Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Melange



How do you put those diagonal thingies over letters and what are they called in English?

Anyway, this is a stew of news items that drew my attention for one reason or another:

First, John Paul II has died. May he find peace. The next pope will be selected by all Cardinals under eighty. As the current one nominated most all of them it is quite likely that the current conservative policies of the Vatican will continue, if not get worse.

Second, the Governor of Illinois has come out on the side of the women who want their contraceptive pill prescriptions filled:


Gov. Rod Blagojevich approved an emergency rule Friday requiring pharmacies to fill birth control prescriptions quickly after a Chicago pharmacist refused to fill an order because of moral opposition to the drug.

The emergency rule takes effect immediately for 150 days while the administration seeks a permanent rule.

"Our regulation says that if a woman goes to a pharmacy with a prescription for birth control, the pharmacy or the pharmacist is not allowed to discriminate or to choose who he sells it to," Blagojevich said. "No delays. No hassles. No lectures."


Neat that he uses the discrimination argument as it has been used, quite successfully, by the other side so far.

Third, the President of Sudan refuses to have the criminals of Darfur accused in the International Criminal Court. What's good enough for the United States is good enough for Sudan, maybe? Anyway, this was one of the reasons other countries criticized the American policy of not backing the ICC. For why would anyone else want to back it when the most powerful country doesn't?

That's about it for today. There are a few other posts on the American Street today, as on most Saturdays. But I recommend going out instead. Life is short.

Lesson Of the Day



This is from Toonscribe on the Eschaton threads:


Basic rules of reportage:

"dozens of protestors" -- roughly 50.
"scores of protestors" -- close to 100, but not quite
"over 100 protestors" -- at least 101
"100s of protestors" -- maybe 200, counting is hard
"1000s of protestors" -- see counting is hard above.
"a handful of troublemakers" -- anything over 500,000 anti-war protestors


I'd add:
"a million pro-choice protestors" -- Look over there! Two hundred anti-choicers!

Death Watches and Wakes



We have had our share of these during the last week, and there is no end in sight. The media first let us vicariously experience death by dehydration and the religious fervor of a small bunch of demonstrators outside the hospice where Theresa Schiavo died. This bunch was used as proof that the country was massively split into the pro-life and pro-death camps, as defined by the wingnuts. A sort of orchestrated reality.

Now we are waiting for the pope to die. There is something very unwholesome and callous about this whole waiting process, with the repeated reports on how many tubes go into and out of his body, what facial movements he still has control over and so on. It's quite disgusting, really. We have somehow confused our right to know when the pope has died with some idea that we have a right to know how it feels to be a dying pope.

I can't help seeing all this tasteless coverage as a media response to the wingnut takeover. There is a medieval flavor to it, a flavor of religion as consisting of magical suffering, self-flagellation and the worshipping of bits and pieces of dead bodies. I almost expect the next news announcement to be about the black death or the persecution of nonbelievers. Well, perhaps the time is not yet ripe.

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Technical Question



To any of you using Safari. Does the blog look any saner now? I have applied some html corrections to it, but I don't have Safari and don't want to download just to find this out. Thanks!

Boys' Club



What fun will we all have:


The Roman Catholic Church plans to establish its first religious society devoted exclusively to fighting euthanasia and abortion, church leaders said this week.

The male-only Missionaries of the Gospel of Life — founded by Father Frank A. Pavone, an outspoken opponent of abortion rights — will be housed in a vacant Catholic high school and dormitory on the grounds of the Diocese of Amarillo.

The order will have a decidedly political bent, and will be active rather than contemplative, Pavone said.

Its priests will be trained to conduct voter-registration drives, use the media to get out their antiabortion message and lobby lawmakers to restrict abortion rights.

They also will learn to lead demonstrations outside offices where abortions and family-planning services are provided.

"There is a difference between knowing the teachings and knowing how to effectively advance a movement," Pavone said.


There is something very odd about a movement focusing on abortion and yet allowing only celibate men as its members. Or perhaps it's not that odd at all if one puts on the cynic's hat and muses about ways that misogyny might be expressed without any societal condemnation. Then a boys' club* like this one seems just the ticket.
------

*There's a girls' club for this stuff within the Catholic Church, too, though the women in it focus on prayer rather than direct acts.
Link via Krupskaya.

Good News!



I have been offered a book contract! The book will be all about my life as a snake goddess and the many exciting adventures I've had over the centuries. It will include a "Passion of the Christ" episode where I spill the beans about what really happened. Don't worry, there will still be plenty of whipping.

And sex. They doubled the advance when they heard that I once had a hot one-night stand with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert... Ah, those wobbly little chins bring back such memories. I will also reveal all about Eleanor Roosevelt. That was some hot lady! And Franklin wasn't that bad, either, especially after some moonlight swims. But the rest of their staff was pretty clueless.

Then to the modern era! There are good reasons for the glum face of Laura Bush, and I will spell them out. Twice, just to make sure. I will also explain, in great and explicit detail, why Liberal men are so much better in bed, though the word "liberal" will give you the gist of it.

I did offer to correct all the misconceptions in world history and to tell what will happen next, according to us gods and goddesses, but the publishers were not interested. There's no money in it. Instead, they wanted to know if they could have nude pictures of me on the cover. I said no when they explained that they wanted to make me look like I had sixteen breasts.

Ok. This is an April Fool joke and not a very good one, either. I never went to bed with Queen Victoria!

Friday Embroidery Blogging




Slithers


Here is another snake picture. Reverse applique, embroidery and quilting. The black hair is most likely from Henrietta the Hound and on the camera lens. Sorry about the white area. I figured out how to remove it and then forgot again. It's more complicated than just framing what you wish to show.

On U.S. Fundamentalists



Juan Cole has a good opinion piece on the Salon about the American fundamentalism. It begins with:


It isn't just Michael Schiavo -- even George W. Bush has drawn the wrath of American evangelicals. In February 2002, the president and Laura Bush visited a Shinto shrine in Japan, to which they showed respect with a bow. They were immediately denounced by evangelical organizations for having "worshipped the idol." To listen to the anguished cries of disbelief from Bush's Christian base, you would have thought he had met the same fate as Harrison Ford in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," where Indie was hypnotized by the evil rajah into worshipping the pernicious Hindu idol of the thugees.

The reason for the evangelicals' frenzy is the first two commandments of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), said to have been given to Moses on Mount Sinai by God. The first says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." The second says, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God..." George and Laura's respectful nod to the spirits in the Meiji Shrine violated those precepts in the eyes of true believers.


Cole then goes on to discuss the question whether the United States is a Christian state or not, and points out that the number of people regarding themselves as Christians is falling while the numbers of those of other religions or none are rising. Still, Christianity is by far the most common religion in this country.

Does this explain why the country is currently being governed by a small but vociferous number of fundamentalists? For despite all appearances to the contrary, the numbers of religious extremists are still quite low:


Both the reelection of George Bush and the Schiavo travesty have heightened the sense that the religious right in the United States is all-powerful. Reading the press, you get the impression that almost all Americans are devout Christians, people who believe in a literal heaven and hell and spend their idle moments devouring the "Left Behind" novels about the end of the world. This isn't true -- and it's getting less true all the time. While evangelical Christians are a significant political force, they are probably only a fifth of the country, and not all of them are politically conservative: Only 14 percent of voters in an exit poll for the presidential elections in 2000 characterized themselves as part of the "Christian right."


If the fourteen-percent figure expresses the true size of the fundamentalist voting block how did it manage to overtake the most powerful country in the world? And what do the other Christians think about this? Even if the higher figure Cole cited is correct it is still puzzling how the takeover came to be. I believe that it has something to do with the truly sick marriage between Big Money and Fervent Faith (truly sick, because of the offspring of such couplings produce in new laws). The corporate Republicans needed the votes of the fundamentalists and thought that they could handle them by throwing them bits and pieces of meat (women's rights, anti-evolution school curricula)when they got too hungry, while all the time making sure that they were not overfed in order to guarantee their continuous attendance at the polls. It's a tricky act and one that seems to have gone seriously wrong. I wonder if the money-Republicans ever have sleepless nights over what they have done to this country?

Whatever the explanation of our impending transformation into a theocracy, the truth is that religious fanatics are still a minority in the United States. But you would not assume so by watching the political television shows or news programs. There was a time when certain personalities on the fringes were viewed with embarrassment by even other Republicans, and this time was not that long ago. Today these same personalities have their own mainstream television shows.

Fundamentalists are important for George Bush, of course. He needed their votes to get elected, even if the elections were not otherwise completely fair. And George Bush is important for the fundamentalists. He is their golden boy, the "ethical" president, the one who thinks like they do. I remember a television program about the household of one fundamentalist family. The walls had a picture of Jesus, a picture of George Bush and a stuffed moosehead. A trinity of a kind, perhaps. Though the moosehead and the picture of George seem to violate the Second Commandment.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Next Step: Echidne to Head the Metropolitan Opera



Logic would require this. Find the person without any experience or training in the field, make sure that she is totally opposed to the values of the institution, and then nominate her to run it anyway. Tralalah!


Paul Wolfowitz, known worldwide as an architect of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, was approved as the World Bank's new president on Thursday.

His nomination by President Bush was sealed in a unanimous vote by the World Bank's 24 executive directors, the bank confirmed.


Cowards and wimps, all of those executive directors. It's hard to know what to call the person who wrote this Washington Post editorial, discussed on Brad Delong's blog and passed on through Atrios:


People who care about this institution and its mission -- as many of Mr. Wolfowitz's detractors do -- should think carefully before they damage it by attacking its new boss. Criticism of Mr. Wolfowitz's agenda for the bank may be healthy once that agenda emerges. But preemptive condemnation because of the Iraq war is not.


What about preemptive condemnation because he knows as much about international development and its economic theory as I know about the theory of singing? How is he going to be credible in front of a staff where even the office coffee-makers have PhDs in economics? What will his future agenda mean when he doesn't know what he is talking about?

I suffer from ranting fatigue. This is a poor and meager era for anyone who likes to write satire based upon exaggeration. You just can't exaggerate what these guys do. Now pointing out that common sense has flown out of the window is equated with trying to dismantle the World Bank brick by brick. Next I will read that criticizing Wolfowitz's nomination means that I'm in cahoots with Osama bin Laden or that I really, really hate the manufacturers of hair saliva for the smoothing-out of conservative curls.

That Was Quick



Of course, with a name like DeLay, it had to be quick. Here is what Tom DeLay has to say about Theresa Marie Schiavo's death:


"Mrs. Schiavo's death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schindlers and with Terri Schiavo's friends in this time of deep sorrow."


To war, to war, to war we go... Or at least that's what Tom is probably humming under his breath.

Via ThinkProgress.

On Age Discrimination



The American culture worships youth to an extraordinary degree. Getting older here doesn't convey very many privileges unless you happen to be one of the few white men in power. Then you can go on to higher and higher things as you age. Just think of Ronald Reagan. For the rest of Americans getting older means becoming less desirable as a person. The process starts much earlier for women; somewhere around the age thirty many women start worrying about wrinkles and gray hair, but ultimately it affects most men, too. Hence the great demand for cosmetic surgery and botox and false rugs on tops of the heads of newsreaders. We all wish to look eternally twenty-eight.

Employers would like us to remain twenty-eight for ever, too, because younger workers are less expensive, not having had time to accumulate experience-related raises and not being as likely to need health care. This makes age-based discrimination a real possibility, and the Supreme Court has just given another decision about when an employee can sue on such grounds:


The Supreme Court made it easier Wednesday for any worker over 40 to allege age discrimination, ruling that employers can be held liable even if they never intended any harm.

About 75 million people -- roughly half the nation's work force -- are covered by the decision. However, the ruling makes it clear that older workers will have a high threshold to prove their claims.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that in some cases employers are within their rights to treat workers differently because of age.

"Age ... not uncommonly has relevance to an individual's capacity to engage in certain types of employment," wrote Stevens, who at 84 is the court's oldest member.

The ruling sides with older police officers in Jackson, Miss., in saying they do not have to prove that the city deliberately tried to discriminate against them, just that the policies disproportionately harmed them. Nevertheless, the high court dismissed the suit, saying officers did not demonstrate that.

The ruling means that older workers now have less of a burden to raise their claim in court when suing under federal law, although ultimately it may still be hard for them to win.


Having to prove that someone deliberately tried to discriminate against you would be extremely difficult unless you are dealing with a very stupid person. In most cases such intentions would be carefully hidden under some other excuse. Thus, it makes sense for the Court to state that workers don't have to prove deliberate intent.

But the Court doesn't give workers a completely free hand in this respect:


At issue was workplace polices that appear neutral but actually disproportionately hurt older workers. Advocates for the aging say few employers would ever be up front about intentionally favoring younger workers, making age bias claims hard to win absent the rare "smoking gun."

But employers say allowing disparate impact claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act would hinder their ability to make necessary decisions based on age-neutral factors, such as training or performance, even if the impact happens to be greater on older workers.

The ruling in some ways strikes a compromise between the two.

On the one hand, it allows older workers to make a disparate impact claim under the ADEA regardless of intent; but at the same time, it permits an employer to cite "reasonable" factors, such as cost-cutting, to justify a practice that penalizes older workers so it prevails at trial.


Firms compare the costs and benefits when they decide whom to hire or promote. Older workers are often more experienced and may* be more productive workers. On the other hand, older workers also cost more than younger ones because many of them have more work-experience and the raises related to that. They also cost more because of their higher average health care expenses. Delinking health insurance from employment would greatly reduce the incentives firms have to get rid of their older workforce.

As is often the case, it is tricky to define what discrimination means. An employer who fires someone just because that worker is old, no matter what the data on productivity and costs say, is clearly discriminating. But what if the firing is based on the worker's age-related health problems and their costs to the firm? It will be interesting to see how the courts will clarify these issues in the future.
-------------
*I say may be, because the effect of age and experience are intermingled here, and sometimes they have opposite effects on productivity, though not always. For example, a carpenter gets more skilled with experience which requires years to accumulate, but the physical demands of the job may make an older carpenter less productive in the physical sense. Slightly different considerations have similar effects for those who work in nonmanual jobs.

Theresa Marie Schiavo



She has died. May she find peace. May all who loved her find peace.

I wish that we didn't now have the second act of the melodrama but we will. There will be an autopsy, for one thing. And there will be continuous political wars on this issue.

Today's Action Alert



Today's Action comes from the Natural Resources Defense Council:

Kimberly-Clark is one of the largest disposable paper product companies in the world, producing the popular Kleenex, Scott, Viva, and Cottonelle brand facial tissues, toilet paper, and paper towels. Although Kimberly-Clark claims to be an environmental corporate leader, the company manufactures the vast majority of its disposable tissue paper products from freshly cut trees instead of from recycled fiber.

Many of the trees used in Kimberly-Clark products are logged in Canada's pristine boreal forest, an ancient forest that stretches across the country and is home to hundreds of wildlife species, including moose, caribou, lynx, bears, wolves, eagles, hawks, owls, and 30 percent of North America's songbirds. What this effectively means is that Canada's boreal forest is being destroyed to manufacture products that are used only once and then thrown away (often down the toilet).

What to do:

Send a message urging Kimberly-Clark to stop destroying Canada's boreal forest and to switch to post-consumer recycled materials for its paper products.

Here's a sample letter:

***************************************************************

Thomas Falk
Chief Executive Officer
Kimberly-Clark Corporation
351 Phelps Dr.
Irving, TX 75038

Dear Mr. Falk:

I am concerned about the lack of recycled content in your tissue products, and urge you to increase the post-consumer recycled content in these products, especially in the brands that I regularly see in the store (and purchase) such as Kleenex, Scott, Viva, and Cottonelle.

Kimberly-Clark is one of the leading tissue paper manufacturers in the world, yet your at-home products have roughly only 19 percent post-consumer recycled content. Most of the Kimberly-Clark products that I see in the grocery store do not have any recycled content at all.

I oppose destroying natural forests such as the boreal forest in Canada to produce toilet paper, paper towels, and facial tissues. Canada's boreal forest is a natural treasure of global significance whose health is critical to the survival of both people and wildlife.

A commitment from Kimberly-Clark to protect, and not destroy, these forests is long overdue. Again, I urge you to increase the post-consumer recycled content in your company's paper products.

Sincerely,

Your Name

*****************************************************

Thanks for taking today's action!

"I Hate These People"



Not me, I radiate loving-kindness towards most everybody. But Sean Hannity has anger management problems. Luckily he has a job on Fox in which he can express his hatred freely and get royally paid for it. If you want to know what Hannity thinks of Democratic politicians, click here and listen. Via Oliver Willis.

It's an interesting ethical dilemma whether I should post evidence on how much Hannity hates people like me. On the one hand it's most enjoyable to see him stripped naked this way in front of all and sundry. On the other hand I might be stoking reflex anger among our faithfuls, and that is not what an ethical goddess does. After a severe battle over this you can see which side of me won.

In any case, this thing is all over the net and even on the radio and I'm only blogging about it because I'm up with my friend Insomnia, the goddess of no-sleep.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

And Now To Something Completely Different



Jokes. We need to laugh, too. It's good for the heart if nothing else. This is the first installment of religious jokes. These were sent to me by Prior Aelred.


The Lotus & the Mishpokkeh (read as: family)
The Principles of Jewish Buddhism

1. Let your mind be as a floating cloud. Let your stillness be as the
wooded glen. And sit up straight. You'll never meet the Buddha with
such round shoulders.

2. There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called,
you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that?

3. Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage is another story.

4. To practice Zen and the art of Jewish motorcycle maintenance, do the
following: get rid of the motorcycle. What were you thinking?

5. Be aware of your body. Be aware of your perceptions. Keep in mind
that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.

6. If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?

7. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Forget this, and
attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.

8. The Tao has no expectations. The Tao demands nothing of others. The
Tao does not speak. The Tao does not blame. The Tao does not take
sides. The Tao is not Jewish.*

9. Drink tea and nourish life. With the first sip, joy. With the
second, satisfaction. With the third, Danish.

10. The Buddha taught that one should practice loving kindness to all
sentient beings. Still, would it kill you to find a nice sentient being
who happens to be Jewish?

11. Be patient and achieve all things. Be impatient and achieve all
things faster.

12. To find the Buddha, look within. Deep inside you are ten thousand
flowers. Each flower blossoms ten thousand times. Each blossom has ten
thousand petals. You might want to see a specialist.

13. Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?

14. Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then
what do you have? Bupkes!

---
*A bit of Jewish Taoism thrown in here.

The Real News



Don't read this if you are easily depressed. Instead, go and read something on Terri Schiavo. For we have another patient that will soon be on life support and that is our planet:


Humans are damaging the Earth at such an unprecedented rate that the strain on the planet may destroy about two-thirds of its ecosystem services, according to a landmark international study.

The consequences of humans' activities are severe and include: new diseases, sudden changes in water quality, creation of "dead zones" along the coasts, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate, according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report.

"At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning," said the 45-member board.

"Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted," it said.

The four-year, 2,500-page assessment was drawn up by 1,300 researchers from 95 nations in an effort to inform global policy initiatives.


I hope that the wingnuts won't argue that this is another communist-liberal plot against the all-American SUVs. (Thirteen hundred researchers from ninety-five countries, and they are all radical lefty extremists! Why do they hate Rapture?) I hope that we can all come together and try to save this particular patient. At a minimum, we must get serious about curbing consumption levels in the West and about curbing fertility rates in general. Unless, of course, we are content to leave the future generations nothing but the final decision about when to turn off the life support.

More on the Blogging Panel at the National Press Club



This is a followup letter from Sean-Paul at the Agonist on the question whether Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert can adequately represent bloggers and online journalists in this august venue:


Members of the National Press Club,

In our previous letter, we noted with concern that serious liberal political bloggers are being intentionally excluded from the academic and media dialogue on blogging. We protested your exclusion of serious liberal political bloggers from an upcoming panel on which you have placed the conservative political operative Jeff Gannon, neƩ Guckert.

This panel portends to discuss the meanings of the words "journalist" and "blogger" and whether the two are different things or one and the same. We note that this topic has once again been raised in light of the Gannon case, although the debate on blogs as journalism has been going on for years here in the so-called "blogosphere." As Gannon is not a blogger, we feel his inclusion means that the panel is largely about Gannon himself and what his specific case means in context of the discussion. We also note, as you must have, that Gannon's presence on the panel will allow him to once again air his side of the story. Who will air the other side?

While we commend your about face by extending an invitation to Matthew Yglesias to sit on this panel, it ignores the larger issue. We think highly of Yglesias' work publicizing the mission of bloggers and don't want to exclude him, or anyone, from the panel, but he was simply not a central player in regards to the Gannon story. A panel on the case of Jeff Gannon, especially one including Gannon himself, should have representation from someone who did heavy lifting there, someone intimately familiar with the process that brought Gannon's identity and his relationship with the White House Press Corps to the public eye. That voice must be a blogger who was a key player in the investigation of Gannon, his role in the media and his background.

Many people at various blogs, including SusanG at Daily Kos, Media Matters, World O Crap, Atrios, and AMERICAblog were at the fore of this investigation. Traditional media ignored the story until bloggers uncovered it. That's why you're having a panel on it. However, not one of the individuals who worked hard on the story was approached with an invitation to speak on the panel. Even outside the context of right versus left, this exclusion raises a serious issue of journalistic imbalance. This was not a careless oversight. The institutional press is giving the investigated his voice while not allowing the investigator to have its say.

Thus, we cannot recommend strongly enough the inclusion of AMERICAblog's John Aravosis on this panel. He has volunteered to be the representative of those who worked on the Gannon investigation.

As we have noted above, you're discussing a story broken by blogosphere yet cutting out the very people who made it a story there. This exclusion is shortsighted and raises questions of journalistic imbalance and ethical malfeasance. Thus, we again must raise our collective voice and insist that John Aravosis sit on the panel.

Please continue your calls to Julie Shue or Rick Dunham at the The National Press Club and politely insist that they include John Aravosis of Americablog.org at their event. Here are there numbers: 202-662-7500 or 202-662-7501 or email at tglad@press.org and info@npcpress.org.

Sincerely,

Sean-Paul Kelley, http://www.agonist.org
Think Progress, Think Progress
DCMediagirl, http://www.dcmediagirl.com
Ezra Klein, http://ezraklein.typepad.com
Echidne of the snakes, http://www.echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com
Amanda Marcotte, http://www.pandagon.net
Mark Karlin, Editor and Publisher, http://www.BuzzFlash.com
Matt Stoller, http://bopnews.com
Democratic Underground http://www.democraticunderground.com/
Lindsay Beyerstein http://majikthise.typepad.com
Shakespeare's Sister, http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com and http://www.bigbrassblog.com
Bob Brigham, www.SwingStateProject.com
Dave Johnson, http://www.Seeingtheforest.com
Matt Singer, http://www.leftinthewest.com
Kos, http://www.dailykos.com
Kari Chisholm, http://www.blueoregon.com
Steve Gilliard, http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/
Kevin Drum, Political Animal
Crooks and Liars, http://www.crooksandliars.com/
Brian Balta, http://balta.blogspot.com
That Colored Fella, http://www.ThatColoredFellasweblog.bloghorn.com
Anna Brosovic http://annatopia.com/blog.html
skippy the bush kangaroo http://www.xnerg.blogspot.com
David Neiwert Orcinus http://www.dneiwert.blogspot.com
Julien 's List http://www.educatedeclectic.blogspot.com
General J.C. Christian, http://patriotboy.blogspot.com/
Laura Rozen, http://www.warandpiece.com/
Liza Sabater, http://www.culturekitchen.com
Chris Patil, http://www.marchingorders.org
Billmon, http://www.billmon.org
Ralph Dratman, http://newsfare.com
David (Austin Tx), http://supremeirony.blogspot.com
Ellen Dana Nagler, http://bopnews.com
Sean Carroll, http://preposterousuniverse.blogspot.com
media girl, www.mediagirl.org
Joe Giblin
Stephen Anderson, http://steveaudio.blogspot.com
-Kevin Hayden, American Street
Elaine Supkis Culture of Life News II
Melanie Mattson Just a Bump in the Beltway

Kenneth Bernstein http://teacherken.blogspot.com
ZenYenta http://zenyenta.blogspot.com
James E. Shirk www.degenerateart.blogspot.com
Hugo http://hugozoom.blogspot.com/
Dennis Perrin -- Red State Son
Margaret Imber http://pudentilla.blogspot.com
Read The Otter Side http://otterside.blogspot.com
Kerry Lutz http://www.100monkeystyping.com
Kelly B http://spacetimecurves.blogspot.com/
Carla, http://preemptivekarma.com/
Wes Flinn, Walk In Brain
Greg Turner, http://www.independentreport.org
Jeremy, http://upyernoz.blogspot.com
Dean Lawrence Velvel, www.velvelonnationalaffairs.blogspot.com
The Purple Coalition http://purplecoalition.blogspot.com/
Erik Wilson, The Generik Brand
Clif Burns www.OutsideTheTent.com
Sandra Wooten, Dallas, Texas
Nico Pitney, Center for American Progress
Hughes for America, http://hughesforamerica.typepad.com/
Ben Varkentine, http://blogs.ink19.com/soundcrowd/
As I Please http://barneymac17.blogspot.com/
Lane Schwark, Dr. Laniac's Laboratory
stumpy, stumpysfindings.com
Jeff Tiedrich, Editor and Publisher, The Smirking Chimp
Ryan Pitts, Dead Parrot's Society
Paperwight, Paperwight's Fair Shot
The Farmer, http://corrente.blogspot.com
Mr. Thomas M. Fiddler, Somerset, KY 42502
Sidsel Anderson, http://www.newframes.typepad.com
Boadicea, We are the Resistance
Frederick Rhine, BeatBushBlog
Riggsveda, It's My Country Too!
John J. McKay johnmckay.blogspot.com
Larry Hosek, Silence Is Consent
ice weasel, private blog
James Benjamin, The Left End Of The Dial
exceive, http://www.moonwaves.com/exceive/Charles Kuffner, Off The Kuff
Chris Bowers, MyDD
Tom Burka, Opinions you Should Have
Bill Scher, Liberal Oasis
Amber Smigiel, www.yoyogurl.com/pcbnn.html
Carl Nyberg, Blogging Blagojevich's Blunders

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Title IX in the News and Associated Random Ramblings



The U.S. Supreme Court expanded today the role of Title IX, the Civil Rights legislation which requires sex equality in education:


A sharply divided Supreme Court expanded the reach of the landmark Title IX anti-discrimination law today, ruling that it protects people from retaliation when they complain about sex bias against others.

"Reporting incidents of discrimination is integral to Title IX enforcement and would be discouraged if retaliation against those who report went unpunished," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for a 5-4 majority.


It's fascinating that most everybody thinks Title IX is only about college sports. In fact, it's about equal access to all education, and as such it is a very important law for us womenfolk. The sports bit is actually pretty trivial from this wider point of view, but it's the one the media always talks about.

Even this case is about sports: It concerns the male basketball coach of a girls' team in an Alabama school. He argues that he was punished for complaining about the lesser access to resources his team had when compared to the boys' teams. A commenter on Pandagon (go and read Amanda's excellent take on this topic) appears to argue that this is fair because women's sports in general don't make as much money as men's sports.

Similar arguments fly about whenever Title IX is mentioned, together with arguments about how women don't want to play ball anyway and so on, and how unfair it is that schools cancel programs such as men's or boys' wrestling to make room for women's and girls' sports which nobody wants to practice. In other words, we are diving straight into the deep and muddy waters of what is innate and what is dependent on culture and what damage feminism is causing to the society and how great it is that the U.S. women win most everything in the Olympics because of Title IX. I don't really want to go there today. But let me just point out that the majority of men's sports don't make any money, either. Only a few do, mostly football and basketball in the schools with the best teams.

What interests me today is this: What are school and college sports for? The answer to this question is crucial in deciding how Title IX should be interpreted, but I rarely see anything written on this topic.

Suppose that such sports are for education. They increase the students' physical and mental health, keep them from getting led astray, teach leadership and teamwork skills. If this is the case then it's hard to see how we could argue that girls and women should not be given the same opportunities as boys and men.

If, on the other hand, sports are for the purpose of making money and gaining the school fame, the most rational solution would be to treat the players as workers, for example, to pay college football players a fair wage and other benefits. These workers would not have to be students at the institution though of course they could be if they had the academic preparation and time that are required.

Maybe sports have some of both of these roles and maybe that's why it is so difficult to agree on what equality of access means. But I think that college sports, in special, are also seen as amenities; like having access to a spa or chilled drinks and a blow-dryer in your hotel room. Some people wish to have these amenities and are willing to pay more for hotels which offer them, others don't care for them and go elsewhere. Except when we replace hotels with colleges the latter doesn't work as well because all U.S. colleges (that I know of) offer sports and students don't get a discount if they promise not to use these extra amenities.

This consumption aspect of college sports would make the arguments about Title IX very different. Why, a parent might ask, should I pay more so that someone else's son or daughter can play when mine doesn't care for sports? Because on average sports do cost the colleges money. And why, the same parent might mutter, do some students get scholarships (which are really reductions in the price of tuition), just because they want these special amenities?

There are other aspects of the college offerings which are similar to sports, of course, and students do get to enjoy them even if they don't enjoy sports. But the amount of money spent on sports is large and most of it benefits but a small fraction of the total student population.

So what is fair would seem to depend on what we assume that school and college sports achieve. Maybe we could fight over that next?

Something Funny



This is an interesting summary of what is going on with us liberals and progressives, from a caller on Randy Rhodes show today:


"Why do the socialists and communists who run the courts and universities want to see Terri Schiavo die?"


Quite.
----
Via Res Ipsa Loquitor on Eschaton threads

Tea Leaves and History



We don't know what our era will be called in the future tellings of history. We don't know if this is the beginning of the Second Dark Ages, with a return to religious oppression, anti-scientific thinking and strict feudal hierarchies for all humans, or if we are simply the eye-witnesses of the last, albeit powerful, death throes of an old, conservative worldview. Perhaps we are indeed sliding towards Rapture, and the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse will come galloping towards us just around tomorrow's corner. Mother Earth may shrug us off like so many annoying fleas. Or we might just go on, haltingly, just as we have been doing for some decades now.

What would you give for a quick glance at some future equivalent of a school history book? Alas, such glances are not allowed. All we have is our partial and imperfect knowledge of the past and the present and whatever ability we have to use these to predict the future. This is not that much more scientific than using tea leaves in the bottom of a cup to tell someone's fortune.

Which makes it very tough to tell whether Paul Krugman is correct in his latest column which warns us how perilous the current politics of this country are:


Democratic societies have a hard time dealing with extremists in their midst. The desire to show respect for other people's beliefs all too easily turns into denial: nobody wants to talk about the threat posed by those whose beliefs include contempt for democracy itself.

We can see this failing clearly in other countries. In the Netherlands, for example, a culture of tolerance led the nation to ignore the growing influence of Islamic extremists until they turned murderous.

But it's also true of the United States, where dangerous extremists belong to the majority religion and the majority ethnic group, and wield great political influence.

Before he saw the polls, Tom DeLay declared that "one thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America." Now he and his party, shocked by the public's negative reaction to their meddling, want to move on. But we shouldn't let them. The Schiavo case is, indeed, a chance to highlight what's going on in America.


The title of this column, It Can't Happen Here, is also the title of a book by Sinclair Lewis, published in the early 1930s and describing a mythical fascist America. It is an interesting read, though not necessarily for its literary assets. It tells us how well-meaning but slowly-reacting people become enmeshed in the web of power held together by a small group of extremists with values that initially appear very American but soon turn into something very nasty indeed. When the people finally react it is too late.

Is it too late, today? That is the question I had after reading Krugman's column, though it was quickly followed by other questions: Does it matter what any individual does if the Zeitgeist is changing? Does Krugman assess the danger to democracy correctly? Am I reacting so strongly because he taps into my own nightmares so very precisely? What to do, what to do?

It is customary to assume that to mention fascism in debates about the current U.S. administration is inappropriate, extremist and insulting, that fascism was somehow a unique event which could not happen again, which could not, ever, happen in America, and which had such devastating consequences to its victims that talking about fascism as some theoretical future possibility is just plain heartless.

Perhaps, then, we should talk about Rwanda or what happened to the Armenians in Turkey or what happened, not that long ago, in Kosovo? We could call the trend in this country something else than fascism. Pseudo-fascism is a term Orcinus has proposed. Maybe what Krugman's column discusses is not fascism at all, or even the rise of fundamentalism but something totally new and yet unnamed? Would any of this mean that we should be silent, right now, because to speak would make us look extremist and out of touch with the slow-moving, oblivious rhythms of the American Main Street?

The answer depends on those tea leaves and what they would tell us if we only could read them correctly. The answer depends on history. But I am asking you one question: If the choices were to be ridiculously wrong in shouting out that the sky is falling or submissively silent when the world collapses all around you, which role would be yours?

Today's Action Alert



Today's action comes from the National Organization of Women. Go to their website at http://www.nowpacs.org/alerts/democrats-letter-03-05.html and sign their petition telling Democratic leaders NOT to move to the right. The Democrats need to understand that Republican-lite won't win elections; in fact, it will lose them.

Thanks for taking today's action.

Monday, March 28, 2005

An Open Letter from Some Bloggers



Agonist wrote a letter about the reactions of some of us concerning the blogger panel with Jeff Gannon as a major voice of blogging and online journalism. In other words, we want to be heard, too. Here's the letter:


We, the undersigned bloggers, are very concerned about how liberal political bloggers are being systematically under-represented and belittled in the mainstream media, academic settings and media forums. By being intentionally excluded away from these venues, we are effectively pushed out of the discourse of opinion-leaders. The result is that the conventional wisdom about blogging, politics and journalism, as it concerns liberal blogs, becomes a feedback loop framed by the Conservatives and their media allies.

Indeed, just a few weeks ago, The Brookings Institution hosted a panel that originally included no liberal political bloggers and yet while including numerous conservative political operatives in the event. We registered our protest and the Brookings Institution's response was simply to invite a few liberal political bloggers to attend, yet not sit on the panel, as we had originally insisted upon.

Today, however, we are faced with an entirely new situation that is more insult than misrepresentation. The discredited conservative media operative Jeff Gannon, nee Guckert has been invited to sit on a panel at the prestigious National Press Club to talk about the scandal surrounding his access to the White House and more generally, the similarities and differences between bloggers and journalists. Guckert's token liberal counterpart will be a gossip blogger and sex comedy blogger. While we have nothing but the greatest respect for Mr. Graff and Ms. Cox we believe that neither represents bloggers who write about hard-nosed politics. And as for Mr. Guckert, he isn't a blogger, he's barely a journalist, and not a single political blogger involved with the Gannon/Guckert scandal, or otherwise, has been invited to sit on the panel to counter Mr. Guckert's arguments.

Therefore, we the undersigned bloggers, respectfully but firmly insist that a serious political blogger such as John Aravosis, of Americablog.org be included on the panel to fairly and accurately represent our industry and us. Mr. Aravosis has agreed to our request that he serve on the panel as our representative and is available should such an invite be forthcoming.

This situation is simply unacceptable. We will push back against the growing bias and sloppiness we see in the mainstream media as it concerns serious political blogging. If we do not we will never achieve any semblance of balance in the media. If we do not, we abdicate our ability to tell our own side of the story. If we do not we leave it to others to define us and defame us.

Please call Julie Shue at the The National Press Club and politely insist that they include John Aravosis of Americablog.org at their event. Here are there numbers: 202-662-7500 or 202-662-7501 or email at tglad@press.org and info@npcpress.org.

Sincerely,

Sean-Paul Kelley, http://www.agonist.org
DCMediagirl, http://www.dcmediagirl.com
Ezra Klein, http://ezraklein.typepad.com
Echidne of the snakes, http://www.echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com
Amanda Marcotte, http://www.pandagon.net
Mark Karlin, Editor and Publisher, http://www.BuzzFlash.com
Matt Stoller, http://bopnews.com
Democratic Underground http://www.democraticunderground.com/
Lindsay Beyerstein http://majikthise.typepad.com
Shakespeare's Sister, http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com and http://www.bigbrassblog.com
Bob Brigham, http://www.SwingStateProject.com
Dave Johnson, http://www.Seeingtheforest.com
Matt Singer, http://www.leftinthewest.com
Kos, http://www.dailykos.com
Kari Chisholm, http://www.blueoregon.com
Steve Gilliard, http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/
Crooks and Liars, http://www.crooksandliars.com/
Brian Balta, http://balta.blogspot.com
That Colored Fella, http://www.ThatColoredFellasweblog.bloghorn.com
Anna Brosovic http://annatopia.com/blog.html
skippy the bush kangaroo http://www.xnerg.blogspot.com
David Neiwert Orcinus http://www.dneiwert.blogspot.com
Julien 's List http://www.educatedeclectic.blogspot.com


Heh!



This is really worth a laugh or two: A planned panel on blogging will have, guess who as a representative of us bloggers (and online journalists)? Well, of course Wonkette will be there, she always is, but I didn't mean her. Guess again.

I bet you didn't get it! Jeff Gannon aka Jim Guckert! YEAH!

Here is the explanation for his presence. If you can call it an explanation:


Jeff Gannon is back. At the National Press Club?

Yes, the same day that the prestigious Washington, D.C., journalism organization plans to present a lunch talk by former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, it will also allow the former White House reporter/sex site operator to be on a panel discussing bloggers and online journalism.

Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, resigned his job with the conservative Talon News last month after it was revealed he had used a pseudonym, had little journalism background, and had ties to male escort Web sites.

Still, Press Club leaders will include Gannon on the panel April 8 that includes Wonkette.com editor Ana Marie Cox, National Journal's John Stanton, and others.

Gannon told E&P today that he always considered himself a legitimate journalist, and "perhaps their invitation is recognition of that."

Press Club President Rick Dunham, who also covers the White House for BusinessWeek, called Gannon "a figure in the news" who is involved in an important journalistic issue.

"The panel came together because we wanted to discuss some issues that came about from the Gannon case," said Mike Madden, a Gannett News Service reporter and a member of the Press Club's Professional Affairs committee, which is organizing the free event. "So we thought, why not try to get him?"


Let me off the merry-go-round! I'm getting dizzy.
---
Tip and the second link via dcmediagirl, work on the topic by Agonist

Tasteless



This blog has no taste. The colors clash and quarrel with each other and the darker green on the lighter green is hard to read. I feel a little sick every time I come and check it out. In my defense, I have very little taste to begin with but I also didn't have much choice among the templates in 2003 and I was eager to start talking right away. So I picked the least annoying of the available off-the-rack alternatives.

Now I want a makeover! All the tucks and cuts and paddings that are needed to make the blog look properly divine. But what is a properly divine look? Give me some ideas here, please.

Then there's the whole question of Work. Like if it's work to change everything over I probably will get to it some time around the year 3005. Blogging is hard work anyway!

Conscience Clause, Take Three



This is the third post I've written on this topic which will not go away. Conscience clauses are provisions in state laws which allow health care providers to refuse to provide certain services and/or to treat certain patients for reasons of conscience. Four states currently have such clauses in their books and eleven others are considering adding them.

The Washington Post (via Atrios) introduces yet another article on this topic, this time with specific emphasis on pharmacists and their rights to refuse to fill certain prescriptions.

Well, not "certain" prescriptions. Let's state the obvious: Both the pharmacist conscience clauses and the hullabaloo about dispensing are about birth control pills, in either the usual form or the emergency form, and the conscience reasons that are the focus of legal protection are those of pro-lifers. But for obvious reasons the laws don't just single out this one group of believers for protection, and, in theory, at least, the conscience clause could be used to deny certain types of patients (such as alcoholics and drug-addicts) non-emergency services altogether. It could also be used to protect a provider who refuses to treat, say, gays and lesbians or anyone else the provider dislikes.

So far the actual cases of pharmacists refusing to dispense have all been about birth control pills:


An increasing number of clashes are occurring in drugstores across the country. Pharmacists often risk dismissal or other disciplinary action to stand up for their beliefs, while shaken teenage girls and women desperately call their doctors, frequently late at night, after being turned away by sometimes-lecturing men and women in white coats.

"There are pharmacists who will only give birth control pills to a woman if she's married. There are pharmacists who mistakenly believe contraception is a form of abortion and refuse to prescribe it to anyone," said Adam Sonfield of the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, which tracks reproductive issues. "There are even cases of pharmacists holding prescriptions hostage, where they won't even transfer it to another pharmacy when time is of the essence."


The "holding the prescription hostage" bit is essentially denying the patient the treatment indicated by his or her physician, and this is how it is justified:


Brauer, of Pharmacists for Life, defends the right of pharmacists not only to decline to fill prescriptions themselves but also to refuse to refer customers elsewhere or transfer prescriptions.

"That's like saying, 'I don't kill people myself but let me tell you about the guy down the street who does.' What's that saying? 'I will not off your husband, but I know a buddy who will?' It's the same thing," said Brauer, who now works at a hospital pharmacy.


Now you know. Never mind that no research exists that would prove the contraceptive pill works as an abortifacient. The pharmacist knows better, somehow. Never mind also the many cases where women are prescribed the contraceptive pill as the treatment of some medical condition such as ovarian cysts or endometriosis. The pharmacist knows better, again.

The majority of pharmacists will not refuse to dispense contraceptives anytime soon, but the pro-life movement does seem to have moved to the second stage of its plan: get rid of contraception, even before the first stage: ban all abortions, was completed. Sadly, this probably means that the number of abortions will go up. Maybe Brauer should have considered this, too, in her gun parable?

More generally, increasing the religious rights of health care workers (a favorite project of Rick Santorum, by the way) will mean reduced rights of patients to receive suitable and timely care. Or at least care that complies with their own values.

Isn't it interesting how the extreme right-wingers are all for conscience clauses in health care yet totally opposed to anything of the sort in higher education? Wingnuts want professors to teach all theories even if they don't like some of them, but pharmacists should be allowed to refuse whatever they find unsavory. I bet that we'd have conscience clauses in academia, too, if they could somehow be made to apply to only wingnut professors and their teaching.

Which brings to mind Mr. Horowitz and his website of student complaints about lefty professors. Why not take a leaf from the wingnut book and start compiling a similar website of pharmacists with scruples? This would help consumers in shopping for the provider who is most likely to help them. Maybe this is what Atrios has in mind with his post on this topic?



On Guns



One of the three G's that keep the wingnuts going to the polls and voting against their own economic interests is guns. (The other two supposedly are gays and God.) I must come clean and admit that I have great difficulty understanding the American love affair with guns. I can see how banning guns now would be difficult to do, even if it wasn't against the basic beliefs of the country, because once you start riding the tiger it's hard to get off. Meaning that there are plenty of guns out there already, so that if you relinquish yours you might be toast when you meet someone who kept his or hers. But the idea that the right to bear arms is somehow a fundamental right is hard for me to grasp. Well, I have my lightning bolts and my magic, too.

Still, the National Rifle Association slogan about "guns not killing people but people killing people" is stupid. It's also true that nuclear weapons don't kill people and so on. What all these do is magnify the killing power of the people who use them, and the reason why the U.S. has such high murder death rates is in this magnifying power. Just think of someone who goes crazy in a school and decides to kill everybody in the building. How far would that person get with the plan without a firearm? Not very far at all.

Then there's the war against terrorism. One would think that making it hard for terrorists to acquire weapons would be an integral part of it. One would be wrong. In fact, terrorists could easily buy the most advanced weapons available in the United States, and if they did it in gun shows there might be no evidence of the purchase at all. If they shopped in the gun stores the evidence would be destroyed within twenty-four hours. Terrorists can't fly planes but they can buy automatic assault weapons! I hope that you sleep well knowing this little fact.

The reason for what looks like an inane policy by our administration has to do with the National Rifle Association (NRA). The Republican politicians are more afraid of the NRA than of the terrorists, as a new bill proposal makes clear:


But gun control advocates say they are dumbfounded by the timing of Congress' effort to indemnify the gun industry because it will come just weeks after the release of a troubling report on guns and terrorism. A Government Accountability Office report released earlier this month said that at least 36 individuals on the federal terrorist "watch list" have walked into gun shops and bought weapons. The report makes the current effort in Congress to provide immunity to the industry painfully ironic to the gun control crowd. "It really ought to be an embarrassment that Congress would push this bill in the wake of a report that terrorists are buying guns over the counter," said Dennis Henigan, legal action project director at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Observers say the strange juxtaposition speaks to the momentous clout of the National Rifle Association and the gun industry -- and may have exposed like never before a glaring blind spot in homeland security. Where the Bush administration's "war on terror" has conflicted with the interests and raw political power of the gun lobby, mounting evidence shows that the war consistently loses. Henigan noted that suspects on the government's terror watch list cannot board airplanes or cruise ships, but they can buy assault weapons. "There is no question that this radical pro-gun ideology trumps the war on terror," he said. "It is quite striking."


"Striking" isn't the adjective that comes first to mind here, but it will do. This particular law proposal would make it even harder for the government to fight terrorism but it would make the lives of gun-dealers more pleasant. A fair trade, some might argue. But then those are the people who also keep telling us that guns don't kill people...

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Chicks on Politics



No, this is not about Easter and the lovely little yellow bundles of joy this time of the year (which will later on be eaten). It's about women in political programs on television. Atrios today posted on a show about religion which had no women amongst the experts who discussed the topic. As S in Mich in the Eschaton comments noted, there is good precedent for this omission, at least among the Christians:


I Cor. 14:34 and 35:

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.


So. But of course the television screen is not a church, at least not yet. And in any case, the particular guy spouting off in the above quote was not God but an ordinary faulty human being, one who felt threatened by all the smart and uppity women amongst the congregants, one who could care less if the husbands of the said women understood anything at all themselves.

It's hard to fathom what is politics in these days of political fervor. I suspect that politics always played a big role in religion and now religion plays a big role in politics. Which is not good news for anyone who believes in progress over time as most fundamentalist religions are fairly stuck in an era at least a thousand years ago, and believe in maxims such as the one quoted above.

Even in the wider sense politics is not really a field in which women are prevalent as experts. A FAIR study that used data from 2002 came up with these findings:


While women made up only 15 percent of total sources, they represented more than double that share-- 40 percent-- of the ordinary citizens in the news. This reflects a tendency to quote men as the vast majority of authoritative voices while presenting women as non-experts; women made up only 9 percent of the professional and political voices that were presented. More than half of the women (52 percent) who appeared on the news were presented as average citizens, whereas only 14 percent of male sources were.

The balance was roughly equal among networks. NBC, with 18 percent, had slightly more female sources (of whom 53 percent were non-authorities), while ABC and CBS both presented 14 percent (of whom 48 percent and 55 percent, respectively, were ordinary citizens).

Even in coverage of gender-related policies (which made up 0.2 percent of coverage), women made up only 43 percent of the sources. On such issues as equal opportunity, gender equality and discrimination, partisan sources made up 24 percent of the total; 71 percent of these were Republicans and 29 percent Democrats. All of these partisan sources were men. Women were presented as non-expert citizens 77 percent of the time in gender stories. Men, by contrast, spoke as experts in their fields 100 percent of the time in such stories.


One might argue that these numbers just reflect the way our society is: most experts, after all, are still men. But are the actual gender breakdowns of experts the same as those revealed by these numbers? I doubt it, especially as even on gender-related politics it is mostly men that get the expert perches, while the "ordinary people", the ones that are assumed to be affected by the topic under discussion, were here overwhelmingly seen as women (77%).

It's funny, isn't it? How gender politics are really politics about women, not about gender at all. This is because of the way things are set in hierarchies in our minds. Like there is an "average human being" in our minds, and that tends to be a picture of a man, so when we talk about gender politics our minds interpret that as meaning anything which differs from the "average", anything which is on some side-ladder. Or this is my theory, anyway.

A more recent FAIR study looked at women's participation in Sunday morning talkshow panels:


FAIR looked at Sunday morning talkshow panels, where two to four journalists (political reporters as well as columnists) often join the shows' hosts to discuss the week's big political stories. The study examined six months (9/1/04-2/28/05) of NBC's Chris Matthews Show and Meet the Press, ABC's This Week and Fox News Sunday. (CBS had no consistent panel feature on analogous shows.)

Surprisingly, NBC's Chris Matthews Show came out almost exactly even on gender, with 51 men and 49 women. Unfortunately, the show is unique in its gender balance: This Week and Fox News Sunday hewed more closely to the print media's unspoken "quota of one" for female pundits, featuring 22 percent and 25 percent women respectively. Meet the Press—which occasionally included more than one woman per panel and once (2/20/05) even filled its panel with four—had 39 percent women.

All of the program hosts, who direct the discussions, are white men: NBC's Chris Matthews and Tim Russert, ABC's George Stephanopoulos and Fox's Chris Wallace.

But which women get to speak? Certainly not women of color. While the Chris Matthews Show did well on gender parity, every one of its 49 female panelists was white. The only two appearances by non-white women in the six months studied were PBS's Gwen Ifill (Meet the Press, 10/24/04) and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile (This Week, 2/27/05). And Brazile falls into a somewhat different category—unlike the other shows, This Week's pundit roundtable sometimes includes newsmakers like her in addition to journalists.

Male pundits showed more ethnic diversity. Most of the shows have either a regular or semi-regular non-white male panelist (Juan Williams on Fox News Sunday, Fareed Zakaria on This Week, Clarence Page on the Chris Matthews Show)—once again, essentially a quota of one. That unspoken quota system works against women of color: One "woman" is generally interpreted as one white woman, and one "person of color" as one man of color; once those quotas are filled, there's no room left for any more diversity.


If there is such an unspoken quota system, it's because of the hierarchy view I argued above. If white men correspond to our views of what is "average" then adding a pinch of women and a dab of blacks and so on seems sufficient to brew a diverse stew of opinions. If, on the other hand, we looked at actual population percentages of various groups these pinches and dabs are totally inadequate.

But should we base the argument on population percentages? Many argue that this is not fair because the real problem is in the lack of women and minorities among the groups from which guests on these shows are drawn. If, for example, there are very few black women in journalism then shows that invite journalists to speak can't have very many black women on. This would move the responsibility for change one step backwards, to those institutions that gatekeep journalism. - The crucial question here is to find out the numbers of black female journalists, in general, and then to compare them to the data presented above.

Should we care about the underrepresentation of certain groups in political tv debates? The answer depends on ones values and on what one thinks such debates contribute. My values argue that everybody should have a say in how we govern our shared matters. I also believe that women or minorities might come up with points that men or whites might not think of as important, just because, on average, our racial and gender makeups do affect what we experience in this life. This doesn't mean that, say, a woman should somehow be invited to a talkshow to give the "women's point of view", because there is no such thing, just as there is no such thing as "the black's point of view". But if we had true diversity in these shows we'd ultimately learn more viewpoints than we do if most of those contributing had exactly the same sort of lives.

For example, assume that the religion show that Atrios mentioned had included me as a minor goddess in its invitations. Surely my presence would have changed the debate somewhat, don't you think?

There are those who argue that women don't care about politics in the same numbers as men do and that therefore we shouldn't expect as many women's faces or voices in political media. Maybe. I'm not convinced by this argument until we define politics as the care of common matters and ask women if they are uninterested in this shared endeavor. Too often politics is defined as fighting and power-grabbing, and then we wonder why women, usually trained not to come across as interested in such activities, might state that they dislike politics.

Now, I love politics of both types. A good fight is great and I'll grab all the power I can because I can use it better than most politicans you could mention, but I'm also seriously interested in the way we take care of this planet and its inhabitants, and I suspect that the majority of other women are, too. And I'd really like to hear more ideas on how to do these chores, more ideas from whites and blacks, from men and women, from all of us, in fact.

Time For Self-Flagellations



In my religion, that is. While others celebrate with great joy I am ready for some heated self-criticism. Because of one comment in my comments, one among all the nice and praising ones, this one:


Funny. Kathra Pollit said that you were a good writer but once again, I am treated to typical angry defensive whining that confirms anti-feminist stereotypes rather than subverts them. Brittle sarcasms ahoy.

How do feminists manage to sound so much exactly like each other?

I would personally like to thank you for all the liberating tedium you've brought to the Democratic Party.


Of course this is really a compliment in disguise as the commenter mentions how Katha Pollitt likes my writing (yeah!). But then he or she (most likely he) complains that I'm whining and defensive and brittle. And that I sound just like all other feminists. And that I'm tedious.

Now, I happen to know the answer to the question why all feminists sound exactly the same. It's because we are all made from the same gingerbread dough in a secret feminazi lair somewhere in Limbaugh country, and the exact same mould is used every time, the one with a woman shaking her fist in the air. That explains the brittleness of my sarcasm, too, at least for anyone who has ever bitten into a gingerbread cookie. They are brittle and crunchy.

The tedium in the commenter's mind may come from the fact that I rarely write about sex, rarely mention my divine ability to have multiple orgasms while brushing my teeth, rarely include pictures of sweaty sex. Or perhaps it's because of all the long words I use? Like "gingerbread" and "democracy"? I will try to do better in the future, of course, I always do.

Whiny and defensive, that's me. Yes. When someone attacks me or my beliefs I defend, and I whine as much as I can. It's fun and it turns some people off which makes it even more fun. Of course I also attack a lot and boom and swear some, too, but this doesn't seem to attract the same anti-feminist attention. They are all too busy whining about their victim-status to notice, I guess.

This turned out all wrong. I was supposed to do deep self-examinations and to find many things in me to work on, to improve upon, and I was supposed to end up all penitent. Instead, I whined and defended some more. I'm clearly beyond any hope of improvement whatsoever.

That's probably because I'm a goddess and goddesses and gods are not very good at self-flagellation. We tend to find the idea quite funny, and then we just go on exactly as we were before. Like perfect.

Merry Easter!



For those who celebrate it, merry Spring for everybody! I have had another twenty-four hour sleep episode. That's what my human body does with migraine attacks these days. And it works, but of course the world goes on in the meantime and waking up is very odd. Not to mention the glued eyelids and the sore back.

I was dreaming about Wolfowitz! He was my bank-appointed custodian (I was an heiress in this dream), and he kept measuring the amount of water I consumed and telling me that I was drinking too much for the good of America. Then he argued that my parking place belonged to someone else, and I kept sneaking out to park in the woods. - A stupid dream as most of them are, but it has its connections to reality and the events in it.

This post is the stretching one, to get my writing going again. That's why it has nothing of importance in it and would usually end in my private files (with all the IHATEYOU posts), but I feel so guilty about not posting for a while that I will post this one, just to show that I still exist.