Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Restoring Confidence in the Markets

George Bush spoke about that the other day and Dan Froomkin pointed out that as people don't have confidence in Bush as a president they are unlikely to have confidence in what he says about restoring confidence.

Bush is not the only voice which has asked for confidence to be returned. Confidence is that magical thing which would stop people from taking their savings out of the banks or moving all their investments into gold and under-the-mattress funds. I doubt that confidence is easily returned, however.

My old parable about the financial markets as a person turning up at the ER of a hospital with severe and inexplicable bleeding still applies. Of course the bleeding must be stopped and the patient's condition stabilized. Of course.

But the next stage is not just releasing the patient back on the streets with no actual diagnosis or long-terms treatment plans, and that's how I view the current rescue packets. They are like the first-aid at an ER. Yet we are asked to view the treatment as sufficient to give us "confidence" in the patient's future health, even though we don't have a real diagnosis or a real prognosis or any long-term treatment information.

Once again, I'm returning to my frequent pleas to make sure that the markets have proper rules and proper oversight. Installing those now will not cancel the crisis we are in but it's imperative for the avoidance of worse things in the future. It's like long-term medical supervision and care for a patient who was ill enough to turn up at the emergency room.

I also think that it's useful to distinguish between "confidence" and "trust" in the markets. It's trust that we really need, trust that the markets won't suddenly implode and destroy our retirement savings or the value of the most important capital asset most people own: the value of their homes. And for that trust to return we need to understand and treat the ultimate reasons for what ails the markets.

I'm Tickling the Back of Yer Knee!

Did you ever see this picture of the blogosphere? This blog is there, right at the knee of that weird boot with the sharp heel (called Artemis' boot though everyone knows that Artemis wears steel-toed loggers' boots). Right below Chomsky!

How odd is that?

I'm not sure what I should feel or think about this.

Money Makes The World Go Round

Do you get the image of Liza Minelli in a top hat when you read that title for this post? The point of the song wasn't quite to tell us that firms and consumers need liquid assets, something that can be used to ease transactions in general and to make barter unnecessary, something that allows a firm to pay its employees this month while waiting for its customers to pay it next month. Money or short-term credit.

It is short-term credit which appears to have almost dried up in the financial markets of many countries and the injections of money into the system are an attempt to oil the gears sufficiently so that somehow the markets for short-term credit get going again. Whether it works is a big question mark.

Paul Krugman, among others, has argued for a while that the crisis we are living is not a liquidity crisis but one about lack of capital, and if that is right the liquidity injections will not work. Now he has written a short paper (pdf) about the reasons the crisis globalized so very rapidly. (You can skip the squiggles and just read the bits in English if you don't like squiggles.)

He concludes that the financial markets are a whole lot more global than we have thought, or at least more global in ways we did not prepare for. They allowed the exporting of the American crisis more rapidly and efficiently (sarcasm) than many economists expected.

Then to the House Oversight Committee which has discussed the sad story of the Lehman Brothers' demise:

Prior to the hearing, Republican members of the Oversight Committee released a report in which they concluded that deregulation is not to blame for the current trouble in the financial system.

The report goes on to discuss the net-capital rule, which is a regulation limiting the amount of debt that financial institutions are allowed to take on. In the report, House Republicans argue that there should be no such rule, because bankers will just "find ways around" it:

Banking regulations require financial institutions to limit their asset risk per unit of capital, but writing regulations that simply mandate an appropriate level is unlikely to work for very long because it is in the interest of bankers to find ways around these requirements in pursuit of profit.

However, the report completely fails to note that financial institutions carrying huge debt-to-capital ratios contributed to the recent meltdown. Furthermore, it was the Bush administration, through the auspices of the Securities and Exchange Commission, that actively relaxed the debt-to-capital regulation.

In 2004, the SEC loosened the rule mandating "that broker dealers limit their debt-to-net capital ratio to 12-to-1." The five investment banks that qualified for an alternative rule - Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley - were allowed "to increase their debt-to-net capital ratios, sometimes, as in the case of Merrill Lynch, to as high as 40-to-1."

According to the New York Times, the investment banks themselves lobbied for the rule change, because it would "unshackle billions of dollars held in reserve as a cushion against losses on their investments." However, when the subprime mortgage bubble burst, the investment firms no longer had enough cash on hand "to weather the storm."

Chairman of the Oversight Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), said this lax regulation "proved to be a temptation" that the investment firms "could not resist," but "when asset values decline — as the subprime market did — leverage rapidly consumes a company's capital and jeopardizes its survival.

Barry Ritholz wrote that the SEC exemption is "in large part responsible for the huge build up in financial sector leverage over the past 4 years — as well as the massive current unwind":

It's always interesting that the "law-and-order" Republicans are so very unwilling to have any laws apply to the marketplace and that they justify this by saying that the clever buggers would just get around them. This reminds me of George Bush telling us how there's no point in trying to really tax the rich as they'll run rings around the government and take their money abroad.

I still think that the whole financial markets fiasco is because of lack of proper oversight and proper regulatory rules. For instance the credit default swaps were insurance, but they were not subjected to the rules insurance companies had to follow.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Killing Me Gently

I just read the horrible story about a man who killed his wife, his mother-in-law and his three sons before killing himself. The story gets so much publicity, because of its fit with the current financial markets mess. The murderer was someone who had been employed in the financial industry, who couldn't find another job and who was in deep financial trouble despite having a house in a gated community and so on.

It's a dreadful story about multiple murders. Or about multiple murders and a suicide. But the manner in which it is reported is extremely odd:

A man distraught because he could not find work shot and killed his mother-in-law, his wife and three sons and then killed himself inside a home in an upscale San Fernando Valley neighborhood, police said.

Authorities said the man had an MBA in finance but appeared to have been unemployed for several months and had worked for major accounting firms, such as Price Waterhouse, police said.

The two-story rented home is in a gated community in Porter Ranch, about 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles.


Inside the house, police also found three letters, one to law enforcement acknowledging responsibility for the killings, a second to friends and relatives and a third that appears to be the suspect's will, Moore said.

"He attests to some financial difficulties, and he takes responsibility for the taking of the lives of his family members and himself as a result of those financial difficulties," Moore said.

There ya go. A multiple-murder story which begins with explaining why the murderer committed the murders and how he "takes responsibility" for the crimes. Except that he didn't take responsibility, because he offed himself.

Here's more about his motives and responsibility:

Moore said it was clear to police that the family members were close and "had an affection for each other." He said the parents had given up their master bedroom to their eldest -- who was spending the weekend home from college -- "out of respect."

"This is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed, apparently because of a man who just got stuck in a rabbit hole, if you will, of absolute despair, somehow working his way into believing this to be an acceptable exit."

There's lots of empathy in that quote, empathy towards the man who was so tormented that he killed five people, but zero empathy towards those five people. Did he ask them if they wanted to die with him? Did he think of them as separate individuals, entitled to make those choices themselves? Perhaps he did, but the story as told here doesn't convince me of some kind of a shared suicide pact. It looks a lot like a murder of five people who didn't want to get killed.

That should not be forgotten just because the story fits in with the financial market turmoil.

The Power Of Porn

How interesting and unexpected:

Larry Flynt is using the power of porn to express his views on Sarah Palin.

The Hustler founder and freedom of speech advocate has produced an X-rated movie using an adult-film actress who resembles the Republican vice presidential candidate.

And Flynt isn't alone in his desire to turn a female politician into a porn star, whether she has agreed to it or not.

I'm sure that this is the usual way porn producers express their political views: By making porn about politicians. So let me know the names of the porn movies that have been made about George Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. I really, really want to watch those.

Should you happen to be one of those who think that Sarah Palin is exploiting her own sexuality in the campaign and might not mind if others join in, think about the Hillary Clinton nutcrackers or the way her cleavage was discussed all over the political media.

The Second Deep Thought for a Monday

Migraine is more controllable than the financial situation right now:

U.S. Stocks Decline, Dow Industrial Average Falls Below 10,000

By Elizabeth Stanton

Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks dropped, driving the Dow Jones Industrial Average below 10,000 for the first time in four years, after bank bailouts in Europe widened and commodities producers slid on concern global growth is slowing.

Equities fell worldwide, erasing more than $2 trillion in market value. Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. sank more than 5 percent after the German government led a bailout of Hypo Real Estate Holding AG and BNP Paribas SA bought parts of Belgium's Fortis. Chevron Corp. lost 3.2 percent as oil declined to the lowest since February. The Dow rose 430 points from its intraday low on speculation the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates to unfreeze credit markets.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index tumbled 42.34 points, or 3.9 percent, to 1,056.89, the lowest since November 2003. The Dow retreated 369.88, or 3.6 percent, to 9,955.50 and earlier fell as much as 800 points for its biggest loss since October 1987. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index surged to a record high of 58.24.

``It's a financial panic, total dislocation in the financial industry across the board,'' said Ralph Shive, chief investment officer at 1st Source Corp. Investment Advisors in South Bend, Indiana, which manages $3 billion.

I recommend J.K. Galbraith's little book The Great Crash 1929, because it gives a very good idea about the steps which were taken (and not taken) at that time and which of those steps made things much, much worse. We can learn from that, even though the economies then and now are quite different.

Deep Thought for a Monday

Having a bad migraine attack is more enjoyable than writing about what Sarah Palin means for feminism.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Tim Wise: Might wanna adjust your hairshirt, your sexism is showing (by Skylanda)

Apparently I'm the last liberal on the block to get forwarded a copy of Tim Wise's latest missive on racism in America. I hadn't heard of Tim Wise before, but maybe you have. He is, self-proclaimedly, "among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the US." Judging by a strangely come-hither picture attached to the bio on his site (as well as a lot of titles that indicate that his racial background up front), he is a white dude. Aside from the usual questions that brings up (like, say, why is a white dude sucking down so much media time - what with his bragging bio noting that he's been "a featured guest on hundreds of radio and television programs worldwide" - when an actual person of color could be getting some air time), there is some credit to be given where credit is due: he makes a lot of good points.

Chief among those good points are things like the comparison of what reaction you typically get when a young white man (versus a young Hispanic man or young black man) pontificates publicly on their enthusiasm for guns, gun ownership, and gun rights. Racism: hard to argue there.

So might might not seem necessary, even though he seems to think it is, to spend more than half the essay bagging on Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin's daughter. Sarah Palin's extended family. And, oh yes, Sarah Palin's vagina. Uh huh, you didn't read that wrong:
"White privilege is when you can take nearly twenty-four hours to get to a hospital after beginning to leak amniotic fluid, and still be viewed as a great mom whose commitment to her children is unquestionable, and whose 'next door neighbor' qualities make her ready to be VP, while if you're a black candidate for president and you let your children be interviewed for a few seconds on TV, you're irresponsibly exploiting them."
I'm sorry, but who the hell is this guy and what the hell is his business judging the personal obstetrical practices of a woman he's never met? And fer chrissakes, but where did this tidbit about Sarah Palin's amniotic fluid come from, how was it confirmed, and why on god's green earth was this made fodder for any kind of public debate?

Unlike some of his finer points, this one does not even provide a one-to-one match between the white privilege he is criticizing and the moments of oppression of people of color he is highlighting (come again, what does amniotic fluid leaks have anything at all to do with children on television?). In fact, these have nothing to do with each other. And in fact, I've never heard of a woman of color being criticized for taking too long to get to the hospital while leaking amniotic fluid - and I've worked labor & delivery in two major metropolitan areas and a handful of small rural towns to boot; women of color certainly get criticized for all kinds random criteria that wealthy white women get a free pass on (don't for a second believe that poor white women don't face down similar drive-by critiques of their mommying skills), but to make up extra points of contention just so you can get a few extra digs in at Sarah Palin? There was no anti-racism content in this paragraph at all; this was pure put-her-in-the-stocks-and-throw-tomatoes-at-her crap from a white dude toward a white woman.

And so once again, the take-down of racism against men of color (as Obama is the main target of his defense, just as Palin is the main target of his attack) will be performed on the backs of the nearest woman. The entire column consists of roughly 22 paragraphs of similarly pithy comparisons, of which no less than thirteen are dedicated to bagging on Palin, her educational record, her family, what have you. Number of paragraphs dedicated to George Bush? One and a half. Number of paragraphs dedicated to McCain - ya know, the guy that's running this campaign? Six, sorta maybe seven. In case you thought he would generously spare McCain's family, nah - Cindy McCain even gets a nod for her prescription drug addiction...again, terribly lovely fodder for debate.

This kind of rhetoric, it doesn't sit well for so many reasons.

It forces me into the untenable position of feeling obligated to defend the likes of Sarah Palin, which is something I am loathe to do.

It forces women of color to engage once again in that counter-productive, ridiculous, second wave-crushing question of whether race or gender is their primary source of oppression, and conversely, whether race or gender is their primary loyalty. This only has to be an either-or question when someone who pretends to be on the side of either women or people of color drives a wedge this deep and forces loyalties to split - otherwise, it's a question that does not ever need to be asked or addressed. You can be faced with multiple sources of strife; you can have split loyalties; reasonable people can maintain all this in the same brain and not implode. It does no one any good to pit race against gender; this is a loser situation all around.

It forces the undermining of his very real and important points - which should be able to stand on their own without the blunt force repetition of just how much we should hate Sarah Palin and what goes on her family and her vagina.

But most of all, it forces me to realize - once again - that whatever the perspective (pro-racism, anti-racism, whatever, you name it), women will always be little more than grist for the mill when a white dude wants to make a point. A good point, a bad point, a self-righteous point, an important point, an inane point, whatever kind of point he wants to make: a stranger's vagina is his bizness to make it with.

P.S. In case you don't believe me, here's another paragraph:
"White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a 'second look'."
Good going, Tim. Way to believe that liberal white women actually flocked to Sarah Palin - thanks for the confidence in our ability to think for ourselves and withstand the undeniable temptation of voting for a pro-life, anti-environment conservative just 'cause she's got a vajayjay just like us (would it be too hard to convince him that hey, most of the women who flocked to Sarah Palin really have little to no substantative disagreement with her philosophy? nah, that would cause him to have to address real racism, instead of just bagging on women for the sake of bagging on women). And way to totally dismiss the desire that some of us women have to actually see a woman in the White House before the end of our lives; it is this kind of bull that made the clash between Clinton and Obama so profound - thanks for reminding us all over again that racism is justifiable if it's in offense against sexism, and sexism is justifiable if it's in the offense against racism. Really, we could have lived without banging our heads against that wall over and over again.

Louder Oceans (by Phila)

New research suggests that ocean acidification reduces sound absorption, which means that underwater noise will travel for longer distances:
Conservative projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest that the chemistry of seawater could change by 0.3 pH units by 2050 (see below for background information on pH and ocean acidification). In the October 1, 2008 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, Keith Hester and his coauthors calculate that this change in ocean acidity would allow sounds to travel up to 70 percent farther underwater. This will increase the amount of background noise in the oceans and could affect the behavior of marine mammals....

Hester's research shows once again how human activities are affecting the Earth in far-reaching and unexpected ways. As the researchers put it in their paper, "The waters in the upper ocean are now undergoing an extraordinary transition in their fundamental chemical state at a rate not seen on Earth for millions of years, and the effects are being felt not only in biological impacts but also on basic geophysical properties, including ocean acoustics."
Things affect other things. Go figure.

Presumably, calculations of the allowable noise levels for wind-farm turbines, and undersea warfare training exercises, and acoustic deterrent devices will take ongoing acidification into account.

What depresses me about all this -- aside from the obvious -- is that the more effects climate change has, the less seriously it seems to be taken among skeptics. Just as consensus is seen as collusion, each new concern is met with greater disbelief: "Now they're saying global warming will make fish go deaf! Bwa ha ha!"

It's certainly not due to any lack of imagination. The same people usually have no problem teasing out the hidden connections between gays and subprime mortgages, or immigrants and Morgellons disease. And the analogical intricacies of liberal fascism are as child's play to them.

But even among people who accept that warming is real but natural, the idea that it could have serious, wide-ranging, unexpected effects remains downright alien: perhaps the world's getting a tiny bit warmer, the argument goes, but how could that possibly affect disease transmission, or the incidence of wildfires? If anything, the inactivists seem to be even more complacent than the denialists, which is no mean feat.

A recent article in Science discusses the tendency to find connections and patterns where they don't exist. I'm more impressed by the ability to ignore them where they do.

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.