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Ruth Rosen on the Historical Arc of Feminism

[ 185 ] February 23, 2013 |

Check out the historian Ruth Rosen’s essay on the historical arc of feminism. She sees the project at its halfway point, particularly noting the very difficult struggles to fight against domestic violence, as highlighted by House Republicans refusal to renew the Violence Against Women Act. An excerpt:

As an activist and historian, I’m still shocked that women activists (myself included) didn’t add violence against women to those three demands back in 1970. Fear of male violence was such a normal part of our lives that it didn’t occur to us to highlight it — not until feminists began, during the 1970s, to publicize the wife-beating that took place behind closed doors and to reveal how many women were raped by strangers, the men they dated, or even their husbands.

Nor did we see how any laws could end it. As Rebecca Solnit wrote in a powerful essay recently, one in five women will be raped during her lifetime and gang rape is pandemic around the world. There are now laws against rape and violence toward women. There is even a U.N. international resolution on the subject. In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna declared that violence against girls and women violated their human rights. After much debate, member nations ratified the resolution and dared to begin calling supposedly time-honored “customs” — wife beating, honor killings, dowry deaths, genital mutilation — what they really are: brutal and gruesome crimes. Now, the nations of the world had a new moral compass for judging one another’s cultures. In this instance, the demands made by global feminists trumped cultural relativism, at least when it involved violence against women.

Still, little enough has changed. Such violence continues to keep women from walking in public spaces. Rape, as feminists have always argued, is a form of social control, meant to make women invisible and shut them in their homes, out of public sight. That’s why activists created “take back the night” protests in the late 1970s. They sought to reclaim the right to public space without fear of rape.

Incidentally, The Lost Sisterhood is one of my very favorite history books to teach.

When Henry Wallace Rejected Communism

[ 56 ] February 23, 2013 |

Very interesting.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Wingnuttiest of Them All?

[ 71 ] February 23, 2013 |

Quite a contest for today’s craziest person. Here’s three nominees:

1. Gun Owners of America president Larry Pratt:

Pratt predicted that President Obama may begin confiscating guns in order to provoke a violent response to justify further oppression, which host Stan Solomon feared would lead to the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of people. Pratt once again insisted that Obama is acting like King George III, a sentiment with which Solomon concurred, saying, “That will happen quickly and they will wipe those people out to set an example.” But Solomon wasn’t finished: “I believe they will put together a racial force to go against an opposite race resistance, basically a black force to go against a white resistance, and then they will claim anyone resisting the black force they are doing it because they are racist.” Howard agreed: “You may be right because he has been sowing the seeds of racial hatred; we were healing quite well as a nation on racial issues until Obama came along and now we have a lot of racial discord.”

2. Indiana Right to Life director Sue Swayze, speaking on the Indiana transvaginal probe bill:

“I got pregnant vaginally. Something else could come in my vagina for a medical test that wouldn’t be that intrusive to me. So I find that argument a little ridiculous.”

Despite what Swayze says, it is in fact a transvaginal probe bill.

3. Montana legislator Steve Lavin, for introducing a bill in the Montana House that would actually grant the suffrage to corporations.

Echoing former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s 2011 assertion that “corporations are people, too, my friend,” the law, if enacted, would empower a representative of each company in the district to cast a vote in the company’s interest. The representative would be required to present proof of the company’s registration with the secretary of state and that they are that organization’s designee.

This legislation would go beyond even the allowances made for corporations and companies to funnel unlimited dark money into elections as per the “Citizens United” decision. Think Progress reported that the bill was tabled by the state legislature almost immediately, so it is unlikely to be voted into law.

That’s a tough call. I have to go with Swayze though. Comparing a transvaginal probe to a penis says way too much about Republican conceptions of sexuality.

Today’s Crazy State Winner

[ 100 ] February 22, 2013 |

It’s Oklahoma, for its bill that would ban teachers from failing students if they turned in homework in biology or other classes that pushed creationist ideology.

I suspect if I start doing this every day, Oklahoma is going to win Crazy State a lot of days.

How to Rate Presidents According to Beltway Priorities

[ 116 ] February 22, 2013 |

This Chris Cillizza produced list at the Washington Post of the most underrated and overrated presidents is good for a laugh because it so reflects Beltway priorities. I know that these choices were sent in by readers, but they were of course picked by editors. While not all are terrible, there are some choice howlers. Here’s a couple:

*James Monroe: From “HistoryJonah” – ”His average standing in opinion and scholar polls is 14th. However, Monroe deserves a much higher ranking than that: He created a bipartisan cabinet, with pro-slavery Southerner Calhoun as Secretary of War, and the Northern anti-slavery diplomatic genius John Q. Adams as Secretary of State. Monroe acquired Florida, and admitted five states to the Union. In addition, his actions following the Panic of 1819 stopped the economy from completely spiraling and his Missouri Compromise helped stave off disunion for decades”

Ah bipartisanship. Does that even have any meaning in 1817? No. After the Hartford Convention, the United States was essentially a 1-party state with multiple factions. Plus, this analysis fails on its own terms. When Monroe put that cabinet together, Calhoun was still a nationalist who was not obsessing about slavery. That wouldn’t happen until his slow response to his state’s growing radicalism in the 1820s threatened his political career. Moreover, in 1817, slavery was a non-issue in American politics. It wasn’t until the Missouri crisis in 1819 that things got crazy all of a sudden. And while Adams was always anti-slavery, it wasn’t until his post-presidency return to Congress that he became a leader on it.

But bipartisanship! Yay! Why can’t Obama be like James Monroe?

* James Polk: From “mountainwestBob” — ”He said he’d do four things when he came to office, he accomplished them, left office after a single term, retired and died within about 6 months. His four things? Extended the southwestern U.S. to the coast (New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada), ‘fixed’ the northwestern boundary of the lower 48 with Canada (without war), ‘fixed’ the question or Florida’s status, and established a new national bank that stood until the 20th century.”

The old “We love presidents who do stuff, regardless of their horrible consequences.” “Fixed” the northwestern boundary without war. “Fixed” the southwestern boundary by lying to Congress to get a declaration of war against Mexico and then stealing half the nation. It’s all good if it leads to American domination.

* William McKinley: From “Greg Tatro” — “The country had been hashing and rehashing fights over currency (Greenbacks! Silver!) and the Tariff. William Jennings Bryan was nominated on a silver platform to run against McKinley’s gold standard platform. The early 1890’s are filled with riots, Coxey’s March on Washington, and depression. Many people have lost hope, especially the farmers in the West.
Four years after his election however, the economy that he campaigned to fix was booming. The currency question that defined politics of the past has been left behind in the hustle and bustle of this new era.”

Another favorite pundit fallacy–giving presidents credit for policies they had no control over. William McKinley had nothing to do with the end of the Panic of 1893 and subsequent depression. That ended because gold discoveries in Alaska and South Africa increased the world’s gold supply.

* John Tyler: From “SpyralJD” : “His actions helped ensure an orderly transition of power upon the death of President Harrison and set the precedent for similar transfers of power in the future. He governed in (what he perceived to be) the national interest and refused to be beholden to special interests or the Whig Party (i.e. Henry Clay). He may not have achieved as much as some other presidents but he prevented a damaging free-for-all following Harrison’s death.”

The mind boggles with this one. Tyler governed in the national interest–making aggressive pro-slavery expansion the policy of the United States without an electoral mandate to do so and naming John C. Calhoun Secretary of State! Calhoun proceeded to outrage the British with the Pakenham Letter, where Calhoun warned Britain that the US would not tolerate them getting involved in Texas to end slavery there. There was probably not a more hated president in his own lifetime than John Tyler. National interest indeed!!!

The overrated side is more predictable and somewhat less irritating, although including Washington makes no sense. But then there is the real laugher:

* Franklin Roosevelt: From “acre00″ – ”I would have to say that FDR is the most overrated president. His New Deal did little to help the Great Depression, and he was a major contributor to the current spending problem that we have today. That being said, I also don’t think he was a bad president. He was a good leader, keeping the American People optimistic through the Great Depression and motivated through WW2.”

His New Deal did little to help the Great Depression, eh? First, that’s demonstrably not true because when FDR decided to reduce government spending in 1937, the economy tanked, thus showing that his policies were helping people. And if they failed to end the Depression, that’s because they weren’t big enough. These arguments about FDR and the Depression always conveniently forget one big thing. The spending in World War II that got the nation out of the Depression? It was government investment in the economy. Just because it was for war doesn’t mean it doesn’t show how powerful federal spending can be in stimulating the economy.

In any case, you can so read Beltway projections about Obama in this list. Funny stuff.


[ 32 ] February 22, 2013 |

Ron Fournier wins the 2013 David Broder award for his column arguing “sure, Republicans are nuts. But why won’t President Obama cave to their wishes to avoid the sequester? Also, we need to destroy social programs to cut deficits, a political action absolutely vital even though no one outside of the Beltway supports it.”

George Bailey: Communist

[ 45 ] February 21, 2013 |

Maybe some of you have heard about this before, but I just found out this week that It’s a Wonderful Life was communist propaganda.

Communist stooge begs before capitalist hero

Or so said a FBI memo in 1947:

To: The Director

D.M. Ladd



There is submitted herewith the running memorandum concerning Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry which has been brought up to date as of May 26, 1947….

With regard to the picture “It’s a Wonderful Life”, [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a “scrooge-type” so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.

In addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters. [redacted] related that if he made this picture portraying the banker, he would have shown this individual to have been following the rules as laid down by the State Bank Examiner in connection with making loans. Further, [redacted] stated that the scene wouldn’t have “suffered at all” in portraying the banker as a man who was protecting funds put in his care by private individuals and adhering to the rules governing the loan of that money rather than portraying the part as it was shown. In summary, [redacted] stated that it was not necessary to make the banker such a mean character and “I would never have done it that way.”

[redacted] recalled that approximately 15 years ago, the picture entitled “The Letter” was made in Russia and was later shown in this country. He recalled that in this Russian picture, an individual who had lost his self-respect as well as that of his friends and neighbors because of drunkenness, was given one last chance to redeem himself by going to the bank to get some money to pay off a debt. The old man was a sympathetic character and was so pleased at his opportunity that he was extremely nervous, inferring he might lose the letter of credit or the money itself. In summary, the old man made the journey of several days duration to the bank and with no mishap until he fell asleep on the homeward journey because of his determination to succeed. On this occasion the package of money dropped out of his pocket. Upon arriving home, the old man was so chagrined he hung himself. The next day someone returned the package of money to his wife saying it had been found. [redacted] draws a parallel of this scene and that of the picture previously discussed, showing that Thomas Mitchell who played the part of the man losing the money in the Capra picture suffered the same consequences as the man in the Russian picture in that Mitchell was too old a man to go out and make money to pay off his debt to the banker.

Read the original document here.

Chinese Environment

[ 158 ] February 21, 2013 |

We all know that the Chinese environment is just a bit degraded.

And then there’s this of course:

But luckily the Chinese government has a hot new plan to solve at least the air problem:

Ah, yes—the Chinese government will stop at nothing to reduce pollution that has enveloped parts of the country in a toxic soup. First, Chinese cities restricted the number of cars on the road and scrapped old vehicles. Then the government asked citizens to give up a time-honored tradition of setting off thousands of firecrackers before and on Chinese New Year. Beijing’s next ambitious measure? Banning barbecue.

At least that’s what China’s state media is reporting, though it scrimps on details. China’s environmental watchdog has now issued draft legislation calling on cities to ban “barbecue-related activities.” (Does that include just eating barbecue, looking at barbecue, or thinking about barbecue? We don’t know!) One blogger on Sina Weibo indelicately commented in response, “Soon they’ll ban farting in order to clean up the air.”

Serious efforts here my friends. Meanwhile, there is real grassroots resistance to the environmental degradation in China that has created real pressure on Chinese politicians, for whatever that’s worth in a totalitarian state.

And remember, a major part of why China developed this way was that American companies decided that labor and environmental regulations in the United States were cutting into profits too much and so decided to replicate the paradise of the U.S. Gilded Age somewhere else.

The NCAA: Upholding the Finest in American Hypocrisy

[ 80 ] February 21, 2013 |

The NCAA, an organization with such open-decision making practices and clear accountability as to provide lessons to the mafia, is forcing a University of Minnesota wrestler to give up his music career or be declared ineligible for profiting off his own image. Can we please just disband this organization?

Bauman embodies everything for which college athletics should stand. He should be the face of the NCAA. But the NCAA wants to make sure it is the only entity that can make money off Bauman’s face. Fearing an NCAA reprisal, Minnesota officials have asked Bauman to take his name off his songs and remove his image from the videos if he wants to remain eligible to wrestle at Minnesota.

He has two more years of eligibility remaining, but he is willing to sacrifice his scholarship rather than go by an alias in his music. “Now that I have a message,” Bauman said Wednesday, “I’m not going to go by an alias to deliver my message. … If I stop, what would that show people? If I just made an alias, what would that show people? That I’m going to quit what I started?”

This is the NCAA in a nutshell. When it isn’t busy hijacking a federal bankruptcy deposition to gather dirt in defense of its flawed model of amateurism in an infractions case involving Miami, its schools use that same flawed model as the rationale to attempt to crush a young person’s non-sports career. Never mind that if Bauman were a minor league baseball player instead of a singer, the NCAA would allow him to keep his baseball earnings and still wrestle. Apparently, those 99-cent iTunes downloads of Bauman’s Ones In The Sky represent a threat to the purity of college athletics, even though Bauman has yet to make a cent of profit. “I’ve not broken even on anything I’ve done,” he said.

At some point, the people at the NCAA and the leaders of the universities that comprise its membership need to stop and think about what exactly they’re fighting for here. Bauman’s case is yet another example of a group of people who have their heads stuck so deep in their massive rulebook that they can’t see the bigger picture.

Bauman, who is just returning to the mat in practice after missing three months because of concussion issues, is hoping he can make a last-ditch effort to keep his music and his scholarship without giving up his name. “I have a plan,” he said. “I’m going to run it by our compliance department.” If he wanted to go by DJ Takedown or MC Reversal, Bauman could promote his music on YouTube and sell his songs on iTunes. But why should he have to? If Bauman’s name is the price of a wrestling scholarship, the price is too high.

Today in Crazy Land

[ 91 ] February 21, 2013 |

Utah wins Crazy State of the Day, as a bill allowing people to carry concealed weapons without a permit–that’s right, without a permit–passes through a House committee. It’s real hard to see what could go wrong:

But Mathis also acknowledged — under strong questioning from Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City — that his bill would allow people to carry loaded firearms openly. Under current law, weapons cannot have a round in the chamber if openly carried.

“In my world, we use horses … we go fishing and it’s quite common to carry a gun on a saddle,” Mathis said. “If I didn’t have a concealed-weapons permit, I have to have the gun unloaded to carry with me.”

King said he feared the bill would encourage more people to buy guns and lead to a rash of accidental discharges of guns as well as having weapons present in escalating circumstances where tensions would run high.

Nope, no problems at all.

A Message to Khomeini

[ 16 ] February 20, 2013 |

Tonight’s exploration of American culture’s underbelly is brought to you by Roger Hallmark and The Thrasher Brothers, who I think had the most sophisticated response to Iranian Revolution imaginable.

History of Sex Work

[ 37 ] February 20, 2013 |

Melissa Gira Grant provides an excellent overview of the history of sex work in the United States before about 1920. Highly recommended read.

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