Tuesday, May 27, 2008
(when talking to the countess, on her return to NYC after a long time in Italy)
" 'Yes, you have been away a very long time.'
'Oh, centuries and centuries; so long,' she said, 'that I'm sure I'm dead and buried, and this dear old place is heaven;' which, for reasons he could not define, struck Newland Archer as an even more disrespectful way of describing New York society."
Or perhaps this one:
"Everyone (including Mr. Sillerton Jackson) was agreed that old Catherine had never had beauty--a gift which, in the eyes of New York, justified every success, and excused a certain number of failings."
And this one, regarding New Yorker snobbery in light of impending marriage:
"And, in spite of the cosmopolitan views on which he prided himself, he thanked heaven that he was a New Yorker, and about to ally himself with one of his own kind."
all familiar sentiments, about one hundred years off, don't you agree?
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Surowieki waxes on the similarity of Clinton and Obama, especially in reference to their Free Trade policy, or lack of support thereof. As he summarizes, it's "like a contest over who hates free trade more."
Then he explains the pitfalls of free-trade and, alternatively, those of not-so-free trade.
Free Trade might be bad because:
1. It cuts US blue collar jobs and lowers wages (many believe but it's hard to quantify this)
2. It feeds more money into the swelled pockets of the American rich (probably true, w/ all those corporate profits)
Free Trade might be good because:
1. It lowers the prices of goods lower and middle income Americans spend their cash on
2. This in turn gives more Americans greater spending power
Surowieki's argument, while not exhaustive by any means, does extol on the short term problem of up toughening trade restrictions with other nations--it creates a world where the goods which were previously cheap, suddenly become more expensive--and those goods are usually the ones lower income households purchase. So the American wealthy will not feel the pinch, but the lower- and middle-incomers will, almost immediately. Of course, the jobs available to lower and mid income people will begin to increase as US manufacturers decide to relocate back to America, and the wages will probably spike to higher levels than when the same jobs were harder to come by and in competition with the middling wages of foreign workers (which will still be middling, only we'll have taxed them up to their eyeballs, making their wages go down by valuable pennies as their sales also plummet). But the benefits to US workers could take months, if not years--and would it translate into a richer America?
Surowieki ultimately comes out against tougher trade restrictions.
Assessment: Our undergraduate economics professors have always said that the freer the trade, or the better the advancements in globalization--the better for all (or at least most). Globalization, at least financially, is often seen as more of a threat than it really is--kind of like the gap between subway cars and the platform--you're often told to "mind it," yet even when you don't contemplate the danger, you usually navigate onto the train just fine. Of course, nobody's blaming the electorate for having strong opinions about foreign trade, because like it or not, it combines some of the touchiest subjects we as a species seem to perpetually have issues with: money, race, culture, nationalism, etc. The problem is, is there really anything we can do in this globalized marketplace that will in fact yield a higher quality of life for our poorer or lower middle class workers? Obviously, we'd all like to believe the answer is yes, but is the free trade, or not-so-free trade debate really the outlet? It seems that trade restrictions will only hurt lower earners, at least in the short to medium-length run.. And in a recession, any short-term losses for the lowest paid in our country, even if there's a promise of better wages on the unpredictable horizon, is not exactly a wise decision, or in their best interests. And what about lower income americans that don't work the kind of jobs that foreign workers do to create these goods? Their bills will go up without ever seeing a spike in their wages. We've become so reliant on foreign goods, we probably won't even know where to start. Another point to make is that Surowieki's argument forgets to mention that this issue is not one sided--we can tariff the crap out of foreign entities, but they also have the power to set prices, and if we drive taxes up, they might eat some operating costs to adjust the prices, and therefore stay competitive, while simultaneously lowering the already low quality of goods, and compromising lower American earner's quality of life in the meantime. But it's anybody's guess what could happen. The problem is that plans that restrict free trade, while they are possibly made by certain politicians with the best of intentions, they can also be fed or supported by those who have less concern for the working poor and lower classes, and foreign workers as well.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Misogyny I Won't Miss
By Marie Cocco
Thursday, May 15, 2008; A15
As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.
I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.
I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.
I won't miss episodes like the one in which liberal radio personality Randi Rhodes called Clinton a "big [expletive] whore" and said the same about former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. Rhodes was appearing at an event sponsored by a San Francisco radio station, before an audience of appreciative Obama supporters -- one of whom had promoted the evening on the presumptive Democratic nominee's official campaign Web site.
I won't miss Citizens United Not Timid (no acronym, please), an anti-Clinton group founded by Republican guru Roger Stone.
Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?" Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette.
I won't miss political commentators (including National Public Radio political editor Ken Rudin and Andrew Sullivan, the columnist and blogger) who compare Clinton to the Glenn Close character in the movie "Fatal Attraction." In the iconic 1987 film, Close played an independent New York woman who has an affair with a married man played by Michael Douglas. When the liaison ends, the jilted woman becomes a deranged, knife-wielding stalker who terrorizes the man's blissful suburban family. Message: Psychopathic home-wrecker, begone.
The airwaves will at last be free of comments that liken Clinton to a "she-devil" (Chris Matthews, who helpfully supplied an on-screen mock-up of Clinton sprouting horns). Or those who offer that she's "looking like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court" (Mike Barnicle, also on MSNBC).
But perhaps it is not wives who are so very problematic. Maybe it's mothers. Because, after all, Clinton is more like "a scolding mother, talking down to a child" (Jack Cafferty on CNN).
When all other images fail, there is one other I will not miss. That is, the down-to-the-basics, simplest one: "White women are a problem, that's -- you know, we all live with that" (William Kristol of Fox News).
I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign. To hint that sexism might possibly have had a minimal role is to play that risible "gender card."
Most of all, I will not miss the silence.
I will not miss the deafening, depressing silence of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean or other leading Democrats, who to my knowledge (with the exception of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland) haven't publicly uttered a word of outrage at the unrelenting, sex-based hate that has been hurled at a former first lady and two-term senator from New York. Among those holding their tongues are hundreds of Democrats for whom Clinton has campaigned and raised millions of dollars. Don Imus endured more public ire from the political class when he insulted the Rutgers University women's basketball team.
Would the silence prevail if Obama's likeness were put on a tap-dancing doll that was sold at airports? Would the media figures who dole out precious face time to these politicians be such pals if they'd compared Obama with a character in a blaxploitation film? And how would crude references to Obama's sex organs play?
There are many reasons Clinton is losing the nomination contest, some having to do with her strategic mistakes, others with the groundswell for "change." But for all Clinton's political blemishes, the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture.
Marie Cocco is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Maternal Unit: I had to stay home and wait for the exterminator on Tuesday morning.
M. Snowe: But, there are no bugs in the house! Back five years ago when I lived there, you refused to get a bug man and we had ants in the summer; and now that the house is bug free, you sign up for a plan where he's showing up every three months!
Maternal Unit: Well, the bug man never showed up anyways, after I waited and waited for him.
M. Snowe: See what happens when you pay for something you don't need?
Maternal Unit: It's okay--next Tuesday, the Bugman Cometh.
Most of the discussion was more benign than Mr. Bean's mole. But there were a few gems, both hilarious and depressing in nature (though mostly depressing, because the hilariousness often disintegrates with the realization that this man is one of the last defenses of your and my civil rights. It's like bringing a clown car to the monster truck rally--it's insanely humorous until the carny carnage interspersed with rubber noses and water corsages rapes the eyes.)
First of all, Scalia referred to his interview and press engagements for his newest book as his "coming out." It's doubtful, the hard-core Catholic that he is, that Scalia meant he's coming out in the usual sense of the term--the man is uber conservative. But it was funny nonetheless to hear talk about his "coming out" multiple times, without the merest of mere hesitations.
But listening to him talk about his children and grandchildren was where it got really depressing. (Warning: here comes the clown car and subsequent intellectual blood-bath). The man is clearly blessed in the effective sperm department, with nine children, and 28 grandchildren. When asked about his powers of copulation, his most reasoned answer was that as Catholics, he and his wife played "Vatican Roulette." (We might be unfamiliar with the game, but the odds are that it ends with a bullet in his wife's career either way.) Listening to Scalia talk about his children is a nice way to transport back into the Victorian era. You half expect him to interrupt and say he must dash--his chase and four has just pulled up to take him to the haberdashery.
Nine children. It sounds like he's angling to start up his own supreme court of kids; although with his views on affirmative action, he still needs four more (he has five sons and four daughters). Out of sympathy, he quickly lists his three daughters, and then philosophizes and gets really cander-ous when talking about all his son's livelihoods. His wife, too, was chained to the kitchen as he donned his big bilious robes--his daughters prove that his influence reins supreme: all four are "stay-at-home moms" as he lovingly put it, diligently "raising some of his grandchildren." He vaguely mentions something about one "having been a business woman," and another teaching German, and the last having a degree in library science (but not using it). He seems utterly pleased that they've stopped putting their brains to good use (whereas reason might argue he never started). Too bitter a sentiment for you, dear readers? Okay, a bit harsh, yes. But consider this next part of the interview:
When asked about the quality of lawyers that argue before the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia says the following:
"But more often, I am, I am startled by the fact that this young woman, who is a public defender from Podunk is so good, is so smart, and is so competent; and I ask myself, you know, what is she doing, being a public defender in Podunk--why isn't she out inventing the automobile, you know, doing something useful? Ah, I mean, I'm being sarcastic, I suppose."
First: Podunk--anybody know where that is? Either way, it's a small town of some sort in backwoods America that doesn't see much national press. Apparently, Scalia doesn't think everyone in America deserves a day in court, especially the poor.
Second: Methinks the startled surprise at seeing a well educated and bright woman argue her case caught him off guard, considering all the submissive docile women he must be used to at home. You would think after sitting on the bench next to some strong women, he'd have gotten a clue...but that's what happens when you're myopic.
Third: Umm, the automobile has already been invented. Plus engineering isn't very lady-like, is it?
Fourth: "Something Useful"??? Correct us if wrong, sir, but would that mean that your life's work, and decisions on the court are useless as well? Because we have no problem believing in their uselessness, but we do have a problem with believing that you feel that way!
Five: You're right, what is she doing? If you had it your way, the lack of affirmative action would never have allowed this woman into a good law program anyways.
Six: Is there something inherently time-wasting in being a public defender? Last time we checked,you were supposed to be defending the public as well--this woman just does it for much less money (she'd get paid less than you on average no matter what she does, thanks to her vagina, anyways). So who should be asking about the waste of their talent now?
Justice Scalia, do us all a favor, will you, and stop talking (and for that matter recuse yourself!) Just pretend every new case is a press interview about Bush v Gore--and keep repeating it's in the past and you don't need to rule on any of it!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Watching a bad late night show last night, something must be said in response to the last post.
It's not about a white women vs. a black man. By comparison, both plights are equally frustrating when trying to break into the cultural/societal/political values of the greater population. Sometimes, women get the bum end of the deal. Sometimes, people of a racial minority do. A greater number of the time, people of minority sexual orientations do as well. The true problem is happening in the current political atmosphere as a whole. By staging a proxy war between a black male candidate and a white woman, the traditional upper middle class, straight male majority serving in politics gets the best of both worlds: not only do they see these two groups fracture within themselves and among themselves, they also get to blame both groups if everything goes sour and pear shaped in November.
Last night, on a show that will remain anonymous, the loud mouthed comic reported something like this: "Hillary's campaign is losing funds, and is in debt--they are looking for ways to save money, cutting the budget for travel expenses, including hotels. You know what that means: Hillary and Bill will have to actually share a bedroom!" (insert copious audience laughing and applause here).
This was all in good fun (and nobody likes somebody who takes things toooooo seriously), but how fair is it to punish the victim of the adultery, and not the source itself? It seems Bill gets to be the playboy, where Hillary is the hard-arsed loser. Her apparent sexual ineptitude has always been a point for comedians, pundits, and even other politicians (don't forget McCain's joke about Hillary's and Janet Reno's love child, Chelsea). It has become perfectly acceptable to use the sins of the husband to damn the innocent wife in a political arena. Both David Paterson, the new governor of NY, and his wife admitted to affairs--and yet because they were up front about it, the media coverage has been distilled. This is good--Paterson seems a decent fellow, but the question is, where are the jokes about Michelle Paterson wishing for a separate room in their newly acquired mansion? Maybe a nice little zinger about "what he can't SEE, can't hurt him?" (for those non-NYer's, Gov. Paterson is legally blind).
But it does go both ways (gender and racial stereotyping)--Clinton, despite her huge cash-stash (from book deals and Clinton foundation funds), is not seen as "elitist" as Obama, and the idea that he can't connect with a poorer base is thrown around, one reason being that in this country, the racial divide is so pervasive that it's not just black and white, but rich black, poor black, educated black, etc., etc., etc.-- It's all about being "black enough" to hold on to that voter base, while not being the "Jeremiah Wright-Type Black" that scares away a large number of poor white Southern Democrats and independents (mostly).
It seems neither candidate can exist as simply who they are, or what they want to push forward with, and sadly, the prevailing notion is to pit them against each other (and their multiple defined selves) instead of worrying about who exactly is pulling those strings to make it so. Neither should have to "get out" of the race until one is named the victor (or victoress), but the blame shouldn't be shouldered by either one due to their long battle if the democrats lose in November--they're just playing out the primary game set up by the democratic primary rule makers (who are those old white dudes, yet again!).
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Despite the most recent primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, we seem to like skirting the coasts of Hillary Clinton's presidential aspirations. But why, when it's already clear that (unfortunately or not) in all probability, she will have to concede to Obama, and his lead in delegates and primary states? It can't be solely because everyone is hungry for an ongoing story--and even the idea that a knock-em-down battle royale can't be the only rationale. So what is it?
There are, perhaps a few ways to explain this phenomenon. And while these rationales can be extremely divergent, it's highly likely that all exist and come into play together, thereby creating a powerful amalgam, increasing the public's fascination with this "close race" that hasn't really been as close as people like to think.
Since everybody (or at least those white middle-aged male pundits) seem to like sports analogies, here's an extended one for you all (sort of). This race, and the greater political system, is like a company softball team, and the etiquette followed therein.
First, team makeup. The team, while really hoping to be competitive, is open to anyone who wants to give it a go. They may not get to play more than an inning here or there, but they get a jersey, and go to practice. Then you have your regulars, and starters. It's good to be a starter, a regular, a well-seasoned player who understands the formulas of camaraderie. Both Clinton and Obama are, by degrees, like these players--they're generally respected, known names in the field, and they have the stamina and commitment to show up to every game.
But the rules of the office softball leagues are stacked against a fair-fielded team, and there exists a not-so-subtle atmosphere of discrimination, that when viewed on the field, may be innocuous enough, but what many don't realize is that the playing field is an exact replica of the political office race, dirt pitch excluded (most of the time!). The rules of the softball game are simple: Co-ed teams with two outfielders, meaning you need ten players on the field in order to have a true game. The special stipulation is that out of those ten, you need to have AT LEAST four female players on the field at all times. This co-ed rule is telling, because it automatically assumes that every team will have only a limited number of females, and to make things more "fair" the team needs to scout at least four women to play. This is a fearful pursuit, because some players don't want women "muddying up" their chances at intra-office glory to go sour. The fear is made funnier still because softball originated out of fear--fear that women would flood little league baseball teams, therefore disrupting the All-American male "purity" of the sport. It seems after the age of 16 or 17, the rules switch as the advantageou- factor turns toward the guys. The very fact that "less-competitive" office play is associated with softball instead of baseball is another topic worth discussing, but maybe later (and what is so "soft" about softball anyways? those who've been hit with both base- and soft- balls will tell you that neither one smarts any less than the other, and in fact a softball might hurt more, seeing as the larger ball creates a large surface area of bruising!).
But back to the four girls on the company team rule. Co-ed integration in the league has been coerced rather than accepted. Women are begrudgingly given a spot on many a team, and sometimes it is disguised by begging. There is no similar rule about fielding a team with "at least four males" or "at least four people of a different race than the majority." Why? Because: A. it seems a bit weird to racially designate, and B. it's assumed that minorities will already be on the team, and they are usually welcomed. Jackie Robinson was a long time ago--according to sports fans anyways--and race is no longer a controversy in sports. In fact, often the opposite is true--everyone knows that minority group members who come to the
After playing and observing many more office softball games than is healthy to admit, the positions women are placed in are often the same: right field, right-center field, second base and sometimes first base. The first base female is also often the best of the women players. While there is nothing wrong with these positions in a major league team setting, they speak volumes in an office one. Anyone who knows the scantest bit about softball/baseball will tell you that the right side of the field (where all these positions populate) sees the least amount of balls, because most players are right-handed hitters and find it very hard to pull the ball to the left. Since there are less lefties, there are less balls hit to the right side. The obvious reason the best woman player on the team is put on first base is that she will be an integral part of making outs while at first base--she has to consistently catch the throws coming from the left side of the field. Numerous games have come and gone with women at the lousy positions, and at the end of the batting order. They play, oh yes, but only because the law requires it are they allowed. The same rings true for this primary season, in a way.
The fact is, just as the surprised teammates over-congratulate and patronize the young female teammate with faces of disbelief when she hits a nice triple, people lauded Clinton for the mere fact that she got on base, when in truth she should have been held to the same standards and methods of scrutiny as her male teammates. Instead, the standards were more likely to center on what her husband is up to, similar to the attention paid to how to accommodate a pony tail or hair-sprayed style in a batting helmet. The fact is, although race is a huge issue, gender was OKAY to critique and use as a method of bashing, whereas race was a no-no--as it should be--but so should gender! Don't believe that? Well, compare this: Is it more common to hear: "you throw like a girl", or "you throw like a black man"? And even if you were to hear both on a regular basis, which one would be viewed as more derogatory? Even in the face of the Wright problem, Obama has come out relatively unscathed. Yet
Thursday, May 01, 2008
... then further email follow-up:
"Oops, I meant XX not XXX. XXX is the BQE in Brooklyn/queens!
First, it's advisable to point out that the "light rail tunnel" in question is not, in fact, a light rail tunnel, but an overpass for cars. Particularly enjoyable is the line: "stay on that straight." This road is naturally straight already. Is the direction-giver rather subtly suggesting that the driver will be drunk, or perhaps lack a steady hand to steer? Question: will they reach the manna and honey that awaits at the diner in the form of pancakes and maple syrup? Changes look dim.
Also, a little sprinkle of mental baking soda: This direction-giver regularly gives written & spoken directions peppered throughout with adverbs as if they were not directions, but instead a rather bland soup. Every other line of written direction began: "probably," "maybe," or "I think..." Also, this is the same person who took us on the crazy cross-borough bridge chase.
What do direction-giving abilities say about us all? We ask politicians about complex issues like economic stimulus packages and the risks of moral hazard in the financial institution bailouts, political lobbyists and contribution conflict of interests, foreign policy missteps and the war in Iraq, humanitarian crises in Darfur & beyond, Iranian nuclear proliferation, the withholding of US funding to international family planning clinics merely because they perform abortions (apparently Roe v. Wade doesn't apply to what we fund globally!), and etc., etc., etc. But when was the last time someone asked a candidate, or anyone in government, how to get from Tampa to New York (that is, when not on the campaign jet)? It's important to take a step back, and regroup. The plans might be mighty, once someone is in office, or in a wider conception of goals and dreams. You could rely on puckish ingenuity, but chances are if you want to get somewhere, locationally, symbolically, or professionally, it takes more than a few fancy enchantments--and that's often what politicians are spouting out all over the place--ideas, notions of change or (alternatively) experience, you name it. But a political pantheon trying to institute Bottom's Dream only makes Asses out of us all. They hope to help the middle people, and end the unfairness, and bring about global change for the better--bring the country out of a recession of multiples: economic recession, global moral authority recession, independent and inspired thought recession, and the list goes on. Let's forget about the end destinations ever-so-momentarily, and focus on producing the best, most concise directions possible, with the goals as only a shadowy anticipation behind all the action that needs to be taken in front of it. And that's another important point of directions: they are created by a director, but they need to be, in the same breath, correct, and followed correctly. And that doesn't mean that directions can't be changed, improved, or altered in some way along the way. It's a matter conscience, choice, and directional strategy.
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here,
While these visions did appear.