Saturday, August 20, 2005

John Roberts, A Friend Of Women?

Probably not exactly. Roberts's early career shows a distinct tendency towards doubting the wisdom of equal rights for women. For example

Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. consistently opposed legal and legislative attempts to strengthen women's rights during his years as a legal adviser in the Reagan White House, disparaging what he called "the purported gender gap" and, at one point, questioning "whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good."

In internal memos, Roberts urged President Ronald Reagan to refrain from embracing any form of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment pending in Congress; he concluded that some state initiatives to curb workplace discrimination against women relied on legal tools that were "highly objectionable"; and he said that a controversial legal theory then in vogue -- of directing employers to pay women the same as men for jobs of "comparable worth" -- was "staggeringly pernicious" and "anti-capitalist."

Roberts's thoughts on what he called "perceived problems" of gender bias are contained in a vast batch of documents, released yesterday, that provide the clearest, most detailed mosaic so far of his political views on dozens of social and legal issues. Senators have said they plan to mine his past views on such topics, which could come before the high court, when his confirmation hearings begin the day after Labor Day.

Given that Roberts is to take the seat of Sandra O'Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, it is interesting to note that

As a lawyer in the Reagan White House, John Roberts scoffed at the notion of elevating Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to chief justice as a way to close a political gender gap, calling it a "crass political consideration."

On another topic, Roberts, who was nominated as a justice by President Bush last month, advised the White House to strike language from a description of a housing bill that referred to the "fundamental right to be free from discrimination." He said that "there of course is no such right."

The comparable worth theory of pay was one used by some states for determining wages and salaries in jobs traditionally held by one gender alone. It tried to address the kinds of problems that arose when a state would pay a nutritionist for children a lot less than someone who fed animals in a zoo, just because the former was more likely to be a woman than the latter and therefore had lower paying alternatives to the state employment. The idea was to list all the tasks that comprised a job and to price each of them independently of the market forces to arrive at final earnings scales. The nutritionist and the zoo employer might end up getting paid roughly the same salaries under such a scheme. This would create more work for the state and also possibly problems in the labor markets (lots of people wanting to be nutritionists, not that many wanting to work as animal feeders in zoos), and hence wasn't always popular even among liberals.

So attacking this particular theory doesn't necessarily mean that Roberts was opposed to women being treated better by the labor markets. Though it may mean just that. It's hard to know. What is fairly obvious from the above quotes is that Roberts was a flippant young lawyer with no understanding of women or their economic concerns. He was also obviously a full-blown conservative.

The important question is what Roberts is like today, as a middle-aged wingnut lawyer. Will he still oppose anything even faintly smelling of gender equality? Does he still think that there is no fundamental right to be free of discrimination? Does he believe that replacing O'Connor with Roberts is not based on "crass political considerations"? Is he a covert agent for the U.S. Branch of International Misogynists United? Remember that we are going to have this guy ruling over decisions for the next thirty years or so. Do we want him deciding on the rights of our granddaughters? Or the lack of such rights?

What are his views on abortion? Roberts refuses to give them. Don't we have a right to know how he would decide on a case that might overturn Roe vs. Wade? That Roe vs. Wade is currently established law is irrelevant for someone in the Supreme Court. Yet that is the answer Roberts has given: that he can't comment on established law.

And what else do we know of Roberts's views on women? Our friendly queen of the wingnuts, Phyllis Schlafly, argues that Roberts must value women more now as he married a feminist. Who is openly pro-life. And George Bush married a librarian, so whom people marry may not tell us very much about their general opinions.

I feel very dissatisfied with all I have learned about Roberts. Like after having an inadequate restaurant meal with a large check at the end. I want more food for thought. Or I want to cancel the check.


I have something on American Street today. More to follow, probably, as well as something here, too.

The nice thing about blogging and not getting paid for it is that I can decide not to write on something important just because I don't feel like writing about it. But it still leaves a guilty conscience. So maybe I should mention that the state of Ohio is going down the Republican drains real fast and that you should read all about it on other blogs, and that we are still killing and dying in Iraq for reasons that were inadequate for all thinking individuals even before the dratted war started, and that the flypaper theory means to lure the terrorists to London instead of New York and it most likely isn't working anyway. And Karl Rove is still a very bad person.

No doubt I will feel like writing about all of this in the near future, once my jet lag is completely dissolved. Hank and Henrietta are finally liking me again, and the garden beckons, too. It looks like a jungle in which King Kong has sat, and needs some stern scissor action and lots of rope. Plus, I have all those chocolate presents from the trip to eat. The ones I intended to give away. It's nice to be a selfish goddess.

Friday, August 19, 2005

On the Cindy Sheehan Question

This is the current big topic in the Wingnuttia, the question of how to silence a mother who lost a son in Bush's crazy wars and who now wants to talk to Bush about it.

The answer is to accuse her of everything under the sun: of selfishness, of arrogance, of dividing the country (!). This answer has worked so well in the past for the wingnuts, and there is no reason to change a recipe if it tastes good.

The nail that sticks up gets hammered down. This used to be a Japanese proverb, I think, but these days it describes the public sphere of the United States real well. So Sheehan is a nail and Michelle Malkin and the other wingnuts wield the hammer.

Friday Cat Blogging

A European

This is Mike. He bites like hell when you pet him too long. The rest of his time he spends eating raw meat, killing waterrats and making weird noises in cat language.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

That Such A Thing Could Happen

Someone handed me a Christmas card in Europe, intended to be opened no earlier than the 24th of December, 2005. This so that the person could save the postage on the card.

Thrift can be taken too far, just as all other virtues, and this seems too far for me, especially as the person in question owns five buildings. Or perhaps the thrift is a reason for the five buildings. Anyway, my feelings were hurt by the whole episode. I'm not worth the price of a stamp, it seems. And what if I drop dead before Christmas? Then the whole card will be wasted, and I will feel awful.

Do you know any ordinary people? It often seems to me that I don't.

Men As Unemployable Sperm Donors

A former BBC newsreader, one Michael Buerk, thinks that the balance of power between the genders has veered too far towards women and that this has left men with very little. All men are good for now is sperm production. At least in Britain. This is what Mr. Buerk said:

Buerk cited women in the top jobs in BBC broadcasting as an example, saying "these are the people who decide what we see and hear", and said society needs to admit there is a problem.

"Life is now being lived according to women's rules", he told the Radio Times. "The traits that have traditionally been associated with men - reticence, stoicism, single-mindedness - have been marginalised.

"The result is that men are becoming more like women. Look at the men who are being held up as sporting icons - David Beckham and, God forbid, Tim Henman."

The former Nine O'Clock News presenter said some changes have been for the good, but asked: "What are the men left with?"

"Men gauge themselves in terms of their career, but many of those have disappeared. All they are is sperm donors, and most women aren't going to want an unemployable sperm donor loafing around and making the house look untidy. They are choosing not to have a male in the household."

Funny guy, this Mr. Buerk. An even funnier (and in a different sense of "funny") gal is Ros Taylor who answered Mr. Buerk very well:

Not to bring up a sensitive subject, Michael, but that's bollocks. A European Commission for Equal Opportunities survey in 2002 put the proportion of women in middle management at 30%, and that included females working in "administrative positions". The controller of BBC1 is now Peter Fincham. True, a number of women hold senior jobs in TV. Two of them even edit national dailies. But anyone who imagines that Rebekah Wade has feminised the Sun needs to take a look at Page Three, and a glance at the BBC Four schedule suggests that controller Janice Hadlow is hardly indulging the foibles of female viewers.

How about men's "reticence, stoicism and single-mindedness"? Curiously, the Adam Smith Institute recently suggested that it was just these qualities in women that made them less likely to obtain firsts at Oxford and Cambridge. "The boy sees the big picture, takes risks, and often misses important material," one (male) don explained. "The girl is systematic, does the detailed work, and sometimes misses the central thesis."

Mr Buerk is also worried about falling sperm counts. Let me explain the logic, Michael. Women take the Pill in order to oestrogenise the water supply and ensure we get promoted over testosterone-deficient men at work. That way, we can get pregnant and … oh well, never mind. Put it this way: if this is life under the stiletto, then for God's sake kick us back into the kitchen. We're doing a poor job of running the world for our own benefit.

Instead of trying to exceed the funniness quotient of these quotes I want to look at the seedy underside of Mr. Buerk's thinking. For example, he thinks that a world which is still quite strongly weighted towards favoring his sex is a world that isn't adequately unbalanced in his favor. He also generalizes from a few female bosses whom he seems to have disliked to the whole gender. Or perhaps the direction of his thinking went in the opposite direction: he dislikes women so female bosses must be bad? I don't know, but that's the impression I get.

But it's even more striking how little Mr. Buerk thinks of men. Surprising, really, considering that he is a man himself. He can't see any reason for a woman to have a man around unless he's paying her in some way. In Mr. Buerk's world men indeed would become unemployable sperm donors, because that is how he appears to view them: as either buying the sex or just giving it away for nothing. What a meager and nasty world this is.

It's a relief that my world isn't like that. Men are very fascinating just as they are, and there are many reasons for having one or two in the house, completely independently of their sperm or income levels.

Still, I feel sorry for Mr. Buerk, for the fear he feels and for the way he sees his whole world collapsing. It must be very painful, even though none of it is real. All the same, he should have limited his ideas to the ears of his therapist. That's what I do with all the really funny stuff.
Props to Siobhan41 and Hybrid0

I'm Ba-a-ack!

Still jet lagged and that makes me stupid, but I'm back home and quite happy that everything went well. First, my heartfelt thanks to Pseudo-Adrienne who guest blogged so expertly while I was gone. She's one my idols. You can get more of her writings on Alas, A Blog, where you can also read Ampersand and friends.

My European trip wasn't really a vacation but a family visit, which explains the lack of interesting touristy stories. But you might like to hear my most startling observation I made while over there: the large number of young dads proudly spending time with their children. The difference from here is noticeable, as is the difference from my earlier trips. I think that something is changing in Europe, and I'd call it family values.

I have to spend some time getting re-immersed in American politics to post on it in a way which my demanding readers would appreciate, but in the meantime I have some posts on cross-cultural differences and stuff in the oven. Also posts on the dogs: can you imagine that they still haven't forgiven me for my absence? I get a fishy look when I try to stroke them, and then the addressed dog turns and walks away. Probably serves me right, but I really needed some licks myself. Well, I'm the one with the thumbs and the can-opener, so the rebellion won't last too long.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Tips for A Clean Home!

These are courtesy of hmj, but I agree whole-heartedly. Life is too short to stuff a mushroom and probably also too short to peel one. If this is true, who on earth has time for all that vacuuming?

Layers of dirty film on windows and screens provide a helpful filter
against harmful and aging rays from the sun. Call it an SPF factor of 15
and leave it alone

Cobwebs artfully draped over lampshades reduce the glare from the bulb,
thereby creating a romantic atmosphere. If your partner points out that
the light fixtures need dusting, simply look confused and exclaim "What?
And spoil the mood?" (Or just throw glitter on them and call them
holiday decorations.)

Pet Hair:
Explain the mound of pet hair brushed up against the doorways by
claiming you are collecting it there to use for stuffing hand-sewn play
animals for underprivileged children. (Also keeps out cold drafts in

If unexpected company is coming, pile everything unsightly into one room
and close the door. As you show your guests through your tidy home,
rattle the door knob vigorously, fake a growl and say, "I'd love you to
see our den, but Fluffy hates to be disturbed and the shots are SO

General Cleaning:
Mix one-quarter cup pine-scented household cleaner with four cups of
water in a spray bottle. Mist the air lightly. Leave dampened rags in
conspicuous location. Develop an exhausted look, throw yourself on the
couch and sigh, "I clean and I clean and I still don't get anywhere."
As a last resort, light the oven, throw a teaspoon of cinnamon in a pie
pan, turn off oven and explain that you have been baking cookies for a
bake sale for a favorite charity and haven't had time to clean . . .
works every time!

Travel News

I am turning my divine nose towards the U.S. and should be back on Wednesday. Until then I won't have access to the blogosphere. Sniff.

Here is a nice dog picture. I missed the Saturday dog blogging but luckily Helga's Kelly is willing and able to pose on a Monday.

Now behave even though I won't be checking on you every minute of the day!