Saturday, December 18, 2010

'Worst sex ever' (by Suzie)

Documents seen by the Guardian reveal for the first time the full details of the allegations of rape and sexual assault that have led to extradition hearings against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.
Assange's main lawyer in England "has repeatedly complained that Assange has not been allowed to see the full allegations against him, but it is understood his Swedish defence team have copies of all the documents seen by the Guardian."

The Guardian says it has spoken to "the co-ordinator of the Swedish WikiLeaks group," who also gave a statement to Swedish police, calling the first accuser "very, very credible." The co-ordinator talked to the women and to Assange.
The co-ordinator of the WikiLeaks group in Stockholm, who is a close colleague of Assange and who also knows both women, told the Guardian: "This is a normal police investigation. Let the police find out what actually happened. Of course, the enemies of WikiLeaks may try to use this, but it begins with the two women and Julian. It is not the CIA sending a woman in a short skirt."
When journalists first asked Assange what happened, he tweeted that the complaints were "dirty tricks" by the U.S. His first statement to a newspaper was that he didn't know who these two women were because their names had not been announced. So, it looks like he is capable of lying to the media.

Please read this if you want more details from his accusers and others in Sweden.

House Republians Strike A Blow FOR Forced Child "Marriage" [Anthony McCarthy]

I don't recognize this country anymore. It used to be that you could count on a minimal level of decency to override opportunism and expediency in, at least, the most obvious cases. Clearly, with the Republicans and their enablers in and out of the government, that's not the case anymore.

The House of Representatives failed to pass S. 987 , The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act because House Republicans voted to kill it. The "family values" party is striking a blow for legalized rape of young girls. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate, ironically enough. The House was under rules suspension and the bill would have needed a 2/3rds majority to pass. I guess the leadership in the House was overly confident that a sufficient number of Republicans had a shred of decency when it came to little girls being sold to adult perverts in "marriage". There is no doubt, whatsoever, that they do now that this has happened.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who sponsored the bill, had a blunt response in a late-night press release:

The action on the House floor stopping the Child Marriage bill tonight will endanger the lives of millions of women and girls around the world. These young girls, enslaved in marriage, will be brutalized and many will die when their young bodies are torn apart while giving birth. Those who voted to continue this barbaric practice brought shame to Capitol Hill.

Apparently, taking advantage of the frantic, confused atmosphere in the lame duck session, Republicans mounted a lie campaign against the bill that led even its anti-choice supporters to get cold feet.

In the hours before the vote, Republicans circulated a memo to pro-life members of Congress alleging that the bill could fund abortions and use child marriage "to overturn pro-life laws." It also reiterated concerns over the bill's cost. When it came time for a vote, a number of the bill's pro-life supporters in both parties abandoned ship. Even co-sponsors of the corresponding House bill (H.R. 2103), like Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.), voted against it.

The bill mentions nothing about abortion.

In all my years of watching Republican-blue dog depravity, this reaches a new low. Resurrecting this bill must be a priority but I doubt it will get done. The Republican Party is the shame of the United States. It is the foremost concentration of pure evil in our society. Which is why we cannot stand by quietly as Barack Obama and Harry Reid capitulate to them.

Friday, December 17, 2010

No Chains On Me

I'm a latecomer to music, which makes all the old music a treasure trove I can dip into without having those emotional strings which mean so much for most listeners in music: Where did I hear this song first? What did I feel then? Was that a good time in my life?

Not having that web of memories is also a loss. But the benefit is that I can surf music without any preconditions, without assuming that only music from a certain era should speak to me and (finally, for me) without caring if the music I find fascinating is generally thought to be good or not. Coming from someone whose singing of a sad song made the whole class of kids burst laughing, I'd say I've come a loooong way.

That preamble may be to explain why I get hooked on certain songs for a while and then move on. But I keep coming back to Laura Nyro, and probably not just for musical reasons. There's something powerful about her, something I can't quite define. An audacity? And then there's the fact that she is not as famous as she should be, given her work, and how that ties into feminism.

To see what I mean by that audacity, compare the lyrics in Black Coffee (sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee, among others) and Laura Nyro's When I Die. Both are great songs, and I'm not intending to present them as somehow being in the same category of songs, as somehow being really comparable. They belong to different genres and eras and their purpose is different. It's the lyrics that matter here, the way they either encourage you to feel stronger and more powerful or don't, and what women say in songs they sing.

From the lyrics:
Now a man is born to go a lovin'
A woman's born to weep and fret
To stay at home and tend her oven
And drown her past regrets
In coffee and cigarettes

Jump from that to Laura Nyro's And When I Die:

The relevant lyrics:
Give me my freedom for as long as I be. All I ask of living is to have no chains on me.
All I ask of living is to have no chains on me,
and all I ask of dying is to go naturally, only want to go naturally.

Remember that I'm not comparing the two songs as an analytical exercise; I'm trying to explain what it is about Laura Nyro's music that draws me, what it is in her message that is different from the general messages to women before her time*, what it is that makes her sound so indomitable. Even today.
*She wasn't the first one to sing differently, of course. Blues has a long history of strong songs by women, for example.

Kate Harding on the Assange Accusations

She wrote the post I would have written if I had felt enough energy for it.

Prata Om Det

This is a Swedish twitter topic #prataomdet which means #talkaboutit. It defends Assange's accusers, discusses rape and sexual harassment in general and even talks about the "gray areas" in sex. Some of the posts have been translated into English under #talkaboutit.

The idea is to talk about sexual violence more from the point of view of the victims. Revolutionary.

I have felt for some time that the discussion on Internet about what "sex by surprise" might be and all that should be balanced by an equally passionate discussion of rape and sexual violence and sexual harassment. This twitter topic is a beginning of some of that.
Added: After reading through some of the posts under the hashtag, I realized that the discussion is much more than that. Not really on the Assange case but really on the need to "talk about it." To break the silence, to talk about what sexual expectations are, what remains unsaid, what hurts, what confuses. It is a fantastic conversation.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Title IX, Again

Title IX is the act which bans sex discrimination in education. You might not realize that it's not just about college athletics, because that's where all the backlash takes place.

John Stossel is the latest voice in that raven-chorus:

To Fox News' John Stossel, gender inequality and sexism simply no longer exist. In an appearance on Fox News' America Live yesterday, Stossel railed against Title IX, the 1972 legislation that mandated that schools and colleges getting federal funds provide the same opportunities for girls as boys. Stossel dismissed Title IX as legislation by "bully lawyers" whose "conceit and error" resulted in their believing that "just as many girls want to play sports as boys." He also stated that Title IX no longer is needed because, well, according to him, we live in a post-sexist world.

After host Megyn Kelly argued that, sometimes, "you need Uncle Sam to come in and say, hey, be fair to the little girls," Stossel summed up his attack on Title IX this way:

STOSSEL: No. No, the school's trying to attract customers. If the customers want this, and more girls do want to play sports, it will happen. But the conceit and the error of the Title IX lawyers is that the demand is equal -- that just as many girls want to play sports as boys. And I don't think that's true.
We live in a post-sexist world? Guess what? I'm now going to keep a beady eye on Mr. Stossel's pronouncements about women, just to make sure that he indeed is post-sexist himself. mmm

Let's look at the arguments of those who hate Title IX because it "discriminates against boys and men." What do they mean?

They argue that boys and men are inherently much more interested in sports, that girls and women don't really want to play in the first place, and that forcing colleges to limit the number of sports slots for men (who are raring to go to the field) in order to give sports slots for women (who'd prefer to do their nails) is reverse discrimination against the male sex. Because, to repeat, boys and men are inherently more interested in sports.

Is that true? How can we determine something of that kind? If you look at women participating in Olympics, you find widely differing levels of "apparent interest", ranging from no women ever participating (Saudi Arabia) to fairly high levels of participation (United States).

Does this mean that women in different countries have inherently different levels of interest in sports? I doubt that. What those differences suggest is that societal rules and norms have a lot to do with how much women participate in sports and in which sports. They also suggest that we don't know what the "equilibrium" level might be for women's sports. It's only at that equilibrium level that we can start evaluating any potential innate differences.

But suppose, just for the sake of this discussion, that such differences did exist. Suppose that men were twice as eager to do sports than women, say. Would this then mean that colleges should offer them twice as many sports slots?

Then suppose that women were twice as eager to use makeup than men, say. Should colleges then offer scholarships for make-up classes? Should all students subsidize the purchase of make-up equipment?

If you found that example ridiculous, congratulations. The sports example may not look ridiculous, because we believe that sports are good for students. They become physically fit, learn teamwork and how to take failure. Makeup classes appear to have no such benefits.

But if athletics offers those benefits, why should women be allowed to participate less than men? Doesn't it matter that women won't get physically fit or won't learn teamwork? Or put somewhat differently, should colleges finance something which "inherently" benefits one gender more than the other?

Echo Question

Edited later to add:

I have put the comments back in the order they were: oldest first. That seems to be the general preference.
I renewed Echo (for a month at least) and want to ask what you think of the comments being in real time. That means they are updated automatically (which doesn't matter one way or the other on this blog) but also that the newest are on top of the thread.

I'm going to leave it like that for a few days unless everyone agrees on it being bad.

Berlusconi's Appetites

I've been following the attempt to get rid of Berlusconi in Italy. The no-confidence vote failed, despite three very pregnant opposition MPs turning up to vote. That wasn't enough and the street riots were not enough. Berlusconi hangs onto power with his dentures.

He's a greedy man, full of appetites. They may be the usual ones for power, money and sex, and he is utterly open about them. Women, for him, are steaks. Either too undone, just right or past their prime.

The media knows this and ridicules him for his orgies and his girlfriends and his use of paid sex. What the media seems to fail to notice is that this is not just some weird rich guy. This is a man supposed to consider the best of the citizens of Italy, and roughly half of those citizens he views as steak.

From Echidne's Mailbag

Stuff you might want to know about.

First, a new website is putting together movies/films which are directed by women. Less than one percent of movies on Netflix have female directors. From the blurb I got:

Female directed movies are important because they help women [and men] to see the world from the female perspective. As you probably know, most movies we watch are almost entirely created by men (at least the men are in the most powerful positions - director, writer, producer), and we don't realize how this affects our world view. We believe men and women should be able to recognize both points of view in their entertainment experience, so we created this website to help out.

Second, Gail Collins writes about the tears of the speaker of the House. We knew this experiment would never work! (Thanks to ProfWombat for the link)

Third, Feminist Frequency has put together a list of many articles which discuss the treatment of Assange's accusers on the Internet. The attacks vary but some of them certainly fall into the category of general misogyny.

As I have written many times before, what is ultimately damaging about the focus on rape or sexual violence accusations are fake is that very focus. The actual number of false accusations is a small percentage of the whole but you might not think so if you read the popular media on these things.

The damage this does is to any woman who has been raped and then tries to decide if she should go to the police or not. Will she be believed? Or in a wider sense, the non-stop focus on fake reports works to the advantage of real rapists.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The word I learned today. It refers to running controversial articles in the hope of high readership or clicks. Those increase advertising revenue, and in the current messed-up situation advertising revenue is hard to get and hard to hold on to. Political websites and newspapers are suffering. Linkbait is one answer to that.

It's so very sad, especially the linkbait aspect of it all. It means that only certain types of pieces get widely read, those that get our adrenaline levels bubbling as much as possible, those that give emotional highs of some type. Hence the clear movement towards more extreme stories, more focus on people who are in some ways scandalous, less clarity and more steam.

But of course linkbaits can be delicious! Fun to read! Fun to watch! Pay attention to the "most watched/read" section on various sites when you cruise, and the top ones are almost always on something like "a man beheads himself", "the tits of some famous celebrity fell out" and so on. How can a political geek piece compete with those?

By focusing on outrageous statements by Sarah Palin or the question whether Assange is a saint or a sinner. By releasing from the writing stables of old someone guaranteed to write incendiary stuff (Paglia) or by closely discussing the deranged ideas of Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh. Feminist-bashing always works to create anger or approval clicks, things like "sex by surprise" are worth thousands in advertising revenue.

I'm bitter, I am. Because my style of writing cannot be turned into linkbaits and because I need to eat, too. I could write scandalous (pretty sure on that) but I don't really want to. I guess I'm not hungry enough yet.

At the same time, what my writing often does miss is that emotional connection. I write from the head when I should write from the belly. Will try to do better in the future.

On Political Wives

When I read the obituaries and articles posted on Elizabeth Edwards I noticed the odd standards to which she was held. She was both a private person and a public person, even though her public personality had very little to do with her own legal career. No, she was a public wife. A politician's wife.

Political wives get a complex and often nasty media treatment. They are taken to task for anything they say themselves, for any public roles they play, but also for how traditional they are as wives and as mothers (if applicable).

They stand in for their husbands evil deeds, more often than not, and they get blamed for those. Thus, both Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards have been accused of not reacting to their respective husbands' infidelity, presumably for political gain. Barbara Bush has been more reviled in various places than George Herbert Bush ever was. Nancy Reagan has been seen as the evil spirit behind Ronald Reagan and so on and so on.

Can political wives avoid this treatment? I don't think so, though a complete eradication of any personality helps a little. But a political wife always remains a Public Wife, someone the media can paint with whatever subconscious hatred sells the best.

Politicians' whole families face some of the same anger. But the assaults on the wives are harder, more cruel and more primal. They often have the odor of misogyny, of anger towards a woman who is seen as a failed wife or, paradoxically, as a failed politician, even when she is not herself in political life. Or, of course, not a failed wife.

Her child-rearing methods will be criticized. Her clothes will be criticized. Her sexuality and her sexual appeal will be assessed. She lives in a permanent courthouse, sitting on the bench for the accused, and she will never be declared not guilty.

Elizabeth Edwards got her share of all of this, even though she managed it better than most. Michelle Obama gets her share of all this, too, despite her clear attempts to remain non-controversial and explicitly domestic.

Now contrast this to the treatment of political husbands. How much is Todd Palin discussed in the media? How often do we read assessments of his looks, his prowess or his fathering skills?


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Echo, chochochooooo

Is being an asshat. If you see zero comments to a post it doesn't necessarily mean that there aren't any. If you comment on a post and your comment disappears, fret not, it will return in ten minutes or so. Perhaps. And the behind-the-scenes troubles are worse.

Today's Income Inequality Rant

From the Washington Post a few days ago:

At Tiffany's, executives report that sales of their most expensive merchandise have grown by double digits. At Wal-Mart, executives point to shoppers flooding the stores at midnight every two weeks to buy baby formula the minute their unemployment checks hit their accounts. Neiman Marcus brought back $1.5 million fantasy gifts in its annual Christmas Wish Book. Family Dollar is making more room on its shelves for staples like groceries, the one category its customers reliably shop.

"When you start to line up all the pieces, you see a story that starts to emerge," said James Russo, vice president of global consumer insights for The Nielsen Co. "You kind of see this polarized Christmas."

Though economists declared the recession officially over last summer, the pace of recovery has been uneven across income levels. The rebound in the stock market and record low mortgage interest rates have mostly benefited affluent households, buoying their confidence in the economy along with their ability - and their desire - to spend. Meanwhile, progress largely has bypassed poorer families who remain hamstrung by anemic wage growth and a higher unemployment rate.
Increasing income inequality. Economic policies which benefit the few and mostly hurt the rest. Refusal to regulate stock markets. Refusal to punish the culprits who triggered the recession by their sloth, greed and willful incompetence. At least all of them should have been made to join the unemployed.

Devil's bargains: To keep some of the unemployed eating longer, a few among the wealthy can now buy an extra gift at Tiffany's. This is all fair and good! "We" cannot afford a bigger government, that frightening, lumbering behemoth sucking out the heart blood out of business! "We" cannot afford more taxes!

"We" cannot afford unemployment insurance. It should be privatized, tells Mitt Romney. Workers should save for it on their own, just as workers should save for old age, for health care and for everything else on their own. "We" cannot afford the government, or taxes, but the less affluent can afford everything they need! Without any helping hand of the government or the "free" market, it seems, while outsourcing swiftly dispatches most manufacturing jobs abroad. How many serfs can Tiffany's or Neiman Marcus employ?

Not enough. The current income inequality approaches the levels that existed before the stock market crash which led to the Great Depression. There aren't enough of the rich to employ all of us in their feudal households.

Lessons from Blogging. Part IV: The Human World Is Complicated

That's the final message in this series honoring my years of blogging. To be quite honest, I have always known that the world is complicated and that simple explanations only rarely suffice (or at least much less often than people wish). But blogging keeps reinforcing that knowledge at the same time as it makes me see how very strong our (yes, mine, too) yearning for simple solutions is.

Take politics. The vast majority of writings on that topic seek for the simplest solutions: "They are the bad guys, we are the good guys." You can slot almost any political dilemma into that framework and see the jaws of the simplifying machines start grinding. Name-calling is part of that, ignoring contradictory information is part of that, applying moral judgments in place of facts is part of that. We all know the drill.

Social science research has a similar desire for simple answers, combined with the astonishing (!!!) assumption that though most past simple answers have now been falsified, these new simple ones are the correct and final ones. I sometimes imagine how future historians of science will write about this era of "memes" and stupid evo-psycho theories and the belief in some one gene as the ultimate explanation of everything. It most likely will look pretty much the same as those nineteenth century theories of phrenology look to us.

What do I mean by the title of this post? Not only the fact that events and people are in themselves complicated but that the explanations for those events and for the behaviors of those people must also by necessity be complicated, or at least long and specific. There are exceptions to this rule, naturally (such as the reasons why people flee from a burning building), but one should never expect general simplicity of the kind we do look for.

I could prove this to you by following the development of some social science idea from its beginnings to its end. Those stages often show considerable changes in the basic explanations, added data forcing more detailed answers and criticisms requiring refinement and further explanations. Sometimes the idea itself dies a quiet death in the academic circles but continues to survive on the cocktail party circuit, largely because the initial simple idea was easy to swallow and easy to regurgitate, whereas being erudite and funny about complicated manners is more difficult. The power of Dead Simple Theories is awesome in popular culture and this frightens me a great deal.

What frightens me even more is the rapid birth of new Simple Theories and their swift acceptance. People like me with their "yes, but" and "sometimes" and "controlling for" cannot keep up, especially when the fashion for particular Simple Theories is at its strongest (such as the current fashion for genetic explanations alone).

All this brings me to my approach to feminism. I respect its complexity on one hand and bang my head against that wall of simple desires on the other hand. From that mess and that tension comes what I write.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Individual Mandate Re-Visited

Such a boring title. But that's what happened today:

A federal judge in Virginia ruled Monday that the individual mandate contained in the health care law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama this year is unconstitutional.

Judge Henry E. Hudson found in favor of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who brought this suit separately from the other state attorney generals suing the federal government over the law. Hudson was the first judge to rule against the law. Two other judges ruled in favor of the law, bringing the Obama administration's record thus far to 2-1. At least 13 other suits against the health care law have been dismissed on jurisdiction or standing issues.

Hudson ruled that there where "no compelling exigencies in this case" because the individual mandate doesn't take effect until 2013. Therefore, he said his ruling was declarative and not injunctive, which means it will be reviewed either by the appellate court or by the Supreme Court.
I am not going to write about the legal or the political aspects of this, though both are certainly interesting. Instead, I want to return to the economic aspects and all this as an example of why compromises sometimes really don't work.

To give a parable, you cannot combine a horse and a car to get something that goes at a speed between the two, especially if you do it by cutting them both in half first. But that is what happened with the health care reform, during those long and tedious months of compromises. We started with a car, though not a great car, and slowly we added bits of horse to it, until the final result pleased fewer people than one might have expected.

Translate this story into the terms of the health care reform and what do you get? A final combination between a plan that would have all Americans covered with perhaps a single payer financing model and a plan that would leave the system pretty much as it was. This combination is that half-car-half-horse I talked about, especially if the individual mandate is removed.

Why? Consider another crucial aspect of the health care reform proposal: Getting rid of the pre-existing conditions as an excuse for refusing a customer further insurance. What happens if we keep that but do not allow the individual mandate which requires all people to have health insurance?

It creates an incentive for healthy people to carry only minimal coverage for routine care UNTIL they get sick. Once pre-existing conditions cannot be used to deny coverage, why bother paying for expensive insurance until one needs it?

Not all consumers would think this way but some, perhaps many, would. And the outcome would be a system of insurance which could not fund itself. Hence the initial need for the individual mandate. That it also made the whole deal sweeter for the health insurers is obvious, and also a consequence of an earlier compromise or progressive failure in not getting a public option into the package.

So what happens now? If this ruling is retained, pre-existing conditions will come back as a valid reason for denying someone coverage or for making them pay more for that coverage.

It's That Time In The Decade Again

When a new guide book for heterosexual women appears on the age-old topic of how to catch, gut and cook your man. These books are all alike (remember Rules?): Men, those weird strange creatures from Mars cannot understand or speak human, cannot be expected to engage in direct, honest exchanges and cannot ever be expected to treat women as their equal.

But worry not! The new guide book will tell the girl hunter how to catch her prey with cunning and pretense! All she needs is to bare her throat for his teeth, then bare other relevant bits of her anatomy. What she gets in return is the catch and the task to maintain the pretense of her submissiveness for the rest of their shared life.

The newest arrival in this genre is called The Man Whisperer: A Gentle, Results-Oriented Approach To Communication. The title owes something to the Dog Whisperer, which suggest an odd initial opinion on that whole dating business: Are men like dogs and women like their trainers?

But wait! There's more and some of it turns this upside down:

* Why are you single? Feminism. According to the authors, "While women were achieving what they wanted in their careers, many made the mistake of thinking that insisting on equality was also the way to get what they wanted in their romantic lives." But if you "acted more masculine" and did brazen things like "ask men out, have sex when we wanted to, wear the pants, and rule the roost," you also might notice the other half of the bed is empty. Why is that? Because you were a ball-buster, missy. Men want women to be complementary, not equals. "The best part of romantic partnerships are not ones that are equal [!] but complementary," the authors write. You may think you are deserving of "equal pay, equal opportunities, and equal respect ... [but] ...'equality' in romantic relationships is measured in much harder-to-quantify notions of love, mutual respect and happiness." Love, mutual respect and happiness are harder to quantify? And why is "equality" in scare quotes?
* But, of course, the authors describe themselves as feminists. "We are both bona fide feminists," they write, "and know that you can absolutely be a feminist and still reap the benefits of whispering." I don't know, that sounds like fake feminism to me.
I'm gonna train some guy to salivate on demand and that's being a feminist? Except that the true game is about something completely different: the inherently sly approaches to power which subjugation requires, and those aren't feminist, either.

As far as I can tell, all the books in this genre state that love and equality are incompatible, that the solution is to accept the old gender hierarchy except for that sneaky attempt to regulate it from below. I guess that's why they smell old and musty to me. Women's magazines have published similar ideas since the 1920s if not earlier.

Meanwhile, in Sudan. TRIGGER WARNING

And that trigger warning should be taken very seriously.

It concerns a video showing a woman being whipped by the Sudanese police, all men.

It is unclear what crime led to such violent beating (or the smiles on the faces of some of the spectators), but I have been told that it may have been wearing trousers/pants in public.

Sudanese law, which is based on islamic Sharia rules, does not specify when clothing is considered indecent. This lack of definition allows policemen free reign to determine who is looking indecent. Women who were punished for such offences are usually too ashamed to speak about it.
What opportunities that offers sadists! The problem is naturally deeper than that, having its roots in misogyny and the one-sided power distribution between men and women in Sudan. Can women interpret Sharia in Sudan? I doubt it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Question revolution, or still more on Assange (by Suzie)

I’ve had a problem with authority as far back as I can remember. I’m a strong believer in questioning authority, and by that, I mean anyone who makes decisions for me or tells me what to do or how to think.

I’m galled that so many others who question authority have no trouble trusting Julian Assange. I haven’t seen such over-the-top worship since leftists deified Obama in 2008. When you admire a carefully crafted image, when you don’t have a clear idea of a person’s beliefs, it’s easy to project your own onto him.

In an individualistic society, revolution can be so sexy, letting people feel like they’re being bad and good at the same time -- whether it’s a Southerner calling himself a Rebel, a guy on an unlicensed broadcast thinking of himself as a pirate or me thinking I’m a radical feminist.

Judge the causes as you will; we have a similar desire. We want to believe that we’re challenging the status quo to make things better.

When men play the most prominent roles in revolutions – which would be most of them – women often end up with traditional tasks. Why would Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of the Iceland parliament, feel the need to bring Assange a change of clothes or cut his hair while he typed? (She has since resigned from WikiLeaks.)

When a revolution succeeds, it does not necessarily lead to improvement, especially for women. Take the French Revolution, for example. The following is from my academic writing. The quote comes from "Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution" by Joan B. Landes, with additional information from Edward Berenson's "The Trial of Madame Caillaux."
Although patriarchal, France’s Old Regime allowed women to participate in public. Most men and women were excluded from power, but some elite women assumed powerful roles that had nothing to do with domesticity, similar to their male counterparts. After the Revolution, republican men talked of individual rights applied universally. They either had to include women or explain why women differed from men. They chose the latter. Republican men ended up devaluing “women’s contribution to public life to a degree rarely matched in earlier periods.” In general, women had fewer rights after the Revolution than before. For a while, it was even a crime for them to appear in public. Next came the Napoleonic Code, with various laws to remove women from the public sphere.
Conservatives have compared Assange to various villains, but I expect their understanding of history to differ from my own. What I want to know is: How can someone believe in radical democracy, the power of the people, etc., and still contribute to the Great Man theory of history? Supporters have compared Assange to Che, Neo, Ned Kelly, Robin Hood and who knows who else.

Change does not depend on one man. And I do mean “man.” I doubt the response would be the same if Julian was Julia. If a woman did what Assange has done, I imagine she would be criticized for leaving her only child behind as she worked around the world, having sex with supporters, or acting dictatorial.

Look at the double standard as applied to Hillary Clinton. Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize in his first year in office “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy,” and he gets credit for any improvements in foreign relations, as if Clinton were just bringing him clothes and cutting his hair while he worked. In Cablegate, however, Assange and others are calling for her resignation, as if Obama had no idea how the State Department has functioned.

There have always been people who spread information that others wanted kept secret, even if the medium was word-of-mouth. Exposing information on the Internet happened before Assange and will continue, even though he gets credit for doing it on a grand scale. Leaking only the information that will grab the world’s attention means there’s lots of other stuff out there that will not see the light of day. Good journalists have plenty of story ideas. But they often work for profit-driven companies that allow them limited time and resources to investigate.

Meanwhile, the Internet has unimaginable troves of information. But millions of people have little or no access. Those who do, even those of us with time and skills, may have difficulty sorting through all the crap. In the Assange case, every day seems to bring a new alligator in the sewer. (Can this really be his computer-dating profile from 2006? If so, a close reading will be forthcoming.)

People are still repeating the lie that consensual sex can be prosecuted as rape in Sweden. Liberals bang our heads against the wall when we see how many people believe that WMDs were found in Iraq and that Obama is a Muslim. Our side shouldn't do the same.

I wrote about the sex-crime allegations against Assange Dec. 3. Since no one reads me, I'm glad Jessica Valenti had an article on rape Friday in the Washington Post. The Guardian has a piece on Swedes who don't believe the conspiracy theorists. Some supporters said he had been charged with “sex by surprise,” a category that doesn't exist in Swedish law. For those who hadn't already looked it up in the Urban Dictionary and then jumped off a bridge, NY mag explained that “sex by surprise” is a trivializing synonym for rape.

People who confuse WikiLeaks and Wikipedia get laughs. WikiLeaks = very sexy and serious. Wikipedia = you can’t trust it because, theoretically, anyone can publish or edit information. As PC magazine notes:
WikiLeaks actually has much stronger editorial controls when compared to Wikipedia. The worldwide network of volunteer editors at WikiLeaks determines newsworthiness -- not the public.
In journalism in democracies, editors are known. People can investigate their background and that of their bosses, including financial ties. Former colleagues of Assange have questioned WikiLeak's finances. Birgitta, the parliament member, said:
You can't run an organisation like this with one person in charge. Maybe there's nothing wrong with the money, but why can't he be transparent about it?
Is it possible that people donated to WikiLeaks not knowing their money might go to defend Assange against accusations of rape and other sex crimes? He has an army of lawyers in different countries that have spun conspiracy theories about the women making the accusations. When he wanted a new lawyer in Sweden, however, he hired one whose defense is all too common: The women lied because they were jealous and they wanted to get back at him.

Meanwhile, the group handling the defense of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower, said WikiLeaks hasn’t paid all it promised for his defense. Protesters are demanding: “Free Assange.”Where are the T-shirts and signs saying, “Free Manning”? quotes him saying that decision-making must be based on truth. I guess they decided they had enough truth to write off the women.

Before Assange turned himself in, he was sheltered in a club for journalists. They, too, must be convinced that the women are lying, even though they haven’t heard all the evidence. (Here’s my guess: Men dominate as club members.) Here's more from Birgitta:
There are two sides to the story and these women are on the receiving end of a lot of hate mail. How does anyone who calls for his release and the dropping of the charges know the truth? In this battle for Julian's release, Bradley Manning has been forgotten. ... [T]his creating of a martyr and icon [in Assange] has got completely out of control.
Assange has poisoned WikiLeaks for me. I look forward to OpenLeaks, which is supposed to launch Monday.

Diana Jones (by Suzie)

I heard Diana Jones in concert last week, and I've been loving her "drawling alto" as I play her CDs in my car. It's lucky that I like folk music because I'm able to hear great singers, even talk to them, in small venues.
Carla Bley Steve Swallow Unnamed Brass Quartet

Christmas Carols

The "Uncertainty" Ruse That's All Over The News [Anthony McCarthy]

I'd just decided to leave this outrageous story about the semi-secret group of bankers who control the derivatives market to Echidne's more able hands when I heard a bunch of DC media drones talking about how it would be dangerous for House Democrats to not rubber stamp the Obama-Republican billionaire tax bonus. They said, in the somber tone they always adopt when they're spouting pious nonsense, that the banker-investor class is skittish about "uncertainty" in the economy. It's a line that has been used over and over again, that the titans of finance who stride like giants across the globe and move governments aside as if they were made of light weight foam, are scardy cats unless placated and soothed continually.

Now, if there's one thing we know about derivatives, credit default swaps, etc, it's that "no one really understands them". Do I really need to provide citations of people saying that "no one really understands derivatives"? It's a pat phrase in the media over the past few years. It's one of the few things about them there seems to be universal agreement on. And credit default swaps and whatever, other, engines of fraud and theft that have recently been invented are similary mysterious to the investors who buy them, the bankers who trade them, the regulators who shirk the regulation of them and, I'm far more confident, the prosecutors, judges and juries who are supposed to clean up the illegal use of them.

The foremost feature of an entity that isn't understood is that you can make no honest assumptions about it, you can not be certain of its nature or its performance. Yet the same tycoons we are warned will spook unless they're given hundreds of billions of dollars, thus ending their all consuming "uncertainty" daily trade in these occult products to the tune of trillions of dollars. Uncertainty is their stock and trade, they are in the business of creating it and selling it in a market controlled by some of the most irresponsible banks and bankers*, whose monumental irresponsibility and the fall out from it has brought us to the current, unofficial depression we're in. Apparently the same institutions that brought the world economy over the edge are trusted enough by these nervous numbskulls to manage the derivatives market.

As has been mentioned here before, no one talks about making these incomprehensible contracts illegal, even though they've already been used to steal hundreds of billions of dollars, both by intention and, allegedly, unintentionally. A contract that isn't understood should mean that it's null and void. How can judges judge on the incomprehensible?

But all of that isn't too much uncertainty for the genuine, indigenous criminal class of the United States, bankers, investment houses and the media and government that is their servant. Maybe it's the certainty of bailouts that provides the hedge against that kind of uncertainty. Only saying "maybe" is false, it's exactly what they know they can depend on.

* Drawn from giants like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the bankers form a powerful committee that helps oversee trading in derivatives, instruments which, like insurance, are used to hedge risk.

Note: In related information, Barack Obama's former head of Management and Budget, Peter Orzag, has become a VP at Citigroup:

An item in this second category has just come up: the decision of Peter Orszag, until recently the director of the Office of Management and Budget under Barack Obama, to join Citibank in a senior position. Exactly how much it will pay is not clear, but informed guesses are several million dollars per year. Citibank, of course, was one of the institutions most notably dependent on federal help to survive in these past two years

Objectively this is both damaging and shocking.

Also note: As I am typing this I find out that David Gregory has on multi-billionaire, dictator of New York City, Michael Burlusc,.... uh, Bloomberg to support the billionaire bonanza compromise.

Is Wikileaks Worse Than Hitler Too? [Anthony McCarthy]

Master Card apparently thinks they're worse than the KKK:

MasterCard and Visa have stopped processing transactions for WikiLeaks, due to a "technicality". But anyone who wants to buy "Klan Novelties" like this lovely little ceramic tchotchke [klan figure performing a Nazi salute] for Christmas can visit the official Ku Klux Klan web site and put it on their credit card.

Don't worry, the charging company shows up on your bill as "Christian Concepts," the legal name of the Knight's Party. Christian Concepts is a non-profit in good standing in the state of Arkansas. What a surprise.

And while you're contemplating that really disturbing story about the establishment coddling of violent domestic terrorist groups as they blacklist nonviolent journalism, the Justice Department, under Eric Holder, is targeting anti-war groups, charities and other dissident organizations using a rather awful Supreme Court ruling as an excuse.

Despite the nonviolent, peacemaking goal of the Humanitarian Law Project's speech and training, the majority of the Supreme Court nonetheless interpreted the law to make such conduct a crime. Finding a whole new exception to the First Amendment, the Court decided that any support, even if it involves nonviolent efforts towards peace, is illegal under the law since it "frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends," and also helps lend "legitimacy" to foreign terrorist groups. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts, despite the lack of any evidence, further opined that the FTO could use the human rights law to "intimidate, harass or destruct" its adversaries, and that even peace talks themselves could be used as a cover to re-arm for further attacks. Thus, the Court's opinion criminalizes efforts by independent groups to work for peace if they in any way cooperate or coordinate with designated FTOs.

The Court distinguishes what it refers to as "independent advocacy," which it finds is not prohibited by the statute, from "advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization," which is, for the first time, found to be a crime under the statute. The exact line demarcating where independent advocacy becomes impermissible coordination is left open and vague.

How dangerous could this line of governmental activity turn out to be?

Under the new definition of "material support," the efforts of President Jimmy Carter to monitor the elections in Lebanon and coordinate with the political parties there, including the designated FTO Hezbollah, could well be prosecuted as a crime. Similarly, the publication of op-ed articles by FTO spokesmen from Hamas or other designated groups by The New York Times or The Washington Post, or the filing of amicus briefs by human rights attorneys arguing against a group's terrorist designation or the statute itself could also now be prosecuted. Of course, the first targets of this draconian expansion of the material support law will not be a former president or the establishment media, but members of a Marxist organization who are vocal opponents of the governments of Israel and Colombia and the US policies supporting these repressive governments.

I've been thinking for a while that Eric Holder might be one of the more unfortunate appointees of Barack Obama. If this situation turns out to be accurate, he could turn out to be the worst of a pretty bad bunch. I wouldn't have believed that a Democratically appointed Attorney General in 2010 would act like A. Mitchell Palmer but I believe it's possible now.

Note: Now that it seems that any hope of overturning of Don't Ask Don't Tell in the Senate is being successfully ended by the Republican roadblock (it's been passed in the House), you might think that Barack Obama would instruct his Justice Department to stop appealing the court ruling declaring it unconstitutional. I would advise you not to hold your breath on that happening, though. Hope might be eternal but it's remarkably difficult to muster these days.