Saturday, September 06, 2008

Can’t think of a more profound statement of loneliness than

Abbey Lincoln singing Left Alone.

Words by Billie Holiday, composition by Mal Waldron who plays piano in the recording. Arrangement by Julian Priester.

posted by Anthony McCarthy

How The Republican Far-Right Is Meant To See The Palin Choice by Anthony McCarthy

Largely unasked is the question of how the people McCain sought to win by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate really think about her choice. The stupid cabloid style blather about winning over Hillary Clinton’s supporters is only useful to show how useless those guys are. No one with a functioning brain would vote for Hillary Clinton in the primaries and then vote for the McCain-Palin ticket. People that clueless wouldn’t have supported Clinton in large enough numbers to begin with. The real reason he chose Palin was to call out the Republican far-right who showed signs of staying home on election day. Republicans can’t win an election without their support and they could be counted on to not want McCain to win this election. The only way he could get them to come out in large numbers next November is by selling them someone who they would want to see as president.

But to win them, McCain fundamentally betrayed the fabled “moderate” Republicans who are supposed to constitute his voter base. It’s a bait and switch gamble that only pays off for McCain’s moderate supporters if he serves out his term. In choosing Palin, McCain gives away the charade the “moderate” Republican politician really plays.

Stated or not, the extreme right, the real audience intended to be won over by the Palin choice, will be eagerly anticipating her becoming president at the earliest possible date. They will be looking for her to have influence even while McCain is in office. The cynicism of choosing someone at odds with his one-time positions on major issues for the purpose of getting in the Oval Office could be among the most irresponsible actions ever taken by the presidential candidate of a major party. It is similar to Nader’s final gift to the American People. You don’t have to wonder how sincerely McCain holds his legacy as a “maverick” because if he’s elected, those allegedly bold positions in opposition to his party will be about the mootest point imaginable.

The line that bringing up John McCain’s age is unfair, heard on even the most unlikely venue on TV last night, is dead wrong. It was always a legitimate point to bring up because John McCain is old, the oldest presidential candidate nominated by one of the two major parties. Being 72 simply by itself renders a man at greater risk of dying in the near future. That’s one of the less pleasant aspects of getting old. Not everyone makes it to 77, a significant percentage of the population don’t. Added to that is that he has had serious health problems, recurrent cancer. His age takes on added significance due to that, bringing it up is a perfectly legitimate issue. It is one of the facts that makes his tactic of using Palin to catch the far-right vote work.

McCain, himself added to the need to bring up his age when he chose a Vice Presidential candidate who is far different from himself on many important issues, or at least from the McCain who used to exist. A presidential term is a fixed four years. If McCain wasn’t able to finish out his term a new election can’t be called, his understudy will be president. McCain’s choice was to give a person from the quite far-right the greatest boost someone from that extreme has ever been given. There is every reason to expect that Sarah Palin could become the President of the United States at any point in the four years. Having a quite old man with far less than excellent health the only thing preventing that is a legitimate issue in the campaign this fall.

You can well imagine that if he is elected John McCain will immediately join the less rabidly right wing members of the Supreme Court on the list of those whose deaths are fervently prayed for by the far right. We know the list exists, they’ve openly talked about it on TV.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Moose Roots?

The title of a hagiographic piece on Sarah Palin in the Los Angeles Times refers to her moose roots. Imagine that. Your roots are in mooses (meese?) if you like to kill them with a gun that shoots bullets from a great distance. That's not exactly brave, mind you. I'd love to see an angry moose in an arena with an unarmed hunter, to even the odds. I also think that anyone killing moose should also eat the catch. Hunting for food is one thing, hunting for the pleasure of killing creatures is a completely different thing.

I share with Palin the moose roots, I guess, except for the killing bit. When I was a tiny goddess I used to watch the moose families on summer evenings, slowly making their way from one site in the forests to another site, the path requiring them to cross our vegetable garden. The size of the adults impressed me and the silly legs of the coltish calves made me laugh. I was always told to respect the moose and not to approach them. Not even to shoot them from a great distance.

One summer I was looking for wild blueberries in the woods and came upon a moose cemetery in a deep and shaded notch where the silence was dark and eerie. There they rested, gigantic moose skeletons, side by side, the most recent dead still with some brown skin on them. The antlers rose into the air like some prehistoric plants. I held my breath for quite a while, just as one would when coming across something holy or sacred. That's moose roots for you.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

This is my friend Greg Fight's cat, Peanut. Greg, a photographer, says: "He's a couch cat, stays indoors. He is very smart but naughty. He knows the rules but can't help but break them." He says the spots on Peanuts' nose started when he was a kitty.

Daddy in blackface (by Suzie)

          The son of Jewish immigrants, my father grew up poor in a multicultural, multiracial neighborhood where people joked about ethnicity and traded insults. He boxed at a black gym where some African Americans joked that he was darker than them. For a while, he commanded black troops in World War II. He ended up living in the South, and he supported civil rights.
          For the first part of his life, before Jews became white, he was neither white nor black, but fell elsewhere in our crazy taxonomy of race. When Alzheimer’s took away what little impulse control he had, he would blurt out to black people how much he liked black people while my sister and I cringed.
           A bass baritone, Daddy had performed in community theater, and loved Gilbert and Sullivan. He sang along with a CD of “The Mikado” as my sister drove him to a nursing home, never to see him again. We had taken care of him until his medical problems outstripped our abilities. He didn’t live much longer.
           Daddy had admired Paul Robeson, and he loved “Ol’ Man River.” Once, when he sang it in a talent show, he blackened his face and dressed like the dock worker in “Showboat.” To him, he was dressing in costume just as he might for another role. He thought the song was a testament to the perseverance of oppressed people. He thought singing in dialect made it more authentic.
            In a family album, Daddy proudly put a photo of himself singing at the talent show. In blackface.
           My sister and I finally convinced him that it didn’t matter what his intention was; what mattered was how people perceived his performance. We convinced him that he would offend and anger black people if he continued to sing the song in dialect or if he ever wore blackface again.
          I’ve left the photo in the album as a reminder of the complexity of the history of race. And I still know all the words to “Ol’ Man River.” 

Racism, sexism and drag (by Suzie)

          You may have read about Charles Knipp, a white drag comedian who portrays a black woman. Critics have accused him of furthering stereotypes, and Jasmyne Cannick started a petition to ban blackface performances that mock African Americans.
          I don’t favor banning such performances; I don’t even know how that could be done under the First Amendment. But I fail to see how he's fighting racism or being subversive, as he claims. For more information, see what Sheelzebub posted.
         Those defending Knipp include RuPaul, Margaret Cho and Robert Simmons, who says:
The premise being tested is one that says a person
of a certain culture cannot make fun of another culture -- one can only
make fun of a culture if one happens to be OF that culture. That is:
Larry David can make fun of Jews because he IS a Jew, but if Dave
Chappelle makes fun of Jews, then he is ‘racist’. Or, if a hetero
makes fun of gays then he is a homophobe, but if Rosie O’Donnell does 
it, it is ok. Ditto for Margaret Cho re: Koreans, etc.
          I’m so tired of humor that reinforces stereotypes, no matter who's doing it. But more power to anyone who can use humor to subvert stereotypes. For example, Robert Downey Jr. portrays a black man in the new movie "Tropic Thunder." I haven't seen it, but it has gotten a different reception than Knipp because the movie is supposed to be mocking white actors who portray blacks. (Consider this post from Racialicious.)
           In addition to Knipp, Cannick has criticized black men who portray black women in offensive ways, such as Eddie Murphy in the movie “Norbit” and Martin Lawrence in “Big Momma’s House.” Another example is Gina McCauley's criticism of BET shows that demean women.
Moya Bailey, a graduate fellow in women's studies at Emory University, shares Cannick's concern about the extent to which much of the negative media about black women is produced by black artists and executives. 
         I would extend this criticism to all men who promote negative images of women. But let's return to the more specific topic of men dressing as women to get a laugh. Much as I loved “Monty Python,” for example, I was uncomfortable with men making fun of women, especially ones deemed uneducated, older and unattractive. Isn’t this similar to what Knipp is doing?
           Among progressives, it's unacceptable for a white to show up at a costume party in blackface. But think of all the costume parties in which a man, especially a big, hairy one, has clomped around in high heels, with bouffant hair and enormous breasts.
          This brings me back to drag shows. First, let me say that I understand that some people who grow up as men believe they are women and want to dress as women. I understand that some men choose to subvert gender roles by wearing clothing associated with women. I understand that some men get a sexual charge from wearing women’s clothing. But I want to address gay men who dress as women for the entertainment of others.
        Some argue that drag shows are a form of cultural expression for an oppressed group. But so was minstrelsy for a lot of Jewish men.
         Some argue that many drag queens celebrate women, not put them down. But some blackface performers admired aspects of African Americans. In a previous comment on “the American history of blackface minstrelsy,” Martha Bridegam said: “It's old news that racism coexists intimately with feelings of love and jealousy for the Other."
           Even when people have good intentions, their acts can reinforce stereotypes. In minstrelsy, whites took the stories, the voices, even the chances on stage, of black people. Men have done the same to women for centuries.
            Some people think drag subverts gender by bringing its performativity into the open. But parody works only if people get it. A straight man at a drag show does not necessarily think: “If that man can look and act like a woman, then that means my girlfriend and I are just performing gender.” Or: “It’s ridiculous that women have to wear makeup, heels and these ridiculous clothes to perform their gender.” More likely, he thinks the drag queen is not a real woman, but his girlfriend is, and there’s nothing wrong or funny when she dresses up. In other words, he sees only the drag queen as performing. 
           That's one reason why some people accuse a woman who they don't consider attractive or feminine enough to be in drag. For example, Camille Paglia called Hillary Clinton a drag queen. Ditto for Kathleen Harris.
           This reminds me of the New Yorker cover of the Obamas. It’s satire to people who understand that Barack and Michelle are not terrorists. For others, however, the image reinforces stereotypes.
          Esther Godfrey writes that drag and minstrelsy can both reinforce and subvert stereotypes. But she theorizes that people find minstrelsy more offensive because white men (and it’s almost always men) who put on blackface don’t want to be black. After their performance, they return to their former state of privilege. They see black men as oppressed, but they generally don’t put on blackface to fight that oppression. In contrast, she says, many gay men who perform drag long to be women, and some make the transition. They see women as holding power. When not performing, they don’t get to return to privilege. They face discrimination for being gay.
         But her reasoning focuses on the performers and their attitudes, not the effect of their performance on others. As Kelly Kleiman says:
In discussing drag, we talk about challenging the audience’s conception of gender, or recovering the male performer’s sense of the feminine. But what about those of us being impersonated?
          (Here's a more scholarly version of the same article.)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Meanwhile, on the Democratic Side

The Obama campaign has received ten million dollars in donations in the day following Palin's speech. Noice.

Sarah Palin And Feminists: Where Echidne Puts Her Snake Tail In Her Mouth

This will not end well, I swear, because I'm going to go down some scary and dark alleyways in this post while throwing out half-digested thoughts. But some posts need to be written and this is one of them.

Without further ado, let us begin by noting what Rudy Giuliani said about the treatment Sarah Palin has gotten from the media:

One final point.

How dare they question whether Sarah Palin has enough time with her family and to be Vice-President. How dare they do that?

When did they ever ask a man that question?

I never thought I'd live to see the day when Rudy Giuliani becomes a member of the National Organization for Women (so very recently as today called "the National Organization of Whores" by a right-wing pundit), and I'm naturally overjoyed and very happy and all ready to vote Republican forevermore (except that goddesses can't vote). But. I somehow sense that Giuliani might not in fact have seen the sudden and piercing light of feminism at all. He might just be using Republican political tactics here. Especially given that "the National Organization of Whores" is more like what I usually hear from the wingnuts.

Maybe Rudy has been reading my blog where I often muse about such gender reversals as the one he proposes? Nah. Rudy is playing political games here.

How do I know that? First, the Republican Party has always consistently opposed every single thing that would give mothers more space to have both children and jobs or careers. Every single thing, from trying to stop them from having parental leave to fighting against any kind of childcare in programs intended to get people out of poverty.

Second, the Republican Party has always consistently opposed every single thing that would make the labor markets a more even playing ground for women, starting from the Equal Pay Act of 1963, continuing with the Civil Rights Act which bans discrimination in hiring and promotions (Title VII) and extending to the Civil Rights Act which banned sex discrimination in educational institutions (Title IX). All these things the Republicans have opposed and still fervently oppose.

Third, the Republican base consists of two largish groups of people who do not believe in women's equality at all. The first group is the fundamentalist right-wing Christians, the people beautifully represented by the Southern Baptist Convention which in 2000 stated these principles about the role of women:

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to his people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The bolds are mine, to make it easier for you to see how some Republicans are not that eager to see women have the rights to work outside the home. In general the theocratic part of the Republican base is not only anti-abortion, it is also very much against women's equality in general.

Let us take a small break here and remember that when Rudy was telling people to do a gender reversal about Palin, he was speaking in a room with lots of right-wing theocrats. Kinda funny, in a dark and twisted way. Or it would be if I didn't let myself get angry about it all.

The second part of the Republican base is not that socially conservative in the usual sense of the term, true, but many of them just love the facile explanations of the trumped-up type of evolutionary psychology (the one I usually call Evolutionary Psychology to distinguish it from real research) which tells them that women's inferiority is not God-given but acquired in those long-gone times of prehistory, causing today's women to be really good at coyness and shopping and really bad at most everything else, including driving, map-reading and careers.

Whether we look at the Dominionist Christian base or the Evo-Psycho base of the Republican Party, we come up with the same conclusions: Don't do anything at all to help women lead better lives. Either God doesn't want that or our genes don't want that. It is important to keep all this in mind when evaluating Giuliani's comment, because he gave the speech as a representative of those groups.

For all these reasons I'm not that hyped up by Rudy's sudden turning into a feminist. I don't trust him and I don't trust his party. The old saying about walking the walk and not just talking the talk applies here. (And no, a few Republican token working women is not the same as freedom and equality for all women, especially if those same women have a platform of nothing but anti-women measures and plans.)

Still, many in the media and on the blogs (even progressive ones) have picked up that still-blood-caked cudgel that was used on Hillary Clinton's noggin, the one which is all about "naked political ambition" (only a problem for women), about the bitch from hell (naturally also only a problem for women) and about the Cunt (some mythical walking vagina with fangs which threaten all honest men and women). That Clinton and Palin are two very different women seems to go unnoticed by those who use these insults, and it is this fact which makes their use sexist in my mind. They are being whipped with the same whip even though their political ideals are almost total opposites. This suggests that they are being whipped for the crime of being women in politics.

I have some sympathy for people who try to find creative and nonsexist ways of swearing at Sarah Palin because she sure does deserve some strong criticism. But it would be very nice if the rest of us uppity wimminfolk were not attacked whenever either Clinton or Palin or some other assertive woman is attacked. It is even a good political strategy not to anger a large group of voting women.
Now read Gloria Steinem on Palin and feminism.

This Is Silly

(This picture from my files is intended to express my emotions about the post.)

I was reading the Giuliani speech at the Republican convention again and noticed his summary of what McCain will do if elected as president:

John McCain will bring about the change that will create jobs and prosperity…let's talk specifics…John McCain will lower taxes so our economy can grow. He will reduce government spending to strengthen our dollar. He will expand free trade so we can be even more competitive. He will lead us to energy independence so we can be free of foreign oil. And he'll do it with an all-of-the-above approach, including nuclear power and off-shore drilling.

[ chants of "Drill, baby, drill"]

Giuliani laughs as the audience chants.

This and a lot more is the kind of change we need…

John McCain will keep us on offense against terrorism at home and abroad. For 4 days in Denver the Democrats were afraid to use the words Islamic terrorism. i believe they think that it is politically incorrect to say it…please tell me who they are insulting if they say Islamic terrorism. They are insulting terrorists. A great concern for me, they rarely mentioned the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

There's not much "change" in that list as promises go, because George Bush has been promising all those same things for the last eight years. Of course fighting preemptive wars doesn't really go with making the government smaller or with lowering taxes to the super-rich even more. It just doesn't. Giuliani made McCain sound just like the McSame he has been called on some blogs.

Then that jab about the reluctance of Democrats to use the term Islamic terrorism. I'm sort of glad that Giuliani made that point, because from now on I can freely and openly call the terrorist acts against abortion clinics Christian terrorism and nobody will be insulted except the Christian terrorists themselves, right?

How We Can Fight The Clueless Boys Of The Blogs by Anthony McCarthy.

In the epidemic of their corruption and cynicism, the art of Republican political inoculation has built up a more than sufficient case file to come to some useful conclusions. By now we should know the early warning signs that the needle is about to be stuck in by the corporate media. The political inoculation is done using a weakened or dead organism, just like medical inoculation. In about the only failure of the metaphor , in the case of political inoculation, the disease goes on to ravage the body politic and the world at large.

The inoculation will often be done using a sex story on the margins of a wider pattern of corruption or garden variety hypocrisy. The corporate media will go for the flimsiest, most irrelevant, part of the rumors and use that to distract and put aside the really dangerous parts of a truly dangerous pathology. The Iseman scandal for McCain is one of those, the rumors surrounding the pregnancies of Sarah Palin and her daughter are the current ones. Sex is always good for a distraction to start with and our sex addled media loves to talk thingy. It doesn’t help that you just know sex is going to get the bottom of the blogosphere going as well. If talkin’ tail wasn’t possible in our media, Chris Matthews and most of his guest list would be entirely unknown.

Instead of being the thorn in the side of the corrupt Republican establishment, many liberalish blogs are becoming a part of the Crooked Red Cross campaign of innoculation. No matter what part of the blogosphere you’re talking about, someone, a blogger or their comment threads can be counted on to run with a sex rumor. The Republicans just harvest the stuff, attribute it to Democratic or angry liberal bloggers and use it to cover up mountains of corruption and incompetence. They do it over and over again. I don’t think there is much we can do to keep he boys, mostly, from playing their reliable part in that self-defeating game. Even if every single person left of the zero coordinate could be stopped from doing this, some Republican trolls would do it on our blogs.

But sex, unless it is part of an actual crime against a minor or a non-consenting adult, should never be used against Republicans because they are the beneficiaries of the second most enduring of sexual double standards. What will get a Democrat a tabooed as a tramp, will be presented as a badge of honor among Republicans.

Maybe our best hope is the in the fact that it’s mostly the media who are obsessed with sex scandals. When Clinton’s private adultery was being shoved down the nation’s collective throat, non-stop for years, The People took the news in a markedly more adult way than the media or the Republicans wanted us to. It was the hypocrites in the establishment who were disappointed that their smear campaign didn’t do what it was meant to do. We are in the interesting position where The People are generally a lot more sensible than they are hoped to be in the oligarchic imagination. That’s what we’ve got to work with.

Concentrate your fire on John McCain’s hypocrisy in promoting inexperience and extremism. Concentrate on his cynicism and Rovian gambit. Concentrate on Palin’s corruption in office, her ties to extremist and dangerous far right groups and individuals. Concentrate on her being in the thick of the massive give-aways of Republican misrule and you will appeal to the adults among the electorate. Tell the boys on the blogs deploying the “c” word that they’re Republican tools, because that’s what they are.

The Party Of Hate

Really. That's what I got as the message of yesterday's speeches at the RNC, though the final message seemed a bit more complicated: First, be proud of America. Second, hate around half of all Americans openly (and probably more than that in secret).

Compared to those speeches the DNC speeches were homilies to McCain and company.

It reminds me of the 1992 Republican Convention.

I've been Sarah-Palinized

Meaning that I watched her speech. This shows how heroic a blogger may have to be, sometimes.

Here are my first impressions:

Clean coal? CLEAN COAL? We gonna get loads of jobs mining for clean coal. Sure.

In general, she wants to turn the state of Alaska into an oil refinery, to serve the needs of just one single generation of Americans. It's all most short-sighted and about the few winners in the game.

She's also gonna charge hardly any taxes from the super-rich, even though she's firmly planning to continue the very expensive Iraq adventure. How are we going to fund it, then? Borrowing? Is that good fiscal discipline? And she really doesn't like those death taxes, a Republican name for estate taxes which apply to less than one percent of all Americans. But I guess the room in which the speech was given was full of the people who can't sleep because of fearing estate taxes.

Then Palin went on attack, telling us how very much better John McCain was than Barack Obama, because he was a POW and was tortured. Lots of people in Guantanamo Bay will be surprised to hear that they, too, are now presidential material.

OK, that was mean of me. But nowhere as mean as the tone of the Republican speeches tonight. The Republican Party seems to have decided to run as the Party Of The Mean.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

My Short Summary On Sarah Palin

She is to the right of Attila the Hun. That's all you need to know about her.

In any case, none of the readers of this blog think that we need more of the kind of change that George Bush started, the kind which consists of driving the train called the U.S. of A. straight into that deep chasm of no-return. But that's exactly the kind of "change" John McCain and Sarah Palin advocate: More of the same destruction, only a lot faster. Mavericky enough for you?

And was I the only person who noticed that the cheering at the RNC sounded very different from the DNC? Check out the differences.

Fashion Photography

The New York Times discusses a photo spread in a recent Vogue India and how it was created:

NEW DELHI — An old woman missing her upper front teeth holds a child in rumpled clothes — who is wearing a Fendi bib (retail price, about $100).

A family of three squeezes onto a motorbike for their daily commute, the mother riding without a helmet and sidesaddle in the traditional Indian way — except that she has a Herm├Ęs Birkin bag (usually more than $10,000, if you can find one) prominently displayed on her wrist.

Elsewhere, a toothless barefoot man holds a Burberry umbrella (about $200).

Welcome to the new India — at least as Vogue sees it.

Vogue India's August issue presented a 16-page vision of supple handbags, bejeweled clutches and status-symbol umbrellas, modeled not by runway stars or the wealthiest fraction of Indian society who can actually afford these accessories, but by average Indian people.

Perhaps not surprisingly, not everyone in India was amused.

Mmm. Imagine a restaurant chain doing a photo spread about the starving of the world eating their steak-with-barely-bruised-gooseberries, not to feed the poor but to sell the food to the wealthy. I can see why some might not be amused when the people in the photos are never going to be able to afford the advertised products. Besides, I doubt that the poor fashion models were allowed to keep that expensive bib or that Burberry umbrella, though I may be wrong.

But take a step deeper: Is all this super-consumption perfectly OK if the photos don't show any of the poor who can't afford the products? I'm entering into the ouch-territory here and should probably not go any further lest this post becomes a long treatise on global capitalism and the like.

Instead, I will note that fashion photo shoots have a long tradition of using "exotic" poor people as a colorful and artistic background for the pictures. The emotions that evokes are every bit as difficult and unpleasant as the ones discussed in the New York Times piece. Or have been for me at least.

Just Like The Good Ole Times

When I read this story about a girl being told she can't be a kicker on the football team because she is a girl I felt a wind from the distant past. Ah, those wonderful serene days with eternal sunshine when men were men and women were women and girls didn't play football! All you needed to do then was to point out that a player was a girl and that was enough to keep her off the team.

It still might be, of course.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Today's Grumpy Thought

Did you know that Sarah Palin is "a mother from hell?" If there is such a thing as "a father from hell" it doesn't appear to be Mr. Palin. Because even on liberal blogs it's the women who are responsible for the families, not the men.

Today's Cootie Award

Goes to William Saletan! He's tried for one for years and now he gets it. For this wonderful piece about the possible pregnancies of the daughters of U.S. presidents and vice-presidents:

Is Sarah Palin the first nominee on a major-party presidential ticket whose daughter got pregnant out of wedlock? Or is she just the first whose daughter didn't get an abortion?

That's how he begins the piece, by tasting his big toe. Then he decided to stuff the whole foot in his mouth by listing all the daughters of the right age but not yet married who just could have become pregnant during their daddies' reigns. He even adds fertility statistics as a sauce to make his foot taste better.

The piece ends with this:

If any of these daughters conceived, but no pregnancy or birth was reported, what happened? One possibility is miscarriage. But the Guttmacher analysis suggests a different answer: Most unintended pregnancies in the higher income and education brackets end in abortion.

Remember that before you judge or poke fun at Sarah Palin. She's not the candidate whose daughter messed up. She's the candidate who didn't get rid of the mess.

And what is the award for, you may ask if you are rather oblivious. Well, if you wouldn't give one for the way private people (the daughters of past presidents and vice-presidents) are dragged into the Saletan limelight here and subjected to his wondering about their sex lives maybe you would give one for Saletan not caring about the sons of American presidents and vice-presidents and what they might have done with their penises during some crucial times.

The human race doesn't increase by division or multiplication, William, and you are a sexist who deserves the highest cootie award with slime ribbons.

Do You Have What It Takes?

Do you have what it takes to be a famous photographer? If so, do participate in this competition I saw advertised on a website with that same headline.

But what if you actually would be a genius photographer but have no self-confidence? What happens then? Or what if you have higher standards about your work than the competition has about their work? What if you decide that you are not good enough to participate in that competition or any other competition? You will go to your grave with your talents unused.

This question matters for feminists, because there are studies which suggest that women, on average, have less confidence in their ability and more rigorous standards about what makes their work good, that women submit fewer manuscripts in academia than men, though often very good manuscripts, and that women also submit fewer opinion pieces in political writing and so on. It's not possible to measure the prevalence of this problem and a good study about it would be very welcome. But perhaps it's time to discuss this question and also the headline of this article.

When I started graduate school, a professor told us students: "Look to your right. Look to your left. Only one of you three will finish the course." My first thoughts on hearing this was that he was fucking rude and that the university was taking our money on false premises, not intending to teach us well enough for most to pass. But right after those thoughts I wondered if I was good enough. See how it works? Perhaps someone different would have found the quip a great spur for working harder?

Where do those worms of doubt come from, especially when there is no evidence for them? Is it family upbringing? Societal effects? Note that I'm singling out those cases where the lack of confidence is not deserved in the particular instance under discussion.

And why does this seem to be a more common problem for women than for men?

What? The Media Elite Didn’t Really Believe They Meant It All These Years? by Anthony McCarthy

As the extremism of Sarah Palin comes into ever more frightening focus, the reaction of big media is interesting. Some of them seem scared, as well anyone who enjoys freedom and reason should. But where have they been as the Republicans have been courting the overtly fascist nut case minority for the grand alliance with their larger faction whose only purpose is to loot the American treasury, steal the credit card and run up ruinous overcharges - selling us to RED CHINA in the process- and generally scuttle the ship of state on the rocks for the hell of it. Didn’t they think these folks really meant it? It’s not as if they’ve varied their message, they are dangerously anti-liberty, anti-equality, anti-environment and pro-extinction. For our media, their devotion to profit and wealth concentration overrides every other defect.

The media and corporate elite, who could find themselves living in Sarah Palin’s world within a year, are sort of nervous but they aren’t turning their efforts to put McCain into the only office between us and neo-feudalism. Their choice in this election is between Obama and Biden and the a damaged and failing pacemaker sold by a discredited and sleazy outfit. AND THEY DON’T SEEM TO BE ABLE TO MAKE UP THEIR MINDS!

NPR, this morning, CNN, which I caught at a friend’s house last night, they’re using the pregnancy story to politically innoculate a lunatic, right-wing, nutcase to hand her the spare set of keys to the Oval Office. As anyone familiar with the various political inoculations they have given Republicans could have predicted.

If they succeed in putting her there, once McCain has died or has to step aside for health reasons, which I’ll bet he would, they will find themselves in a real life version of The Damned”. And we could too. If I counted the number of times I’ve heard people WORKING IN THE MEDIA, put the “maverick” stamp of approval on this insane choice, I’d bet it would be well into the three figures by now. And that’s not counting the number of times Republican mouthpieces have been had on to endlessly repeat it.

McCain, of course, has the ultimate guilt for putting American democracy in peril for political reasons, but it’s the corporate media who is selling us down the river of no return.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Scenes From The Twin Cities

Amy Goodman from Democracy Now being arrested:

And another picture about the riot police arresting people.

Meanwhile, the RNC has cancelled most events today because of the hurricane threat to New Orleans, but some partying took place:

Yet, last night lobbyists for the National Rifle Association, Lockheed Martin and the American Trucking Association put on a raucus six-hour party at a downtown bar featuring music by the band "Hookers and Blow." There was no evidence of any actual prostitutes or cocaine.

Yah, as an orc might say.

The Bridge To Nowhere: News From An Alternate Reality

So Sarah Palin is John McCain's Vice Presidential pick. She's the Governor of Alaska, a fervent social conservative and a favorite among the fundamentalist base of the Republican Party. Some also think that she was picked to skim off some of those disappointed Hillary Clinton supporters: women who wanted to see a female president during their lifetimes.

My head is spinning. My first reaction to the choice of Palin was that John McCain is one of those funny guys who thinks of the concept of a "woman" as a spoonful out of some imaginary mountain of the characteristic "womanhood", so that any woman is just as good as any other woman, and that he doesn't see any reason why feminists wouldn't vote for Palin. Even if Palin only supports abortion in the case when a woman's life is at risk. No rape exception for our Sarah, nope. But she's got a vagina, right? So those feminazis must like her.

Do you see how what he's doing is sexist? He refuses to see women as individuals, and that's why his choice is insulting if it is intended to snare the Clinton supporting feminists. If it is intended to snare the Republican fundie base the choice may well be quite smart, who knows. Though I doubt they think a mother of five children should be running for anything but more diapers for the baby and beer for the husband.

Still, Palin is a ferocious social conservative and totally for abstinence-only education. The Republican base approves of that. And no, there is no conflict between that and the announced pregnancy of Palin's teenage daughter, not among the fundie base, because their beliefs are a) that teenage sex is wrong and getting pregnant outside the marriage is wrong but b) getting an abortion is even more wrong and c) having the baby is a suitable punishment for any girl slutty enough to have had sex. - That's of course my translation of the underlying value system.

What else can I say about this woman who told us that she'd break through the marble ceiling, the one which Hillary Clinton mentioned as now having millions of cracks because she came so close to becoming the Democratic candidate for the president? I can say that should Palin somehow succeed in that breaking she'd waste no time in getting the cement mixed and the trowel ready to permanently fill that hole so that no other woman could follow her, ever. I can also ask you to read about Palin's political views and actions and the political trouble she has had in Alaska.

Did I already mention that all this smells and tastes like an alternate universe? I did? A couple of days ago I saw a headline about the Palin choice, and even though I was still on vacation I took it down just because it was so silly. It went something like this: "Mothers React To Palin As the Vice-Presidential Pick."

Imagine the reversal of that headline, say, "Fathers React to Biden As the Vice-Presidential Pick." You can't imagine it, I bet, because it's nonsensical. Comparing the two headlines tells us more about the gender norms of this society than this long post can.

Soap Bubbles

So I'm back from vacation. I think I am, or is this some alternate reality where Sara Palin is the Republican Vice Presidential candidate? Perhaps an alternate daytime soap opera reality where a presidential election is taking shape the way it would in one of those soaps?

It's a little bit dislocating, coming back to the current talking points, and I better keep my mouf shut on those for a few moments longer lest I say something very mean (though very funny) that I might regret later on.

Instead, I wish to extend my most fervent thanks to my guest hosts who have kept the blog going so admirably during my snooze break. Suzie, Skylanda, Phila, Hecate and Anthony McCarthy: I raise a toast of nectar to all of you. And thank you, Skylanda, for the great series on things medico-social and medico-economic.

It's also good manners to wish all of you readers a happy and labor-free Labor Day.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

What Not To Do by Anthony McCarthy

This Just In: At the Labor Day Weekend party, in mixed company, including young children and your 90-year-old mother, as you are answering the observation by your niece that you have not read her a single word of the Harry Potter cycle this summer, do not suggest as an alternate selection “Sets, Relations and Functions” by Selby and Sweet. At least not unless you enunciate very, very, very clearly.

The hurricane & women (by Suzie)


       As a former resident of New Orleans, watching the approach of Gustav with horror, I want to remind people about the gendered aspects of disaster. Check out "Women in the Wake of the Storm: Examining the Post-Katrina Realities of the Women of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast," a report published in April by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. It recommends: 
Make affordable housing a top priority. The safety of women and girls remain in jeopardy with each day that severe housing shortages go unaddressed.
Incorporate women in the rebuilding economy through non-traditional training and enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. ... Providing women training in the skilled and technical trades would help increase their chances of earning a rate of pay that would allow them and their families some level of economic well-being. And buttressing that training with aggressive enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in hiring and pay would help to alleviate some of the difficulties women report in trying to gain access to fuller employment.
Increase the availability and quality of child care and schools.
Address both physical and mental health care needs, especially among the most needy.... Special attention should be given to women and girls whose Katrina experience has included domestic violence or sexual assault ... 
Include a broad representation of women on decision-making bodies  that address disaster recovery, and any future bodies formed for the purpose of pre-disaster planning. 

Insight Into Psychobabble Review by Anthony McCarthy

I was going to resist the temptation to mock the Boston Globe’s bi-monthly column “Surprising Insights From The Social Sciences” but, pleeeease.

WHAT IF THERE were no God? That is the title of a new study by psychologists at Northwestern University in Chicago who studied 128 observant Christians with diverse political orientations living around Chicago. In interviews, subjects were asked what their lives would be like without God or religion. The transcribed responses were categorized according to concern for impulse control, societal breakdown, or life fulfillment. Conservative Christians of all backgrounds were more concerned with, while liberal Christians were.

McAdams, D. and Albaugh, M., "What If There Were No God? Politically Conservative and Liberal Christians Imagine Their Lives without Faith," Journal of Research in Personality (forthcoming).

Ah, that item, most rare in psych news reporting, a number. 128, count ‘em, “observant Christians”. Apparently divided in, perhaps, equal halves? So, on the basis of 64 (just guessing) each of “liberals” and “conservatives” we are presented with a basic difference in the psychology of the two groups numbering in their scores of millions.

Conservatives are concerned with “containing their baser instincts and societal decay” liberals are “more concerned that life would lose some of its deep richness and meaning”.

Are we to take from this that liberals are more concerned with their lifestyle and conservatives more interested in preventing societal decay? How could you escape that conclusion? Now, that really jibes with the philosophies of these two groups as manifested in real life doesn’t it. I mean, you just know that conservatives will go for shoring up the common good while liberals always go for looking out for airy-fairy fulfillment.

What in the world does the reported methodology mean? Categorizing transcribed responses for concern for impulse control, societal breakdown or life fulfillment? What does that mean in plain English, never mind whether or not the process used has a shred of scientific verification of its legitimacy?

So, what we have here is a tiny sample size, reporting on what they IMAGINE would be the case about a situation they haven’t experienced and DON’T BELIEVE to be true, in ways that requires the interpretation of the researchers. I'll make believe I don't think they had any kind of bias that could influence their conclusions.

Vague interpretation of what the researchers guess the imaginary responses of people to a situation they haven’t experienced mean. When does this get too tenuous for anyone to take it seriously?

Doesn’t a columnist pretending to act as a science reporter have a higher journalistic responsibility than this?

I am tempted to go into the first blurb too. I’m wondering what kind of scientific verification there is for the validity of the “ psychopathic personality questionnaire” used. If it’s like much of psychological testing, that’s an important question in determining the believability of the results. Why would anyone guess a psychopath would give honest answers to a questionnaire, to begin with, or that psychopaths as a group would give consistent answers. As you can also read, it’s a forthcoming “study” so we’ll just have to wait to see if what the “insight” really reveals.

I’d go into the pseudo-science of the Rorschach and some other widely used psychological tests and the horrific and legally mandated use of those by employers and the judicial system but will wait for another time. Did you know the Rorschach test is derived from an old Viennese parlor game, has dodgy verification and yet, unless they've dumped them since the last time I looked, the Rorschach industry still has a position in the AAAS? And it’s still widely used in clinical practice?

McCain’s Choice of Palin Proves He Is Unsuited To Be President by Anthony McCarthy

The media said that Obama’s Vice Presidential choice would constitute his first “presidential act”. He appears to have made a choice after a long process by a team of serious and experienced people. McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin, we are told, appears to be one of his famous “gut decisions”. After months of campaigning on Barack Obama’s alleged lack of experience he chose someone who, of all those mentioned as possible Republican Vice Presidential nominees has the least experience of any. Apparently John McCain believes that her son’s imminent deployment to Iraq constitutes of a record adequate to fill out her military if not foreign policy portfolio. If he really believes that, he has given serious people adequate reason to doubt his mental health

We may be witnessing the tipping point where the Republican establishment goes from calculated cynicism to pillaging nihilism. They have given their nomination to a 72-year-old man with less than a far less than optimal health history who listens to his gut when it tells him that a two-year governor in one of the least populous states, whose major record in government is as the mayor of a town of less than 9,000, should be one of his heartbeats away from the American presidency. I suspect, the media will soon begin declaring parts of Palin’s record and personal history hands off and “old news”, in the way they inevitably do when serious examination of Republicans begins. If that happes we will know. There is only one possible Democratic President between us and the final, decadent end of American democracy.

Barack Obama’s pastor was endlessly used against him in the past year, even though he disavowed his most extreme statements and doesn’t appear to have ever based his political decisions on them. Sarah Palin belongs to a church which is part of a far right cult dangerous enough so the Souther Poverty Law Center monitors them. You wonder what McCain’s gut told him about that.

Sarah Palin is known to have embroiling the Governor’s office and other parts of the Alaska government in her families bitter feud with an ex-brother-in-law. Whether or not the accusations made against him were true - and I haven’t seen his side of it yet- using her position and allowing her husband to use it in an attempt to get him fired from his job as a state trooper shows a complete lack of ground floor judgement. Her part in the firing of the public safety commissioner, apparently over a family matter, could end a political career in many states. And her cooperation with the legislative investigation into her use of power has been less than cooperative, apparently. John McCain should certainly understand the need to maintain the reality as well as the appearance of propriety and transparency in matters involving ethics, given his own history. His wife’s problems should also have given him an appreciation of why it’s a good idea to keep a fire wall between family problems and official duties as a public servant. But his gut overrode his vaunted experience here too.

John McCain has said that he knows nothing about economics and proved it by putting Phil Graham in charge of handling economic issues for his campaign. You would think that the subsequent need to remove him, for the time being, might have taught McCain’s gut a lesson in why someone from a state with an economy rich from extraction industries might not have an appreciation for what it’s like for people in the rest of the country. Palin’s brief experience as governor of Alaska certainly couldn’t provide her with a good idea of what those in non-oil states face. And her odd ideas about that are just beginning to surface. Alaska, with its odd form of oil based, income independent welfare, is certainly atypical of the rest of the United States, even of oil-rich states. Being governor of there is probably about as much a preparation for handling economic issues as being a Senator from there produces ethical and responsible appropriation of public money. I believe that in the coming weeks we will find out that Sarah Palin has some bizarre ideas about economic issues based on what her experience in Alaska’s Republican Party has taught her.

Forget her ideas about the environment, which are as psychotic as the worst of the Bush and Reagan administrations. She might yet become the first overtly pro-extinction president in our history.

One of the often mentioned possible Vice Presidential candidates for McCain was one of my senators, Olympia Snowe. I’m not a fan, having actually watched her career instead of the PR hype. Like that of all “moderate” Republicans her record actually consists of several token shows of independence while being a reliable supporter of whatever retrogressive policies the far-right Republican establishment comes up with most of the time. But I would have to admit that she had experience that would at least make her a credible successor to a Republican president, if he died in office. She wouldn’t be a complete neophyte in foreign policy or have entirely wacky ideas about the state of the environment or the economy. Though her policies would probably be lamentable, they wouldn’t be insane. Several of the other possible Republican Vice Presidential candidates were similarly qualified.

Yet John McCain’s gut told him that Sarah Palin, who embodies the lies his campaign has endlessly bellowed about Barack Obama’s “extremism” and “inexperience” and a person who opposes many of the “moderate” Republican policies that have created the McCain myth, should be handed a more than excellent chance at succeeding him as President of the United States. There is every reason to expect that she will be president if McCain is elected.

That is John McCain’s first “presidential decision”. The issue here isn’t just Sarah Palin’s complete unsuitability for the job of President, or Vice President, it’s also the issue of John McCain’s appalling decision. His first important decision impinging on the presidency of the United States and he has made a totally nutty choice. John McCain is not suitable to be President of the United States, we need ethical, wise and informed leadership not someone who goes with his obviously busted gut.