Saturday, October 23, 2010

Democracy Is Under Attack By the Republican Majority on the Court [Anthony McCarthy]

This is the dirtiest election campaign I can remember. All you have to do is turn on the radio or TV to see massive evidence that Samuel Alito was lying, yet again, when he mouthed “That's not true” at Barack Obama pointing out the dangers of the “Citizens United” ruling during the State of the Union message. The hundreds of millions of dollars funneled into promoting lies around the candidates and issues of this election didn't get in there just by clever lawyers finding a loophole in the ruling, it is the clear and logical result of the ruling, it was fully intended by the five members of the Supreme Court who made that anti-democratic abomination the current meaning of the Constitution. It is just one of a string of rulings by right wing Republicans on the court with the clear intention of subverting honest elections.

For people my age, who were brought up to revere the Supreme Court during the Earl Warren years, facing that reality is very difficult. It's the high priesthood of “justice”, holding seats on the Court which used to be held by far more just people, which is actively and deliberately dismantling, not only the progress in civil rights of the past century, not only destroying protections from wealthy corporations and the robber barons that own them, they are actively and intentionally subverting the possibility of self-government by a population on the basis of accurate information.

This move began under the Burger court but it didn't really accelerate until Rehnquist took over as Chief “Justice”. It's no mere fluke of history that William Rehnquist's early role in public life was as a Republican “poll watcher” , which really means as a thug who intimidated black voters as they tried to cast votes in the wake of the civil rights rulings under the Warren Court. That he lied about it when it became an issue in his confirmation, only to have it brushed aside by the all white, male, Senate Judiciary Committee is hardly to be wondered at. The same committee would later try to ignore Anita Hill's information about the sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas and would passively absorb the lies of both Alito and Roberts during their confirmation. One of the most outrageous ads mounted by the Republican lie machine this year, are explicit instructions to Latinos to not vote "to teach them a lesson", destroying democratic government at the most basic unit of it, the vote, is the clear goal of the party of oligarchy.

The Senate is the least democratic, most unequally representative elected part of the Federal government, intended as an elite damper on democracy, originally appointed, only elected after constitutional amendment. Its role in confirming the entirely unelected Supreme Court, which for most of its history has functioned as an enabler of injustice and against democracy, can only surprise the willingly naive. The court which the Senate has given us today is one which feels little if any sense of restraint in its open attack on democracy, in favor of the Republican Party and the filthy rich which it serves above even the country itself.

We can't remain as a democratic republic if the streams of pollution flowing from the Republican majority of this Supreme Court are allowed to control our elections and our media. It is as simple as that. The cowardice and corruption of the Senate has prevented the patch of forcing disclosure of election donations in this cycle and the resultant House and Senate will be less likely to fix or overturn it. The House, the most representative, most accountable part of the federal government, has passed that legislation, as it has hundreds of other bills only to have it blocked by the Senate, which is the source of the corruption. But it is the Court which they have confirmed which is the active agent of destruction. If that doesn't change, there are two alternatives, we will either become an ever worse, ever more corrupt, ever more despotic country or there will be a civil war. The relationship of the Senate and the Court which they have confirmed to this crisis is direct, they have not blocked some of the worst appointments to the Court in the spotty history of that most unjustifiably revered institution.

The original Constitution which contained the disease of slavery wasn't strong enough to abolish it, it took a horrible civil war to do that. The part which the defects of the sacrosanct Constitution played in that was too clear, too obvious and too direct to remain an unmentioned, embarrassing secret. The present crisis is also the result of defects in the Constitution, defects which are the direct cause of it. The cumbersome amendment process, which provides low population states with a disproportional veto power over even an overwhelming majority of the population will make changing it under the Constitution extremely unlikely. Short of a miraculous and previously unexhibited sense of morality and responsibility by an effective majority in this Senate, we are on a one way road to disaster. In the past a sense of morality overrode the cynical dishonesty of Senators just often enough to avoid another civil war. I look at the present situation and see the 1850s more than the 1950s. People should prepare accordingly. They should certainly vote. If people informed of reality don't then they are no better than the Senate.

Friday, October 22, 2010

To what can we sign our names? (by Suzie)

Two newspapers in the Tampa Bay area ran the same writing, one as a letter to the editor and another as a commentary, saying that domestic-violence shelters put too much emphasis on women, often ignoring male victims. The letter and commentary touted the national nonprofit Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women, and both were signed by Elka Zwick of St. Petersburg.

In researching the Maine-based organization, I found a Utah newspaper that had printed the same article, signed by Jan Brown and Heather Fortune, co-directors of DAHMW. I left a message for Brown, asking who wrote the original. I called Zwick, who referred me back to Brown, who acknowledged writing it. (I just found another letter, pared down a bit, signed by Mary Browning in the Birmingham News.)

The article went out to volunteers across the country in hopes they would submit it to newspapers, Brown said. “We were afraid people wouldn’t print it if it didn’t have a local name on it."

She’s correct – the media prefers a local angle. As an editor, however, I would never have printed something with someone’s name attached if that person had not actually written it. As a blogger, I would not want to see a post with one person’s name on it on one site and another person’s name on it on a different site.

The domestic-violence program in St. Petersburg is CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), and Brown recalls them being better than others. She said she worked with a man who also got help from CASA. So, why seek to print an article criticizing DV shelters in a city that has a good one? Brown said she didn't mean to target CASA.

I’m concerned about the damage this article might do to local DV shelters, and I’m irritated by media that publishes information that it has not verified.

The incident also made me think about what writing we claim as our own. If I steal someone’s writing, that’s plagiarism. But what about when the writer and signer work together? People sign their names to emails, written by nonprofits, that are then sent to Congress. Politicians speak words crafted by their staffs. Assistants write letters that their bosses sign.

We need to learn to look past the signature.

P.S. Please save the discussion of the DV issues until my next post. I'm finding some interesting stuff.

Rehabbing Mike Tyson's image, part 2 (by Suzie)

When sports figures commit crimes, the news often runs in sports sections. The logic is: The sports reporters and readers will have a greater interest in and knowledge of the offender. The problem is: They often care more about his ability to return to the game, and any victim may be seen as an impediment.

On 9/3, I wrote about male journalists rehabbing Mike Tyson's image. Then came the latest, by award-winning AP sports columnist Tim Dahlberg, who wrote about "the meteoric rise and fall of the ferocious fighter the world was always so infatuated with." Who comprises "the world"? Not Desiree Washington after he raped her. Not Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who represented her in her civil suit. Not the other women who have accused him of assault.

In 2009, after Tyson's daughter died in an accident, Dahlberg wrote: "A changed man or not, he’s still reviled by many as the fighter who once bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear and threatened to eat Lennox Lewis’ children." Why isn't he reviled for rape? Because fans revile Washington, threaten violence against her, and insist she's a liar? Or, is it that what male sports heroes do to women is beside the point? What role do sportswriters play?

In a 2007 column headlined "Maybe it's time to give Mike Tyson one last chance," Dahlberg argued that Tyson shouldn't have to go to jail for driving under the influence and cocaine possession.
Prosecutor Andrew Thomas cited Tyson's rape conviction in Indianapolis and a 1999 jail term in Maryland in labeling him a repeat offender with a violent past. That's his job, but it got laughable when Thomas said he believes Tyson must be put in prison to "properly protect the public."

One look at the bizarre tattoo on his face will tell you Tyson is a troubled soul, but he's about as much a danger to the public as he is a threat to win the heavyweight title once again. ...

Before his latest arrest, he hadn't gotten into any real trouble in eight years. And an argument could be made that had he hired Kobe Bryant's attorneys he might have skated on the sexual assault charges that landed him in prison for three years in a "he said, she said" case that was strikingly similar to the one faced by Bryant.
In those eight years, three women accused him of rape in 2001 and another accused him of beating her in 2005. Perhaps Dahlberg didn't count this as real trouble because it was only women's words against Tyson's, and he skated. Dahlberg feels no threat from the man he has come to know over the many years that he has written about him. I guess that means an attractive female sportswriter should not hesitate to pal around with Tyson, just like the guys have.

Friday flower blogging (by Suzie)

What a nice hiding place this would make.

This week, Echidne wrote about fall up North. Fall has arrived in Tampa, too, but nothing is actually falling yet. The temperature dips into the 60s in the evenings, with lower humidity. It's great to be able to wear a sweater outside, as opposed to just in office buildings that are cold year-round. Now, if we can just make December without any hurricanes.

Remember "No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal?"

The pledge chant of the DKE fraternity at Yale?

Here's what the Boston Globe says about the chant and the events that followed:

Yale fraternity under fire for alleged misogyny

By Stephanie Reitz, Associated Press Writer | October 19, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn. --Members of a Yale fraternity that counts both Bush presidents among its famous alumni and whose pledges were ordered to chant obscenities against women are getting a visit from concerned officials of the national organization.

Delta Kappa Epsilon, which was founded at Yale in 1855, has been under fire since amateur video appeared online of pledges marching through the New Haven campus on Oct. 13, chanting about women in the context of necrophilia and a specific sexual act.
Am I the only one who feels this way of addressing the chant bowdlerizes it? What "specific sexual act" does yelling "no means yes, yes means anal" refer to?

It would seem to be rape. Calling that a "specific sexual act" is just stupid and so is defining all this as something to do with obscenity. The obscenity is the misogyny of the chant, not the fact that sex was mentioned, and the misogyny is not "alleged."

Still, I guess it's good that some attention is drawn to the events, however half-brainedly.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

China's New Sex Workers

When I first read this piece about young female students hiring themselves out as mistresses I noticed several things, some perhaps only existing inside my own head:
1. The title of the piece is "For some Chinese college students, sex is a business opportunity." But the business opportunities then discussed are a) a rich male pimp and b) lots of female students whom the pimp calls gold-diggers.

2. I then noticed that the article gives no numbers. We have no way of knowing how common this upper-class prostitution is or how common prostitution in general might be in China. It's impossible to tell whether this is one of those pseudo-trends or something intended to fascinate readers because it's about paid sex. Paid male-focused sex, naturally.

3. The value judgments in the article are of obvious interest:

Ding calls himself "an agent, a fixer," but his job is all pimp. He started out small: fliers passed on the street to the chauffeurs of expensive cars. He has found his niche arranging long-term, cash-for-sex arrangements between wealthy men and aspirational students, taking a 10% commission off the top.

He is nonchalant about the work, even vaguely proud. He insists that he is doing a service to the men who don't want to hire streetwalkers, and to his middle-class, ambitious and frostily pragmatic college friends.

"Most of the girls are financially comfortable, but they see their classmates carrying Louis Vuitton or Gucci bags, and they're jealous," he said on the phone from Shanghai. "These girls want to have better lives."


But the motivation is strong. The young women are coming of age at a time when China's family structure has eroded and staggering class divisions mean living, for the first time, in a country where shiny things are dangled carelessly under the noses of those who can't afford them.

In China, everybody seems to be selling something these days. Advertising crowds the skyline and the roadsides. A closed country has opened up in a span of decades, and is experiencing an economic boom that has introduced new desires and an "anything goes" mentality.
Note that the pimp in the story sells women. But he gets off fairly lightly, compared to the women.

4. The article wears the usual eye-patch, the one commonly applied in these kinds of stories so that we focus on the women selling sex, not on the men buying sex, and so that we don't ask why the men have the money that the women so desperately appear to want:

Just a few decades back, premarital sex was looked down upon by respectable families. Now, some members of those families are not just having premarital sex; they're selling it.
See how the buyers of the sex were disappeared there? I'm pretty sure that they, too, come from respectable families.

You know what I find odd? How very ahistorical all these commercial sex pieces tend to be. If you don't know the history of prostitution, pornography and so on you will not be able to write about the topic with both eyes open. And if you ignore the invisible-but-huge elephant (perhaps masturbating in the background?): the fact that these sex markets are for men while the workers are mostly women, you are also going to ignore the huge imbalance of power, the one which hides behind that eye-patch.

Reality Imitating Cartoons

I found this piece at Jezebel fascinating:

Would you trade hip, butt or belly fat for somewhat larger breasts—if safe and "natural" feeling? The discovery of stem cells in fat tissue could make this more than hypothetical, and implications go beyond the beauty myth.

There are medical reasons to be delighted by that possibility. But it also reminded of the cartoon my dear little Artful Asp once created, this one (left-click to make it bigger):

Can I Call You Names?

Juan Williams has been fired by the NPR for this:

"O'Reilly has been looking for support for his own remarks on a recent episode of ABC's The View in which he directly blamed Muslims for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Co-hosts Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set in the middle of his appearance.

"Williams responded: 'Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.'

"Williams also warned O'Reilly against blaming all Muslims for 'extremists,' saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh."
You can watch this, as well as Williams' reaction to being fired at Mediaite.

What's fascinating about these kinds of news is that everyone and their great-uncle will have an opinion! Every pundit will come out with arguments for or against this firing, and then every pundit can compare this case to the earlier cases to see if the punishment stays logical and if all ethnic/religious/racial groups are treated the same.

You can do all that without much research! I just did minimal research and found that Rick Sanchez was fired by the CNN for his anti-Jewish comments, Laura Schlessinger resigned after copious use of the n-word and Helen Thomas lost her front-row seat in the White House briefing room for making negative comments about Israel. Even earlier Don Imus was suspended (indefinitely?) for calling African-American female college athletes nappy-headed hoes. In that case most pundits noted the racism, few noted the sexism.

Now, none of this lets us decide if the reasons for firing or suspending or allowing someone to resign were equally serious. That's the funny bit! We can all argue whether what Juan Williams said is bad enough for firing, we can argue about the freedom of speech and we can argue about the typical political crap, too, such as whether the NPR should be pulled off the life-support for not being more right-wing than the current Nice Polite Republicans standard they cling to.

I'm as ready for all that ballgame with opinions as the next goddess. But ultimately the debate will not provide much clarity. Sure, one could argue that it was time for someone's head to roll for the anti-Muslim discourse in some parts of the U.S. media (Fox). On the other hand, one could argue that all Williams owned up to were his own prejudices. He didn't really slur the religion of Islam. And of course Bill O'Reilly hasn't got fired and will not get fired for saying much worse things.

What I also found in that research is something odd about a much younger Juan Williams:

A Washington Post reporter who wrote a widely quoted column criticizing the accusations of sexual harassment against Judge Clarence Thomas has been disciplined by the newspaper for his own conduct toward female colleagues and has apologized to the staff, The Post reported today.

The 37-year-old journalist, Juan Williams, said in an open letter to The Post's newsroom on Friday that his conduct had been "wrong" and "inappropriate."

Several female employees had complained that Mr. Williams had harassed them with sexually explicit and hostile comments, and the newspaper investigated those complaints.

The newspaper's executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr., also issued a letter to the staff. "The complaints were found to be serious," it said, "and, as Juan acknowledges, he was disciplined for his conduct and intends to apologize to women he offended."
This was way back in 1991. But I doubt he would have been fired for something like that even today. A manly apology would be quite adequate, thankyouverymuch.

The Scott Sisters. A Question Of Injustice

Jamie and Gladys Scott were each sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for an armed robbery in 1993:

Jamie, 38, and Gladys, 36, are serving life sentences in Mississippi for their role in a 1993 robbery that netted $11, despite having no prior criminal record. The three men also arrested in connection with the robbery pleaded guilty and have served their terms. Two of them testified against the sisters in return for lesser sentences.

The Scott sisters were accused of orchestrating the armed robbery of two men on a rural road near Forest, Miss., on Christmas Eve 1993. According to court documents, the sisters enticed the two men to take them on a ride to a nearby nightclub. Witnesses testified that during the ride Jamie Scott complained of nausea. When the car pulled over three men in a following car robbed them at gunpoint. After the robbery, the victims testified the sisters left with the three men. Both the victims and the accused are black.
Neither Jamie nor Gladys had prior criminal records and the robbery netted a total of 11 dollars.

The sentence the Scott sisters received is out of all proportion with other sentences for similar crimes, and the men accused for participating in this crime have long since been released. Yet Gladys and Jamie are still in prison and Jamie's kidneys are failing.

These sentences are an injustice. Several commentators have pointed out the possibility that race affected the harshness of the Scott sisters' sentence. But their (alleged) co-conspirators are also African-American, yet they got a much lighter sentence.

It is also possible that the sentences were caused by bad legal counsel:

Pastor C.J. Rhodes of Mount Helm Baptist Church in Jackson said there are larger concerns at work.

"Here you have the trinity of race, class and gender playing itself out in our system," he said. Poor and black, Gladys and Jamie Scott did not have the resources to adequately defend themselves in court or to pursue the case through the appellate system, he said.

The sisters did not testify at their trial and no one testified on their behalf. They were represented at trial by Firnist Alexander, a local attorney disbarred two years later on charges unrelated to the Scott sisters. The Mississippi State Supreme Court rebuked Alexander for "lack of diligence" and failure to communicate with clients, according to court documents.
Were the men accused for the same crime able to get better counseling, and if so what was the reason for that?

I could not help noticing that the local public radio station addressed the issues of race and poverty but nothing was said about the issue of gender. Yet the one thing that clearly differs between those who got a lighter sentence and those who did was gender. It might well be that the Scott sisters would not have gotten life sentences had they been the Scott brothers.

It is time to let Gladys and Jamie out of prison before it is too late for Jamie.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I love this time of the year. The colors of the falling leaves: Yellow, orange, red, burgundy, sudden silvery highlights, even a very cold violet-pink.

Like jewels. I rake all the fallen leaves together into a large pile, check that nobody is watching, then dive into the pile. Such fun!

This Is Hilarious. And So Sad.

Have a look at this story at Frisky and the associated picture from GQ. More pictures are available at Jezebel.

I'm trying to think how I'd explain that Frisky story to my Dear Alien From Outer Space. Yes, that is a human female. Yes, she is dressed in underwear and pretends eating something red and round. No, she's not desperately poor and hungry, she's portrayed as ready for some fertility behavior, including sucking the male human's seed inserter. Yes, the text discusses how large her air-intake valve should be for optimal fertility attractiveness. But she's a feminist because she decided to go with the size her body came with.  Well, yes, this IS how female human beings are often portrayed.

Moneyed Speech, Honeyed Speech

A silly title but I'm just getting going today and deserve to have a silly title.

This post is about speech and money. The famous lefty philanthropist George Soros has donated Media Matters of America a million clams! As Atrios points out, why shouldn't Soros do that? After all, the wingnut blogs have accused him of funding everything on the "left" for years.

Sadly, Mr. Soros is not funding this blog. I even wrote him an e-mail when I first got started as a Divine Blogger and asked for a donation. Never got an answer.

That is not important (except for me), but it's indicative of what is going on in political blogging on the left/middle and on the right. The right pays people to speak and to write, and they pay very well indeed, and usually this payment comes from the pockets of a few billionaires who fund the various think-tanks (and most so-called conservative grass root movements, too). If you are an anti-feminist you will make big bucks writing your creed (Christine Hoff-Sommers, say) at one of those philanthropic think-tanks, but if you are a feminist you are left to the market forces, poor thing.

Now think about that! The conservatives always adore the market forces but they don't let those buffet their magazines, newspapers or blogs. The funding of those has nothing to do with market forces.

The liberals and progressives often talk about the problems with markets but they let their magazines and blogs struggle in those cold waters of capitalism without much help. This split is not complete. But it exists, and the irony is painfully clear to me, especially because there are pretty good economic reasons why advocacy sites will never be a good candidate for market funding.

What it ultimately means is that the people on the right are moneyed and the rest of us must write with a honeyed tongue to get any donations at all. (See how I got that title into the post?) More importantly, it means that the right easily out-writes everyone else in volume.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Today's Obvious Political Thought

It's the problem with a two-party system when combined with voter dissatisfaction. If you wish to protest what is going on you can either not vote or vote for the opposition. Voting for a third party is like not voting, sadly.

This is a painful problem right now for any progressive/liberal, because it was the Bush administration which got us all into this mess. But people are not happy with the Obama administration, and the elections are supposed to be about that dissatisfaction, even though Obama is not up for re-election. To punish the current administration or Congress by putting the fundamentalists (of both the religious and the financial type) back into power is really really stupid. They will make the problems worse. This can be easily read from what they propose to do: To make the problems worse.

Then there are all those governors' races which will affect redistricting and thus affect politics far into the future:

Next month's governors' races also have big implications for U.S. House elections from 2012 through 2020. The House's 435 seats are reapportioned every decade, after each census. States will redraw their districts next year in a process that often is intensely political, with borders crafted to help or hurt a party, or even a particular politician.

Most governors have extensive power to influence the process, including the right to veto plans they dislike.
All of which boils down to me urging all of you to vote.

What Women Should Wear This Halloween?

As Suzie wrote, sexy Halloween costumes are now expected of women. But what happens when even that gets bo-o-ring? You can dress as a blow-up doll in search of a serial killer! Do read the blurb on that page, too.

The bottom of the page tells where to find the equivalent costume for men. It's this one:

I don't see the equivalency. But if it has to be Favre, surely there's more material to work with. Even I listened to that phone conversation and saw the pictures.

Reading In A Second Language

I'm bilingual, and sometimes it makes me look at words we use from a different angle. I didn't speak English as a child and I don't share the whole suitcase of connotations and memories which go with some words for native speakers. That is a loss which I can never make up, though I can learn what those connotations are. It's almost as clear but never the same.

But this kind of bilingualism may also apply across gender or race or ethnicity. Some of us speak a second language even when speaking our native tongue!

Here's an example for you: There's a band called The Gogol Bordello. What the name is intended to evoke might be the feeling of a loud party, the abandonment of oneself to the music and so on. It's also meant to shock, I think.

But for me, in my first language as a female human being, that word "bordello" means something quite different from its intended meaning there. Women have not had brothels to go to as a customer.

If a woman thinks of the words "bordello", "brothel", "cathouse" and so on, she cannot think of them from the point of view of someone going into one to have a wild party. She would have to think of the term from the point of view of either being a worker in the bordello or from the point of view of someone being excluded altogether.

Yet when I read I'm very good at getting the intended meaning, and that meaning is the idea of a bordello as a place where rules are broken, where people are enjoying themselves, where sex is not regulated. I also get the subtexts of bordello's being places in the hidden underworld. That is being bilingual.

This bilingualism doesn't go in the reverse direction. Try and you will see.

There are examples of reverses, naturally, such as anything having to do with child birth, and all of us have to read in a second language when discussing alien experiences. But whose experiences determine the overall connotations of a word are not the same across the field of terms. I think the term "sex" is being redefined in a way which makes it a second-language term for many.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Gallup Social Security and Medicare Poll.

You know what? I'm beginning to think that Gallup may be an advocacy organization rather than a pollster.

Ezra Klein links to a new Gallup poll which asks Americans about their views on the future costs of Social Security and Medicare and what to do should those costs turn out too high. He points out that the Gallup findings, as shown in this table, support the view that raising taxes beats cutting benefits when it comes to the opinions of those polled:

But Gallup's own conclusions are not those of Ezra:


While few Americans name Social Security specifically as one of the most important problems facing the country today, the vast majority of Americans agree that the government's major entitlement programs are likely to cause major economic problems in the next 25 years. Americans' views on the topic are particularly noteworthy in a climate in which there is little consensus about what the government should be fully responsible for -- including providing a minimum living standard for all -- and a high level of concern about government debt.

Americans under 50 are most likely to foresee major economic problems for these programs, but even they do not express a strong mandate to raise taxes or cut benefits as a solution. Nonetheless, the need for action is clear, considering that more nonretirees in 2010 than in 2007 said they expect to rely on Social Security as a major source of income in retirement, and at the same time 60% already do not expect Social Security to be able to pay them a benefit once they retire. Legislators should note that while the issue is a widespread source of concern and draws clear political battle lines, Americans aren't clamoring for the main options on the table.
The bolds are mine, and were added to emphasize those bits which appear to cross the line between trying to influence policy and just gathering data.

But this alone wouldn't have made me write that first paragraph of this post. Note that the above table of results was obtained by asking this question (from "View methodology, full question results, and trend data"):

Now I' like to ask you about the major entitlement programs the government is committed to, including Social Security and Medicare. Do you think the cost of these programs will create major economic problems for the U.S. in the next 25 years if no changes are made to them, or not?
Is this a leading question? I'm not sure, but I can certainly think of better ways to frame it, ways which would not privilege one alternative over the other the way this phrasing does.

The Women of Congo Fight Back

This is good news, after all the horrors I have written about here before:

Thousands of women marched on Sunday against sexual violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where the miseries of war have been compounded by mass rapes.

About 1,700 women who had attended a week-long forum on peace and development the capital of Sud-Kivu joined in the march, which was led by Olive Lembe Kabila, the wife of President Joseph Kabila.

The atmosphere of the march was colourful and peaceful, and many demonstrators carried banners with slogans such as "No to sexual terrorism", according to an AFP reporter.
For more on the horrors these women protest, see here and here (TRIGGER WARNING for sexual violence).

We are #41!

In one ranking of fifty best blogs on women's issues.

High-fives the snakes.
Note:  This post was edited on May 7, 2013, because I received a request from the website the link went to (, and that request was to remove the link to their site.  As far as I understand this, the link request removals were general ones, having to do with that site's attempt to clean up their linking practices.  What I received was a form letter. 

Misogyny on Twitter

This tweet appeared in the Top Tweets on Twitter's homepage Saturday afternoon:

The best women are like bowling balls: Three functioning holes, found in an alley, then thrown in the gutter. 16 minutes ago via web
I'm not sure if Twitter's Top Tweets are part of its own advertising campaign or if they are just the most popular tweets at that time. Either way, misogyny thrives.

I had a look at the home lair of the creature who sent this tweet. It offers several other hilariously funny tweets, all sent to its 9000+ followers, such as

# Sometimes in love, the cause of silence, is some good ol' fashion, domestic violence. 12:43 PM Oct 15th via web

# "I just wanna be friends" says the lady in pink, "ok ok" as I spike her drink. 11:44 AM Oct 15th via web

# Show that you really, really, really love her with forced sex. 6:19 PM Oct 14th via Mobile Web
These are jokes, by the way. Because of that I should probably analyze them to see why they are funny and to whom, but I'll limit the analysis to the one which Twitter chose for its own homepage, the one about us women (all billions of us) being best when most like bowling balls.

The joke is pretty clever, honestly. It compares the essential aspects of a good woman to fuck as similar to a bowling ball: three functioning holes and returned into the gutter. The holes are to receive the penis, so those would be the anus, the mouth and the vagina. Nostrils and ears don't count. Neither does the belly button, nor all those skin pores.

Why would this joke be funny and to whom? You probably need to identify with its implicit assumption which is that women really are like bowling balls. Once you agree with that the joke is funny because it says it aloud.

Now, who would identify with that basic idea? Anyone who thinks the best women consist of three functioning holes. Anyone who enjoys misogyny and the objectification of women (yes, Virginia, there IS such a thing as utter objectification, and you have met it here). It never occurred to me that rapists and would-be-rapists must also use Twitter. But of course they do, and Twitter's rules don't ban any of that.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Liberal attitudes on (male) adultery (by Suzie)

Tracy Quan on the rescued Chilean miners:
Much was made over the miner whose mistress greeted him as he emerged from the ground. But if nothing else, it put normal, middle-class adultery in the spotlight in a most refreshing way. ...

While it's tempting to believe that people in other countries are more open-minded about infidelity, it's never simple. ... In cultures where things seem more relaxed, battle lines still form around legal status. ... At Camp Esperanza last month, a Red Cross worker spoke to the Telegraph about girlfriends who are surprised to discover their men are also married. A few miners have parallel families who didn't know about each other until they arrived at the site.
Do these liberal attitudes apply to women who commit adultery? Quan doesn't tell us. In her column, it's natural for men to want more than one partner and liberal women will understand that. But marriage is about more than love and sex -- there are financial and legal ramifications. Chile didn't legalize divorce until 2004, and the process seems complex and costly.

Mad Men Promoting Macho Role Models To a New Generation [Anthony McCarthy]

I've never watched a full episode of Mad Men, wondering why I needed to watch presentations of post-war, early 6os machismo that I'd seen when it was going on. I was left wondering if these guys were the ones who were going to be putting Richard Nixon in office in a few years, the prospect of a romanticized presentation of them * is pretty revolting. This was the Man's World that Betty Friedan was talking about.

Today's Boston Globe has a good article about the genre that presents the inner life of macho men, as the subtitle says, it's always men that TV looks at deeply. As if we needed that to continue into yet another decade.

What do you think of Mad Men, if you watch it, or the vastly over-examined pathos of the straight, white, middle to upper class male as seen on TV? Do you know of anything like this that looks at the inner lives of women? The article mentions that briefly and says, pretty much, that it's never done in the same way as it is for men.

*As in 24, which promoted torture done by a pretty white man as a positive thing, the presentation of beautiful men doing awful things should be seen as a promotion of what they're doing. Sex sells bad behavior as well as it sells deodorant, good looks cover up things worse than underarm odor.

Good News For A Change [Anthony McCarthy]

Sue Wilson's short article about the Fairness Doctrine at Buzzflash is the best news I've read this week, other than the rescue of the miners. Donna Brazile, of all people, has put her finger on what should have been among the first priorities of the Democrats once they regained power, re-instituting the Fairness Doctrine. Nothing will change for the better until the publicly owned airwaves are returned to the business of accurately informing The People, nothing.

Sue Wilson's article is an excellent history of the Fairness Doctrine, especially in how it was destroyed by Ronald Reagan and why. She also presents how Newt Gingrich, of all people, tried to restore it and why that proposal went the way of term limits once his situation changed:

But Fairness? Equal Time? Reasoned discourse? Those went out the window in 1987 with - drumroll, please - President Ronald Reagan.

Reagan was, of course, a consummate media man. Not simply the star of B movies like "Bedtime for Bonzo," Reagan also hosted television's "GE Theater." The so-called "Great Communicator" then went on to become President of the Screen Actors Guild, profiting from programs while robbing actors of royalties.

More than any president before or since, Reagan understood the power of TV and radio. So it's no coincidence that President Ronald Reagan, by fiat, eliminated fairness in broadcasting. He knew what would happen if one side - his side - could control the message.

(It's interesting to note that after Reagan's action, both houses of Congress immediately passed bills - co-sponsored by Newt Gingrich - to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. But both Reagan and George Bush the First vetoed those bills. For the 2009 documentary film I made on this topic, "Broadcast Blues," Gingrich refused to answer questions about why he's changed his tune. No great surprise: put simply, Gingrich must understand that Republicans can win elections only if they can control Radio.)

It was one of the first big disappointments I had in Barack Obama when I found out he wasn't going to try to restore the Fairness Doctrine and other measures to insure that the media monopoly by the corporate right didn't continue. I'd imagine it's because of his adoption of the predominant and absurd libertarian legal fads that have served us so badly over the past forty years. That libertarianism has become the dominant assumption of the entire spectrum of the political class, it is one of the biggest reasons that liberalism has declined. As many of you are probably tired of hearing me say it, the resulting ignorance and propagandizing of voters is even more of a danger to self-government than our corrupt voting systems.

The idea that the media which has shown it will always devolve into a service industry for the highest payer will ever serve democracy, without that requirement, is, I'd say, far more willful denial of the clear truth than creationism or climate change denial. And a surprising number of liberals, especially bloggers, buy that untruth, which is oh, so convenient for the Republican-corporate party. And, I'll point out in passing, I have noticed most of those people I've read are white males of higher income, generally the last group to get it.

It was part of the shock, for me, to see that it was Donna Brazile saying it in Oprah's magazine, but maybe that's something that shouldn't have shocked me at all.

Old Business: In contrast to the immediate firing of Rick Sanchez for his anti-Semitic implications, Brian Kilmeade will not lose his job for a far more seriously anti-Muslim slur he made on FOX last week. Apparently the Sanchez standard is not a matter of fairness. But FOX would probably empty out if those who spew it's nonstop hatred of women, Latinos, GLBT, etc. suddenly found out how wonderful the economic policies they've pushed are for those without a large salary and benefits.