Saturday, September 20, 2008

How. Dare. They.

From the Wall Street Journal:

House Republican staffers met with roughly 15 lobbyists Friday afternoon, whose message to lawmakers was clear: Don't load the legislation up with provisions not directly related to the crisis, or regulatory measures the industry has long opposed.

"We're opposed to adding provisions that will affect [or] undermine the deal substantively," said Scott Talbott, senior vice president of government affairs at the Financial Services Roundtable, whose members include the nation's largest banks, securities firms and insurers.

A deal killer for the group: a proposal that would grant bankruptcy judges new powers to lower the principal, interest rate or both on a mortgage as part of a bankruptcy proceeding.

"If there's a risk a judge could change the terms...that will increase the risk of mortgages [and] increase the cost," Mr. Talbott said. "It makes homes less affordable for everybody."

Brokerage firms are fighting limits on executive compensation for firms that participate in the package, saying that particularly in an industry under siege, the limits will hurt their ability to find and retain top brass. The industry could lose that one: proposals to limit executive pay enjoy bipartisan support and backing from the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.

I'm not safe to write about this right now, but I bolded the one bit which is truly incredibly assholerish.

Open Access (by Phila)

As taxpayers, we routinely fund scientific research, so it's logical and fair that we should have free access to that research. That's why a bill was passed in 2007 that required all NIH-funded research to be made available to the public within 12 months of publication.

Now, John Conyers (D-MI), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Robert Wexler (D-FL), and Tom Feeney (R-FL) are co-sponsoring a bill called the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (HR6845). Like most legislation with a feel-good adjective in the title, it amounts to a fairly brutal assault on the public's rights. Far from being "fair," the FCRWA would not only reverse the current NIH policy, but also prevent other agencies from adopting similar ones.

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access explains why this is a dangerous idea, as well as an unethical one:
Because of the NIH Public Access Policy, millions of Americans now have access to vital health care information from the NIH’s PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, nearly 4,000 new crucial biomedical articles were deposited in the last month alone. This proposed bill would prohibit the deposit of these articles, and as a result, researchers, physicians, health care professionals, families and individuals will find it much harder to get access to this critical health-related information.
Over at Effect Measure, Revere adds a personal note:
I am one of those NIH supported researchers whose papers get locked up for decades behind copyright permission firewalls. I want you to have access to my research. I want the journals I publish in to be required to make it available to you after a reasonable time period (the shorter the better) as the NIH policy now does. It helps me professionally by making my work more widely disseminated. It helps me as a professional by making it possible to get access to scientific research, now inaccessible because of the predatory and outrageous charges of the large scientific publishers, the same people behind the Conyers legislation.
At a time when the federal government is demanding "virtually unfettered authority" to accomplish a staggering redistribution of wealth, the garden-variety cupidity of the FCRWA seems almost quaint. But it springs from the same contempt for democracy, and calls for the same sort of public outrage. You have until September 24th to urge Congress to scuttle this bill; the ATA has a draft letter, and a list of congressional contacts. Please take a few minutes to make your feelings known.

McCain Wants Health Care To Fail, Too

Paul Krugman reports on that:

OK, a correspondent directs me to John McCain's article, Better Health Care at Lower Cost for Every American, in the Sept./Oct. issue of Contingencies, the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries. You might want to be seated before reading this.

Here's what McCain has to say about the wonders of market-based health reform:

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

So McCain, who now poses as the scourge of Wall Street, was praising financial deregulation like 10 seconds ago — and promising that if we marketize health care, it will perform as well as the financial industry!

Of course one might argue that in the longer run McCain's policies would get us socialized health care faster than any alternative, after the markets inflame, erupt, explode and spill blood all over the participants. But given my next two posts below we wouldn't then get socialised medicine but medicine under National Socialism.

More On The Blank Check

The draft for the proposal of how we are handing out 700 billion to Wall Street is here. It's not fun reading, as I point out in the post below, but it's important reading. Very important reading, and you should read it together with Naomi Klein's Disaster Capitalism. Atrios singled out this one part of the draft and it is shocking indeed:

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Get it? The agency is God. It alone has the right to decide how to spend 700 billion of our money. It alone. And no, you have no recourse if you don't like what the agency did with your money.

This is also an interesting snippet:

(b) Necessary Actions.--The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this Act, including, without limitation:

(1) appointing such employees as may be required to carry out the authorities in this Act and defining their duties;

(2) entering into contracts, including contracts for services authorized by section 3109 of title 5, United States Code, without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts;

The bit I have bolded means that they can do whatever they want with the contracts, including giving all of them to their best friends.
A Post-Script: I am aware that all these things may have been added to the draft as a Game Move so that the Democrats can remove them and feel as if they averted an even greater evil while letting the crony capitalists get their bailout package pretty much the way they wanted it in the first place. Nevertheless, we are not playing simulated computer games about dragons and monsters. We are playing with real lives here and I'm going to give boils to anyone who plays with other people's lives as if it was something on the computer.

Crony Capitalism Strikes Back

It never really stopped striking, of course, but what is coming out about this great government rescue is truly frightening. Calculatedrisk has the details, and if you read through there you find nothing about the government doing any controlling at all. None. The industry is going to get money and a kiss on its cheek (some kind of a cheek) and it will be sent back to play the same game but with more money this time! Our money.

I'm shocked to almost wordlessness. Truly shocked. I never thought that the Bush administration wouldn't even bother to pretend that there would be some kind of government control, in exchange for all that yummy taxpayer loot. But nope. There will be no oversight, no control. Even the people who will run these new funding organizations will be picked from Wall Street.

Let me see if I can summarize what they are doing right now in the simplest possible terms: There's a market who has acted like the Robber Barons of old, with no ethics, no real rules but lots of money for the inside circle of participants. There's a market which has been allowed to do this in peace and quiet by those who were supposed to oversee it. Then this market collapses, whines and whines and whines. So the supposed overseers give it lots of money, tell it to mind the money themselves and go back to play just as they used to. The only difference is that now the people bearing the risk are those who never got the returns at all. The people getting the returns are still the people who behaved unethically and got us into this mess to begin with.

We are being treated like suckers, my friends. Or like the peons of the rich and wealthy. But much more importantly, the market will be in the same shit almost instantaneously, because the rules of its game have not been truly changed. And the lesson the market is learning here?

If you are rich enough, you get communism and socialism when YOU need it. If you are rich enough and you whine enough you will be handed all you desire.

A Maestro of Petropolitics (by Phila)

It's bothered me lately to see people on the left attacking Sarah Palin's "inexperience" though her stance on abortion, or same-sex marriage, or environmental protection would be more palatable if only she'd been governor for ten years, instead of two. It's a classic example of arguing within the right's frame, and it plays into their attempt to paint Palin as an uncorrupted outsider who'll shake up an ossified, elitist establishment.

I'm not surprised, of course. The left rarely misses an opportunity to live up to the right's charges of "elitism." Amazingly, there are still people who get righteously indignant when conservative politicians mispronounce words or mangle basic facts. I guess these people missed the last 28 years, during which one bumbling, invincibly ignorant, malapropism-spewing authoritarian after another was sworn in as president after defeating candidates who could speak intelligently, in complete sentences, about important subjects.

This isn't simply a matter of unsophistication or stupidity. It's a badge of honor that reinforces the GOP's brand, and gives voters the pleasant impression that they're not all that different from the person who seeks to rule them. Mockery of such a candidate, by people who seem to be comfortable and well educated, amounts to mockery of the voters themselves. Liberal rhetoric, too often, effectively demands that voters self-identify as failures and dupes (instead of keeping up appearances at all costs, as frightened and threatened people are naturally inclined to do). You might as well ask people to parade down Main Street in dunce caps.

Anyway, Palin has plenty of experience and skill, but it's of a highly specified type, as Michael Klare explains:
In the clinical terminology of political science, Alaska is a classic "petrostate." That is, its political system is geared toward the maximization of oil "rents"--royalties and other income derived from energy firms--to the neglect of all other economic activities. Such polities have an inherent tendency toward corruption because of the close ties that naturally develop between government officials and energy executives and because oil revenues replace taxation as a source of revenue (Alaska has no state income tax), insulating officials from the scrutiny of taxpayers....

The question thus arises: how does Palin's experience as a maestro of petropolitics bear on her candidacy for vice president? To begin with, it should be clear that she has nothing in common with the leaders of any other state. Although it is true that Texas produces more oil per day than Alaska, Texas is no longer a petrostate, since its economy has become so much more diversified. Alaska is virtually alone in possessing a large (oil-supplied) state budget surplus--now about $5 billion--at a time when most states and the federal government are facing massive deficits and citizen groups are rising up in fury at the prospect of budget cuts. Palin is simply unqualified to deal with the demanding economic realities of any nation that is not a petrostate.
Depends what you mean by "unqualified." In Palin's circles, the way to deal with "demanding economic realities" is to profit from them personally and politically, while blaming any negative outcome on people who are unpopular with their voters. If anything, someone who runs a petrostate needs to have a greater talent for scapegoating, identity politics, and distraction than the average politician. Palin's ample experience is demonstrated by the fact that despite everything, she and McCain still have more than a slight chance of winning.

There’s Nothing Hard About This One, Presenting Shills As Sources of Information Discredits Whoever Does It by Anthony McCarthy

For its having one of the best reputations of anything in the broadcast media, Diane Rehm’s show has got to have one of the most over-sold contents these days. The guest lineup is typically a small variation of what you hear on the cabloids. On Friday’s “Press Roundup” it’s often just about identical to it. Since those Friday guests are among those who’ve turned the media into a public hazard, they should be rounded up only to be run out of town. Having them on for fifty minutes without commercial interruption doesn’t make what they say any better, heaping up more garbage doesn’t improve its quality. Rehm’s most frequent stand ins, Mr. Cokie Roberts also heard on that other bastion of journalistic quality, Hardball, and Susan Page of USA Today and late of The Leherer Redundancy, don’t do anything to bring up the standards of the thing. They’re just more of more of the same.

Rehm’s non-press guest lists also follow that most dishonest of all practices in broadcast journalism, regularly featuring industry hacks as if they were interchangeable with what are supposed to be reporters of fact. This is clearly a violation of any real standard of journalistic honesty.


Sorry for yelling but I’ve wanted to say that for a long time. The only acceptable place for an industry hack in the allegedly free press is lying in a commercial, and they shouldn’t even be there.

Last week, for instance, the show featured a petroleum industry shill countered, one is supposed to imagine, by their typical representative of pantomime liberalism from the Brookings Tea Time Cotillion and balanced out by a hack from the The Energy Daily* in place of their typical hack from the Wall Street Journal or The Economist.

What goes for the hired distortionists of industry goes for those they hire at one step removed, “fellows” and “scholars” of DC area talk shops.

There are certainly many hundreds of real scholars in and outside of universities who would be available to give more unbiased information than any hired talking head will. Hundreds sufficient to staff years of panels with those who are now never heard from. Real scholarship has to defend itself sometimes, which the hired hacks of the guess pools don’t have to worry as much about since they are somewhat cushioned in the same way as the “spokesmen” who are called a polite form of what they are.

You could probably find real scholars on just about any topic within driving distance of any major media studio and certainly by phone. You've been known to use the phone before, remember the famous Newt Gingrich interview? Yet the media, perhaps especially that based in the D.C. area, inevitably goes with just those people who can be counted on to distort, if not outright lie, in a predictable way. And it’s becoming more clear that those in that industry who are alleged to present opposing viewpoints are not going to rock a boat they might someday want to ride in. Talk shop liberalism being not far removed from the more polite form of talk shop conservatism.

There are moments of hilarity on Rehm’s show, however, such as the guest last week, who, as the temple of Free Markets was falling down around their heads claiming that the trouble was that deregulation hadn’t been allowed to go far enough. It’s like a Philistine guard, as the temple is collapsing, saying if only .... no, simile fails. There isn’t anything equivalently foolish. What that guy said on that show might be the stupidest thing yet said about the dark comedy that deregulation has always been. Here’s a clue, O most august organs of the free press, when someone can get away with saying something so clearly loopy on your show, on a most topical subject, it’s time someone called you on it. If you can’t see these glaring violations of your own professional responsibilities, how can you expect anyone to trust you on anything?

Whoever is in charge of putting together your guest lists, Diane, should be fired, including you if responsible. Your show is becoming a bad joke.

An important job for the blogs is to point this out to more people in the audience than seem to get it now. That anyone who listens to NPR or PBS doesn’t get it and so act to stop it is a symptom of how listening to those over-praised networks lead to the absence of real thinking.

* From their website:

About The Energy Daily

Whether your business is nuclear power, natural gas, electric utilities, oil, coal or alternative fuels, The Energy Daily will analyze and explain breaking energy business news, congressional hearings, regulations, market intelligence and trends that are important to your competitiveness.

Founded in 1973 by Llewellyn King, CEO of King Publishing, The Energy Daily has kept its readers at the forefront of major developments in the energy industry for over 35 years. It is the top daily publication among energy executives.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Not Things

Arranged words on W. C. Williams’ Birthday last Week by Anthony McCarthy

James Watson once answered that he couldn’t lose what he didn’t have,
The callow questioner brought up gaining the world and losing his soul,
Candy taken by a famous self, his answer dutifully applauded by an audience not experienced in enthusiasm.
Watson is the kind of ass who could look in any optical instrument and see his pasty face in place of any universe.

And a university poet whines out his choice to not live,
inactual stasis, the convenience of faculty life, his pale blues not dead because not lived,
left with insipidly longing for a movie desideratum a billion ad men could have written.

But we here in love, would be ridiculous for watching.
Paltry to onlookers. No penetration, roles, danger, parallels to literature or criticism.
Undocumentable, needless to say, non-fungible.

Did people think about how their life looked before TV or movies?
Does the constantly sensed audience lead to how anxiously we face just life?
Always observed by the absent, the tacit audience always present,
and we, never so here as watching them, and so miss our own lives.
Even love the most Unexplainable and Entirely Sufficient Reason To Be at All,
a performance for the memory of our place in a bored or jaded or, worst of all, pleased audience? The loved as cast rival.

How could we ever consider this through an observer? Not an act but

There isn’t a word conceivable in any grammar.
Not for this, both now, together, pleasing by pleasure by pleasing.
Our bodies not symbols but incident to the deeper sex of coupled souls, beyond things.
It not beyond but essentially separate from transaction.
One at once both, not element’s of any Set subject to the properties of even addition.
No subjects or objects, no act or any other nouns, or transitive verbs, or conditional statements or Boolean scribbles, or geometry or political theory or praxis.

The very naming and saying a violation and nullification of even what happens in time,
Intending rigorous examination, virtuously hacking away the inaccurate words
you would be left with a nothing to explain what most is, of all and everything.
Mistaking your failure as confirmation of a nothing and for publication so turn to analyze the illusory audience’s imagined reaction to the residuum of your failure. Missing it all.

In no way describe, but meet it Both in silence. It beyond pronounness.
The love transfigures us together outside it and ourselves, this time, many others, many to come,
many as the times become the deepest sex of souls beyond transaction or distinction or time or words or even songs.

For the love of very being, why would anyone want it any other way?

Friday Critter Blogging: Lizard And Friends

Can you spot it? Picture by FeraLiberal.

The next picture is by Doug and of a cactus, but I see a desert god in it, a wild and old one.

Focusing on abortion (by Suzie)

          In all the talk about saving Roe vs. Wade, I’ve been thinking of how many times feminists, especially white ones, have been criticized for focusing too much on abortion.
          Flora Davis wrote: 
“… like other women of color, African-American women objected to white feminists’ single-minded focus on abortion.”
          Here's Maud Blair, Janet Holland and Sue Sheldon:
… the pro-abortion stance of the 1970s did not take into account the fact that many black women’s reproductive struggles were around the right to retain their fertility. For black women abortions, sterilizations and Depo-Provera were all-too-easily available, and were often administered without adequate consultation and/or under the shadow of economic repression. These are not experiences restricted to black women, but it was the intervention of black women which exposed the in fact narrow base of what seemed to be a universal demand, and transformed the campaign – which has subsequently focused on choice and reproductive rights.
         Pam Chamberlain and Jean Hardisty: 
The right has been extremely successful in keeping the primarily white and middle-class women of the pro-choice movement and their male allies pre-occupied with responding to the escalating strategies of the pro-life movement… Because the right, with the acquiescence of the voting public, has successfully shredded the social safety net, it is increasingly unlikely that women of color and poor women will be guaranteed the means to bear and raise children. Without that means - in other words, without control of their reproductive lives - even the preservation of legal abortion does not guarantee all women's reproductive rights and reproductive freedom.
          If these narratives are correct, middle-class white women have been selfish, perhaps even racist, to work so hard to keep abortion legal. But this oversimplifies women’s history. In eugenics, people could be condemned for other factors than race. As Victoria Nourse notes, many of the women who were sterilized because they were imprisoned, disabled, poor or otherwise deemed unfit were white. Here’s a brief history of sterilization.
            While many women were sterilized without consent, many others (white and not white) could not obtain sterilization, contraception or abortion easily or safely. Tonyaa Weathersbee wrote:
Because as bad as the bad old days were for white women … they were even worse for us.
           When abortion was illegal, botched abortions were a primary killer of black women. According to research by Loretta J. Ross, former program director for the National Black Women’s Health Project, between 1965 and 1967 the death rate of black women in Georgia from illegal abortion was 14 times higher than that of white women. Another study estimated that in the 1960s, black and Puerto Rican women made up 80 percent of the deaths from illegal abortions in New York.
          People of color have long been involved in the fight to protect women’s rights not to have children. This spring, I attended a Planned Parenthood luncheon honoring Dr. Kenneth Edelin, a black doctor who was convicted of manslaughter after performing a legal abortion soon after Roe. Sadly, the luncheon audience was almost all white.
         Lauren Bayne Anderson wrote about how abortion is framed as a white issue, even though “a Women of Color Reproductive Health Poll showed that 83 percent of African American women identify as pro-choice.” Of the women getting abortions, 37 percent are black, 34 percent are non-Hispanic whites and 22 percent are Hispanic.
          Have feminists focused too much on abortion and not enough on other issues? Sometimes I’ve thought so, but then again, who knows what would have happened if we hadn’t.
           In regard to reproductive freedom: It’s hard to imagine what that would look like, considering everything that influences our decisions. Nor do I know how many women choose not to have children because of a lack of social services. But I'm confident that many feminists will continue to support legal and accessible contraception and abortion, along with social services that assist families.

Telling feminists how to vote (by Suzie)

          Back in 2002, Katha Pollitt took Dennis Kucinich to task for opposing abortion rights.
That a solidly anti-choice politician could become a standard-bearer for progressivism, the subject of hagiographic profiles in The Nation and elsewhere, speaks volumes about the low priority of women's rights to the self-described economic left, forever chasing the white male working-class vote.
          She reported the reaction:
A surprising number of readers felt pro-choicers should shut up about their silly little issue and embrace Kucinich in the interests of progressive unity.
          Kucinich changed his position when he ran for president. Fast forward to the present, when feminists are told they must vote for Obama to preserve abortion rights. I’m voting for Obama because I dislike McCain’s positions on abortion and other issues that matter to me. I believe in coalition politics. But I may tear out the throat of the next hypocrite who cares little about abortion but wants to bludgeon me with it.
      Similar inconsistencies have arisen since the primary, when some feminists who supported Hillary Clinton were maligned for paying more attention to sexism than other injustices. An example would be Betsey Reed, executive editor of The Nation, who complained about women “confined” to feminism.
        Also in The Nation, Jessica Valenti criticized Clinton supporters who suggested that anyone who voted for Obama was less of a feminist. She said feminists should resist calls for solidarity, and recognize the differences among women. Now, some Obama supporters are telling feminists that, if they really cared about sexism, if they were true feminists, they would help elect him. Solidarity is good, as long as we are all backing Obama.
        I wish people would stop making support so distasteful.
        Note: I'm not slamming my colleagues on this site or any other who have remained consistent. I'm not trying to single out anyone. I'm just tired of being jerked around.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fun in A Silly Way

The Best Book Ever:

I usually dream about the interviews I will get as a verrry famous old author. I could write the Best Ever Author Interviews.

The Memory Hole and McCain

We are not yet living in the world of Orwell's 1984 where all memory of past events could easily be erased. Too bad, from McCain's point of view:

In his latest attempt at a total makeover, John McCain said today that if he were president, he'd fire Chris Cox, the chairman of the SEC, for keeping in place "trading rules that let speculators and hedge funds turn our markets into a casino."

Never mind that the president can't actually fire the head of the SEC. Just think about McCain's assertion in the light of this:

McCain's former economic adviser is ex-Texas Sen. Phil Gramm. On Dec. 15, 2000, hours before Congress was to leave for Christmas recess, Gramm had a 262-page amendment slipped into the appropriations bill. It forbade federal agencies to regulate the financial derivatives that greased the skids for passing along risky mortgage-backed securities to investors.

Sorry, McCain. But this mess belongs to the policies your party has pursued and the policies you still insist on pursuing.

A Postcard From Wingnuttia

I spent a few hours cleaning my kitchen trash bin (aren't you glad I shared that?) and the fridge and while doing that I listened to right-wing talk radio. Now that was fun.

Honest, try it sometimes (well, at least listening to the talk radio). The last program, for instance, started with a piece about how the Black Political Caucus is behind the takeover of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. Then there was stuff about how John Kerry never checked the boxes on his tax forms which would have made him pay more taxes, and then you could vote on the day's illegal immigrant quiz.

Earlier I heard Rush Limbaugh. YES! My future husband, Rush Limbaugh (he's gonna marry me because I will be the last woman in the world who'd have him and I'm hungry). He repeated that old joke about feminism being a social movement for ugly women who otherwise cannot thrive in this society, so either I was listening to an old show or his feminist principles have shed off him faster than -- well, you know what. And yes, of course Rush is a handsome hottie. We all know that.

It's really a whole other reality, the one in which those right-wing radio shows exist. But lots of people live in that one.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Beginning of the Socialist States of the United States?

Some make jokes about all this "socialization" that's going on in the financial industry and perhaps even in the automobile industry, and it's true that "we the taxpayers" seem to be amassing a lot of previously private market "investments" recently.

But it's not socialism when the industries take over the government. That has a totally different label. And though the industries aren't exactly taking over the government neither is the government taking them over. It's just giving them money, hugs and kisses.

Not sure what to call that. Perhaps crony-capitalism.


The Feminist Majority Foundation has a message for you:

Do you know which group of women is especially likely not to vote? Single women. Now changing that would be change I could believe in....

Less Health Insurance

Bob Herbert has a good piece on McCain's health insurance policies, and you should read all of it. I have written about those policies earlier at the Nation site and that post is a good complement to what I'm going to write here.

Note that one of the biggies in McCain's proposed changes is to raise the price of health insurance. Yes, my dear reader, you read that right. The way this works in his program is as follows:

If you are lucky enough to have employer-offered health insurance your premia currently come out of pre-tax dollars, dollars on which you have not yet paid taxes. McCain wants the premia to come out of post-tax dollars, dollars on which you have already paid taxes.

Let's think of an example: Suppose that your current health insurance policy costs you 1000 dollars per month. You pay for it with 1000 dollars in pre-tax (or gross) income. If McCain had his way with you, the payment would come from your post-tax income which would be, say, 700 dollars (assuming a 30% tax rate). Clearly, you can't afford the same policy with these dollars, so you would have to chip in an extra 300 bucks from, say, your food budget.

Now, even McCain knows that voters wouldn't think this kind of a policy an improvement so what he would combine with it is a lump sum financial compensation which ideally would equal that extra 300 bucks you need. Ideally, because in practice it would only equal that sum to those who happen to be paying for the average policy right now. Others would either get a windfall gain or lose money. The latter group would include people who are paying a lot for their health insurance coverage. Some of those people are sicker than the average consumer so the policy would punish them for being sicker.

Why is McCain suggesting something like this? Well, partly he has been magically seduced by an economist who loves the world of Microeconomics 101, with its price effects and income effects. Partly he wants to make consumers really FEEL the pain of the costs of health insurance, to make all of us more alert and careful buyers of various health insurance policies. You know, we will all run around figuring out deductibles, co-payments, group vs. staff models, indemnities and so on. I'm sure all those terms are something you roll around in your mouth every morning before tooth brushing.

So we are back in that mythical world where unicorns swing off rainbows and free markets lower the health care costs for all, but only if there are no tax subsidies and nobody else worrying about the consumers except consumers themselves. Who are all busily comparing non-commensurate health insurance policies and carefully negotiating with various hospitals for the day when they might arrive somewhere unconscious and unable to shop around.

This would be hilarious if McCain hadn't himself admitted that he doesn't understand economics. Yet he would leave all consumers out there at the mercy of sellers whose business he can't understand.

What McCain's proposed changes boil down to is less health insurance and more uninsured people. Bob Herbert explains some parts of how that would work, but the major reason for it all is that McCain plans to make health insurance more expensive.

Wake Up And Smell The Estrogen

That sentence was on the cover of one of the old Ms. magazines I just put into the trade basket in my library, and it makes a very good kick-in-the-pants beginning for this rant. And a rant it will be.

To begin with the Bitch magazine is in financial trouble and it needs your dollars to continue. You can donate here.

Then you can go out and buy (yes, buy) the Summer Issue of the Ms. magazine, which includes the following topics:

We've got an exclusive story on medical neglect at the only federal prison hospital for women, dirt on anti-gay-marriage but prostitute-going Senator David Vitter, a look at misogyny within polygamous cults, and more …

Naturally, if you have no money don't give any. But supporting feminist media is not a bad way of spending your money, despite what Jezebel has to say about the financial difficulties of Bitch:

Maybe the reason why Bitch isn't succeeding is because, although it's trudged along for 12 years, it just isn't successful. Has anyone stopped to think that it's the content, and not the mean, evil corporate world that's costing them money? A lot of women don't really subscribe to the stilted rhetoric of first-year women's studies. And it would seem that a lot of women don't really subscribe to Bitch either.

That Bitch has a circulation of only 47,000 seems to support that argument, does it not? Until you start thinking what the circulation rates of political opinion journals are in general. Here is a picture for you showing the circulation rates of really important political opinion journals (click on it to make it bigger):

From the source of the graph:

As the BPA audit ending in June 2007 shows, counting the Hill-delivered copies allows the New Republic to keep its subscriber numbers up above the 65,000 mark (although just barely, at 65,779) . That is a critical point because it means the magazine, which has been losing circulation since 2000, can say that it has stemmed the losses. Keeping subscriptions up at the magazine is a priority for its new owner, CanWest.

You must have heard of the New Republic? It's a major opinion source in political debates and its circulation figures are rotten. Now, it could be that the reason is that no reader is interested in Political Science 101 and that the ads in the magazine are too boring for eyelid batting. It could even be that the New Republic is circling the drain.

But isn't it funny that we hardly ever read something similar to the opinion from Jezebel when it comes to these political opinion journals? Note that the National Review, the breeding site of All Things Conservative, isn't doing that well in the circulation races. Does it mean that the wingnuts write about how boring it is and how it should get better ads?

Of course not. And they don't write to wonder why the Washington Times is still in business, despite having made a loss in every single year of its existence. Because that's not the point of political opinion magazines. Their point is to get certain topics out there, to be discussed more generally. Their point is to influence opinions.

And that is ultimately the point of Bitch and Ms. and other feminist magazines, too. Once they stop existing (for being soooo boring), fewer feminist stories will crop up in the political discourse.

Have I made my point? It's closely related to the misconception that picking things in politics is just like choosing an ice-cream flavor. This misconception is astonishingly common and I blame the advertising culture for it. There's a difference between political choices and preferring chocolate ice-cream with extra chips to vanilla ice-cream: If the ice-cream parlor doesn't stock your favorite, you can just not buy and leave empty-handed. This is impossible in politics, because the choice for those who don't vote will be made for them.

Or perhaps a different parable would be clearer here: Suppose that you are stranded on a deserted island, running out of food and going mad with the solitude and the fear. Then you see a ship against the horizon, you scream and yell and light fires and jump up and down. And the ship sees you! It turns and comes to rescue you! YEAH!

But as it gets closer you see it's a dirty ship with bad paint and a torn sail and ugly sailors, so you decide not to get on the boat at all. You deserve a prettier and more interesting rescuer.

So I may have just fallen overboard the ship called My Rant. But feminists should support their opinion-making organs, just as the progressives support their and the conservatives support theirs, especially because those other journals have more institutional backing than feminism has, more angels covering up their losses.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

And Let The Money Flow....

Looks like we just bought AIG (the American International Group):

In an extraordinary turn, the Federal Reserve agreed Tuesday night to take a nearly 80 percent stake in the troubled giant insurance company, the American International Group, in exchange for an $85 billion loan.

The decision, only two weeks after the Treasury took over the quasi-government mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is the most radical intervention in private business in the central bank's history.

How does it go? Privatize the benefits, socialize the costs? Or "communism for the rich, capitalism for the poor"? In any case, note that the $85 billion loan has as collateral the very reason why the loan was given. It's so circular it makes my head turn a full 360 degrees.

It's hard to know what the government should do now, of course, because once firms are let to grow big enough in a very concentrated industry their downfall will hurt most everyone. That's why we used to have anti-trust regulations and such, but all those were diluted or ignored during the free-market decades.

I have written about the need for better regulations (or better rules of the game) for the financial markets before. This would be a good opportunity for the government to introduce them, would it not? In exchange for the help, I mean.

Sexism As A Joke

We've come a long way, baby. Sexism is now something Rush Limbaugh deplores in his programs. Sexism is now the quick come-back joke among the Liberal boyz. On the former:

Summary: Rush Limbaugh said of the investigation into Gov. Sarah Palin's dismissal of Alaska public safety commissioner Walter Monegan: "This is pure sexism in Alaska on the part of these old boys trying to get rid of Sarah Palin, and she didn't put up with it, and she didn't bend over and let them have their way."

This is the same Rush Limbaugh about whom I wrote a long researched piece some years ago on this blog. A snippet from that:

One of my fabulous routines concerns a San Francisco men's club which lost its battle to exclude women from membership. The courts ruled that they had to admit women on the basis that businesswomen were being unfairly denied opportunities to do business. This is specious. How much business did women think they were going to get as a result of forcing their way in?
Anyway, after one year, the female members demanded their own exercise room. They were probably tired of being ogled by a bunch of slobbering men while they pumped iron in leotards and spandex. The men offered to install the first three exercise machines in the women's new workout room. The ladies were thrilled. When they arrived on that first exciting day they found, to their stunned amazement, a washing machine, an ironing board, and a vacuum cleaner. Heh, heh, heh. (The Way Things Ought To Be, p.142-45 Jul 2, 1992)

I don't have to go back to 1992 to find a sexist comment from Rush Limbaugh, of course. But to find him using sexism as an accusation, well, that requires looking only at the last few days.

That's the first way sexism has become a joke. The second one has to do with the responses to the first one: When Rush Limbaugh suddenly pretends to think that sexism is a deplorable, deplorable thing, who do you think will find sexism quite funny? That's right, the Libral Boyz. Now, admittedly they are reacting to the wingnuts' arguments that any criticism of Sarah Palin, however justified, is mere sexism. But at the same time the two ridiculing uses of the word "sexism" are doing real damage. The word is transmuting into something different, something laughable. And all the time real women in this world are dying because of sexist customs or beliefs.

When I sit down to think about what to write on this here blog these days I have a lot of emotional trouble. It's like I had been making a cake from a complicated recipe with lots of expensive ingredients and lots of labor put into it, and when I had finally iced it on a glass platter the whole thing slipped and crashed on the hard tiles of my kitchen. There it sits now, a mess of broken cake, glass shards and whipped cream. What should I do with it? Just throw it all into the trash? But then I lose all that effort and money. Should I pick the glass out carefully and then try to rescue most of the cake for reshaping? But then I'll cut my hand.

So I sit at the keyboard and don't get anywhere. Of course it's not feminist causes that I liken to a dropped cake here but the discourse we are having over this election campaign and the preceding Democratic primaries. That discourse might ultimately turn out to be of benefit for the feminist movement but not in the shorter run. Unless better bakers come in and rescue it right now.


You may or may not have heard that acronym. It stands for "a mother I'd like to fuck" and is not uncommon in the blogosphere discussion threads. There's also GMILF but as far as I can tell, the only person who suggested FILF was me and it didn't take on.

What is it all about? Mostly bantering, with no evil intention behind it. But it's still fun to think about what calling someone a MILF really means: Either it points out that despite being mothers some women still retain their sexual appeal. Or it points out that among all those old, decrepit and wrinkled mothers (or older women in general) there are a few who still have that something which makes men think of black silk sheets in bedrooms.

But why is it that my suggestion of the term for "a father I'd like to fuck" didn't take on? Is it because women are not supposed to measure men up for that particular use? And why was my suggestion seen as a joke? Worth thinking about.

In any case, I'm writing about this trivial topic because I have read that there are men who say that they are going to vote for Sarah Palin because she is a MILF, and only for that reason. Yet I can't find all those articles about how unreasonable this behavior is. Yet the articles about the unreasonable Hillary voters have been many.

Monday, September 15, 2008

And Even More Funny Stuff

Some days are so full of sunshine and laughter:

On the September 15 edition of MSNBC Live, while assessing Sen. Joe Biden's speech on the economy, Reuters Washington correspondent Jon Decker said that Biden does not "help[] his case when he's making the argument on economic issues wearing French cuffs and dressed to the nines. I think that he's really got to connect with these voters." MSNBC anchor Chris Jansing agreed, asserting: "Yeah, it's about the message, but also about the perception. I guess ... I was a little surprised too that he didn't have that coat off and roll up his sleeves." Contrary to the notion that wearing French cuffs may interfere with Biden's ability to "connect with these voters," French cuff shirts can be found for $37.50 on the website of J.C. Penney, a national department-store chain that many voters can presumably "connect" with.

Love it, just love it. If we have to go to hell in a handbasket why not laugh all through the journey?

Let me see: When you discuss bad unemployment figures you should probably come to the studio wearing one of those sandwich boards which says "Will Work For Food." And when you discuss the Iraq occupation you should wear a helmet and carry a machine gun. Got it.

Likewise, you really shouldn't discuss bad news about the health care system looking all hale and hearty. At least strap yourself to an oxygen machine and wear some gray makeup.

George Bush used to do all that play-acting. Remember him holding a hammer in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina? Of course he held it all wrong but acting is not the same as actually doing something and appearance is all that counts.

Yeah, I know. Voters are supposed to vote on issues such as French cuffs.

Some Fun

If you haven't watched the SNL video spoof on Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, Shakes has it.

This is also very funny in a twisted way:

McCain, in a speech in Jacksonville, Florida, this morning, said, "You know that there's been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall St. And it is -- people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think still -- the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult times."

Funny why? Because Herbert Hoover kept saying that "the fundamentals are strong" all the way into the Great Depression. I noticed George Bush saying that earlier but I thought nobody else would be quite that silly. I was wrong.

Wall Street's Troubles Are Yours, Too...

So goes the headline of an article about the Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy (after the firm managed to keep its boat afloat through the financial panic of 1907 and the Great Crash of the 1920's it was sunk by the Bush tidal wave) and about the equally troubled times of Merrill Lynch and AIG. And of course it's true that the troubles of Wall Street are our troubles, too, but not for quite the reason the author of that article intends.

No, we are not equally guilty of greed and short-sighted gambling with the loaded dice of the market-place. No, not all house buyers bought houses they couldn't afford for selfish and greedy reasons. And no, most of us ordinary folk did not benefit from the anything-goes decades in the financial markets, and among those who did benefit the culprits of the current crisis benefited the most of all.

Rather, those troubles are our troubles for two fairly obvious reasons:

First, the powerful in this society still have the power to make the less powerful suffer in their place, and while the trickle-down theory of economics appears not to work that well when times are good, it sure works great when times are bad. What the top layers rain down on top of the ordinary working people I leave to your imagination, but it translates to unemployment, loss of health insurance, retirement savings which are barely enough to buy a stamp and so on. Misery, in short.

And how to avoid that misery? Here is the second reason why we are fucked, my friends: The only way to avoid that wholesale misery is by accepting a slightly smaller (though still very unfair) degree of suffering, and that is by a taxpayer bailout of all the financial firms which fail. Or most of them. We ordinary people are expected to pay the piper either way. We can choose a deeper recession or we can choose to pay more taxes to perhaps avoid one.

But isn't it usually the case that who pays the piper calls the tune? What happened to that idea? For instance, when I read about the financial firms negotiating with the federal government the first image in my mind would not be the government representatives kissing the toenails of the CEOs who have come in for some more money. But that's how these negotiations appear to be going: The firms send in some tough guys who threaten to cut the throat of the market unless money is forthcoming and soon, and then the government gives them the money. Or rather, loans without any good collateral. Toenail clippings, old copies of the New York Times, perhaps even snake scales. All good collateral.

What happened to the idea of demanding concessions from the firms before they are offered any help? I have this crazy idea: Suppose that the federal government told the industry that it would not bail out any firms unless the whole industry agreed to new government regulations which would stop this crisis from happening again in the near future? Now wouldn't that be something? It would take us back to the way things were before the Reagan revolution, back to the times when unregulated markets weren't regarded as the greatest thing since the invention of the zipper. It would let us say in public that wholly unregulated financial markets sometimes look exactly the way the U.S. financial markets look today. Markets Gone Berserk.

Of course today's picture isn't quite right, either, because wholly unregulated markets aren't supposed to get bailed out by the evil, evil government at all.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Batman vs. Penguin

This YouTube, found by commenter Richard on Eschaton, is not about the current American political campaigns. It's not. I swear. It's about Batman and the Penguin.

Impromptu Political Poem by Anthony McCarthy

Life isn't perfect, pure
or permanently secure,

Interior Monologue of the Conscious: While Stacking Wood With The Radio On by Anthony McCarthy

Why not Romeo and Juliette in a New York tough guy accent? They’re just a bunch of thugs talking in iambic verse. What else is the play about but two gangs of street toughs? Wonder what C would say if she heard me said that? She’s the one who brought up the “Shakespear question”. All I said is that the evidence for any of the attributions was flimsy. Didn’t even mention Oxford. Doubt the Bard of Avon bilge and you’ve immediately put yourself beyond the pale of respectability. Couldn’t say anything right after that. Well, it was all of them, really. It finally got off that damned board.

All’s Well that Ends Well in a Down East accent, now that might work too. No, West Paris. Yeah, West Paris.


I’d have voted to give the Oscar to “Crash” too. Better movie than the horse opera. Dumb thing. Hall Mark Theater. Wonder what would happen if I said that?

Malevolent Gay Far-Right Republican Men, Why Not Look At That Phenomenon? by Anthony McCarthy

Trying to listen to the more gentle angel of my nature, I’d intended to entirely forego my tradition of mocking the “Insights from the Social Sciences” the morning paper brings me. I started writing this in that intention but Izzy, my leftist hell-raiser angel, won out over Nat. Nat’s my annoying liberal niceness angel. I’ve complained about Nat before, I think.

This Sunday, Evo-psych tells us that homosexuality, in the form of queer genes, persist because having sex with members of your gender has a reproductive advantage. And here I always figured that was the one risk being gay didn’t include. As the tricky Boston Globe Soc-Sci columnist has taken to doing so often lately, the “study” his report is based on is forthcoming so I can’t go look to see what is being passed off as science. But being suspicious as well as naughty, Izzy asks, “Why study something like that to begin with? Aren’t there other gay issues more pressing to the business of the world?”

As an old gay man, one of the things that has always carried a morbid fascination for me is the phenomenon of the evil gay Republican power broker. There are certainly a lot of them to look at, and just about to a person they are truly rotten. If you ever wanted to identify a truly malevolent bunch, it’s the right-wing, gay male Republican. Roy Cohn, who was universally known to be gay from the beginning of his public career, was about as rotten as they come. He regularly worked on behalf of the most repressive gay bashers in the New York scene and beyond, some of them, like Francis Cardinal Spelman, were specimens of the type themselves. There are those who claim Joe McCarthy - no relation worth considering - belongs among them. Literally everyone knew Cohn was having sex with men during the decades he was around. Yet he flourished within the political milieu that would have destroyed him had he not been one of them. Near the end of his life, as it became just as widely known that he was dying of AIDS, the New York elite helped him in his psychotically futile public denial of what was clear to anyone who looked at him.

After McCain selected Palin, I was curious to see how the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Club stood on the McCain-Palin ticket. Needless to say, they were lying, saying that they were no danger to the rights and lives of gay people. Kiss of the Spider Woman would seem to have gotten that kind of dishonest, self-centered gay man* just about right. Despising them for the hypocrites and traitors they are, I usually call them Future Capos of Amerika. I’m not giving a link and risk aiding the more uninformed of our Republican blog boy monitors in their networking.

Gore Vidal, in one of his essays, cast doubt on the existence of a category “gay”. Other than having sex with other men, what does Vidal have in common with Roy Cohn, Karl Rove or Mark Drier? What did Walt Whitman have in common with James Buchanan? He also points out that the entire idea of someone as being a “homosexual” hardly describes the reality as shown through experience. Some people have sex with one gender, many have sex with both. More are probably sexually attracted to members of their own gender at times than act on their desires. It’s apparently tempting for some to wonder which category those people belong in, if you’re the kind of person interested in putting people into categories. But that’s the problem. People in real life are too complex and varied to categorize like that. And why would you feel it was a useful thing to do? From the history of the 20th century, we know that kind of putting people into categories can be dangerous to their existence. I use the term “gay” purely as a political description without pretending it has scientific meaning.

I’m no beauty and certainly have not been mistaken as such in my lifetime. I’m also someone with sexual interest only in adult men. Being very fussy and having put up with more immaturity than you can shake a stick at, I’m only attracted to adult men who act like adults. So you can see, there’s not a lot for me to have chosen from.

In my life I’ve had several married men come on to me. Two were men who I’ve known most of my life. In a small town like the one I still live it, its likely that a history of having sex with other men would be known within the gay population. Anyone who is part of a small town’s gay population will know about straight men who also have sex with men. I had no reason to suspect that the two men I’m talking about had sex with other men. Were they gay? I don’t know. I don’t know why they came on to me, I don’t even know how they would have reacted if I’d accepted their advances, which I didn’t. Married men are a species I am totally uninterested in having sex with. Perhaps unfortunately, it would seem that further opportunities to collect data have dried up for me. Nothing like that has happened in quite a while now.

I don’t have much in common with most of the men who identify themselves as being “gay”. The stereotypes don’t fit many of the gay men I know. We don’t constitute a cohesive community. Other than the discrimination and threats of violence we face, there is pretty much only the fact that we are sexually attracted to some members of our own gender in common. I don’t believe that diversity results from a common genetic expression. My experience leads me to believe that Vidal got it more right than the social scientists ever can.

Oh.... I can’t resist. Those “gay genes”, which I doubt exist, probably couldn’t account for an increased reproductive activity in men who had sex with men. Maybe the researchers might ask if it might not be gay jeans that did it. At least you can see those.

* I’m trying to recall an example of a similarly rotten Republican lesbian and can’t think of a single example. There are certainly not as many obvious ones as there are FCA’s.

What? Losing Roe Isn’t Enough To Make You Shake Hands And Fight Together? by Anthony McCarthy

There is a temptation among those of us with the leisure time to read and write blogs, to concentrate on absurdly small matters instead of what’s truly apocalyptic. At times we can match the corporate media in ignoring what’s important in favor of, literally, nothing.

It was no neat trick to predict that if Obama was the Democratic nominee that the Republican’s dirty tricks machine would use the divisive Spring campaign for the nomination against him. Anyone who couldn’t have foreseen that has to be too dense to be reading this blog. What we are seeing now in the Republican dirty tricks campaign against Obama, would have been used in reverse if Hillary Clinton was the nominee. Again, if you can’t see that, you are not reading these words or are probably a Republican monitor.

I almost got dragged into a comparison of the words, hurtful and those pretended to be hurtful, on both sides of that grudge match, but I’m not going to become part of the McCain-Palin campaign.

Having reviewed both lists, continuing to talk about them is absolutely stupid and exactly the kind of thing that has won Republicans the right to overturn everything that was gained with so much struggle and bloodshed over the past hundred-fifty years.

Somewhere in the media, one of the alleged “Hillary holdouts” was quoted as saying that she didn’t care about Roe because she was beyond having to worry about being pregnant. I very much doubt that this was a supporter of Hillary Clinton. Certainly it’s nothing a supporter of her policies would ever say. For the rest of us, maybe it needs saying again. Here, from an op-ed by Cass Sunstein

It is relevant here that many people, including McCain running mate Sarah Palin, believe that abortion is unacceptable even in cases of rape and incest, and there is little doubt that if Roe is overruled, some states will enact that belief into law.

To anyone who has forgotten, John McCain is the oldest person ever nominated by one of the two national parties for president, he has had serious health problems including cancer. The prospect of Sarah Palin becoming president during the next term are probably better than her not becoming succeeding a President McCain. Even if he didn’t die, he caved in to the ultra-right to choose his VP, do you think he wouldn’t for his Supreme Court nominees?

For anyone freed from having to worry about their own unwanted pregnancy and too self absorbed to worry about other women’s rights, Sunstein points out that literally everything is in danger of being lost to exactly the kind of Supreme Court nominees that both McCain and Palin have announced they will appoint.

For the future of constitutional rights, there is a broader point, which involves the fragility of many constitutional principles. Of course the Supreme Court tends to move slowly, but some conservatives who speak of "strict construction," and of "legislating from the bench," have something quite radical in mind.

For them, these are code words. They seek to appoint judges who will overturn not merely Roe, but dozens of other past decisions. For example, they want judges to impose flat bans on affirmative action, to invalidate environmental regulations, to increase presidential power, and to reduce the separation of church and state. Some Republican appointees to the Supreme Court have already called for significant changes in constitutional law in these domains.

McCain-Palin not only would deny women the ownership of their bodies, they’d brick over the glass ceiling once and for all. Maybe younger people don’t remember but within living memory it was legal for a man to tell a woman “Sorry, honey, but all our girls start out in the typing pool”.

Would a rational person risk, literally, undoing all the advances of the Civil Rights amendments over the piddling list of Freudian fantasy wrongs?