Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Answer Is, Apparently Not.

The Question? Is there any depth to which the American Enterprise Institute can sink before the DC-NYC-Atlanta media won’t give them a platform?
Posted by olvlzl.

Ben Stewart of Greenpeace
said: "The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full of cash."

Try this experiment. Go to any PBS or NPR*, click on the search feature, type in “American Enterprise Institute” and see how much these allegedly independent news sources depend on the foetid guess pool.

You can go to this site to get some background on the ubiquitous source of corporate and right wing spin. Especially notice the section on its promoting the next disastrous Bush war in Iran. Then you can read the guardian story linked to in the beginning of this piece and see just what kind of thinking those in the tank are doing. And yet, more than a month after the story of them pimping anti-global warming “science” the Diane Rehm show thinks they’re an A list source for talking heads.

For the Congress, they should ask themselves before giving any more support to PBS, NPR or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, why are you funding organizations that act as if the AEI is a legitimate source of information? You should write fairness, equal time, and other requirements into any funding or authorization bills for any public broadcasters. If you don’t they’ll just use their old Rolodex and get the same old whores they’ve been calling on for decades now. The American Public deserves a real media, not what we’re getting now.

* Or just about any other media outlet.

Journalists Calling For A Law That Would Prevent Reporting

Posted by olvlzl.
The Scooter Libby trial and conviction has left the media calling for shield laws, the necessity of protecting confidential sources is the rationale. Looking at the entire picture, I’m inclined to believe that confidential sources for journalism do need protection but, as you can imagine, I’m not buying that Judith Miller and Robert Novak’s cronies are the ones who are at issue.

Joe Wilson’s piece that set off the frenzy of law breaking that culminated in Scooter Libby’s conviction was certainly the most important actual reporting on the case for invading Iraq in the corporate media in 2003. Those weren't exactly numerous back then. He went to Niger, found that part of the “case” to be untrue and reported it in the media. The New York Times, home of Judith Miller’s neo-con stenography printed it, probably the only actual media story in the whole thing. Miller reported neo-con press releases, Wilson reported what he had found out.

Scooter Libby’s role as a “source”, as claimed by Miller and other corporate shills, was far overshadowed by his potential role as a felon or a shield for other felons. Miller wasn’t covering up for a “source” she was covering up law breaking. Reporters, even real ones, don’t have a right to cover up crimes. Miller, as the world should certainly know by now, isn’t a real reporter, much, much less Robert Novak.

Lost in this whining by the media is the plain fact that Cheney’s office was involved in a conspiracy to keep the public from finding out that the case made to invade Iraq was a gauzy veil of lies. They were the ones who were trying to subvert “the People’s right to know”. Robert Novak was not acting as a journalist in going with their spin, he was an active part in trying to punish Joe Wilson for doing real journalism. And that shouldn’t ever be forgotten. While the media stars were covering up the truth for the Bush regime*, Joe Wilson was the one who was guilty of telling the People the truth.

I used to be a supporter of shield laws, knowing that unless people know the truth they will be helpless in the face of public relations on behalf of oligarchy. This affair has made me change my mind. Novak, Miller and the rest of the Bush Regime’s Friends List don’t deserve protection. They don’t practice journalism. A shield law isn’t a right for the corporate media, it would be a considerable privilege, not a personal but a professional privilege. Privileges like that should be given only if there is a compelling public service requirement, a service paid by the recipient of the privilege to the People. Our media, the ones who will never risk ending up on another Republican president’s Enemies List, giving them a shield law would only result in another Scooter Libby being able to suppress the truth without having to worry about someone testifying about it. It would end up protecting criminals. What is most revealing about this is that, these “journalists” are calling for a law that would enable another president or vice president to punish people for practicing journalism.

* Last night on the “News” Hour, David Brooks was continuing that effort.

Friday, March 09, 2007

My Friday Dump

Friday is the day when bad news are traditionally released, because the smallest possible number of people will hear about them on that day of the week, what with the eager anticipation of the weekend. Today's Friday dump by our government contains that reassuring piece of news that the FBI is busily spying on all of us. Greenwald has a very good post on it (at the Salon, so you need to sit through an ad if you don't subscribe):

Multiple media outlets are focusing on the unsurprising story that the FBI seems to have been abusing its powers under the Patriot Act to issue so-called "national security letters" (NSLs), whereby the FBI is empowered to obtain a whole array of privacy-infringing records without any sort of judicial oversight or subpoena process. In particular, the FBI has failed to comply with the legal obligations imposed by Congress, when it re-authorized the Patriot Act in early 2006, which required the FBI to report to Congress on the use of these letters.

That the FBI is abusing its NSL power is entirely unsurprising (more on that below), but the real story here -- and it is quite significant -- has not even been mentioned by any of these news reports. The only person (that I've seen) to have noted the most significant aspect of these revelations is Silent Patriot at Crooks & Liars, who very astutely recalls that the NSL reporting requirements imposed by Congress were precisely the provisions which President Bush expressly proclaimed he could ignore when he issued a "signing statement" as part of the enactment of the Patriot Act's renewal into law. Put another way, the law which the FBI has now been found to be violating is the very law which George Bush publicly declared he has the power to ignore.

The whole post is worth having to watch the ad. Really.

What else should I dump on you today? Perhaps a cute story about how the biologists and other officials in the Alaskan division of the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service must NOT talk about polar bears:

Over the past week, biologists and wildlife officials received a cover note and two sample memorandums to be used as a guide in preparing travel requests. Under the heading "Foreign Travel — New Requirement — Please Review and Comply, Importance: High," the cover note said:

"Please be advised that all foreign travel requests (SF 1175 requests) and any future travel requests involving or potentially involving climate change, sea ice and/or polar bears will also require a memorandum from the regional director to the director indicating who'll be the official spokesman on the trip and the one responding to questions on these issues, particularly polar bears."

This reminds me of the old Soviet Union.

Then there is this bit of encouraging news (if you are into madrassa-type education for all):

Georgia is poised to introduce two literature classes on the Bible in public schools next year, a move analysts say would make the state the first to take an explicit stance endorsing -- and funding -- biblical teachings.

The Bible already is incorporated into some classes in Georgia and other states, but some critics say the board's move, which makes the Bible the classes' main text, treads into dangerous turf.

On a list of classes approved Thursday by the Georgia Board of Education are Literature and History of the Old Testament Era, and Literature and History of the New Testament Era. The classes, approved last year by the Legislature, will not be required, and the state's 180 school systems can decide for themselves whether to offer them.

This is one of those proposals which sound very good on paper. But I fear that in practice the people who teach these courses will use them for preaching. And why do I fear that? Well, just think of what would happen if a teacher actually taught this material critically. A furor would erupt. So the material will be taught uncritically.

A Nonpolitical Garden Post: Ants

The Diligence of Ants

Ants were the major role models for diligence in my childhood story books. These compared ants favorably to other insects such as crickets, never to gardeners. If gardeners had had their say the moral of the stories might have been different.

Although it is unclear just what this moral might be. The diligence of ants doesn't endear them to gardeners, because much of it is directed against the garden: Ants keep aphids which weaken plants and spread disease, they dig tunnels under plant roots which often kills the affected plant, and they build anthills, usually in the focal point of the garden.

All ants are an annoyance in the garden and some, such as fire and carpenter ants, are clearly more than that. But excluding the dangerous types, should gardeners declare war on ants? I don't think so. Life is too short for such a fight. And even if it weren't, what would we use for weapons? The only advice I have found on this that is acceptable in its effects on nature and other animal life is to pour boiling water on the anthills. I couldn't do this, not because I am squeamish but because I detest all kitchen chores.

In any case, the diligence of ants may benefit us in ways unrelated to gardening. Ellen Sandbeck notes in her book Slug Bread & Beheaded Thistles that ants in the yard keep termites away. If this turns out to be true, multiple anthills in the garden will become a status symbol and a cause for rising property values.

Status symbols or not, multiple anthills are what I navigate around in my daily gardening, and I have reached an uneasy peace with them. After all, things could be much worse: my garden might teem with diligent deer.

Friday Cat And Dog Blogging

This great picture is of Barry's Magoo cat. She is a cat to take very seriously.

This not-great picture is of Henrietta the Hound, my dog.

She is doing much better with her idiopathic vestibular syndrome, and is now safe on level surface, but I have to put gates on the staircase to keep her away from the stairs. She ate normally today for the first time (no hand-feeding required).

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Reminder

I advertised my three-part series on the gender gap in wages today on the TAPPED blog, and should do the same here. It is better than the Wikipedia page on the same, because the latter is being changed by wingnuts all the time to make the explanation biased. Mine is pure as fresh-fallen snow. Well, in comparison, anyway and assuming that the wingnuts just went and changed the Wikipedia page again. Though the original work was quite good. I'm not gonna check if it has been changed again as I don't want to get angry.

Talking about angry and about bias, the beautifully insane site Conservapedia, is launching a course on economics, given by a noneconomist religious conservative. I've read the first lesson and have no hair left after the pulling and head-banging it caused. To understand the meaning of that lesson: If it had been a lesson in how to cook a hamburger, the result in your frying pan would have looked up at you with one blood-red eyeball and would then have gobbled you up in one second flat. Sigh.

Jessica Valenti on the International Women's Day

This video was done by Jessica and Evan Derkacz of the Alternet. I find the silence on my local public radio station fascinatingly informative. No program about the women in Iraq being kidnapped or raped, for example. Or the women who suffer tremendously in the warfare in Congo. Nothing on any positive change. Nothing at all, actually. So I raise my glass of nectar to remember all those women who suffer and die in war zones and I also raise it to honor all those who work to make this world a better place for women.

How Slate Celebrates the International Women's Day

Elsewhere the attention is aimed at reducing wartime violence against women and girls who are not participants in the wars. But on Slate we get an article on what Hillary Clinton and Katie Couric could learn from each other to somehow become more acceptable to those who don't like powerful women:

No one has ever accused Hillary Clinton of being too perky or showing too much leg. Even so, the presidential candidate could learn a lot from Katie Couric. The bright-eyed former morning-show host made her debut as the anchor of the third-place CBS Evening News on Sept. 5, when she took over for Bob Schieffer, and Dan Rather before him, and Walter Cronkite before them. Her tenure has been a bumpy one and in that, a useful test of the public's willingness to accept a woman as a figure of national and international prominence.

Television news anchor and president of the United States aren't such different jobs, after all, and not just because until now they've been the exclusive province of old white men. These are the people who tell us what's happening in the world, what it means, and what we're going to do about it. They must be calm, personable, and handsome under lights. Diplomacy, intelligence, and genuine leadership abilities a plus.

It's not simply that both jobs are traditionally male. It's that both demand a certain stage presence—an intangible sense of authority, divorced from direct, measurable accomplishment. Ideally, an anchor serves as a kind of chief executive of his or her broadcast, prioritizing news stories on-air and leading a corps of reporters and producers behind the scenes. He or she is also the public face of a network, acting as an ambassador to advertisers, viewers, and affiliates. These people—like voters—have an instinct about who should be telling them the news of the day: what that person should look like and how his or her (which is to say, his) voice should sound. Couric's rocky start can illuminate two questions for Clinton: how we'll handle a woman with such authority and how a woman who wants such authority should handle herself.

Of course, the two women come at these jobs with very different liabilities: Katie seems too soft, Hillary too brittle. But they've both staked claims in the same middle ground, taking pains to appear strong but not mannish, ballsy yet maternal. Both are bottle blondes (perhaps in an effort to mute their tough streaks). Both have gone on "listening tours" around the country, have undergone ambitious style makeovers, have opened their private lives to public scrutiny. And Couric and Clinton also share the occasional counsel of Matthew Hiltzik, a major New York City publicist who specializes in managing the public images of powerful and difficult women. (Despite these efforts, Couric and Clinton still ruffle feathers: Both are subjects of unauthorized biographies by Ed Klein, neither our era's greatest feminist nor our greatest historian, but a man with good taste in material.)

I thought I was joking when I told someone that the next two years will be all about Hillary Clinton's wardrobe choices and why she is too little or too much a woman. But I wasn't joking. And the proper response to a country which doesn't like women in power is to try another color of lipstick or a different feminine emotion. Ok.
Link from Evan Derkacz.

The Point of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage...

Is to blurt out the unsayable so that it is said and the regular conservative politicians don't have to say it. That way all the deep-hitting racist, sexist and xenophobic themes are out there and can be referred to in some simple euphemisms. These people are invaluable worker ants for the wingnut hive, invaluable.

Because what they do is bring in the dead worms from the frightening hinterlands of extremism (as Orcinus has pointed out), and they make the worms look delicious for the rest of us.

An example: Ann Coulter calls John Edwards a faggot, a pejorative term for homosexuals, a term that may have initial associations to being burned on the stake. She denies that the term is insulting at all. Then we have Thomas Friedman, a so-called liberal columnist at the New York Times say this:

"What I've been trying to do is to rename green patriotic," Friedman said. He calls it "geogreen," a more robust term than "green," which he feels has connotations of "liberal, tree-hugging, girly man, sissy, unpatriotic and vaguely French."

Geogreen, by comparison, is more "muscular" and acknowledges the linkages between global warming, the economy and terrorism, Friedman said.

See the mainstreaming of sissiness as a sign of weakness? Though Arnold Schwartzenegger first used the term "girly man" the connections are pretty easy to see.

We've advanced so far in this that my original post about "girly man" and its anti-woman implications reads totally outdated today. We are well past the point where anyone even notices that these slurs totally disempower women as political actors (not muscular enough, too sissy). All that is left is the fight over whether any liberal man can be viewed as a heterosexual man.
A postscript: Many of you, my dear and intelligent readers, don't think that I should pay any attention to the worker ants of wingnuttia, and I understand the arguments that have led you to that conclusion. After a lot of thought about it I still veer slightly towards the view that it is too late not to talk about this, and that it is more important to be aware of the reasons for the whole operation. But I will try very hard not to write about any of these things for a while...

Some Comfort for the "Comfort Women"

You may have been following the decision of Japan's Prime Minister not to admit any military forcing of women who were taken into sexual slavery during WWII:

The long festering issue of Japan's war-era sex slaves gained new prominence last week when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied the military's role in coercing the women into servitude. The denial by Mr. Abe, Japan's first prime minister born after the war, drew official protests from China, Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines, some of the countries from which the sex slaves were taken.

The furor highlighted yet again Japan's unresolved history in a region where it has been ceding influence to China. The controversy has also drawn in the United States, which has strongly resisted entering the history disputes that have roiled East Asia in recent years.

His rationalization is that it may have been the subcontractors who forced the women but never the military itself. Some of the surviving "comfort women" (what a hideous title) disagree:

Ms. Wu told her story on Wednesday outside the Japanese Consulate here, where she and two others who had been sex slaves, known euphemistically as comfort women, were protesting Tokyo's refusal to admit responsibility for the abuse that historians say they and as many as 200,000 other women suffered.

All three — Ms. Wu, who is now 90; a 78-year-old South Korean from Seoul; and an 84-year-old Dutch-Australian from Adelaide — were participating in an international conference for Japan's former sex slaves here. Now, just days after Mr. Abe's remarks, the three were united in their fury.

"I was taken away by force by Japanese officers, and a Japanese military doctor forced me to undress to examine me before I was taken away," said Ms. Wu, who landed here in Sydney on Tuesday night after a daylong flight from Taipei. "How can Abe lie to the world like that?"


Ms. Ruff was living with her family in Java, in what was then the Dutch East Indies, when Japan invaded in 1942. She spent the first two years in a prison camp, she said, but Japanese officers arrived one day in 1944. They forced single girls and women to line up and eventually picked 10 of them, including Ms. Ruff, who was 21.

"On the first night, it was a high-ranking officer," Ms. Ruff said. "It was so well organized. A military doctor came to our house regularly to examine us against venereal diseases, and I tell you, before I was examined the doctor raped me first. That's how well organized it was."

I read several news stories on this topic and my eyes teared up when I heard about the health consequences for the women, the sexually transmitted diseases, the infertility and the social ostracization. There are just too many witnesses to disprove Abe's argument

This is a story that might read very differently if you have no empathy and just consider the political logic or if you actually have empathy towards other human beings. It seems to me that the latter is the only meaningful way to read the story.

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.