Friday, August 29, 2008

Political Animal on Sarah Palin

Finally! Blogs caught up. Was a pain in the ass trying to find real info on her this morning. But I thought this entry from today was pretty good.

A CONFOUNDING CHOICE.... Charles Homans offers some very helpful background in an item below about Sarah Palin, but I have to admit, I'm still struggling to understand what on earth the McCain campaign is thinking here.

* McCain has spent the last several years insisting that the most important qualities in a candidate for national office are experience and a background in national security. Sarah Palin was, up until recently, the mayor of a town of 9,000 people, and is currently the governor of a small state with a part-time legislature, with one-and-a-half years under her belt.

* McCain may want to improve his appeal among women voters, but he skipped right past more qualified Republican women -- women he actually knows -- such as Kay Bailey Hutchison, Elizabeth Dole, and Olympia Snowe, all of whom would have brought genuine credibility to a ticket.

* In an election season in which voters desperately want change, McCain has picked a hard-right conservative. I mean, really conservative. We're talking about a former activist for Pat Buchanan, staunch opponent of reproductive rights, global-warming denier, and skeptic of modern biology. There's a reason every right-wing group in America is jumping up and down with glee this afternoon.

* The usual pattern is for Republicans to reach national office and then face ethics investigation for alleged wrongdoing. This year, the GOP seems willing to reverse this, putting a governor on the national ticket who's already facing an ethics investigation.

* She recently asked what a Vice President does all day. How encouraging.

* Can anyone, anywhere, explain why Sarah Palin would make a good president? Given that McCain is a 72-year-old man with a history of health trouble, isn't this a rather important question right now?

I realize Palin is new, which necessarily generates some excitement. But I can't help but find this announcement utterly bizarre, and completely devoid of seriousness.

I heartily endorse Kevin's take: "This whole thing is crazy.... I'm just stunned by the cynicism of the whole thing. I'm sure Palin is a fine person, loving mother, devoted wife, learning her way as governor, and so forth. But a heartbeat away from the presidency? ... You gotta be kidding."

Seriously. The life expectancy for a white American male is 76, according to the CDC. Presidents of the United States are placed under incredible stress (which is why they always come out of it looking ten years older than when they went in). The odds that McCain will die in office and we'll end up with this for a president is pretty alarming.

Thankfully there's another candidate who's served in legislative bodies on the state and national level, who taught Constitutional law at a prestigious law school, and who's been proven right on foreign policy again and again. Let's vote for him, shall we?

Let Palin go back to Alaska and help dig her buddy Ted Stevens out of the pile of corrupt political manure he created for himself.

Sarah Palin for McCain's VP Pick!

I'm curious about McCain's VP choice. The obvious comment is "Ah, look. McCain respects women after all! He's willing to run alongside Republican Mom number six thousand seventy-five."

On the one hand, she's the only person in this election (as either a Presidential or VP candidate) with executive experience, McCain included(though unfortunately only about two years of it, which is less stellar). On the other hand, she's got no legislative experience, which makes it much harder for voters like me to figure out what the hell she believes and whether it represents us. Voting records are good quick and dirty ways to get a ballpark idea of who believes what. is generally a pretty good site for this, so I guess I'll go through here first. Lots of areas on here are unknowns, which means we either have no idea what she wants or plans... or she doesn't actually have any plans yet.

She's pro-life, which is to be expected. My opinions of pro-life women notwithstanding, at least this'll make it clearer to women who (somehow) still believe that McCain is pro-choice. Her main stance on civil rights is that marriage should be between one man and one woman. Pretty standard. Death penalty is also A+ by Palin. I guess her state's administration is so efficient by now that they don't wrongly convict people anymore like the rest of us. Good for her! [/sarcasm]

Pretty sure she also wants to open up the Alaskan wildlife refuge for drilling, and that's all we know about her stance on energy and oil. Judging from this she'll probably be on board with McCain's discredited offshore drilling plan.

What our health care system needs is competition. Evidently the free market will fix it. Again, pretty standard. She does, however, disapprove of taxes which discourage small businesses, which I can agree with her on. Favoring corporations at the expense of the smaller businesses has proven... unwise. So as far as her faith in the free market, she's being consistent here. She thinks competition is good, so she isn't simultaneously discouraging it by fellating big corporations. Good for her on this one.

Overall, she's clearly made her constituency happy. She's got a high approval rating, and that's something. Better than Bush (whom McCain believed was right more than 90% of the time) and that means that at the very least Palin has more sense than McCain. She certainly pisses off oil companies more, something McCain has been too scared to do. We'll see if she and McCain end up clashing here.

So! I think she'll make conservatives happy. I think she'll give them something to point to besides their abysmal record to claim they respect women, and that's gotta make them feel good. She also seems to actually be doing many of the things McCain abandoned years ago: mainly disagreeing with her party now and again.

My main issues with her are her social policies, since we don't have too much information on anything else. I mean, hell. They called Obama an unknown but at least he had a voting record. I'm having to cobble together a profile of her in my head from scattered statements she's made about issues that matter to me.

So I'll look at Alaska, and assume that if she's governor she agrees with things that're going on there in cases where she hasn't expressed disapproval.

Alaska ranks well as far as access to contraception and public funding for reproductive health services. Their laws and policies rank 14th in their ability to facilitate access to those services (which isn't fantastic, but it's better than my state which is 42nd). Their teen pregnancy rates are pretty good, since 29 states out of 50 have them beat. Contrast this with McCain's state, which is number two. Despite being pro-life, Palin was in charge of a state that's actually doing sensible things to decrease unwanted pregnancies (particularly among young women).

Their stand on gay rights... not so good. Palin supports their 1998 amendment barring gays from receiving equal marriage benefits, because she believes that married gays threaten "the family structure." However, it's not all sour notes here. She did veto a bill that she thought was too discriminatory against gays, suggesting that while she doesn't want gays and straights to be equal there are at least limits to how unequal she wants them to be.

So she's not as bad as McCain. He arguably picked a woman with more sense than he has, with a better ability to make consistent moral decisions. This is lukewarm praise from me, though, since McCain set the bar pretty low to begin with.


She's also a creationist, who thinks we should "teach the [nonexistent] controversy." People everywhere who believe in science... start cringing.

Edit: She does not believe that humans can cause climate change, but acknowledges that her own state would be hard hit by such changes.

Woman's Shelter in Sioux Falls, South Dakota Needs Help

One of the groups in America that has it hardest when it comes to the safety of women is Native Americans.

Things are so bad on reservations that it strains belief. But choose to believe it or not, the CDC's got numbers.

Why do I bring this up now?

I've got something to repost from naamah_darling.

Passing this along, in the hopes that you'll do the same.

My Sister Friends' House is a shelter for women fleeing from domestic violence. It primarily serves Native American women.

They have lost their grant funding, and face a host of issues that they must overcome if they are to continue operation. They need $11,000 by August 31 if they are to keep operating through the next month, and they are hoping for $35,000 by the end of September.

If you have a minute, familiarize yourself with the situation, and perhaps donate a little.

If you don't have money, you could always mail them some material donations like diapers and basic first aid stuff. It'll go a long way for these women, because Native American women have it really rough when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault. Lend them a hand if you can.


"But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than 90 percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change."

Enough Bush, enough bullshit.

Enough said.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gustav Predictions

Poor New Orleans. Not again...

Three years after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana coast, New Orleans residents on Wednesday again faced the prospect of an evacuation as Tropical Storm Gustav loomed.  

Not since Katrina and Hurricane Rita, which followed in its wake, have residents faced government orders to evacuate their homes and businesses. Many are still struggling to rebuild their lives in a city famed for its jazz clubs and Mardi Gras festival.

On Wednesday, two days before the third anniversary of Katrina's August 29, 2005, landfall, Gustav drifted away from Haiti and the Dominican Republic after killing 22 people. It could hit the U.S. Gulf Coast around Monday.

You wanna know what's really great about this? What's going to make this oodles of fun for New Orleans to manage another natural disaster?

Guess where much of Louisiana's National Guard is.

Come on! You can guess this one! I believe in you!

Their second deployment to Iraq!

I'm sure this is going to be handled at least as poorly as the last one, which considering the area's infrastructure has been fucked once by Katrina and has now been further handicapped by troop redeployments.... yeah.

Damn Mexicans!

So I read someone complaining about the reason so many people in the US are out of a job is that Mexicans have stolen them.

Now, the obvious first point is that many of these people supposedly believe in the free market above all else. For them to cry "wait that's not fair!" when they lose out to competition that's willing to work more for less... it's just a little disingenuous.

That's not what got me thinking, though. What got me thinking was the similarity between these claims and claims by various ethnic groups that they have to compete with other ethnic groups for marriage. I remember hearing men in my family complain when I was a child that lots of women want to date black men because they have bigger cocks. Really. That's the only reason. "That's just not fair, them comin' in with them huge cocks! They stealin' our wimminz!"

Even in Europe where they're supposedly so much more comfortable with other cultures than America is... there's a long history of warring ethnic groups putting out propaganda explicitly aimed at convincing like to marry like. "Our girls marry our girls. Your girls marry your girls." Yes, this is about ethnic and cultural purity, but it wouldn't be a problem if men in each culture weren't so afraid they would prove unable to "measure up" against (read: "compete with") the foreigners.

I have no sympathy for this. Women aren't refusing to date these white guys because their dicks aren't big enough. Women are probably refusing to date them because (like my father) they're narrow-minded blockheaded assholes. In short: they aren't succeeding in the market because they themselves aren't competitive, not because someone else has an unfair advantage. The solution is for these men to adjust to the market demands for guys who aren't assholes, not to bitch about how the ones who're succeeding don't really deserve it. When someone else offers something that makes them more competitive (whatever it may be), the rules of the free market state that they're not cheating. They're competing.

So to all those people bitching about how Mexicans are stealing your jobs (just like Irish people used to steal our jobs and Italians used to steal our jobs and Chinese people used to steal our jobs) ask yourself how badly you want that strawberry-picking job. Badly enough to compete for it as vigorously as the Mexicans? Badly enough to work for almost nothing with no job security and no benefits with an employer who will likely abuse you physically or sexually?

Do you really want that job you just lost to a Mexican?


Then it's not their fault you don't have a job, is it? It's yours, for not being willing to flow with the market. No wonder you got left behind, eh?

Granted, this only applies to people who can simultaneously believe that A) the free market will solve all problems, but B) that they've somehow been slighted by the introduction of competition for jobs.

You guys. You wouldn't even be worried about this shit if we didn't have unions that pushed decades ago for things like minimum wage and job benefits. If this were the Industrial Revolution, you'd be willing to compete on an equal ground with the Mexicans because you'd be used to working the way they work: in unsafe conditions and for a pittance.

These people just annoy me because it doesn't seem like they're thinking very carefully about all these things they're claiming simultaneously. I want several things from them. If you're going to cry foul every time competition doesn't work out in your favor, maybe you could also adjust your own demands to make yourselves more competitive. Or, and here's a thought, you should re-evaluate how strong your faith in the free market really is now that you're the one losing out.

I don't care which you do. Just start making sense, please.

Philosophy and Fact

So... if you had to choose between doing something that kept with your principles and doing something that had a better chance of achieving the end you're looking for, which would you choose?

Classic example, sex ed as a way to reduce teen pregnancy, STDs, etc. If you're a conservative Christian, you're faced with a choice. Will you advocate for your values as they were given to you (meaning, teach only abstinence)? Or will you compromise your values to do what the facts indicate will actually achieve the end you desire (teaching about contraceptives and even abortion)?

To me this highlights a common conflict between liberals and conservatives. In keeping with the sex ed example, conservative Christians are ostensibly trying to protect families and children. Since they believe that premarital sex is wrong, they would rather discourage that than compromise on their hardline stand to achieve the result they claim they care about most.

And this means one thing: to conservative Christians, the means are more important than the ends... to the point that they completely disconnect from the reality of the situation. This is why showing statistics about teen pregnancy and STDs and high school dropout rates to conservative Christians will not convince them that children should learn anything but "abstinence good, sex bad." It won't convince them because the end isn't the point. The result isn't the point. They don't care nearly as much about the actual fates of children as they do about their moral high ground.

This is why you see liberals advocating for practical sex education, even if it means allowing for the possibility that young people will have premarital sex. Sure, it'd be nice if they weren't, but if our end is really to reduce teen pregnancy and STD rates... we've gotta do what we've gotta do.

That practicality is completely lost on many conservatives. Even if they support their arguments with facts and predictions of results, in the end the results are secondary. 

You've heard this before.

"Teaching teens about contraceptives may reduce the rates of teen pregnancy and accompanying dropout rates (which would result in economic and social benefits for those teens who would otherwise have dropped out), but it's wrong! Teaching them how to have responsible sex is... well, it's teaching them to have sex!" Link.

"Some wealth redistribution may reduce our deficit and reduce the tax burden on poor and middle-class families to fund our whole economy. Sure. But it's wrong! Did you know Hitler was a socialist?!" Link.

"Sure, entering peace talks with countries hostile to us might help us handle global challenges. But damn it, we're America! We'll handle global problems ourselves, our way, and you'd better either help us or get the heck out of our way." Link.

So at this point you have to ask yourself. How dedicated are you to the principles behind your goals? Are you dedicated enough to the principle to sacrifice the goal?

This is one of the sticking points for me when talking to my very conservative friends (and yes, I do have them). It seems most of the time like they'll uphold all these great and noble goals, but they have little interest in achieving them or actually working toward them. They feel teen pregnancy is a tragedy, but they reject any practical means of reducing it. They moan about the economy, but cling to Bush's "principled" stance that there's nothing more important than protecting the wealth of the wealthy. They sigh that America's always having to pick up other people's messes and finish other people's fights, but they don't want to admit that we don't have all the answers, that other nations may have something to bring to the table.

At this rate, there is nothing I can do to convince them. I can't offer facts or expert opinions, because those are merely result-based. My "reality-based thinking" has no impact because we're not really talking about the same thing. This is why every discussion with conservatives I've ever had has become a philosophical debate and not a practical one.

Most conservatives I've spoken with (particularly conservative Christians) truly are interested in philosophy first and results second. If I can't somehow argue that my solution doesn't just work but also fits into a philosophical model of America as God's Chosen Blessed Land of Opportunity, they don't care. The fact that a plan could work for the goal we agree upon doesn't matter if it requires a shift away from a comfortable philosophical model.

I don't know if this helps anyone reading this, but here's my summary.

To conservatives: If you're talking to a liberal, be honest when you're upholding principle most highly, and when you're upholding results. It will muddle the discussion much less if you make your priorities clear.

To liberals: Conservatives are listening, honest. Odds are you're just not talking about what's really on their minds. When they reply to studies or statistics by reasserting their philosophy, they're trying to reiterate what matters to them in the debate. They may not intentionally be shifting the goalpost onto philosophical terrain; odds are that to some conservatives that's where it's been the whole time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade...

I don't know if you heard about this, beloved readers (all, what, five of you?), but I thought it would entertain you.

See, there were Christians pushing each other to pray for rain at the DNC.

"Focus on the Family is asking for "abundant, torrential" downpours to flood Denver and silence Senator Obama when he accepts the Democratic Party's presidential nomination on August 28."

Evidently rain of "Biblical" proportions to flood out the liberals would show them that God is displeased with their war on his poor marginalized believers in this country that has so little tolerance for them. Never mind that rain of Biblical proportions would kill lots of people. The point is to show that nasty liberal candidate that God is a republican. You can check out the video here.

Well, there was a flood of sorts.

No, really!

There was a sprinkler malfunction that flooded part of the Pepsi Center..

The sprinkler was located on the club level in a skybox which had recently been renovated to host a news crew. It appears the skybox belongs to Fox. ...All of the equipment in the skybox had to be removed quickly due to the possible electrical issues. No one was injured.

Oh yes. Oh ho ho ho yes.

Fundies may not have a great sense of irony, but someone up there sure does.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Damn, Dana.

Dana Hunter, one of my favorite bloggers, has decided to write up what might be the best take-down of John McCain's insistence that his experience as a POW exempts him from all criticism.

It's here, and I think that by quoting it only in part I'm doing it a disservice, but I know that most of you won't read it if you don't at least see a sample bit.

Being a rape survivor does not make me an unimpeachable expert on rape, the combatting thereof, and all things remotely related to it. Being a POW does not make John McCain an expert on war, the fighting thereof, and all things remotely related to it. It apparently doesn't even make him an expert on torture, because if it had, he wouldn't have worked so hard to allow America to engage in it. (Imagine me redefining my rape as somehow "not rape" so that sexual violence could be legally perpetrated against women. Morally repugnant? I think so. But that's essentially what McCain has done.)


Being a rape survivor does not mean I get to claim that I'm a better person than my opponents because I survived rape and they didn't. McCain is no better than the people he smears - in fact, he's far less of a good man than they are. If we're going to be claiming higher ground by virtue of our travails, we'd better be fucking standing on it.

I can't use my status as a rape survivor to disclaim responsibility for the actions I take, the things I say, the people I hurt, and all my many failures. It infuriates me that McCain thinks this status as a POW allows him to do all of that and so much more.

Get it? Go read.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"Worse than no change"

Check out this Op-Ed Column from the NYT.

What we have learned this summer is this: McCain’s trigger-happy temperament and reactionary policies offer worse than no change. He is an unstable bridge back not just to Bush policies but to an increasingly distant 20th-century America that is still fighting Red China in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in the cold war. As the country tries to navigate the fast-moving changes of the 21st century, McCain would put America on hold.

What Obama also should have learned by now is that the press is not his friend. Of course, he gets more ink and airtime than McCain; he’s sexier news. But as George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs documented in its study of six weeks of TV news reports this summer, Obama’s coverage was 28 percent positive, 72 percent negative. (For McCain, the split was 43/57.) Even McCain’s most blatant confusions, memory lapses and outright lies still barely cause a ripple, whether he’s railing against a piece of pork he in fact voted for, as he did at the Saddleback Church pseudodebate last weekend, or falsifying crucial details of his marital history in his memoirs, as The Los Angeles Times uncovered in court records last month.

What should Obama do now? As premature panic floods through certain liberal precincts, there’s no shortage of advice: more meat to his economic plan, more passion in his stump delivery, less defensiveness in response to attacks and, as is now happening, sharper darts at a McCain lifestyle so extravagant that we are only beginning to learn where all the beer bullion is buried.

But Obama is never going to be a John Edwards-style populist barnburner. (Edwards wasn’t persuasive either, by the way.) Nor will wonkish laundry lists of policy details work any better for him than they did for Al Gore or Hillary Clinton. Obama has those details to spare, in any case, while McCain, who didn’t even include an education policy on his Web site during primary season, is still winging it. As David Leonhardt observes in his New York Times Magazine cover article on “Obamanomics” today, Obama’s real problem is not a lack of detail but his inability to sell policy with “an effective story.”


The Bush White House is now poised to alight with the Iraqi government on a withdrawal timetable far closer to Obama’s 16 months than McCain’s vague promise of a 2013 endgame. As Gen. David Petraeus returns home, McCain increasingly resembles those mad Japanese soldiers who remained at war on remote Pacific islands years after Hiroshima.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Christian Privilege

Okay. It looks like I'm going to be writing an entry on privilege. Thought I was gonna be able to avoid it, but it doesn't look like that'll be happening.

I am going to preface this with something. I don't like the word "privilege" to refer to things like "male privilege" or "white privilege" or "Christian privilege." It implies that white people and men and Christians (or whatever) all have things they shouldn't have, that no one should have. Personally I feel that being able to walk home past sunset without worrying you're going to get kidnapped and killed is not a case of anybody's privilege. Everyone should have it, and it's a damn shame that they don't.

Right now it feels every time the term "privilege" gets used we're talking about things like "seeing people your own race or sex in public office" or "being able to get a job based on your qualifications and not your face" or "being able to control people's sexual access to you." I feel that treating these as privileges treats people who've got them like they have more than they should instead of treating the people who don't as though they've got less than they should. It's why I prefer to talk about people who're disadvantaged over talking about people who're privileged (unless I'm using it to mean precisely what I just mentioned: people who've got more than they should).

It doesn't seem like it makes much of a difference, but feminist scholarship and analysis as I've seen it is often about just this kind of thing: linguistic subtleties. What message are people getting by the words we use? It seems when "male privilege" comes up that we're not talking about women dealing with shit they shouldn't have to, but men enjoying autonomy and security they shouldn't get. Even if that isn't what's meant, I'll be happier the day we find another term.

That said, we don't have other terms. So please understand what I mean when I use the word "privilege," and that I feel icky because I have no other options.

This entry is not about male privilege. This entry is not about white privilege. This entry is about Christian privilege. Keep in mind what I said earlier about privilege. I'm not saying that Christians enjoy lots and lots of things they don't deserve. I'm saying that Christians enjoy lots and lots of things that not all religions have, but all religions do deserve.

1. I can be sure to hear music on the radio and watch specials on television that celebrate the holidays of my religion.
2. I can be sure that my holy day (Sunday) is taken into account when states pass laws (e.g., the sale of liquor) and when retail stores decide their hours (e.g., on Saturdays, they are open about 12 hours; on Sundays, they are closed or open for only a few hours).
3. I can assume that I will not have to work or go to school on my significant religious holidays.
4. I can be financially successful and not have people attribute that to the greed of my religious group.
5. I can be sure that when told about the history of civilization, I am shown people of my religion who made it what it is.
6. I do not need to educate my children to be aware of religious persecution for their own daily physical and emotional protection.
7. I can write an article about Christian privilege without putting my own religion on trial.
8. My religious group gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other religions.
9. I do not need to worry about the ramifications of disclosing my religious identity to others.
10. I can easily find academic courses and institutions that give attention only to people of my religion.
11. I can worry about religious privilege without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
12. I can be sure that when my children make holiday crafts, they will bring home artistic symbols of the Christian religion (e.g., Easter bunny, Christmas tree).
13. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my religious group.
14. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my religion most of the time.
15. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a “credit to my religion” or being singled out as being different from other members of my religious group.
16. I can, if I wish to identify myself, safely identify as Christian without fear of repercussions or prejudice because of my religious identity.
17. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence and importance of the Christian religion.
18. I can protect my children from people who are religiously different from them.
19. I can have a “Jesus is Lord” bumper sticker or Icthus (Christian fish) on my car and not worry about someone vandalizing my car because of it.
20. I can buy foods (e.g., in grocery store, at restaurants) that fall within the scope of the rules of my religious group.
21. I can travel and be sure to find a comparable place of worship when away from my home community.
22. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my religion will not work against me.
23. I can be sure when I hear someone in the media talking about g-d that they are talking about my (the Christian) g-d.
24. I can be fairly sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my religion.
25. I can be sure that people are knowledgeable about the holidays in my religion and will greet me with the appropriate holiday greeting (e.g., Merry Christmas).
26.I can remain oblivious to the language and customs of other religious groups without feeling any penalty for such a lack of interest and/or knowledge.
27. I can display a Christmas tree and/or hang holly leaves in my home without worrying about my home being vandalized because of my religious identification.
28. I can be fairly sure that some hate group does not exist whose goal is to eradicate my religious group from the planet.

-Lewis Z. Schlosser (cited further later on)

Much of this is unavoidable, because Christians are a majority in America. That's why Christians have national holidays and Hindus (to my knowledge) do not. That's why Christians can fill every town and city in America with their places of worship. That's why Christians can support their own television channels, and their own private schools (at least to a greater degree than Wiccans or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists). I say this because I want you to understand that I understand that this is not a concerted effort on the part of most Christians to make other religions feel marginalized in a nation that is only tolerating them. Sometimes it is largely because Christians have numbers on their side in this country.

For a more thorough explanation of what "Christian privilege" is for the purposes of this discussion, I'll refer you to Understanding Christian Privilege: Managing the Tensions of Spiritual Plurality, by Tricia Seifert. Tricia Seifert is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Iowa. She studies the impact of educational programs and policies on student learning. This article mainly discusses Christian privilege on college campuses, but the general ideas apply well enough that I'll probably refer back to this a good bit.

Adapting Peggy McIntosh’s white privilege and male privilege framework, Christine Clark, Mark Brimhall-Vargas, Lewis Schlosser, and Craig Alimo developed several examples of Christian privilege. In an article in Multicultural Education, Clark and her colleagues define privilege as the manifestation of unearned and unacknowledged advantages that those in the dominant social or cultural group (in this case, Christians) experience in their everyday lives.

See? It's not always the fault of Christians, and I'm not asking Christians to feel guilty for being the dominant group. I don't know a single Christian who is powerful enough to be to blame for the marginalization of non-Christians in America. What I'm trying to get across is that because Christians are a privileged group in America, non-Christians commonly and easily feel marginalized and merely tolerated in a country that is supposed to belong just as much to them as to their Christian neighbors.

Lewis Schlosser and William Sedlacek, in a 2003 issue of About Campus, note that the timing of the term break at Christmas—which often goes unquestioned— privileges Christian students, who do not have to choose between their schoolwork and attending religious ceremonies, while it marginalizes non-Christian students, who must negotiate conflicts between their studies and their spiritual observances. For example, in some years, Ramadan—one of the key religious observances of Islam—may coincide with many campuses’ midterm exams.The perceived secularization of Christmas has helped to reinforce its position as central to the college and university calendar.The suggestion that Santa Claus and a Christmas tree are devoid of religious connotations and are “just part of the culture” (p. 124), as Douglas Hicks notes in Religion and the Workplace: Pluralism, Spirituality, and Leadership, cements Christian privilege.As Christian symbols are placed at the center of our institutions’ cultural fabric, non-Christians are pushed further to the margins.

Again, this is not something Christians necessarily need to feel guilty about. Christians who truly believe that their religion deserves special treatment above all other faiths and at the expense of all outsiders are few and far between. But they do exist, and they are the reason that I'm writing this.

Christians often claim that it is difficult to be Christian in America. They say that liberals are "waging war" against Christians on sites like this one, dedicated to exposing the introduction of Islam into our culture (and an alleged accompanying undermining of Christianity). Because students are encouraged to learn how Muslims pray (since American culture already teaches them how Christians pray), Christian groups view this as a threat to their supremacy, a threat to their privilege. If children learn as much from outside their homes about Islam as they learn about Christianity, the perceived "right" of Christianity to be vastly overrepresented is undermined.

So the reduction of Christian privilege gets painted by many Christian groups as persecution. When the symbol of their faith is held up above all others as a symbol for America and patriotism, they cheer. When they learn that they must share religious displays on government property with other faiths, or not post them at all, they claim persecution.

What Christians are losing in these cases (and in most I can think of) is not the right to practice their religion on an equal footing with Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, or whatever other faith you can mention that has migrated to America. What they are losing is supremacy. Their privilege is being eroded, and rather than claim they should not have had such an overwhelming advantage in the first place (or at the very least that other groups should not have been so proportionally disadvantaged), they cry foul and play the victim.

So here's a warning for my journal. You may post whatever comments you please. I haven't deleted a single comment to date, and I don't intend to start. But if you post on my journal with the pose that Christians in America are somehow in dire peril of being marginalized, persecuted, or even just maligned widely in the arena of public opinion, I ask you to remember this.

If you are Christian, you have power that no other religion in America has. I find it hard to believe that anything can happen to Christians in America to bring them down to the level of every other religion in this country anytime soon. Fret all you like that Christianity is under siege, but the rest of us are well aware you aren't going anywhere. You make it kind of hard to forget. Whether you mean to remind us who's boss or not, non-Christians in America face that reality every day.

For more information on how Christians can forget they have privilege, check out Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo by Lewis Z. Schlosser.

One possible explanation for the existence of Christian privilege is the notion of a “nonconscious ideology” (Bem & Bem, 970, p. 89). Bem and Bem first defined the concept of a nonconscious ideology to describe how implicit beliefs and attitudes are used to maintain the status quo in terms of gender inequality. They used the analogy of a fish and its environment to illustrate their concept of nonconscious ideology. A fish does not know its environment is wet, because that is all it knows and all it has ever experienced. The fish has no idea that anything else exists besides water because it has never had to think about any other possibilities.


In a similar fashion, Christians are not likely to know (or believe) that the environment is oppressive, because that environment has never been oppressive to them for being Christian. Thus, Christian privilege is likely to be a result of Christianity being the nonconscious ideology (in terms of religious group membership) of the United States. Even if this is a valid explanation for the existence of Christian privilege, because Christians are the dominant religious group in the United States, it is their responsibility to recognize their power and the accompanying privileges.

Maybe you can afford to forget who's in charge, but we cannot.

Christians reading this don't have to feel like I blame you for the myriad awkward conversations, occupational difficulties, educational barriers, and glaring injustices non-Christians in America can face. You are personally not to blame. That's not what acknowledgment of Christian privilege needs to mean.

What it does mean is that every time you get the urge to bemoan the sad state of Christianity in America today, remember where you are in relation to the rest of us. Remember what non-Christians in America go through because of Christian supremacy before you complain about the persecution of American Christians. Remember that when you claim Christians are a maligned and hated group in America, you may be talking to someone who really knows what that's like.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Oh God DHHS no.

The Bush administration has officially proposed a rule to the Dept. of Health and Human Services that doctors can refuse to treat patients if their consciences protest for any reason. Basically if they dunwanna, you don't get medical care.

Send an email to, with the subject line "provider conscience regulation." They are publishing these comments right now, because it is in a 30-day public comment period. This is an absolute emergency. Don't let the misogynist religious whackos be the only voices DHHS hears. Say something. Just send an email. Otherwise, after thirty days, this rule goes into effect.

Really. It does. This is going to happen. Please tell them you are NOT falling for this bullshit, and that you are NOT going to let fundamentalists speak for you. Forward this to anyone you know who doesn't believe that women should be forced to breed on anyone's timeline or by anybody's rules but their own.

Here's what I'm saying.

Doctors do and always have had the freedom of conscience to choose not to provide certain kinds of medical care. This is the choice they make in medical school when they're investing tens of thousands of dollars to become educated and licensed. If they are not ready to fulfill the obligations of their chosen profession, then just like anyone else who doesn't want to do their job? They shouldn't be doing it. Doctors need to provide patients with medical care. End of line.

Here's the problem. Doctors should not be the ones to decide which patients "deserve" the standard of care they are coming to receive. Those who say that this ruling is not about denying women access to birth control are either gullible or lying. Here's how I know it's about denying women health care.

One: This is clearly about allowing doctors to refuse to perform abortions for patients who request them. Considering that 87% of counties in America don't have an abortion provider, this puts rural women at a serious disadvantage when they need medical care. Why does this statistic matter? Because if the one doctor within reasonable range of a woman in need refuses to treat her, she may not be able to find another, particularly considering that this proposed rule does not include provisions for women who have been refused. Not only can her doctor say no, but he is not obligated to refer her to a physician willing to provide her with an abortion.

Two: This becomes truly scary when you think about the fact that DHHS wants to change the definition of "life" to "at fertilization" rather than "at implantation." These are both pretty damned arbitrary classifications considering that a fertilized egg is less of an independent organism than the gut flora living in my large intestine (and which I am allowed to slaughter at will with every antibiotic treatment I undergo). Why is this scary? See point three.

Three: Non-barrier methods (basically anything but a diaphragm or condom) works at least partly by preventing implantation. It prevents the fertilized egg from sticking to the inside of your uterus so that it never has a chance to start getting nourishment from your body. It's flushed out like any unfertilized egg, and your body does this on its own. What this means is that any non-barrier method that interferes with implantation will be classified as an abortion, giving doctors a perfect airtight legal excuse to deny women these prescriptions because a moral imperative the patient obviously does not share (or she wouldn't be asking for contraceptives) dictates that she doesn't need contraceptives after all.

If you are not ready to provide the services of a physician, don't become one. If it's against my religion to dance in public, I should not dream of Broadway. If I believe that rum is the devil's poison and that Prohibition should be re-established, I should not aspire to become a bartender. If it's against my conscience to provide medical advice or procedures to certain people or for certain reasons, I should not dream of a medical career.

Medicine is about service. You are doing a disservice to half the population of this country by codifying an appalling belief: that women's LIVES are not as important as the FEELINGS of doctors who should never have gone into that practice in the first place.

And yes, this is about a woman's life versus the feelings of her doctor. If a woman cannot control her reproduction, she cannot control any aspect of her life. If a woman cannot delay pregnancy she is at a serious disadvantage compared to a man when it comes to getting an education, maintaining a career, and supporting herself. If at any time she could be railroaded into halting her life to bear a child at someone else's will, then her life as she know it can end at any time.

Anyone reading this, I'm begging you to think about this. Think about what effect having a child really has on women. In third world countries early pregnancy and single motherhood are one of the chief reasons that women and their children are economically and socially the biggest victims of poverty, disease, and hunger. Do you want that here? Are you ready for those consequences? Because that's where we're going.

If you love even a single woman in your life--mother, sister, daughter, friend, lover, anything--please protect her. Say no to this. Treat them like human beings, with wills and lives of their own. Let the women you love control their reproduction, instead of breeding on someone else's timeline and by someone else's rules. You owe them that much.

The right to choose. Women may choose to bear children from these "surprise pregnancies," and they may choose to delay childbearing. But they have the right to choose for themselves on their own terms.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Period Control!

Got this one from The Curvature.

It's just a fun little video making fun of birth control marketing. Thought I'd share.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Their Feelings > You

Fuck you Mike Leavitt.

I've commented on his blog before, on this whole "let's redefine nearly every form of contraception as abortion" clusterfuck going through DHHS right now. Because, y'see, this isn't about restricting women's health care (even though that's what'll happen). That's not even a relevant issue! Even though that's what'll happen. No, this is about FEELINGS.

The doctors' feelings, to be precise. Didn't you know? They're more important than the patient's health, or a contractual obligation to provide a service patients pay for. If a doctor doesn't believe in abortion, then they aren't going to provide them. This doesn't sound truly terrifying until you consider that DHHS thinks it should be allowed to define "abortion" however loosely they'd like. They want to change it to "life begins at fertilization, so anything that prevents the fertilized egg from sticking to the inside of your uterus is now an abortion." That way a doctor can deny you a whole list of things (most notably every birth control method I can think of that isn't a barrier method) because it is more important to DHHS that doctors provide care according to their consciences than for patiences to receive care according to their consciences.

Leavitt mocked the position of people like me who believe that doctors should provide the care they agreed to provide when they got licensed, stating, "Freedom of expression and action is surrendered with the issuance of a medical degree."

You lose the freedom to betray the standards of your profession, yeah. Doctors lose the freedom to deny care to people who come to them for it, psychologists lose the freedom to gossip about people who talk to them in a professional context, etc. I realize this loss of freedom of expression and action must be deeply traumatic for doctors. Being held to the same professional standards as all other doctors is just awful. If your argument is that doctors should be allowed to exempt themselves from their oaths just 'cuz they wanna... well, I'm with you! Professional standards and accountability are for those secularist babymurdering liberals.

Yes. That was sarcasm.

In all seriousness, though. If you are not ready to provide the services of a physician, don't become one. If it's against my religion to dance in public, I should not dream of Broadway. If I believe that rum is the devil's poison and that Prohibition should be re-established, I should not aspire to become a bartender. If it's against my conscience to provide medical advice or procedures to certain people or for certain reasons, I should not dream of a medical career.

Medicine is about service. You are doing a disservice to half the population of this country by codifying an appalling belief: that women's LIVES are not as important as the FEELINGS of doctors who should never have gone into practice in the first place.

One comment by "Michelle" got a chuckle out of me, and I wanted to share it.

I think I'm going to become a doctor. Of course, I'm morally opposed to inhaled steroids and albuterol--in my religion inhaling something other than the air we normally breathe is counter to God's will. I'm going to have a lot of asthma patients! When all those asthma patients drop dead on the floor of the ER during a massive asthma attack--Oh well, at least my god will be pleased. Whatever the patient needed/wanted to do with their body doesn't matter. And in fact, I'll work very hard to lobby against allowing asthma drugs to exist! I need to save those people who think they need the medication I don't like, even if it kills them. By denying them proper medical treatment, I'll be pleasing God and that's more important than what the patient thinks is right for his/her body! Go me, medical degree here I come!
I followed a particularly well-thought-out comment to the site linked, and was delighted to recognize the name of someone on my friends list. naamah_darling, you rock.

Here's one small piece of the glory she posted.
I think everyone should be free to act with conscience (though an argument could be made that someone who does not wish to perform their duty should not have taken the job to begin with). But what assurances, sir, do we have that you will see to it that women who need services will still be served? What are your plans for that? Or have you forgotten the entire point of the medical profession, which is to provide care for those who need it? I demand to know this, sir. I demand to know how you plan to make sure women are not further harmed by this policy of yours, as they are being harmed by existing laws and policy.

If you put into place a system or set of rules that dictated women MUST be promptly referred to another provider covered under her insurance plan, then and only then will I be able to "conscience" turning these incredibly important decisions over to anyone but the woman.

I have to say I am not very impressed with your responses so far. You don't seem to care much about patients at all, when arguably, you should care about them above all. That, sir, is disgusting.
That about says it as far as I'm concerned. If you want to preach, become a pastor. If you want to control women's lives, move to Saudi Arabia. If you want to become a doctor, treat the patients that come to you.

I encourage others to leave comments on Leavitt's blog. A pro-life group has encouraged its members to flood his blog with grateful comments, and I agree with NARAL Pro-Choice America. He needs to be hearing us, too.

Otherwise, it's gonna be a lot of this: "There IS NO financial reason not to have a child, if we trust in God's Providence."

Yeah. That's a comment on there, by Elizabeth Victory.

Please. Be the voice of reason, and be a loud one. Those of us females who want to control our childrearing don't want to be treated like cattle, breeding at the behest of someone with authority over us. Those of us females who want to be as free as a man to live independent lives would really appreciate the right to control our reproduction.

Don't let DHHS take it, and certainly don't let idiots like Elizabeth Victory encourage DHHS to take it.

As Anita Monical stated:
Well, I for one am happy to know that soooo many doctors view their right to deny women access to and information regarding contraception as a matter of personal integrity, and not a matter of women's health.

I certainly would have all kinds of faith in physicians who put unshared moral values above the health and wellbeing of women. No really.

I never thought of medical professionals as an enemy of my own physical health, mental wellbeing and yes, my financial security. I do now.
That should scare you. It scares me.

All you have to do is post a comment. It'll take you thirty seconds.

DHHS wants to say that physicians have the right to refuse you care if they decide it hurts their feelings to give you what you need. DHHS wants to say that physicians have the right to hinder women's access to legal and safe contraception and abortion. DHHS wants to say that the consciences of female patients are less important and valid than the doctors who would deny them the care that the patients have chosen to seek out.

Say no.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Persecution Complex

To all those people who lament the impression that colleges and universities are biased against them?

To all those people who lament the impression that human rights groups are biased against them?

To all those people who lament the impression that foreign countries are biased against them?

To all those people who lament the impression that the media is biased against them?

Have you ever considered the possibility that all or some of these people might actually be right and you're the one who's wrong?

1. If educated people are often liberal, is it simpler to assume a broad-sweeping brainwashing conspiracy, or to assume that upon exposure to other views and the facts behind them people don't seem to remain conservative? If liberals claimed that universities had a conservative bias, you know that conservatives would be claiming that it's not their fault educated people lean right. Why do you let them get away with the anti-intellectual bullshit when you would never allow it from liberals?

2. If human rights groups tend to be liberal, is this a sign that they're all secretly members of the anti-conservative conspiracy bent on eradicating an entire school of thought from the face of the earth? Or is it simpler to assume that the liberal philosophy places a higher emphasis on the well-being of individuals, from which it follows naturally they'd care more about human rights?

3. Maybe the fact that everyone thinks you're acting like an imperialist dick means that imperialism makes you a dick. Calling you a dick and treating you like you're a dick when you're being a dick isn't biased. It's called "self-preservation."

4. Media coverage of the election doesn't have a liberal bias... it has a bias in favor of McCain. Conservatives loved the guy doing this study when it said the opposite, but now that they're the bad guys, suddenly the methodology must be wrong. See, you gotta be skeptical about the media if you're a conservative. A good unbiased source will agree with you. Never trust a source that doesn't agree with you. It's just that damned liberal conspiracy acting up again, but thankfully they're easy to detect. They say crazy things like "pissing off other countries makes them hate us," and "voodoo economics doesn't work" or "abstinence-only sex ed doesn't work." They're always pushing this ideological bias, so it makes them easy to detect and ignore.

All in all, I'm getting tired of the "I hate your evidence! You elitist liberals are always pickin' on us simple salt o'the earth conservatives. Just because I don't have any credentials in the field we're talking about doesn't mean that my opinion isn't just as valid as yours!"

Well, I'm an elitist bastard and let me tell you something. If I hear one more time about how educated people can't be trusted (because too much exposure to the diversity and complexity of reality brainwashes you liberal, see), or about how educated people are out of touch with reality (at least compared to people who've only ever exposed themselves to their own way of life), or some other bullshit excuse to cover the bitterness and resentment of uneducated people that educated people always abandon their cause... I'm going to have some kind of episode.

I don't know how to say it more simply than this. If education is a danger to your worldview, that is hard proof that your worldview needs examining. If entertaining other worldviews turns out to be a danger to your own, your worldview is a hell of a lot more fragile than you want to admit. If studying other cultures is some kind of threat to your own, your own culture isn't worth your slavish loyalty. If exposure to people who believe they can make the world better somehow erodes your reinforced sense of self-serving exploitative entitlement and privilege, perhaps that's a clue that you need to abandon that sense of entitlement.

There are too many people who resent educated people for learning a few new things and suddenly changing their minds. I didn't think I was a liberal. Sure, I thought that gays were human beings and so were women. Sure I thought that it'd sure be nice if college weren't a way to transform wealth into privilege so that the super-rich could claim they'd earned what they've got. Sure I'd love to have the first, last, and final say over when I carry a child. But I didn't think that made me liberal. I thought liberals were these frothing man-hating Communists out to create a man-free, gun-free Marxist paradise off the cost of California on a human-made island of singed bras.

I didn't realize what would happen to me. I didn't realize that once I left my town of 8,000 people I might really have a chance to learn how other cultures lived and what made them that way. I didn't realize that this would cause me to take a good hard look at my own culture. I didn't realize this was all part of the grand liberal mafia brainwashing conspiracy.

In short, reality turned out to have a liberal bias. Once exposed, I fell.

For all you conservatives out there... it could happen to you. I suggest you do what the Amish do. Drop out after eighth grade. Wouldn't want to start getting ideas and putting on airs. Wouldn't want to change your mind. Wouldn't want to become liberal or anything.

Drop out. Delete every news channel from your cable but Fox News. In fact, delete every channel but the televangelists. Burn every nonfiction book you own. Save yourselves before it's too late! Above all remember!

The liberals are sly. The liberals are stealthy. The liberals will find you.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

McCain and Obama's Economic Plans

You know me. I love citing huge passages from entries that have too much good stuff for me to just quote a little.

This one... I can't chop any of it out. Mainly because it's a lot of beautiful simple little charts, and there's no way to paraphrase charts that clear.

So just go look at the rundown.

You may not do politics, and you may think the economy is this big difficult obnoxious thing. I know plenty of people who think they're not smart enough to understand what's going on, and I'm telling you right now that's just what the McCain camp is banking on. They are counting on you being dumber than you are, and they're counting on you believing it, too.

You're not stupid. You can understand this. Go look at the charts and tell me this isn't obvious.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dear Veterans: Stay Home in November. Love, the VA.

Help Our Veterans Vote

WHAT is the secretary of Veterans Affairs thinking? On May 5, the department led by James B. Peake issued a directive that bans nonpartisan voter registration drives at federally financed nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and shelters for homeless veterans. As a result, too many of our most patriotic American citizens — our injured and ill military veterans — may not be able to vote this November.

I have witnessed the enforcement of this policy. On June 30, I visited the Veterans Affairs Hospital in West Haven, Conn., to distribute information on the state’s new voting machines and to register veterans to vote. I was not allowed inside the hospital.

Outside on the sidewalk, I met Martin O’Nieal, a 92-year-old man who lost a leg while fighting the Nazis in the mountains of Northern Italy during the harsh winter of 1944. Mr. O’Nieal has been a resident of the hospital since 2007. He wanted to vote last year, but he told me that there was no information about how to register to vote at the hospital and the nurses could not answer his questions about how or where to cast a ballot.

I carry around hundreds of blank voter registration cards in the trunk of my car for just such occasions, so I was able to register Mr. O’Nieal in November. I also registered a few more veterans — whoever I could find outside on the hospital’s sidewalk.

There are thousands of veterans of wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan who are isolated behind the walls of V.A. hospitals and nursing homes across the country. We have an obligation to make sure that every veteran has the opportunity to make his or her voice heard at the ballot box.

Why would this craziness be happening? Why in the world would our government not want veterans voting? Particularly when they supposedly tend to go Republican, right? Shouldn't this administration be clambering all over themselves to see as many military folks voting as possible?

Nope. Because this year military organizations are not favoring the Republican candidate, and active duty personnel aren't donating too much to him either.

This one is particularly interesting. The article from The Carpetbagger Report cites this, but I thought it deserved a mention in its own right here.

According to an analysis of campaign contributions by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Democrat Barack Obama has received nearly six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions than has Republican John McCain.


Individuals in the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps have all leaned Republican this cycle, but the only branch in which that ideology has carried over to the presidential race is the Marine Corps, where McCain leads Obama by about $4,000. In each of the other branches -- including the Navy, in which McCain served when he was taken prisoner during the Vietnam War -- Obama leads by significant margins.

"That's shocking. The academic debate is between some who say that junior enlisted ranks lean slightly Republican and some who say it's about equal, but no one would point to six-to-one" in Democrats' favor, said Aaron Belkin, a professor of political science at the University of California who studies the military. "That represents a tremendous shift from 2000, when the military vote almost certainly was decisive in Florida and elsewhere, and leaned heavily towards the Republicans."

In 2000, Republican George W. Bush outraised Democrat Al Gore among military personnel almost 2 to 1. In 2004, with the Iraq war underway, John Kerry closed the gap with President Bush, but Bush still raised $1.50 from the military for every $1 his Democratic opponent collected.

For Republicans, who generally seem to rely heavily on the support of troops, this is a scary scary thing. Of course, it's to be expected. Our troops are starting to realize that Republicans don't care about them.

Maybe now they'll start voting with their own interests. And maybe that's what has this administration so damned scared they'll vote at all.

So Dear Veterans:

Stay home in November. 

Love, the VA.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Judge says UC can deny religious course credit

Judge says UC can deny religious course credit

A federal judge says the University of California can deny course credit to applicants from Christian high schools whose textbooks declare the Bible infallible and reject evolution.

Rejecting claims of religious discrimination and stifling of free expression, U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles said UC's review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts - not because they contained religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and failed to teach critical thinking.


"It appears the UC is attempting to secularize private religious schools," attorney Jennifer Monk of Advocates for Faith and Freedom said Tuesday. Her clients include the Association of Christian Schools International, two Southern California high schools and several students.

Charles Robinson, the university's vice president for legal affairs, said the ruling "confirms that UC may apply the same admissions standards to all students and to all high schools without regard to their religious affiliations." What the plaintiffs seek, he said, is a "religious exemption from regular admissions standards."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Supporting Vets and Vets' Support

Instead of reassuring veterans at a veterans' event that he cared about them, McCain used it as an opportunity to bash Obama the whole time without actually saying anything meaningful to the audience he had. They didn't swallow it.

Another good article?

McCain Can't be Sure Veterans Will Fall in Behind Him

Many vets here said they do not consider the Iraq war or McCain's military service to be key campaign issues. Their chief concerns are the ailing economy and high gas prices.

"I work three jobs to make ends meet," said Jeff Graves, 45, an Army veteran from Falmouth, Ky. "I need to know who's going to help with that."

As much as I hate to say it?


To balance out the people who will vote for McCain just because he was in the military, there're people in the military who know he doesn't have any motivation to take care of them in any meaningful way. McCain and his campaign are counting on Americans to be stupid, to "support our troops" in name without checking to see if the military candidate is going to do any good for military families.

Still don't believe that McCain is a poor choice for people who actually want to support our troops? Fine.

--The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave McCain a D and Obama a B+.
--The Disabled Veterans of America indicate that McCain voted against their interests 80% of the time, whereas Obama was with them 80% of the time.
--McCain voted against the preferences of the Vietnam Veterans of America more than he voted with them. "The Vietnam Veterans of America compiled a list of key votes, and found McCain voted against the group’s position 15 times and with the group eight times. (Obama, in contrast, voted with the VVA 12 times, and against it only once.)"

So why don't veterans organizations seem excited about this guy? Isn't he supposed to be a war hero and champion of America's patriotic duty to its troops? Or has he gotten so caught up in getting his heiress wife to take care of him that he's forgotten there are vets out there without a sugar momma?

Seriously. As a child of a military family, I can't imagine anything worse for military families than another four years of the policies McCain's been pushing. Aside from his time as a POW, this man has never wanted for anything in his life. What the hell does he know about the America that military families have been living in?

If his voting record and the analysis given it by veterans organizations is any indication, he doesn't know jack shit.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Race Card! D:

Obama Has No 'Race Card' To Play; McCain Does

Earlier this week, presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Barack Obama was "playing the race card," when the Illinois senator warned an audience that his Republican rivals would try to scare Americans against voting for him.

Mark Q. Sawyer heard that charge and offers this piece, titled "Barack Obama Has No 'Race Card' to Play, But John McCain Sure Does."

Sawyer is director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics and the author of Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary Cuba.

What is "the race card" anyway? It appeared in the context of the O.J. Simpson trial when Robert Shapiro, O.J.'s lawyer, worried that by doing his job as O.J. Simpson's attorney had lost his whiteness card.

Shapiro said, "'Not only did we play the race card, we dealt it from the bottom of the deck.'" That phrase was echoed as a defense by McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis, in justifying the McCain's campaign likening Barack Obama -- a former state senator, editor of the Harvard Law Review, community organizer and sitting U.S. Senator -- to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. The two, of course, are most known for partying, sex tapes, eschewing underwear, and flights of fancy with drunk driving, drug use, jail and child neglect.

The New York Times has accurately pointed out the connection with the Simpson trial and the irony of McCain's use of it. Now we have pundits arguing whether the "race card" was played or not, without anyone have a clear idea of what a "race card" is -- if it exists at all. But I think I can help here.

Ostensibly "the race card" is some proverbial "get out of jail free card" in the context of O.J. -- or in the minds of some whites now -- extended to the point of any charge of racism, which places African Americans, or in this case an African-American candidate, beyond reproach, outside of legitimate criticism. It is like the Joker in a game of Joker's Wild or a trump card that solves all black problems and blunts legitimate criticism. It is supposedly a cross and garlic that Obama, and perhaps all African Americans, carry to ward of not evil white vampires but reasonable white people and criticism.

The fact is there is no such thing as a race card in the sense mentioned above in political campaigns. Whenever race is a topic of debate in the campaign it is almost always a net negative for Obama, no matter how gracefully he handles it. His statement was, in fact, carefully worded to try to inoculate himself from being pounded by coded racial language and not so coded racial language on Fox News and the Internet (we have all seen the Obama family tree e-mails, etc.).

Obama said, "Nobody thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face. So what they're going to try to do is make you scared of me. ... You know, he's not patriotic enough, he's got a funny name, you know, he doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

Obama, in this statement, is gingerly trying to point out that his different appearance and the fact he is "different" in terms of his name and his racial background may make some uneasy and they may trade on it. But political scientists who follow black politicians have long talked about what some call a "de-racialized campaign." The idea is simply this: If black candidates need to get white voters, explicitly appealing to race is a losing strategy for a black candidate period, full stop.

Even talking about race in the campaign is generally a net negative for the black candidate. We saw this with Clinton. But how can we understand McCain's strategy?

Well, there is some research by political scientist Tali Mendelberg in her book titled, The Race Card: Campaign Strategy, Implicit Messages and the Norm of Equality.

Mendelberg reveals that when white candidates explicitly refer to race in campaigns and make explicit appeals they lose support because there is ostensibly a norm of following some notion of racial equality.

However, Mendelberg also shows that implicit messages have a real effect. Using subtle language that cues race in the minds voters can be quite effective. Pictures of black criminals, Clinton's 3AM commercial advertisement, the arrogance attack, questioning patriotism, and from Karl Rover 'trash talking,' followed by fears of miscegenation (Paris and Britney) are all implicit appeals.

They conjure images of either African-American stereotypes or fears about African Americans. This week, McCain also came out against affirmative action, an issue which though it has substantial gender content is entirely understood as a race issue and generally in black/white terms.

Thus, the "race card" reference is also a way to sneak an explicit appeal and to also suggest and implicit appeal. It reminds voters of O.J. Simpson, racism, and the fact that Barack Obama is black. It also suggests that McCain is somehow the unfair victim of an "explicit" racial appeal by Barack Obama. It is a completely dishonest but a master pivot.

Barack Obama has difficulty defending himself from racial attacks because as long as they are either subtle or come from the nether reaches of the Internet or from Fox News but far from McCain himself, McCain pays no price for these attacks. McCain himself becomes the "victim" of the race card and simultaneously injects race into the campaign without ostensibly having to pay the cost of doing so.

Thus, the fact is, if there is a race card, and it in the context of political campaigns works against black candidates and John McCain's campaign is playing it -- affirmative action, "Pop-tarts," arrogant, unpatriotic (code for un-American) and then the 'race card' accusation. Everyone knows that part of both Barack Obama's handicap and appeal is that he is the first African American candidate. He has to address that gingerly and defend from all manner of attacks, which allows for a skillful distraction by the McCain campaign.

The truth is, of course, race still matters for some voters and in different and complicated ways. The even sadder truth is, that following the Clinton campaign, McCain is turning Obama's need to craft a defense against racial attacks into an offense.

McCain has to keep the discussion in the campaign on issues that are "wins" for him -- national security, terrorism, and of course, race. Following Obama's attempt to inoculate himself from the national security charge during his trip abroad and pivot toward his winning issue, the economy, McCain has used race to distract attention and make the debate one he may not be able to win morally but that he will win the deep recesses in the minds of many voters.

Obama was spot on, and if he had not tried to defend himself in this fashion they would have used some other means of injecting it. The question is will the voters facing a flagging economy be distracted by these appeals to the deep and dark mostly unconscious fears as Obama said? Or will McCain have to find answers for real problems Americans face?

-- Mark Q. Sawyer

I definitely advise checking out the comments on this entry. That's not just because I want NPR to get some traffic for having a repost-worthy article, but because it's sometimes nice to see that there are still reasonable people in the universe (even if some are still, as one commenter put it, "living in Fox spin land"). Reading what passes for debate in the minds of guys like this "Jon" is... enlightening, if a bit disappointing. He seems to hop back and forth a bit on his points, which confused me until I got to the end.

I'm being dead serious here. He's intelligent, immensely articulate, and although I've never met him, he seems like a fun guy. His response to the Rev. Wright fiasco was one of the most thoughtful, honest expressions on this topic I have ever heard.

Unfortunately he is also, as Jon states, a "ruthless baby killer." And that's the "objective truth." I don't think I even have to say what I think of that one.

But then, I guess I'm just one of those "white liberals who, in their patronizing and condescending manner are more than willing to give blacks a free pass." I'll do anything to vote for a black person, and against white people. I hate my own kind! "Down with whitey," that's what they teach us women's libbers in college.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Women in "Godly Marriages"

I was having a discussion once with a born-again Christian who was arguing passionately that it is best for women to be under the "loving headship" of a man, the way that the church is under the loving headship of Christ. The ideal marriage is not an egalitarian one, but one in which a man governs the woman based on his own consideration and love for her.

I did not see this as an ideal marriage, and have little interest in it. I'm one of those college-educated "women's libbers" who feels that I'm qualified to have my own means of economic support, and the same social and political autonomy as a man. Most importantly, I feel I'm better off this way.

My issue with taking the gender roles offered in the Bible at face value is that traditional heteronormative (if you'll forgive the jargon) marriage roles are upheld as "Biblical" (which is itself a largely-undefined term), but advocates are really just picking and choosing from what's in the Bible to support what they'd like.

Now, I know that "picking and choosing" is a trigger-phrase for a lot of people who are debating the Bible, and it's often used as a way to instantly condemn as "UnBiblical" whoever gets it applied to them. I feel it's appropriate here, though. There are a lot of aspects of the submissive-woman/leading-man arrangement that clearly came from the culture in which the Bible was written.

Levirate marriage is the best example of this I can think of. Because women in those times didn't have any economic power of their own (aside from prostitution, which is not exactly desirable), they had to be married to survive. If their husband died, it was his brother's duty to marry the widow (often in addition to his own wife) so that he could support her and give her the offspring that his late brother could not.

This came up in Matthew 22:23, and Christ doesn't deny the worth of this practice. He just says that in the world to come NO ONE will be married. If Christ had a problem with the practice, that was his chance to say something. He did not, and Matthew 22:23 is actually a better argument against romantic relationships overall than it is against Levirate marriage.

The reason I bring up Levirate marriage is that it's a practice that was assumed as normal in the time of Christ, and not condemned by him as adultery. The reason people don't practice it today is because we live in a different culture. "Oh, that's just what they did then," people say. "We know better now. Marriage is between one man and one woman, and these are the obligations each has to the other. The Bible says so (in the parts that we choose if we ignore the parts that we don't like)."

Marriage in the time of Christ (and in the early church of Christ) was a much more complex thing than it gets credit for, and if we can accept that Levirate marriage doesn't belong in our modern society, why are we blindly accepting all gender roles attributed to the Bible? To put it another way, if we can trace practices like Levirate marriage back to the culture of the Bible's authors and thus dismiss their applicability for us, but we ascribe divine sanctity and authority to the parts we DO like... how is that honest? At the very least I think it requires that we find another definition of what counts as "Biblical," since clearly "it's okay in the Bible" is not enough.

Of course, another alternative is to pay close attention to what the cultural atmosphere was like at the time the Bible was written. What did the authors take for granted? What was "normal" to them, and what was deplorable? It was normal and natural to them that a woman could not support herself without a man. It was normal and natural to them that if men are good, women will be supported. If men are not good, women are the ones who suffer. Oh well.

And that's my big problem with attempting to reinstate millenia-old cultural norms by encouraging women to be economically dependent on men. Sure, in an ideal world this'd all work out fine. But we don't live in an ideal world, and in the world where we live now... if anybody in this system fall short (which Christian theology teaches that they must) women suffer. Women will bear the brunt of their own failings AND the failings of the men on whom they are dependent.

That's why feminists don't like these gender roles. It's not that they hate men. It's that men have to be perfect in order for this system to work, and even Christian theology admits that this is a lost cause. Because feminists are concerned with women being able to survive in a world where humans are imperfect, they assert that women need to have their own social and economic viability. Feminists therefore take issue with the Christian "traditional" marriage. It assumes that it's important for women to be healthy, safe, and otherwise well off, but not important enough to build a system that will actually produce that end.