Saturday, April 17, 2010

Really Needed To Hear This Song Tonight

Flora Purim

Open Your Eyes You Can Fly

Gary Burton Quartet

Open Your Eyes You Can Fly

Been under the weather, didn't suspect that I'd get a all nostalgic for jazz I was listening to back then. I loved Flora Purim and I was in love with Gary Burton.

posted by Anthony McCarthy

Fashion, Again

I have posted this picture (from family archives) before but it is so funny it's worth posting again. Click on it to see it bigger.

It shows the 1930's version of photo-shopping an advertising pic. Only the top half would be used, not the bit with the guy standing on the crate.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Read Me

On Alternet. I write about sex and older people. By the way, the comments can be safely skipped.

'Ugly Betty' finale (by Suzie)

(Spoiler coming right this second.) Woohoo, Betty chose the job over the man!

The TV show that ended Wednesday after four years was based on the popular Colombian telenovela “Yo soy Betty, la fea.” Both starred beautiful women who are made to look less attractive. Both find work in the fashion industry even though that isn’t their interest, and it hardly makes use of their talents. Eventually, they rise in their companies and become more attractive. Both grow fond of their rich, playboy bosses.

At the end of “Betty, la fea,” she marries her manipulative boss. That angered many fans who had seen the show as a departure from soap operas in which a beautiful but poor woman gets her rich man in the end.

As a producer, Salma Hayek helped get a U.S. version on ABC, with America Ferrera starring. Both are feminists. “Ugly Betty” was the first network TV show to focus on a Latina. In addition to skewering the fashion and beauty industries, the show examined gender, class, ethnicity and sexuality.

Betty could have stayed in fashion and done well. Instead, she upends her life to run a new magazine, described as a young person’s New Yorker, in London. She leaves even though she's close to her boss, Daniel, who begs her to stay. After time goes by, he quits the family magazine to see if he can make it on his own. He comes to London, and Betty offers him a job as her assistant. He says he’ll send her a resume and asks her out to dinner. Fans are left wondering if he really will work for her, and if the two will become a couple. There’s talk of a movie.

Silvio Horta, the producer who ran the show, said of the finale:
I wanted it to be about Betty's journey, about Betty making it in her professional life, first and foremost, overcoming the obstacles in her past and really succeeding. … I think with any TV show, the romantic angle is always what people really care about, but that was never the intent of this show.
“Ugly Betty” and other shows have been criticized for casting attractive women to play women not considered pretty. (For related issues, read what Melissa Silverstein and Rebecca Traister say about Tina Fey.) Melanie at Feminist Fatale sums up my feelings:
Betty has lost some weight, her eye brows have been tweezed and shaped, her hair has been de-frizzed and the signature braces have come off. … Betty still does not remotely resemble the ultra-thin women crossing our screens most of the time. … Betty is not a fundamentally different woman after four years at a fashion magazine. That’s a major feat. It’s difficult to stay true to your core values, beliefs and goals when the world around you is poking fun at you and pressuring you to conform.

Friday landscape blogging (by Suzie)

I shot this video from Muir Beach Overlook, north of San Francisco, during one of the coldest, stormiest weeks in January. I'm just learning how to shoot video, and this is the first thing I've ever put on YouTube. Have mercy.

Submitting to pain (by Suzie)

How many women think they have to tolerate painful sex to preserve a relationship with a man who doesn’t abuse them physically in any other way?

Some men have a streak of sadism and/or a need to dominate, and some women enjoy pain and submission. But what about the others? How do men get pleasure out of something that hurts women they profess to love? If a man had just had surgery on his penis or had other health problems that made sex painful, can you imagine his wife coming to bed and then proceeding to jump up and down on him?

A friend told me about her mother, who has severe arthritis, scarring and abdominal adhesions that make sex extraordinarily painful. She and her husband aren’t adverse to alternatives to vaginal penetration, but he wants vaginal penetration, too. Sometimes she says no; other times she gives in because she knows that, if she doesn’t, he’ll treat her badly the next day. He told her that his doctor said sex was OK as long as he wasn’t “extra forceful.”

This reminded me of another story in which the husband would climb onto his wife, without any foreplay or lubricant, and his actions physically hurt her. At least in this case, their doctor told him to stop. This couple was in their 70s, as are my friend’s parents.

Some people may think the problem stems from a different era, in which husbands felt entitled to sex, and women were supposed to do their duty. On the other hand, I know a couple much younger than me that had similar issues. The woman had off-and-on physical problems that made sex very painful. When she didn’t want vaginal penetration, when she had no interest in sex, he would still expect her to satisfy him one way or the other. Eventually, she left him. None of these couples were religious conservatives who believed a woman should submit to her husband.

In addition to changing attitudes among men and women, I wish we could enlist more medical professionals to address this issue with their patients.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Like Taking Candy From Children

I feel a little guilty about posting these interviews with the teabaggers. But not guilty enough not to post them, because whether they are representative or not, they tell us something about the inner contradictions in the movement:

From the New York Times:

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

"That's a conundrum, isn't it?" asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. "I don't know what to say. Maybe I don't want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security." She added, "I didn't look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I've changed my mind."

From the Washington Post:

Johnson continued: "Normally I'm not a protester. I've got other things to do in life. I'd rather be doing all kinds of other things. But I just can't stand by and watch this country go down the tubes."

He said he "worked my way up from nothing" and was not about to allow "somebody else to reach in my pocket and just take it away and give to somebody laying on their ass."

Johnson expressed opposition to President Obama. "It's not just because he's black," he said. "I wish I could tell you that I loved this guy, that he was a great president, that I had faith in him. But I have none. Zero."

From the

Early yesterday morning, Valerie and Rob Shirk corralled their 10 home-schooled children into their van for the 2 1/2-hour drive from their home in Connecticut to Boston, arriving just in time to hear Sarah Palin denounce government-run health care at the tea party movement rally on Boston Common.

They thought it would be a learning opportunity for their children, who range in age from 9 months to 15 years old and who held up signs criticizing the government for defying the "will of the people.''

"The problem in this country is that too many people are looking for handouts,'' said Valerie Shirk, 43, of Prospect, Conn. "I agree with the signs that say, 'Share my father's work ethic — not his paycheck.' We have to do something about the whole welfare mentality in this country.''


For the Shirks, it was a day for their children to seek inspiration from Palin and the other speakers, who questioned Obama's patriotism and at least one of whom referred to him repeatedly as Barack Hussein.

The couple, who rely on Medicaid for their health care, were also upset about the nation's new health reforms.

When asked why her family used state-subsidized health care when she criticized people who take handouts, Valerie Shirk said she did not want to stop having children, and that her husband's income was not enough to cover the family with private insurance.

"I know there's a dichotomy because of what we get from the state,'' she said. "But I just look at each of my children as a blessing.''

More On Clothing

Triggered by the comments to my previous post on clothes, I dropped by a very high-level clothing store last night, right before closing, to ask the people working there a few questions. It was a store for men, not for women (there were no suitable stores for women in that area for me to pester), but the responses I got should be of wider interest.

Here's the story:

Echidne enters a fancy store for hard-working rich guyz. She's dressed in baggy sweatpants, a jeans jacket and sneakers. Thus, she is ignored by the staff until she chases two of them into a corner and asks the following question: What does your store stock to men who would be regarded as overweight?

One of the two staff members tells me that such men should lose weight and then slips away. The other says that fat men should have their clothes tailored. They offer tailoring services. Yes, of course individual tailoring cost a lot more than off-the-rack suits.

Echidne leaves, to mull over this. She now understands more clearly why large women don't demand better clothes from the market place. One gets shamed.

Who Are The Tea Partiers?

The New York Times refers to their own survey and tells us that:

Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.

They hold more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as "very conservative" and President Obama as "very liberal."

And while most Republicans say they are "dissatisfied" with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as "angry."

Amanda writes about that education finding. I'd like to add that the survey quoted here compares the findings to the general public, not to voters or to Democratic or Republican voters.

I don't think the education variable tells us much anything, to be honest, because education and income are so highly correlated that when you look at education as a variable and try to understand the findings you may really be looking at findings about income.

That would make more sense: If the tea partiers are people who believe that their taxes will go up with the health care reform, for example, they could be against it on purely those grounds.

In general, that short list of characteristics does sound to me like the guys who believe that they should be in power and feel threatened because they might not be. Plus this:

The overwhelming majority of supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.

They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.

A public health warning: I haven't looked at the questions in the survey itself.

Meanwhile, in Congo. May TRIGGER.

BBC writes about gang-rapes as a weapon of war:

A report focusing on rape in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo reveals that more than half of the victims were gang-raped by armed men.

For years rape has been used against women in the region but the report reveals the scale of the problem.

More than 4,0000 rape victims were interviewed over a four-year period.

To those horrors must be added three extra ones: First, hospitals treating the damages of the victims number exactly one in the area. Second, women and girls who have been raped feel shame about the rape and face social disapproval in their communities. Third:

There is also evidence of a dramatic increase in the number of rapes carried out by civilians.

The report says back in 2004 1% of rapes were committed by civilians.

Four years later they were responsible for more than a third of these attacks.

The researchers say this proves that the scale of rape during years of war in DR Congo has made this crime seem more acceptable.

Unless, say, total rapes have decreased sharply? If that had happened, the civilian-committed number of rapes may not have risen. But I suspect that total rapes are not down in numbers and that rape has become a "non-crime."

There are times when I think that we should arm women and girls in these war-torn areas. At least then the battle would be fairer.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Little Night Music

After a long and tiring day:

I'm Not A Wabbit

You need to listen to Lilly von Schtupp to get the title of this post which is about a possible new treatment for the female sexual arousal disorder:

Attempts to treat female sexual dysfunction with Pfizer's erectile dysfunction drug Viagra have for the most part failed, but a new prototype from the company offers hope for a female-specific treatment for those with female sexual arousal disorder, FSAD.

The drug, which the researchers tested on rabbits, acts by increasing blood flow specifically to the genitalia, enhancing and extending the duration of arousal.

The drug would not help all types of female sexual arousal disorder, however, as blood flow is only one of many reasons that women experience sexual dysfunction.

OK. That wasn't a very serious reaction.

But in general I'm not sure that there isn't a feedback link from arousal problems to libido itself. If that's the case, this drug could help women feel more desire, too.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Frivolous Post no1

Can I do this? Probably not, but let's give it a try.

On clothes: You need them, sadly. The ones for sale for women are too often of two types: Really crappy, poorly made and cheap and then really expensive, beautifully made and inappropriate. I don't go to dinner parties that often and when I do people wear jeans and not those long dresses which somehow stay up without shoulder straps. Do you inhale and hold the breath or do you glue the thing to your sensitive bosom?

My favorite dress ever was one I got when I was little. My mother and I had gone out to buy the material and I nixed every rational choice until my mom's feet hurt and night was falling. Then she agreed to buy some forest-green velvet for the dress! The green of dark pines thinking mysterious thoughts in the silent whiteness of winter!

The dress was beautiful. It had angel wings for sleeves and the color made my eyes large and mysterious and forest green, too. I grew out of it in about a week, though. But no dress has ever matched that one.

In general women's clothes are poorly made and the sizes on them mean nothing or everything, depending on your point of view. The change in fashions means that you can either follow them, spend lots of money and look ridiculous some (well, most) of the time, or you can ignore them, feel virtuous, save money and be seen as a woman who doesn't know what's in fashion, one who probably doesn't shave her armpits or her Secret Garden of Delights, either.

The other major problem with women's clothes is that they Have Messages! Men's clothes have some, too, such as the one pin-striped suits carry (I Am Important!), but women's clothes have more messages and loads of them seem to be f**k me. Even when that's not the message you want to wear the stores may not offer many alternatives.

See? I told you I cannot do this. But I actually love some clothes! It would be such fun to wear a medieval outfit or a Warrior Princess Xena outfit, with golden snakes writhing around my humongous biceps (they would be humongous, I'm sure). I'd also love to wear a white coat and a stethoscope or a police uniform and so on.

And I do own a 1918/19 going-away dress (the one you wear when leaving the wedding ceremony in old movies) which is beautiful. It's made out of dark blue silk, has several layers of skirts with asymmetric hemlines and a top which is studded with sequins. It should be in a museum but the museums here won't take it because textiles are so hard to maintain and it wasn't made in Paris and it is transitional between the Gibson Girl look and the Flapper look.

What I actually wear, naturally, is pajamas. Everybody knows that bloggers blog in pajamas, bare feet and some emerald earrings. Mine are shaped like snakes with green eyes.

Crying All The Way To The Bank

Louann Brizendine is, and there are two reasons for that:

First, she is a woman and women are all about emotions and totally (like totally!) incapable of systematic thought and leadership and such (twirls hair, sticks tongue out), but we wimminz do talk a lot* so maybe she can write a book by talking a lot to a tape assuming she has a box of tissues for the tears and someone to tell secrets to.

Second, she has come out with a sequel to her femalebrainbook and it's all about the male brain. It's going to be translated to all known sexist languages and it's going to be eagerly devoured by curious women everywhere. Though not by curious men because men don't read since they have a male brain. (I added that last bit and it is a joke.)

I'm not gonna read it because I'm female and too upset and emotional to read bad books without being paid to do it. But loads of women WILL read it, and it will help them to feel, like, better and totally justified about living under a patriarchy. It will also present inaccurate information, wild generalizations and so on, but only about 3.75 people in this world seem to mind that. I'm soooo upset! Now hug me.

OK. That's enough about me tapping into my essential and unchanging female brain. Instead, do go and read Emily Bazelon's review of the book.

Then read Caryl Rivers on the topic. She points out the great influence of our old friend Simon Baron-Cohen on Brizendine. I quote from her:

Men are the thinkers, the systemizers, the rationalists. Women are the carers and the feelers.

Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen--who wrote the book "The Essential Difference" (2004)--says that males are good at leadership, decision-making and achievement, while females are suited for "making friends, mothering, gossiping and 'reading' your partner." (He has been quoted in The New York Times, in a Newsweek cover story, in a PBS documentary and in many other major media outlets.)

Baron-Cohen bases his claims on one study, conducted in his lab in 2000, of day-old infants purporting to show that baby boys looked longer at mobiles, while day-old baby girls looked longer at human faces.

Elizabeth Spelke, co-director of Harvard's Mind, Brain and Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, utterly demolished this study. It has never been replicated, nor has it appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, she reported.

Spelke found the study lacked critical controls against experimenter bias and was not well-designed. Female and male infants were propped up in a parent's lap and shown, side-by-side, an active person or an inanimate object. Since newborns can't hold their heads up independently, their visual preferences could well have been determined by the way their parents held them.

Moreover, a long line of literature flat out contradicts Baron-Cohen's study, providing evidence that male and female infants tend to respond similarly to people and objects. (Brizendine cites the Baron-Cohen study with nary a nod to the critics.)

Nevertheless, that mobile appears in Brizendine's book:

Take David, who at age 3 turns a blow dryer on his friend's stream of pee as it hits the toilet. Brizendine traces the causes of this mischief-making back to the first day of his life: "David was only 24 hours old, and without encouragement or instruction from anyone, he stared at the rotating triangles and squares on the mobile and seemed to find them fascinating." The image comes from one much-discussed lab experiment. Other scientists have tried and failed to replicate the finding that day-old boy babies look at objects while newborn girls look at faces. But neither Brizendine's text nor her cursory endnotes give any hint of this uncertainty. The idea, however sketchy, seems to be that boys are hard-wired to break the rules because from birth they are less interested in human emotions than in objects, and so don't respond to parental disapproval the way girls do.

Sigh and sigh.

Have you ever noticed how these discussions about male brains and female brains usually produce weird caricatures of the most extreme types of men and women we may have met in our lives and then present those as the essential nature of ourselves?

The men in them are cold calculating machines except for wanting fellatios and food and violence, and the women are jellylike mountains of feelings upon feelings, with nary a computer in sight, who only want to be taken care of, have babies and new clothes, romance and connections? Why would anyone be interested in seeing themselves depicted in such terms?

That's not a rhetorical question, by the way. And neither is the obvious question one should ask if it indeed were true that men cannot relate to empathy and other such human emotions. That one is why we would want robots without empathy to lead us into anything at all.

But then of course the choice in this weird world of male and female brainz are the jellylike quivering mountains of female emotion, and those don't sound like a good idea for leadership, either.
*Not true as you will find in the linked pieces.

Monday, April 12, 2010

And the Pulitzer Goes to....Kathleen Parker!

If you are not familiar with her work you are quite lucky. A good-and-polite survey can be found here. I have written several less polite posts about her misogyny.

It is odd how few people seem to have noticed her consistency on that one topic. Whether she's a Republican in other ways may vary but she is always one of the Aunts in Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale.
Added later: This post is not criticizing Ms. Parker's writing or opinionating in general. I understand that nasty opinions can be well expressed and widely enjoyed. But I truly do not think that anyone so consistently hating on one large group would get these accolades if the group didn't happen to consist of women.

The Republican Health Care Proposal: Bargaining/Bartering WIth Your Physician

Steve Benen writes about Sue Lowden's views on how to contain health care costs:

Lowden is a former state senator and chair of the Nevada Republican Party. She's also, according to nearly every recent poll, the favorite to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in November. Lowden is not, as one might imagine, a supporter of recent improvements to the broken health care system, and she was asked at a candidate forum the kind of policies she'd prefer to see. Among her proposals:

"...I would have suggested, and I think that bartering is really good. Those doctors who you pay cash, you can barter, and that would get prices down in a hurry. And I would say go out, go ahead out and pay cash for whatever your medical needs are, and go ahead and barter with your doctor."

I'm pretty sure she means not bartering but bargaining here, but that doesn't make the proposal any more realistic.

First, many patients are sick when they visit a physician. It's hard to get into a cheerful round of bargaining when you see things through a fog and your tummy hurts. It may even be hard to think clearly enough to bargain.

Second, when is it, exactly, that the patient is supposed to start bargaining? To do it when the bills are presented is too late, so my guess is that Lowden would insert the bargaining process somewhere in the beginning stages, before treatment has been provided. But that is very tricky, because the treatment itself might change if the price offered for it is lowered. The physician might spend less time, order cheaper tests and so on, and the patient would end up with a different product than the one the non-bargainers get.

Third, and related to the previous point, the total cost of the treatments may not even be known until later in the process. How is the patient supposed to get the information needed for skillful bargaining?

Fourth, and finally, the power asymmetry between patients and physicians makes this a ridiculous suggestion. The consequences to the patient of a bargaining attempt which fails may be having to find another physician, waiting for another appointment and so on. As a minimum, a failed attempt may anger the person who is supposed to treat you next. I don't see patients doing this much at all, just as I don't see people applying for janitor jobs at IBM negotiating their wages as if they were equally powerful bargainers.

What Is Blogging For?

After writing my silly rant about animal research I got up several times to remove it as a post from the blog, because it is not on feminism or politics, not well researched (which I usually try to do), messy, unclear and most likely only interest to myself. I could have written that post in my daily limbering-up-for-writing folder (goodmorningworldhateyoufuckers) and be done with it in terms of the temporary relief I get from writing something down.

But I left it, because I started thinking about the question in the title of this post. What is blogging for? It's not a substitute for journalism, that's for sure, and although it can be an excellent way to provide new or expert information on some topic, that's not what most bloggers do.

But what is it that we do?

I hope that this blog provides a place for deeper discussions and new ideas to be tossed about, and because I have such wonderful readers it often does exactly that. Still, what should be tossed into that pool? (Now I think of all of us as seals playing volleyball in a pool.)

Perhaps tossing some half-formed ideas, some ragged emotions, some weird questions IS as useful as offering beautifully honed and researched final theses with the nice circular structure I esthetically appreciate? And I need more frivolous posts. Suggestions on those are much appreciated. Otherwise I will start a fashion advice column and you don't really want that.
Picture of snake by 1Watt, Hermit.

A Rant On Anti-Anthropomorphism

So I'm cleaning house while listening to the radio. The program* is about studying whether other animals have "human" emotions, such as guilt or gratitude, and the discussion is interesting.

But suddenly my jaw is locked as if I was a pitbull bitch worrying something rather nasty, and my hands, turned into talons, are shredding the cleaning rag into small pieces.

Anger has come to visit, and I'm not even reading evo-psychos or MRA sites! Indeed, I'm FURIOUS. Note that this is not an intellectual reaction. It is pure primal anger and came upon me by surprise.

Let's see why. The history of anti-anthropomorphism is of course the scientific reaction to anthropomorphism: the attribution of human ideas and emotions to other animals. Scientists disapprove of such attributions. What they have in mind are (female) pet owners who dress their cat or dog in human clothes and treat the animal like a child. Scientists look down on such silly behavior and warn all of us of the dangers of assuming that, say, our dogs love us or that they feel guilt after eating the contents of the trash can and so on.

That's not what my anger is about, though the condescending attitude of scientists does annoy me, too. Why is it that researchers spending a few months in a lab (a biased environment for animals) with dogs are assumed to arrive at more valuable observations than pet owners who spend decades with dogs? Why are the latter assumed to be biased and the former not?

This is odd. A researcher who may know nothing about dogs is deemed a neutral observer even if he or she doesn't understand what a particular type of bark means, what a particular tail position is meant to convey and so on, but someone who has a lifetime experience as a pet owner is presumed to be biased for having been a pet owner.

Yes, of course owning a pet can bias the owner and many owners do relate to their pets as if they were human beings. But not having had anything at all to do with dogs, say, can also bias the results. Because human beings without that experience only "speak human", not "dog," and as a consequence they may set up an experiment which doesn't mean what they think it means. Isn't that anthropomorphism in a sense?

I'm not arguing that pet owners know things better than the researchers. Far from it. But criticizing the knowledge one can acquire from spending a lot of time with animals does throw away the baby (of the long experience) with the bathwater (the tendency to assign human characteristics to pets).

Yes, I resent the condescension of the researchers in that program. It is unbecoming and reminds me of other areas of research condescension.

But the real reason for that erupting anger is not there. It is in the nasty history of what happens when we pretend that we cannot tell if animals feel pain the same way we do or when we pretend that animals don't feel fear the same way we do and so on. Who cares if the feelings are exactly the same? After all, I have no idea if my feelings of pain or fear are the same as yours (assuming that you, dear reader, are a human being, too). Mostly we simply accept that if someone is hit with a dagger, bleeds and screams, then that person is in pain. If an animal is hit with a dagger, bleeds and screams, the same conclusion appears warranted.

Add to that the hidden tendency to assume that if an animal does not feel, say, guilt the same way humans do it does not feel it at all. And the major assumption in all this is that we know what we talk about when we discuss human love or human guilt. I think the emotion we call "love" is often not that different from something we might call "need" though other times it is, and we might well turn anthropomorphizing on its head and ask, for example, how "love towards one's family" differs from a dog's desire not to be separated from her or his pack.

That's the rant. Except that one of the men in the show compared animal sex (humping everybody freely) to human sex (having to buy drinks first) in a way which showed that he didn't know much about animal sex in general (pun intended) and that sex to him is from his own angle. And then we all laugh at the clever quip.
*I was too angry to make a note of it but I think it was in this series.

Dowd Sees The Light

I must give credit when credit is due and it is due to Maureen Dowd on her recent columns about the Catholic church and its problems. I have often criticized Dowd's school playground approach to politics, her desire to be dominated by strong daddy figures and her readiness to join the boyz in belittling women in politics. But sometimes she gets it:

When I was in Saudi Arabia, I had tea and sweets with a group of educated and sophisticated young professional women.

I asked why they were not more upset about living in a country where women's rights were strangled, an inbred and autocratic state more like an archaic men's club than a modern nation. They told me, somewhat defensively, that the kingdom was moving at its own pace, glacial as that seemed to outsiders.

How could such spirited women, smart and successful on every other level, acquiesce in their own subordination?

I was puzzling over that one when it hit me: As a Catholic woman, I was doing the same thing.

Well, she wasn't doing exactly the same thing. Women in Saudi Arabia are subject to the shariah law, and telling the system that you are "upset" about it can be extremely dangerous. The Catholic church doesn't have the power to imprison a woman who criticizes it (or I'd be in jail). In fact, a woman can leave the church and nothing terrible happens to her. A woman in Saudi Arabia cannot leave the country without the permission of her husband or her father.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Anti-Choice Side Actually Promotes Abortion But Only If It Is Illegal and Unsafe [Anthony McCarthy]

Nothing exposes the fundamental hypocrisy and the real intentions of the organized opponents of women owning their own body more than their positions on effective contraception. This story about a sleazy DA, Scott Southworth, from Juneau Country, Wisconsin, warning teachers that if they FOLLOW WISCONSIN LAW and present accurate contraception information to their students, he might prosecute them for “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”. Aside from the theoretical penalty of jail time and a $10,000 fine, there would be the cost, waste of time and embarrassment his political grand standing would bring to any teacher he chose to prosecute, for following Wisconsin law.

Southworth, a Republican and a Christian evangelical, took issue with a law Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle signed in February requiring schools that teach sexual education to adopt a comprehensive approach.

.... Janine Geske, a Marquette University law professor and former state Supreme Court justice, said she didn't understand Southworth's legal logic. She said that if he tried to prosecute a teacher for adhering to guidelines approved by the Legislature and governor, the case would likely be dismissed.

"To be frank, I can't follow exactly what he's trying to get at," Geske said. "If a teacher is educating a student pursuant to state law ... I don't see how under any examination (that) could be criminal."

The state Legislative Council, a group of attorneys that provides legal advice to state lawmakers, issued a statement Friday saying it also believes teachers who follow the state guidelines would be safe from prosecution.

Now, it seem as if this should be an unusual thing, for a prosecutor to threaten prosecution for following the law. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard of a case like that before. I wonder if he violates some code of legal ethics or if his oath of office might mention some little matter about “upholding the laws of Wisconsin” or some such formula. The conditions of political and legal ethics often being counter-intuitive, I wouldn’t be surprised if he never has to face that question in an official hearing. Just as the anti-choice side has seldom, if ever, really been held to explain their position on contraception which has the real life effect of PRODUCING MORE UNWANTED PREGNANCIES AND SO MORE ABORTION. The side that wants to make abortions illegal, and so unsafe, is also the side that wants to discourage the use of contraception which would make abortions, legal and safe, or illegal and potentially fatal, far less common.

Southworth says he's not trying to bolster his reputation as a social conservative for a potential run for higher office, his stance has proved popular with anti-abortion groups.

Matt Sande, the legislative director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, which opposes the new law, said every district attorney in Wisconsin should follow Southworth's lead.

"We commend him for his courage, his frankness in exposing the consequences of this irresponsible new law," Sande said. "If I were a district administrator, I would want to know the impact."

This stand, held by Catholic Bishops, many religious opponents of choice and, I guess, the large majority of the anti-choice side, is the reason that the United States has such a high rate of abortion to begin with. Countries with rational education and encouragement of the use of contraception have lower abortion rates. If they really believed abortion was murder they would embrace the most effective means of preventing it possible, effective contraceptive education and encouragement for its use. Their opposition to that, in full view of the facts about the issue expose them as hypocrites who deserve to be discounted in honest discussion.

This Southworth guy should be removed from office for trying to intimidate teachers from following the duly adopted laws of the state he is supposed to uphold.

"And is This Massachusetts Liberty?" An Update [Anthony McCarthy]

Today’s paper carried what could be an update on my post yesterday, an account of one of the most shameful episodes in Boston history, the arrest of Thomas Sims and his return to slavery in 1851, fully authorized and executed with the full backing of the law. Since Newt Gingrich has proposed a return to that decade, maybe we should note what it with special attention to how the contemporary left acted. Passages have been put into bold by me,

Boston abolitionists were furious about the law, which they viewed as one of the great outrages in the history of the republic, and were perhaps even more furious that their own senator - Daniel Webster - had played a key role in crafting it. They vilified him, often personally, with the venom reserved for traitors and turncoats.

Yet despite its expressions of outrage, Boston's abolitionist community did little more than watch unhappily after Sims was captured on April 3. Higginson, urging some kind of militant action to free Sims, pronounced himself disgusted by his fellow citizens' unwillingness to act. A handful of individuals had tried in vain to spearhead rescue attempts - including a failed plot to help Sims escape by jumping from his open third-story window onto a pile of mattresses - but most of Boston's leading abolitionists took no concrete action.

During secret abolitionist meetings to discuss ways to free Sims, "where everyone present had to be identified and every window closed," Higginson wrote, passiveness, inertia, even timidity, prevailed. Most members discussed the fugitive slave's predicament in academic, even hypothetical tones. Even the redoubtable Garrison, who had railed against Daniel Webster in The Liberator and launched a petition against the senator, seemed more concerned about "preparing next week's editorial" than actually acting to rescue Sims. Brave pronouncements and a "dedication to the cause" filled the small room, Higginson declared, but the group could not bestir itself to actually do anything.

Legal efforts failed, too. A Massachusetts judge refused to rule the Fugitive Slave Law unconstitutional. Later, the court issued a certificate attesting that Sims was indeed the property of James Potter of Georgia, and identified the former slave as "a chattel personal to all intents, uses, and purposes whatsoever." The legal proceedings in the case were over. Despite Sims's protestations to his lawyer - "I will not go back to slavery" - he was ordered back to Georgia.

Thomas Sims was sent back to slavery by the city, state and the federal governments in the form of a large group of armed men in the early hours of the morning.

At about 4:15 a.m., police officers and volunteers assembled in the double-filed hollow square formation, and marched to the east door of the courthouse. "The dreaded moment was at hand," historian Leonard Levy wrote. "The authorities meant to sneak Sims back into slavery while the city slept. It was not the bravest way to uphold the constitution, but it was the safest."

Nearly 200 horrified abolitionists looked on as the main doors of the courthouse opened and a tearful Sims appeared. Abolitionists accompanied Sims and his armed guards down State Street, hissing and shouting "Shame!" and "Infamy!" but one witness noted that, even now, "no other attempt at disorder was made."

The entire mass finally arrived at Long Wharf, near the site of the Boston Tea Party, where once Colonists disguised as Indians had dumped tea into the harbor to protest oppression, the irony of which was not lost on the abolitionists. The brig Acorn, its sails unfurled, was ready for sea. The ship stood in the glimmer of dawn just breaking across Boston Harbor, prepared to transport its human cargo to Georgia.

As Sims was led to the Acorn's deck, a man standing on the wharf cried out, "Sims! Preach liberty to the slaves!" With the last words he uttered in Boston, Sims answered with a sharp rebuke to his captors: "And is this Massachusetts liberty?"

Within two minutes, at just after 5:00 a.m., the Acorn was moving.

Sims's capture and forced return were bad enough, but Boston abolitionists were further outraged when they received word one week after the fugitive's departure that, upon his arrival in Savannah, Sims was whipped in the public square. He was administered 39 lashes across his bare back.

Grief-stricken, former slave and prominent black abolitionist Frederick Douglass expressed his fury: "Let the Heavens weep and Hell be merry!"

That is how the decade Newt Gingrich proposes we relive started. Of course, it ended in up with the Civil War. A large difference between then and now is that the Union troops were largely experienced in the use of guns. I’m certain that a lot of the people reading this will be horrified by my pointing that out, but it is a real difference between the side that ended slavery then, and the side that would be defending freedom now. When it’s a matter of which side is armed and which side is not, that’s about as big a difference as you could possibly have. The Supreme Court, conservatives in the legislative and executive branches and the organized gun lobby have created the situation that fascists here have run with. We didn’t create it, but we would be insane to ignore that it is as real as can be.