Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Let the Healing (good and bad) begin -- it's a matter of Posture

A few news stories today:
The Australian government has decided to apologize to the aboriginal people of Australia. You know, the ones that they took land from, raped, stole children to try and assimilate, and otherwise murdered and abused... those guys. While we have to acknowledge it as a step forward, because all the previous administrations before Rudd's outright refused (especially Howard's wannabe-Bush administration, which skirted around the issue more than Clinton chases skirts); how can we see this as a triumph? If anything, it is a bittersweet admission of failure decades too late. And even though the government is attempting a resolution to this longstanding issue that truly has been persistent on the Australian Continent, it still reeks of "I'm sorry, BUT..." Why? because in the first place, they make it explicitly clear that the government is issuing an apology for the past injustices, and that the current Australian population really takes no part in any of the blame of past injustice. This is a complicated apology, because it is basically saying sorry for someone else, in a time past, while not acknowledging any fault of your own -- so how is it an apology? And what makes it even worse is that according to general Australian Aboriginal philosophy, every person that arrives on Australian land, and lives and works upon it, is taking advantage of the colonists abuse of power and abuse of the Aboriginal peoples, many of whom they forced out of their own homeland, or worse, massacred. Even tourists are to share in the blame of what happened to aboriginals, according to their traditions, and when you think about it, they have a truly valid point -- anyone living and visiting Australia who wasn't native to the place is in some ways, subtle or otherwise, taking advantage of the territorial and abusive practices of the first colonists. The same could be said for Native Americans and today's American citizens. And the fact that the Australian government thinks it can just issue an "apology" and be done with it is another colonial smack in the face, because it implies that their apology is valid, and incontestable -- in other words, they don't "offer an apology," or "ask for forgiveness", they think it works like going to confession, and being cleansed no matter what they've done. Aboriginals are given no chance to respond, once again they are forced to agree with the policies of the white settlers. That's not fair dinkum at all. Bunyips in billabongs are more believable than this new "forgiveness" aimed at repairing tensions.

More Healing:
Giuliani is out (according to almost everyone) after his poor results in Florida, whose primaries only count if you're Republican. That shows with Clinton's remarkably un-talked-about trounce of Obama and Roberts, with over 50% of apparently irrelevant Florida democratic primary votes. But back to Florida.911 for Giuliani. He's stepping out before it gets really bad, to at least save face at Giuliani partners, his lucrative law firm/consultancy. It's a wise choice. For all the guff people gave Thompson and his lackluster attempts at campaigning, combined with his mannerism verging on comatose, tales of Giuliani's assumed political vigor was widely exaggerated -- his campaign could be more aptly compared to a slow process of rigor mortis, rotting to boot. Of course, Guiliani's political corpse only gives renewed sustenance to the political advisor vultures on McCain's staff, who sees this complete turnaround in fate as an opportunity to grab as much electoral nutrition as they can as if greedy contestants on super-market sweep. And when they hear the *beep* of Romney's harsh and negative campaign spiral down in ratings, they jump for joy as we reach the check out, a.k.a. super duper Tuesday. McCain, the man everyone thought was dead in the water a few months ago, has come back with a vengeance, and not many saw it coming, if anyone. The lesser of all evils philosophy is definitely giving him the lift. Super Duper Tuesday will probably be either the capstone or the demise of either McCain or Romney, and a winner will emerge. Things are less clear, however, for the Democrats. It could happen that Obama and Clinton come out in a dead heat, and the race to the finish will only be determined at the National Convention, which historically a pony show with the nomination all but secured except for formal confirming, and nothing more -- but might now be very serious business. Always one for a showdown, fight to the death, let's hope for a delegate battle, winner takes all.

Note on the by fair the stupidest news stories:
Lester Holt, Journalist for MSNBC, made a good point in an interview last night. He said that because of the blogosphere and the rapidity of news reporting today, national networks and news outlets are in some ways compromised when they decide what to cover, when to cover it, and how much time they can allow for fact checking. In a sense, the quick pace and availability of news has degraded the quality of traditional news, popularizing it and making pop culture and stories that normally wouldn't have received attention, well, receive attention. In some cases, like people's push for publicizing Darfur atrocities, this is good; but in most cases this means that asinine stories on celebrities and people in fat suits, etc., get more coverage, and unjustifiably so -- and kitschy stories with sensational bents are bleeding into the carpet of hard news formats/stories. Take for instance the uses of celebrity couple nicknames with the political machines of campaigns. "Billary",...., really? Is this news? And why is it that it's perfectly acceptable to assume that a woman candidate is a combined creature leaning on her man (yes, she has had him campaign for her, but so do MOST if not all candidate's spouses, regardless of gender). But somehow it's completely unbelievable for a man to be a combined creature with his female counterpart? When Bill ran, he wasn't Billary, and Obama isn't Obamelle, and Edwards isn't Elizawards. Both wives have spoken out forcefully for Barrack and John, but they aren't given the same credit for it. Yes, Clinton is a special case as an ex-president, but anyone who follows the big show knows that Hillary is pulling the strings in this campaign, and Bill is just a sideshow to the main attraction. Clinton might even be guilty or propagating these ideas of a team, but either way, what is so inherently scary about a woman standing on her own two feet in the first place, instead of kneeling at the feet of a man (as Bill, and many middle-aged wealthy white men are probably more used to). Think about it -- throughout history, women have been viewed as not only shorter in actual physical stature, but unable to stand erect, and even those crazy creationists would like to see woman with a curved silhouette rather than standing tall.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Take this Mensa

States of the Union...A.K.A.

The pageantry of the State of the Union Address is an acquired taste, but once you get develop the affinity, it's all consuming. There's something about the distilled rhetoric combined with physical approval and cheers that combine to create a scene that is not only historic and American but displays bit of showmanship. If you don't like the actual speech, there's lots to do to help pass the time being eaten up and spit out by politics on the network channels when you would've been watching American gladiators. Here's a few time tested ideas:
1. Traditional: Count to see how many times the room gives a standing ovation (usually in the three-digits). This can also be slightly varied, for instance counting only when half the room gets up, or when half the room and Lieberman gets up, or when half the room gets up and the rest boo. You'll want to keep a tally, it happens a lot. You can also count how many times the pres invokes words or phrases, like 9/11 or the economy. These are also good drinking game markers, though the standing ovation drinking game would get you drunk in less than five minutes.

2. Observe Dick Cheney, and look for puppeteer strings, or his hand cleverly inserted into Bush's back, like a hand puppet. Also, observing the mere eye-brows of Cheney is likely fodder for hours of fascist entertainment.

3. Watch Pelosi squirm. It must be hard to sit up their, and have to judge, by the moment, what exactly to clap for -- even the worst Bush policies have been cleverly cloaked (by his speech writers, obviously), in statements that you really can't argue about. By adding ending clauses that are pro-troops, pro-American civil liberties, and anti-terrorist at the end of every sentence, you might not want to clap because you don't like Bush's policies, but then if you don't clap to endorse his general statements about America's goodness, you're a jerk. That's why Pelosi would often have a slight drag of just a moment, to see if her side of the room got up and clapped- that why she would know how to react and stay in line with the party.

4. Watch the Supreme Court for reaction. This is intriguing because as the court, they are SUPPOSED to be generally a-political, at least when it comes to this type of speech-giving. You don't see them stand much if at all, and they are wearing the robes, and sit in the front, so they know they have to behave like a kid in the front row at church. But if you look close enough, you can see Roberts and Alito, covertly clapping under their robes - swear to god, telling the whole truth on that one.

5. Watch the president fizzle and spurt out. Using some universal imagery, the pres has because impotent, and intravenous, steady streams of political Viagra would only do two things: wake a sleeping animal only to find that it's rabid, and in need of serious medical attention. Cause in point: the largest chunk of time was devoted to talking about Iraq, etc. Now, while it's laudable to think that the president is reminding us of the troops overseas in a country whose media is scarily close to forgetting about them with the presidential campaigns and down turning economy, that's not really what Bush was doing. Although he threw out some pretty notions about extending unused education benefits to soldier's spouses or children, and wanted to extend veteran's benefits and care overall, his real push was the same old thing. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, insanity is also saying and ensuring the same thing over and over again and hoping people will actually listen and approve. Bush wants whoever comes into office next to listen to his advice on the approach to the war. Good Luck with that Georgie, or more succinctly as Pelosi put it "poor baby." Even the leading generals in Iraq say that as soon as we leave, the violence will return as if we'd never been there. Eventually, even without the "timetable" that Bush dreads, we have to scale down troops- and sooner rather than later. The question becomes, for a temporary peace, that will surely be so, can we risk the American lives? Because we can kill and capture some, but many will remain, and have gone into hiding. They will come back. Bush, for the retarded monkey of a leader that he is, cannot be said to be uncaring for the situation. But he has brainwashed himself into the delusion that just because we don't say we're leaving, we're going to win. And the scare tactics of saying that if Congress doesn't pass the legislation (which will expire on Feb. 1)that allows intelligence agencies to monitor terrorist communications in America and outside it, than "our citizens will be in great danger." Now, by saying this, Bush is equipping terrorists with valuable information. Most people didn't know that this bill was set to expire, and many terrorists would probably have been unaware too. So by making it a national talking point that was also aired around the world, Bush is in affect inviting the danger. If he really cared about passing this bill AND ensuring American safety, maybe he would work from the inside, and quietly drum up support-- support that hopefully he won't get either way, because this policy is tantamount to something out of Orwell's 1984. But seriously, that was just a throw-away appeal for Bush and Cheney, would will continue to flex their over-used intelligence wing muscles regardless of how many anti-phone tapping, anti-torture bills are passed into legislation.

6. Laugh uncontrollably at Bush's attempts to broker peace in the middle east, especially between Israel and a fractured Palestine. Seriously laughable are the attempts of Bush at a joining together the other most impotent rulers - one weak Israel and it's president, and one inchoate Palestinian leader who can't control the ripping seems of his people, divided by loyalties to Hamas and Hezbollah. With less than a year to go, it's like you've set a new year's resolution much more ambitious than any vow of eating and drinking less, but with an exponentially higher risk of failing even before you've begun. In fact, resolution can't even cover it - because resolutions imply at least a Chance at change. It's so sad its hysterical.

7. Laugh even harder at his pathetic invocation of the Iranian people. Quote: "Our message to the people of Iran is clear: We have no quarrel with you, we respect your traditions and your history, and we look forward to the day when you have your freedom." Underlying Truth: "but freedom, by our standards, is in direct contradiction to your traditions and history, so though we say we respect those standards, when we wish you the joys of our definition of freedom (which must be correct), we wish that your traditions and history are blown to shreds by our missiles, whoot whoot."

8. Try and make out all the pseudo-judeo-christian religious bent of the speech in Bush's diction.
Speech Quote:
"So tonight, with confidence in freedom’s power, and trust in the people, let us set forth to do their business."
Quote at the end of a Christian Mass:
"So let us go forth in peace, to love and serve the Lord."

Speech Quote:
" we believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny and shape the course of history. We believe that the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens."
Jesus Inspired Quote:
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church."

9. Other funny quote mirroring:
Speech Quote: "and the American people expect us to get it done."
"get'her done!"

Speech Quote: "On matters of science and life, we must trust in the innovative spirit of medical researchers and empower them to discover new treatments while respecting moral boundaries."
"Darwin is the devil and scientists are his dirty, dirty winged mistresses, those whores."

Speech Quote:
"And as we explore promising avenues of research, we must also ensure that all life is treated with the dignity it deserves."
"in other words the kind of dignity we normally deny to foreigners, immigrants, homosexuals, poor people, women, and terror suspects, etc."

Speech transcript here:

Monday, January 28, 2008

We have a long way to go, my friend.

Ever notice McCain's odd way with phraseology, and his insistence on amplifying the use of the appendage "my friend" at the end of every forceful sentence he utters, positive or no? It's almost like a nervous tick, except no one seems to have pointed it out to the Senator, and encouraged him to stop, not even his own campaign crew. Because, number one, it can sound kind of smug, and he uses it universally, applying it to true "friends" and foes. For instance, when debating unflattering quotes and comments on Meet the Press, McCain calls Russert, a tepid acquaintance at best, "my friend" in a way that in actuality implies the reverse. Fine. Call people you don't like or are currently annoyed with your friends -- it's better than most alternatives in a time when everything you say and do ends up on YouTube. But, if you've watched some of McCain's stump speeches, he uses the same intonation and address to his supporters. One gets the feeling that if forced to chat with Al Qaeda, McCain might soon be calling them his friends as well. Who knew he was so amicable.

In other news,
We do have a long way to go, my friends. That is, when it comes to the Democratic nomination. Walking home, a teeny young woman on her blue tooth blurted out sporadically, causing those around her to jump: "Obama got South Carolina!... as if you would care..." to the general workers trudging home across streets in the financial section of NJ, suggesting that the majority of white men in business suits would be against such a proclamation. Well, sadly in South Carolina, she would have been right - the majority of Obama's votes were African American, or they were in the 18-29 age group, regardless of race. 45% of the white male vote went to Edwards, 28% Clinton, and 27% Obama. This isn't very surprising, but we shouldn't be too concerned - white men only made up 18% of the vote in SC. And this is the wonderful news: turnout was unprecedented - the Democratic primary had a mobilized group of voters that had not been seen in a long time, if ever -- and it's good because the more people who come out and vote, the more accurate a snapshot of the national temperature we're able to receive, and that's what democracy is all about. However, Obama, if he wants to win the nomination and the general election, needs to find ways for the white men in suits to care, because they do, nationally make up a large enough swatch of the voting population. Well it looks like Obama might be on his way to that, with:
Camelot calling.

Caroline Kennedy just endorsed Obama in an OpEd piece for the New York Times this weekend, comparing Obama to JFK, Jr. - something she hasn't ever done before for a presidential candidate. It's expected that Ted Kennedy will also endorse Obama, to Clinton's dismay. And this might help Obama greatly, who is struggling with not only white men but the older electorate pool, many of whom still live in the fantasy world of JFK Jr. Era politics. (Though some of these people are backwards and also just as likely to still have a pre-civil rights mindset, which would counteract any good that the Kennedy endorsement might do). We can understand the need of endorsements, but honestly, voters should not seriously base their estimations of a candidate's abilities on the daughter of a ex-president, just because the president was idealized and had a decent record. If Chelsea Clinton was to get up and endorse someone (if her mother wasn't running), would we listen? And, an older white house offspring's opinion would be better - because Caroline was what, six years old when her father died? How, how would her estimation of Obama/JFK be any different than a really good historian? Yes, she knew things only family members know, but in terms of experiencing his political life, she is only as informed as any second hand observer would be, and she even implies this in the OpEd, saying "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them." Her endorsement is significant with some people -- she's a well-respected attorney and socialite. But like Oprah before her, and what is sure to be a long list of people after her, this really shouldn't affect the polls, but sadly it probably will. Just because Neil Diamond was obsessed with her as a child, doesn't mean we all should be. But of course, the endorsement of the Kennedy's isn't necessarily a good thing in a general election (e.g. John Kerry), but it couldn't hurt Obama now, who is looking to roll over as many primaries as he can with the momentum from South Carolina, and the Kennedy's yay-say is highly influential in New England, and important to an Obama campaign that would love to take votes away from Hillary, who is depending on the older New England vote. The longer we go, the harder it is to tell whether these two campaigns and the constant ebb and flow of primary victories will lead to Democratic triumph, or demise.

Oh, in other, other news, the State of the Union Address is tonight - clogging up our television screens when we could be watching really lovely, low-budget reality shows. The networks should be jumping for joy with the fact that they are actually able to air something scripted by real writers (non-writer's guild affiliated, of course), but the general feeling is none too enthusiastic. Not many even know it's going to be airing tonight --they're in for a rude interruption. It should be interesting, to say the least -- a few friendly parting shots from bozo the clown as he exits, preaching bi-partisanism while simultaneously calling the congress a "DemocRAT" majority and shifting his shoulders while giggling in that unsettling and slightly retarded fashion. Let's give him unlimited standing ovations - it's his last one, thank goodness, my friend.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Let's Eulogize Someone Deserving

With all the media hype over certain celebrity deaths and escapades, let's pay tribute to a real intellectual inspiration who pasted away this past December, and, rather unfairly, received little to no coverage from the press:

Elizabeth Hardwick, 1916-2007
- American essayist, literary critic, novelist, co-founder of the NY Review of Books, writer of Seduction & Betrayal and Sight-Readings, among others

Read an excellent article on her here:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Happy Anniversary! ...

Roe v. Wade! 35 years of a woman's right is commemorated today. Don't get complacent- this is one anniversary we should not only remember, but understand that like any civil right, a woman's choice stands precariously close to being abused and overturned by an ultra-conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

This map explains what might happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned:


Monday, January 21, 2008

Forgotten Causes

Happy MLK Jr. Day.

Today is a day when most Americans are forced to remember, either by the advantage of a day off, or the disadvantage of a day in the office while others enjoy their day off, of the civil rights movement, MLK Jr.'s message, and the still-rampant injustices and prejudices that pervade our society to this day, and that will unfortunately stretch into the foreseeable future. Instead of quietly sweeping inequality under a rug, we (hopefully) pick it up, shake it out, and clean up our acts - (and even more hopefully) gain a better sense of the future, and how not to be so afraid of uncomfortable situations instead of just making the rug of apathy even larger to cover up our indiscretions. Race is a hard issue, with many views and tensions and emotions that are connected to our very being, and historical inadequacies that make it even tougher --but at least we manage a bit of open dialogue and respect every now and then.

A few months ago, many would have said that discussions of race and gender and other common prejudices in America need to be opened up to more debate, more dialogue, more general thought and true philosophical argument. It is when people are talking and sharing, and the media is fully in cooperation with broadcasting these breakthroughs and breakdowns that we can move forward as a nation into prosperity for people of all races and genders and etc. A few months ago, some would have said that the topics which are covered at nausea today deserve the same kind of extensive coverage year-round, like the Iraq War coverage. But no one could make that argument any longer. Why? Because it seems that Iraq has faded into some subterranean stratum. The news media has fallen asleep in terms of reporting the Iraq war, in a quicker and much more disturbing fashion than it did with Afghanistan. Race and gender aren't getting a lot of attention in the news, but it's definitely beating Iraq for newsreel time right now. Why? The likely reason: The economy. But here's the real question: the economy has been shifting towards recession for a while now - so why this sudden shift of media outlets? Is it due to the political parties scramble for viable presidential candidates? Is it a general sense that the people who consume the news are sick of listening to stories about Iraq? How can we ignore the fact that this country is still at war, and that no matter how many troops are brought home, we still need to understand their struggles and weigh the costs of deployment? Or perhaps the economy is crunching the resources of journalistic outlets to embed their people in these warzones? Beats me. Even though the media might be giving up on Iraq reporting because they think the next president will bring most troops home - they're still there now and deserve our attention and concern. I hope someone raises the alarm of the problem of journalistic apathy -- not just for the war, but for equality and any other issue that would heighten the awareness of the American people, and make our country a place where MLK Jr's dreams start to truly take fruitition.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

But can a white middle aged straight man really become president?

Let's not play the gender card, or the race card, please. Really, this race has become all about labels. White rich middle-aged men with political connections should not have to fear the stereotypes associated with their kind, and constantly qualify their abilities in order to be voted for in a general election. Is it their fault that history has given them the reputation of abusing their genetically endowed strength over the "weaker sex"? Is it this one white male candidate that himself glazed or Windex-ed the top surface of the glass ceiling? Is it fair that we judge him from our positions decidedly below his crystalline fortress, which was surely not of his personal craftsmanship, though he enjoys it's relative bullet-proof security none-the-less?

Did you hear him campaigning last night? With the vigor in his voice, and his tepid inability to modulate his deep and subtle male voice? Ah - but was it really his voice, or just a projection of what we wanted to hear from a strong white male candidate? God forbid he sounds the least bit effeminate.

What about the white male votes? Can he possibly hold onto his own strong group of supporters, or will they bail out in fear of seeming to merely vote for someone like them? (but they may stay too - white males don't want to seem anything close to a fickle female). Although, did you see how he bench pressed all those weights the other day? - you know, while eating pizza and beer and watching the football playoffs? Something says he's playing to his base. Polls have shown America is more ready (again) to elect a straight white male than any other race/gender/orientation combination.

Oh, and did you see what he was wearing yesterday in Michigan? You know, the dark navy suit, and squeaky clean shoes, which although snappy, he would never be able to tell you the brand name or the style? And that red tie -- it was obviously tied by his wife, because the knot was so perfect, there's no way he did that in a mirror. (Both the lack of shoe knowledge and wife-tied tie are very affirming proofs of his heterosexuality, don't you think?)

Everyone especially enjoyed when he got up the courage to invoke the memory of great white male leaders of the past, in his speech last year - the capstone of his run for presidential candidacy. It actually took him about three days just to get through the list of well-recognized white male leaders throughout history - and he was only naming the big shots (usually of Western descent). Around Napoleon, he faltered for a moment, but forged ahead. Really, his candidacy is quite "historical" itself, don't you think? I mean, he'll be the first white male president to run completely on the notion that his white maleness will break boundaries and ensure a stable and happy future for Americans, and boast wide appeal throughout the international community.
The leaders of nations all over the world will see America's true vision for the future through his highly skilled eyes and completely vanilla outlook on life. His ability to mesh with the Washingtonian old-boy atmosphere will suit his presidency beautifully, and lots of "stuff" will get passed.
His name, his face, his genitalia - they all fit perfectly into the political mix, and why should he be blamed for that? You'd never confuse him with a terrorist or as a fluffy pushover incapable of leading a country in time of war.

But some ask, does this white male candidate have too much strength of character? Is he too calculating? Should we abhor his healthy respect for using Kenny G to woo women voters and his ability to get Springsteen to play at his rallies? Should be scared, and tack onto his run for president that all the worst management disasters in our economy's history (e.g. Enron) have been caused primarily by middle aged white men? Or that his race/gender/orientation group has tried to bar others from voting (ex. Jim Crow laws), or participating in the armed forces (don't ask, don't tell), or even certain sports (ex. creating "separate but equal" professional teams for women that are far from equal)?
Who would listen to or respect a candidate with such traditions and baggage?

Dare we ask it? Are we really ready for another white, heterosexual, god-fearing male president? I mean, 217 years of status quo is truly unsustainable for much longer. Even if the country is ready, other white males are asking, is he truly white enough? And regardless of whether or not his genealogy is 100% white, we don't even know if this candidate was brought up to understand the idiosyncrasies of the white community, since he's been spending so much time campaigning in "other neighborhoods" for such a longer time.

These are important questions to ask of him, because they trump all discussion of his platforms and experience, and ability to lead the country, don't you think?

** If you find this theoretical discussion completely asinine and absolutely besides the point, then you also must understand the necessity of stopping these completely irrelevant discussions on race, gender, orientation, etc. Because if you aren't considering, or take for granted the baggage that comes with the run-of-the-mill white male candidates, you shouldn't be doing any different for any others. The fact that the above statements are never made proves that the group is fully established in the political arena. The fact that we can't stop talking about "is America ready for a (blank) president" means that we truly haven't lifted ourselves above the equality line. Disgusting.

further reading:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Prepositions of Power

Yesterday's NY Times OpEd by Gloria Steinem can be found here:
Steinem, not one to skirt (or blouse, or tank-top) an issue, takes on the role of women in the political arena - including female candidates, political opinions, and voters at large. Steinem doesn't cast sheep eyes at a problem instead of attacking it, head on - and she makes some insightful comments worth some inner reflection. Some of her opinions are none too out of the ordinary vein for her, including her evaluation that: "anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race;" we've seen that argument before, executed to great effect in her more literary-revolutionary pieces such as "If Men Could Menstruate" (read here:
But truly, Steinem's introduction using an image of the disregarded female biography is a good device, in that it mirrors the kind of attempts made by earlier feminists, such as Virginia Woolf, who in A Room of One's Own set up the fictional/theoretical narrative of "Shakespeare's Sister," and how, despite Judith Shakespeare's equal talents, she is forgotten, downtrodden, and completely anonymous -- she truly is shrouded in the half-life of feminist fiction, unable to be heard, read, or even widely acknowledged. It is a sad state of affairs indeed that what was written in the late 1920s still rings true today, in earsplitting, misogynistic knells. What Woolf said and hoped for back then, on the surface, was a modest proposal: a small salary and living space entirely for a woman, making her independent and relatively free to create and fulfill her potential. And in most cases today, women do have the ability to obtain what Woolf had aspired to, yet the other, larger message of Woolf, echoed in Steinem's writings, is the need not for women to merely reform themselves, but for the ability of the entire populous to live in a sort of quasi-androgynous state, meaning that sexual politics are completely dead on arrival, and value judgements are made regardless of sex, race, orientation, class, etc. Unfortunately, this is an utopia that, like Steinem would like to remind young women ("What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system") cannot be fully realized by any stretch of the imagination or stretch of affirmative action, or stretch of legislation - there still persists inherent prejudices, and even more pervasive, the idea that sexism is "confused with nature," and women are legitimately stereotyped because of some kind of genetic process, and somehow these genetics, even if they were actually at play, amount to a deconstructive and somehow weaker biology compared to men.
As Steinem carefully points out, women are at a disadvantage in this voting cycle like all the ones before it -- they are accused of bias if they vote for the woman, and are deserters if they vote against her. Clinton cannot act "female" or show emotion, while they criticize her for being stony, while simultaneously and obsessively checking the humidity and calculating the possibility that she might, "tear up." Along with her campaign, she has to be wary of the sexual stereotypes that dog all women - body politics (what is she wearing, how does she look?), emotions, bitchiness, etc. And somehow, it seems that while it's okay for a woman to vote for a man (not that she usually has much else choice), a man faces barriers that have been constructed by the sense of his own masculinity. Even if a man chooses to vote for Clinton, nine times out of ten, that man will have considered the aesthetics and appropriateness of a man pulling a lever for a woman - the ultimate political hand job.
It is no surprise that people are able to dump upon a female candidate all these stunningly multifarious and contradicting labels - women throughout history have been the muse, always inspiring, never creating. Now that women want to make their own history and assert their latent creativity, people aren't ready to accept the outcomes. It is the shadow of the "behind every great man there is a great woman" mentality. In fact, to some extent, as horrible as it sounds, Hillary Clinton has played this role, during the nineties. But instead of receding into the political twilight of ex-presidents and their wives, Clinton has forged ahead with determination. Now is the time for women to skip the step of "standing by their man," -- we should have had enough with these degrading prepositions by now(behind, by, below, down, beside, outside, underneath, etc.). Let's retake the grammar of ill-intent, and claim the prepositions of power: among, inside, in front of, on top of, upon, within, and up.
As Steinem cites, our country is extremely backward when it comes to the comparison of other countries and the electability of women. Most European nations have had women in powerful, if not the most powerful positions, or at least have had women run fairly successful campaigns where the issue of their gender is not necessarily polarizing or a huge issue of debate (some European countries with past/present female leaders: UK, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Latvia, Finland, etc.). Even in countries that the current administration would like us to believe are extremely backward or have carried on an ideology of backwardness, such as Pakistan, India, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, North Korea, South Korea, Liberia, -- all have had (or currently have) female rulers in either the capacity of president or prime minister. (even China had a brief period of a woman in charge within the past century, though it is not officially recognized by the PRC).
Like religious rebuttals, and sexual orientation rights opposition -- gender is an overly pervasive and debated issue in politics to an overextended value, especially in comparison to European countries, Latin American countries, and even developing countries that we utter the word "backwards" or "tyrannical" in the same breath when describing their political systems. Some of the best run countries in the world don't sweat the stuff that Americans seem to be perspiring out the pores about at an alarming rate. The temperature of our state has to be regulated, and adjusted for unfair spikes in discriminatory feverishness.

Source for women in power data:

disclaimer: not an endorsement for Clinton, this blogger hasn't made up their mind yet!

Supreme Court Voter Fraud Cases and Reactions

Important Case to follow:

Views on case and issues:
The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin: editorial board:

And the New York Times, last month:
"At first blush, voter ID laws may not seem so unreasonable. But the fact is, a substantial number of Americans who are registered to vote do not have official government photo IDs. That is particularly true of poor people, racial minorities, the elderly, and the disabled — many of whom do not drive and do not have drivers’ licenses.
The state claims it wants to deter vote fraud by ensuring that no one impersonates a registered voter at the polls. But there is no evidence of this occurring in Indiana. No one in the state has ever been prosecuted for in-person voter fraud."

food for thought, and it's bitter fruit.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Perpetuating Pseudo Stereo-Studies

Sometimes, social/medical studies are self-perpetuating cycles of relative facts. Sometimes, the results, though essentially correct in number, have the tendency to not only be presumptive, but actually cause and heighten the findings that they think they found in the first place. In other words, they make people believe that certain things happen for certain reasons, and those reasonsin turn become accepted and studied fact -- so why dispute them? It's a dangerous, never ending cycle, because the studies are meant to make links and prove things, and people see the numbers and believe them, and then act accordingly, reinforcing the study, and so essentially, even if the study was faulty, or based upon inaccurate data or erred presumptions, it proves itself true in the long term.
One of the problems with empirical social data and the studies founded on them is the inaccuracy of the actual reporting and gathering techniques. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, tried to fill out the dietary intake questionnaires that thousands of Americans fill out every year, and which form the basis of many capstone research projects throughout the country. This dietary professional found himself unable to do it without fudging the answers. From these misinformed forms, many of the health and nutrition studies we accept without immediate questions come about. The problems with studies based on human data and the human reporting functions are multiple: some simple, others complex. The simplest denominator of this equation is the fact that people lie - even on anonymous tests. Or, if you're a bit less cynical and more simpatico with your fellow survey guinea pigs, it could be simple human errata - forgive them father, they know not what they circle and check off. Or, it could be that people are swayed by their own beliefs- that they want to make a survey "seem" true, or they even have a stake in how their data will measure in the big scheme of things. In essence, a survey where people are free to report whatever they want is like an election - they may have high ideals, and praise this candidate or the other, but once they go to pull the lever, other emotional and self-serving, or even base instincts still have a tendency to override all those well-proportioned intentions.
But that is an internal problem with these kind of surveys and research findings. The other, and sometimes larger problem is the bias of the researchers themselves. When a researcher wants a particular outcome, the project is already doomed -- because human nature, no matter how faint, will skew that person's vision into the fields it most wants to see. Peripheral vision has a tendency to blur when we have our eyes on the prize, or in these cases, the outcome. The most objective studies are those in which the studiers are essentially open to whatever results they come upon. Modern scientific method teaches the necessity of a theoretical assumption, or hypothesis in which to springboard from; but the best hypotheses are those which, though aim to prove, allow for possibilities outside the norm. The hypothesis, therefore, should be as uncomplicated, and nonrestrictive as possible. The best scientific discoveries have come from either mistakes, where things happened completely out of the blue, or when the scientists made their postulations open, or they themselves were not averse to averse results -- their open minds left room for brilliance to enter.
The problem with socially based/anthropological studies is that they essentially rest on prejudices, or preconceived notions of how certain groups of people think, act, and react. In particular, people should take issue with a recent study, supported by the National Institute of Health, and reported in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. The basic gist of the article is thus: teenage girls who view themselves as unpopular, or low in social standing, have a higher tendency for gaining weight, or more conclusively, gaining up to two or more BMI points on the Body Mass Index scale. The researchers "adjusted" the study to try and account for factors such as family income, race/ethnicity, baseline BMI, television viewing habits, etc. -- but the list they used to adjust is by no means conclusive. But here's the real question - perhaps the numbers don't lie, but even if that's the case, why conduct this study at all? What is so important about proving that young women, who may or may not be overweight at the beginning of this study, should view themselves as unpopular? The connection between social standing and physical standing is a prevalent issue in today's world - that is an absolute given. The other issue is why is this study only done with the research numbers for teenage girls? Doesn't it perpetuate the stereotype that girls, popularity, and weight all constitute stronger connections -- and doesn't that do more harm than any good a study like this could possibly do (which doesn't seem like it could do much good for anyone in the long run?). Isn't it also a given that when people (not just women and young girls) have a higher self-esteem, self-worth, and feeling of personal respect for themselves and their place in the world, they would also be more likely to take care of their physical bodies?
What could this study possibly say about us as a culture? We currently have a "mean girls" mentality -- and it seems like no one bothered to stick around and watch the end of the movie to get Fey's feminist and pro-self-esteem message. If we care as a culture about young girls and women, then why do we just mask our studies with fancy words like "adiposity" or "the subjective social status," instead of admitting that what most intrigues us is the ratio between which girls are cool and the relative size of the fat deposits on their ass? Of course, this also brings up the notions of double-standards - in high school and in life in general: where women are judged (and apparently studied) in terms of likability (i.e. pliability... instead of abilities such as intellectual prowess or imagination) and physical appearance (i.e. sexual attractiveness), boys and men can be popular and successful regardless of how many people like them, or the measurement of their waistline (better to be feared and bilious, anyways). It also perpetuates the social jockeying in not only schools and peer groups, but within families, and the world. Parents, on the whole, want their children to be popular, social, and well-liked (how else can you explain the increase in the collective parent's fear that their child is autistic or socially inept?) -- and by creating an aura around weight gain (even in healthy doses) as a problem that encapsulates and orbits the entire social zeitgeist, how do we expect young girls not to get caught up in the false drama, and become a party to its destructive and utterly ridiculous pitfalls? Now, let's not forget -- this study didn't conclude that obese kids are unpopular - it was calculated to show that girls who considered themselves more popular only gained an average of under six pounds in two years, whereas girls who saw themselves as unpopular gained around 11. That's roughly a five-pound difference. Are we so harsh? Is an extra five pounds, even in the "normal" weight range, the social kiss of death? Are we also supposed to believe that women who start playing into the belief that they are socially retarded therefore have worse eating habits, or somehow the one is directly correlated to the other? And why this destructive view? Perhaps the "norm" of "popular girls" is actually an abstraction, and the truth is that the one's who view themselves as higher on the social rungs gain less because of the extreme pressure felt at the top of the ladder, and the socially accepted need to be svelte? No matter how you approach it - this study is disturbing, despicable, and a waste of everyone's time, yet worth everyone's ire.

MSNBC story on research study:
More Study Info:
slate story on Michael Pollan:

Friday, January 04, 2008

Obama-rama and Huckabee-luck

Iowa Roll-Call

Barack Obama 38%

John Edwards 30%
Hillary Clinton 29%
Bill Richardson 2%

Joe Biden 1% (bailing out of presidential bid)
Uncommitted 0%

Chris Dodd 0% (bailing out of presidential bid)
Mike Gravel 0%
Dennis Kucinich 0%

Mike Huckabee 34%
Mitt Romney 25%
Fred Thompson 13%
John McCain13%
Ron Paul 10%
Rudy Giuliani 3%

One has to be thinking, what are Gravel and Kucinich waiting for? "Uncommitted" got more votes than they did!
But seriously, Iowa was surprising and yet at the same time none-to-shocking. It's absolutely expected that a state which would go for Huckabee would also be fiercely averse to wanting Clinton on top. We've got less than five days before New Hampshire, and a little over a month until super-duper Tuesday, on February 5th, when over twenty-some states decide, at once, who the heck this race belongs to on either side.

Problem #1 for Clinton: she has campaigned, and will continue to campaign, as the absolute and necessary front-runner. Yet realistically, she can't deny that Obama has slayed her in this state, where she certainly outspent him, and out exerted him. But, you might say, the say the same phenomena occurred on the other side, with Romney outspending Huckabee by seemingly gillions of dollars, and still coming up short. It seems Iowans, unlike many, don't necessarily bend to the will of the almighty dollar, and it's force during campaign season -- and that's a positive, for sure. Hopefully the states to follow will take Iowa's example and vote on other terms than campaign finance. But back to Clinton - she needs to win the next few states, straightaway, or her chances at the nomination are going to fall apart at the seems in the same delusory manner as her ill-fated attempt at children's health care during her husband's administration. Edwards, though happy to edge out Clinton, is perhaps hurting more than she is right now. Clinton, though gung-ho, was never expecting a landslide in Iowa. Edwards, in order to gain a quicker pace and prove he's not just a candidate with boyish looks and a cool smile and slight southern twang, has to basically wish that every state turns into a landslide victory if he wants to gain the momentum needed to propel him towards the nomination. The problem that Edwards truly faces is that not many pundits, media outlets, or the population in general find much to get excited about with him. He is truly "vanilla" -- the crudité in a political buffet of ethnic and exotic hors d'oeuvres.

Obama is positioned in a good place now, and hopefully he can keep the spirit up for his next test - because truly that's what they are. Iowa, despite it's relative remoteness in terms of US affairs during the rest of the 1460 days of the four-year presidential cycle, is a fairly well-educated population in comparison with many other states, with a large percentage attending college, and a decent average income. So it makes sense that Obama, the more intellectual or at least philosophical and idealistic candidate, would receive an edge. Funnily enough, Clinton, and not Obama, would have benefited from a more ethnically diverse Iowan electorate. Obama should not get complacent - he's got a long haul in front of him, and it's capstone is February 5. Let's hope he can propel his victory into similar numbers going forward.

Huckabee's win is perhaps the biggest triumph in terms of whose campaign will benefit most. Huckabee, just a few short months ago, was exiled to the outskirts of the campaign, getting little debate time, and scant notice from the general public and media, with such stars as Romney, Giuliani, and even the possibility of Bloomberg (now defunct). In essence, Huckabee was able to pull0ff, to great affect, what Thompson hasn't been able to do, though it was his strategy - to come in late, without the initial bruises of a long, belabored campaign, and wow the audience with his political finesse. Of course, Huckabee did enter early, but in stead of dancing around announcing his campaign as Thompson did for months, Huckabee essentially hid in plain sight. People disregarded him, and once they were completely over-satiated with the dribble the front-runners feed them, they started to listen. And Huckabee, unlike the front-runners, is on the surface at least, less complicated, and because not many knew what he did beforehand, he has less of a "checkered past." Guiliani and Romney both come from liberal cities/states, and their past pandering is coming back to bite them, at least in Iowa, were the evangelicals and wider protestant population reigns supreme. Never mind Huckabee spent a fraction of a fraction of the money Romney did, he's got god on his side, considering some Christians view Mormonism as a "cult." Hopefully for everyone's sake, Huckabee's win catapults his past into the spotlight, and some of his checkers do skip onto the printed pages and through word of mouth -- don't forget, this is the man that would take away reproductive rights, doesn't care about the average American worker, has little-to-null foreign policy experience or know-how, and says that the country should be made into a state subservient to the absolute teachings of Christ. Let's not forget he's a former minister, and that his sermons often preached that women should be subservient to their husbands in order to be good wives. (Actually, in 1998, Huckabee affirmed that he signed a statement saying he agreed with the family statements created by the Southern Baptist Convention, one of its beliefs being that "a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the leadership of Christ.") It kind of makes you want Clinton to win over him just out of spite, doesn't it? Huckabee's ignorant views on homosexuality, secular rights, evolution, the belief that AIDS patients should have been isolated in 1992, and belief in allowing for divine intervention on decision-making are all quite scary. Let's hope some of the Republican party gets spooked.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

cold frenzy

Today is the beginning of the big show. It could be the beginning of our demise, too. It's reminiscent of Christmas morning - the anticipation, the hopes, the spirit of mystery-- but as likely as it can go well, it's equally if not more likely that we'll come to open a pair of socks, or pajamas, instead of a new bike or political coup. The Iowa Caucuses are confusing, muddled arcanum, yet ebullient in their power over the general electorate. Most people, if asked, probably couldn't even locate Iowa on a map - yet it is set to position the candidates as they run out the gate for primary season. It seems unfair to place so much emphasis on Iowa, a state that has so little in common with most other states in the union. It's demographics are overwhelmingly white, with little to middling representation of the black, Hispanic, or Asian populations. It's a Midwest state with lots of farming and factories, sometimes called the "Tall Corn State," or "The Hawk eye State." Right now, the climate is ferociously gelid, and the importance of these hydrogenated votes are likely to stick to the bones of the candidates like wet tongues on American flagpoles. It's completely unfair that all the hawk eyed pundits are zeroing in on the Iowa primaries, but that's beside the point at this juncture. Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early primaries are even more important this year because, for all the early jockeying, the neonatal, intensive labor of many candidate's campaigns, we still just don't know who the heck is going to break towards the nomination finish line. Liken the candidates to cafeteria Catholicism -- each candidate offers unique, multifarious perspectives and views, and what we'd all really like is some way to pick and choose what we view as the positive attributes of each candidate and combine them in an unholy jumble of political mastery. But alas, we are stuck to buy the whole farm, not just the stalk of corn -- which means when we choose, we inevitably take not only the positions we approve, but all the historical baggage, crazy relatives, cross-dressing, inexperience -- you name it; the candidates themselves could be biblical characters with all the different stories that might fit in a few fat quartos.

What it comes down to is, people must make a value judgment of what views are most important, and what those views have the power to override, and what they cannot accept. The fact that Huckabee groups homosexuality with pedophilia is an absolute non-negotiable strike against him (not to mention he crossed picket lines to attend Jay Leno last night and didn't know that Pakistan's military state had been lifted two weeks ago), and Giuliani's power hungry drives and complete inability to surround himself with anybody but yes men should be another "divorcing" factor. But to continue down that road is a dangerous path - every candidate could probably become a candidate of non-negotiable aversion. McCain is old, and the senility is slowly creeping into his speeches with the froth of a rapid hamster - squealing with heightened delight and fervor to see that maybe, just maybe he still stands a chance, despite his hawkish views in an era of wartime discontent. Mitt is still burdened by his Mormon background and liberal Massachusetts governing style, two things that evangelicals in the south don't take too kindly too, that and their interest in just exactly what is tying his undergarments, which may or may not be Mormon approved, in a knot.

To be fair, the democrats are also troubled - Roberts is perhaps the populist candidate, but like a bad date, just can't seem to get more of a response at the end of the day than "well, that was nice." Obama, the increasingly identified gnomic, intellectual and idealizing candidate is neck and neck with Clinton, but Obama struggles where Clinton triumphs, and vice-versa. People just aren't used to a candidate that is actually semi-likable and can faint a normal existence (Obama); whereas Clinton, more hard-core political, can't seem to pull off anything but the political figure persona, and yet it is a negative for her. Politicians get a bad wrap, and often for good reason, but sometimes it seems that people, a.k.a the general electorate, not just lobbyists and pollsters and campaign staffers, are actually projecting problems onto candidates for the mere reason to be conflicted. Does it have to be so difficult? Why do we fault one candidate for one thing, yet praise the other for exactly what we faulted two minutes beforehand in the other? Well, perhaps it's that different candidates look better in different clothes (something Giuliani especially should take to heart).

Back to Iowa - because after today, not too many people will be going back. It seems appropriate that the majority of the scenes in "Field of Dreams" were shot in Iowa. If a candidate can build their campaign and gain first place in the Iowa primary, then it's likely many other voters will come. So the message is one of blind optimism and hope for the opening of the primaries, because it's at the beginning, if anywhere, that one can have such notions. Let's hope this year is one for the books, and the establishment of a better American government. Happy voting.