Wednesday, August 29

:: A Fine Idea

To defeat anti-choice legislation, attach a rider making the state financially responsible to the women who are influenced by it.

By now, all state legislatures have considered bills designed to pressure pregnant women to not have abortions.

I’m not talking about provisions that remove obstacles for women who want to carry a pregnancy to term, such as improved health services, maternity and paternity leave, subsidized child care and other forms of public assistance, and better enforcement of child support orders.

I mean the anti-choice legislation designed to hector, guilt-trip or scare women away from abortion by means of government-scripted lectures, waiting periods, misinformation about physical and psychological consequences (the bogus “abortion causes breast cancer” claim; “post-abortion trauma syndrome”) and tax-payer funding for fake “crisis pregnancy centers.”

The usual strategy for defeating this legislation is to fight it head-on with arguments based in fact and ethical reasoning. Alongside that, I suggest another tactic that I think would be effective. It occurred to me after reading the following article:

Woman awarded damages for pregnancy

28 August 2007

THE HAGUE – The IJsselland Hospital in Capelle aan den IJssel has been ordered to pay damages of EUR 400,000 to a mother who was incorrectly informed about her fertility.

This has emerged from a ruling by the appeal court in The Hague. The court upheld a ruling from a lower court in this case.

The gynaecologist had told the woman she could no longer become pregnant. The woman subsequently became pregnant with twins, who are now 13 years old. The hospital is being required to contribute to the costs of raising the children.

In the early 1990s, the woman, 37 at the time, and her husband asked the now-retired gynaecologist if the woman could still become pregnant. After an examination the woman was assured that she could not become pregnant.

Not long after the woman did in fact conceive. The family already had three children at that point. As a result of the pregnancy the woman had to leave her job.

The hospital and gynaecologist have always denied that they failed to alert the woman to the risks of a pregnancy. The court said that the dossier indicates the opposite.

The court also rejected the hospital's argument that no damage would have been caused had the woman opted for an abortion at the time.

Hospitals have been ordered to pay damages in previous cases involving failed sterilisations. This is the first time that damages have been awarded for the birth of a child after the administration of inaccurate advice on birth control.

There you have it.

Every bill that seeks to impede access to abortion by funding fake crisis pregnancy centers, spreading false information through advertising or state mandated lectures or impeding access through waiting periods should carry a rider making the state financially responsible for any pregnancies brought to term that result from these efforts.

Its only fair, isn’t it? If a woman goes to a taxpayer-supported crisis pregnancy center and they tell her that if she has an abortion she will get breast cancer (false), and she decides not to have an abortion only to find out later that she was lied to, the crisis pregnancy center and the state that funds it should be held accountable for the resulting expense of raising the child.

Physicians who give bad information to their patients are already subject to malpractice lawsuits; if the government wants to play doctor, it should face the same risks. And tobacco companies have been ordered to pay damages to people with lung cancer who claim they were influenced by misleading cigarette advertising. Efforts to penalize the purveyors of junk food for influencing people to become obese are stirring around out there.

Once proposed, the rider could be used in a public relations context to refocus the debate on what it really means for the state to “support life.” If attached, it would be an effective poison pill and would give wavering electeds cover for voting against the legislation.
Read more!

Monday, August 27

:: Amnesty, Aguilera and the Birth of a Hoax

An anti-choice group has duped the press into promoting a hoax
to hurt Amnesty International

This is how a hoax is born. Today’s topic: Christina Aguilera, Amnesty International and the Vatican-sponsored boycott of Amnesty.

[For more about this intensely solipsistic boycott, see Zippy’s post "Oh, I forgot that human rights were only for boys" and "Irish Times Column on Amnesty and Abortion"].

On June 19, 2007, a sad little group called Rock for Life sent out a press release called “Musical heavyweights duped in the name of Darfur; CD raises cash for pro-abortion Amnesty International.”

Washington, D.C. — "The human suffering going on right now in Darfur is horrific," said Erik Whittington, American Life League's youth outreach director and director of Rock for Life. "To add insult to injury, however, using this tragic abuse of human rights to raise money for a pro-abortion organization is hypocritical and beyond belief."

“Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur,” a double-disc CD whose proceeds will support Amnesty International, hit record stores on June 12. Featuring covers of John Lennon tunes, the CD is loaded with music heavyweights including U2, Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, Green Day and many more. As part of the fundraiser, Yoko Ono donated the rights and publishing royalties from Lennon’s songs to Amnesty International as well.

We will be educating not only the youth of America on Amnesty International’s pro-abortion policies,” said Whittington, “but the artists as well. We intend to send information on Amnesty International and its support for abortion to all of the artists participating in this project. Hopefully, they will stop supporting Amnesty International and its advocacy of the greatest human rights abuse of all time – abortion.

The press release appears to serve the dual purpose of threatening Amnesty with repercussions and rewarding them by promoting their fundraising CD. No small feat, that, but despite the creative messaging the story got no traction until Monday, when the Times (UK) ran an article called “Pro-life Rockers Clash with Amnesty.”

The second paragraph of this article is:

The group [Amnesty] has been accused of “duping” the singers Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne, who have both made statements against abortion and are among contributors to an Amnesty CD released to raise money for survivors of the atrocities in Darfur.
Hmmm. It would appear that Rock for Life’s effort has paid off – two of the artists on Amnesty’s CD are pro-life and now feel betrayed because they were tricked into raising money for a pro-abort group. Wow - good work, kids!

But wait a sec – what’s this? Rock for Life’s own website lists Aguilera as “pro abortion” with the mysterious notation “March for Women’s Lives.” So who is right – Rock for Life, or Rock for Life?

Here’s what I think: a reporter asked Rock for Life’s Erik Whittington if any of the musicians on the CD actually felt duped, and Whittington threw out two names. Either he didn't bother to check his own website first, or he gambled on the reporters being too lazy to do any fact-checking. If so, that was a good bet because the reporters didn't check the facts. Way down in paragraphs 11 and 12, we read:

The views of singers who have contributed to the album - who also include George Harrison’s son Dhani - on Amnesty’s change of heart are not yet clear.

But Aguilera, 26, is a devout American Catholic. She is reportedly expecting her first child and has taken part in a television show in which she interviewed a teenager who had kept her baby rather than have an abortion.

The “evidence” that Aguilera is offended is based not on any she has said - instead, it is inferred from the information that she is (1) a "devout" Catholic, (2) a mother, and (3) once talked to teenager who had a baby.

Of course, the reporters don't tell us that:

  1. Aguilera’s videos are not the work of a “devout Catholic” [no link; you know what I'm talking about], nor is there any evidence that she has called herself that; and
  2. Aguilera interviewed the baby-bearing teenager, among others, as part of an MTV special on sexual and reproductive health and rights in advance of the 2004 elections (and you know what a bastion of conservative thinking MTV is, especially on the topic of sex).

The Times interweaves its bit of myth-making with the unfounded claim that Amnesty will face serious repercussions because its policy change has offended the Catholic church. It exaggerates the influence of the church’s directives on ordinary Catholics and, by doing so, actively contributes to the pressure campaign to punish Amnesty. And it allows Rock for Life to claim a wildly popular celebrity as an ally without any evidence and against all probability.

And then, the step that is essential to mythmaking takes place: subsequent news stories quote the incorrect original article, and repeat its claims as if they are factual. Hey, if you attribute a claim to its source, you don’t need to do fact-checking, right? No, you’re off the hook because you’re not reporting on facts; you are reporting on what another reporter said!

The following day WorldNetDaily ran with “Pro-life rock stars 'duped' by Amnesty: Anti-torture group's new support for abortion called betrayal of musicians on fundraising CD.”

The article includes a pic of Aguilera and states:

Amnesty International, which formally announced two weeks ago a new worldwide policy backing women's right to abortion in some cases, is being charged with having "duped" pro-life pop stars who contributed their time and talents to a CD released to raise money by the anti-torture group for victims of violence in Darfur.

"The human suffering going on right now in Darfur is horrific," said Erik Whittington, American Life League's youth outreach director and director of Rock for Life, an organization of anti-abortion musicians.

"To add insult to injury, however, using this tragic abuse of human rights to raise money for a pro-abortion organization is hypocritical and beyond belief," he said.

In particular, Whittington accused Amnesty of deceiving singers Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne, who have both made statements against abortion, according to the London Sunday Times.”

As you can see, the first paragraph uses the passive voice to make it sound as if the singers themselves are angry with Amnesty, and doesn't clarify the matter until paragraph four. And Aguilera's appearance on the MTV special in which she talked to a former teen mother has morphed into "made statements against abortion."

And Rock for Life doesn't need to another thing, because the celebrity factor of the story sells itself. The word is out: organizations that support the right to choose will face serious consequences.

By now the WorldNetDaily story has been picked up by a slew of online publications, and I doubt any of them will do their own fact checking. The claims will be repeated until they become “true” and voila! instant celebrity support for the Amnesty boycott. In fact, I just received my first email from an Aguilera fan (yes, I know an Aguilera fan) who was disappointed that she has taken such a reactionary stand on Amnesty, and I've seen a few blog entries / comments deriding her as a hypocrite for calling herself "devout" when she so manifestly (again, the videos) is not.

I really hope Aguilera is offended by this misuse of her name and makes a statement of support for Amnesty. And I hope she commits to doing a special fundraiser for them, because it would be great if Rock for Life's adventures in mythmaking resulted in more, not less funding for Amnesty - not to mention sending the message to these liars that yes, the truth actually matters.

Epilogue

I was just catching up with The Daily Howler and saw this paragraph, which I think bears repeating given that I ascribe bias to the reporters from the Times and WorldNetDaily.

We’re all accustomed to analyzing the press corps’ work in terms of bias. That’s an important type of discussion, but it sometimes obscures the astounding incompetence of this least-capable cohort. And let’s be clear: The mainstream press can survive such blunders because they alone, among American professions, control what is written about themselves. In other professions, clownish incompetence gets discussed in the press. But when the press corps bumbles in its time-honored ways, nary a word is spoken.

Indeed.

Epilogue II

I just contacted the good people at the official Christina Aguilera website - http://www.christinaaguilera.com/ - and asked whether Aguilera has said anything about abortion, Amnesty, etc. So far the replies I have gotten indicate that she hasn't said anything about being anti-abortion, about being displeased with Amnesty, or even about being a devout Catholic. Some of the fans say she even went through a phase where she took to calling herself "Xtina" to emphasize, oh, well, you get the picture. And yes, I had to join the fan club to get access to their fan forums. This is what my life has become.

Epilogue III

Several hours later, a growing number of conservative, pro-life and even completely neutral sites have picked up the Times story and running it as if Aguilera and Lavigne were the ones who said they feel duped by Amnesty. They are also repeating the bit about Aguilera having made anti-abortion statements. And no one is doing their own fact-checking. Of course. These are links to some of the stories.

Read more!

:: Oh, what a beautiful MORRRRRNING!

I don't know where to begin. I had tears in my eyes. I ran around in circles. I was 8 in the morning and I just didn't know who to call. Was it the first sonogram of my niece/nephew to be? No, it was not. It was the news of AG Gonzalez' resignation. It was like a gift. I couldn't believe it.

I had hoped and dreamed this day would come (actually, my real dream was that he would be indicted, but as this White House has shown again and again that they are not troubled by such small concepts as "the law" or "ethics").

I also couldn't believe that they released the news first thing Monday morning, allowing evening news broadcasts plenty of time to build their stories.

I realize that there's not much to say here that hasn't already been said. But please. Hold forth. Say it anyway. Read more!

Saturday, August 25

:: Irish Times Column on Amnesty, Abortion

OP ED: Amnesty's policy change on abortion long overdue

Date: Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Source: Irish Times
Author: Joseph Powderly

Amnesty International's decision to support abortion in certain instances is correct and in line with international law, argues Joseph Powderly

Over recent months there has been considerable concern, criticism and controversy surrounding Amnesty International's change of policy relating to the provision of legal abortion services for victims of rape, incest or sexual assault.

Unsurprisingly, the Catholic Church has acted as the driving force behind this criticism. Almost inevitably, the debate has devolved into what is widely perceived as a clash of moralities, and it seems necessary to introduce some clarity to the discussion by redefining it in terms of international law.

Before examining the compatibility of Amnesty's policy change with internationally-recognised norms of international humanitarian and human rights law, let us be absolutely certain of what it actually advocates.

The decision to reform its traditionally neutral attitude to the question of abortion was reached following a period of intense discussion within the organisation. There are four core aspects to the policy change ratified by the global movement at its international council meeting in Mexico last week.

It calls for: (i) the provision of comprehensive information on sexual and reproductive health to both women and men; (ii) the provision of legal, safe and accessible abortion in cases of rape, sexual assault or incest, and in cases where there is a risk to a woman's life or a grave risk to her health; (iii) the repeal of laws that permit the imprisonment or imposition of other criminal sanctions on women who have sought to have an abortion or on medical practitioners who provide information or abortion services; and (iv) the provision of quality medical services for the management of complications arising from abortion.

Crucially, the policy does not call for the recognition of a universal right to abortion (a right that simply does not exist in international law), but rather an increased recognition of the right of women to sexual and reproductive integrity in the face of grave human rights abuses.

The move towards reform has been greatly influenced by reports emerging from the conflict in Darfur of the widespread use of rape and forced pregnancy as a weapon of war. Amnesty's long-overdue change of policy is indicative of the international community's evolving recognition of the egregious incidence of sexual and gender-based crimes in conflict situations and the need to address the rights of victims.

While rape has been prohibited by the law of war for centuries, it would appear that until recently history has adopted the deplorable, misogynistic attitude that rape and other forms of sexual violence are an inevitable consequence of war. In many instances prior to and during the second World War rape was given licence as an encouragement to soldiers or even as an instrument of policy (the Japanese retention of "comfort women" is a particularly disturbing example).

There was no explicit reference to sexual or gender-based crimes in the charters establishing either the Nuremberg or Tokyo military tribunals, and no individual was prosecuted specifically for sexual offences.

The conflicts in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia and the resultant international criminal tribunals have played an enormous part in ending impunity for rape and other serious sexual offences perpetrated in armed conflict. The statutes and jurisprudence of these ad hoc international criminal tribunals have firmly established that rape in time of war may (provided certain criteria are met) be considered a crime against humanity, a war crime, or even an act of genocide. These legal principles have been largely subsumed into the provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which is currently investigating the situation in Darfur. It seems likely that prosecutions for rape and other sexual offences will be placed high on the International Criminal Court's list of priority offences.

However, this offers little recompense to victims of sexual violence in traditional, religious societies. Victims are frequently ostracised from their families and communities, rendered destitute and sometimes imprisoned for what are perceived as criminal sexual acts outside of marriage.

Amnesty International, like all organisations committed to the promotion and preservation of international human rights, has a mandate to protect the most vulnerable. In order to do this effectively it must necessarily be a secular organisation founded on the rule of law rather than any particular code of theology. It is important to note that this change of policy goes no further than to bring the organisation into line with the jurisprudence of the Europe Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which have both held that while a considerable amount of discretion must be afforded to states in deciding the legality of abortion, there are nevertheless certain obligations accruing to the state which require it to positively secure the physical integrity of mothers-to-be.

The comment of Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the pontifical council for justice and peace, that Amnesty had "betrayed its mission" could not be further from the truth. The terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights demands that the preservation of human rights be pursued in a universally secular manner and not be cowed by the dictates of any one established faith.

Abortion is understandably a highly divisive issue. Surely the countless harrowing personal histories emerging from war-torn regions provide an opportunity in which principle and dogma may be set to one side in favour of a truly compassionate appreciation of the circumstances faced by victims of sexual violence.

[Joseph Powderly is case reporter in international criminal law for Oxford University Press and a PhD candidate with the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway] Read more!

Friday, August 24

:: Mean Streets

Walking home the other day I got the feeling I was being followed. I am almost always wrong about this, but not this time. My evasive maneuvers succeeded in keeping a reasonable distance between me and this fellow, who had the classic crackhead appearance (i.e. he looked like Flavor Flav, bless his heart) and was drinking with wicked abandon from a paper bag-clad forty. Unfortunately, while I kept out of range of grabbing, I was not out of range of hearing. So when my future new acquaintance asked me a question, I had to choose whether to ignore him or engage.

I have no problem ignoring people, but the question seemed innocuous and I felt physically secure. “No,” I responded, “this is not the natural color of my hair.”

What ensued was a very disjointed discussion of how long hair dye lasts (“because I can see yours is already growing out”), what products do the job best, and whether or not my now new acquaintance should color all of his hair or just the bit above the ears where grey was showing.

“How much grey do you have?” he asked. Plenty, I replied. “See, I’m 38 and I have just this much. How old are you?” he countered. I gave him a look that indicated he had reached the outer border of my tolerance. “Let me guess,” he said, “ummm… 40?”

40? 40 !? 40 !?!!!??!!!!!!?!!!!!??!!!!!!!!?

I am many things, but 40 is not one of them. I suddenly remembered the old Margaret Cho bit about the pros and cons of having a gay male fanbase. Yes, its great to be sent a fabulous salon product as a token of appreciation - but less so when you realize it is recommended for dry, brittle, listless hair.

It was at that juncture that I parted company with this evil, drunken queen, who headed vaguely in the direction of CVS. I headed home for an appointment with my bathroom mirror, a pair of tweezers, and some doomed newly-sprouted grays. I wasn’t mugged, but I think my hair was. In one of the gayest zip codes in the country, the streets are just not safe for hair. Read more!

Thursday, August 23

:: Oh, I forgot that human rights were only for boys

Ok, I can't hold back any longer. I have resisted talking about the Catholic flap over Amnesty International's long overdue decision to recognize that punishing women who have had an abortion, or refusing to treat women with injuries from an unsafe abortion, or refusing to provide an abortion to a woman whose life or health would be threatened by a pregnancy, or forcing a woman whose been raped to carry the resulting pregnancy to term, is a violation of human rights.

Now, I could go on about how long it took for Amnesty to take a friggin' position on FORCED PREGNANCY. For several years now they've had a project on preventing violence against women, but never came out and addressed whether access to safe and legal abortion was a human rights issue. However, after two years of debate among the national chapters, the international organization finally developed an opinion -- and frankly a darn good one.

But instead I'd like to go on about the fixation of the Vatican on their position. Oh. My. God. (And I do mean mine, because clearly mine is different from theirs.) The only next step I see for the Vatican is to say openly and plainly that a fetus is worth more than the woman who carries it, and that women really do deserve to be punished.

As it is, the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Bertone, comes pretty darn close:

"Even the life that is the result of violence should be saved," said the cardinal in an interview today with Vatican Radio.

"Even though they are persons in gestation, they are persons, they are human subjects, with all the dignity of a human being," he added.

Why don't people get this?? It's simple people. You can whine about how yucky abortion is, about how all the pro-choicers talk about is "Our body, our right," as if there were noone else involved. Ok, I get that one chant can oversimplify an issue, but let's try this one on for size:

THE VATICAN, THE GOP, ANTI-CHOICE EVANGELICAL CONSERVATIVES DON'T CARE ABOUT WOMEN. They will sacrifice your life in a snap in order to save a fetus. They will jail you. You can be raped, you can be dying, it doesn't matter. You are worth more to them as a dead martyr than a living member of society. In fact, I'm not even sure about that -- there was a time when women who died in childbirth were not allowed to be buried in the church graveyard. Anyone know if that's still true?

Sigh...

I'm sorry for the outburst, but every morning I read the news coming from the Vatican and I just get ticked off. Those self-righteous, mysogynist $&*#s. Read more!

Thursday, August 16

:: The Edwards Gamble

Oh, the desperation. According to the AP, “The Edwards campaign on Thursday called on Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama to co-sign a letter to party leaders decrying the connection between political donations and Washington's lobbying industry.” The idea is to preclude the Democratic party’s fundraising committees from accepting contributions from registered lobbyists.

Apparently Edwards’ letter includes the inspiring line “The system is clearly rigged against the people who make our country great.”

This kind of talk really gets me steamed. First, you [Edwards, Bradley, Nader] try to convince people that the system is broken, owned by "special interests," and/or won't listen to ordinary folk, so you can set yourself up as the agent of change, the messiah of reform. Then, when voters don't want to get involved in politics, be sure to complain about their apathy. Above all, don't connect the dots between your campaign telling them that they can't make a difference (except, of course, by voting for you) and their belief that their votes won't make a difference.

David Brooks in the NY Times (yes, I said it) alludes to this tension in his column today, which contains much praise (both regular and backhanded) for Edwards. [Personally, I think Brooks has had some kind of breakdown; a recent column indicated he's been spending a lot of time drift-surfing baby name websites. Don't remember it? Its the one that began "Names matter. People named Dennis and Denise are disproportionately likely to become dentists. People named Lawrence or Laurie are disproportionately likely to become lawyers..." If that's not a cry for help, I don't know what is.] Brooks points out that the message that Washington, lousy with insiders, doesn't work for ordinary people is somewhat at odds with the message that ordinary people should support a candidate who favors a variety of Washington programs.

Of course, the formula only works if you add Edwards / Bradley / Nader, super-agent of change, to the equation. The downside is that if people are convinced Washington is a hopeless basket case, they won't believe Edwards (or any other candidate) can make a difference, and they will tune out all together. This is fine when it comes to Nader voters, they can keep to their burrows for all I care. But Edwards has the ear of people who should be told about the good things government does, and can do, for people - people who will hopefully stay engaged with the system for a long time.

I presume Edwards saw the lobbyist gambit as a win-win; if Obama went along with it, they'd gang up on Hillary and Edwards would reinforce him status as Obama's equal. Instead Obama turned him down. I imagine Edwards can now paint himself as the only ethical candidate in the race, but I think getting brushed off that way doesn't help his stature.

[Of course, the party would never along with Edwards' proposal – for one thing, it is ridiculous, and for another thing, validating the belief that lobbyist contributions are unethical means tacitly supporting one candidate over another. I wonder if Edwards will say that if he is the nominee, he won’t accept funding from the party because it accepts money from lobbyists?]

There is another downside to this maneuver. No one in their right mind thinks influential lobbyists are our number one problem. The more Edwards focuses on small-potato issues, the more he will seem like a small-potato candidate. We are in the midst of so many crises right now that I think the only thing left to happen is a resurgence of polio. We should be so lucky to have lobbyists at the top of our list of concerns. Read more!

Wednesday, August 15

:: Led Astray

See the new feature in the right-hand column of the Canary, called "Feminews"? Its a news feed from Google that one can customize to search for articles that include specific terms; its a new thingy Blogger.com added to their template. Kind of cool, right?

Well today, it led me astray.

Today I followed a link to a story on a website called Mens News Daily, which sort of reminds me of Womens Wear Daily, except its different. Mens News Daily is a temple of paranoid gynephobia (not gynecologistphobia, a different issue altogether). I mean, seriously. You have to see it to believe it. These people are ccccrazzzy. Its actually not bad for a laugh, although it is kind of creepy to realize that a lot of the commenters who rage about rape charges being 80% false are probably rapists themselves.

But this I have to share - an opinion column by one of their regular contributors titled "Hillary Cannot Be President." Its really a hoot. This is just a tiny highlight....

Hillary Clinton isn’t qualified to become our next president. Why? Because she exclusively represents a gender that doesn’t want or believe in equality. She promotes herself as a champion for women, and, therefore, doesn’t represent men. This biased leader of the “unfairer” sex -- a gender always in search of special rights and privileges -- doesn’t have what it takes to lead our nation….

Women enjoy double standards and aren’t satisfied having the upper hand in the laws governing reproduction, safe haven, abortion, maternity fraud, paternity fraud, divorce, custody, alimony, child support, assault, battery, restraining orders, domestic violence, rape, and presumption of innocence. They want more, and they get more. Gains in rights for women mean losses in rights for men. It’s a zero-sum game. Equality be damned. The Constitution be damned….

Name one presidential candidate who’s promised to prosecute the next woman who falsely accuses a man of rape… Which presidential candidate promised to prosecute women like Kim Basinger who alienate children from their fathers?…

Not one presidential candidate gives a damn about or represents men. America is a gynocracy.
Now, this sounds like something somebody like me would make up as a joke, to make a point the long way around. Why? Because the author eventually says something worthwhile when he derides the sexist pop-culture messages that come out of what he delightfully calls “The Princess Academy” – to wit:
In July, NBC teamed up with Money magazine to teach women how to land billionaires. And, within the past week or so, MSN Money offered a female-taught tutorial to men on how to get a second date by paying for the first one.
Nearly lost in all the mouth-foam, he makes a good statement:
If women are fragile, dainty, delicate, entitled princesses, they’re unfit to be president. … Until women act equal, they aren’t equal, and we cannot elect them to the top job of our country. How will we know when women are equal? When ladies’ night is outlawed in every state and no woman complains. When women stop demanding and expecting to be wined & dined on dates. When articles about how to marry billionaires cease to exist…
Why the ellipses? Because this guy is a total raving lunatic who drowns his only sensible statement in a wash of crazy juice (okay, here’s part of what I deleted - “When unwed mothers are no longer entitled to child support. When women who falsely accuse men of rape are imprisoned for 25 years”). He is so addled he can't even tell that Maureen Dowd isn't a feminist, and that NOW isn't a big supporter of the whole Ladies Night thing.

Nevertheless, that undercooked brain of his sussed out a good example of what political psychologists call "system justification" behavior. System justification theory seeks to explain why people who are exploited by a system will nevertheless avidly contribute to its longevity (i.e. poor people who vote for Republican, soldiers who vote Republican, women who vote Republican... actually, I kid, system justification is just one factor in voting behavior, but you get the picture). What you see are people who are indeed exploited but still get a certain benefit from the exploitative system, a benefit they fear they would lose if the system is changed.

An example: the woman who encourages her husband to join her in a fundamentalist religion, hoping the church will give her leverage to get him to stop drinking / cheating / gambling. Undermine the church, and you take away some of her power to keep him on the straight and narrow. Next thing you know, along comes Ms. Feminist to explain to Mrs. Fundamentalist how she is being oppressed by her religion and kapow!, before you can say "hold the ala mode, Hilda" somebody gets an apple pie right in the kisser.

Women who promote the Princess Academy like Maureen Dowd, or Carmen Electra and those wretched Pussycat Dolls, peddle sexism because they benefit from it. I can only assume that if men started taking offense at the presumption that their ideal mate is a living blow-up doll, and the bitchy-fox routine stopped being cute, the Pussycat Dolls and Dowd would all be a bit lost. These women want the benefits of equality - a nationally syndicated political column, the ability to mold one's own career - without sacrificing the perks that come from bending stereotypes to their own advantage. The "shop till you drop" types, the Bridezillas, those cows who wrote "The Rules," Kathie Lee Gifford... they're all in on it. Okay, I'll stop now.

We’ve all wondered what a real men’s rights movement would look like – one that really pushed for a man’s ability to live free of gender discrimination and stereotypes (as opposed to living like a hate-filled, brain-damaged monkey on speed, which is what Mens News Daily seems to advocate).

Unfortunately, we may never get to find out. Read more!

Tuesday, August 14

:: I Love the Smell of Bridges Burning

I followed a link to a story at the Huffington Post today. I almost never read the (what do people call it? The Huffer or something? I don’t know) Huffer so it was a bit of surprise.

The article I was chasing is Christina Page’s “What Pro-Choice Presidential Candidates Should Be Saying.” Fellow Bloggeresses (nice coinage, Zippy), I know you would share my assumption that this would be a very easy article to write – after all, this sort of advice has been pumped out by groups and consultants alike for what, 3 decades now? Still, very oddly, Page manages to make a lumpy mess of it. And no, I am not just being mean. Let me explain.

The problem becomes apparent in the very first sentence: "Pro-choice presidential candidates are missing a huge opportunity to win over an unlikely voting bloc: pro-life voters". Hmm, Ms. Page is going to tell us something that all the candidates, with their collective brain trusts, have all missed. What are the chances?

Second sentence: "The debate over reproductive rights has for decades existed in the abstract, a volley of 'values' that's been heavy on emotion and light on fact." Which is worse – that the sentence is a non sequitor, or that it isn’t true? I don’t even know where to begin – there's the service providers, the evidence-based advocacy, the personal stories… good lord, the very existence of the Guttmacher Institute should put this "light on fact" notion to rest.

Page then launches into a standard “if you hate abortion so much why aren’t you doing more to prevent it” attack on the anti-choice movement, followed by a round of “why are we the only ones who care about this.” That's fine, though its odd that she suggests, by way of proof that pro-choice groups care about prevention, that readers go to the NARAL website instead of reminding readers of the 85+ years of services provided by Planned Parenthood. I suspect this has to do with her role as a consultant for “several national pro-choice groups” (and really, if you consider how many times they’ve changed their name – from NARAL to NARRAL to NARAL Pro-Choice America – it probably should count as three groups) but seriously, I’m just guessing here.

She continues with a good laundry list of prevention-related facts and the steps Bush etc. have taken to make the world a worserer place. Its a bit like a fact sheet sans formatting, but I’m not complaining. You can’t repeat this stuff often enough. She also shares facts about late term abortion, though at this point she returns to her device of framing the information as something new to the candidates, stating “pro-choice candidates need not shirk from the most difficult issues either.”

Oh really. Unless she's talking about mixed-record prospects like Biden, Kucinich and probably Bill "I'm no scientist" Richardson, this is very misleading.

I forget if Edwards had to vote on partial birth abortion and what his position was, but I think it is perfectly clear that the Clinton White House vetoed, without hesitation, PBA both (was it twice, or more?) times it was barfed up by the Congress. Oh, history, shmistory. “A wise pro-choice candidate will not skulk and apologize for agreeing with the majority of the American public on reproductive rights matters. A wise candidate will reveal to the American public that the pro-choice approach is effective, safer and in keeping with our values of personal freedom and protection from government intrusion in our most personal matters," she intones.

Now, I think I get what Page wants to do: use interest in the presidential race as a hook to deliver roughly one message box (triangle?) and two fact sheets-worth of information to the uninitiated. The strategery is the little bit of sugar that she hopes will make the medicine go down. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that it misrepresents the real issue. The three major Democratic nominees are all pro-choice, though now I am wondering about Edwards and PBA. HRC of course has been using the prevention message in its current form at least since she spoke at the Family Planning Advocates of New York event back in…. when was that? Please don't make me look these things up. And of course her strong and vocal support of reproductive rights goes back at least as far as the Beijing World Conference on Women in 1995. I am sure Obama has said all the right things, and I imagine his background as a community organizer gives him particular insight into this issue. Further, the work he did on HIV/AIDS awareness during his trip to Africa was fantastic.

So the problem is not with the candidates, and it is simply inaccurate to imply that anyone has been “skulking” or “apologizing” (except maybe for Edwards, who didn’t show up to the PP candidates forum and didn’t stand up to Bill Donohue). The comments that follow Page’s article demonstrate, unfortunately, that many of the Huffer's impressionable readers think just that.

If anyone needs to be brought up to speed it’s the political reporters, not the political candidates. For as long as I can remember (and that's longer than I like to admit) the press has refused to cover birth control as a political issue. Reporters are used to covering abortion, and they like the typical "spokesperson A says this, spokesperson B says the opposite" format because it insulates the reporter from charges of bias. Facts about things such as cause-and-effect give the pro-choice side the advantage and thus are very inconvenient. It pains them when we are right, because it makes their job more difficult.

Framing her post as political advice makes it seem timely and pertinent, but the device is ethically flawed. We’re supposed to be on the side of helping people get at the truth about candidates’ positions -- not muddying the water when it suits our purposes. Read more!

:: Give Me What I Want

Hillary's first campaign television ad is up at her website. You click on a still from the ad to view it. The image is of Hillary conversing with a big fellow in a cowboy hat.

You know what I'd really like to see? Hillary chasing a certain cowboy hat-wearing guy with a big fat axe.

Oh yes, I would like that very much. Read more!

Monday, August 13

:: I Smell Old Man

I have forgotten everything I was planning to write about. My mind has been wiped clean by the head rush I just got from reading a recent editorial in The Economist.

I should clarify that this was not a good head rush (i.e. the thrill I get when Doctor Boyfriend, Scientist-at-Large, gives me that doe-eyed look), or even a head rush that is acceptable under the circumstances (i.e. a milkshake-induced brain freeze). No, this was a “could anyone be so bizarre and actually have gainful employment, and at an internationally respected news magazine, no less, and, given that that does in fact appear to be the case, does said magazine not have some structure in place to curtail what must surely be that person’s strangest shit from escaping the confines of the office and making it into print?” kind of head rush.

But on with the show. The unsigned editorial, “How to deal with a falling population,” starts off explaining a basic principle (population grows steeply until it reaches an inflection point and then levels off). It notes that in some countries it appears the inflection point has been reached, and that this has become a matter of concern to some people. In other words, population growth is out; population decline is in.

And then the stupid sets in. The writer claims that this reversal is not good news, because the fears of an overpopulated planet were exaggerated.

“Mankind appropriates about a quarter of what is known as the net primary production of the Earth (this is the plant tissue created by photosynthesis) – a lot, but hardly near the point of exhaustion.”
This is great news because, as we can all agree, direct human consumption is the only thing we should really care about. Other species, the resources ecosystems need to replenish themselves, the general quality of life – sorry, I nodded off. Besides, we know natural resources are plentiful, because
“the price of raw materials reflects their scarcity and, despite recent rises, commodity prices have fallen sharply in real terms during the past century. By that measure, raw materials have become more abundant, not scarcer.”
In other words, I know its true because the market tells me so.

The author then goes on to discuss the economic complications of a leveling or slightly declining population with regard to the ratio of young workers to retirees. But hold it right there, Ceau┼čescu, this does not mean governments should find ways to make women have more babies. Whaaa? you may be asking – surely the editorial was on track to say just that. No way, they explain:
“States should not be in the business of pushing people to have babies. If women decide to spend their 20s clubbing rather than child-rearing, and their cash on handbags rather than nappies, that’s up to them.”
Now, if the Economist wishes to make an ass of itself, that’s its own business. I will look on in cool derision, my estimation of the magazine’s seriousness substantially diminished. Maybe I should not begrudge them the frisson they get from trivializing the life choices of an entire class of women – after all, I imagine things are rather grim over there, what with the balding and the dentures and the vultures circling overhead.

What strategy should governments pursue to adjust to a leveling population? First, get old people to stay at work longer by holding back their pensions and raising the retirement age (read: you’ll have plenty of time to rest when you’re dead, geezer!)

What about increasing immigration? Not so fast, the Economist says, “the numbers required would be too vast” (read: when we said we need more 'young people,' we thought you understood we meant 'young white people'). Kicking (their shrivelled old man stick-legs) and screaming (to the best of their feeble ability), I imagine, they have reached the conclusion that the answer lies in raising the legal and social status of women.

I know, I know.
“America and north-western Europe once also faced demographic decline, but are growing again, and not just because of immigration. All sorts of factors may be involved; but one obvious candidate is the efforts those countries have made to ease the business of being a working parent. Most the changes had nothing to do with population policy: they were carried out to make labour markets efficient or advance sexual equality. But they had the effect of increasing fertility.”
Now, lets leave aside the question of what the author believes population policy to be about if it categorically doesn’t include advancing sexual equality, and the question of what labour market efficiency has to do with fertility (though really, the mind boggles). The piece ends on a bit of high note:
“As traditional societies modernize, fertility falls. In traditional societies with modern economies – Japan and Italy, for instance – fertility falls the most. And in societies which make breeding and working compatible, by contrast, women tend to do both.”
Oh my. Um, okay. The last bit isn’t so bad, except, you know, for the gross oversimplification, the unusual choice of the term “breeding,” and the creepy sense one gets that the author is a raging misanthrope. But all’s well that ends well. I mean, at least they are on our side, right? Right?

Ick. Read more!

:: Happy Trails to Turd Blossom

First of all, I thought Ciccina was commenting on the resignation of Karl Rove in her earlier post, not rubbing our faces in your vacation snaps! I see your sunset over Stromboli, and raise you a day on the beach in Ipanema!

Now, back to the topic at hand: Karl Rove. Turd Blossom. Author of Evil. He's resigned, to "spend more time with his family." Um...his boy's in college now. I think the time to correct misdeeds is over. But gosh, is it perhaps harder to avoid a congressional subpoena in the middle of Texas than suburban DC? Or will he now be able to manipulate more elections and make more money doing it in the private sector?

Only the shadow knows. Or perhaps my Fierce and Fair Fellow Bloggeresses... Read more!

Sunday, August 12

:: Sunset on Stromboli

Twilight settles on the black sand beach.

Yeth, I kan usingk kamera.
Read more!

Saturday, August 11

:: Never Forget

Some of us haven't gotten over the horror that was the 2000 elections; those of us with the Sicilian Alzheimers never will. We'll go to our graves remembering the stupid, awful things people said and did to tear down Al Gore and set in motion a chain of events that continues to cause untold misery in this country and around the world.

And that is why I really appreciated the most recent Daily Howler post. In the Friday, August 10 edition, Bob Somerby (the man behind the Howler) takes on an enervating statement by some fellow who I gather is well-regarded in progressive circles. I now quote the Daily Howler's quote of one Eric Boehlert waxing poetic about his righteous keyboard tapping peers:

As Altercation's YearlyKos correspondent, I came away from the Chicago convention amazed at what the netroots have been able to build, and in such a short period of time. I'm stating the obvious when I say that Al Gore would have been elected president if the netroots existed in 2000, if only because that inventing-the-Internet nonsense would have been shot down in a matter of days."
OH! Oh, no you didn't just write that, you.... putz! I clearly remember the disgusting spectacle of progressives piling on Gore in 1999-2000. Lucky for me, I can rely on Mr. Somerby to articulate my umbrage (because if I had to do it on my own, we'd be here all day).
Many net-rooters would have been supporting Bill Bradley—and Bradley and the Bradley campaign were pimping every RNC attack against Gore’s troubling character. As we noted earlier this week, it got so bad by the fall of 1999 that Bradley and the Bradley campaign even began pretending that Gore was responsible for the Willie Horton matter, back in 1988... In March 1999, would the net-roots have risen to Gore’s defense? Oh sure! Here’s a well-known liberal blogger in February 2000:

HUFFINGTON (2/6/00): Bradley has warned voters to watch for Mr. Gore's "tricky" way with words, going as far as to compare him with Richard Nixon...In fact, not only this campaign but Mr. Gore's entire career has been laden with untruths—all demonstrating a pattern of serial abuse of language, truth and reality.

He invented the Internet, discovered Love Canal and was the inspiration for "Love Story." He lives on a farm, was "always pro-choice" and claimed that, "unlike Sen. Bradley," he had co-sponsored the original McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill—even though Mr. Feingold was not elected to the Senate until Mr. Gore had already left to become vice president.
Somerby rightly points out that the same myopia is at work this cycle, with Obama as this year's Bradley and Clinton playing the part of Gore. No matter what Bradley said or did, he was the good guy who wasn't part of the establishment, who spoke from the heart, who was "real." Gore was "more of the same," programmed by consultants and special interests, a fake and a liar. Within the Democratic family, Bradley's statements were taken at face value while Gore's were scrutinized for political motives. By the time Bradley - who clearly was not going to win the nomination - dropped out of the race, enough progressives were turned off to Gore to make the Cult of Nader a real threat.

In fact, I would love to see research on the number of Bradley supporters who wound up voting for Nader in the general. The Bradley and Nader campaigns were temperamentally dissimilar, but both cultivated and relied on an aura of purity to make up for deficits of experience and policy breadth.

And so we find ourselves back in the same leaky boat. Obama's supporters defend his "if they won't, we will" soundbite-ready lunge at Pakistan's sovereignty - but if the same statement had come from a Republican, they'd (rightly) be screaming about Iraq the Sequel. Instead, Obama's supporters proudly point out that Republicans have no right to criticize him because they themselves support the same policy.

If Hillary had said it, I guarantee you Obama supporters would have sneered about her cozying up to the neo-cons for a kegger of Bush Lite. They would point out that her position makes her no different from the Republicans, but it would be a negative, not a positive. As it stands, her "just keep it in your pants for now, big boy" response is derided as "just" a slap on Obama, as opposed to plain common sense which was also a slap at Obama because he wasn't using any when he spoke.

Likewise, with the kerfuffle over taking money from lobbyists, Clinton is derided for pointing out the obvious: that lobbying is a profession that is neither inherently good or evil; that lobbyists represent a variety of interests, including those of "real" people; and that just because you accept a campaign contribution from an individual lobbyist does not mean you are agreeing to a quid pro quo vote on legislation the lobbyist supports. Of course, this is seen as evidence (and we can thank Jon Stewart for promoting this belief) that Hillary is a hypocrite and a liar. Obama, on the other hand, is positively saintly, even though... (and here I once again am relying on the Daily Howler, which provides this quote from a story in the Los Angeles Times):
In his campaign finance statements, Obama has disclosed that he has returned more than $52,000 given to him by Washington lobbyists, though there is no law against taking money from them.

Even as he shuns donations from lobbyists, Obama has taken more than $1.4 million this year from law and consultancy firms that have partners who are registered to lobby, a Times analysis of Obama's fundraising shows. He has received hundreds of thousands more from corporate executives while turning down money from their lobbyists.

"This may be an imperfect ban, but it is an important symbol of the kind of administration that Obama will have in Washington," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement.
Needless to say, really, that Edwards does exactly the same - turns down a relatively small amount of contributions that come directly from registered lobbyists, using it as cover to accept far greater sums from what you might broadly refer to as "corporate interests."

Personally, I have no problem with Clinton, Obama or Edwards accepting money from lobbyists and/or "corporate interests." I do have a problem with Obama and Edwards using rhetorical sleight-of-hand to make this into a political purity test, and I certainly have a problem with the progressives who go along with this bullshit. At least, at least if you are going to attack somebody using innuendo instead of facts, get off your high horse when you do it. Read more!

Tuesday, August 7

:: Solidarity forever!

A group of left-wing bloggers are pondering a union in order to negotiate for group health insurance, bargain for better wages (??) and to set some professional standards (hooray!!). Does this mean we could have a safety net in case this whole activist thing falls through? Read more!

:: Kinky Mice

Big news from the world of science: apparently the gendered (what scientists call "typically male" or "typically female") sexual behavior of certain adult mammals can be reversed simply by flipping a biological switch.

A study published this week
documents the results of experiments on female mice in which "a small sensory organ found in the noses of all terrestrial vertebrates except higher primates" were disabled through surgery or genetic mutation, which.... wait, why am I trying to explain this when I should just be quoting? Here goes:

[The scientists] found that these females, when placed in a cage with a sexually experienced male, would engage in typically male courtship activity: chasing their cage mates, lifting the males' hindquarters with their snouts, and emitting complex ultrasonic vocalizations that are part of the male mouse's mating ritual. Eventually, the female mutants would replicate male sexual behavior by mounting the hapless males and thrusting.
Apparently, the hijinks in the cages escalated until the female mice were impregnated. After giving birth and despite lactating, the female mice persisted in "male" behaviors (it is so tempting to make a series of sexist comments here, but I won't, because that would be wrong. Still, I'm sure you can imagine how the cliche-based joking might proceed).

More science, from scientist-in-charge Catherine Dulac:
"There are two possible interpretations," Dulac says. "Either the vomeronasal organ may be needed to grow a female-specific neural circuit during development, or the mature female mouse brain may require vomeronasal activity to repress male behavior."

To test these two alternatives, Dulac and her colleagues excised vomeronasal organs from the nasal septa of normal adult females. These mice began behaving like males, despite the fact that they - like mutant females in the study - showed testosterone levels, estrogen levels, and estrus cycles indistinguishable from those found in normal females.

"It had previously been thought that entirely different neural circuits, modulated by these hormones, controlled sex-specific behavior," Dulac says. "Remarkably, our work suggests that neuronal circuits underlying male-specific behaviors develop and persist in the female mouse brain, but are repressed by the normal activity of the vomeronasal organ."

"In fact, our research suggests a new model where exactly the same neural circuitry exists in males and females," Dulac says. "In this model, only the vomeronasal pathway itself - which serves as a switch that represses male behavior while promoting female behavior - is dimorphic. While male and female bodies are strikingly different physiologically, it appears the same cannot be said for the brain."
Finally, we are tossed this tantalizing tidbit:
Dulac and colleagues are now studying the behavior of male mice mutant for TRPC2 to determine whether they display femalelike traits.
If humans have an equivalent mechanism to the one described in this study, it might explain why scientists have had such a hard time linking gendered behavior with physiological features of the brain: they're looking for something that isn't there. (In your face, sociobiologists!)

The conventional wisdom that gender identity is naturally tethered to the "either / or" of one's genitalia (and that the fraying of that tether is perverse or "against nature") is increasingly undermined as people feel freer to express a range of unconventional gender identities.

In my mind I keep picturing hordes of Essentialist and Constructionist feminists clashing ala the Spartans and the Persians in the movie 3oo (albeit with less facial hair), but that is because much of my own brain's physiology is stuck in the 1980's. Read more!

Monday, August 6

:: Grinnashing, or something like it

There should be an expression in English for the act of grinning and gnashing your teeth at the same time. You know, that thing you do when you feel contemptuously amused - when your lips say "how droll" and your eyes say "I will kill you." I do it all the time, and I have no idea what to call it. Grinnashing? Sort of like grimacing, but with dental repercussions? Let's use it in a sentence: "I have been grinnashing so much lately that my veneers are starting to crack." Okay then.

Let's get to business: Kit Seelye in the NYTimes has a dispatch from the YearlyKos convention, where Mrs. Clinton spoke to the unwashed masses, and this transpired:

At one point, she said she would not be influenced by campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists.

At another, she said she would continue to accept such contributions.
The explanation from Mrs. Clinton is golden.
“Yes, I will. I will. You know, a lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans. They actually do. They represent nurses. They represent, you know, social workers. They represent -- yes, they represent corporations. They employ a lot of people. The idea that somehow a contribution is going to influence you — I just ask you to look at my record. I have been fighting for the same thing, my core values have not changed. But I do want to be the president for everybody.”
Seelye writes that the crowd "had just been warming up to her when she made the comments right in front of them. They booed at the time and immediately began posting critical items, including an examination of her vote in favor of a bill to change the bankruptcy law that was heavily supported by credit-card companies."

Of course, none of them will find a quid pro quo (if it were there, we would know it by now). Instead it'll be the typical old left "if you are corporate, you are evil" mantra, chanted ad nauseum while they benefit from the largess of financiers like Soros and Corzine. Where old-school class politics is concerned, these guys never connect the dots - they just stumble around in a haze of "got to get back at The Man" that owes more to Freudian than Marxist paradigms.

I posted a comment expressing my patriotic umbrage, but I know it won't show up. I don't think the Times cares that much about the hit-or-miss quality of its "comments" mechanism. Anyway, I pointed out the irony of the YearlyKos crowd booing Hillary for not giving them the answer they want to hear, when they themselves are a classic "special interest" engaged in a form of lobbying - even if the activity can't be financially valuated... or can it? [hmmm... she is a sitting Senator... I wonder if anyone mentioned specific, pending legislation?] When push comes to shove, these guys don't want a candidate who shows independence - they want someone who will tell them what they want to hear. Read more!

Thursday, August 2

:: Lady Macbeth Rides Again

Presidential campaigns remind me of the wagon trains of yore.* As they move toward their destination they pick up wagons whose drivers believe in the wagon master’s** promised land and think he's just the guy to get them there. Other wagons may drop out of the train due to mishaps, a lack of faith, or better opportunities elsewhere. And, when things get really rough, somebody inevitably gets eaten (and it sure as hell isn’t the wagon master).

I bet every wagon train had people who created controversy along the way, some for good reason and some purely out of self-interest. I imagine some controversies were almost guaranteed to come up (I won’t enumerate them but I’m sure at least one of them had to do with cougars.)***

And this brings me to my point: every presidential contest brings forth a crop of perennial micro-controversies. This week, its the return of the Big Bad Wife. ****

I say “micro-controversy” because I’m not talking about the larger issue of family image control, which can become big news ala the Great Cookie Baking / Stand By Your Man imbroglio of 1992, or those reliable thorns-in-the-ass Billy Carter (RIP), Roger Clinton and the Bush twins. Instead, what I have in mind is the fight for status and control between the candidate’s "top advisors” and the candidate’s wife,***** which feeds into the all-important question of Just Who Exactly Does She Think She is?

Not only does it come up every cycle – I’ll spare you the historical retrospective – but it occurs on a bipartisan basis. For example, in the space of one week WaPo has run multiple items concerning Mrs. John Edwards, Mrs. Fred Thompson and what you might call “Lady Macbeth Syndrome.”

First, Mrs. Edwards. On 30 July, WaPo ran A True Political Partner: John Edwards’s Wife Has Helped Shape His Presidential Bid and Often Shares the Spotlight.******

I’ll break it down for you. First, here's the setup:
Among political insiders who closely follow the presidential race and gossip about who is up and who is down in every campaign, Elizabeth Edwards is the hidden hand behind virtually every important decision regarding her husband's second bid for the White House.
And the volley:
Still, with savvy consultants, would the current campaign have avoided some of the issues that have arisen this year? Those are now short-handed as the three Hs -- haircuts (at $400 a pop), hedge fund (the candidate's tenure as a hedge fund executive) and house (the 28,000-square-foot home the couple recently had built for their return to North Carolina).
And now, Mrs. Edwards’****** perspective. The Post gives us an Elizabeth who alternately denies her influence and takes ownership of it, to wit:
Edwards recently recalled a moment in the 2004 general election campaign when she lost faith in consultants…. "It seemed so completely bogus," she said. "It was like somebody had pulled the curtain back in 'The Wizard of Oz.'
[and]
"We tried to do it the way we were told by people who had lots of experience. We're now liberated from that, and it's great."
[versus]
"I get a lot more credit for, you know, being the puppeteer than I am," she said. "I express my opinion. Honestly, I'm not the decision maker."
[and]
Asked who is now running the campaign, she laughed again. "All these stories about my pulling the strings -- honestly, I don't know."
On one level, this is about certain consultants’ resentment of Mrs. Edwards – after all, she is doing for free what they could be doing for money. And nobody likes having two bosses.

But on a different level, it reflects the same old anxiety over the ambitious, controlling wife who usurps the leader’s rightful place and precipitates disaster. Such a woman is seen as unnatural, not only perverting her role as “helpmeet” but also emasculating her husband, and thereby weakening his realm.

Mothers can play this role too – re: The Manchurian Candidate – but Lady Macbeth is the obvious precursor. That is, unless you want to count Eve getting too opinionated about whether Adam was eating enough fruit.

WaPo has spun the same storyline with Jeri Thompson. Robert Novak’s column today is dedicated to saving the lady’s reputation from those who would cast her as temptress / villain. Novak recounts a typically molar-crushing moment from the Sunday morning talk shows:
"Well, first," said Juan Williams of National Public Radio, ". . . I think you should get Jeri Thompson in here, the trophy wife, right?" William Kristol of the Weekly Standard interjected: "That's unfair." Williams: "Unfair, unfair, I know, but --" Kristol: "It is unfair."

That ended the discussion. I asked Williams, a respected journalist, whether he regretted the comment. He did not, but he explained that he got the idea from a July 8 New York Times article by Susan Saulny. "Is America ready for a president with a trophy wife?" she asked in the paper's Style section. "Subsequent to that," Williams told me, "I heard the same thing in conversation with people in other campaigns -- about her being so young, so attractive and so powerful."
This is indeed unfair, Novak points out*******, because, far from being a prize, Mrs. T in fact has copious experience as a Republican operative with the RNC and elsewhere. He writes:
“She has been intimately involved in the planning of her husband's campaign, including last week's staff shakeup. When Tom Collamore left as Thompson's campaign manager, he told CNN that he was "very respectful of the desire of Fred and Jeri to make some changes as they move to the next level." Those comments generated whispers in the political community that whoever ran this campaign would have to answer to the candidate's wife.”
As with the Edwards campaign, this is a gone-public aspect of behind-the-scenes skirmishing over limited resources. But it also reflects the disconnect people feel when they try to match the notion of “wife” with "chief strategist.” Apparently for many of us a “wife” should have a “derivative” existence (that’s Mrs. E's term for it), assisting when needed rather than calling the shots. “Wife” is incompatible with the idea of the “campaign manager” who, by occupational necessity, must be extremely strong-willed.********

Consider this joke made by Fred Thompson to a fundraiser audience (as reported by Novak):
“[He] began by introducing 'my campaign manager -- oh, I mean my wife.'"
I propose that to the extent the comment is funny, it is because it taps into the dissonance between the two occupations.********* A big tough guy like Thompson, letting himself be bossed around by his pretty little wife – the very idea! The crowd titters, vaguely reassured that, at least for the moment, Fred has his priorities straight and his house in order.

----------------------------------------------------------------
[Footnotes]

* Yes, I said “yore.” Bite me.

** That’s what they were called. I looked it up in the wikipedia. Quote: “Ward Bond died of a heart attack on 5 November 1960, in the middle of the fourth season and was replaced by John McIntire as wagon master.”

*** Yes, that’s how it is spelled (not “cougers”). I used spell-check.

**** I say “wife” because I don’t mean “husband.”

***** Ditto.

****** Since when did we start writing “Edwards’s”? I thought for a noun ending in “s” you put the apostrophe on the outside to show possession. Did the rules change or something? Or am I imagining this?

******* A fine example of the "stopped clock" rule.

******** Don't even think about bringing up Mary Matalin. She is the exception to every rule you can think of, and quite a few that you can't.

********* Don't agree? Then consider some variations: "I'd like to introduce my campaign manager... Oh, I mean, my friend." No dissonance = no funny. "I'd like to introduce my campaign manager... Oh, I mean, my father." That might get a small laugh, but it could be more alarming than funny if the father's reputation is superior to the son's (imagine George W. saying that in 2000). "I'd like to introduce my campaign manager... Oh, I mean, the Captain of the SS Cornflake." Really, only Kucinich could pull that one off.
Read more!

Wednesday, August 1

:: Obama Blinks

The AP reports:

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said on Wednesday the United States must be willing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan, adopting a tougher tone after a chief rival accused him of naivety in foreign policy.

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will," Obama said.

Obama’s response to being called "naive" on foreign policy is to announce he would take military action in Pakistan - brilliant. If its more macho posturing this country needs, we might as well stick with this guy ===>

Pakistan will not take kindly to public threats of a U.S. invasion (and going in without their permission would be called an invasion). And with what troops? With what backup (Black Hawk Down, anyone?) Did he think about what would happen if we blundered in, the Pakistani public were outraged, Musharraf's regime went down, and the real fundamentalists took over?

The last thing his campaign should have done in response to the "naive" message was put forth the image of a man with only 2 and a half years of experience in national policy making acting as Commander in Chief leading us into an armed conflict with Pakistan, a very unstable country with nuclear weapons.

It's like Dukakis in the tank, writ large. If I didn’t have to do some actual work right now, I’d be trying to use the wrong software to superimpose Obama’s face on the tank picture ===>

Sounds to me like the campaign panicked and said - "we need a bold message that makes us long strong" -and then did the opposite.

In the staredown with Hillary on foreign policy, Obama blinked.
Read more!

:: Stupid Beyond Belief. Beyond Belief!!!

Check out this column - and no, its not about Michael Vick - -

[It occurs to me that I can only name two football players off the top of my head: Michael Vick, and Boomer Esaiason. Okay, and Joe Namath, and the guy in Something About Mary – that’s four.]

- - its by Anna Quindlen, writing in Newsweek (the magazine that arrives free of charge at my door and proceeds directly to the trashcan designated for junk mail) about a “mini-documentary” she found on the You Tube. I could tell you about it, but why not just watch it instead. [UPDATE: this video has been disabled, but you can view it at a different address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk6t_tdOkwo.
You know, we’ve been screaming that these people are total f-ing idiots for years now… and yet I am still stupefied by the stupidity. The Canary is not pleased - not pleased at all!!!

Quindlen’s column features Jill June, who we (all five of us) know and love... Jill should have ground through all her molars years ago (and for all I know, maybe she has). Read more!