Saturday, September 13

:: Losing the battle, and maybe the war

Today I read that our nasty little homegrown clero-fascists have grabbed mainstream headlines by putting both feet squarely on the new third rail of American politics:  racism.   See here for an article on some kind of dreadful anti-Obama novelty type item.  The article doesn't link to an image of the product itself, and I'm not providing one, because I don't intend to promote it through the back door ("you wouldn't believe this - click here now to see it!").


But the article itself reminds me of a question that is still, unfortunately, rhetorical - where was the "objective" mainstream media outrage over the "Hillary nutcrackers"?  They were sold in a big honking display at the CNBC store at National (Reagan) airport.  Maybe there were AP articles that declared them unambiguously sexist and implicitly immoral, but I don't remember seeing them.  This is the kind of item the press deems trivial and ignores, or describes as controversial, something that some people find offensive, or to which feminist groups object.  This article, while published in the not-MSM Huffington Post, is by a Chicago-based "editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer," and it captures the mealy-mouthed equivocating reaction in all its contextual glory: 
I'm still trying to figure out what to make of it -- feeling at once troubled that this is more cultural rollback, that it's OK (again, still) to mock the concept of women in power with quasi-sexual guffaws that mask deep male anger and fear, a la Tucker Carlson; yet at the same time swayed by the idea that this light-hearted product, while it has obvious appeal to Hillary haters, could also appeal to her supporters and to women in general because it conveys female empowerment, and in any case it's funny, and sometimes it's OK to just lighten up. 
My point has nothing to do with Sen. Obama per se.   My point is:  whatever else the current generation of feminists - and particularly the Third Wave feminists - have accomplished, the battle to diminish the cultural acceptability of sexism and misogyny is being lost.   Lighten up is not a successful strategy.  Lighten up is no strategy at all.

When I objected to the decidedly not-impressed employee at the airport store selling the nutcrackers, I was told "well, people are buying them."  When I subsequently tried to voice my outrage, I was flummoxed.  This wasn't about writing a Congressman, or calling for something to be banned, or calling for a boycott (which can backfire spectacularly). Writing comments on various blogs felt, at best, inconsequential.  There was no vehicle to do anything about this.  

The day will come when racist expression is vociferously and sincerely condemned in every corner of this country.  Norms have changed, and they continue to change.  Even the most entrenched stereotypes and assumptions can be uprooted.   In some ways, this is the kind of improvement that is the most meaningful, because it demonstrates that the way people think about race as a concept has evolved.

The dumbest response to this phenomenon would be to resent organized anti-racism interest groups (which include many, many feminists), the millions of individuals who have bravely spoken out on their own, or the beneficiaries of their efforts, such as Sen. Obama.  This is a success-in-progress that should be celebrated and emulated.

Feminists can make this happen with regard to sexist and misogynistic expression.  Around the world one can identify cultures where such expression is more common than in others.  Given that such differences exist, we know that at a minimum it is possible to move our culture along the spectrum, in the right direction.    

We must commit ourselves to an innovative and energetic campaign to change our culture.  The way things look now, we're not just losing a battle about sexism in this election - we're losing the whole damn war.  
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Sunday, September 7

:: Sarah Palin & Sex Education

As someone who spends much of her professional time working on policy issues surrounding sex education, I know how hard it is to find straight answers. 

Ever since Senator McCain announced his choice of Governor Palin, and especially since the fact of Governor Palin's imminent grandparenthood was revealed, we've heard over and over again about her support for abstinence-only sex education programs.  Much of the shaming and blaming has been justified by pointing to Palin's abstinence-only position.  To back up the charge that she supports abstinence-only, the shamers and blamers frequently referred to her answer to a questionnaire during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign in which she was asked whether she supported "explicit sex-ed programs."  Palin's written reply was, "Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support."

But the Los Angeles Times ran a story yesterday that makes this tale more complicated. Apparently, a few weeks after filling out the questionnaire....
...in August of that year, Palin was asked during a KTOO radio debate if "explicit" programs include those that discuss condoms.  Palin said no and called discussions of condoms "relatively benign."

"Explicit means explicit," she said. "No, I'm pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues. So I am not anti-contraception. But, yeah, abstinence is another alternative that should be discussed with kids. I don't have a problem with that. That doesn't scare me, so it's something I would support also."
I don't think I've actually heard her say anything recently that contradicts this - not that she would, since the conservative, pro-life part of the Republican base loves her, and to reaffirm this position now would be a slap in their collective face.  But it's important to remember that the facts people repeat because they "seem" true often aren't, and that the media loves telling the narrative that they want to tell, as Bob Somersby reminds us.

One important, verifiable fact that has been missing in action is that Alaska is not an abstinence-only state in terms of the one source of federal abstinence-only money that goes directly to the states, the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage grants. There are currently 25 states that are no longer participating in this program, including Alaska. 

Most of the states not participating in the abstinence-only-until-marriage grant program have decided not to do so because it conflicts with other public health priorities and because there has been little to no evidence to show that such programs are effective. That being said, it is possible that Alaska turned down the money for administrative reasons (according to the SIECUS state profile of Alaska, it looks like no one applied for the funds so the program ceased operating).  Or, possibly not applying for the money was their way of "opting-out."

There are other sources of federal abstinence-only money, including the Community Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) program, and Alaska has one grantee that receives that funding. CBAE grantees can and often do provide programs in schools. Alaska doesn't have any laws that govern sex education and/or HIV/STD prevention in schools.

Sex education is an incredibly local issue so it's hard to say even from all of this what is taught in a specific school, except in those states that have very specific health curriculum standards.  But even the most detailed curriculum standards tend to be general enough to allow for variation from school to school. In fact, one of the biggest challenges faced by sex education advocates in states with good laws and/or good health education standards is that there is often no way to enforce the rules - it's hard to know what goes on in each school, and even if one can prove that a school is out of compliance, there are often no penalties in place.

All of which is to say that while I personally don't think it's at all relevant, we basically have no idea what kind of sex education Bristol Palin got at school or at home and whether her mother's public policies or familial sex education failed. As others have pointed out, she may have used contraception that failed, or she may have wanted to get pregnant. We simply don't know, and it's not fair to use the fact that her teenage daughter is pregnant to attack Sarah Palin's policy positions, which may not even be what so many liberals think they are. 

And what if it turns out that her high school had a comprehensive sex ed program? Would we be so quick to call that a failure?



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Saturday, September 6

Friday, September 5

:: Friday humor

Lolcats - still funny after all these years.



See? Its not all fist-shaking and "get off my lawn" around here.

In related news, Cats rescued after apparently starting house fire. There is a serious lack of pet-accountability these days - take it from me, I know. Scientist-at-large and I have gold medals in Dog Bite ("recipient" catagory).



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Thursday, September 4

:: Right Back Atcha

I watched Governor Palin's speech last night. She rocked. I cannot believe this woman is not on our side. She was strong, smart, confident, funny, tough and likeable. There probably is not a single policy position of hers that I agree with.  But I was rooting for her when she told all the smarmy, sneering jackwipes to go scratch. I was rooting for her when she made them look like the scared little boys they are. 

And I was rooting for her when she handed Obama his ass.

Why can't she be one of ours?  Why does she have to be so conservative? Why, I ask you, why, Doggamit!

There aren't any poll numbers yet that reflect the speech; I don't think we'll see those until Sunday or Monday. But there is data from Nielsen:
More than 37.2 million people tuned in for coverage of the third night of the 2008 Republican National Convention, which featured Sarah Palin’s much anticipated national debut.

Wednesday night’s RNC broadcasts attracted just a 1.1 million fewer viewers than Barack Obama’s record-breaking speech on day four of the Democratic convention.

Coverage of day three of the GOP convention drew a large female audience (19.5 million) — 5.2 million more women than tuned in for day two of the Democratic convention, when Hillary Clinton addressed the delegates, and 6.9 million more women than watched Joe Biden accept the Democrats’ vice presidential nomination last Wednesday night.
I think that's the first evidence that the Dem leadership screwed up royally by unleashing the viciousness they let run rampant during the primary.  Here's where the brain trust went wrong:
  1. They drove interest in her speech sky high. Surely a good many of the viewers were like me, curious to see how she would do. I'd have been less curious if the Dems hadn't made such a spectacle of her.

  2. They set the bar for success ridiculously low. If the Dems had prepped the media and the public that Palin was a vicious attack dog and a formidable speaker, the response to her speech might have been "huh, she wasn't that big a deal." Instead the headlines were "Palin the Rising Star."

  3. They set themselves up to be seen as the sneering elitists they are.  They actually built with their own actions the paradigm of Ivy League Snob vs. Real America days before the Republicans went for it at their convention.  

  4. They revived the problem of Obama's lack of experience. They bought right into an Obama-Palin deathmatch, with McCain hovering above the fray.
Has the Dem leadership learned a lesson yet?  Are they going to get their shit together?  I don't think so.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - a guy who is supposed to be on our side - had his press guy make the following statement in response to last night's speech:
"Shrill and sarcastic political attacks may fire up the Republican base, but they don't change the fact that a McCain-Palin administration would mean four more years of failed Bush-Cheney policies."
Shrill.  Everybody gets the implications of that word.  So I guess this was Reid's way of signaling that Dems should be comfortable using low blows - because hey, she *deserves* it, right?  And sure enough, right in the first handful of comments, we see Our People having a good ol' hatefest:
- I guess the lady at the check out counter in Wal Mart should be groomed to run for Secretary of State…….. this is becoming pitiful and beyond a joke

- So how is this going to fix the domestic and international problems we face? She brings to the table NOTHING. Quite pathetic.

- I don't think Senator Reid should dignify this parasite by responding to her laughable attacks.
Over at the Democratic Strategist, some people are doing their bit to keep the Democrats in the gutter:
But the bigger question is whether Sarah Palin herself, in her acceptance speech tonight, does some tastefully delivered whining of her own. To put it another way, does she cast herself as Everywoman--a highly sympathetic "hockey mom" who's being beat up on by elitist Democrats and media figures--or as Superwoman--a highly acccomplished executive whose slim resume disguises a deep knowledge of public affairs and a demonstrated commitment to "reform?"
That's right, she's just whining. Cause that's what women do, whine whine whine.  They don't have serious concerns, real concerns, like men do.  

[Seriously, how does "whining" fit into the "Everywoman / Superwoman" dichotomy?  Being a hockey mom is whining? Or being an executive is whining? Or perhaps its RWF (Running While Female) that constitutes whining?]

Of course there have been plenty of completely inappropiate charges hurled around the media - that Palin can't be a good mother and run for high office, that she should be too scandalized by having a pregnant daughter to even think of joining the ticket, and that she's a bad person because of her own reproductive choices. Not to mention the characterization of an elected Governor as a "joke" and a "stewardess" (Bill Maher). And of course, according to Senator Reid, she's "shrill."

These are serious matters to women who want to succeed in politics and other spheres. Responding to them isn't "whining," regardless of whether the target is a Republican or a Democrat. It is important to address the use of stereotypes, constrictive gender roles and shaming as political tools against a female candidate. The deployment of stereotypes - even against an "enemy" - reinforces their validity and normalizes their use.  Words like "shrill" or "bimbo" or "beauty queen" don't just criticize an opponent for being harshly negative, unintelligent or lacking in substance.  They invoke the opponent's gender, making gender a part of the problem.   If someone wants to say that Governor Palin is inexperienced or too negative, so be it.  But calling her a "bimbo" or "shrill" is like saying the problem is that she's an inexperienced woman, or a harshly negative woman.  

Gender equality is supposed to be a core Democratic value. But you won't see this kind of essay at the Democratic Strategist.   It is a terrible thing to hear slimemasters like Giuliani scoring points on this issue.  Because he wouldn't have the opportunity to score those points if the Democrats would have just stood up for women in the first place.  Reid and Dean and the Obamabots created the opportunity that Giuliani et al are now exploiting.

Who will save the Democrats from themselves?  I don't have the slightest idea.



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    Wednesday, September 3

    :: This didn't have to happen

    Oh, goody.

    G.O.P. Women Call Palin Criticism ‘Sexist’

    Rosario Marin, a former United States treasurer, said she was “absolutely incensed, offended, insulted” that stories had addressed Ms. Palin’s infant son, Trig, and his Down Syndrome, suggesting, she said, that someone with a child with special needs should not seek the vice presidency. “Shame on them,” she said of the media’s portrait of Ms. Palin.

    “Who better than her to understand the challenges we have as career women trying to balance career and family?” said Ms. Marin, who said she, too, was the parent of a child (now grown) with Down Syndrome. “They would never dare to say that about a man.”
    Huckabee has a statement calling the criticism of Palin's family sexist. Huckabee. has. the. moral. highground. This should never, never have happened. And it wouldn't have happened if the Dean-Reid-Pelosi Democrats hadn't handed the Republicans this issue on a silver platter. If they hadn't already tacitly sanctioned sexism as a campaign tactic.
    "Let me be as clear as possible. I think people's families are off-limits, and people's children are especially off-limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice president...How a family deals with issues and teenage children, that shouldn't be the topic of our politics, and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that's off-limits." Senator Obama, September 1, 2009
    The party is lucky Obama did the right thing, quickly and unequivocally. But I am left wondering how I'd feel about this election if Obama had made this statement not just about the unfair attacks on Governor Palin, but about the misogyny hurled at Senator Clinton. If Obama had said - and released a statement to reinforce - that criticizing or mocking Senator Clinton because of her ostensibly "shrill" voice, her appearance, her status as the wife of a former President and other gender-related characteristics were every bit as off-limits as racially-based insults, I wouldn't feel so dismissive of his campaign rhetoric.
    "Let me be as clear as possible. I think gender-based insults are off-limits, and someone's marriage is especially off-limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Senator Clinton's performance as Senator of New York, her performance as First Lady, or her potential performance as a president... Comments about a woman's physical characteristics or how she deals with issues in her family, that shouldn't be the topic of our politics, and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that's off-limits."
    It was a simple thing, really, that he needed to do. Make the statement he made about attacks on Governor Palin, but on the topic of gender-based insults and slurs of Senator Clinton. Right after New Hampshire would have been a good time to do it. Read more!

    Tuesday, September 2

    :: Let's Start the Week Ranting

    “The media is already trying to spin this as evidence that Governor Palin is a hypocrite,” said James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family. “But all it really means is that she and her family are human.”
    Yes, compared to some of the people on "our" side, James-fucking-Dobson sounds like a reasonable man.  That is a very sorry, how-low-can-you-go, state of affairs.

    I recently posted the following comment at Shakesville; now I am sharing my wealth of insights here. For what its worth, etc.

    No doubt the GOP is quivering in anticipation of the moment when Governor Palin can look Joe Biden in the eye and say "As we all know my daughter Bristol is expecting my first grandchild. I've seen my grandson's (granddaughter's) sonogram and listened to his (her) tiny heartbeat. There is no way you can tell me, as a mother and grandmother, that my grandbaby isn't a human life worthy of protection." And watch Biden (or Obama) scramble to try to define late term / "partial birth' abortion etc. Either or both of them will fold like.... well, folding chairs, or something.

    And I'm sure they are looking forward to "Troopergate" vs. Rezko. The investigation into Palin's cop former brother-in-law began before Palin started her gubernatorial campaign and was based on legitimate (and legitmated) complaints. Even if its found that Palin did replace Alaska's top public safety guy because she was unhappy that the ex-brother in law was still on the force, given the ex-brother-in-law's record of drunk driving, drinking beer in his patrol car, threatening to kill his father-in-law if his wife hired a divorce lawyer, tasering his 11 year old stepson, and a few other things found to be true by the internal police investigation, Palin's concerns hardly seem outrageous. Nor does this sound all that troubling compared to vouching for and benefitting from Rezko. If I had to pick a scandal for my candidate to have, I'd take "why is this rogue cop still on the force" over "love me, love my slumlord" in a heartbeat, and I'd welcome the comparison. "Troopergate" makes Rezko a relevant topic of conversation again.

    And as for experience - same thing. Who can honestly say that a guy who spent eight years pushing the yes, no or present button in a part-time state legislature plus half a term in the U.S. Senate, a man with no foreign policy experience, is a serious pick to be president of the united states? But here we are. If I were McCain's camp, I would welcome every opportunity to bring this up over and over again, even if it knocked down my VP candidate a bit. It's a net plus.

    Choosing Palin is an open opportunity for the Dems to expose themselves as elitist, sneering, superficial, anti-family, anti-Christian, anti-ordinary folks, holier-than-thou moralists. The gamble McCain is taking is that this negative impression of the Democrats will be more potent than the hit he takes from the media for the crime of naming a female - and thus superficial and ridiculous - person to the ticket.

    McCain is running with the "I'm more like you ordinary voters; you and me, we think alike; I respect and will represent your values; and just who do these highfalutin' Democrats think they are anyway" narrative against the Democrats "we're right on the issues, and we're smarter and better and younger" narrative. And when you're not smarter or better, or right on the issues, that's a very good approach to take.

    To wrap it up - Palin makes lack-of-experience, scandal, and liberal snobbery "newsworthy" topics of conversation, since its the Democrats who are raising / walking into these issues.

    ----
    THEN I read this post at Anglachel's Journal :
    At this point in the election, there are only two issues that matter. One is the Republican ticket and how that will affect Republican turn out. The other is the disaffection of the Democratic base....McCain correctly identified his electoral weaknesses (loss of image as outsider, growth of image that he is not a mover and shaker, belief that he is not sufficiently conservative) and has located a running mate who helps him shore up issues without detracting from him. He has reasserted the maverick brand, positioned himself as a change agent, and has neutralized most of his hard-right defection threat. What Democrats need to understand is the VP selection was all about McCain and the problems he was having creating the right image and was not about policy, credentials, or filling an office. Our Republican friends are ecstatic about the selection of Palin because it fixes their problems with McCain. They now have a positive reason to vote for their ticket..."

    "What too many on the Left see as Palin's weaknesses will not, repeat, NOT be seen that way by her base. For example, there is an article today in the NYT by Kit Seelye about Bristol Palin's pregnancy. The headline screams "Palin’s Teen Daughter Is Pregnant; New G.O.P. Tumult," but the text of the article shows one Republican after another saying some variation on "Stuff like that happens. I wish the family the best." No tumult at all. Kind of like the Pope approving of Madonna's song "Papa Don't Preach." Also, absolutely do not under any circumstances breathe that Gov. Palin should have to produce medical records related to her reproductive history. Quite aside from that being a HIPAA violation, it is what the Republicans want the power to do, so do not damage your own privacy interests.

    Attacking Palin on personal integrity grounds, as was done to Hillary, will boomerang into increased conservative support because you are outsiders attacking one of the tribe and they will come to her defense. The experience issue is a non-starter. McCain has already abandoned that as a significant argument and it is now the Democrats who keep the meme alive. No one who intends to vote for Palin cares about the "experience" argument and it allows the Republicans to shoot back "But what about Obama?"
    About the Democratic base, she writes:
    "...The DNC and the Obama campaign denigrated and dismissed the preferred candidate of more than half the party, using misogyny and false accusations of racism and giving the CDS-afflicted media carte blanche to act out its worst impulses. When the candidate refused to be intimidated out of the race, the smears were aimed at her supporters. These smears continue to this day. These two lines of attack, one aimed at the voters, the other attributed to them, have inflicted damage that the Obamacan faction will not take responsibility for, let alone move to fix."
    I don't know what "CDS-afflicted media" means, but I'm pretty sure its not good.  (Constitutional Defiance Syndrome? Consistently Deficient Syndrome? Compulsive Dentistry Syndrome?) 

    What Anglachel wrote is really good, much better than what I wrote, and there's more to it than what I pasted here so go read it. You'll be edificationalized, I guarantee it.




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    Monday, September 1

    :: When Misogyny Doesn't Pay

    Sometimes, not too often but every once in a while, it actually doesn’t pay to be an ignorant sexist numbskull. This is one of those times. Unfortunately, some of our Dems are so committed to the primary election gameplan that they can’t even fake being enlightened human beings when it is obviously to their own advantage.

    I speak of the utterly repugnant rumor mill and commentary about the announcement by VP nominee Sarah Palin that her daughter is pregnant. WHAT DID HE KNOW AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT…. 17 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER PREGNANT screams the splash page of the Huffington Post. Apparently it’s a given that having a daughter who is pregnant out of wedlock is so scandalous, so unacceptable, that McCain must not have known about it before he chose her. Thus, it is evidence of his poor judgement in choosing Palin. 


    This assertion comes on the heels of a ridiculous rumor started by the bully boyz at DailyKos and continuing at HuffPo (and I'm sure elsewhere) that aims to discredit Palin by saying her youngest son isn’t her son, but her daughter’s son…. What the motive would be for Palin to do this escapes me but its providing a platform for all sorts of prurient inquiries into Palin’s abdomen, her behavior (how dare she fly while pregnant!) and her choice of hospital (she bypassed a hospital that was closer by, with a better neonatal unit!  How dare she endanger her baby that way!).

    The author, Steve Rosenfeld, tries to act like its "the media" who doesn't respect privacy, in the midst of his invasion-of-privacy exercise.  Nice try.  The comments reinforce the snide, derogatory tone:  "It seems to me her priorities at this time are not her children. It certainly would seem her family has taken a backseat to her own personal ambitions."

    I give Senator Obama credit for stating "I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories… You know my mother had me when she was 18, and how a family deals with issues and, you know, teenage children, that shouldn't be the topic of our politics and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that's off limits." That is the decent thing to say, and for once I actually believe he is sincere. But once you’ve let loose the dogs of misogyny its damn hard to get them back in the kennel. And those dogs are barking mad.

    I know it would be too much to suggest people give credit to McCain for doing something good – for not treating the situation as though it is shameful and disqualifying. But is it too much to ask that people who call themselves liberal shut the hell up? Instead we have the “left” playing the role of the fire-and-brimstone religious right (this sexual behavior was unsanctioned by the patriarchy! the whole family must be excluded from public life for this grave offense against decency!).

    The notion that McCain didn’t vett Palin before choosing her is a popular one. But I would bet real money that the vetting happened. In fact, I’m surprised no one has clocked onto what a bonus this is for the GOP ticket.

    I predict the five (or six or seven)-months-pregnant thing will be brought up in the context of using late term / "partial birth" abortion as a wedge issue against the Democrtic ticket. I can picture Palin saying - "I've seen my grandson’s sonograms and listened to his tiny heartbeat, and no way can you tell me my grandson isn't a human being worthy of protection," or somesuch. That would certainly knock Team Obama back on the defensive, sticking him with trying to delineate what he thinks should and shouldn't be permitted, and when. If I were a GOPper, I'd be looking forward to playing that card. Its a strong one.

    The irony is that despite all the trouble Obama went through to inoculate himself against being called extreme on choice - alienating us along the way – he’ll be labeled extreme anyway. And his statements about not supporting a mental health exception won’t help him one bit.


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    Sunday, August 31

    :: The Gander and the Goose

    The email I received this morning from NJDC began:

    Senator John McCain made his first critical presidential decision with his selection of his Vice Presidential running mate.  McCain's judgment appears lacking.   In Governor Sarah Palin, McCain chooses a running mate with zero foreign policy experience and a brewing scandal which is being investigated by the Alaska state legislature...
    Hold it right there, I thought.  Surely you're not saying that foreign policy experience is essential to holding the second highest political office in our country?  
    Because if that were the case, one would expect it to be doubly, triply, exponentially more important for the actual highest office.   Clearly a great many Democratic voters and, more importantly, a deciding majority of Democratic superdelegates think differently.  

    Is the argument that it is more important for the Vice President than for the President to have foreign policy experience?  Or that a lack of foreign policy experience only matters when the candidate is a Republican?  

    Either way, I'm not buying it.  What's good (enough) for the gander is good enough for the goose.

    As for the scandal, I have very little information to go by - how do you decide what news source to trust in this situation? - but it certainly appears to be a non-issue.  Best I can tell, the root of the problem is an Alaska state trooper, Mark Wooten, who used to be married to Governor Palin's sister, Molly McCann.   Wooten was the subject of an internal investigation:
    The troopers' investigation into Wooten began after Chuck Heath -- Wooten's father-in-law and Palin and McCann's dad -- alerted troopers about a domestic violence protective order McCann had obtained against Wooten on April 11, 2005. McCann filed for divorce the same day, according to the court docket.

    The trooper had not physically assaulted his wife but intimidated her and threatened to shoot him, Heath told troopers, according to a memo about the complaint.

    The same day, a concerned neighbor of the couple called troopers with more accusations, including alcohol abuse, based on what Heath and McCann had relayed to him. Wooten seemed "disconnected" lately, the neighbor said. He told troopers that Heath and McCann were afraid to call troopers themselves.

    "Extreme verbal abuse & violent threats & physical intimidation," McCann wrote in her April 11, 2005, petition to the court. He had driven drunk multiple times, threatened her father, told her to "put a leash on your sister and family or I'm going to bring them down," her petition says. A judge issued a 20-day protective order to keep Wooten away.

    In written orders to Wooten sent the next day, trooper Capt. Matt Leveque echoed the court's directive. Leveque, now a major, also told Wooten to give up his department-issued guns, badge, credentials and vehicle during his off-duty time, while the order was in effect.

    On April 27, 2005, trooper Sgt. Ron Wall began the internal investigation, interviewing and re-interviewing more than 15 people over a period of months. Witnesses included Palin, her husband, Todd, two of their children, Heath, McCann, her son, Wooten, friends, neighbors, a bartender, and other troopers.
    The investigation into Wooten and the process of divorcing him unfolded side-by-side. Custody of their two young kids was a major issue.
    Troopers eventually investigated 13 issues and found four in which Wooten violated policy or broke the law or both:

    • Wooten used a Taser on his stepson.
    • He illegally shot a moose.
    • He drank beer in his patrol car on one occasion.
    • He told others his father-in-law would "eat a f'ing lead bullet" if he helped his daughter get an attorney for the divorce.

    Beyond the investigation sparked by the family, trooper commanders saw cause to discipline or give written instructions to correct Wooten seven times since he joined the force [in 2001]...

    Those incidents included: a reprimand in January 2004 for negligent damage to a state vehicle; a January 2005 instruction after being accused of speeding, unsafe lane changes, following too closely and not using turn signals in his state vehicle; a June 2005 instruction regarding personal cell phone calls; an October 2005 suspension from work after getting a speeding ticket; and a November 2005 memo "to clarify duty hours, tardiness and personal business during duty time."
    To sum it up....
    "The record clearly indicates a serious and concentrated pattern of unacceptable and at times, illegal activity occurring over a lengthy period, which establishes a course of conduct totally at odds with the ethics of our profession," Col. Julia Grimes, then head of Alaska State Troopers, wrote in March 1, 2006, letter suspending Wooten for 10 days.
    The union backed Wooten up, and had his suspension reduced to 5 days.  They said the investigation and punishment were fair.
    Now this is the scandally part. No, its not the rogue cop getting a five-day slap on the wrist.  A different scandally part.  

    Palin encouraged and assisted the police investigation - before she began her gubernatorial campaign. After she became governor, she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, Alaska's "top cop" - which was entirely within the scope of her power. Some people, including Monegan, believe she fired him in retaliation for not taking a harder line with Wooten. The Alaska state legislature is spending $100,000 to investigate this claim.
    At issue is whether Palin, her administration or family improperly pressured Monegan to fire Alaska State Trooper Michael Wooten, the ex-husband of Palin's sister, and whether Palin fired Monegan when that didn't happen. Palin's sister, Molly McCann, and Wooten are divorced but still battling in court over custody and visitation.

    Before she was governor, Palin pushed for a trooper investigation of Wooten over a number of matters, including using a Taser on his stepson, illegally shooting a moose, and accusations of driving drunk. At one point, Palin and her husband, Todd, hired a private investigator.

    Troopers did investigate, and Wooten was suspended for 10 days, later reduced to five.

    Palin initially said that after she took office in December 2006, she broached the subject of Wooten with her public safety commissioner, Monegan, just once, when they discussed her security detail. She said that she told Monegan of threats Wooten had made against her father and also that Wooten had threatened to "bring me down." She said she thought that was the end of it.

    But a week after his firing, Monegan said there was pressure to fire Wooten from Palin's administration as well as from Todd Palin. The pressure continued until just a month or two before he was let go, Monegan said.

    This month, as her administration gathered materials for the legislative investigation, Palin released a recording of a phone call in which one of her aides pressured a trooper lieutenant to fire Wooten. That contradicted her earlier claims that there had been no pressure. She said she was unaware of the conversation until the investigation uncovered it. She also disclosed that members of her administration had had about two dozen contacts with public safety officials about Wooten.

    In the phone call, which was recorded by troopers, as they do routinely, aide Frank Bailey told the trooper lieutenant that Palin and her husband wanted to know why Wooten still has a job.

    "Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, 'Why on earth hasn't this, why is this guy still representing the department?' He's a horrible recruiting tool, you know," Bailey told Lt. Rodney Dial.

    Palin has put Bailey on paid administrative leave during the investigation. She said she never asked Bailey to make that call.

    She has maintained that her decision to fire Monegan has nothing to do with Monegan's refusal to dump Wooten.
    This is the big scandal.  At worst, she lost confidence in Monegan for the wrong reasons.  But maybe Alaska has specific rules governing the hiring and firing of appointees; I don't know.  

    It certainly doesn't compare with the Rezko situation (not to mention other scandals involving elected officials - i.e. Spitzer). I don't know why the Democrats would want to raise this issue, when they so clearly don't benefit from the comparison.

    McCain has set a great trap for the Democrats, and all signs point to the Dems walking right into it.  


    Read more!

    Friday, August 29

    :: F*cking Wow

    So, what do you think? You know, about Governor Sarah Palin?

    Well, I'll tell you what I think. What I think is this:

    Brilliant, just abso-f*cking-lutely brilliant move. I didn't think McCain had it in him. But damn! Let me count the ways:

    • she's anti-choice and gives the evangelicals the warm fuzzies
    • she's a fresh face - shows McCain is comfortable with youth, change
    • she's an outsider - enhances McCain's maverick cred
    • she's been a whistleblower - enhances McCain's independence cred
    • she can talk about energy
    • she's a woman - tells women voters - 'Obama may not care about your concerns, but McCain does"
    • she's a woman - tells moderate voters McCain is not extreme conservative

    This move sets a trap for the Dems (that they are already walking into) by giving them ample opportunity to spew misogynistic crap, which will further drive women away. Even as I type they are busily trying to reduce this woman to no more than the sum of her genitals (I have a sixth sense for that kind of thing.

    Further, this gives the cable networks, particularly MSNBC, the opportunity to "make up" with women viewers by being nice to Palin (I bet they'll be pointing out sexism every 5 minutes now).

    On top of all that - the announcement was hook-y enough to squash Obama's morning-after lovefest coverage. The sheer audacity of this move must be a shot in the arm for the demoralized GOP.

    Governor Palin's back story is pretty interesting. Here's her bio on the wikipedia. On the issues, note especially:

    Palin is pro-life, pro-contraception, and a prominent member of Feminists for life. While running for Governor of Alaska, Palin supported the open debate of creationism alongside evolution in schools; however, she noted that "creationism doesn't have to be part of the curriculum" and that she would not use "religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism" as criteria for selection to the school board.

    She opposes same-sex marriage, but she has stated that she has gay friends and is receptive to gay and lesbian concerns about discrimination. Palin complied with an Alaskan state Supreme Court order and signed an implementation of same-sex benefits into law under protest, stating that legal options to avoid doing so had run out. She supported a non-binding referendum on whether there should be a constitutional amendment on the matter. Alaska was one of the first U.S. states to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 1998, along with Hawaii. Palin has stated that she supported the 1998 Constitutional amendment.

    Palin's first veto was used to block legislation that would have barred the state from granting benefits to the partners of gay state employees. In effect, her veto granted State of Alaska benefits to same-sex couples. The veto occurred after Palin consulted with Alaska's attorney general on the constitutionality of the legislation.

    It sounds like her position on marriage equality is the same as Obama's. Help me out here, I don't remember.

    My feelings, condensed:

    Well, Dems, you made this bed, you lie in it. McCain made a bold move to appeal to independent women voters. Now what are *you* going to do for us?

    If I had a dog in this fight, I'd be worried. But I don't, so I'm mostly entertained. No, make that very entertained. Now that's what I call strategy.

    Read more!

    Thursday, August 28

    :: How Was It?

    Gallup has some numbers on Hillary's speech on Tuesday.

    "Fifty-two percent of Americans -- and 83% of those who tuned in -- give Hillary Clinton's Tuesday night speech at the Democratic National Convention a positive review.  


    "As would be expected, Democrats were especially positive about Hillary Clinton's Tuesday night address, with 69% rating it positively. But close to half of Republicans, 45%, also rated it positively.

    "The high 83% positive rating of the speech among those who watched it is in part due to the partisan nature of the audience. The poll estimates that 49% of those who watched the Clinton speech were Democrats, 22% were Republicans, and the remaining 28% were independents. Ninety-four percent of Democrats who watched the speech rated it positively, as did solid majorities of the Republicans and independents who tuned in."

    Survey Methods:   Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,023 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 27, 2008. [M]argin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.


    More Gallup (all direct quotes, but I weeded out some of the filler language).  This was written just prior to the findings above:

    "With Barack Obama winning the Democratic nomination for president -- not Hillary Clinton -- it's understandable that so much of the focus around our recent USA Today/Gallup Poll has been on the finding that 30% of Clinton's primary voters are not supporting Obama for president.

    "As reported earlier this week on gallup.com, 16% of registered Democrats who say they supported Clinton in the primaries say they would vote for John McCain if the election were held today, while another 14% are undecided.

    "Given the apparent adulation around Clinton in the convention hall last night, however, I think it's worth noting that the percentage of Obama primary voters nationwide who harbor negative feelings about Clinton (32%) is much higher than the percentage of Clinton primary voters who have a negative view of Obama (18%). [...]

    "Although 30% of Clinton voters are not supporting Obama right now, as noted only about half that figure (18%) have negative feelings about him. 

    "The latest USA Today/Gallup poll doesn't show a tremendous difference in terms of the self-described ideology of Obama versus Clinton primary supporters. Clinton primary voters are just slightly more likely than Obama voters to describe their political views as conservative (21% vs. 15%).

    "About half of Clinton primary voters (51%) say they are very or somewhat concerned that 'Barack Obama lacks sufficient experience to be an effective president.' Only 23% of Obama primary voters express this view."


    Read more!

    Tuesday, August 26

    :: Magnificent

    Simply magnificent. I have never been so proud of an American leader.

    She could have been our president this time.

    She will be our president next time.

    Magnificent!







    ! Read more!

    :: Essential Reading

    Essential reading about the Democratic Convention and the roll call process.   Read more!

    :: Updating the Numbers

    New national numbers from Gallup and a few states.....


    White Men: Obama 35%, McCain 56%
    White Women: Obama 39%, McCain 48%


    They have McCain up in Florida 47 - 43%.  Male likely voters back McCain 50 – 41%, while women split 45 – 45%.   McCain's overall favorables in Florida are 55 – 32%, compared to 51 – 36% for Obama.   Goodnight, Florida gender gap.

    By contrast, in Ohio Obama leads 51 – 37% among women, while McCain leads 50 - 37% with men. The overall numbers are Obama-McCain 44- 43%.  Quoth Quinnipiac: “The big question in Ohio is how much the gender gap will decide the election. Gender support for each candidate is a virtual mirror of the other. McCain is winning men by the same margin that Obama is carrying women. Something has to give one way or the other."

    Pennsylvania's overall number is Obama/McCain 49-42%. Obama leads 53 – 37% with women, McCain leads 47 – 43% among men. This poll was conducted too early for the Biden announcement to register.

    Read more!

    Monday, August 25

    :: Silencing Women

    I just caught the following from Salon:

    DENVER -- Some supporters of Hillary Clinton have been pushing all summer to have a roll-call vote in which Clinton is included as a candidate at the convention in Denver. As of right now, that vote will happen, but according to a new Associated Press report, it might not happen in quite the way that Clinton's backers had envisioned.

    The Clinton and Obama camps "are working on a deal to give her some votes in the roll call for the Democratic presidential nomination, but quickly end the divided balloting in unanimous consent for Obama," the AP says. "The idea is that at the start of the state-by-state vote for the presidential nomination Wednesday night, delegates would cast their votes for Clinton or Obama.

    "But the voting would be cut off after a couple of states, the officials said, perhaps ending with New York, when Clinton herself would call for unanimous backing for Obama from the convention floor."
    Its not enough that she conceded the nomination. Its not enough that she's releasing her delegates. They want to pretend the campaign never happened. And why? Is there any doubt Obama is going to be the nominee? Kennedy's votes were counted. Why not Clinton's?

    Here's my prediction.

    In the end, the mostly male political establishment will silence Hillary just as women leaders down through the centuries were silenced and then erased from the history books.

    It is stunning to see this historical pattern unfold in real time.

    Why is it so important to bury the proof of Senator Clinton's extraordinary achievement? Why is it so important to pretend her campaign never happened? Why is it so important to prevent - on the 88th anniversary of woman's suffrage - a celebration and full reckoning of what she - of what we - have accomplished?

    Why is it so important to some people that she - that we - be silenced ? Why is it necessary that we be erased?

    Would that Obama, Dean, and everyone else involved in this ugly display of force and privilege stop for a moment to ask themselves:

    Am I on the right side of history?

    Am I walking beside my sister, or am I holding her down?

    Am I listening to her voice, or am I shouting over her?

    Do I honor liberty, or do I wield my freedom as a cudgel?

    This is a watershed moment. Eighty-eight years after we first won the right to vote, that right is still contested. We still have a cabal of powerful and not so powerful men who will fight tooth and nail to keep us less than equal.

    This is not abstract. These men and women have names. They are in Denver. They are making this decision right now. They are deciding whether or not our votes will be counted. They are fighting the same fight that was fought a century ago.

    When this is over, we will know who the heroes are. Read more!

    Sunday, August 24

    :: Oh God That Feels Good...

    I've got a thrill up my leg, baby....

    CNN reports (breathlessly) from Denver that their latest poll (RVs) has McCain and Obama in a dead heat - 44 to 44.

    Its a freakin' CNN poll.  Its worthless.  I know.  But my leg....   ooo, I like it!   Here's some text:
    "This looks like a step backward for Obama, who had a 51 to 44 percent advantage last month," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Even last week, just before his choice of Joe Biden as his running mate became known, most polls tended to show Obama with a single-digit advantage over McCain."

    So what's the difference now?

    It may be supporters of Hillary Clinton, who still would prefer the New York senator and former first lady as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee.

    Sixty-six percent of Clinton supporters -- registered Democrats who want Clinton as the nominee -- are now backing Obama. That's down from 75 percent in the end of June.

    Twenty-seven percent of them now say they'll support McCain, up from 16 percent in late June.

    "The number of Clinton Democrats who say they would vote for McCain has gone up 11 points since June, enough to account for most, although not all, of the support McCain has gained in that time," Holland said.
    Good god, stop me before I write something obscene......................

    ----------------------------------------------------
    NOTE:

    Because I'm having a mini-bout of insomnia, and because it has been brought to my attention elsewhere that some people do not understand the basic elements of pressure politics, I add the following explanation of why this is oh so exciting news.

    Pressure Politics 101

    If you want the Democratic leadership to change their sorry-ass ways, you have to hit them where it matters to them. They will only change under duress.

    There are only two things that matter during campaign time: cash, and poll numbers.

    Right now no one can touch the Dems for money. Thus the only thing that will get the message across that they need to change their ways is a hit registered in their poll numbers.

    That hit is happening now. And its happening at a very advantageous time: when a lot of feminists are in Denver trying to directly engage the party leadership in a conversation about changing their ways. A lot of people will be offering the party carrots: the Dems can win in November if they appeal to women. These bad polling numbers are the stick.

    Gloating over these numbers has nothing to do with being pro-McCain. If one were truly pro-McCain, you would hope for this phenomenon *not* to show up until mid-October, when it would be too late for the Dems to do anything about it.

    Feminists need to demonstrate that there is a price to be paid for ignoring our interests. Hallelujah that we have cold, hard numbers that show exactly that, on the eve of the convention, no less, and from a MSM sanctioned source.

    Any issue group out there - enviros, labor, gun nuts, goat cheese partisans - would spontaneously combust in hot flaming ecstasy if they learned that they could walk into a negotiation with data that says "listen to us, or else."

    - end of lesson-

    CNN isn't the only media organization reporting troubling numbers for Obama.  This is what Gallup is reporting:


    Whereas 84% of Republicans polled from Aug. 11-17 say they will vote for McCain in November, only 79% of Democrats say they will vote for Obama. A similar gap in party loyalty has been seen each week since Obama clinched the Democratic nomination in early June. Over this period, Obama's Democratic support has ranged from 78% to 82% while McCain's Republican support has ranged from 83% to 85%.

    Gallup's most recent breakout of white registered voters from their rolling aggregate count is the August 17th batch; it shows:
    • White men:   Obama, 35%    McCain, 56%
    • White women:   Obama, 40%   McCain, 47%

    The initial evidence is that Biden won't hurt Obama in the election, but with only 14% of voters saying they are more likely to vote for the ticket with Biden on it, and 7% less likely, he is not positioned at this point to help Obama much either.

    And with that, I've cured my own insomnia.  Thank you, and good night... um, good morning.
    Read more!

    :: Women Voters Non-Plussed by Biden

    Its terribly early to be polling on the impact of the Biden Decision (BD), but one polling firm has taken a snapshot of the immediate reaction.  Shakesville shared data from Rasmussen this morning.  

    39% Say Biden the Right Choice, Women Less Enthusiastic

    On the day that Barack Obama announced Joe Biden as his running mate, 39% of voters said he made the right choice. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 25% disagreed and another 35% are not sure.

    Women are notably less enthusiastic than men—33% of women say Biden was the right choice while 27% disagreed. Men, by a 46% to 24% margin, said that Obama made the right choice.

    Biden is now viewed favorably by 48% of voters and unfavorably by 34%. Those figures reflect a slight improvement from Thursday night polling. He earns favorable reviews from 52% of men and 45% of women.

    Just 16% of women have a Very Favorable opinion of Biden while 19% have a Very Unfavorable view.

    Obama has struggled among older voters and that’s one area where Biden shines—60% of senior citizens have a favorable opinion of him.

    Not surprisingly, Democrats were more supportive of Obama’s decision than anybody else—52% of those in his party agreed with his pick while 19% disagreed. However, just 43% of Democratic women said the presumptive nominee made the best pick while 23% disagreed.

    Overall, 32% said the selection of Biden made them more likely to vote for Obama and an identical percentage said it made them less likely to do so. Among unaffiliated voters, 25% are more likely to vote for Obama while 33% had the opposite view.

    Thirty-nine percent (39%) say Biden is ready to be President while 35% disagree.

    Forty-three percent (43%) now say Biden is politically liberal and 33% say politically moderate. Those figures suggest that Biden is seen as a fairly typical Democrat—41% of Democrats say they are politically liberal and 38% consider themselves moderate.
    Wouldn't we all like to know exactly what Rasmussen means when they write things like "33% of women"?  33% of which women?  Dems, or all parties?  RVs or LVs?  Well, you don't get to know because you don't pay their subscription fee.  Needless to say, this steams my tomatoes.

    However, if someone who worked for the kind of entity that would foot the bill for this sort of thing would send me the crosstabs, or simply post them here....  well, they don't say "Sisterhood is Powerful" for nothing, Buffy.

    But at least we know someone actually asked a group of women what they thought, instead of all the "women should" BS that's flying around.

    Chitlins, please read (or skim) the following study:  Sour Grapes, Sweet Lemons and the Anticipatory Rationalization of the Status Quo.  It is directly relevant to this topic.  

    Read more!

    Saturday, August 23

    :: How To Be An Asshole, Obamastyle

    Clinton's primary ad addressing Obama's inexperience with emergencies of any kind was called "3 am."

    Obama's text message announcing he picked someone other than Clinton for VP was sent at:  3 am.

    Obama's superficial message: "take that, bitch."

    Obama's deeper message: "I lack the maturity to be president. Elect me if you want important national decisions to be made by an arrogant prick whose ego will always come first."


    To be clear:  the grave problem that this stunt highlights is not a matter of one candidate insulting another.  It is the Obama campaign's insistence on insulting the millions of Democratic voters who prefer someone else even while his numbers in battleground states are deflating.  He needs these voters, but he can't get past his own bitterness.  Instead he does something that will enhance their antipathy toward him, right on the eve of the Convention.

    So where does that leave us, chitlins? We can vote for:

    (1) a man with a terrible temper, who will sell out the Constitution for political gain, and who may stumble us into disaster, or

    (2) a man who is a shallow and arrogant prick, who will sell out the Constitution for political gain, and who may stumble us into disaster, or

    (3) none of the above; we need some real change and continuing to enable the Democratic party only stands in the way.

    I'm going with 3.
    Read more!

    Sunday, August 17

    :: And now, a word on the Olympics

    I have a confession, to you, my friends. And I hope you are my friends. Because I have to confess:

    I am so over the Olympics. I do not have Olympic fever, unless by Olympic fever you mean an infection that you're desperately trying to get rid of with heavy doses of antibiotics.

    In all fairness, it's not the games generally, just the way they are presented by NBC. There are so many interesting and bizarre sports, but what do we get to see? Swimming and beach volleyball. Swimming and beach volleyball. And more swimming and beach volleyball. We don't get to see Equestrian, archery, field hockey or badminton, unless you stay home from work, or don't sleep.

    In protest (and out of boredom) I gave up on watching on Wednesday. I read the Times' Dining section and watched Project Runway. I tried to watch gymnastics, but I ran out of steam at midnight. (I really don't understand how they can call 11 p.m. - 1 a.m. "primetime.) Occasionally I watch video of the Equestrian competition online, but it's not the same as on my TV, and too hard to knit or fold laundry.

    Here's my beef: NBC isn't reporting on a great athletic competition. They are reporting on world domination. Who's competing with Michael Phelps, exactly? Noone. His races have hardly even been close. Bless his heart, the man is a freak of nature. He is physically built to do what he does, and he does nothing else but what he does. If we are to believe the NBC profile, his primary relationships are with his dog, his mother and his coach. Did he even go to college? Is he in any way capable of doing anything for the world besides swimming?

    And beach volleyball. Really? During prime time, the most compelling competition is beach volleyball?? Not women's soccer? Not track and field? I understand track is quite popular, and frankly, I'd love to see the high jump. I will concede that cycling is boring after about two minutes. I say this as someone who spends a lot of the warmer months on the back of a bike, and I think that's the only good spot of the race - on the back of a bike. But what about show jumping or dressage? Did you check that out? Of course not; you could only do that online and there would have been no detailed explanation of what you were seeing because NBC isn't even bothering to comment on it.

    Other fascinating sports:

    • Fencing: people swordfighting!
    • Synchronized swimming: remember when you danced in the pool as a kid? An Olympic sport for kids games!
    • Diving: like the circus, only more naked and wet!
    Did you know that in Rowing, for the first time in nearly 25 years, the U.S. won the gold in the Women's 8? These women have jobs, kids, families and still manage to be Olympic champions. When Michael Phelps can pull that off, I'll be impressed and glued to my television for his races. But did you see that on TV? Sure if you were looking on one of the secondary channels in the middle of the day.

    I guess I'm feeling particularly miffed because an African friend was ranting before the games about the particularly jingoistic nature of Olympics coverage in the U.S., ignoring so many really interesting and inspiring news stories and competitions in order to focus on a few American champions. I attempted to argue that we were hardly alone in focusing on those sports we were likely to win and of course, with a country as large as ours, that's a lot. I mean, even Olympians from other nations (including Zimbabwe) train in the U.S.!

    But, as with so much in the U.S., this year's coverage feels completely out of hand, and I'm finding it really hard to defend. We're not even focusing on a range of events that Americans are likely to win. We're just focused on a couple of Americans that are likely to clean up. And frankly, I'm just over it.
    Read more!

    Wednesday, August 13

    :: You're Going to Love This One...

    From the Guardian.  They seem to enjoy publishing bad science, which is then taken apart by their fabulous columnist Ben Goldacre in his "Bad Science" column.  They've got a system; it works for them.

    Contraceptive pill 'can lead women to choose wrong partner'

    Pill thought to disrupt instinctive mechanism that brings together people with complementary genes and immune systems

    Taking the contraceptive pill can lead a woman to choose the "wrong" partner, the findings of a study published today suggest.

    The pill is thought to disrupt an instinctive mechanism that brings people with complementary genes and immune systems together.  By passing on a wide-ranging set of immune system genes, they increase their chances of having a healthy child that is not vulnerable to infection.  Couples with different genes are also less likely to experience fertility problems or miscarriages.

    Experts believe women are naturally attracted to men with immune system genes that differ their own because of their smell.  The major histocompatability complex (MHC) cluster of genes, which helps build proteins involved in the body's immune response, also influences smell signals called pheromones.  Although pheromones may be almost unnoticeable at a conscious level, they can exert a potent effect.

    A man's pheromonal odour is partly determined by his MHC. From a woman's point of view, a man with an alluring smell is also likely to have suitable immune system genes.  The new research provides evidence that the contraceptive pill can upset this process.

    Researchers asked 100 women to sniff six male body odour samples from 97 volunteers and say which they preferred, with tests carried out both before and after the women had started taking the pill.

    "The results showed that the preferences of women who began using the contraceptive pill shifted towards men with genetically similar odours," the University of Liverpool's Dr Craig Roberts, who led the study, said.

    "Not only could MHC similarity in couples lead to fertility problems, it could also ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pill, as odour perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners."

    Being on the pill simulates a state of pregnancy, which may reverse a woman's reaction to male odours.  Finding particular men sexually attractive is not so important once a woman is expecting a child.
    In other words, the researchers used grant money to put on a speed dating event, albeit one that involved a lot of sniffing.  The whole scene sounds very "dog park" to me.  Forgive me for suggesting that the "six male body odour samples" matched their own?  I find it very easy to picture an Austin Powers-like researcher, chest rug resplendent beneath his paisley lab coat, waving a vial in front of a female text subject and saying, "does this make you horny, baby?" 

    Why do I impugn the researchers' motives?  Because, like the infamous "girls instinctively prefer pink because we were bred to forage for fruit" study (um, is all fruit pink?), this one fails on a (cough) conceptual level.  The point, generally, of using the pill is so that one can copulate without conceiving.  So whether you are likely or not to zero in on the best genetic material while on the pill is irrelevant.  

    In addition, I generally dismiss out of hand any report that states a social construction as scientific fact.  "Finding particular men sexually attractive is not so important once a woman is expecting a child," apparently. Says who? Why? Because by then its too late to dump him? Because pregnant women never want sex? Because the only thing a pregnant woman is supposed to be thinking about is how to be the very best baby-carrier she possibly can be? Or is it because all sex is meant to be procreative sex, so if the possibility of conceiving a new pregnancy is mooted, sex is irrelevant (and unnatural)?

    Further, the study ignores the potency of confounding factors.  Just off the top of my head, they have not ruled out:
    :: female fails to identify genetically-appropriate male due to blocking signals emanating from male's Nintendo X-Box

    :: female seduced by false positives generated by male's liberal use of Axe Body Spray for Men

    :: female's ability to correctly identify genetically-appropriate signals is compromised by two pints of lager and Springsteen's "Born to be Wild" ...
    Read more!

    Tuesday, August 12

    :: The War(ning) in Georgia

    In reading around the situation in Georgia / Russia, I came across an essay by a former National Intelligence Officer at the CIA, written post-Gulf war, about the failure of our government to correctly interpret the warning signs of aggression. It's really interesting. Read it. Because I said so. To make it easy, here's the money part.

    In retrospect, my Staff and I viewed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait as a classic warning episode. Indicators were assessed early and accurately. Our prior assessment of time lines for war preparations proved correct. Collection was honed and focused; coordination with the analytic community was constant; and policy officials were informed of our conclusions at each major stage in the development of the threat, personally as well as in writing. Nevertheless, the warning messages of the NIO for Warning -- both warning of war and warning of attack -- were not heeded, either by senior intelligence officials or policymakers.

    As a postscript, at a session of senior military and civilian officers at the Pentagon, General Butler, the J-5, stated that the NIO for Warning had provided warning of war and warning of attack, but that he was not taken seriously because senior US officials talked with, and accepted the judgment of a number of leaders in the Middle East as well as the Soviet Union, all of whom were of the opinion that Saddam did not intend to attack.

    After our disastrous history in warning -- Czechoslovakia in 1968; the October war in the Middle East in 1973; Afghanistan in 1979; and others -- the Intelligence and Policy Communities still seemed, in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion, to lack a fundamental understanding of the causes of strategic surprise. The factors that inhibited effective early warning in this crisis corresponded closely to those that led to warning failure during the October 1973 War in the Middle East.

    In both crises, separated by 17 years of improvements in intelligence collection and training, most intelligence analysts and policy officials underestimated the political intentions of the aggressor; minimized the aggressor's possible military objectives and the probability of war; downplayed the significance of the military indicators of threat; and gave excessive weight to the, ultimately, mistaken opinions of the foreign leaders and foreign intelligence services most directly threatened by aggression.

    In 1973, no warnings were issued by any intelligence agency. In this crisis, the NIO for Warning and the National Warning Staff provided repeated warnings, but these could not compete with the more reassuring messages provided by others.
    Read more!

    Sunday, August 10

    :: A Brief Word About Elizabeth Edwards

    Given that the woman is dying, I don't think anyone needs to make a huge deal about this. But - while John Edwards is the real villain in the debacle he instigated, it would be a mistake to equate Elizabeth Edwards with women like the wives of Eliot Spitzer, Jim MacGreevey, or even, perhaps, Larry Craig. Those women woke up one day to find their lives had been thrown into a blender. Elizabeth had a traumatic wake-up call, too, but she had two years to adjust before the media set in.

    For two years John Edwards - and Elizabeth Edwards - kept the secret of his affair, and went ahead with his presidential bid anyway. Knowing, knowing - they had to have realized this - that the story would come out.

    We already know John is a big fat liar - but remember that Elizabeth too campaigned, asked for and received donations, dealt with staff - every day she looked people in the eye who were working their hearts out for a man that she knew was going to be road kill, sooner or later. They convinced people to vote for him knowing he was a dead-ender, when those votes might have gone to a different candidate. She listened to a lot of people call her husband a good man, a paragon of virtue - and she withheld information from them just as information had been withheld from her.

    This is a tragedy in two acts. In the first act, John is the villainous doer of evil deeds. In the second act, he is still the villain in covering up his deeds and running for president anyway, but he is joined in this villainy by Elizabeth. Read more!

    Saturday, August 9

    :: Say What?

    Senator John Edwards has confirmed that he had an affair with a woman who had been a videographer for his campaign.  At first glance, the situation strikes me as sad, primarily for the Edwards family and their supporters, in a life-can-be-so-brutal kind of way.  Sigh.

    However....  this side point seems worthy of further exploration:
    The revelations came as pressure was building on Mr. Edwards to address the matter publicly, not only from the news media but also from the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois. The Democrats are holding their nominating convention in two weeks, and though defeated candidates usually have a speaking role, Edwards associates said the Obama campaign was wary of scheduling Mr. Edwards to speak while he was under a cloud. He said Friday that he would not attend the convention.
    I'm certainly not going to take the NY Times' word for it, but if true it sounds pretty brutal.

    I will say that I hope every one of those ignorant surrogates and commenters on various blogs who condemned Hillary for "standing by her man" and praised Elizabeth as "a better role model for women" or "the better feminist" take a deep look within at how stupid they are. 
    Read more!

    Thursday, August 7

    :: Let Us Now Praise Bob Somerby

    Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler is a righteous man.

    Thursday's Howler starts with a section titled "PROGRESSIVE SKANKIFICATION." The jumping off point is a typical example of journalism's top talent twisting a politician's comment in order to liven up a column:

    COLLINS (8/7/08): "This is energy week on the campaign trail. In honor of the critical nature of the debate, let's try to clear our heads of all thoughts of Paris Hilton ads, and questions of whether McCain knew, when he expressed a yen to see his wife compete in the bikers' Miss Buffalo Chip beauty contest, that the contestants frequently went topless."

    Yes, that’s just minor skankification—and later, Collins says this, although coyly: “I truly do not believe he knew about the topless part.” Please don’t make us waste our time explaining the sheer stupidity here.
    Then Somerby takes it to another level, and says exactly what needs to be said about misogyny among media hacks.
    But we did want to make a note about a few of our skanky male “progressives.”

    Oh heck. Let’s restrict it to Olbermann.

    For the past two nights, our own Mister O has pimped this matter extremely hard on Countdown. He keeps played his bump-and-grind footage of women competing in the “Miss Buffalo Chip” contest—and he has mentioned this nonsense endlessly. On Tuesday, we were surprised to see Rachel Maddow take part in an entire segment on this topic—the segment which ended the program. “These pictures are very distracting,” she said at one point, as Keith-O returned to his bump-and-grind footage. But Maddow spent an entire segment promoting this skankified nonsense.

    In our view, Maddow does excellent work; we’d even throw her Meet the Press. But she’s willing to stoop for the team. This is twice that she’s done it.

    The bump-and-grind footage continued last night, as Keith-O rewarded his young male viewers. And let’s say it again: He has pimped this nonsense over and over in his programs of the past two nights. On Tuesday, he promo’ed the topic five separate times before he did that final segment. When it comes to issues like this, he’s as big a creep as they get.

    Two points:

    First: Older men should be dragged out and whipped when they teach younger men to look down on women. For younger men who are heterosexual, their ability to respect those younger women will define a great deal of their happiness. And of course, it isn’t great for younger women when younger men are trained to despise them. But Olbermann pimped this disrespect for years with his nightly sneering at the young blondes—presumably, a tasty treat for the foolish young men he was recruiting to drive up his ratings (and his salary). That pleasing feature was dumped this year, as MSNBC tried to stave off complaints about its endless, blatant misogyny. In the last two nights, Keith-O ran as fast as he could to get back into the game.

    Second: If you don’t understand how all that gender-trashing could have been dumped on Hillary Clinton’s head, Olbermann showed you again this week. Simply put, many men just don’t respect women. The problem seems to be bred in the bone; it has always bedeviled progressive movements, and the problem recurs in each generation unless young men are taught to be more wise. Clinton had all that gender-trashing dumped on her head because many of our “progressive” men have the retrograde attitudes of a loser like Olbermann. Gender-trashing ran wild at his network. Perhaps by coincidence, it seemed that Jack Welch had hired those kinds of guys.

    Earlier this year, Olbermann had to stop mocking the young blondes each night—but it seems he was awaiting his comeback. His show has now bumped and ground for two nights. “These pictures are very distracting,” one bold progressive guest said.
    Not only is Mr. Somerby a mensch; he makes being a mensch look easy.  

    Read more!

    Wednesday, August 6

    :: On a Lighter Note...

    What kind of pal would I be if I neglected to share the three funniest sentences I've read in a week?

    From the blog I Blame the Patriarchy...
    As you know, feminists expend 90% of their feminist energy giving feminism lessons to dudes. The remaining 10% is spent giving feminism lessons to other feminists (there are some feminists who give 110%. You hear about them only infrequently, and only then because they’ve scared the shit out of everyone).
    Oh yes, the 110-percenters - giving till it hurts (you).  Where would we be without them?  

    Read more!

    Monday, August 4

    :: Surrealism as Campaign Tactic

    Just had time for a quick peek at the news... and golldurnit if this wasn't the first thing I saw.

    The AP says McCain "surrogates contended...that the Arizona Republican's turn toward drilling, which he had once opposed, showed how McCain would respond decisively to a crisis," while Obama's supporters "argued that his willingness to consider a bipartisan proposal including more drilling showed how the Illinois Democrat would pursue compromise to achieve results."
    These two are running so hard to the "center" that they've actually smacked into each other and merged. Surely it must have occurred to Team Possum that by echoing McCain's positions, they are validating him? In other words: if Obama is sounding like McCain (a faux moderate) in order to appeal to the center, he's affirming that McCain *is* the center. This is one of the reasons the Obama campaign is (barely) winning the battle but losing the war - he may gain a few percentage points now, but the center, and thus the playing field, shifts to the right. He's letting McCain define what "moderate" means. And that's a long term loser for those of us who believe electoral politics is the means and issues are the end. [Of course if you think issues are the means and electoral politics the end, you don't care.]

    Just to throw a bit of Orwell into the mix, here comes Tom:
    Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, on Fox News Sunday meanwhile, claimed Sen. Obama "has always been in favor of offshore drilling." Daschle explained that Obama previously favored additional drilling once the land already in use was fully exploited.
    Very well. And I have always been in favor eliminating restrictions on gun ownership and distributing firearms to every citizen over the age of 18.

    After the Russians invade, of course.

    I'm having a news embargo for the rest of the day. Read more!

    Thursday, July 31

    :: I Do Not Support Vandalizing Churches...

    ... but in this case I'll have to make an exception.  As seen on Shakesville.

    Read more!

    Saturday, July 26

    :: Ponies on Steroids

    Democratic White House will be purer than driven snow
    I really don't have the time to do this, but I feel compelled to share the following exchange I had over at Shakesville. Since the main Canaries have all worked for years in the political / advocacy arena, I think its of passing interest.

    Melissa McEwen, a blogger whom I enjoy a great deal, posted the following tidbit (and I totally sympathize with her):
    "Well, certainly."—Former White House spokesbot Scott McClellan, when asked by Chris Matthews if the Bush administration used Fox commentators as spokespeople by feeding them talking points.

    Anyone who's been paying attention knows that Fox News is the propaganda arm of the Bush White House, but it's nice to have such blunt confirmation.
    I'm particularly ill-tempered today, so when I read that I immediately thought - oh no. Please let's not have progressives start demonizing talking points the way the campaign finance folks demonized so many routine aspects of political advocacy - PAC donations, for example.

    So I sent off the following quick response, not thinking I was saying anything controversial:
    "...Plenty of "news" people were using Dem talking points too, for a while. Map Olbermann against Axelrod and you get a perfect fit.

    So is it wrong that Fox and the White House are in a permanent liplock because politicians and these pseudo-journalists shouldn't have that close a relationship as a matter of principle, or is wrong because we don't agree with the content? Because any Dem, candidate or elected, would replicate this relationship in a heartbeat and call it success.

    Thus a word of caution - stigmatize the closeness between Fox and the White House now and you're just preparing the ground for conservatives to argue that the (Obama) White House is using CNN (or Olbemann, etc.) as Pravda, etc., because the WH is sending CNN press communications and there are similarities between what the WH says and what CNN is reporting."
    I was very surprised to receive the following response (slightly abridged):
    "...if they are repeating a WH statement without accreditation, then it is -- as has been pointed out -- propaganda. All they have to do is attribute the source to the WH -- or the Obama campaign -- and it becomes what it is: a talking point.

    Sorry, I don't buy the assumption that the Democrats would do the same thing as the Bush administration. I'm too old to be that cynical."
    Its cynical to assume that a Democrat would try to cultivate a media outlet in the hope they would run the Dem's talking points more or less verbatim? This would never happen? Its kind of what I was afraid of - routine press relations takes on the aspect of something shady. One edge of the double-edges sword is being sharpened... so I responded (slightly abridged):
    "Everyone - conservative, progressive or other - who does this kind of work hopes to see their press materials repeated verbatim by a friendly journalist or media outlet. That is considered a marker of success - regardless of political ideology. And everyone cultivates friendly relationships with specific journos, producers or media outlets in the hope this will happen. But that's not my point.

    My point is simply that the shoe is about to be on the other foot and the meme will be that the Obama White House is using (fill in the blank journo or media outlet) as a propaganda tool because the WH is sending out 'talking points." The reason conservatives will say this is because they want reporters to defensively knee-jerk criticize the Dem WH in every single story just so the reporter / media outlet can show that they're not behaving like, ahem, tools."
    ... realizing full well that I was now making too much of an off-hand thought, but I didn't want to be misunderstood. Among the responses I got were (again, slightly abridged):
    "... the entire problem goes away if the talking heads merely say, "The White House said today that..." or whoever else dropped the talking points into your journalistic lap. That gives both the data and the source, making critical analysis of the statement more complete. It isn't the distribution of the material that is the problem, it's the pretense that it is original work by the media person in question.

    And I'm confident that if Obama or any other Democrat were to do what this White House has done, the Shakers here would call him/her out on it."
    and
    And I'm confident that if Obama or any other Democrat were to do what this White House has done, the Shakers here would call him/her out on it.

    That goes for me, too.
    Well, I left that alone, despite the fact that those responses really surprised me. The idea that the Democrats would never do so dastardly a deed as forming a tight relationship with a reporter or media outlet... and even that the deed is dastardly... where did this come from?

    Yes, Fox is evil. Yes, the White House is evil. Yes, the collusion between them is evil. But that's because of who they are and what they are saying. If CNN were working that closely with an Obama White House to, for example, raise awareness about climate change and explain the benefits of, I don't know, the Kyoto Treaty because the U.S. was about to sign on... we'd see it as acting in the public's interest. We'd see it as a positive development. Not because there is something good about the working relationship, but because the message is important and good.
    I know the wingnuts will complain, regardless, that CNN or the NY Times is the propaganda arm of a Democratic White house. But do we have to position ourselves now in a way that will be diametrically opposite the one we'll adopt should the executive branch change parties? Do we have to be the ones who place a stigma on the term "talking points" just in time to be hoisted on that petard? And how did anyone miss the fact that both presidential campaigns did daily conference calls and regularly sent around talking points, and one campaign saw their messages routinely picked up verbatim by certain media figures?

    Its a minor point, I know. No big deal. Just strange to me... since the utterly rude awakening of the primary process, I'm noticing more and more the ways Dem criticisms of GOP candidates and policies are hypocritical.

    Read more!