Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Nasty Post I

There will be more nasty posts in this new series, which is based on the idea that I got of collecting all the things that keep irritating me like a pebble in my shoe, things which keep happening over and over without anyone correcting them much, things which are like frogs leaping out of the mouths of otherwise intelligent people (this being a reference to fairy tales).

I recently read a comment somewhere about how the oppressors are white Christian heterosexual men and how everyone else should join forces against them and that way we would win. This is terribly simplistic for several reasons:

First, we all have the ability to be oppressors, given the opportunity to be so. There was a time when the Irish attacked the shores of Britain to capture slaves for themselves. Then later the British enslaved the Irish and so on. History can tell us that the once oppressed can quickly become oppressors when the tables are turned.

This is why I find the victim-focused or the oppressor-focused approaches insufficient without a long and hard look at what makes people oppress other people in the first place. True, writing boring theory is -- boring -- but I see no way around that problem.

Second, being oppressed doesn't necessarily make a person good, kind and otherwise fascinating. Being oppressed can also make a person bitter and vindictive or most likely just down-trodden, passive and hopeless. To expect that the oppressed are saintly creatures is really very insulting. Should women have equality ONLY if they are much, much better people than men? Yet I read a lot on the web based on the idea that all victims are very good people. Many of them are, of course, and many also learn from their own oppression to have empathy towards others who are in pain. But many are just plain nasty and still deserve not to be oppressed.

Third, and this appears a large surprise to quite a few if what I read on the net reflects reality: The different groups of the oppressed are perfectly able and often willing to have prejudices about each other. It's not exactly secret that the women of Palestine are treated as lesser creatures by the men of Palestine, for example, and it's not exactly the case that a feminist can never be a racist or homophobic and so on.

This point came up rather sharply when Proposition 8 passed in California last week, thus banning same-sex marriage, when it turned out that the decisive votes for its passing were those given by African-American voters, three quarters of whom supported it. Several blog comments threads on this topic turned out into odd debates about who it was who should really be blamed for the passing of Proposition 8, in terms of race and religion, mostly, and to me the discussions looked like an attempt to get back that thinking where all the oppressed are together and fight against not only their own oppression but that of all the other groups, too.

Which isn't exactly how the world works, sadly. For instance, study revolutions from the French Revolution onwards, and note how women participated in those revolutions and how very quickly (like in a second) the post-revolution setup pushed women back into their old oppressions or something not much different.

None of this cynicism is intended to argue that groups shouldn't build alliances or work together, because those are good ideas. What's not a good idea is naivete about what lies behind these alliances.

Filibusters Of Obama’s Nominees And “moderate” Republicans by Anthony McCarthy

I don’t buy the necessity of Democrats having a 60 vote margin in the Senate. It certainly wasn’t necessary for Republicans to thwart filibusters when they had a smaller majority than Democrats have today. The agreement between “moderate” Republicans and conservative Democrats made in order to prevent filibusters when Republicans held a narrow majority in the Senate should be considered a contract and the obligation of the Republicans who signed on to it kicks in now. They can't support a Republican filibuster without exposing themselves as hypocrites and their Democratic allies in that contract have to hold them to it.

They can point to his year's election having turned out the last “moderate” Republican house member from New England. That should be a constant reminder to Senators Snowe, Collins and Gregg of who puts them in office and that Obama won all of New England so he could change things. The stand they took when the reactionary Frist was in charge of the Senate has to be brought up now so they can't forget it. Then they were against filibusters to put some of the most putridly reactionary federal judges in place. And they aren’t alone in the hypocritical blather that put some of the worse of conservative judicial activists on the bench. I think that kind of “principle” is useful only to show how unprincipled a lot of principle is.

It’s time to tell the “moderate” Republicans that their choice is to follow Chris Shays into forced retirement or to “moderate” their standing with regard to the worst of Republican duplicity and obstruction. Snowe and Collins are too conservative for the state of Maine, Gregg is likely too conservative for the New New Hampshire. Their party is lurching ever farther to the right, they’re either going to have to distance themselves from their party or they’ll go down too. They can certainly be embarrassed and exposed as hypocrites clinging to the practices of the dead end of the Bush regime, their political future can be made much more difficult for them.

Lieberman has got to be kicked out of his chairmanship, his kind of treason has to be punished as a warning to himself and others. Most of the people I’ve read on the subject expect that’s what is going to happen, I think throwing him out of the caucus is probably essential as well. There is no reason for Democrats to suffer his backstabbing and duplicity now that he isn't needed. Throwing him out could also make him far less useful to the corporate media since they can't claim that he is what he hasn't been in years, a dissenting Democrat. The TV time his hypocrisy gets him seems to be what he lives for, it's got nothing to do with principle.

If his constituents want to try to harness their conceited "independent" Senator and get him to work for them instead of promoting his media career, that's their job.

Ahead, Though Much Too Slow, Is Still Faster Than Backward by Anthony McCarthy

As hard as it is to make up my mind what is going on the top of my reminder list, Iraq is certainly a good place to start. For numbers of people killed, maimed, displaced and subjugated by sexism, ethnic and religious oppression resulting from the Bush invasion, for the sheer lying illegality of it, the invasion of Iraq can lead the column.

I’m just making a list of the crimes and incompetence of the Bush II regime to remind me of why I should not become irrationally angry with the certain to come shortcomings of the Obama administration. For all its certain disappointments, what preceded it is certainly worse. Whatever else he turns out to be Barack Obama is not going to run a criminal enterprise to wage wars of conquest and to loot the common wealth of The People of the United States. He is not going to trash the world for profit in what is clearly the puerile delight in unfettered destruction engaged in by the Bush thugs. We on the left should remember what it was like, especially in the years when Hastert ran the congress and Lott and Frist ran the Senate as well. Iraq, Katrina, Enviornmental plunder, Economic Plunder, Starving of the middle and lower classes, Destruction of civil liberties .... the list is too long to finish.

We should also keep a perspective on the distance in time from the vanishing starting point, to the unseen place where we’re headed. As Ellen Goodman put it so well in her last column

When we're young, we think change is a 100-yard dash. As we get older, we think it's a marathon. Eventually we see a relay race.

The point of progress we for conceive of as completion is not going to come during our life times. And by that time there will be new futures to strive for, hopefully in the direction of an even more equal and decent society.

Consider how long it has taken to get here, not just the last two years of hard work and enormous cost to get the results of this election. In 1961 Abbey Lincoln sang about the road to progress that was Straight Ahead though much too slow. It was the time before before the civil rights legislation of the middle of that decade, the road ran through that and then on. That legislation more than forty years ago, was an absolute requirement to where we are today. Barack Obama's acceptance speech shows that he is well aware of that clearest of facts.

Barack Obama will sometimes seem disappointingly centrist to me and I’m certain to many of you. But within the context of the world I grew up and came of age in and especially in what has happened in the past three decades, his election seems like a miracle. The center today is farther left than it was on Monday, that point has already moved.

Yes, it’s too slow for those of us who are impatient for the future we can see as a rational possibility and a vital necessity. But it’s not just our world. We don’t set the speed limit, we don’t control the throttle. Maybe this is as fast as it’s going to go. It’s indisputably as fast as it has taken to get this far.

We should never forget that as we are disappointed, Barack Obama’s election and overturning the control of the Congress took an enormous amount of effort and unprecedented expense on the part of the winning coalition. We should consider the achievement of this week as a world record which will probably stand for a long time.

We have to also understand that we’ve got a stake in this coming administration and congress succeeding. We’ve spent a lot of our limited resources to get this far, we probably aren’t going to do any better under prevailing conditions. This is our chance. We can get to the left easier from where this election brings us, the center is closer than we’ve been for decades. We can build on a successful Obama administration, we won’t ever be able to build on electoral failure. That absurd idea has been tried and it has failed completely. The dialect doesn’t seems to not work to get us past right, we are going to have to push on history without its help. The left isn’t strong enough to do it alone, we need our allies a lot more than they need us. Our best strategy is to make ourselves essential to the larger coalition and that can only be done from within. Outside, where our more impractical members have kept us for most of the past half-century, we get nowhere. Inside, important to the agendas of our partners, we count for something. We have the ability to point out that we have contributed to the electoral success of Barack Obama and the Democratic majorities in the legislative branches. We have that right and that responsibility. We have the responsibility to use what influence we can obtain wisely and for its greatest effect. The left cannot draw on a pretend reserve and back it up with threats. That has bought us nothing but nothing in the past.

Anyone who refuses to work within the reality around us has got to be left behind. That’s their choice. The path ahead is dimly lit, difficult and much too slow. But today we can at least see where it goes on from here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Women as a voting bloc (by Suzie)


         In 1994, I questioned (in print) why women don't elect more women to office, considering that we constitute a majority of voters. Because this question continues, I thought people might be interested in an excerpt from that article:
         Voters value ethnicity, religion and party politics more than gender, explains Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. These values start in the home: Black children learn early about slavery, as do Jewish children about the Holocaust. But many girls don't hear about women's history until sometime later in school, MacManus says.
          Society has not paid as much attention to discrimination against women, she says, and people are less likely to agree about it - and less likely to think about it when they go to the polls.
          Women don't have the sort of group consciousness that creates a voting bloc, says Pamela Conover, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. "The core of group politics is us vs. them."
          Ethnic groups that are somewhat segregated can see how ethnicity affects their lives and can recognize shared interests. Integration breaks down that group thinking, Conover says, and no group is more integrated than women.
          "We sleep with the enemy. We live with them. We love them. They are our families. It's harder to get women to think in "us vs. them' terms."
           After women won the vote, men ... convinced many women that politics should be left up to the men, Conover says. Many women who were adults when the suffrage amendment passed never voted.
           "In my mother's generation, you voted, but you voted how your husband told you to," she adds.
       This article relates to Ann Nixon Cooper, a 106-year-old voter mentioned in Obama's victory speech. An Associated Press story notes that she first registered to vote in 1941.
Though she was friends with elite black Atlantans like W.E.B. Du Bois, John Hope Franklin and Benjamin E. Mays, because of her status as a black woman in a segregated and sexist society, she didn’t exercise her right to vote for years.

Instead, she deferred to her husband — Dr Albert B. Cooper, a prominent Atlanta dentist — who “voted for the house.”
          Black men began to vote in Atlanta in 1867 and at least some continued to do so, despite violence and statutory limitations. Women got the right to vote in 1920. Here's a good essay on the history of black voting in Atlanta. But it has little on black women, an issue raised in this article.
           For a related post, please see what Echidne wrote in her back-to-the-basics series: "That women are so integrated on that most primal of levels probably explains why sexism is harder to see than other -isms which oppress people."        

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Echidne The Career Advisor Auntie (Viewer Advisory: Ranting)

Here comes your pretty lead parachute for your career (not pink, not blue, not golden: lead): Become a writer who advocates for women's rights! It's a wonderful life, full of interesting debates and battles and you can piss off your nearest and dearest without any effort. You will stay in excellent mental shape, because your enemies are always looking for a way to take you down.

And those enemies abound. Let me count the groups:

1. Misogynists. Self-explanatory.
2. Religious fundamentalists. Self-explanatory.
3. The male-dominance-is-natural-and-impossible-to-change crowd among evolutionary psychologists.
4. Men who like women the way I like spaghetti with pesto. I don't want the pesto to get up and demand a plate and a fork, either.
5. Women who like men who like women the way I like spaghetti with pesto.
6. Men and women who are oblivious to the anti-woman aspects of our society and who don't want to be made to see it.
7. Men and women who benefit from the anti-woman aspects of our society.
8. People in the feminist movement who don't find you adequately feminist.
9. People in the feminist movement who find you feminist in the wrong way.
10. People in the feminist movement who find you far too feminist, thus ignoring the awful lot of male human beings.
11. The Independent Women's Forum gals.
12. Guys who want to talk about tits and cunts and to tell sexist jokes without getting told off by a prissy feminist. (Why is PMS the name of the premenstrual tension syndrome? Because mad cow disease was already taken.)
13. Almost anyone you pester by bringing up unimportant and stupid special interest topics about women when the Whole World Is Collapsing. Also anyone you appear to be blaming for the lot of women in this world. Anyone you give feelings of guilt.

Now isn't that list great fun? You get to debate them all! AND you get the honorary title of a Man-Hater.

What about the money, some of you might wonder. Don't you at least get rich doing all that work?

Well, at least I got a good belly laugh from that last question.

The Job With No Paycheck

What are First Ladies for? I suspect that their two most important tasks are to humanize the president and to give us all a nice empty bowl into which we can pour our preconditions, desires and fears about the gender roles in the United States. Hence the need to criticize the softness or hardness of the First Lady candidates in this presidential race, the need to find out if she dares to meddle in men's affairs or not, the need to reassure ourselves (well, for some of us) that he indeed is the boss in that family. Oh, and she is also supposed to be open to fashion critiques.

But in addition to that job, largely not seen as a job, the First Ladies also work quite hard. They have to be present at all those dos, to preside over countless dinners, to attend zillions of events, to travel, to smile, to shake hands, to answer letters and to work on some harmless-looking but oh-so-important-topic which actually isn't going to go anywhere. It's quite a hard job, being the First Lady, you know, with very long hours, a staff and a budget.

So what's the pay for this job, eh? As far as I can ascertain, there is no paycheck at all. None. This doesn't matter in the real-world financial sense, because she gets money from the president, just as all those other little ladies do. Perhaps that's her paycheck? But then she is his employee, not the employee of the whole country. Like a private social secretary and housekeeper and PR person all rolled into one.

Thinking about all this yields some heady feminist analysis, you know. Note that the First Lady is viewed as free labor for the country. The presidents are supposed to come with one, as part of their staff. How she is paid is up to him. What would happen if we got a president with no wife? Would he then be allowed to hire someone for the job and to actually pay the person out of federal funds? Or would we assume that he could do all that and presidenting, without any extra funding?

What all this means for the Obamas is that we view his election as a labor contract between not just Barack Obama and the country but also between Michelle Obama and the country. Yet she is not getting paid, because she is really viewed as part and parcel of him. I'm not sure why everybody feels free to criticize the First Ladies when they are not even paid for the job.

Turning Away From The Abyss

That is the first meaning of this election for me. I'm overjoyed by having an African-American president for this country, but I'm even more overjoyed (should such a thing be possible) about the way we have managed, at the very last minute, to grab the steering wheel of this bus we call the United States and to stop it from its imminent careen into an abyss. Now we can wipe our foreheads, take a couple of deep breaths and then start working on all that damage the bus has. There's a lot of work ahead (those wheels must go back on, for example) and progress will initially consist of just all that delayed maintenance. But don't forget that it really is progress.

Glenn Greenwald points out an important aspect of that maintenance: Two or three Supreme Court Justices are likely to retire in the next four years. Had McCain been elected, the court would have become a rubber stamp for the Republican Party.

My New Approach

These days after the election feel like the beginning of a new year. My new year's promise is to become more demanding. I have been far too hesitant and nice. (*Bites off the head of a mouse.*)

Let's take this piece of news from Wednesday:

Papal officials, Islamic leaders and scholars began a historic summit in the Vatican yesterday, aimed at laying the foundations for better understanding between Catholics and Muslims, and averting future crises in relations between the world's biggest religions.

The three-day meeting is a direct outcome of the Muslim reaction to the Pope's controversial address in 2006 in which he appeared to link Islam with violence and irrationality. Last year, 138 Muslim scholars and clerics, dismayed by the violence the speech had provoked and fearing a "clash of civilisations", issued a manifesto stressing the values shared by Islam and Christianity.

I demand to know how many women participated in this summit on each side, both as absolute numbers and as percentages. If the numbers are tiny or non-existent I demand that the summit be called something suitably boyish.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


This source suggests that President-Elect Obama might consider Lawrence Summers for his cabinet. I hope that someone points out to him the reasons why picking Summers would be a very nasty gesture to one group of voters.

Welcome to the meritocracy (by Suzie)

         Echidne, forgive me for posting now instead of Friday, but I couldn't wait to share the good news of the meritocracy.
         In McCain's concession speech, he implied that electing an African-American as president proves that anyone can succeed in this country if they work hard enough. If they don't succeed, it has nothing to do with obstacles, but with their own wounds. We should expect this theme to continue.
        I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too. But we both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.
         A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit -- to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now -- (cheers, applause) -- let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.
          Democrats are co-opted because of the narrative adopted about Obama. For example: I just came back from Ecuador, and I talked to people there who found him inspiring because they thought he had risen from great poverty. I related this to the friend who picked me up at the airport, and she agreed that this was true. Saying that isn't true does not take away from the fact that he has achieved something historic.
          In his victory speech, Obama described his campaign as coming from the grass roots, minimizing the incredible organization and marketing efforts, and the reliance on super delegates for the nomination. Now that he's elected, I wish we could stop mythologizing him.
         I have friends who adopted the talking point that Obama has a great ability to unite, forgetting the divide of the primary. I don't think he could have won if the Clintons had not campaigned their hearts out, rallying Hillary supporters like me. I wish he had added her name to the many people he thanked in his speech.
        Bonnie Erbe also wonders what Obama may do to repay his debt to her. 

Music For Today

Nina Simone and "Here Comes The Sun"

This is Good. This is Bad.

On the whole the elections led to defeats of anti-choice ballot initiatives and to a more pro-choice Congress. I'm too tired to write a careful post on this yet, but Colorado defeated the proposal to define fertilized eggs as human beings and South Dakota defeated the proposal to criminalize almost all abortions (once Roe would be overturned). As an example of a more pro-choice Congress, John Sununu (who is anti-choice) lost to Jeanne Shaheen (who is pro-choice) in New Hampshire's Senate race.

Proposition 8 in California is about to pass. It bans same-sex marriage in the state of California. If you are interested in the demographics of those who voted for and against this initiative, check out the exit polls. Similar bans also passed in Florida and Arizona.

Someone Had To Pee in the Punch Bowl

Imagine me dancing around the house, giving snakes cold kisses and feeling -- well, divine -- about Barack Obama's election victory. Then on MSNBC I get to hear Michelle Bernard, one of the Independent Women's Forum gals (an anti-feminist group), expound upon whose victory this really was: It was a victory for the manhood of black men. Black men needed to get their manhood back. Then she added something about wanting no e-mails from her African-American sisters about this. So the victory was for black men and nobody else, I guess. Certainly not for black women.

I then looked up this "favorite guest" of Chris Matthews. And I find that she wrote this last June:

Does sexism still exist in America and are some voters unlikely to choose a woman for president? Of course. But racism also still exists, and undoubtedly has cost Senator Obama as many votes as sexism has cost Senator Clinton. Indeed, both Clintons have played the race card. To Senator Obama's credit, he has not wasted his time whining about this ugly historical legacy, but has worked to create a new reality.

Consider the membership of the U.S. Senate. There are fifteen women and one African-American. Is sex or race the bigger barrier to winning high office?

Here it looks like she's comparing the effects of racism and sexism, and we are supposed to use "fifteen" and "one" as the crucial numbers (without relating them to the population numbers of women and African-Americans, I guess, which is incorrect use of statistics).

But now we aren't even supposed to let African-American women enjoy this election victory! Not only does she prioritize racism over sexism as she did last summer (thus joining the Oppression Olympics); she now redefines the victory as a victory for black men.

Chris Matthews looked like a cat who had just lapped up a saucer of heavy cream, with a big grin on his face. He is a misogynistic asshole.

And on top of all this, women's votes were crucial in getting Barack Obama elected.

From Emily's List

This information:

EMILY’s List Helps Elect Hagan and Shaheen – only the 14th and 15th Democratic women to have ever been elected to the US Senate in their own right.

EMILY’s List Helps Elect the Second Largest Group of New Democratic Women to the House in History

With four victories earlier this cycle in MA-05, MD-04, CA-37 and CA-12 – and the victories tonight, we helped elect the largest new group of Democratic women to the house since 1992. As of midnight, those victories include:

· In Florida, Suzanne Kosmas overcame outrageous attacks and defeated ethically-challenged incumbent Rep. Tom Feeney.

· In Illinois, Debbie Halvorson prevailed against wealthy self-funder Marty Ozinga in one of the most competitive races for the U.S. House.

· In Colorado, Betsy Markey fought back against nasty personal attacks to defeat right-wing extremist incumbent Rep. Marilyn Musgrave.

· In Arizona, Ann Kirkpatrick won a strong race to defeat anti-choice mining lobbyist Sydney Hay to take this seat back for Democrats.

· In Maine, progressive champion Chellie Pingree won a tough primary and went on to defeat Charlie Summers.

· In Ohio, Marcia Fudge has confirmed her place in the house to continue the tremendous work of the late Stephanie Tubbs-Jones.

Democratic Women Sweep North Carolina

Along with Kay Hagan’s victory, North Carolina made history tonight by electing Bev Perdue it’s first woman governor. EMILY’s List Political Opportunity Program also helped create victories for two other Democratic women running statewide in North Carolina: Janet Cowell, who is the first women elected as state treasurer, and Beth Woods, who will take office as state auditor.

EMILY’s List Political Opportunity Program Helps Take Back the New York Senate

It has been 85 years since Democrats control the New York State Senate. The EMILY’s List Political Opportunity program has been working with the New York Senate Campaign Committee for three election cycles to turn that around. Tonight that partnership paid off, giving Democratic control of the Senate and putting the Democratic leadership firmly in control of the critical redistricting in New York.

Note that these are not necessarily final news and I haven't yet dug up information on Republican women in the House and the Senate. That will be later today. In the meantime, this site has some results.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Thread

This thread will be about the results as they come in. Use the comments thread to discuss the elections, your voting experiences, what you'd like to see happen in the next few months in government, what your favorite dessert is and how much you adore me. Stuff like that.

Indiana results have started coming in. More generally, CNN has the whole country results here.

This map from MSNBC is updated as results are predicted. Kentucky has been called for McCain. I'm not sure how reliable the map is. MSNBC also has a live feed here.
(Yes, my lovelies, women in their election coverage are indeed represented by Rachel. One woman is plenty for 51% of the population.)

8:20pm. Senate: Jeanne Shaheen (D) is projected to win over John Sununu (R) in New Hampshire.
8:36pm. Senate: Kay Hagan (D) is projected to win over Elizabeth Dole (R) in North Carolina.
9:29pm. Ohio is predicted to go to Obama. It's getting difficult for McCain to win this. Not impossible, but difficult. And yes, the MSNCB still has only one person of the girly persuasion. Plenty for 51% of Americans.
9:31pm. New Mexico is predicted to go to Obama. Ohio and New Mexico are both swing states.
10:10pm. Some very good news: The South Dakota "draconian" abortion ban failed. So did the Colorado proposal to define a fertilized egg as a human being.
10:21pm. Colorado predicted to go to Obama! I'm especially pleased with that one because it contains Wingnuttia Central.
11:00pm. MSNBC CALLS IT FOR OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A Voice From The Past

In honor of my fifth anniversary as a blogger I'm reposting some old pieces. This was posted on November 30 2003:
Today's quote comes from Rose Macaulay: Mystery at Geneva (1923):

All sorts of articles and letters appear in the papers about women. Profound questions are raised concerning them. Should they smoke? Should they work? Vote? Marry? Exist? Are not their skirts too short, or their sleeves? Have they a sense of humor, of honor, of direction? Are spinsters superfluous? But how seldom similar inquiries are propounded about men.

The more things change...
Isn't it funny? Not funny-ha-ha, of course, but funny in any case. We are still asking which things women are allowed to do and what the problem with women might be.

Art on the Beach

This story is fascinating, in its way, about a large Obama painting or sculpture (not sure which it is technically):

Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez Gerada and an army of helpers sculpted it from sand on a Barcelona beach in northeastern Spain.

The team battled days of rain to finish just ahead of Tuesday's election. It is 140 yards long by 80 yards wide — big enough, Rodriguez Gerada hopes — to be photographed on Google Earth. The face was created using 500 tons of sand, gravel and white, brown and black pebbles at a cost of more than $13,000.

The team largely funded the project themselves, and the city agreed to let them use a stretch of beachfront at no cost.

Rodriguez Gerada says he did not intend to endorse Obama.

"The piece is not really based on giving support to Barack Obama," he said. "It is more about questioning Obama-mania."

Still, Rodriguez Gerada said he chose the large format as an allusion to the global importance of the American vote, and to represent the hope Obama has inspired in his supporters.

You can see the artwork here. The ubiquity of photo shopping makes the picture less impressive than it should be.

What about "Obama-mania?" Now that's a tricky topic to discuss, for all sorts of reasons. To have hope is so important and to demand more from politicians is also important. Yet to put all one's hopes on the shoulders of one man is most likely a recipe for disappointment. No one person can change a whole political system overnight, especially when the system is in an extremely precarious state of health and requires many painful and protracted treatments to recover. No one person should be expected to do that. It's too big a burden, and in any case Obama is a fairly middle-of-the-road kind of guy in his actual policy proposals.

At the same time, not to have those kinds of hopes is a recipe for utter cynicism. What we have lived through in the last eight years requires a vast correction in both actual policies and in political engagement, and for us to be able to make that correction requires hope and optimism and the willingness to work very hard.

In a sense, then, I think we should both hope and not-hope, at the same time. Perhaps this is the "optimism in hope, pessimism in expectations" that I've read about.

Then again, ProfWombat makes a good case for just plain old hope.

On Election Day

Vote if you haven't already. Then a very, very stupid question:

Why on earth are the elections not held over a Saturday and a Sunday?

More people could vote with fewer sacrifices (in terms of lost pay, having to work overtime to make up lost work or having to hire childcare) and that usually means that more people would vote in general. Employers should love this, because most of them don't need workers over the weekends and thus wouldn't lose money over the elections. If the polls were open two days the question of either one of them being someone's religious holy day would be less important.

Alternatively, voting could be organized in some high tech form. That these simple remedies are not strongly supported, that registering to vote is made as burdensome as possible in many states, all this suggests that the real intention is not to have too many people vote.
Added later: Amanda has done a proper post on this topic.

Miles to go (by Skylanda)

Normally Echidne only lets us guest posters post on the weekend. My hope is that she'll forgive me this one little trespass into her weekday dominion.

I can't remember where I got this graphic from - I believe it arrived un-bidden in my inbox, and I think there's a citation on the bottom. I like it.

But it's not quite time for cheers and toasts and bottoms up, the time has not yet come to chill. That time may come - maybe not, we will see - but this morning, as the sun rises across each state, there's still work to be done.

So this morning, here's a post of praise and of thanks.

Thanks to every precinct worker who is out this morning in the cold of a northern November morning - or a hot Florida fall day - making democracy work for all of us.

A shout out to every canvasser pushing to get out the vote for progressive candidates everywhere.

A sigh of sympathy to every citizen of a foreign nation who is sitting on their hands tonight knowing that though they have no say at all in our election, their fate is profoundly bound up - for better or for worse - in who we elect to the American presidency today.

A thunderous cheer for the voter registration workers that have newly enfranchised thousands - nay, millions - of voters from traditionally marginalized walks of life, some of whom have been at the edges of representational democracy since the days of Jim Crow. Not since the beginning of the Civil Rights movement has there been such a push to see so many Americans take their rightful place among the voting public, and not since then have we had such hope for a government that truly represents an America that looks like all of us.

And to every poll worker, voter support crew, and door-to-door street canvasser, who will be working those dawn to dusk shifts today to ensure that voters are able to exercise their rights in those contested and crowded precincts: if there is celebrating to be done tonight, it will be in your name and in your honor. Until then, as the old poem goes, miles to go before we sleep. Miles to go before we sleep.

One way or another, the race is on: here we go. Any way it shakes out, November 5th, 2008 will be a hangover to remember. I'll see you on the flip side.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Useful Reminder

If you somehow missed my six-part (so far) series on the need for feminism, you can still read it!

1. The Right to Go Out

2. Planet of the Guys

3. Our Father Who Art in Heaven

4. The Invisible Women

5. The Female Body as Property

6. The Longest Revolution

Go Vote

Perhaps not something I need to remind anyone who reads this blog, but remember to vote. As Hecate (of this blog) pointed out last night, people have fought, struggled and died for the right to vote. Such a gift for us, such an honor and such a responsibility.

And of course the election outcome is of utter importance right now.

Fun With Free Markets

Not really, but this coincidence is worth pointing out: First the Chinese are now having trouble with melamine-tainted eggs. Melamine is suppposed to be used in kitchen counter-tops and the like, not in food, but it gets there because it registers as protein in the cheapest ways to measure protein and it's a lot cheaper than protein for the producers. Of course it's not a food...

You may remember melamine in pet food and how it killed cats and dogs in the U.S., then in milk which killed small children in China, then in candy and so on, and now in eggs. An unregulated market with less than perfect information provides incentives for stuff like this, and that is one of the reasons markets need rules and regulations. Of course it's true that markets often ultimately "self-correct" (though it's the government who has gone in to destroy the melamine-tainted animal feed), as is the case in China right now. But the cost is a lot of death and a complete collapse of the markets in which the problems finally are diagnosed. Just ask the Chinese dairy farmers.

That's the first set of events. The second set is this: Behind our backs while we are all eagerly looking towards the elections and the next administration the current administration is busily scratching consumer-protections and environmental protections everywhere. De-regulating the markets as busily as it can!

A Voice From The Past

I'm coming up for my five-year blogoversary, and I decided to repost some of my earliest posts as a part of the celebration. This one is an early post explaining more about me as a goddess. It's quite funny, too. You can click on the original to see the hyperlinks, some of which still work.

Pornography Goes Mainstream
Did I ever mention that retired gods and goddesses may sometimes take human form? Aphrodite has chosen to become an eighty-year old widow living in Florida. She adores Mickey Mouse, neon pink golf carts and polyester pant suits. She was really fed up with her long reign as a sex goddess, and wanted a more active life. I stopped by recently. We had a ball.

She took me to this new Viennese tearoom for women. They served exquisite little pastries, and the place was packed with 'dite's cronies. After we were served our cappuccinos, the waitress told us to help ourselves to all the tidbits on the center table. Can you believe this? The cakes and pastries were daintily arranged on the reclining still form of a gorgeous naked man? He was a real cupcake!

I reached out for a canape in his left armpit and watched his pupils dilate. His eyes moved to point at the large painted sign which warned against any bodily interference with the 'model'. So we could only look, not touch. And look we did.

I asked the waitress if the tearoom had had any problems with meninists protesting against their use of a male platter. She laughed and said that all publicity was good publicity. Besides, everybody knew that meninists had no sense of humor. We all agreed that we really respected and admired men, especially this lovely studmuffin!

When we were replete with cakes and the platter covered but with crumbs, 'dite took me back to her condo to watch some daytime soaps. I kept nodding off on the couch until she turned the channel to Oprah's show. The day's topic was "Getting in Touch with Your Inner Erection". It seemed to consist of some man flogging his book on 'bagel dancing'. The gyrations and contortions around a bagel suspended from a string in the ceiling were supposed to make men fit and better in the marital bed. I started feeling slight bouts of indigestion. I'm not a prude, as any of you may check on the Google, but this was just getting to be too much.

Men are people, too, after all. What was going on? Had 'dite interfered with earth's essential vibrational frequency? She adamantly denied having anything to do with these sexxee developments among men. Supposedly men had just collectively decided that titillating women was sex-positive and healthy. As proof 'dite mentioned a newspaper article about men's athletic wear stores in Paris. To drum up more business, these stores had hired coaches to teach men how to remove their jockstraps in an alluring fashion. One young man was quoted as saying that he had never before really understood how important it was to remove the football socks before rather than afterwards. The store had hung up framed sayings supposedly by Simone de Beauvoir: "The high time of the day on the sports fields is not when a man suits up but when he takes it all off for his woman."

I did mention to Aphrodite that according to the article there had been protests by some men's groups outside the store. She waved this detail away with her tennis-braceleted arm and pointed out an ad in a magazine I was leafing through as further proof of the same trend in sexual liberation. The ad was selling sweatshop-free underwear for men, but the pictures were extremely revealing crotch shots from below.

"Sort of pornographic, don't you think?" I asked. She nodded. "Porn has gone mainstream now. Care for a round of golf?"


I have slightly played with the truth in recounting this story. If you insist on the more politically correct but boring facts, here they are: Sushi served on a naked female, pole-dancing on Oprah, Parisian strip-tease lessons for women who buy underwear and American Apparel's ad for women's panties.

An interesting postscript:1. Folks in Seattle decided to alter the world to match my story better. That's the power of goddesses for you. See naked men as doughnut platters. 2. Daniel sent me this. It is a Swedish revision story of pornography going mainstream. In actual pictures. "Ombytta roller" means swopped sex roles. Just keep clicking on "mer sex"! I bet Aphrodite is behind this one, too.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sunday Music Blogging (by Phila)

I posted this at my place earlier, but figured I might as well put it here, too.

Rock Out With Your Glock Out (by Phila)

Doug Giles encourages "young dudes" to quit being "wussies" and realize that Obama is gonna, like, totally take away their freakin' guns, man! For reals!
Yep, Dufus, if Barack becomes dictator — I mean president — and you begin to see your right to bear arms erode like Bill Clinton’s conscience at Hooters and you commence to spot the sport of hunting disappearing like a massive bag of Cheetos in front of a rather peckish Rosie O’Donnell, I sure as heck don’t want to hear any of you Obama backing wussies whine about it.
Fuckin' A! If Giles' gnarly, balls-out 'tude isn't enough to convince you, I suggest that you commence to spot the fact that "Obama supports gun owner licensing and gun registration." Worse, he "voted to limit gun purchases to one per month." Check it out, dude: Do you want to prevent Bill Clinton from sexually assaulting your mother, and save your Easter ham from being swallowed whole by that fat dyke Rosie O'Donnell? If so, it's gonna take two or three guns, minimum. Anything less would be like trying to screw [insert stupid liberal bitch's name here] without a bottle of Viagra and a burlap sack. Am I right, dudes, or am I right?

Obama has also voted to "ban almost all rifle ammunition commonly used for hunting and sport shooting (United States Senate, S.397, 7/29/05)." If you're a pencil-dicked wussie like me, something about the phrasing of this complaint might inspire you to revisit what the bill in question actually said. As it happens, S. 397 was sponsored by that consummate he-man Larry Craig, and was intended "to prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition." Ted Kennedy offered an amendment that would've protected police officers by restricting the use of armor-piercing ammo in handguns, and Obama wisely supported it. (It failed, by the way.)

Since all regulations on ammo are, by definition, part of a plot to impose metrosexual tyranny on full-blooded American dudes, it was obvious to the cognoscenti that this was a back-door (!) attempt to make deer-hunting (and, by extension, traditional masculinity) impossible. If you can imagine it happening, it will happen; denials, appeals to logic, and facts to the contrary signify nothing more than the lengths "they" will go to deceive tough-minded (yet hopelessly insecure) gun owners:
I know what some of you are thinking: Garsh Doug, Obama said he would “let us” keep our guns, and he doesn’t have a problem with hunting. Yes, I know that Barack said that, Dinky. He also said that Ayers is just a dude from his neighborhood, he didn’t know Rev. Wright was a freak, Iran is a little non-threatening nation, “spreading the wealth” is not socialism and Michelle Obama really is nice and loves America.

Totally! TMI! Don't even go there! Talk to the hand!

In summation, whether you're a young white dude in Overland Park who plans to buy three assault weapons this month, or a young black crack dealer in West Baltimore, for whom Michelle Obama's message of hatred and vengeance is all compelling, Giles has some friendly, totally non-wussified advice for you:
So . . . young dude . . . before you do something goofy on November 4th by voting for Obama, please, my young gun and hunting fan, please go to Starbucks, order a double espresso and wake the hell up and vote for your Glock.
Just for the record, Giles is a preacher who claims to keep the dominionist RJ Rushdoony's Institutes of Biblical Law on his desk, and sees himself as "injecting some testosterone [at last!] into the church."

A Busy Period (by Phila)

We all remember how the Clinton team vandalized the White House after the 2000 election, in a last-minute orgy of petulance before the Adults came in to restore order. Although it didn't actually happen, it nonetheless communicated something essential about the horrific nature of the Clinton Regime: The fact that they didn't do it doesn't mean they couldn't have, or didn't want to; there's no smoke without fire, after all.

The Bush Administration, by contrast, prefers to spend its last hours vandalizing the entire continent:
As the U.S. presidential candidates sprint toward the finish line, the Bush administration is also sprinting to enact environmental policy changes before leaving power.

Whether it's getting wolves off the Endangered Species List, allowing power plants to operate near national parks, loosening regulations for factory farm waste or making it easier for mountaintop coal-mining operations, these proposed changes have found little favor with environmental groups.
Well, those people are always complaining. People who matter seem to be quite happy with the effort, not least because BushCo is taking careful steps to ensure that the regulations will come into force before the inauguration:
The burst of activity has made this a busy period for lobbyists who fear that industry views will hold less sway after the elections. The doors at the New Executive Office Building have been whirling with corporate officials and advisers pleading for relief or, in many cases, for hastened decision making.

According to the Office of Management and Budget's regulatory calendar, the commercial scallop-fishing industry came in two weeks ago to urge that proposed catch limits be eased, nearly bumping into National Mining Association officials making the case for easing rules meant to keep coal slurry waste out of Appalachian streams. A few days earlier, lawyers for kidney dialysis and biotechnology companies registered their complaints at the OMB about new Medicare reimbursement rules. Lobbyists for customs brokers complained about proposed counterterrorism rules that require the advance reporting of shipping data.
Here's my favorite part:
One rule, being pursued over some opposition within the Environmental Protection Agency, would allow current emissions at a power plant to match the highest levels produced by that plant, overturning a rule that more strictly limits such emission increases. According to the EPA's estimate, it would allow millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, worsening global warming....

Jonathan Shradar, an EPA spokesman, said that he could not discuss specifics but added that "we strive to protect human health and the environment." Any rule the agency completes, he said, "is more stringent than the previous one."
That seems like a crazy thing to say, until you consider who benefits from this increased "stringency."

I don't think it's remotely realistic to believe that McCain would undo this damage if he were elected. I also think it'd be dangerous, if not fatal, to wait until 2012 to start working on the project. That leaves Obama as my only hope, which doesn't exactly fill me with confidence; while I'm pretty certain that he has the political skill to defuse these environmental time bombs, I'm not entirely convinced he has the will. If he's elected, I'd like to see a task force dedicated to solving this problem within the first 30-60 days of his administration (if not before).

Granting that some people on the Left remain unwilling to vote for Obama, for whatever reason, I hope we can all agree that these changes are unconscionable, and that we'll all be willing to apply whatever pressure it takes to get these insane, brutal, stupid anti-regulations overturned.

"Science " Undermining The Efficacy of Reason Is Inescapably Anti-Democratic by Anthony McCarthy

As a never ending source of soc-sci nonsense, the well known Boston Globe’s Sunday “Ideas” section can be lots of fun. But this morning’s nonsense about political and even partisan political behavior being biologically determined strikes me as both absurd and dangerous.

Eve LaPlante joins a list of “Ideas” scribblers in undermining the assumed efficacy of such antiquated and romantic concepts as reason, which many of us take as one of the essential guarantees of effective beneficial political action, in favor of the, frankly, scientistic-religious iconography of “brain scans” and those always at hand, twin studies. Her faith in the arising priesthood of political scientists aping alleged scientific methodology, would be “scientists” of "political physiology", is sufficient that not a single word of skepticism is allowed to enter her article in today’s paper.

As with so much of this bilge, those hankering after the prestige and glamor given to this kind of stuff, cog-sci glam boy Steven Pinker was an inspiration:

John Alford, one of the study's authors, said that these genetic study results, along with his reading of Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate," persuaded him and other scholars to embark on a quest to uncover the physical correlates of political ideology. Pinker's book argues against the popular conception of the brain as a blank slate, which in his view skews research across disciplines, in favor of the notion that the brain possesses innate qualities that influence individual experience and opinions.

"To what degree are we political scientists guilty of implicitly assuming that the human brain is a blank slate?" Alford recalls wondering. Does political ideology have roots in biology? Could genes predict how someone might vote?

The next step for the young field was to look for ways that genetics and biology might affect social and political opinions. "We needed to find an actual path from genetics to how people feel about political issues of the day," Hibbing said, "and then to see what physical systems are involved in these feelings about politics."

Passing up the clear fallacy of equating an (alleged) correlate with causation, I just love how “ the next step” is always the same, to get a few scans of brains, a few of those wonderfully predictable “twin studies” and a few dozen non-randomly chosen test subjects together to invent an entire new “field” of “science” For example:

A subject of this study, seated in a chair in the lab, is a resident of Lincoln, Neb., who has been identified from random phone calls. In the initial phone call the subject indicated to researchers that she felt strongly about a political issue or had based a vote on the basis of a single issue. Since then she has responded to a lengthy questionnaire about her political attitudes.

As the images and noises are presented, a machine records the subject's physical responses. An electrode above her eye measures automatic muscle movements that make up the "blink startle" response. A lead attached to her finger measures "skin conductance," the amount of perspiration on the skin, another physiological sign of stress.

After examining 46 such subjects, researchers found a strong correlation between subjects' political attitudes and their physiological responses to threat. People who showed more "blink startle" and perspiration after a threatening stimulus tended to cluster on the right politically. They advocated capital punishment, school prayer, and defense spending, and they supported the Iraq war.

In contrast, liberals - who supported "less protectionist" policies such as gun control, open immigration, and increased foreign aid - showed significantly less physical response to the threatening stimuli. While education had some effect on the results, subjects' blink and skin-conductance responses were much better predictors of their political attitudes. And the degree to which a person was startled by threatening stimuli indicated how much he or she advocated policies that protect society from external and internal threats such as wars and crime.

46 test subjects. 46. And that's divided into two groups, so let's assume actual samples of 23. If you could find 46 randomly selected subjects and come up with a coherent description of “conservatism” or “liberalism” as sufficiently fixed category so as to form, unanimity among short-lived political discussion groups, it would be a miracle. If university level political science “scholars” can’t appreciate the complexity of what these guys are proposing to do science about, they don’t need to be branching out but handing out dope slaps.

Of course, behavior sci being what it is today, the entire shoddy mess is alleged to demonstrate evolutionary adaptation.

In fact, viewed through the long lens of evolutionary time, it would seem that the two camps depend on each other. A person who's hard-wired to protect himself from danger may be able to avoid getting eaten by an attacking tiger - while his neighbor, who's hard-wired to adapt to change, may sense an impending Ice Age in time to escape.

This is the reassuring note offered by political physiology at the end of another long, divisive American presidential campaign.

"The biological variation between liberals and conservatives is itself adaptive," Alford said.

The evo-psy habit of pretending what it says it sees through their entirely imaginary "long lense" can function as real science has become one of the most pervasive and insane manias of our intellectual class. There doesn’t seem to be much of any protest against it by real scientists, though I’d imagine eventually a reaction is going to set in.

But protecting the integrity of science is the business of scientists. When this anti-democratic junk starts to make its way into politics, it is all of our business. This stuff, not science by any honest definition, has the same potential as pseudo-sciences of the past to gain political influence. When a major, respected newspaper in the United States can print an article like the one linked to, we are in serious danger from it. If scientists won’t call them on it we peons who favor democracy will have to.

Democracy presupposes the efficacy of informed reason, it cannot exist without that. Other parts of the fashionable pseudo-sciences undermine other essential prerequisites of democracy such as equality and self-sacrifice. I don’t see any way in which democracy can withstand these academic assaults without us calling them on their scientific and scholastic short comings and basic dishonesty.

Guest Lineup for the Sunday News Shows

You might wish to count the number of women among these guests, the last Sunday before the election:


ABC's "This Week" — David Axelrod, campaign adviser for Barack Obama; Rick Davis, campaign manager for John McCain.


CBS' "Face the Nation" — Axelrod; Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John Ensign, R-Nev.


NBC's "Meet the Press" — Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.; former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.


CNN's "Late Edition" — Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa.; Govs. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Mark Sanford, R-S.C., Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., and Deval Patrick, D-Mass.

"Fox News Sunday" _ Davis; David Plouffe, campaign manager for Obama.