Friday, April 27

:: Look who's sorry now!

Oh, the little songbirds here are going to be sorry they invited me to post...especially since I'm so full of vim and vinegar after reading Katha Pollitt's column from the May 14 issue of The Nation. Yow! I have long been concerned (ok, completely ticked) that pro-choice groups have contributed to the (little-n) nation's discomfort about abortion by refusing to talk about abortion. We wring our hands about how the anti's have influenced our language about abortion -- starting with "partial birth abortion" and down to calling gynecologists who terminate pregnancies "abortion doctors". But pro-choice groups are no more comfortable talking about abortion than my moderately pro-choice Midwestern relatives! Are we surprised when the misogynist, anti-choice language takes hold?

Meanwhile, back in old Mexico, pro-choice groups are actually saying the A-word, and using the old pro-choice slogans when they take to the streets: "MI CUERPO ES MIO" ("My body is mine") shouted from handmine signs and gorgeous posters all over town. Not surprisingly, the Catholic opposition has vowed to block women from entering clinics that provide abortions. Now where do you suppose they got that idea? Do you suppose they'll start posting the names and addresses of doctors that provide abortions too? Read more!

Tuesday, April 24

:: Happy Equal Pay Day

Today is Equal Pay Day. Bet ya didn't know that. Today symbolizes the day when the average woman's wage catches up to average man's wages from the previous year. This is how far into each year a woman must work to earn as much as a man earned in the previous year. The average African-American woman or Latina will be celebrating sometime in May.

Clinton has put up a nifty wage gap calculator on her campaign website. Go see how much it would suck to live in Mississippi.
Read more!

:: I Was Going To Say That

I was going to say that the civil war in Iraq (yeah, I said it - civil war) is beginning to look a lot like the conflict in Northern Ireland. But, Eugene Robinson beat me to it. Maybe it is the walls. Or the fact that both are conflicts between two sects of the same religion and two peoples who look an awful lot a like. Or the fact that each side points to wrongs perpetrated thousands of years ago (Battle of the Boyne anyone?) as justification for car bombs today.

Maybe former US Senator George Mitchell needs to get to work on this Iraq thing. Read more!

Friday, April 20

:: A Break From All This Seriousness

The NYTimes has a cute article on men's underwear titled "But What if You Get Hit by a Taxi?" Best line: "Who doesn’t want to dress younger? No one wants to think, ‘I want to look old and grumpy.’"

[DC must be an outlier. I see plenty of people around here striving for precisely that look. I'm surprised we haven't heard about men purposely plucking out their hair to simulate male pattern baldness. And don't get me started on the white pantyhose / navy blue pumps. Clearly this guy has never heard of Talbots.] Read more!

Thursday, April 19

:: Awesome

Check out this clip * of a Saudi newscaster schooling a Saudi cleric on women’s rights and intellectual freedom. She is tough as nails. This is why I love feminists from other countries - unlike our dear leaders, they say what they mean, not what's printed on their message boxes (or triangles, whatever). No, I'm not getting any work done today. Why do you ask?

*But don't read the comments from the YouTubers. Trust me, it will only hurt your brain. Read more!

:: Get Back Under Your Rock, Goddammit!

Update: Yesterday Wolfie blew off a meeting with the WB board, and the WB board decided to start an "urgent" investigation into whether the WB should blow off Wolfie, with a decision expected the week of 23 April.

* * *

This is the latest on the World Bank's "other" scandal - no, not the girlfriend one... this is the one I wrote about here. But just to recap: one of Wolfie's deputies, a likely Opus Dei minion, oversaw a revision of the Bank's country strategy paper for Madagascar that removed the references to family planning, contraception, etc. Activists kicked up a fuss, European government ministers got chuffed, and now we hear from said deputy (Juan Jose Daboub) that it was all a misunderstanding... this is from a leaked internal WB memo written by Daboub:

“Regarding the Madagascar CAS, none of the editorial changes that were made at my direction changed, or intended to change, the Bank Group's program in the area of family planning. These changes were simply intended to clarify what I understood to be the Bank's role in this area, given the roles of other donors… I am here to carry out professionally and faithfully the Bank's policies. The policy on Reproductive Health is clear, had been endorsed by the Board and in place for many years; it has been followed by the President, the Staff and me, as reflected in projects and programs brought and to be brought to the Board. We understand and respect our partner countries' decision on this subject.”
Oddly, Daboub's statement contradicts real life, at least according to WB staff and a Government Accountability Project investigation. As reported by the LA Times:
Yet internal e-mails obtained by the Government Accountability Project appear to indicate otherwise. Referring to Daboub as the "MD," an acronym for his title as managing director, Madagascar country programcoordinator Lilia Burunciuc wrote to colleagues on March 8, 2007: "One of the requests received from the MD was to take out all references to family planning. We did that."Burunciuc added that this is "a potential problem for us" because Madagascar had made a "strong request for help" on family planning in the document, which serves as a three-to four-year plan for the goals a country wants to achieve with the bank's help. Madagascar identified improved family planning as one of its national commitments.

Yet a copy of the report includes edits and deletions, which a bank staffer said were made by Daboub's office, showing that specific targets to boost contraceptive use were cut and broader aims were rewritten. In one graphic, the words "improved quality of health services to ensure easy access, affordability and reliability" were inserted in place of "improved access and provision of contraceptives."

For a good analysis of how this situation reflects on Wolfie, read this op-ed by the Guardian’s Sara Bosley. Sample:
If [Daboub's] conscience prevented him from carrying out bank policy, he should quit. If he does not quit, he should be sacked... What this episode suggests is chaotic management. How could Mr Daboub unilaterally change the bank's reproductive health policies? Perhaps because his boss is not concentrating. The answer, surely, is for the pair of them to pack their bags.
Wolfie’s situation has only gotten more precarious, and his resignation is expected as soon as today. The main scandal – or the only scandal, in the world according to WaPo – has only gotten worse. More from the Guardian:
In recent days evidence has emerged that a contractor for the US government working in Iraq said in 2003 that it was ordered to hire Ms Riza as a consultant on governance issues. The order was issued by Douglas Feith, then undersecretary of defence. Mr Wolfowitz was deputy secretary at the Pentagon at the time, and Mr Feith's boss.
Apparently, outside of the Bush administration, people are held accountable for their misdeeds and mistakes. Of course, if that were Bush administration policy, the only people left in the White House would be the blue and pink collar workers.
Read more!

Wednesday, April 18

:: On No They Didn't!

We told them over and over again that the Presidential election mattered. We told them in 2000, we told them in 2004. We told them that if President Bush was elected he would appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court. We told them he liked Scalia and Thomas. That he wasn't going to appoint another Souter like his dad. We told them that the right to choose hung in the balance. They elected him anyway. And what did he do when given the chance - he appointed Roberts and Alito. And with their new found conservative majority the US Supreme Court has unpheld an abortion ban. "In a 5-4 vote, the court ruled that the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, which Bush signed into law in 2003, does not violate a woman's right to have an abortion."

Sometimes I hate being right.

Read more!

Monday, April 16

:: Why Won't Imus Stop Annoying Me?

I keep thinking I'm done with this story... and then it pulls me back in. Look closely and you can actually see history being re-written before your very eyes.

Imus went down because his comment - which I would argue is primarily sexist with a racist adjective, but that dosn't really matter - (1) landed on an inviolable target, and (2) was picked up on right away by people with juice. And by juice I mean staff at NBC and CBS who were personally offended and made it known at the highest levels; the professional organization for black journalists, who spread the news far and wide to people with connections to NBC and CBS; and concerned individuals at influential levels within the corporate sponsors.

These people were, I have read, for the most part women, minorities and parents ("how would I feel if someone said this about my daughter?"). They were appalled by the racism AND the sexism, and they reacted accordingly.

Days later, it seems the story is all about the racism. The WaPo/ABC News poll I cited earlier asks people if Imus deserved to be fired for his "racist comments" - no mention of sexism. In op-ed after op-ed, male authors pay lip service to sexism - mentioning the "racist-and-sexist comment" before devoting their article solely to racism (E.J. Dionne's recent column is an exception). And in discussion thread after discussion thread, men bicker back and forth about whether (to sum it up) white men should have to refrain from making racist comments since black men are making them too.

Yet look at what the Rutgers team themselves said about Imus, courtesy of Newsweek (yes, god help me, I looked at Newsweek).

Still, Imus's comments stung. "When I heard the quote I was confused," Kia Vaughn, a 6-foot-4 sophomore center from the Bronx, told NEWSWEEK. "I felt intimidated and scared, and it was the first time that I ever felt that way in my life ... I couldn't believe someone was talking about my womanhood and calling me a ho." But the players didn't let the hurt penetrate their pride. "Why would he say that if he doesn't know us or what we accomplished?" asked forward Myia McCurdy.

For team captain Essence Carson, a 6-foot forward/guard from Paterson, N.J., who wowed the public with her poise, Imus's remark was more sexist than racist. "It was an attack on women first," Carson told NEWSWEEK. "He just made it race-specific." Initially, the Knights wanted to ignore Imus and absorb their pain as a team, she said, but after a little discussion the women decided they "had to take a stand." Stringer's example was key, said Carson; "Coach has been through everything you can think of, [so] we know we have the strength to bear anything."
I wish I could praise Newsweek - no, really - but the fact is they couched a genuinely inspirational article under the heading "Race, Power and the Media." Not "Race, Gender, Power and the Media"... but I'm sure it was just an oversight.

No, actually I'm sure it was someone at Newsweek knowing that three-word combos are stronger than four or more words, and making the call that sexism just isn't as important a problem as race. After all, sexism is just important to women, and not even all women, just some women (like the Rutgers team, but whatever) while race is important to everyone.

Sadly, this misses what I think is the real take home lesson - diversity works. If women and blacks weren't present at the top levels of CBS, NBC and the corporate sponsors, this story would have slunk away with barely a whimper.

A similar scenario played out over at Washington Monthly, in the comments thread of a Kevin Drum post on Imus. Comment after comment about race, about Al Sharpton, about Jesse Jackson - all basically arguing the same points - (1) I (white guy) will stop saying racist things only after they (black guys) agree to stop saying racist things, and (2) any presence by Al Sharpton automatically disqualifies the opinions of all black people and any white people who might agree with black people.

One after another, each comment reified that race was the important issue, and sexism - well, why bother even mentioning it. Until, that is, a poster with a feminine sounding screen name (not me) commented:
What is interesting to me is that the worst element of the "nappy-headed ho" slur - "ho" - meaning whore - is more sexist than racist, and yet the sexism part seems easier to overlook than the racism part for everyone I've heard of discuss the matter except over at Shakesville.
Well, you should have seen the conversation shift!

Sike. Actually, she was ignored for the remainder of the thread (nearly 100 comments) except for one guy who thought Imus wouldn't have called a white woman a "ho" (it was then pointed out that Imus refers to his own wife - a white woman - as a "ho" -- "Wow, he's worse than I thought!" was the reply). Again, poster after poster reaffirmed that sexism doesn't merit discussion - and that concern by women, for women - played no role in bringing about the fall of Imus. Never mind what the team said... the guys are here to tell you what bothered you the most.

This is why, I guess, when it comes to discussing sexism with men, most women pull a Cartman: "screw you guys - I'm going home!"

The Rutgers team succeeded where, up till now, all others had failed - they brought shame to one of the media's biggest bullies. More from Newsweek, about their meeting with Imus:
The [question] that kept coming up, in various formulations and from numerous players, was "Why?" Why target them? How could he not know his remarks were hurtful? Was he proud of making his living by ridiculing others? The players were clearly less than impressed by Imus's wan explanation that ridicule was his job.

"I know that this is not my problem," one player told Imus, according to the Rev. DeForest Soaries, who mediated the Thursday-night session. "I don't want you to think that I question myself because of what you said. I'm a classy woman at a great university. I will pray for you."

Indeed. Read more!

:: Just Give Me the Numbers

WaPo has an interesting but (as usual) poorly organized article on fundraising totals from the presidential candidates.

[This is my idea of "poorly organized": the first paragraph reads "Sen. Barack Obama raised more money than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for their Democratic primary clash during the first three months of the year, but Clinton heads into spring with more in her campaign account than all Republican presidential candidates combined." Okay, fine, but does that mean Obama also has more in his account than the Republican candidates combined? See fourth paragraph for possible answer - Clinton has also transferred $10m from her Senate account.] Why can't they just write these things memo-style, with bullet points and all the relevant information grouped together?

Amongst the facty nuggets, one finds whorls of speculation masquerading as insight (there's a turkey loaf analogy lurking here, but trying to think it through is making me nauseous). For example, "The reports also uncover trends that can signal strength or weakness. Both McCain's and Obama's reports showed large numbers of small donors, meaning they can return to those donors for more money. Giuliani's and Clinton's reports show donations from large numbers of donors who have maxed out, meaning the candidates must find new sources of cash." Not all small donors can be converted to maximum donors - they simply might not have the resources (giving $20 is a long way away from giving $2,300).

And yes, of course Clinton and Giuliani have to find new donors once the existing ones max out. That's neither a strength nor a weakness - that's just fact. I have no special expertise in this area - and I'd like to keep it that way - but it sounds smart to me for Clinton to hit the major donors now and not compete with Obama for grassroots money. She can tap that later when the primaries do the work of winnowing the field, and meanwhile locking down the major donors adds to the aura of her campaign as a sure bet.

Mo' better numbers here. Read more!

:: The Fifth Column

These people are everywhere, just waiting for the right moment to crawl out from under their rocks...

A key figure in the World Bank, said to have links to the Roman Catholic sect Opus Dei, was accused yesterday of undermining its commitment to the health of women by ordering the deletion of goals, targets and policies relating to family planning.
The U.S. media is focused on l'affaire Wolfowitz, and rightly so, but this simultaneously unfolding drama will also play a role - albeit uncredited - in his demise. Major European development NGOs and governmental agencies are shaking the rafters over this. Two crises at the same time = not a good thing for a man no one liked from the get-go. Read more!

:: A New Modest Proposal

Regarding the news of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, my first reaction was, "Great - another guy couldn't handle rejection / couldn't manage his anger and took it out on a group of innocent bystanders - and now hundreds of people have to suffer."

Which got me thinking - isn't it about time we restricted gun ownership based on some common sense profiling? Most gun crimes are committed by young and youngish men. Certainly nearly all mass shootings are carried out by this same group. I say leave the second amendment alone, but ban gun ownership by men 16 to, say, 50 years old. Men over 50 can have a gun. Women can have guns. No kids can have guns.

I don't think there's any discrimination issue here - after all, its not stopping all men from having guns, just a group of people identified by perfectly defensible crime-related criteria. Plus, as of the last time I checked, we don't have an equal rights amendment to the Constitution. Let's face it - you don't see women and the elderly perpetrating these crimes, so there's no reason they should lose their gun privileges.

The beauty of this proposal is that it satisfies an oft-heard criticism of total bans - "if someone in that crowd had been carrying a gun, the gunman would have been stopped right away" - because any woman could still be packing heat. Also, women could continue to protect themselves from predators, and could even learn to hunt deer, or elk, or whatever, since people think its so great.

Its time to get to the root of the problem. Perhaps its not accurate to say that guns don't kill people, people kill people - but guns in the hands of men of a certain age kill a hell of a lot more people than guns in the hands of anybody else. Read more!

:: Fresh Grist for the Imus Mill

A poll conducted by WaPo and ABC news on the Imus imbroglio finds - surprise surprise - wide disparities of opinion between the races and genders. The results - which appear to be raw, with further details promised later today - are: Whites are split on firing - 47% for, 49% against. Blacks - 70+% for, remainder (I guess) against. Of all women (all races) - 55% for, compared to all men (all races) 48% for.

This strikes me as being in line with the commentary I've seen on the topic - both from professional opinion leaders and the hoi polloi. Lots of comments by white men lashing out at all african-americans for not collectively keeping rappers in line. Lots of comments by black men decrying racism and sexism, but then only discussing the racism. And comments by women, where you can find them, saying its about damn time. And the elite of the elite - for example, Frank Rich, tap-dancing double-time to find a way to oppose the firing and oppose Imus, or support the firing while still supporting Imus. Put another way, one group of elites seems to dislike Imus but feels like the cat just walked over their grave, and another group likes the firing but wants to salvage a relationship with Imus and/or his friends. Read more!

Sunday, April 15

:: "Imus Dead"

I never thought of Bill Buckley as one to go in for rank sensationalism, so I took the bait and read his recent opinion column titled "Imus Dead." Because I was thinking, you know, maybe Imus was dead, which is all too plausible since he looks like he's hanging on by a thread... instead what I got was seven paragraphs that added up to "jolly good he's gone, I found him rather tiresome." I certainly agree with Mr. Buckley, but shouldn't we save headlines like that for occasions when someone has actually, literally died? Oh, Buckley, you rogue. Read more!

Thursday, April 5

:: Just Once . . .

I would like the photo that accompanies an article on abortion not to be of angry, shouting protesters. Read more!

Wednesday, April 4

:: Yes Please, Pay Me Less

Interest in the gender wage gap seems to have waned among younger feminists. That is until someone in the media (or someone running for President) tosses out the well worn factoid that on average women still make less then men – 71 cents on the dollar according to current Labor Dept statistics. Inevitably some talking head disputes the figure, argues that women’s wages are equal to men’s in many occupations and that women earn less because they choose to. That is when steam starts to come out of my ears. In a oped piece in the WaPo Carrie Lukas argues that, ”The numbers indicate the wage gap mostly reflects individual differences in priorities.” In other words, more women pick time with their families and the accompanying lower wages than men, therefore the difference in wages is a natural product of individual choice. Lets be clear here – women (and men) who choose to spend time with their families are NOT choosing to be paid less. Rather workers are punished for having families. By a society that claims to love “family values.” The underlying assumption in our economy is that a serious committed member of the workforce does not have primary responsibility for child rearing and other familial duties. No kids, no sick parents, no dentist appointments. Now if we truly valued families in this country then financial success would not be predicated on sacrificing your family responsibilities. Rather than punishing women (and men) for having lives outside of work, we should elevate this necessary societal function to one that receives the respect that it is due. The workplace needs to be adapted to recognize and value the family responsibilities we all have. Read more!

Tuesday, April 3

:: What Would Molly’s Mother Do?

DC can be a bit of an echo chamber and it is sometimes hard to tell if what is playing here is also playing in Peoria. That is when I turn to my friends and family outside the Beltway and ask "what the fuck?" I call it the molly's mother test. I know this superb fundraiser and she would often joke that she tested her mail and messages out on her mom. If her mom understood it and thought it was compelling then other “regular” people might as well. Who is your “molly’s mother”? I think my molly’s mother is failing me because when I saw that Rep. Tancredo has announced he is running for president all I could think was - who is giving this guy money? Is there really a constituency for Rep. Tancredo’s crazy ranting? Read more!