Friday, February 04, 2011

This Is The Pitts. How Anti-Abortion Politicians Victimize Women

The forced-birthers are really clever about asking us to look elsewhere (Planned Parenthood! Nurses don't physically hand-cuff pimps there!) while ignoring the man behind the curtain. That man right now is one Joe Pitts, a Representative from Pennsylvania and a forced-birther of the highest rank. Here is his picture:

Rep. Pitts has proposed some rather far-reaching legislative changes:
A separate piece of legislation, H.R. 358 – the Protect Life Act, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R) of Pennsylvania – also seeks to bar use of federal funds for abortion under the new health-care law but is less far-reaching than Congressman Smith’s bill. Still, abortion-rights advocates are equally concerned about its provisions. On Wednesday, NARAL Pro-Choice America highlighted a new version of Congressman Pitts’ bill that they said would allow hospitals to refuse to provide an abortion to a pregnant woman even if her life was in danger.


But there is no chance Obama would sign either the Smith bill or the Pitts bill. Still, abortion-rights foes are trying to portray Obama as a hypocrite on the issue of federal subsidies for abortions.
“If President Obama seeks to obstruct these bills, that will provide additional glaring evidence that his professions of opposition to public funding of abortion are phony,” Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said last month.

Sure, Obama won't sign those bills. But it's still worth noting that 1. while the Republicans were supposed to fix unemployment (remember?) and perhaps government deficit, we are instead directly taken into the old arguments about whether women are aquaria or not, and 2. this is what a Republican majority in the House means: Stuff about abortion day in and day out for the duration of their reign.

Now that I have gotten that off my chest I'm ready to be a bit more analytical. I couldn't find the bit in H.R. 358 which would allow hospitals to let pregnant women die. Perhaps I'm not smart enough to spot it (unless it's the bit about discrimination) or perhaps the available version is not the most recent one.

But this is what TPM says :
A bit of backstory: currently, all hospitals in America that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are bound by a 1986 law known as EMTALA to provide emergency care to all comers, regardless of their ability to pay or other factors. Hospitals do not have to provide free care to everyone that arrives at their doorstep under EMTALA -- but they do have to stabilize them and provide them with emergency care without factoring in their ability to pay for it or not. If a hospital can't provide the care a patient needs, it is required to transfer that patient to a hospital that can, and the receiving hospital is required to accept that patient.
In the case of an anti-abortion hospital with a patient requiring an emergency abortion, ETMALA would require that hospital to perform it or transfer the patient to someone who can. (The nature of how that procedure works exactly is up in the air, with the ACLU calling on the federal government to state clearly that unwillingness to perform an abortion doesn't qualify as inability under EMTALA. That argument is ongoing, and the government has yet to weigh in.)
Pitts' new bill would free hospitals from any abortion requirement under EMTALA, meaning that medical providers who aren't willing in terminating pregnancies wouldn't have to -- nor would they have to facilitate a transfer.
The hospital could literally do nothing at all, pro-choice critics of Pitts' bill say.
Given that Catholic hospitals are pretty common in this country, a proposal like that as an actual law could indeed mean that a pregnant woman would be allowed to die even if her life could be saved with an abortion. That Pitt's proposal will not become a law is comforting. But that this is what the forced-birthers advocate is not at all comforting. It tells me that in their eyes women will never be anything more than aquaria for potentially more meaningful life-forms.

The ironic aspect of what's taking place in the public debate about abortion is the way we are told that reproductive choice hurts women. Planned Parenthood clinics don't adequately fight sex trafficking! That sex trafficking is ultimately possible because of the customers to the trade is not part of this discussion, and neither is the fact that the women, girls and boys who are trafficked are victims, not because of reproductive choice, but because they are used in the sex trade.

So we must protect women and girls by de-funding Planned Parenthood clinics! Not by fighting sex-trafficking, mind you, but by making sure that the victims of trafficking cannot get safe abortions or cheap contraceptives or STD checks.

But if Joe Pitts had his way pregnant women could be allowed to die by hospitals who disapprove of abortions. Suddenly the victimization of women matters not a whit!

You can express your disagreement with Pitt's proposal here.
Added later: Jodi Jacobson discusses the new amendment proposals in the comments to this post. It seems that those are not yet included in the version available on the net.

RIP, Maria Schneider (by Suzie)

Never take your clothes off for a middle-aged man who claims that it's art.
-- Maria Schneider, who died yesterday at 58.

Some who write her obituary will get it all wrong, as does Susan King in the LA Times, who calls her
The wildest of wild childs who embraced the sexual revolution with open arms. She was the female lead opposite Marlon Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci's X-rated "Last Tango in Paris." Schneider was so overtly sexual she made Brigitte Bardot look like a nun.
Too often women are assumed to be expressing their own sexuality when men direct them in films or photo shoots. They are celebrating their sexuality, not acting, not doing a job for pay or for the promise of advancement. Read what Schneider said about her life in 2007, when the film was re-released for its 35th anniversary.
People thought I was just like my character and I would make up stories for the press, but that wasn't me.
Italy banned the 1972 movie, and many considered it obscene. Supporters cast opponents, including some feminists, as prudes, an idea that persists today (i.e., if you don't want to see a woman raped on screen, you must be anti-sex.)

Schneider said she hated the notoriety, the men who looked at her like prey. She checked herself into a mental hospital for a while, she had bad relationships, and she abused drugs to escape, including overdosing in a suicide attempt. She continued to act in movies, but never did nude scenes again. In 1980, she met her "angel," who helped her regain her balance. She kept that relationship a secret.

I admire her for surviving trauma to build a good life.

Schneider said she grew up around strong women. Her mother, model Marie-Christine Schneider, and her father, Daniel Gélin, a successful actor, were not married, and he didn't acknowledge her until she was in her teens. She came to Paris at 15 to act. Disgusted with Gélin, Brigitte Bardot let Schneider live with her and got her an agent with William Morris. Schneider had a few jobs before being offered "Last Tango," and her agent told her it would be a great career move.

She was 19 and Brando was 48. He came up with the idea of anal rape; it wasn't in the script that she had seen.
They only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry. I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can't force someone to do something that isn't in the script, but at the time, I didn't know that.

Marlon said to me: "Maria, don't worry, it's just a movie," but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn't real, I was crying real tears.

I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn't console me or apologise. Thankfully, there was just one take.
Later, she and Brando became friends and remained so until his death. She would say that meeting him was the best part of the experience. Brando also said he felt humiliated and manipulated by Bertolucci. They never spoke to Bertolucci again. In a New Yorker obit, Richard Brody wrote:
Maria Schneider was an extraordinary actress who gave more on-screen than any performer should ever be asked to give, and she never recovered from it; I think that Brando never recovered from it either.
In another obit, Bertolucci said he wished he'd said he was sorry before she died. Ick.

French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand called Schneider a conduit of "female liberty." Apparently, "Last Tango" liberated women to desire sexual abuse. By the way, Mitterand (and Bertolucci) supported Roman Polanski, whose art turned out to be more important than the rape of a 13-year-old.

Mitterand had his own scandal when he wrote about his days in Thailand: "I got into the habit of paying for boys. All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market, excite me enormously." He later insisted that he meant young men, not underage boys.

Originally, "Last Tango" was supposed to be about an older man and a younger one, but homosexuality was more worrisome than misogyny.

Schneider has been described as having the face of a child, and Bertolucci said she seemed “like a Lolita, but more perverse.” Damn those beautiful young temptresses! Why must they be so perverse! Roger Ebert recalled "her open-faced lack of experience contradicting her incongruously full breasts." Apparently, you gain breasts through experience.

I was too young to see the movie when it was released and have no interest in watching it. But IMDB describes what happens after Paul (Brando) meets Jeanne (Schneider) in an empty apartment.
Brutally, without a word, he rapes the soon-complaint stranger. It should have been hit-and-run sex, but Paul stays at the scene of the erotic accident. While arranging his wife's funeral, Paul leases the apartment where [he's] to meet the puzzled girl for a series of frenzied afternoons. "No names here," he roughly tells her, setting up the rules of the game. They are to shut out the world outside, forfeit their pasts and their identities. Paul degrades Jeanne in every possible way, leveling all her inhibitions into sheer brutality. Paul is soon dissatisfied with mere possession of her body; he must also have her mind. When she rejects his mad love to enter a comfortable marriage with her dull fiancé, Paul finally confesses: "I love you, you dummy."
Here's the good news: After he chases her back to her apartment, she shoots and kills him. Here's the bad news: She then rehearses her false rape claim for police.

The audience ends up knowing far less about Jeanne than Paul, with whom we are expected to sympathize. Here's what movie critic Roger Ebert wrote in 1972:
Paul has somehow been so brutalized by life that there are only a few ways he can still feel.

Sex is one of them, but only if it is debased and depraved -- because he is so filled with guilt and self-hate that he chooses these most intimate of activities to hurt himself beyond all possibilities of mere thoughts and words. It is said in some quarters that the sex in the movie is debasing to the girl, but I don't think it is. She's almost a bystander, a witness at the scene of the accident. She hasn't suffered enough, experienced enough, to more than dimly guess at what Paul is doing to himself with her. But Paul knows, and so does Bertolucci; only an idiot would criticize this movie because the girl is so often naked but Paul never is. That's their relationship.
It irritates me when male critics assume everyone identifies with male protagonists because they do, or they write as if the characters were real, instead of the fantasies of male filmmakers.

We've seen the male fantasies in "Last Tango" in other movies and lots of porn: A girl asks for it, not with words, but with her appearance. / A slutty girl gets what she deserves. / Who knows what women want? / Some women want aggressive, "masculine" men to force them to have sex, and they'll end up enjoying it and wanting more. / If a woman doesn't fight back, protest verbally or say no, she can't consider the experience rape. / A man is under no obligation to check with her first or consider her pleasure. / Once a woman agrees to sex, she is fair game for whatever the man wants to do. / Women cry rape, even when they really enjoyed the sex.

There's no need to lecture me on female fantasies or domination and submission. There was no initial consent, and no safety for the sub. If you ever read what Schneider said, and you still get off on the movie, then you're getting off on seeing a real woman being violated.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Question For The Day

Why send speaking heads abroad to discuss events if those speaking heads have no idea about the culture and don't know the language? What is the value we are supposed to be receiving from such an endeavor?

Talking To God

President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. You should really learn more about that particular institution. I recommend Jeff Sharlet's book on the topic.

And what does the president pray for?
“I petition God for a whole range of things” he said, but cited three recurring themes. “The first category of prayer comes out of the urgency of the Old Testament prophets and the Gospel itself. I pray for my ability to help those who are struggling,” he said.
A second theme “is a prayer for humility,” he said. And, to audience laughter and applause he added, “God answered this prayer for me early on by having me marry Michelle, because whether it's reminding me of a chore undone or questioning the wisdom of watching my third football game in a row on Sunday, she keeps me humble.”
The final theme to his prayers, the president said, “one that binds all prayers together, is that I might walk closer with God and make that walk my first and most important task.” In expanding on that theme, he said, “When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to give me the strength to do right by our country and its people. And when I go to bed at night, I wait on the Lord, and I ask Him to forgive me my sins and look after my family and the American people and make me an instrument of His will.”
Old Testament prophets, the Lord, "He" and so on. Wife as a humility-giver about chores and football games. Sounds pretty much what George W. Bush would have said.

Now, this post is why I will never be a mainstream goddess.

Images vs. Words

This is a musing post, not linked to any one particular current topic, yet linked to all of them. I was watching a Chris Hedges video (on the death of the liberal class in the US)in which he stated that we are moving from the era of written words to the era of images, with consequences which are not always obvious. For instance, images are much better at provoking emotions than words and analysis.

My guess is that he is right in that. Think back to the coverage of the Vietnam war (or even WWII). It is the few iconic images we remember easily: the raising of the flag, the naked, hurt girl running, the My Lai executions. Yet all these are single images, images of a single event which may or may not be representative of all that took place.

There is something about images that provokes emotions. But there is also something about images that might get past our analytical and critical defenses, that might brand us directly in a way which later arguments cannot affect. Whether this is so I don't know.

But I do know that fighting an image with words doesn't seem to work, even though it is only in the analysis stage that we can truly look at the evidence, truly compare it, truly understand how common something is, how something came about.

Maybe this is because analysis, to be of any worth, must be boring, long and detailed? Maybe this is because analysis, when done correctly, tries to avoid that premature emotional branding? Emotions are not absent in it, but they should not drive the analysis to rapid conclusions.

Now combine images with short sound-bites (such as on Fox News) and you can see why it just might be the case that our public debates are deteriorating partly because of the impact of images? We are taking short-cuts the conclusions, carried by that emotional significance?

Heh. I just scanned through this post and realized that I was doing exactly the wrong thing. I should find a picture of Echidne staring quietly into the distance where weird creatures wearing bankster hats stomp on masses of the suffering and patriarchs prepare cages for their wimminfolk.

But even in feminism it is those short sound-bites and internal images which sometimes carry the day: Bra-burning and hairy armpits, Birkenstocks and ugly women.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

PETA And the Pimps

I couldn't avoid that title after writing about the Planned Parenthood case below. Because that's what PETA often does in its ads: Pimps women's bodies.

It's such an odd combination! On the one hand PETA wants to liberate all other animals, but on the other hand they are perfectly fine with the objectification of women if that serves their goal. I've been trying to understand what kind of an ethical set of values leads them to do that. Would they be perfectly fine if only bitches were mistreated in laboratories as long as male dogs were let go?

If you think I have lost my marbles there, well, you are not alone. But PETA's message is really the reverse of that one: Do what you will to human females as long as the rest of animal kingdom (queendom?) is saved.

And no, adding one guy in boring underwear does not make the objectification equal. Or put in another way, the outtakes are about women pleasuring vegetables, not about men pleasuring vegetables. They take off from the view that women are the workers in the sex market and then use that as a joke. If I don't get the joke I'm a humorless feminazi.

Well, I do get the joke. It would just be a lot better if it was men kissing those melon breasts and putting peas in their belly buttons. That would be more hilarious because it would be a double-reversal!

And More on Pimps and Planned Parenthood.

I quote from the Nation:
The problem is that, while you might want to laugh off Rose and her fake pimp as just a couple of creepy video pranksters, this latest stunt is prompting a conservative pile-on that could have serious legislative impact. If wackos are leading the charge, unfortunately, some of them of them have seats in Congress.
Rep. Michele Bachmann linked to the Live Action video on her Facebook page on Tuesday, noting that “I am introducing a bill that would prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving any future federal money directly or indirectly...You must see this undercover video. This is horrifying!"
She’s not being abstract. Her colleague, Rep. Mike Pence, recently introduced legislation that would deny federal dollars to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that receive family funds and also provide abortion. The Pence bill, which has 154 sponsors, has seen no action since it was introduced almost a month ago. But, yesterday, after the Live Action video came out, an anti-choice coalition launched a website pushing it forward. The release of the video has prompted Pence to call for immediate action [3] on the bill. And now sources say it looks as though the amendment may be brought to a vote within the next two weeks.
You would think that the political action would be all about how to stop sex trafficking! After all, that's what the video is supposedly about: sex trafficking and pimping. Well, an alien from outer space (Hi, Al!) would think so.

We know better. This is not about sex trafficking. It is about actual access to abortion and also about cheap access to contraceptives and gyno check-ups. Ultimately it is about who controls fertility. Honest.

Pimps And Planned Parenthood of New Jersey

This is like that Acorn story, where a conservative filmmaker went around trying to catch Acorn employees doing something that is against the law. It worked so well (Acorn is dead) that the same tactic is used against Planned Parenthood clinics.

Some background from January:
In the course of five days this month, eight Planned Parenthood clinics in five states and D.C. reported getting the same visit: A man said he needed treatment for a sexually transmitted disease and then, once alone with a staff member, implied that he ran an interstate sex trafficking ring that involves minors and illegal immigrants.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America thinks that the visits, which happened between Jan. 11 and 15, are part of a James O'Keefe-style "sting." But the group called in the FBI anyway.
"These multi-state visits from men claiming to be engaged in sex trafficking of minors may be a hoax," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last week. "However, if the representations made by this man are true," she wrote, they indicate violations of several sex trafficking, prostitution and child sex laws.
I have been told that the number of clinics contacted was at least twelve. In one of those twelve the people posing as a pimp and a prostitute hit gold:
The man and woman walked into the Planned Parenthood clinic in Perth Amboy sounding like the operators of a child sex ring looking for help with their business.
They told the manager they would bring in girls as young as 14 for tests, birth control and abortion referrals and wanted to know what kind of questions to expect from clinic employees.
The manager was helpful. She coached them to lie about the age of the girls’ sex partners. "If they are a minor, we are obligated if we hear certain information, to kind of report (it)," the manager said. "So as long as they just lie and say, ‘Oh, he’s 15, 16,’ ’’ no one should question them.
But the man and woman were actually members of Live Action, a California-based anti-abortion group that targeted Planned Parenthood clinics in five states and Washington, D.C., last month. The scenes were videotaped and posted on YouTube, and Tuesday created a national uproar.
Tuesday night, Central Jersey Planned Parenthood fired the manager, identified in the video as Amy Woodruff, and beefed up security around its clinics.
You can watch the (supposedly) unedited video here. In it the office manager pretty clearly stated that what she proposed would not pass muster at the clinic in general. Whatever her motives may have been, her opinions were not those of the Planned Parenthood Clinic at which she worked.

The video was not created in order to protect girls and women who are trafficked but in order to kill general access to abortions (the way Acorn was killed). It's important to keep that in mind. Combating trafficking requires -- well --- combating trafficking, not making birth control and STD tests too expensive for most poor women to afford. And that is what the death of subsidized clinics would mean.

This is not a fun post to write both because the office manager acted like an asshat and because the mean Echidne rears her head and keeps proposing a guerrilla group of people from our side going after all the conservative organizations and getting their employees say really bad things which can then be put on YouTube as final and decisive evidence of something or other. It's so easy to slide past all the evidence which points in the other direction as long as you have the footage! Never mind that the phishing expedition went on quite a while, never mind that the FBI was contacted. I guess that's why I want to turn the tables.

Today's Hilarious Right-Wing Anti-Feminist

Via Atrios, you have the pleasure of meeting Dennis Prager:
The most common left-wing objection to the right is that it wants to control others' lives. But, both in America and elsewhere, the threat to personal liberty has emanated far more from the left.


Honest discussion of male-female differences is also largely gone -- a lesson the former president of Harvard Larry Summers painfully learned when he simply asked if fewer women succeed in math and science because of innate differences between men and women.


The left owns the language. Married women are not to be referred to as "Mrs." but as "Ms." And the words "lady," "feminine" and "masculine" have largely gone to their graves.


Back to leftist controls on speech: One can only speak of male-female differences if the difference shows the female as superior. Thus to say women are innately more intuitive is perfectly acceptable, but to say men are innately more likely to excel at math is "sexist."
A woman may reveal as much of her body as she wishes. But if a man is perceived by a woman as looking too long at what she reveals, or if he comments on what she reveals, he may be fired from his job and/or sued for "sexual harassment." A woman may wear a miniskirt and crop-top, but a man may not have a calendar of women wearing miniskirts and crop-tops on his desk at work. That constitutes sexual harassment and a "hostile work environment."
Mr. Prager also hates most other groups which don't consist of white heterosexual Christian men.

I quoted the beginning of his article (farticle?) because he sees all these changes as a threat to his personal liberty to own definitions. Yet all those discussions do go on, don't they? About whether girls can do math and so on. We even allow silly people to argue that differences are innate when there's no way of knowing if they are!

No, what he requires for HIS personal freedom is that nobody talks back to him or argues with him or suggests that his ideas might be wrong. It's a property-rights kind of thing. His interpretation should be the rule.

Likewise, his idea of his personal freedom includes his right to women's bodies. Note how he wishes to ogle and comment and to present his own collection of women's bodies. It is he who should determine whether women are called Mrs., Miss or Ms., and if someone dresses "provocatively" in his presence (a very unlikely event in the usual office), he should have the right to be provoked without any consequences. Or women should cover up.

And no, Dennis. Women are not more intuitive than men for some weird essentialist reasons. I can say that! Wow. Perhaps I can offer a new abbreviation that will be used only for married men so that we know if they are taken. Mrd?

Spying on the UN (by Suzie)

How many of you think Hillary Clinton ordered U.S. diplomats to spy on their colleagues in the United Nations? She must have done so -- an Internet search turns up many hits blasting her for this, as well as some sexist videos. The accusation stems from the leak of diplomatic cables, and Julian Assange called for her resignation.

Back in November, Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic explained how thousands of cables go out each year under the name of the Secretary of State, and the person holding that position can't read them all. This one came from the CIA. The Guardian called it an annual "intelligence shopping list." Former diplomats say diplomats generally ignore this wish list, the LA Times reported.

As I commented on Echidne's post Monday about the lack of women editing Wikipedia, I often use it. Today, I found the entry confusing, but I did snag my sources from it. I corrected the link to the LA Times story, and that bit of editing took less time than tracking down the correct link. It reminded me how easy Wikipedia can be to edit, at least for smaller tasks, and I hope other women will learn the basics so that they can correct stuff when they have the time.

In another matter related to Hillary, I just came upon this piece by Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian:
She is the most powerful politician to advance an explicitly feminist agenda. ... From the start Clinton left no one in any doubt where she stood: women's rights are "the signature issue" of this administration's foreign policy, she said. She mentioned women 450 times in speeches in the first five months in office. "Transformation of the role of women is the last great impediment to universal progress," she declared, and began to develop what is her standard line: women's issues are integral to the achievement of every goal of US foreign policy.
That means something in the world of men.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Too Much Snow To Blog

Shoveling time. The oil truck couldn't deliver because of the snow. The path to the tank is not used for anything else and shoveling it was a low priority, especially as a snow blower had already been ordered. But it can't be delivered because of the weather.

The general problem with shoveling right now is not the new snow but the old snow. If the sides of the paths and the driveway are already above my waist it's hard to know where to put the new snow. And the Wife of Winter keeps dancing and dancing.

What is the connection of this and the Australian cyclones and the weather in India to climate change? I would think that even the most skeptical individuals might start to wonder. Too much to hope and too much snow.

Individual Mandate in the HCR. Again.

One judge has declared the individual mandate (the requirement that everyone has health insurance under the HCR) unconstitutional. I found this editorial in the Christian Science Monitor interesting because of its adoption of the right-wing-created term "Obamacare." But of course Christian Scientists wouldn't like the individual mandate:
But a more realistic scenario for the use of the mandate – assuming the Supreme Court upholds it – is that Congress will eventually want to further control the health decisions of Americans by coercing them to take part in various types of preventative medicine as prescribed by government.
This would violate the freedom to choose one’s own health care, whether it is traditional medicine or alternative means of healing, such as prayer. As Judge Vinson said of the mandate, this is a “bridge too far.”
Even Mr. Obama at one time, during his 2008 presidential campaign, argued against the mandate: “If a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house.”
I have been scolded in the past for writing on the individual mandate from an economist's angle, and perhaps I shouldn't go there again.

But there is a reason for that mandate, whatever its ethical and other aspects are, and it is what would happen in the absence of such a mandate if health insurers no longer could deny people coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition:

Some percentage of individuals would not buy insurance until they got sick, especially those who are young and healthy. It makes financial sense to wait until one really needs it, and there would be some individuals and families who would think exactly like that. The consequences of this would be an insurance system which would get more expensive for those who do have insurance, because the sum of the premia would decrease compared to the reimbursement levels.

That, in turn, would raise the premia. Higher premia would make more people consider the option of waiting until they really need insurance, and so on. This possibility, taken to its logical extreme, could even destroy the whole private insurance market.

That logical extreme is unlikely to happen because the insurance markets have large group plans through employers and most people would buy insurance in any case. But the individual mandate is not part of the HCR just to make the deal sweeter for the insurance industry by offering it many low-risk customers (though that is naturally one of its functions).

It's there because a private insurance system in something like health care will not function without lots of rules of that type and without lots and lots of regulatory help. As an example of that help, the government funded Medicare and Medicaid systems already remove most of the very high-risk customers (especially the elderly) from the market, and Medicaid subsidizes one group of the poor. If I had to write a one-sentence post on financing health care it would consist of this:

A. Private. Insurance. Industry. Is. A. Poor. Fit.

The reasons for that poor fit are so many that they require a book to cover. But you can get some of them by thinking about what an insurable event would look like (a sudden fire in your house, not caused by you, your car getting stolen even though you carefully locked it and had burglar alarms installed) and then by comparing that to the way people need health care, partly in a predictable manner, partly not, and how the need for health care rises with age and in chronic illness.

My view is that the HCR went wrong when it insisted on sticking with the insurance model, even if the political reasons for that can be understood. Once it did that, however, most everything else that happened was a logical consequence of that initial decision, including the individual mandate.

Alternatives to that model exist all over the place. Indeed, almost all other industrialized countries have something different. But that "something different" is seen as communism here. So we are stuck.
Added later: As an example of weird coincidences, I came across this interview with Mark Pauly, a health economist who has almost the opposite view of the individual mandate. He regards it as the way to avoid those other solutions! To keep the insurance market, that is.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ironing As A Lost Female Skill

Jennifer Armstrong sent me a link to this story. Then I saw it discussed in other places! It's a hilarious one, though of course it's also meant as a click-magnet:
BASIC "female" skills are becoming endangered with fewer young women able to iron a shirt, cook a roast chicken or hem a skirt.
Just as more modern men are unable to complete traditional male tasks, new research shows Generation Y women can't do the chores their mothers and grandmothers did daily, reported The Courier-Mail.
Only 51 per cent of women aged under 30 can cook a roast compared with 82 per cent of baby boomers.
Baking lamingtons is a dying art with 20 per cent of Gen Y capable of whipping up the Aussie classic, down from 45 per cent for previous generations.
Social researcher Mark McCrindle said: "Women of today tend to be busier, juggling more roles, and are quite prepared to compromise a bit of the homemade just to save some time.
In one sense this is one of those "get off my lawn" pieces where the older generation bemoans the deterioration in the younger generation. I once saw a piece like that from the era of the Roman empire.

But in other ways this is an oddly essentialist article, lamenting the possible death of sex-typed chores at home. Women don't know how to iron anymore! Men can't fix the car! Never mind that ironing is not needed with most modern fibers and that computerized cars lend themselves poorly to home remedies. And the assumption is that women do the cooking at home, even if they also go out to work.

Then there's the juxtaposition of changing a tire with cooking and ironing. The former is a chore which is needed very rarely. Eating, on the other hand, tends to take place daily. This juxtaposition is a very common one, and it continues later in the article where "taking out the trash" is seen as a typical male chore, even though that happens only once a week. Though now women do it, too!

On the deepest level the piece is about lost gender roles. Perhaps we could return to a world where women know how to sew a hem on a skirt and then get order and peace back into the world! Except that I have all those lost female skills to a very high level. Heh.

Wikipedia's Absent Women

You may have read this NYT story today:
In 10 short years, Wikipedia has accomplished some remarkable goals. More than 3.5 million articles in English? Done. More than 250 languages? Sure.
But another number has proved to be an intractable obstacle for the online encyclopedia: surveys suggest that less than 15 percent of its hundreds of thousands of contributors are women.
About a year ago, the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that runs Wikipedia, collaborated on a study of Wikipedia’s contributor base and discovered that it was barely 13 percent women; the average age of a contributor was in the mid-20s, according to the study by a joint center of the United Nations University and Maastricht University.
Sue Gardner, the executive director of the foundation, has set a goal to raise the share of female contributors to 25 percent by 2015, but she is running up against the traditions of the computer world and an obsessive fact-loving realm that is dominated by men and, some say, uncomfortable for women.
As the article points out, that percentage is not terribly different from the percentage of contributors to Op-Eds and the like who are women. The overall reasons for that are not something I wish to write about here (I have done that earlier and will do again). What I want to talk about is this idea:
The notion that a collaborative, written project open to all is so skewed to men may be surprising. After all, there is no male-dominated executive team favoring men over women, as there can be in the corporate world; Wikipedia is not a software project, but more a writing experiment — an “exquisite corpse,” or game where each player adds to a larger work.
But because of its early contributors Wikipedia shares many characteristics with the hard-driving hacker crowd, says Joseph Reagle, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. This includes an ideology that resists any efforts to impose rules or even goals like diversity, as well as a culture that may discourage women.
“It is ironic,” he said, “because I like these things — freedom, openness, egalitarian ideas — but I think to some extent they are compounding and hiding problems you might find in the real world.”
Adopting openness means being “open to very difficult, high-conflict people, even misogynists,” he said, “so you have to have a huge argument about whether there is the problem.” Mr. Reagle is also the author of “Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia.”
Emphasis is mine. My experience on the Internets is that women indeed do get more flack. If you don't believe me, pick a handle that is clearly female and use it consistently for a month or so to comment in all sorts of places. Then check the results.

But I do love that beautiful academic definition of openness towards misogynists! I wonder if they are equally open towards racists?

What is going on at Wikipedia is most likely two things: First, there is the first-mover advantage. Those who arrived early settled in, got power and influence and now regard the place as their home. Those who come later must "earn" their place in the community. This is something that can be observed in many different places on the Internet, and it is mostly due to the fact that people work in groups, even in cyberspace. The group of home-boyz can keep individuals out fairly easily by making it very unpleasant to try to enter.

Second, there's a misunderstanding that a chaotically open setting necessarily leads to democracy. What goes on in non-moderated comments threads all over the mainstream media tells you that the outcome of that chaos is not some sort of a fair and egalitarian process. It can be a warped and horrible caricature of free speech, with "astro-turfed" attack groups taking over a controversial topic, or it can become a place where few "regular" commentators swim about, making sure that nobody else can comment without being viciously attacked. In general, too, the most extreme individuals stay and end up ruling the place. That is one reason why so many of the early "feminist" chat sites were killed. One fairly conservative site was totally taken over by misogynists, for instance. (Note that none of this is about the wonderful comments threads of my blog!)

A better parable for what goes on in some non-moderated sites on the net is one of a public square where groups of young men hang out, passing the bottle and glaring at by-passers from under their brows. So come on in, feminists, and debate! We shall see who can yell the loudest.

This is not intended as a full explanation for the scarcity of women as Wikipedia's editors, but it IS one reason, especially when it comes to topics on which the MRAs (who are already among the editors) feel strongly.

Take this article as an example: It's about gendercide, the killing of individuals of one gender because of their gender. The article begins with a quote:
By analogy, gendercide would be the deliberate extermination of persons of a particular sex (or gender). Other terms, such as "gynocide" and "femicide," have been used to refer to the wrongful killing of girls and women. But "gendercide" is a sex-neutral term, in that the victims may be either male or female. There is a need for such a sex-neutral term, since sexually discriminatory killing is just as wrong when the victims happen to be male. The term also calls attention to the fact that gender roles have often had lethal consequences, and that these are in important respects analogous to the lethal consequences of racial, religious, and class prejudice.
Thus, we move almost directly to the killing of boys and men because they are boys and men, and, indeed, the next section of the article is androcide. I quote:
Androcide is the systematic killing of men for various reasons, usually cultural. Androcide may happen during war to reduce an enemy's potential pool of soldiers.

Androcide as a common practice continued in ancient times. Mythological accounts of the Greek takeover of Miletus in circa 9th century BCE have the legendary son of Poseidon leading a massacre of the men of Miletus and settling the city in the Milesian men's stead.[2]

Biblical androides include the Massacre of the Innocents recounted in the Book of Matthew although many modern scholars consider that this may be apocryphal [3], and the avenging of Dinah.
I quote in such length to point out that we are now half-way down the article, have so far been given only mythical evidence of androcide and an expanded definition of androcide which reaches well past the idea that gender itself is a cause in these killings.

Only now does the article provide any evidence of "androcide":
Pakistan targeted male intellectuals for extermination in the erstwhile province of East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) during the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities.[4] Pol Pot executed many men in Cambodia, resulting in a large percentage of Cambodia's population afterwards being women.[5] During the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots men were targeted overwhelmingly on account of them being breadwinners of the family.[5] More recent examples include the 1988 Anfal campaign against Kurdish men and boys[6][7] in Iraq and the Srebrenica massacre of Bosniak men and boys on July 12, 1995.[8][9]
After all this we get six lines on femicide, the killing of women or girls because of their gender.

There is so much wrong with this article. The focus of the piece is on the killing of men, whatever the reason for that might be (that they were intellectuals, breadwinners, frightening opponents) and the actual killing of people for nothing BUT their sex is given six lines.

Yet imagine trying to fix this article! Clearly someone has written it with the slant on purpose, and clearly that someone would not simply let the article be changed.

Why do mothers kill their kids? (by Suzie)

Probably not because the kids are "mouthy." I'm referring to the case a few miles from me in Tampa, in which Julie Powers Schenecker is accused of shooting her daughter, 16, and son, 13, on Thursday.

The next morning, Schenecker's mother called police, worried that her daughter was depressed. Police found Schenecker on her back porch, covered in blood. Inside, they saw no signs of struggle. They said she had shot her son in the head in her car, and then went inside and shot her daughter in the face. On Friday, after being booked, she was taken from jail to the intensive care unit of a hospital. The AP reports:
As police led Julie Schenecker to a patrol car Friday, she shook uncontrollably, her eyes wide and wild.
Police would say only that she was treated for a condition she had before the shooting. Afterward, she returned to the jail infirmary. She is expected in court today.

When police first interviewed her, she said her teens were mouthy, talked back, etc. The media has seized on this in headlines and ledes (generally the first paragraph of a story). For example, the Today headline reads: "She killed her teenagers because they talked back". The AP says:
The woman who authorities say killed her teenage daughter and son because she was fed up with them talking back and being mouthy will not appear in court Saturday because she's being treated at a hospital for an unknown condition.
Authorities didn't say she killed them because X and Y. Authorities said she told them that that's why she killed her children. There's an important difference, especially when reporters have seen her in an altered mental state and have good reason to suspect mental illness.

Schenecker also told police that she had planned to kill herself, too, but that shows up in fewer stories. Here's a better-written story from the Tampa Tribune, my former employer. Another story notes that it's rare for parents to kill children older than 1. "In most cases, it involves a father or stepfather lashing out in a fit of rage or frustration." Kathleen Heide, a professor of criminology at the University of South Florida, says mothers who kill older children "usually have a major depression with psychosis," and they plan to kill themselves afterward.
This is a sign of overwhelming despair.
Schenecker was a stay-at-home mother, and her husband is a colonel who was in the Middle East. They had met when both were in U.S. Army Intelligence. The family had moved around, but settled in Tampa in 2008. The father was frequently deployed overseas. Family friends had considered Schenecker a loving and devoted mother.

From Gawker:
She'd written an email to her mother the week before, complaining of depression and trouble with the kids. She was nonetheless able to purchase a gun that same week ...
This isn't the first time this year someone who shouldn't have been in possession of a firearm was able to obtain one without any trouble. But please, don't politicize this tragedy, which has nothing to do with how absurdly easy it is for people to purchase guns in this country, or the frustratingly small number of people with serious depression or other mental illness who receive appropriate or adequate treatment. No, it's an isolated tragedy, just like all the rest of them are.