Saturday, January 23, 2010

From YouTube comments

Yes, I know that going there is like seeking something under the outhouse. But I happened to see this comment attached to a report on Haiti and thought it was a nice example of the fact that liberals and progressives don't regard all causes as equally important:

you stupid sad informed idiot if you really think that they put trillions into? blacks you are obviously a uneducated white person!! the money your talking about went straight to the white rich elite or in other words bankers!!So you keep believing that black people eat cash you twat!!!

For those who might not know, "twat" is the same as "cunt."

What I get from that comment is not someone who is against women or feminism but someone whose reptile brain brings up women as the nastiest thing he/she can think of when very angry. That IS part of the problem of trying to sell feminist ideas: Our reptile brains have already been well filled with the contempt towards women and all things female.

Putting Americans Under The Rule of Aliens, Foreign And Artificial by Anthony McCarthy

Updated below:

How bad is the decision of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, constitution writing from the bench, far more extreme than mere legislating?

First, the obvious, it is a guarantee that mega corporations can swamp the airwaves and other media with propaganda on behalf of candidates they will, essentially, own, in general campaigns.

It guarantees that corporations can overtly or covertly run fully funded candidates of its choosing, its stooges, unbeholden to a party, which become about superfluous with this ruling, but not to the company that owns them. Individual tycoons used to, which is why they began to adopt regulations. Modern corporations have vastly more money to corrupt the system with than those quaint crooks of old.

A huge shocker is that, as argued in the court, itself, foreign govenments, through American corporations could do what any other corporation does and buy offices holders to serve their interests. If you want to consider what that means, Saudi Arabia or a consortium of oil states could exercise direct influence, if not control, of our policy on oil, energy use, Israel, or any other number of areas of interest to them. They could lower taxes on their products to zero and institute other measures that would bleed us, the mere human beings who live here.

And of course, what those countries could do, China or other countries could do. Greg Palast’s* question about al Qaeda forming an American corporation and getting directly involved in our elections have gone unanswered by Ted Olson who argued that nothing in present law could or should prevent that from happening. Since there has been some speculation that they and other foreign criminal organizations already have some business interests in the United States this isn’t a fantasy. Of course, our own, home grown criminal organizations are a larger presence in corporations, if that’s any comfort.

The absurd dodge that Olson Alito and others took when this issue was raised, that congress could regulate that, raises the question of why they would vote to regulate their owners? And, given the atrocity of this illogical, clearly constitution writing decision, why should anyone not expect that these same or other stooges on the court would sustain those?

The obvious intention of the five traitors on the court, Citizens United, Ted Olson and the others who supported the perversion of the Bill of Rights was to insure Republicans would control the government. As I said yesterday, this is Bush v. Gore by other means and made permanent. Once its beneficiaries are in place it would take a total collapse to change things. Politicians who have so few morals as to be the stooges of corporations and foreign governments aren’t going to be reliable in the matter of amending the Constitution or making statutes to regulate their patrons. Since the Republicans are pretty much the overt corporate party now, we will have an effective one party state in power for a long, long time.

Some are calling this the worst Supreme Court Decision since Dredd Scott, I see no reason to think that it might not be worse, making all, merely human “persons” in the United States into lesser beings. Dredd Scott was overturned, through the Civil War. Seeing the difficulty that Abraham Lincoln had in coming to the decision to end slavery during the war, the ambivalence of even many in the North to ending slavery then, that decision would likely have endured for a long time to come if the war hadn’t happened. Economic power, the interests of the elites, in all regions of the country, which directly benefitted from slavery were the main motivation for its retention. A large number of other Americans were effectively propagandized into accepting its existence. Building an effective anti-slavery movement took an enormous effort and a long, long time. My warnings about violence yesterday, weren’t unconsidered, they were based on this history.

I hope that there will be enough Americans to get rid of this abomination without civil war or insurrection. I am not optimistic about change within the constitution, which was intentionally set up to weaken the rule of The People through the Senate and the cumbersome amendment process. That process would likely make the overturning of this atrocity by amendment very unlikely. State legislatures would also be bought, to an even greater extent than they are now. Frankly, Republicans in control of a sufficient number of those can do what they do in the minority in the Senate, thwart the will of a large majority.

And there are those unintended, unforeseen consequences talked about yesterday. Millions of putrid, invasive seeds were sewn in this decision. What they produce won’t be obvious before they sprout and grow.

If Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress don’t understand this changes everything, right now, and take every possible measure to stem it, we are sunk. The absurd media libertarianism that Obama supported is out the window. Trying the fairness doctrine, equal time,.... everything to try to blunt the effect of this spear at the heart of democracy is the least they can do. If his legal training makes him feel queasy about that, it was lawyers and judges with impeccable educations and credentials who have created this betrayal of everything the Constitution is supposed to be there for. If it doesn’t produce government of, by and for The People, every part of that document and the entire legal edifice around it is garbage. Pomp and pretense masking a corrupt and hypocritical oppression.

* The extent to which foreign governments have an interest in our domestic agenda is already a danger to us.

In July, the Chinese government, in preparation for President Obama's visit, held diplomatic discussions in which they skirted issues of human rights and Tibet. Notably, the Chinese, who hold a $2 trillion mortgage on our Treasury, raised concerns about the cost of Obama's health care reform bill.

If you think that Palast’s question to Ted Olson was in poor taste, that is made quite irrelevant by the spectacle of Olson taking the risk of making it relevant.

UPDATE: I wasn't the only one thinking along these lines, note what this Buzzflash post with what Thom Hartmann had to say.

I was talking on the phone this morning with Thom, and he brought up the irony that may be prophetic that the infamous Dredd Scott decision that declared slaves to be property led to the Civil War. Now, we have a Supreme Court decision that affirmed that corporations have, according to the GOP 5-4 vote, the same election rights as people...

... For America, it's been a decade of two Supreme Court coups that have stolen democracy and replaced it with something akin to activist right wing judicial rulings on behalf of the oligarchy that pulls the strings in D.C.

The Dredd Scott decision, as Hartmann points out, resulted in the Civil War.

And the Center For Public Integrity pointed out:

Federal election law has long prohibited any foreign national from directly or indirectly making “an independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication.” And the Supreme Court’s ruling does not explicitly address the issue of foreign corporations. However, in his dissent in Citizens United, Justice John Paul Stevens cautioned that the decision “would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Activism From The Bench

The conservative style. It's a good editorial. I'm going to do spells to keep Justice Stevens chirpy and hale for another century.
Added later: How about this for a counter-move? Any firm advertising heavily before elections on a political topic will be subjected to a boycott campaign? The Internet could do that.
Added even later: Another good opinion piece on the ruling.

Music by women (by Suzie)

Echidne has discussed mixed feelings for the music of Leonard Cohen. In one post, she concludes: “Art has no ownership, ultimately. I can take this song and make it mine …”

I’m lazy. I’d prefer another woman make it her own, and then I can listen to her, not him. (Yes, I do understand reader-response criticism.)

I love Jennifer Warnes’ “Famous Blue Raincoat,” her CD that covers Cohen. Hers was both a celebration and a collaboration. In contrast, KD Lang truly makes “Hallelujah” her own (while the YouTube listeners comment on her looks.) (Btw, here’s in interesting commentary on the song.)

A woman singing “Hallelujah” doesn’t change the meaning all that much. But some women turn a man’s song topsy-turvy. A famous example is Aretha Franklin singing “Respect,” which was written and first recorded by Otis Redding. Here are his original lyrics; see how she changed them.

When the Commodores did “Brick House,” the shapely woman was an object, albeit one that inspired awe. When Osborne does it, she’s the one built like a brick house (and she changes the lyrics to more appropriate measurements). For me, the meaning changed even more when I saw her perform at the Lilith Fair before a predominantly female audience. She seemed to be celebrating all of us with meat on our bones.

Women cover songs by men all the time. But some, such as Tori Amos and Annie Lennox, make it a CD project. Amos does a chilling cover of Eminem’s " ’97 Bonnie & Clyde," in which a man murders his estranged wife and dumps her in a body of water, while lying to his daughter. A commenter on the Cover vs. Original blog says:
tori is a fuckin nut winged psycho. Em went through some rough times && need to vent. tori just decided to be a bitch and jump on his case for nothing. all he did was talk about killing his wife.
No matter how subversive the women, the men still get royalties. That’s why we need more women like Ani DiFranco, who created her own record company and, for the most part, sings her own songs. Here are the lyrics to the song below.

I've got better things to do than survive.
While I'm out of town, I hope you'll share other songs.

Bush v. Gore by Other Means And Made Permanent by Anthony McCarthy

I’m sure you might have been as glad to know as I was that Sandra Day O’Connor was unhappy with the 5-4 in the Supreme Court this week. Nice of her to notice that the two Bush appointed member, joining the rest of the Bush v. Gore 5, overturned her on campaign finance. And, yes, thanks, Sandra Day for all that.

But, lest we appear inattentive, our thanks should go to those who made the final killing off of representative democracy possible, the actual Federalist Society members of the court, their law schools and mentors, the Republican Party, Ralph Nader - without whom Bush would never have been president to appoint Roberts and Alito, the media that promoted the Bush II putsch, and, last but not least the Senate of the United States who have confirmed one after another of these dangerous, far right lunatics to courts. And they confirmed them knowingly, as every person in the hearings chambers and beyond knew the nominees were lying through their teeth. And special thanks should go to those who have, throughout the decades, made and maintained the string of corporate personhood rulings. It should be noticed that this is one in a series of those entirely Supreme Court legislated laws, judicial constitution writing, far past making law from the bench*.

Like other dysfunction in the United States, not allowed to be discussed in polite society, this has been a long time coming and in full and obvious development. This is the dream of Richard Nixon, the ultimate goal of Anglo-American conservatives, a real corporate oligarchy, perhaps in time not even covered with the thinnest veneer of elections and consent of the governed. Indeed, other than maintaining the mechanisms to take our wealth, they might do without most of that governing nonsense. They’ll probably contract it out. One of the gleeful Republican goons I heard on the radio said it was going to be like the “wild west”.

A number of lawyerly commentators have said that this ruling could have unintended consequences. How unintended is a thing which will probably be subject to a great deal of that conventional hypocrisy mentioned in paragraph two above. Anthony Kennedy’s decision, indeed invalidates his own precedent from as recently as last year on judicial elections. While I’m sure he’s dangerously out of touch with reality, I don’t think the Joe Lieberman of the Supreme Court is that careless about his research or, as far as we have it in us to pierce the veil, droolingly ga-ga. I don’t think that the horrors of what will result from this decision are largely unknown now. It is the destruction of electoral democracy in the United States. As I have been screaming at the top of my lungs for the past four years DEMOCRACY IS ONLY POSSIBLE WHEN THE PEOPLE MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION. DEMOCRACY ONLY WORKS WHEN THOSE DECISIONS ARE BASED IN REALITY AND RESULT IN AN EFFECTIVELY BENEFICIAL RESULT.

Anything and everything that prevents that from happening damages democracy and so results in harm to The People and the communities they survive in. The damage includes the purfumed, polite and decorous actions of Supreme Courts, Senate Committees, impartial “free speech” advocates, judical commentators, and others who have laid the ground work for this disaster. The destruction of democracy has been done in nice voices, in lofty rhetoric and moral posturing this time. “Free speech,” “freedom of the press” what could sound nicer than that? So many fewer syllables than “legitimate government can exist only with the just consent of the governed”. The proof to which those freedoms exercised by corporations are useful to the destruction of democracy is best demonstrated not by symbol but by a specimen of the actual thing, the post-facto recounting of the 2000 ballots in Florida, which showed that the original Bush v. Gore 5 had appointed George W. Bush as President of the United States illegitimately, against the vote. And the media pooh poohed it as being water under the bridge. But, then why not? After all the Chief Justice, in broad daylight, said that The People don’t have a right to vote and to have that vote count to absolute silence by the freest press we have had in our history. Freedom of the press divorced by the obligation to serve the possibility of self-government by The People turns out to be dangerous to it.

Democracy has been on the way out for a long, long time. It could be future Road Show memorabilia as soon as a year from now, if it exists at all. The abject failure of the kind of Democrats sitting in Washington to do our business, their refusal to produce an effectively beneficial result, might be looked on as another specimen in the study of how America lost democracy. I’d like to still be proven wrong but am not expecting it just this week. I’ve been clinging to the hope that wasn’t true all year. But maybe it’s not hope that maintains my efforts to pull what good can be gotten out of the ruins of Democracy, it’s the knowledge that it is a duty to try, up to and even past the end.

How bad can it get. The worse case scenario? I think very, very bad. I believe that the shreds of the common good that still hold on are some of the few things holding it together. Those will be gone in corporate oligarchy. By their actions and those of their party, the Republicans and cowardly Democrats, America is already a very violent society with potential to be extremely violent. Guns are prevalent, ammunition, explosives and the precursors of explosives are ubiquitous and unregulated, cults and individuals, both violent and potentially violent, are a common product of our media. Mass shootings are so common that they hardly make the front page anymore.

I fear that the potential for violence is enormous, encouraged by the media through their entertainment - for which thanks can go to free speech and press absolutists. There are not enough police, national state local .... or doughnut fed militias to stem a real wild west atmosphere in the United States. It has the potential to spiral into a blood bath. There are not enough private security guards to protect the gated lives of the elite, not for long. Even Senators and Supreme Court Justices could experience it, first hand. That elite will deceive itself to the end. Once they run things, life will continue on its present course, as surely as the cycles of boom and bust do in the only part of life they hold sacred. They don’t learn anymore than Senators in the Democratic Caucus have. Their policies will produce misery on a scale we have not yet experienced in our life times.

I’m sure that many people who read this will smile and gently shake their heads. They don’t believe things could go so totally nuts. I’ll point to the other disaster this week, Brown winning Ted Kennedy’s seat, an irrational but not unpredictable result flowing directly from the storm of financial, healthcare and other policies in Washington. Obama voters cast protest votes for Brown over the direction of his Geithner-Summers oriented policies and the lunatic spectacle of the sell-out health care legislation in the Senate. Many who didn’t cast a desperate and irrational vote against that, simply gave up.

That’s the direction, I am afraid is coming with corporate rule. As even the media has noticed, it’s a different enrironment. This ruling, overturning a century of law and precedent imposed a totally changed landscape, one that we haven’t experienced before. I don’t know the details or what any eventual conclusions to it will be. Whatever it is this or some other, alternative, disaster, we’re in it.

* It might be worth noting, if anyone ever tries to put together a representative democracy again, that the House of Representatives, the most equally representative part of government was that which was least implicated in the murder of of representative government. Not that conservatives in that body aren’t thrilled with it, they just lacked the opportunity to take a strong hand in it. As anyone could have predicted it was the Senate and Judiciary, the least equal, representative and accountable parts of the government. I’d also predict that you can add the United States to the long list of countries with a presidential executive which has devolved into despotism. Turns out we’re not such a special case, after all.

Friday bird blogging (by Suzie)

(I hope) I'm in California, whale-watching, but I know others are hopping around in the snow. Julie Savell-McCandless took this photo. She's a longtime friend who put up Facebook photos that I'm harvesting.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

On the fetish-ization of Haitian orphans (by skylanda)

Had to happen, you know. Because those kids, with the big eyes and the bandages, they’re just so danged cute. All of a sudden, people all over the interwebs are popping up to say how much they would love to have a Haitian orphan of their own.

Don’t believe me? Read the comments here, for one.

It’s an impulse born of a noble instinct – that core desire to help, to rescue, to save. But inside, the core is a little rotten. Rotten with naivete, for one. The base assumption that an adopted child will be awash and aglow with the generosity of their benefactors - a la Annie, or Diff’rent Strokes – belies the reality that kids orphaned in the earthquake are not going to be easy to take care of. Many are going to have PTSD; many are going to have issues with blunt-force displacement; many adopted into American homes (unless they are adopted by black families) are going to be sudden minorities in their own bedrooms – which is not an insurmountable object, but is a much greater boulder in the road than many starry-eyed idealists are actually prepared for. But naivete is only the least sinister of the motivations underlying the fetishization of Haitian orphans.

The real evil is the fact that orphan-hood is a very rare condition. Especially in developing nations where the nuclear family is not the culture-bound norm, finding a child who truly has no living relatives is a rarity. Even after a catastrophic disaster, a more common problem is displacement and disconnection, not the true lack of a family who could take a child in if they had the resources to do so.

In fact, orphanages in the developing world are often not populated by orphans. Nowhere was this more apparent – or more mind-boggling – than in the case of Madonna’s adoption of a Malawian boy nicknamed Baby David. She picked him out of an orphanage, and then the confusion began: David, it seemed, had a father living and breathing a few blocks down the city street. Why would a child with a father be rotting away in an orphanage?, amateur pundits all over the celeb gossip world fumed.

It turns out that “orphaned” children in third-world institutions often have living parents. The popularity of orphanages on the international charity stage makes them a relatively cushy place to drop off a child one cannot care for because of the crushing economics of third-world parenting. Orphanages, it has been argued, create orphans. The charitable emphasis on orphanages has become such a problem that UNICEF has intervened in some areas to prevent the erosion of families when institutional orphanages become a more attractive alternative than keeping children in a parented home, offering food and education that lure parents into believe their children will have a better life in an institution. It goes without saying that charity funneled toward orphanages is charity that is not funneled toward causes that keep families intact: economic empowerment, education, and heck, even a little access to birth control so that each child is not trying to out-compete their own siblings. (It is notable, ironic, and tragic that Madonna’s response to criticism about David’s adoption was to…you guessed it…generously fund orphanages in Malawi: more supply for the first-world demand, of course.)

Whatsmore, orphanages are hardly a safe haven. Orphans are used for panhandling (if you think Slumdog Millionaire was all fiction, try out this UN report on Liberian orphanages). Orphanages are rarely staffed by vetted professionals, and thus orphans are fair game for all number of predators. Even more horrifying, orphanages are a ripe locus of activity for all manner of fundamentalists from wealthy nations to go impose their firebrand of discipline onto children who cannot protect themselves and are not counted under the hand of US or European law. Among the most bizarre stories out of Haiti in the last week is that of the Love A Child orphanage which was featured on MSNBC: the American proprietor asked a television crew member if she could borrow his belt during an interview because one of the children needed a leather-backed talking to. She justified the corporeal approach to discipline in terms of cultural relativity, chalking it up to local customs and expectations. The implicit racism there – that poor black children need a beating to get along in the world – would be jaw-dropping if it weren’t so banal.

Orphanages are not a neutral thing of good in the world. They contribute to the displacement of children, and detract from real family-building programs. They are a convenient target for charity, the kind of charity that conveniently caters to first-world aesthetics while devaluing real families.

So, resist the temptation. Don’t give to orphanages, and for the love of all things holy, don’t be one of those people who fantasizes about bringing home one of those wide-eyed darlings. Their country needs them: this is Haiti’s opportunity to rebuild, from the ground up, fast and strong. Working men and women are the backbone of that opportunity, but intact families are the meat on those bones. Haitian families need to be made whole, supported in their entirety, fed as units, given a economic future – not seen as another commodity for lonely first-worlders to get their charity-jones fix on.

Deep Question Of The Day

What freedom of speech does someone have who cannot afford to buy an audience slot? Sure, you can talk to yourself or rant at a street corner. I guess the Supreme Court of the United States is not much bothered about the fact that "the free market" of ideas just got a lot closer to a corporate monopoly.

Class War, American Style

The SCOTUS has decided that corporations can now freely advertise in elections. This is needed because of freedom of speech:

Corporations, labor unions and other political entities are gearing up to play a larger role in elections in 2010 and beyond after a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down elements of campaign-finance law.

The Supreme Court Thursday made it easier for entities to influence elections for Congress and the White House by stripping away rules that limited their ability to fund campaign advertisements. The court also struck down a part of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law that prevented independent political groups from running advertisements within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election.

I find it utterly fascinating to read the language of the above quoted story and this one in the Wall Street Journal: "people" now have more responsibility for what they say, "groups" can advertise more, trade unions are roughly equal to all the corporations in power and so on. What remains unsaid in all this is that any attempt to define the situation in those terms is as if we were putting an elephant and an ant to box in the same weight class.

So it's class warfare but nobody is supposed to notice. Just imagine the corporate power here in smaller states with limited population base and not much money to spend on elections! Just imagine the fear etched into all politicians' hearts: "What if the IBM or the General Motors decides to take me down?" Just imagine trying to get environmental protection through in states where powerful corporate interests don't want it. Well, you can stop imagining now because we shall all find out how the best democracy money can buy got even better.

Sure, you can argue that this is how things already are, except a bit less frightening. So why not just step all the way into corporate power in this country? Without blinders, that is.

Sigh. Freedom of speech for those with lots of money. The right to listen to them for the rest of us.

THIS is why the composition of the SCOTUS matters so much. And THAT is why it matters to vote for Democrats. You hear me, Massachusetts?

Fear of Filibuster by Anthony McCarthy

Barack Obama’s first year has many lessons and raises a few questions, most of them involving the home of melodrama, the Senate. One of the interesting things that became obvious is that the tough, cool, in control, Obama, has a pathological fear of losing a Senate vote. Time after time he has backed down and abandoned positions for fear that the Republicans + 1 nominal Democrat would defeat a proposal that got a majority of Democratic votes there. Health care is the quintessential example. Assuming he was paying any attention at all to the bad acid trip on that issue, at some point he must have realized that it was political as well as policy insanity in progress.

I wonder if what we were actually seeing wasn’t Barack Obama’s and Rahm Emanuel’s macho inability to risk losing something in action. That the risk of looking temporarily like a loser on behalf of Obama’s core consistency, of going down fighting on our behalf was something their sens of manhood couldn’t take. To many here, that wide spread sign of male neurosis will be very familiar.

What would the political risk of losing a really great healthcare bill be? One with the very popular public option, the tax on the wealthy to pay for it, the protections against denial of coverage, the medicare buy in, or any other combination of benefits to The People? What would have happened is that they would have at least tired to do the right thing and failed. That would have made the political problem the Republicans and the virtual Republicans with a D after their names. The problems of that are far, far lower than the ones from what was done. Just politically, you’d think that there would be enough Senate Democrats who would prefer the cover of blaming Republican-Lieberman than looking like the fools and punks they do now.

I think we are witnessing the political liabilities of having macho guys in charge of things. Instead of risking a loss over their promises to us, they tried mightily to get anything, even something that would end up destroying the idea of just, rational health care policy and the Democrats chances in elections, so they could claim a victory, make a pretty speech and pretend that what they had done wasn’t an immediate and devastating loser.

Rahm Emanuel has always traded on his tough guy image, of his being a political wise guy. Apparently it has worked for him up till now. But this last year has shown that he’s a total phony. He only goes for those he believes are weak or who have no option but to give in. He figures that’s the base of the Democratic Party. Apparently he figures that we are invested in some kind of protection racket, which last Tuesday should have shown, we aren’t. If Barack Obama doesn’t share that MO, he’s given us no reason to suspect otherwise up till now and he’s about run out of time to show one.

The alternative theory is that they were crooked from the start and never intended to produce a real health care bill. The jury’s still out on that question too.

The problem gets worse every week, it hasn’t gone away. It is the real big boy on the block that will end up making Obama and his administration, the Democratic Party and the United States the ultimate loser.

Ezra Klein’s idea for how they could possibly rescue this disaster is worth thinking about. If something like that isn’t done, they should kill the stinking thing by making the Senate vote on a something having at least the appearance of a real bill. At least that would give real Democrats in the House some cover. They should take the incredibly stupid mandate without a public option out of it or the Republican-Liebermans will get credit instead of blame.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

And Even More On Holding Hands

Suppose that I want to kill someone and you want that person to live. What is the compromise in this case? To hurt the person quite a lot but not to death? And who appears to have "won"?

The example is an extreme one and I am not, so I'd never actually want to kill someone. But its point should be obvious: Sometimes a compromise is not a compromise. And far too often in politics it is the Republicans who want to kill motions. If the Democrats compromise with that they get...what?

The HCR proposal is a good example of something that goes along with my first paragraph. The Republicans don't want any reform at all. They want to sabotage it. To add their suggestions into the proposal is exactly like ending up with a wounded person in my example. Or even worse: The Republicans refuse to vote for the compromise that has been created, and then the wounded person is the Democrats' fault, even though they wanted the person not to be hurt at all.

And what shall we do with the badly wounded person now?

Then The Sudden Falling Apart

Glenn Beck tells us that all women are psychos.

I find him pathetic. But he is a wingnut boy and some of them at least adore him. So I want the wingnuts to own him and his comments. And I want advertisers to know whom they are still supporting.

You should do your own reversals on that to see how sexism is not taken seriously in this country, though I very much doubt that a similar comment about men made by a woman would be taken as just a joke, too.

The end of the video clip introduces us to Scott Brown and his daughters.

We Are Gonna Hold Hands!

Yet again:

President Obama plans to create a bipartisan commission to make recommendations to Congress on ways to reduce the federal budget deficit under an agreement reached Tuesday night at the White House.

The agreement is tentative, pending consultations between Congressional leaders and some House and Senate lawmakers. Some details remained in flux.

But according to people familiar with the deal, in principle it commits Democrats to work with Republicans to do what they have not been able to do for a decade through the regular process: compromise on spending cuts and tax increases to produce reductions in annual deficits that, under George W. Bush and now Mr. Obama, have reached the highest levels since World War II.

Note that odd phrasing: "to do what they have not been able to do." Who is the "they" in the sentence? I read it as the Democrats. But what about the Republicans and their total lack of bipartisanship?

I have absolutely nothing against real bipartisanship, but that does not consist of Republicans refusing to vote for the HCR proposal they managed to influence so as to make it into a soup with just a few good bits of meat. Honest, bipartisanship is like any other relationship. If your needs don't get met at all and if your partner always abuses you, what should you do?


Added: More comity.

Some Light Entertainment

Kill for Jesus:

Following an ABC News report that thousands of gun sights used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan are inscribed with secret Bible references, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps said the Corps is 'concerned' and will discuss the matter with the weapons manufacturer.


However, a spokesperson for CentCom, the U.S. military's overall command in Iraq and Aghanistan, said he did not understand why the issue was any different from U.S. money with religious inscriptions on it.

"The perfect parallel that I see," said Maj. John Redfield, spokesperson for CentCom, told ABC News, "is between the statement that's on the back of our dollar bills, which is 'In God We Trust,' and we haven't moved away from that."

Said Redfield, "Unless the equipment that's being used that has these inscriptions proved to be less than effective for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and military folks using it, I wouldn't see why we would stop using that."

A spokesperson for the Army told ABC News that the Army was looking into the procurement "to see if anything is amiss here. We are still checking."


Trijicon confirmed to that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, which is based in Wixom, Michigan, said the inscriptions "have always been there" and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them.

Munson said the issue was being raised by a group that is "not Christian." The company has said the practice began under its founder, Glyn Bindon, a devout Christian from South Africa who was killed in a 2003 plane crash.

Now you can go and debate this with fundies...

What all this made me ask is what percentage of the equipment providers to the U.S. military just happen to be firms owned by fundamentalist Christians? I doubt there is any way to find that out but it would be a fascinating research topic. You know, given all that fuss about affirmative action and so on.

A Letter To My Congressional Representative by Anthony McCarthy

Dear Congresswoman Pingree,

The 60th Senate vote is gone, not to return, and there is this year and two more of the Obama administration to get through. It’s been a pretty bad first year with him, with him having a solid majority in the House and a larger majority in the Senate than, I believe, any President has had within my lifetime. That those majorities contain a fair sample of Democrats of convenience and not of fact, has been used by the Obama administration for an excuse to break promise, after promise to their base. That base, those of use who worked tirelessly and gave more than we could afford to elect Barack Obama and Democrats, are betrayed. In one of the more stupendously stupid moves in recent political history, the Obama team has burned its base, its grass roots and its allies in the pursuit of an unavailable bipartisanship and the magical 60th vote in the Senate. I could point out the political cowardice and treason that comes with making nice to your opponents by betraying those you asked to support you, but it is amazing that anyone would have to.

Ted Kennedy’s seat was lost on Barack Obama’s watch in one of the most Democratic states in the country, a state he carried comfortably a little over a year ago. The idea that the Obama team systematically throwing away Ted Kennedy’s legacy this past year has nothing to do with that, that they have been too close to his stands on issues to win in a state that kept him in that seat for more than four decades is a clear and obvious lie in service to continuing sell outs. No surprise that on this conservative Democrats and the corporate media are in agreement. What is surprising is to hear noises from the Obama administration to that effect.

But this isn’t a letter to the White House, which seems to be oddly deaf to those guilty of having supported the president. This is a letter to you, a progressive Democrat in the House of Representatives. As the Obama team have been busily selling out and burning their base, they’re also burning your base. That was the real lesson of the disaster in Massachusetts for Democratic office holders, the policies of this president are destroying the party.

I’m only a voter, a Democrat, one of many hundreds of thousands who have given up an enormous amount or toil, money and honor to put you and the president in office. You both owe us, you are up for election this year. You have weeks at most to turn this around and you’re going to have to take bold action in opposition to Barack Obama’s team to do it. Without that, you will be complicit in handing this country back into the hands of the Republicans.

I’m beyond caring if Rahm Emanuel or some other member of the administration calls up and yells at a Democratic member of Congress. I’m tired of seeing the progressive caucus in ineffective compliance with policies your constituents oppose.

The progressives in the House and Senate have to take a lesson from other political minorities that have gotten their way. You have to hold your nose to study them but the Dixicrats and their successors, today, Republicans and Blue dogs, achieve their ends through united obstruction. The success of the strategy is clear as can be by their success over the past year. Pleasing them is the easy road the Obama administration has taken and it is what will put it out of office baring a miraculous turn around. Frankly, I see little sign of that without House progressives mounting an obstinate resistance. Given the present realities in Washington, the destruction of the foundations of the Democratic Party, it is the role forced on you.

I have no Senator, the so called “moderates” from our state who the Obama administration have shamelessly pursued as they snubbed us don’t even listen to us. I’ve got you. You are my last hope at saving this party, this country, and so much at stake around the world. If something hasn’t changed by Spring, I won’t be expecting it to.

Yours truly,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On Ted Kennedy's Seat

I have read so much rubbish on this topic. So much. I might as well add my own rubbishy thoughts to the pile.

First, and foremost, Massachusetts already has universal health insurance. The HCR is not offering people there anything but extra taxes for some.* See the problem?

Second, the economic situation is horrible and incumbents are always blamed for that.

Third, both Coakley, the Democratic machineries and the Obama administration played this one terribly.

Fourth, this does NOT mean that Massachusetts has turned wingnutty or that people there even realize what a Republican Senator means for the state. The last one they had was in the early 1970s and that was a very different Republican Party.

I'm writing this before the final results are out (though Brown looks to be the winner), but if there are lessons to be learned from this I sincerely hope that they are about real problems in the campaign and not about the gender of the candidate. Because I'm like that.
*Ken Houghton in the comments pointed out that I'm wrong about that and linked to this:

Last week, Jack Sullivan at CommonWealth Magazine’s CW Unbound blog did a smart job responding on the substance. On a pure financial basis, the national bills would be a huge boost for Massachusetts. Federal tax credits could replace much state spending for Commonwealth Care, enhanced Medicaid reimbursements would relieve pressure on the MassHealth budget, and new Medicare drug assistance would allow us to save much of our Prescription Advantage budget. For the overall state economy, the effect is even more positive. The federal bills include new tax credits for small businesses, a large ramp-up in health research, and strengthened federal support for Community Health Centers, medical education, and other areas that play to Massachusetts’ strength.

So I retract the tax bit. What remains is the fact that Massachusetts already has near-universal health insurance.

Arrogance Is A Ballroom Dance, Part 2

Part 2, because I wrote on this topic earlier. Noni Mausa sent me a related post on the topic. A snippet or two from it:

I get email from a good former student, applying for a job and asking for a recommendation. "Sure", I say, "Tell me what you think I should say." I then get a draft letter back in which the student has described their work and fitness for the job in terms so superlative it would make an Assistant Brand Manager blush.

So I write my letter, looking over the student's self-assessment and toning it down so that it sounds like it's coming from a person and not a PR department, and send it off. And then, as I get over my annoyance, I realize that, by overstating their abilities, the student has probably gotten the best letter out of me they could have gotten.

Now, can you guess the gender of the student involved?

Of course you can. My home, the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, is fairly gender-balanced, and I've taught about as many women as men over the last decade. In theory, the gender of my former student should be a coin-toss. In practice, I might as well have given him the pseudonym Moustache McMasculine for all the mystery there was. And I've grown increasingly worried that most of the women in the department, past or present, simply couldn't write a letter like that.

This worry isn't about psychology; I'm not concerned that women don't engage in enough building of self-confidence or self-esteem. I'm worried about something much simpler: not enough women have what it takes to behave like arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks.


Now I don't know what to do about this problem. (The essence of a rant, in fact, is that the ranter has no idea how to fix the thing being ranted about.) What I do know is this: it would be good if more women see interesting opportunities that they might not be qualified for, opportunities which they might in fact fuck up if they try to take them on, and then try to take them on. It would be good if more women got in the habit of raising their hands and saying "I can do that. Sign me up. My work is awesome," no matter how many people that behavior upsets.

Some in the comments to the quoted post did point out that women who act like self-aggrandizing jerks don't get a pat on the back but a kick in the backside, more often than not, and studies have shown this to be true. So the act of being a jerk might not pay as well for women as it still seems to pay for men.

This does NOT mean that women shouldn't go through their recent acts of self-promotion (or the lack of those) to see how they can do more. After all, when we use fairly objective standards of achievement women do well. It's in the subjective standards that the problems arise, though of course any sexist responses are there, too.

This post and my earlier post are both linked to the invisibility of women, something I wrote about in my Why-Feminism-Is-Still-Needed series. I see that invisibility all over the Internet, in various odd forms. I don't think that just yelling loudly "Hey! I'm here, too!" will work as the total answer but it's a start.

FOF: Fear Of Feminism

I used to be a closeted feminist. This means that I was for the goals of feminism: equal opportunity and equal valuation of traditionally male and female spheres of activity, studied feminist books and saw myself as a feminist. But I was a quiet little mouse feminist for many long years. Closeted, tightly.

Why was that? The answer is fear. I feared the consequences of opening my mouth and actually saying something feminist. If I ever said anything, it was after careful calculations of the likely level of violence among my listeners, the likely number of rejections and how many others might support me. And what I said was phrased very carefully and neutrally (passive voice is great there). So I didn't make much of a difference.

That's what fear does to you, especially in settings where you know the world isn't going to change just because you opened your mouth. In economic terms: the benefits (for me) of speaking up were slight, the costs (for me) potentially quite large. And that's how it goes, of course.

But that anger had to go somewhere, so I swallowed it, and swallowed anger makes a girl nasty. Honest. It's much better to speak up and to create new webs of connections for the ones which were broken and to learn good self-defense against the violent ones and so on. Once you come out of the closet there's no way back!

I think this qualifies me to write about the Fear Of Feminism, the fear of being labeled as a man-hater or trouble-maker, the fear of being rejected. The desire to accept the results from the long and hard work of feminism (which accrues to all women, by default) without having to do any of that hard work myself. Now wouldn't that be the best of all possible worlds? Sigh.

In reality feminist change doesn't just happen. In fact, if we all stay silent and quiet what we get is anti-feminist change. And that's a scary thought.

Let's define Fear Of Feminism. It strikes me as several different things, depending on which group of people we are looking at.

Some MRA groups, the wildest and hairiest ones, truly seem to fear feminism, calling it pure evil, though they also think feminists are in power everywhere, that men are always hapless victims and that the only proper arrangement of life is all men on top, all women at bottom. So I'm not going to talk about their FOF much here. Or the FOF of utter misogynists.

Religious fundamentalists fear feminism because religious fundamentalism always seems to require the total appropriation of women's personhood and the turning of all women into property. Kind and gentle and maternal property, but property, nevertheless. Those people should fear feminism, because feminism really is about women's humanity and women's personhood.

Some supporters of pornography fear feminism because of its inconvenient questions about whether the porn they so enjoy is actually what women might enjoy, too, and because of the insistence that women are not sextoys.

I was never a member of any of those groups. My FOF group was the common one, being afraid of the backlash I'd experience if I truly spoke up about something. That's a big group, even today, and much of it is just a reflection of whom we really fear: It is not feminists, but those who are in power, whose approval we desire and whom we also ultimately fear. Don't step out of the herd if you don't want the predators to single you out!

Do guys go out with gals who are openly feminist? What happens to your promotion chances if you inquire about the treatment of women at your place of work? If you intervene in street harassment do you get harassed even worse? These kinds of questions are real questions. It's safer to hide behind the burly (?) shoulders of past feminists, to grab the fruits of their work with both hands and to stay safely silent. Except that silence never kept anyone safe.

That is not an exhaustive list of all the various ways FOF happens. It also takes milder forms such as the trick of laughing at feminists as if they were feminazis, truly marching on in their steel-tipped boots towards world domination, or the trick of defining feminists as ugly women who can't get laid. These are examples of "othering," and feminism has been "othered" most efficiently, so that it's even hard to think of the actual definitions of feminism when one hears the word.

When I see the word in the headline of an article I know that the article is probably going to be either about the exorbitant demands of a few women or about the many failures of the feminist movement.

Then there is the other type of FOF: Fear Of Women. Surprisingly often the two go hand in hand. For instance, a post could go on ranting about how horrible feminists are, trying to take away men's jobs, and then seamlessly move onto the horrors of stay-at-home wives taking their husband's earnings. Indeed, the Fear Of Feminism is very often just hidden hatred of women in general, and that's worth noticing, for those who still think that silence is a good shield.

When we fear feminism, what is it that we really fear? Given the ease with which individual feminists or groups of feminists are attacked in the media it is not feminists that people are afraid of, ultimately. Indeed, even other feminists feel quite brave enough to attack feminists. And feminism is pretty powerless as movements representing roughly half the humanity go.

Food for thought.
This post had several parents but reading this made me think and then visiting MRA sites made me think even more. Incidentally, I also noticed how men can write about the horrible treatment of women and not get attacked. More food for thought.

The Congressional Gender Gap

Ta-Nehisi Coates asks, concerning the dearth of women in the U.S. Congress:

Dana's point about women who "want the job" got me thinking about an old debate. How many women really want the job? Are there fewer women looking to have a career in politics than men? If so, why? Are they being discouraged, either actively or passively? Is politics, at least as it's in American, gendered in such a way as to attract male candidates?

Pardon me while I go bang my head against the garage door.

Ah. Much better. Here's what I wrote in 2008.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Worst Defense Against Sexism...

Is that the person so accused can't be a sexist because he (usually he in this context) has women in the family. Honest. Please, journalists, don't use that one in the future, for the obvious reason that it is an inane defense. Thanx.


An article on women's lives in Syria discusses the greater freedoms of women in the capital and juxtaposes it with the more traditional and confined lives of women elsewhere in the country. Then this:

Surprisingly, in patriarchal societies like Syria, it is often mothers who reinforce discrimination against women.

They tell their daughters, "You cannot do that, you are a girl!" or "You have to respect your brother, he is the man. What your brother says goes!"

For girls like Zainab, it is quite normal to do things their family's way. Any other way seems quite impossible.

I'm not sure who would find that surprising. First, it is the job of older women, after all, to bring up the children and to make sure that they will be safe in the society they are going to live in. A woman doing things which women "don't do" will be punished much more harshly later on. A woman not understanding that she is not powerful will be slapped down much more heavily later on. Those are just facts.

Second, anyone born into a sexist society will learn to regard it as "just the way things are" and the herd instinct will reinforce all those rules. Who wants to be the first person to raise her head above the herd when the vultures of norms, laws, rules and anti-woman religion hover above, ready to swoop?

Third, there are women who are like the Aunts in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, women who prefer the small amount of power they are given in that hierarchical system. We can all name several of that type in the U.S. media, but such women seem especially necessary to me in a society which is mostly sex-segregated.

For Martin Luther King Day

A day of service. That sounds like a wonderful idea to keep and to extend to those other Named Holidays.

Remember the Bush Administration?

I know that it's all of a year in the past, but I'm sorta getting irate at the way people forget all about the architects of our current problems and think that putting them back into repair-work is the way to go:

Of all the claims Rove made, one in particular caught my eye for its sheer audacity and shamelessness -- that congressional Democrats "will run up more debt by October than Bush did in eight years."

So, let's review a little history:

The day the Bush administration took over from President Bill Clinton in 2001, America enjoyed a $236 billion budget surplus -- with a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion. When the Bush administration left office, it handed President Obama a $1.3 trillion deficit -- and projected shortfalls of $8 trillion for the next decade. During eight years in office, the Bush administration passed two major tax cuts skewed to the wealthiest Americans, enacted a costly Medicare prescription-drug benefit and waged two wars, without paying for any of it.

I'm not pleased with the way the health care reform is going, but my displeasure is very much associated with the bits the conservatives managed to get in (via that misplaced one-sided bipartisanism of the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress) and with the bits the insurance industry managed to get in. A Republican administration would not have even tried to reform health care! Why do people forget that?

And I very much doubt that the Republicans would have tried any kind of stimulus package, either, except for that old cut-taxes-for-the-rich bit.

I understand that people are angry at the economic situation but why on earth would they want those responsible for it back in power?

Naked Politics

There's a double standard about that, don't you think? Scott Brown can have naked pictures from his past and it doesn't cause much of a stir at all but a woman politician? Probably the end of her career.

A quick PSA on charity and the Haitian earthquake (by skylanda)

Give, and please.

Americans are tenacious defenders of the notion that charity can somehow replace justice. This does not make us particularly popular around the world, but it does make us notably generous when the lightening bolt of sudden tragedy unleashes from the sky and strikes down at one unfortunate spot or another on the surface of this tragedy-rife everyday planet. Now is not a particularly opportune time to quibble about what caused greater morbidity and mortality: the shaking of the earth, or the entrenched poverty of a nation put down by years of colonialism, post-colonialism, and rank racism that makes the difference between a seven-point-something earthquake in California that typically causes the death of a few hundred and a similarly scaled shaker in Haiti that causes the death of a tens of thousands. Now is just the time to open the wallet and give.

So, a quick PSA on the topic of giving at times like these: every time an earth-shaking tragedy strikes (9/11, the Boxing Day tsunami, Katrina, this earthquake), involved NGOs open up their fundraising drives for specific donations to the cause. And donations pour in for that cause alone. Everyone wants to imagine their ten dollars going to that specific Haitian orphan, that particular New York firefighter, that exact stranded family on a New Orleans roof. It's noble. It helps the cause. It brings in the cash.

I am here to beg you, please, when you give a donation, to whomever you give: check that box that says “wherever most needed.” Every time disaster of this nature strikes, people rush to give to the specific cause, and NGOs like the Red Cross (with its internal and international branches) see their coffers empty out of donations to the causes that continue day and night regardless of what’s happening in Haiti: everyday floods and fires on US soil, the ongoing catastrophe in Darfur, routine training of citizens and providers in basic and advanced life support. These things do not stop because Haiti got hit; but the donations do. The Red Cross got crucified in the press after 9/11 for diverting an excess of funds from well-meaning people from direct 9/11 causes into programs that suffered because of the diversion of routine donations into the 9/11 fund; these programs continued to be vital regardless of what happened in New York that day, just as they continue to be vital no matter what happened in Haiti this week.

Please, please imagine that your donation is going where it is needed. Some will go to Haiti. Some will go to Darfur. Some will go to the family down the street who will be sheltered by the Red Cross when their house burns in the middle of the night. It’s all good, ya know.

If you’re thinking of donating, please put Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health at the top of your list. PIH has been doing ground-breaking grassroots health care in Haiti for a couple of decades now (particularly around complex long-term HIV and TB care), and they are probably the best equipped NGO to understand the landscape of need on the ground in Port-au-Prince and the highlands. They aren’t as flashy or known as the Red Cross, but they are among the best at pulling communities together to the task at hand. And an immense, terrible task it will be in these coming months.

Cross-posted from my infrequently-updated blog, Loose Chicks Sink Ships.

Don't forget Haitian women (by Suzie)

I know people want to give any way they can to help Haiti. But let's not forget that gender plays a role. Here's an excerpt from the Madre, which has long worked in Haiti:
Because of their role as caretakers and because of the discrimination they face, women have a disproportionate need for assistance. Yet, they are often overlooked in large-scale aid operations. ... It is not enough to ensure that women receive aid. Women in communities must also be integral to designing and carrying out relief efforts. When relief is distributed by women, it has the best chance of reaching those most in need. That’s not because women are morally superior. It is because their roles as caretakers in the community means they know where every family lives, which households have new babies or disabled elders, and how to reach remote communities even in disaster conditions.
Like Madre, the Global Fund for Women has a crisis fund, but also is looking to the future. When I had money, I donated to both of these nonprofits and highly recommend them.

RHRealityCheck has a great round-up about aid, Haiti and women. The Soroptomists also have a paper on how disasters affect women, and I've written on this topic before. I'm leaving town, but feel free to add links in comments about other nonprofits working on the different needs and skills of women.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In The Year 1910

A law society had a meeting and one of the sections was about:

"distinguished panel of gentlemen from the legal field will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of women in the areas of communication, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, organization and women's overall management of their legal work."

Mmm. Except the year was 2010! Don't faint, dear ladies. And under no circumstances ask yourself if you should do some kind of replacement there, such as replacing "gentlemen" with "Anglo experts" and "women" with "Latino lawyers!" Don't do that.

To be fair, the gentlemen decided to change that section description a bit and also decided to add a few lady lawyers to the panel. So all is well.

Behind a Pose Behind a Pose by Anthony McCarthy

Having, somehow, successfully limited my contact with the fluff anti-feminist scribbler, Caitlin Flanagan, I’d missed her attack on school gardening programs in California until I read this analysis by Meg White.

It would seem, in short that Flanagan has determined all by her self that it is demeaning for children to learn how to grow their own food, applying relevant school subjects to the project. It’s touching to see someone concerned with the pollution of pure geometry by the vulgarity of using it to make a garden bed, I hadn’t realized how utterly Platonic the anti-feminist backlash was before reading her article in The Atlantic.

As Meg White notes, other critics of the article have noted that Flanagan’s main premise, that the program is an example of white privilege, seems to spring full born from her own mind since she doesn’t seem to have interviewed any of the “Hispanics” her meat space concern trolling pretends to speak on behalf of.

Flanagan is praised by this food blogger (who appears to despise what he calls the "eaterati") for her iconoclastic piece, which supposedly "asks questions, levels criticisms, doesn't settle for blind acceptance."

But did she ask questions? As Andrew Leonard points out in, "Flanagan's concoction is just that; a fantasy made up out of thin air. In her entire 3,500-word article, there is no indication that she talked to a single Latino in Berkeley who might have misgivings as to the merits of elementary and middle school kids spending a mere hour-and-a-half a week tending a garden."

Yet Flanagan keeps returning to this notion that the existence of a school vegetable garden makes a mockery of those immigrant workers who slave away in the produce fields of California. She wildly imagines an assimilation novel, The White Man Calls It Romaine, in which the children of illegal immigrants are sent by their teachers back into the fields to do the same manual labor that broke their poor parents.

Leaving aside the patronizing, I’d say mildly racist, implication that Latinos in the United States would be unaware of the word “romaine”, the entire article is riddled with the sloppiest thinking I’ve seen in that magazine.

As others have pointed out, the alternative to growing your own garden is buying produce in a super market, of the kind that Flanagan praises

As it happens, I live fewer than 20 miles from the most famous American hood, Compton, and on a recent Wednesday morning I drove over there to do a little grocery shopping. The Ralphs was vast, well-lit, bountifully stocked, and possessed of a huge and well-tended produce section. Using my Ralphs card, I bought four ears of corn for a dollar, green grapes and nectarines (both grown in the state, both 49 cents a pound), a pound of fresh tortillas for $1.69, and a half gallon of low-fat milk for $2.19. The staff, California friendly, outnumbered the customers, and the place had the dreamy, lost-in-time feeling that empty American supermarkets often have.

Where the heck Flanagan imagines that food to have come from if not from laborers working for corporate farms is anyone’s’ guess. You don’t get prices like that without someone getting the short end of the deal and when it’s a farmer hiring migrant workers, the farmer isn’t going to voluntarily be on the end of it. That there is all the world of difference between growing your own and your communities food and working as a laborer at the lowest possible wages and worst conditions that the bean counters can get away, eludes the New Yorker-Atlantic thinker.

I think that, as in all her work I’ve seen, Caitlin Flanagan is her own subject matter, everything reverts back to her, everything is predetermined by her attitude. Or at least by the shtick she has cultivated. She’s not much different from John Stossel, when it comes down to it.

I think she has a fundamentally elite view of farm work as degraded and demeaning when the only things that are degraded and demeaning about it are the work conditions and the pay. If those produced a secure middle class income, safely and humanely, farm work would be preferable to many other jobs to a lot of people. There are plenty of white collar workers who have given up their old, almost always better paid, jobs in order to farm. Not all of them white, liberal and stereo typically air headed. You don’t stay in farming on the basis of unreality, though it can get you through the kind of life in letters that Flanagan chose for her second career.

More, though. She is a specimen of the kind of spokesman for the establishment who poses as an opponent of an imaginary elite that supposedly really runs things. Their targets are not especially powerful, feminists, Alice Waters* , the movement to improve nutrition and education, and the wrongs they address are innocuous, when not exaggerated to the point approaching fiction. The corporate-establishment POV they promote is presented as the real, common-sense, common man consensus. I’d be hard put to name a single main stream magazine or news paper that doesn’t provide these hacks with full employment.

* Extraordinary, that someone who has worked in the food business would be condemned for taking an interest in the public schools. I'm not holding my breath for Flanagan or her ilk commenting on corporate chiefs who gain some positive PR through some gesture in that direction.

Professionals Playing Pretend In The Time of Small Government by Anthony McCarthy

This is a real situation that I found out about this week.

An eighty-year-old woman has the care of her 18-year-old granddaughter, she raised her. The reason that she has care of her now is because the young woman is, as used to be said, profoundly retarded and her parents aren’t in the picture. The grand daughter’s “IQ”* has been reported to be somewhere around 40. Despite this, the granddaughter is fully mobile and is always in danger of wandering off. It’s impossible for her grandmother, who is, eighty, after all, to keep control of her. There have been some rather troubling signs that someone might be having sex with her. The granddaughter doesn’t understand what sex is but is attracted to men.

The grandmother is afraid of her grand-daughter becoming pregnant and has been trying to arrange for her to be sterilized. The granddaughter has no idea what pregnancy is and is, obviously, unable to take care of a child in any circumstances.

From what she has been told, she has the legal authority to make the decision since her granddaughter can’t. However, she has not been able to find anyone who would be willing to do it and has met with opposition from the social work establishment. She has been told by at least one of them that “She might want to have a baby someday”. Remember, this is a young woman who doesn’t know what pregnancy is and who can’t dress herself unaided. Yet the medical-social-work people pretend that this is something she’ll decide when the only one who actually would be exercising informed choice in the matter is some creep who seduces a woman with the intellectual abilities of a toddler.

So, the grand mother, who doesn’t even know who is going to take care of her grand-daughter when she isn’t around anymore (state programs are drying up completely), has to worry that she could have a baby to take care of within any given year and can not get the medical establishment to act to prevent that.

Anyone want to comment?

* IQ isn’t something I believe in but she seems to me to have the development of a two to three year old from what I’ve seen.