Friday, June 10, 2016

Reminder To Self. And About Birds.

Self, stop trying to write long and tedious posts just because you feel you should.  They all end up half-finished, gathering dust inside unused parts of your brain, inside your computer and on those odd coffee-stained and torn-up bits of paper.

Oh, hello there!

That was for me.  The long posts were supposed to be for you, my imaginary readers, on topics such as the representation of various groups of Americans in the current US Congress, what's wrong with current feminism according to Echidne, and other equally not-so-interesting topics.   I doubt they will ever be done, because of my stupid tendency of trying to chew more than anyone can digest.

But in any case, tl;dr should be the new slogan of this blog.  Tl;dr means that something is too long and so was not read.

Let's talk about birds.

I have begun gardening again, after a long break.  Hence my permanently black finger-nail linings.  As part of that gardening, I planted a clematis which is an infant, right now, but is one day expected to be a wonderful tall fountain of burgundy silk, frothy lace and inebriating perfumes*.  Think of garden porn.

Anyway, I put up twine for the baby clematis, as a hint about the most likely direction it should climb (up the arch) when it has gotten its root system plump enough, after recovering from the transplantation operation.

But a robin in the nest-building business wanted that twine.  She/he wanted it so much!  I laughed watching the sudden bird helicoptering, the wings going extremely fast while the beak hung onto the twine (which, sadly for the robin, was tied to the archway for the clematis).  I laughed when it backed up, with the twine in its mouth, pulling, pulling, pulling, until it fell on its tiny bird ass.

Then I felt guilty, and went out with about ten pieces of nice soft wool thread for the birds.  I left them right next to the clematis twine.   The robin came back, walked over all that nice wool, and returned to the battle with the clematis twine.

I ended up cutting that twine so that the robin could get it.  She/he later came back for all that wool, too, but only after the clematis twine had been taken.

Somehow I expected that birds would grab string by the middle and fly away with the ends flapping about in air.  But the robin gathered all the twine and threads up very neatly, into little folds, and flew away as if carrying a tiny suitcase.

I want to come back as a nest-building robin.

*  It's much more likely that the clematis will expire.  But the hope is as big a part of gardening for pleasure as what actually happens.  The strawberries I've eaten in my imagination were mostly eaten by the birds, too.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Quick Election Thoughts

Now this is fascinating:  According to Think Progress (and my own eyes) the official website of the Republican Party has nothing about Donald Trump.  The invisible candidate?

That must feel very awkward for the traditional Republicans. As if someone had stolen your chair, your name and your principles and there's very little you can do, because the thefts didn't break any law.  But attempts to regain all that property would interfere with the idea that votes matter, even in Republican primaries.

That's historic, in a sense, but not so historic as Hillary Clinton's position as the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.  Because of that woman thing,*
which requires a much deeper post than I can write today.  But stay tuned, as they say.

*  And that older women thing Joan Walsh writes about, the idea that women's votes somehow don't matter as much once they pass forty or their fuckability sell-by-date, whichever comes earlier. 

I spotted that subtext, too, and even a slight hint that older men's votes don't really count, either,  while following the Democratic primaries.  All votes should count equally.

Still, the  invisibility of older women as anything but grandmothers is in the air we all breathe and it even colors politics.  Though if we get an older woman president, who knows what might happen!

110 Years Ago Finnish Women Won The Vote

On June 1, 1906, 110 years ago,  this happened:

In tiny Finland, then part of the empire of Russia, women won the right to vote in the semi-independent Finnish elections.  The next Finnish parliament (voted in during 1907) had nineteen female members.  Here are thirteen of them:

The biographies (in Finnish, sorry) of those nineteen women make fascinating reading.  They were politically active, some to the extent of later spending time in prison for their political convictions. * They were teachers, journalists, seamstresses and servants.**  They were concerned with the position of women in the Finnish society and sought to improve that position through legislation, but they also had other political concerns.  They made a difference.

Those nineteen women were the world's first female members of parliament.

* That would be the socialists or communists.  Several of them were imprisoned during the Finnish Civil War and one woman even later.

** The occupations I listed are the ones which had more than one representative.  The women also included a weaver, a farmer's wife, an entrepreneur (who was also one of the founding members of the Social-Democratic Workers' Party!), a life-long feminist activist (Alexandra Gripenberg) and even a woman who was a manager of a bank from 1917 to 1925.  Miina Sillanp√§√§ became the first Finnish female minister during the 1920s, was responsible for beginning the organizing of female labor and created a network of homes for unwed mothers.  She has earned a permanent place in Finnish history.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Both Sides Do It! Eric Alterman on the Pretend-Objectivity of Political Journalism

You can read Alterman's June 2nd article here.  It's about the urgent need of political journalists in the US to look for equivalence between, say,  the heinous deeds of Republican politicians on the one hand and the equally heinous deeds of Democratic politicians on the other hand (or vice versa), even when no real equivalence can be found.  In the latter case the demands of pretend-objectivity necessitate the creation of a false equivalence.

I wrote about that at least thrice on this blog:  ten years ago, nine years ago and six years ago.  From the 2007 post:*

A third pattern of interest is the "false equivalence". Suppose that I throttle my neighbor in a fit of temporary insanity, and you once forgot to send a Christmas card to your best friend from college. In the IOKIYAAR world these two deeds would be regarded as equally bad, but only if I am a Republican and you are a Democrat. (Well, your deed might actually be worse, especially if you happen to get Caitlin Flanagan to write it up.) The "false equivalence" treatment is probably the most serious one of the various patterns of IOKIYAAR, because it extends to all debate about issues so that a science debate must give equal time or space for those who don't believe in evolution or in any global warming whatsoever.

Alterman delves into the reasons for the enduring nature of false equivalencies in American political journalism.  My impression is that this is a bigger problem in the US than in, say, the UK, where journalists often assume the role of a slightly hostile interrogator when interviewing politicians.  That role makes providing factual corrections considerably easier for the journalist than the American "he said, she said" model which demands coverage of "both sides," even when one side clearly is preposterous.

Now how to fix that problem?  It can be tricky for the reasons Alterman mentions, but it shouldn't be impossible, given that some other countries don't require their journalists to act quite so servile. 

* IOKIYAAR is an acronym for "It's ok if you are a Republican".  I hate hate acronyms.  The acronym for that is IHHA.