's be impressed, Romney has sold out so many times that it's nice to see one group that can resist his annoying, Pepsodent charm - he encountered no such bigotry in the most liberal state in the country. It was in relatively Mormonless, same-sex-marrying, Kennedy-Kerry electing, university student ridden Massachusetts that Romney has found electoral success.

Liberals, they don't tend to be bigots like Republican conservatives.

Elegy For A Liberal Historian

The Dangers of a Conservative-Cognitive Cohabitation
Posted by olvlzl.
Unless Echidne does one of her great refutations of David Brook’s bilge, he is pretty near the bottom of my optional reading list. Other than as referenced by the writings of her and some others, I avoid the cherry picker. So I hadn’t read his recent citation of Steven Pinker before taking that modest poke at the guy here last week.

A comment asked what I didn’t like about Pinker. You could say that the reasons start with all of the misgivings posted here about behavioral science. But as Brooks has made the logical use of Pinker to back up the status-quo, the question goes way past those.

Discussing the great historian Arthur Schlesinger on another blog the other day, someone disagreed with me that history was a better way to learn about politics and society than the behavioral sciences. I hold that it’s clear that as systems become more complex that the difficulties of studying them grow and the certainty of the results of the study tend to diminish. Eventually the difficulties preclude those subjects from being science. Some of the methods of science can be useful in studying those very complex fields but the results are not science. While a clear demarcation is probably not possible, the science side of the line should include only aspects of behavior and cognition that are quite simple and well defined, at least that’s what I think. Some people aren’t as stringent about what they’ll place their scientific faith in*. I think that the best history is more rigorous in its adherence to fact than a good deal of what is considered to be science. And its facts are no less facts than the product of the behavioral sciences. Quite often there is more evidence that what historians study acutally happened.

The unwise faith holding sway among our intelligentsia, that accords whatever a big name at a big university calls “science” a position of nearly unquestioned authority, is liable to break down most badly when “science” goes past where a reasonable and disinterested person should draw the line. A lot of those caught up in this kind of reverent awe are not given pause by their ignorance of science. It’s quite common among majors in the humanities or viewers of the Discovery Channel who haven’t mastered highschool algebra. It’s in them that the critique of science as a secular religion is particularly accurate.

Emblematic of the ubiquitous, uncritical acceptance of behavioral science is that the treatment of individuals as individuals, with their own abilities, thoughts and preferences, treatment unprejudiced by classification and assignment of abstract, statistical norms feels like it’s becoming ever rarer in today’s over indoctrinated world. People are not merely members of a category, you cannot tell anything about them by relying on classification. They can’t be pinned to a board like a dead insect and assigned a little, printed card. Pinker's very self-serving support of Summers' should be a red flag both within and outside of his specialty.

History, politics and society in general, with their enormous complexity cannot accommodate the precise specifications necessary for really good science. The vast academic subject, “history” is variable enough, flexible enough and sufficiently lacking in authoritative hierarchy to encompass the enormous and difficult mass of evidence in its ambiguity and contradictions. History, with no right to being called a science yet containing a larger part of the real complexity of actual life, can give a better idea of how to avoid the political mistakes that other people have made in the past than just about any science. It’s surely a better guide for our politics than the religion of near science. Not that science doesn’t also have an extremely important role. Careful and accurate science does have an enormous role to play in setting public policy when it’s useful. The suppression and distortion of science by the Bush regime is a crime against humanity and democracy.

There is bad history just as there is bad science. I believe both are a danger to freedom and the continued existence of life. But history isn’t contained in a single, larger, truth. It contains a large number of different viewpoints. You might find what is useful within one viewpoint or it might spread itself over several opinions. The strength of history comes partly from the number of viewpoints, when those viewpoints are honestly arrived at.

Democratic politics doesn’t depend on a single viewpoint for its authority, it can’t. It depends on the information that The People, as a whole, bring to it. It’s an attempt to average out bad ideas and to cast a wide net to find good ones. But in order for democracy to exist, The People need to hold values that can’t be found by science. Those values are as necessary to freedom and as essential to a decent society as accurate information. Equality, generosity and liberty are foremost among them. The rise in popularity of those values grew out of the knowledge of the history that preceded it and the desire to escape the horrors of the past, it continued with a faith that kind of change was possible.

It’s an uncertain life which we have to approach from our own limitations. Many leftists are too quick to accept the too confident and fashionable explanations of biological determinists on these subjects. The scientific trappings of their pronouncements cow too many people out of making a political and, let’s say it, moral critique of their edicts. There is no reason to believe that their work contains more legitimate ground for making good choices in politics than are found in life unfiltered by them. Brooks and others are beginning to use them like earlier plutocrats used other biological determinists to prop up the status quo. The history of that practice, resting on piles of entirely real bones, stolen lives and stunted spirits, makes suspicion of these neo-determinists entirely legitimate. Alleged science used to support the politics of David Brooks, which Pinker more than clearly implies in his contentions, needs a critical look in political terms. The history of their fields should require more skepticism than uncritical acceptance. The emergent political applications of their writings makes that kind of skepticism wise. **

Back when Sociobiology was young, a relative of mine was majoring in biology. They swallowed the fashionable line, then all the rage in biology departments around the country. During one of our frequent arguments on the subject they asked why I didn’t dispute physics but felt entirely free to dispute sociobiology . Other than the arguments made here about complexity, subjectivity and interpretation, the answer included that no physicist, on the authority of their research, had maintained that we didn’t have free will or had supported grossly sexist social norms.*** The real possibility of determinists impinging on other peoples’ lives confers the right to respond to them very skeptically.

The danger in biological determinism for progressives is that its uncritical adoption will result in the left being hollowing out through an abandonment of our essential values. The view of people as “computers made of meat”, of our actions as the results of genetic fitness with little to be done in the way of mitigation, is a way of reducing people to fixed objects.**** That view of people is the core of conservative practice, no matter what line they might mouth. I don’t see any scientific bar to allowing those with more ability or resources to use such human objects in whatever way what will. Biological imperative is a well known excuse for human subjugation even today, there is every reason to believe it will continue to be. If this kind of biological determinism becomes the majority opinion all the evils of the past will reemerge. Other excuses have served exactly the same purpose, the results will be the same, perhaps worse because people will believe that it’s proven fact that subjugation is the best they can hope for. Steve Biko said "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." We will relive the past we have been encouraged to ignore.

The contentions of Pinker et al are suspiciously supportive of the status quo elite that they are a part of. Odd, isn’t it, that their work props up the current establishment instead of undermining it. In pointing that out I’m aware that Pinker’s camp has made the same charge against other, competing, scientists, who they claim have allowed their politics to influence their work. So, it’s a form of critique that they can hardly say is illegitimate when applied to them.

But I’m not going to get involved with that highbrow form of uh-huh, nah-uh. I’ll leave that to scientists. I’m interested in what history has shown us can happen in these kinds of situations. I think that the manifestation of such “science” in history, seeing how it played out in real societies, countries and lives, is infinitely more useful than taking the speculative and schematic findings of “science” and applying them the other way round. At least, they are if you aren’t interested in propping up an elite. Life is too complex to leave to the scientists, alone.

* Though this point was disputed on the other blog, behavioral science is clearly the most subjective branch of science. Given its field of study, it begins with interpretation of behaviors and then goes well past the point of simply describing what can be seen, drawing inferences about unseen aspects and assumptions. Its researchers very often lack an objectively observable, measurable, subject. The field can’t escape its origins, a behavioral scientist can’t escape the place they are observing from, their own mind, and the fact that they are putting their own interpretation on what they’ve observed. As I said in that long piece a few weeks back, cognitive science, even with all it’s measurements and imaging, sometimes pretends to have bridged that chasm when it hasn’t. We can’t know if it might achieve that someday. As of today, it hasn’t.

**I’ll avoid the temptation of making specific comparisons between them and others in history who have claimed a similar kind of authority based on the prevailing standards of reasoning. After all, those people also believed their standards were etched in stone for all time. Science isn’t the full measure of reality anymore than history is.

*** Sociobiology hadn’t accommodated itself to the objections of female sociobiologists yet. And just where did “sociobiology” go, anyway? You hardly ever hear the word pronounced these days.

**** I believe the quote was from the respected chemist turned Anglican Priest, John Polkinghorne, though I couldn’t find a link.

Is anyone else struck by the short shrift given by social and behavioral scientists to the ability of reasoning and logic to change lives? Haven’t you talked yourself out of something you really wanted to do by analyzing what you wanted with reason and common decency? I’d expect lots of people on the left have. Maybe even some on the right. The ability of people to be better than they are is the heart and soul of liberalism. Without that, the oligarches have it right.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Sweeping Out the Cobwebs

A new British study has provoked some attention on blogs. It looks at the hours of housework that women and men do both before and after they couple up:

A new study has found that employed women living with their employed partner actually spend more time doing housework than single women. The men, on the other hand see the hours they commit to housework decline once they begin living as a couple.

The findings come from analysis by labour economist Helene Couprie of Toulouse University.

Her research, based on data from the British Household Panel Survey looked at working women - single or living with a partner, both with and without children. And by examining information on more than 2,000 people, she concluded that on average, an employed woman does 15 hours a week of housework when she lives with her employed partner, up from 10 hours when single. Meanwhile the men, who do seven hours while living alone, do only five when they co-habit.

The findings are partly, Ms Couprie suggests, due to influences that people have grown up with - where traditionally women have taken on the lion's share of domestic tasks.

She says that as long as children see their parents stick to certain tasks, such trends become hard to change.

Jessica Valenti at pointed out the study, Matthew Yglesias did some calculations of the unequal effect and points out that women have higher standards of cleanliness, given that single women did about three hours more work per week than single men. Still, employed women see their chore hours rise and employed men see their chore hours fall as they become couples.

Why is this the case? Scott Lemieux suggests that the expected ideal level of housework should perhaps be reconsidered, given that this expectation was built during a time when married women were full-time housekeepers in middle-class families:

To once again borrow from Jacob Levy the idea that "[t]he only non-sexist equilibrium is for both partners to converge on the preferences that got inculcated in women by societies that had one partner be a full-time housekeeper, sometimes with additional paid help" is plainly erroneous, and assuming such standards on average puts women in an exceptionally weak bargaining position -- in which gross inequalities are inevitable. The underlying differences don't justify the inequality, but they do make clear that trying to equalize at an anachronistically high level of domestic work is a bad feminist strategy.

And Kevin Drum views the study as telling us that men are slobs and raises a banner for the brotherhood of men by arguing that the study in fact shows men working more when overall work hours (paid and unpaid) are considered:

But I was curious about why the total hours of housework goes up so dramatically for couples (two people shouldn't require twice the hours of housework as one person, should they?). Was this due to the presence of children or did they control for that? So I went looking for the paper itself, and eventually found an earlier version of the research here. Unfortunately, it was so crammed with formidable looking equations that I quickly gave up.

However, if you scroll down to Table 2, you'll find something that makes the basic results a little more understandable: men in couples do less housework than women, but they also do way more work outside the house (44 hours vs. 31 hours on average). Women's work outside the home declines when they become part of a couple, and my guess is that men's work outside the home increases (though, oddly, Table 2 doesn't actually provide this data directly). The total amount of leisure time reported within couples is 128 for women vs. 124 for men. The guys aren't quite so lazy after all!

Now, the author warns us to be careful with this data, since time spent with children is sometimes coded as housework and sometimes coded as leisure, and it's not always clear which is which.

The study Kevin dug up is not the final version of the paper. It might not even be an earlier draft of the same data, though I guess it probably is. The "Table 2" Kevin refers to has no information on single men, for example, which makes it tricky to interpret the figures. But the whole manuscript is interesting, because it explains that the "single" and "partnered" people in the study are people who changed their status from one to the other group during the study. So the results are not just comparing a group of single people to a group of partnered people, but in fact look at how the time allocation of the people changes as their partnering status changes.

This also partly explains why the single women in Table 2 are almost as likely to have children (41% of them do) as the partnered women and men (52% of them do): some of them went from being partnered to being single, and suggests that it is not the arrival of children alone which would explain most of the change in time allocations.

Everything clear now? Actually, things are getting messier. The single women have the highest leisure time of the three groups listed in that table, work more for money than the partnered women and do less housework, and now I really want to know if these women were at first partnered and then became single or vice versa.

Doing time-use surveys is very tricky. Imagine how well you would do in estimating how many hours you spend on various chores at home. Then add to that the fact that we often multitask. If you watch television while ironing (remember ironing?), are you enjoying leisure time or doing a chore or both, and if both, what percentage of the time should be allocated to each use? It gets even harder when one tries to measure time spent taking care of children as some respondents will regard that as leisure time and others as household chore time. Or both.

But the manuscript is actually about something rather different: bargaining power in marriage and the way ones salary or wage rate affects ones bargaining position. The authors conclude that it is the unequal wages men and women on average garner that makes the allocation of household chores deviate from some equal sharing arrangement, and that it is the higher wages men can acquire that makes them work more hours for money.

Why would it matter how partners decide to allocate their working time between chores and paid work? It's all for the good of the family, after all. Well, yes. But the two types of work ARE different, because one is paid based on a formal legal contract and one is not paid in that way, but subject to negotiation.

The household chores are like a public good: something that benefits everybody in the family almost immediately but also something that doesn't grow a pension or future promotion possibilities, whereas the person who works for money gets these and often also a bigger legal say in how that money is spent. This is what makes the bargaining position of the partner not working outside the home weaker, other things being equal, and this is also why it matters how much one earns when negotiating household chores.

Why We Don't Have National Health Insurance

A long time ago I read an article which classified the health care funding systems of countries into three types: socialized medicine (with overtones of Stalinism and stinking waiting-rooms and lines which never move), the system initiated by Bismarck in Germany (paternalism, health care insurance clubs, with overtones of an old fat guy in a uniform wearing a very bristly mustache) and the cowboy system (all market-based, money used to decide who gets what, private insurance, with overtones of Marlboro men valiantly riding on forever). What came as a surprise was to find that the cowboy system isn't actually used in the United States: roughly one half of all health care spending is channeled through various levels of government. But Americans think they have the cowboy system.

And this is partly because of the much greater loathing of the government here than in any other similar industrialized society I know of. Many Americans truly do not trust the government at all, and the reason for this may well be in the family stories passed on from generation to generation by the descendants of those who escaped oppressive governments to come here. The sad thing is that there are tasks for which some form of communal activity is needed, and it is beginning to look like health care finance might be one of those fields.

Consider the current U.S. system. Around forty million people without any coverage at all. As many as eight million children without coverage. The average cost of health insurance keeps rising, year after year, and the policies people have cover fewer and fewer treatments. Yet the overall expenditure on health care swallows more and more of our gross national product.

Some sort of change is urgently needed, and here is where the paradoxical views of Americans are the major problem. From a recent poll on health insurance:

A majority of Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance to every American, especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to do it, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.

While the war in Iraq remains the overarching issue in the early stages of the 2008 campaign, access to affordable health care is at the top of the public's domestic agenda, ranked as far more important than immigration, cutting taxes or promoting traditional values. Only 24 percent said they were satisfied with President Bush's handling of the issue, despite his recent initiatives, and 62 percent said the Democrats — not the Republicans — were more likely to improve the health care system.

Americans showed a striking willingness in the poll to make tradeoffs for a better health care system, including paying as much as $500 more in taxes a year and forgoing future tax cuts. But the same divisions that doomed the last attempt at creating universal health insurance, under the Clinton administration, are still apparent. Americans remain divided, largely along party lines, over whether the government should require everyone to participate in a national health care plan, and over whether the government would do a better job than the private insurance industry in providing coverage.
One question offered a choice between the current system and a national health insurance program covering everyone, administered by the government and financed by taxpayers. Thirty-eight percent said they preferred the current system, while 47 percent preferred a government-run approach.

Nearly half said they thought it would be unfair to require all Americans to participate in a national health care plan, financed by taxpayers.

See? The problem isn't just the distrust of the government but also the great heterogeneity in the American values. This heterogeneity cuts across many other political questions, too, and in some ways means that Americans don't perhaps have very much fellow-feeling towards each other. The country is too diverse for that. But the fellow-feeling is necessary for those shared public tasks.

The initial solution to the health care insurance problem might be to expand public funding to cover more poor people. That might be palatable to those who don't want a taxpayer funded system for everybody. This solution has its disadvantages. For one, it would mark the programs as something easy to attack as handouts for the poor and so on. For another, it wouldn't do much to reduce the cost pressures on those who would be left to find private insurance, either on their own or through their employers.

On Henrietta the Hound

Today was rough. Henrietta, my dog, suddenly couldn't walk or even stand, and she screamed in an awful way. She is also fifteen years old, so when I struggled to get her in the car for the trip to the vet I was also getting prepared to be calmly cheerful and present at her last moment on earth.

Which is some time in the future, because what she has is the "old dog roll-over" syndrome. Something to do with her sense of balance, like the way you feel after getting off one of those machines at an entertainment park. It's supposed to be self-limiting and Henrietta should be fine in a few days or a week. But right now she is not comfortable at all.

The Opinions of Echidne o.t.S

You can read an interview with me at bloggasm. All my answers were off the top of my head but so is this blog.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Still snow-covered and almost dark all day long in winter (and the reverse in summer). But beautiful.

Glenn Beckisms

Just because I feel like writing about what he says. For example, a few days ago he said this:

There is a double standard in the world today. Treat Christians one way, but heaven help you if you try that with anybody else's religion.

So let me say what, in today's mainstream media, is unsayable: I believe that Jesus is the messiah. He was resurrected, and that he is the son of God.

And then a day or two later he was all into taking racy photographs of a woman:

On the February 28 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck once again made sexually suggestive comments toward a woman when he hosted US Weekly's Dina Sansing to discuss racy photographs of American Idol contestant Antonella Barba. After Beck claimed that "[y]ou can't take stupid photos and expect those to be ... locked away forever," Sansing responded that it was "possibly" true and that "it depends." As the weblog Crooks and Liars noted, Beck then asked: "Dina, I've got some time and a camera. Why don't you stop by?" Sansing did not respond and, after several seconds of silence, Beck stated: "No? OK." As Media Matters for America has noted (here, here, and here), in each of the first three episodes of his CNN Headline News show in May 2006, Beck made sexually suggestive comments to CNN Headline News anchor Erica Hill, who was then giving daily news updates on Beck's show. Hill no longer appears on Beck's program.

Now, maybe consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds only. Or maybe these two quotes tell us what Beck's religious beliefs might cover: worship of sons and fathers and racy photos of the rest of us. Or maybe it's just a question of being outrageous and not thinking much at all about anything. That may be what rises to the surface: not cream but scum.

Today's Video To Watch

This one. Thanks to hmhm for sending it. It is about the planned war between religions and the role of women in it. Or rather, in stopping it from starting.

On Dental Care

An awful story about the importance of dental care for children can be found here. A simple and practical remedy would be to have a dental checkup at school every year. I used to get those, and if there was anything wrong with my teeth I was sent to the dentist's office, as were all the other children who needed work. It was possible to opt out of the checkup by having a note from a family dentist, but I can't remember anyone bothering to do that. The system worked, just as a similar checkup for overall health worked. Besides, imagine the easing of the parents' workload that this all allows: No need to book awkward appointments unless they were really needed.

Dental care is the stepchild in most health care plans, viewed as less important and less expensive. It may be less expensive, but the costs are still outside the reach of many families, and neglected teeth are not a good thing for general health.