Saturday, February 14, 2009

Will You Be My Valentine?

Mwah to all of you.

Here's something to do today: A right-wing Hindu group, Sri Ram Sena, attacked Indian women in a pub one afternoon, in the name of taking care of that upholding-the-manners-and-culture business (which means pulling women by their hair and such, to keep things traditional and demure), and then:

A group of Indian women have started the awesomely-named Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women and launched a campaign to send pink panties, or chaddis, to Pramod Muthalik, leader of the Sri Ram Sena, in protest of his misogynist horseshit.

And, then, on Valentine's Day, women across the world are being encouraged to: "Go to a pub wherever you are. From Kabul to Chennai to Guwahati to Singapore to LA women have signed up. It does not matter if you are actually not a pub-goer or not even much of a drinker. Let us raise a toast (it can be juice) to Indian women. Take a photo or video. We will put it together (more on how later) and send this as well to the Sri Ram Sena."

Neat, eh?

Lessons of the Hour by Anthony McCarthy

Surely John Boehner’s declaration yesterday, saying that he hoped the stimulus bill worked were the most dishonest words spoken in the country this month. The Republicans are scared to death that it will work, that the Democrats will, once again, have repaired the massive damage that their party has done to this country. They are afraid that it will work and the American People will stop believing their lies and understand the real nature of the modern Republican Party. That reality is clear, the Republican Party hates the United States. That is they hate the United States when it lives up to the ideals of Lincoln, that it be a party “for The People”. They hate it when it’s building school, building railroads and other vital public infrastructure. They hate it when it is providing children with health care, when it is protecting women and minorities from discrimination and hate. They hate the United States when it safeguards the integrity of our justice system, when it prevents sadists from using offices of the state to satisfy their perversion. They hate the United States when it is protecting the environment which we all depend on for our lives. They only love the United States the way a con man loves an easy mark.

The truth of the Republican response to President Obama’s attempts at bipartisanship them is laid out for everyone to see this week. In their lock step refusal to put the good of the country before partisan gamesmanship, in the insistence of the pathetic “moderate” Republican three to damage the effectiveness of jobs creation and other public benefits in the bill, they have shown what it takes to work with Republicans. You have to betray the public trust, you have to betray the founding principles of the country, you have to do it their way. Judd Gregg’s bizarre antics have shown that you can’t even work with them by going more than half way. You try to reach out your hand, they try to stab it, you honor them, they spit in your face.

Republicans don’t want the government to work for The People, they see it as a vehicle to rob The People, to use public office as means of gaining wealth for their patrons, the oligarches. The Peoples’ use for Republicans is to produce wealth, get their wages stolen and as cannon fodder when they want to throw a war.

Good government, government that provides efficient services and builds sound infrastructure is anathema to modern Republicans. The Paulson giveaways, the whole scale thefts of the Bush II regime, the gutting of regulatory agencies, all of those are models of Republican government. Those are a clear example of how Republicans want government to work. They don’t want it to work the way its supposed to, they can steal so much more of it when there is secrecy and chaos.

Speaking of Paulson. Someone on the radio recently explained his last weeks in office by explaining that he had serious ideological problems with the TARP program, which he insisted was absolutely necessary to save the financial system. In the end, after he had his hands on the money with permission to distribute it, he couldn’t bring himself to ask his pals to use it the way congress and The People had been told was necessary. He couldn’t bring himself to make strict conditions as to how that money would be used. We don’t know if the gentlemen making these deals with him shook his hand or made the boy scout salute as a guarantee that it would be used to get the credit system going again or that The People would be getting fair value for their investment in their rotting, criminally managed institutions. Well, that is typical of Republican morality. You can be sure that if it was Paulson’s own money that he was handing out, he’d have gotten his guarantees in writing. Seeing as it was The Peoples’ money, perhaps an unstated gentleman’s agreement would suffice, a wink and a nod. Needless to say, there should be an investigation to see how much of that money can be recovered and to equalize the stake which the government has in the institutions it has invested in. It should be a dollar for a dollar, at the minimum. Paulson should be held accountable, that’s the least we can demand of our representatives who took him at his word. They should have known better. I would imagine some of them do now.

And in that is also a warning for Tim Geithner, one whose lesson he has to be made to hear. Some news reports said that he had successfully resisted mandatory caps on executive compensation in distributing the next installment of TARP. He apparently has similar scruples against applying standards in lending he, no doubt, would insist on if it was his money being invested.. I had my doubts about him when he was named, I think just about all of those with close ties to the financial system have similar emotional attachments to a morality that has clearly been shown by history to be false. Geithner, it’s not your money. You only have in trust, The Peoples’ trust. Which you are in the process of wasting, you’ve got at most one more chance. And you might not even have that unless you go way beyond your clearly insufficient personal code. They said you were a smart guy, it’s not that hard to figure out.

Others in the Obama administration should be wondering if maybe the guy was the wrong choice for treasury.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Comparing oppressions (by Suzie)

         Comparing and contrasting has a rich history in writing and can be done in different ways to illuminate a subject. Comparing apples and oranges can be appropriate if I’m discussing the nutritional content of fruit, for example. If I compare genocide in Rwanda with the Holocaust, I may learn something by examining how they differed and how they were alike.
        Some people equate “comparing oppressions” with “deciding which oppressions are worse.” This has gotten tagged as oppression Olympics.
        I try to steer clear of that minefield. Instead, I venture into another one: I often use comparisons when I think people get one subject but not another. Examples can be found in the post below on cancer.
        Here’s a well-known example from the presidential election: Some white liberals who would never dream of saying something racist had no problem saying something sexist. When I challenged friends, the answer was always the same: They thought racism was worse than sexism. Once that was out in the open, I could discuss why they thought sexism wasn’t that bad. I could do that without arguing that racism is no longer a problem; that sexism is worse than racism; that the history of racism and sexism are the same; or that all oppressions work in the same way. I could discuss this, knowing that what people say and do can differ, and that anti-racist whites can still do things that disadvantage people of color.
        Comparing gender and race has a long history in feminism, most notably among the suffragists who worked in the abolition movement and the ’60s feminists who supported the civil rights movement.
        Some people dislike comparisons of oppression because they believe that their oppression is worse, and that others have no right to compare themselves. Here’s an example from a review of a book by Monique Wittig:
Although I don't believe in “comparing oppressions,” I am amazed at the audacity of women who are descended from a group that actually OWNED other women who then can turn around and compare themselves to a group in whose oppression their own ancestors explicitly participated.
          I wish people would understand that, if someone thinks her oppression is worse, then she is comparing oppressions.

Cancer, women and politics (by Suzie)

         The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a public awareness campaign for the five most common types of gynecologic cancer. That’s admirable, and I support it. Last year, however, I complained that there was no mention of gyn sarcoma, the rare and aggressive cancer I have. (I've written about that, with an analogy to feminist politics.)
         At a recent medical conference, when I mentioned sarcoma to the two women at the CDC table, they looked annoyed. In a patronizing tone, they told me that experts had decided what was important. 
         Later, a CDC researcher talked about how women with ovarian cancer had pushed for the awareness campaign. If women with sarcoma wanted inclusion, they needed to push just as hard, he said. I couldn’t get across the idea that it’s unfair to ask a group with much fewer numbers to be just as vocal and do just as much work. 
         Women with gyn sarcoma represent 1-2 percent of all gyn cancers (although we may be undercounted). In comparison, Jews make up a similar percentage in the U.S. population, while people who identify as American Indian are even less. At what percentage point do we judge people not worthy of our attention?
         I talk about women with rare cancers, in regard to racial and religious minorities, not to suggest our discrimination is the same, but to address how society makes use of its resources. Should we focus on the majority to get the biggest bang for the buck? On the people most likely to do well? On those with the greatest needs? On those who have gotten the least help in the past?
        We're lucky that we have experts to make these decisions for us.

Friday sunset blogging (by Suzie)

This is a century plant near Los Angeles. You don't get the scale in this photo, but the stalk is bigger than a person.

‘Dollhouse’ debuts tonight (by Suzie)

         The new show by Joss Whedon is on Fox at 9 p.m. EST, after “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” “Battlestar Galactica” comes on at 10 p.m. on the Sci Fi channel. For fans like me, it will be a terrific trifecta, a fabulous Friday the 13th.
          From io9:
Whedon has admitted that much of Dollhouse analogizes the issues around prostitution, as his Dolls, or "Actives," are being hired out to perform roles that are dangerous, sexual, or emotionally intimate without their knowledge or consent.
          I get that the show is being sold, in part, on sex and violence, and the marketing makes me crazy. In this interview with PinkRaygun, Whedon expresses his concerns, in regard to star and co-producer Eliza Dushku:
[A]re we actually making a comment about the way people use each other that is useful and interesting and textured or are we just putting her in a series of hot outfits and paying lip service to the idea of asking the questions?
          I trust Joss to do his best to reach people who wouldn’t otherwise be talking about human trafficking and identity vs. objectification. Whedon has long supported Equality Now, helping to raise great gobs of money for the international women’s rights organization whose issues include the trafficking of women. He discussed the show with the Equality Now board, he says in this interesting NPR interview.
         From SciFi Scanner:
Q: You're a feminist. How does a show about women being subjugated fit in with that?
A: It's terrifying. There's no way you can avoid the idea that this feels like high-end human trafficking. But what I'm interested in is the idea of a woman who has no identity, who is gradually becoming self-aware and saying, "I think I know more than they want me to." It hurts me and intrigues me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

This is What I've Been Working On

A health care article.

Where The Buck Does Not Stop

This sounds like fun:

Greenspan Says He Was Mystified by Subprime Market

Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, told CNBC in a documentary to be shown Thursday night that he did not fully understand the scope of the subprime mortgage market until well into 2005 and could not make sense of the complex derivative products created out of mortgages.

"So everybody in retrospect now knows that that boom was developing under the markets for quite a period of time, but nobody knew it," Mr. Greenspan told CNBC's David Faber. "In 2004, there was just no credible information on that. It wasn't until we got well into 2005 that the first inklings that that was developing was emerging," he said.

Next time you get that worrying feeling that you might not be qualified for some job you'd like to apply for just remember that Greenspan didn't think he had to understand some rinky-dinky market to run the money supply of this country. Neither did he ever express much doubt about the wisdom of the markets in general. But it's still someone else's fault.

What makes me disinclined to believe this 'not mea culpa' is that someone as far removed from the centers of power as a lowly goddess of snakes was wondering about all this trading and packaging long before 2004. For one thing, there was something very odd about the way banks kept eating up each other, so that some months she couldn't remember what the name of her bank now was or who held her mortgage or her house insurance policy.

It was almost as if you woke up one morning and into the bedroom walked some stranger, telling you that your sweetie had traded contracts with this stranger who was, from that moment onwards, to take over the duties of being your partner. And nobody knew?


Remember the earlier post about the Wicked Witch of the East? The one which included a video showing Bill O'Reilly making 'fun' of Helen Thomas? Well, there were complaints about that and now we get the response. Be prepared for fish-and-bicycles!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Walking Down The Street Today

I spotted an ad for a diet program: "Lose up to 25lbs! Guaranteed!" I'm sure they can guarantee that, because the only thing they are NOT guaranteeing is losing more than 25lbs. If gaining is viewed as losing minus-signed pounds then even someone getting heavier in the program would still be within the spirit of that ad.

Ads are like that, of course. Sales tell us that we can save up to 90% of the price (which might literally mean that some items have no discounts at all), but most of the discounts will be a lot less than 90%.

Political language is often similar to advertising, so you need to stay alert to figuring out what's wrong with the promises or the figures quoted on behalf one plan or against it.

On Rationing in Health Care

Rush Limbaugh has gone wild talking about the scary monsters hidden inside the stimulus package, including the assertion that the proposal to increase the use of IT in health care means that the government will decide if you are gonna get treated or not. Rush's monsters are not real, naturally, but once he released them into the wingnut space of the media they cropped up elsewhere:

Summary: During appearances on Lou Dobbs Tonight and Glenn Beck, Dobbs and Beck allowed Betsy McCaughey to advance the false claim that provisions in the economic recovery act would permit the government to control health care. In fact, the provisions she cited address establishing an electronic records system in part for the purpose of "reduc[ing] health care costs resulting from inefficiency, medical errors, inappropriate care, duplicative care, and incomplete information." It does not say that the federal government will determine what constitutes "unnecessary care."

My reason for talking about this is this: We are always going to have something or someone determine what constitutes "unnecessary care." Right now in this country it's likely to be your insurance provider, perhaps your health care provider and ultimately your wallet. Note that for someone without any insurance and not much money practically all care is deemed "unnecessary."

It's important to be clear about this. Even a completely unregulated market system of health care provision has rationing of care. It just doesn't look like that to us, because we are used to seeing such a system as somehow fulfilling every need we have. But it does not. And the way care is rationed in such a system is by the ability of the patients to pay.

In a mostly government-owned system, such as the one in Canada or the U.K., care is indeed at least partially rationed by the governments. But that does not mean that a civil servant sits in at your doctor visits and refuses treatments. It's just that some treatments are not covered by the national systems or that they have a long waiting time.

Thus, the choice we have is not between some kind of an imaginary system of abundance-for-all and some type of rationing; the choice is between different types of rationing.

Where The Girls Are Not

Oh, lots of such places. But one of immediate interest is the House/Senate Conference on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Here's the list of the committee members:

Senate Democratic leadership has announced who will be serving on the conference committee to iron out differences in the House and Senate versions of the stimulus bill.

* Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
* Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.
* Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii
* Finance Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley, R-Iowa
* Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

Both Finance and Appropriations were heavily involved in the creation of the Senate version, with each committee holding markups on their portions.

And for the House:

* Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, D-Wis.
* Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
* Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
* Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif.
* Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Dave Camp, R-Mich.

Count the girls. Perhaps Nancy Pelosi is involved in some way? I'm not sure. But it's not impossible to think that ten guys might find it easier to negotiate away parts of the stimulus bill which are more important for gals than guys, just because they don't see their importance in the same personal way.

One might argue that these committees will end up all-male because there just aren't enough women in the Congress, and those who are there don't have enough seniority to get to be on such committees. But see how boring stuff about the number of women in politics ends up really, really mattering?
Update: Check out this post on the topic.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Wicked Witch of the East

Here's an enlightening glimpse into what goes on at Fox:

It's Bill O'Reilly having fun imitating Helen Thomas, calling her the wicked witch of the East and so on. But the most fascinating bit is the one where O'Reilly asks us why his mother isn't out there sitting in the front row of Obama's press conference, asking questions. Or Colmes' mother. Or any old lady at all! (He doesn't say that but it's what he means.)

To deny Thomas the respect her experience and professional qualifications deserve is probably a sexist response on O'Reilly's part. Try a reversal by imagining an older male journalist in her place and then O'Reilly arguing that his own dad is equally qualified to ask questions at the press conference.

If you think O'Reilly should apologize for his comments, go here.

Today's Funny Post

It's this one:

During the February 10 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott claimed that "the Senate is expected to pass the $838 billion stimulus plan -- its version of it, anyway. We thought we'd take a look back at the bill, how it was born, and how it grew, and grew, and grew." In tracking how and when the bill purportedly "grew," Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods. However, all of the sources and cost figures Scott cited, as well as the accompanying on-screen text, were also contained in a February 10 press release issued by the Senate Republican Communications Center. One on-screen graphic during the segment even repeated a typo from the GOP document, further confirming that Scott was simply reading from a Republican press release.

Saves time, it does, to just use the Republican Party's press release. I guess 'the fairandbalanced' idea no longer applies to Fox News.

Metacommenting on Blog Comments

This newspaper article discusses the reactions of blog commenters to the octuplets of Nadya Suleman. It's difficult to know how good a survey one person can arrive at just by reading through a bunch of commentary. But I found this interesting:

The overarching theme of Republican writers involved the issue of the mother of the octuplets relying on government money to raise her children. There was also quite a bit written about Suleman's physical appearance.


Over on the Democratic forums, the debate was much more extensive. Like the Republican forum writers, the majority seemed to feel it was wrong for a single woman living with her parents to have 14 children with no income other than funds from a disability claim.

Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats didn't say much about Suleman's looks...

I don't read the comments of wingnut blogs enough to know how common this difference might be, but women's looks sure provoke comments on leftie blogs, too, from Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. It's not that men's looks aren't cause for comment in some cases, too. It's just that every single woman gets her face and body assessed. And her ass, naturally.

News From Guy Religions

The Church of England is considering how to introduce women bishops. The decision has been already made, but that leaves the pesky problem of how to be nice to the men who refuse to have a woman lord over them:

The Synod decided last summer to press ahead with the ordination of women bishops, angering traditionalists by denying them the legal right to opt out of the control of a woman bishop and into special dioceses headed by male alternatives.

However, a draft law to be discussed this week would provide for male "complementary" bishops, to look after parishes unwilling to accept a woman.

Some traditionalist clergy say they will join the Catholic Church if they are not given sufficient exemptions from serving under women bishops.

I've come to the conclusion that much of the discrimination against women is caused by women being too nice to yell in everybody's face about it. Instead of that we just let the bigots have their own "No Girls Allowed" tree houses, and hope that they will come around in time.

Is thirty years long enough a time? Actually, when it comes to women's rights 300 years is about the right time frame. The Iranian revolution is thirty years old and women were participants in it. But as usual, they got the short end of the stick:

Giti Pourfazel, a lawyer and female activist, believes those liberty-seeking women who supported the Islamic revolution were unaware of the true nature of a religious state.

"Some women felt they would stand a better chance of achieving their demands if they could emancipate themselves from political entanglements, but it was too late when they realised that a religious regime, due to its boundaries, could hardly deal with women's issues intellectually.

"Women had already hit home some of their demands but lost them after the revolution, such as the Family Law, which was annulled immediately after the revolution. The reason was women were rallying under a religious flag, which had other priorities and ignored female rights."

But the huge turnout of women during the Iranian Revolution of 1979 encouraged many of them to engage in social activity for the very first time. Studies by sociologists in recent years show that women are becoming increasingly aware of how the law discriminates against them.

Yah. I have always found religions to be one of the legs on which the stool of women's oppression sits. It may not have to be that way, but it mostly is.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Obama's News Conference

Did you watch it? I thought he did fairly well, and I enjoyed hearing 'nuclear' pronounced correctly, mean-spirited as I am. What's rather shocking to me is the large numbers of people who appear not to understand that the stimulus package is not the same thing as giving Wall Street more bailout money. If anybody is getting bailed out in the stimulus bill it is the state governments to some extent, and that's a very important thing to do. In its absence the rapid contraction of state level spending will exacerbate the economic problems and hurt the most vulnerable people first.

I'm not sold on Obama's desire for bipartisanship, because it takes two to tango and because the Republican definition of bipartisanship appears to be getting their own way on everything.

The Stimulus, The Republican Party And Wimmenfolk

Funny. Watching political pundits makes me almost completely convinced that the whole stimulus bill is dripping with pork fat. This is probably because the programs tend to over-sample right-wingers as guests (for obnoxious reasons) and because the pundits themselves have suddenly become watchdogs about the government.

But a recent opinion poll shows that Americans rather like Obama's stimulus bill:

A new Gallup poll shows that President Obama is continuing to enjoy high approval in handling the economic stimulus debate -- and his brand is solidly beating the Congressional Republicans, too.

The numbers: Obama has a 67% approval and only 25% disapproval on how he's handled the stimulus bill, compared to Congressional Republicans' 31% approval and very high 58% disapproval.

I'm not sure if they like the new lean-and-mean version (with loads of tax cuts pork) better than the original one. I do not. Check out the things the Republicans managed to cut out. Many of them would have helped women directly. So it goes.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Life Imitates Satire

Sometimes it is very hard to write satire about the rabid wingnuts and other anti-woman weirdos. Take the case of Silvio Berlusconi and what he said about the Italian woman who has been in coma for seventeen years and whose father now wants her feeding tubes removed:

The Italian government has been plunged into a constitutional crisis over the fate of a 38-year-old woman who has been in a coma for the past 17 years. Eluana Englaro was left in a vegetative state after a car crash in 1992. After a decade-long court battle, doctors reduced her nutrition on Friday in preparation for removing her feeding tubes, which her father claims would be in accordance with her wishes.

But in an extraordinary turn of events, the country's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, after consultation with the Vatican, has issued an emergency decree stating that food and water cannot be suspended for any patient depending upon them, reversing the earlier court ruling. On issuing the emergency decree, Berlusconi declared: "This is murder. I would be failing to rescue her. I'm not a Pontius Pilate."

Justifying his campaign to save Englaro's life, the prime minister added that, physically at least, she was "in the condition to have babies", a remark described by La Stampa newspaper as "shocking".

Emphasis by me. So she is in the condition to have babies, Silvio? Who's gonna impregnate her? Some rapist? Because she can't consent, you know. Or were you planning to use her as some kind of a surrogate mother?

This truly is sick, not only because of these questions but because I really didn't want to get a glimpse of the dirty underwear in Mr. Berlusconi's soul. He seems to think that women are baby-making machines, good to go even when in a coma. Gah.

Then there's the Vatican angle to the whole thing... Gah squared.

Bartok’s Piano Sonata

The afternoon sunlight is streaming in my window, a stiff, cold breeze is blowing and I’m thinking about Bela Bartok’s knuckle buster of a piano sonata hoping I can get this posted before the power goes back out.

The first movement is one of the most energetic pieces imaginable, in places there are so many voices all over the keyboard that you can’t count them. The second movement is where the sunlight comes in, the third movement is extraordinarily optimistic. Here’s Zoltan Kocsis playing. Ah, to be 50 again.

Mvt. 1

Mvt. 2 and 3

Posted by Anthony McCarthy