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saturday, march 19, 2005

Rationing Health Care
Michael Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, told reporters there once was a trust fund containing almost $800,000 (won in a malpractice case) to support Terry Schiavo's abundant medical expenses. That has been whittled down to near extinction. Felos says Schiavo's costs during the past few years have been borne by a confusing and twisted agglomeration of Social Security disability benefits, Medicaid and a corporate hospice fund for indigent patients. Meanwhile, her parents' legal bills have been subsidized by church groups passing the collection plate.

Whatever Schiavo's medical costs are and however much may have been sustained by private funds, there's still the inevitability we find in many religiously driven fights for life: Taxpayers and other individuals not similarly motivated are still drawn in, willing or not, to help subsidize someone else's "moral" choice. Praise the Lord and pass the, er, hat. [Bonnie Erbe, Scripps Howard News Service, March 16, 2005]

Some health-care services that Medicaid patients have come to expect would not be automatically covered under Gov. Jeb Bush's plans, officials said Wednesday.

According to legislation unveiled for the first time Wednesday, services such as pharmaceutical benefits and dental and vision care would be considered "optional benefits" that managed-care groups can independently decide whether they want to offer.
 Poor and disabled residents from South Florida and the Jacksonville area would be the first state residents to see changes. [Mark Hollis, "Some Medicaid Care May Fall by Wayside," Sun-Sentinel, March 17, 2005]
Recently, Bush administration officials declared their intention to seek changes that will cut the cost of Medicaid by $60 billion over the next 10 years.

U.S. House and Senate budget committees have drafted bills that will cut Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor, by $15 billion to $20 billion in the next five years. 

Meanwhile, several state governments are considering Medicaid cuts of their own. Options include dropping thousands from the rolls, reducing the scope of covered services and slashing payments to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes.

Judging from the lack of public outcry, most Americans view these developments with indifference. Perhaps they believe that the cutbacks won't affect them. If so, they are in for a shock.

The cuts are so large, and their consequences so sweeping, that they will affect us all. Medicaid matters because health care for the insured and the uninsured is closely intertwined. [Arthur Kellerman, "Medicaid Cuts Catastrophic," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 16, 2005]


Last week the Senate rejected a Bush proposal to cut $14 billion from the Medicaid program.

The Senate voted 52-48 to reject a plan to cut $14 billion from the Medicaid health program over five years. Seven Republicans joined the chamber's 44 Democrats and one independent in favor. The Senate later approved, 51-49, a $2.6 trillion budget blueprint for 2006 that included the Medicaid funding.

I'd like to see a list of Republicans who voted to cut Medicaid and compare it to a list of Republicans trying to make political hay, so to speak, out of Terri Schiavo's vegetative body. Bill Frist comes to mind. And where does Tom DeLay stand on cutting Medicaid? And of course George Bush is flapping about how we are supposed to respect life while he's cutting access to health care. This is the same guy who told people that if they voted for John Kerry they'd end up with rationed health care. And wouldn't it be nice if someone in the "news media" would confront these bozos about what we might call their inconsistencies?

2:42 pm | link

A Tree in the Forest
You've heard the question -- if a tree falls in the forest but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Most people say yes, of course there would be a sound. But if you understand that sound is something experienced, then the answer isn't so clear. If the tree falls and creates compression waves, but there is no organism nearby with an auditory system and a brain capable of interpeting the compression waves as sound, is there a sound?
Put another way, if there is a tree in the forest but no eyes to look at it, is there a sight? If there are no hands to feel the bark, is there feeling? If there is a cookie but no one eats it, is there taste? If a rose blooms but there are no noses around to intercept molecules, is there smell?
Most people have a hard time wrapping their heads around this question. I'm in the no camp--without sense, there can be no sensation. But I believe I'm in a minority.
Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was removed yesterday. My understanding is that she will be dead of starvation in a few days. Some are calling this an act of barbarity, even torture. I would agree with this if Ms. Schiavo has enough brain function left to experience pain or hunger. People with the medical knowledge to understand these things say she does not. If that's the case then, logically, there is no pain, and no torture.
It's hard to imagine not feeling hunger, or pain. But I remember reading about a very rare birth defect that causes an individual not to feel pain. This would seem to be an advantage, except that children born with this condition tend to injure themselves severely and repeatedly because they don't know when to not do things like put their hands in a fire. The point is that pain is a brain function. Therefore, it is logical that damage to the brain could result in the loss of pain sensation. It is possible that Terri Schiavo is not capable of suffering.
A lot of good bloggers already have discussed the medical issues. See, for example, commentaries at Alas, a Blog and Majikthise. These bloggers and others note that people who argue against removal of the feeding tube stubbornly refuse to address the issue of Schiavo's missing cerebral cortex. It is imagined that her condition is something like a coma, from which she might wake up. Or, people remember Grandma with Alzheimer's or Counsin Flo's Down's Syndrome baby and imagine Terri Schiavo's condition is comparable. Some participants on this Free Republic thread seem to think Schiavo is awake and aware, just a little confused.
But if the cerebral cortex is gone, as CAT scans indicate, these assumptions are nonsense. In fact, some might argue that, since the organism that is Terri Schiavo no longer has memories, thoughts, a personality, or consiousness, then the person Schiavo was no longer exists. (Making this argument requires exploration of the nature of self-ness, but I don't have the time for a proper exploration right now. Maybe later.)
Peggy Noonan, among others, argues that the question hinges simply on brain death. Since Schiavo is not brain dead, then she is alive, then she must be kept alive. But to me it isn't that simple. Usually we think of death as a person losing the condition of being alive. Here, IMO, we have a situation in which the condition of being alive still exists, but the person is gone.
Some argue that since Schiavo's parents want to keep her, why not let them keep her? Why would the husband care? Let him go on with his life. But what is it that the parents want to keep? If it's the case that the person is gone from the body, keeping the body alive to play with like some kind of flesh doll does seem a bit ghoulish. I can imagine that someone who cares might not want to let that happen. I don't know the husband or the parents and can't say what their motives are. I'm just saying I can empathize with the husband's position.
See also this editorial in the Tallahassee Democrat.
People on both sides of this issue express outrage about government interference. The pro-feeding tube faction is furious that a judge ordered the tube removed. Some Freepers accuse the judge of believing he is caesar, or god. Some want U.S. marshalls to remove Schiavo from wherever she is and taken to a safe place.
On the other side, there is concern about lawmakers injecting themselves into decisions that should be reserved for families. Yesterday the House passed a measure that would give federal courts jurisdiction to review decisions to withhold food, fluids, or medical treatment from an incapacitated person.

Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., opposed the bill and called it "a dangerously reckless way to deal with some serious issues. ... It does not deal just with feeding tubes. It would allow intervention in any decision affecting any kind of medical care. Read the bill."

Most of us, at some time in our lives, will be faced with the decision to sign or not sign a "do not resuscitate" order for a loved one. Families do this every day. Will such things be decided by magistrates from now on, because of the hysteria over Terri Schiavo? And is this not a step toward tyranny?


There is one other issue I haven't seen addressed. Who is paying to keep Schiavo alive? I honestly don't know. If interested persons are voluntarily paying her medical bills that's one thing, but if the taxpayers of the state of Florida are paying, that's something else entirely.
I understand (although I can't find a link) that Govenor Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature have removed some poor children from health care programs to save costs. Are taxpayer resources keeping Schiavo alive at the expense of other lives? I don't know, but I wish someone would find out.

7:56 am | link

friday, march 18, 2005

Why Bushies Are Losers
In the weeks after a popular uprising toppled a corrupt government in Ukraine, President Bush hailed the so-called Orange Revolution as proof that democracy was on the march and promised $60 million to help secure it in Kiev. But Republican congressional allies balked and slashed it this week to $33.7 million.

The shrinking financial commitment to Ukrainian democracy highlights a broader gap between rhetoric and resources among budget writers in the Bush administration and on Capitol Hill as the president vows to devote his second term to "ending tyranny in our world," according to budget documents, congressional critics and democracy advocates.

The administration has pumped substantial new funds into promoting democracy in Muslim countries but virtually nowhere else in the world. The administration has cut budgets for groups struggling to build civil society and democratic institutions in Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia, even as Moscow has pulled back from democracy and governments in China, Burma, Uzbekistan and elsewhere remain among the most repressive in the world. [Peter Baker, "Funding Scare for Export of Democracy," The Washington Post, March 18, 2005]

A wave of crime in this southern Afghan city -- including Mohammed's killing two months ago and a bombing Thursday that killed at least five people -- has evoked a growing local nostalgia for the Taliban era of 1996 to 2001, when the extremist Islamic militia imposed law and order by draconian means.

Residents reached their boiling point last week, after a second kidnapped boy was killed. Hundreds of men poured into the streets, demanding that President Hamid Karzai fire the provincial governor and police chief. Some threw rocks at military vehicles and chanted, "Down with the warlords!" Witnesses recalled some adding, "Bring back the Taliban!" [N.C. Aizenman, "Afghan Crime Wave Breeds Nostaliga for Taliban," The Washington Post, March18, 2005]

If you owe a balance on your federal income tax this year, why don't you just mail the money to the Middle East with directions to dump it down the nearest rat hole? This would save the federal government from having to do it for you.

Update: With all the critical thinking skills sand fleas are famous for, Dr. Rusty Shackleford of the rightie blog Jawa Report misrepresents the second story quoted above as the Washington Post's cheering for the good old days of the Taliban. I infer that Dr. Shackleford thinks the Washington Post should not be reporting such things (whether they are true or not is irrelevant), because ... um, it makes the Bush Administration look bad? That must be it. We loyal Americans should not be subjected to news that makes the Bush Administration look bad. And when a news outlet reports on something that makes the Bush Administration look bad, even if the report is true, this is (organ glissando, F minor) liberal bias.

I mean why else would the Washington Post think it important to inform its readers there are problems in Afghanistan, other than to foster incorrect thoughts? American newspapers should always be careful not to in any way cast the Bush Administration in a bad light, because casting the Bush Administration in a bad light is partisan.

Got that?

I am horrified to learn that Dr. Shackleford teaches a mass media in politics class. (Pause to reflect on the erosion of intellectual standards in higher education.) We're doomed, people.

Also, Rusty, if you read this, be warned that I'm writing another book.

Update update: Unrelated, but this made me laugh.

7:09 am | link

thursday, march 17, 2005

The Quality of Mercy
Some liberals have trouble grasping evil, and always think that if we could take care of the handguns or the weapons of mass destruction, our problems would be ameliorated. But I know the problem lies in the souls of our enemies. [David Brooks, NY Times/International Herald Tribune, February 11,2004]
I already wrote a post inspired by the quote above, but it came to mind again today when I read this Volokh post. After noting with approval that a serial killer in Iran was executed by flogging followed by throttling, he writes,
I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way.
Then he writes,
I can't prove the soundness of my position any more than (I think) the other side can prove the soundness of its. In this area, we quickly come down to moral intuitions and visceral reactions. And, who knows, perhaps mine are wrong. But mere appeals to my humanity just don't do much for me.
Vengeance, retribution, "getting even," etc., were explicitly discouraged by both the Buddha and Jesus (although many Christians like to pretend otherwise). Buddhism, which is more of a habit of mind than an orthodoxy, discourages any thought that separates the world into self-and-other, as Brooks does in the quote. In Buddhism, the illusion of self-and-other is the root of all suffering, and central to the practice of Buddhism is seeing past this illusion. And there are no exceptions; see, for example, "Call Me By My True Names" by the Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.
Put simply: Whenever someone decides that his cruelty is justified, there is the gate of hell. Whenever someone chooses to meet cruelty with compassion, there is the gate of heaven.
I realize this sounds like nonsense to most people, but I submit that when two heavy hitters like Jesus and the Buddha agree on something, attention must be paid.
Last time I crabbed about Brooks's quote, I wrote,
Fools (i.e., David Brooks) think of evil as an object that can be clearly deliniated, like a chair or a cheesecake. He speaks of it as graspable. But Zennies say that evil is no-thing, meaning it is not a thing you can put in a basket and show off to your friends. The action that is evil affects all beings. However -- especially in Buddhism -- no thing or being is evil.
This is an important distinction, because the history of evil reveals that people who create evil hardly ever see themselves or their intentions as evil. Osama bin Laden and his 9/11 flunkies believed their terrorist attack was righteous and justified, as did Tim McVeigh when he blew up the federal building. Even the all-time great evildoers like Hitler and Stalin and Mao no doubt rationalized their actions as serving a greater good.
This takes us back to the temptations of the Devil model. For many centuries saints and philosophers both East and West have noted how easily human pride (what today we call ego) leads us astray. We think, I am a good person. Therefore, my beliefs are good beliefs, and my intentions are good intentions, and actions I choose to take are justified and righteous. People who cause suffering to me are evil, but if I cause suffering to them they deserved it.
This is how evil originates and continues. Jesus understood this, teaching his followers to turn the other cheek, love their enemies, and leave vengeance to God. This is a hard teaching, because vengeance feels good. It is self-indulgent. It is tempting. We want to do it, so it is all too easy to submit to that feeling. For 2000 years Christians have thrown up all kinds of resistance to what Jesus taught. But, in fact, Jesus taught his followers to resist the temptation of vengeance. The Gospels are a little short on detail, but I infer that he considered vengeance to be an impediment to entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
Non-religious people may feel they can ignore all this with impunity, but the fact remains that "evildoers" seem always to rationalize and justify the evil that they do. They feel entitled to do it. Their reasoning may seem screwy to others, but they believe it. And it is difficult for people in the grip of hate or anger to think objectively. For this reason, IMO, secular morality demands that we always refrain from cruelty.
This is not to say (in anticipation of the smart-alecs) that dangerous people should not be restrained or that lawbreakers should not be punished. It is just to say that there is no moral justification for cruelty.
Update: Matthew Yglesias says pretty much the same thing I said, although from a more secular perspective.
Update update: What Digby says.

7:31 pm | link

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh
A disease attacked the potato crop and half of the crop was destroyed. People harvested the few potatoes they had and prayed that the next years crop would be an abundant one. But the crop of 1846 suffered even more than the previous year. To add to the misery, that winter was the "severest in living memory". When the 1847 crop failed also, the Irish population of the whole nation was faced with starvation. This is when the first wave of immigrants escaped their starving homeland. The majority of this first group went to Canada because prices were very low--ships bringing lumber to England were glad to receive paying passengers instead of returning to Canada empty. Unfortunately, many of these people carried typhoid and many other diseases with them on to Canada.

Ironically, during these tragic years it was only the potato crop that failed in Ireland. Wheat, oats, beef, mutton, pork, and poultry were all in excellent supply but the Irish-English landlords shipped these to the European continent to soften the starving there and receive a very good profit in return. When people today wonder about the hatred between the Irish and the English, they don't recognize the fact that Irish peoples memory is a long one and that stories are still being told about those ships leaving Irish ports loaded with food at the same time that their ancestors were eating grass to live.

All throughout the years of the horrific famine, which continued past 1847, the English government was unwilling to give any money to Ireland to help with the famine because, as they said, "the Irish will use it only to buy guns to revolt against them." They were also reluctant to provide material aid such as soup kitchens because, "they will get used to the free food and never become of be self-sufficient."

... It is estimated one and a half million people died of starvation and disease in The Great Famine. [Ireland: The Great Famine]


Regardless of what politicians and some civil rights leaders tell us, the way out of poverty is not more government programs. These programs only breed dependency and despair. The only way out is through a strong work ethic and the ability to take responsibility for your own actions. No government program can instill these qualities in individuals. ... [Many Aid Programs Bad Ideas]


Observers reported seeing children crying with pain and looking "like skeletons, their features sharpened with hunger and their limbs wasted, so that there was little left but bones." Masses of bodies were buried without coffins, a few inches below the soil.

Over the next ten years, more than 750,000 Irish died and another 2 million left their homeland for Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. Within five years, the Irish population was reduced by a quarter. ...

The inadequacy of relief efforts by the British Government worsened the horrors of the potato famine. Initially, England believed that the free market would end the famine. In 1846, in a victory for advocates of free trade, Britain repealed the Corn Laws, which protected domestic grain producers from foreign competition. The repeal of the Corn Laws failed to end the crisis since the Irish lacked sufficient money to purchase foreign grain. ... [Digital History: The Irish Potato Famine]


The free market actually enables everyone to get what they want. [Capitalism, the Free Market, etc.]


Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other. [Benjamin Franklin]

3:24 pm | link

Invasion of the She-Bloggers
Bonnet tip to Tild -- another blogging broad with 'tude -- for the graphic at right. Too funny.
After posting the last post I found more virtual flapping over women bloggers and opinion columnists and the lack thereof. And here's a good point from Deborah Tannen in yesterday's Los Angeles Times (referencing the Mo Dowd column I wrote about here):

Dowd put her finger on one reason fewer women than men are comfortable writing slash-and-burn columns. But she didn't take her argument to the next level and question the fundamental assumption that attack-dog journalism is the only kind worth writing.

That is the blind spot that explains why women are missing from many of the arenas of public discourse, including science (as noted by Larry Summers of Harvard) and opinion writing. (The Los Angeles Times was recently criticized for not running more women on its opinion pages.)

No one bothers to question the underlying notion that there is only one way to do science, to write columns — the way it's always been done, the men's way.

IMO this is especially true of the political blogosphere, a large part of which seems to be engaged in some verbal sort of "king of the hill" game -- We will seize the argument and crush our opponents with ad hominem; we will dominate all other life forms with the force of our mighty vitriol.
And I believe it's getting worse, especially on the Right.* For example, a couple of years ago I thought the Rottweiller's writing could be genuinely funny, even if I hardly ever agreed with him. But now the nice doggie is just relentlessly hateful. And I've come across several bloggers commenting that before September 11 Glenn Reynolds seemed fairly moderate and thoughtful, but the attacks caused him to come unglued.
Dahlia Lithwick at Slate seconds Tanner, and notes that "as an editor, the number of pitches I receive from men outnumbers the pitches I see from women by several orders of magnitude."
Are too many of us self-selecting ourselves out of political discourse because it's all so nasty? I happen to love a good argument -- maybe I'm unusual -- but the pottymouths don't impress me. I prefer logic and reason. Facts are also a plus.
See also a truly excellent discussion by Jeanne d'Arc at Body and Soul.
* Righties hate it when I say they are nastier than Lefties, but I'm spending a lot of time cruising both sides of the 'sphere these days, and I say that on the whole Righties are nastier than Lefties. I run into many Rightie blogs that consist of nothing but ad hominem smears and gratuitous insults aimed at the Left, whereas Lefties tend to base criticism of the Right on facts and evidence. There are always exceptions, of course.

9:44 am | link

Take a Clue. Any Clue.
The previous post exposed the cluelessness of certain persons. In that same vein ...
Take Howie Kurtz. Please. Howie weighs in on the ongoing why-aren't-there-more-women-political-bloggers issue:
I've been surfing a number of blogs by women and (attention: this is not a generalization) and have found a fair number in diary form that deal with families, literature, cooking and other personal reflections--engaging stuff, to be sure, but sometimes out of the echo-chamber warfare over media and politics that gets the most attention.
One more time. And if you see Howie, say hi and give him my URL.
Howie commented on this Newsweek article by Steven Levy. Levy noted that the participants at a recent Harvard conference on blogging and the media were overwhelmingly white men. This is a sore point with me, because I am continually finding out about blogger conferences after they happen. This makes me wonder how people who organize blogger conferences publicize them, or if they don't publicize them but simply invite the bloggers they've heard of, which doesn't seem to include me.
Anyway, I wrote to Steven Levy about this, and he replied, "Seems that a bottom-up awareness of this, and some individual decisions to be more proactively inclusive, might help things out." In other words, it's up to me to sniff out the blogger conferences and crash them.
Sigh. I guess I'll have to wait and hope that someday Kevin Drum's invitation gets sent to me by mistake. In the meantime, see Steve Gilliard's comments on the Steven Levy article.
Speaking of women bloggers -- bonnet tip to Avedon for this link (to a blog written by the well-clued Jim Henley).  Sounds like Alan Dershowitz is a man who needs a clue.
But the absolute gob-stopper, as I think they say on his side of the pond, is this quote from Alan Dershowitz:
When you torture somebody to death … everybody would acknowledge that’s torture. But placing a sterilized needle under somebody’s fingernails for fifteen minutes, causing excruciating pain but no permanent physical damage - is that torture?

Let me respond as clearly and calmly as I can to this one. Let me, as it were, be the kind of blogger my dog thinks I am.


Like Delany wrote in the prologue to Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand: Ignorance is a condition. Stupidity is a strategy.

"Stupidity as a strategy" might explain nominating Paul Wolfowitz to be president of the World Bank.
And speaking of torture, Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe (who can usually be counted on for knee-jerk support of all things Wingnut) has written a column on the Bush Administration and torture that sounds, well, liberal.
Jacoby writes that people really are being tortured and killed by the U.S. government and its agents. And, he says, it's nuts to pretend that prisoners rendered to places like Syria and Saudi Arabia aren't tortured.

The Bush administration and the military insist that any abuse of detainees is a violation of policy and that abusers are being punished. If so, why does it refuse to allow a genuinely independent commission to investigate without fear or favor? Why do Republican leaders on Capitol Hill refuse to launch a proper congressional investigation? And why do my fellow conservatives -- those who support the war for all the right reasons -- continue to keep silent about a scandal that should have them up in arms?

I don't want to belittle Mr. Jacoby, because it really is a good column. But one part of this column that bothered me is the headline, which Jacoby possibly did not write himself: "Where's the Outrage on Torture?"
Jeff: On the Left, dear. And although it's an excellent column, leftie bloggers and some leftie columnists have been writing this same stuff for months. If you haven't heard our outrage, that's because nobody listens to us. Including the allegedly leftie "mainstream media."
While we're handing out clues, let's send an "it's time to retire" clue to Alan Greenspan.
There are probably not enough clues in the world to enlighten Terri Schiavo groupies. The judge who ordered her feeding tube to be removed has received so many death threats from the pro-lifers (I'll pause and let that one sink in) that he has to have bodyguards at all times. And he's worried for the safety of his wife and children. 
But it's the American public that really needs a clue. Molly Ivins writes,
Taxpayers are footing the bill for fake news disguised as the real deal. So where's the outrage?

Calling all conservatives. Yo, libertarians. Also, wing-nuts, believers in black-helicopter conspiracies and mouth-foaming denouncers of government and all its works. Yoo-hoo. Where are these people when you need them?

THEY are making us pay to have ourselves brainwashed. All good conspiracy theories begin with "they" -- and in this case, it's the usual suspect of the right wing: the ever-evil federal government. Rush Limbaugh, get on this case. Stealth propaganda now goes by the beguiling moniker "pre-packaged news." And our government, the one supposedly run by us, is using our money to secretly brainwash us. Is this gross, or what?

The U.S. government is in the covert propaganda business, and it's not aiming this stuff at potential terrorists, but right square at your forehead.

Hello, America? Step right up and get your clues ...

6:51 am | link

wednesday, march 16, 2005

Getting It
The story thus far: Nick Kristof writes an op-ed called "Who Gets It? Hillary."
Now, there's a knee-slapper, huh? I didn't read it. I figured Kristof plus Hillary equals arrested development squared.  Ellen Nagler's reaction ("It's a satire ... isn't it?") pretty much sums it up. See also Avedon and Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog. From their reactions I gather the column is even dumber than I imagine it is.
I don't usually comment on things I haven't read, but puh-leeze ...
For months we lefty bloggers have spoken out against the whole Joe Lieberman/ DLC / National Review ideal of moderation for the sake of bipartisanship for the sake of winning elections, or whatever game it is they are playing. One of these days these people will turn around and notice ain't nobody followin'.
Proof that Kristof's column is almost too stupid to blog about, not many lefty bloggers are bothering with it. Ah, but ...
Just say the name Hillary and the righties go into knee-jerk mode.
Captain Ed has a lovely time waxing snotty about how clueless Democrats are. Apparently one of Kristof's points is that Hillary is brilliantly attempting to be pro-choice and anti-abortion at the same time, which is actually where most of us have been for quite a while, although the Right remains too thick to grasp this.

More to the point, Kristof wants Democrats to change their rhetoric while keeping to the same core values that marginalized them in the first place. In other words, he wants Democrats to lie; does anyone expect Hillary to press for abortion limitations? Has she voted against NARAL positions since being elected to the Senate? Not according to her NARAL rating -- 100%.

One would think that after all the flip-flopping their presidential candidate did in the last election and the result he got at the ballot box, Kristof and the DNC would learn that "re-branding" won't fly. It allows the opposition to rip Democrats apart on the stump and "brand" them as untrustworthy and dishonest. Telling Democrats to lie about their political beliefs in order to get elected isn't a strategy -- it's a recipe for eternal minority status.

Note that on the Left Blogosphere Hillary's recent speech about finding common ground with anti-choice forces met with a huge yawn. Since Roe v. Wade about once every decade someone trots out this same brilliant idea -- let's work together to limit abortions -- and it always falls apart because, ultimately, the Right is less interested in limiting abortion than in controling and punishing women.
The Right frames the abortion issue as if it's between people who want abortion banned and people who want abortion to remain legal until birth. The truth is that most of us who are pro-choice would be willing to restrict third trimester abortions as long as exceptions are made for physical health of the mother, and probably also for situations in which the fetus is too compromised to survive outside the womb. I've actually been in favor of this for a long time, and I'm pro-choice, but according to the Right I don't exist. Or something like that.
So the real fight isn't between pro-abortion and anti-abortion forces; it's between people who want (or at least could accept) moderate legal restrictions and those who want to ban abortion altogether so that women have to go underground and risk death to get abortions. And, frankly, most Americans are in the first group.
Note that a very recent CBS/NY Times poll found that people agree with Democrats over Republicans on the abortion issue, 45% to 35%.
But we on the Left have had it with being squishy and/or allowing the Right to frame the terms of the abortion and other debates. That's what Nick and Hillary don't get. And Captain Ed doesn't get it, either.
And there's also Orrin Judd, who is rapidly turning into one of my favorite rightie bloggers. He's unusually brilliant today. His reasoning is that since Hillary says she is religious and is willing to recognize that abortion is sad and tragic, that means she is no longer pro-death and anti-religion, and this means the "secularists" in the Democratic Party will have to fnd another party, because apparently a political party cannot represent both religious and non-religious people at the same time.
The third of Americans who are pro-death are going to have a political party though. If it's not the Democrats it will be the Greens or some other third party.
I kid you not. The boy really thinks like this. And we think Kristof is clueless.

12:59 pm | link

Michelle Malkin: Democracy Is for Moonbats
With freedom on the move across the Middle East and beyond, aggrieved anti-war protesters here in the United States have nothing better to do this weekend than what they have always done: stand in the way.

The most unhinged of left-wing activists, from breast-exposing pacifists to the conspiracy-mongers of, will descend on New York, Washington and other major media markets to "mark the two-year anniversary of the U.S. bombing and invasion of Iraq." They will do so by clogging the streets, tying up police resources and leaving behind a trail of anti-Bush propaganda litter.

Let's see if we can get this straight -- when Lebanese protest against occupation by Syria, that means freedom is on the march. (Although when Lebanese protest in favor of occupation by Syria, it's fake.) And when Americans protest American occupation of Iraq, we're Moonbats.

Does this mean protesting is only "democratic" when Malkin agrees with the message?

I don't think so, Michelle.

Hesiod points out on American Street

You do have to be impressed with the size of the Lebanese independence protest.

They are almost as large as the anti-Bush protest in New York city prior to the Republican convention last year that the media largely portrayed as three hippies and a granola cruncher.

Hesiod also reminds us that in 2003 (quoting the BBC):

Between six and 10 million people are thought to have marched in up to 60 countries over the weekend - the largest demonstrations of their kind since the Vietnam War.

Some of the largest turnouts were seen in countries whose governments have offered the staunchest support for US President George W Bush's tough stance against Iraq, threatening military action to force it to comply with UN disarmament rules.

Malkin exemplifies the Right's concept of democracy -- it's only for those who agree with right-wing orthodoxy. The rest of us are expected to report to re-education camp.

And as far as standing "in the way" goes -- is Malkin really so thick that she can't see that we are to Iraq what Syria is to Lebanon?

Well, yes, I guess she is.

Hesiod wrote last week,

Putting aside the highly tendentious claim that what is happening in Lebanon (the anti-Syrian part, anyway) is because of Bush’s Middle-East policy, it isn’t even accurate to describe the anti-Syrian demonstrations as a “Democracy” movement.

The reason for this is simple, Lebanon is already a Democracy! It’s not a perfect one, to be sure. But, it has been having contested elections for both a parliamentary body and for President for a few years now. Critics of Syria maintain that the Lebanese elections were heavily rigged in Syria’s favor. But, quite frankly, a lot of their criticism of the Lebanese elections [such as bribery, and gerrymandered districts] can also be directed at the recent Iraqi elections that Bush and his supporters touted as a victory for democracy.

Ironically, Syria has actually been loosening its grip on the electoral process in Lebanon recently, and currently exerts an influence on the outcome similar to how we influenced the Iraqi elections. Scott Ritter, for example, claimed recently that the pro-US Allawi Gvt. — with our backing — fudged the electoral totals for the winning Shi’ite religious party to deprive them of an outright majority in the new Iraqi parliament. An assertion that gains some credence when you remember that the iraqi vote totals were delayed due to “irregularities.”

A few days ago I wrote something similar.

The righties want to believe the developments in Syria are all about the simple peasants learning about democracy from Iraq and wanting to try it themselves. In fact, Lebanon is a nation with complex sectarian conflicts that, I believe, is already as much of a democracy as Iraq is allegedly becoming. Lebanon has a national assembly that is, I understand, chosen by popular vote. Iraq's recent election was in hopes of forming some sort of national assembly, although so far no one has been able to do it.
Lebanon's struggle is not about changing their form of government from a dictatorship to a republic. It already is a republic. What they are struggling over is independence from foreign influence.
Anyway -- Regarding the protests for this weekend, I had not personally planned to join in because I'm terribly busy and can't take a day off from something else I'm working on. And, like others on the Left Blogosphere, I wonder if such protests have any real impact.
But I remember at this time in March 2003 I took part in the very large march from Times Square to Washington Square to protest the war. And at one point the marchers were chanting, "This is what democracy looks like." 
Clearly, Michelle Malkin thinks democracy is for Moonbats.

11:32 am | link

At Least He'd Be Out of the Pentagon
Reuters reports that Bush has nominated Paul Wolfowitz to be president of the World Bank.
Wolfowitz would replace World Bank chief James Wolfensohn, who said earlier this month that Wolfowitz was no longer in the running for the top job after a Pentagon official suggested he wanted to stay at the Defense Department. ...
By tradition, the United States selects the World Bank president while Europeans nominate a head of the International Monetary Fund. Bush's choice of Wolfowitz must still be ratified by other World Bank members, a process that could prove unusually contentious.

Wolfowitz is a deeply controversial figure in Europe because of his role in designing and promoting the Iraq war.

He has also been a frequent target of criticism from congressional Democrats for what they called his "rosy" assessments of the Iraq war. Before the invasion, he assured Congress: "We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon."

I believe the quote above pretty much sums up Wolfowitz's background in finance. Could get interesting.

11:02 am | link

You Are Here
I have a new post up at American Street marking where we stand on the Social Security fight. The significant developments are that Bush intends to resume the Bamboozlepalooza Road Show later this week, and yesterday Bush said (in an Oval Office interview with "regional news organizations") that he has all but ruled out creating private retirement investment accounts outside the Social Security system. It's carve-outs or nothing.
(Bypassing the usual White House pool and speaking to regionally based journalists is a tactice the Bushies have used before. See, for example, this Newsweek article from October 2003 titled "Bush's News War.")

And I do think it might be significant that Bush’s favorite ersatz Mommy, Karen Hughes, was called up from Texas but assigned to the Middle East. Hughes is famously effective on domestic issues but has no discernible foreign policy or Middle East expertise. (And see Fred Kaplan in Slate to find out why Hughes will fail.) I’m guessing that Bush did this because he really wants to focus on the Social Security fight. His two mommies — Hughes and Condi Rice — can make sure the Middle East stays tidy in the meantime.

9:49 am | link

tuesday, march 15, 2005

John Zogby has an article in today's Opinion Journal claiming that the GOP can still win on the Social Security issue.
The president's real prize would be a significant realignment in party politics. It has been no secret that Mr. Bush and Karl Rove have their sights set on a political realignment not experienced since FDR built a coalition of urban ethnics, liberal ideologues and Southern conservatives under the Democrats' big tent. Like the New Deal, the president's "ownership society" is a compelling new vision and veritable redefinition of a society less dependent on government largess, of a middle class more independent and more capable of securing financial security on its own.

This stunning realignment is possible by virtue of a new class of American voters--the self-identified "investor class"--which is itself a coalition across a broad spectrum of demographic groups.

Zogby's argument is that this new group he calls the "investor class" will bring about a re-alignment of political power in favor of the GOP, and he connects the "investor class" to support for "investing" by privatizing Social Security. 

But the "investor class" is a self-identified group, specifically people who answered "yes" to this question: "Do you consider yourself to be a member of the investor class?"

Apparently members of this "investor class" are not necessarily the same people who are actually doing most of the investing. "Investor class" people are not necessarily wealthy or heavily invested. However, Zogby says, self-identification as an investor class member "is a far greater determinant of how they will vote and how they see their world than income, religion, race, marital status, or size of individual portfolio."

I'm not sure we're looking at anything new here. For years the GOP has done a masterful job of exploiting "values" wedge issues and resentment of apocryphal Welfare Queens to persuade working people to vote against their own economic self-interest. We've all met people of modest means, struggling to keep up in our Robber Baron economy, who empathize with the robber barons instead of with the working poor. That's because these people aspire to be robber barons someday. They don't want to fix the unfair and exploitative nature of our economy; they want to be one of the in-group that gets to do the exploiting. That's the (Republican) American Dream. Those who want to help working people and level the playing field are socialists and liberal and evil and probably feminine.

(This all ties in to what Ducat writes in The Wimp Factor, btw.) 

So, why wouldn't it be the case that people who self-select themselves as members of an "investor class" be the same people who've already bought into the GOP worldview? This is not so much a new political alignment but simply the regurgitation of the GOP message since Reagan.

Support for Bush's "plan" continues to erode. This tells me that some of these "investors" are smart enough to recognize a scam when they see it. A great many "pundits" still frame the Democrats as being closed minded and obstructionist, even though Republicans are the ones obstructing the simplest and most obvious fix for future solvency -- raising the Social Security tax income cap. Writes Bobo the Cabbage,

But the Democrats played the Yasir Arafat role at Camp David. They made no counteroffers. They offered no plan. They just said no.

Instead, many made demagogic speeches about Republican benefit cuts, as if it is possible to fix the system without benefit cuts. 

Just read what Ezra Klein says about this. "Breathtakingly duplicitous" indeed. And don't miss what Josh Marshall wrote about "convulsive neoliberalism."

And the antidote to convulsive neoliberalism is explained in Paul Krugman's column, "The $600 Billion Man." Instead of warning Dems to approve of idiocy in order to get right with a supposed "realignment," Krugman tells Dems its time to take a stand and remind the country what Democrats stand for.

The Dems could still lose on Social Security, all right, and they will if they listen to Zogby instead of to Krugman.

11:04 am | link

monday, march 14, 2005

Say Hi to Big Brother
Stuff I found while I was looking for other stuff:
First off, here's a quote from an article by Richard Florida in the January-February 2004 issue of Washington Monthly, titled "Creative Class War." (Emphasis added.)

This movement of people is what the journalist Bill Bishop and I have referred to as the Big Sort, a sifting with enormous political and cultural implications, which has helped to give rise to what political demographer James Gimpel of the University of Maryland calls a "patchwork nation." City by city, neighborhood to neighborhood, Gimpel and others have found, our politics are becoming more concentrated and polarized. We may live in a 50-50 country, but the actual places we live (inner-ring v. outer-ring suburbs, San Francisco v. Fresno) are much more likely to distribute their loyalties 60-40, and getting more lopsided rather than less. These divisions arise not from some master plan but from millions upon millions of individual choices. Individuals are sorting themselves into communities of like-minded people which validate their choices and identities. Gay sales reps buy ramshackle old houses in the city and renovate them; straight, married sales reps purchase newly-built houses with yards on the suburban fringe. Conservative tech geeks move to Dallas, while liberal ones are more likely to go to San Francisco. Young African Americans who can write code find their way to Atlanta or Washington, D.C., while whites with the same education and skills are more likely to migrate to Seattle or Austin. Working-class Southern Californian whites priced out of the real estate market and perhaps feeling overwhelmed by the influx of Mexicans move to suburban Phoenix. More than ever before, those who possess the means move to the city and neighborhood that reinforces their social and cultural view of the world.

And while there are no hard and fast rules--some liberals prefer suburbs of modest metro areas with lots of churches and shopping malls, some conservatives like urban neighborhoods with coffee shops--in general, these cultural and lifestyle preferences overlap with political ones (which the political parties have accentuated with computer-assisted redistricting). In 1980, according to Robert Cushing's detailed analysis of the election results, there wasn't a significant difference between how high-tech and low-tech regions voted for president; the difference between the parties still depended upon other factors. By 2000, however, the 21 regions with the largest concentrations of the creative class and the highest-tech economies voted Democratic at rates 17 percent above the national average. Regions with lower levels of creative people and low-tech economies, along with rural America, went Republican. In California, the most Democratic of states, George Bush won the state's 14 low-tech regions and rural areas by 210,000 votes. Al Gore took the 12 high-tech regions and their suburbs by over 1.5 million.

Compare/contrast with this post on the rightie blog Brothers Judd. Commenting on the battle over teaching science versus "creationism," Brother Orrin says, "With 87% of Americans skeptical about Darwinism, its defenders are not just fighting a losing battle but one that puts them on the extreme margins of society."
In other words, if we can get 87% of Americans to agree the earth is flat, then, dammit, it's flat. The remaining 13% will be rounded up and shipped to re-education camps.
No wonder the Right wants to destroy public education. The more ignorant people are, the easier they are to control. Seriously, makes me wonder if someday mobs of Red Staters will invade the last enclaves of Blue to burn liberals at stakes for witchcraft.
I left a message on the Judd site to congratulate them for doing a bang-up job of turning America into a poverty-ridden Third World backwater. Way to go, guys.

7:20 pm | link

Offensive Charm, or Diversionary Schtick?
Best headline I've seen this week, from The Guadian: "Bush Steps Up Global Charm Offensive."
The globe should consider a graceful counterattack. Or maybe they'll just kill us with kindness.
The White House is going all out to win the hearts and minds of the world, and we know it's so because Bush has called up the Big Gun -- his mommy Karen Hughes. Bush wants her to be the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, and she would have the rank of ambassador. Improving America's image in the Arab world would be a top priority.
She has little (as in, zilch) experience in foreign affairs, but she enjoys the confidence of the President, ABC News says.
Regarding the charm offensive, Suzanne Goldenberg writes,
The Bush administration signalled yesterday that it was stepping up its efforts to win hearts and minds in the Arab world, launching an international PR campaign to keep pace with an unprecedented attempt to influence domestic opinion.

After several years in which the Bush White House has surpassed all previous administrations in its efforts to build domestic support for its policies, the focus yesterday appeared to shift to the international stage, and an ambitious new programme of public diplomacy.

About the domestic opinion campaign -- it appears Bush and Cheney are taking a break from the Bamboozlepalooza Tour. According to the official Bamboozlepalooza Web Site, Bush made a couple of appearances on Friday. However, as of this writing no further Bamboozlepalooza events are scheduled.
Could it be that the "60 stops in 60 days" campaign will be abandoned after 10 days and maybe 16-20 stops, depending on how you count them?
This may be part of a new strategy. The Bushies have realized that the harder Bush pushes his Social Security scheme, the more people disapprove of it. The Washington Post reports today that right now barely a third of Americans like the plan. So, maybe if he stops pushing it, people will decide it's a good idea.
If this is the case, Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard didn't get the memo. He's still gung-ho for privatization and advises the president to campaign harder.
Rather than fall silent on personal accounts, the president should talk about little else. Without the prospect of giving every worker, no matter how poor, a chance to invest in and actually own financial assets, Social Security reform loses its innovative quality. It is bereft of any political appeal, especially to lower income workers. It's no longer even real reform but merely a tug-of-war over how much Social Security taxes are going to be hiked or how far benefits are going to be cut.
I am charmed by Mr. Barnes's tender concern for the poor (who, being poor, really need the guaranteed benefit). Barnes goes on to gush the same old gushes that have been debunked many times over the past few weeks.
For example: The poor could aquire assets inheritable by their children! Barnes gushes. Oh, but there's a catch. According to Josh Marshall,

Under the Bush plan, when you retire you are mandated by law to use your private account funds to purchase an annuity substantial enough to keep you above the poverty line for the rest of your life. (I guess that whole letting people decide what to do with their own money bit only goes so far.) You'd have to figure that for most retirees that would run through pretty much the whole stash or at least the lion's share of it. And when you die, that's it. By definition, you can't pass on this kind of annuity.

So under the Ownership Society the wealthy can pass on their savings, but for middle income folks and the working poor, no such luck. Which, come to think of it, sounds a lot like the rentership society, or whatever benighted age it is we're supposed to be living in now.

Barnes also says that "personalization" is not the same thing as "privatization" (personalization contains more letters?), the "personalization" scheme would help make Social Security solvent (hardly), and that Social Security actually did become insolvent in 1983.
I hadn't remembered that last one, but apparently there were some adjustments made in 1983, some of which might have been to make the program more solvent. In any event, some tweaking solved the problem, a fact doesn't seem to strengthen Barnes's argument much.
So, is Barnes a liar or an idiot? I report -- you decide.
Other bugs that don't seem to be worked out is whether a bankruptcy could require that the personal account be used to pay debts, or if a personal account might be affected by divorce.
President Bush is not a guy who worries about these little policy wonk details, of course. But late last week noises coming from the Senate indicated that there's not enough support to even bring Social Security to a vote.  
So I'm wondering if we're about to be treated to a lot of razzle-dazzle meant to focus our attention on the Middle East and away from Social Security, so that the privatization scheme can die a quiet death out of the spotlight? We'll see. In the meantime, somebody should have a long talk with Fred Barnes.

9:08 am | link

sunday, march 13, 2005

Woman Talk
Just when I'm starting to read Stephen Ducat's new book, The Wimp Factor, Mo Dowd writes a serious opinion column on the scarcity of women who write serious opinion columns. 
She reveals that in 1996, six months into her new gig as a New York Times columnist, she nearly gave up. "I went to Howell Raines, the editorial page editor, to try to get out of the column," she writes. "I felt as though I were in a 'Godfather' movie, shooting and getting shot at. Men enjoy verbal dueling. As a woman, I told Howell, I wanted to be liked - not attacked."
Whenever someone starts another round of the never-ending why aren't there more women bloggers debate, it's suggested that us testosterone-deficient women just don't take to the rough and tumble of political debate the way men do. But, as Dowd points out, for women debate can get rougher and more tumbled.
While a man writing a column taking on the powerful may be seen as authoritative, a woman doing the same thing may be seen as castrating. If a man writes a scathing piece about men in power, it's seen as his job; a woman can be cast as an emasculating man-hater. I'm often asked how I can be so "mean" - a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn't get.
...  In 1998, Bill Clinton made a castration joke about me at a press dinner, as I sank down in my seat. I called Alan Dundes, a renowned folklorist, to ask about it. "Women are supposed to take it, not dish it out," he replied. "If a woman embarrasses a man, he feels inadequate, effeminate. He wants her to go back to the kitchen."
In what's supposed to be a post-feminist age, we're still struggling with The Feminine Mystique.
Back in 1963, Betty Friedan described the pervasive social intimidation of women in post-World War II America. Every part of our culture, from popular entertainment to scientific "expertise," was saturated with the message that women must be subservient.
I remember in particular the way women were portrayed on television and in films. Undesirable women talked a lot. They gossiped. They nagged. They shrieked. They made the men around them miserable with all their babbling. Desirable women said little; instead, they smiled and nodded -- for example, Jane Wyatt's "mom" character from "Father Knows Best." A few desirable women got away with being talkative, but only if they were adorably cute (nonthreatening) when they talked; e.g., Lucy Arnez, Gracie Allen Burns, Doris Day, Marilyn Monroe in most of her roles. Audry Meadows as Alice in "The Honeymooners" was a rare and refreshing exception to the rule. Television dramas were so male-dominated that most had all-male regular casts -- "Bonanza" comes to mind. Or, there was one token woman -- Miss Kitty of "Gunsmoke"; Della Street in "Perry Mason." And in those cases, the role of the lady was to be supportive of the main (male) character.
Possibly the purest example of the Silent Woman is found in Steven Sondheim's 1962 musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The courtesan most desired by the hero-slave Pseudolus (I think her name was Tintinabula) was from a tribe of silent women and never spoke. The two leading ladies of the play are the beautiful Philia, so dense she can't add to five, and the ugly, shrewish Domina, who nags incessantly. Of course, if you can overlook the sexism it's wickedly funny.
In Mystique, Friedan documented that post-World War II culture shoved women into a tightly confined role, to the point that by the 1960s American women had lost a sense of self-identity. "Normal" women, the "experts" insisted, had no desires other than to be wives and mothers; women who had interests or ambitions outside the home were branded as "neurotic." Women were intimidated into shutting up and withdrawing from public life and having lots of babies -- hence, the Baby Boom of 1946-1964. (Yes, the Baby Boom continued until the year after Friedan published Mystique.)
But even though it has become culturally acceptable for women to be smart, it seems some residue of the "mystique" is still with us. Not long ago I saw a reseach paper (social psychology) showing that when a man displays anger he's perceived as powerful, but when a woman displays anger she's perceived as hateful and bitchy. It's still the case that the adjective ambitious is a compliment for a man but not for a woman.
It may be true that women by nature are less aggressive -- it's that testosterone thing -- but we're also allegedly more verbal. We think, we have opinions, why not express them in writing? If women don't speak out because debate can get rough, what is it really that intimidates us? Or, is it that we are speaking out but are not being heard? Or a little of both?
As I said, I'm just starting to read Ducat's book (subtitled Gender Gaps, Holy Wars & the Politics of Anxious Masculinity), but from the beginning he makes a case that American men (and Middle Eastern ones also) have a bad case of Femiphobia. From his introduction --
This is a book about fear—a particular fear that has composed the very foundation of male selfhood from antiquity to the modern era, from the peasant villages of Afghanistan to the west wing of the American White House. It is the fear of being feminized. For many men, masculinity is a hard-won, yet precarious and brittle psychological achievement that must be constantly proven and defended. While the external factors may appear to be that which is most threatening –gay men in military shower rooms, feminist women in civilian bedrooms, or audible female footsteps in the Taliban-era marketplace—the actual threat that many men experience is an unconscious, internal one: the sense that they are not “real” men. The book will show how this fantasy of being under constant siege by a multitude of external feminizing forces is really an unconscious defense that is employed to keep out of mind something even more disturbing – an identification with women.
President Bush, with his constant macho posturing and his need to be supported by strong women like Karen Hughes could be Femiphobia Exhibit A. He's determined to prove he's a real man, but he still needs Mommy. Of course, Bush has one of the most bare-assed oedipal complexes in human history. In truth, the boy belongs in the Weenie Hall of Fame.
Then there's the great paradox of the mouthy subservient woman, like Lynn Cheney or Ann Coulter or the entire female membership of Concerned Women for America. Ducat spoke to that in this Buzzflash interview --
BuzzFlash: Now let me ask you to comment on another curious anomaly--these right-wing women and what you call the Phyllis Schlafly syndrome. These are highly powerful women who never really are with their families, but they preach subservience to their husbands and being home with their families all the time. I recall that in the book, What’s the Matter with Kansas, Thomas Frank talked to someone who was very active in the Kansas legislature, who said she totally believed in submission to the husband and staying at home. But meanwhile, she was off in the legislature all year. What’s going on with that?

Stephen J. Ducat:
Well, you know, there are a lot of different kinds of right-wing women. There are under and middle class Christian fundamentalist housewives who seek desperately to be the compliant good wife, to stay at home, who have embraced their position of subordination as a virtuous condition. And there are those who I think are more hypocritical, the highly educated, upper class women like Ann Coulter who advocate a life of domestic docility for the under class sisters. Meanwhile, they’re in the public eye and are as powerful and self-authorizing as any male politician. And by being part of the economic elite, they can buy their way out of certain difficulties by virtue of their class position, whether it’s having wealthy husbands or enough money in their own right to get the health care they need, to get the reproductive care they need and so on.

BuzzFlash: I think you imply at one point that they’re like the gay men on top. They’re the females with phalluses in a lot of ways.

Stephen J. Ducat: Well, I think in some ways they are. This is something that is in the cultural imagination. In one of Bill Maher’s shows, he joked that "this has been a tough week for conservatives since Ann Coulter admitted she had a penis." And everybody laughed, it was a joke that made sense to people because they already understood intuitively there’s something phallic about her, about her repudiation of weakness and dependency, her disgust for anybody that needs help of any kind.
Hence, righties have a pathological terror of Hillary Clinton, but not of the genuinely disturbing Ann Coulter. Coulter is not really a woman. She's really an unsexed, auxiliary male. And I'd put Lynn Cheney on the same shelf.  
But back to the question of talking women. Last fall, when I became a target of the wrath of Little Green Footballs, the interested parties who got my phone number and called to express their opinions did so in sexually intimidating terms, most of which I will not repeat here. I believe one guy called me a "sow," but the other insults were more vulgar. I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me. However, it didn't stop me.
That may be because I'm an old lady. At my age, the juvenile little weenies who were compelled to call and harrass me seem more pathetic than powerful. I'm way past the point that I crave male approval.
Dowd ends her column,
I have no doubt there are plenty of brilliant women who would bring grace and guts to our nation's op-ed pages, just as, Lawrence Summers notwithstanding, there are plenty of brilliant women out there who are great at math and science. We just need to find and nurture them.
I agree, but it may be there are too many women still being intimidated by other peoples' hangups.  We can't change them, but we don't have to allow them to intimidate us.
So, ladies -- talk.
Update: Other bloggers weigh in. The guys don't get it. This includes liberal guys. Ann Althouse gets it.
Update update: Be sure to check out all the good links people are leaving in the comments to this post. I particularly liked this paragraph from a blog post linked by 
Then I read Stephen Ducat's "The Wimp Factor" ( and Michael Parenti's "Superpatriotism" ( and realized that all three of them have developed their own metaphors that are essentially complementary with each other, and even more, neccessary to be put together for a fuller understanding of the conservative mind (they are all three weaker at finding good metaphors for the liberal mind). What a psychologist (Ducat) calls "anxious masculinity", the cognitive linguist (Lakoff) calls "Strict Father model" and a political scientist (Parenti) calls "superpatriotism". But they are all describing aggressive overt machismo developed to cover up for an intense insecurity about one's sexuality and one's position in the hierarchy of the society.
And, of course, such people have a frantic need to control women through such means as taking away control of our own reproduction or intimidating us into shutting up.

10:19 am | link

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I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Numchuku of Reasoned Discussion.

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Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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