Saturday, September 13, 2008

Down at the Balinese (by Suzie)

        I've got that ZZ Top song stuck in my head, after hearing that Ike destroyed the Balinese Room in Galveston. The Houston Chronicle's web site has updates on all the damage. 

McCain/Palin on Reproductive Choice

The Third Party Delusion And How It Props Up The Corporate Establishment by Anthony McCarthy

In the past month there have been a few mentions of a revival of the disastrous “Nader trader” idea of 2000 on the blogs. I thought it might be worth looking at what the Greens are saying this time. Not much has changed since the last time I looked. Though its interesting that since the last time I wrote about their record of electoral “success” it’s harder to find that information. You get the feeling that they’re trying to hide something they’re not proud of.

After a quarter of a century of getting a lot of attention and the devotion of more people on the left than they deserve, the Greens of the United States need to be looked at in the harsh light of day.

Anyone who believes that they can become a viable national party, supplanting the Democrats, has had a long period of time to evaluate their effectiveness. It is a record without a single positive accomplishment on the national level and, as has been pointed out before, it has had a grand total of exactly one person elected to any of the 50 state legislatures.

I’ve said here before that I liked the Green who has achieved the highest office in his parties history, John Eder, the FORMER legislative representative from his district in Portland Maine. Former because he lost his seat as the Maine Greens gave their all for the fourth place finish of their candidate for Governor that year. In typical Green fashion, the national Greens lauded her fourth place finish, behind an independent candidate who managed to get a decisive third place without having the advantage of a party to back her. Fourth place in the Maine Governorship as a great success, that could serve as a dictionary example of the word “failure”, if not “fraud”, if not “nuts”.

And even on the local level their record is pitiful for a party that has had the publicity, financial and volunteer resources it has had for more than two decades. Many of its touted successes were in non-partisan races. The one and only third party which has succeeded in the history of the United States, the Republicans, had already been governing the country for about two decades by that point in its existence.

And yet their website absurdly talks about their prospects on the national level this fall. Let me propose an experiment to you, one which will just about certainly have a 100% success rate. Look at a group of people you just happen to see, point to one of them. That person will have exactly the same chance as Cynthia McKinney to become President of the United States in January. January of this year or any other. Running a candidate for president who has no chance of winning is pointless and self-indulgent. After one of your previous candidates helped put a man in office who made real the opposite of everything you support, running another in a close race is an act of grotesque irresponsibility. It is a total and fundamental betrayal of your principles and your supporters. In a tight race, as the one this year is looking to become, it is dangerous, reckless and pathologically narcissistic .

Symbolism has no rational place in how serious people vote. If you vote symbolically, “to send a message” or “to teach a lesson”, no one in the entire world but you will care about what your intended symbolic vote stood for.* They will be too busy dealing with the results in the real world. Voting is a serious thing, it has a profound potential to change how the world works, how people live. Voting is a life or death matter, it isn’t the equivalent of trying to interpret the vague game you think an author might be playing. Serious people know the difference. Voting for a Green on the presidential ballot is a vote for McCain-Palin and the policies they will put into effect.

Greens record on the national level has been a disaster. The Greens get trotted out nationally every four years in hopes that they can again play the spoiler and put a Republican in the White House. In some states they are used by the Republican establishment in the same way, mine for instance. They have no function in the left other than to discredit us with more successful progressives, we should marginalize them as often as necessary.

Libertarians, perhaps even more a failure in electoral politics, exercise massively more political influence than the Greens do through the influential guess pool, The Cato Institute. Their ‘research’ is constantly promoted on NPR and other media venues, though they never say a thing you couldn’t guess before their place on the guest lineup is announced. As an aside, I wonder, if it always and inevitably ends up supporting the pre-existing Cato ideology, how can anyone keep pretending that what they do is research? Through their constant appearances as a part of the respectable spectrum of opinion, the libertarians have been able to make the most absurd and easily contradicted assertions function as if they were real ideas in our politics.

The difference is in the purpose they serve for the corporate establishment. Greens are used as spoilers, libertarians as a means of keeping conservatives with kinky personal tastes attached to the overtly fascist wing of the Republican movement, though they would destroy libertarians ability to do what they want to if they ever really achieved power. In order for that ruse to work they have to be kept voting for Republicans. Their use of the Greens is to keep Democrats out of office, which they have shown they can do. They’ve been useful for nothing else in our national politics.

* The same goes for “principled non-voting”.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Vaginas, and what women have in common (by Suzie)


         I’ve held off writing about my vagina as long as I could.
        Although I can’t find evidence of the etymology, I blame the Vagina Monologues for inspiring "Vagina Americans" and related jokes. A recent Daily Show sketch ridicules the idea that women would (or should or might) vote for someone just because she’s a woman, without considering other issues. As one commenter put it: "Please women, don’t be, as Samantha Bee called it, a Vagina-American. Vote for the best person, the one who is part of the party that you are loyal to. Don’t vote with your vagina."
         Some people use the phrase to chastise women who consider gender at all. I still have guys trying to get me to ’fess up that I wouldn’t have liked Hillary as much if she were a man, as if I should not have considered gender at all.
         (People don't talk about Penis Americans, or voting with the penis, nearly as much.)
          Jokes about Vagina Americans may imply that women have nothing in common other than vaginas. This is a corruption of feminist theory that questions the category of “woman.” I don’t believe that all women are essentially the same, not do I think we all have the same experiences. But I do think a lot of us share similar experiences. For me, shared experiences count for something, even though they may translate into different views and policies.
            The synecdoche of vagina = woman troubles me because, once again, it reduces women to a body part, and it assumes all women have that part. We don’t. In 2002, I was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that arose in my vagina (although it can appear throughout the body). Most of my vagina was removed, along with my uterus and ovaries. Other women have had vaginas removed due to cancer. Who does or does not have a vagina also can be an issue for intersexed or transgendered people.
            I don’t mean to stifle all vaginal humor; I have quite a repertoire of jokes. I just wish people made fewer assumptions about what they have in common -- and how they differ.

Learn some history (by Suzie)

          Writing in the NYT, Hannah Seligson says she never saw any gender bias until she got into the workplace. Now, she advises women to play the game like men. There's a lot to critique, but I just want to look at her first sentence:
I was born in 1982 — about 20 years after the women’s rights movement began.
         People make this mistake frequently, thinking that feminism was invented in the 1960s. But, for Goddess's sake, this is the New York Times! Where are the editors?
        The organized women's rights movement in the United States is generally considered to have begun in 1848, when a convention was held in Seneca Falls, NY. In July, the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls celebrated the convention's 160th anniversary. The park's web site has much information, including the story of Charlotte Woodward. She was a teenager when she signed the Declaration of Sentiments at the convention, and she was the only one who signed who lived to see the 19th Amendment passed in 1920. Stories like that remind me that I am in this struggle for the long term. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Love her voice.

Some Straight Talk, My Friends

I borrowed that title from the Great Maverick, John McCain, the guy who is so extremely aware of women's issues that he ummed and ahhed through a video on health insurance not covering contraception because he quite clearly couldn't be bothered to have learned even one political soundbite on the issues. Or rather, he was put between the rock and the hard place by the questions because his wingnut puppet-masters don't like women to have any access to contraception but the mainstream voters think contraception is a good thing. What to say, my friends? Well, McCain said "errr" and rubbed his nose as you can see here:

That's not the straight talk bit, although McCain is not a feminist and never has been one. And neither is the Republican Party a party of women's rights. Goddess help me. Did I actually have to write that down? And is the sky now purple in this reality?

What got me going was this:

Quinn & Rose's Rose, whose co-host referred to NOW as the "National Organization for Whores," called Obama a "sexist pig"

Summary: On the Quinn & Rose radio show, co-host Rose Tennent claimed that Sen. Barack Obama's remark regarding Sen. John McCain's policies, "[Y]ou can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig," was directed at Gov. Sarah Palin. After saying she was "offended" and "appalled" by Obama's remark, Tennent stated, "You know what, you're a pig, you're a chauvinist pig is what you are, Barack." On previous shows, Tennent's co-host Jim Quinn introduced a segment about Sen. Hillary Clinton by playing the song "The Bitch Is Back" and referred to the National Organization for Women as the "National Organization for Whores."

Feminism is being used in this election campaign. It's a weapon, it's something to ridicule, it's a way of getting votes from both those who admire Osama bin Laden for his views on women and from disgruntled Hillary voters. Now you can become a feminist just by saying so or by calling someone a chauvinist pig (where did she find that expression? in some archeological dig?) You are a feminist now on just your say-so, even if behind you lies a career of bashing women and fighting against any rights for them. The Republican fundies are now feminists! Though just for the duration of this election campaign, that must be understood. Once the elections are over everything will return back to normality which means that the Republicans will hammer women who pop out of their allotted slots down with that large family-values hammer. And what will the Democrats do?

Here's the part where I go all straight talk. My view for a long time has been that choosing between the two parties on several grounds means choosing whether you want a terminal case of cancer (the Republicans) or a permanent case of mumps and measles (the Democrats). I choose the latter but I'm not necessarily happy with the choice and make it largely on the basis that real people will die and suffer because of that difference. Yes, the Democrats are better on the issues that I care about. No, the Democrats have no spines and far too often advertise themselves as the almost-Republicans. But other options don't truly exist in this two-party system. The Founding Guys made sure of that. They were astonishingly frightened of the power of the people, by the way.

So to me the Democratic Party is the better choice, because it might keep the world and this country going for a little longer. But I was not happy with what the Democratic primaries revealed to me about the sexism within that party. I was not happy to realize that I was suddenly (and unintentionally) making a mental list of people I knew on the net and in real life who suddenly came out as sexists with blood-dripping fangs. I was not happy to find some writers who had always come across feminist on that odd list in my head, and I was not happy to find so many women on that list. No. I wasn't happy. I felt like a mule had just kicked me in my guts and people told me not just to breathe but to smile and to support the party.

My first reaction to all this was enormous anger and bitterness. I had worked for these folks myself and now they ridiculed my cause and the group I belong to by birth. I chewed over that anger in private, because it didn't seem to me to be a suitable weapon for writing. It was personal anger, anger born out of my naivete and my unrealistic expectations, perhaps. Anger at how much more sexist this world was than I had hoped or thought.

It was also anger which set me apart from others in the feminist movement, from the way they saw the cause and the best means to forward the cause. Instead of writing about my anger I chose to try to understand those rifts, to write about the different ways we see the world and to try to sew together those rips in the fabric of the movement. Silly arrogant goddess that I am. It didn't work, of course, but it served to put my own anger into my tool kit as something that can be used for more fruitful writing. Like this piece.

The reason I wrote about my own anger is to explain that I understand the anger of those women who are disappointed in the Democratic Party and in the sexism that truly flowered like ragweed during the Democratic primaries. That anger is kept aflame by the continuing refusal of so many people to acknowledge the legitimacy of that anger, to acknowledge that people who feel like that are not just sore losers. Rather, to call women who have woken up to the sexism in their own party "sore losers" is just more of the same anger-causing belittlement.

Where I diverge from many with the same anger is in what to do about it. To vote for McCain/Palin would be a protest vote for someone who would have otherwise voted for a Democratic candidate, sure. But as Gloria Steinem said, it is also like deciding to amputate your legs because someone stole your shoes. Or like choosing cancer over mumps and measles. Or perhaps choosing things like that for other people. In any case, a protest vote of that kind will work only if many people do it and if it's clearly an organized movement with power behind it.

We don't have such an organized movement in large enough numbers right now, and if we had such a movement the Democratic party would listen to us more carefully and the open sexism of the primaries would not have happened in the same way. These are my reasons for thinking that the best response to the anger is to go back to the basics and to work more on feminism and the issues of sexism directly, and to go and work on the sexism among the progressives and liberals even more directly. But I'm not telling anyone else how to vote or how to act. I would if I could, of course, but I'm a goddess only on the net.
Make sure that you read Katha Pollitt's take on the Sarah Palin nomination and how it is playing out in the media conversations.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Worth Reading

Cathy G. writes about the criticism of Sarah Palin as a mother and the double standard of applying that measure for female politicians and not for male politicians. I have often wondered what would have been said about John Edwards' candidacy had his name been Jane Edwards but all the other facts had been unchanged: a very ill spouse, two small children at home and so on.

So I agree with Cathy's main point about the double standard perhaps gaining the Democrats something in the short run but most likely harming women in politics in the longer run. (In a purely theoretical sense it might be possible to practice a different kind of feminism where the double standards are acceptable. But that would be feasible only in a theoretically very different kind of world, one in which the power is held by mothers and grandmothers, and my thoughts on how such a feminism would look like are still embryos. Heh.)

On Lipstick. Sigh.

Sometimes our political conversation is really stupid, and the lipstick thing is one of those. It started with Sarah Palin asking at the Republican convention what the difference between a hockey mom and pitbull might be. The answer was "lipstick".

That's quite funny, except that a religious wingnut guy wrote a book about the proper way to subjugate women with a version of that joke: "What's the difference between a Doberman pincher and a woman with PMS?" Answer: "Lipstick."

That's not quite so funny now, is it?

Now scroll forward to the present time and the discussion about Obama criticizing McCain's economic policies by calling them more of the same and by noting that if you put lipstick on a pig it's still a pig:

"I'm assuming you guys heard this watching the news. I'm talking about John McCain's economic policies and I said here's more of the same, 'You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. Suddenly, they say, `Oh you must be talking about the governor of Alaska!' "

As Atrios pointed out, McCain himself used the lipstick-on-a-pig comment in 2007:

McCain criticized Democratic contenders for offering what he called costly universal health care proposals that require too much government regulation. While he said he had not studied Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's health-care plan, he said it was "eerily reminiscent" of the failed plan she offered as first lady in the early 1990s.

"I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," he said of her proposal.

All kinds of people use that saying. It's just a saying. At the same time avoiding that particular saying at the present time would seem to be a good policy for the Obama campaign, just so that McCain doesn't get to grab the public conversation again. Maybe they should hire me to read through the speeches beforehand?

500 Billion Dollars

Sadly, it's not how much I make out of this here blog. It's the predicted size of the federal budget deficit when the next president takes over the reins. Gee, I wonder who spent all that money in the last eight years and how? The spend-and-owe Republican administration. To actually pay for the spending in Iraq was not the done thing because it would mean more taxes.

If you read the article I linked to a little further you will find those she-said-he-said impartial statements which drive me crazy:

A deficit of that magnitude could severely constrain the next administration's agenda, regardless of whether Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican candidate, or Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), his Democratic opponent, wins in November. Each has promised billions in new tax cuts or new spending.

Is it really true that there is no difference between the sizes of the deficits the two candidates would cause? No difference in how they'd spend the money, for what benefit and in what amounts?

I understand the point of that paragraph in an article which mainly discusses the meaning of the federal budget deficit. But the reader still goes away with the idea that it doesn't really matter which candidate gets elected, because they are both going to make the deficit worse.

The Animal House

Working for the Bush administration has its perks for some:

Government officials handling billions of dollars in oil royalties engaged in illicit sex with employees of energy companies they were dealing with and received numerous gifts from them, federal investigators said Wednesday.

The alleged transgressions involve 13 Interior Department employees in Denver and Washington. Their alleged improprieties include rigging contracts, working part-time as private oil consultants, and having sexual relationships with — and accepting golf and ski trips and dinners from — oil company employees, according to three reports released Wednesday by the Interior Department's inspector general.

The investigations reveal a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity" by a small group of individuals "wholly lacking in acceptance of or adherence to government ethical standards," wrote Inspector General Earl E. Devaney.

The reports describe a fraternity house atmosphere inside the Denver Minerals Management Service office responsible for marketing the oil and gas that energy companies barter to the government instead of making cash royalty payments for drilling on federal lands. The government received $4.3 billion in such Royalty-in-Kind payments last year. The oil is then resold to energy companies or put in the nation's emergency stockpile.

Between 2002 and 2006, nearly a third of the 55-person staff in the Denver office received gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies, the investigators found.

Devaney said the former head of the Denver Royalty-in-Kind office, Gregory W. Smith, used illegal drugs and had sex with subordinates. The report said Smith also steered government contracts to a consulting business that was employing him part-time.

It has sex in it! It might have legs as a news story!

It does remind me of a frat house atmosphere. It's also a good approximate example of the incestuous relationship that the U.S. political system sometimes enables between the regulators and the regulated. The word "incestuous" is used to point out that often the people who work for the regulators end up working for the regulated and vice versa, sometimes even switching sides several times. This is not desirable if the objective is to keep the industry properly regulated. If the objective is to skim off the most money and sex, well, it works until you get caught.

This case is not quite the same as it's more about government marketing than regulation but the disadvantages of extreme closeness and poor oversight are pretty similar.

So how much did all this cost to us taxpayers?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

What's This All About?

The Blogger has a blog called womenagainstsarahpalin. Erin PDX noted that something odd was going on with the blog. I clicked on it and got first this page:

Possible Blogger Terms of Service Violations

This blog is currently under review due to possible Blogger Terms of Service violations.

If you're a regular reader of this blog and are confident that the content is appropriate, feel free to click "Proceed" to proceed to the blog. We apologize for the inconvenience.

If you're an author of this blog, please follow the instructions on your dashboard for removing this warning page.

What would those violations be? And who has complained about them? I'm confused.

John Tierney: A Martian.

I used to write about John Tierney's sexism a lot but then the New York Times removed him from the political stable and put him in the science stable and I read him less often, partly because I pretended that he would somehow have less scope for sexism there. Yes, I knew better. After all, he specializes in pseudoscience findings which are all about how women are inherently the way he would like them to be. Or something like that.

Anyway, he has written a piece about sex differences which starts like this:

When men and women take personality tests, some of the old Mars-Venus stereotypes keep reappearing. On average, women are more cooperative, nurturing, cautious and emotionally responsive. Men tend to be more competitive, assertive, reckless and emotionally flat. Clear differences appear in early childhood and never disappear.

What's not clear is the origin of these differences. Evolutionary psychologists contend that these are innate traits inherited from ancient hunters and gatherers. Another school of psychologists asserts that both sexes' personalities have been shaped by traditional social roles, and that personality differences will shrink as women spend less time nurturing children and more time in jobs outside the home.

To test these hypotheses, a series of research teams have repeatedly analyzed personality tests taken by men and women in more than 60 countries around the world. For evolutionary psychologists, the bad news is that the size of the gender gap in personality varies among cultures. For social-role psychologists, the bad news is that the variation is going in the wrong direction. It looks as if personality differences between men and women are smaller in traditional cultures like India's or Zimbabwe's than in the Netherlands or the United States. A husband and a stay-at-home wife in a patriarchal Botswanan clan seem to be more alike than a working couple in Denmark or France. The more Venus and Mars have equal rights and similar jobs, the more their personalities seem to diverge.

These findings are so counterintuitive that some researchers have argued they must be because of cross-cultural problems with the personality tests. But after crunching new data from 40,000 men and women on six continents, David P. Schmitt and his colleagues conclude that the trends are real. Dr. Schmitt, a psychologist at Bradley University in Illinois and the director of the International Sexuality Description Project, suggests that as wealthy modern societies level external barriers between women and men, some ancient internal differences are being revived.

So a science piece can start with talking about the Men-Are-From-Mars idea, as if it was something serious science had produced and not a part of general pseudo-psychological pop literature? That's a great way to increase my trust in what's to come next.

Do you know how I think John Tierney writes his articles? I think that he begins with the conclusions he wishes to reach, the ones about inherent sex differences acquired in some mystical and unknown prehistoric era. Then he goes and digs in research files until he finds pieces which support his beliefs. Then he upends the whole thing and pretends that he first read the science pieces and then came up with his findings. Such innocence, such purity! Such honesty!

And why would I think so? Because his findings are always biased in one direction. David Brooks does something similar in his opinion pieces, or that's how they strike me.

The job of responding to such pieces is difficult, because ideally the responder should know the all of the relevant field. But people who actually work in those fields tend not to get rewarded (with tenure or pay raises in academia) for responding to biased popularizations of science or pseudo-science. Instead, some of the odd fields of research have created their own walled enclaves within which all people seem to have the same biases, and the rest of the scientist try to ignore what they are doing.

That leaves the discussion to few brave amateurs (cough) who mostly don't have enough time to be educated in all the research going on in all the different relevant fields.

All that prelude is to explain why I address Tierney's piece on this blog, and the reason is largely so that someone will address it. At the same time, I do not have the resources that someone who actually works in the field would have and, once again, I plead for the professionals to step in.

So here we go: Tierney's thesis is that the more gender-equal a society is the more men look like they are from Mars and the more women look like they are from Venus. Men are competitive, aggressive, emotionally flat, and women are cooperative, timid and emotionally curved I guess. Yet the reason for these differences is not our different planetary roots but our different roots in prehistory!

And that prehistory must have had a division of labor between men and women though we don't have any direct fossil evidence from it. And that division of labor must have meant that women gathered and men hunted though we don't know if that's actually the whole truth. And somehow gathering required cooperation and hunting did not though it's fairly easy to imagine how finding a really good spot for juicy roots would be something you'd keep hidden from the other gatherers and though it's also fairly easy to imagine how hunting for big game would actually require cooperation between the hunters.

In short, I fail to see how cooperation would have become the selected-for characteristic more often in women than in men, and I also fail to see how it wouldn't have benefited both sexes to be able to be both cooperative and competitive, depending on the situation. In any case, only a guy who keeps his distance from women altogether could assume that women are not intensely competitive when needed.

What about the research that Tierney uses to back up his conclusions? I need to read all of it and then I need to read alternative research on international comparisons and what that research finds and then I need to compare the methodologies of those studies and so on. See how rigged this game is?

Who Should Pay For Rape Kits? More On Palin and Feminism.

In the year 2000 a little town in Alaska called Wasilla charged the rape victims for the cost of the kits used in collecting evidence so that the taxpayers wouldn't have to ante up. Sarah Palin was the mayor of Wasilla from 1996 to 2002.

Does this matter? Was it Palin's responsibility to know about the (to me atrocious) practice of charging rape victims for the forensic work? But this is the sort of news snippet that the conservatives use all the time: picking up news snippets and forming them into albatrosses to drape over Democrats in politics.

More importantly, this item also tells me that Palin isn't keeping an eye out for other women and most likely would not support feminist policies in general. Well, I know the latter from just reading about her ideas in general.

Are there any feminist benefits from having Palin as the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate? Perhaps. Even Margaret Thatcher brought some such benefits with her reign, because people got used to the idea of a woman in power and that may have changed some prejudices. At the same time, a different woman might not have stated that she owes nothing to feminists (when she owed the very right to run for office to them not to mention the right to vote herself) and a different woman would not have created a cabinet in which she was the only female member. A different woman might have changed the society for the better in more obvious ways, too.

But having more woman-friendly policies is not a benefit I expect from Palin in the White House or near it, rather the reverse. She would not revoke the Global Gag Rule. She would not fight for reproductive choice. She would not keep the Supreme Court from becoming a permanent extreme right wing of the Republican Party, with all that means to the rights of women and people in general.

Tell Me How To Herd Cats

I've heard that trying to get liberals/progressives organized behind one large concept is like trying to herd cats. But we need some way of doing that, because we have no message discipline on the left side of the aisle, no way of making sure that the day's talking points are actually talked about.

The conservatives do that all the time, and naturally the way they do it is jack-booted and unpleasant to watch. But it works, just as repetition and focusing on only a few items at a time works at school. We, my dear friends, are all over the place and this makes us less efficient.

It's not at all necessary or desirable to go to the ugly other opposite end, but it would be nice if the liberal/progressive side had more think tanks and more jobs with money for people who are good at making liberal/progressive points. It would be nice if there were more pulpits for liberals and progressives, pulpits which actually can be seen above the roar of Republican soundbites. It would not only be nice; it would be very important. And Rachel Maddow is great, but she doesn't have to be the only liberal political pundit with her own television show, you know.

I was thinking these thoughts when reading the opinion columns in some newspapers today. When something truly silly or disgusting crops up we appear to have no mechanism for answering that. None.

All this goes tenfold for feminists. Whenever women are attacked with some spurious pseudoscience, for example, we should have an organization which can quickly get hold of people who can respond. We don't have those organizations.

For Your Reading Pleasure

Bob Herbert is very good on the liberals' fear of fighting for their cause.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Mood: Irritated

I'm not happy with the political chatter these days, because it is orchestrated by the Republicans. What is it about the Democrats which makes it so hard for them to pick their own topics for discussion? And yes, I'm including myself in that criticism.

Not sure. But there's something odd about the so-called liberal media which doesn't allow any actual liberals in its programs, never mind actual left-wingers. And there's something odd about the way wingnut soundbites become the topic of conversation in the media even if they're nasty and pointless and have nothing to do with the politicians they are used to attack. Yet the reverse appears not to happen. Just compare the attention Obama's minister got and the attention Palin's church and its rather weird policies get. Or rather don't get. It should be easier for the media to discuss Palin's religious views, too, given that she thinks God is her personal political backer.

We're all supposed to view the election of the president of the still-strongest country in the world as a soap opera. We're supposed to rate the people on such bases as whether we'd like to have a beer with them or whether we rate them as fuckable or whether they make us feel good because they are as ignorant or as stupid as we are.

It's all theater or ballet, and the only criticism one is allowed to make is about the performance of the players, not what they'd actually do when in power. If you try to discuss that latter bit (of some importance, really) then you are very very boring.

Four. More. Years.

My Suggestion For The Republican Election Slogan

McCain is trying to steal Obama's message of change with no change in any of the policies he advocates. We should steal the old Republican slogan:


And remind the voters that this is exactly what would happen with McCain in the White House. Four more years of the bog of pointless and killing wars. Four more years of bad economy, jobs slipping abroad while voters are told they are whiners. Four more years of increasing theocracy of the kind Osama bin Laden would love to have. Four more years of diminishment, downfall, destruction and disease for this great country.

Too Opinionated

Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews are too opinionated for NBC. Glenn Greenwald notes that "opinionated" never hurt a Republican yet:

This has been going on for years. As I wrote in response to the uproar generated at places like The New Republic over the fact that MSNBC has now given an actual liberal, Rachel Maddow, her own show and is thereby jeopardizing non-partisan, objective, high-minded journalism:

Over the past seven years, the following people have hosted prime-time cable news shows: Joe Scarborough (MSNBC), Michael Savage (MSNBC), Glenn Beck (CNN), Tucker Carlson (MSNBC), Nancy Grace (CNN), Bill O'Reilly (Fox) and Sean Hannity (Fox). None of that seemed to bother the likes of [TNR's Sacha] Zimmerman. None of that was depicted as the downfall of objective journalism or the destruction of civil, elevated, high-minded discourse.

Several of those hosts had and continue to have atrocious ratings (Carlson, Beck, Scarborough), yet were kept for years.

Beyond that, network and cable shows routinely convene panels filled with right-wing views and devoid of anything remotely approaching liberalism, and that creates no controversy.

Not that Chris Matthews is especially liberal. But I find the power of the conservatives over the media astonishing. However much we wrote about Matthews' misogyny in his coverage of women in politics, all we got was a quasi-apology. The wingnuts get him for their dinner.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

"Girl fight!" (by Suzie)

           Ugh. That's the headline on a CNN commentary about the Obama campaign using Clinton to fight Palin.
McCain has a strong woman? Well, the Obama campaign wants voters to know they’ve got one, too, and they’re going to deploy her to crush the moose hunting hockey mom from Alaska. In a strange twist of logic, the Obama campaign is touting the woman they passed over as the woman they need to beat the woman the other guy picked. 
          Clinton is speaking on behalf of Obama in my town tomorrow, but I'm not going. I'm hiding under the bed until the election and the hurricane season are over.

As The Fall Campaign Continues, Candidates Have To Get Votes Where They Can, Voters Force Them To Make Those Decisions by Anthony McCarthy

A lot has been made about the selection of Sarah Palin theoretically attracting self-defined diehard supporters of Hillary Clinton to vote for everything Clinton stands against and against everything she stands for. How can that latter assumption be anything but ingrained sexist stereotyping, an insult to the reasoning ability and seriousness of women who voted for her? Isn’t it a manifestation of the exact complaint continually repeated against the Obama campaign? I doubt these Clinton -> McCain-Palin voters are anywhere near as great in number as the media push-polls state. But I’ll resist the temptation to go into the fraud of opinion polling again. Quite frankly, after hearing them out and thinking about what they’re saying, I don’t think anything can be said to appeal to anyone holding that position now, in September of 2008. If anyone can tell us what Obama can say to them to get their votes it might be useful.

But voter blocks don’t exist in a vacuum. Other groups are also out there and can be won over. There is also an important opportunity for the Obama campaign in Sarah Palin’s extremism and McCain’s cynical use of her. A lot of marginal supporters among Republicans can be appealed to by the Obama campaign on the basis of the real dangers a very possible Palin administration. The idea that pro-justice, pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-healthcare, pro-economic sanity voters of any party affiliation would just fall in line and vote for McCain-Palin is just as strange as the speculation that Hillary Clinton’s former supporters would vote against her enthusiastically endorsed candidate this fall, in favor of her political enemies*.

As the election grows closer candidates will have to cut their losses as well as go for blocks of possible voters. They have to do that, they can’t spend time on people who aren’t going to vote for them. If you lose one group you have to look for votes from another group. Being intransigent cuts you out of consideration. Obama’s best hope for countering the cynical Palin gambit is by appealing to moderate independents and even Republicans who can be persuaded of the clear dangers of having her as McCain’s Vice President. Their possible support in November, when it counts, puts them in play. McCain might have made winning them to his side much more difficult when he tied his political fate to Palin.

Obama will be forced to put his attention where he might get votes. Groups that remove themselves from play in September will find themselves out of the focus of the campaigns. That is the way that electoral government works.

* It is well known that John McCain repeatedly told what passes as a joke in the Republican right during the 1990s, to the effect that Chelsea Clinton was so ugly because Janet Reno was her father. Many people have reported hearing him say it. McCain has certainly shown no respect to Hillary Clinton except when it’s convenient for him. His support for women's rights is, likewise, a matter of his political convenience. Palin dismissed just the complaints that those angry at Obama are giving as their reason to support the Republican ticket as “whining” and playing the female card.

By the way, I’d put Chelsea Clinton up against any combination of right wing Republican political brats any day. She’s better than all of them put together. That’s what counts.

Update: Response to an item just found in my hate mail file. No, I’m not going to going down the bottomless pit of competitive correctness here.

I’ll just say that Chelsea Clinton shows early promise of sharing many of the same qualities that made Eleanor Roosevelt among the most beautiful people of any time.

Recap by Anthony McCarthy

McCain’s Palin gamble benefits from his age and health problems. It’s appeal is based on the fact that her voters, the James Dobson allies and fans, will be hoping for him to kick the bucket as soon as possible after they’re sworn in. Short of dying, their bet would also pay off if McCain remains alive but in bad enough health for him to not be able to stay in office. Between the two of those possibilities, their gamble takes on even better odds. His age and health are some of the most obvious issues in his biography. There is no way that his campaign couldn’t have realized the part they’d play in this choice and its appeal to voters who weren’t enthusiastic supporters of McCain.

The good chance that he’ll not remain in office is an intrinsic part of the appeal to the Republican far-right who are the real target audience of the Palin selection. Those guys don’t want McCain, a lot of them would have stayed home on election day. Their gamble is that McCain WON’T remain in office for the next four years. They are also counting on at least the two or three Supreme Court vacancies which are all but certain in the next four years being filled by one of their own.

That makes his age and health a far greater issue than it was in the beginning. The attempts to put those topics off-limit by his campaign and the media are part of an attempt to put the most radically right-wing person in the presidency since the 19th century.

This is the most cynical presidential campaign gambit in our history. One whose chances are enhanced by the probability of the presidential candidate dying in office. This, friends, is what the death of democracy looks like, I thought it was worth saying again.