Saturday, March 29, 2008

They’ve Asked Us For No Less Than Our Nomination, We Have The Right To Insist On Them Swallowing Their Pride To Give Democrats The Best Chance To Win by Anthony McCarthy

I have come to believe that Barack Obama is going to be the Democratic nominee. I believe he will almost certainly have the most votes in primaries and caucuses and is likely to get the majority of the votes of the super delegates*. Unless something happens in the next week or two that proves this wrong, Hillary Clinton should suspend her campaign and pledge her support for the nominee chosen by the voters. Both candidates should tell all of their supporters to cut the attacks right now and cut loose anyone who continues. I am sorry that the combination ticket that I’ve supported, without regard to order of appearance, has been made so much less likely due to the tactics used on both sides. The combination of these two candidates would be a strong ticket to run against McCain, though it is probably not the only possible combination that could win.

There is a lot in this column by Mario Cuomo that I agree with, I think both of these candidates owe Democrats and the American People enough to be able to overcome their pride to unite for the good of the country.

If either or both of these candidates are unwilling, in 2008, to put the good of the party, the country and the world before their personal interests and feelings neither of them should be given another chance. One election of the importance of the presidential election, blown for any but the most vitally important of reasons, should mark the end of the presidential career of even the best politician. No one should assume that they can withhold their full support from the Democratic nominee in hopes of running again in four years.

II. Putting The Donkey Before The Cart - Having a Democrat In The Oval Office Is The Only Reason For Having Any Process Of Any Kind.

ut even if I didn’t believe that Barack Obama will be our nominee I would still be in favor of seating the delegations from Florida and Michigan at the Democratic Convention. Those who say that to do so would be a violation of the party rules agreed to by the candidates are insisting on a minor point of order which should never have been adopted.

The nomination and the elections that produce the nominee don’t belong to the officials who adopt rules or the candidates, the nomination as well as the seat for which they are running belong to The People.

The mechanisms of state primaries and caucuses are not determined by the parties or its bureaucratic functionaries, those are set by state legislatures and governors. The rule attempting to get some hold on the schedule of those primaries was stupid and wrongheaded. The people in the Democratic National Committee who pushed it through on the basis of “principle”, were handing a gift to Republican dominated legislatures. They smilingly took that gift and used it in an entirely predictable way, to sandbag us, yet again.

The damned party rules aren’t worth losing an election for city council over, they certainly aren’t worth losing the presidency over. The trade made by those responsible for this idiotic mess was to not offend New Hampshire and Iowa by excluding their delegations from the convention if they insisted, as they always do, on going first. In making Florida and Michigan an example of the might of the rules bureaucrats of the DNC, they sacrifice the chance at a likely forty-four electoral votes against the eleven held by New Hampshire and Iowa together, when it really counts, in the general election. Michigan alone has seventeen electoral votes.

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling against the Democratic and Republican Parties in Washington State provides a face cloth to those who are more realistic than the fuss budgets who infest rules committees in our party. It is undeniable that those fixated on gaining control of the nomination schedule were insisting on having a power that doesn’t belong to the parties. The grown ups in the DNC should point this out as they say that all delegations chosen under the laws of the states, which have the legal power to set their own dates for these elections, will be seated at the convention. The egg on the faces of the process-obsessed will be a lot easier to take than a President McCain bombing Iran. Their short term, one-news-cycle, embarrassment is no less than they deserve, you might even enjoy seeing them being the ones to finally take what they’re begging for.

* Get rid of the stupid super delegate rules at the earliest possible moment. No one who is not chosen directly by voters in primaries and caucuses has any business deciding the nomination. What a stupid idea that one was. It should be studied as a symptom of what happens when those more concerned with process than with winning elections are given rule making power. No one who does not understand that winning the election is the point of the whole effort should be able to make decisions for the Democratic Party.
we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- these honored dead by using them as hostages against the living. by Anthony McCarthy

Abraham Lincoln, in his most revered speech, unwittingly provided a weapon that has been used since to kill many thousands of people. American soldiers and the countless others who, thought unmentionable in the United States, are indissolubly bound to our dead through the absolute requirements of justice and truth due to their being killed by the actions of the United States government, in our names, often giving Lincoln’s words as the reason.

How many times in the United States, as an excuse to continue the slaughter in Vietnam, Iraq and other wars of empire, has that weapon been used with the horrible potency generated by unthinking, unreflecting, coercive patriotism and rote reverence?

How many more people have died through the deployment of Lincoln’s words “should not have died in vain”?

Lincoln was honorable. He may have been the American President who had the truest sense of honor unbound by the conventions of aristocratic pretense. It is likely that he provided the weapon out of innocence borne of his great character and out of the requirement to address the necessities of the hard weeks during which he gave the speech, some of the worst in our history. The price the world has paid for those poetic words almost certainly wouldn’t have been worth their price to him, had he realized how they would be used by others.

People without morals and who have no honor, have no reservations about killing people. Given their readiness to kill without cause, saying they distort even the most sacred words for the purpose of killing more people is an idea shocking only to those in the habit of pretending they don’t see what they can plainly see.

Unfortunately, when you look down the list of American Presidents, you find a notable lack of character and in even some of those of high character it isn’t reliably coupled with wisdom. We can hope and pray that George W. Bush, utterly corrupt, utterly incompetent and reveling like a theatrical Caligula in his role as vicarious warrior, is the worst that our system can produce. I doubt that even with the example of the worst of his predecessors, Lincoln could have imagined someone as putrid as him attaining and holding the presidency. What he could have made of the regency of Cheney is even harder to imagine.

This week, as in all weeks of all of the imperial wars begun and continued by those who have no honor, no morality, no intention to allow the rule of The People, the tinny echo of Lincoln’s words as spoken by mimics sound through the helium balloon that diverts but refuses to inform the American People.

Those words from those mouths in the context of Bush’s war in Iraq do nothing to honor the dead, they prop them up before the camera as hostages, not to ransom a purpose for his criminal war, but as an emotional bribe to continue it until he can pass it and the blame for it onto someone else. It turns the deaths of those who have already died into a weapon against those who haven’t died yet. The honor due them is transformed into blackmail.

The plain truth is that those who have died in Bush’s war in Iraq have already died in vain. There is no further price that can redeem that terrible truth or to turn the utterly corrupt motives of those who have brought and continued this war to any more than a pantomime of greatness. The attempt only exposes the decay of our entire establishment, even those who say the words don’t believe them. Nothing that can be said can change that horrible truth and telling that truth will be punished because our ruling elite have buried democracy deeper than Robert Lincoln was forced to bury his father. He did so to prevent the theft of his corpse. Unfortunately he couldn’t do anything to protect his father’s soul from being stolen by criminals lower than grave robbers.

Note: If you ever see me mention the American dead without also mentioning those killed by the American government and its proxies, please point out the omission.

Friday, March 28, 2008

If Clinton gave a speech on gender (by Suzie)

     People have asked: What if Hillary Clinton gave a speech on gender? Some consider the answer laughable
      Slate suggests she can’t because she has been “on the wrong side of the gender wars.” To them, gender wars revolve around marital fidelity, and Clinton is a traitor for not supporting the women her husband screwed. (Here’s another version.)
      I've imagined an alternate universe in which Clinton does give a speech on gender, and I’ve based it on Barack Obama’s speech and situation. Here’s the alternate-universe news coverage:
      Pundits across America have hailed Sen. Hillary Clinton’s speech on gender, praising her bravery for bringing the subject into the open. Many have expressed hope that this speech will open a dialogue between men and women.
       Many male supporters hailed the candidacy of a woman they hope can transcend gender, uniting men and women. (Clinton has gotten almost all the female votes since her supporters accused her opponent of playing the gender card. Although her opponent praised former Rep. Martha Griffiths, he said it took LBJ to push through the Civil Rights Act. His spouse also called Clinton’s position on the war a fairytale. Many women consider these comments insensitive, at best.)  
       Clinton gave her speech in response to criticism of her longtime pastor, the Rev. Geraldine Wright, who recently retired from a megachurch that calls itself “gynocentric” and “unashamedly female.” Video clips show the pastor encouraging parishioners to condemn America for its mistreatment of women. In other sermons, Wright said patriarchy devised childbirth as a way to keep women home; America’s support of aggressive, male-dominated leaders contributed to 9/11; and Clinton’s opponent never had to worry about being called the C word.
        Some have accused Wright of spreading falsehoods and reverse sexism. But many women say men don’t understand their churches.
        In her speech, Clinton said our democracy was “stained by the original sin” of patriarchy. She noted that it took many years before men granted women the right to their own wages, let them make decisions about their own bodies, enter into contracts without the permission of a male relative, etc. Although the Declaration of Independence declared “all men were created equal,” the Constitution was later amended to specify men by gender. Men never went to war over women’s rights. Instead, women and men have waged what may be the largest and longest peaceful movement in history, even though women continue to face daily violence from men.
       From the beginning, her campaign has continued that struggle, Clinton said. She has had privileges but also seen much sexism. In the veins of her parents runs the blood of sexist men as well as women who endured sexism, and she knows her daughter will face sexism, too.
Although considered a woman, she said she could not deny that she inherited half her genes from her father.
       She said her campaign has built a powerful coalition of men and women who hunger for unity. Her campaign has never been about gender, but her opponent’s campaign has brought it up. She said some people who “harbor some deep-seated gender bias” have treated her campaign like “an exercise in affirmative action.”
        She blamed the media for seeking to polarize men and women, including women of different races. She criticized female commentators who have attacked her for acting too much like a woman or not enough like a woman.
        She strongly condemned Wright’s statements. But she noted her pastor had helped her become a Christian and done many good works. She said the church made her feel pride in being a woman and connected her to the many women in the Bible who suffered and did great deeds.
       She said she could not disown her pastor any more than she could disown all women, even though some are bitter and ignorant. Similarly, she said, she could not disown her grandfather, who once admitted that he didn’t always take women seriously and some times uttered gender stereotypes that made her cringe.
       Because of the controversy over her pastor, Clinton said, people must now face sexism, or else it will be impossible to fix problems in health care, education and employment. She talked about how women once were denied the same education, how they were barred from jobs in police and fire departments, how they were excluded from unions, and how they couldn’t own property or get loans. This helps explain why gender disparities still exist. Lack of opportunity for women has eroded the family, and welfare may have worsened this, she said. Lack of services in poor areas has created a cycle of poverty among some women.
        She said older women like her and her pastor grew up in a time of legal discrimination, and it’s a wonder that so many have done well. But there are many others who were beaten down by sexism and ended up on the streets or in prison. Gender and sexism continue to shape the worldview even of women who have succeeded. Older ones remember the humiliation and doubt and fear; their anger and bitterness remains. They express it when they’re together even though they may not say anything around men. Some politicians, who have nothing else to offer, exploit that to get elected. That anger is not always productive, but men need to understand its roots.
         Similarly, some men don’t feel privileged. When they hear a woman has gotten a good job, to make up for past discrimination, or when they’re told that they’re sexist for being uncomfortable around lots of women, they get resentful. Men may not express this resentment publicly, but politicians have built coalitions of resentful men. Conservative commentators and talk show hosts have built careers by exposing “political correctness” while ignoring the real harms of sexism.
        Women must continue to seek justice, while working to better themselves. Men must acknowledge sexism and understand that, by helping to change conditions for women, they will help themselves.
         Clinton closed with the example of a young supporter who had organized women to fight for their rights. He didn’t believe women were the cause of society’s problems; he believed everyone needed to work together. An elderly woman said that’s why she supported the Clinton campaign.

Friday Critter Blogging

This is Pippin walking in snow a few weeks ago. Notice the same "question mark" tail as in the earlier picture about Emma walking (reposted here). Both Pippin and Emma belong to FeraLiberal.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bad Girls Who Refuse To Wed. A Feminist Reading.

The Atlantic Monthly has gone to pot on anything about women. It started some years ago when Caitlyn (get-thee-to-the-kitchen) Flanagan was hired (by a newly hired conservative editor) to be the Soundhorn on all that is about women in the magazine. That Flanagan's hiring wasn't an isolated fluke became clear soon enough. Now the Atlantic Monthly mostly writes about the Woman Problem as the Problem With What Women Do.

That is how I interpreted the March article by Lori Gottlieb about the urgent need for women not to be so critical in their search for the ideal partner, to just "settle" and to marry the first chump who comes along and gets tangled in the romantic fishing net. I wanted to be generous, for some odd reason, and interpreted the whole article as just some silly filler, because of course we shouldn't wait for Prince Charming any more than heterosexual men should wait for some ideal human-sized version of the big-boobed Barbie doll.

But then I read a very similar article on Slate, written by their very own advice-giver, Emily Yoffe. She's the liberal version of Laura Schlessinger (Dr. Laura). Or perhaps she IS Dr. Laura, writing under a pseudonym? Not sure, but Ms. Yoffe certainly likes to boss women around. In an earlier piece of advice she told a woman who complained about her husband not chipping in with the housework that:

The reality is that you're always going to do the bulk of the inside work. As Dave Barry explains, men are essentially incapable of doing housework because they suffer from Male Genetic Dirt Blindness.

Keep that firmly in your mind while you interpret her new plea for single mothers to wed:

We still think of the archetypal unwed mother as a Jamie Lynn Spears—a dopey teenager who dropped her panties and got in over her head. A generation and more ago, that's who most unwed mothers were. But according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, teenagers account for only 23 percent of current out-of-wedlock births. That means the vast majority of unwed mothers are old enough to know what they're doing: Unwed births are surging among women ages 25 to 29.

In the last 50 years, there has been an extraordinary decoupling of marriage and procreation. In 1960 about 5 percent of births were to unwed mothers; that figure is now a record high of nearly 40 percent. Out-of-wedlock births used to be such a source of shame that families tried to hide them: Singer Bobby Darin was born to a teen mother and raised to believe she was his sister. But now out-of-wedlock births are greeted with a shrug. Some say they're an understandable response to economic realities. Others say they're a liberating change from the shotgun-wedding ethic that shackled two unsuitable people together for life.

As Slate's advice columnist, Dear Prudence, I get constant reports from the people who are creating the statistics. When I extol the importance of marriage in the advice column, my inbox fills with e-mails from readers who don't see marriage as the passage from single life to a life of commitment. To them, the marriage certificate is the first document in a paper trail that will end with a divorce decree. This doesn't mean my correspondents conclude that men and women shouldn't form unions and even live together, just that it may be wiser not to make your love life official. "Legal ties are supposed to make it somehow legit? With the divorce rate as high as it is, a live-in girlfriend is just as good," wrote one.

Readers also like to rebuke me for my preference that two decent people who are committed to each other and find themselves procreating without intending to should provide the stability of marriage for their child. "Having a child will be stressful and life altering enough. Parents need to work on their relationship on their time schedule." "I feel that a baby is its own blessing. Have that blessing before you get married." "How dare you imply that an unexpected pregnancy should lead to marriage? You are simply out of touch with modern culture."

Yoffe then quotes research on the children of single mothers by Kay Hymowitz (a Manhattan Institute wingnut who shares with Yoffe the enjoyment of yelling at women to change their behavior) and fails to quote more nuanced studies, studies which are careful about the cause-and-effect chains they study. For instance, if most of the problems of single-parent families have to do with poverty, then it's poverty that we should address and not the number of parents, especially if poor single mothers have their children with poor men. Adding more poor parents to a family might help a little, but not if the added parents are in prison or unemployed or on drugs.

I sometimes wonder how many parents we should really add to families to make them function well. If two parents are better than one parent, how about ten parents per family?

Yes, that is flippant of me, and, yes, doing all the work and parenting alone is hard for anyone. But I dislike the surface solutions so many people suggest without giving any real analysis of the reasons why some women (and some men) choose to become parents on their own or end up in that position without initially having made the choice. Yoffe also appears to suggest that shaming and shunning single mothers would be a good thing. Perhaps we should reintroduce the use of the stocks as a shaming device?

To recap, Yoffe thinks that any married woman will get saddled with all the housework, even if both partners have jobs, but single mothers should marry anyway, for the sake of children.

Now finally for the feminist reading: If you read the two articles I have quoted in this post, one after the other, you notice something very odd: Both writers are talking to women, telling them to act differently, and both writers are urging women to marry more. More!

But the societal myths we still have assume that all women really want to do is to get married! That's why they deck themselves with false breasts and high-heeled shoes and go Girls Gone Wild. According to the prevailing myth it is the single women who are looking for a husband, all the time, and it is the single men who'd prefer to buy the milk (sex) without buying the cow (wife). Women don't have similar thought about sausages and pigs, ever.

Other articles suggest that men flee commitment and don't want to get married at all these days. That, too, is the fault of women because they are acting all too feministy.

So how are we to interpret Gottlieb's and Yoffe's exhortations for young women to marry more? Aren't they already trying their damnedest to do so? And why don't these ladies write similar sermons to men, yelling at them to marry early and to stay married, even if it means that you didn't find that women with the perfect labia?

Do you know what I think? I think that the invisible elephant, the one we don't see, even when it sits smack in the middle of the living-room couch, is the fact that it is in the interest of men to have women more marriage-minded. Gottlieb's little sermon would help not-so-desirable guys to find wives and Yoffe's preachings would let them keep those wives even if the men turn out to be horrible husbands. That men might want to get married, too, is something we are not really supposed to think about.

All I Needed To Know I Learned From Whorses and Miss Bimbo, Not From Women's Studies Programs.

As if whorses aren't bad enough, there is now a new game for girls called Miss Bimbo:

CNN reports, "Users are given missions, including securing plastic surgery at the game's clinic to give their dolls bigger breasts, and they have to keep her at her target weight with diet pills, which cost 100 bimbo dollars…Breast implants sell at 11,500 bimbo dollars and net the buyer 2,000 bimbo attitudes, making her more popular on the site…And bagging a billionaire boyfriend is the most desirable way to earn the all important "mula."

I'm getting suspicious here. What is it with all these new toys and games aimed at creating shallow, materialistic and body-obsessed girls?

Wait! I know the answer! We live in a post-feminist paradise of complete equality, so it's really quite all right to train little girls to think that what matters is how thin they are, how big their boobs are and how many clothes they own.

Linked to that (though not at all well but I have so much material for today and I want to get my Important Opinions down on all of it), the blog at the U.K Guardian reports that Women's Studies are dead as a doornail over there*. The most likely reason is low enrollment rates for Women's Studies as an undergraduate major, but it's always much more interesting to speculate about the reasons for the Death of Feminism: Is it that feminism won or is it that feminism lost and are the two really at all different?

Gah. Actually, what has happened is not the death of Women's Studies Programmes. They are now called Gender Studies. If you Google for "gender studies, U.K.", you will find that there are plenty of universities which offer courses that once were called Women's Studies courses.

Clearly, such studies are very much needed even in the future. For example, one day they might do research on the harmful effects of an old computer game called Miss Bimbo and on a toy whorse.
*I never liked the idea of sex-segregated higher education: A system where the core curriculum was about men and where women's concerns were stuffed into that little annex called Women's Studies. I know why that particular approach was adopted: it was the most pragmatic one at the time. But the problem in setting up a separate (albeit tiny and understaffed) place for anything that had to do with the role of women in the society meant that there was ultimately less pressure to build those courses into the core curricula. It also meant (and still means) that it's easy to get rid of all that pesky female stuff should one wish to do so. Obviously, the core curriculum today includes more material on women than it did forty years ago. But if I have learned anything these last ten years it is that one should never take an eye off those anti-feminists and their educational plans. They might introduce whorses into the curricula.

The Pregnant Man

This story about a female-to-male transgender man, now pregnant, stretches the ways one might define the sex and the gender of a person:

To our neighbors, my wife, Nancy, and I don't appear in the least unusual. To those in the quiet Oregon community where we live, we are viewed just as we are -- a happy couple deeply in love. Our desire to work hard, buy our first home, and start a family was nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until we decided that I would carry our child.

I am transgender, legally male, and legally married to Nancy. Unlike those in same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, or civil unions, Nancy and I are afforded the more than 1,100 federal rights of marriage. Sterilization is not a requirement for sex reassignment, so I decided to have chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy but kept my reproductive rights. Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire.

Ten years ago, when Nancy and I became a couple, the idea of us having a child was more dream than plan. I always wanted to have children. However, due to severe endometriosis 20 years ago, Nancy had to undergo a hysterectomy and is unable to carry a child. But after the success of our custom screen-printing business and a move from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest two years ago, the timing finally seemed right. I stopped taking my bimonthly testosterone injections. It had been roughly eight years since I had my last menstrual cycle, so this wasn't a decision that I took lightly. My body regulated itself after about four months, and I didn't have to take any exogenous estrogen, progesterone, or fertility drugs to aid my pregnancy.

Our situation sparks legal, political, and social unknowns. We have only begun experiencing opposition from people who are upset by our situation. Doctors have discriminated against us, turning us away due to their religious beliefs. Health care professionals have refused to call me by a male pronoun or recognize Nancy as my wife. Receptionists have laughed at us. Friends and family have been unsupportive; most of Nancy's family doesn't even know I'm transgender.

I guess it all boils down to how one defines a person's gender and a person's biological sex, and whether the two have to agree or not.

There are science fiction books about imaginary societies where the number of genders is, say, seven or eight. Perhaps we are too rigid in trying to stuff everybody into two tiny boxes? What do you think?

Today's Totally Hilarious Study

I love the people who do research like this:

The fair maiden of myth appears to have a basis in scientific reality, according to new research.

Scientists looking into attractiveness in men and women suggest that men of all races are subconsciously attracted to fairer-skinned women, while women are more drawn to dark-complexioned men.

The researchers, whose study shows that across different races, lighter-skinned women are seen as the ideal, say the attraction is driven by preferences based on moral assumptions.

Men are subconsciously attracted to fairer skin because of its association with innocence, purity, modesty, virginity, vulnerability and goodness, according to researchers at the University of Toronto.

Women are attracted to men with darker complexions because these are associated with sex, virility, mystery, villainy and danger.

Ok. I'm now leaning back in my maidenly chair with great satisfaction, because I'm the palest of all goddesses. Which means that I am innocent, pure, modest, virginal, vulnerable and good. On the other hand, if I put some beige foundation on I'd be a slut. Yeah. Research is so rewarding, especially when one can draw the explanation out of one's butt.

Note that the research was based on an analysis of

...more than 2,000 advertising photographs of men and women, the researchers found that the skin of white women was 15.2 per cent lighter than the skin of white males, and the skin of black women 11.1 per cent lighter than the skin of black men.

Advertising photographs were chosen because almost invariably the models were considered to be among the most attractive people of the races and genders.

Is it now clear to you how those theories about virginal pale maidens and swarthy swashbuckling men were shown to be true? You go out and look at pictures in advertising. If women in them have lighter skin it so very clearly proves that it's all about lack of pigmentation as a symbol of innocence and vulnerability.

The study also discusses the slut factor:

When they analysed adverts featuring white women only, they found that women with the darkest complexions were more likely to be in an advanced state of undress.

They were also more likely to have a bared midriff, and only they are shown with bared feet or are implied to be totally nude.

The darkest-complexioned women in this group were also likely to be provocatively dressed, wearing a bra and underwear or similar article of clothing.

In contrast, women with the lightest complexion are more likely to be conservatively dressed and portrayed as friendly, happy and honest.

I probably should read the study in great detail, to get answers to many of the questions these findings provoke. For example, how were the photographs selected? Where they in newspapers, women's magazines, men's magazines? What products did they advertise (cars?, beer?, makeup?, detergents?) and to what group (men or women or both? older or younger consumers?)? And how did the study take into account the possibility that female models might wear a lot more makeup on their faces than male models (including those new light-reflecting concealers)?

The main point I want to make here is that even if the empirical finding about different average skin colors of male and female models in ads were true it would not have proved anything about the reasons for those differences.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thank You

I have been cruising around on the net reading comments threads on various blogs. May I thank you, my dear readers, for being such intelligent and erudite commenters. I keep forgetting that it's not as common as it would be had I ordered this universe.

Sports Talk

Suppose that there are two baseball teams: The U.S. Eaters and The Food Industry Raiders. Suppose that they play games against each other in the same series repeatedly, and suppose that the umpire for these games is the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Can you predict which team will win most games?

All this has to do with the following piece of news:

Under pressure from the food industry, the Agriculture Department is considering a proposal not to identify retailers where tainted meat went for sale except in cases of serious health risk, The Associated Press has learned.

Had that been the rule in place last month, consumers would not have been told if their supermarkets sold meat from a Southern California slaughterhouse that triggered the biggest beef recall in U.S. history.

The plan is being considered as the USDA puts the final touches on a proposed disclosure rule. It had lingered in draft form for two years until getting pushed to the forefront in February, when 143 million pounds of beef were recalled by Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, Calif., after undercover video by an animal-rights activist showed workers abusing crippled cows.

Agriculture Department spokesman Chris Connelly confirmed Wednesday that the agency is weighing whether to make naming the stores mandatory only for so-called "Class I" recalls, which pose the greatest health hazard. The Chino recall was categorized as "Class II" because authorities determined there was minimal risk to human health.

Of course the suppliers don't want their names released. But what should the umpires do?

The whole scenario is wrong, not only because the umpires are in the pocket of the business interests but also because the government is not supposed to referee two competing teams in this way. The government is supposed to work for the citizens.

This Is What A Feminist Looks Like

A promotional video from the Feminist Majority Foundation:

The comments to the video are the usual YouTube quality. I found this one especially interesting, for those who argue that there is no longer any need for feminism:

Feminism exists because LAWS exist to protect you. In the wild, and outside of western liberal democracies, you're MEAT and easily over-powered.

Better stop the nagging and the pettiness and self-love, gals. Better get REAL. We need you because males define themselves (generally) as the opposite of YOU. Humanity itself depends on the balance of our identities.

Show a some more dignity and UNMEDIATED humanity or else society will crumble.

Then, you're just property once more.

Dig it.

That just about defines misogyny, by allowing women two roles: as property, or as a distorting mirror of all that men don't want to be. Ladies, you can choose which of those two you'd prefer. Noice.

Women, Work and Woe

Broadsheet has two posts on women and work for you to read on this beautiful spring morning, just to get you all gloomy and irritated. One of them links to a Boston Globe opinion piece which has a most fascinating and sellable theory: that women are the reason why Americans now work longer:

IT'S ALMOST the end of National Women's Month and I have a big confession: I think we women ruined the workplace.

Ouch. I don't want to feel that way, but take a look. Once upon a time, when a woman took a professional job, she worked a 60-hour week on average. Her boss was a man and she thought she had to prove herself. She didn't make any more money than the guys who worked 45-hour weeks. She thought this was the glass ceiling, so she started working 65 hours instead. Still, she made no more money. She did, however, get promoted to head of her department. She was the lowest-paid department head in history, so she worked even harder.


This woman's road in life has been dour. She does not know she is insecure. She really believes she has to work nights, even though she is perpetuating a system that is terrible for her children. As she became more bitter, she made everybody work longer hours, called more staff meetings where she did all of the talking, insisted that the boss should see her department working the latest. Plus nobody in the neighborhood can stand her anymore, because she thinks that stay-at-home moms are her free babysitters. She calls the seven hours when she leaves her kids with you a "play date."

I've been Making A List of all the things uppity women (meaning feminists) can be blamed for: divorce rates, latchkey children, juvenile delinquency, female alcoholism, boy's problems at school, girls' early sexualization, the collapse of the U.S. military (both because the girls are in there stopping male bonding and because who would want to fight for uppity career women), female depression rates, male depression rates and so on. Now I can add ruining the work environment to that list.

In that alternative world of All-Powerful Feminists everything pretty much is our fault, because we are all-powerful. We could easily cure depression, make all children happy and safe, make work meaningful and part-time for all individuals. That we don't do that or establish world peace or cure cancer and AIDs shows how horrible we are.

Nobody else can do any of those things. No, anti-feminists can't ask for a more humane work environment. Men can't ask for a more humane work environment. They just can't. And yes, it is those horrible women who caused the very long working hours in financial occupations (the ones with the longest hours in this country), even though they are rarer than hen's teeth there. Because, you have to understand this: Feminists are all-powerful people. It might look like we have very little power, but that just shows that we can even hide our omnipotency from the eyes of mere mortals.

Clear now? I have to adjust my empress-of-the-world crown before I comment on the second Broadsheet post. That one links to an abstract of a Canadian study which finds that -- what a surprise -- female lawyers with small children bill fewer hours than other lawyers and that male lawyers with small children bill more hours than other lawyers. Also, male lawyers with small children at home are more likely to have stay-at-home partners who take care of those small children.

I cannot remember a single study that hasn't found these sorts of results, by the way. (I so wish we wouldn't have to reinvent the feminist wheel all the time.) The crucial point is one I have mentioned many times before on this blog:

As long as women are viewed as responsible for most of the unpaid labor at home, this is what we are going to find. The only solutions to it are to either make child-rearing a more gender-neutral task or to start paying a salary to those parents who stay at home. The latter might make more fathers interested in the option, and even if it did not it would help the women who take time off from the labor force. They'd have money for retraining, for example, to get those courses which allow them perhaps to be promoted one day. Or at least allow them to find a job when they return to the labor market.

The study did find something new: women without children had the highest billable hours. It is fascinating to see how that finding is fleshed out in the comments of the Broadsheet post. We have a long way to go, baby.
A Post-Script:
Whether "billable hours" is a good measure of productivity is also debated in the Broadsheet comments. I don't really want to get into a discussion of average, marginal and total products here, but the problems with measuring real productivity in fields such as medicine or law are tremendous, because the output is difficult to quantify and to attribute to various workers in the firm.

Sorry Kids. Daddy Broke The Markets.

This quote by Larry Sabato (from Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto) is unintentionally funny:

NEIL CAVUTO (host): To John McCain today -- he was talking about housing, but concerned more with all the pricey government programs aimed at fixing housing. Historian Larry Sabato says it is a decidedly different tact: Democrats proposing a government solution for people in pain; the presumptive Republican nominee risking no such solution for the vast majority who are not. So, Larry, how does this fall out? I mean, one of the things in that Hillary Clinton press conference a few moments ago was this notion that maybe John McCain was pulling a Herbert Hoover. Will that register?

SABATO: Well, Neil, without insulting the American public, I'd have to say a fair proportion of the public doesn't know who Herbert Hoover was. So I don't think that will necessarily sell. Look, when you analyze parties, you need to think of them this way: The Democratic Party is the mommy party, and the Republican Party is the daddy party. Now, you and I both love both our mothers and fathers, right? But they play different roles in many families. The mother is loving and caring and takes us back in and provides the safety net. The father is the disciplinarian -- tough love. He makes us face up to hard realities, at least in many families. Well, the mommy party is the Democratic Party. The daddy party is the Republican Party. And I think if you look at the economy, you look at the housing, the mortgage crisis, a whole wide range of things, you'll find that the parties fulfill these images.

It's that old Republican framing, sure. But it comes across differently, because the Republicans have been in power for the last seven years and so the mortgage crisis, the housing problem and "a whole wide range of things" are something they created.

Who is the Daddy Disciplinarian supposed to spank here? Himself?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Normal Breasts Gallery

I have linked to this site before on the blog, but it's time to link it to again. It shows the great natural variety in the shapes, colors and sizes of the female breast.

If we don't accept that variety, as a culture, we are going to have more of these incredibly sad stories (via Sinfonian).

Sirius To Wed XM

The Department of Justice has announced the banns for this marriage, which would result in many customers having the choice of exactly one satellite radio station:

The Justice Department gave approval on Monday to the merger of two rival radio networks, XM and Sirius, a marriage that would create a de facto monopoly in satellite services now used by more than 17 million subscribers.

The proposed $5 billion merger, which was announced more than a year ago, must still be approved by the Federal Communications Commission. The merger is opposed by consumer groups and broadcasters who say it will force up prices and reduce the programming now available from the two competing systems.

The Justice Department's antitrust division announced Monday that it approved the merger after determining that prices were not likely to rise, in part because of competition from other program sources, like high-definition radio as well as iPods and other MP3 players that can be connected to home or car audio systems. The deal, the agency said, was unlikely to hurt competition or consumers.

So let me get this straight: It would not hurt consumers if we only had one airline company, right? After all, people can take the train or the bus or drive their own cars to get from place x to place z. Ok, I guess.

And according to Mr. Barnett, who leads the Justice Department's antitrust division, this merger does not cause a monopoly! An antitrust division which doesn't see mergers as creating monopolies because there are nearby markets that consumers can go to! Wonders never cease under the Bush era. And Mr. Barnett doesn't believe that consumers react to increased prices, either:

He said the review showed that, because XM and Sirius equipment was not compatible, subscribers rarely shifted from one system to the other in their homes or cars; a switch could be expensive and time-consuming.

"Historically, once you choose one or the other of the audio services, you're not going to switch," he said. "A price switch is not going to cause you to jump to the other services."

Now this is fun. So the solution to a market where a duopoly (two firms competing only with each other) used various tricks to tie consumers to their products leads to ...what proposal by the guardians of the good markets? A merger!

It looks like FCC will approve the deal.

Note that I'm not saying there might be no good economic arguments for approving this merger and the resulting monopoly power in the satellite radio market. But the ones that have been presented here are not those good arguments. Because a monopoly always has more power to raise prices than a market with more than one firm in it.

Sniff. I Can't Grow A Beard.

What can I do when I have failed and need to retreat to my nest to lick my wounds and still feel all feminine? Get a tit job? Guys can grow a beard and that hides their fractured masculinity after a public loss of face:

In addition to MacCallum and Giordano, Democratic strategist Marissa Shorenstein offered her own theory to explain why Richardson and former Vice President Al Gore grew beards: "I will say that after Al Gore lost his election, he also grew a beard. And I think it has to do with being sort of macho and wanting to feel like a man after you've lost something."

I should do something about that warped humor of mine. What I really wanted to point out is the idea that failing in something makes men lose their masculinity, but that failing in something doesn't hurt women at all, because women are expected to take failing as a matter of course experience or to act all mature about it.

Then there is the other meaning of the word "beard", referring to the wife of a man who is secretly gay. I think secretly lesbian women can't marry men as beards. Or am I wrong?

Monday, March 24, 2008

How To Teach Children Science. The Creationist Version.

Stolen from Pharyngula who also has some good commentary on the video.

It may be picky to point out that the evolutionary side here appears to argue that humans are the end point of evolution. Especially picky, given the brainwashing the creationist tour guides practice. But I'm nothing if not picky.


Remember the Bear Stearns bailout? It has just gotten sweeter for the owners of shares in that firm:

The Federal Reserve has been put in an awkward position by JPMorgan Chase's (JPM) decision to raise its bid for Bear Stearns (BSC) to $10 a share from $2. The sweetened bid, announced on Mar. 24, is high enough that Bear's shareholders are getting some real value for the company—while the Federal Reserve still risks suffering big losses.

The renegotiated deal is bound to cause complaints that the nation's central bank has been sucked into supporting a partial bailout.

Bound to cause complaints? What do we (we not being the owners of Bear Stearns but the suckers) have to complain about?

Isn't this how the free financial markets seem to work? First we get fleeced in the markets themselves for many a year. Then when the market collapses we get the honor of paying the people who fleeced us so that they do not suffer.


The number of U.S. military who have died in Iraq reached four thousand yesterday. Phila quotes Michael O'Hanlon (a hawk) from two years ago:

As bad as things are now, and as slow as the going currently appears, things are not that bad. And as tragic as deaths and injuries to coalition military personnel, U.N. officials, and top Iraqi leaders have been, the fact also remains that total American losses in Iraq to date -- just over 300 as of this writing -- are still less than in Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-91.

Funny how it goes. The psychological progress of getting used to various figures of dead people. What number would O'Hanlon now regard as too large a price to pay for whatever mayhem Iraq has achieved?

Not sure, but I remember a woman being interviewed on television or radio before the Iraq invasion started, in one of those "ask Jane and Joe Public" pieces. She was asked what number of U.S. deaths she found an acceptable price to pay for the invasion, and she offered one hundred as the appropriate number. Wonder what she thinks of four thousand.

I also wonder what that number will climb to if the U.S. actually stays in Iraq for hundred years as McCain has been speculating.

There is something harsh and callous about the common human reaction to deaths like these, because unless they touch your own life they are just "other people's dead people", whereas the financial costs of the war will bite us all in the wallets. It is hard to imagine the grief a death causes and then to multiply that by four thousand or by hundreds of thousands if all Iraqi deaths are included. Hard to imagine. I suspect that anyone who actually succeeded in that imagining would drop dead from that inhumane overload of grief.

A Deep Thought for the Day

For politicians and political pundits:

Having a mother and a grandmother does not mean that you cannot be sexist. Even having a wife and a daughter does not mean that. Even being a woman yourself does not mean that you might not be sexist or even misogynistic, because fish swimming in the water don't think it has a taste.

And here is a freebie extra deep thought for the day:
That women are the majority of this world's people does not mean that feminists are the majority of this world's people. See above, re fishes-and-water.

Women's eNews

If you have extra money under those sofa cushions and want to help an important source of news about the world's women, consider giving to the Women's eNews. Their coverage is excellent and far-reaching, but because they can be accessed freely on the net they need other ways of making money.


An interesting article about some conservative churches which use shunning to keep their flocks under control:

On a quiet Sunday morning in June, as worshippers settled into the pews at Allen Baptist Church in southwestern Michigan, Pastor Jason Burrick grabbed his cell phone and dialed 911. When a dispatcher answered, the preacher said a former congregant was in the sanctuary. "And we need to, um, have her out A.S.A.P."

Half an hour later, 71-year-old Karolyn Caskey, a church member for nearly 50 years who had taught Sunday school and regularly donated 10 percent of her pension, was led out by a state trooper and a county sheriff's officer. One held her purse and Bible. The other put her in handcuffs.

The charge was trespassing, but Caskey's real offense, in her pastor's view, was spiritual. Several months earlier, when she had questioned his authority, he'd charged her with spreading "a spirit of cancer and discord" and expelled her from the congregation. "I've been shunned," she said.

Her story reflects a growing movement among some conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline, an ancient practice in which suspected sinners are privately confronted and then publicly castigated and excommunicated if they refuse to repent.

While many Christians find such practices outdated, pastors in large and small churches across the country are expelling members for offenses ranging from adultery and theft to gossiping, skipping service and criticizing church leaders.

I can see an immediate advantage from this practice to any corrupt pastor, say, one who has embezzled the church funds. Just accuse anyone who has spotted that of gossiping and drive the person out of the congregation.

It's not a very democratic practice. But then the conservative forms of the main monotheistic religions are as far from democracy as possible. Rather, they are the model examples I think of when I want to figure out how very authoritarian institutions function. The people on the higher rung of the ladder are not only in power but assumed to be right, to know more, to be able to touch God's toe. And the people on the lower rungs are not allowed to criticize or to question.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Betty Carter posted by Anthony McCarthy

Droppin’ Things

"Don’t Cut Down No More Trees"

That's what I meant by "jazz".

The Left Should Sit This One Out by Anthony McCarthy

You might be able to tell me because after writing this three times, from the beginning, thinking about it for the past several years, I don’t understand why the FCC banning the cable industry from using naughty words is an important issue for the left. I can’t see it being a valuable expenditure of our limited political resources. Worse than wasting our energy and time, I can see it being a useful issue for the Republicans to rally the “values voters” to come out for John McCain in November.

What does the left get from the cable industry? The cabloids? 24-hour Republican propaganda and lies, trying to kill us at the polls? What do we get from the other cable channels? The glamorization of homicidal sex killers and governmental use of torture, endless reruns of brainless sitcoms..... What is so important about the ability of people to say “fuck” on cable channels that it captures the energy and attention of so many people on the left?

The slippery slope argument, that if they can regulate dirty words we won’t be able to advocate a living wage, is funnier than anything on the Comedy Channel. They’ll be allowed say anything before they’re going to have on serious advocacy of economic justice. There is no regulation keeping them from it now. It runs counter to their corporate interests and could peel off just those same “values voters” who might come to realize that their families are at a lot more risk from bankers, insurance executives and businessman than they are from the entire population of potentially betrothed gay men and lesbians. We are effectively blacklisted by the cable industry now, we will always be in the absence of strict fairness, equal time and public service regulations. We simply have no important stake in their being able to talk dirty.

At one point I wrote a speculative paragraph about offering our support for our opposition to a ban on indecency in exchange for more of a voice on cable. But, let’s be realistic, even if there was some kind of understanding they’d play us for chumps. And the left would have to, yet again, provide our own chumps. The cable industry will never, make that NEVER! let the issues involved with justice, equality, environmental protection, etc. be discussed in such a way that they might actually have an impact on real politics. We owe them far less than nothing. We should let them fight it out with the FCC that they had such a big hand in appointing, we should let them sleep in the bed they’ve made.

While trying to write this a couple of days ago it came to mind that during the greatest period of progressive progress, the 60s, you couldn’t say the word “hell”, show a bra in a bra commercial or show a double bed in a married couples’ bedroom on TV. The absence of the word “fuck” or the equivalent of Janet Jackson’s breast on TV didn’t hamper real progress that made peoples’ lives better. And I also remembered that in the early 70s, even as many of the restrictions held, that in Boston, during Holy Week, for crying out loud, Sonia Hamlin, a pretty good local talk-show host who worked for WBZ TV, did a week long series on human sexuality. Though it would seem somewhat dated now, it was far more frank than just about anything you will hear today. As I recall it included fair and humane discussions of trans-gender issues, lesbians and gay men, various kind of heterosexual heterodoxy. The difference was that she felt an obligation to inform her audience, not to entertain and titillate them.

The closest equivalent to that level of public information on cable today, Stewart and Colbert , are pretty good but they might be even better if they had to work around restrictions. You can always find another way to say it, there is always a way to get around just about any obstacle. They made it through the writer’s strike, after all. I don’t think that a ban on dirty language would cramp their style in the least.

As for the left, we shouldn’t oppose cable regulation of that kind, neither side is our side. It isn't a matter of justice or even something genuinely important. Nor should we support it. We should allow the cable industry to fight with their dates. We didn’t force them to go steady.

Like The Cicada posted by Anthony McCarthy

Mercedes Sosa sings Como La Cigarra - Like The Cicada by MarĂ­a Elena Walsh. An appropriate song for the day.

So many times I've been killed,
So many times I've died
But nevertheless, here I am revived.

Note: I got called away unexpectedly yesterday morning.