Saturday, October 04, 2008

One for my side (by Suzie)

      TAMPA - His pornographic persona, Max Hardcore, is all swagger and sadism - forcing women in his movies to do things that can't be described in a family newspaper.
      But in federal court Friday, as he faced a federal prison sentence, Paul F. Little trembled and begged a woman for mercy.
          The woman in question is a federal judge. This article, and the new Chihuahua movie (see below), made my day.

Hard-Wired (by Phila)

A new paper in the Journal of Health Organisation and Management allegedly explains "why your boss is white, middle-class and a show-off."
Prehistoric behaviours, such as male domination, protecting what is perceived as their "turf" and ostracising those who do not agree with the group is more commonplace in everyday work situations than many of us want to accept, according to the research which was carried out in hospitals.

"This tribal culture is similar to what we would have seen in hunter gather bands on the savannah in southern Africa," says the author of the paper, Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, from UNSW's Institute for Health Innovation.
And that, gentlemen, is why your boss is white, middle-class, and a show-off.

Braithwaite goes on to explain the mechanisms at work:
"Groups were territorial in the past because it helped them survive. If you weren't in a tight band, you didn't get to pass on your genes," he says. "Such tribalism is not necessary in the same way now, yet we still have those characteristics because they have evolved over two million years.

"It's a surprise just how hard-wired this behaviour is," says Professor Braithwaite.
I could make the usual objections to using a hypothesis about the past as evidence for a hypothesis about the present -- and vice versa -- but I'd rather focus on the title of this press release. By themselves, neither tribalism nor territoriality nor male dominance can explain why "your boss" is white or middle class; the process by which a specific group comes to dominate others is more complex than that, obviously. And in human societies, part of that process has to do with what can be presented as fact by means of scientific authority.

With that in mind, note that the phrase "your boss is white" communicates a number of assumptions about this journal's readers as well as their bosses (while saying very little about the actual content of a paper whose author casually compares African tribal culture to modern, multiracial healthcare facilities).

If you're going to boil our problems down to tribalism, you should probably acknowledge the role of tribalism in constructing the "objective" vantage point from which you seek to explain other people's actions. Which might mean looking a little more closely at how the racial and economic logic of domination can persist in something as simple as the title of an academic press release (to say nothing of the extent to which words like "hard-wired" and "necessary" work to perpetuate and disguise the domination you hoped to dissect).

Braithwaite says that "we need to stop being simplistic and realise that changing behaviours and encouraging teamwork is much harder than we think." No doubt. But I'm not sure that comparing white social and economic dominance to African tribalism, and then explaining both in terms of reproductive fitness, is the way to go about it. Certain inequalities may have had their origin in prehistoric conditions, but centuries of religion and philosophy and art and science have aimed at justifying and eternalizing them. The failure to be conscious at all times of this tradition is anything but objective.

Bailing Out (by Phila)

It's amazing how swiftly we can act when important things are at stake. We were able to pass an $800 billion bailout bill without a multidecade debate on the precise nature and severity of the catastrophe we hoped to avoid, and whether or not the solution would work. We don't require unanimity from our economists, as we do from our climatologists; God knows His own.

Meanwhile, "ten of the world's richest countries have pledged 6.1 billion dollars to help poor countries deal with the effects of global warming."

Talk soberly about carbon isotopes, satellite data, and the volume of sea ice and you're a fuzzy-headed alarmist or a closet Marxist. Make the rounds of the cable news shows spouting words like "meltdown," "depression," and "investor optimism," and you're a gimlet-eyed positivist with an exquisite grasp of cause and effect.

One of the things that fascinates me about all this is that it's apparently still good to be "decisive." Lest anyone think we've learned anything in the last eight years, taking swift and decisive action in a crisis of one's own making still trumps thinking ahead, or acknowledging facts you don't like hearing. If a flood of ungrateful climate refugees ever inconveniences us as they travel between "a past place of expulsion, and a future one of denial," I'm sure we'll very decisively throw money at that problem too, in the form of bigger and better border walls, killer drones, mass surveillance, and detention camps. The important thing is that the solution must always reaffirm the worldview that justified the behavior that caused the problem.

All of which is a preamble to the fact that "the 2008 season strongly reinforces the thirty-year downward trend in Arctic ice extent":
NSIDC Senior Scientist Mark Serreze said, “When you look at the sharp decline that we’ve seen over the past thirty years, a ‘recovery’ from lowest to second lowest is no recovery at all. Both within and beyond the Arctic, the implications of the decline are enormous.”
Absolutely. And this calls for decisive action!

In other news, Christof Rühl, chief economist at BP, explains oil markets in terms that anyone can understand:
There will never be a moment when the world runs out of oil because there will always be a price at which the last drop of oil can clear the market. And you can turn anything into oil into if you are willing to pay the financial and environmental price.

Leadership At Five Minutes To Midnight, Nancy Pelosi October 2008 by Anthony McCarthy

Nancy Pelosi deserves a lot more respect than she’s given. People on leftist blogs, particularly the boys, constantly slam her for not delivering what we want, seeming to think, somehow, the Democratic Speaker of the House hasn’t delivered what a sizable portion of Democrats and others want because she doesn’t want to. Well, let’s again review her reality.

She is the farthest left of anyone in the direct line of succession of the presidency in the history of the United States, a remarkable achievement for anyone in 2008. I’ve pointed that out here before. She gained that position at a time when ‘liberal’ is a dirty word in the wider culture. She gained it by dint of her own hard work and intelligence. No one handed it to her out of the clear blue.

She holds that position by the fact that Democrats hold a slim majority in the House of Representatives, a majority won during her leadership. That is something her male predecessor couldn’t seem to achieve. Least anyone forget, Nancy Pelosi is also the only woman who has ever been in direct line of presidential succession, the only one to lead either of the two houses of the legislative branch.

Her majority depends on a number of marginal seats held by conservative Democrats who could easily lose the next election and who are quite aware of that. The full array of Republicans, from the fiscal pirates to the religio-fascist wings of their party will be doing their best to unseat these understandably skittish Democrats. If anyone has forgotten, in the 2006 election the Republicans never lost a chance to remind everyone across the country that Pelosi is from San Francisco. That is Republican code for “fag lover”. Only, since everyone with a brain understands it, it’s not code.

She is also in opposition to a Republican president, the most unscrupulous and dishonest president of our times, part of an administration which has shown it will do anything in order to grab power and use government to both exercise illegitimate power and to attack their opposition. After the past month of the McCain campaign, it’s plain that all Republicans are Rove Republicans now. There is no reason for any Democrat to rely on the present day Supreme Court to not act in a partisan way on behalf of Republicans, twisting the most basic legal fabric past raveling to do it. They have shown themselves quite willing to go so far as install a Republican as a result of a corrupted election in an entirely unprecedented action that in a real Republic would be grounds for their impeachment.

And if that isn’t enough, she knows that the corporate media, essentially all of the American media, is in the pockets of the Republican one-corporate-party-state, Party. She’s got few who will even give an unbiased look at Democrats. Those few are mostly in print, which is of nearly nugatory political effect.

If those weren’t the prevailing conditions, Nancy Pelosi would be able to deliver a lot more of our agenda than is possible today. I sincerely believe she would like to. Yet she is constantly attacked by the left as well as by the Republican right. Her gender is one of the features of those attacks, often just barely concealed, frequently not. With a greater record of failure to deliver, her predecessors, all male, usually suffered less personal abuse. And while we have often discussed the sexism of the blog boys when it is flung against other women, the constant attacks against the woman who has done the hardest job of all and gotten something done, is hardly noticed.

Maybe that’s because she and her supporters have not constantly used the fact that she is a victim of virulent sexism in her defense, never mind as an excuse. Maybe that’s the difference between a woman of real substance and one who allows herself to be a symbolic prop for a man’s faltering presidential campaign.

The speech for which Nancy Pelosi was attacked by the Republicans this week was exactly the one she was supposed to give as the leader of House Democrats. It is her job to rally Democrats to take what she believed was the most responsible AVAILABLE* course of action on that day. She almost certainly knew the vote would be close and it was her job to convince Democrats to her point of view. It was a difficult bill to support. Is it any surprise that Republicans resent the Democratic leader for doing her job? As always, they are only happy when Democrats roll over and play dead. Too bad so many on the blogs aren’t happy with her under any circumstances.

Listening to her, how could anyone not hear her deep anger at being forced to accept the thing. The Republicans have screwed things up so badly, done the most irresponsible and dishonest things with full warning, that she is forced to float a measure she knew was deeply unpopular and which she couldn’t have really liked. I think it was a genuine expression of her fury at having this forced on the country, the Democratic members of the House, the relevant Democratic leaders and herself. And she was certainly aware that the Republicans would be hypocrites intent on some kind of treachery. And, being what they are, the Republicans delivered on that most predictable treachery.

No one in the world honestly believes that a single Republican was going to be swayed by anything she said. As always, they weren’t looking for a reasoned argument, they were looking for political advantage. Have you seen the list of the 12 Republican crybabies yet? Since they must have declared themselves, otherwise how would the Republican leaders know their number, you would think they would come forward and identify themselves. If such a list of duplicitous disciples actually existed.

Well, I’m happy to confess I’m a Nancy Pelosi fan. I’m proud of her and of my party for having her as the leader of The House. I think she’s doing the best job she can, it’s almost certain that the list of obstacles here is only part of what she has to contend with. She deserves more support than she gets.

* Yeah, the bail out stinks to high heaven but not nearly as much as the decades long deregulation and creation of instruments of legalized theft that got us here today. We do seem to forget what life was like under Hastert. The original Paulson plan would have passed intact, with scads of other, horrible items attached. Look at what the Senate did to prevent a filibuster after the antics of the House Republicans earlier in the week.

Republicans would have seen it as an opportunity to liquidate the rest of the treasury and a chance to run up another two trillion in debt. There would have been no cap on executives pay, no equity stake for taxpayers (no less than the new creditors), no talk of mortgage readjustment (which should be done as soon as possible, if it becomes possible). Apparently the collective memory of the blogosphere doesn’t extend as far back as two years ago. The Republicans are the ones who made the mess, Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats working on the rescue were trying to keep things from falling apart in October of this year.

The jocks on the blogs also seem to think Democrats have a free hand to push through their agenda, ignoring all of the points made above. But then, they seemed to think they had that power in the minority, before they had the shaky majority of today

Does anyone forget, Bush is still in office, his appointees are in charge of all of the relevant executive branches, Republicans hold a close minority in both houses and there is an election just coming up. Nancy Pelosi should be seen as a realist who is juggling an enormous number of balls all at once. One of the most important of those is her responsibility to Democrats in the House and at large. It’s her job to try to get a bigger majority in the November election. Given the limits of her present reality, it’s one of her biggest responsibilities.

Sometimes I wonder what the blogs would be like if more people with less leisure time and lower incomes could comment more. It all looks so easy and simple when you’re not the one who actually has to get something done. And you wonder what things would be like if so many weren’t, eternally, children.

Note: The electronic media seems to understand that it is just possible that Democrats might win big this time and get the chance to exercise real power. There seems to be a minor start at covering their contingencies, especially on some of the cabloids.

Don’t buy it. They need to be legally required to serve the public interest and they need to be broken up and their ownership diversified. There has to be a modification of laws so that it is only a free standing media company that should be allowed to use that most limited of publicly owned resources, The Peoples’ time. Any media operation that is a subsidiary of a conglomerate will always serve the interest of their parent company. That corruption of the fourth estate has to be ended if anything like self-government is to survive. Freedom of the press to misinform and distort for the owners profit runs a distant second to the right of The People to cast an informed vote. The press is as dependent on that as The People are dependent on accurate information. We can’t continue to pretend this isn’t a basic fact of life.

They’ve fully earned our distrust for the past forty years, there is no reason for Democrats or others interested in democracy to allow them any leeway.

Promoting “Lowered Expectations” as Good Enough Isn’t Nearly Good Enough by Anthony McCarthy

Ah, the “lowered expectations” game, invented, I believe, to sell idiot Republican puppets when no one could expect them to win even the fluff ‘debates’ we get. I seem to first recall it during the rise of the assertion that Republicans who couldn’t construct a syllogism if you numbered the parts of it and handed those to them in the right order, were qualified to be president.*

As a child of blue collar America who, by any financial definition, remains a member of the same class, I am jamping sick and tired of the condescending talk about “hockey moms, soccer moms and Joe Sixpack” that spews out of the mouths of people making six and seven figure incomes, some who never attended a public school in their lives and who all think they have their thumb on the heart beat of the heartland because they touched down somewhere between Manhattan and LA during a connecting flight this year. And I’m sick and tired of the assertions of air heads in the media attributing their own lack of interest in reality, to us. If Sawyer and Gibson, the ABC morning date couple, has any interest other than their pointless careers and incomes, I’ve yet to see evidence of it. Forgive me for saying it, but unlike virtually the entire yakking class, most blue collar workers know how to produce something other than repetitions of talking points gleaned from Republican front sources, when those are not handed to them directly by the Republican Party. To get back to pundit logic.

Contained in that condescending stereotype is the idea that the large majority of Americans are too stupid to look past sports and drinking to understand that life is hard and that a lot of our problems are complex and hard to solve. Which is exactly what you would expect from oligarchs and plutocrats. “Soccer mom and Joe Sixpack” are white versions of insulting minstrel show stereotypes, a fact that the left could harness to better effect than adopting these anti-democratic ideas as stipulated assumptions. The People can grasp that life is more complicated than the buzzwords and talking points Sarah Palin’s handlers stuffed into her mouth this month. With some encouragement, The People can be rather impressive. We can even govern ourselves better than the oligarchs would ever want us to.

The American People don’t want their business conducted by someone who can meet the lowered expectations of Charles Gibson and the rest of the corporate Republican media, they want someone who might actually do something to make their children a better and more dignified life than can be had from Bud and circuses. We also deserve much better. Anyone who tries to sell us anything but the best should be kicked out the door.

Note: For fans of that kind of thing, what do you think of the idea that the bizarre Vaudeville style ads in the McCain-Palin campaign are supposed to elicit images calling to mind degrading black stereotypes in an attempt to frame the Obama campaign? I can easily imagine their behavioral-sci hirelings coming up with that idea. I’ve yet to figure out another explanation for it.

* It came about the same time the League of Women Voters had candidate debates yanked out of their competent hands, as the historian GWPDA pointed out on another blog the other day. But considering that interesting point will get me onto the folly of process liberalism and that’s not what this is about.

Friday, October 03, 2008

What is This, Maher for Theocracy? by Anthony McCarthy

Note: This isn’t a movie review. It’s a movie promotion campaign review.

Here’s a rule of life, when Bill Maher has taken it up, you know a fad has just about run its course. I might watch him if I don’t have to wash my hair that night, but not if I’ve got to pay for it. I’ve seen Maher’s act and didn’t find it very good. He’s a bargain basement George Carlin - Gary Collins IVF clone as seen on TV.

Being antsy (and, yes, very grouchy) about this upcoming election as it is, suspecting it’s only things like the future of democracy here and possibly the fate of the planet at stake, I’m not happy to see that Bill Maher has a movie opening this week that jumps on the seriously old band wagon of religious mockery. And it has gotten old. I’ve yet to hear or read any of the latest crop that Bertrand Russell didn’t say better twenty years before even I was born. But then old Bertie generally had an idea of what he was talking about. At best, the new crop might have read a bit of Russell on religion, though most likely filtered and watered down through, well we don’t have to get into them here again.

I’ve got nothing against mockery, it’s one of those things ideas should be ready to defend themselves against. But it’s got to be accurate, fair and actually funny in a way that hasn’t been done to death. Without those, it starts off stale. Maher’s other stuff has the ambiance of the day-old rack as it is. What I’ve seen in the promotional material for this movie, one would imagine some of his best stuff, it looks pretty boring. Another thing, mockery that has a potential to cost something, has to be worth the risk.

My fear is that coming a month before this enormously important election, with the pathetic McCain campaign looking for any dirty trick and trumped up opening they can dream up to get them the margin of victory, having a jack ass release a much hyped movie on this subject is tailor made for Republican use. If they don’t see that this would go right along with his Palin ‘values-voters’ gambit, they’re too stupid to be in charge of movie releases. As one seems to need to always remember, it doesn’t have to work with everyone for it to throw the election, it just has to work with those it might work for. It doesn’t even have to be a worthless and lousy movie to do that. It just has to have that effect.

It would be a minor irony if Maher’s movie did what Ben Stein’s earlier one apparently failed to do, generate a cause celebre for the Republican right and influence this election in their favor. With their previous stated experience, I don’t believe that the guys doing this release couldn’t have anticipated the possibility of something like that happening. I believe they are hoping to cause a big stink before the election and to financially benefit from it and that it’s what their timing is all about. If I’m right about that, what a bunch of irresponsible jerks.

As predictable as anything, some who might read this will say that I’m calling for censorship. No I’m not. This is a call for responsible timing for a commercial release of what is almost certainly a movie of no informative value.

Did they even consider a Christmas season release date, when it would have gotten them a similar bang for the schmuck effect but after it couldn’t carry the clear and present danger of doing what they purport to be trying to prevent, electing religio-fascists at the polls? By all means set off William Donohue in December, what Christmas season would be complete without him taking a semi-coded swipe at “Hollywood Jews”. That background music is as familiar a part of the season as “Cha-cha-cha-chia”. We just don’t need it this month.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

         "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" opens today. Meanwhile, searching Petfinder for Chihuahuas, you can find Salvador Dali, Mr. Tooth FairyCharlie Tucker, Rhett Butler, Don Juan, Rocky Raccoon, Darth Vader and Captain Underpants. There's Cocoa Puff, and Coco & Puffs. Like these last two, some dogs get named together, e.g., Pistachio and Banana-Nut and Little and Rowdy. It looks like Jaymes got adopted, but Bartles is still available.
      Some people have noticed that Chihuahuas are Teenie and Tiny. If you see a dog with "wink" in its name, you can bet it has only one eye. Some have people names. I can just imagine saying, "Hey, there, Bob, you've got some really big ears." A number are named after Mexican food, such as Frito, Taco, Chalupa but ... Kosher? That's not right.
      There's Vizsla, who's not a vizsla. And it's Aye Carumba, not I-Ca-Rumba.  Some have no names, just numbers. Three Chihuahuas are titled Threesome! Some wear dresses, jewelry, flowers, bandannas (read this if you're interested in Southern culture), oversize neckties and I don't know what this is, or this either.
       All would make a great companion to the right person.
       Updated for a brief movie review: "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" turned out better than I thought.  It's much more about girls finding their voice and their purpose, and throwing off consumerism and classism. But to make it palatable to boys, virtually all the dogs that do anything worthwhile - other than the B.H. Chi herself - are male. Here's the WaPo review

Sarah Palin: Staunch union supporter? (by Skylanda)

Holed up in McCain's shabby little shack in Sedona in preparations for the VP debate, Sarah Palin took time out to grant an interview to a radio show where she tried - once again - to Relate To The Little Guy. Geez, man, she lost, like, $20,000 in the recent Wall Street fiasco! Thank goodness she has a six-figure income to cushion that tough blow.

But that's a line any politician could tow these days. Here's the real groaner:
“We’ve gone through periods of our life here with paying out of pocket for health coverage until Todd and I both landed a couple of good union jobs,” she added. “Early on in our marriage, we didn’t have health insurance, and we had to either make the choice of paying out of pocket for catastrophic coverage or just crossing our fingers, hoping that nobody would get hurt, nobody would get sick. So I know what Americans are going through there.”
Awesome. Plugging unions on the Republican campaign trail...who woulda thunk!

Of course, this would be a little less crass if she weren't speaking for the party notorious for policies that do everything possible to undermine organized labor - ya know, the party shunned for just about every union endorsement across the nation for their anti-union policies.

Pro-union? Nah, methinks this is just a case of I got mine, now screw you and yours.

Oh, and while I'm on the topic of unions? In the midst of the current headline grabbers-du-jour, the Employee Free Choice Act - that would reduce the barriers to forming and joining unions - hasn't gotten much press. It's worth knowing about. It's worth supporting. It's a good time to give it a quick look.

The myth of objectivity (by Suzie)

         When I was a working journalist, a few newsroom critics accused me of pushing a feminist agenda.
         They were right.
         My agenda was to improve conditions for women inside our newsroom and coverage of women inside our pages. But opponents saw a feminist agenda as more subversive – a breach in their belief that journalists must be objective.
         They were right about that, too, but didn’t realize they were not objective, either. They thought that being a feminist made me biased. It didn’t occur to them that not being a feminist was also a political stance. No one is neutral. You challenge the system, or you support it, even if it’s just with your silence and inaction.
         Feminist philosophers have challenged objectivity. If journalists stopped pursuing it, they might have a shot at diversity, and maybe even truth.
         In Just the Facts: How “Objectivity” Came to Define American Journalism, David Mindich traces its rise in the 19th century. Journalism took on the methods of science: detachment, nonpartisanship, reliance on facts, and balance.
         Journalists make some exceptions for columns and features, but for news, they are supposed to put aside feelings, biases, beliefs, experiences, cultural norms, values – everything that makes them an individual. But what if people can’t catalog everything that has influenced them? What if a residue of prejudice remains? What if they can’t tease apart mixed feelings?
         Stories are more than lists of facts; journalists describe what they perceive. They often interpret what others say. They use their judgment to decide which issues and events to cover, whom to quote, which quotes to use, what material to include, what images to shoot, how to edit it, how to play the story, etc.
         They are not scientists staring into a petri dish. News coverage influences stories. How can journalists be objective when they are part of the action?
         Those who think objectivity is an impossible ideal may still strive to be fair and balanced. But they, too, must make subjective decisions about whom to quote, which arguments have merit, etc. Outside their writing, they can express feelings and opinions as much as they like – as long as their bosses don’t mind and the public doesn’t find out. “Fair and balanced” is in the eye of the beholder. 
         More than a decade ago, Sandy Nelson lost her reporting job because she worked for gay rights on her own time. The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Tacoma (Washington) News Tribune, saying it had a right to maintain “the appearance of objectivity.” The myth of objectivity has become the dirty little secret of the profession.
         Before the 20th century, many newspapers trumpeted biases to attract readers who shared their views or wanted another opinion. Now, when few cities have more than one daily newspaper, and a few corporations monopolize the media, it makes sense to claim objectivity. Media owners want readers, viewers and listeners to think they can get all sides, all viewpoints, from just one source. And they do not want to offend advertisers. This translates into a lowest-common-denominator journalism that supports the status quo.
         By continually cutting staff, the bosses leave little time for in-depth pieces. Those focus more on individual wrongdoing than systematic issues. The media pulls down powerful people from time to time, but does little to challenge the system that bestows that power. Thus, a journalist may vow to nail a politician, but is unlikely to say, “I’m going to expose capitalism.”  
A publisher blew up one day because I wrote on the longevity of Ms. magazine and another story on the growth of feminist bookstores, including a local one, for the features section. He complained there was too much feminism in the paper that day.
         But bosses don’t have to yell to make their point. Often when I wrote on controversial issues, I received little feedback. If I featured an alligator farm, however, I was praised for my writing and humor.
         Many journalists accept and reinforce the norms of the culture, both in and outside the newsroom. Welcome to “The Matrix.” In the past, for example, most believed domestic violence was a personal problem, with no larger implications for society. The women’s movement drew attention to domestic violence. Nevertheless, media coverage rarely links it to sexism – beliefs that men are superior and have a right to control women. Another example: Editors questioned whether a gay colleague could cover issues of sexual orientation. Heterosexuals were considered unbiased, even though many of the men ridiculed gays.
        The myth of objectivity breeds cynicism. Journalists who wanted to change the world find they can’t be advocates. They try to make stories fair to the point of quoting the usual extremist, even when they know those arguments can be picked apart. But who has time or space for that? The truth be damned.
        The myth of objectivity also counteracts diversity. If any good journalist can be objective, if they can produce fair stories, why seek employees with different backgrounds, experiences, etc.?
        Many feminists rely on differences when reporting information. Donna Haraway, writing in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, says people shouldn’t mimic 19th-century scientists who thought of themselves as apart and invisible from that which they studied. People must connect with other points of view. No one view can encompass all perspectives.
       Consider a team assembled for a disaster. It may include a person who knows business, one familiar with the neighborhood, one who’s bilingual, one who has experience with such a disaster, and one good at getting colorful details. They may file from different locations, at different times. People putting together footage or rewriting copy know the situation will change.
       That’s how journalists could envision their business in general. They can gather only pieces of the truth, in hopes of creating as complete a picture as possible. They need people who look differently, not just ones who look different. They must recognize that they aren’t looking at the picture; they’re in it.
      (The Journalism and Women Symposium newsletter published this in 2003. I'm "reprinting" it here because another blogger already posted it.)

Watched The Debate

Aren't you glad? The American debates are still something quite exotic to me, like a weird ritual where I'm not certain what the point might be. So I decided both to watch the debate and to gather all the post-debate pearls of wisdom the pundits were willing to offer to me. Here's what I learned:

First, there were questions, presented by Gwen Ifill, for Governor Palin and Senator Biden to answer. However, it seems that those questions didn't really matter. You could talk about something else instead of answering the question you were posed, and Palin took advantage of that a lot, Biden a lot less. The assessment of the media pundits is that she did very well doing that. (Don't tell college students about this trick. They'll all start demanding the right to answer the question they would prefer instead of the one they were actually given to answer.)

Second, the tone of the debate seemed to be very important. Was it funny enough? It appears it was not. Did the candidates wear their hearts on their sleeves enough but not too much? It seems that they did, because Biden mentioned the death of his wife and daughter and Palin mentioned her family. This is important, I have gathered, because if Palin and Biden had been pod-people they would have been trapped by those comments, not knowing human family feelings.

Third, what about the folksiness? For some odd reason the Vice-President of the United States needs to be folksy. It may have something to do with preventing terrorism or with the hatred of elites (meaning geeks and nerds) or with that whole idea that you pick people for the most important jobs in this country by deciding whom you'd like to bed or to get drunk with. In any case, Palin won the folksiness competition. She was folksier than Biden who was too....senatorial.

What is this folksiness? It seems to be the idea that ordinary people can use nothing but common sense and simple words to solve the complex problems of this world. This is of course exactly what George Walker Bush has been telling us for the last eight years! That's why we have been doing so very well. Palin plans to continue that never-failing recipe for success.

More seriously, I gather that folksiness might be the same as being approachable and likeable and being able to relate to the problems of the common folk, and that kind of folksiness is laudable. It is not a substitute for the skills needed for the job, however.

Fourth, I learned (from governor Palin) that America is an exceptional country, a shining city on the hill (a religious reference*), meant to lead the world. Now, some damned furriners might find that a wee bit insulting. Of course I'm not one of those. Nosir.

Fifth and finally, I found out that both Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin are offering CHANGE from the way things have been done in Washington, D.C. in the past. For instance, a governor from Alaska is an outsider and therefore perfect for enacting some change. Sort of like a governor from Texas eight years ago.
P.S. I could have discussed what was said about policies and such but that isn't how debates are judged so I won't. Heh.
P.P.S. *There may have been more religious references as a sort of code to the religious right. This was the case with one of Bush's debate speeches in 2004.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Dumb Broads

The other day I was reading Kathleen Parker's pleadings for the Republican Party to get rid of Sarah Palin on some blog that had reproduced it and scrolled down to the comments on the piece. One of the first ones was this:

At least we still have some women who can think. For some reason I thought Palin was the best ... this country can produce when it comes for educated woman.

When Parker later wrote about the horrible e-mails and comments her anti-Palin piece got from Republican partisans I wondered how she'd rate comments like the one above. My guess is that she's been getting a whole lot of them throughout her years of woman-bashing but that she took them as compliments about her own excellency. After all, it's great fun to be the only woman who is deemed capable of thought.

Why am I singling out that one (rather funny) comment? Because I suspect that part of the great glee some liberals and progressives express in their Palin-bashing has to do with the freedom her opinions and statements give them to release that tiny little misogynist and still stay a good progressive. Because usually The First Woman* in some new field is picked carefully (just like The First Black was in professional baseball, say) and usually she's far superior in all sorts of characteristics to your average woman or man. That Palin wasn't picked that way goes without saying, but one can still pretend that she's the best women can offer. Or the best conservative women can offer. Such fun and games.
*She's the first Rebublican female vice-presidential candidate.

People Inside People

Like those Russian dolls. Colorado has a proposal to amend its state constitution with a little piece about how a human being is defined as one from the moment of fertilization. Including the human beings in the freezers of fertility clinics, I guess.

The obvious reason for doing this would be to allow the state later to ban all abortion should Roe be repealed on the national level. But the amendment could do all sorts of other fun stuff:

Q. How could this amendment jeopardize women's health?

A. If this amendment passes, the Colorado Constitution could be used to deny medical treatment to a pregnant woman for a disease or condition – like cancer -- if the treatment might harm the fetus.

This amendment also would lay a legal foundation to outlaw all abortions in Colorado, even in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, in cases of rape or incest, or when the life or health of the woman is at risk.

Colorado would have a constitutional provision that could ban several of the most effective forms of birth control – like the Pill, IUDs, the Patch and the Ring.

Q. How does this amendment allow government interference in our personal lives?

A. The wording of this amendment is unclear and open to interpretation by the courts and politicians. If passed, this amendment could establish a legal basis for the government to investigate a woman and her doctor for a miscarriage, medical care provided during high-risk pregnancies that fail, or for any action that may unintentionally harm a fetus.

The more I think about amendments of this sort the more I see a horrible world for fertile women. Because all fertile women would be possible houses of other human beings and anything that fertile women do might, conceivably, hurt the little homunculus inside. You'd have to always check if the house is empty before you could let it be used in some manner which might endanger a fetus. For instance, a woman couldn't just have a glass of wine; she'd have to present a recent negative pregnancy test first. After all, you don't give alcohol to minors. Or a woman wanting to engage in dangerous sports would have to first present a negative pregnancy certificate, to prove that she's all alone.

Any busybody could start demanding that a woman who has recently put on some weight should be tested for pregnancy, especially if she drinks or smokes and might be harming an innocent minor. Who knows? Better be sure. There might be invisible people inside her. Come to think about it, that weight gain bit is unnecessary. Any woman engaging in any risky behavior (running ten miles a day, say) should always be tested. Like daily.

I don't see how such an amendment could ever NOT infringe on the human rights of adult women. Once you accept the idea that there are people inside people and that the outermost person is not allowed to refuse that inside-person, however it got inside her (even if by rape), well, women could kiss their human rights goodbye.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Secret Demographic Topic in These Elections

Is the one that dares not speak its name. This one, from a recent poll about Obama vs. McCain:

Non-college-educated white women split virtually evenly, 46%-45% for McCain. By contrast, Obama remains weak among white men. That group supports McCain 57%-36% overall, and non-college-educated white men back the Republican ticket by an even greater margin, 63%-27%.

Now look at those enormous advantages for McCain among white men! How many articles have you read about this phenomenon? As compared to, say, all those articles about whether women will go for McCain because of Palin?

Do you know what I think? I think we can learn enormous amounts about the culture by asking why we don't discuss the voting patterns of white men.

Palin's Anti-Choice Stance

Her interview with Katie Couric has some information on her pro-life principles:

COURIC: If a 15-year-old is raped by her father, you believe it should be illegal for her to get an abortion. Why?

PALIN: I am pro-life and I'm unapologetic about my position there on pro-life, and I understand good people on both sides of the abortion debate.

Now, I would counsel to choose life. I would like to see a culture of life in this country. But I would also like to see, taking it one step further, not just saying I am pro-life and I want fewer and fewer abortions in this country. But I want, then, those women who find themselves in circumstances that are absolutely less than ideal for them to be supported, for adoptions to be made easier.

COURIC: But ideally, you think it should be illegal for a girl who is raped or the victim of incest to get an abortion?

PALIN: I'm saying that personally I would counsel that person to choose life despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anybody end up in jail for having had an abortion? Absolutely not. That's -- that's nothing that I would ever support.

This is pretty confusing. Note that Couric starts by noting that Palin believes the hypothetical fifteen-year old, raped and impregnated by her father, should not have recourse to a legal abortion. But Palin does NOT address that at all. Instead, she appears to suddenly turn pro-choice: She would "counsel to choose life." If abortion was made illegal for victims of rape and/or incest, nobody could "counsel" the victim to "choose" life, she'd be forced to bring the pregnancy to term.

When Couric returns to the question whether abortion should be made illegal in the example she starts with, Palin continues using the choice metaphor as if there was any choice left after the laws have been changed.

She's scared of saying plainly that she would ban abortion in all cases except the one where the woman's life is at immediate risk. Never mind if the woman was raped by her father (or by some stranger who just decided that she should bear children), never mind if she will end up chronically ill forevermore. Never mind that there would be no choice for women left in Palin's ideal world: She still uses the word "choice".

And what's this all about: "And if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anybody end up in jail for having had an abortion? Absolutely not."?

So Palin believes abortion is murder. Yet there would be no prison sentence for that murder? I recommend that Palin looks at the criminal codes of the countries where abortion is illegal. Women who have had abortions do, indeed, end up in jail.


I've tried writing on several topics tonight. Not going to happen.

Instead, I offer you Wittgenstein's "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen" or "What we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence." Well, I sort of offer you that, in a musical form. Hee.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Them Damn Minorities!

That's the new Conservative meme about the secret real reason for the financial markets crisis. Yup. It's the Community Reinvestment Act that caused it, forcing banks to lend to minorities:

Several conservatives in the media have recently blamed the Community Reinvestment Act for the current financial crisis -- when, in fact, the CRA does not apply to institutions making the vast majority of troubled loans underlying the crisis. It applies only to depository institutions, such as banks and savings and loan associations. Experts have estimated that 80 percent of high-priced subprime loans were offered by financial institutions that are not subject to the CRA.

Well, if it's not that particular act, it must be the minorities anyway. Except for this:

2008-ComplianceTech, a provider of technology and business intelligence for consumer lending institutions and government agencies, has released an industry report indicating that the majority of subprime-rate loans originated in 2006 were made to non-Hispanic Whites and upper-income borrowers (conventional, 1st lien, 1-to-4 family, owner-occupied, home purchase and refinance).The findings are contrary to the way subprime-rate lending has been portrayed. Frequent media portrayals and congressional dialogue refer to subprime-rate lending as a minority and low-income issue. Findings in the report are based on data submitted by lenders under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) analyzed with the data-mining tool LendingPatterns(TM).

The report concluded that a disproportionate share of loans made to minorities and low-income borrowers were subprime-rate loans, but the majority of subprime-rate loans were made to non-Hispanic Whites and upper-income borrowers. Of the 1,917,809 subprime-rate loans originated in 2006, non-Hispanic Whites had 70.82 percent of the loans, and 56.23 percent of the subprime-rate loans. Upper-income borrowers had the highest share of the subprime-rate loans at 39.37 percent, followed by 27.55 percent for middle-income borrowers and 20.99 percent for moderate-income borrowers.

Contrary to popular belief, low-income borrowers had only 149,173, or 7.57 percent, of 2006 subprime-rate loans. The report also concluded that the majority of subprime-rate loans were originated in predominately-White geographic regions (areas representing census tracts less than 30 percent minority).

WHACK! POW! $%^^$*&!

The conservative Jonah Goldberg, while talking with the conservative Glenn Beck, asks us to think about Harry Reid's slashed stomach and half-starved weasels. I didn't know that it was the Democrats who caused the financial crisis, what with not having been in power when it started and all. But whatever, as they say these days. Though it's probably time for a post with some actual data to point out that the minorities and the liberals are not behind this crisis. To argue that they are is a really desperate attempt to grasp at straws. I guess Democrats are also the reason why the Chinese milk has melamine and so on.

No, my conservative friends. These problems have to do with your free market fundamentalism and corporate crony capitalism.

Added for clarification: I was reading about Howard Rich's threats to people who donate to liberal causes and the supposed threats to conservative donors that had provoked Rich to make his threats. Then I read some of the comments at Politico and started thinking about the cartoon violence character of these debates. It worries me, the dehumanization of the opposition. What also worries me is something I have noticed recently: The commenting communities on quite a few larger blogs appear to have become self-policing and increasingly narrow. Homes for those who think exactly alike.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Out Of Her League

I happened to catch Kathleen Parker today on my radio. Sadly, I had to release her.

If you don't know Parker's writings count yourself lucky. Her most recent books is called something like Save The Males and whenever she writes about anything that has to do with women she expresses her deep and abiding misogyny. She's not an uncommon type of a wingnut woman but in the general mold of many of them. Ann Coulter suggesting that women shouldn't have the vote is an extreme example of the type of writing these women do.

All this is important to know to see why I wasn't exactly surprised when Parker decided to tell Sarah Palin to get the hell back to Alaska. But this is really very silly:

No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I've been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I've also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted

Pulling for Palin? Perhaps if it was a rope around Palin's neck, but not otherwise. Because our Kathleen really has a big psychological problem with women and that problem is called misogyny.

Parker is not the only misogynistic voice raised against Palin. Andrew Sullivan is another pundit who never saw much value in women (remember his testosterone-makes-men-better article?). But now Andy has gone all feminist in his attacks against Palin.

So is Palin "out of her league" as Parker points out? Of course she is if the league is defined carefully to only include people who are very experienced and very educated and very intelligent, the kinds of people some of us would like to see leading countries.

On the other hand, let's take a look at - oh, say - George Walker Bush. What was his level of expertise when he ran for the president of the United States? There was a rumor at the time that when asked a question about the Taliban Georgie thought it was the name of a rock band, and though I can't verify that story I can certainly verify (as can all of you) that George Bush is not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer and that many of his utterances are pure word salad. Yes, we point that out on the liberal side of the political aisle but I have not noticed conservative pundits suggesting that Bush should have withdrawn his candidacy because he was stupid and ignorant and uninterested in learning anything whatsoever.

See? We didn't even have to go back to Dan Quayle to find another Republican candidate who had very little experience and who made a lot of very stupid comments. It looks like Sarah Palin is in the same league as the president we have right now, doesn't it?

What is one to conclude about all this? My conclusion would be not to vote for McCain-Palin. I don't want another ignorant president. We can all see what the current one has done to this country. But let's not pretend that this country has never had stoopid run the country before.

Was will das Weib?

Those immortal words by Sigmund Freud come from this quote from a letter he wrote:

The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is "What does a woman want?"

I'm sure you have seen that question many times and read several answers to it, ranging from whole books such as Patricia Ireland's What Do Women Want to loads and loads of sexist little columns about the impossibility of knowing what such featherbrained and deficient (though cuddly) creatures might want to serious treatises pointing out that no large group of people ever wants just one thing or just the same things and how sexist it is to even assume that this would be the case.

That's one monster sentence! I'm rather proud of it, because I really want to stop writing in such a short and manly style...

In any case, whenever I now see that little question what I want most of all is to open my mouth really large to extend my fangs and to cut off the neck of the person who used that phrase. Annoying, that's what it is. To see why that would be the case, just ask yourself a similar question about, say, all Jews or about all Somalians or about all men. Then ask the question about all monkeys. You might notice that somehow the question makes better sense when applied to monkeys, because we have trouble with communication across species and because we see ourselves as the researchers and the monkeys as the objects of the research.

And those are the emotions this phrase evokes in me: Freud in his white coat, on one side of the cage walls, me (as "das Weib") shrieking and climbing the cage walls while being "observed." That's part of what annoys me about the quote: It sets the roles of the observer and the observed. Then it adds to that the assertion that Freud's thirty years of observing should be enough for him to know the answer, not to mention the implicit assumption that his "research" has been all objective and thorough and that an answer should have been forthcoming.

This from a man who wrote to his betrothed:

Woe to you, my Princess, when I come... you shall see who is the stronger, a gentle girl who doesn't eat enough or a big wild man who has cocaine in his body.

See how annoying all that is? Especially as Freud's statement is not only treated as objectively true but also as leading to the unavoidable conclusion that it's pointless to try to understand "woman" so we might as well just not try to understand "her." It's nice for all the lazy people, people who don't want to make an effort in understanding other people. After all, if Sigmund Freud, a great and calm thinker, agrees it must be AOK not to understand women.

But then of course Freud thought the idea of gender equality was frightening and ridiculous and totally out of question, and he never seems to have put these feelings of his under the cool microscope of his brain even though he advocated complete honesty in self-interrogations.

I rather think that my zoo cage parable isn't a bad one if you allow for the fact that not only is "das Weib" a monkey in a cage but so is Professor Freud a little upset monkey in a cage and that one mostly of his own making.

Pictures from my files.

No Bailout Yet

So the bailout bill failed to pass in the House. The Republicans played the "bipartisanship" game most beautifully.

The bill that failed today was better than the initial bill but it didn't include any of the stuff I wrote about in an earlier post and it wasn't anywhere as good as the 1992 Swedish bank bailout plan was. It wouldn't have done very much but it might have kept the markets going until the next administration which then might have had more scope to do something more serious to fix the market problems.

Most people in the U.S. are opposed to the bailout of the financial markets, full stop. There are, however, fairly good reasons to be concerned about the markets even if you have no mortgage problems or a shrinking retirement investment. Money is like oil in the gears of the economic engine and the lack of money there will cause horrible grinding noises, failing parts of the engine and breakdowns. Unemployment will rise, lots of people will see their retirement income shrink, lots of people will find that dad or mom will not live in Florida after retirement but with them. Lots of people will find that little Jenny's college fund isn't enough to buy her more than a week or two. And so on.

It's important to keep in mind these problems, too, because the unregulated markets will not.

Some Monday News About Women And Vaginas

Not fun ones, sorry.

First, in Afghanistan:

Two Taliban assassins on a motorbike shot and killed a senior policewoman as she left for work in Afghanistan's largest southern city Sunday and gravely wounded her son.

Malalai Kakar, 41, who led Kandahar city's department of crimes against women, was leaving home Sunday when she was killed, said Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor. Her 18-year-old son was wounded, he said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility.

Militants frequently attack projects, schools and businesses run by women. The hard-line Taliban regime, which was ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, did not allow women outside the home without a male escort.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the assassination, as did the European Union, which said it was "appalled by the brutal targeting" of Kakar.

The Taliban kills people for all sorts of reasons, but it's never good to forget that they are pretty keen to get women back into the houses to sit there silently as graves. It's good to remember that violence of this kind is really intended to the rest of Afghanistan women, a statement telling them that is is what you, too, may meet if you dare to step out. This, my friends, is terrorism, too.

Then about those damn vaginas (hat tip to Phila):

A leading urogynaecologist has spoken out against the growing popularity of cosmetic vaginal surgery.

Professor Linda Cardozo, of King's College Hospital, London, says little evidence exists to advise women on the safety or effectiveness of procedures.

These include operations to make the external appearance more "attractive" and reshaping the vagina to counter laxity after childbirth, for example.
Professor Cardozo said the most established vaginal cosmetic procedure was reduction labioplasty - a procedure to make the labia smaller - which is requested by women either for aesthetic reasons or to alleviate physical discomfort.

"Women want to emulate the supermodel. It's part of a trend. But they should know that all surgery can be risky.

Mmm. This is the way so many socio-medical news items about women are written: First shockingly explain the horrors some women (never mind how few) are willing to have performed to them (chopping off toes to fit into smaller shoes, getting rid of the unevenness in those labias). Then suggest that women really are rather vain and stupid creatures who don't want to grow old gracefully or who want to look just like supermodels. The reasons for all these operations are just the women themselves. No external pressures are applied, yanno. Women are just rather silly creatures.

Just a minute! What supermodels was professor Cardozo talking about? Do the supermodels now take their panties off on the catwalk and turn around to show us the perfection of their vaginas? I thought they were clad in expensive clothes they try to sell us. This is very weird.

She is talking about porn stars, natch. But why not mention that? Interesting...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Shale Game (by Phila)

As you probably know, the desert West contains huge deposits of oil shale. This is a sedimentary rock that contains a solid compound called kerogen, which can be refined into a synthetic crude oil. Most of these deposits are on publicly owned land.

There's no good method of extracting shale oil. Currently, the most "promising" method -- the method that is supposed to make the industry economically and environmentally viable, at long last -- involves creating and maintaining an underground ice wall to protect groundwater, and then heating the kerogen-bearing rock in situ:
In the high desert near Rifle, Colo., Shell engineers are burying hundreds of steel rods 2,000 feet underground that will heat the shale to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature at which Teflon melts.

The heat will be applied for the next four years....
This process releases more greenhouse gases than conventional petroleum production. But in the short term -- which is all we really care about, right? -- the more serious consideration is probably water, the scarcity of which is already increasing conflicts between Western states and towns.

With all this in mind, it's interesting to read this op-ed by Jeff Hartley, who is the director of Utah's Responsible Energy Developers Forum. He was offended by a recent editorial in The Salt Lake Tribune, which criticized the new energy bill's lifting of the moratorium on oil shale leasing in Utah, and he's eager to set the record straight:
[T]echnologies now exist that require little or no process water, minimize surface disturbances and significantly reduce emissions. While some of The Tribune's claims about purported environmental impacts may have been true several decades ago, that is no longer the case.
That's progress for you! Still, I'm willing to bet that the careful phrase "process water" conceals an unpleasant reality; in discussions like these, specificity is almost always intended to mislead. At the very least, he's probably ignoring the water consumption of infrastructure and labor.

Then again, the fact that I allow myself to be troubled by these suspicions proves that I'm a Luddite or worse. Since there are no longer any serious environmental problems with oil shale, it's obvious that opposition to the project can only be based on hatred of civilization
"I've always said [to oil shale critics], 'What are you afraid of?'" [Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah] said. "You're afraid it might work."
Guilty as charged.

Here's the part I find fascinating, given the ongoing battle over water rights:
“There’s a misconception that it’s (oil shale development) all going to be new water, it’s really not,” Kuhn said. “Oil companies have existing valid water rights.” Some of those companies have water rights dating from the 1950s or 1960s"....During a water shortage, water consumptive oil shale extraction could deny Gunnison Basin or San Juan Basin or other water users their water rights if they date from 1970s or 1980s, he said.
Oil shale production will be allowed to proceed on federal lands as of tomorrow. Some members of Congress are talking about reinstating the moratorium in January, just in case anyone was thinking there's not enough at stake in the upcoming election.

Palin Is For Patriarchy Not Against It. That Is The Beginning To Understanding Her Place In This Race by Anthony McCarthy

It’s been my experience that there is one overriding mental habit that produces what is called the conservative mind set, maintaining a narrowed boundary of interest. Conservatives’ ability to empathize with those relatively distant from them or to care much about their rights is limited. Their actions, when they have power, is a clear demonstration of that fact as are their words. And it’s been my experience of conservatives that there are degrees to it. Some are more generous with their concern than others. Some have deep feelings for their nationality or ethnic group, some for their local community, some for their extended family, some only for them and their closest. Some of the feelings for other people outside of that boundary might be genuine at times, but usually it is expressed in some kind of balancing of costs and benefits to the conservative. The utility of the benefits extended to outsiders to the conservative is a common expression of why the limits of the only apparent self-interest should be extended, on occasion.

Empathy and its related ways of thinking are more associated with liberals and leftists, we are often mocked for that way of thinking. I think there is something to the stereotype and I am not at all ashamed of it. While there are many things that can be said about the consequences of that way of thinking about the world, this post is about only one consequence of that view of life. We tend to attribute that way of thinking to other people, including conservatives and even those conservatives whose actions show limited or no ability to break out of their self-interest. This assumption is often wildly over generous. At times it distorts the reality against and the results aren’t beneficial to us or the world at large.

The fact of being a member of a group which is discriminated against or even oppressed doesn’t guarantee that the habits of generosity and empathy will be generated in the individuals experiencing that oppression. Oppression produces different results among individuals. Some look at their experience and use it to become more sensitive to other peoples’ feelings, especially those in other groups which are oppressed. But that isn’t a guaranteed result. There are conservatives within even the most oppressed groups who don’t extend their generosity to other people outside their groups, or even to those within their oppressed minority. There are members of oppressed groups who find it in their personal interest to join the oppressors and gain personally from it. Clarence Thomas is an extreme example who held up his own sister to scorn to boost his standing in the Republican right. I mentioned Roy Cohn here last week. Phyllis Schlafly is certainly a woman whose personal power is based almost entirely on her supporting the worst of patriarchal oppression of other women.

In trying to figure out what is wrong with these people, traitors to others within their kind, looking at their inability to see past their own interest is a key to understanding them. It’s a mistake to look at Sarah Palin and analyze her actions and her place in this campaign in terms of the struggle against patriarchy. She doesn’t struggle against it, she endorses it. That she has found a way to rig the patriarchal system to HER benefit and through her to that of those closest to her is to be expected, that’s what conservatives do no matter what group they belong to. Looking at Palin as any kind of first for women (second, actually, as we are not supposed to remember) only leads away from reality. She is out for number one, not for women in general. Her nomination is as meaningful for progress for women struggling against patriarchy as Clarence Thomas has been for the equality of black people or the Log Cabin Republicans for gay people. In the struggle against patriarchy, she’s just a patriarch in disguise. The use of her daughter in this campaign is rapidly approaching the level of depravity that Thomas’ use of his sister was. It is a warning of just how bad a Palin administration could get.

Note: I had a request to keep writing until the election on these subjects. Not getting all that many requests, I’ll try to oblige.

An Elaborate System of Control (by Phila)

An economist named Sir Allen Peacock worries that addressing climate change will involve "subjecting man to an elaborate system of control."

Given the seriousness of this threat, he feels a duty to force our thinking and our behavior into compliance with the free-market dogma that will liberate us.

No one can blame a freedom fighter for stretching the truth now and again, so we won't linger over Peacock's lame attempt to pretend that there's an equivalence between the "global cooling scare" of the 1970s and the current theory of climate change. What's much more interesting is his effort to counter the claim that there's no equivalence:
[C]limate change scientists is undeniable that the pumping of [CO2] into the air is positively correlated with the growth of industrialisation.

Robinson and Morris demonstrate that this conclusion, when subject to the simplest statistical test, fails.

In theorising, they point out, climate change modellers need not accept that the future will be like the past.

Modellers say: "Is there not sufficient evidence of global warming in the melting of the polar ice caps?"

Here we come to a second reason for scepticism. If true, this can only be, at most, partial evidence in their favour. More generally, policy should require guidance from modelling on the time scale of global warming and its magnitude.
If you're going to ask people to change their views on the basis of "the simplest statistical test," you're obliged to give them a clear sense of what that test entails. Instead, Peacock has cobbled together a series of statements that seem to me to have virtually no relation to one another and to express nothing coherent.

From there, things get even stranger. The environmental taxes and regulations that to Peacock comprise "an elaborate system of control" are "Draconian," which is bad. But they're also "unenforceable," which is apparently even worse. (If we must live under tyranny, let it at least be enforceable!)

Also, there's some uncertainty about the likely effects of climate change. This means that "circumstances hardly justify" taking what Peacock would call drastic action, because as everyone knows the proper reaction to uncertainty is complacency (unless you're talking about the faint possibility that regulating CO2 emissions will lead to a new Gulag, in which case it's very definitely time to panic).

Peacock's evidence -- apart from that simple statistical test -- boils down to his discovery of dogmatic overtones in environmentalist rhetoric (which, for some reason, he fails to detect in his own free-market boilerplate):
To compare their activities with religious extremism is modish, but enlightening. Prophecy leading to identification of sin, salvation and heresy can be identified in their pronouncements.
This, you'll agree, is a bracing antidote to the muddy thinking and wild speculations of the world climatological community.