Friday, September 29, 2006

Joe Lieberman Visits Stone Court 

Who else stays up past midnight and googles for "ned lamont is a girlie man"?


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Deja Vu All Over Again 

I am involved a bit with a Congressional race where the Republican incumbent loves to remind people that John Kerry and most of the other Dems. voted for the Iraq War, so don't blame him. It's an effective response, and an infuriating one because it was obvious at the time that attacking Iraq was a bad idea, and that Dems went along because they thought it would help them in the mid-term elections.

That's what makes it so infuriating that, even with Daschle and Gephardt gone, Congressional Dems are doing it again. Balkin, via Atrios:
I am puzzled by and ashamed of the Democrats' moral cowardice on this bill. The latest version of the bill blesses detainee abuse and looks the other way on forms of detainee torture; it immunizes terrible acts; it abridges the writ of habeas corpus-- in the last, most egregious draft, it strips the writ for alleged enemy combatants whether proved to be so or not, whether citizens or not, and whether found in the U.S. or overseas.

This bill is simply outrageous. I doubt whether many Democratic Senators or staffs have read the bill or understand what is in it. Instead, they seem to be scrambling over themselves to vote for it out of a fear that the American public will think them weak and soft on terror.

The reason why the Democrats have not been doing very well on these issues, however, is that the public does not believe that they stand for anything other than echoing what the Republicans have been doing with a bit less conviction. If the Republicans are now the Party of Torture, the Democrats are now the Party of "Torture? Yeah, I guess so." Not exactly the moral high ground from which to seek office.

The Democrats may think that if they let this pass, they are guaranteed to pick up more seats in the House and Senate. But they will actually win less seats this way. For they will have proved to the American people that they are spineless and opportunistic-- that, when faced with a genuine choice and a genuine challenge, they can keep neither our country nor our values safe.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Holocaust Cartoons 

America v. the World posts and analyzes some of the, er, highlights from the Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest.

UPDATE: On a related note, there's a hackneyed joke along the lines of:
A: He called me a dirty, rotten scoundrel!

B: That's terrible. You're not dirty.
Apparently, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is his own straight man:
"There were those who had accused me of being a murderer and anti-Semitic, but I’m not an anti-Semite."


Thursday, September 21, 2006

With Friends Like These.... 

You would think that this would be damning enough:
A prominent Republican who chairs I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's legal defense fund co-hosted a fundraiser Wednesday for Sen. Joe Lieberman....

Mel Sembler, a former Republican National Committee finance committee chairman, helped organize a reception that raised about a "couple hundred thousand dollars" for Lieberman, who was in attendance....

"It's amazing to go to all this hard work when a crime never got committed," said Sembler, who also described himself as "dear friends" with Cheney.
But there's more. The story mentions that Sembler is a former ambassador to Italy, but not that he was W's ambassor to Italy until last year. And then there's this (all Wikipedia caveats apply):
As well as having been the Chairman of The Sembler Company, a leading shopping center developer, in 1976, Sembler and his wife co-founded STRAIGHT, Inc., an adolescent drug treatment program through which more than 12,000 people passed before it was closed down in 1993 amidst allegations of widespread abuse. Sembler's Drug Free America Foundation continues to campaign for hard-line drug policy.

At one time, STRAIGHT, Inc. was the leading juvenile rehab business in America. Samantha Monroe, now a travel agent in Pennsylvania, told The Montel Williams show this year about her experience there overcoming beatings, rape by a counselor, forced hunger, and the confinement to a janitor's closet in "humble pants" -- which contained weeks of her own urine, feces and menstrual blood. During this "timeout," she says she gnawed her cheek and spat blood at her overseers. "I refused to let them take my mind," she says of the program. The abuse took years to overcome. Ms. Monroe said her mother was told by counselors that her daughter was a liar and encouraged to trick the girl for her own good. On 10 November and 13 November 2005, Reporter John Gorenfeld spoke live on these allegations against former Ambassador Sembler on a nationally syndicated radio show, Mark Levine's Inside Scoop on Washington in shows entitled "This Bush Crony Has Blood on His Hands!" [2] and "The Bush Crony Who Tortured American Teens, Part II" [3]. The blogs attached to these radio shows are replete with comments from listeners who claim to have been brutally mistreated in one of Mel Sembler's centers.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Who Killed Feminism? Part II 

I figured it would make an easy post. Head over to Ann Althouse's blog and figure out who's the latest feminist to kill feminism. (Last week it was Jessica Valenti and the week before Ann Bartow and Belle Lettre.)

Happily, Althouse complied. This week's lucky winner is Gloria Steinem:
Writes Ginia Bellafante about that Gloria Steinem/Jane Fonda radio project (called GreenStone): ...
GreenStone is not a renunciation of Ms. Steinem’s beliefs, as some will surely suggest, but an apt expression of the convalescent feminism she has advocated for nearly two decades: the idea that a better world can be achieved by feeling better. In her view epistemology is no substitute for emotion.

Ms. Steinem always disdained intellectualism, saying of academic feminists, in a 1995 interview with Mother Jones, that “nobody cares about them” and that their work was “gobbledygook.”
This rings true. The academic feminists I have known snorted in derision at the name of Gloria Steinem. She was just working on a women's magazine after all. I remember seeing the first issue of Ms. magazine, displayed by a not-too-hip girlfriend of a friend's father. After she left, we made fun of her for thinking some dorky women's magazine would mean anything to the new generation. (Emphasis added.)
Yup, Ms. was just some dorky women's magazine, not influential at all.

And of course, the Steinem quote is out of context. Agree with Steinem or not, her point was not that academic feminists are clueless but that they (and academics generally) are constrained by the tenure system to focus on problems that are not of practical importance:

Q: From a distance, a fair bit of academic feminist writing and argument seems pretty near impenetrable.

A: Yeah, but that's stupid. Nobody cares about them. That's careerism. These poor women in academia have to talk this silly language that nobody can understand in order to be accepted, they think.... But I recognize the fact that we have this ridiculous system of tenure, that the whole thrust of academia is one that values education, in my opinion, in inverse ratio to its usefulness--and what you write in inverse relationship to its understandability. So I think the answer to it is to look with some compassion at the situation in which the women who are writing this gobbledygook find themselves and to say, "How can we solve this?"

Well, one way we can solve it is to get a better exchange going between activism and academia, so that the academics are putting their glorious intellectual powers to work on researching real problems. But I don't see any point in blaming feminism--which is essentially a populist movement--for what filters through in an academic setting we don't control. (Emphasis added.)

Related Post: Who Killed Feminism?


Emergency Contraception Overreaction 

The British and international press and pro-life advocates are abuzz over an editorial in the British Medical Journal that observes that the rate of abortion has not declined since emergency contraception became available over the counter in January 2001.

This strikes me as a huge overreaction. Let's look at the data. Below is the UK abortion rate since legalization (my chart based on data from the UK Department of Health). The left arrow marks the legalization of emergency contraception with a presecription in 1984, and the right marks the authorization for chemists (pharmacists) to sell EC over the counter.

Pretty clearly, the abortion rate jumped following legalization and, since then, has been on a long, slow, steady increase -- an increase no doubt driven by a variety of social, political, and economic factors. If anything, the chart suggests that that trend may have slowed since EC became available OTC, but even if that's not the case, it hardly seems grounds to condemn EC that it has not single-handedly reversed an almost 40 year trend in abortion rates. (Obviously, ordinary contraception has been available all of that time and hasn't done so -- nor, for that matter, has decades of pro-life advocacy and terrorism.)

In short, UK EC is A-OK.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Who Killed Feminism? 

Ann Althouse solves the mystery.

Last week
, it was Ann Bartow and Belle Lettre, for not joining in the hilarity of David Lat's "hottest ERISA lawyer contest" and pointing out that being featured against one's will on a prominent website as a "hottie" might not be the best thing for a lawyer's career or psyche. ("I wonder if Belle has considered whether this grim, censorious, humorless -- nay, humor-phobic -- attitude helps women. I know you want to be taken seriously, but being so intent on being taken seriously is one of the main things that make people want to mock you. And not just you, but feminism.")

This week, it's Jessica Valenti for daring to stand up straight when she met with President Clinton.

Althouse seems to think feminism would be thriving, if only we didn't have all those feminists....


Work and Employment 

Hello, Fred darling (we're temporarily in different cities, so I didn't get a chance to discuss his last post with him over breakfast),

I think a problem for both Hirshman and you (and one I've been scolded for in a conversation with a prominent feminist economist, so I fall prey to it, too) is in referring to paid employment--and only paid employment--as work.

I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that between labor-saving devices*, market production of most goods, mandatory schooling, etc., much of the once back-breaking, full-time work entailed in feeding, clothing, and cleaning a household and caring for children has been dramatically lightened. But it hasn't all disappeared--there are still things that must be done, and they're still work and not leisure (although they're often bound up with the happiness we may feel about doing things with and for family, which complicates things).

While I'm also extremely uncomfortable with the "choice feminism"/"opt out" business, I think that an important reason for its appeal is that there IS something real and important and under-valued about this home production or reproductive labor or caring labor or whatever you want to call it. It may be (no, strike that--it IS) work that should be shared far more equally between men and women. It is work that should be recognized and rewarded whoever does it (we should pay daycare workers a lot more).

But we've got to recognize it as work. That makes a lot of people uncomfortable (although I know this isn't Fred's reason for neglecting this point) because they want to think that women are all doing all of this stuff purely out of love and natural motherly instinct and all that crappola... And part of the problem, as Folbre discusses, is that of course to some extent, they are. But that doesn't excuse men who don't do it or society for acting as if it has no value.

Ultimately, the solution that Fred and Linda Hirshman come to--that paid employment (don't call it merely work) needs to become the expectation for all women and as natural as it is for men is only half a solution. The other half, and the much harder half, is getting men to grow up with the understanding that reproductive work is part of what is expected of them, and that they must plan their lives and careers accordingly. Scolding privileged women who opt out, as Hirshman does, lets their privileged husbands, who are working 80-hour weeks, off the hook.** And I'm pretty darn sick of letting privileged men off the hook and suggesting that women on their own, facing all kinds of constraints and obstacles, have to be the ones responsible for making the world better.

Hirshman tells us we should just suck it up and deal when the workplaces we're in are inhumane or sexist, for the good of the cause, and that it's our obligation to stay in the highest-paid work instead of voting with our feet for work that's fulfilling or that comes with being treated like a human being. And I say to hell with that--it's not going to change a darn thing if we stuff socks in our mouths and just put up with how we get treated in sexist, high-paid workplaces with the idea that with our 6-figure incomes we'll be better-positioned to negotiate at home. I don't buy it. And frankly, life is too short.

I could go on, but I have work to do...

*Note that supposedly labor-saving devices such as the washer & dryer initially did not result in a great reduction in work for housewives, as the standards for clothing cleanliness and the wearing of clothes that needed frequent washing just increased... So that laundry became a daily (or at least multiple-times-a-weekly) activity, rather than its older once-a-weekliness.

**And don't tell me, as Hirshman does, that the answer is for the privileged women to all marry younger, working-class guys. There's plenty of evidence that gender trumps money, so I doubt that's much of a solution.


Linda Hirshman Jumps The Shark 

With the caveat that I haven't, you know, read her book, I've generally had some sympathy for what I understood to be Hirshman's thesis -- that work is a benefit and, to some extent, a duty for women. For the most part, our society takes that as a given for men, but the whole notion that women by virtue of their sex have no duty to work (a) devalues all women's work by framing it as a selfish choice to do something self indulgent, rather than an honorable fulfillment of a person's duty to herself and to make the most of her abilities; (b) feeds the guilt that far more mothers than fathers feel about being working parents; (c) discourages women from working, which has documented negative effects on women's access to resources and wellbeing; and (d) probably does a lot of other bad things. (For a similar response, see Happy Feminist.)

But this (via Ann Bartow) is so fundamentally misguided that it causes me to think I may need to reconsider my sympathy for Hirshman:
One explanation that has surfaced is that women go to graduate school to earn their MRS degree, looking for a high-earning mate who will enable them to compete in the bake-sale Olympics, which was their real career goal....

The question is: Why are the rest of us paying for their legal education? ...

One solution is for law schools to discriminate against women applicants as the undergraduate colleges now do, with all their talk of "balance" and their special football programs just for the guys. The Constitution stops state schools from discriminating, but most scholars believe that the private schools are still free to sort by sex. This is a blunt instrument, and I am not recommending it....

Here it is. Men and women should get the same access to law school-same tuition, same scholarships, etc. If, however, 10 years after graduation, the law school graduate is not working full-time at some job for which law school is a reasonable preparation, he, or more likely, she, will have to give the school back the money that it spent educating him or her over and above whatever was paid in tuition. The refunds would be put in a fund for scholarships for law students who could not otherwise afford to go to law school. (Emphasis added.)
Yes, Economics 101 does teach that economic incentives affect behavior. But how much more incentive are you going to get when, Hirshman herself reports, firms like Skadden Arps are worried about keeping women who could easily be making north of $500,000 if they stayed? The problem is that working women are facing systematic obstacles that can trump even a six or seven figure salary. One of those obstacles, and Hirshman is right about this, is the idea that work is optional, but it's hardly the only obstacle. Building a positive vision in which work is naturally a part of women's expectations and identity as it is for men would be a step in the right direction. Reviving outdated animosity toward female law students who are "taking a man's seat" is not.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

There's This New Thing.... 

It's called a search engine. Someone might want to tell Joe Lieberman about them. Joe's blog today claims:
Lamont has not made any personal appearances in Torrington, while Senator Lieberman has met with Torrington voters numerous times.
It took all of 5 seconds to enter "lamont torrington" into Yahoo! and find the first search result is a photgraph from "Lamont's appearence in Torrington" in March. There's also video on YouTube.

(Apparently, he would also have been there August 2, but sent his daughters instead when he got a last minute call to be on the Colbert Report.)


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Joe Lieberman is 100% Right 

No make that 1000% right.

From Joe Lieberman's official statement commemorating September 11:
“Since 9/11, we have made historic organizational changes in our government to shore up our homeland defenses. I think we are clearly better off for having done that, although weak links, some of them critical, remain. Ultimately, and most importantly, what has been missing, and what we must have going forward is leadership. The security of the American people is our highest priority. We can and must secure America’s future and we must and will do it together.” (Emphasis added.)
Joe's right. We have been missing leadership on homeland security.

Maybe that's because Joe Lieberman was the chairman of the committee responsible for homeland security in 2001-02 (and the ranking Democrat since then).

I know he can't be referring to President Bush's lack of leadership, because "we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril"....


Does This Come In A Size 0? 

AP reports that astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper today became only the sixth woman to participate in one of the U.S.'s 159 space walks. Apparently, part of the reason is space suits are only designed for men:
A major reason for the lack of female spacewalkers is the spacesuit, which isn't designed for small sizes, said Piper, who is 5-foot-10.

"If you fit in a suit then the easier it is to work," she said.

Look, I'm cool with one-size-fits-all for giveaways at Yankee Stadium, but with a budget in excess of $15 billion, I would think NASA could make space suits in a range of sizes.


Monday, September 11, 2006

What A Coincidence! -- Bush Only Visits Ground Zero In Election Years 

The anniversary of the September 11 attacks is certainly a time to remember and reflect upon the events of that terrible day.

For some odd reason, however, President Bush seems to mark the date very differently depending on whether it occurs in an election year:
To review: Election years -- prominent public displays designed to remind the public of the September 11 attacks. Off years -- going to church and hanging out with the Cheneys.

Coincidence? If you think so, I'm taking bets on whether Mr. Bush will be in New York on September 11, 2007....


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Small Minded, Bigoted Idiots 

AP reports that the Boston Herald, the New York Sun, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston are condemning Harvard's Kennedy School's decision to allow former Iranian President Mohamed Khatami to speak (and take unscripted questions).

Even if Khatami were a representative of the current Iranian government, one would wonder why these critics are so convinced that American democracy could not stand up in a clash of ideas with Iranian theocracy.

But what makes it just ridiculous is that as President Khatami was widely viewed as a reformer. He was the political adversary of the hard-line conservatives who are running Iran now. And, at least by Iranian standards, he positioned himself as a defender of Jews, again in opposition to the hard-liners:
President Khatami of Iran has made a strong defence of the rights of religious minorities after the arrest of 13 Iranian Jews on charges of spying for Israel....

It has even been suggested that his conservative rivals, who control the Iranian judiciary and the intelligence service, could be using the case to sabotage his attempts to further improve relations with the West.

President Khatami has now reacted by saying that all religous minorities are free to practise their faith in the Islamic Republic....

But despite Mr Khatami's reconcilation efforts, conservative newspapers have hailed the Iranian intelligence service for dismantling what they describe as a dangerous espionage network....

Pro-Khatami newspapers are only publishing official statements about the case and avoiding any comment.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Monthly Show? 

Stone Court loves the Daily Show.

But it's not perfect. The dearth of female correspondents has long been an obvious problem, though it's gotten more pronounced as old standbys Stephen Colbert and Rob Corddry have left, only to be replaced by an apparently rotating cast of men. (The lone woman remains Samantha Bee.)

I was a little slower to note the lack of female guests, since guests by definition change nightly and, frankly, I often skip the interview to turn in early. However, when Mary pointed out last night that the guests are also overwhelmingly male, I decided to check it out.

By my count, 87 of the last 100 Daily Show guests have been men. Estimating that there are about 160 episodes per year, that works out to fewer than two female guests per month. (Colbert clocks in at 84 of the last 100.) While these shows may lap the "real news" in other areas, in this regard they are little better than your average Sunday morning talk show, which has 89% male guests.


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